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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Matt's Movie Mortuary: Digging Deep Into the Mortuary

Five Under-the-Radar Gems for Halloween

By Matt Wintz

Yes, that's Judd Hirsch!

One of the big things around this time of the year is website after website, reviewer after reviewer, talking about the horror genre and making lists of movies that you should go out and see. Many of these lists of course use movies that many people already know: "The Exorcist," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," and several others. While being the horror movie guy here for Silver Screen, I wanted to add my own list, but I wanted to do something different. I'm trying to stay away from "mainstream" or well-known horror films. So there's not going to be a "Halloween" entry, or "Paranormal Activity," but I do want to touch on a series of movies I'd definitely urge you to watch in the Halloween time.

A quick note, as my favorite movie of all-time, "Night of the Living Dead," is not on this list. That's because I will be writing a piece on that at a later time and how that movie single-handedly changed my life. Until then, however, let's take a look at a few movies I think you should dive into for the Halloween holiday.

<1> Hell Night (1981)

This film was the first movie I bought on DVD. I remember it well, picking up a new DVD player and deciding to pick up one movie for it too. Wanting it to be a horror film, I went over to the horror section of the Electronic Fry's I was at and began going through the titles. I found "Hell Night" behind a few others, the awesome artwork of Linda Blair screaming at me from behind a gate immediately drew me in. I bought the film and went home, watching it for the first time, and since then it has been one of my favorites. The story of four pledges needing to spend the night in Garth Manor plays as a bit of a slasher film and a little bit of a haunted house/monster movie. Against the grain of the time, there's no nudity, though Blair's outfit was enough for me to develop a crush on her.

<2> Return of the Blind Dead (1973)

The Blind Dead were the main antagonists of a four-movie series by Amando de Ossorio and they are a bit of a fun Spanish film series that have not seen anyone do any remakes of them over here in the U.S. That in itself surprises me. The Blind Dead are former Templar Knights who were doing all sorts of evil things and they are put to death by a mob of villagers, but not before they swear revenge. They get their eyes burned out by the villagers, and we are then cut to the 500 year anniversary of the village. And just in time for the celebration, the skeletal zombie knights rise from their tombs and ride their horses into town to cut up some people. The Blind Dead were always this creepy idea to me, skeletal zombies that can only go by what they hear, but when they find you will cut you down with swords or eat you type of monsters. I remember buying this on VHS thinking it had something to do with the "Evil Dead" films (this was released as "Return of the Evil Dead") and being disappointed when it didn't. Once my knowledge of horror matured though, this quickly became my favorite of the four movies and a great foreign horror movie.

<3> The Bay (2012)

Directed by Barry Levinson this was one of the many "found footage" movies I watched when binging on the genre a few months back. However, it is the one I've probably then watched a half-dozen times, always intrigued by it. It plays as a series of different videos found over the course of some time dealing with a Chesapeake Bay town that is plagued by sea creatures (a mutant form of Cymothoa Exigua) that get into humans and turn them into hosts before breaking out of them. Excellent for those with a disgust of "creepy crawlies" this film continues to fascinate me. The whole idea of toxins in the water due to hormones in chicken waste that gets into the water and the gory fun that ensues, all while keeping it in a "found footage" genre is fantastic. It's streaming on Netflix and definitely worth the 90 or so minutes.

<4> Phantasm (1979)

Might be the most "mainstream" title on here, Don Coscarelli's entire series is just mind-bending. Famous for the Tall Man, his flying silver death spheres, and creatures I've always likened to "zombie Jawas," I love this series and this movie. The story of two brothers and their ice cream selling friend Reggie taking on the supernatural Tall Man spanned from 1979 to present day, as a fifth film for the series, "Phantasm: Ravager" has been filmed and "Phans" of the movies are awaiting its release.

<5> The Halloween that Almost Wasn't (aka: The Night Dracula Saved the World) (1979)

While not a horror film this was a staple of my viewing as a kid. It was a TV special from 1970 that showed on ABC or the Disney Channel until the early 1990s and has never been released on DVD. Dracula, played by Judd Hirsch, brings together a Mummy, a Zombie, Frankenstein's monster, a Wolfman, and the Witch together for Halloween. Complete with Dracula's servant Igor, some fun (although maybe dated) humor, it's a cute story. For horror fans, Dracula even pokes fun at the other monsters for no longer being scary. If you can find it (I found it on VHS years ago) it's a fun piece of TV history (and Disco) that can be a little bit of a palette cleanser in-between all the gore.

Of course, I could make lists of all sorts of films that are always being played on Sci-Fi or AMC at this time of year, but these five are just a tip of the iceberg of horror movies sometimes looked over, but great for the holiday that is all about spooks.

However, it couldn't be a list of great movies without a few more well-known movies to throw in...

Horror of Dracula – Christopher Lee's first run as Dracula by Hammer Films, it is THE definitive Dracula for me.

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter – The perfect slasher films. Blood, boobs, and Jason Voorhees.

The Fog – John Carpenter's original, ignore the remake at all costs!

Until next time, the crypt is closed.

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