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Top 10 greatest Halloween flicks

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It’s that time of year again when trick or treaters appear and even adults don elaborate costumes to attend parties. There’s no shortage of seasonal films to watch either, and so it seems like a perfect opportunity to write about some of my personal picks. Not all of these are set exactly on Halloween, but they’re still spooky all the same.

Obviously, many households are filled with adults and children looking to have some fun together. My first pick would be the 1949 Disney animated short “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which was put on a double bill under the banner “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” during its original release. Based on the famous tale by Washington Irving, this family-friendly but creepy effort is a solid adaptation of the original tale. It also offers a few chuckles from Gunpowder (the protagonist’s horse).

If you’re looking for more titles that might encourage your kids to read, you can also try the feature adaptation of “Goosebumps” (2015), inspired by the works of R.L. Stine. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable effort about the author (played by Jack Black) who must help a group of kids stop monsters that are escaping from his books. It’s action-packed and features cameos from just about every memorable creature that ever appeared in one of his works. While this reviewer enjoyed the original, he hasn’t had the opportunity to catch up with the 2018 sequel, so curious souls will have to check that title out without a recommendation.

Speaking of originals, the first “Hocus Pocus” (1993) with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Cathy Najimy is a winner (the follow-up is a middling effort).

But, if you are looking for an amusing, family-friendly sequel, “Addams Family Values” (1993) is actually a much funnier movie than the 1991 original. The family have to deal with a serial killer (played by Joan Cusack) who marries Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) and tries to tear the family apart. The gags are much more effective in this follow-up, particularly the sequences involving the Addams’ children after they are sent against their will to an aggressively happy summer camp.

If you’re an older viewer looking for something a little more obscure, the recent independent film “The Guest” (2014) may be worth a look. It’s about a soldier (Dan Stevens) who visits a family, telling them that he was a friend of their son who died in combat in Afghanistan. They immediately take him in, but it soon becomes clear to one of the family members that the new arrival may be hiding secrets. It all climaxes on Halloween, where this suspicious person tries to evade the figure at the seasonal high school dance. This one is a slow burn, but a well-acted film that gets more and more disturbing as it progresses.

For anthology fans, the original “Creepshow” (1982) is a winner. The original screenplay was written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero (of “Night of the Living Dead” fame). The wraparound is set during Halloween, before the story introduces five tales of terror out of a comic book. It’s a visual treat as it emulates old EC comics, getting the graphic but darkly humorous tone just right. In fact, this is the horror movie that made me a fan of the genre.

“Trick ‘r Treat” (2007) may be the best anthology of recent years. It features a cast of familiar faces dealing with all sorts of disturbing creatures over the course of the holiday. While each tale is very short, it still manages to work and has enough effective bits to make a lasting impression.

Of course, who can forget the most famous film of them all? The original “Halloween” (1978) introduced the world to mask-wearing, knife-wielding slasher Michael Myers. Director John Carpenter keeps a sense of mystery about the maniac throughout the film as he stalks a group of babysitters (led by Jamie Lee Curtis).

The director uses long takes to maximize suspense as the fearful leads unexpectedly find themselves in Meyer’s company. Often, he appears standing behind them and moving slowly, elevating suspense. There’s a reason that this film is a bonafide classic... it’s one of, if not the best of its era.

While it isn’t as good and was maligned by many during its original release, “Halloween II” (1981) has its moments as well. It’s a bleaker movie that features a few background characters having to deal with losing loved ones from the first movie. The movie also provides plenty of chills and an explosive resolution to the story (not that it would stop anyone from continuing on with the series).

Curious souls will also find something wild and weird with “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982), which has nothing to do with Michael Myers and instead focuses on a sinister company making masks that will kill wearers on Halloween. The jingle for their products will ring in your head for days after the movie.

There are many more to choose from (perhaps they’ll be included in another edition next year), but these are just some Halloween-themed movies that you may want to check out this week. Enjoy and don’t be weary of being scared, it’s all part of the fun!

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By Glenn Kay
For the Sun