We asked each of our DVD feature writers to give us their suggestions for Halloween videos. So each day this week you'll get their answers in our "Videoween" feature. Today it's MaryAnn's turn, and her tastes are predictably diverse.
Oh, don't show me a Saw movie for Halloween. Watching hapless innocents get carved up is not entertaining, and it's not scary. It's kind of revolting, in fact, how all those torture-porn movies pretend that some people actually deserve to be tortured by a psychopathic maniac. This is not the spirit of Halloween, which should be about good-natured spookiness or, if you want to honor the old pagan ways, about lifting the veil between this world and other planes of existence.
My favorite way to spend Halloween, movie-wise, is with movies that evoke the kind of visceral physical reaction we can all enjoy: laughter. Funny horror flicks are the best kind, I think, because they know that humor is an aggressive act, and that most people want the kind of scares that evoke that response, like how we laugh as much as we scream on a roller coaster.
You can't miss with a Halloween night film festival that includes these titles:
Ghostbusters: Obviously. It's one of the funniest movies ever made, and it's pretty creepy, too. Who'da thunk a giant marshmallow could be scary?
The Nightmare Before Christmas: A film for everyone who considers that the holiday season does, in fact, begin with Halloween. Jack Skellington is one of the classic movie characters: he's not scary, he's just drawn that way.
Evil Dead II: If the Three Stooges had made a monster movie, it might have looked like this. Bruce Campbell fighting with his own gone-evil hand? Brilliant.
Shaun of the Dead: When zombies roam the Earth, it's the perfect time to try to win back your girlfriend. As gory as it is hilarious.
Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter: You've never heard of this one, I bet, but you'll love it. It's actually quite respectful, in its own Kevin Smith-esque way, in representing the real spirit of Jesus' philosophy (and I say this as an atheist who's totally on board with making fun of religion). Check it out:
You say you don't want funny-spooky but romantic-spooky? Try:
Truly Madly Deeply: Maybe the best ghost story ever told (well, after that one Dickens wrote). Alan Rickman returns as a spirit to haunt Juliet Stevenson, the woman he loved and who loved him. But you try making it work, a mixed relationship like this one -- one of you is dead, and one of you isn't.
Rebecca: This 1940 classic -- and winner of an Oscar for Best Picture -- is romantic in the dark-and-gloomy way. Joan Fontaine is haunted, too, by the ghost of her new husband's (Laurence Olivier) first wife: not an actual spirit but a ghost in the metaphoric sense. But even metaphoric spirits can be dangerous....
For sheer dark without the romance and without the humor, go for:
Donnie Darko: Generation X angst as horror tale, with the added bonus of it all taking place around Halloween.
Near Dark: Vampires are people too! Bad, nasty, criminally insane people, but all-American, gosh darn it.
MaryAnn Johanson (email me)
film reviews and TV blogging at FlickFilosopher.com