Rebecca, The Monster Squad, And Shaun Of The Dead
Untraditional Halloween Movies That Capture The Spooky Spirit
With Halloween just around the corner, scary movies are in season. Some folks make a tradition of watching scary movies on Halloween, but many find hard core horror movies to be a bit much. We know that finding something that everyone can agree on can be a real challenge, so we’ve picked three great movies to watch this Halloween. They are all a bit off the beaten path when it comes to Halloween classics, but they’re very much in the spirit of the spooky, and each brings something unique to the table.
First up is Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, Rebecca. While most Hitchcock fans might look to classic horror films like Psycho or The Birds for Halloween, those movies are too intense for some audiences, and they lack the subtlety of Hitchcock’s best thrillers. Like some of Hitchcock’s other more cerebral films, Rebecca has a spooky and mysterious mood about it, but nobody gets stabbed in the shower, and nobody’s eyes get pecked out by an irate flock of seagulls. The film is a classic gothic tale of which Henry James or Edgar Allen Poe would be all too proud. Based on a 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca is about a wealthy Englishman named Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) and his new wife (Joan Fontaine), and the ways in which the lingering memory of de Winter’s first wife affect them both. The story is perfectly crafted – just throw in superb acting and an incredibly creepy housekeeper, and you’ve got the recipe for a truly clever and suspenseful movie. Rebecca was nominated for eleven academy awards, and won two, including the award for Best Picture of 1940. If you want to check out this classic, make sure you grab the Criterion Collection DVD, as it has by far the best available film transfer.
If you want to cater to younger tastes, we recommend dipping into the enormous pool of 1980s cult classics. Released in 1987, The Monster Squad was a resounding flop at the box office, raking in only about one third of the film’s (rather frugal) budget. Nevertheless, it has proved popular over time, both with kids and with young adults who remember the film from their own childhood days. You’ll be hard pressed to find a really high quality film transfer of this one, but it is available for rent on DVD through Netflix. The Monster Squad is a campy but lovable story about a society of pre-teen monster-hunters who discover the lost diary of legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, and use it to track down a magical amulet that can be used to rid the world of classic monsters like Wolfman and Dracula. The production values and acting may leave something to be desired (though Duncan Regehr is fabulous as Dracula), but the movie will be a hit with youngsters nonetheless.
If you’re looking for something for grownups that is light-hearted and hilarious (yet genuinely scary at moments), superbly directed, brilliantly acted, and pretty much fantastic in every way, look no further than the 2004 hit movie Shaun of the Dead. Its title may suggest a low-rent zombie spoof, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Shaun of the Dead is in a category all its own: it is an all original romantic comedy… with zombies. Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the film with director Edgar Wright, plays the title character Shaun, who struggles with a dead-end job, a ne’er-do-well friend (Nick Frost), an unsatisfied girlfriend (Kate Ashfield), and a controlling stepfather (Bill Nighy). And then there’s a relatively unexpected zombie apocalypse, and suddenly it’s up to Shaun to save the day. The film is witty and fresh, outrageously funny, and even poignant at parts. And yes, there are some zombies and some gore in there, and a few (just a few) moments that’ll make you jump out of your seat. You can be sure that you’ve never seen anything like it, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. For the best possible digital film transfer, get the high definition Blu-ray version.
Happy Halloween, and happy watching!