Your Halloween Multi-Media Start-Up Kit
The Misfits Collection I and II
If the movie Night of the Living Dead were a rock band it would sound like the Misfits. This is low-budget horror punk -- the recordings are beyond lo-fi and the performances are scrappy to say the least, but all of this only enhances the splattershow effect. Underneath the barely-together musicianship and tape saturation, of course, are Glenn Danzig's genius songs: "Vampira," "Where Eagles Dare," Skulls," "I Turned Into a Martian." The list goes on and on. Untouchable shit.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins Voodoo Jive -- The Best of Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Way back in the 50's, before Alice Cooper, before Rob Zombie, before King Diamond, there was the mad, loveable lunatic Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Using skulls, snakes and shrunken heads as stage props, Hawkins belted macabre and hilarious bastard r&b classics like "I Put a Spell on You, "Little Demon" and "Alligator Wine." Most probably the first artist to emerge from a coffin onstage. Don't you wish you could say that?
Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe
Like The Misfits before him, this man understands that Halloween isn't just another day on the calendar, it is a full time attitude, a way of life. "Demoniod Phenomenon," "Living Dead Girl," "Dragula" -- they're all classics!
Various Artists Halloween Hootenanny
Speaking of Mr. Zombie, the "Creepshow Baby" himself lovingly compiled this batch of horror surf and psychobilly gems by bands like Rocket From the Crypt, Los Straitjackets and Reverend Horton Heat. I bought this CD out of curiosity for my Halloween party in '98 and it has become a seasonal favorite. Super fun and very well done.
Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
One glance at the album cover will tell you that this is scary music. Put the record on, and it opens like a Hammer flick -- thunder, rain, and a distant, tolling bell. Then...that riff. A terrifying, monolithic three note figure that could easily serve as the theme music to Satan's own coronation.
Sabbath's classic first album, a stark, low-budget affair, introduces the band by way of a series of blunt, bastardized-blues riffs, plodding rhythms and haunted, howling vocals that know no subtlety; the music makes its point by bludgeoning you senseless. Keep the lights on for this one.
Slayer Reign In Blood
If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were a rock band, it would sound like Slayer. This is 28 minutes of harrowing, relentless, terrifying death metal insanity. You will either worship this album or revile it. Me personally, I live for it.
Siouxsie and the Banshees Juju
The Banshees' fourth album is a roiling, shadowy masterpiece. "Spellbound," "Night Shift" and, of course, "Halloween" count among this album's many highlights. The closing "Voodoo Dolly," however, is about as intense as this band ever got. Chilling.
Type O Negative The Least Worst Of
If you hate Type O Negative then chances are you're not getting the joke. A sturdy sense of humor is essential to interpreting TON's ponderous goth metal (check the Addams Family quote in "Black No. 1"). Stay with them and you'll find that they're pretty great songwriters, too.
Mussorgsky A Night On Bald Mountain
This is on the flipside of Pictures at an Exhibition. I bought a vinyl copy of it on the street in Astor Place for a quarter back in the fall of '97. A Night on Bald Mountain was apparently inspired by Liszt's Todentanz (Dance of Death) and also by Nikolai Gogol's story "St. John's Eve." Mussorgsky himself describes the story: "...the witches used to gather on this mountain, gossip, play tricks and await their chief -- Satan. On his arrival they...formed a circle round the throne on which he sat in the form of a goat and sang his praise."
Love Like Blood Odyssee
I have talked about these Teutonic goth merchants in previous posts, but I should bring 'em up again. There could not be more appropriate music for this time of year -- lush, romantic, shadowy, autumnal. The white-faced Gotham undead are stirring in their crypts...hear them?
Alice Cooper Welcome to My nightmare
Bauhaus In the Flat Field
The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette
The Cramps Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits
Various Artists Just Can't Get Enough -- New Wave Halloween
Sisters of Mercy Some Girls Wander by Mistake
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Texas Chainsaw Massacre stands alongside Night of the Living Dead as one of the pillars of modern, low-budget horror. This grainy, fetid, claustrophobic masterpiece is one of the fucked-est, most bizarre things you will ever sit through. Absolutely genius.
I think this was the first horror movie to use a child as the the center and the source of its terror. What a brilliant idea -- take a sweet, innocent little girl and turn her into a foulmouthed fountain of pure evil. Yikes. Everything is done right in this movie -- the acting, the lighting, the music, the effects, and of course the directing. William Friedkin masterfully frames each shot for the absolute maximum impact. Could be the scariest film of all time.
Also one of the top three or four scariest movies ever. The Omen was made on a very low budget (the picture was delivered at a little over 2 million dollars) but you can't tell. This film sells itself on a great story, powerful, totally credible acting and clever, imaginative photography. And of course, music. Jerry Goldsmith's spine-tingling score is absolutely unforgettable.
Blair Witch Project
I went to see this movie in the theater when it first came out and, much to my delight, I found it terrifying! It's got a clever premise but the reason why it works is because 95% of the horror is merely implied, rather than shown. Incredibly expensive special effects are not scary -- your imagination is.
Max Schreck, the very first movie vampire, is probably to this day still the creepiest one of all (jeez, he even has a scary name!). This silent horror classic contains some of the most haunting and indelible images in the history of film. If you get the dvd, be sure to watch without the corny musical accompaniment someone added recently.
Is this the first horror film to feature a bona fide heroine? It's the first one I can think of (to be followed by many others, including Alien). Another super-low budget classic that succeeds totally thanks to a resourceful director, strong cast and the credibility lent by a "name" actor (Donald Pleasance).
This well-done, TV movie adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name features an excellent James Mason as Straker and a creepily memorable, Nosferatu-esque lead vampire, the horrifying Count Barlow. Directed by Tobe Hooper, the man responsible for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the indoor shots of the Marsten House, replete with animal bones and old chicken feathers, is cheekily reminiscent of Leatherface's old abode). This is one of my favorite vampire movies. The DVD version pulls together the three-and-a-half-hours' worth of film that were used in the original television broadcast (which were split into two parts over two nights) while the VHS version edits the movie down to a tighter, more digestible length. I recommend the latter for first-time consumption. If you dig the movie enough, rent the long version next time around.
Night of the Living Dead
Ground-breaking, innovative, intelligent, stylish...George Romero's Night of the Living Dead created the template for modern horror. Made in the late sixties with a very small amount of money, this film singlehandedly reinvented the genre, and ushered in the golden era of horror, the 1970s. I've watched this movie a hundred times if I've watched it once.
28 Days Later
Very well told and well shot modern horror classic. Owing much to George Romero, this zombie pic makes effective use of a great, simple premise and characters you care about. And of course, loads of good scares.
You know you're in the hands of a master horror director when every single scene of the movie -- including the ones that are not scary, per se -- makes you feel uneasy. Stanley Kubrick knows how to build tension with every shot. So many unforgettable images from this movie. Like I need to tell you -- I'm sure you've already seen it a hundred times yourself.
Evil Dead I and II
Splatstick! These movies take gore to such an over-the-top extreme, they're funny (intentionally so, of course). Both flicks are chock-full of beautifully lurid, garishly colorful images -- dismemberment, ghouls, eyes popping out, ridiculous fountains of arterial discharge. These things make me smile.
Dawn of the Dead (remake)
First-rate horror moviemaking. A modern classic, this outdoes the original with better acting, clever directing and wonderful special effects. Like most great horror movies, this was made on a shoestring budget by talented, resourceful people who cared about the project.
The Horror of Dracula
Christopher Lee is my favorite Dracula -- as far as I'm concerned, he owns the character. This is the first in a long series of Dracula flicks (courtesy of Hammer Studios) that starred Lee in the title role, alongside the equally archetypal Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
Happy halloween, everybody.