In the early days of Choice Cuts, I cobbled together a list of modern horror films that I personally like to turn to when the Halloween season rolled around. These were films beyond the old school classics I reach for time and time again.
The “modern Halloween classics” – as I liked to call them were: Tales from the Crypt’s Demon Knight, Feast, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Scream, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the House on Haunted Hill remake, House of 1000 Corpses, Stir of Echoes, The Devil’s Backbone, House of the Devil, Candyman, Sleepy Hollow and, naturally, Trick ‘r Treat. (Feel free to give me hell for the inclusion of Halloween II. I’ve taken it once, I can deal with it again.)
This year, the “modern Halloween classics” was a topic I wanted to return to so I asked our contributors – Tyler Doupe’, Jeff Allard, Paul Doro and Spencer Perry to weigh in with the films they considered modern classics.
You’ll find their varied opinions inside along with two more entries I wanted to throw in to the mix. – Ryan Turek, Managing Editor
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
By Jeff Allard
Anthologies and Halloween naturally go hand in hand. They’re the perfect way to maximize one’s viewing time and squeeze as many tales of terror into your night as possible. One of the best examples of its kind, yet still a film that’s somewhat unsung among fans, is Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Back in 1990, when the cult TV show made the trek to the big screen, it wasn’t regarded as much of a big deal. Probably because the show itself was still running in most markets and the movie didn’t seem to offer much – aside from better production values and some R-rated gore – that the show didn’t deliver to fan’s homes for free each week. But even though its initial impact was minimal, the Darkside feature has aged very well, thanks to solid direction by regular series helmer John Harrison, wonderfully old school FX from KNB, and an eclectic cast including Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater, and Deborah Harry. It’s also the rare anthology in which every story across the board is strong. With its supernatural line-up including a cheery suburban witch that suggested a sinister Martha Stewart, a crumbling, shambling mummy (impressively rendered by KNB), an immortal black cat, and a tragic gargoyle clan, this is a movie so ideally made for Halloween it might as well come with its own trick or treat bag.
By Tyler Doupe’
Insidious is one of the best original horror films of the past five years. The first time I watched Insidious, I immediately saw something special about it. I think 30 years from now, we will watch it much in the same way that we currently watch Poltergeist. We see that some elements of the film are dated but the story and the scares are still just as chilling as the first time we watched it, all those years ago. With James Wan and Leigh Whannell (the duo that brought us Saw) writing and directing and Oren Peli (helmed Paranormal Activity) producing you can’t shake a stick at that creative team. One of the things that impressed me most about Insidious is that it accomplished the near impossible. Insidious managed to be an exceptional horror film and secure an MPAA rating of PG-13. Insidious is dripping with ambiance, has a fantastic cast, and performances that made it a perfect pick for Halloween viewing.
By Paul Doro
Anthology films always seem to be letdowns, but the last few years have seen two superb ones with this title and Trick ‘r Treat. As is typically the case with anthologies, some entries are better than others. But V/H/S is a perfect Halloween movie because supplies everything genre lovers want: plenty of gratuitous nudity, tons of nasty gore and great effects, and serious helpings of suspense and genuine scares. It’s also extremely funny and loads of fun, making it the ideal movie to watch with friends or a crowd. Not only that, it serves as a great showcase for up and coming horror directors including Ti West, Adam Wingard, and Glenn McQuaid. This one lives up the hype and is an October must.
The Cabin in the Woods
By Spencer Perry
You’re at a Halloween party. Everyone is having a great time and now comes the moment where the host puts on a movie and you play a drinking game. The movie starts and it’s what you’ve seen before, a group of kids get in an RV and drive until there’s no road left.. When they reach their destination they drink, smoke, and have sex and then a monster, killer, spirit, kills them. You’ve seen it, at least you think you have. The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most unique and original horror films that has come out since the original Scream. It is an oxymoron of a film, it is both every horror movie and its own unique production. There are few films that really embrace the ideals of Halloween, and even fewer that are not about Halloween in the least. Cabin takes the two principles of Halloween (Trick or Treat) and holds them very dear to it’s heart. Not only are we the audience being tricked for much of the film, the characters within it succumb to many pratfalls caused by the other characters (and I’m not just talking about the teens in the cabin). Cabin makes many statements about horror films but the one that really stands out is “have fun.” Some people like to do marathons of horror films for Halloween and if you’ve got a hand in one of these this year, make The Cabin in the Woods the last film you watch because it is the perfect “last” horror movie.
By Ryan Turek
Two suicide-obsessed sisters – Ginger and Brigitte – take a late-night stroll and encounter a lycanthrope. Ginger is left wounded, yet, she quickly recovers and ultimately begins to experience a series of changes as the full moon rises. Ginger Snaps is a tale we’ve seen before and owes a great debt to films like An American Werewolf in London, however, where this Canadian production excels is in the characters, Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins’ (as Ginger and Brigitte, respectively) performances and the simmering subtext tackling adolescence and the bond between siblings. The dialogue is sharp, Ginger’s gradual transformation from teenage girl to wolf is horrifying, sexy and at times humorous, the score is somber and haunting and the setting – with its overcast skies and autumnal atmosphere – should set you in a proper Halloween mood.