Oct. 31st: Halloween II (1981)

halloween-2-ii-poster-1981Outside of the hugely underrated and insanely Halloweeny Season of the Witch, Halloween II is really the only other Halloween installment I can recommend in good conscience. Plus, it’s the sequel, so we gotta give props to that this season.

I don’t love Halloween II and I rather blame its existence on why the franchise wasn’t able to continue and expand the way John Carpenter wished. If Halloween II was Halloween III, we could have had a different Halloween themed story with every outing for who knows how many years.

Had they simply ended Michael’s tale with part 1, it would have been more haunting, more powerful and had prepped fans straight away that this was not going to be “Michael’s Series.” Who was that masked man murdering teens on Halloween? I dunno, guess he’s just wandering around now. Moving on with some other tales.

As it stands, II continued “the night he came home” and forever sealed the fate of this franchise as “The Michael Myers Story” With each new installment removing more of what made Michael great in the first damn place…ambiguity.

It’s also the film that introduced the whole extended Myers family angle to the story, an aspect in which I couldn’t be less interested. I like the fact the Laurie and her friends were chosen by almost complete chance and that their murders are the random outbursts of some mysterious, masked maniac.

All that being said, Halloween II is still Michael’s best sequel. It still features the original mask (a huge plus when considering the awful, awful resculpts), maintains the general feel of the original and literally picks up right where the first one left off, thus taking place on the same night. You could have ended Michaels story here successfully, no doubt, but fans just wanted more and they were eventually given just that.

It’s pretty Halloweeny and the hospital setting is an interesting location and leads to some unnerving sequences and kills. It also gives an expanded glimpse into Haddonfield as it reels from the previous film’s mayhem. Everyone in town is starting to hear about the horrible things that have happened just a block or two over. It’s neat to see the night just continue.

Poor Ben Tramer gets straight plowed by a police cruiser and goes out in a blaze of Halloween glory, though. Poor Michael gets both of his eyes shot out, which never really seems to pose him too much difficultly on any of his further adventures. And poor Laurie has to find out she’s that guys fucking sister. Samhain bummers all around.

This year was a celebration not just of other Halloween themed movies, but also of the Halloween Sequel. While Halloween II may be cheating just slightly, is a mere shadow of its forebear’s glory, and sets this entire franchise on many of its awful roads, it’s still the greatest Halloween Sequel there is.

Double it up with the original for one extended “night he came home” this year.

I give 2 bloody eyes and a burning Ben Tramer up!

Designation: Treat!

Happy Halloween, weeners. Thanks for joining us through Return of the 31 Days of Halloween Horror 2: Revenge of the Halloween Sequels: Trick or Treat?

Oct. 30th: The Night that Panicked America (1975)

the-night-america-panicked

This ad released by ABC is strangely inaccurate. The original broadcast occurred on Oct. 30th, not Halloween night.

Exactly 78 years ago on this night, October 30th 1938, Orson Welles produced a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Legend has it that the broadcast threw listeners into a frenzy, not realizing the production was a work of fiction and thought actual Martians were invading the Earth.

To what extent that is true is apparently up for some debate, with critics citing the allegations of panic as merely hokum the newspapers concocted to slander their newfound competition…radio.

Exactly 41 years ago tomorrow, Halloween 1975, ABC aired this recreation of that broadcast and the events supposedly surrounding it (with a fair amount of artistic license, no doubt) The Night That Panicked America.

For years following its initial broadcast, local stations made a habit of airing the film on the anniversary of the original Welles radio broadcast, October 30th.

And in the grand tradition of radio and local television, the Shindig Presents Joseph Sargent’s The Night That Panicked America, available to you here embedded from YouTube.

Happy Cabbage Night, Weeners. Go panic America!

Oct. 29th: Lady In White (1988)

Lady-in-White-posterI wouldn’t necessarily call Lady in White strictly a Halloween movie, but its first 40 minutes are so awesomely and insanely Halloweeny that they totally trump the dated ghost effects, cheeseball climax and even the touch of Christmas that all appear later in the film.

And Halloween is a solid 3rd of this movie, which is nothing to sneeze at, particularly considering the movies that’ll get nods for featuring Halloween.

Plus, there aren’t many movies that ramp up the Halloween and then just nail that atmosphere as much as this one does in those first 40 minutes. They’re dense. That classroom sequence alone feels like it was shot from inside a hazy Jack-o-Lantern into another hazier Jack-O-Lantern. It’s so perfectly and wonderfully Halloweeny.

Add to that, it’s a weird little spooky ghost story that predominantly features a child-murderer. How’s that grab ya? Keep in mind too, that I think this is suppose to be a kids movie. Which makes sense to me. What would appeal more to the concerns of children than other children being murdered?

I would describe it as the nexus point between Dark Night of the Scarecrow, The Halloween Tree and To Kill A Mockingbird. All solid Halloween fare.

Lady In White can definitely hold its head high among the titans of The Class of 1988, even graduating with an average well above the curve.

One cement covered Jack-O-Lantern and a bowl full of candy corn up!

Designation: Treat!

Oct. 28th: Flesh Eater (1988)

flesheater-lived-died-back-and-hungryOnce you’ve experienced enough completely atrocious or utterly unwatchable garbage, regular bad movies just don’t seem so bad anymore. Sometimes they even seem pretty fun and likeable, and some things that any normal person would completely dismiss become weird, small joys.

It was suggested to me that this is exactly happened when I watched Flesh Eater. Now, I’m almost inclined to agree somewhat, but I still think this one has a lot of legitimate good to offer.

It would appear that Bill Hinzman was pretty bored and not cashing-in enough on his former appearance as the cemetery zombie from Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead. So he set about writing, directing, producing and starring in this spin-off movie about just that zombie.

Sound pretty great? Well, it’s actually a whole lot of fun.

First and foremost, it’s got some great gore gags from Pittsburgh FXician and all around awesome dude Jerry Gergely. Bonus.

Plus, It’s got that low-budget, mid-80’s townie vibe that I just love in a horror movie.

Also, it’s got absolutely relentless, weapon wielding maniac-zombies that literally kill everyone they come across. This movie spares no one.

Additionally, it’s got all the weirdo dialogue, goofball acting, and almost unanimous under-reactions to all of its zombie chaos that make for an entertaining watch.

And last but by no means least, it’s got Halloween. There’s trick or treating, candy apple making, costumes, decorations and the requisite Halloween dance party.

While not quite the official sequel it imagines itself to be, Flesh Eater rather seems like some sot of bizarro Night of the Living Dead from another dimension where that movie was never made in ’68. This might actually be what Night of the Living would look like if it had been churned out in the mid-80’s by someone a lot less capable than George A. Romero and featured Halloween.

I can’t say you’ll enjoy Flesh Eater as much as I do, or at all really, but I’d gladly take this over any unnecessary remake, found footage nonsense, or whatever spooky ghostboy bullshit is clogging up cinemas, redbox and video-on-demand any old Oct. 28th of the year.

1 dead little angel and a drunk Dracula up!

Designation: Treat!

The Class of 1988

No year has produced as many movies set around Halloween as 1988.

1976, 1982, and 1985 all come closet, each offering 4 films.

The Hallowed Year of 1988 easily doubles their contributions producing 8 movies in total. I’m not sure what kind of cultural zeitgeist was taking place in the world of film in 1988, but it occurred never-the-less, and we were all thankful.

Perhaps it was the return of Michael Myers, who hadn’t seen the silver screen in 10 years, that inspired this resurgence. Maybe there’s something devilishly unholy about the year 1988. Who knows, but a bunch of filmmakers got on board.

Were these guys aware of what each other were doing? Were the screenwriters buddies? What’s the deal here?

The original 31 Days of Halloween Horror list contained 4 members. This year’s countdown features another 3.

The following is a list of all the known graduates of The Class of 1988 and their release dates.

and lastly…

The next 3 selections on our countdown here are all proud members of The Hallowed Class of 1988. Respect

Oct. 26th: House II (1987)

house-2-the-second-story-1987“It’s getting weirder!”

I’ll say. That might even be selling this fucker a little short, to be honest.

Seriously though, 0%, Rotten Tomatoes? That seems a little harsh guys, no? Yeah, yeah, you’re just a non-entity aggregator. It’s not your personal opinion, I understand how this works, thanks. But to the small critical community comprising that 0% though, c’mon gang. Ease up a little, huh?

While certainly not the finest piece of cinema to escape 1987, it may just be the best horror-comedy-inter-dimensional-prehistoric-Aztec-fantasy-western ever produced, and there’s some fun to be had from this in-name-only mess.
You have 80’s goofball Arye Gross paling around with the weird man-servant from Fright Night and banging Tina from Friday 7. Bonus. Then they dig up Royal Dano from Killer Klowns (in a killer Chris Walas makeup) and later Cliff from Cheers shows up. And then you got Bill Maher just hanging around for no reason whatsoever being an 80’s prick. Bill Maher? Yep.

You get a crystal skull, stop-motion dinosaurs, awesome pterodactyl and dog-caterpillar puppets and the girl from Society as an Aztec virgin sacrifice. What more do you want? Halloween? Well you’re in luck pal, because House II somehow found the time to cram that in there too.

The whole beginning feels very Halloween-spooky, with the arrival at the mansion and the grave-digging, both of which lead to a fun (and obligatory) Halloween party. The festive vibe sort of tapers off after that, and so does any semblance of a coherent tone as House II officially flies off the rails and starts resembling something like a bastard child of Brisco County Jr. and My Science Project.

Yeah, this is a goofy, schizophrenic madball of a movie that throws so much bizarre shit at you it’s hard to make heads or tails of it at a point, but it’s still kind of fun. And the Chris Walas creature work is great as always.

I give this 1 dancing Frankenstein up.

Designation: Treat

Oct. 25th: Tales of Halloween (2015)

tales_of_halloween_ver4On the whole, I’d say the last…oh, 20 years or so of horror have left me feeling pretty cold.

But, I had to give this a go, right?

While I certainly didn’t love The ABC’s of Halloween…I mean¬†Tales of Halloween, it has a few things going for it to where I can toss it a treat.

1.) It presents its tales story by story, eschewing the modern convention of interweaving its parts into a big soupy jumble that doesn’t let you just be done with a dumb segment and move on.

2.) With its 10 different stories clocking it at just over and hour and a half, you get a median length of 9 minutes per tale. That’s a good window. It means the lamer segments (and there’s enough) don’t hang around too long. That’s nice.

And

3.) It’s Halloweeny as all get out. It’s an All Hallows’ overload with moments large and small colored in all manner of decorations, lights and ambiance. It’s a good visual treat for any October evening.

That being said, I doubt I’ll ever sit down and watch Tales of Halloween again. The few bits I did enjoy didn’t bring me so much enjoyment I’ll revisit this as a whole.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch it or you won’t enjoy it. I’m kind of a prick I imagine and I’m probably hard to please. An anthology to me should be more enjoyment than not, and this one starts out sort of promising, dips hard and then somewhat rights itself again by the end. It never reaches a point where I’m fully on board, though.

The only segment I found myself really enjoying was “The Bad Seed” and honestly, that felt a little rushed. I think more time spent here instead of other places in the movie could have done this tale a fair bit of good. It was still the best of the bunch for me.

“The Night Billy Raised Hell” has a fun Tales from The Darkside vibe, but it’s basically a more sinister Satan’s Little Helper that is at times too goofy for its own good.¬† But it totally features an awesome guest spot from Barry Bostwick (Megaforce!).

“Sweet Tooth” has a neat Halloween legend to it and is serviceable.

Falling into a similar category is “The Ransom of Rusty Rex.” It’s sort of fun.

Pretty much everything else here left me either bored or wanting. I enjoyed Pollyanna McIntosh in “Ding-Dong” but I hated literally everything else about it. Likewise for Alex Essoe in the boring and predictable (but cameo studded) “Grim Grinning Ghost.”

I was enjoying “October the 31st” until it went all Evil Dead, but there’s some fun gore there to help it along.

“Trick” was too Trick ‘R Treat-lite for me, with none of that segment’s vintage spookiness, build-up or charm.

“The Weak and the Wicked” felt posturing and irritating and “This Means War” totally squandered a great premise.

Adrienne Barbeau’s Stevie Wayne-styled audio-wraparound is a nice touch. There’s also more cameos here per-capita than maybe any horror movie ever. Some are very fleeting and for only the most eagled-eyed viewers among you. Seriously, did I catch Grady from Freddy’s Revenge in there? Any movie that throws a fucking bone to a Tommy Hook has got to get a little credit.

Ultimately, I think this makes for a good Halloween watch though, for just how much of the season it imbues. There’s few movies out there that have this much Halloween shoved up their pumpkin. I can’t say I really liked Tales of Halloween, but it’s got spirit to spare and definitely amped me up for the big day.

I’d give it a couple fistfuls of candy and a Neal Kennemore mask just for knocking.

Designation: Treat