Halloween Watches

Some on-season movies I’ve watched in the last handful of Octobers:

An American Werewolf In London

I have this idea that the pioneering works of a genre, the ones known to really be It, are often also the funniest entries in said genre. For instance, The Third Man is as much a brilliant comedy as it is one of the preeminent film noirs. An American Werewolf In London fits that same model: it’s a classic gory horror flick with some game-changing makeup & practical effects, and also hilarious. It’s particularly deft at sending up both British and American culture, and many different types of British culture at that. I mean I’m not saying this is the 1980s horror version of Gosford Park, but maybe I’m saying this is the first step a monster movie would take if it were trying to be that.

Clue

Several years back, I spent a Halloween characterized by thundersnow (oh yes) holed up with some friends eating pumpkin butter on oatcakes and watching Clue. This was a really excellent night and I can recommend it. Clue, in case you are unfamiliar, is indeed a murder mystery movie based on the board game, and contains some of the peak comedic performances of our time. In an homage to the re-shuffled nature of the game, they filmed three different endings, scattering the A, B, and C versions of the film across the cinemas. Nowadays, if you rent it on DVD, you have your choice of picking an ending at random, or watching all three in a row. This second is obviously the best option.

Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps is a creature feature about menstruation turning you into society’s monster, aka the feminist Canadian werewolf bildungsroman B-movie of your dreams. There is as much aggressive confrontation of gender roles as there is aggressively mauling dudes to death. Here’s your plot: über morbid teen goth sisters hate everyone in their dumb town, then one of them gets her first period and is immediately bitten by a werewolf. Here’s your actual tag-line: “They don’t call it the curse for nothing.”

Interview With the Vampire

I knew going in that Bryan Fuller loves this story, and that comparisons have been made between it and his Hannibal series, often by him, but I was unprepared for this being exactly the Murder Fam vampire AU. I think I could describe both with the same elaborate sentence, let’s do it: an arch, sumptuous danse macabre of eroticized consumption, in which a charming lonely monster who fancies himself a death-dealing god falls in love with a beautiful lonely man who feels too deeply, only to become exquisitely frustrated by his beloved’s refusal to accept his own murderous nature in favor of wracking himself with guilt, and so creates a monster daughter for them to raise together — a plan which goes spectacularly, brutally wrong. Ta-da, pretzels is the same. Anyhow they’re both fabulous.

Over the Garden Wall

Over the Garden Wall is one of my favorite things ever. It’s 10-episode animated miniseries, but each episode is only about 10 minutes long, so it’s basically just a movie with chapters. It tells the story of two young brothers who are lost in some woods called The Unknown, because at its core, this is a meta-story about stories. Over the Garden Wall is interested in family and heroism and friendship and monsters and love, and how well we can still tell those stories today through old archetypes and new fairytales. It’s an incredibly smart and sincere little show, and honestly that would have been enough, but then they also did an absolutely beautiful job on every other element too. The art design, the voice actors, the original music, the jokes — all are so, so good. It’s a treat, a perfect Halloween treat.

Practical Magic

This would be a qualified sort of recommendation, because I think this movie has some of the oddest, clunkiest pacing I’ve ever seen. But while I don’t feel that they came together very well, I very much like the parts as parts! Gorgeous witch house: yes. Three generations of witch sisters: yes. 1990s witch fashion: yes. This might be one of those movies that’s best if you just have it on while you make caramel apples or something, I think it could be really nice for that.

Sleepy Hollow

I watched this last Halloween for Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, No. 1 reason. Perhaps this is why I find I cannot remotely recall the plot, but can recall desperately wishing to throw a glamorous old-fashioned Halloween party with this exact aesthetic. I think there are actually just two flavors my Halloween mood comes in — one is red-leafed American suburbia, and the other is the foggy, twisty, vaguely 19th-century thing going on here. Anyway, come for the #looks, stay for the #looks.

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