Monday, October 5, 2020

24 Hours of Movies: Halloween! Part II

by Patrick Bromley

Another marathon to celebrate the best holiday of the year!

A few years back, I programmed 24 hours of movies to celebrate Halloween. It being October, I thought it seemed right to program a second round, though I'll admit that this marathon was a little bit harder than the last one because I used a lot of the best titles the first time around. Hopefully there are still enough good movies leftover to do another 24 hours! Grab yourself a Monster and pour yourself a bowl of Count Chocula, because we're in this for the long haul.

10 am - Lady in White (1988, dir. Frank LaLoggia)

Let's kick things off with a childhood favorite of mine, one we showed to our own kids last October and found to be a big hit. Writer/director Frank LaLoggia's deeply personal ghost story is a perfect gateway horror movie for young kids (minus the child murder, of course) in that it's spooky but not too scary and is told from the perspective of a child. It also offers great Halloween atmosphere, making it a perfect way to start our marathon. I'm surprised I didn't program this the first time around.

Noon - I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957, dir. Gene Fowler, Jr.)

While the whole movie isn't set on Halloween, the holiday does play a major part in this teen wolf classic that has, for some reason, never been readily available on DVD or Blu-ray. As a kid, I was obsessed with the werewolf makeup and missed out on all the metaphorical stuff the movie was trying to say about teenage hormones. Little House on the Prairie's Michael Landon stars as a troubled young man sent to a therapist whose techniques trigger lycanthropy, making this maybe the only time in cinematic history in which hypnotism makes someone a werewolf. It's been years since I last saw it, so I have no idea how well it will hold up. Marathons like this are perfect for just that scenario: if it's great, hey, nice surprise, and if it isn't, well, we've got at least 10 more movies to wash out the taste.

1:30 pm - Ernest Scared Stupid (1991, dir. John R. Cherry)

We'll do one more kid -friendly one before we transition into the movie 'adult' choices for our second Halloween marathon. I only saw this for the first time a few years ago (I know it's beloved by some) and found it to be on par with most Ernest movies, which is to say that it's cute and likable if not very funny. It does have good Halloween energy, though, and the creature work by the Chiodos is fun as usual. You could do a lot worse.

3 pm - Murder Party (2007, dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

Jeremy Saulnier's (Green Room) debut feature is a great horror comedy about a sadsack guy who finds an invitation to a "Murder Party" on Halloween night and decides to attend, only to discover it really is a Murder Party hosted by a bunch of pretentious art students (including Saulnier regular Macon Blair among them). Every cast member is really funny, in particular Chris Sharp as the deadpan lead, and the movie's commentary on the art world is just as sharp today as it was in 2007. The movie is a sneaky gem.

4:30 pm - Trick or Treat (1986, dir. Charles Martin Smith)

Terry the Toad directs Skippy from Family Ties in one of the all-time great Heavy Metal horror movies about a dead singer who returns from the grave when one of his songs is played backwards. Most of the movie, including the climactic concert sequence in which dozens of teens are vanquished by bolts of metal fury, takes place on Halloween. This is a terrific slice of '80s horror that, like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, is for some reason not widely available except on a not-great import Blu-ray from Germany.

6:30 pm - Donnie Darko (2001, dir. Richard Kelly)

It makes sense to program one of the most mainstream films in our lineup into the primetime slot. Donnie Darko has a good fall vibe overall, but its the climax set on Halloween night that makes it deserving of inclusion in our marathon. What started as a cult movie has become a movie that everyone loves, so there's no real need to go into what it's about or why it's great. We'll be watching the theatrical cut, as it's superior to the overly explanatory director's cut released a few years later. It's always disappointing to discover that filmmakers don't know what makes their movies work.

8:30 pm - Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988, dir. Dwight H. Little)

Last time I did a Halloween marathon, I programmed the original Halloween into the lineup because even though it seems too obvious, a marathon of Halloween movies without it just seems incomplete. Since I've got a little more freedom this time around, I'm going to program my personal favorite of the Halloween franchise, which ought to come as no surprise to anyone who reads this website with any regularity. I love the characters more than in any of the other movies. I love the direction by Dwight H. Little (you my boy). I love the Fall atmosphere. I love Alan Howarth's score. If I'm going to watch one Halloween movie, it's usually this one.

10 pm - Gravy (2015, dir. James Roday Rodriguez)

Psych's James Roday Rodriguez co-writes and directs this horror comedy about a group of cannibals who hold the staff of a Mexican restaurant hostage on Halloween night and start eating them one by one. Though a little manic to start, the movie eventually finds its rhythm and works more often than not, bolstered by a strong cast that includes Jimmi Simpson, Michael Weston, Gabourey Sidibe, and Sutton Foster in the lead. I wondered if I liked this movie just because I like Psych so much, but I saw James Roday Rodriguez's second feature and, no, it's just that Gravy is good.

Midnight - House of 1,000 Corpses (2003, dir. Rob Zombie)
We're going to try a little experiment with the overnight section of our marathon, one that's going to rub some people the wrong way. We start with Rob Zombie's debut feature, House of 1,000 Corpses, a wild and colorful horror film in the tradition of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. It's set on Halloween, because most of Rob Zombie's filmography is. This is a movie that has found an audience over the last 17 years, but one of my very few claims to fame is that Erika and I fell it in love with it from the first time we saw it theatrically in 2003. It's a great midnight movie.

1:30 am - Halloween II (2009, dir. Rob Zombie)
See where we're going with this yet? Another film that has had its reputation restored in the decade since its release, Rob Zombie's sequel to his Halloween remake carves its own path -- literally -- to become something brutal, beautiful, and sad. A lot of people gave credit to Halloween (2018) for doing things that I would argue this movie did first and better. It's a bummer of a movie and not the usual kind of crazy fun I like to program overnight, but it fits best as the middle chapter of this experiment.

3:30 am - 31 (2016, dir. Rob Zombie)
Let's conclude our Rob Zombie triple feature with this, my least favorite of his movies, in which a group of people are captured on Halloween night and hunted for sport. Despite not really loving the film, it's one I find super watchable; I guess I'm a big enough fan of Zombie's aesthetics and his casts and his direction that I can enjoy him even when he's on autopilot. I think this will play well at this time of the night in that it will wake us up and we'll be more forgiving of its flaws. I'm actually excited to revisit it under these conditions.

5:30 am - The Barn (2016, dir. Justin M. Seaman)
This is exactly the kind of movie that benefits from being programmed into a marathon, as it doesn't totally work on its own but is just good enough to fit in with 11 or 12 other movies. The monsters are cool and the Halloween vibe is pretty great, making it a nice way to cap off the overnight portion of our marathon.

7 am - The Halloween Tree (1993, dir. Mario Piluso)
I've never seen this '90s adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel. I didn't even know it existed before I started doing a little digging for this marathon. But it's narrated by Ray Bradbury and has Leonard Nimoy doing a voice, so it's worth showing. Plus, I love the idea of doing some early morning cartoons. It's something I'm hoping to incorporate into the real 24-hour marathon Erika and I are going to do next weekend. Has anyone seen this? Can you vouch for it? Does Cartoon Network still show it?

7 am - Candy Corn (2019, dir. Josh Hasty)
Like I said, a lot of the good choices were taken the first time around. This one is an ok-to-decent movie that plays better during the Halloween season. It's a pretty standard revenge tale about a bullied teenager who is accidentally murdered, so a carnival worker by the name of Dr. Death (played by Pancho Moler of 3 From Hell) resurrects him as a monster of vengeance. The structure of the movie is repetitive, but it's got good Fall atmosphere and a nostalgia grab cast that includes Courtney Gains, Tony Todd, and P.J. Soles. As a second to last feature, we could do worse.

8:30 am - Hell Fest (2018, dir. Gregory Plotkin)
Let's close things out with an Adam Riske favorite and a movie I'm due to revisit this October. This subgenre of horror has become very popular in the last few years: the extreme haunt that's actually deadly. Hell Fest does it with more fun than most. It's got the right color and energy to get us across the finish line and end our 24 hours with a bloody bang.

Happy #ScaryMovieMonth, everyone!


  1. The Halloween Tree is one I have to watch every Halloween, it was a staple of my childhood. It's very much a product of its time, being an early 90's children's cartoon. However, I think that it's very special for its somewhat dark themes, and of course Ray Bradbury's screenplay and narration. If you like to make sugar skulls, this movie's a great time to break them out too.

    1. I totally endorse the Halloween Tree too. Bradbury rocks! I usually watch this a few times a year, mostly when I need to scratch that autumn/halloween itch.

  2. Thanks for the Lady In White recommendation. My kids are just a year or two older than yours, but are very resistant to watching anything horror at all ie. the deepest they've gone is Goosebumps (2015). And I'm trying to be careful to not plunge them in the deep end too soon. I had never heard of Lady In White, but it looks like it'll fit the bill perfectly. (Bonus, it's new to me as well)

  3. This is awesome, I would love to sit through this! Very happy to see the marathon closing with HELL FEST, and this might be the final push I needed to finally check out CANDY CORN. Honestly, I'll watch anything with Halloween atmosphere.

    1. CANDY CORN is not great, but the atmosphere is pretty good if I remember. It's fairly cheap on Prime (or free if you have Showtime).

  4. Another great list, and as usual there's flicks I ain't ever heard of. I would substitute Wolfcop for 31 personally, just because three Zombie's in a row is too much for me. Actually Lords Of Salem maybe. Hmmmmmm...