Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s triple-shot features Michael Dougherty‘s 2007 film, Trick ‘r Treat, and two lesser-known ’80s slasher movies: Roger Spottiswoode‘s 1980 film, Terror Train, starring “Scream Queen” Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tobe Hooper‘s 1981 movie, The Funhouse. Three films filled with plenty of tricks and treats and ghoulish delights.
Directed by Mike Dougherty, Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology of short stories woven seamlessly: a woman whose contempt of Halloween is only exceeded by her husband’s love of the holiday’s traditions; teenage pranksters go too far and discover the horrifying truth behind an urban legend; a twenty-something virgin attends a Halloween party in hopes of finding that special someone; a cantankerous old hermit is visited by a most peculiar trick-or-treater.
The common thread that ties the tales together is the appearance of Sam (Quinn Lord), a pint-sized trick-or-treater in ratty orange pajamas with a burlap sack over his head. Sam’s presence is felt in the film’s multiple stories as a ‘friendly-reminder’ to those who break Halloween traditions.
That Creepy Scene:
Laurie (Anna Paquin), a 22-year-old virgin, is getting dressed up (as Little Red Riding Hood) with her older sister Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith) and their friends Maria (Rochelle Aytes) and Janet (Moneca Delain). Annoyed by their talk about boys and sex, Laurie heads out to explore the town’s Halloween festivities and meet up with them later.
Meanwhile, the girls pick up some guys to bring as dates to a party in the woods. Later, on her way to the party, Laurie is attacked by a vampire dressed in a black cloak – the same bloodsucker who killed a woman earlier in the film. Danielle, Maria, and Janet party at a bonfire with the men they brought, but Danielle becomes worried by Laurie’s absence. At that moment, the vampire’s body suddenly crashes through the trees, wrapped in Laurie’s red cloak.
The “vampire” is revealed to be Principal Wilkins (Dylan Baker) in costume wearing fake fangs. As Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams” begins to play in the background, the girls gather around the bonfire and transform into werewolves, removing their human skin-suits like clothing.
Turns out Laurie’s “virginity” means that she’s never fed on someone before. Danielle, Laurie, and the girls devour their dates, along with Wilkins. The film’s adorable yet creepy sack-boy, Sam, sits on a nearby log, watching them…
“Bonfires burning bright / Pumpkin faces in the night / Candy apples and razor blades / Little dead are soon in graves / I remember Halloween.” – “Halloween” by The Misfits
Halloween is about respecting the dead. It’s the one night the dead and all matters of the macabre roam free and pay us a visit. The traditions: carving jack-o-lanterns, putting on costumes, handing out treats – they were started to protect us. But nowadays, few people observe the customs and even less respect them.
In writer/director Michael Dougherty’s film, Trick ‘r Treat, werewolves, zombies, and demons of every variety are on the loose. They’ve all descended on the normally sleepy town of Warren Valley, Ohio where Halloween and all of the holiday’s strange traditions are taken very seriously.
Trick ‘r Treat is an instant cult classic that ghouls and goblins will watch religiously every Halloween. It is a new tradition to be respected and upheld by the holiday’s most die-hard followers – and it’s too damn sad that a film of this nature got pushed back to a direct-to-DVD release while mindless sequels in the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises were being released in theaters.
Dougherty has created the essential Halloween flick – an atmospheric, spooky movie with a devilish sense of humor – and I would love to see another anthology of short stories featuring everyone’s favorite trick-or-treating sack-boy, Sam.
At a New Year’s Eve frat party, Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) is pressured into participating in a cruel prank. She lures the shy and nerdy pledge Kenny Hampson (Derek MacKinnon) into a dark bedroom for an implied sexual encounter.
As he gets closer to the bed, Kenny discovers a woman’s chopped-up corpse under the sheets and freaks out. Alana, who had no idea that the pre-med students in the fraternity had taken a corpse from the campus anatomy labs, feels terrible for luring Kenny upstairs. The young pledge is so traumatized by the event that he is sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Three years later, the members of the same fraternities and sororities hold a graduation costume party aboard a train. Class clown Ed (Howard Busgang) is disguised as Groucho Marx while other kids are dressed as monks, witches, birds, and lizard-men. Joining the gang of drunken college kids are Carne (Ben Johnson), the train conductor, and Ken (David Copperfield), a magician hired to entertain the guests.
As the night goes on, the students responsible for the prank are murdered one by one, with the killer assuming the mask and costume of each murder victim in turn. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode with cinematography by John Alcott (The Shining, A Clockwork Orange), Terror Train is an above-average slasher film that validates Jamie Lee Curtis’s title of Scream Queen.
Against her overbearing father’s wishes, high school student Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) goes to a traveling carnival with her beefy boyfriend Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), slutty best friend Liz (Largo Woodruff), and Liz’s goof-ball boyfriend, Richie (Miles Chapin).
The four teenagers throw back a few beers, smoke a little weed, and tour the carnival’s numerous attractions: a peep show, a freaks-of-nature exhibit, and a magic show hosted by an alcoholic vampire. After heckling fortune teller Madame Zena (Sylvia Miles), Richie dares the group to spend the night in “The Funhouse” — the carnival’s spooky dark ride.
As the park begins to close, the gang hide inside the ride where they witness the ride assistant — a man in a Boris Karloff-inspired Frankenstein costume who never speaks — approach Zena as a prostitute. Frankenstein’s Monster apparently suffers from premature ejaculation, however, and demands his $100 back – but Zena refuses. The Monster (also known as Gunther) murders the psychic-slash-prostitute in a violent rage.
Amy and her friends try to leave, but find themselves locked inside the ride. While trying to escape, Richie sneaks and steals money from a safe. The ride’s barker, Conrad Straker (Kevin Conway), realizes that the money is missing and works the monstrous Gunther up into a murderous rampage. One by one, the deranged Funhouse freaks hunt down the teenagers, leading to some impressive slasher scenarios where dark ride props are used as murder weapons!
Shout! Factory recently introduced Scream Factory, their new series of restored Blu-ray horror titles, including Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. On October 16th, they released Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo packs of Terror Train and The Funhouse – which I would absolutely recommend picking up if you’re into high-quality, cult horror films. Scream Factory is quickly becoming the Criterion Collection of forgotten, under-appreciated horror cinema and these Collector’s Edition Blu-rays are fantastic!
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