The 31 Days of October Movie Marathon

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.

#27 Night of the Demons 2
(Written by Joe Augustyn & James Penzi, Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, Starring Cristi Harris, Darin Heames, Robert Jayne, Merle Kennedy, Rod McCary, Johnny Moran, Rick Peters, Jennifer Rhodes, Christine Taylor, Zoe Trilling, Ladd York, James W. Quinn & Amelia Kinkade)

Angela: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."
Linda: "Have you been saved?"
Angela: "Who me?"
Linda: "Did you know that the end of the world is drawing near?"
Angela: "As a matter of fact, I do. I was just about to have a slice of cake. Would you two like to join me?"
Albert: "Cake. Yes, of course. How nice."

I about shat my teenage pants way back in 1994 when I purchased one of my first issues of Fangoria (issue #135, and this after drooling over them at newsstands for the better part of a decade) and saw emblazoned on the cover: "Night of the Demons 2, Surprise a good sequel!" It was that title alone that turned me into a whining, begging and pleading little brat at the grocery store until my mother relented and consented in allowing me to buy a copy (my parents' resistance to my love of all things horror is well documented elsewhere on this site). Once in the car and on our way home I flipped madly to the article and then squealed in delight as it's glossy stills thrilled my imagination. There she was, one of my favorite horror villains of all time, the High Priestess of Horror, up to her nasty tricks again, Angela Franklin (Amelia Kinkade). Though it was set only a year after the events in the first film, it was actually shot six years after the fact. It had been too damn long since I had visited Hull House.

It's a miracle that Night of the Demons 2 gets so much right. As a direct to VHS sequel to a mostly cult original made over half a decade later, it really should be a pile of shit. Amazingly it isn't. It takes what was so great about the first one (the gallows humor, the gore, the kooky setpieces) and ups the ante by about ten (as sequels do) but it remembers to be mindful and respectful to not only the mythology (while expanding it's scope, giving Angela a younger sister) but the fan base as well. While the budget, special effects and humor were ratcheted up a notch (as sequels do) the script pulls the rug out from under us and spends a surprising amount of time allowing the audience to get to know our large cast of teenage horndogs (as sequels don't) before they become ground hamburger beneath Angela's heel, leading to a sequel that carries much more of emotional heft that you would expect. There are some very likeable characters here you hope to see make it to credits' end and thanks to some shining performances and sharp, witty characterizations, they leap off the screen all the more. The script even pays homage to two of the first film's most iconic scenes; the lipstick (which returns) through the nipple and Angela's bedeviled dance to some screeching heavy metal. Only this time the lipstick scene takes on the flavor of Japanese tentacle rape (seriously, just watch) and instead of Bauhaus' Stigmata Martyr we now have Morbid Angel's Rapture, a roomful of Halloween party goers, a bowl of fruit punch, some cleavage with a mind of its own and most importantly two possessed bad girls (instead of one) about to raise some hell.

The biggest standout by far is Jennifer Rhodes who steals the whole show as Sister Gloria ("Save a little room for the Holy Ghost."), the asskicking, razor tongued, she-warrior of God. She is a sight to behold, confidently wielding her disciplinary yardstick (usually reserved for the children at her Catholic School) against the throngs of the damned like a sword of divine justice. With a banshee battle cry, she throws herself into war, yardstick raised above her nun's habit, not something that I imagine is easy for an actress to sell without seeming completely ridiculous. Well, it is ridiculous but deliciously so. Savor it because it's not every day that one bears witness to a 47 year old woman in head to toe nun's garb slaughtering demon ass and taking names.

My only (mild) complaint is that the scares are largely dispensed of in favor of more wisecracks and just such silliness, but it's still a very successful entry in the short lived series, nearly equal to the greatness of the original and one of my Halloween faves. Love that tag line too; "Angela is throwing another party. Trick or Treat, suckers." Well dear readers, you'd be a sucker for missing this one this October.

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