This blog may be the only place I haven’t yet made clear that Halloween is my favorite holiday. It wasn’t always this way. Though autumn has always been my favorite season, I was raised in a religious household by parents who, for a time, belonged to a church (cough “cult” cough) far outside the mainstream that viewed all major holidays as pagan, and therefore, forbidden. No Christmas. No Halloween, No Valentine’s Day. No Easter. To condense a long story and a lot of childhood trauma into an introduction for this list, I’ll just say that the situation in regards to my parents’ religion evolved over time, and I was slowly allowed to venture into celebrating these pagan holidays, as well as enjoying other things that were frowned upon such as PG-13 and R-rated movies, primetime television that didn’t focus on angels, mainstream music, doing anything other than Bible study on Saturdays and being able to make friends with people who didn’t want to talk about God constantly (or, ever).
Despite the gradual changes, I went my entire childhood without going trick or treating. That I’m actually okay with. It’s more convenient to just go to a store and pick up a bag of candy in spooky seasonal wrappers. I also made it to age 25 without making my own Halloween costume. Yet, because of how much I enjoy autumn, Halloween began to mean more and more for me each year from my mid-teens until my late 20s, when I realized it truly is the best holiday. It’s a holiday without obligations to go see relatives (love you all, but I think it’s mutually agreed upon that Thanksgiving and Christmas are stressful). Halloween also has the best color palette and it celebrates the outcasts; the people and creatures deemed weird and gross. Most of all, it has the best movies. Yes, I said it. You can keep your Christmas movies. I watch a few every December, but my tastes in regards to them are even going the unconventional route (goodbye It’s A Wonderful Life, hello Batman Returns and Die Hard).
My introduction to Halloween-esque films began with Alfred Hitchcock, and I still have to watch a couple of the master of suspense’s works every year. I tend to alternate these, because there are so many, and this year I chose Rebecca, Psycho and Rear Window. Last year I went with Vertigo and Notorious. No, those aren’t exactly traditional horror, and Notorious in particular is more of a spy thriller, but there is something about the moody mise-en-scene of any Hitchcock film that fits with the season.
My taste in horror tends to run a little more atmospheric. There are very few slasher films that ever make my annual watch list. I’m far more into psychological and thematic horror. I like to be unsettled, and psychological scares are far more effective than the just bloody ones. For that reason, my list this year includes The Lighthouse, Get Out and (pushing the definition of Halloween movies again) Bad Times at the El Royale. I haven’t written a full review of the latter yet, and maybe I should. It’s got some solid performances and subplots that make it appropriate fall viewing.
I like to throw in some comedy each year too and my go to is Young Frankenstein. As with all Mel Brooks films, there are some jokes here that offend more than amuse, but there are also some timeless one liners and an endless stream of off the wall gags that never get old.
or creature features, I went with Arachnophobia and also The Creature from the Black Lagoon. We watched Arachnophobia over the weekend. I hadn’t seen it for probably 10 years and it was a lot funnier (in an intentional way) than I remember.
Finally, the list includes The Night of the Hunter, which is the first horror film I’ve bought on Criterion Collection Blu-ray.
I remember seeing this film when I was fourteen but I only remember bits and pieces of it. I actually have more memories of the day that I watched it than the film itself. It was on my fourteenth birthday and it capped off a blustery fall day spent at the Jonamac Orchard Corn Maze and setting up a Halloween tree in my bedroom for the first time. I’m excited to view The Night of the Hunter again in all its black and white glory and you shouldn’t be surprised if I end up posting a full review.