Article by William Fisk
Halloween approaches! Soon the dead will walk and ghastly ghosts will gather for ghoulish and gruesome fun!
As much as our favourite holiday is the time of year to dust off your creepy cosplay, hit the city, and get funky like Frankenstein… it’s also the perfect month to immerse yourself in that most malevolent and monstrous of cinema genres – HORROR!
Get ready to hide behind that cushion and scream for your lives as we take a peak through petrified fingers at my top five film picks for Halloween!
01 DAWN OF THE DEAD
(Dir: George A. Romero 1978)
The sequel to 1968’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’, the low budget, independent horror film that reinvented the zombie sub-genre forever, ‘Dawn of the Dead’ follows the misfortunes of four desperate survivors hiding in a deserted shopping mall from hordes of ravenous walking corpses.
‘Dawn…’ is an ultra-gory comic book style roller-coaster ride from start to finish… but also more than the sum of its rotting parts. Here you will find satire at its most scathing. Romero’s take on mindless consumerism back in the 70’s was way ahead of its time and feels more prophetic than ever. Plus.. there’s a zombie pie fight! Glorious!
(Dir: Terence Fisher 1958)
British film company ‘Hammer’ were the undisputed Kings of Horror from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. Their sumptuous 1958 remake of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ saw Sir Christopher Lee reinvent the iconic monster into a very physical and terrifying predator dripping in dark, brooding sexuality.
Facing off against fellow legend of British Horror cinema, the phenomenal Peter Cushing (as his nemesis, Van Helsing), from the moment that bright red blood is splattered across Dracula’s coffin from off-screen in the opening credits sequence…. unsuspecting 50’s audiences were suddenly and immediately aware that this new version of the classic horror tale was going to be horrifically vivid and different. Beautiful and terrifying.
03 THE WITCH
(Dir: Robert Eggers 2015)
He only has two film credits, but Robert Eggers is already regarded by many critics as a master director. His debut, ‘The Witch’ is a supernatural horror that follows a Puritan family who encounter forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.
The tone is deeply unsettling throughout, with fantastic performances, authentic period language, haunting sound design, and a meticulous attention to detail that combine perfectly to make an exceptionally intelligent horror experience. A modern classic for the genre from a new talent that demands your attention.
04 THE THING
(Dir: John Carpenter 1982)
Science Fiction and Horror make ideal bed fellows, and one of the finest examples of this genre pairing is 1982’s ‘The Thing’. A box office flop on release, ‘The Thing’ tells the tale of a group of American researchers in Antarctica who encounter a parasitic extra-terrestrial life-form that assimilates, then imitates other organisms.
There is so much to admire in this nihilistic cult classic, but the true stand out for me is the gut-churning creature designs of horror effects legend – Rob Bottin. A tour de force of practical effects, severed heads sprout insect legs and stomachs turn into gaping mouths as viscera splashes across the screen! Definitely not one for the squeamish.
05 A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
(Dir: Wes Craven 1984)
The cinematic story of Freddy Krueger, the titular dream stalker with the bladed leather glove, has arguably been one of diminishing returns. However, his first outing in 1984’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ still remains one of the scariest and ferociously imaginative films ever made.
‘Nightmare…’ is a fantastic example of ‘plastic’ reality in Horror, a watershed moment for the genre during the mid-1980’s. Advances in special effects and materials (thin latex) saw film makers like Craven and David Cronenberg move on from the long-stale slasher craze that dominated the early decade into experimenting with making metaphors physical. Freddy’s tongue emerging from the telephone is surrealist cinema at its most peculiar and disturbing. You may never sleep again.
Are you scared yet? Don’t be! It’s only Halloween! Remember… it’s only a movie.
… or is it?
William Fisk is a DJ, Co-founder of ‘THE SUNDAY CLUB’ Wechat community and ‘Monster Mash’ dance champion since 1977. You can contact him.