american horror story cinematography

10 Movies You Should Watch This Halloween 2017

October is here, and now is the time to get into the Halloween spirit! Instead of the traditional “best of” Halloween movie list (don’t need to mention yet again how much I love The Shining, the first two Halloween films, and The Exorcist), here are a list of 10 movies (in release date order) that may not be as well known or not usually listed among the upper echelon of scary movies but perfect for this 2017 Halloween season and worth a look.

Eraserhead (1977)

“In Heaven everything is fine…”

The spectacular new season of Twin Peaks just came to an end last month, so this Halloween would be the perfect time to take a look back at David Lynch’s brilliant feature film debut on its 40th anniversary.  The film create a sense of total dread and darkness in its beautiful black-and-white cinematography, eerie sound design, and well-acted performances. It is pure horror!  The film has inspired a significant number filmmakers over the years, including Stanley Kubrick while he worked on The Shining. It may be one of the most important movies ever made!


Phantasm (1979)

“Boooy!”

This cult-classic horror film was remastered in HD this past year (with the help of JJ Abrams) so this Halloween would be the first time to experience the film in its full visual glory.  I love the creepy music, eerie sets, and low-fi feel of the film; feels like being in a haunted house. Really high quality for such a low budget and some really good scares, especially Angus Scrimm as the menacing Tall Man. If you like movies such as Stranger Things, Super 8, and the Halloween series you will love Phantasm!


Vincent (1982)

“Vincent is nice when his aunt comes to see him, but imagines dipping her in wax for his wax museum.”

This early Tim Burton stop-motion short film is a masterpiece! Vincent Price provides the narration with great inflection.  The animation is top-notch and some of the best stop-motion work ever; love the dark visuals and music.  At some points it feels like we are getting a glimpse at Tim Burton’s childhood.  The short celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, and its influence shows in the many stop-motion films that have been released since (i.e. Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie). It’s almost as if all stop-motion animated films have to be horror-themed and this one was the first.


Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

“Happy, happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! Happy, happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock!”

Most overlook this film and pass on it as “the one without Michael Myers,” but Season of the Witch is actually a great horror film in its own respect. John Carpenter’s idea of having a different Halloween-themed story with each sequel while maintaining some of the same crew and cast (albeit in different roles) was way ahead of its time and now seems to be commonplace with American Horror Story changing its story and characters every year.  I love the cinematography, special effects, scary soundtrack, especially the dark “Silver Shamrock” commercial song.  The movie also celebrates its 35th anniversary this Halloween.  Definitely worth another look because it is actually a good horror movie, especially if one doesn’t think of it as a Halloween sequel.


Return to Oz (1985)

“There’s no place like home!”

Many see this movie as the weird Wizard of Oz sequel. However, it stands on its own as a truly unique fantasy adventure film. It is actually quite dark in parts; more in the likes of The Neverending Story or The Dark Crystal than the 1939 original.  This movie is great for Halloween with the fall setting, the Halloween visuals (i.e. Jack Pumpkinhead, the thousand-head wicked witch Mombi), and the spooky interpretation of Oz.


Stephen King’s It (1990)

“They ALL float down here. When you’re down here with us, you’ll float too!”

If you like the new IT adaptation (or if you don’t), definitely check out the 1990 original. The new film has more impressive special effects and is a better movie overall, but the 1990 miniseries holds a special nostalgic place in my heart and is much scarier thanks mostly to Tim Curry’s terrifying performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. This film also would make a great introduction to the horror genre to younger viewers because it scary without the excessive gore or gratuitous sex found in many horror films.


Halloweentown (1998)

“Being normal is vastly overrated.”

With the passing of star Debbie Reynolds this past December, this Halloween is the perfect time to pay tribute to the late actress by watching one of her best films.  My siblings and I watched this film and its sequels (the 2nd one is good too, 3rd and 4th are not so much) every Halloween at our grandparents’ house. Not really scary as much as it is a fun Halloween movie. I love the decorative set designs of the town (it’s a place I would love to visit if it were real) and the cool costumes used for all the monster characters who live in Halloweentown. It’s a movie all ages can enjoy!


The Sixth Sense (1999)

“I see dead people.”

With writer-director M. Night Shyamalan making a successful career comeback earlier this year with Split, this Halloween is the perfect time to take a look back at the film that made him a celebrity filmmaker. The atmosphere and performances are incredible!  I used to watch this film for the horror elements as a kid and in my teen year, but now as an adult, I see this more as a film about love and relationships.  There are some scenes that really hit me deeply on an emotional level, especially in the scene where Cole tells his mom how much her mother really loved her and the final scene with Malcolm and his wife.  One watching this movie can see why Shyamalan was at one point thought to be the next Spielberg.


Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)

“Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, the absence of light.  These are the eyes of a psychopath.”

This Halloween marks the 10th anniversary of Rob Zombie’s Halloween film (my dad and I saw it theaters on opening day when I was a high school freshman). It is quite possibly the best horror film of the past 15 years! Though not as much of classic or as scary as the 1978 original, the 2007 film stands above other horror remakes (i.e. Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Fog, Prom Night, Psycho, Amityville Horror) and succeeds by being its own thing and not trying to be a carbon copy of the original.  I especially like the performances including Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis and Daeg Faerch as young Michael Myers.  Also some really great cinematography and use of colors and overall pacing that gives the story a grand scope.  Plus it has a killer soundtrack featuring awesome songs like “God of Thunder” by KISS, “Baby, I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton, and “Love Hurts” by Nazareth.


Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

“Always check your candy.”

Good elements of dark comedy are sprinkled throughout this colorful horror anthology. I like how the film is several Halloween-themed shorts that are all tied together.  It’s the rare horror film that is both fun and scary!  Also check out writer-director Michael Dougherty’s short animated precursor “Season’s Greetings,” really retro and creative!



Happy Halloween!  By the way, as an added treat, here is a picture from my animated Halloween short in post-production called “Halloween Cat.”
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All the shots from a dialogue scene - AHS season 3 episode 8

notes:

- the two establishing shots are canted and centered, both on very wide lenses (10mm or 15mm probably)

- assuming the 180 line is between Naan and Cordelia, the line is jumped between the singles of Madison and Zoey. Very interesting and jarring, and fitting for the scene.

- I also love the sunlight through the shutters