This is a special Halloween edition of Wicked Art Wednesdays, honoring the incredible mind-blowing classic monster art of three legendary world-renowned artists and creators. These gentlemen are the genius masters of art, who inspire all others to follow in their footsteps.
This isn’t just another ‘best of scary movie’ list, this is ‘the best of scariest movies to specifically watch on Halloween night’ list. You can watch those other films any day of the year. There’s something really special about watching a spooky movie on Halloween night though. These movies are not recommended for children, but, I’ll leave the parenting up to you.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Not only is Director Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish language film visually stunning, it’s hands down one of the scariest and most masterfully written ghost stories ever produced. Besides that, creepy ghost children are just never not going to be scary.
Get Out (2017)
Writer and Director Jordan Peele delivers a terrifying psychological thriller, which relies on the audiences’ own inner fears to fuel the suspense on what the true scare here is all about, Is it a ghost story? Is it a killer story? Is it all someone’s imagination?
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Director Michael Dougherty weaves together four separate terrifying Halloween night horror stories, each connected by a mysterious little creature, who reminds us Halloween can be deadly if you mess around and break the rules of Halloween. I consider this film quintessential Halloween viewing.
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
Dead kid. Check. Dead cat. Check. Dead ghost. Check. Writer and Director Takashi Shimizu doubled down on scares by telling this frightening story out of order, which added confusion for some. Make no mistake, scary is scary, whether you understand it or not. However, if subtitles or non-linear storytelling aren’t your thing, you can always rent The Grudge, the American remake, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the very same dead kid, dead cat and dead ghost. I affectionately refer to this film as the Neverending Ghost Story
Why we love them: This former Cartoon Network and Disney animator serves up the creepy dark art of every type of monster you can dream of and several only he could think up. His works are silly, gruesome, and the characters always look like they’re having a good time. If you could picture yourself inside one animated cartoon for a night, it’d be at a Pigor’s Halloween party.
In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace-
Radiant palace- reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion-
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This- all this- was in the olden
Time long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away. Continue reading “Poe Sundays”→
There’s plenty of kid-friendly Halloween movies out there, and but finding good movies for pre-teens and teens can get challenging. Halloween movies skewed towards older kids are far too scary for little ones and not quite scary or gory enough for adults, thus, many get overlooked as good Halloween movies. Not only do these movies on our list have a strong message, they invoke the spirit of Halloween.
Monster House (2006) Steve Buscemi, Catherine O’Hara
Three friends discover their cranky neighbor’s haunted house is actually a scary monster.
At first glance, it’s just a silly kids movie but the story really highlights working through pubescent troubles and learning to get along with adults. When released, the film was mis-marketed to children, when clearly geared towards pre-teens and above. The movie deals with some teen issues and is far too scary for little kids. As for the characters, the adults are kinda creepy and the kids get into trouble, not your ideal role models, but they’re realistic enough that teens might will identify with them. There’s some excellent visuals and 3D version out there for those with a fancy TV.
Why we love them: Along with his stunning original art, Dienzo takes our favorite Disney and horror characters from movies and TV, and creates dark, intriguing, and sometimes sinister settings for them. This is pop culture turned upside down.
Urban legends are stories that are meant to scare us and typically serve as a warning or have some type of moral lesson attached. Every state has their own urban legends, some states even share legends, changing the details to fit their locale or whichever narrative is needed, but the core plot stay the same. The ones I have chosen for this list are the creepiest found in the USA, and some of them are based on real-life true stories! Can you figure out which ones?
Turn on the Light
After partying most of the night, a co-ed decides to spend the night with a boy she met at the party. She returns to dorm room to retrieve her keys, careful not to wake her roommate. In the dark room she can hear the sleeping roommate’s heavy breathing and assumes she’s got a cold. When she returns the next day, she finds her roommate’s dead body and the note written in blood on the wall, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
This story is sometimes told with the co-ed being more studious and returning to retrieve a book for an all-night study session, but the end-result is always the same. This legend has been around 50 years or more and most likely was started by a parent worried about their college-bound kid.
Moral of the Story: Screw your roommate’s feelings, always turn on the damn light.
One night, a woman who lives alone with her nice little dog, hears on the radio that an escaped lunatic is on the loose in her town. She locks up the house tight and goes to bed with her faithful canine companion, who stays close by her bedside all night. When the woman wakes the next morning, she finds her pooch slaughtered and note written in blood on the bathroom mirror, “Humans can lick too.”
Some variations of this legend feature an old woman and sometimes, a young girl. Sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night, hearing a dripping sound, and sometimes, the pet is alive and well at the end. Like the ‘Turn on the Light’ legend, the killer rubs the survivor’s nose in the fact that they barely escaped death.
Moral of the Story: You’re never going to be in control of your own death and maybe you should get a cat.
Why we love them: Creepy cute art blends the best of two worlds. Diana Levin’s colorful and whimsical style mixed with the dark Gothic tones is a feast for the eyes. In addition to drawing some delightfully creepy versions of pop culture and fabled characters, her own original character drawings are exquisite. Diana’s creative art inspires the imagination, which might explain how partner Shawn Givens comes up with all those spooky stories for their book series, The Ghoulish Grimoire.
According to US law, all motion pictures made and exhibited before 1923 are in public domain, but copyright law is seriously complex and since other countries have different copyright laws than the USA, it can be downright confusing when trying to get correct information. Shepherded works from golden age of American animation typically fell into public domain due to registration failures, clerical errors, or a variety of other personal and business reasons. Recently, I was researching Halloween cartoons in public domain and I thought I’d share my research on three of the most commonly misidentified Halloween cartoons.
Disney’s Silly Symphonies Skeleton Dance, 1929
Despite what you may have heard or seen online, the Skeleton Dance is not public domain, likewise, neither is Mickey Mouse’s Haunted House. Due to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (CTEA), copyright protection was extended 95 years from the publication date for any works published before January 1, 1978. That meant, any films released in 1923, which would have entered public domain in 1998, were scheduled to enter on January 1, 2019. Due to extensive lobbying, the Walt Disney Company was granted more extension for their works, therefore, all early Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as Steamboat Willie, won’t enter public domain until 2023. Keep in mind, there’s a very good chance that Disney will be granted another extension. Thus, why some people refer to CTEA as the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act’.
It’s important to note, that all Disney characters are not only copyrighted but also trademarked and that lasts for forever, so long as the owners continually use the trademarks commercially. Bottom line, Disney characters may NOT be commercially used whether they’re part of the public domain or not.
Betty Boop’s Halloween Party, 1933
Betty Boop’s Halloween Party is not in public domain. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyrights are automatically applied to a work and last the entirety of someone’s life, plus 95 years after creator’s death. Before 1976, however, companies needed to register and re-register their works to ensure copyright protection. In the case of Betty Boop, after a few company mergers and failure of the original owners, Fleischer Studios, to re-register the copyright of many of Betty Boop’s earliest cartoons, many fell into public domain. Unfortunately for fans, Halloween Party is not one of them. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of Betty Boop’s cartoons and indicates which ones are public domain.
For the record, it appears that the character of Betty Boop is owned by Paramount, the Betty Boop name itself is owned by Fleischer Studios, and the right to distribute the cartoons (those not public domain) are split between three different companies, Trifeca Entertainment & Media, Olive Films and Melange Pictures.
Casper, The Friendly Ghost, 1945
Casper’s very first movie The Friendly Ghost is public domain. In the 1950s, when Harvey Publications purchased Casper the Friendly Ghost and bunch of other cartoons from Noveltoon, lawyers failed to inform Harvey that they needed to register copyrights for the first works of the character, thus, The Friendly Ghost and four other Casper titles (There’s Good Boos To-Night, A Haunting We Will Go Boo Moon, and Spooking About Africa) all wound up in public domain, however, these are the only works that are public domain. Because Harvey trademarked Casper and continued to make newer cartoons, they retained ownership of the character of Casper and all subsequent Casper works. These days, Universal Studios holds ownership over Casper and all films except for the five mentioned above.
Here are a few more spooky cartoons in public domain:
Felix the Cat, Switches Witches 1927
Swing You Sinners 1930
Bimbo’s Initiation 1931
The Mad Doctor 1933
The Headless Horseman 1934
Cobweb Hotel 1936
Popeye, Fright to the Finish 1954
I’m not a legal expert, so please don’t assume any of this is legal advice. Please seek out your own legal counsel and do your research before posting potentially copyrighted or trademarked material on websites.
If you’re interested in more animation films in public domain, check out TV Tropes and Wikipedia, which both have a pretty comprehensive list of films.