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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Lucky 13 Returns! Week One: Halloween

Well, well, well--here we are again. Last summer, The Vault of Horror joined forces with Brutal as Hell to bring you a special series entitled The Lucky 13. Over the course of 13 weeks, the staff of both sites selected their favorite horror films in 13 different sub-genres. We all had a lot of fun, and I like to think it resulted in a lot of thought-provoking reading.

And now, because it was so much fun, BAH impresario Marc Patterson and myself have decided to revisit the whole thing with 13 more horrific categories. This time around, given the time of year, it's all about holiday- and seasonal-related horror (more or less). And what better way to kick things off than with a look at our very favorite Halloween movies?

Unfortunately, we're off to a bit of a slow start this week, but we've still got a couple of fine Halloween offerings from myself and VOH staffer Paige MacGregor. Stay tuned for more contributors in the coming weeks. And be sure to check out Brutal as Hell for their favorite Halloween picks!

B-Sol on Trick 'r Treat

Just a few years ago, Michael Dougherty crafted what can only be described as an unqualified holiday classic. From here on in, let it be known: You watch It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas, Darby O'Gill & The Little People on St. Patrick's Day, Yankee Doodle Dandy on the Fourth of July... and Trick 'r Treat on Halloween. It's as simple as that.

What I truly love about this film is the fact that most of it deals directly with the terrors of children, or is in some way tied into Halloween from a kid's perspective. This connects to something primal in all of us--that kernel deep down inside that is still afraid of the dark from when we cowered under the sheets and watched the closet door intently as we tried to fall asleep. In modern times, Halloween has been a decidedly child-oriented holiday, which is fascinating considering it also deals in matters of the horrific and supernatural.

Trick 'r Treat plays on the connection between children and the horrors of Halloween. This element is literally embodied in that creepy-as-hell little sack-headed scarecrow kid who is basically the center-point of the flick. Forget Jigsaw or The Creeper--this little bugger is without question the iconic horror movie icon of the past decade. It's dark material, but at the same time, never gets so heavy as to lose its sense of fun. That's a tough balancing act to pull off, but Dougherty does it with style.

Paige MacGregor on Hocus Pocus

Although I enjoy slashers, thrillers and various other violent and bloody sub-genres of horror, my favorite Halloween movie isn’t a genre classic like John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) or even a contemporary indie flick like Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat (2007). Instead, I like to get into the Halloween spirit by watching the 1993 Disney movie Hocus Pocus.

The plot is a simple one: Max Dennison (Omri Katiz) and his sister, Dani (Thora Birch), move to Salem just in time for Halloween. In an attempt to impress one of his classmates, Max accidentally resurrects three witches who were put to death 300 years earlier. In an unlikely partnership, Max, Dani and Allison (Vinessa Shaw) join forces with a 300-year-old talking black cat and a reanimated corpse in order to stop the witches from sucking the life out of Salem’s children before the sun rises.

Disney movies don’t always withstand the test of time, but Hocus Pocus remains a Halloween staple in my house for several reasons, not the least of which is Bette Midler’s performance as the eldest Sanderson sister, Winifred. In her role as Winnie Sanderson, Bette Midler not only delivers some of the film’s funniest lines (“He has a little man”), but also leads her co-stars—Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy—in a catchy musical number that will be stuck in your head for weeks (although it’s good enough that you won’t mind).

The slapstick antics and clever dialogue of the Sanderson sisters are only part of why Hocus Pocus will remain an important part of my Halloween holiday traditions, and we have writers David Kirschner (story), Mick Garris (story/screenplay) and Neil Cuthbert (screenplay) to thank for that. Of course, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy’s performances are similarly comical and impressive as the middle sisters, and it doesn’t hurt that Sarah Jessica Parker wears so much makeup that she’s barely recognizable. Hocus Pocus is a unique blend of fantasy, comedy, and Disney musical that is great for children and adults alike, and I highly recommend watching it at least once this Halloween season.

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Join us next week for The Lucky 13, as we head into the month of November with a look at the popular sub-genre of "Man vs. Nature...


Missy Y. said...

No one wrote about Halloween. I feel personally injured by this fact.

B-Sol said...

Well, no one really wrote about anything. Hopefully my contributors whip themselves into shape as we move along...

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