ONE CLASSIC AND FIVE UNDER-THE-RADAR HALLOWEEN
FILMS TO SHOCK YOUR FRIENDS (AND ENEMIES!)
The original Halloween movie, released in 1978, takes place in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween. In the beginning we see that Michael Myers was sent to a sanitarium at the age of six after he murdered his older sister, Judith Myers. The film skips ahead to when he is older and escapes from the hospital.
The doctor who helped Michael Myers from the beginning, Dr. Loomis, plays a big role in the movie as he is trying to find Michael with the initial goal of bringing him back into everyday life. At the same time, he knows Michael is perhaps still dangerous. Dr. Loomis says, “I met this six year old child with the blackest eyes, the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was lying behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply evil.”
Michael is extremely smart and is skilled at remaining in the shadows. He begins by stalking his younger sister, Laurie, and is shown appearing in front of her, peeking at her from behind bushes, or staring at her through her window. Laurie never knew Michael, so she has no clue what he looks like. However, this doesn’t matter anyway, as Michael Myers famously wears a mask that completely covers his face. A deeper connection is hinted at here, as she seems to understand Myers is her brother even as he never speaks.
One of the things that really makes this movie is the music that plays when Michael is present, whether we are actually seeing him or we just know he is lurking. It conveys a true eerie feeling and is one of the things the movie is famous for. The music starts off kind of slow but then the beat starts to get heavie, making you sit on the edge of your seat -- you know something is going to happen, but not when. The music just really adds so much to these scenes and the movie would not be the same without it.
A slow-burn, relatively sedate movie by today's standards, Halloween is a modern day classic, spawning countless imitators (and sequels), none of which really match the (relatively) low-budget creepiness of the original.
The limited scope for what films are considered Halloween "classics" can make the film selection seem bland, perhaps not even worth indulging in. But there is a vast selection of spooky films -- from various independent producers and neglected gems from big studios -- that can introduce you to a side of Halloween-themed cinema you didn’t know existed. Here are a few select unknowns from this territory:
“Terror is a Man” (1959)
Filmed entirely on location in Manila, this American-Filipino co-production has a unique bell ring gimmick to alert the audience of an incredibly disturbing moment in the film (pretty subtle for todays standards, but anyways it was a selling point in the days the film code enforcement). The tropical setting of a South Pacific peninsula is definitely something new for the horror genre, but the low lighting of the night scenes showing the man/tiger on the loose is effectively eerie.
"Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1959)
The film mysteriously begins with a beheading of a sailor; yes the crab monsters are afoot. There’s no super-imposed images of crabs; instead gigantic puppet-like crabs were constructed (which actually look scarier than real crabs) for the film. They feed off the stranded group of scientists, consuming their brains, making it possible for the crabs to speak through their voices luring the others to the same fate; in all seriousness, pretty creepy. (Bonus: produced and directed by the legendary Roger Corman, and "starring" Russell Johnson, perhaps better known as "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island.)
“Night of the Lepus” (1972)
Thundering herds of overgrown radioactive rabbits plunge into houses, barns, and trailers, devouring and/or trampling those unfortunate enough to fall into their furry wrath. Real rabbits were used, and MGM supplemented with scale model scenery, terrain, buildings, and cars.
“The Undead” (1957)
A time travel adventure into witch hunts, witch trials, deadly sing-song rhyming in the graveyard and as the posters claim, “terror that screams from the grave."