By Matt Singer | Criticwire October 22, 2012 at 10:04AM
"I would be compelled to program a Henry Selick double-feature of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and 'Coraline,' because good horror films for children are hard to come by, these two are some of the best for a younger age range, plenty of other theaters will be playing a good assortment of adult-oriented horror, and Selick's films may get kids interested in exploring the scary and macabre on film."
"I don't particularly love the horror genre at all, mainly because I'm a naturally jumpy person. Out of the five or six I have seen, though, I'll put 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Shining' together, only because they both build up an effective atmosphere so masterfully and are more psychological thrillers than typical horror movies. I predict that a pitiful few in my neighborhood will turn out for these two 'old' movies in the face of 'Paranormal Activity 4' and the likes, and that I won't have a Halloween curating job next year, but hey."
"As one who feels the scariest stuff is the kind of thing that really could happen, I would choose movies that take place, primarily, in the home (or home-like settings). For a classic, you can't get more vulnerable than Hitchcock's 'Psycho' ...getting stabbed, naked in a hotel shower? And let's not forget that surprise up at that house! 'Psycho' is one of those great movies that most people have seen on TV, perhaps alone, but it's a great experience in a big theater. For a lesser known but wonderfully effective second film, I would choose 'The Stepfather,' a slim, incredibly shiver-worthy thriller, this is the movie that I never forgot, thanks in great part to the lead performance from Terry O'Quinn, who showed stuff here even more mysteriously scary than he did on 'Lost.'"
"One of my favorite horror double features (I've made various friends join me for it) is a weird one, themed around cannibalism. The first is, believe it or not, one of those PBS history specials by Ric Burns: 'The Donner Party.' It relates the infamous tale of frontier cannibalism via the usual still images, nature photography, and diary entries, but it's perhaps the only documentary ever made that's as terrifying as the best horror films. Burns took his visual and aural cues from the opening sequence of 'The Shining' (which itself references the Donner Party), in which the Torrence family drives through the Sierra Nevada mountain range accompanied by a doom-laden soundtrack. The music here is Angelo Badalamenti's spectral 'Dark Spanish Symphony,' and when paired with all the ghostly daguerreotypes and the images of foreboding, snow-darkened woods, a deeply disquieting mood takes hold. The sequence in which the pioneers first resort to cannibalism does something few traditional horror movies ever have: it makes you feel the moral terror of their transgression. Then I'd lighten the mood with the second film, one of my favorite overlooked gems of the '90s: 'Ravenous.' Clearly inspired by the Donner Party, it's a daring combo of horror and off-kilter comedy set on the snowy American frontier. Robert Carlyle gives an amazing performance as the villain -- a freaky mountain man who's developed a taste for human flesh -- and Guy Pearce gives an equally committed performance as the squeamish U.S. Marshal protagonist. Director Antonia Bird navigates the tonal changes of Ted Griffin's inspired screenplay expertly, keeping you on your toes throughout (you're never quite sure if you should be laughing or cowering beneath your seat), and the amazing score by Michael Nyman and Blur's Damon Albarn disorients you even further. The scene where Pearce and Carlyle lead a rescue mission to a foreboding cave is almost unbearably suspensful, and it culminates in one of the most shocking/funny murderous outbursts ever committed to film. For some reason 'Ravenous' never became a midnight-movie fave, but hopefully that'll change some day."
"I'd want to go with as different a pairing as possible. I think I'd choose 'The Cabin in the Woods' for a more meta look at horror for the holiday, but I'd also take it down a notch and show 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' as well. That way you have both sides of the coin represented on Halloween. That being said, I'd make sure my local theater was playing 'Sinister' too so that I could encourage some brave souls to make it a triple feature and take in that unsettling fright flick too. There are tons of combinations that went through my head, but I'm decently pleased with this one."
"'The Shining' and 'Rosemary's Baby.' They are both masterpieces about toxic families in which the scariest part is not so much the supernatural, but the crazy demons that lurk inside the human mind. They are also enormous fun."
"It's tempting to choose some old, acclaimed film everyone's heard of but few have seen like 'Nosferatu' or 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' to make myself look all smart and cultured, and because no one can argue with you when you pick something from a million years ago. It's like when you ask about the best running back of all time, and someone always says Bronco Nagurski. Ooh, check out Charlie History Major over here, he likes the guy from the pre-television era. Anyway, old movies are cheating, and I have alcohol-induced memory problems, so I'm going contemporary: 'Drag Me to Hell' and 'The Cabin in the Woods.' Halloween is always one part scary and five parts goofy. Almost any Sam Raimi film fits the bill, but 'Drag Me to Hell' is recent, underseen, and does a great job riding that line between spooky and hilarious. Favorite scenes include the old lady getting her dentures stuck on the ashtray and trying to gum the girl to death, and the seance scene with the goat. So delightfully bizarre. And 'The Cabin in the Woods' because it does 'self-aware horror movie' about a hundred times better than 'Scream' ever did. They both seem like movies that would benefit from a big crowd of boozed-up goofballs."
"Thomas Edison's 'Electrocuting an Elephant' and Stan Brakhage's 'The Act Of Seeing With One's Own Eyes.' There is no realer terror."
"To me, Halloween is about two things: scary stuff and having fun. Therefore, I'd want my double feature to reflect that. For the scary half, I'd go with Guillermo Del Toro's disturbingly creepy 'Cronos.' This is my favorite kind of horror movie, because it's just as unnerving for the story's themes (old age, illness, death) as it is for the scare scenes. Artfully made and chilling as all get-out, I'm sure it would give audiences a good fright. For the fun part, I would absolutely choose Nobuhiko Obayashi's masterpiece of dementia 'House.' Watching this movie is like having a 90-minute fever dream after tripping on acid (not that I'd know personally). Plus, it is filled with delightfully insane sequences, including one in which a young girl is eaten by a piano. 'House' isn't really scary, but to me it encapsulates the glorious, over-the-top spirit of Halloween. By pairing it and 'Cronos,' I think I'd have both sides of the Halloween coin duly accounted for."
"If the point of a Halloween double feature is to creep out the audience that most of the studios target -- young men -- then I'd say put 'Fatal Attraction' with Takashi Miike's romantic horror flick 'Audition.' The original theme of 'Fatal Attraction' was based on a parallel obsessive romance between the female editor Alex (Glenn Close) and a married New York attorney Dan (Michael Douglas) and the tragic disposable 'Oriental' woman story. Alex relates her situation to Puccini's 'Madame Butterfly' and the original script had her committing suicide with a kitchen knife that Dan had left his fingerprints on. Dan is then implicated in the supposed murder. Because test audiences didn't like this ending, the suicide angle was taken out and a three-week reshoot resulted in an improbable, horror story ending. The sudden reactivation of Alex in the bathtub (after she has apparently been drowned) is laugh-out-loud silly. Yet the movie won awards. Too bad the movie makers didn't stick to their guns. Takashi Miike's 'Audition' also plays on stereotypes and men's unwise and unreasonable expectations of women. Guys who are looking for their own Madame Butterfly geisha girl will find this a frightening depiction of a Japanese woman. The middle-aged widower Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) should know better, but he holds a fake audition for a fake movie in order to look for a new wife. The woman he selects, Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), is too willing to please in a passive way and his friend (Jun Kunimura) finds it troubling that her resume leads to no one who can confirm her work experience or vouch for her character. Instead of a boiling bunny, Asami has her own special way of teaching men how to truly love through pain, because only pain can be trusted. Don't you think Sada Abe would approve?"
"I'd go with James Whale's 'Bride of Frankenstein'' and Karl Freund's 'The Mummy,' two elegant classics from the Golden Age of horror movies, both featuring Boris Karloff."
"I would insist on two nights of double features. The first would be the classic Halloween themed scares of Carpenter's 'Halloween' and Michael Dougherty's grossly underrated 'Trick r' Treat.' As a Halloween night double feature these would create an atmosphere of sugar-induced joy tinged with a heightened sense of communal fear. With every jolt the audience would laugh and applaud together. What's better? The other night is something I've always wanted to do, a double feature of the greatest sci-fi terrors; 'Alien' and Carpenter's 'The Thing.' When I was a kid these two movies scared the hell out of me more than any other. The irrational fears of aliens and deep space sit with me to this day. Of course, these would all be 35mm prints."
"Jeez, no further restrictions, huh? Well, taking in the 'consumer-friendly' nature of Halloween, I don't want to go too hardcore (in which case 'I Saw the Devil' and 'The Human Centipede' probably would've topped the list). Gotta go old-school for one, and that would have to be the 1931 'Frankenstein' for the chilling, background-music-free ambiance, Karloff's stellar performance, and that indelible sequence with the girl by the stream. Then, let's get a little esoteric: 1962's 'Burn Witch Burn' (a.k.a. 'Night of the Eagle'), for its wicked view of modern day witchcraft set against the political wranglings of the academy. Plus, the American release has a goofily charming prologue narrated by Paul Frees."
"'Mystery of the Wax Museum' (1933) and William Castle's 'Strait-Jacket' (1964). Because I've never seen either of them."
"'Pan's Labyrinth' and 'The Orphanage' feature Guillermo del Toro as director and executive producer in Spanish language horrors both fantasy and thriller."
"In any other year, my dream Halloween double feature would be Lamberto Bava's 'Demons' and Bigas Luna's 'Anguish.' But given the horrifying events in Colorado this summer, it probably wouldn't be prudent to include the latter (the same reasoning excludes Bogdanovich's 'Targets' as well). So let's do a 1983 frissons maudits double of Tony Scott's 'The Hunger' and Michael Mann's 'The Keep.' Eerie, synthy insanity taken from bestselling novels and rendered into beautiful incoherence."
"If I was in that position I would probably opt for films that are under-seen or not perhaps the obvious choices -- a double bill of 'Vampyr' and 'Guinea Pig: The Devil's Experiment,' 'The Phantom Carriage' and 'House' or 'Spider Baby' and 'Kuroneko' -- but the double bill that has become a tradition for me in recent years and the one that first springs to mind is John Carpenter's 1978 'Halloween' and the more recent 'Trick 'r Treat' from Michael Dougherty. It's hard to think of two films more heavily linked to the creepy holiday and I shall undoubtedly be settling to down to watch them both again come October the 31st."
"I’ll freely admit that I’m neither a horror-movie buff nor a big fan of Halloween, outside of the copious amounts of candy that are readily available in October in grocery stores and places like Target. So if my local theater asked me to curate a double feature, I’d go with two of the few I love dearly: 'Peeping Tom' and 'The Shining.' Certainly, the latter is well-respected in the horror genre, but I imagine many people haven’t even heard of 'Peeping Tom,' a film that was so incendiary in the United Kingdom that it essentially ended director Michael Powell’s career. The story of a young man whose voyeuristic tendencies manifest in murdering young women by filming them as he impales them with a knife was gruesome and dark; however, it was overshadowed by the same year’s 'Psycho' (no mistake, an excellent film), tanking in Britain and making Powell a pariah. And 'The Shining' has been a favorite of mine for years, originally because any horror movie with barely any gore (I don’t count the elevator-related kind here) is OK by me. Now, I revel in Stanley Kubrick’s technical proficiency, the Steadicam cinematography, and all the clues to what’s really going on in this story of a disastrously broken family. I may not be a 'Room 237'-level obsessive, but the ambiguities help make 'The Shining' truly frightening."
"I'd program a 'Toxic Hollywood' Halloween of 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' and 'Mommie Dearest.' They're a pair of blood-curdling horror movies starring legendary actresses as grotesque, abusive monsters. Both would leave audiences with shot nerves -- whether from the scene where Baby Jane serves lunch, or Faye Dunaway's classic 'wire hangers' freakout -- but also plenty of bitchy dialogue to quote later on. They even share a meta connection, since Baby Jane's sister/victim is played by Mommie Dearest herself, Joan Crawford. These are two films that poke around in the institutions of family and filmmaking, then turn up piles of maggots. Together, they'd make for a fun, makeup-smeared night. (Following them up with 'Sunset Blvd.' would be optional.)"
"In the spirit of carnivalesque transgressions celebrated on this day, I would combine 'The Fearless Vampire Killers' -- skiing vampire hunters in widescreen Transylvania -- with 'The Party' -- a Hollywood mogul's dinner party being kidnapped into the absurd, by unknown Indian actor Hrundi V. Bakshi, feeder of Birdie Num Num, unforgettably portrayed by Peter Sellers in brownface. The real-life tragedies surrounding the two female stars, Sharon Tate in the first, Claudine Longet in the second and the lack of political correctness in both films, make for disturbing subtexts, while the sheer joy and exuberance in this double feature, makes them perfect for getting drunk on cinema while totally sober. When asked 'Who the hell do you think you are?' Hrundi V. Bakshi responds: 'Where I come from, we don't think who we are, we know who we are!' Even, and maybe especially, on Halloween."
"I would play 'Poltergeist' early and 'Halloween' late. Or if everyone's choosing Halloween, I'd go with 'Trick 'r Treat' because virtually nobody has seen this fine anthology piece on the big screen."
"I'm going to cheat and name two possible double features (hey, you always need a backup, just in case of print unavailability). One would be 'The Innocents' and 'The Others,' and the second would be 'The Devil's Backbone' and 'The Orphanage.' The first pair is very much in the proper British tradition; the second, a little more modern and Latino/European. But all four films get their effects from atmosphere and character, over sudden shocks and gore. And there's not a found-footage shot in the bunch!"
"I would open the show with Carpenter's 'Halloween.' I expect that would be a "closer" for a lot of people, but I want to follow it up with a movie that is even more gross and creepy: Sam Raimi's 'The Evil Dead.' Good luck sleeping after that pairing, folks."
"I'd show a double-feature of 'May' and 'The Woman.' More horror fans need to know about Lucky McKee, and his films are never widely seen on the big screen."
"'Bride of Frankenstein' and 'Trick 'r Treat.'"