Happy Halloween, Rewinders, and welcome to Devlin and Matt’s needlessly complex HalloRe’ewind Movie Podcast Marathon! This is Devlin, speaking to you in this fetching shade of scarlet…
Rubber baby buggy bumper. Ma-ma one, mo-mo two. This is the blue voice of Matt speaking. Test, test.
2 years ago, I curated an 18 hour movie playlist which contained most of my seasonal favourites (at least those we hadn’t already covered in previous episodes), and throwing ideas around with my fellow Samhain fan Matt, we fell upon the format you’ll see below: 2 days of alternating 4 hour blocks, each containing a thematically-linked feature double-bill, and some shorts, TV episodes and other assorted pieces to keep you stitched to your sofa (hopefully not literally) chosen by one of us.
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HALLOWE’EN WEEK WARMUPS!
While you’d think that two days of almost non-stop recommendations would be enough, we still had some spare parts lying around the laboratory after we’d stitched together this monstrosity. So, to get everyone in the macabre mood, we present a few miscellaneous recommendations to litter your Hallowe’ek with!
Monday October 26th
Spotify playlist: SAMHAIN PART I
A 5 hour-ish playlist I’ve been tinkering with for a good while now, it’s a selection of songs which run the gamut from vintage 1950s and 60s spooky cheese, through trashy horror-punk and abrasive noise rock to synth-driven Gialloesque score music and chilly post-punk goth classics. It’s my go-to Hallowe’en party scene-setter!
Eerie, Indiana “Heart on a Chain” S01E07 (1991) 25m
“Just remember, li’l paperboy. Love’s a heartbreaker.”Elvis, Eerie, Indiana “Heart on a Chain”
As a lad, I watched Eerie, Indiana religiously. Beginning somewhere between Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Matinee, this brainchild of Joe Dante (Innerspace, The ’Burbs) revolves around Marshall Teller – an ordinary boy in the anything but ordinary new town of Eerie. For example, Elvis lives on his paper round and Bigfoot eats out of his bins.
Here, two years before True Romance, we’re treated to a burger-devouring cameo from “the King,” and the familiar quote, “Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse,” as Marshall and his school buddy, Devon, each have the hots for Melanie – the new girl in dire need of a heart transplant. When soon to be donor, Devon, is run down and killed whilst attempting to skateboard like Marty McFly, Melanie receives his heart, but disturbingly begins to take on his mannerisms, too.
Starring horror starlet, Danielle Harris (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers), Heart on a Chain is episode seven of just nineteen in the entire series’ run, and one of five directed by Dante himself, who handles a delicate story deftly, lending new meaning to gifting someone your heart, and creating one of the standout installments of this short-lived but well-loved show.
Tuesday October 27th
Scarious Artists: Hallowe’en
“Clap for the Wolfman. You gon’ dig him ’til the day you die.”The Guess Who, “Clap for the Wolfman”
For the past decade or so, I’ve been cobbling together seasonal Hallowe’en CD mixes of (not so) terrifying tracks, thinking someone could perhaps use it for background tunes at a party or something – now the time has come to unleash it in its full, uncut glory.
For the first time ever, in both YouTube video, and Spotify audio forms, I give you the definitive Scarious Artists: Hallowe’en playlist – 237 spooktacular songs for re-animated corpses, axe-murderers, and malevolent leprechauns; fit for any Satanic gathering, witch-hunt, virgin sacrifice, or Hallowe’en movie podcast marathon.
MONOCHROMATIC DOUBLE BILL!
Wisconsin Death Trip (1999) 1hr 16m and Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary (2002) 1hr 15m
Wisconsin Death Trip is a BAFTA-winning documentary by James Marsh, his first feature (he later went on to direct the very successful Man on Wire and a decent fiction feature called The King with Gael Garcia Bernal, before going all prestige and whatnot with The Theory of Everything) which tells the sorry tale of the town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, in the late 19th Century. A hardscrabble, largely Scandinavian immigrant community, over the course of a few winters we hear a procession of stories of madness, murder, death and crime.
Shot in luminous, overcranked monochrome 16mm and soundtracked by DJ Shadow, the film dramatizes the work of a photographer called Charles Van Schaick, later collected in to a successful non-fiction book by Michael Lesy that illuminated the imagery with contemporary news reports, letters and other ephemera detailing the exploits of the likes of local schoolteacher-turned-cocaine-fulled window-breaker Mary Sweeney. It casts an unusually hypnotic pall, as the delicate photography and haunting narration pull you in closer and closer. A portrait of slowly-spreading insanity seems as good a way as any to start off your Tuesday.
Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary sees the arthouse silent movie nostalgist filming the Winnipeg Ballet’s adaptation of the legend, starring Zhang Wei-Qiang as the titular Count in a casting choice that reframes the xenophobic subtext of the story in a fascinating way. Featuring title cards, tinting, iris in/outs and other tricks of the silent movie trade, it’s no mere pastiche and instead creates an engrossing and genuinely beautiful piece of work.
Wednesday October 28th
Curb Your Enthusiasm “Trick or Treat” S02E03 (2001) 30m
“Trick or treat, bang-bang!”Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm “Trick or Treat”
Larry will not be intimidated – even on Hallowe’en. In this Larry Charles-helmed episode (always a sign of idiosyncratic quality), LD faces off against a costume-less, “Elvira-ish” teen “felony-or-treater,” and winds up the victim of a “bald asshole” hate crime, exacerbating a previous, coincidental clash with her devoutly Jewish father, who chastises Larry for whistling Wagner – “Hitler’s favourite composer.”
As per, no one is aware of, or even remotely adheres to Larry’s social rules. A Cobb salad faux pas and a backfiring adultery joke land him in bother, and yet, refreshingly for Curb, he somehow emerges victorious.
HORROR HOSTS DOUBLE BILL!
Elvira’s Movie Macabre “The Terror” S01E02 (2010) 2h and The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs “The Legend of Boggy Creek” S01E11 (2018) 2h 3m
I recommended Elvira’s feature Elvira, Mistress of the Dark in my last marathon, so here I wanted to pick an episode of the format which shot her to fame: presenting a cheesy old horror movie and goofing on it throughout host segments littered with puns, hoary old vaudeville gags, and her irrepressibly game spirit. In the UK, at least, she wasn’t really very visible, so it was only through bootleg online uploads and scattered clips that I got to learn why she was indeed the unofficial Queen of Halloween. This episode, the 1963 Corman horror The Terror, comes from the 2010 revival series Elvira’s Movie Macabre, which was in part brought about by superfan Jack White, who produced the awesome theme song by The Black Belles and makes the odd appearance throughout. The film itself is notable for not only featuring, but also allegedly having been anonymously directed by, a young Jack Nicholson, as well as fellow Corman graduate Francis Ford Coppola, over the span of 9 tortuous months (an eternity in Corman terms, notorious for shooting films in a weekend around this era). This episode comes from one of my very prized possessions, an awesome tin boxed ‘Coffin Collection’ DVD set, the cost of which I’d rather not admit here. Elvira pops up throughout to comment on proceedings in a suitably silly series of shenanigans.
Similarly entertaining, but taking a very different tack, is fellow legendary late-night movie host Joe Bob Briggs. Again, we in the UK weren’t exposed to anything like this until quite recently, so I checked out a few episodes of his own belated revival series The Last Drive-In on Shudder on a bit of a whim. And thank Beelzebub I did: no puns and plunging necklines here, instead we have an erudite but irreverent host with a deep and very personal knowledge of the trashier end of the cinema spectrum. The film he discusses here, 1972’s The Legend of Boggy Creek, is a faux-docudrama (although the participants may argue about the ‘faux’ part!) and maybe even an influence on the likes of The Blair Witch Project, about a bog-man beastie roaming the woods of Arkansas, and the townsfolk who swear it savaged their livestock and scared their womenfolk half to death. Joe Bob talks us through not only the legend itself, but also the unlikely origin of the film, which was the brainchild of an enterprising advertising salesman, Charles B.Pierce, who petitioned a client to provide funding, local students to help make it, and utilised the drive-in circuit to capitalise on the regional interest. The tireless creator also provided the narration and even the incongruous and deeply weird monster ballad that crops up inexplicably to pad the running time.
Thursday October 29th
China Lake (1983) 34m
“Man, the second those guys walked in, I knew I had to fuck with ’em.”Donnelly, China Lake
Robert Harmon’s calling card debut, China Lake, first burned its way into my brain via Momentum Pictures’ special edition DVD of The Hitcher, and to this day, is my favourite ever short film – and also one of the scariest.
The always welcome, darkly charismatic, Charles Napier, who more often than not pops up in Jonathan Demme’s pictures, plays Donnelly – a maniac motorcycle cop on vacation, who abuses his authority every chance he gets; locking innocent women in the boots of their cars, shooting locks off petrol pumps to steal gas, and arbitrarily targeting a pair of “germ” concrete workers (Blade Runner’s William Sanderson and Bob Dylan’s 1966 drummer, Mickey Jones). What results is a foreboding effort with an overarching, sinister tone; not a conventional horror film by any stretch, but one that lingers in the mind long after its blood red credits fade away.
Self-funded by saving every penny Harmon had for three years, and stitched together in rented (and stolen) editing suites, pulling industry favours left and right from his previous career as a stills photographer, with the whole cast and crew grafting free of charge, calling in solids from the sound crew that dubbed Star Wars, shooting on leftover short ends, blagging rent-free stages, borrowing cameras with anamorphic lenses from Panavision – even Donnelly’s motorcycle was loaned. Harmon also served as director of photography, and if all else failed, planned to use China Lake to bulk up his cinematography showreel.
The fact Donnelly is a police officer (something that didn’t manifest until the final draft of the script) makes China Lake a political statement; a fear of people in power is brought to the table. Donnelly takes a holiday from the rules and regulations of his job, but continues to wear the uniform. He tells a waitress he’s a writer, but really he’s a dangerous fantasist; a lunatic stalker, seemingly repeating his diabolical methods – his sick tradition, for his own antisocial amusement. There’s no overt motive beyond Donnelly’s warped view of society, and his sick “community responsibility,” as it says on the police blackboard, which makes China Lake genuinely terrifying. The idea this psycho is out there, doing jumping jacks and press-ups between cruising the purple and orange-skied desert at night, searching for new victims, is beyond haunting.
The Devil Rides Out (1968) 1h 35m
There’s no thematic link with the above short film, just a realisation that my movie marathon picks neglected to include any Hammer Studios productions. An oversight that could not stand, so I’ve chosen probably my favourite of the bunch, a Satanic romp featuring Christopher Lee for once on the side of the ‘righteous’ as the Duc de Richleau, a sumptuously goatee’d nobleman out to rescue some young waifs from the clutches of a black magic cult in a sturm-und-drang, beautifully colourful and suitably overwrought Terrence Fisher-directed classic with one of the most memorable scores of the bunch.
THE HALLORE’EWIND MOVIE MARATHON BEGINS!
Friday October 30th, 10am
DEVLIN’S SPOOKY HOUSES!
House II: The Second Story (1987) 1h 28m
The idea for a haunted house double bill came from Matt, whose own entry you’ll see below. OF COURSE we had to include one – it’s perhaps the most abiding format for a horror film. And it’s surprisingly flexible too – both entries here couldn’t be much different in tone and content despite the shared setting. House was the result of another collaboration between producer Sean S. Cunningham and his Friday the 13th Part 2 & Part III director Steve Miner, an oddly lighthearted take on the tale of a tormented Vietnam vet-turned-horror novelist searching for his recently-disappeared son in a slightly daft post-Poltergeist piece. Trading out Miner for the novice Ethan Wiley, this first of 3 sequels goes anthology and cuts ties with the earlier plot to tell an even more lighthearted story of 80s man Arye Gross bringing his girlfriend to live in an old family mansion. Learning of his great-great-grandfather’s history of Indiana Jones-style fortune hunting, Gross and his douchebag buddy find themselves reanimating the corpse of “Gramps” in order to try and cash in on a crystal skull he unearthed years before.
We’re firmly in the realm of the cheerful, scare-free comedy-horror here, with an endless series of shenanigans including Cheers alum John Ratzenberger as an electrician and “part-time adventurer” who leads them on a quest in to an ancient Aztec temple, and a cutesy Jurassic caterpiller-dog-hybrid puppet mascot that tags along for the ride. It’s all deeply silly and scattershot, and a little lame, but it’s also inventive and absolutely doesn’t take itself seriously, which lends it real charm and makes it a pretty perfect way to kick off two days of marathoning with your breakfast.
The Changeling (1980) 1h 37m
A mighty change of pace, this stately (home), sturdy tale of grief and ghosts in chilly Seattle (as played in this production by Vancouver) sees growly, bereaved composer George C. Scott attempt to recover from the loss of his wife and child by moving himself into an enormous, drafty mansion. When weird things start happening, the suitably rumpled Scott goes Full Columbo after a séance (one of the better scenes of its type I’ve ever seen) reveals the voice of an unrestful spirit haunting his hallways, unravelling a far-reaching and genuinely fascinating plot that doesn’t lack for atmospheric scares.
With some very fine production design and subtle, inventive camerawork, this ranks up there with the best of the ‘prestige’ horror tales of the preceding couple of decades that seemed to tail off as the turn of the 80s saw the genre moving in a youth-centric, gleefully trashy direction. You can see echoes of its more emotional, character-based approach in the likes of What Lies Beneath that emerged many years later, and in the return to the more traditional haunted house tales that emerged in the wake of the remarkable success of The Conjuring. However, the more measured approach that this film takes, and the dedication to illuminating the characters’ psychological terrain, makes this feel like a relic in the best possible sense. Journeyman Hungarian director Peter Medak took over from Demon Seed‘s Donald Cammell only a month before production, making his remarkably steady hand all the more impressive.
This House Has People In It (2016) 12m
Part of the extraordinary Infomercials block on the Adult Swim network, this genuinely unsettling short fuses absurdity and escalating madness as a suburban home, seemingly under CCTV surveillance, undergoes some uncanny incidents, stemming from a teenage girl’s apparent inability to get up from the kitchen floor. Carrying the cadence of a joke from some of the more experimental live action channel output like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! but bearing only the darkest of dark humour and resisting the urge to break the tension with laughs, it’s a bizarre and haunting modern twist on the old genre.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace “Hell Hath Fury” S01E02 (2004) 24m
The extraordinary horror spoof Darkplace might, outside of The Simpsons, be my favourite TV show of all time. The palpable love for the very silly, and very specific, type of movies and shows it’s spoofing shows through in every intentionally awkwardly-placed frame. The fictitiously egocentric, self-inflating brainchild of ‘visionary’ horror writer Garth Marenghi (who has, proudly, written more books than he has read), this Romford-set medical horror show features very little doctoring, instead seeing Marenghi’s Dr. Rick Dagless MD and his band of cohorts battling monsters of the week because some idiot only went and accidentally built Darkplace Hospital over the very gates of Hell. Series creators Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade litter every scene with clunky edits, atrocious ADR, flimsy sets and absurd continuity errors, while the cast (rounded out by the magnificent Matt Berry and Prevenge creator Alice Lowe) give a masterclass in intentionally bad acting.
This episode sees new recruit Dr. Liz Asher develop telekinetic abilities, largely as a direct result of Dag, best buddy Dr. Sanchez, and hardass boss Thornton Reed’s constant sexism. It’s a hilarious mashup of Maximum Overdrive and Carrie as the boys fend off awkwardly floating office supplies and try to solve the very obvious mystery as to the source of all this mayhem. Matt Berry’s pronunciation of the phrase “filing cabinet” in this episode is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.
The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror VI” S07E06 (1995) 30m
“Glad to rake your acquaintance.”Groundskeeper Willie, The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror VI”
This three-pronged Hallowe’en treat was selected entirely for its second segment, which pertains to the following Freddy vs Jason double feature. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace sees Groundskeeper Willie, as a Freddy Krueger-styled baddie, who was incinerated by Homer due to “lousy Smarch weather,” and now uses his various work tools to rake, floor-buff, and hedge trim the children of Springfield Elementary in their sleep. Martin’s petrified corpse being accidentally wheeled through the school brings the biggest laugh as Principal Skinner exclaims, “Not in the kindergarten!”
The first story is Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores; a profound notion, putting forth the idea that if you don’t pay attention to commercials, they lose their power, all the while referencing Godzilla et al. as various advertising characters spring to life and attack Springfield, devouring its citizens, and all because a greedy Homer robbed a massive Lard Lad display donut. A trigger-happy Chief Wiggum gunning down the enormous captain of the basketball team in error is perhaps the standout moment.
Homer3 is a bizarre, partially live action tale, in which Homer finds himself trapped in a Tron-like virtual world – the 3rd dimension, “like something out of a book by that wheelchair guy,” before breaking free and paying a visit to an erotic cake shop.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) 1h 36m
“Let’s go kick the motherfucker’s ass all over dreamland.”Roland Kincaid, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
“9… 10… Freddy’s back again!” In the first part of this Freddy vs Jason duo, Patricia Arquette stars alongside a returning Heather Langenkamp in a Dokken-soundtracked, sumptuous visual feast of Freddy.
Aside from the original, it’s my favourite of the bunch; Dream Warriors is basically Freddy Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with each of the teenage patients being terrorised in dream states relating directly to their disorders. We meet the marionette obsessive, Phillip, pipsqueak Dungeons & Dragons Wizard Master, Will, the jive-talkin’, chair-bending Kincaid, whose dick is killing him, the “beautiful and bad” punk rock chick, Taryn, and the nurse-obsessed, tongue-tied mute, Joey.
It’s clearly got money behind it, especially when put alongside 1985’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge – there are great big sets, with the majority of the film being visually inventive and well-executed, if a little hammy in its theatrics. The “bastard son of a hundred maniacs” himself looks superb. Plus, Freddy’s appearances are short and sweet enough to retain mystique, although any real horror is dulled by Krueger’s wisecracks about getting high and asking where the bourbon is.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 attracted some top notch talent too, with Frank Darabont on writing duties, music by Angelo Badalamenti, and a welcome appearance by Lawrence “Fish” Fishburne as the hip nurse, Max. As if you needed more, there’s a Poundland Bill Maher look-alike, a barking banquet hog, a charred grave-digging Harryhausen skeleton, a claymation Krueger, a massive Freddy slug head, Dick Cavett and Zsa Zsa Gabor cameos, and the late, great, John Saxon.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) 1h 40m
“Walking corpses are not real.”Charles, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Having had your fill of Freddy, it’s time to board the Lazarus for Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan – or more appropriately, Jason Takes a Boat, as the iconic, hockey-masked slasher spends only a sliver of the actual running time in “The Big Apple,” and the rest methodically stalking a big ship in search of his victims.
Still, there’s enough Friday boxes ticked to justify a daft watch-along. VIII boasts the best-looking Jason in my eyes – a toxic waste-glossed, hulking mass, with barnacles galore. Kane Hodder is the boss when it comes to playing Voorhees; in the same way only Nick Castle really knew how to move as The Shape in Halloween.
Granted, Jason Takes Manhattan is somewhat of a toxic-wasted opportunity, but as I’m seemingly a glutton for punishment, it remains my go-to Friday. For the horror-heads, there is a decapitation punch, a dance floor throttling, a Flying V guitar to the cranium, a sauna coal through the chest, a fiery switchboard BBQ death, and a trash can sludge drowning. If you’re into that sort of thing.
PROGRAMMED FOR DEATH
Cure (1997) 1h 41m
Kicking off a double bill that concerns the unsettling idea that people can be induced to kill, first up is a film which is perhaps not one of the more obvious picks for this particular season. Scheduling double bills in some cases led to choices like this, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of taking a break from the splattery glory of the 80s icons of the previous block and changing direction entirely with a more grounded, but perhaps more insidiously unsettling, entry. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a favourite director of mine who Matt and myself have discussed previously alongside Gali, achieved his international breakthrough with this slow-burning tale of a tightly wound detective on the case of a series of seemingly unexplained murders where unconnected perpetrators not only killed, but then mutilated their victims by carving a deep ‘X’ in to their throats, before admitting to the crimes despite not knowing why they had committed them.
While there’s a lack of supernatural bent to the proceedings (something which I feel like has a place in most good Hallowe’en movies), the oppressive and infectious weird energy that Kurosawa injects in to proceedings, and the increasingly slippery grasp both our lead character and the audience have on objective reality as the plot deepens creates a palpable dread which lingers not just beyond the end credits, but for days after. By the heavily ambiguous end, the ‘real’ world has taken on a hallucinatory, narcotised quality that gnaws at the pit of your stomach. A truly unique, powerful film.
The Guest (2014) 1h 40m
After all that mind-bending misery, I figured it would be beneficial to switch up the tone a bit and recommend a film which was on my list almost from the first draft of this little project – a knowing, subversive and slyly brutal action-thriller from the You’re Next team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens makes a hugely successful bid to escape prestige ITV evening light entertainment typecasting purgatory as a damaged and charismatic former soldier who arrives at the New Mexico home of a fallen comrade. Taken in by his charms, his late buddy’s family allows him to insinuate in to their lives in, at first, positive ways – outsider gothy daughter Maika Monroe is intrigued/flattered by his attention, and her put-upon younger brother finally has an ally against his school bullies.
It’s no spoiler to suggest that there’s more to Stevens’ David than meets the eye, as Wingard and Barrett raid their mental video store of DTV thrillers and off-kilter horror obscurities, as well as more well-known influences like The Terminator, The Stepfather and my beloved Halloween III: Season of the Witch (most notably in the dusty, sunbleached vistas of New Mexico which echo that film’s Santa Mira, and in the use of the infamous Silver Shamrock masks as set decoration) to craft a funny, violent, entertaining crowdpleaser that retains its smarts. With a phenomenal soundtrack of darkwave, synthwave and goth/post-punk classics like Clan of Xymox and The Sisters of Mercy, the film avoids the trap of dead-end 80s nostalgia by dint of its phenomenal energy and pitch perfect performances, and delivering the gun-toting goods when required.
Tales From The Darkside “Halloween Candy” S02E05 (1985) 22m
“Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But, there is, unseen by most, an underworld: a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit…Tales From The Darkside opening narration
a dark side.”
Following the success of Creepshow, George A. Romero created the similarly-themed anthology series Tales From The Darkside, slotting comfortably in the same subgenre of short-form stories which aim to illustrate some moral failing via the medium of ghouls, goblins, ghosts, and most importantly, ironic twist endings. As far back as horror stories themselves go, often the earliest incarnations could only justify their excesses to the ruling moral arbiters of the time if they were imparting some sort of life lesson, and this Tom Savini-directed seasonal episode from season two is as good an example as any, and, while it has no thematic link with my double bill, was too good not to share.
Mean old bastard Mr. Killup has no intention of participating in the neighbourhood kids’ trick-or-treating this year. His exasperated son tries to reason with him, but once he leaves, Old Man Killup rebuffs every child who dares disturb him. You can probably already tell that this doesn’t work out well for him, but the big twist to this one, when it comes, is a genuine gut-punch. The series as a whole is pretty uneven, but features adaptations of stories by such luminaries as Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker and Robert Bloch, and a murderer’s row of character actor talent like Jerry Stiller, Danny Aiello, Bradley Whitford and a young Seth Green. It strikes a scrappy, likeably ramshackle tone and makes for an oddly comforting afternoon binge watch.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) 1h 24m
“Someone’s in my fruit cellar! Someone with a fresh soul!”Henrietta, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
The first of my two haunted houses of horror is Detroit wunderkind, Sam Raimi’s mile-a-minute follow up to his 1981 feature debut, The Evil Dead – Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.
Raimi follows his strict doctrine of, “The guilty must be punished, the innocent must suffer, and you must taste blood to be a man.” His funhouse horror is still the closest thing to a pure vision on film I’ve ever seen; a live action cartoon of sorts, with a central performance to rival Chaplin, Keaton, Tati, and the rest, bucketloads of blood, big belly laughs, and a kinetic, dizzying camera that just won’t quit. From the Sam-o-cam to the infamous ram-o-cam, this bloody Three Stooges horror homage has more inventive shots than you can shake a Kandarian Dagger at, and once you’ve witnessed Evil Dead II, you can’t help but wonder why every film wasn’t/isn’t shot that way. It’s a clear case of the gore the merrier; Raimi chucks the kitchen sink at his sequel to the ultimate experience in grueling terror, and it sticks.
We can feel the hands on set – the fact shelves were built pre-Dutched, to lend a literal German expressionist tilt to the visuals, the way blood continuity doesn’t match throughout, particularly on Ash’s costume, as the scenes were predominantly shot out of order, with Raimi being forced to predict the amount of congealed fluids that would eventually be present, the KNB EFX Group’s connection, and how each individual creature was designed, moulded, and puppeteered, or the hours upon hours required to bring Doug Beswick’s stop motion to life, which for me still blends well, and plays just fine in a Harryhausen kind of way. In truth, it’s a relic; the one and only way these things were done until Jurassic Park blew everyone’s minds six years later. I love the bridge matte shot with the upturned claw preventing Ash’s escape, the hokey blue screen time-lapses, and that someone had to pop to Corey’s Jewel Box to find the right amulet.
Evil Dead II certainly joins that elusive and rare club of sequels that surpass the original. To quote Jack Black in High Fidelity, “Because it’s a brilliant film; it’s so funny and violent, and the soundtrack kicks fucking ass,” and if you happen to disagree, I’d also add, “you’re a cinematic idiot and I feel sorry for you.”
Hausu (1977) 1h 28m
“A fear too beautiful to resist!”Hausu
I did a rubbish job explaining TV ad wizard, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s inexplicable cult Japanese horror and directorial debut on the podcast, so here’s the basic premise again – a troupe of quirky Japanese high school girls head to our lead, Gorgeous’ seemingly kindly yet menacing, eye-gobbling aunt’s mansion, where each of them are done away with in an insane manner, as the mysteriously wheelchair-bound auntie must eat unmarried girls in order to wear her bridal gown again. The general idea, I think, is that when we die, we can live in the thoughts and feelings of others. Flesh perishes, love doesn’t, which for something so batty, is actually a deep and lovely message.
Each gal has a stereotypical nickname and matching, one dimensional personality – “Gorgeous” is the motherless protagonist, the creative “Fantasy” constantly constructs stories, the musical “Melody” plays piano, the pigtailed, bespectacled “Prof” is studious and prudent, “Mac” eats a lot and always talks about food, “Sweet” is cutesy, timid, and afraid of mice, “Kung Fu” (perhaps my personal fave, aside from Blanche, the cat) is a heroic and tough martial artist, karate chopping and kicking everything in sight – she even has her own theme song.
Warning: this film will divide audiences. It’s safe to say, almost every frame of Hausu contains something odd – peculiar visuals and framing, mad music, an OTT performance, strange backdrops, fourth wall breaking, kooky sets, long dissolves, double exposures, human stop motion, drawn-on animation, bizarro lighting, iris ins, soft focus, slo-mo, and a batshit plotline. The way Obayashi covers scenes is so strange, but when you factor in the director’s preteen muse – his 10-year-old daughter, Chigumi, came up with the concept, and view Hausu through the prism of a child’s dream, with a young girl’s imagination running wild, constructing this psychotic kids’ show feel – the illogical structure, surrealist imagery, and peculiar tone actually make a great deal of sense; as much as a dream can, or should, make sense anyway. Then when you add bloodthirsty gore and nudity to the equation, you get a combination of ideas and tones I’d never witnessed until absorbing Hausu. Something similar, yet much more commercial, and easier to digest would be Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which would also qualify as an approved double bill with Hausu this Hallowe’en.
Hausu is an assault on the senses and can be exhausting, but it has an innocence, charm, and a fairytale freakishness unlike anything else I’ve seen. If you fancy stepping out of your comfort zone to watch something truly unique, with instances of death by hungry piano, decapitated head bum-biting, dissolving nude underwater dips, a haunted exploding telephone, reverse motion hair in a bath, inadvertent blood drinking, a girl trapped in time and in the cogs of a bleeding clock, haunted watermelons, cannibalism, psychedelic chandelier battles, walls raining rivers of blood in a psychedelic funhouse, with a possessed, singing, blood-vomiting cat called Blanche lording over everything as a purveyor of madness and the macabre, this is the Hallowe’en pick for you.
Saturday October 31st, 12:55am
The Young Ones “Nasty” S02E03 (1984) 35m
“Mr Vampire! Mr Vampire! Look, don’t bite me, I’m horrid! I’m covered in acne! Bite Neil! He’s strawberry-flavoured!”Rick, The Young Ones “Nasty”
It’s officially Hallowe’en and we’re off to Blighty now, where the extreme violence and slapstick physical gags persist in this classic, Rik and Ade-centric, double dose of Hallowe’en specials.
First, Rick, Vyvyan, Neil, and Mike stay up all night for an orgy of extreme “video nasty” violence, courtesy of a VHS player borrowed from Harry the Bastard, and face off against a South African “vampire.” Filmed in Horrorscope, this episode has cameos from Chris Barrie, Dawn French, Hale and Pace, and Terry Jones.
I still hang onto a vivid memory of visiting Harrods in London for the first time and staring up at a wall of video tapes unlike anything I’d ever witnessed before. Pocket money in hand, I made off with a giant, series two, double VHS of The Young Ones, and an uncut, Die Hard 2: Die Harder in anamorphic widescreen, showing the entirety of Renny Harlin’s vision. Sadly, a 2.39:1 ratio on a tiny portable leaves you with an image roughly the size of a shatterproof ruler.
Bottom “Terror” S03E02 (1995) 30m
“Trick or treat, you bald-headed bastard!”Small Devil, Bottom “Terror”
Second in this blood-curdling BBC TV pairing, the “Hammersmith hard men” – Richard “Richie” Richard and Edward Elizabeth “Eddie” Hitler, concoct a fiendish Hallowe’en scheme to get “just cash, no sweets,” as they venture out trick or ruddy treating (and mugging old ladies) dressed as a Satanic “incontinent girl” and a talking Hallowe’en banana.
After failing miserably, and losing five bottles of Malibu, Richie cooks up his ritualistic “Sprouts Mexicane” aka “the Sprouts of Evil,” and looks up a devil raising incantation in his Ladybird Book of Witches, before making a pencil-tangle, and settling in for an evening of wrist-slashing, soul-selling and devil worship with acolytes, Spudgun and Dave Hedgehog.
What results is one of the most memorable episodes of Bottom – perverted, gory, and insanely well-written and acted. As a boy, it was the funniest programme I’d ever seen, and today, it’s particularly nice to revisit it and pay tribute to Rik Mayall – a man who perhaps made me laugh more than anyone else on the planet.
Spotify playlist: SAMHAIN PART I
You, dear reader, should be asleep right now. However, seeing as the likelihood anyone will actually follow this ridiculous schedule is very low, then please enjoy this 2nd playlist I’ve been concocting for quite some time at your own convenience. Or, indeed if you are certifiable and it’s 2am on 31st October, then this is the playlist for you. In contrast to the more jokey, fun Part I, this one is loaded with some gorgeous, atmospheric, unsettling and otherwise transformative sounds to give you a really weird night’s sleep.
This one drifts through the darker ends of the music spectrum, taking in atmospheric black metal, brittle post-rock, jarring, skeletal post-classical and spectral, gothy folk. All the more perfect to see in the early, pitch-black hours of Samhain itself.
If you’d prefer some overnight background viewing, however, you could do a lot worse than running a DVD boxset of The Munsters – gloriously cheesy, it’s still a total charmer to this day. Or how about some classic silent cinema? Matt and myself are very partial, in particular, to Carl Dreyer’s iconic Vampyr and Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages.
Ghostbusters (1984) 1h 47m | Ghostbusters II (1989) 1h 50m
“Gozer the Gozerian? Good evening.”Ray Stantz, Ghostbusters
The next 4 hours are dedicated entirely to a true phenomenon of the 1980s – they’re the best… they’re the beautiful .. they’re the only… Ghostbusters.
First up, it’s the original movie. From the spectral glow of the Columbia logo, featuring the Statue of Liberty with her illuminated torch (foreshadowing the upcoming sequel), Ghostbusters is a memory lane treat. The timeless practical effects of the levitating books, records spraying from drawers, and the unforgettable library ghost rearing up and roaring, each transport me back instantly. The ropy but endearing stop motion still charms in a way CG never will.
Ghostbusters is unofficially sponsored by marijuana – Ramis, Aykroyd, and Reitman apparently all enjoyed the “greenery” when putting this one together. To quote the director, “Bill’s the mouth, Dan’s the hands, Harold’s the brains.” Brought in to replace Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray’s dry-humoured, sardonic, “acceptable in the eighties” performance as Venkman is solid gold – plinking on the piano and quipping, “They hate this,” twirling about to mimic a roller skater, and teasing Harold Ramis with a candy bar.
Like a modern Abbot and Costello comedy-horror, it brings big scares and big laughs, and doesn’t compromise on either. The SNL gang are at the height of their powers in the city that worshipped them. The film doesn’t need to pander to kids. Children, especially boys, respond to adult fare and didn’t need to understand every line anyway. In fact, I’d be amazed if the majority understood ¼ of it. But Ghostbusters is simply too cool to care.
To quote Murray from an alternate line reading, “What a knockabout of pure fun that was!” Now, grab your copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide and your Spates Catalog, because next, we’re crossing the streams, and heading straight into Ghostbusters II.
“We had part of a Slinky. But I straightened it.”Egon Spengler, Ghostbusters II
Reitman returns, as do the majority of the cast, although there are some neat subversions; Ray and Winston nervously approaching what turns out to be children rather than class 5, free-roaming vapors, with the “ungrateful yuppie larva” preferring He-Man over them is pretty smart. Labelled as “charlatans,” banned from paranormal investigations, and sued out of business for “conjuring” an 80-foot marshmallow man, and blowing the top off a high rise, the Ghostbusters are at an all-time low.
This time, they’re battling Vigo the Carpathian (the Scourge of Carpathia, the Sorrow of Moldavia), who is suffering from a bad case of kitten loss and requires an infant body as a host – cue Dana’s bouncing baby boy, Oscar. Reitman has a knack for making scenes frightening and borderline disturbing for kids without being overly gory. The Scoleri Brothers in the courtroom is a pitch perfect family film scare sequence, Janosz’s eyes glowing in the hallway like headlights, the underground cry of “Winston,” the ghost train, heads on spikes, and the pink slime reaching out from Dana’s bathtub all toe the same line without crossing it.
I love World of the Psychic with Dr. Peter Venkman. It should have, without question, been made for real. Now self-employed at Ray’s Occult bookstore, Aykroyd is a tad tame, and quite poor at times in relation to the first film. It’s all a bit wooden, and there’s too much ADR in general, resulting in some stilted performances. Ghostbusters II hits the same beats, and is clearly a major retread. The crowd cheering in the third act, the obligatory pencil-neck trying to interfere and discredit our heroes, the familiar-sounding tunes pumping us up – “I guess we’re gonna have to take control” and the third act giant, Mr Stay-Puft, is replaced by “tough harbour chick,” the Statue of Liberty.
I could do without with the Louis/Janine love story and the Janosz slapstick, but I’m not 8-years-old anymore so what do I know. It’s certainly a more juvenile, kid-friendly picture, with cynical, lunchbox-flogging appeal and blatant toy merch marketing, but it’s also a crucial installment worthy of a revisit, particularly at this time of year, where its tone perfectly suits the Hallowe’en season.
The Real Ghostbusters “The Hole in the Wall Gang” S02E65 (1987) 21m
“What an incredible manifestation!”Egon Spengler, The Real Ghostbusters “The Hole in the Wall Gang”
Hellacious thunder and lightning, canted framing, and the kind of creepy, Japanese-sourced animation only the ’80s could provide now, with a retro episode of a real childhood fave – The Real Ghostbusters.
The Garfield-voiced, droll slurring of the all too handsome, animated Venkman’s delivery owes something to Bill Murray – at least it’s recognisable; the odd incarnations of the other Ghostbusters, Arsenio Hall as Winston being the biggest name attached, and the curiously coiffed, blonde Egon (who manages to say “manifestation” a hundred times in 20 minutes) bare little resemblance to the cast of the movies. I always felt it was strange to title the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters when they were anything but. Turns out Filmation retained the rights to the title, and made their own shoddy, animated series (featuring a monkey) as an attempted cash-in, necessitating the “real” in The Real Ghostbusters, to set the shows apart. The Ghostbusters’ carefully colour-coded uniforms differ largely from the films, presumably to market action figures and other toys – it worked on me!
This particular tale revolves around the Peter Lorre-esque, Charles Von Limburger and his wife, Madame Limburger, who inherit a haunted mansion and call the Ghostbusters, who find specters emanating from holes in the walls, which increase in size relating to the width of said hole. The mini ghouls, and spidery spooks ramp up to larger rodent monsters, and the gang narrowly avoid imploding the whole universe trying to get them back into the supernatural world. This kids’ cartoon features a phantom old man’s face melting like cheese, long shadows, baying reptilian apparitions, clawed, slobbering, red-eyed monsters, a Miskatonic University Lovecraftian/Re-Animator nod, and the obligatory Dracula references, as well as the essential PKE meters, proton packs, and the beloved Ecto-1 all making an appearance. The Hole in the Wall Gang also contains several Evil Dead II-aping scenes; a severed hand grabs Egon’s, and Ray gets sucked into the realm of the spirits, returning white-haired and shocked just like Ash from his portal. All in all, it’s a tidy little installment that may just temporarily transport you back to your youth.
PORTALS INTO WEIRDNESS
The Beyond (1981) 1h 27m
“…E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà”Full Italian title, lit. “…And you will live in terror! The beyond”
I knew this marathon needed something from the halcyon days of Italian horror cinema. Having deployed a Mario Bava in my last playlist in Black Sunday, and finding it difficult to think of an appropriate Argento, I went with the other of the big hitters – Lucio Fulci, settling on The Beyond as I felt it paired beautifully with my next pick. While City of the Living Dead‘s maggot-blasting, priest-hanging madness is a trip, and Zombi 2‘s infamous disregard for stuntman safety in its insane zombie-versus-actual-shark sequence is legendary, the pure strangeness and hints of far deeper mythology present in this film set it apart for me.
Starting with a sepia-toned prologue of a painter being brutally, ritualistically killed in the basement of a sweltering New Orleans hotel, we rush to the then-present day as New York export Liza moves in with plans to begin renovations. As a series of unfortunate events befall her hired help, the full extent of the uncanny grip the hotel is held in becomes apparent to Liza, much to the typical mansplainy disbelief of local doctor John who dismisses her increasing disquiet as good old-fashioned hysteria.
Yet these horrific event persist, as the book of Eibon (a text in the spiralling Cthulhu mythos) plays a central role in the exquisitely disgusting, waxy-flesh-melting deaths that befall a cavalcade of supporting characters, and their subsequent reanimation as lumpy zombies that litter John & Liza’s path back to the inescapable Beyond that lives in the basement. The lack of coherence and occasionally repetitive nature of the film may grate for some, but if you get on its wavelength, it can help create a suitably disorientating nightmare logic that leads to a gorgeous conclusion that finds a mirror image in our next choice.
The Void (2016) 1h 30m
Continuing the Lovecraftian vibe of The Beyond, the Canadian crowdfunded indie The Void finds inspiration, like The Guest, in the influence of the genre overlords, most notably John Carpenter. And, like that film, it stands out in a marketplace full of imitators by dint of its clever indulgences and subversions of its forebears, and in its meticulous dedication to craftsmanship on a reduced budget.
Setting out its stall with the mysterious and brutal slaughter of a young woman outside a ramshackle farmhouse – shot in the back with a 12-gauge and burned alive – her male companion escapes and is found incoherent at the roadside by a bored local cop. Taking him to the partially burned-out nearby hospital, operating on a skeletal staff in advance of imminent closure, he soon finds himself trapped inside with them as the building is surrounded by silent, knife-wielding white-robed cult weirdos. And that’s when things start to get ugly, as The Thing‘s gooey menace starts to bleed in to proceedings.
Directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie use this Assault of Precinct 13-esque set up to explore both some apocalyptic weird fiction, and some admirably disgusting practical effects work without ever letting the internal tension of the at-odds characters flag. The film is both a throwback to a bygone halcyon age of horror, and a fantastic example of the quality of the current crop of genre creators.
BONUS FILM THAT SKEWS THE 4 HOUR BLOCK TIMINGS!
The Vampire Doll (1970) 1h 11m
In a desperate bid to include one of these films, I’ve departed from the double bills and overrun my slot by 8 minutes because I really wanted to recommend one of Michio Yamamoto’s glorious, stylish vampire movies from the 1970s. In the interests of time (it’s the shortest of the three), and also intrigue (I think it is the most unusual take on the vampire mythology), I’ve chosen his first, The Vampire Doll. Outside of the Guy Maddin film in the Halloween week preamble, this is our only foray in to vampirism in this list, which I think is all the more reason to sneak it in.
Another largely house-bound entry, this one features a concerned woman and her fiancée investigating the disappearance of her brother after he set off to visit his new girlfriend at her isolated country house and has yet to return. After an extended prologue with the brother, Kazuhiko, arriving at the house only to be told that his paramour Yūko has died in his absence (OR HAS SHE?!), a swift and slightly jarring edit and our intrepid couple are on the case, uncovering a house full of secrets and also vampires (sort of).
This Toho Studios production, with its vibrant colourful photography, meticulous sets, and an intriguing and brisk plot which riffs and toys with both the rules of the vampire mythology and the heady atmosphere of the Hammer Studios productions from which it takes its primary influence, attains a level of swagger which is all its own. It’s a dark little bauble which will help cleanse the palette after the inter-dimensional madness which preceded it.
Freak and Geeks “Tricks and Treats” S01E03 (1999) 45m
“Kids! I was just kidding! I’m not really a vampire! I own a sporting goods store!”Harold Weir, Freak and Geeks “Tricks and Treats”
Paul Feig’s criminally cancelled, but nevertheless perfectly formed, Apatow-approved gem from 1999, has deservedly achieved cult status, and ranks among my favourite shows of all time. Tricks and Treats just screams Hallowe’en, capturing a melancholy-tinged, Virgin Suicides-ish, suburban sundown glow with its thoughtful cinematography.
Appropriately for this marathon, Tricks and Treats is set between October 29th and 31st, 1980. Bill dresses for Hallowe’en as The Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers, Neal is Groucho Marx, and Sam goes as Gort – the lesser-known robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still, but honestly looks more like Oz’s Tin Man. Handsome grinner, James Franco, co-stars as Daniel Desario alongside Linda Cardellini, Busy Philips, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel. John Francis Daley is particularly great in this one, as is Becky Ann Baker as his crestfallen mum, and the always hilarious, Joe Flaherty (Happy Gilmore) as Sam’s deadpan Dracula-dad steals the show.
As well as relaying the mythologised dangers of fun-size Hallowe’en treats, dreaded Dostoevsky book reviews, Santana discussions, mailbox baseball, and jack-o’-lantern stomping, the episode focusses on Lindsay’s continued struggle with identity as she favours a mischief night hanging out with her “freak” friends over the family tradition of handing out candy at home with her mum. For me, it echoes the all important message this time of year that you’re never too old for Hallowe’en.
Ghostwatch (1992) 1h 31m
“Welcome to fright night!”Craig Charles, Ghostwatch
Ghostwatch was a ’90s TV satire, and horror game-changer way ahead of its time. Cats in the machine, a possessed Parky, a “glory hole” (don’t ask), Craig Charles on valium, real-life Rainbow character, Mike Smith, and his actual missus, the delightful kids’ telly staple, Sara Green, getting lured into a haunted cupboard under the stairs – required viewing for me since my PTSD-inducing induction on Hallowe’en night, 1992. Watching real television personalities getting offed was traumatising, and I do understand the backlash to an extent. However, I also feel the film was made in the true spirit of Hallowe’en; a clever trick, rather than a mean-spirited deception.
Using the idiom of the outside broadcast, Ghostwatch opens up the Hallowe’en witchboard, I mean switchboard, to calls from the general public, who, as well as recounting ghost stories of their own, appear to be experiencing strange goings on in their own homes. Apparently, Volk originally wanted to employ a high-pitched sound on the soundtrack, which would cause pets to freak out, and for the trusted, veteran television personality, Michael Parkinson, to state live on air that “the ghost is probably in your house,” adding to the illusion that a “national seance” was being created all over the UK. These additions, of course, would have caused an unimaginable outcry, as there was already a palaver brewing without such overt provocations.
Stephen Volk denies it was a hoax or a Hallowe’en prank, but it left young viewers scarred for life, and reportedly led to the suicide of an 18-year-old factory worker with learning difficulties, who, even 5 days later, couldn’t shake the shock and was left “hypnotised and obsessed” by the programme. Although post-watershed, it arguably pushed the envelope in terms of family drama – tales of saliva on the doorstep and the mackerel, on some fella’s shoes, excrement smeared on a door, mentions of child murder, the mutilation of a pregnant dog with its foetuses scattered everywhere.
Despite being broadcast as a Screen One drama, having an introduction using the term “star in,” and a “written by” credit at the outset, Ghostwatch still duped viewers. It even fooled Parky’s mother. It was never sold as reality as such. It was clearly stated as being fiction, but that didn’t help anyone who tunes in 30 seconds late, or two minutes late, or 10 minutes late, to witness an entity speaking through a petrified young girl, the BBC studio firing sparks and exploding wildly, and Parky going “round and round the garden like a teddy bear.” People thought they were going nuts, and seeing things. The sheer genius of showing a vague image of “Pipes,” standing by the curtain in the girls’ bedroom, then rewinding the footage to check what it was, only to find nothing – the shot being altered in post. This technique and a general mischievous approach was what ultimately led to a backlash and 30,000 complaints.
It’s a study in ham and cheese acting; the mother, Pam overdoes it, and so do the kids. The callers too; it’s pretty heavy-handed and frankly difficult to believe it could’ve fooled so many. Aside from some am-dram performances and far-fetched goings on, giving the game away for any astute viewers in 2020, it’s still a staple in the found footage, faux documentary subgenre. It was one of, if not the first of its kind, and executed remarkably well; too well according to public reaction in ’92.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) 1h 21m
“It was a total cackling, man.”Josh, The Blair Witch Project
It was October, 1999. My best friend, Sam, and I were crammed into a packed Showcase Cinema in Teeside to see “the scariest movie ever.” Coincidentally, I also saw the other two of my top three, all-time scariest films that year – 1973’s The Exorcist, which I eagerly grabbed off the shelf and rented the same day the BBFC lifted its video ban, and 1974’s slasher classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which I also finally saw with Sam on tape as soon as it received its 18 certificate.
From Blair Witch’s pitch-perfect beginning; the Haxan films logo, the slightly juddery – as if projected, opening title, and the iconic simplicity of its opening gambit; it had us firmly in its grasp. To this day, I recall it being the most visceral cinematic experience I’ve ever had. So much so, I remember pinching a Time magazine from college with the Blair Witch guys on the cover as a kind of symbolic token. Convenient happenstance certainly played a part; the shot in which Heather smushes the Hi-8 video camera into a bag of “marshmallows,” conveniently framing the word, is uncanny. There were so many fortunate accidents like this, including the first major chill of the movie – the little girl, Ingrid, covering her mother’s mouth as she is interviewed about the Blair Witch, as if she knows, on some level, what the adults are discussing is forbidden. It’s cinematic magic in a bottle, and miraculous in the sense that it’s totally out of the blue; the kid is clearly too young to be directed. Later, Heather gets her hair caught on her backpack during a low moment of internal crisis – it’s so natural and real, and impossible to fake.
Heather jokes about “saving the bloodletting for later”; but writer/editor/directors, Myrick and Sánchez, bravely save it for never, as we actually see very little. A few of Josh’s pulled teeth in a bloody trinket is the extent of the gore. The end is predicated on a ten-second tale, spun at the very beginning, during the interview mentioning Rustin Parr. In order to get the payoff, you must pay close attention. Blair Witch’s horror exists purely in your imagination; if it doesn’t scare you, I hate to break it to you, but you have no imagination.
I still consider The Blair Witch Project the most punk rock film ever, in the sense that it cost a mere $30,000 and made $240 million, but also the postmodern direction, and the way it stripped away the bullshit. Everything is crucial, and serves the story. It’s very smart filmmaking, and its repercussions can still be felt in contemporary horror, most obviously, the found footage genre. But unlike many of the films it spawned, it has little to no artifice. As Stephen King once observed, it “looks and feels real.” The Hi-8 video and the CP-16’s black and white film is a hell of a juxtaposition, and already, in 2020, makes the film appear like it was from a totally different time. It’s locked in the nineties where it belongs.
Driving home alone that night, through the woods surrounding Croft-on-Tees, was unnerving to say the least. I got goosebumps recounting the movie for this introduction. The DVD menu still scares me. That’s how far this 82-minute masterpiece burrowed under my skin. It’s still genuinely frightening. Just as Jaws terrified beach-goers indefinitely, and swimming in the sea was never quite the same, you won’t be in a hurry to go hiking or camping in the woods again after witnessing The Blair Witch Project. So this Hallowe’en, make sure all lights are off, turn the volume up loud, and experience what I believe to be not only the greatest horror movie mythology ever conceived, but also “the scariest movie ever.”
One Cut Of The Dead (2017) 1h 37m
We reach the last ‘official’ slot of the marathon here, as we hurtle towards the witching hour, and I’ve decided to indulge the more entertaining side of the season, rather than anything that’ll set the nerves too far on edge. What better way to recover from the lo-fi dread of The Blair Witch Project than a double bill of the FUN DEAD (hat tip to Shaun of the Dead), kicking off with this most recent film on our countdown. Now, speaking of Shaun of the Dead, I had thought that I would be happy to never see another zombie comedy again in my life. The Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg staple was a miraculous and hilarious instant classic that found exactly the right balance of reverence and irreverence, and the team’s sitcom pedigree meant that the hangout vibe was perfect. But in its wake came a deluge of subpar hangers-on, with any actual menace to be found in the zombie genre drained as a result. I see the appeal to filmmakers, of course – put some facepaint on some mates and you have a zombie horde. Put them in one location and you’re paying homage to Night of the Living Dead in a conveniently budget-conscious way. Drop in some lame, first-draft gags and you don’t have to worry about trying to craft scares. Unfortunately I’d rather have my guts feasted on that sit through one though.
So I resisted One Cut of the Dead for a good few months based on nothing more than this prejudice. The fact that it was clearly shot on handheld video, and was proudly touted as being a very cheap production, just set off more red flags. I tend to have weirdly specific preferences when it comes to a film’s visuals, and even when it’s motivated by plot, I don’t particularly understand why I should watch something that’s kinda ugly, seeing as we’re dealing with a visual medium. The whole thing tended to smack of a lack of effort. Well, I’ve learned an important lesson about being a judgemental idiot.
One Cut is gloriously inventive, masterfully put together and one of the most oddly heartwarming films you could watch for Hallowe’en. Last time out I recommended Ed Wood to celebrate the weirdo makeshift families that coalesce around this most disreputable of genres – this film exemplifies that even more explicitly. It would be a shame for new viewers to go in to this with plot expectations, as the joy is in the discovery, but this tightly controlled, hilarious and charming film struck me as an ideal lead-in to our big midnight movie. POM!
Return of the Living Dead (1985) 1h 31m
Our actual honest-to-wickedness midnight movie on Hallowe’en night itself is finally here, and I’ve decided that the best way to see it in is, much like Matt’s earlier choice of Evil Dead II, with a film that hits the sweet spot between silly and scary. So, for the second FUN-DEAD pick we have this 1985 Dan O’Bannon cult classic to indulge ourselves with.
Clutzy warehouse foreman Frank tries to impress his young new hire Freddy by showing him the sealed military drums in the building’s basement, only to unleash a toxic gas that reanimates a corpse. And, in relatively short order, their stupidity and bad luck creates a chain reaction that brings forth hordes of vicious and tactically aware zombies. Caught up in all this mayhem are Freddy’s punk friends who have gathered at the local cemetery for a night of drinking and striptease.
These scuzzy young tearaways are what helps give this brilliantly nihilistic hand grenade its buzzsaw punk spirit. Referencing, remixing and flat-out rejecting George A. Romero’s zombie rules (no running, no talking, removing the head or destroying the brain will kill them), the film emerged from John Russo’s legal wrangle with Romero over the use of the phrase ‘…of the Living Dead’ and was placed in the eager hands of O’Bannon, who didn’t waste a single second of screentime in his incendiary feature debut as director.
The gross effects, some of which are adorably hokey (the anamatronic cross-section dog being a perennial favourite) while others are brutally effective, just adds to the anything goes spirit. But our scenes with the ailing Frank and Freddy really stick in the BRAAAAAINS too, as all hell breaks loose around them, and we even care more for our doomed zombie fodder than usual thanks to their colourful performances (most notably, of course, the incomparable Linnea Quigley). The mordant and destructive finale serves as a pretty ideal capper to our most audacious marathon.
Sunday November 1st
Spaced “Art” S01E03 (1999) 25m
Taking a bit of a breather, and serving as a nice post-script, I thought we should drop in on the Wright-Pegg (and Stevenson/Hynes!) gang for the episode that started it all and sowed the seeds for Shaun of the Dead. I loved Spaced as a teen during its first run, and my affection for it only grew as I too entered the strange twilight world of overgrown adolescent housesharing. Simon Pegg’s Tim, having stayed up all night playing Resident Evil due to having taken some cheap speed from a couple of very friendly Scottish lads who he feared might beat him up if he refused, starts to see the undead roaming his flat. Daisy, his flatmate, is more concerned with her interview at the empowering women’s magazine FLAPS.
The pair are dragged to a performance art theatre space to watch David Walliams spout gibberish while Paul Kaye features as a man who may or may not shove a vacuum cleaner up his arse. For the art. As ever, the episode is visually inventive, sweetly acerbic and narratively audacious.
Lonely Water (1973) 2m
At just a minute and a half, this brief but harrowing British public information film was featured on both Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Scary Moments rundown, and Russell Brand’s Ponderland. The “sensible children” live, and the “show-offs” and “fools” perish. The perpetually looming, grim reaper figure – horror stalwart, Donald Pleasance’s final, echoed, “I’ll be back” will surely haunt your dreams. To paraphrase Brand, “It’s a Bergman-esque parable about the dangers of swimming in water, with sexual undertones and mind-bending, terrifying metaphor. I’m not scared of water; I’m scared of that advert!”
Lonely Water is currently available to stream for free on both the BFI Player and their YouTube channel.
Apaches (1977) 27m
This 27-minute, 16mm educational oddity cropped up through a YouTube video countdown of disturbing public information films from yesteryear, and relates to myself (and Devlin, most likely), as it made the rounds on VHS in primary schools throughout rural regions and dealt with the dangers of playing on farms. As kids, my mates and I would climb trees, roll hay bales, and squeeze through tiny crawl spaces; some even snuck into the quarry across from my house. You’d hear tales from adults about how dangerous it was, and how easily we could be sucked down and suffocated in a gravel pit, or meet our end messing around with the machinery. Apaches feels like my youth. Perhaps it’s the barbed wire and stiles, the game of “Kick the Can,” muddy fields, red phone boxes, the graveyard, or Danny’s Leeds (FC, I’m assuming) jumper.
Apaches’ surreal, dreamlike premise cleverly utilises a 6-kid game of Cowboys and Indians, and crosscuts it with a “party,” which turns out to be a post-funeral gathering for our doomed narrator, Danny aka “Geronimo.” One after another, each of Apaches’ reckless bairns are involved in unfortuitous farmyard accidents. First, 8-year-old “squaw”, Kim, tumbles from a tractor trailer and is ran over beneath its wheels. The following images show her name tag being removed from her cloakroom peg at school. This heartbreaking technique persists throughout with shots of a desk being cleaned out in a classroom, and possessions being removed from bedroom drawers. Next, young Tom drowns in a slurry pit, “squaw” Sharon, aged 9, ceremonially drinks a poison toast, the effects of which are left entirely to the imagination; all we are privy to is her pained, distressed cries of “mummy!” and a long shot of her lit-up house at night. Starsky and Hutch wannabe, Robert, follows suit and is crushed to death by a falling iron gate. Finally, the fifth child, 11-year-old Danny; the leader of the pack, dies when his runaway tractor barrels over a cliff, violently throwing his body around like a rag doll. His mother sits in his empty bedroom, awaiting their “party” guests. Michael, Danny’s “daft” cousin, lives to tell the tale, and is seen at both “the chief’s” funeral, and with his family around the dinner table at the end.
How Hallowe’en-appropriate Apaches is, I’m not sure. The little ‘uns do go from playing dead to being dead. If you’re a parent, you’ll be glad your kid’s at home staring zombified into a smartphone screen, and not ritualistically drinking poison on a farm somewhere. Different times, eh? The misadventures and eventual horrific deaths of each child feel like a very real prospect. The blunt, unflinching honesty of Apaches is where its power lies; its clever structure is as imaginative as the kids it portrays. The relentless, repetitive nature of the deaths is startlingly effective. Their recklessness, and the perils of the farm loom like a horror movie slasher, picking them off one by one; the tension and suspense naturally building with each ensuing accident. It becomes hypnotic in a similar way to Alan Clarke’s Elephant – without the political weight, but nevertheless. No one seems to mourn their fallen comrades. I’d also liken the foreboding to the opening scenes of UK hospital drama, Casualty, which would tease a horrendous accident of some kind, with a hedge trimmer or a big ladder or something, and viewers would hide behind their hands, squirming, waiting for the inevitable. Inject a little Lord of the Flies, and you get a sense of where Apaches is coming from. The end credit scroll displays a troubling number of kids killed that year in accidents on farms.
Apaches is currently available to stream for free on the BFI Player, and was written by Neville Smith, and directed by John Mackenzie, who subsequently went on to make The Long Good Friday in 1980.
Possum (2018) 1h 25m
If you want to enter the dark dawn of November 1st truly freaked out, then I’d recommend, as a chaser to the unsettling 70s Brit-misery above, the debut feature by Darkplace creator and Garth Marenghi himself, Matthew Holness, who openly references films like those above as his visual and tonal inspiration. Just don’t go in expecting laughs – this dark and stark tale is played deadly serious, albeit with a heavy dose of woozy surreality. Sean Harris stars as disgraced children’s TV puppeteer named Philip who returns to his childhood home, now a partially burned, miserable wreck occupied by his disgusting, slovenly and abusive Uncle Maurice (Alun Armstrong).
When a local boy goes missing, the tightly wound Philip falls under suspicion as we catch glimpses of what led him to his current situation. All the while, he is tormented by his puppet Possum, a grotesque and genuinely horrifying creation he keeps in a leather bag that resists every effort of disposal.
With a washed-out, foreboding colour palette and eerie score by the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop, this film pays homage to previous eras of the genre without ever tipping over in to pastiche. As with earlier films in this list like The Guest and The Void, instead it crafts an entirely individual entry in to the pantheon that stands totally on its own merits, and rebuffs any attempts by horror snobs to suggest that things aren’t as good now as in the old days. I hope that by the time Matt and I pitch in for the long haul next year, we’ll have discovered an entirely new crop of scares to curate!
And that, dear Rewinders, is our HalloRe’ewind Movie Marathon for 2020! We hope you’ve enjoyed our choices, and may have even found some inspiration for your own seasonal spooks. If so, please do let us know! You can find me (Devlin) on Twitter and Instagram, and Matt too, and our Rewind accounts here and here! We’d also love to hear your recommendations too, especially in the form of a curated marathon, in the comments or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All that’s left to say is, HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYBODY! Please enjoy this monster YouTube playlist courtesy of Matt!