It’s hard to believe now but there was once a time when Joel Schumacher could make a popular film that was actually good. The vampire genre had been more or less languishing in spoof purgatory before Tom Holland came along with Fright Night to make them scary again. But who would have thought that the man behind the brat-pack classic St. Elmo’s Fire would make vampires not just sexy but sexy-cool?
Insanely goofy by today’s standards. However, as a nine-year-old boy this was the most terrifying initiation into the world of horror that I could have expected. In 1979 a mini-series would span the same day across two weeks. That meant that after taking a terrifying beating with part one on Saturday, I went back for seconds the following Saturday.
The rampaging crocodile at the center of this film is merely incidental. It’s really just a flimsy excuse to get a bunch of likable actors together (Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, Betty White) and riff on David E. Kelly’s playful script. Veteran horror director Steve Miner nicely balances the horror with the humor, always keeping an emphasis on the latter.
George A. Romero may have created the modern zombie, but this movie gave them their insatiable craving for braaaiiins. Mixing equal parts horror and comedy, director and Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon disposes of the dead-serious political undertones of Romero’s movies and instead opts for straight-up goofball hijinks at a medical supply company located next to a cemetery and conveniently stocked with cadavers.
Far too many horror movies ask the audience to root for the killer by treating their victims as irritating morons (I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity). This overlooked little gem has the temerity to (gasp!) treat its audience with a modicum of respect. The oddly-paired Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson get creative as a divorcing couple marooned at an isolated motel cum snuff-film backlot.
Alfred Hitchcock may have invented the slasher film with Psycho but John Carpenter transformed it into its own sub-genre. Virtually every horror film that followed owes its conception to this perennial holiday darling. Michael Myers has become the quintessential Halloween boogeyman and cemented his place among the throng of horror movie monsters who cannot-be-killed.
What better film for Devil’s Night than one that uses it as a backdrop from which to unfold its tale? Though it has unfortunately been overshadowed by Brandon Lee’s untimely death, this atmospheric actioner has gained cult status over the years for director Alex Proyas’ visionary take on the graphic novel.
An absolute must for repeated viewing all month long. It begins with a comically gruesome prologue featuring Linus watching in stunned horror as older sister Lucy guts a freshly picked pumpkin, to a wonderfully spooky opening credits sequence, which has the sheeted Peanuts gang running back and forth across an abstract background from flying witches, bobbing jack-o-lanterns, dancing skeletons and a flip-flopping black cat.