Back in 2013—seven years ago—in what I believe was my first Octoberween with Rooster Illusion, I wrote two articles recommending Halloween viewing for all different viewing tastes. I enjoyed the model, but some reason never went back to it…until now!
Octoberween Recommendations, Part 3!
For Johnny-Come-Latelies: Horror of Dracula (1958)
If you’ve never really watched any horror movies and are looking for a good place to start, this is the movie for you. Christopher Lee dons the fangs and cape as the titular count, but the real star of the show is Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. He is, hands down, undeniably, undoubtedly the greatest Van Helsing of all time. Horror of Dracula takes an interesting departure from most Dracula films. It does away with the Harker character right off the bat (get it?), incurring the wrath of Dracula and refocusing on Van Helsing as he sets up a desperate and time-sensitive defense against the vampire.
For the Kids: Gravity Falls (2012)
Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines relocate to the sleepy town of Gravity Falls, OR, to spend the summer with their eccentric con-artist great uncle Stan, who operates a Mystery Shack tourist trap. Before long, though, the twins find that there are some bizarre, inexplicable, often whimsical and occasionally quite creepy happenings in Gravity Falls. The animated children’s show follows a tight, two-season story arc complete with character development, a wonderful sense of humor, and an appropriate monster-of-the-week format. Young kids will love it, but it’s intelligently written to the point that adults will, too.
For Pretentious Film Students: Häxan (1922)
Actually, Häxan isn’t really pretentious. It’s just a very cool movie. It just strikes me as something that film students could be obnoxious about, but they have the capacity to be obnoxious about pretty much anything. This silent Swedish horror movie documents the history of witchcraft and the history of the persecution of witches. Groundbreaking special effects, frightening makeup, and haunting set design punctuate a series of often brutally violent and disturbing vignettes. It’s a fun time.
For the Strong-Stomached: Apostle (2018)
Have you seen either of The Raid movies? Those beautifully choreographed but crazy violent Indonesian martial arts movies? Well, the guy who directed those directed Apostle. Take the violence from those movies and put it into a horror context and, well, if you have a weak stomach, don’t watch Apostle. I actually got up and left the room for one scene, and just stood in the doorway and waited until I could hear that it was over. That’s what we get up to here. Apostle follows a troubled drug-addict (played by Dan Stevens) in the early 1900s as he journeys to a remote island off the coast of Britain to infiltrate a pagan cult he believes abducted his sister. It’s a trip. It’s no fun at all, but it’s very well made, well-acted, and beautifully shot.
For Tricksters: The Lure (2015)
In the mood for a Polish mermaid synthpop horror musical? Well, luckily for you, someone actually made one of those. Agnieszka Smoczynska directed the hell out of this movie, creating a truly entrancing, visually rich epic. She perfectly balances the beautiful with the disgusting, the bright lights with the dingy darkness, the philosophical horror with the body horror. Plus the music is just a lot of fun and really catchy. Songwriters Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska really knocked it out of the park.
For Treaters: Ghostbusters (1984)
Here’s a head-scratcher: in all of Rooster Illusion’s illustrious and storied life, none of our writers have ever reviewed or so much as recommended Ghostbusters. I guess that’s most likely because the brilliance of this film goes unsaid. Everyone knows, already, right? Well, if you’ve somehow made it through life without having seen and loved Ghostbusters, I’m telling you to go fix that now. Billy Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, William Atherton, Annie Potts—well, actually the whole cast performs flawlessly what can only be classified a truly original screenplay. It’s hard to declare any comedy fully, wholeheartedly, and truly original, but that’s Ghostbusters.
For a Good Scare: It Follows (2014)
Speaking of originality, that’s what we get in It Follows. When was the last time you saw a new, creative, scary, and original movie monster? The 2010s saw many good horror movies, but It Follows was probably (right?) the best of them. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t give away too much here, because the less you know going in, the better. It Follows explores a genius premise to perfection. The pacing is exquisite, with cinematography and editing to match, and in the end, writer/director David Robert Mitchell leaves the viewer with a lot to think about. It’s not as scary as, say, Hereditary, but it has the benefit of being quite a lot better than, say, Hereditary.
For Those Who Just Don’t Like Halloween: Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)