A crisp chill brushes up against your spine in the long shadows. The golden October sunlight rapidly turns purple and the night settles upon us again. Your back tightens and your shoulders shudder as a rustle behind you seems personal, stalking, creeping closer…
I love Halloween and the horror film season is back! My regular readers know I prefer those slow, atmospheric 70s horror films and I’ve got two to talk about today with an interesting connection. But first I’m going to go over some of the losers – those films which ought to be enjoyable Halloween fair but instead suck. Movies, as I’m sure you all know, should not suck, so join me in shaming them out of memory.
I like Creepshow. I really do. It’s got all the necessary elements for a good spooky time. I also like Creepshow 2. Frankly it was the first time my innocent eyes ever saw sexual activity on the television, and as everyone knows, sex and horror somehow got married and have been together ever since, for better or worse.
But today we need to shame Creepshow 3 (2006) out of existence. It sucks so bad I’m really not going to go into much detail about how bad it is. The wraparound story was non-existent, the individual stories sucked, had no redeeming point or memorable reason to exist, and I’m tired of even thinking about it anymore. Oh, it also looked like crap. And it sucked.
I don’t even want to talk about lousy movies anymore. Before we get to today’s featured films however I do want to give a shoutout to The Thing. All of them. The original (1951’s The Thing From Another World – I liked it), the 1982 The Thing (John Carpenter is someone I appreciate more and more the older I get) and 2011’s prequel The Thing. Somehow I missed that the 2011 version is a prequel and had lazily assumed it was another remake. Having now seen it I appreciate the link between the films and frankly it was well done. Very suspenseful too. Good October film!
Now on to Dunsmuir House. I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. This atmospheric location provided the perfect setting for both films I want to discuss today. Talk about forgotten gems. Much the way a scary story can be built upon the rediscovery of a forgotten relic with a sinister past, my Halloween season this year revolves around the discovery of two 1970s horror films that should be staples in the repertoire but instead are nearly forgotten today (except of course for their cult fans, of which I now count myself). First is Phantasm.
I’ll admit I haven’t seen any of the much maligned sequels yet so I’m not talking about the franchise but only the original film, but whoa. This is one creepy, atmospheric, suspenseful ghoulfest. Not fear for your actual life terrifying but creepy enough to give you the shivers on a chilly October movie night. And entertaining. It’s amazing how many filmmakers get so caught up in whatever new gimmick they’ve happened upon that they forget the whole point is supposed to be entertainment. Everyone talks about the Spheres, and maybe at the time they were something to talk about, but for me, the Spheres are almost forgettable. The Tall Man and whatever the hell mystery he’s got going on in his funeral home is what kept my attention. Reanimation, yellowish brown dwarves, naked ladies that aren’t naked ladies… all the elements of a genuine spookfest are here and the tone keeps it just about perfect for Halloween.
Burnt Offerings has been claimed by online reviewers to be the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel The Shining.
I haven’t read the novel this film was based on, but the film is terrific. No jump scares, no goblins or ghouls, no twisty-faced demons, just intense, claustrophobic, doomed and hopeless atmosphere. A sense of dread and despair. A feeling of being trapped and knowing you will die and are powerless to act except to wait and wonder when and how. To me there is nothing like a 70s slow burner atmospheric haunted house film for Halloween and this years pick is definitely Burnt Offerings. I don’t know how I made it this far without ever catching this one, but I’m glad I finally did. If you haven’t seen it yet, get a hold of it in time for Halloween. You won’t regret it. Unless you like movies that suck. Then I can’t help you 🙂