The 11 Best Movies To Watch This Halloween!


Halloween is a day for Trick or Treating, candy, and parties with women wearing the most revealing costumes imaginable.  Or, if you’re like me, it’s the perfect night for a good movie… or two… or ten! Here the 10 films I’d most recommend this Halloween 2016!

You will find that my list is fairly unique with far more unconventional and lesser known choices instead of the obvious titles like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.

Just don’t ask my why mine goes to 11…(Hint: I couldn’t it down to 10)

 

11) 28 Days Later28-weeks-later-cillain-murphy-empty-londonBest straight-up zombie movie. Period. Danny Boyle’s zombies even more frightening than the traditional model, capable of incredible speed, the ability to walk up stairs and climb ladder, and infecting others in seconds by spitting blood at them, in addition to the classic bite. The opening sequence with a completely abandoned London is an astounding image that is hard to forget. Finally, the most important rule of zombie movies is present: the zombies aren’t as dangerous as the other survivors (especially the military). Bloody good scares.

10) Army of Darknessarmy-of-darkness-bruce-cambell-ash-and-bad-ashMy list is full of horror/comedy hybrids. Even the most traditional of horror movies on this contains some laughs (except for 28 Days Later). I don’t always watch horror, but when I do, I like it with a splash of comedy. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy set the standard for full on horror with some ridiculous laughs, with the 1st film arriving in 1981, predating any of the other movies on this list. The third film, Army of Darkness wasn’t released until 1992 and it upped the comedy considerably from even the grossly hilarious Evil Dead 2. Never has someone uttered as many  delicious one-liners than Bruce Campbell as Ash. There are skeletons, possessions, graveyards, and not just evil mini versions of Ash… but an actual full-sized Evil Ash (or “Bad Ash”). Raimi’s unique style oozes throughout the film; his own little quirks are nearly as recognizable as Tim Burton’s.

9) Shuan of the Deadshaun-of-the-dead-simon-pegg-nick-frost-pretending-to-be-zombiesShaun of the Dead (like all Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg collaborations),puts comedy 1st, yet still plays by all the rules of the genre. Shaun of the Dead is not a parody of zombie movies as much as it is love-letter to the genre with comedy. It’s the movie that put director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg & Nick Frost on the international stage, leading to other amazing parody/homages Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, so you know it’s good!  Not as terrifying a zombie movie as 28 Days Later, but still full of scares… balanced gently with laughs.

8 & 7) Ghostbusters (1984) & Ghostbusters (2016)ghostbusters-1984-finale-line-upThe original Ghostbusters from 1984 is a given, especially on a list with a comedy twist. Like Shaun of the Dead, this classic was conceived as a comedy movie first, but went on to embrace paranormal scares with great special effects… at the time. It’s not the scariest movie about ghosts, but it is the most iconic. You don’t need to sold on this one; Ghostbusters is a true Halloween Classic with hilarious performances by Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson.

This year’s reboot, also titled Ghostbusters, is not nearly as good as the original, but still has a lot of great laughs with creative, modern twists on the original film. It may be less scary than the original, throwing it further into comedy territory, but the blockbuster is still a fun watch; an especially useful pick if your friend insists on modern special effects. Besides, Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann and Chris Hemsworth as Kevin are the two funniest performances of the year.

6) The Nightmare Before Christmasthe-nightmare-before-christmas-jack-and-sallyIt’s a Halloween Movie! And a Christmas Movie… but totally a Halloween Movie! My boss says it is just a Christmas Movie, but he is wrong. Dead wrong.

With stunning animation directed by stop-motion genius Henry Selick, music written, conducted, and sung by Danny Elfman, and the touching story of a man skeleton experiencing a mid-death crisis, seeking new purpose in his life. Plus… it’s also for kids! The Nightmare Before Christmas is a beautify Disney movie that looks amazing in HD; as you can see the very materials the sets and characters where physically made of! My favorite animated film.

5 & 4) Scream & Scream 2scream-2-ghostface-at-the-toiletBesides 28 Days Later, the Scream films (ONLY the 1st two!) are the most full blown horror movies on my list. Scream was a game-changer for the genre in the 90’s; a horror movie that was so meta it had a character literally explain the rules of a horror film. With this level of self-awareness, the first two Scream movies were able to subvert said rules, providing plenty of fright misdirects while still delivering on the gory promise of a slasher film. No one is safe! The fact this formula worked two times is a testament to the sequel, which was able to feel fresh and bring “the rules of a sequel” into the mix. Scream‘s not a respectful parody like Shaun of the Dead, but rather a full-on horror flick with A+ scares, blood, and that self-aware twist.

3) Cabin in the WoodsCW-0089_DF-02291Cabin in the Woods came along in 2012 and took Meta to the next level! Co-Written by the great Joss Whedon, Cabin in the Woods also introduces all the rules only to subvert them. There’s an order in which each archetypal character must die (the jock, the loose girl, the stoner, the virgin… etc), but that doesn’t mean it’s followed. Cabin in the Woods take this idea of extreme self-awareness a bit farther, dissecting not just one horror sub-genre, but instead examining the many types of scares that cross cultures. Best of all, the film is half horror cliches and half office workplace comedy. It’s impossible to explain without spoiling the movie, but let’s just say it’s just as interesting watching Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford go about their extremely odd and disturbing job as it is watching Chris Hemsworth and friends try to survive in their cabin in the woods.

2) Fright Night (2011)fright-night-david-tennant-and-anton-yelchinOh, 2011’s remake of Fright Night, you would be on so many people’s Halloween lists if anyone had seen you. You’re forgotten, not bad.

I always thought Fright Night was a horror/comedy, but my friends will tell you it’s just horror. Perhaps the comedy I see comes from the brilliance of David Tennant as Peter Vincent, the “Vampire Hunter,” and Collin Farrell chewing the scenery as Jerry the Vampire. It’s the late, great Anton Yelchin’s best movie, taking a story about Vampires and spinning the location of Las Vegas, a city full of half-empty neighborhoods due to the housing crisis,into a character that adds fun, creative twists. An overlooked horror movie about Vampires, of course the “new” Fright Night on my list!

1) The Frightenersthe-frighteners-grim-reaperThree Halloweens ago, I wrote an entire post about The Frighteners. Not if there’s anything more to say today then I did in 1,000 words three years ago. Peter Jackson’s classic is at the top of my list for a reason. My list is ranked in order from least recommended to most, so if you only have time for one movie this Halloween, give The Frighteners a chance! Like Fright Night, it simply slipped under the radar in 1996. Hey… that makes this the 20th Anniversary of The Frighteners! Now you have no excuse!

I know I’ll be watching it…

Better Class of Criminal (Part III)- Romulans, Nazis, and Moriarty, Oh My!


The villain of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS seems to fit the current mold.
The villain of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS seems to fit the current mold.

Possible SPOILERS follow for any movie mentioned.

Villains are no longer underwritten stereotypes to be trifiled with. They are now the stuff supporting-actor-Oscars are made of.

As discussed in Part II of “A Better Class of Criminal”, the academy award-winning-villains Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) and the Joker (Heath Ledger) were really the catalysts that transformed the average blockbuster movie villain into the eccentric, playful, oh-so-personal, well-spoken masterminds of today.

This post, we will journey up to 2012, wrapping up next time with the likes of Bane, Silvia, and future villains including IRON MAN 3’s Mandarin and STAR TREK INTO THE DARKNESS’s mysterious villain (whom I still assume is Gary Mitchell).

I’ll cover the antagonists who followed 2008’s Joker prior to the current year, including Col. Hans Landa from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and A GAME OF SHADOWS’ Moriarty.


Nero2009
 –  Captain Nero (Eric Bana), STAR TREK

Nero is not a fantastic villain; he shouldn’t necessarily be on this list. Eric Bana disappears into the role, but Nero is pretty one-dimensional, due to the filmmakers’ wise decision to focus on introducing the crew of the USS Enterprise in this origin story.

Deleted Klingon from STAR TREK (2009)
Deleted Klingon from STAR TREK (2009)

(A fairly long deleted scene features more back-story – and J.J. Abrams’ Klingons! –  adding to his character.)

Still, the make-up looks badass (suck it, Darth Maul), and Bana is clearly having a great time chewing the scenery; “Hi, Chris. My name is Nero.” Nero is lots of fun, though in most other ways he is not the prime example of a 21st century antagonist. He’s not all so scary and lacks the intricate plans of most of his modern peers.

Nero isn’t the ultimate baddie, but he does indicate Abrams has the potential to do something special with Cumberbatch’s antagonist in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS.

“James T. Kirk was considered to be a great man. He went on to captain the U.S.S. Enterprise… but that was another life. A life I will deprive you of just like I did your father!”

Gotta' love the pipe!
Gotta’ love the pipe!

– Col Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Another Best Supporting Academy Award win for a villain actor (following Javier Bardem and Heath Ledger)! Also like Bardem, Christoph Waltz is another foreign actor who seemed to come out of nowhere!

Milk must lead to strong bones... and Oscars
Milk must lead to strong bones… and Oscars

Waltz is simply perfect, injecting quite a bit of fun into a very serious role; after all, his nickname is “the Jew Hunter.” Again, we have a scary man who always has the time to stop and drink a cool glass of milk.

Landa is so scary because he is relaxed and matter-of-fact, hiding a very violent, short-temper underneath (as illustrated when he snaps and strangles Bridget von Hammersmark).

Waltz is the heart of many incredibly acted scenes: Landa calmly smokes from an over-sized pipe (he upstages all opponents in every way, always) as he draws information about hidden Jews from a poor, sweating farmer who doesn’t stand a chance against Landa’s charismatic/terrifying persona. Landa also has quite the chat with Brad Pitt and Ryan from THE OFFICE (B.J. Novak).

Landa is nearly always smiling, enjoying his game.

The game?  Ensuring he ends up on the winning side.

Truly a slime-ball of a villain, a man that has no code except ensuring his own survival, only Waltz can pull off Hans Landa, flawlessly switching between more than a few different languages, sounding fluent and poetic in all.

Landa may just be the 2nd best villain on this modern list… behind Anton Chigurh, of course.

“That’s a bingo!”

Actor Mark Strong always pleases.
Actor Mark Strong always pleases.

– Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), SHERLOCK HOLMES

I have a soft spot for Mark Strong. He’s not quite Bardem or Waltz, but he’s still great in nearly everything -KICK-ASS, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY,  BODY OF LIES, ROCK’N’ROLLA – you name it he’s great in it. (I haven’t seen 2010’s ROBIN HOOD, smart-ass.)

In the first SHERLOCK HOLMES, Blackwood is a decent villain for Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) to cut his teeth on, though he is no Moriarty.

Blackwood ticks nearly every modern villain box; he gives great, menacing speeches, he’s got a sprawling plan that keeps him streets ahead of Holmes, and he’s even got a Bond-villain style deformity (those fucking teeth!). I just wish Blackwood took a little more joy in his scheme. Especially since his plan is great fun, involving “dark magic” and “supernatural powers,” a great challenge for even the world’s greatest detective (of the 19th century – we’ll get to Batman’s baddies again next time…)

I always love exchanges between villains and heroes, especially when the antagonist cockily taunts and foreshadows coming events that the hero cannot comprehend. The interplay between minds like Holmes and Blackwood makes you glad most of today’s villains are “master-minds.”

“Holmes, you must widen your gaze. I’m concerned you underestimate the gravity of coming events. You and I are bound together on a journey that will twist the very fabric of nature. But beneath your mask of logic I sense a fragility. That worries me. Steel your mind, Holmes. I need you.”

Holmes gets to deliver an equally astounding monologue as he “Scooby-Doo’s” Blackwood’s plan, breaking each supernatural trick down, one-by-one.

Lord Blackwood even "cheats death."
Lord Blackwood even “cheats death.”

Besides the supernatural elements, Blackwood has a great plan indeed. What’s better than world domination, the old fashioned way?

“My powers and my assets were given to me for one purpose. A magnificent, but simple purpose: to create a new future. A future ruled by us. Tomorrow at noon, we take the first step towards a new chapter in our history. Magic will lead the way. Once the people of England see our newfound power they’ll bow down in fear. Across the Atlantic lies a colony that was once ours. It will be again. Their civil war has made them weak. Their government is as corrupt and as ineffective as ours… so we’ll take it back. We will remake the world. Create the future.”

Don't Invite Jerry In!
Don’t Invite Jerry In!

2011 – Jerry (Colin Farrell), FRIGHT NIGHT

Colin Farrell just kills it in a horror/comedy with just the right vibe.

Again, smooth and charming on the surface, yet animalistic and dangerous underneath. Le package totale.

Farrell, like Waltz, has so much fun with the role, and his character takes great pleasure and malice in his work. In this case, it is almost entirely the acting that makes another one-dimensional villain (as written) an absolute joy to watch.

Jared Harris as Moriarty– Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME SHADOWS

Holmes: Are you familiar with the study of graphology?
Moriaty: I have never given it any serious thought. No.
Holmes: The psychological analysis of handwriting. The upwards strokes on the p, the j, the m indicate a genius level intellect. The flourishes on the lower zone denote a highly creative yet meticulous nature. But if one observes the overall slant and pressure of the handwriting there is a suggestion of acute narcissism, a complete lack of empathy, and pronounced inclination toward moral insanity.

Perhaps the original criminal mastermind, Sherlock Holmes has been come up against his arch-nemesis time and time again, though we had to wait for 2011’s GAME OF SHADOWS to watch Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes face off against his intellectual equal (possible better).

Having the two most brilliant men on the planet face off is a recipe for awesome, and Jared Harris’ interpretation of the rotten Professor does not disappoint one bit.

Throughout the film, the two men encounter each-other 3 times. Knowing my love of hero and villain banter, these scenes obviously strike quite a chord with me (the HOLMES franchise is quite good at this, apparently). The fact both men respect each-other’s genius while considering himself the other’s better, makes everything all the more interesting and tense. May the best man win…

The two geniuses meet for the 1st time.
The two geniuses meet for the 1st time.

Their 1st encounter comes in Professor Moriarty’s office, involving some damn-delicious dialog, introducing the fish metaphor and setting the rules of their most-dangerous “game.” Moriarty promises he won’t leave Dr. Watson out of “the equation” even though he is on honeymoon, while also revealing to Holmes that he has already murdered his love, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). If I didn’t mention it last time with the Joker (who- SPOILER – killed Bruce Wayne’s “main squeeze”), I’ll say it now; personal is always better.

Moriarty has made it very personal.

Holmes is exactly where Moriarty wants him at the Opera
Holmes is exactly where Moriarty wants him at the Opera

And so, the game is afoot! And what a game it is, with Moriarty appearing to always be one step ahead of Holmes in a way that would make the Joker proud.

While the Joker planned to be caught, Moriarty instead sets up a serious of false clues to lead his rival to the Opera, all while his plan is going off without a hitch across Paris.

Their second encounter gets uglier, with Holmes in Moriarty’s possession. Holmes has figured out Moriarty’s world-wide-scale mastermind plan, but the professor literally has his hook in him. Moriarty is having a great time as he tortures Holmes. And the fish metaphor continues.

“You are…familiar with Shubert’s work? The trout is perhaps my favorite. A fisherman grows weary of trying to catch an elusive fish. So he muddies the water; confuses the fish. It doesn’t realize until too late that it has swum into a trap.”

Finally, the pair play chess.

Here comes the reversal; unlike Batman, Holmes was actually one step ahead of his villain’s plot nearly the entire time. In fact, he’d been scouting Moriarty months before the two officially met.

Check-mate.

Be Careful What You Fish For
Be Careful What You Fish For
"Come now, you really think you're the only one who can play this game? "
“Come now, you really think you’re the only one who can play this game? “

Holmes stops the plot, but Moriarty himself is not-so-easily defeated. Just like Holmes, he sees the world a different way; he sees all possible outcomes and knows he actually has the advantage if the two are to fight to the death. Holmes sees it too, which is why he “sacrifices” his own life to defeat the most dangerous man in the world, his intellectual equal but physical superior.

What villain’s better than that? Moriarty’s personal, brilliant, and morally insane. He is Holmes’ equal so much so that Holmes need kill himself to defeat him.

“I wonder, which one of us is the fisherman and which the trout?”

In actuality, there are villains better than Moriarty.

We’ve already discussed three of my favorites thus far – Anton Chigurh, Col. Hans Landa, and Joker, yet some of the best are yet to come next time!

In 2012, we’ve watched three of the greatest villains in cinema, including the aforementioned Bane and Silva (as well as a nice surprise!). They continue the traits we’ve discussed, making them all surprisingly similar while each attempts the erase memory of the last.

Ben Kingsley as IRON MAN 3's Mandarin
Ben Kingsley as IRON MAN 3’s Mandarin

Part IV will also anticipate three upcoming villains including those of IRON MAN 3 and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, suggesting they will continue the pattern established while bringing something even newer to the table.

After all, crime never sleeps. Though masterminds might… (and I do).