Halloween is Never Over

I will not mourn the passing of Halloween because Halloween lives here all day, every day, all year around.

What I will miss is the community spirit that shows up every September/October. I’ll miss the creative inspiration that buzzes around Halloween season, driving people to craft, create, cook, make, bake, paint, draw, write, sing and celebrate the spooky beyond. I’ll miss seeing the adorable kids in their costumes and the funny, imaginative guises from the adults.  I’ll miss the haunts and the mazes, and the creative minds that have built elaborate, sometimes ingenious, macabre sets. I’ll miss seeing decorations and the lights in all the stores, and in the yards where I live. I’ll miss hearing Halloween tunes on the radio and watching thrillers and spooky movies on television. I’ll miss people talking about their favorite memories and how they’re looking forward to making new ones.  I’ll miss the festive harvests, the parades, the pumpkin patches, the endless rows of candy, and the fun Halloween treats that make us feel like kids again.

I’ll miss the Halloween season, but Halloween is never over, oh no, Halloween is forever.

Halloweenis Forever

 

Saturday Horror Matinees

 

The full moon has risen and transformed the Wolfman.
Frankenstein’s monster is alive and looking for a Woman.
Dracula’s magnetic gaze will leave you entranced.
The Mummy has risen and wants his soulmate to dance.
The Invisible Man has lost his left shoe.
It was found by the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
King Kong terrorizes the Empire State Tower.
Godzilla rampages Tokyo with his atomic powers.
The Blob crashed landed from outer space.
The Living Dead will eat your face.
I grew up at the theater, watching double features.
That’s why I love all monsters, madmen, and creatures.

 

Universal Monsters Photo©Universal Studios

 

Scariest Movies for Halloween Night

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.

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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.

the-devils-backbone-santi

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?

get out still

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.

trick r treat sam

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

Ju-on1

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Underrated Halloween Movies for Teens

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.

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Monster House (2006) Steve Buscemi, Catherine O’Hara

Three friends discover their cranky neighbor’s haunted house is actually a scary monster.

monster house

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.

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Ten Fun Halloween Classic Movies

Halloween is a spooky time but it’s also a time of fun. Here are ten classic comedies that will send a chill up your spine and tickle your funny bone at the same.

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The Ghost Train (1941) Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch

After scheduling mishap, a group of travelers are stranded at an isolated station, fearing the arrival of legendary phantom train.

For whatever reasons, British director Walter Forde remade his own quirky supernatural comedy, based on a theater play, just ten years later. It was mostly a vehicle to showcase the talents of comedian Arthur Askey, whose Chaplin-like antics are definitely the highlight of the movie.

ghost train

Spooks Run Wild (1941) Leo Gorcey, Bela Lugosi

The East Side Kids (The Bowery Boys) are stranded in a small rural town camp for boys with a “monster killer” roaming the countryside.

If you’ve never seen any of the 40 plus movies starring the East Side Kids a.k.a the Bowery Boys, expect goofiness, hijinks and a bunch of laughs. Horror star Bela Lugosi joins the mayhem, playing a mysterious magician caught up in case of mistaken identity.

spooks run wild

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15 Scariest Black/White Horror Classics

Decades after their release, we still enjoy watching scary classic horror films. Some movies on my list are considered to be pillars of the horror genre, created sub-genres of their own and set the bar for generations of filmmakers to come.

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15. House on Haunted Hill (1959) Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart

An eccentric millionaire offers five strangers $10,000 if they can spend one whole night with him and his estranged 4th wife in a haunted house.

colorized house on haunted hill 1959 full movie Elegant Boys and Ghouls

Some actually consider this film comical or fun, but taking into account that audiences were not as knowledgeable about horror films gimmicks, as they are today, this movie was quite scary for its time. Director Williams Castle used camera tricks, shadows, ugly witches and skeletons to create the quintessential haunted house movie.

14. The Body Snatcher (1945) Boris Karloff, Henry Daniell

A ruthless doctor and his young student get into trouble with their murderous supplier of illegal cadavers.

body snatcher

Based on the short story of Robert Louis Stevenson, a fictional account of the real life surgeon Robert Knox and the murderous exploits of his corpse suppliers, Burke & Hare, this film was dark, disturbing and featured some fine acting from Boris Karloff. Some people even consider Karloff’s role as the Cabman and grave robber John Gray  better than his turn as Frankenstein’s monster. This was the last movie that Karloff and Lugosi would appear in together.

13. Nosferatu (1922) Max Schrek, Greta Schroder

An ancient vampire named Count Orlock leaves his home in Carpathian mountains by ship, terrorizes the crew, and eventually settles in the little town of Wisborg, where he sets his sights on the beautiful wife of his real estate agent.

nosferatu3

Unlike Dracula, Max Schrek’s vampire wasn’t suave or sexy. No, this creature was more like animal that prowled around in the dark before pouncing on victims. Like other German Expressionist films, this is a silent film, however, not original, as the filmmakers were almost sued out of existence by the Stoker estate for ripping off the Dracula story.

Continue reading “15 Scariest Black/White Horror Classics”

Halloween Bucket List

Happy Friday! I wasn’t going to share a Halloween bucket list until early next month, but after thinking about it, October is only a few days away and there’s only 31 days to celebrate. So, here it is. Have a happy and safe Halloween season!

Halloween Bucket List4

 

Top 10 Back to School Horror Films

It’s that time again. Time for all the kiddos to go back to school. Hollywood has long picked on teens to sell their worst nightmares to the delight of horror fans all over the world. Just when you thought there was nothing scarier than teenage angst and rampant acne, here’s ten Back to School thrillers that will make you glad that you’ve already graduated.

Prom Night (1980)

Chance of being killed is absolutely a good reason to skip the prom.

Four high schoolers, who made a pact in grade school never to reveal their involvement in the accidental death of a friend, are stalked by a masked killer on Prom Night, the anniversary of the death.

prom night

Unless you’re a diehard Idris Elba fan (which I am), I suggest watching original over the 2008 version. With Halloween and The Fog under her belt, star Jamie Lee Curtis secured the title of Scream Queen with Prom Night. The movie’s disco soundtrack became more popular with fans than the movie itself, but a copyright lawsuit killed its chances of US release. Original soundtrack was only released in Japan, making it a rarity among collectors but bootlegs are easily found these days.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

No one sleeps through the night in this neighborhood.

Four teenagers are stalked through their dreams by the vengeful spirit of a janitor, and alleged child murderer, who was killed by the teen’s parents, years ago.

nightmare on elm st

This film gave birth to one of horror’s most iconic killers, Freddy Krueger, played by the charismatic Robert Englund, and superstar Johnny Depp, in his film debut; and, it also saved New Line Cinema from bankruptcy, when the film made a killing at the box office. The screech of Krueger’s clawed glove is second most hair-raising sound in horror, the first being, the infamous chainsaw.

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Best Summer Horror Movies

Summer camp, beach vacations, cook-outs, pool parties, lemonade, fireflies, hot temps and endless sand, these are the things that make summer memorable. Halloween may be right around the corner, but summer is still in full swing. So, if you’re stuck inside during the heatwave, here are 10 great summer horror flicks to watch.

It Follows (2014)

There’s no mention of summer in this movie. It just feels like summer. Boredom often leads to casual sex, which leads to fear and paranoia, and eventually, leads to the suffering of life-long consequences. One of the creepiest things about this movie is watching the mundane life of Michigan teens.  Writer/director David Robert Mitchell never really explains the origins of it is but whatever it is, it’s hella scary.

it follows

Summer Camp (2015)

Taking jobs in exotic locations is all the rage during summer. Four Americans sign up to be camp counselors in Spain for the summer but a rage-inducing virus turn the young compadres into blood-thirsty fiends. From the teams that made the mega-hit The Conjuring, and Rec, the wildly successful Spanish zombie films, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill zombie film. No spoilers, but let’s just say, these aren’t your typical “undead” folk.

summer camp

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Who doesn’t love a good summer by the water? When teens return to the scene of the crime from the previous summer, they are haunted (or hunted) by a mysterious stranger. This by-the-book slasher film starred all the biggest 90s super teen queens and heartthrobs of the time. Besides that, nothing special here unless you like watching snobby teenagers get their comeuppance.

i know what you did

Piranha (1978)

Just when you thought it was safe to go tubing down the river… genetically altered piranhas attack summer resort residents. After the success of Jaws, 1970s Hollywood cranked out a slew of numerous man v. nature horror films. This Roger Corman production was a direct rip-off but not quite as spectacular as Jaws. It did, however, help cement the hungry little fishies’ legacy as devilish man-eaters. The movie spawned a sequel and two remakes including the 2010 all-star gorefest, Piranha 3D, which is porn stars, piranhas and Elizabeth Shue, no seriously.

piranha 78

The Lost Boys (1987)

Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old and never die, sounds like a great summer motto, right? Two teens move to Santa Clara, the murder capitol of the world and find vampires. This movie made two Coreys famous and solidified Kiefer Sutherland’s villainous David as one of pop culture’s greatest vamps. Director Joel Schumacher hired acting heavyweights Dianne Wiest, Ed Herrmann and Bernard Hughes to offset the movie’s camp. Horror movies really shouldn’t be this fun. Now what was that main character’s name again?

lost boys

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Going away for the summer takes on a whole new meaning. After witnessing a tragic accident, Angela goes to live with her crazy aunt, who eventually sends her off to a summer camp being stalked by a serial killer. After Friday the 13th hit it big in 1980, a slew of low-budget slasher camp-themed movies followed. This is probably the best of the bunch. This cult classic’s cringe-worthy kills still pack a punch and a shocking twist ending, on par with Hitchcock’s Psycho.

sleepaway camp

Tremors (1990)

Summers are hot and dry like a desert. A small town is terrorized by bloodthirsty sand creatures. Tremors is fantastic homage to the old Sci-fi monster movies of the 50s and 60s. The charismatic pairing of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward lead an all-star cast in a perfect blend of action and comedy. None of 5 sequels that spawned afterwards quite live up to the originality of the first one, but they’re all still good b-movie camp.

tremors

Friday the 13th (1980)

Camp counselors, the unsung heroes of summer, and horror films. Cursed Camp Crystal Lake enlists the help of several young adults to prepare for the opening of summer camp but brutal killer arrives first. Jason Vorhees, the iconic killer drives the first film’s plot but his actual appearance doesn’t happen until the very end. No matter, he gets plenty of screen time in the other eleven movies following. It’s the second highest grossing horror franchise at $773.4 million, following behind The Exorcist. Rumor is the film series will end at lucky 13. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath while waiting for legalities over film rights to get sorted first.

friday13

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Sometimes, summer is an unbearable scorching hell. In August 1973, after picking up a bizarre hitchhiker, a van full of young people stumble upon a house of terror. Considered a horror masterpiece, it was shot in Texas, during summer, in 115-degree heat, so the sweat dripping off the actor’s faces is real. The killer and several of the film’s details were based loosely on real life cannibal Ed Gein, but that’s as true as it gets. Writer and director Tobe Hooper did manage to coax some the authentic acting and screaming from its unknown cast. It’s the only movie on this list to be banned in several countries around the world (reasons vary, everything from the graphic violence to use of power tools in the title). Leatherface went on to become a horror icon and the mere sound of a chainsaw revving up, still sends chills up the spine.

texas

Jaws (1975)

“You’ll never go in the water again.”  Summer of fear. A giant great white shark terrorizes the beach community of Amity Island over 4th of July holiday. Based on Peter Benchley’s novel, Hollywood’s first known summer blockbuster, Jaws is more a study in fear than it is about a man-eating shark. It’s about personal fear, communal fears, societal fears, mass hysteria, imagined fear, projected fear, and of course, fear of sharks. It’s nearly the perfect thriller that continually builds suspense throughout the whole movie. Amity Island’s colorful characters jump to life, thanks to excellent casting choices and the brilliant script has snappy dialogue, including one of the greatest monologues ever written for film, performed by the mesmerizing Robert Shaw.  It’s all backed by John Williams’ unforgettable score, which is now burned into the mind of every filmgoer who puts a toe in the water. Many people claim their fear of sharks and swimming in the ocean was born after their viewing of Jaws. No other film in history of cinema has had the impact on our society in the way that Jaws has. It is the ultimate summer horror film.

jaws

 

Honorable Mentions:
The Burning  – Another summer slasher camp movie with Cropsey (yes, that Cropsey)
Blood Beach – Beach blanket bingo with monsters
The Hills Have Eyes – Don’t break down in the desert
Turistas – Don’t break down in a foreign country
Club Dread – Don’t let serial killers stop your party

 

 

Halloween Cartoons in Public Domain

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.

  1. 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.

skeleton_dance

  1. 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.

betty boop halloween party

  1. 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

The-mad-doctor-movie-poster-1020197769
This is one of the very few Disney cartoons they let slip into public domain. It’s considered too dark and violent for their programming

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.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PublicDomainAnimation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animated_films_in_the_public_domain_in_the_United_States