Oct. 21st: Friday Night Double Feature!

Friday Night Double Feature!

This time Halloween itself is coming under fire from all angles!
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The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979)

If The Witch doesn’t fly over the moon, apparently Halloween doesn’t truly begin, cause I guess that’s a thing. So, The Witch in this late 70’s chunk of TV Halloween goodness is holding the entire holiday to ransom.

She wants some recognition, a little respect, and some t-shirt revenue. Mostly she just wants Dracula to take her to the disco, though.

This shit is ridiculous, with Taxi’s Judd Hirsch playing perhaps the goofiest Dracula ever recorded. He’s assembled a veritable mash of monsters together to deal with the mutinous Witch. The Wolf Man, The Mummy, some Zombie King and Frankenstein’s Creature all beckon to Dracula’s call.

And it’s the kind of thing television simply doesn’t produce anymore, but I’m glad I remember a time when it did. A time when this sort of specialized bizarre bullshit filled the airwaves around Halloween.

It’s goofy as hell, occasionally actually funny, at times unintentionally hilarious and totally spooked-out. It’s short too. It’ll all be said and done before you even know it. YouTube has a number of clips available for your enjoyment.

Last Halloween, Rifftrax released it as a holiday special and that’s good for an extra layer of laughter on top.

The Real Ghostbusters’ “The Halloween Door” (1989)

But since that’s hardly enough Halloween to tide you over, double-down with the awesome Halloween episode of The Real Ghostbuster’s called “The Halloween Door” for a double dose of Halloween threats.halloween-door

In this episode, (the interestingly named) Dr. Crowley hates Halloween and tries to enlist the Ghostbusters to help him end the holiday once and for all, figuring (of course) that they’d hate it just as much.

But they don’t. In fact the get up on stage at a school assembly and belt out an awesome Halloween song. Keep an eye out for that one further down the playlist.

Crowley says bugger to all of that and fires up his Halloween ray, which effectively zaps all traces of the holiday clean from the planet.

Only problem is, seems we people of earth had a pact with the creatures of the night. They’d chill out the rest of the year if we gave them one night to roam free. Well now, thanks to Crowley and his stupid Frankenstein head, the deal is completely off, and all hell breaks loose.

It’s a great episode of the show with some top notch Halloween imagery and of course, that awesome Halloween song.

You can watch it here on Kiss Cartoons.

Designation: Double Treat!

Oct. 19th: The WNUF Halloween Special (2014)

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Tailor made for presentation at a Halloween party with music, chatter and maybe nobody really paying attention to the flickering images on your TV screen, The WNUF Halloween Special is a mock time-capsule of 80’s Halloween nostalgia that’ll have your guest asking “Where did you dig up that old fossil?”

Truth is, you didn’t. It came out 2 years ago, but you’d swear it was quite literally taped on Halloween night in 1987, so effectively is that aesthetic recreated. This is particularly true if no one is really listening to the “acting” taking place between its wonderfully crafted commercial interludes.

Essentially a riff on 1992’s proto-paranormal investigation horror Ghostwatch (and The Tales from the Crypt episode “Television Terror”) The WNUF Halloween Special is a unique “found footage” flick that posits itself as a taped airing of the “real” 1987 WNUF Halloween night broadcast featuring a special news investigation of an actual haunted house…with spooky results. So spooky it never aired again. Thus making the “tape” a sort of rare, taboo relic.

It’s ludicrous, and it doesn’t hold up as an actual horror movie whatsoever, but its meticulous attention to the period details of VHS era television is so fun and spot on that it makes the “serious” parts much easier to digest.

Thankfully though, WNUF mostly plays toward the humorous side of the field and is much better for it. Plus, it’s jammed packed with small moments of Halloween goodness, so it’s hard to resist. Just don’t pay too close attention and you’ll be fine.

I’ll give it a broken plastic Wolfman mask and a Mini Snickers.

Designation: Treat!

Oct. 18th: Night of the Demons 2 (1994)

One of my favorite Halloween movies of all time is easily Kevin Tenney’s Night of the Demons. However, as with most sequels, my love for Night of the Demons 2 is decidedly less than.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Brian Trenchard-Smith’s follow-up. It has some great Halloween atmosphere and a feeling somewhat similar enough to its predecessor, but in comparison it falls dramatically short.

Kids from a catholic boarding school want to rebel on Halloween. So they hook up with some local burnouts to go party down at notorious Hull House, where apparently Angela still resides.

Since Hull House is never a good idea on Halloween, things go berserk. This time however, the terror stretches out from the funeral home and toward the Catholic school.

There’s a lot of callbacks here. You’re getting Hull House, a new tit gag (which is a great effect) a new lipstick gag, Angela dancing again, and a lot more possessions. So this is pretty worn ground for the most part, but it isn’t a horrible sequel, plus you’ll get some fun, new characters, an ambitious snake transformation and a Halloween dance party.

If you have to watch 1 Night of the Demons movie this Halloween, The Shindig recommends the original Night of the Demons. But if you have to watch 2 Night of the Demons movies, you might as well watch just Night of the Demons 2 too.

I give it 2 stretchy titty-hands up.

 

Designation: Treat

Oct. 17th: Wacko (1982)

The Slasher craze of the late 70’s was like any phase in Hollywood; so saturated it was ripe for mockery.

At its peak in 1981, the great Slasher parody Student Bodies was released. As you can imagine, more followed.

1982 saw the release of 3 different parodies: National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, Pandemonium and our selection for the evening, Wacko.

While none of them were as good as Student Bodies, I think Wacko comes the closest. There’s a lot of gags here that don’t work, or comedy that feels horribly dated, but there’s a good amount of funny moments in Wacko, which is more than I can say for the absolutely dreadful Pandemonium, a film in which Paul Reuben’s was the only one who actually had me cracking a smile.

There are 3 distinct things that set Wacko immediately above the pack:

1.) It has E.G. Daily

2.) The killer is a becaped, pumpkin-headed mumbler and

3.) It takes place on Halloween.

Also, you’ll get George Kennedy playing a leering perv named Doctor, Joe Don Baker slobbing it up as the detective hot on the murderer’s trail, and a very young Andrew Dice Clay perfecting his comic timing with some great moments.

I have a soft spot in my heart for parodies, and one with Halloween imagery and themes will definitely get a pass from me for its various faults. It also has a fun Airplane-styled 80’s vibe that makes it easier viewing.

I can’t help but compare it to the far inferior Pandemonium, which I also watched recently. If it helps, watch that one first, if only to appreciate Wacko more for not being that fucking movie.

It’s not all treats with Wacko, but there’s enough here to satisfy fans hungry for goofy 80’s parody nonsense with a little Halloween spirit.

1 lawnmower up.

Designation: Treat

Oct. 15th: Murder Party (2007)

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Before this year’s Green Room and 2013’s Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier whipped out his own Reservoir Dogs-styled debut with 2007’s Murder Party.

Lonely loser Christopher S. Hawley planned to spend a quiet Halloween at home with a few VHS tapes and his cat. That was until he stumbled upon a random Halloween invitation to a “Murder Party…come alone.”

Yeah, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not taking any piece of card stock up on that offer.

But Christopher S. Hawley is a lonely idiot and and he does just that, but not before making the most low-rent knight costume he can out of cardboard and baking a pumpkin loaf.

What he finds at the party is a bunch of goofy art students dressed in some fun costumes awaiting him at a warehouse, where they will then murder him for their art.

It also turns out Christopher S. Hawley is much cooler and smarter than any of the pretentious fartists at the warehouse. I love Christopher S. Hawely, and I wish we got a little more from him on the character side.

Murder Party is fun and mostly humorous with some moments of gore to delight. Macon Blair’s devilish wolf mask mishap being a highlight. There’s a good amount of Halloween ambiance as well, culminating in a pumpkin filled slaughter-instillation.

It definitely feels like a film-school styled debut, but it’s a debut that shows lots of promise, promise the Saulnier has made pretty good on. I didn’t love Murder Party and it does drag a bit, but this is a pretty entertaining horror-lite Halloween comedy treat with a lot of fun scenes to offer.

Plus, if you’ve ever attended art school, or know a bunch of dildos who did/do, you may find their skewering of art school crowd here pretty spot-on.

This one gets a Baseball Fury and a Melted wolf mask up.

Designation: Treat

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Oct. 14th: Pumpkin Man (1998)

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What in the hell is Pumpkin Man? Where the hell did it come from? Why was it even made? What exactly is going on here?

I’m not sure, but apparently this isn’t an easy one to find, unless you happen to be randomly browsing the dusty shelves at Eddie Brandt’s in North Hollywood back in 2000 whatever and there are multiple copies just sitting there on a rack.

Being me, I didn’t even look at it twice, and I doubt I looked at it for very long. I’d never heard of it and was most certainly leaving with it, whatever the hell it was.

Seeing as how it’s a rare oddity and it’s only about 30 minutes, here is Pumpkin Man in all its glory for all you Halloweeners to enjoy,…or be confounded by…or to hate every sappy second of.

Me? This shit is just weird enough, and wholesome enough and Halloweeny enough for my recommendation.

I give this 1 winking pumpkin man and 2 pumpkinoid alien people up!

Designation: Treat!

Enjoy!

 

I won’t say much, seeing as how it’s just up there for you to make heads or tails of yourself, but I will ask a few questions:

1. Why is there a short television special where a pumpkin helps a kid deal with divorce on Halloween?

2. What the hell is the Pumpkin Man exactly, and why does he bother turning all Jason’s friend into dope looking pumpkin heads?

3. Is he just some expression of Jason’s psychosis? If so, why can Jason’s friends see him?

4. Given his annoyance at all the kids ding-dong-ditching his house every year on Halloween, why wouldn’t Sammy Hain just sit outside one time and put the whole thing to rest?

5. Who the fuck are those pumpkinoid creatures in the beginning? Am I to understand that’s Jason and his dad on Halloween the previous year?

6. If so, where did they get sick ass prosthetic creature makeups from?

7. Are they goblins? I was convinced by a friend they were alien pumpkin people. I liked that drug addled read more.

8. Why does this exist?

Oct. 13th: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

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It’s Halloween, but the little girl who lives down the lane is celebrating her birthday, so we might forgive her for being a bit distracted. She’s also from England, which as we know is not as keen on the Eve of All Hallows’ as our rock across the pound.

However, a young Martin Sheen is going to try an teach her (an even younger Jodie Foster) just what Halloween is all about. Namely treats…and tricks.

While not quite a horror movie, nor quite a Halloween movie, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane feels almost like a stage play and has the distinction of being perhaps the best film featured on this year’s countdown.

It’s a strangely engaging little parlor mystery featuring a eerie and impressive performance from the 13 year old Foster that belies her age. It also features equally intriguing supporting performances from Emilio’s dad and Bad Ronald. How’s that for ya?

It’s an off-beat sort of character study which pits nature vs. nurture. It’s not The Bad Seed by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s an interesting companion piece that takes a gander from the seed’s point of view.

The less said about this one the better, and the less you know about its plot going in is likewise true. I watched this one as cold as they come. All I knew was that it featured Halloween and I was pleasantly surprised.

I will say that the Halloween is brief, though not entirely unfestive, and takes place at the very start of the film. From there it’s mostly up to the autumnal trappings of rural Maine to provide the seasonal atmosphere. But perhaps like me, you’ll find yourself hooked by the time All Saints Day rolls around.

This one gets a green skeleton and a Frankenstein’s Monster up!

Designation: Treat!

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Oct. 12th: Winterbeast (1991)

I’m not sure if Winterbeast qualifies as a “Halloween” movie. I’m not even sure if Winterbeast qualifies as an actual movie, for that matter. It’s probably because 70% of the time I have absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on in Winterbeast.

What I do know is that Winterbeast rules.

Despite the word “winter” appearing in the title, you’ll be treated to a “Fall Festival,” a small pumpkin patch and a few plastic jack-o-lanterns here and there for no apparent reason. Halloween is never directly mentioned, and there’s definitely nothing particularly festive about the film, but the Fall Festival banner claims it’s somewhere between October 11th and 12th and that’s pretty close. Besides, when you have this many awesome stop motion, B-grade-Harryhausen monsters running amuck, a couple plastic jacks and a sign work just fine for The Shindig.

As far as I can tell, Winterbeast revolves around a couple mountain rangers, a haunted totem pole, some demonic Indian mumbojumbo and a gateway to hell.

What you’ll get feels like a half-finished cavalcade of kitchen sink nonsense, awesome over-acting, a script that seems to suffer from Alzheimer’s and more plaid than you can shake a walking stick at.

Ranger Whitman’s hero mustache game is on lock-down, and Mr. Sheldon makes for a formidable opponent in the “who can yell louder in this same argument we’ve been having for the last 40 minutes” showdown that is this movie’s plot.

The ridiculous Sheldon shows up early and takes this productions to new heights almost instantly before summarily walking away with the picture entirely by the climax. I love this dude and he’s everything that’s weird and insane and awesome about this movie.

I can’t recommend this to everyone, or even a lot of people. But there’s a certain kind of film fan out there who’s bread and butter consists of exactly the kind of low-budget, amateur madness that is the heart and soul of Winterbeast

But don’t take my word for it, you can just go ahead watch it yourself!

I give it 2 plastic jack-o-lanterns and 4 stop motion monsters up!

Designation: Treat!

Oct. 11th: Ghostwatch (1992)

Back before The Blair Witch Project, Ghost Hunters or Paranormal Activity, the BBC televised this one-time event on Halloween Night in 1992. Much like Orson Welles’ 1938 Broadcast of The War of the Worlds, viewers became alarmed and then inundated the network with phone calls, unaware that what they were seeing was a pure, prerecorded fiction. One family even went on to blame their son’s suicide on the program. As such, the BBC placed a ban on ever airing it again. The power of the mind…now that’s pretty spooky.

Is Ghostwatch that believable? Well, I don’t know. I’m not British so it’s tricky for me to assess just how realistic this all feels. As an American who maybe doesn’t pick up on all the small inconsistencies, I think it comes off fairly convincing. It’s certainly more believable than any Paranormal Activity or found footage horror film I’ve seen, but it still has moments where it falters.

I think the more appropriate question may be, is it that scary? To that I would answer no. Much like Paranormal Activity, the bulk of Ghostwatch’s runtime is devoted to setup. It’s interesting, but it’s not that exciting (or all that engaging) and it takes a good 40 minutes for anything beyond that setup to emerge.

Ultimately, not a whole lot happens, and what does occur is of the ghostly presence variety; loud noises, lights flickering, pictures flying off the wall, scary voices, and maybe a shadowy ghost face or two.

But like most fictions of this variety, it’s not so much what they show you as it is what they imply and what your mind does with that. How susceptible are you to this type of trickery, and how well can you detach yourself from the knowledge that it is not real will determined how much it gets to you.

I’m sure seeing this thing cold, broadcast by the BBC back on Halloween Night in 1992 would have gone a fair distance in selling that fear. Particularly if you had missed the opening and happened upon it sometime during its airing.

It’s gets a little eerie in spots no doubt, but your experience with Ghostwatch depends almost 100% on how much that kind of thing scares you. I couldn’t have been more unmoved by Paranormal Activity. It gave me no chills during its presentation and caused no lasting effects after. Ghostwatch left me feeling similarly.

I do think Ghostwatch is more effective, if only because it appears (at least to me) to be more believable. The trick when you’re trying to convince someone that what they are witnessing is real is perhaps that hardest to pull off in fiction, and rarely (if ever) is it accomplished. The whole illusion rests on every small moment and the minute there’s a crack in the facade, the whole trick is exposed.

This is also from 1992, so it’s gets a bit of a nod for treading these waters well before the footage gamers of the last several years. Though not presented in a typical “found footage” manner, the gimmick of a real live broadcast is maintained throughout.

It reminded me somewhat of the Tales from the Crypt episode “Television Terror” starring Morton Downey Jr., which predates Ghostwatch by about 2 years. The payoff is more like Paranormal Activity’s than the Crypt Keeper’s yarn though, that much I will say.

Ghostwatch does have the added bonus of taking place on Halloween Night. It’s not overloaded with festivities, but there’s a few reminders every now and again and it’s a nice touch.

I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much and I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but as a horror artifact of wide acknowledgment and acclaim, I think its interesting and worthwhile and I’m glad I gave it a view. I can see why people are so fond of it, particularly if they had caught its original airing.

As such, I will say that this could make for some spooky Halloween viewing for the right audience, namely people really creeped out by real life ghosts and haunted houses.

So, I’ll I give it a crawl space full of crying cats up and a

Designation: Treat

Oct. 9th: Frankenstein and Me (1996)

I was on the hunt for this little VHS oddity for some time, ultimately expecting to get a huge chunk of kiddie-monster cheese starring Burt Reynolds.

I was pleasantly surprised on several accounts.

First and foremost, it featured Halloween, which was completely unknown to me. That’s a serious bonus right there.

Secondly, it’s a period piece (though take that usage loosely) that happens during the 1970’s. Double bonus.

Thrice over, old Burt is actually pretty good here as the trucker father of a pair of imaginative young dreamers that are also huge horror nerds. Dad even scores them copies of Famous Monsters from the road and let’s them watch all kinds of cool movies. All right pops!

And lastly, the real treat tucked into Frankenstein and Me are all the loving horror sequences peppered throughout. See, Earl tells his younger brother Larry all kinds of little stories throughout the film. Each time, that story is realized visually for us, and each time it’s an awesome little classic horror-homage with the boys themselves and their friends, including a ridiculously young Ryan Gosling. They tackle Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, The Wolf Man and even Brides of Dracula. It’s awesome.

Halloween is not a big part of Frankenstein and Me, but it is an important part and it features the kids sneaking into a special Halloween screening of Night of the Living Dead at the drive-in.

Eventually, Earl happens upon the “real” Frankenstein’s Monster, which (believe it or not) falls off a truck. Earl takes the him home with designs to bring the creature back to life.

Frankenstein and Me surprised the hell out of me. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and certainly not for the reasons I did, and maybe that’s making me like it more than I should. I dunno, but if you’re in need of a family-friendly but also horror-fan friendly Halloween selection this year (and you can find it….took me some hunting and waiting) then Frankenstein and Me will more than fit the bill.

5 horror homages up!

Designation: Treat!