What’s Halloween night without scary movies? Sadly, you really can’t depend on television to show any frightful fare worth watching, so it’s good to have a stack of scary stuff on-hand. I’ve picked out six movies from my personal collection and listed them in no particular order for an all-night horror movie marathon – if you’re brave (or foolhardy) enough to stay up to dawn with nothing but werewolves, slashers and zombies for company. Note: I’ve scheduled approximately five minutes of down-time between each film. You’ve got to go to the bathroom at some time. Ready? Let’s get started.
“The Wicker Man” (1973): 7 PM to 8:40 PM
Our night begins with a nod to the pagan roots of Halloween. In the “Wicker Man”, the great Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle, the ruler of a small Scottish island. A very dark form of paganism is alive and well there, and when crops begin to fail, the local folks begin the search for a suitable human sacrifice to appease the gods. Clueless police investigator Sgt. Howie is dispatched to investigate after a report of a missing girl reaches the mainland. Note: Skip the Nicholas Cage remake.
“Dawn of the Dead” (1978): 8:45 PM to 11:36 PM
1968’s “Night of the Living Dead” defined the zombie movie as we know it, but its sequel, “Dawn of the Dead” took Romero’s zombies from the countryside and into the city streets – and the local mall. After it becomes painfully obvious that the living has lost the war against the dead, a group of newscasters and police SWAT team members abandon their posts to hole up inside the Monroeville Mall. They’ve got to clear it out of zombies first, though. The movie’s claustrophobic setting, oppressive soundtrack and bizarre zombie make-up lend the proceedings a surrealistic, nightmarish feel that’s perfect for the lead-up to midnight. Note: The 2004 remake is pretty solid, but it’s completely different in tone from the original.
“Halloween” (1978): 11:41 PM to 1:22 AM
You wouldn’t have slasher films as we know them without John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween”. Sadly, though, most of the copycats that followed were bereft of the intelligence of the original. (The same can be said for the “Halloween” sequels with the exception of “Halloween II” – Your mileage may vary, though.) In her film debut, Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Laurie Strode, a teenage babysitter inexplicably stalked by a sinister masked man. The man, Michael Myers, murdered his older sister when he was six years-old. Now, fifteen years later, he has escaped from a psychiatric facility to kill again. Psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is on his trail, but can he catch Myers before he kills Strode? “Halloween” remains a classic horror film, thanks to plenty of suspense and the utterly unforgettable soundtrack, written and performed by the director. Note: I’m not a fan of Rob Zombie’s films, but if you are, you can certainly check out the remake. I guess it’s decent if you’re a fan.
“An American Werewolf in London” (1981): 1:27 AM to 3:08 AM
An oblivious American backpacker named David and his buddy Jack are attacked by a werewolf while walking across the English moors. One of them doesn’t survive the attack. The other does, and is infected with lycanthropy. Haunted by the ghosts of his victims (and his backpacker buddy, Jack), David ignores their pleas to commit suicide before the next full moon. The consequences prove dreadful consequences for the inhabitants of London and ultimately David himself. John Landis’s werewolf film mixes black comedy and hair-raising horror in equal measures, making it a perfect follow-up to the dead serious “Halloween”. Note: Avoid the sequel “American Werewolf in Paris” at all costs.
“The Conjuring” (2013) 3:13 AM to 5:05 AM
A family becomes the target of evil spirits after moving into a dilapidated farm house. Desperate for help, they call in paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens discover that the house has a horrific history, and that a demon has attached itself to mother Carolyn. An exorcism is her only hope, but is it too late? “The Conjuring” is supposedly based on a true story taken from the files of the real-life Ed and Lorraine. I’m not so sure about that, but the movie itself is highly entertaining and worth a watch.
“Trick ‘r Treat” (2007): 5:10 AM to 6:50 AM
“Trick ‘r Treat” is an old school horror anthology film. Think “Creepshow” or “Tales from the Crypt”, and you’re halfway there. The film presents four interwoven horror stories that all occur on a single Halloween night, each presenting a gruesome twist on the holiday: Undead trick or treaters come back for revenge, a group of cute college girls turn the tables on a would-be psychopathic murderer, a neighborhood crank gets a visit from the spirit of Halloween, and a clique of cruel high schoolers get in deep trouble after they pull a cruel prank on a developmentally disabled schoolmate. “Trick ‘r Treat” was inexplicably buried by the studio that produced it, but the film has found a wide, appreciative audience since its release on DVD. Truth be told, this is one of my favorite horror movies ever, but its short vignette-style stories will probably be appreciated by a sleep-deprived audience on the last leg of a movie marathon. Note: There’s a terrible eighties horror movie with a similar name: “Trick Or Treat”. Avoid it.
6:50 to 7:00 AM: What do you do with the last ten minutes of our twelve-hour stretch? I suggest you use it to drive over to your nearest diner for hot coffee and breakfast. That’s perfect for a hangover if you’ve enjoyed too many adult beverages during the night, plus you can discuss the movies and probably creep out the breakfast shift. No matter what, you probably won’t be able to sleep for a while.