It’s spooky season again and we all know what that means: another Halloween-themed collaboration from Excalibur’s very own editorial board. As the leaves get brighter — and the nights get darker— the spooky, eerie and down right disturbing is finding its way back to the October streets and screens. Although the world is creeping closer back to normal, with humans and ghouls walking peacefully together once again, a low-key, Halloween movie night can still be on the menu for this year’s festivities. We all love movies here, and what better way to celebrate Spooky Season than by talking about our favourite Halloween films and how they creeped their way into our hearts.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love (and live for) horror movies. It’s most of what I watch, study, and write about — so naturally, Halloween is a bit of a heyday for me. But when I think of Halloween classics, campy slashers, or possession flicks always pale in comparison to the near-perfect coming of age werewolf horror that is John Fawcett’s 2000’s masterpiece, Ginger Snaps. The movie follows Brigitte and Ginger, two sisters obsessed with the macabre who find themselves connected to the supernatural when Ginger is attacked by a werewolf. Now this isn’t your average coming-into-adulthood werewolf story (eat your heart out, Jacob Black), as it uses this monstrous transformation as a metaphor for puberty and the changing female body, all while highlighting some angsty but badass girls.
Now how is this a Halloween movie, you ask? In classic werewolf fashion, there is a race against the full-moon clock to save Ginger, and of course, that countdown reaches its peak on good ol’ All Hallows’ Eve. I love this movie because it does a daringly different take on classic Halloween iconography. It substitutes the jack-o’-lanterns and the door-to-door cute costumes for animalistic mauling and menstruation analogies, and more than anything, it truly encapsulates the horror that comes with one’s tween-age years. I mean think back to what you did and wore at your Halloween middle school dance — absolutely nothing produced by Blumhouse could ever be scarier than that.
Jonathan Q. Hoidn
Trick ‘r Treat
Throughout the decades, the horror genre has widened its net to capture the hearts — and souls — of many fans including myself. Whether it’s the paranormal, the psychotic, the grotesque, or the macabre, to the scary clowns, possessed dolls, masked killers, gruesome monsters, and the living-dead-that-should-stay-dead, horror films have always given us a reason to be afraid of the dark. But Halloween films, per se, take horror to another level. By justifying the madness as simple festivities, Halloween movies present a unique opportunity to spark a simple thought inside our heads: “This can actually happen.” And as terrifying as that thought is, these movies are way more fictitious than they appear to be.
But the one movie that sticks out to me as a favourite is Trick ‘r Treat. This 2007 anthology film follows multiple protagonists as we see their own horror stories unfold and collide with each other. With twists and turns even the most film-savvy fanatic wouldn’t expect, Trick ‘r Treat delivers a thrill ride that is ever so dear to my darkened heart. What takes the cake for me is how each story is intertwined within the other. Somehow — and it still baffles me to this day — they managed to pull off multiple solid and intriguing storylines while ensuring they interact with each other at the perfect possible moments. It’s simply peak storytelling.
The year is 2009. My brother and I have just returned from trick-or-treating. We empty our Halloween candy onto the living room carpet as our dad pops the Casper VHS into the VCR — a tradition we’ve had for as long as memory serves. Casper is a 1995 film that tells the story of Dr. James Harvey, a “ghost therapist” who is hired by Carrigan Crittenden to exorcise her mansion of the ghosts of young Casper McFadden and his three uncles. However, the story takes on an unexpected development when James’ daughter, Kat, befriends Casper. Besides harbouring obvious cheesy ‘90s nostalgia, slapstick comedy and themes of friendship and family typical of similar films at the time, Casper is a classic in its own right. It explores the topic of death in a tasteful manner that has lingered with me throughout the years and continues to do so. Of course, as a child, I thought Casper was just a fun tale about a girl befriending a ghost. I was instantly drawn to the world inside Whipstaff Manor through the eyes of Kat as she deals with the death of her mother and learns about Casper’s past. I realize now that the film tells the story of a young girl coming to terms with her own emotional baggage. And that is why Casper still remains one of my favourite Halloween films of all time. Perhaps, this year, I might just dust off the old VHS, plug in the VCR, and relive moments from much simpler times.
After an overabundance of thought, I genuinely was at a loss for a half-decent Halloween film that I didn’t think was either typical or lame — basic if you will. I took my search to Wikipedia hoping that I might find a worthy candidate and that I did: Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, a 2001 cult classic starring Jake Gyllenhaal and featuring Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, and many others. It’s a bizarre film, as it focuses on the disturbed Donnie Darko, who narrowly escapes a broken piece of a plane that crashes into his bedroom. He begins experiencing visions of Frank, someone who dons a sinister bunny suit and tells him about the end of the world. Much of the film deals with time travel, magical realism, and surreal dream sequences that would make David Lynch perk his brow. Why this film for the season? It might not be the first film that springs to mind, but consider this — it is set around Halloween, and it’s got a lot of “spooky language!” It ticks practically every box that you’d want in your cinematic pumpkin-spiced latte. If you haven’t seen it and wanna get artsy and weird this Halloween, jam out to some spunky, classic ‘80s tunes, and possibly have an existential crisis; watch Donnie Darko. If you have seen it, watch it again — this movie is outlandish in the best possible way!
Through my endeavour of trying to figure out my “favourite” Halloween movie, I found it to be much harder than I thought. I love so many films that are considered Halloween themed, but which was my favourite? Now I came to the point where a mind map had to be involved. With much process of elimination, I came to the perfect sweet spot of my favourite Halloween movie: Coraline. This movie is a classic to us all, brought to us by one of my favourite directors, Tim Burton.
This stop-motion film tells the story of young Coraline Jones who moves to a 150-year-old house containing a small door that leads her to a realm that replicates her own, but one she desires more than her own reality. As we follow along, things (and people) are much more than they seem. Was I, along with many fellow seven year olds, traumatized? Yes, yes I was. Do I love it now? Absolutely! It encapsulates the essence of Halloween movies; being timeless along with entertaining every age demographic. Along with that, the essence of it being stop-motion brings the movie essentially to life, giving it another level of eeriness. The cast, music, art — and not to undermine our favourite black cat — is what makes me love Coraline to this day.
Halloween = slasher films. To me, this tradition is just as sacred as eating wings during Sunday night football. Now, you would think that surely I must be over it by now, but sorry to disappoint — guess who was first in line to buy tickets for Halloween Kills? And it was the best $13.55 I had ever spent. There is just something about watching a serial killer who has had beef with the poor people of Haddonfield since 1978. Now, it seems impossible for a man to be shot, stabbed, beaten to death by a mob, and burned alive and still get back up — but not in the Halloween franchise. And I will agree with the critics when they say that this just isn’t practical or realistic. But, I have just about had it with the practical and real world. I watch movies because I like to escape from reality for a bit, and there is nothing further from reality than Halloween Kills. But more than that, this movie is a part of a franchise — and one that has always been a part of my parent’s and my life for many years. So I watch this movie just as much for nostalgia’s sake as I do for its’ gory ridiculousness. Michael Myers is the OG boogeyman who does not want your sympathy, love, or devotion. In an era where characters portraying serial killers are painted in shades of grey, there is something refreshing about watching one who is firmly entrenched in shades of black.