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What would be your Perfect Halloween Horror Movie Marathon?

Posted by Harbinger451 on October 30, 2014

The Horror of it All CategoryHalloween night is the perfect excuse for a horror movie marathon (like you need an excuse)… but what movies do you choose? Do you go for an eclectic selection of personal favorites or all-time classics… or have a themed night of related movies – say by following a famed franchise from start to finish or a selection of movies using the Halloween season as its backdrop? Difficult choices have to be made when embarking on the enterprise of choosing the perfect Halloween Horror Movie Marathon… so hopefully I’m here to help you out with a few suggestions and alternatives. I’d be really interested in hearing your own suggestions for the perfect horror movie marathon so please enter them in the comments section below.

1. Halloween

John Carpenter's Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)

First up on my list is easy, John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween – a tale of an escaped lunatic returning to his home town to continue a killing spree he started 15 years earlier. This seminal slasher first introduced the unstoppable psycho-killer Michael Myers to the movie going public and, bonus, the action takes place during Halloween and features some cool clips and sound-bites from classic old horror/scifi movies just to set the creepy mood. It stars the excellent Jamie Lee Curtis and the indomitable Donald Pleasence who delivers some of horror movie history’s most memorable lines with petrifying aplomb. Of course this classic spawned a whole franchise – nine more films (plus numerous novels and comic books) – but they are all a rather hit and miss affair. Choosing carefully among them can give you a decent marathon run of Halloween flavoured movies for the big night’s viewing.

Following directly from the first, Halloween II (1981) is definitely worth a watch – Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1882) isn’t, it doesn’t feature Michael Myers at all and the ever-present “its (however many) days to Halloween” jingle is just horrifyingly annoying and makes the movie practically unwatchable. Halloween‘s IV to VI (1988, 1989 & 1995) are decent enough but its probably worth skipping to the seventh chapter – Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) – which ignores numbers III to VI and continues the events from the first two movies… but 20 years later. You could follow that, if you’ve got time, with the eighth movie, Halloween: Resurrection (2002), which is set 2 years after the events in H20. In 2007 Rob Zombie’s bold, if pointless, remake was released – not a patch on the original though much more violent – and he released a follow-up in 2009 (which I have to admit I haven’t seen – and I’m not inclined to after his first effort).

As a foot note to this suggestion, and as an alternative Halloween Marathon, you could pair Carpenter’s brilliant original with  the classic movies playing on TV in the background of various scenes – Howard Hawk’s astounding scifi horror tale The Thing From Another World (1951) (which Carpenter himself would go on to remake in 1982 as the excellent The Thing) and the Fred M. Wilcox’s spooky scifi classic based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest – Forbidden Planet (1956).

Other Horror Movies set during Halloween

Numerous other horror movies have been set during or around the Halloween season – here are some of the better ones: The Crow (1994) is an excellent supernatural action movie – a young goth couple planning a Halloween marriage are murdered the night before and the male of the pair (Brandon Lee) returns as a reanimated corpse a year later to seek violent and bloody revenge. Idle Hands (1999) is a very bloody but extremely fun horror comedy about a lazy stoner teenager who’s right hand gets possessed on Halloween night and starts murdering everyone around him… even after it’s been amputated. Trick ‘r Treat (2007) is an extremely well made and suspenseful horror anthology of four stories centered around Halloween, its traditions and its legends… highly recommended.

2. The Exorcist

William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973)

William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973)

William Friedkin’s famous (and infamous) 1973 possession movie The Exorcist is based on William Peter Blatty’s bestselling novel – which in turn is based on a (supposedly) true story – and is consistently voted one of the scariest movies ever made. I’d advise you to get the most un-cut version of this movie you can – the movie’s impact has been severely dulled by over-the-top censorship over the years. It’s a tour-de-force of shock story telling, directing and acting that tells the tale of Regan (Linda Blair), a young girl (apparently) possessed by the Devil, and her mother’s attempts to get an exorcism to free her daughter from the Devil’s thrall. Eventually the services of one of the Catholic Church’s few remaining Exorcists (Max von Sydow) are called upon and a devastating confrontation ensues. The massive success of this movie ensured that it, like Halloween, would have a number of sequels, prequels and parodies – as well as many many, much poorer, imitations. A very good Exorcist Movie Marathon can definitely be had for Halloween Night should you choose to go that way.

John Boorman’s sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) takes up Regan’s story four years later and deals with the Catholic Church’s investigation into the events of the first film. Personally I’d skip that one and go straight to The Exorcist III (1990) written and directed by Blatty himself and based on his follow-up novel Legion which is a direct sequel to his The Exorcist novel. Centered on Lieutenant Kinderman’s (George C. Scott) investigation into a series of apparently demonic murders fifteen years after those in the first movie and apparently having the hallmarks of a (known to be deceased) serial killer. This movie has some very effective suspense and tension building scenes that lead to truly outstanding shock moments. After faltering attempts to produce a prequel to The Exorcist two were eventually released in 2004. The first to be made was Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist but it was thought (by the studio) to be too slow and a second was re-edited with new footage to make a more conventional horror movie and Exorcist: The Beginning was released. “The Beginning” received a pretty poor reception by critics and audiences though so “Dominion” was also released – to an only slightly better reception. It is my opinion that “Dominion is by far the better of the two but for the purposes of an Exorcist Movie Marathon perhaps Bob Logan’s spoof Repossessed (1990) starring the brilliant Leslie Nielson (along with Linda Blair) would be a better (and certainly more fun) option.

3. Alien

Ridley Scott's Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott’s science-fiction horror masterpiece Alien (1979) is, in my opinion, even scarier than The Exorcist. It is a claustrophobic terror ride of building suspense and shocking frights as a deadly alien picks off the crew of a spaceship one by one after they answer an apparent distress call from a distant hostile planet. With a stellar cast (headed by the inimitable Sigourney Weaver), amazing special effects that hold there own (even against the best of today’s CGI) and probably the best and most memorable movie monster (or monsters if you consider the face-hugger and chest-burster phases) in horror history. The movie spawned sequels, prequels and loads of lesser imitations – the best of which has to be James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), the direct sequel, picking up the story 57 years later and changing the mood somewhat into a scifi horror action adventure movie with a bunch of (space) marines trying to take on a whole colony’s worth of the alien bad-guys… great stuff.

If you want to put together an Alien movie marathon I would also recommend a movie that inspired screen-writer Dan O’Bannon when drafting his Alien concept – Edward L. Cahn’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) about a rescue mission to Mars that leads to an alien presence hunting down the space-rocket’s crew up through the confined decks till the remaining members are holed up in the control room at its apex. He also cited the previously mentioned The Thing From Another World and Forbidden Planet as influences. Also, there’s Mario Bava’s cult classic Planet of the Vampires (1965) which has some striking design and narrative similarities with Alien – though both Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon have said that neither of them had seen Planet of the Vampires at the time.

Alien was criticized by some as being just a haunted house movie set in space… but WHAT a haunted house movie! And anyway, what’s wrong with haunted house movies? In fact, I think one the best (and scariest) haunted house movies ever would make a good complement to Alien in a Halloween Horror Movie Marathon – and that would be Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) which is based on Shirley Jackson’s excellent 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House. A small group of people endeavor to stay at an infamously haunted house under the guidance of a paranormal investigator to try and get to the bottom of the house’s murderous reputation… BIG mistake!

4. The Return of the Living Dead

Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Dan O’Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is an extremely black comedy horror about a brain-eating zombie outbreak originating from a small town medical supply warehouse where inept duo – old-hand foreman Frank (James Karen) and young new employee Freddy (Thom Mathews) – stupidly break open a canister (left in the warehouse by mistake) containing one of the living-dead left over from a military experiment (involving a gas called Trioxin) that went horrendously wrong. When a bunch of Freddy’s friends turn up – hilarity and mayhem literally ensue in equal measure.

Ken Wiederhorn’s follow up, Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988), reunites James Karen and Thom Mathews – this time playing a duo of hapless grave robbers named Ed and Joey – in an entirely different small town about to be over run with brain-eating zombies after another stray military canister is mistakenly opened. Not quite as good as the first but still a very entertaining romp into horror comedy territory. Brian Yuzna’s third installment Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) ditches most of the comedy elements from the previous two and replaces them with a darkly romantic storyline. When Curt’s girlfriend, Julie, is killed in a motorcycle crash he knows what he must do to “fix” her – go to his colonel father’s military base where they’ve been experimenting with Trioxin to create living dead super-soldiers and turn her into one of the living dead… which just causes a heap load of new problems for the pair – not least the army chasing them in the hopes of making her a super-soldier. There are two more movies in the franchise – Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005) and Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (also 2005) – but these have little to do with the original movies.

The premise of these movies is that a form of the events depicted in George A. Romero’s iconic Night of the Living Dead (1968) actually happened – but that that movie was a spin on the truth to hide the military’s cock-up… to quote Freddy – “You mean the movie lied?!” Needless to say Romero’s first living dead movie would make a great first feature to play before a selection of the The Return of the Living Dead movies and – it has to be said – it also has its own franchise that would make for a good (though not AS good) alternative living dead marathon.

 
Enter HERE all those who delight in horror, death, the macabre, the occult, black humor, weird tales, dark fantasy – and all such nefarious pleasures.

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The Horror of it All

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