Film Reviews, News & Competitions



Fright Night Fun – Ten Treats


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Posted October 30, 2013 by


Hallowe’en is almost upon us once more … and what better way to celebrate than by watching a scary movie with friends? Thankfully, there are plenty of horror movies out there with enough sense of fun and charm to pep up any Fright Night party.  To mark the release of Creepshow on Blu-Ray, Ed Boff picks out ten top titles for the perfect All Hallow’s Eve treat …

Bride Of Frankenstein
From the start of horror movies, filmmakers tried mixing frights with laughs.  Frankenstein director James Whale did so with Bride Of Frankenstein and along the way, created one of the first true “camp” comedies.  It balances its scares and the monster’s (Boris Karloff) tragic story with colourful characterisation and performances.  An example would be the villain, Dr. Praetorius (Ernest Thesinger); a ruthless mad scientist manipulating the monster as his pawn, but a charming, jolly soul nonetheless.  The mix of chills, action, laughs and a real melancholy make this an emotional rollercoaster.  Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein are both comedy classics but they owe a big debt to Whale’s vision.

House On Haunted Hill
Horror was once considered kids stuff to a degree and one director who understood that was William CastleHouse On Haunted Hill was one of his attempts to make the cinema a funhouse by having a ludicrous gimmick.   In this case it was “Emergo”, where during the climax of the movie, a twelve-foot tall foam rubber skeleton would be flung over the audience’s heads.  You obviously can’t have that experience watching it on DVD these days, but the film still has a lot of innocent, goofy charm to it.  It has every silly haunted house cliché, an intriguing mystery storyline, and Vincent Price giving it his all, making this perfect spookshow fare.  Speaking of Vinnie …

The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Another Price classic, this earns a spot on the list for sheer style, having a rather unique art-deco aesthetic.  Price plays the titular character, bumping off the surgical team who failed to save his wife (Caroline Munro; no wonder he’s so mad at them.)  All the murders are based on the Ten Plagues of Egypt… well a pretty loose adaptation of them.  It leads to some ingenious set pieces, like how he manages to do one based on the plague of frogs.  There was a sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, but a better follow-up is the Shakespearian themed Theatre Of Blood.  Both Phibes and Theatre are getting shiny new Blu-ray versions next year from Arrow, so keep an eye out for those.

House (Hausu)
Not to be confused with the 1986 American horror comedy, this House is a slice of seventies Japanese weirdness.  Director Nobuhiko Obayashi got a lot of ideas for this from his young daughter’s dreams, which would explain a lot about the plot.  It’s a hallucinatory mess of a film that’s an experience like no other, as a group of six teenage girls go to an elderly aunt’s house, only to discover it’s actually some sort of monster.  This leads to various scenes of all the furniture trying to devour them, shot in a cartoonish style with some of the cheesiest effects ever.  There’s honest to God nothing else like this one, which may or may not be a good thing.

Night Of The Creeps/The Monster Squad
A pair of movies directed by Fred Dekker, both of which pay tribute to earlier ages of horror while updating them for the eighties.  Night Of the Creeps deals with an outbreak of alien parasites on the campus of a college campus.  This is a blast due to the large variety of B-movie sights, in-joke overload and good characters.  Plus Tom Atkins is just plain badass.  The Monster Squad, co-written by future Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3 writer Shane Black is a lot like The Goonies.  Only with the addition of modern, Stan Winston takes on all the classic Universal Monsters; Dracula, the Gill Man, the Mummy, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster.  Does this even need an explanation for why it’s on here?

Dawn Of The Dead
There are plenty of comedy zombie movies that could be on here; Shaun Of The Dead, Zombieland, Cockneys Vs. Zombies, Evil Dead II etc.  However, looking back at one of the definitive titles, Dawn Of The Dead, you may be surprised to discover it’s pretty funny too.  Whereas Night Of The Living Dead was a black & white Universal style nightmare, Dawn becomes almost a four colour comic adventure once it reaches the shopping mall.  There are still grim moments, like the opening, but the fun the makers of this film had is felt by the viewer too.  Besides, how can you not love something that includes a zombie custard pie fight set to mall muzack?

The Frighteners
Before taking on Tolkien, Peter Jackson was known for excessively gory comedies, like Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles.  This one’s sort of a midpoint between his horror roots and the Hollywood years; a good place to start if you’re not ready for the sheer blood levels of Braindead.  This ghost story stars Michael J. Fox, but it’s Jeffrey Combs, best known for playing Herbert West, Re-Animator, who steals the show as an unhinged FBI agent.  Think what you’d get if Fox Mulder was even more insanely paranoid.  Or maybe what Dale Cooper would be like after the climax of Twin Peaks.  Either way, his performance is the icing on the cake of this high-energy fright flick.

In the last few years there have been a few comedies based on the “Spam-in-a-Cabin” horror format.  The Cabin In The Woods, Tucker & Dale Versus Evil, You’re Next have all taken a pretty grim subgenre in amusing new directions.  Before those though was Severance, which can best be summed up as The Office vs. The Hills Have Eyes.  This one earns points for the fact the cast are, although sometimes sitcom-style dim, smarter than the average horror movie character.  In fact this features one heroine doing the single most sensible thing anyone in a slasher movie has ever done (you’ll know it when you see it).  Even Danny Dyer isn’t bad in this; how many films can you say that about?

Trick ‘r Treat
Halloween is a horror classic, but it doesn’t actually say much about the holiday it’s named after.  Trick ‘r Treat is all about exploring the most spooky time of year, and how we (well, America) celebrates it.  The old pagan beliefs, costumes, decorations, parties, jokes, trick or treating, campfire tales; all are at least touched upon in a selection of EC Comics style stories.  It’s a real shame this one didn’t get the full cinema release that was originally planned, but it’s spreading as a word-of-mouth title.  FEARnet has started having a yearly 24-hour looped marathon of the film, and that’s a good way to think of it; it’s Hallowe’en’s answer to A Christmas Story.

Edward Boff



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