M.R.S. Recommends: More Halloween Favorites!
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In recent years, the Halloween season has become the time I revisit the films of Vincent Price. To me, there's nothing more enjoyable than kicking back with some mulled cider, snuggling with my partner, and saying hello to uncle Vinnie (Price N' Chill, if you will). While it's difficult to narrow Mr. Price's long filmography to a mere five films, these are the few I often gravitate toward. Honestly though, you can't go wrong with Price, he's great in everything he does!
House of Wax (1953)
The idea of a living wax sculpture gallery isn't anything new, even this entry is a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). However, what all these movies lack (before and since) are uncle Vinnie himself. Playing a sculptor whose beloved creations are burned down by his partner to collect insurance money, Price came to this role as an actor who was put on the Hollywood graylist and was unable to find movie work for years. As a result, Price brings an element of realism in portraying an artist whose work has been ripped away. This also marks his first foray in genre films, something that he'd make his lifelong home.
Theatre of Blood (1973) While House of Wax (1953) introduced uncle Vinnie to the world of genre, Theatre of Blood not only showcased Price's love of Shakespeare but also his mastery of character acting. Playing a theater actor who murders his critics in ways similar to scenes from Shakespeare's plays, we see Price perform numerous roles. From a police officer and game show host, to all the titular Shakespearean characters. Victoria Price (Vinnie's daughter) would state in various interviews that her father (a life long Anglophile) relished at the idea of performing all the Shakespearean roles, and often claimed that Theatre of Blood was his favorite to make. It really shows!
The Last Man on Earth (1964) Based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, we see uncle Vinnie mostly by himself for the majority of the film, playing the last living person after a disease has turned the Earth's population into vampires. For me, seeing Price act by himself is a highlight as not many actors can carry an entire movie by themselves, nevermind to do so with such suspense and intensity.
The Raven (1963)
While not the strongest entry in Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe cycle, The Raven is the most fun! This reimagining of the Poe poem sees uncle Vinnie star oppose Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, a young Jack Nicholson, and Hazel Court. With a tale of two wizard rivals trying to out scheme one another, the result culminates in an epic wizard battle between Price and Karloff that makes this film a must-see!
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Yet another entry in Roger Corman's Poe cycle. This Technicolor gem has uncle Vinnie playing Prince Prospero, partying it up within the walls of his castle as the rest of the world is suffering from the plague. While Prospero is as evil as they come, the performance Price gives is one of a lifetime, equally as vibrant and colorful as the scenery!
There was a string of Halloweens in the teen years of this century where I had the day off. I would have long, spooky marathons every year, and here are five titles that kept rising to the top of the watch pile each October 31st.
The Muppet Show [guest stars, Vincent Price (S1, E24, '77) and Alice Cooper (S3, E7, '78)]
I usually started the marathons light with some happiness from my childhood, and these two episodes are perfect. Price hams it up perfectly, his facial expressions and straight delivery of silly jokes helping to form my own sense of humor at a young age, and Cooper plays it a little darker without losing the essential aspect of fun.
House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
Almost all of Rob Zombie’s films are set, at least in part, on Halloween, so this was always a great first film for a marathon. As grisly as it is, it’s also fun in an odd way, which is another style Zombie does well. It’s got over the top weirdness and the one and only Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig, RIP) to balance the violence (even while adding to it), and it makes for an engaging watch every time.
The humor and oddness turn darker here, and watching Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West play the continually growing insanity around him with scientific straightness brings such hilarity to one of the most magnificent and engaging horror movies I’ve seen. The supporting cast is also excellent (and it’s impossible not to fall in love with Barbara Crampton as Megan Halsey).
Day of the Dead (1985)
The humor takes a break here, but the scientific experiments continue (I just realized all the films on this list share that trait). This is my favorite George Romero zombie film. It’s extra dark, extra bleak, yet it’s a movie that is entirely captivating. Imagine being trapped with your coworkers. That’s scary enough, but now add certain death waiting outside. Groups are formed, tensions rise, and human nature shows its ugliness when unity is what is needed most. This, for me, is the apex of Romero’s zombie catalog. Humans ruin everything.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
This is hands down my favorite Mel Brooks film. He and Gene Wilder’s Frankenstein collaboration is easily one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, and that says a whole lot. I still laugh at gags I’ve seen a hundred times by now, and it was always the last thing I’d watch in the marathon, leaving a smile on my face to end a fun Halloween marathon.
This robot is so happy to once again revisit some Halloween-times favorites, old and new.
Mr. Boogedy (1986)/Bride of Boogedy (1987)
Both of these films were on heavy rotation in the G-Bot household, taped off the Disney channel and viewed throughout the year. The first movie is about the gag-shop owning Davis family moving to the invented New England town of Lucifer Falls, only to find out their house is haunted by a hamburger-faced, cloak-wearing, evil Pilgrim ghost known as Mr. Boogedy. Boogedy imprisoned two nice ghosts in the house with him, the Widow Marion and her son Jonathan, because Boogedy was a gross creep in Pilgrim-times. The Davis kids and their parents need to figure out how to get rid of Boogedy and save their ghostly friends. Lots of low, low budget effects, but the atmosphere and weird music really seeped into my child psyche.
While Mr. Boogedy is a brief 45 minutes in length, Bride of Boogedy clocks in at 100 minutes, giving some screen time to townsfolk, such as a grumpy general store owner, a psychic medium, a gravedigger, a visiting uncle, and a gaggle of wax monster statues that come to life. It upped the wackiness with these characters while increasing the magic, as the Davis’ seemed to have failed to completely seal Boogedy away and is escaping again, just in time for the annual Lucifer Falls Lucyfest (home of the super duper, supernatural third eye!). Boogedy thinks the Davis kids’ mom, Eloise Davis, is Widow Marion and will use his hamburger-faced evil Pilgrim powers to take her. When the dad peels the green slime ghost footprints off the walls and sticks them to his face and pajamas while inanely laughing, “Isn’t this great?”, in the first movie, it's just as funny and completely unsettling as when he is then possessed by the evil dead Pilgrim spirit and is floating around the ceiling mumbling “Boogedy, Boogedy! …Just kidding!” under his breath in Bride. True cinema. The faux New England town and tales of Pilgrims also felt close to home.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
This is a newer film for me, coming onto my radar by The Halloween Preservation Society’s recommendation for the depictions of olde tyme Halloween customs. It's a nostalgic film, taking place 40 years in the past from when the film was released and revolving around the upcoming 1904 World’s Fair in, you guessed it, St. Louis. This is a musical, starring young Judy Garland, and follows the Smith family over the course of a year. The nostalgic stuff has jokes like how terrible old phones used to be, which is pretty hilarious because if this were made in a current setting, it would be like if I made jokes about the phones of 1983. And it also shows old Halloween customs, like how kids would rip front gates off houses and set them on fire in the middle of street. The youngest daughter of this film steals every scene she is in. She has funerals for her dolls right in the beginning, and on Halloween “kills” the neighbor, almost actually kills a trolley car of people on, and accuses her sister’s boyfriend of trying to kill her to cover up the trolley incident. For Christmas, Judy Garland sings the heart wrenching, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, followed by her sister’s decapitation of all the snowmen in their yard. Please, go watch this movie.
The Crow (1994)
Who needs some extra goth points? If you like violence and sadness and love and death and goth stuff, please, everyone, please watch this movie. Eric Draven, a rock musician with a very normal name, and his fiance are murdered on the night before Halloween, which was also to be their wedding day. A year later, a crow holding Eric’s soul recalls him to life to get revenge on all parties responsible. This film is music heavy, with tracks from Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Rage Against Machine, Pantera, and so much more, as well as a performance by My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult while a violent shootout occurs in the offices above an industrial club. It takes place on both Devil’s Night, which happens the night before Halloween, and on Halloween itself. Everywhere the resurrected, leather pants and black and white harlequin make-up-wearing Eric and his soul crow go, violence and vengeance follow. There is some heavy, dark stuff in this film, including sexual assault, drug use, and the aforementioned violence, so be warned of multiple triggers. Quintessential ‘90s.
And I thought Meet Me in St. Louis was going to be my Wild Card film! Twenty years after a terrible accident occurs in a haunted house attraction, a fraternity decides to open it again as a fundraiser and, oops, people start dying. The horror takes a bit to ramp up, but once it does, the violence happening in front of the unsuspecting haunted house visitors while the victims plead for help is especially great for anyone who has ever attended a haunt and thought, “But what if this was real?” This was once thought to be a lost film, but thank goodness this Kentuck-made, tiny budget slasher, with a good amount of RC Cola sponsorship, and A LOT of sex/college comedy vibes has been found. It’s also got a song with the name of the movie in the song. The effects are creative and look pretty good. The scene with the girl duct taped to a board and being sliced open with a razor while kids look on, chanting, “Slice her up!” is pretty disturbing. I have admittedly only seen it once, but I haven’t forgotten it and am just about to order it on DVD.
The Monster Squad (1987)
Another childhood favorite of mine, Monster Squad is the answer to the question, “What if Goonies, but with Universal Monsters?” When real-life monsters lead by a very pissed off Dracula start plaguing a small town, a group of horror-loving tweens find themselves as the only ones prepared to save the world. It’s got montages, mean monsters, nice monsters, kids on bikes, cool kid with a leather jacket, comeuppance for the heavy kid, kids with weapons, kids in peril, Dracula calls a little girl a “bitch”, and a kid kicking a werewolf in the “nards”. Honestly, if you haven’t seen this ‘80s classic, please fix that.
Jenny From the Grave
J Grave highly recommends the 1991 cinematic masterpiece Ernest Scared Stupid. Enjoy it with some Miak!