One of my favorite reads this year was ML Brennan’s debut, Generation V. I think part of what won me over was Fortitude Scott, her film theory graduate student-vampire-hero with smarts and a self-depracating sense of humor. I knew Fort could give us some good recommendations for films to watch Halloween night so I asked ML to wrangle a list from him. But, of course, Suze had to add her two cents…
Fort: Hi, I’m Fortitude Scott! Some of you may know me from the excellent SheWolfReads review of Generation V! For those of you who don’t – for shame. But to summarize, I’m a slacker vampire with a degree in film theory, so I’ll be listing the ten movies you should check out this Halloween. So to start with—
Suze: (clears throat)
Fort: Um, Suze, why are you here?
Suze: To help out.
Fort: Really? You haven’t really seemed interested in these kinds of movies in the past.
Suze: Oh, I’m not. But let’s face it, you’re probably going to screw up dismally at this, and I’ll need to be here to save your bacon.
Fort: That’s not—
Suze: Remember the hockey fans?
Fort: …. (sighs) Okay, fair point. All right, so today my assistant—
Suze: Really? You’re going to try to make me your side-kick?
Fort: Fine, my co-presenter is Suzume Hollis, the kitsune. (looks at her)
Suze: Well, I’d prefer to be in charge, but I guess I can accept equal billing.
Fort: …. Let’s just get to the list.
Fort: What? That wasn’t my number ten. (pause) Suze, what did you—
Suze: I improved your list.
Fort: What—you—agh! You don’t have a film degree!
Suze: No, but I do have awesomeness.
Fort: *SIGH* Okay, why Darby O’Gill and the Little People?
Suze: That banshee thing is pretty hardcore. Plus, they always air this thing on Saint Patrick’s day, so when I watch it I’m completely hammered.
Fort: ….let’s move on to number 9.
Fort: Good, so that’s actually my pick this time. So what makes this movie such a good horror film is—
Suze: That werewolves are stupid.
Fort: Um. Not what I was going to say.
Suze: No, because unlike me, you’re not worried about keeping it real. But I’m going to lay some truth on these people – humans that turn into wolves are stupid and lame.
Fort: ….Suze, you’re a kitsune.
Suze: I know. A fox that sometimes turns into a human. It’s completely badass, and those werewolves are so completely diminished by my mere existence. So it’s kind of horrifying that they get a movie and I don’t.
Fort: (pause) Let’s move on.
Fort: For fuck’s sake, Suze, stop messing around with my list! That’s an animated movie for kids!
Suze: Have you watched it?
Suze: Pft. Some film major you turn out to be. Well if you’d watched it, you would know that whoever presented this as children’s programming was a sadist of the first order. The villain in this thing, Lord Kuruku, not only was a terror to children, but if you watch the movie as an adult, I guarantee that you’ll still get nightmares. It’s some scary shit.
Fort: (rips sheet off of list, squishes it into a paper ball, and throws it.)
Suze: Wait, what? (turns head sharply, tracking the ball) Shit. Hold on a second. (disappears. A second later there’s the sound of fox paws on hardwood, then the sound of fox paws batting the paper ball. Then several ominous thumps)
Fort: Okay, that will keep her busy for a few minutes. Now back to the real list!
The movie that launched Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Not only was it made on a shoe-string budget, but most of the actual actors had quit halfway through filming, so you get to see the remaining cast and crew put on wigs and attempt to fill in their places. It’s not only some campy fun, but there are also great jump-scares in it.
Okay, so it’s not a film. But this hour-long episode was absolutely groundbreaking in its use of silence – only seventeen minutes of dialogue is present. The rest of the episode has the entire town caught under a spell of silence, which is amazing, plus it had the creepiest villains Joss Whedon ever created – The Gentlemen. There’s something extremely scary about the scenes where people are in peril, but unable to call for help or even scream – though you can see them try. It’s fantastic.
The horror genre saw some rough times in the late seventies and eighties, and by the time this film came out, a lot of people were saying that the horror movie was dead. But Scream gave a shot of new life to the genre by giving a nod to the old tropes while also bringing in and incorporating new technology (yes, the arrival of the mobile phone. Gaze upon my works and despair!)
Before all the sequels and rip-offs, Alien was absolutely groundbreaking and remains terrorizing to this day. I defy anyone to sit through the scene where the baby alien rips out of Kane’s chest and not flinch a few times. This movie also really uses and capitalizes on suspense and tension as the creature stalks the crew – and don’t discount the level of inter-crew drama, particularly the reveal of Ash. And if for some reason you’re still not hooked – Sigourney Weaver playing the role that would be the prototype for so many other kick-ass women in film. Many of them, coincidentally, also played by Sigourney Weaver!
I probably could’ve created a top ten list just of Hitchcock films suitable for Halloween, but I limited myself to one. Hitchcock had films that focused primarily on psychological horror (Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt) and others that are terrifying but suffer from the progression of film technology (sorry to The Birds – so very cool and frightening, but those birds really just don’t hold up. It looks like stuffed animals being tossed at the actors at times. There are some scenes with real birds – more than would ever be used today – and those are well-worth watching). But Psycho holds up and delivers both the psychological horror and also that kind of jump-scare terror that we’re used to seeing in today’s horror films. It holds up, and it’s terrifying.
A clown with claws and yellow teeth lives in the sewers and in the opening scene of the movie rips the arm off of a little boy. And that clown is played by Tim Curry. Seriously, you need more of a reason why this is on the list? There are a lot of films based on Stephen King books (of, it must be said, varying quality – sometimes a King book just doesn’t make a good movie because so much of what he does is internalized in the character. His short stories, though, often make excellent films), but this is definitely at the top for pure scariness.
Silence of the Lambs is great, and so is Jodie Foster, but in terms of pure scariness, I’m going to give the spot to Red Dragon. They both share completely insane and terrifying villains, but the Tooth Fairy ekes out the win over Buffalo Bill. It comes down to the fear of home invasion – it’s that very primal fear of the evil guy actually being inside your home, and one of the best scares of the film is when Will Graham walks into his house, sees the broken mirrors, and suddenly realizes that the killer is already inside. Several other scenes, but believe me – watch this film and you will not be sleeping that night.
This is a great list. I have to check out Unico in the Island of Magic (Suze, you piqued my interest) and Dog Soldiers (love me some werewolves). Thanks, Fort and Suze! If you haven’t read Generation V, you really must. It’s original, dark, funny, and with hero you’ll love. Don’t forget to sign up for the movie challenge below!