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There is no reason to snub the traditional Halloween treats, THE SHINING, THE HAUNTING, the Spanish-language version of DRACULA from 1931, or any of the Nightmare on Elm Street flicks, and the eponymous Halloween series, but allow me to suggest some new ideas to celebrate a very old holiday.
So many way to be terrified, and not all of them supernatural. For a look at how the free press isn’t as independent as it should be, check out TRUTH. Cate Blanchett proves why she’s one of the best actresses working today as Mary Mapes, the CBS producer whose story about George W. Bush’s spotty military career was lost in the details of typewriter specifications and corporate profits. My review here. My interview with writer/director James Vanderbilt, including a non-spoiler for INDEPENDENCE DAY 2, here.
For a more traditional horror film, with a traditional spooky old house, there is Guillermo del Toro’s flamboyant CRIMSON PEAK, an atmospheric tale of love, ghosts, and red clay with a mind of its own. My review here. My interview with del Toro for PAN’S LABYRINTH (review here), another excellent choice for the season of shadows, is here.
Where does one go for a socially conscious cannibal film, one that has a sense of humor as well? No further than Eli Roth’s GREEN INFERNO. Not for the faint of heart, it’s graphic, it’s bloody, but it relies on more than just the gore to scare the kattywumpus out of you. Decide for yourself with my review here.
If you want to stay in, you can’t go wrong with IT FOLLOWS (review here), a deliciously original story about an entity with murder on its mind. It may move slowly, but it’s relentless when on its murderous mission, and can’t be reasoned with once it’s on your trail. Without the comfort of the usual horror film tropes, the action here becomes even more eerie.
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are making some of my favorite new suspense films. Their last two, YOU’RE NEXT (interview and mini-review here) and THE GUEST(interview and mini-review here) have the visceral punch of horror combined with a refined sense cinema’s visual possibilities. They also have a wicked, wicked sense of humor.
Humor is also an element of PARANORMAN (review here), an animated film from Laika that follows a very dicey Halloween in the life of Norman, a misfit kid who even creeps out his father. My interview with the filmmakers Chris Butler and Sam Fell, including how they made slugs so lovable in FLUSHED AWAY, is here.
Speaking of Laika, there is CORALINE, a modern classic about the perils of parenting, the problems of growing up, and a cat that knows more than he’s letting on. If you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the time, if you have, you’ll know why it’s worth a gazillion rewatchings. My review is here.
And finally, two documentaries. Alex Mar’s AMERICAN MYSTIC (interview here) that looks at the draw of ritual and ceremony for three people in particular, and humankind in general. While we may not be pagan witches, or Lakota Sioux Sundancers, or studying to become a medium/psychic healer, what Mar reveals by observing these three subjects is uncannily familiar to anyone who has wondered if there is something more to the universe that what our limited five senses can report.
Finally, what has become a tradition for me, George Ratliff’s HELL HOUSE, a documentary about the redefinition of horror by a group of fundamentalist Christians that is both disconcerting, and surprisingly compassionate. My review is here.