Halloween is upon us! Costumes, candy, and spooky stuff! Halloween is a great experience every year, and this year I was lucky enough to make it to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and dress up like Rick Sanchez from the amazing show, Rick & Morty. But there’s an annual tradition that I wanted to start last year and didn’t, and that’s a review of fun Halloween stuff between movies, TV shows, and other media. Originally I wanted to review something every day in October, but a full time work and family schedule makes that impossible. Instead, I picked 13 items and spread them out between September 1 and October 31. A realistic goal, yet life still dealt me a few blows to make hitting my goal difficult. Nevertheless, I got 13 items watched, and am ready to review them!
I’ll list out each item I watched, and give them a ranking of jack-o-lanterns from one to five. We’ll even use the Nightmare Before Christmas version!
I will vary up what a watch and review every year, to avoid repeats. I will also welcome suggestions once September rolls around again, so keep an eye open for that! But please remember that I have to have access to the special to watch it.
Anyhoo, let’s get spoopy-doopy-spooky!
13 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN 2017
To view the project announcement list and see what’s to come, click here.
1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
In my opinion, this is the greatest horror movie of all time. I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter in general, and this is my favorite movie of his next to They Live. Carpenter always believed that the things you don’t see are scarier than the things you actually do, and this is proof positive. Michael Myers is a great horror villain – silent in both speech and motion. He’s a slow stalking methodical killer, hiding in plain sight. After spending time in a mental institution for murdering his sister when he was six years old, he’d out and after Laurie Strode, striking on the 31st of October. He also has Dr. Loomis trying to track him down, a role portrayed brilliantly by Donald Pleasance. This, to be, is the quintessential Halloween-themed horror movie to put on every year, and it’s become an annual tradition of mine to give it a viewing every single October. The soundtrack is amazing too, with John Carpenter’s love for creepy synthesizer music creating one of the most iconic horror tracks of all time. I’m super stoked to see Halloween return next year, and I will likely add that to my review plans for 2018.
2. HALLOWEEN II (1981)
The original Halloween ends with an ambiguous ending. Michael Myers’ body is nowhere to be found. He’s not done though. Picking up right where the first movie ended, Michael follows Laurie to the hospital and continues his reign of terror. The body and gore count rises (mostly due to pressure from the slasher genre’s success) but the horror remains the same. I’m not as big of a fan of this one as the first one, but I do enjoy how well the stories bookend each other. Both movies are basically a two-parter, and if you stop watching after this one, you get an actual conclusion to the story of Michael Myers. In fact, the next movie went for an anthology theme, only for Michael to return in a fourth installment. Perhaps we’ll hit those next year. Now, originally I planned to watch the Rob Zombie remakes for the first time to coincide with this project, but time constraints forced me to stick to stuff I’ve already seen, but I will make a point to watch those next year for sure.
3. STEPHEN KING’S IT (1990)
With the remake hitting theaters, I decided to sit down and watch the original It miniseries from 1990. It’s one of Stephen King’s most legendary bodies of work, about a creature terrorizing the residents of Derry, Maine every 27 years. It takes the form of Pennywise the Clown, murdering a small boy named Georgie and playing mind games with his friends and brother, causing the kids to band together to fight him. They promise to stick together if It ever comes back, and the adults return to Derry to take on It as a giant spider-like monster this time around. I will be perfectly honest here. I only watched this to prepare for the remake, and I really wasn’t impressed. I remember this being better as a kid, but as an adult, I found it to be hokey and downright boring at times. The kid scenes are fine, but the adult scenes can really drag on. However, Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise is absolutely worth watching. The three hour runtime is a tad much, but the book this was based on is gigantic, so it isn’t surprising. Other than Pennywise, give this one a hard pass.
4. IT (2017)
2017 is far from over as far as what movies I need to watch, but currently slated at the top of the list is the remake of It. Not only did It quickly become one of my favorite horror movies of all time, it’s currently one of – if not the – top movie for 2017. I was extremely impressed with how well done this remake was. The focus here is on the kids only, in the 1980’s this time around. Pennywise is portrayed by Bill Skarsgard. Curry made Pennywise comedic and high-energy, but Skarsgard takes him to a whole different level of pure sinister evil. His Pennywise is dark and menacing. The overall feel to the movie is done much better than the original, top to bottom in my opinion. I can’t say that Skarsgard’s Pennywise is better than Curry’s, because comparing them isn’t really an option for me. They took the character two very different directions, and are both commendable performances. It’s like comparing Jack Nicholson’s Joker to Heath Ledger’s. They’re two completely different versions and portrayals. Comparing them is extremely difficult, so I will not do that, but I will say this: Bill Skarsgard deserves an Oscar nod. The opening scene with Georgie is edge-of-your-seat nerve-racking. You really feel bad for the kid. I can’t recommend this one enough!
5. GET OUT
2017 kicked us off early with a horror movie dealing with racism, directed by Jordan Peele of Key & Peele fame (Keegan-Michael Key being the other genius of the duo). A young black man is brought to visit his white girlfriend’s family, and all of the black folks seem to be under some sort of spell. Turns out, its slave trafficking, and poor Chris Washington is the newest victim. This movie was critically acclaimed, and got some rave reviews. Unfortunately, I really didn’t care for it. While the premise is solid and even interesting, the “twist” is predictable, and the direction that follows is flat out stupid. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but trust me when I say it’s pretty dumb. Other than Chris’s buddy Rod who works for the TSA and delivers some hilarious one-liners, this movie is not worth viewing in my opinion. I don’t know, you may feel differently, but I wouldn’t give it a second viewing. It’s currently my worst movie of 2017, although it’s certainly not bad enough to warrant making it onto any worst ever lists. The first half IS good, and the buildup to the twist is done quite well. But I’m warning you, that last quarter isn’t good. Stick it out though, because the last line in the movie was a literal LOL moment.
6. EVIL DEAD (1981)
I can’t resist reviewing one of my favorite horror movie trilogies of all time! Ash Williams and friends travel to a cabin in the woods, discover the book of the dead, and everyone becomes a zombie. Does it really need to be explained further? Bruce Campbell became a legend in the horror community as Ash, and this is only the beginning for him. This is one of the few trilogies where I think each iteration out-does the one before it. Evil Dead II, which I’ll talk about in a minute, is somewhat of a remake of the first one, but done even better. And then the follow-up, Army of Darkness, is incredible from start to finish. I have not seen the 2013 remake, which I’m told is just a gore-fest, and that’s not really my style. Gore for the sake of gore doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe I’ll watch it int he future and I’ll keep it penciled in for this project, but this year I stuck with the classics I love.
7. EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN
Can Ash and his friends top the original?! Yes, yes they can! Ash is back int he cabin, the evil is flowing, but this time, Ash goes a tad loony, and acquires a serious upgrade when his possessed hand is severed off – A CHAINSAW! Ash and his chainsaw hand are THE staple of the horror genre for me, right up there with Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and the other icons of terror. Fun fact about this movie, the first time I saw it I was in high school. That means I had a high school level of maturity to my humor. Two scenes made me laugh so hard, we had to pause the VHS (remember those?) so I could compose myself. The scene where EVERYTHING is laughing, and Ash laughs too, still gets me to this day, but the one that killed my 15 or 16-year-old sense of humor was when Ash’s severed hand flips him off. I was laughing so hard I was crying. No regrets. This movie, to me, beats out the original but not by much.
8. ARMY OF DARKNESS
One of my all time favorite horror comedies! Ash is sent back in time to do battle with a medieval army of the dead, with AWESOME stop motion effects and humor, as Ash and his BOOMSTICK save humanity! Of course, there are two versions you can view. The theatrical version has Ash returning to his own time to save the S-Mart (shop smart) but I prefer the director’s cut (which I not-so-coincidentally own) where he awakens in the too-distant future and humanity has been destroyed. Army of Darkness does fall less from the horror aspect and lands closer to being an action dark comedy, but it’s the best part of the best horror trilogy and I love it all the same. My favorite scene is when Ash is battling all the tiny versions of himself, all muttering smart-ass comments and dying in hysterical ways. The movie is hilarious, clever, and chock full of one-liners. What are some of your favorites?
9. THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD & MR. TOAD (Ichabod portion only)
The legend of Sleepy Hollow is as classic of a tale of terror as anything, ranking up there among the great horror storytellers like Poe and Hitchcock, in my opinion. I watched this for the first time for my Disney movie project, and I don’t foresee myself talking about this in the future. More details will be part of the Disney review, but in short, this is an animated take on how the timid schoolteacher meets the Headless Horseman and what his ultimate fate is. It’s the second part of a two-act movie, so it’s an easy watch, clocking in at a little over a half hour. It’s well worth going out of your way to see, even if you’re like me and don’t care so much for the Wind in the Willows and skip that portion. That’s all I’ll really say here, but it’s a cool piece of nostalgia to check out.
10. SOUTH PARK, SEASON 21, EPISODE 6, “SONS A WITCHES”
Originally when I slated this project, I was going to review the first ever South Park and Simpsons Halloween episodes. But since both surprised me with new episodes (on time no less) I decided to review both of them this year (time constraints also forced this to happen, but no complaints from me). The guys are off to celebrate their annual witch party with beer and crack, when one of their cult becomes a real witch and starts causing mayhem in the town. This forces the dads (mostly Randy Marsh, the best fictional TV character) to create all kinds of understanding about how not all witches are like this, and not to lump everyone together. The social commentary is strong and on point, and with South Park returning to a more episodic feel this season, a Halloween special was a most welcome surprise, especially since it’s been forever since they did one. I believe the Blockbuster episode was the last true Halloween-themed episode. They also add hilarity to Cartman’s failing relationship with Heidi (a carry-over from last season) where her inability to get ready in a timely fashion causes Eric to miss out on just about everything. A most welcome surprise from South Park!
11. THE SIMPSONS: TREEHOUSE OF HORROR XXVIII
Even though the newer seasons of the Simpsons after getting into double digits haven’t been something I’ve kept up with, I always make a point to watch the annual Halloween episodes, no matter what. Some of the more recent Treehouse of Horror specials have been disappointing overall, but I think this year did a pretty decent job. The Exor-sis has Maggie becoming possessed by an evil spirit, taking on elements of the classic horror film, the Exorcist. It’s well done and entertaining. Coralisa has Lisa finding a perfect version of her family with button eyes, parodying Coraline (which I haven’t yet seen as of this writing, but have been told it’s quite good). We end with MMM…Homer, where Homer discovers he loves the taste of his own flesh, and eats himself into oblivion. It’s a weaker story, but has a funny punchline (he did all that simply to avoid leaving the house when he ran out of food). Overall, a decent effort. Not close to being the best special, but easily better than recent years. The beginning with the family as candy bars is pretty fun too.
12. THE BIG BANG THEORY, SEASON 1 EPISODE 6, “THE MIDDLE-EARTH PARADIGM”
I’ve already reviewed this with my ranking of the first season, so I’ll keep it brief. Big Bang Theory has only done a handful of Halloween themed episodes, so I’ll probably polish them all off if I keep this project going. This was the sixth episode of the series, where the guys get to socialize with Penny’s friends, although very awkwardly. They all initially go as the Flash, but are forced to change. Leonard picks Frodo, Raj picks Thor (the original Norse god, not the Avenger), Howard goes as Robin Hood (and is mistaken for Peter Pan) and Sheldon goes as the Doppler Effect, scoring zero points along the way. Ultimately Leonard has a confrontation with Penny’s jerk of an ex Kurt, and consoles her after she cries on his shoulder, very drunk. Kurt is a horrible person, but Leonard gets the last laugh. Of course, Raj wins the night with a drunken hook-up, following Sheldon’s observations of the dialect of the party :how wasted am I?” although his inability to talk to woman certainly doesn’t effect his performance with coitus. This is probably the bottom Halloween episode of Big Bang Theory, but since there’s basically only two more, that can be forgiven.
13. STRANGER THINGS
Before I go into my review, here is what I have planned. So long as this series is airing annually, I will post a review for it every year I watch it. I am also choosing to review the entire first season, as it’s a year old so I feel spoilers can be discussed more freely, and it’s the perfect tie in to get you to watch the new one which will have aired…provided this pattern continues. I’m also doing the season, versus one episode like the above picks, as the season follows a full arc and bookends like one long movie. Got all that? Good, let’s begin!
Will Byers disappears into the upside-down, an alternate world to our own, full of darkness and terrors. His three friends try to find him with the help of a girl with telekinetic abilities named Eleven (her real name is Jane, but they nickname her Elle because of her “11” tattoo branding). Will’s body is found in the quarry, but the body is a fake, and he’s communicating with his mother through phone static and a display of Christmas lights. Chief Hopper investigates Will’s disappearance, connecting it to a secret government lab, while his brother teams up with Mike’s sister Nancy to track down her missing friend Barb. The show is full of excellent 1980’s nostalgia, and even the theme music sounds like it was ripped right out of TRON. The kid actors are all brilliant, and you can see one of them in the new equally brilliant It movie! It’s one of the best things Netflix has given us, and the first season has a dark and somewhat ambiguous ending. I plan to discuss Stranger Things 2 next year, after I re-watch it to prepare for season 3…hopefully.
There you have it guys. I finally got an annual project in the books, and I will hopefully get this done next year too. I will update the announcement page with a link back to here, and list out these thirteen picks so as not to repeat myself next year, while adding to the list. I also plan to do a Christmas project similar to this one, which I’ll probably announce closer to Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoyed, and come back next year for even more Halloween fun!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!!!