Q: You've been hired by your local movie theater to guest curate a Halloween double feature. What two movies do you pick and why?
The critics' answers:
"I recently spoke with Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton as part of our podcast's October feature where we ask filmmakers about their favorite scary movies (that show will be up on Thursday), and they talked about 'Halloween' and 'Suspiria' -- a pairing that resonates with me personally because they're such fantastic, important films. Plus, they're thematically similar (lone girl, missing an integral part of herself, fighting back evil) and yet visually on different ends of the spectrum (shot from the hip suburbia realism versus stylized technicolor blood splatter). If nothing else, they are both excellent reminders that enduring, impactful horror that be made with relatively little money, which is not a bad lesson for aspiring filmmakers to learn."
"Halloween was never a particular tenet of any of the three cultures I grew up in, and, as a kid, my general estimation thereof was based on its representation in Hollywood films. Even though trick or treating seems to have been gaining some ground in England (much to the chagrin of many who regard the holiday's adoption as yet another unwelcome import from America), during my time at an English university in the early nineties it still meant another excuse to dress up and get hammered. As such, I tend to think of Halloween as a fun night out. Which is why programming films like 'The Exorcist 'seems unnecessarily drab for me. I'd go for mainstream schlock: 'The Howling' and 'Piranha II: The Spawning.'"
"Start off with Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' to make the audience afraid of hotels and taking showers, then put on John Carpenter's original 'Halloween' to make them afraid of everywhere else. Once they're sufficiently terrified, put on the 'Tricks and Treats' episode of Freaks and Geeks to repair their shattered psyches."
"'Scream' and 'Evil Dead II.' I have a million double features swimming around in my head, but I’ll opt for Canadian content this time around. I’d start with 'Scream,' because it’s the first horror movie I actively sought out in the theater, and regretted until the scariness let up and pummeled me with awesome ‘90s sarcasm. It’s energetic, horror-movie-loving fun, with enough gore to balance the laughs and a Canadian final girl in Neve Campbell. Then, 'Evil Dead II' as a semi-'Rocky Horror' experience. 'Evil Dead: The Musical' was born here in Toronto, and I’d love to hear fans not only reciting Bruce Campbell’s lines, but also scoring Sam Raimi’s film with some tunes like 'What the Fuck was That?' and 'Cabin in the Woods.' If people did the Necronomicon, that’d be an added bonus."
"A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to stumble across an accidental double bill of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion Of The Christ' and Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of The Dead' remake. That seemed quite apt. But alas my own double bill would kick off with a film set much closer to home than either Golgotha or Wisconsin. My hometown lies relatively unknown on the global landscape. Sure, Sean Bean might stem from there, and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp fame too calls it home, but it's no Hollywood. With that in mind it's notable that two of the most downright terrifying movies of all time are based or where shot in the city of Sheffield. First up would be the BBC's infamous 'Threads,' a realistic telling of the effects of nuclear warfare on a regular city landscape. Somewhat in the key of the work of Peter Watkins, the film's realism prevented repeat viewings of the film for decades following its initial broadcast. It's long been my ambition to screen the film in the city on one Halloween evening. Second up would be a more recent film borne of Sheffield, in Ben Wheatley's 'Kill List.' While an unnerving experience for any audience, try giving it a watch when the films central protagonists quite literally pass by your house en-route to one of their 'missions.'"
"Andrzej Zulawski's 'Possession' and Georges Franju's 'Eyes Without a Face,' because there aren't any two movies more unsettling and brilliantly made concerning people trying to desperately get back to a way of life as they want it to be."
"Like many avid cinephiles I've spent more time than I can possibly count (at least, not without fearing I wasted it) thinking about all the double features I'd like to book if I had access to my very own movie theater. So picking out just two films was incredibly difficult. After much thought, a little dawdling and a brief respite to go bowling I finally decided on 'Frailty' and 'The Mist,' two underrated horror films from the last decade that play very well together. In our increasingly secular society, the notion that God is real has become increasingly terrifying to many modern audiences, particularly if that god doesn't play by our contemporary rules of morality. Both of these movies, in their way (I'm trying not to spoil anything), play off that anxiety to incredible effect. The only question is which film comes first on the bill: the one with the merely troubling ending or the one that makes you want to kill yourself out of utter despair. I vote for the later. Let's mess with some brains, shall we?"
"Assuming a perfect world where I can get immaculate 35mm prints of both, I'm going with, first, 'Cat People' (the Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur one, not the Paul Schrader one) and then, after a brief intermission, Roger Corman's 'The Masque of the Red Death.' They're not really linked, beyond being good, but I like the idea of starting out with dark, stylish spookiness, taking a brief break, and getting our Vincent Price on. As long as no one in the audience is in a Slutty Film Critic costume (there's only so much horror one can take on Halloween), we should all have a blast."
"As a horror addict, this one is about as tough to answer as that standard, 'What's your favorite movie?' question one gets whenever a new acquaintance finds out that you're a film critic. Do you want to go classic or obscure? Populist favorites, or something you'd like to introduce people to? A well-matched pair, or a diverse dichotomy? With too many choices at hand, I'm going to go with the sort of thing that's been appealing to me lately, and go with two eerie thrillers with exceedingly creepy atmosphere. I'll also link them by picking two that use the horror as a backdrop to serious dramas about individuals dealing with personal family loss, and both of which feature séances. So we'll start with the 1964 British film 'Séance on a Wet Afternoon,' which stars Kim Stanley as a medium haunted by the memory of her stillborn son, and Richard Attenborough as her meek husband, convinced to assist her in a kidnapping plot meant to establish her credentials as a psychic, but with questionable underlying motives. That'll be followed with Peter Medak's 1980 'The Changeling,' with George C. Scott as a composer who has lost his wife and child in a car accident, and who moves into a house occupied by the spirit of a long dead child."
"I’m not much of a horror guy, so I’d pick two Halloween-set family films from 1993 that cater to the nostalgia of a certain age group: 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and 'Hocus Pocus.' After all, if I’ve been hired for the job, I want to make the theater some money. PS: I don’t get the popularity of 'Hocus Pocus,' but it’s really hot this year. I love Bette Midler, and still I don’t get it."
"'The Shining' popped into my head before I'd even finished reading the prompt. For me, no Halloween is complete without it, even though it's not a Halloween-themed movie. It's my favorite horror movie, though, because it's terrifying, tense, psychologically unnerving, and just so damn weird I can't stop watching. Imagine the stones it would take for someone to make a brightly lit, methodically paced, languidly shot horror movie in 2012. For the second half of the double bill: I'll stay in 1980 and go with 'The Changeling,' starring George C. Scott. It can feel a little dated at times, but it's got some of the most fun scares I've ever had in a movie theater. The revival theater in my college town used to show this every Halloween, and they'd pack the house every time. Great supernatural horror story."
"I don't associate Halloween with nightmarish psychological horror; I think it should be a fun and light-hearted affair. I once saw 'The Exorcist' at a midnight showing on Halloween and the audience laughed from beginning to end. I'll always remember that because it's the first time I recognized how the collective mood of an audience can have such a profound effect on the cinematic experience. Scenes that I found terrifying before that screening suddenly became amusing and for night only, one of the great horrors became one of the great comedies. I reckon the ideal Halloween double feature would be 'Evil Dead II' to get the revelers laughing and follow it with a tear-jerking old classic such as James Whale's 'Frankenstein.'"
"If I'm selecting a Halloween double feature I will go with 'Dawn of the Dead' and 'Re-Animator,' two goofy, gory, grandiose horror films that slap the face of horror features today. They're fun, and frighteningly underrated and need to connect with modern audiences again."
"First and foremost, Michele Soavi's 'La Chiesa,' the Giallo-est of the post-Argento Giallos, about a haunted cathedral that begins to prey upon its visitors and employees in macabre set pieces that suggest a department store window collaboration between Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo. Even more than Carpenter's great 'Prince of Darkness,' Soavi's slow-nightmare masterpiece proves that a monster or a ghoul might be good for a few jolts, but that's nothing compared to evil undefined, all-consuming. Effectively starless, a pre-sexual Asia Argento personifies the film's innocence-in-peril. Second, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's 'Pulse.'"
"For an oddly paralleled double feature, I’d play William Friedkin’s 'Bug' with Abel Ferrara’s 'Body Snatchers.' One concerns a couple falling to pieces in fear of imagined government agents and soldiers coming to kill them. The other depicts a young woman and her family being hunted by, well, government agents and soldiers, or at least aliens using such figures as their avatars. Linking the two is nasty, visceral direction that eschews jump-scares and easy jolts, replacing gore with a sense of inescapable doom on personal and global scales. The only challenge would be in figuring out which order to play them, as both are so nihilistic that neither ends on a real high from which to start the slide back down with the B-feature. I suppose 'Bug' would make the 'lighter' opening number, as it merely presents the bleak lives of two individuals. That marks a step up from 'Body Snatchers,' which suggests not only that humanity as a whole is coming to an end, but that it deserves its fate."
"'Halloween' and 'Scream.' Have to to show 'Halloween' for obvious reasons; it's not halloween without 'Halloween,' a classic slasher movie that displays one of the genre's peaks. 'Scream' would be my follow-up as I wanted to have one film showcasing the genre and another deconstructing it. It also helps that 'Halloween' is in 'Scream.' Other films I considered were 'Psycho,' 'The Shining,' 'Drag Me To Hell' and 'Insidious.'"
"My Halloween double feature would consist of 'Curse of the Werewolf' followed by 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.' Each features a male lead -- Oliver Reed in 'Curse' and Ray Wise in 'Peaks' -- with a complicated and tortured soul at war with itself. Both men are compelled to murder/violate women, a sharp contrast to the upstanding reputation they possess in the minds of the rest of their respective communities."
"For Halloween, it's easy to go with films from the traditional horror icons we've come to love over the years -- Freddy Krueger, Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, etc. -- especially since their looks have been closely associated with the holiday as far as costumes are concerned. However, if we're going to go for a double feature that has the potential to truly frighten the audience in attendance, then heading into the horror/sci-fi realm produces better results. That's why I'd be pairing the original 'Alien' and John Carpenter's 'The Thing' together on the bill. First off, I think there are far too many people, myself included, who never had the chance to see these two classics on a big screen individually, let alone together, and, for a pair of films that still hold up every single time I watch them from the comfort of my own home, I can only imagine the community experience that'd come from seeing them with a like-minded crowd that truly appreciates each of them. Secondly, they couldn't be more different in their approaches to horror, provided a wide-ranging viewing experience that shows scares can be delivered in a number of ways. Thirdly, it would serve as a reminder of a time when horror was a big deal and efforts were made to do it well. It wasn't a matter of just throwing out a CW cast and hacking them to pieces to please teen audiences. There were characters to care about, stories to become invested in, and surprises to keep us guessing, not just for twists' sake. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so if I've got a chance to put together a Halloween double feature, I'm doing it right with a couple of horror classics."
"'Trick 'r Treat,' because I'm really obvious and because someone *really* screwed up the marketing, publicity, and promotion for a Halloween movie that would have done great if they bothered to give it a real theatrical release. And then I'd show Brad Anderson's 'Session 9' cause that will really f*ck everyone up and will give them nightmares until the NEXT Halloween."
"I'm a big chicken when it comes to scary movies, so I'd probably go the horror comedy route; let's say something old and something new, so put me down for 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein' and 'The Cabin in the Woods.'"
"I’d like to challenge the audience with something a little bit more profound than just candy, masquerade costumes and cheap scares. So my first movie would be 'The Seventh Seal,' which raises questions about life and death and let you meet the reaper face to face rather than as a skeleton decoration. My second film would be 'The Call of Cthulhu,' a black and white silent film from 2005, made with a minimalist budget, but a lot of enthusiasm, supported by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. The few special effects are pretty awkward, but this is easily overlooked since the tone is so right. 'In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.' Horror poetry never gets better than that."
"The key to a great double feature is in how one movie compliments the other. The pairing of two films could prove to be a difficult task when dealing with something as insane as Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 psychedelic masterpiece 'House,' a film about a bunch of Japanese schoolgirls battling against a haunted house (believe me when I say that sentence does not do the film justice). I asked myself, 'Which movie could even begin to get the crowd in the mood for Obayashi’s funhouse of madness?' And then it came to me: 'The Cabin in the Woods.' Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s fantastic deconstruction of horror films would give the audience one heck of a fun ride while throwing away all the genre rules before being lambasted by the 'WTF Train' that is 'House.'"
"'Found footage films' seem to be all the rage these days, as if 'The Blair Witch Project' had only been yesterday. So how about a Halloween double feature of movies that pointedly question this strangely now-ubiquitous sub-genre? To that end, here's my suggestion: 'Diary of the Dead' and 'Cannibal Holocaust.' George A. Romero's fifth 'Dead' picture follows a filmmaking crew that attempts to shoot a horror movie -- until they find themselves ensconced in real-life zombie horror. The emotional detachment with which some of these crew members approach the horror unfolding right behind them -- hiding behind the camera, as it were -- is genuinely unsettling; has the rise in popularity of YouTube led us to see even the most horrific of real-life events as mere disposable media images? Even that, however, isn't quite as disturbing as what we discover about the disappearing documentary filmmakers in Ruggero Deodato's notoriously icky 1980 film; its second half consists almost entirely of their found footage, and we discover the filmmakers' unscrupulous manipulations of the truth and the horrific comeuppance they eventually suffer at the hands of the cannibal natives they exploit. (There's also that poor dismembered turtle -- and sure, the ethics of featuring real onscreen animal slaughter in the service of a supposed greater human truth can certainly be endlessly argued.) 'Paranormal Activity' may have more jump scares, but when it comes to 'found footage' films, both 'Diary of the Dead' and 'Cannibal Holocaust' wade into deeper waters: the depths of depravity of which humanity is capable when it comes to confronting the horrors right in front of their eyes with a camera in the middle. Now that's scary."
"I'd actually cheat and show something different -- screening 'Bob Roberts' and 'The War Room' as a double bill in advance of the American election. I'd then likely be fired as a programmer."
"If the object is to bring together a properly unsettling pair of films, then maybe it's best to pick one that'll make you scared of humans and one that'll make you scared of nature. (That way, when you walk out of the theater, everything seems equally spooky.) The first choice that popped to mind for the first category is David Fincher's 'Zodiac,' and looking through the Harris Savides tribute only clinched it. As for cringe-inducing nature, my favorite Hitchcock film 'The Birds"'is an obvious choice, but would pair well on a 'moments of calm interrupted by moments of sheer chaos' twin bill. Between the lakeside stabbing and the final shot through the open door of the Brenner house, that's enough to have Bay Area cinephiles squirming well into November."
"My double feature is 'The Shining' and 'The Exorcist.' I chose these for two main reasons: to point out that there are legendary directors making classic horror films at a time of year when horror movies get bad PR; and to reinforce the fact that little kids should never be trusted."
"If you really want to scare the audience try a double feature of 'Forrest Gump' and 'Crash' and then have a voice over the PA intone 'These movies won the Oscarrrrrrrrrr......'"
"My inner genre nerd is telling me to highlight a pair of overlooked gems, so I'd start the evening with 'Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!,' a late Monte Hellman masterwork that went straight to video but is as equally nimble, exhilarating, and frenetic as his best work; I'd end the evening with 'Cemetery Man' (a.k.a. 'Dellamorte Dellamore'), an egregiously under-appreciated horror comedy/sex farce that stars Rupert Everett as a lonely caretaker who yearns to find the woman of his dreams but spends all his time protecting a nearby village from the zombies that rise from his cemetery -- the great Franco Fraticelli is the film's editor. I nearly considered Peter Weir's 'The Last Wave' because of its marginalized reputation as a result of the success of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock,' but I feel as if it's caught on in recent years."
"'The Virgin Spring' and 'The Last House on the Left' and I'd call it 'Do's and Don't's.'"
"Easy, it would be my 'Is God Dead?' double feature: 'The Exorcist' and 'Rosemary's Baby.' Both deal with the devil, but one goes for (pea soup) in-your-face scares while the other is more psychologically terrifying. They're my two favorite horror films (as boring as that might be)."
"Murnau's 'Nosferatu' and Kubrick's'The Shining,' twin poles of horror replete with indelible images and important messages for the youth of today."
"'Cemetery Man' and 'The Loved Ones.' Existential horror and pure visceral horror as a package that together cover the full spectrum of the genre's possibilities."
"I think the best double features include one cherished classic and one title people wouldn't otherwise see. So I'm choosing a silent horror asylum double. The first would be Robert Wiene's 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,' a classic German expressionist film that still creates chills today. But the second film would be the real treat, Teinosuke Kinugasa's 'A Page of Madness,' which is from Japan. Part of an avant-garde tradition that developed in Japan in the 1920s, 'A Page of Madness' is almost impossible to follow in its narrative (the version seen today is missing over a third of the original cut) but is full of bizarre imagery that will scare the hell out of you. Not enough people see this film that is really not only the first Japanese horror film, but the first Japanese masterpiece (though sadly not on DVD)."