Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our five favorite Halloween movies -- whoops! Six!

Halloween is a fun time of year for me. I love cute little carved pumpkins, scarecrows, sweet Linus and his blanket and chubby little preschool girls dressed up like witchies, not to mention babies in bumblebee costumes. I love Victorian Halloween art and trick-or-treaters at the door and my favorite childhood book, Old Black Witch, which I made my mom read to me night after night after night, almost as many times as Where the Wild Things Are and Katie the Kitten.

When the girls were little, we had so much fun devising costumes for them to go trick-or-treating in -- we never did scary costumes -- and I really enjoyed greeting little kids dressed up like Teletubbies and Disney princesses at the front door - I was always one of those people who gave the kids a whole handful of candy, not just one little piece. And OH THE MEMORIES of trick-or-treating in my neighborhood growing up, where Pat and I both had these tall plastic pumpkins to collect candy in. The neighborhood was so big and the neighbors were so generous that we'd have to stagger home halfway through the evening to empty our pumpkins out because they got too heavy to carry. That also gave Mom and Dad a chance to "go through the candy," which we all know is Parental Code for "select the choicest pieces and hide them from the kids, to be enjoyed after they go to bed."

The girls are too old for trick-or-treating now, of course, and our neighborhood never seems to have many trick-or-treaters, which is a great disappointment to me. So help soothe my sorrow, we've collected some Halloween movies that we enjoy watching every year, and I thought I'd post a list of them here. Maybe your family likes the same ones? Or maybe you could suggest a movie that you enjoy that you think we'd like too.

All of these, by the way, are family movies. We don't go in for the scary stuff because I have enough trouble sleeping as it is and once when some tree branches were scraping against the side of the house by our bedroom one windy October night and it sounded like skeletal fingers groping their way toward to window to slam it open and come in and GET ME, I exasperated my husband by waking him up and asking him if he'd mind going outside with the ladder and climbing up to trim that tree back before I turned into a gibbering idiot. He responded by saying grumpily that I already was a gibbering idiot and trimming back tree branches in the middle of the night wasn't going to change a thing. Besides, he added pensively, it was a full moon and the werewolves would be out.

I think he said that just to toy with me.

Anyway, here's my little list, in no particular order.

Halloween Movies We Love

1. The Midnight Hour - This movie, which stars Peter DeLuise (Dom's son), Shari Belafonte and Levar Burton, is a 1980s made-for-TV film that is about both zombies and vampires who come back from the dead to terrorize the people of Pitchford Cove due to a Halloween prankish spell worked by some wacky teenage troublemakers. They didn't think anything would really happen, you know; it was just a goof. But in the process, just about everybody in the place becomes either a vampire or a zombie and it's all up to Phil (Peter DeLuise, with an awesome Rick Springfield haircut) and his ghostly cheerleader friend Sandy to reverse the spell and return Pitchford Cove to normal. This movie is silly and cheesy, but it's supposed to be. You aren't to take it seriously, except maybe the part where Sandy, who has met Phil just a few hours before, decides to put the moves on him, which I told the girls was a bit fast, especially for someone who'd been dead for thirty years. Proof yet again that Fats Domino was finding more than the blueberries to be thrilling out on that hill.

2. The Corpse Bride - This is a Tim Burton special, the same kind of stop-motion animation that was such a success in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The Corpse Bride is a very slightly eerie re-telling of a Russian folk tale about a young man, Victor, who inadvertently finds himself married to a girl who is already dead, even though he was about to marry another with a pulse. The corpse bride is actually a very nice girl and she and Victor work to resolve their problem so that the bride's murder can be avenged and Victor can marry his true love. A creepily romantic story with clever songs and voices done by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, among other luminaries. Adorable!

3. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - I remember how terribly exciting it was when the night came along for this movie to be broadcast on television - everyone in my class at Riley Elementary School was all a-buzz with the fun of seeing Linus and Sally waiting it out in the Very Sincere Pumpkin Patch, Lucy in her witch mask, Pigpen in his dirty sheet, and poor hapless Charlie Brown in his sheet full of eye-holes. I got the same kind of thrill when this movie came out on DVD. This is one of the cutest movies ever, no matter what the season.

4. Hocus Pocus - This is a Disney delight starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three witchy sisters who are awakened by -- get this -- a prankish spell worked by some teenagers who didn't really think that anything would happen. Hmmm. There seem to be a lot of Halloween movies that operate on that premise. The three weird sisters are too funny, particularly when they can't find their brooms and have to fly around on vaccuum cleaners. This one is just the tiniest bit creepy, and instead of featuring a hormone-charged cheerleader, the teenagers are aided in reversing the bad spell by a ghost who has...turned into a cat? I know. I don't get it either. But it's a really fun movie.

5. Something Wicked This Way Comes - This is another Disney movie, based on the Ray Bradbury book by the same name. Ray himself wrote the screenplay, so the movie sticks to the book -- which is everything that is awesome -- in a very satisfying way for those of us who think what's TRULY FRIGHTENING IN THIS WORLD is the film adaptation of Gone With the Wind, the suckiest movie ever. In my humble opinion. Anyway. Set in the 1930s, SWTWC features an evil carnival which comes harmlessly to a picture-perfect hamlet named Greentown. Dark's Pandemonium Carnival features the usual games and sideshows, but there's, well, a darker side: The proprietor, Mr. Dark, who is played by the devilishly handsome Jonathan Pryce, intends to give the people of Greentown their deepest the expense of their immortal souls. It's up to two intrepid boys, Will Halloway (born on All Saints Day) and his best friend and blood brother, Jim Nightshade (born on Halloween) and Will's dad, Charles (Jason Robards), to stop Mr. Dark from damning the town to eternal darkness. This is a classic tale of good versus evil, of the young learning the wisdom the old, and the old taking courage from the young, and how hope can restore life and light to lives that are lived in the shadows. A beautiful, spooktacular Halloween classic.

6. The Haunted Mansion - And yet another Disney favorite, this one starring Eddie Murphy and that guy from The Princess Bride and no one else I've ever heard of before, I'm sorry to say. Eddie Murphy plays a husband and father who is also an aggressive realtor - he'll do anything to make a sale, including interrupting a family trip to the lake in order to stop by a piece of prime real estate that turns out to be a real fixer-upper. The plot is tolerably interesting, the special effects are really good, and Eddie gets in a lot of one-liners that will remind you of Donkey from Shrek, but that's not such a terrible thing. Cute stuff.

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