Hello—Ansley Grams from CONvergence’s Cinema Rex here! Happy “Hocus Pocus is on TV Five Times a Day Every Day” Month!
Look, Hocus Pocus is a wonderful movie. It is a personal favorite of mine, even when it’s not “in season.” The acting (particularly of the trio) is top notch, the humor is ageless, and I still want to grow up to be Sarah and ride around on a mop brainwashing children with my creepy singing . . . what?! You don’t know me.
While it is true that Hocus Pocus is an undeniable classic (and makes a helluva masquerade entry—seriously, this is my favorite masq entry I have ever seen, hands down), everyone has seen it. Or spent a significant amount of effort to avoid seeing it. There are so many other excellent movies to put on when the weather starts to turn crisp, pumpkins appear on front stoops, and Christmas decorations explode like jolly green-and-red capitalist diarrhea. To prove it, I will be sharing three lists of some of my all-time favorite Halloween films as we count down the days to October 31.
A quick note: Horror is one of the most subjective genres there is, leaving room for wild debates and threats of physical violence. A lot of people love humor in their horror; I almost always hate that combination. I am also not interested in torture-porn films (Hostile, The Human Centipede, Saw) that use violence and gore as the primary vehicle for reaction. Grotesque closeups and jump scares are not my thing—that’s cheap and easy. I am also trying to keep this list to films that are not “well, duh.”
I’ll start with five creepy and quirky films—films that are fun to watch in a group.
1. House of 1000 Corpses (2003, Rob Zombie, R)
Remember when I said five sentences ago that I almost always hate humor/horror? This is a movie I will proudly admit an exception for, and that’s because it is incredibly well done. It’s not stupid slapstick or eye-roll-worthy puns. It’s got the grit and energy of an old sideshow, while being fully conscious of the fact sideshows were ethically dubious pits of depravity while being wildly entertaining all the same. It’s a clever homage to the horror films of old and presents the viewer with a funhouse mirror of “family.” It’s nihilistic in its commentary on the apathy we have developed to the human condition and our love affair with violence as long as it’s “us versus them.” And it doesn’t feel like some art-house piece with something to say; it’s a fun ride that gets scary when you get off and look at the framework that holds it together.
2. The House of Usher (1960, Roger Corman, NR)
Horror master Vincent Price shines in this film adaption of Poe’s classic tale of a cursed family. Maybe the most terrifying curses are not paranormal—maybe they’re genetic.
3. The Legend of Hell House (1973, John Hough, NR)
This is the haunted house film. It’s everything that a haunted house film should be and none of the things it shouldn’t. It’s creepy, atmospheric and classic. The Legend of Hell House is the perfect movie to watch with someone under a pile of blankets with a mug of hot cider and all the lights off.
4. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, Robert Aldrich, NR)
A former child star and her sister end up as spinsters decaying along with their house. While Jane was the envy of the world as a child, her sister, Blanche, surpassed her fame with her own serious acting chops. Consumed by jealousy, Jane devotes her life to tormenting her sister in this bizarre, twisted character study. Also of note, the real-life drama between leading ladies Joan Crawford and Bettie Davis was so strong that you can feel it ooze from your television half a century later.
5. Hausu (1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi, NR)
I have no idea what to say about this film. It is, in the most simple description, about a group of Japanese school girls who are eaten by a house. And it’s one of the most amazingly hilarious, bizarre things I have ever seen in my life. Just . . . just go watch it. The Trylon microcinema will be screening Hausu on October 30, October 31, and November 1, 2015.