Five Scary Films To Watch This Halloween
Our film specialist, Gerard Elson, picks out five great DVDs to watch this Halloween.
Scripted by geek doyen Joss Whedon, this is a gleeful subversion of every hackneyed trope in the horror movie handbook, made electric by its creator’s knack for pithy, pop-culture-savvy dialogue and wicked character-based gags. By its apocalyptic end, this ultimately offers no less than an origin story for every horror movie, ever – no mean feat!
Jessica Lange stars in this television horror-drama that’s been a talking-point hit of the past year. Set in the present day, this first season follows the Harmon family, who move into a restored mansion, unaware the old house is haunted by its previous occupants. I’ve not yet seen this, so I’m looking forward to shutting myself in with the DVD this Samhain.
Halloween and Hammer go hand-in-hand, and with this new adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel, the revivified studio has delivered a perfect All Hallow’s Eve creep-fest.
Daniel Radcliffe is the logic-minded young lawyer charged with securing the paperwork to sell Eel Marsh House, the remote manor of a reclusive, recently deceased widow. As the locus of much local hearsay, the decrepit old mansion is said to accommodate an unquiet spirit. When night falls and eerie noises start to resonate out on the moors, Radcliffe’s character soon finds his conviction in rationality sorely tested.
His casting—as a man not only trying to elude the painful ghosts of his past, but as the film’s quite literally haunted protagonist—adds an extra resonance to this satisfying spook story; Harry Potter’s shadow looms long over his first grown-up role since farewelling Hogwarts forever, leaving Radcliffe to shoulder the film on his own merit. Which he does, with aplomb.
For their eighth collaboration, Burton and Depp resurrect Dan Curtis’ cult Gothic soap opera as a potpourri of mild horror, high comedy, sex japes, melodrama and, uh, Alice Cooper; think Encino Man via Dracula A.D. 1972. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, an affluent Georgian cad damned to vampirism after crossing the jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green).
Two centuries after being buried undead, he’s exhumed into the chintzy-glam world of Collinsport, Maine, 1972. Here, he finds his once noble lineage dwindled, the grand family estate languishing in near ruin, and Angelique presiding over the town.
Thanks to great performances (Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller and Helena Bonham Carter co-star) and Burton’s typically eye-popping design, this is archly silly, off-kilter fun – never more so than when Depp is relishing his prissy fiend’s archaic locution (“Cleanse me, miscreant!”) or trading caustic jabs with a feverishly va-va-vooming Green.
Every spooky Halloween soiree needs a ghoulish host, and who better than the Hostess with the Mostess, the Madonna of the Macabre, Elvira? Her first feature outing has been freshly disinterred for this all-new DVD reissue. For those who prefer their morbidity with an ample heaping of humour, this is the living end.
Gerard Elson works as a bookseller at Readings St Kilda.