In our recent podcast, I mentioned my top three all-time favorite Halloween films while also asking my cast mates what are their favorites. The only exception in sharing our lists was that The Exorcist could not be included as it is always on every scary film listing across the globe – and for good reason but is tiring in this format. Some that were mentioned during our discussion were expected and some surprising.
So, to finish out the list from the podcast, here are my top five Halloween films.
5. The Changeling
I saw this film for the first time at a sold out Paramount Theatre in Abilene, TX on Halloween back in 1992. I had no clue as to what I was walking into other than it was a haunted house film. As the lights dimmed and the film reel rolled, screams from the audience quickly made me question, how in the hell did I let this movie slip under my radar? I never had heard of it until this showing and I had thought I had seen every horror film at our local video store. Catalog fail!
The Changeling is a classic ghost story starring General Patton himself – George C. Scott who moves into a massive mansion alone to focus on healing after his family is tragically killed in an auto accident but quickly realizes he is not alone.
If you like the current renaissance of haunted house films, you should definitely revisit this film and the ghost of Jospeh as he torments the occupant and his visitors to his home all based on events that apparently took place at similar mansion in Denver, Colorado.
4. The Midnight Hour
This made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC back in 1985 is one that many have been asking for to be released again on DVD (along with my personal crusade for Screams of a Winter Night). This Halloween flick includes zombies, witches, vampires and a bunch of other crazy creatures who blend in among our costumed cast of Shari Belafonte, LeVar Burton, Dedee Pfeffier and Peter DeLuise who steal an old trunk that houses a scroll which unleashes a curse on the town.
The soundtrack was quite impressive for a TV movie because it included Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour,” Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” John Fogerty’s “Bad Moon Rising,” and The Smith’s “How Soon is Now?”
The promos for Midnight Hour were on Thriller level as it was heavily marketed in print and tv ads – it was an event during the days of set your VCR to record for instant replays. Sadly, this movie is out of print but there is a full version of the film thankfully here on YouTube.
3. The Fog
Not the remake. The original! Stay away from the remake. Whatever you do stay away from the remake!
Set in the small coastal town of Antonio Bay celebrating its 100th anniversary, some of the towns descendants hold a dark secret connected to the six of the founders of Antonio Bay in 1880 who sabotaged The Elizabeth Dane, a ship helmed by Captain Blake who had leprosy along with his crew that wanted to establish a leper colony nearby. Fearing the disease, the founders set up the Elizabeth Dane to crash. And you can guess what happens from there… revenge!
If the opening of The Fog with classic actor John Houseman scaring the holy hell with his story of the shipwreck to kid campers fireside on the beach doesn’t give you goosebumps, maybe you’re already dead! (Bad 80’s movie poster pun there.)
We all know the film. The score and the shape who continues to haunt Halloween in many, many sequels (one I would rather forget – Resurrection), remakes and from news on the interwebs a possible reboot.
“I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.” – RIP Donald Pleasance.
1. Dark Night of The Scarecrow
That title alone as a kid was just scary enough for me. This is another made-for-TV event movie on this list, this time airing on CBS back in 1981.
Dark Night begins with “Bubba” (played the late and talented Larry Drake) who is a large and mentally challenged teenager who is wrongfully accused for attacking a young girl and of course the town’s rednecks who have been itching at getting Bubba are quick to judgement so they chase him down. Bubba cleverly hides in a scarecrow in a field but is soon discovered, killed and framed with a pitchfork placed in his hands to show the dastardly henchmen were acting in self-defense.
But is Bubba really dead? Soon the same scarecrow begins to show up in fields near the killers homesteads… the rest you will have to see.
In closing, it’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.