Welcome To Fright Night… For Real!

This year a major milestone happened for me. As you might already know, I am a scaredy cat when it comes to horror films and I am just now, in my 40’s, catching up on some of the classics from Nosferatu to Halloween. Over the past two years, with the help of my friend Tim, I have acclimated my senses to the suspense, gore and psychosis of horror films. Now, if the horror genre is an olympic size pool, complete with diving boards, I’m still on the steps with my floaties on but at least I’m in the pool. Check out my articles on Year 1 and Year 2 of this adventure into a genre of film I avoided for most of my life.

So, back to that milestone. I love the 1980’s, it’s my childhood and the memories are strong when it comes to Aha’s Take On Me, Big Wheels, and The A-Team! I got a kick out of Stranger Things last year, the combination of 80’s music, clothes, language and themes along with suspense and a monster was fantastic. (PS… Stranger Things 2 is out this weekend and I can not wait to gobble it all up!) So this fall when the new version of It was released and the reviews said it’s not too scary, very funny and definitely following the Stranger Things 80’s vibe I wondered, “can I do this?” Could I be like all the other people and see a current horror film in a theater? This is an experience that has always just been a solid NOPE for me, but not this year. So back at the end of September my brother and sister and I went to see It at the Riverwatch Cinema in Augusta, Georgia. I experienced all of the screams, jumps and witnessed others covering their eyes at the particularly suspenseful parts. #ImNotAlone! It was great and a wonderful start to the Halloween season and a major accomplishment for this wimp.All of this 80’s nostalgia made me want to watch more horror films from those rad years. In the past two years I had already watched The Thing, (a new favorite) A Nightmare On Elm Street, April Fool’s Day, The Lost Boys and Evil Dead 2. PS… I recommend all of the above, they are fantastic fun and easy to watch if you are a “pool steps newbie” like me.

I started the month of October off with a film that terrified me as an 8 year old kid, Gremlins. Let’s be clear, Gremlins is not at all scary if you are an adult. In fact Netflix, and yes, you can currently stream Gremlins on Netflix, lists it as a movie for ages 11-12 and as a comedy. But this is more about the long view for me and facing my fears. Gremlins was released in 1984 and it’s the work of Joe Dante (Explorers, The Burbs) and it’s produced by Steven Spielberg. (E.T., Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Poltergeist) It’s also a blast to see the big teen actors from the 80’s pop in a movie and this happens a lot in horror films. In Gremlins you get two fast-burning phenoms, Phoebe Cates and Corey Feldman. I loved Gremlins, Gizmo is adorable and the gremlins’ irreverent attitude make the film hilarious. It’s also interesting to think through the plot of how something so cute and innocent can produce something so chaotic if you don’t follow the rules. And here’s the deal, Gremlins is also a Christmas movie! so if you don’t watch it by Halloween you still have the holiday season to catch up on this fantastic treat. Also, this year I’m rating the films (Scare Meter 1 to 10) so you can know what to watch, this year it’s easy because they are all super fun and not too scary.

Gremlins- PG, Fun, No Gore, Minimal Suspense, Scare Meter-1So October 13th fell on a Friday this year and my friend Tim texted me the day of and said, “You know what you have to watch today, right?” So on October the 13th I had a double feature of Friday The 13th and Friday The 13th Part 2. I had no clue these movies were about summer camp counselors dying or surviving as they prepare to greet campers. I’m a youth worker and I’ve been to camp more than I can count, I guess I should be thankful I didn’t watch these movies as a teen, those dark walks back to the cabins would have seemed treacherous! Friday the 13th introduces the world to young Kevin Bacon, it was his first starring roll. I won’t give away what happens to him but it’s pretty fantastic. I will say that Friday The 13th surprised me, the ending is not expected. And watching from the killer’s vantage point is suspenseful and creepy.

Friday The 13th was released in 1980 and director Steve Miner followed it up the following year with Friday The 13th Part 2. Part 2 picks up right where the first film ends and it’s a lot of fun and I totally recommend watching them together. The main actress in Part 2, Amy Steel, who plays Ginny is great, more engaging than any of the characters in Friday The 13th. She makes the movie!

Friday The 13th & Friday The 13th Part 2- R (For Nudity And Violence) Minimal Gore, More Suspense, Scare Meter-3Next up was horror giant, George A. Romero’s 1982 classic Creepshow. With an original screenplay by Stephen King and appearances from Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook and many others, Creepshow has something for everybody. Five neatly told tales bookended by a Prologue and Epilogue, Creepshow is a morality collection about everyone getting what they deserve. The stories range from cheesy to creepy and there’s just enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. My favorite is the over-the-top The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill which stars King. In it a simple man touches an alien ooze out of a meteor that starts to cover him and everything else in bright green weeds!

Each tale is comic and full of one liners which makes sense since they are from a child’s horror comic. And a warning for everyone afraid of creepy crawlers there is the short story They’re Creeping Up On You, where a cruel businessman becomes locked in his sterile apartment with an infestation of cockroaches. (Ashley and Mom, never watch this part of Creepshow!) Creepshow is fun slapstick suspense and it’s always a treat to watch a film by the masters, Romero and King.

Creepshow- R (For Language), Fun, Minor Gore, Minimal Suspense, Scare Meter-2

“The kids today don’t have the patience for vampires. They want to see some mad slasher running around and chopping off heads.”

Boy, have the times changed thanks to sexy vampires like Edward Cullen (Twilight) and Eric Northman (True Blood). If you are looking for vampires then check out Tom Holland’s fantastically fun Fright Night staring The Princess Bride’s Prince Humperdinck, Chris Sarandon, as the devilishly handsome vampire Jerry Dandridge. Fright Night is full of 1980’s dance moves, teenagers with absent parents, extremely long death scenes and exaggerated prosthetic fang mouths. Fright Night, Like Creepshow has great monsters and some suspense but it’s way more fun than scare.

In Fright Night I finally realized a major theme in horror films, no one ever believes the key protagonist! Charley wants someone to believe that a vampire is living next door and committing horrendous murders. First he goes to the cops, then his friend and girlfriend, even his mom won’t listen. It’s only after the vampires show up and start killing that Charley’s friends take him seriously. This disbelief is a key factor in Stranger Things, It, Gremlins, The Lost Boys and so many other horror films and shows. Fright Night is a ton of fun and it’s my favorite from this year’s batch.

Fright Night- R (For Brief Nudity And Violence), Fun, Over-The-Top Gore, Minimal Suspense, Scare Meter-2Lastly, I watched They Live, which is technically a sci-fi/horror film. (I told you, I kept it light this year.) They Live came highly recommended by Tim as some of director John Carpenter’s strongest work. I love John Carpenter and every Halloween I want to watch something by him and Romero, I relate to their skeptical views on culture and politics. They Live is a film I would love to watch with my local film group and discuss. In it Rowdy Roddy Piper, the lovable wrestler with a kilt from the 80’s, is a drifter named Nada. He stumbles across a group claiming that things are not as they seem and they give him a pair of cool wayfarer sunglasses so he can see for himself. And Carpenter takes the pop color world of the 80’s to a bleak black and white America with aliens running the show by telling you to obey, consume and procreate. WOAH! I’ll leave the rest for you to see but They Live is super thought provoking and relevant to today’s America. It’s also full of 80’s saxophone solos, great one liners, and a mullet that’s totally righteous! They Live is a movie I will recommend for years to come.

They Live- R (For Language And Brief Nudity), Thought Provoking And Fun, No Gore, No Suspense, Scare Meter-1

It was super fun to trip back to the 80’s this Halloween season and I highly recommend all of the films on this list. Whether you are a horror film novice or a seasoned expert, these films are super fun and will add to the suspenseful fun of the fall season. Also there are some folks in the deep end of horror pool at ZekeFilm. Check out Paul Hibbard’s review on Happy Death Day currently in theaters, Justin Mory’s take on the Frankenstein Monster, Erik Yates review on Annabelle: Creation which is currently available at your local Redbox, Sharon Autenreith’s review of It Follows which made her top ten of 2015 and is currently streaming on Netflix, and we even have a ZekeTalk Horror Episode courtesy of Jim Tudor and Michael Anderson. Thanks for the read buddies and Happy Halloween!