Thursday, October 26, 2017

Halloween Movies of Choice: Movies 20-22

A ghostly time!
It is time for more horror tropes to follow up the vampires, zombies, and all the rest.  This installment is dedicated to 80's horror about ghostly hauntings!  I've chosen a few films that for me are prime Halloween viewing, with humor and horror both in the mix, as usual.

SPOILERS dost exist herein.  Beware.

20.  Ghostbusters (1984)

The sad truth is that I have yet to see the 'new' Ghostbusters movie made in 2016.  Perhaps when I do this slot in my Halloween movie cannon will change to include both movies, or will bump this one off, who knows?  But for now, the original Ghostbusters remains on my must view list for the season.

After all, who can resist the lineup of talented comedians playing the ridiculous roles of paranormal ghost eradicators?  The sexism is tedious, but there are enough really good moments that you can still enjoy the film.  The idea of the gate to hell being in one's refrigerator still cracks me up. 

The movie isn't about plot, although the scaffold hangs together well enough, it is about Murray's one liners and the astonishing situations in which the team find themselves.  (Like antagonizing the ghost of a librarian until she attacks them, destroying the ballroom of a five star hotel, negotiating with an ancient demon, and of course fighting off a giant marshmallow man.)  So once we get past the initial setup (which is slow paced) things get interesting as the actual ghostbusting begins.  The special effects are dated now, but because of that they work perfectly to up the camp factor of the film.  The ending, where they have to 'cross the streams' to shut the gates into Gozer's dimension, results in the explosion of said marshmallow man, coating the city in fluff.  An apt metaphor for this just-for-fun romp into iconic 80's Halloween movie territory.  

21.  Poltergeist (1982)

This movie scared the pants off of me as a kid.  It starts off with a 'normal' family, doing relatively normal things (although when I first saw the film I had no idea what was going on in the pot smoking scene).  Then all hell breaks loose, literally.  I didn't really get the details of the plot back then, but I certainly felt the impact of any number of horrifying scenes. 

Where to even begin with this movie?  Ok, how about the television?  TVs with static screens were always weird to begin with, but now imagine they are communication devices to the land of ghosts.  Then there is the scene where the gnarled, old tree busts into the children's bedroom during a lightning storm and actually grabs one of the kids.  After that, there is the scene where the guy has an hallucination that he's pulling all the flesh off of his face.  Then there is the mom going into the weird light and the terrifying monster face that emerges after her.  Wait, I'm not done yet.  Just when you think the house is clear we find mom rolling around on the ceiling and the son being attacked by the seriously most evil looking clown doll ever.  Then skeletons start erupting out of the muddy ground after which the entire house is destroyed as it is sucked into another dimension.  Recall this movie somehow got a PG rating.

Some of the film, now seen 35 years later, is unintentionally amusing.  But a lot of the horror still works because it plays well into childhood fears (and who ever thought that a clown doll was anything but scary ...).  When the dad pushes the TV set out of the hotel room in the last scene, it comes over as funny, but with a bite.  At that point, I'd do the same thing.  Overall, solid 80's Halloween ghostly viewing!

22.  Beetlejuice (1988)

Firmly ensconced on my Halloween movie list is Beetlejuice, an offbeat comedy that strays into horror territory just when you least expect it.  I love it for the total weirdness, the amazing visuals, and the excellent performances of the whole cast.  This is a ghost haunting not to be missed. 

If you remember this movie as having no bite to it, then give it another watch.  First of all our protagonists Barbara and Adam become ghosts by drowning right at the start of the film.  Then they realize they are trapped in their home by a no-man's land of desert and sand worm monsters.  When they meet their 'case worker' Juno, the woman's cigarette smoke is leaking out of her slit throat.  Helpless, our protagonists watch their home be invaded by new owners.  More disturbing content includes Lydia contemplating suicide, and our protagonists rotting before our eyes after a family friend accidentally performs an exorcism.  When Lydia summons Beetlejuice to save the day, he wreaks havoc of course, and ends up killing two of the family's guests.  Before he can force Lydia into marrying him (ewwww) Barbara manages to banish him by getting one of the sand worm snakes to eat him.  Combine this with Burton's bizarre visuals and you get a comedy that delivers some serous creepy content.

This one has aged well, I think.  The actors do a great job, and give us a great 80's Halloween ride from start to finish.

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