(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)
By B. Jason Roer
A gray cloud hangs like a blanket of doom across the sky. A chill cuts through the air. Maybe you walk down the street and see a ghost, a skeleton, a ghoul, a zombie hanging from a tree, dancing on a front porch. Leaves blow by you, a phantom parade of the dead and rotting. It is October. And Halloween will unleash its dark magic in a couple weeks.
What better way to spend your remaining evenings than locked in your home, late at night, curled on the couch in the darkness. The flickering lights of the television and the haunting images upon it invade your mind, while twisting shadows on the floor creep toward you in a devil’s dance.
You could watch the mainstream classics. You could watch Friday the 13th. A Nightmare on Elm Street. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Psycho. The Fly. Jaws. Alien. The Exorcist. The Omen. Night of the Living Dead. You could do that. But you won’t. Not this year.
This year you begin with Eraserhead, David Lynch’s feature film debut. No one can unsettle like David Lynch. His use of imagery and sound will haunt and delight you. His films are like being trapped in a nightmare, unsure of where you are exactly, the horrific and mundane unite in a collision of wills to challenge you. The stunning black-and-white picture will burn itself in your memory. You will never forget Eraserhead, and the strange, eerie, and beautiful world Lynch has created.
You move on to Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg. Videodrome is perhaps even more relevant today, over 25 years after its release. The nightmare imagery and the constant question of what is real will keep you unbalanced throughout the runtime. Violence, sex, and bodily mutilation mingle in a cocktail of horrors you won’t soon forget.
Mixing the elements of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, and sprinkling in some Quentin Tarantino fun, you arrive at the mind-blowing lunacy and terror of Japanese director Takeshi Miike’s masterpiece of the eerily absurd, Gozu. Gozu will disturb you. Be forewarned. You have never seen, nor will you ever likely see again, images that you will see here. A bizarre trip into an insane world awaits you. Venture forth with courage.
A modern-day (and vastly overlooked) treasure of Halloween delights is an anthology film from Michael Daugherty, each story devilishly woven together. The film is Trick ’r Treat and it has easily become one of my favorite Halloween films of all time. Every detail is so beautiful and horrifically rendered on screen, it is a visual and storytelling pleasure. Fun is bursting off the screen from Fade In. You simply must check it out.
Strip Nude for Your Killer. Yes. That is the title. An Italian Giallo masterpiece, this is plain and simple—pure trashy fun. Horrible special effects, cheesy dialogue and acting. But let me tell you about the sleaze and badassness dripping off your screen. Best viewed a few drinks in, Strip Nude for Your Killer should cap off a movie marathon.
House of a Thousand Corpses is director Rob Zombie’s directorial debut. Many people wish he’d stayed with his singing. Many others wish he never had that career either. But Rob, god bless him, is a true horror fan first. The man knows his genre and blasts us with machine-gun fury all sorts of startling images. This film is a mess, but oh what a fun mess it is. By the time you enter Doctor Satan’s lair, your breath will have been stolen, stabbed, shot, shredded, caned, raped, hung, drowned, and then the stabbed again for shits and giggles.
To round out your tour of the macabre, I offer you these deliciously decadent deathly delights from decades ago:
The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919) is a silent film classic with some of the most beautiful and unsettling set design in film history. A nightmare voyage into insanity itself, the good Doctor will creep into your soul and lay eggs there.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) is another silent film gem. My favorite version of the Jekyll and Hyde canon, John Barrymore does more with his face than any CGI creation could ever do. He scares the living shit out of you. By far the creepiest translation of the classic novel, it is a requisite movie screening for any fan of horror.
M. A simple title for a sensational and incredibly disturbing serial-killer film by the brilliant German filmmaker Fritz Lang. Peter Lorre stars as the tormented child killer who is hunted down by the people of the village and made to stand trial in their unholy court. Lorre has never been creepier with his trademark voice, and this role has stood the test of time as one of the great serial-killer performances in film history.
Finally we arrive at one mainstream classic. One that slides into place because of its sheer awesomeness. The effect it had on the horror world echoes even today long after its sub-genre has been slaughtered. John Carpenter’s Halloween is far more than a slasher flick. Though it has been wrongly labeled as such over the years. In fact there is very little blood in the film. Just a splash or two here and there. Carpenter created a sense of atmosphere, suspense, and dread that has you dancing on the edge of your seat, as you’re drawn further into the madness, never quite sure when or where the iconic Michael Myers will strike. Drawing much inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, Carpenter hooks the audience in with likable characters in a believable situation, a menacing stalker, a deathly observer haunting the small town.
This year let the devilish delights of Halloween wash over you with this eclectic mix of scare flicks, and be swept away in terror, mystery, and amazement.
B. Jason Roer has written and directed four short films, and written a few feature screenplays. His latest short, Faceless, played at many festivals around the world, winning awards including Most Disturbing Film at the International Horror and SciFi Film Festival sponsored by Lionsgate Films. He has also completed his first two novels, Zi and NannySpies. He is presently deep in the trenches revising Zi and writing a new feature screenplay. He also has a few other shiny tricks up his sleeves.
All this, and he still has time to break his hand and ribs snowboarding, be a stay-at-home dad to amazing 4-year-old Jaden, and get Sting to play a role in one of his films!
Visit Jason online at bjasonroer.com.
Follow @jasonroer on Twitter.