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Favorite Spooky Movies that Still Have Bite 

click to enlarge Trick-or-treaters hearing about a house with full-size candy bars.


Trick-or-treaters hearing about a house with full-size candy bars.

Halloween is just days away and if you're like me, you're wondering how you'll pass the evening this year — ears tuned to the front door, bowl of semi-edible candy at the ready, childlike hopes that finally this year more than four children will venture into the dystopian no-man's-land that lies beyond Lundbar Hills.

As you calculate the bare minimum of Reese's that decency demands you leave unconsumed, you might say to yourself, or to your partner, or to that persistent shadow that lurks in the corner and defies all reason, "Let's watch something." But what? There are only so many times you can watch Hocus Pocus this month and let's face it, you've probably already hit that wall.

Fortunately for you, I've got you covered. I may not have a fancy malevolent entity manifesting in the corner but I do have some cracking good flickers to recommend, just right for All Hallow's Eve. All are available to stream for a nominal fee or available on disc from your local public library.

If you're over handsome, guilt-ridden vampires that brood and/or (shudder) sparkle in sunlight, dial it back a century, to when they were the stuff of freaking nightmares. F.W. Murnau's silent classic Nosferatu (1922) still has the mojo and actor (?) Max Schreck's bald, rat-incisored Count Orlock — the original Slender Man — is the personification of the global plague still recent in moviegoer's memories. Later, as you lie sleepless in bed, you'll have time to marvel at the fact you're terrified by images filmed exactly 100 years ago, during the fall of 1921.

If you have time for a double feature, it pairs nicely with either Werner Herzog's 1979 remake Nosferatu the Vampyre, which manages to retain or surpass the original's creep factor, or 2000's clever Shadow of the Vampire. Shadow depicts the making of the 1922 classic, in which director Murnau, to achieve maximum realism, has employed a real vampire. But what do you pay a star who has no use for money?

Halloween and haunted houses go together like candy corn and garbage cans, and the gold standard is The Haunting (1963), director Robert Wise's adaptation of the classic Shirley Jackson novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Unlike the 1999 remake abomination, this version is mercifully free of CGI, decapitations and director Jan de Bont. Instead, it relies on masterful cinematography, unsettling sound effects and faithfulness to Jackson's truly creepy story.

A slightly more recent haunted offering is the under-appreciated The Changeling (1980), starring George C. Scott as a grieving composer who rents a vacant Seattle mansion. Along with utilities and garbage, the suspiciously reasonable rent includes a decades-old murder mystery and a sad but none-too-friendly ghost. Before you can say "Oh, hell no," innocent red rubber balls will send the hair up on the back of your neck.

Living here in the Pacific Northwest — the heart of Bigfoot Country — is something 9-year-old me swore would never happen. And really, the source of that childhood terror was The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), a docudrama about the Fouke Monster, a Bigfoot-like creature prowling the swamps of southern Arkansas. Made on a shoestring budget by Arkansas' low-budget maverick filmmaker Charles B. Pierce, it's an odd but compelling hybrid — part documentary (many Fouke locals play themselves) and part drive-in exploitation horror flick. And even part musical, if you count the two songs (!) that pop up midway through. Younger folks might find it too tame or hokey, but for Sasquatch-fearing Gen-Xers like me, it still gets the job done.

If Boggy and The Blair Witch had an unholy, curiously hairy baby, it would be Willow Creek (2013), director Bobcat Goldthwait's found-footage Bigfoot flick, filmed right here in Humboldt County. Like its Boggy predecessor, Willow Creek uses locals to great effect — look for Bigfoot Books' and Bluff Creek Project's Steven Streufert and Tom Yamarone's surprisingly catchy tune "Roger and Bob (Rode Out That Day)," which is a far more welcome earworm than Legend's "Hey, Travis Crabtree." This hirsute double feature is best enjoyed post-camping season.

Want something a little lighter? Try the completely batshit Bubba Ho-Tep (2002). Elderly Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis) — not dead, long story — are living their sad final days in a run-down Texas nursing home. They team up to fight for the souls of their fellow residents, battling an ancient, cowboy hat- and boots-wearing Egyptian mummy. This deliciously weird, sad, hilarious horror-comedy should have been terrible. But instead it's brilliant.

So, turn out the lights, cuddle up on the couch with your S.O. or your fur babies or that nameless horror in the corner that bleeds madness (Jesus, what is that thing?), and remember the tagline from 1972's The Last House on the Left: "To avoid fainting, keep repeating: 'It's only a movie, only a movie, only a movie ...'"

Michael Logan (he/him) is a librarian by day and the author of the nonexistent reference work One Thousand Years of Cinema (Volume 1).


THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Animated movie about your favorite Goth role models. Voiced by Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron and Chloë Grace Moretz. PG. 93M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

ANTLERS. A grisly death in an Oregon mining town starts to look like the work of a supernatural creature, especially since Guillermo Del Toro directs thsi horror fantasy. Starring Kerri Russell, Jesse Plemons and Graham Greene. R. 99M. BROADWAY.

DUNE. This screen adaptation of the sci-fi tome by director Denis Villenueve spices it up with Zendaya, Timotheé Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Jason Momoa. PG13. 155M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

HALLOWEEN KILLS. Jamie Lee Curtis came to eat probiotic yogurt and kill Michael Myers, and she's all outta yogurt. R. 106M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

THE HARDER THEY FALL. Idris Elba, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and Jonathan Majors mount up for a Western about rival outlaws. (*casually drops handkerchief in dusty street) R. 130M. BROADWAY.

LAMB. Noomi Rapace plays an Icelandic woman who longs for a child and gets a lamb in a deeply strange drama/horror/fable/dark Muppet movie. R. 106M. MINOR.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO. Edgar Wright's fashion-time-travel-murder-mystery-ghost story swings back and forth to swinging London with Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith. R. 116M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

MY HERO ACADEMIA: WORLD HEROES MISSION. Earnest anime superheroes battle terrorists in this big-screen adventure. 104M. BROADWAY.

NO TIME TO DIE. Daniel Craig dusts off the tux one last time to do spy stuff with Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas and Rami Malek. PG13. 203M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

RON'S GONE WRONG. Animated adventure about an awkward kid (Jack Dylan Grazer) and his malfunctioning robot (Zach Galifianakis). PG. 106M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE. Tom Hardy returns in the sequel to the dark Marvel movie about a man and his symbiotic frenemy. PG13. 90M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456.

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