1. Ernest Scared Stupid
(1991) (DVD) 3.5/5 - One of my traditional films. I've been watching this just about every year since it came out on home video. I'm sure if I hadn't first seen it as a child it might be unbearable, but it's a fun film with some surprisingly decent FX work and a great Halloween theme.
Fun fact: The Chiodo Bros. (of Killer Klowns fame) did the make-up effects.
2. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
* (1943) (DVD/YouTube) 3/5 - I started this one late last night, passed out but luckily found someone had uploaded the whole thing to YouTube, so I finished it off this morning at work. Aside from a couple wolfed-out moments by Chaney, the film sort of drags. Good thing I love the atmosphere of these old classics or I would've been bored. The final fight between Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf Man left much to be desired but, hey, this was 1943 after all.
Fun fact: Bela Lugosi, who plays the monster, turned down the role in the original 1931 film because it contained no dialogue. He was supposed to have dialogue in this film, and some scenes were shot as such, but they were later cut. The monster is a blind-mute, a fact never revealed to audiences.
3. Van Helsing
* (2004) (Blu-ray) 2/5 - I had heard how bad this film was, and I had seen some of cable before so I kind of knew, but talk about your wasted potential. Only a jackass like Sommers could have the key's to Universal's monster castle and manage to completely fail in every way. I only give the film credit because it features so many of my favorite monsters, even if they are mostly hideous CGI abominations. Richard Roxburgh is easily the worst vampire ever on film, and that says a lot
Fun fact: The film was originally going to be spun-off into a television series called "Transylvania", where a Texas sheriff would come to Europe to battle monsters. Yikes...
* (2009) (Theatrical) 3.5/5 - I don't think this one lived up to all the hype, but it was damn fun. I loved Woody Harrelson, the zombie kills, and possibly the best cameo ever in a film. But the lead kid was like a Michael Cera clone, and I can't fucking stand Cera and his overdone shtick. Even at a tight 82 minutes the film felt like it dragged in some spots. But I still had a lot of fun with it.
Fun fact: Fans of a certain 80's sports comedy would be well-advised to stay through the end credits.
5. Trick 'r Treat
(2007) (Blu-ray) 4.5/5 - I love this movie. I've loved it since I saw it at Screamfest in L.A. last Oct. and have been waiting impatiently for it to be released ever since. It's a shame that it didn't get the theatrical release it deserves, but I'm happy to be able to own it on Blu-ray. Easily the best film about Halloween in 30 years, and certainly one of the best anthology horror films of all-time.
Fun fact: Actor Brian Cox based his character's look in the film on director John Carpenter.
6. Don't Look Now
* (1973) (DVD) 3/5 - I'm all for slow-building, eventually rewarding, horror films, but this one felt like it didn't do much to keep me as a viewer engaged for the nearly-2 hour running time. I think the film's only remembered now for its notorious sex scene. And the ending was not what I was expecting. Still, I'm a sucker for films of the 70's, and I did enjoy the cinematography.
Fun fact: The infamous sex scene was a last-minute, on-set idea from director Roeg. Sutherland and Christie had just met for the first time and that was the first scene they had to shoot.
* (2008) (YouTube) (Wildcard #1) 4/5 - For a short film, this one had it all: gore, humor, wit, tastelessness, great score clips... Fantastic effort and a lot of fun to watch.
Fun fact: This was done by the same guy who directed "Hobo with a Shotgun", the faux-grindhouse trailer that won a contest to be presented in front of Tarantino/Rodriguez's Grindhouse
8. Creature From the Black Lagoon
(1954) (DVD) 4/5 - I used to watch this on an endless loop as a kid; I practically wore my VHS copy out. But it had been years since I last saw it. Thankfully, the film was just as fun as I remembered, even if it has a more dated feel than some of the other Universal classic monster movies. I still love that creature design.
Fun fact: The first draft of this script, historically, was commisioned by Adolf Hitler (!) in Germany and was to depict a Golem coming out from a swamp to kill 'good' Germans. The final U.S. film retained 60% of what was originally written.
9. My Best Friend is a Vampire
(1987) (DVD) 3.5/5 - I've loved this movie for a long time. I used to watch it every chance I could when it came on cable as a kid. The new DVD from Lionsgate is, unfortunately, full-screen but the film was shot opem-matte, so you can zoom in without sacrificing picture. The movie is totally goofy, but I still had just as much fun watching it.
Fun fact: Keen-eyed viewers will spot Kathy Bates in a small role as Darla's mother.
10. Mad Monster Party
* (1967) (DVD) 3/5 - I loved the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated Christmas features as a child, so I picked this one up figuring it would be just as enjoyable. The film isn't quite as good as I had hoped, though I'm sure had I seen it at a young age the nostalgia-factor would have madeit much more fun. Still, I love seeing all the classic monsters together in any film, so this one gets applauded on that alone. Phllis Diller is annoying as hell, though.
Fun fact: The werewolf's clothes were inspired by the outfit Bela Lugolsi wears in the original Wolfman film.
11. Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural
* (1973) (DVD) 3.5/5 - Definitely a film that kids would eat up, there isn't a whoole lot going on here in terms of plot or acting. But I LOVE the blue hues on display, and the atmosphere is undeniably palpable. This is something that, if you never saw as a child, will be great to watch vicariously through your own children. At least, I think it would.
Fun fact: The uncut version of the film runs 113 minutes, while the only available release from Synapse runs 85 minutes. Where's that longer cut at???
12. Night of the Comet
(1984) (DVD) 5/5 - One of my childhood nostaglia favorites, this is the perfect blend of sci-fi, horror, comedy and has an all-around 80's vibe. A few notable genre vets are among the cast, including Mary Woronov, Geoffrey Lewis and Michael Bowen. Easily one of my favorites from that era.
Fun fact: The copy I watched was an old widescreen bootleg I got a few years ago and gave to my gf. We let the movie run after the credits and once it ends a 2 1/2 min. video of Kelli Maroney working out topless comes on. Needles to say, it was a shock. Apparently, that was one of the only nude scenes she has ever done. I expect a plethora of pm's requesting a copy from anyone who read this.
13. Mutant Chronicles
* (2008) (DVD) 1.5/5 - Talked about your all-time failed projects... I suppose there was potential here for something decent to be made; instead what we get is an abominable film with some of the worst FX work I've seen outside of a Sci-Fi original picture and piss-poor acting. John Malkovich seems really high/drunk and is obviously reading off of cue cards. At least he seems to know something we do: this movie sucks.
Fun fact: Malkovich shot his scenes in 2 days. Really? It took 2 days to do work that shitty?
14. Drag Me To Hell
(2009) (Blu-ray) 4/5 - It's great to have Raimi back in the horror game. I've seen this movie 3 times thus far and I still enjoy it just as much as I did the first. I wish he hadn't used to much shoddy CGI, as practical FX were a staple of his, but the film is fun enough that I can somewhat overlook that.
Fun fact: Raimi fans should check out Mrs. Ganush's car; it's The Classic we've seen in all of his previous films.
15. Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn
(1987) (Blu-ray) 5/5 - What more could I possibly say about this film? It is, quite simply, one of the best horror films ever made. And one of the few sequels that, in my opinion, is superior to the original. The BD isn't the best, but if you're a fan of the film you gotta own the best possible presentation of it. I could watch this one all day long.
Fun fact: Most of the film was shot on a set built inside the gymnasium of the JR Faison Junior High School in Wadesboro, North Carolina.
16. Scream And Scream Again
* (1970) (DVD) 2/5 - This film touts itself as a thriller featuring the talents of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Ostensibly that is true, but it's more a story of a killer-on-the-loose than anything. Cushing appears in one brief scene, while Lee is given hardly much more time than that. The plot is muddled, the story weak and the ending anti-climactic. But I love horror films of the 60's, so that charm does go a ways in making it at least somewhat fun.
Fun fact: Even Vincent Price said in interviews after the film was made that he had so idea what the script was even about.
17. The Simpsons: Treehouse Of Horror XX
(2009) (TV) (Wildcard #2) 3.5/5 - Say what you will about the quality of the series itself, but they keep pumping out classic Halloween episodes. The Hitchcock-inspired opener was good, but I really enjoyed the zombie outbreak segment. Unfortunately, the Broadway-esque closer was a snoozer.
Fun fact: None, really. But, c'mon... 20 seasons of these classic episodes!
18. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
* (1948) (DVD) 4/5 - Though the title is a misnomer, since no one actually meets a member of the Frankenstein family, this was a highly enjoyable comedy. I love the simple, clean, quick-witted comedy of the duo, and having all 3 of Universal's major monsters in the cast was icing on the cake. It's also easy to see how this film influenced Fred Dekker's "The Monster Squad". Lots of fun.
Fun fact: Glenn Strange, who plays the monster, broke his ankle on set one day, so Chaney stepped in and played the part for one scene. Thus, he plays 2 of the film's 3 monsters.
19. The Return of the Living Dead
(1985) (DVD) 5/5 - One of the best zombie films ever. Long before it was the "cool thing" to do, this film was combining humor with zombie horror. Great soundtrack, perfect casting and the Tarman, one of the best, most memorable zombies from any film.
Fun fact: The film's German title is "Verdammt, die Zombies kommen", which is roughly "Oh Crap, the Zombies Are Coming".
20. Mr. Boogedy
(1986) (Bootleg DVD) 3.5/5 - I'm sure if it weren't for a healthy dosing of nostalgia the score for this 45 min. made-for-TV Disney feature would be much lower. But I love it. I remember watching this as a child and I was upset to find that neither it, nor the sequel, "Bride of Boogedy", are available on home video. Luckily, a friend who bootlegs had a copy and I was returned back to my youth in one fell swoop. I love Disney's Halloween-centric output from the 80's, and this is one of my childhood favorites.
Fun fact: The cast includes a young David Faustino (Bud Bundy from Married... with Children), Kristy Swanson (from the Buffy movie), screen legend John Astin and one of my favorite character actors, Richard Masur.
21. Paranormal Activity
(2009) (Theatrical) 3.5/5 - I saw this for a second time because a friend wanted to see it and his wife "can't handle scary movies". I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, but I wasn't nearly as creeped out as the first time. I applaud what Oren Pelli did with $11,000 and some loud noises & moving doors. The audience I saw it with, mostly teens, yelled out that it was "the most retarded fucking movie they'd ever seen" and an angry mob straight outta Frankenstein marched toward the box office for a refund.
Fun fact: There were at least 2 more endings filmed for the movie, and a couple more that haven't been seen by anyone yet, which would all surface on the DVD. Steven Spielberg is partially responsible for the current one.
22. Saw VI
* (2009) (Theatrical) 3.5/5 - I'll score this one a tad higher because it's being judged against all other Saw films, not just all other horror films. They finally provide some answers that fans have been patiently waiting for, plus the main storyline is surprisingly relevant to our current eco-climate. I still think they made a huge mistake killing off Jigsaw in III, though. I like seeing him in the film, but the endless flashbacks are getting ridiculous. There's just no way the guy could have planned all of this ahead of time. He's need a goddamn office staffed with engineers to pull it all off. Still, it was fun for what it was. And the ending should make VII interesting indeed.
Fun fact: Fans who have been getting increasingly annoyed with the last couple installments will feel some satisfaction from the answers we are finally given.
23. Dawn of the Dead
(2004) (HD DVD) 4.5/5 - I was really looking forward to watching this film again. Zack Snyder blew horror fans everywhere away when he did the impossible and remade 1978's classic zombie film of the same name. He managed to make a smart, clever film that respected the original, yet added enough different elements to the story to stand on its own. The HD DVD was one of the first I bought, and it looks fantastic.
Fun fact: Original DotD '78 cast members Scott Reiniger and Ken Foree have cameos appearances, as does FX artist Tom Savini.
24. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
* (2006) (DVD) 2/5 - I had tried to watch this during the last challenge and didn't make it through the film. My gf and I thought we'd give it a shot this year, and now I now why I gave up. I like the concept they had here, but the end result is far too tongue-in-cheek for the most part. It just never worked for me. There were some amusing aspects to the story, but I just don't feel like this was a film that needed to be made. It tries way too hard to be clever.
Fun fact: Robert Englund's character looks almost identical to Dr. Loomis from the Halloween series, and he is also playing a similar role.
25. The Return of Godzilla
(1984) (Bootleg DVD) 4.5/5 - Even though I tend to prefer the U.S. cut of the film, Godzilla 1985, for nostalgic reasons, this is easily one of my top 3 Godzilla films. Relevant nuclear storyline, great suit design and one of my favorite film scores of all-time. This film so badly needs a release in R1. It's also funny to note how the Japanese edit tends to paint the Russians in a more positive light, while the U.S. cut makes them seem like nefarious criminals.
Fun fact: This was the first Godzilla film since the original in 1954 where he doesn't do battle with another monster.
26. Night of the Creeps
(1986) (Blu-ray) 4.5/5 - I just watched Night of the Creeps. On Blu-ray. Never did I think I'd be typing those joyous words, yet here I am. Fred Dekker's fantastic 80's gem looks stunning in hi-def, and the audio is equally impressive. I'll go over the extras next month, but it was such a joy to finally have an official copy of the film, complete with his originally intended ending. Tom Atkins is the fucking man.
Fun fact: All of the main characters' last names are based on famous horror directors, and renowned FX artists Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger appear in the film as zombies.
* (1990) (Blu-ray) 3.5/5 - I had heard a great deal about this film, and I've always been curious to see some of Stanley's work. I admit that I was really into this film for the first half; I loved the post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk setting. I think the second half suffers a bit from being fully contained within the apartment, but that fact is mostly made up for by the trippy, acid-like visuals and some impressive gore effects. Stanley has a great eye for composition and the film looks far better than I had expected.
Fun fact: Stanley wrote a sequel to this film but was never able to get it off the ground due to rights issues, a problem which held up this home video release for a number of years.
28. The Craft
(1996) (Blu-ray) 3.5/5 - I had to review this for the site I write for at some point, so I figured might as well knock it out for the challenge. I saw this in theaters way back when, and I still enjoy it now. Witchcraft films are so largely ignored that this was a breath of fresh air for the genre. Balk gives a stark-raving mad performance, there are some cool effects, and the film has a decidedly 90's soundtrack that works fairly well. The Blu-ray isn't a great upgrade over the previous DVD, but the PQ is obviously much sharper. No new extras, though.
Fun fact: Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich both star in this film. The two would later go on to play boyfriend and girlfriend in Wes Craven's "Scream" later that year.
(1978) (Blu-ray) 5/5 - The
holiday classic. A yearly tradition, I love this film tremendously. It looks stellar on Blu-ray and I always look forward to watching it again every year. Amazing how well it holds up over 30 years later. Simply the best slasher film of all-time.
Fun fact: The kids watch "The Thing From Another World" at home, a film that Carpenter would later remake in a vastly superior version four years later. It's my favorite film.
30. The Exorcist
(Theatrical cut) (1973) (DVD) 5/5 - Another one of my top ten films of all-time, this is still what I consider to be the most unsettling and frightening movie ever. Phenomenal performances, chilling music and possibly the best ever role that I've seen a child portray. I can't wait for this to finally hit Blu-ray in time for next year's challenge!
Fun fact: Well-known Christian evangelist Billy Graham claimed there was a demon living in the celluloid reels of the film!
(1996) (DVD) 3.5/5 - I hadn't watched this in years, but seeing The Craft
the other night made me want to revisit it and see if it held up. It does, but man does this DVD need an upgrade. Cut footage and non-anamorphic made this look like shit, but the film was as much fun as I remember it being when I saw it in theaters 13 years ago.
Fun fact: The film was originally called "Scary Movie", a title that the spoof series inspired by this film eventually took on.
(I never seem to have much free time these days, so I'm setting a tentative goal of 20. Here's to hoping I surpass that amount!)
2007 Challenge: 25
2008 Challenge:13 (ouch!)
2009 Challenge: 31
* - denotes first-time viewing