With Halloween looming large on the horizon, I figured I would do something a bit different here at Mysterious Universe, over the next few days and all revolving around October 31. Namely, a few list-based articles. You’ll see what I mean. I’ll begin, today, with my five recommended movies to watch on Halloween. A film-fest of the fear-filled kind? Well, yeah, something like that. So, when the wind howls, dark clouds race across the skies, and ghouls, ghosts and who knows what surface from their lairs, here’s what to keep you occupied for a few hours – or more.
5: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark: It’s a creepy and short movie (it runs to just seventy-four minutes) starring Kim Darby, Jim Hutton and Barbara Anderson. A 1973 TV movie that gets re-run now and again, it tells the eerie story of a married couple – Sally and Alex Farnum (Darby and Hutton) – who move into an atmospheric, shadow-filled old house. Unknown to them, it is home to something menacing: small, humanoid creatures that dwell in the walls, under the floorboards, and in just about any and every hidden nook and cranny possible. When Sally starts to see these dwarfish, diminutive things creeping around, she plunges into states of terror and fear. Hutton plays her unsympathetic ass of a husband, who is having none of it. Only grumpy old Mr. Harris (actor William Demarest), the local handyman, knows the unsettling truth. There is something very wrong about the house – and the “other” inhabitants, which only Sally sees, are worse still. How does it all end? Badly, of course!
4: Gargoyles: Another old movie from long-gone times (1972), this one is a highly entertaining piece of horror-hokum. Actors Cornel Wilde and Jennifer Salt (Dr. Mercer Boley and his daughter, Diana) find themselves taking on an army of winged monsters – the gargoyles of the movie’s title – in a dark, desert locale. When a grizzled old character – Uncle Willie – reveals the skeleton of one of the monsters to doubting Dr. Boley and Diana, things turn badly. Willie dies a horrific death and the Gargoyles turn their attentions on Diana and the Doc. The special effects make-up is not bad for 1972 (it was the work of effects legend Stan Winston). Don’t take the movie seriously, though – just take it for what it is: an undeniably fun bit of TV terror which is best watched over more than a few cold beers (I recommend Steel Reserve or Stack) and something to smoke.
3: The Plague Of The Zombies: My all-time favorite undead-themed film, this 1966 production is one of the best from Hammer Film Productions. Given that it really is one of Hammer’s best, it’s somewhat surprising that Hammer stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were not chosen for the key roles. It doesn’t really matter though: the movie works just as well without them. I remember watching this as a very little kid and practically doing what only a bottle of laxatives should do. Even now, the zombies still look creepy, as they wander the depths of old mines and the English countryside of the 19th century. And there is a very cool dream-episode in the film – set in a cemetery, of course – which is done in fine fashion. Not to be missed!
2: Night Of The Demon: A 1957 B&W movie with Dana Andrews taking on the role of Dr. John Holden, who is a skeptic of major proportions when it comes to the worlds of the supernatural, the paranormal, and the occult. We see Holden’s mind begin to change when he is exposed to the magical abilities of the Aleister Crowley-like Dr. Julian Carswell (actor Niall MacGinnis). Carswell wants Holden out of his hair and off his back – right now. Or else. Holden refuses to back off and, as a result, we see him plagued by the likes of a supernatural cat, almost struck by lightning (Carswell’s work), and terrorized by the demon of the movie’s title. The race is soon on as Holden seeks a way to save his life – and at the cost of Carswell. The black-and-white nature of the movie adds to the suspense and the atmosphere, as the viewer is plunged into a world of devil worship, witchcraft, curses and more in rural England – and in the heart of London too. The one downside? The demon itself. It should really have been left to the imagination of the viewer. Instead, we are shown a pretty bad model, which is likely to provoke rolling-eyes, rather than thrills. But, despite that, it’s still an excellent production.
1: The Ninth Gate: I have a few friends who don’t really care for this movie, which hit cinemas in 1999, but I have to disagree. It’s not my all-time favorite movie. But, for Halloween, I definitely recommend it. Johnny Depp plays Dean Corso. Lena Olin’s character of the cold-as-ice Liana Telfer describes Corso as a “book detective.” She will do all that needs to be done to keep a certain book in her hands. It’s a centuries-old book said to have been written by the Devil himself. Corso is hired by Frank Langella’s character of Boris Balkan – a book-collector who has an obsession with the Devil. Corso finds himself caught up in a mystery of deadly and supernatural proportions – aided only by uber-babe Emmanuelle Seigner, who is not at all the person she appears to be. Corso is on a race against time, as he becomes more and more obsessed with what just might be the world’s most dangerous book.
Of course, your list may be very different to mine. But, if it’s a movie night for you, have a good one!