Last year I fought against choosing the ultimate “no shit Sherlock” choice for a Halloween movie recommendation, but I can’t do it again. It is Halloween, October 31st. And John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the best horror flicks ever made, bar none. It all fits like a glove and it needs to be placed on its rightful Halloween throne. To those few that have never seen this movie, I have to ask, “Seriously?” You’ve only heard about it pretty much every year since you were born. My young kids know about this movie. My 5 year old even knows who Michael Myers is. Hell, she’s even worn the mask! My point is that if you’re an adult and you haven’t seen this movie, you are an idiot. Sorry, but it needs to be said. You have no excuse. From the opening sequence, you know you’re in for a treat. I mean, there’s a twist you didn’t see coming in the first five minutes! Not to mention, reason #4239 why I’ve always known clowns are evil… But continuing on, this movie is just down and dirty. Similar to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this movie was made for almost zero money and is all the more visceral, intense and realistic because of it. There was no costume department so the cast just wore their own clothes. Even the iconic Michael Myers mask is nothing more than a William Shatner Star Trek mask that they spray painted and added more hair to. Seems silly now, but that mask is one of the most recognized in the entire horror universe and it’s nothing more than an altered Capt. Kirk! Michael Myers, or “the shape” as he was originally referred to since his name Michael Myers never actually appears in the first film, is one of the greatest horror creations to this day. He had no remorse. He had no relatable qualities. He was just simply put a relentless, soulless killer. Until Rob Zombie came along and with his remake (in my opinion) lessened the fear and legend of Michael by giving him an elaborate backstory, nothing was really known about him. That’s what’s so terrifying about him! It’s simple. It’s to the point. It’s a butcher knife to your gut while you’re pinned against the wall… while Michael just stares at you with that incredible slow head tilt. Jamie Lee Curtis became scream queen #1 after this for good reason. Donald Pleasance added the perfect amount of gravitas. And John Carpenter filled in every last blank, right down to one of the most memorable musical cues ever heard. Look, I’m sorry for calling those of you that hadn’t seen this movie an idiot. I am. Just do me a favor and see it soon, because if next Halloween rolls around and you still haven’t seen it, I’m really going to get mad. Like Michael Myers mad… You’ve been warned. Happy Halloween everyone.
For my final horror pick of October, I had to pick something really special. Halloween deserves nothing short of pure and utter terror. Something that will keep you up at night. Something that makes you look at life and death a little bit differently. Something that literally alters you. Well, here it is, ladies and gentlemen. In addition to being all of these things, it also earns the award for being the single most disturbing film I’ve ever seen. I give you, Martyrs. This French masterpiece came out a few years ago and literally blew my mind. It is so mind bogglingly unique, and so relentlessly disturbing, that I just sat on the couch and let it sink in for almost 10 minutes before I even got up to take out the disk. Now I give you this recommendation, but it absolutely comes with a warning. I’m not joking about how disturbing this film is. It will literally mess up your mind. The French don’t have the same boundaries that we do in the US, so you will witness things that you never thought you’d see on film. It is brutal. It is gory. It is depraved. It is difficult to watch. BUT, if you can make it through to the final frame, you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing and profound (yes, I said profound) experiences that you could ever attain on film. Earlier I mentioned that this film alters you. I’ll repeat that sentiment here. I’ve only seen a couple movies in my life where I literally felt like it somehow altered me when I was finished watching it. I’m not kidding when I say this film did just that. I was altered. But once again, here’s the deal. I can’t actually tell you what it’s about. Because that’s the point of the movie – figuring out what it’s about. As soon as you think you know where it’s heading, and what’s actually going on, it turns on you, and you realize that you couldn’t be more wrong… Listen to me, if you are actually interested in viewing it, do yourself a favor, and DO NOT read anything about it on the internet, or let anyone tell you what it’s about. It will ruin the experience for you, since that IS the experience. Now I know for a fact, many people will be tempted to turn it off, because it is brutal. And I do mean, brutal. But if you can make it through, just trust me on this one, the finale, including the very final frame, will stay with you for months. You want to truly be scared on Halloween? Don’t pussyfoot around, and actually terrify yourself to your core. This isn’t child’s play. This is the real deal. And please, if anyone does watch this movie, e-mail me afterward. I want to hear about your experience. It’s that amazing to me. Happy Halloween, everyone.
Another common theme day. Last year on this day I chose Aliens, so this year it’s kind of an “of course” moment to choose Alien. It only makes sense since both of these movies create a perfect one-two punch. I’ve already talked at length about Aliens, which is almost more of an action-war movie, so this time I get to talk about Alien, which is a pure horror movie through and through. Hell, if you want to really get down to it, it’s almost like a bigger budgeted slasher flick, just put in space instead of the woods. Still, I don’t think Ridley Scott has any idea what he fully did for the world when he brought us this masterpiece. It changed the landscape. Alien floored us. Now it almost seems like a cliché, but before this movie came out, the whole chestbursting alien idea was pretty much the most awful thing anyone could ever dream of. I mean, something gestating inside of you, growing, changing, until when you least expect it, BURSTS out of you from the inside out. That scene will always still blow my mind. I can only imagine what it did to expectant mothers at the time. But let’s talk about the look and atmosphere of this movie. The art direction, the mood, the effects. Before this movie came out, H.R. Giger and his style was not nearly as known. Now, you’d be hard pressed to find an alien creature or science fiction design in films that doesn’t bear at least some resemblance to H.R. Giger’s art. It literally became the template for what sci-fi/horror would be from here on out. Not many movies can say that. Look, the movie is about as good as it gets, what else can I honestly say. The amazingly perfect tagline for this movie was, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Well, after watching this movie with countless people over the years, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be hearing your friends scream nice and loud. Such an amazing treat for the senses. Enjoy.
Yesterday I talked about a perfect movie, so today I talk about, if it’s possible, an even MORE perfect movie. The absolute Jeff Dixon perfect film. Sometimes it’s a good thing to be reminded what perfection looks like. Everyone who knows me knows that Aliens is my all time favorite film. Let that sink in… For a person like me that absolutely worships movies, this is my NUMBER ONE FAVORITE FILM OF ALL TIME. Most of the time I don’t like to use rankings, but I’ll use it here. #1. Bar none. So you may be asking why it’s not my Oct 31st movie. Well, you’ll see why tomorrow (and no, I didn’t choose John Carpenter’s Halloween as my Oct 31st movie either. *GASP.) But back to Aliens. Aliens, Aliens, Aliens! Just saying it makes me so happy! I know it’s not exaaaactly a horror movie (the first Alien definitely fits that bill more appropriately), but still this baby is intense, suspenseful and unbelievably terrifying. You tell me a more suspenseful scene than when Ripley and Newt wake up alone and discover that a facehugger is somewhere in the room with them. Just amazing. Or what about the first time the soldiers walk in to find the villagers cocooned on the walls, and you just know the aliens are in there somewhere. Oh what about… oh hell, I could literally fill 30 pages of favorite scenes. I pretty much quote this movie on a daily basis. Whether it’s, “Game over, man! Game over!”; or “They mostly come out at night… mostly.”; or even “Not bad for a… human.” There is always a moment in my daily life where I can find a line that fits. Also again, if you look at the effects, you’ll see a common theme with me. There is NO CGI. They are all practical effects and models. Not to mention Stan Winston’s greatest creation – the queen. I’m telling you, it seriously doesn’t get any better. Plus, there’s the sequel factor. In my opinion, Aliens is that extremely rare example where the sequel is superior to the original. This movie almost single-handedly made me want to work in the film industry (along with a few other Sam Raimi flicks.) The acting is perfect (Ripley, Hicks, Hudson, Bishop, Newt, SO many iconic characters.) The story is perfect (including an, at the time, super surprising final 10 minutes.) Everything about this film is perfect. I could go on and on about it, but honestly I really can’t add anything more than that. Did you hear what I said? PERFECT. This is a perfect film. So go watch it again, and remember what perfection looks like. Bless you James Cameron for giving us this.
If for even a MOMENT you thought I was talking about the Paris Hilton remake and not the Vincent Price masterpiece, I want to come through the computer and punch you in the face. There are actually three House of Wax films, but to me the consummate version is this Vincent Price baby. I love this movie so much. Look, I know many of you cannot even fathom watching a movie that was made before 1990, so reaching back to 1953 is not even close to being in your wheelhouse. But you’re going to have to trust me on this one. This flick is flat out awesome. Putting yourself in the shoes of a 1953 viewer, this movie must have scared the living bejesus out of people. I mean, when the wax starts to melt and you see the dead bodies underneath, 1953 patrons must have literally shit themselves and passed out. It’s intense. Plus, originally it was in 3D so think about that. Even though there is a lot to love here, let’s talk about the real reason to watch this movie. For those pure horror people like myself when you think horror icon, you think Vincent Price (or Christopher Lee, but for this article, we’re talking Vincent Price.) Vincent was the freakin’ best. This guy just oozes creepy awesome. And this was basically his first starring horror role. See him at possibly his best. This is why you should watch this. Give yourself a little film lesson, and hell, add some film street cred by saying you’ve actually seen a Vincent Price film (and no, Edward Scissorhands doesn’t count.) The guys down at the local video store will love that. But don’t forget that for some additional actor trivia, you can also see Charles Bronson in an early role as a creepy deaf mute. It’s pretty awesome. Look, this is one of those movies that I know most of you would never watch, so why not step outside of your comfort zone and watch a little horror history. I guarantee you’ll seriously be surprised by how much you will love it.
So I’m down to my last three days of horror movie picks. I might as well pick three of my all time favorite movies. Ahh, The Thing. How can I narrow down what I want to say about this movie..? The Thing is a cinematic treasure that comes around once in a lifetime. To me, it’s perfect. It’s a perfect movie. There, I’m done with this article. Well, I guess I should write more, so I’ll keep going. When it comes to suspense, The Thing is a masterpiece. It scared the absolute shit out of me when I was a kid and still scares the absolute shit out of me to this day. It’s just amazing. The desolation of the snow and ice of Antarctica. The suspense of the “what is it” scenario? Then once the question turns from a “what” is it, to a “who” is it, the added suspense could be taught in film school classes for generations. Did I say that to me, The Thing is a perfect horror movie. I did? Okay, I’ll still keep going then. Not only does it have all the mystery and suspense a person could handle, but it also fills the gore and effects bucket with some of those interesting, original, and insane creatures you’ve ever seen. Rob Bottin became my hero after this movie. There really aren’t too many movies featuring severed heads that have lizard-like tongues and grow spider legs in movies nowadays. A shame really. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Of course the blood-testing scene is amongst the greatest scares in history, but I still can’t the defibrillator paddle scene out of my head either. “Clear!” *MUNCH! So amazing. Plus, don’t forget about Kurt Russell headlining a master cast (including a creepy Wilford Brimley sans mustache), and Ennio Morricone’s amazing music to round it all out. Look, I know most say Halloween is John Carpenter’s masterpiece, but I say it’s The Thing. Watch it. Worship it. Watch it again. The end. **Note, again, this was recently remade (sort of.) Even though it felt like a remake, it was in fact a prequel. Regardless, I actually enjoyed the remake, and it is a fun movie in its own right. BUT, the key to me was the CGI. The update used CGI, the original used practical effects. The original will win in that category every time. Sorry. Rob Bottin forever.
Okay, it’s Friday so let’s start this Halloween weekend off right with another movie hot off the presses (it just came out on DVD in the US a few days ago.) The next few days are all about pure, unadulterated FUN, so I chose a film that would launch things off right. If there was a more utterly entertaining and balls-out fun movie that came out this past year, I’d like to know. There is so much about Attack the Block that I could talk about, but the one thing that I keep coming back to is… FUN. I know it sounds simplistic, but to make a scary and thrilling movie that is just plain old “fun” is not an easy task. Yes, Halloween is about ghosts, ghouls, demons, psychopaths, and serial killers, but don’t forget about aliens! Aliens make some of the BEST monsters and in the case of Attack the Block, that tradition continues with a bang. First, take the setting and scenario. You’re not used to seeing the blokes from South London in the middle of an alien invasion. Usually it’s a bunch of bald toughies in a Guy Richie film, planning an elaborate heist. But here it’s a bunch of punk kids that decide to protect their turf from some outer space baddies. Next, let’s look at those baddies. The aliens are just fantastic. They are essentially the blackest of black with these nightmarish glowing teeth. For those film nerds like me, they actually used a rotoscope process to completely blacken the creatures, and the effect is fantastic. At first glance they look like normal gorilla-type animal things, but they’re off just enough to be definitely otherworldly. And the glowing teeth are amazing. It’s a simple and effective trick. Loved it. Lastly, let’s take the cast. These kids are amazing. Flat out amazing. Sure it may be a bit difficult to understand what they’re saying sometimes, but you get used to it believe it or not. Throw in great music, a dynamite small part by Nick Frost, and a whole bunch of other factors, and you have a fantastic coming out film by Joe Cornish. I for one, can’t wait for a sequel. Go have fun this weekend and see a film where you honestly can’t wipe the smile off your face.