I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone that the creepiest eve of the year – Halloween – is just around the corner. With that in mind, I thought I would share with you my top five movies for October 31. Nope, you won’t find a single slasher movie of the Freddy or Jason kind on my list. Nor will you find anything dominated by CGI technology.
By providing you with the titles a few days early, I figured it will give you the chance to get hold of the movies just in time for the night when the world turns supernatural!
We’ll start with my number one movie for Halloween, which also just happens to be my favorite movie – period. It’s Night of the Demon, which was made in moody black and white, in 1957, and which was released in the United States under the title of Curse of the Demon. It’s a fantastic, atmospheric story of devil worship in 1950s England and stars Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, and Niall MacGinnis (the latter brilliantly portraying devilish devotee, Julian Carswell).
Combine creepy woods, a shape-shifting moggy, an old mansion, Stonehenge, mysterious runes, and Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) with a deadly demon chasing him down, and you have a perfect movie for the night when witches take to the skies, the dead walk, and black cats should be avoided at all costs.
Number two on my list: Don’t be Afraid of the Dark. I’m talking about the 1972 original, not the 2011 remake. The latter was okay, but it really didn’t stand a chance of eclipsing the former. It stars Kim Darby and Jim Hutton as a married couple – Sally and Alex – who move into an old house inherited from Sally’s recently deceased grandmother. There is, however, something very weird about the house – how could there not be?!
Sally soon begins to realize that ominous things are afoot: household items are moved by mysterious forces, Sally hears her name whispered in the dead of night, and terrible things appear to scuttle around the old house after sunset. Alex is convinced that Sally needs psychiatric help. She doesn’t. This becomes apparent when we learn that deep below the house there lurks a colony of small, hideous, goblin-like creatures that surface after the sun has set and make life a living hell for Sally.
Endless shadows, a claustrophobic atmosphere, and a good cast of characters, all make Don’t be Afraid of the Dark perfect for Halloween.
Number three is the made-for-television, 2-part movie, Salem’s Lot, which was broadcast in 1979. Okay, you could also call it a mini-series, rather than a movie, but it’s still on my list. While I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s novels, I have often been disappointed by the movie adaptations. But, not by Salem’s Lot. I first saw it when I was at school and I still remember me and my mates excitedly chatting about it the day after the first part aired.
David Soul plays his part of author Ben Mears well, as does James Mason as the creepy Richard Straker. But, it’s Reggie Nalder who stands out from the rest. He portrays one of the most menacing on-screen vampires of all time: Mr. Barlow, who growls rather than speaks. Twilight, this ain’t, thank god.
Salem’s Lot is set against the backdrop of a tiny town in turmoil, one in which the small population is quickly, and systematically, being transformed into blood-sucking creatures of the night.
Gargoyles: ah yes, they don’t make them like this anymore! Gargoyles is a 1972 TV movie starring Cornel Wilde and Jennifer Salt. Wilde’s character, Dr. Mercer Boley, and his daughter Diana (played by Salt), are off to see a certain Uncle Willy who runs a desert museum marketing all manner of weird critters. Most of them are poor fabrications, designed to ensure that gullible tourists quickly part with their dollars.
One such critter is not a fabrication, however. It’s nothing less than the skeleton of a gargoyle – the existence of which soon leads to Uncle Willy’s fiery death, and Boley and Diana fighting for their lives, as a band of cave-dwelling, winged monsters goes on the rampage. Add to the mix the local cops and a gang of bikers and you have a strange, and strangely watchable, movie that mixes horror with folklore, legend, and mythology – and, in my view, does it very well.
My final choice for Halloween: Race with the Devil. A 1975 movie, it stars Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit and Lara Parker. What should be a perfect vacation for the two couples – Roger and Kelly, and Frank and Alice – becomes an absolute nightmare, when they stumble upon a satanic sacrifice in the heart of Texas. In no time at all, they are on the run, and on the road, in their trusty RV – hotly pursued by Satan’s minions, who will do whatever it takes to preserve their secrecy.
Skilfully made, and well acted, Race with the Devil is a movie that makes you ponder on the possibility that just such a scenario could actually occur in the real world. Maybe it has…
So, there you have it: my five movies for Halloween. You may agree with my list, or you may not. Either way, have a fun, fright-filled night! PS: don’t open the door to kids with black eyes…