Staci’s Top Five Frightful Flicks to Watch on Halloween Night
Choosing from fright fare of 2018 was easy—it’s a great year for horror fans!—narrowing it down to just five wasn’t quite as simple. So, I decided to make a mishmash of theatrical and at-home goodies including outright slasher horror, kid-friendly spooky, and binge-worthy series.
Halloween / H40
Halloween is a gory throwback to eras gone by, replete with horror, suspense, and action. There is never a dull moment, nor are there any lives spared. It’s brutal, yet beautiful—the cinematography by Michael Simmonds makes the most of the rich fall colors and deep midnight shadows, while John and son Cody Carpenter’s synth score adds deliciously to the tension. Director David Gordon Green keeps things moving right along with never a dull moment and even throws in a bit of admirably unforced comic relief.
Unless you’re a serious horror fan, you may not realize that while this flick is simply called Halloween, it is, in fact, a follow-up and not remake—and one that disregards all of the franchise’s offerings in-between. That’s one of the things that makes it so smart and so bold: it picks up 40 years from the ending of the first, making for a slick sequel indeed. If you’re looking for some retro-style scares, you admire kickass women, and you want a bit of gore with your trick-or-treat, then definitely see Halloween on the big screen. Now playing in theaters.
Into the Darkness: The Body
The Body boasts wild, whacky and wonderful concept—the tale follows a high-class hitman known as Wilkes (Tom Bateman) who does his best work on All Hallows Eve. It’s the perfect cover: He can drag a blood body from the killing floor to its makeshift resting place without anyone even raising an eyebrow. Everyone thinks the wrapped-in-plastic stiff is just a prop until Wilkes is waylaid by a trio of party-animals who insist he stops in “for just one drink.” Little do they know, they are signing their own death warrants.
While we’ve seen this setup before, I must say it’s seldom been pulled off with such brio and charm. The clichés and horror tropes are delightfully exploited and celebrated rather than used and abused. What’s more, the writing—from dialogue to plot-twists—is devilishly clever. The Body is not only a sold horror flick, but it’s also a great comedy too. On Hulu now.
Castle Rock is not a very nice place to live. Or die, for that matter. In the opening moments of this scary new series based on Stephen King’s stories (all of them!), Shawshank Prison warden Dale Lacey (Terry O’Quinn) kisses his wife goodbye one morning, starts up the car and heads out. But instead of going to work, he drives deep into the Maine woods. I won’t spoil what happens next, but let’s just say he’ll be playing hooky for all eternity. What secrets did the respected warden leave behind?
Insidiously nestled and woven into the walls of his home and behind the bars of the prison, Lacey’s legacy unfolds. Using the same plot device as Desperate Housewives, Castle Rock’s narrator is dead… but not forgotten. All episodes on Hulu now.
The Woman in White
The Woman in White is an eerie five-part series based on the classic Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins and has been made into films a couple of times—here, it gets the slow-burn treatment which is as it should be. The tale begins when Walter Hartright, a young drawing master, encounters a spectral lady dressed all in white on a moonlit night while on Hampstead Heath. After offering his assistance to the strange woman, he is shocked to discover that she has just escaped from a nearby insane asylum. The encounter draws him into a web of mystery and deception that transforms his life forever.
It’s a tale misdirection and multiple plot twists, with a tinge of romance, mystery, and suspense—not to mention topical, as it touches on the oppression of women. Now, that’s scary! On PBS Masterpiece.
The House With a Clock in its Walls
If you’re a tad squeamish but you still want a few frights, then The House With a Clock in its Walls is for you. While the choice of Eli Roth—known for his hard-R horror movies—as the director might seem like an odd one, he actually is a self-proclaimed kid at heart who loves children’s movies from eras gone by. Many of his previous films have included a dose of humor and a sense of the absurd.
In the tradition of Amblin classics—like such films as Gremlins and The Goonies – where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) and necromancing neighbor named Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) show 10-year-old orphan Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) what it’s like to live in a house that ticks. Based on The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a 1973 juvenile mystery novel written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, the story follows our young hero after he goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. He’s not impressed with his new digs at first, but soon New Zebedee, Michigan’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead. Whoops! Hate when that happens. In theaters now.