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Our top 6(66) Halloween Picks

Or: 3 classics and 3 indie movies to enjoy during spooky season

by Rory Buccheri and Ask Vestergaard

courtesy of NeONBRAND

Corpse Bride (2005) (RB)

My favourite from this list is a movie that is often dismissed on account of being an animation picture. But let me tell you, it is so much more. Corpse Bride (2005) weaves an emotionally intelligent narrative within the mesmerizing media of stop motion, which Tim Burton had mastered already in 1992 with The Nightmare Before Christmas. The brilliance of this movie lies in the interactions between the realm of the living and the dead, exploring how they clash in our imagination and challenging our expectations about them. The Victorian town Victor and Victoria live in (get it?) is grey and cold, filled with loveless marriages and dominated by the squalor of money. The realm of the dead, on the other hand, is where it all comes alive: there is music, colour, and vivid passion. Without too many spoilers, the way the characters are weaved into this tapestry is a true joy to watch, and, in the end, utterly heart-breaking. After you have watched the last speech, you will remember the words for a long time… trust me on this one.

La Casa Lobo (2018) (AV) If you look past the works of Tim Burton and Henry Selick, you’ll find a long and vibrant history of stop-motion horror—from Jan Švankmajer to Christiane Cegavske, fans of the creepy and odd are spoiled for choice when it comes to watching dead clay and cloth be reanimated by filmic necromancy. There is perhaps no better example of this than Joaquin Cociña and Cristóbal León’s masterpiece of Chilean horror La Casa Lobo (2018)—or The Wolf House in English. Part fairytale and part expression of the trauma caused by the horrific Colonia Dignidad— an internment camp run by Nazi fugitives that flourished under the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet—La Casa Lobo is a harrowing watch. There is something painful about its animation: bodies are formed and painted on-screen, more like miscarriages than births, their limbs tearing and reknitting with every agonizing movement. Solid walls come alive with moving paint and flat characters are torn from them, screaming, into three-dimensional space. Pigs become children, mothers become birds, freedom becomes imprisonment, and wolves become patriarchal edifices of trauma that whisper sweet nothings into the night. La Casa Lobo feels less like a movie than the physical manifestation of a tortured wail— and it is utterly beautiful.

Beetlejuice (1988) (RB)

If you’ve read the title of the movie out loud three times, I have bad news for you: that’s all it takes to summon Beetlejuice, a peculiar spirit with mischief in its mind. Unlike those respectable spooky constables who will convince you a) they were wronged or b) they must be avenged, Beetlejuice is the kind of guy who just wants to party and cause trouble. The plot starts in the wake of a family tragedy, involving a house two happy newly-weds are supposed to move in. The glee doesn’t last long, and with a wave of Burtonian irony they are swept away from the realm of the living into the realm of the dead. However, this is just the beginning. When another jolly family moves in, that’s when the two, united in life and death, need a good ol’ poltergeist to wreck some havoc. Starring great 90s stars like Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder, Beetlejuice is, in many respects, a product of its time. However, Burton cleverly plays with the abrasive humour of the main protagonist, the terrifyingly rude Beetlejuice, creating a somewhat monstrous yet hilarious version of an American poltergeist. Once you have watched the scene of the Banana Boat Song, it will live rent free in your head forever.

Hausu (1977) (AV) I… What? What? What the hell is this beautiful beast of a film?! While Beetlejuice might be one of the most well-known and widely beloved twists on the haunted house genre, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu (1977) is without a doubt the strangest. Obayashi was hired by Japanese production company Toho (of Godzilla fame) to create a horror blockbuster to piggyback off of the smash hit that was America’s Jaws. Believing that children are much more creative than adults, Obayashi asked his daughter what she thought was scary, and decided to model his movie after that. The result is Hausu: a film that is about as far from a blockbuster as you can get. This is a movie that spits on the very concept of realism. This is a movie that relishes in its own artifice: a whizzing whirlwind of discordant editing styles, whimsical music, cutout animation superimposed on live-action, and bonkers gore. This is a movie where the characters have names like ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Fantasy’ and… ‘Kung Fu’? This is a movie where a girl gets eaten alive by a piano while a goldfish watches. This is a movie where a severed head bites someone on the ass. This is a movie. I cannot believe this is a movie.

The Addams Family (1991) (RB)

Yes, that’s right. There is one queer-tinted, ground-breaking, spooky movie and I am here to convince you to watch it. The Addams Family (1991) deserves a spot on the shelf of the old but gold. It is a family-favourite for a reason: it has the whole set of complications you’d find in your own family (well, not quite), but taken with a spooky turn. If you are particularly conservative about gender roles in a relationship, I can assure you this movie will scare you. Morticia and Gomez are known for breaking those uncomfortable marriage roles that the 90s were still quite uptight about. In 2021, I bow to how ahead of their times these two were. To add to that, who doesn’t love an embedded coming-of-age story in the form of a sociopathic 13-year-old like Wednesday Addams? Whether you have watched it before or not, I bet you have seen these three in meme form in one way or another. God bless the age of the internet. There is true delight in each character, and the plot, albeit quite silly, accompanies that feeling of camaraderie and unconventional family vibes and belonging that are the true foundation of queer stories.. For this reason, I allow myself to call this movie iconic.

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) (AV) Takashi Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) isn’t scary. It isn’t creepy. It isn’t even mildly ghoulish. It is, however, utterly cursed. Is it horror? Is it a comedy? A musical? A psychedelic remake of Kim Jee-woon’s 1988 film The Quiet Family? An existential treatise on the ridiculous unfairness of life and the strength of people able to laugh in its face? Is it even good, or is it just a train wreck I can’t look away from? I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. It’s just… cursed. Why does it begin with a soup-born hell-cherub chasing a severed uvula through the air? Don’t ask me. Why is there a dance number with zombies? I haven’t a clue. All I know is that this is a film about a family of diverse misfits trying to make their way in a world that just won’t give them a break. But they aren’t the Addams Family—oh no. They don’t want to be left to their own devices. They’ve refurbished a house built next to a garbage dumpster and a toxic lake with the hopes of turning it into a bustling bed-and-breakfast. Problem is, their guests. Just. Keep. Dying. In the end, perhaps the thing that truly makes The Happiness of the Katakuris a work of horror is the fact that someone, somewhere, was mad enough (or high enough) to actually make it.


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