The stores are filled with Halloween decorations. A few fanatics are even starting to decorate, and almost everyone who celebrates Halloween has started talking about costume plans — whether for themselves, their kids, or their pets. Others, like me, have been taking advantage of the seasonal candy selection (because everyone knows chocolate tastes better when it’s shaped like a ghost). But what’s another way to prepare? Rent some scary movies! Either get some friends together or turn off all the lights and scare yourself silly by watching them alone. Here are three movie marathon suggestions to get you into the Halloween mood. Pro tip: Awesome level increases if watched while in costume.
1. Have a Zombie Marathon
Zombie movies have been around forever, ranging from silly to horrifying. You’ve got your fast zombies, your slow zombies, zombie-viruses spread by bites, by contaminated food, or by airborne bacteria. Well, there are zombie purists who think that the only true zombies are those that pass on the disease by biting people and all the other so-called “zombies” are just wannabes. But if you have one in your friend group who starts grammar nazi-ing the definition, just throw candy corn at them. Here’s a list of must-see walking dead genres to check out:
Two movies come to mind that fit this category perfectly: Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 British comedy that focuses on Shaun who finds himself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Worse, he’s got an angry girlfriend (played by Kate Ashfield) to patch things up with, a daft mother (Penelope Wilton), and an unlikable stepfather. Shaun and his dead-beat roommate and best friend, Ed (played by Nick Frost in a role similar to that of Zach Galifianakis’s in The Hangover).
Add his girlfriend’s disapproving, buzz-kill flatmates (Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran) and you’ve got yourself a — well, actually a pretty underwhelming team. Think about everyone you know. Then think about the seven people you’d think least capable of handling an end-of-the-world scenario. That’s what Shaun’s dealing with.
Zombieland is a 2009 take on how hilarious the apocalypse can be. It features Woody Harrelson as the anti-hero, Jesse Eisenberg as his tough-guy acquaintance, and Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as two seriously bad-ass girls they picked up along the way. They’re the lone survivors in a world overrun by the undead. The movie follows them on a cross-country roadtrip looking for the living. Along with the obvious problem of the apocalypse, there are the typical funny scenarios arising from such an unlikely gathering trapped in a car together. Add Zombie survival tips like “Remember Cardio!” and “Always Wear a Seatbelt” and you’ve got a laugh-out-loud classic.
Three movies to watch back-to-back: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985), all by George Romero. If you’re really hardcore, you’ve also got 2005′s Land of the Dead, 2007′s Diary of the Dead, and 2009′s Survival of the Dead, but I much prefer the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s when it comes to the cheesiness factor.
The movies aren’t sequels, but are set during the same time with the same premise: Survivors dealing with a worsening post-apocalypse world. See all the cliche horror elements — the humble hero, the pushy strong-willed and not-too-intelligent jock, the girl in distress, conversations with the phrase “let’s split up” — before they were cliche. Lots of fake gore and ’60s-style special effects top it all off. (Though, quick warning, each new movie does do a better job with the scare factor, but they’re all still pretty silly.)
In this category we’ve got 28 Days Later (2002) and I Am Legend (2007). Twenty-Eight Days Later has pretty much the same premise as any zombie movie — survivors trying not to get eaten. However, it’s especially notable for two reasons. One is for ushering in a new subgenre of fast zombies. Before, even if the zombies were pretty gross-looking, you could still outrun them at a fast walk. Not anymore.
Second, this really explored the mentality/social decline of the survivors. In this one, some of the living are bad guys too. Also, there’s always the question of the morality of shooting your just-infected friends and loved ones.
I Am Legend is also doing some new things with the genre. Instead of focusing on a group of survivors trying to, well, survive, we’ve got Robert Neville (Will Smith) working hard to find a cure. The whole racing against the clock for science concept is, to me, a lot more intriguing than just straightforward hiding from zombies. Though there’s lots of hiding and running going on, too.
He barricades himself into his house with not much more than a gun and his dog as protection. Not only are these zombies fast, they’re actually pretty smart too. And of course Robert’s not just someone trying to avoid them, he’s also got to catch some to study them and look for a cure. If you want scary zombies, this is a movie for you.
2. Have a Vampire Marathon
Vampires don’t have as much variation as zombies, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome. Most vampires are intended to be a mix of scary, sexy, and sad. It’s a mix of emotions that, too me, make them more interesting characters than brainless zombies. Here are some of the biggest vampire hits:
‘Interview with the Vampire,’ & ‘Queen of the Damned’
Both of these movies are based on books from Anne Rice’s “The Vampire Chronicles” series. What I like about her is they’re not super-scary, but have a lot of plot and depth to them. Interview with the Vampire (1994) is told from the point of view of Louis (Brad Pitt), a 200-year-old vampire who is telling his story to a reporter. He talks about Lestat (Tom Cruise), his mysterious and fairly psychotic ex-friend and their vampire “child,” Claudia (Kirsten Dunst). Claudia is especially creepy, since she’s chronologically over 100 years old but forever trapped in the body of a little girl. Interview with the Vampire is more intriguing than it is scary, but still definitely a good Halloween movie.
Equally intriguing and amping up the fear level is 2002′s Queen of the Damned, which is a mix of the books The Queen of the Damned and The Vampire Lestat — both worth a read. It follows the very sexy Lestat (this time played by Stewart Townsend) who, despite a vampire code to keep their undead-ness a secret, is openly proclaiming his vampire status and even forming a hard-core vampire-themed metal band. Of course, mortals just think it’s a joke, but fellow vampires are getting pretty pissed. The main consequence of his music though, is that it’s loud enough to wake the, er, undead. The oldest and long-dormant vampire Akasha (Aaliyah) rises a wreaks general havoc on vampires and mortals alike. She’s the perfect example of an equally sexy and scary vampire.
This time the vampire’s one of the good guys. Blade is a half-man, half-vampire hybrid who’s a vampire slayer out for revenge. Add an inter-species vampire war building (between pure blood vampires and vampires who were once human) and a plot to raise one seriously evil character and you’ve got a movie worth seeing. The ratings weren’t super-great on this one or its two sequels, so this might be one you’d rather rent than own. All the same, it’s a Halloween must.
Of course I can’t mention vampires without mentioning the original! And there have been at least four different remakes attempting to follow the Bram Stoker novel’s plot and countless deviations on the overall theme. So whether you want classic Dracula or a more modern take, you have plenty to choose from.
‘The Twilight Saga’
Iknow, I know, my apologies for mentioning this right after Dracula. But since it’s an absurdly popular vampire series, I feel it’s worth a mention. Also, whether or not you’re a fan of the whole sparkling thing, you’ve got to admit it’s a new take on an old genre. It definitely focuses more on the “vampires are actually misunderstood good guys and it’s Ok to date them” aspect than the scary side, but there is some half-decent tension between vampires, mortals, and werewolves.
Of course, Then there are some Twilight haters who truly believe its success is the scariest thing ever to happen to the world.
3. Have a Stephen King Marathon
If you really want to scare yourself, perhaps permanently, rent out the Stephen King section of the video store. He’s definitely the master of horror and his movies do the books justice. Usually I always find myself more scared by books than by movies — what goes on in my imagination can be waaaay freakier than what goes on onscreen — but then I saw The Shining (1980), the story of a haunted, isolated hotel. Jack Nicholson with an axe. Seriously, has there been a scarier phrase ever uttered?
Other good ones: 1990′s It in case you’re not already afraid of clowns, 1983′s Cujo if you want to be afraid of dogs, and 1989′s Pet Sematary if you’re trying to convince your roommate not to get a cat. They’ll all keep you glued to your seat, and the good thing about Stephen King is his work is all so different. With other movie marathons focusing on a single genre, director, or writer, after a while it all might sound the same. Not so with King.
Carrie deserves special mention because you should, preferably before Halloween and definitely in the next year, have a marathon of all the remakes. Why? To prepare yourself for the third remake coming out in 2013. Don’t worry, they’re each different enough to watch and not get deja vu. The first is a 1976 production starring Sissy Spacek and a very young John Travolta, the second is a 2002 version starring Angela Bettis, Patricia Clarkson, and Jesse Cadotte, and the upcoming Carrie, starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore, may be the best yet.
What Are Your Favorite Halloween Movie Marathons?
Those are my top Halloween movie marathons — what are yours? Do you have any vampire, zombie, or Stephen King favorites I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments!