Add these sweet-but-scary genre numbers to your trick or treat bag.
By Rob Wieland
October 21, 2010
Chances are, if you are reading this site, you are a little too old to go from house to house picking up candy. Still, there are quite a few excellent films that mix sweet concepts with the spooky elements of Halloween. So pop one of these discs in to pass the time while handing out your candy, putting on your The Situation costume, or getting ready for a marathon session of Dead Rising 2 to commemorate the holiday
Clive Barker’s foray into the realm of urban legends features a memorable bad guy who blends Bloody Mary and The Killer With A Hook for A Hand. The story features a Lovecraftian academic protagonist doggedly pursuing the truth behind the legend through a real-life horror set: the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago. The film never quite comes together into a true horror classic, but some of the individual scares are still quite memorable. Look for an early appearance by Ted Raimi, playing a teenager connected to the first telling of the story.
A young autistic girl serves as the main character of this martial arts actioner. But instead of the ability to count cards like Rain Man or brush up against history like Forrest Gumpp, Zen absords martial arts moves from watching them. If the hard-hitting kung fu action scenes look familiar, it’s because the same duo of Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai made Ong Bak. The odd premise keeps the action in focus, as Zen punches and kicks her way through debtors to pay for her mom’s hospital bills. The movie ends in the classic Chan tradition: showing the dangers of staging fights even between trained professionals.
Hard Candy (2005)
The red hood in the DVD cover is no accident: this is the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. The question is, who is the wolf? Is the photographer a pedophile? Is the girl a psychopath? Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page turn in great performances in this psychological thriller that flips alliegances every few minutes. The tension unravels a little toward the end as the script commits to one of the duo becoming the definitive bad guy. But the ride up to that point is tense and slickly shot.
This black comedy never quite makes it out from under the shadows of killer high school predecessors like Heathers and Carrie, but the cast features a lot of young actresses who went on to solid careers, like Rose McGowan(Grindhouse), Judy Greer (Arrested Development) and Julie Benz (Dexter).
The Stuff (1985)
Genre films can get away with sneaking a message in. Dawn of the Dead was Romero’s commentary on commercialism and the rise of American excess. The Stuff riffs on Romero’s commentary through horror and blends in the monster from The Blob. One might think gallons of yogurt would not make an effective monster, but the junk food satire works and offers something to thinlk about during the next trip to the grocery store. And the film has a tag line right out of the Crypt-Keeper’s mouth: “Are you eating it...or is it eating you?”
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Part of the appeal of this musical is the fairy-tale heart of darkness that exists underneath all the bright colors and showtunes. Terrible things happen to the children, right out of Grimm's handbook. Grown-ups get distracted by the songs and kids get to wickedly chuckle as--one by one--the bad kids get their just desserts. Plus, if the famous tunnel sequence doesn’t freak you out, you are a robot.
Sugar Hill (1974)
Don’t confuse this with the Wesley Snipes new jack gangster joint from the mid 90’s. This flick from the studio behind Blacula mixes the chocolate of zombies and peanut butter of blaxploitation into a gooey mix of revenge and a chance to root for the bad guy. The titular character uses some classic voodoo zombies raised by Baron Samedi to take out the white gangsters that killed her lover.
This anthology horror film works in the style of Creepshow, weaving together multiple spooky stories. A kid in a pint-sized costume that may or may not be more than he seems and enlists the talents of some great character actors to show us what happens when you don’t follow the rules of Halloween. The best story of the bunch involves a group of kids who might just be a little too old to be going out for candy and their run in with a local legend involving a school bus full of kids and a rock quarry. Anna Paquin appears in a story that might explain why she signed up for True Blood.
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