My favorite time of the year is here. I just love these few winter month and more than anything I love the onset of winter. A time when you start feeling the chills after a ruthless summer. A time when the evening comes about a little more abruptly than before. A time when the night is a lot more mysterious than the other months. A time when you can crawl inside your blanket, grab a bowl of popcorn or Bikaji Bhujia based on your liking, and start enjoying a genre that doesn’t necessarily have the same appeal throughout the rest of the year: Horror!
I have tried to compile a list of 5 films and series that can hold you in good stead on Halloween eve this year and give you the necessary chills. These films and series are an eclectic mix of old and new.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (2022)
I have always loved the films of del Toro and I want to share that love of the maestro with my viewers. All his films have had something or the other to do with creatures, supernatural, sci-fi-horror, or at least thematic horror. He has over the years created a niche for himself and his films that stand a rank apart from his compatriots of the genre. The best thing about his films is the sheer beauty on display. It is hard to find another horror filmmaker who makes such beautiful films. The next is his penchant for intense storytelling and innumerable surprises in the tale. The humanity of his characters and the very basic human emotions that drive their actions make his films very personal and impactful.
The genius has recently launched his anthology horror series titled, Cabinet of Curiosities on Netflix. The series is directed by 8 different directors. Each episode is between 40 minutes to 1 hour long and helmed by the individual directors who take responsibility for a segment but create pieces of art that are in keeping with the aesthetics that made del Toro’s work so revolutionary. I have already watched the first 6 episodes of the series and it has been a rewarding and engrossing experience thus far.
Mortuary Collection (2019)
“Mortuary Collection” is another horror anthology and is in many ways similar in look and feel to some of Del Toro’s finest films. The story revolves around an eccentric mortician who discusses employment opportunities with his prospective assistant, a girl who is not easily spooked. In the process, the mortician relates to her some of the most macabre and horrific incidents that he had experienced in the past. While the mortician continues with his stories, a greater game is afoot without his knowledge. “Mortuary Collection” is stunning to look at. It is extremely eerie and atmospheric. One can practically feel the chill in the air and the characters interacting with the environment. It is plush and dripping with color. All this adds to the macabre and horrific nature of the visuals that it presents. At least one of the stories will fill you up with melancholia and questions about if whatever happened to the characters was justified or not. If a horror film can arouse such feelings in a viewer, it has succeeded in its execution. Each of the stories, even the shorter ones are intriguing, well-executed, and acted. This film can be an investing and horrifying evening watch for you this Halloween.
Fright Night (1985)
What is a Halloween evening watch if it doesn’t have a film featuring a vampire? “Fright Night” was a 1985 film wherein a teenager discovers that the newcomer in his neighborhood is a vampire and this man starts getting uncomfortably close to his mother and girlfriend after he catches him spying on him on multiple occasions. Desperate, the teen turns to an actor in a television horror show for help in dealing with the threat. I recommend this film for its incessant nature. The situations keep piling on the protagonist from the get-go. He never gets a breather and everything that he does leads to a bigger threat to his life. The relentless nature of the film will keep you on the edge of your seat. The ensemble cast of the film is fantastic and so are the creature effects. Some of it would still hold its own. The film was remade in 2011 by Craig Gillespie with Collin Farrell essaying the role of the vampire. This remake was equally good and you can even choose to watch this instead if 80s horror was not your thing and you want an updated feeling of existence and sensibilities in your films.
The Howling (1981)
Another sought-after and almost necessary sub-genre that needs to be enjoyed on Halloween is the werewolf films. While a fantastic film like “An American Werewolf in London” hasn’t reached the kind of audiences that it should have here in the Northeast, it is still somewhat known and respected. Hence, I want to talk about a film that few people ever talk about even in the US. The Howling, a 1981 werewolf-horror film directed by Joe Dante that in many ways ignored all pre-established tropes and ways about how werewolf film should proceed and unfold. There is very little action here sans the last 15-20 minutes of the film. The werewolves are hardly the bloodthirsty, human-devouring monsters that we were programmed to believe. Instead, the film is an interesting dive into the psyche of a serial killer and the people whose stakes are trigged by his actions and their search for the man. It plays out very seriously and when you start understanding the plot, it is then that you realize how wonderfully the director used the misdirection and brought you on an entirely different journey. The ending of it was shocking. The creature effects are out of this world. Just imagining that it was all done using puppets and animatronics was mind-boggling for me. While everyone talks about the werewolf transformation scenes of “An American Werewolf in London”, I feel that the transformation scenes of “The Howling” were better.
The Shining (1980)
What is a Halloween movie list if it doesn’t contain at least one Stephen King film? While king hated “The Shining” and disowned the adaptation by Stanley Kubrick. This has been and will always be one of my favorite horror films of all time. There are no ghosts, no spirits. Just foreboding silence and emptiness. The performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall make the already creepy and spooky film creepier and spookier beyond your wildest imagination. Kubrick masterfully directs every aspect of the film including some scenes that have gone on to not only leave an indelible mark on the psyche of generations of moviegoers but has also registered themselves in the popular culture of the United States. “The Shining” is an essential watch on Halloween even if you have seen it before.
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