For Halloween this year I decided to put together a sort of fun scavenger hunt for all of you. I’ve asked some friends to put together a list of 5 films that they felt were unknown, under appreciated, or just deserved another look. My hope is that during the month of October maybe we’ll seek out some horror films outside of our usual Halloween viewing. First up is from the ever awesome Sean Keller. Sean is a screenwriter out in LA and in his bio he was too modest to point out that he wrote the Sci Fi Channel (pre SyFy) classic Mammoth. Here’s his list. Enjoy.
1. WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2013) – There are a lot of films out there trying to mimic the 80s aesthetic with varying degrees of authenticity and effectiveness, but this film is nostalgia perfected. The conceit of WNUF is that it’s a “videoptaped live broadcast” of a local independent station’s Halloween Special from Halloween night 1987 in which a tv personality hosts a séance from inside a supposedly haunted house. The story is thin, but it’s the attention to detail, specifically the low-budget local ads interspersed throughout the broadcast that ring true and make this piece really sing. Watching this for the first time last year was a revelation and I will be watching it on the night before Halloween for the rest of my life.
2. HAXAN (1922) – This “documentary” is a history of beliefs about witches and has the most witchy scenes ever committed to film (pair it with THE WITCH and LORDS OF SALEM for a perfect triple-bill of witchiness) Yes it it black & white, yes it’s a silent film, but there is a very cool shortened version of the film (and 1960’s re-release) narrated by the inimitable William S Burroughs that makes a great film somehow even greater and helps if you aren’t a silent movie fan.
3. TERROR IN THE AISLES (1984) – While not terribly “Halloweeny”, Terror on the Aisles is a very personal film for me. It played in heavy rotation on HBO in the mid 80s and was a real gateway film for me. It is essentially a clip-show of horror films (and inexplicably a ton of shots from the Stallone/Rutger Hauer crime thriller NIGHTHAWKS) set in a movie theater and hosted a deliciously over-the- top Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen. The clips are spoiler-heavy and made me want to see every film they show. It’s a great bit of fun and a perfect film to leave on in the background during your Halloween party.
4. THE AMERICAN SCREAM (2012) – Another documentary? Fuck yeah, what about it? If you love the Halloween season (and if you don’t, why are you reading this?) you MUST watch The American Scream. This film is a sweet depiction of three families in the same small Massachusetts suburb who are all home haunters, meaning, they build ornate haunted house displays on their property every year for Halloween. This film hits me in my heart. I cry every time I watch it. If you ever feel like you’re becoming burnt out on the season, this flick is the perfect cure. The three families involved are so uncynically devoted to the glorification of the holiday that you cannot help but be infected with their enthusiasm. I highly recommend this one as an early October viewing to get you into the Halloween mood.
5. CANDYMAN (1992) – This is the most well-known title on my list, but I cannot give it enough love. If there was ever a film that begged to be included into the pantheon of Universal monsters, it’s this one. Tragic, terrifying, sexy, heroic, mythic and the most gothic urban horror ever made, Candyman climbs in my estimation with every viewing. Helen (Virginia Madsen) is doomed from the start and her descent into hell via folklore eventually fuses her soul into the
myth she is researching . Every shot is amazing and the score elevates the already wonderful film into true greatness.
Sean Keller is a horror screenwriter best known for his work with Dario Argento (GIALLO) and John Carpenter (THE WARD) and most recently wrote the book, lyrics, music and starred in the hit Slasher comedy musical SLASHED! The Musical.