Halloween III: Season of the Witch
As even the must cursory glance at the aisles of your local drugstore will reveal, the Season of the Witch is upon us. Well, not only the witch – it’s the season of stale candy, pandering topical costumes and relentless corporate greed. Ah yes, Halloween. That time of the year where the only thing spookier than the atmosphere is just how many innocent characters can have their images co-opted for a “sexy” outfit.
If, like me, you would rather spend the night watching scary movies in the comfort of your own home than cavorting around the chaos-ridden streets, this is precisely the list for you. The original byline here was simply to name a few horror films to watch in honor of Halloween. However, as an avid genre aficionado, there’s no way I could whittle down the entirety of my favorites to one short list. So, instead, I’ll do you one better. Here’s my list of the top five horror films that take place on or around Halloween.
5) Night of the Demons (1988) – This schlockfest revolves around a group of promiscuous teens who, on Halloween night, break into an old house rumored to be haunted by evil spirits. Once there, they come up with the brilliant idea to hold a seance, which promptly allows said spirits to inhabit the hapless teens, turning them into murderous monsters. What follows is supremely cheesy fun that’s sure to satisfy the so-bad-it’s-good crowd looking to get some chuckles along with their scares.
4) House on Haunted Hill (1999) – Far and away the best of the William Castle remakes of the late ’90s, this hyper-edgy retread of the 1959 Vincent Price classic manages to imbue a tired premise with some surprisingly imaginative set pieces. The plot follows a sadistic amusement park tycoon (Geoffrey Rush) who decides to throw a Halloween birthday bash for his stuck-up wife (Famke Janssen) by inviting several strangers to spend one whole night in an abandoned asylum that was the site of a deadly mass murder years earlier. Though the whole thing starts as an elaborate prank, bodies start really dropping when the house’s supernatural powers are stirred.
3) Idle Hands (1999) – This post-Scream meta-creeper is best enjoyed under the influence of some, um, goodies (and I’m not talking about candy corn). Starring a virtual who’s who of late-’90s youth culture (Seth Green, Jessica Alba, Devon Sawa), the movie is about a slacker teen (Sawa) whose right hand becomes possessed by the devil, murdering his friends and family with wanton abandon even after he lops it off. If that absurd premise isn’t enough of a Generation X-factor, be aware that Dexter Holland, the lead singer of the Offspring, plays a crucial role in the film’s climax, along with, of course, a massive bong.
2) Halloween (1978) – Well, duh. There’s really not much to be said about John Carpenter’s seminal masterwork that hasn’t already been put to print a thousand times. As shark-like vessel Michael Myers stalks the inhabitants of Haddonfield, Ill. on the anniversary of the night he murdered his family (Halloween, obviously), we witness both the birth and the zenith of the Slasher movie. There’s something about the simple authenticity and evocative sense of dread portrayed in this film that forever puts it in a class above any of its flashier descendants.
1) Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) – Now before you accuse me of laziness, let me explain. Season of the Witch, despite ostensibly being the third installment in the Halloween series, is about as weird a departure from the formula as one could possibly imagine. Gone are Michael Myers, Laurie Strode and any of the characters or settings viewers might expect. In their place is a bizarre sci-fi fantasy that feels more akin to the works of Roald Dahl than to any Carpenter picture. The film revolves around a young woman who begins investigating a shady novelties company after her father is found half-mad clutching one of their signature Jack O’Lantern masks. What follows is a bizarre blend of conspiracy-theory thriller and Grimms’ fairy tale, as the girl uncovers a vast plot to turn children into killing machines on Halloween night using masks controlled via computer chip. Oh, and, by the way, that is quite possibly the least bizarre element of this film. For curiosity’s sake alone, this under-seen gem is well worth checking out on Hollow’s Eve.