Three Off The Beaten Path Halloween Film Favorites From Yours Truly
Posted on October 31, 2020
In celebration of today being Halloween, I thought I’d share a couple of horror films that left an impression on me over the years. They’re admittedly from a different time, a time before CGI. You remember that, don’t you? When things looked much more real, and even when they were fake, looked more real than CGI. I miss practical effects. They made filmmakers get creative. Case in point, look at the original A Nightmare On Elm Street when Nancy is sleeping and Freddie starts to come through the wall above her. The original is creep as hell! And it’s a practical effect. Now, if you look at the remake, it’s all computer generated, looks like crap, and retains zero creepiness. So…yeah. What the heck was I going on about? Right! A couple of Halloween horror movies.
Boy, oh, boy. I remember seeing the preview in the cinema for this back in the day. An absolutely delicious 1980s horror movie trailer, and a very underrated eighties horror film. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see this one in the theater, but I did see it in its grainy VHS glory! A camp for gifted children apparently doesn’t employ equally gifted counselors. Or perhaps not all campers are equally gifted. Either way, during their final night, the owner tells a story around the fire about a local farmer who went mad, killed his family, got hung by a rope for it, and whose body was gone by morning. If you say his name above a whisper, he’ll come for you. Obviously, someone says the mad farmer’s name, and they start getting knocked off in rather gruesome ways. This is a movie that took itself seriously, wasn’t particularly campy, and didn’t embrace all the clichés we’ve come to expect and hate.
Ah, the days of having someone record movies off of cable so I could take tapes back to University with me and watch them there! Never heard of Popcorn? You’d recognize some of the cast members and wonder why this might not have ever made it on your radar. A budding filmmaker in college joins her fellow classmates in getting an old movie theater in shape in order to raise money for their film projects by putting on a horror-movie-a-thon. She’s also having weird dreams, and the man she sees in her dreams starts making appearances in her waking world. Naturally, someone starts killing the students and it’s up to our heroine to sort out the pieces before she’s next. This is a fun, fun movie! There are also movies within the movie, a really solid cast, and an overall vibe that made Popcorn a welcome addition to our horror libraries. One watch and chances are you’ll be wanting your own copy, too.
Few people give this one its due, mostly because it doesn’t feature our favorite horror icon except in a short clip playing on a TV. This was also the first Halloween film I saw in the theater. If you forget for a moment that it was meant to change the course of the Halloween films and just take it as Season of the Witch, it’s an effective film with another decent cast that takes itself seriously. There’s no tongue in cheek humor, the special effects are practical and gruesome, and the pace moves well enough that you’ll forget how kind of wacky the plot actually is. There’s some serious menace in this film as a doctor attempts to uncover the truth behind a series of deaths. Things go from bad to bizarre as the plot thickens, the body count rises, and the end of the world might be at hand. I’m one of those who sing Tommy Lee Wallace praises for this entry!
I could go on. I won’t. If I had, though, I’d have told you about Curse II: The Bite. Or maybe… Naa. I’ll save that one for next year.
Any favorites from off the beaten path you’d like to share?
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.