Must Watch Horror Films For Halloween
So here is the thing folks, I generally hate most of what passes as Halloween "Must Watch Horror" lists that make their way into every periodical and spring up all over every website, come this time of year. And while yes, I am always happy to see our genre get some ink in newspapers, magazines and on assorted blogs, who wouldn't say at this point that those lists have become just about as predictable as the sun rise? Admittedly, there are certain mainstays that belong on every list, every year; John Carpenter's Halloween, William Friedkin's The Exorcist, George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist and Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street to name but a few. But this just leads me to my other problem with the majority of the selected films on the majority of these lists: very few if any of them are actually about or set during Halloween. And if you are a dyed in the wool horror fan like me (if you're not, then what the hell are you doing here), chances are you watch any of the aforementioned films once or twice a year anyways. You're looking for something a little bit more specific yes? You want to really celebrate your Halloween by digging into 31 films set during or around your favorite time of year, right? Well, fear no more dear readers, we here at The October Country have compiled to be what we think is the real list of Must Watch Horror Films For Halloween. Yes, there will be a number of expected titles on hand (Halloween and few of it's sequels deserve the seasonal recognition they've carved out for themselves) but there will also be some overlooked gems, truly great films that celebrate the holiday just as much as anything starring The Shape or Sam (Halloween's new mascot), with his little hay sack face and candy knives. So check back in with us when you can , as a new film will be added to the list everyday.
#29 Lady In White
(Written and Directed by Frank LaLoggia, Starring Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco, Katherine Helmond, Jason Pressman, Joelle Jacobi and Jared Rushton)
All but completely ignored during it's initial 1988 theatrical release, director Frank LaLoggia's (Fear No Evil aka one of the queerest horror films ever made) subtle, nuanced coming of age ghost story Lady in White has thankfully found an appreciative audience over the decades. Even as fans stayed away in droves (this was the decade of splatter, remember), the critics loved it. Oh the critics loved it for sure (natch). And what's not to love? Existing as a snapshot of a small New York town during the 50's, it's got nostalgia out the wazoo. Nostalgia for the forgotten innocence of childhood, for small town living, family, but most importantly, Halloween. Which is where our story begins: on a chilly Halloween morning as young pint sized Frankie (Lukas Haas, done up as a vampire and cute as a button even then) races his older brother to school on their bikes. He's got his carved Jack-O-Lantern in his bicycle basket and a new monster story he's written and plans to read to his elementary school class tucked away in his pocket. Frankie likes monsters you see, his room is adorned with models of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. The thing is, Frankie has never met a real monster. Not yet. Halfway into Halloween and after being locked in the school's cloak closet overnight by his not so nice "pals" (including resident jerk of all trades Jared Ruston, who was just yesterday being an ass in our review for Pet Sematary II), Frankie hunkers down beneath his vampire cape, by the window overlooking the neighboring graveyard, and prays for morning. However, the silent dark schoolhouse isn't as quite as it seems, and Frankie is not alone. Awakened in the dead of night by the apparition of a young ghostly girl, Frankie watches in at first horror as the recreation of her violent death plays out before his eyes, and then he watches in stark raving terror as her flesh and blood murderer (his identity concealed from both Frankie and the audience, and providing the story with it's chief mystery) unlocks the cloak room door and returns to the scene of his crime.
With the exception of one or two potent images (the killer, once revealed, lets out a howl of madness that is both startling and disturbing and brings to mind Dennis Hopper's unhinged turn in Blue Velvet), there really is nothing in Lady in White likely to scare anyone over the age of 12. But what it lacks in scares it makes up for in a genuine sense of spookiness. The sight of ghostly apparitions strolling through mist enshrouded woods or the appearance of the titular woman at the top of a flight of stairs of a believed to be abandoned house are sure to sends the hairs on the back of your neck on end. But perhaps the most memorable aspect of the film is it's small town charm it wears on it's sleeve, detached from the ghostly goings on in the story. Frankie's Catholic, Italian family is a loveable bunch. Hard working, protective and apparently progressive Dad (he's the only man in town who offers any sympathy or support to the African-American family in the town, the patriarch of which has been wrongly fingered in the rash of child killings, Alex Rocco in this role is quietly superb) , his trouble making teenage brother Geno (Jason Presson) and dear old, bickering Mama Assunta and Papa Charlie. Here, Frankie's family provides as much comedy relief as it does genuine warmth. In fact many times I felt as though I was watching something Speilberg had his hands involved in crossed with the nostalgia of Bob Clark's A Christmas Story. Which is another way of saying that Lady in White can be enjoyed by the whole family. It may be geared towards children, but it was produced back when children's films still contained a real world heft to them and were capable of going to some sincerely scary places (lord I miss that). So gather up the kiddies, bust out the Halloween candy early and gather everyone around for a chilling good time at the movies.*
*Editor's Note: Try to track down the British Director's Cut if at all possible. It runs about 5 minutes longer and contains some additional character development.