Oct. 20th: Trick Or Treats (1982)

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I can scarcely recall a tag-line more perfectly selected for any movie than the one that accompanies 1982’s Trick Or Treats : “When Halloween night stopped being fun.” Boy, I’ll say.

The Internet plot description for our next installment reads as such:

“A baby sitter is stuck watching over a young brat on Halloween night who keeps playing vicious pranks on her. To add to her trouble the boy’s deranged father has escaped from an asylum and is planning on making a visit.”

If that just sounds to you like a shitty Halloween knock-off, then you’re right, cause it does sound like that. However I’m not sure if these filmmakers had ever seen Halloween, cause outside of that description, the film bares almost no resemblance to John Carpenter’s classic.

Hell, I’m not even sure it was trying to. I’m not sure what it was trying to do. It’s just bizarre. Is it a spoof? Is this a horror movie? A comedy? Who the hell knows. I do know this though, it’s Halloweeny, and for our purposes, that’s all that matters.

Now, this isn’t to say it’s not without it’s charm, or endearing moments, but those are definitely few and far between.

It may not be the worst film on this list, but those others (Jack-O and Hollow Gate come to mind) are still enjoyable to sit through. Trick or Treats is just kind of a mess that’s hard to watch. While it may be put together more professionally than some of the selections thus far (and certainly to come) I’m not sure it adds up to more fun. But hey, given the poster, no one should be expecting that from Trick or Treats.

Oct. 19th: To The Devil…A Daughter (1976)

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Hammer’s last horror film may quite honestly be the least Halloweeny film on this list, but it takes place around and on Halloween, so dammit, that’s enough. Plus it’s all awesome and Satany. What more do you need on Halloween?

Christopher Lee stars as excommunicated priest Michael Rayner. Seems the Holy Roman Church didn’t cotton to all his Astaroth worship and told him to pack his shit. No matter, Rayner just sets up his own heretic order, The Children of The Lord (ambiguous) in the middle of some lake in Bavaria.

Prized amongst these children is one Catherine Beddows, played be a very young (perhaps too young, given the nudity) Natasha Kinski. Catherine is given the special privilege of traveling home once a year on her birthday to see her father Henry. Her birthday, as it happens, is All Hallo’s Eve, which we’re told is the most important date in the Satanist’s calendar.

This year, however, is her 18th birthday and that’s got her pops all spooked. So, he contacts occult author John Verney to whisk her away for this particular visit. Seems strange, even to Verney, whom has only recently meet Beddows and only for this specific reason.

See Beddows is a member of Rayner’s satanic order, and is anticipating a rather sinister 18th birthday for Catherine, should Rayner get his hands on her. So it’s up to Verney to deduce the plot and protect Rayner’s special child, before his evil designs can be fulfilled.

As I mentioned, the movie itself is not terribly Halloweeny, but it is jammed packed instead with tons of crazy Satanic rites and ritual, with Christopher Lee creepin’ up the whole damn screen any time he’s there.

It may flounder a bit in it’s 3rd act, but this critically maligned Hammer offering is an awesome addition to the Satanic 70’s catalog, and one of my favorites of the sub-genre.

If you’re into crazy Satan movies, enjoy weird scenes of strange rituals, love hearing blasphemous heretical dialogue and are looking to add a whole lot of that to your Halloween this year, than To The Devil…A Daughter is the one to do it with.

Oct. 18th: Once Bitten (1985)

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Well it just wouldn’t be a true Shindig countdown with only one lonely 80’s monster comedy, so stacking the Halloween deck for us is the 1985 Jim Carrey vampire flick Once Bitten.

Jim plays high school virgin Mark Kendall, who just can’t seem to convince his girlfriend Robin to put out. So he and a couple buddies hit Hollywood in the great America pursuit of some first-time trim.

Unfortunately he finds The Countess, a seductive MILF with cougarish designs. How is this unfortunate? Well, she’s a vampire, and a vampire that needs virginal blood each year to maintain those timeless good looks no less. As an added caveat, she must drink of this virgin a total of 3 times before Halloween or her beauty will fade away.

So, after what he believes is a one-night-stand, Mark is sucked into a slow decent toward vampirism; wearing shades, dressing cooler, eating raw steaks and losing his reflection. Can Robin discover the cause of Mark’s strange behavior and win him away from the clutches of the evil countess, or is Mark doomed to join her cadre of immortal suitors?

It’s a great 80’s comedy with an early and wonderful performance from Jim Carrey that’s filled with countless hallmarks of his later characters and style. Some fun supporting characters and another humorous turn from Blazing Saddles’ Clevon Little make the movie all that more enjoyable.

And then, of course, there’s the extensive and memorable Halloween Party Dance-Off, where Hand’s Off by Maria Vidal (a playlist inclusion at #45) plays while Jim dances between sultry vamp Lauren Hutton and girl next door Karen Kopins.

October is as fine a time as any to treat yourself to this 80’s monster comedy with the Halloween Shindig Halloween seal of approval.

Oct. 17th: The American Scream (2012)

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For our 17th installment, The Shindig’s going for some non-fiction frights in the form of last years ultra-Halloweeny documentary The American Scream.

The film focuses on 3 sets of “home haunters” (people who create and run their own haunted houses) in my home state of Massachusetts.

It follows them from the earliest stages of their haunts up until their grand openings on Halloween night, detailing the successes, set-backs and sacrifices each family makes in the pursuit of bringing Halloween cheer to their neighborhoods.

Mostly a tale of that line between obsession and hobby, the film is equal parts humorous, sad and touching in its depiction of what they describe as the only true “community holiday.” A day not simply for families and loved ones to share alone, but a holiday where we all come out of our homes (and hopefully away from our gadgets) to walk through our neighborhoods with each other, going door to door and celebrating life through our acknowledgment of death. The end of the harvest. The new beginning. Halloween.

It may be the only movie of its kind on the list, but that should not dissuade you in the slightest. It’s as Halloweeny as any of the other titles, and may arguably be the most Halloweeny, as it shows us a human and tangible connection to the holiday, in favor of fantastical monsters and bloody gore.

Oct. 16th: Hollow Gate (1988)

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It is not without a fair and honest warning that I suggest this entry at number 16 on our Halloween countdown, 1988’s Hollow Gate.

This shot-on-video gem is only recommended for lovers of true train-wrecks. Ya know who you are, and if that’s your bag, then Hollow Gate is your Halloween movie.

While certainly not the piece de resistance of truly terrible cinema, there’s enough awfulness on display here to satiate any bad movie lover’s Halloween fix.

Mark has had a checkered past with Halloween. See, he was no good at apple bobbing, so his drunken father tried to drown him in the apple tub. Strike 1. Little Mark hates Halloween.

In his teen years, while working at a gas station, a horny young Halloween couple torment him during a routine fill-up. So he promptly blows up their car. Strike 2. Now Mark’s a Halloween avenger.

A few years later while at the convenience store on (you guessed it) Halloween, he attempts to take the cashier out to the movies. When she refuses, he locks her in the store with him and then…uh, scares her? Strike 3, I guess, so now he’s just a “nutcake.”

So these days, he just lives locked up and taking medication at his grandmother’s estate, Hollow Gate. That is, until one Halloween where he loses his shit completely and murders her. Now he can hang out with all the other “nutcakes” at a Halloween party.

Some submarine sandwich loving kids on their way to a Halloween party at a hangar (?) are convinced by a lazy costume shop keeper to deliver an order out to Hollow Gate.

So, Mark get his costumes and begins murdering the kids one by one in his various generic outfits; broke racist marine, goofy cowboy, foolish doctor, and weird British fox hunter.

It’s terrible, if you couldn’t discern that from this far too lengthy plot description, and any normal person would probably cancel this nonsense 5 minutes deep. But, I love me a bad horror movie, and so long as the ridiculousness and shitty acting is coming fast enough to keep me laughing, I’m all in.

Mark is a Grade-A B-movie villain, giving it his all yet never seeming to inspire anything beyond general unease. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in a room talking to this nutcake, but genuine fear is nowhere on the map.

And the kids beat all, providing some seriously enjoyable overacting as they attempt to convey that same nonexistent fear.

So if you’re looking for a little early turkey for Halloween dinner, this fucker’s got the stuffing to boot. Get a few drinks and a few friends and have a few laughs.

Happy 16th, nutcakes!

Oct. 15th: The Clown Murders (1976)

clown-murders-1976Our next selection is a strange Canadian picture I might have stuck earlier in the month had I seen it previously. However, I just watched this one, so here it is.

From 1976 comes The Clown Murders, a slow building slasher that takes place on Halloween night, but is honestly a little light in the Halloweeniness department.

It’s an all right film despite that fact though, plus there’s a lot of clown costumes, a brief Halloween party and some Halloween referencing throughout.

As a prank, 4 friends dress as clowns and kidnap a local real estate tycoon’s wife from a Halloween party. They take her to a farm house to wait out the night, meanwhile the town begins taking their joke very seriously. With mounting tensions, their prank soon goes south, as the accomplices begin turning on one another and a mysterious figure steals a clown mask and begins stalking them.

If you can handle the slower pace and look of a mid-70’s slasher film, and want something mildly Halloweeny, it’s not a bad selection. It’s got a young John Candy and a few other Canadian actors who’ve turned up in some genre pictures and Cronenberg films. Particularly notable is Lawrence Dane, whom Shindiggers may recognize from Happy Birthday to Me or Scanners.

Like I said, it’s not bad. There’s certainly some pretty creepy moments (particularly if you’re afraid of clowns) and the film is not poorly made by any means. I wouldn’t break your back trying to get a hold of it if it’s something you’ve never seen, but it’s good for a random October night to Halloween completists looking for something new they haven’t seen.

Coincidentally and interestingly enough, there’s a scene where the stalker plays “London Bridge” over the farm house’s PA system. It’s a wonderful and unintentionally Halloweeny moment that I thoroughly enjoyed. I couldn’t stop myself from humming right along.

Oct. 14th: The Halloween Tree (1993)

halloween-tree-1993From Ray Bradbury again comes more Halloween awesomeness. This time in the form of the early 90’s Hanna-Barbera produced animated version of his classic tale The Halloween Tree.

4 friends are lead by the ghost(?) of their pal Pip to a strange and haunted looking mansion on Halloween. There they meet the enigmatic warlock Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, voiced wonderfully by Spock himself, Mr. Leonard Nimoy.

Moundshroud is unimpressed by their treatise for treats, and even more unimpressed by their lack of knowledge regarding Halloween and their costumes.

When their friend Pip’s ghost(?) steals back his soul pumpkin from the warlock’s titular tree, Moundshroud takes the children on an incredible journey through time and space to visit the origins of our hallowed holiday.

Off to Egypt and Stonehenge, to France and Mexico he takes them, seeing the Halloween celebrations and customs of people over the centuries. He forces them to recognize their own festive garb and understand why we celebrate death to appreciate life.

This is a great cartoon with a great message that is made even greater by the addition of Ray Bradbury himself as the narrator, reading his own words the way they should be read.

Essential Halloween viewing that should take place as close to the eve as you can make it. Would definitely make for a perfect family Halloween selection, or as part of an all-ages Halloween night double or triple feature. If you love Halloween, you’ll love this cartoon, and should certainly make a point of tracking it down this year.

Oct. 13th: Hocus Pocus (1993)

hocus-pocus-1993No Halloween movie gets quite as much Tumblr love (at least on my dash regularly) as 1993’s Hocus Pocus.

And rightfully so, as Hocus Pocus is Halloweeny as fuck, taking place exclusively on 2 separate Halloweens, 300 years apart.

The film opens in 1693 with the Sanderson Sisters of Salem being hung by the locals for their generalized witchery. They vow to return on Halloween when a virgin lights their black flamed candle. This, of course happens in 1993, when California transplant and non-Halloweener Max sparks the fucker up.

Now the Sisters have one night to achieve their immortal goal, or else forever be doomed.

This (now classic) Disney treat is a holiday essential and boast perhaps the most rabid fandom of all Halloween movies. And again, it’s no surprise. The film is fun, well made, highly enjoyable and packed so full of Halloween that if you hit it with a stick, candy corn would probably cascade out.

That being said (and at the risk of pissing off a good deal of followers) I’d like to address a small issue I have concerning Hocus Pocus.

Upon a recent reviewing it became aware to me how strikingly similar the set-up is to that of a less beloved (except by this blog) and earlier Halloween adventure, Ernest Scared Stupid.

Both films begin in the past, with an angry mob of villagers capturing their picture’s villains just before they can complete an evil ritual. Then, both films find those villains prophetically declaring their return when a specific and convoluted set of circumstances arise.

Immediately cut to (in both case) a classroom, where the students are being told that story as part of a seasonal hometown lesson. Then, both the films find a foolish character (with much more hilarity in Ernest’s case) unwittingly bringing all those circumstances together.

Now, this takes nothing away from Hocus Pocus, nor does it make it any less a great Halloween picture. It just struck me as strangely coincidental, and I gotta get Ernest’s back, cause everyone hates on ‘em, and no one gives Scared Stupid half the love they show Hocus Pocus.

However, they would both make for one hell of an all-ages Halloween night double-feature, and I can think of a few other options if you wanted to go for the hat-trick. But I don’t need to tell ya’ll that. If you can read this, then you’ve probably already watched Hocus Pocus 3 times over again. Why not go for a 4th?

Oct. 12th: Trick Or Treat (1986)

trick-or-treat-1986One of my favorite holiday treats is this Rock-N-Roll-Horror installment from 1986.

I’ve watched it as part of a Halloween night triple feature, but typically I prefer to reserve this one for earlier in the month, as it lacks the overtly Halloween sensation the night really deserves.

But your October deserves Trick Or Treat. Your life deserves Trick Or Treat. So this year, treat yourself to this little 80’s Halloween trick.

Metal-head dork Eddie Weinbauer loves butt rocker Sammi Curr. See, Sammi’s a home-town hero, and the ritualistically tormented Eddie identifies with Sammi and aspires to rise above the bullying to rock greatness. In fact, Eddies loves Sammi so much he writes him a detailed letter expressing such sentiments.

Unfortunately, Sammi burns himself to death in a satanic hotel ritual before Eddie can mail it. Damn, better rip down all your metal posters and loose your mind.

Thankfully for Eddie (and us) his DJ pal Nuke (KISS’s Gene Simmons) over at the local radio station has an unreleased and unheard studio pressing of Sammi’s last album. Nuke hooks it up.

The album has unforeseen powers though, and when played backwards, Sammi reaches out from beyond the grave to aid Eddie in a game of revenge against his tormentors.

All is well and Eddie is riding high on the thrill of rock and roll vengeance. Until, that is, Sammi’s game becomes too real for Eddie’s pussy sensibilities. So Sammi travels back, through the record and out of the speakers, to take matters into his own hands.

Great music, great 80’s-ness, great flaming pumpkins and a great Halloween dance, where Sammi starts bursting costumed teens with his electricity spewing guitar. How can you miss with this Halloween treat?

Wake up, sleepy heads. It’s party time.

Oct. 11th: Satan’s Little Helper (2005)

satans-littler-helper-2005This weird little straight-to-DVD movie is surprisingly enjoyable, if you like that sort of budget-less tongue and cheek business.

I know what you’re thinking, cause it’s the same thing I thought when I ran across this one on Netflix Instant a few years back: look at this fucking thing. How can this be good?

And it’s not. Well, it’s not good, by standard definitions, but its pretty fun none-the-less. And granted, not everyone is gonna have the same enjoyable reaction I did, but despite it’s trappings, it’s actually pretty funny with a novel and halloweeny-ass concept.

Young Dougie loves his video game Satan’s Little Helper, so naturally, when he sees a masked man setting up “fake” bodies on the front lawn for Halloween, he believes the man is Satan and promptly begins assisting him in his Halloween preparations.

So Dougie and Satan run around on Halloween engaged in all manner of havoc. Ya know, murder, attempted rape, ambushes. Halloweeniness.

It’s filled to the brim with black humor and Halloween goodness and makes for great October viewing. Get on this one Weeners, it’s widely under-viewed.