The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
October movies are a mix of Halloween treats, tricks

October 7, 2004
By Franklin Harris

Feel that chill in the air? The Halloween season is again upon us, and that means it's time for my annual survey of horror movies worth watching. Be sure to clip this column and keep it near your remote control.

The cream of the crop is Fox Movie Channel's 13 Nights of Fright, airing at 9 p.m., Oct. 19-31. Acclaimed author Neil Gaiman ("American Gods," "Neverwhere") hosts this event, which kicks off with 1972's "Tales from the Crypt," based on the 1950s comic books and starring Peter Cushing ("Horror of Dracula") and Joan Collins ("Dynasty").

"Tales from the Crypt" is perhaps the most fondly remembered of the half dozen anthology films released in the early '70s by Amicus, the major rival to Britain's other horror studio, Hammer Films. In this film, the Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) chills viewers with five ghastly tales of terror. This one is not to be missed.

Fox Movie Channel follows up with other first-rate (or at least second-rate) shockers: "The Alligator People," "Spectre," David Cronenberg's 1986 remake of "The Fly," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Edward Scissorhands," "Terror Train," "Chandu the Magician" (with Bela Lugosi), "The Norliss Tapes," Brian De Palma's bizarre "Phantom of the Paradise," Bette Davis in the macabre "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" and "The Other."

Fox Movie Channel will replay several of the films as part of an all-day marathon on Halloween, which concludes with the director's cut of "Alien."

While American Movie Classics is still a shadow of its former self, this year's Monsterfest lineup includes a few gems. Monsterfest runs from Oct. 24 through Halloween, but there are a few treats to be had in advance.

On Oct. 15 at 9 p.m., AMC will air John Badham's lush but often overlooked 1979 version of "Dracula," starring Frank Langella as the screen's most dashing incarnation of the undead count. Sir Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence ("Halloween") co-star.

Following "Dracula" at 11:15 is Christopher Lee in "Scars of Dracula," the 1970 installment in Hammer's long-running Dracula series. "Scars" features former "Doctor Who" star Patrick Troughton as Dracula's servant, Klove.

Troughton also appears as the priest who gets skewered by a weather vane in the 1975 satanic thriller "The Omen," staring Gregory Peck and the always reliable David Warner ("Time Bandits"). "The Omen" and its two sequels, "Damien: Omen II" and "Omen III: The Final Conflict" (with Sam Neill), anchor Monsterfest and air repeatedly, beginning Oct. 24 at 9:15 p.m.

Also, be sure to catch two more Amicus thrillers, "And Now the Screaming Starts!" and "The House That Dripped Blood," airing back-to-back on Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. "House," another of the Amicus anthologies, stars the Hammer duo of Lee and Cushing, along with another former "Doctor Who" star, Jon Pertwee.

Other Monsterfest offerings to keep in mind: "They Live" (Oct. 25, 5 p.m.; Oct. 26, 1:45 a.m.; Oct. 29, 1:15 p.m.), "The Skull" (Oct. 26, 5 a.m.) and "The Amityville Horror" (Oct. 25, 7 p.m.; Oct. 26, 2:15 p.m.; Oct. 31, 7:15 a.m.).

Turner Classic Movies' Oct. 31 marathon is uncharacteristically weak this year. Two films, however, are certainly worth your time. "Creature from the Black Lagoon" airs at 11 a.m., and the 1963 version of "The Haunting," starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom, airs at 9 p.m.

Bravo joins the party with its five-part series, "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments," premiering Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. A new episode airs each night, with a marathon of all five airing twice on Halloween.

That leaves only the Sci-Fi Channel's two days of horror movies, airing Oct. 30-31, and you should avoid them like teenagers in a slasher movie should avoid basements. Unless, of course, films like "Candyman 3" and "Boogeyman 2" are your cup of tea. In which case, you, my friend, are more frightening than anything on the tube this month.

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