Like a murderous behemoth in a filthy, tattered mask, the Halloween season just keeps coming at us! As the cable networks for which we pay SO MUCH finally begin dusting off their more expensive horror properties (yay, Friday the 13th!), it can be hard to keep track of all the Halloween possibilities. So here, please enjoy a smattering of selections that may or may not be airing on a TV channel near you. (FYI I've hired a private investigator to find out whether or not FEARnet even exists, I'll let you know!)
[Note: Listed times are generally Pacific Daylight Time and listed networks are HD whenever possible. Please do verify your local listings.]
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Sure, the Friday the 13th franchise revolves around its own holiday, but these movies' cheeseball (and frequently effective!) appeals just work so darn well during the Halloween season! That's probably why the horror geeks over at AMC have dusted off the Crystal Lake catalog for the next few weeks: It's hard to beat a good, old-fashioned boogeyman slasher. True Jason Voorhees connoisseurs know that when it comes to the sequels, Friday the 13th is not unlike the Star Trek franchise: The even-numbered movies are generally the best ones. That is, except, for this one, the eighth installment in which Jason doesn't so much "take" Manhattan as "ride a boat" to Manhattan for 90 percent of the movie before finally getting killed by the Big Apple's famous toxic waste-filled sewer system. But while this disappointing installment effectively killed the franchise's sequel-every-year momentum, it does have a few very important appeals: One of the teens is played by a young Kelly Hu (Pearl from The Vampire Diaries! China White from Arrow!), plus there's a scene in which Jason punches a man's head clean off. Yes, you read that right. That part alone ALMOST makes up for how sorta-sucky the rest of this flick is.
From a corny classic to a classic-classic, this Stan Winston-directed creature feature has amassed a devoted following over the years, and for good reason: It is awesome! After a gaggle of vacationing teens accidentally cause the death of a local farmer's son, the man (Lance Henriksen) seeks revenge by conjuring the titular demon of vengeance who proceeds to hunt them all down like the huge, nightmarish abomination it is. Not simply content to be just some monster movie, Pumpkinhead is surprisingly clever and aims for morality tale status. Obviously revenge doesn't always work out so well, so the nasty morality tale at this movie's heart feels both terrifying and earned. Oh, and the nice girl dies first! (Spoiler.)
The Lost Boys
The party atmosphere in Joel Schumacher's classic teen vampire film is what makes The Lost Boys particularly suited to Halloween's frightening-yet-festive spirit. When a single mother and her two kids move to a seaside community that bears a striking resemblance to Santa Cruz, California, the older son (Jason Patric) falls in with a crew of rowdy biker vampires that includes The Adventures of Bill & Ted's Alex Winter as well as ringleader Kiefer Sutherland. And it should go without saying that this is one of the Coreys' best collaborations. But yeah, this movie is so good and well-made, you'll be shocked at just how far from grace Schumacher has fallen since then. The '80s were a LONG time ago.
John Carpenter's Vampires
John Carpenter's contemporary western take on the vampire genre didn't exactly blow up the box office in America, but it was a certified hit in Europe and other places that have DECENT TASTE. James Woods stars as a Vatican-hired hunter who chases down a band of desert vampires who sleep in the sand during daylight hours. Surprisingly violent and mean, this low-budget romp might be one of the best-kept secrets on Carpenter's resume since Prince of Darkness. Neither of them perfect movies, but both VERY watchable diversions for a late night in October.
Army of Darkness
Continuing Sam Raimi's progression into Looney Tunes style horror, this sorta-sequel to the Evil Dead movies also functions as a stand-alone adventure film about a time traveling Ash (Bruce Campbell) and all the pain his body must endure while being screamed at in the face by myriad deadites. In my opinion, Army of Darkness' medieval hellscape does NOT seem like a very fun place to visit. Except for viewers. It's fun if you're a viewer.
Apollo 18, 9:30pm, Showtime
Bad Girls From Valley High, 1:30pm, HBO2
Dream House, 12:00pm & 8:30pm, HBO2
Exorcismus, 2:45pm, IFC
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, 4:00pm, Syfy
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, 6:00pm, Syfy
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, 11:00pm, Starz
Hostel, 7:30pm, Fuel TV
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, 5:00pm, AMC
Mulberry Street, 11:45pm, IFC
Nine Dead, 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Chiller
Nine Lives, 1:10pm, The Movie Channel
One Missed Call, 12:00pm, Syfy
Saw II, 7:45pm & 9:45pm, IFC
Scary Movie, 8:30pm, AMC
Shocker, 4:15pm, Encore
Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland, 6:00pm, LOGO
The Bride, 9:00pm, FEARnet
The Exorcist, 5:00pm, IFC
The Eye, 12:45pm, IFC
The Shining, 5:00pm & 9:00pm, BBC
Thir13en Ghosts, 2:00pm, Syfy
Wishmaster 2, 5:00pm, FEARnet
Wreckage, 1:30pm, SHO 2
When I was a child, the premise of Child's Play was so terrifying that I began to get nightmares after somebody on the playground simply told me about it. I didn't actually see it until years later, and it wasn't quite as terrifying as I'd feared, but it's still a pretty darn good movie. (This was back when Chucky was actually scary and not yet a Don Rickles-style insult comic.) After a known serial killer (and voodoo enthusiast) is gunned down by police at a toy store, he transfers his soul into a Good Guys Doll, a doll which somehow winds up in the house of young boy named Andy and Andy's struggling single mom. Pint-sized terror ensues!
AMC, 6:45am & 9:45pm
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
This particular Friday movie is widely abhorred by die-hards for its surprise twist: (Spoiler, obvs) The killer was only pretending to be Jason! Aside from a quick dream sequence (pictured right), the real Jason Voorhees never appears in this movie. So yeah, this is definitely the Halloween III: Season of the Witch of the Friday the 13th franchise. Anyway, the premise is this: In a rare jump-forward in this franchise's timeline, the child who'd helped kill Jason in part IV is now grown up, played by a new actor, and living in a sort of woodsy halfway home for troubled youth. Those youth then become even more troubled when a masked killer starts murdering them!
AMC, 8:45am & 11:45pm
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
After the disastrous reception of the previous Jason-free enterprise, this installment was intended to herald the big return of the real Jason Voorhees, who it should be noted, was now officially a zombie. In one of horror history's most bone-headed moves, previous hero Tommy (now played by a third actor) digs up Jason's grave to see if he's really dead, impales him with an iron rod out of rage, and then watches as that rod is struck by lightning thus resurrecting his old foe. Great work, Tommy! Anyway, then Jason jumps right back into terrorizing Camp Crystal Lake. Fun fact: This was the first ever Friday the 13th movie to feature actual campers. The previous installments that took place at the summer camp were generally set the weekends before campers arrived and centered around the killings of the counselors only. Needless to say, this movie is surprisingly unnerving for putting children directly in Jason's path.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Okay, Part VII is a legitimately ridiculous movie that still somehow just works. This time Jason is accidentally freed from his watery grave by Tina, a psychic teenager whose father drowned in Crystal Lake. After dispatching a handful of locals, Jason turns to destroying what's left of Tina's family only to have her go full-Carrie on him! We're talking psychic levitations, exploding lamps, the whole deal. Also, at one point Jason gets unmasked and looks like that thing pictured at right. Like, obviously we knew he was a supernatural creature that couldn't die, but as it turned out, underneath that mask he was basically a human-shaped T-rex. Good to know!
All right, if latter sequels to slasher franchises aren't your particular flavor of horror, you may want to check out May, a demented bit of psychological horror that has taken on a bit of a cult following since its release around ten years ago. Angela Bettis stars as a singularly disturbed woman who decides to build herself the perfect lover using the best parts of the people she comes into contact with (which includes a particularly trashy Anna Faris). This one's a slow-burn, but it's well made and psychologically insightful. Plus it has one of my favorite closing moments of any horror movie I've ever seen.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days, 3:00pm, Syfy
Aaah! Zombies!, 10:00am, Chiller
Apollo 18, 5:00pm, SHO 2
Captivity, 11:15am, IFC
Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, 7:00pm, FEARnet
Creepshow, 5:00pm, IFC
Daybreakers, 7:00pm, Syfy
Deadgirl, 12:00pm, Chiller
Devil, 12:00am, HBO2
Diary of a Madman, 10:45am, Turner Classic Movies
Doghouse, 4:30am & 1:00pm, IFC
Eight Legged Freaks, 7:15pm, AMC
Exit Humanity, 2:00pm, Chiller
Final Destination 5, 1:05pm, CineMAX
Frankenstein Created Woman, 9:00am, Turner Classic Movies
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, 12:45pm, AMC
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, 1:00am, Syfy
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, 3:00am, Syfy
Ginger Snaps Unleashed, 1:00am & 1:00pm, FEARnet
High Tension, 11:00pm, FEARnet
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, 9:00am, FEARnet
Isle of the Dead, 6:00am, Turner Classic Movies
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, 3:00pm, AMC
Jason X, 5:00pm, AMC
Laid to Rest, 5:00pm, FEARnet
Mutants, 12:10am, Sundance Channel
Necromentia, 4:00am & 10:00pm, Chiller
Night of the Demons, 9:00pm, The Movie Channel
Prowl, 11:00am, Syfy
Red Riding Hood, 3:15pm, HBO
Soul Survivors, 3:00pm & 9:00pm, FEARnet
Spores, 6:00am, Chiller
Stake Land, 5:00pm & 11:00pm, Syfy
Teeth, 7:30pm & 9:30pm, IFC
The Bride, 11:00am, FEARnet
The Bride of Frankenstein, 5:00am, AMC
The Deaths of Ian Stone, 9:30am, IFC
The Frankenstein Syndrome, 10:35pm, The Movie Channel
The Killing Strain, 8:00am & 8:00pm, Chiller
The Lost Boys, 7:00pm, VH1
The Revenge of Frankenstein, 7:15am, Turner Classic Movies
The Thing, 2:15am, HBO
Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans, 9:00pm, Syfy
Vampires, 3:00am, FEARnet
An American Werewolf in London
The granddaddy of all modern werewolf stories (sorry The Wolfman), John Landis' classic tells the tale of two bros backpacking through the English countryside who encounter unfriendly locals and, eventually, a werewolf. One is killed while the other is bitten, and the story just gets crazier from there. This movie's werewolf transformation effects were a landmark for their time and still hold up today. But more importantly, David Naughton's generous nudity basically set the stage for one of golden era television's greatest achievements, MTV's Teen Wolf.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
A few years after Jason "took" Manhattan (he did not take Manhattan in any way), New Line Cinema eventually came to acquire the rights to this franchise, which led to the only redeeming thing about this movie: That final shot where (fellow New Line property) Freddy Krueger's arm smacks Jason's mask down into hell. Up until that point, this movie is 90 minutes of garbage centered around Jason's newfound ability to jump his soul into other peoples' bodies. Sigh. At least this movie got points for correctly predicting Freddy vs. Jason! It wouldn't happen for another ten years, but still. Points for being right.
No discussion of the Friday the 13th franchise is complete without at least getting into Jason X. Jason in space! This movie is not very good, you guys, but it does have at least a few sparks of imagination and that counts for a lot. When a future class trip to earth retrieves Jason's frozen remains in order to examine his DNA's restorative properties, it's only a matter of time before he (A) wakes up, and (B) submits himself to the spaceship's regeneration machine and gets a high tech makeover. There's also an android character, a holodeck, and someone gets killed by becoming frozen in liquid nitrogen and getting shattered. So, you know. It's not boring. It's just also not very essential.
AMC, 12:00am (Monday)
Tales From the Darkside: The Movie
Everyone knows that horror anthologies are usually hit or miss, but over time Tales From the Darkside: The Movie has become a lot more "hit" than it was once considered. A framing device involving an imprisoned boy pleading with a witch to not eat him is probably unnecessarily campy, but a segment involving a mummy and later a cautionary tale about gargoyles both contain enough quality horror to make this a pretty fun little gem.
Syfy, 1:30am (Monday)
The Midnight Meat Train
Sorry for these mostly half-hearted recommendations, but I'm telling you, when it comes to modern horror, you have to look for the good buried in otherwise not-good things. Fortunately that's not hard to do with The Midnight Meat Train, based on one of the more famous Clive Barker short stories from his awesome Books of Blood anthologies. This one's about a mysterious killer who murders people on a specific train at specific times of night for surprising reasons. The reveal is pretty strong (and has suitably larger, more disturbing implications), but the whole thing definitely feels like a short story padded out to feature length. Still though, there are some truly shocking CGI gore scenes in this thing, so if that's your style, check this one out.
Apollo 18, 5:30pm, Showtime
Blade II, 9:00pm, Syfy
Bram Stoker's Dracula, 3:35am, Encore
Carnival of Sinners, 11:15pm, Turner Classic Movies
Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, 9:00am, FEARnet
Coraline, 9:32am, ABC Family
Daybreakers, 3:00pm, Syfy
DeadHeads, 1:25pm, SHO 2
Devil, 2:20pm & 10:00pm, HBO2
Eight Legged Freaks, 10:30am, AMC
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, 4:15am, AMC
High Tension, 1:00pm, FEARnet
Jeepers Creepers, 1:00pm, AMC
Killer Pad, 9:00pm, FEARnet
Laid to Rest, 3:00am, FEARnet
Land of the Dead, 3:00pm, AMC
Little Witches, 1:00am & 3:00pm, FEARnet
Mirrors 2, 11:00pm, FEARnet
Night of the Demons, 12:05am, The Movie Channel
Orphan, 2:30pm, Lifetime
Queen of the Damned, 7:00pm, Syfy
Red: Werewolf Hunter, 11:00am, Syfy
Resident Evil: Apocalypse, 5:35pm, CineMAX
Skinwalkers, 3:00am, Syfy
Soul Survivors, 11:00am, FEARnet
Splice, 5:00pm, FEARnet
Spores, 12:00am, Chiller
Stigmata, 11:30pm, Syfy
The Fourth Kind, 12:40pm, HBO2
The Frankenstein Syndrome, 1:45am, The Movie Channel
The Haunting, 6:45am, HBO
The Stepfather, 12:30pm, Lifetime
The Tell-Tale Heart, 8:51pm, Turner Classic Movies
Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans, 5:00pm, Syfy
Urban Legends: Final Cut, 11:15pm, Encore
War Wolves, 9:00am, Syfy
Wolvesbayne, 1:00am, Syfy
For some, the found footage subgenre has totally run its course, but for others who are easier to please, there's this film, about a cadre of tourists who tour an abandoned town. Mutants, evil children, evil mutant children. I have not seen this movie, mostly because the premise is not exciting enough for me to pay full price. Maybe when it's on cable and it's 3am and I'm drunk. THEN I'll watch it.
True Blood's Stephen Moyer stars in this horror thriller centered around the Jersey Devil! Only the chupacabra is featured in so few films, so it's nice that the Jersey Devil finally gets his/her due for once. From what I know this movie goes in the "Is he just imagining things?" route, which can be a movie-ruiner for me. Sorry, but sometimes I just want the threat to be tangible and the hero to be reasonably scared. Still though, this could be fun. It's always nice seeing Stephen Moyer not behaving like a dick on True Blood!
Bloody Bloody Bible Camp
This is a faux-grindhouse, low-budget slasher about a group of bible camp teenagers set upon by a crazed killer named Sister Mary Chopper! I don't know what to tell you. Here is a trailer though.
Okay, back to things I've actually seen and enjoyed, The Burning is a bit of a footnote in slasher history: Screenwriters Bob & Harvey Weinstein (!) decided to cash in on the slasher craze ignited by Halloween and sorta-perfected by Friday the 13th by making a horror movie of their own. But in setting out to rip-off the Jason Voorhees model, they went and made a movie that was far better than it needed to be, and cast it with future stars like Holly Hunter and Jason Alexander. Based on the recurring East Coast legend of Cropsy the child killer, The Burning is a surprisingly well-made slasher that may just be worth your valuable slasher movie-watching time.
Nobody needs to know the number of nightmares this wildly ridiculous horror movie gave me as a kid. What about you? Did those claymation munchkins invade your dreams? What about the wall zombie? Or the dad's melting face? Or the eyeball hand? Or the enormous hell demon? There's A LOT going on in this movie about kids who hold down the fort while their parents are out of town, only to deal with the sudden appearance of a gate to hell in their back yard. But it's probably the mixture of all of these crazy elements that made for such a potent nightmare instigator. The Gate is definitely dated and cheesy, but it's still a good time. Invite your friends over! Talk through it! It's that kind of flick.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Here's another B-movie that might perfectly round out your Halloween movie marathon. The plot is the title: A carnival-themed UFO lands in a small town and begins converting humans into cotton-candy-spun blood sacks for future nourishment. But it's the way the clowns look that's the most disturbing part. Those faces! Again, this movie dabbles in slapstick comedy, but its visuals and concepts are just horrifying enough to keep the camp at bay. Definite nightmare fodder. (Note: Movie works best when viewers are drunk.)
Will YOU be watching scary movies this weekend?