It’s October. Fall is (sort of, occasionally) in the air. The first cooler temps of the season herald many things, chiefly among them the arrival of Halloween.
Whether you celebrate the holiday’s pagan roots or grudgingly allow your kids to dress as “storybook characters” (one compromise struck by public schools), Halloween is arguably the Best Holiday. There are few overt religious associations (in the U.S., anyway), and none of those messy family demands set by Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone’s encouraged to dress in a goofy or inappropriate manner, and if you want to have a bit too much to drink, few will cluck their tongues as long as you get an Uber.
Also, don’t put your pants on backwards. Take it from the guy who went as half of Kris Kross in 1992.
Halloween-themed movies are also a big deal, which got me thinking: if I were to program a Halloween film festival, say...over four nights, what should be included? Feel free to play along at home, especially if you don’t have kids or aren’t keen on sharing the roads with a bunch of drivers who didn’t take my earlier Uber advice.
OCTOBER 28: Tangential Connections Night
Still three days away from Halloween, so we use this evening to focus on movies that are more second cousins to the holiday than directly related.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
Taking (eventually) Orson Welles’ famous 1939 "War of the Worlds" broadcast into decidedly weird directions, Buckaroo Banzai remains the movie I'm most disappointed never got a sequel. Followed closely by Dredd, Big Trouble in Little China, and Spice World.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Ha HA, this isn’t a horror movie at all…or is it? Jem and Scout’s post trick-or-treat walk through the woods is still terrifying, and was the inspiration for Stephen King’s description of Ralph and Danny Glick’s walk through the woods in ‘Salem’s Lot.*
The Crow (1994)
Has this aged well? Does the fact Brandon Lee was accidentally shot make it difficult to watch? Sort of and yes.
OCTOBER 29: Kids Night
You don’t want to schedule the children-friendly fare on the actual night of Halloween, for what I hope are obvious reasons. And even if you don’t have any rugrats, these are still enjoyable.
Monster House (2006)
I loved this movie when it came out and still do. Written by Dan (Community) Harmon, Pamela (Corpse Bride) Pettler, and Rob (Robot Bastard) Schrab, this movie perfectly captures the marvelous (and not wholly incorrect) childhood belief that everyone who’s already experienced puberty is either oblivious, incompetent, or an idiot.
Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
If my experience with children has taught me anything other than how to hoist a toddler without getting immediately stomped in the nuts, it’s that kids love dogs in puppet form.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
True if boring story: I saw TNBC on a date where neither of us knew it was going to be a musical. I was pleased, my date…less so. I hope she’s managed to find peace.
OCTOBER 30: Anthology Night
What’s better than three full-length horror movies? How about a few dozen short ones?
An uneven bag, to be sure, but when it scores (“Amateur Night,” “10/31/98”) it provides ample scares for your delicious brains.
Tales of Halloween (2015)
I include this because I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the individual vignettes (especially (“Ding Dong” and “The Night Billy Raised Hell”). And unlike any of this evening’s other entries, each short is in some way related to Halloween itself.
I go back and forth between this and its underappreciated 1987 sequel, but there’s just something about watching E.G. Marshall sprout cockroaches that never gets old. My mother would disagree.
OCTOBER 31: The Classics
Many of the aforementioned movies put one in the mood for Halloween, but something about the following really do go better watched on the night itself, as the wind outside blows through denuded trees and shadows lengthen across the street. But don’t worry, I’m sure there’s nobody out there.
Nearly 40 years, seven sequels, and a reboot + sequel later, John Carpenter’s classic remains *the* seminal slasher film, for better or worse, and is still scary today, particularly if you’re a virginal teenage babysitter. Fortunately, iPads and Minecraft have mostly taken over that role.
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Silver Bullet (1985)
Corey Haim in a rocket-powered wheelchair, Gary Busey as the drunken uncle/builder of said wheelchair, and werewolves. What are you waiting for?
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
I’m not one of those Gen X-ers who bitches about MTV not playing videos anymore (spoiler: it was usually "Rio" by Duran Duran), but I will complain that they no longer show NOTLD on October 31. It was a nice tradition during that narrow period of growing up between trick-or-treating and getting drunk with a bunch of “Sexy Sandra Day O’Connors.”
Maybe that was just my college. Anyway, enjoy the movies. And Happy Halloween!
*I have no proof of this.