A Horror Movie Marathon Guide for the Horror Movie Fan

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When attempting to choose appropriate films for your own movie marathons, it is important to know your audience. Are you watching it with young people? Film fans? Popcorn fans? Etc. It’s no surprise that most websites that work try to recommend “event” films cater to the largest possible audience; the casual film fan. As someone who is not a casual film fan, and whose friends are not casual film fans, these guides are almost entirely useless. So instead, I’ve decided to make my own guide for the horror movie buffs out there. Using my own experiences, as well as attempting to put on paper my wildest film watching desires, I’m making the ultimate Halloween Movie Marathon guide.

I’ve come to realize, when approaching this kind of event, it’s important to set aside an ample period of time to go through with it. If you don’t have time for at least three films, then the event isn’t even worth having. I think the ideal number of viewings is four, though it’s important to understand that even under the best conditions, there are often one or two films that will be ignored or talked through. This is not a bad thing, it’s the nature of these get together, especially if we’re meeting together different groups of people who do not necessarily know each other. It’s part of the reason why I have categorized the film in a rough order that I find pretty effective in garnering attention, but also prioritizing the films you want to see most, or have the greatest impact by putting them towards the end of the show, when people are more settled and conversation has began to die down.

What about the actual hosting? I can’t say I’m particularly skilled in this domain. What I do know is, Halloween is fun and informal, if you can to decorate you can get stuff cheap and if you don’t, most people won’t care. What IS essential is to make sure that you have enough seats for people. Since this is meant to be something for the ‘long haul’, think comfort. If people have to sit on the floor or on hard wooden chairs, provide a lot of pillows and even blankets.

I consider myself an amateur cook, so any kind of get together like this makes me think of what kind of food I could whip up. Perhaps because my own childhood experience with Halloween have to do with candy and treats, meal type foods, or even buffet style doesn’t seem right. It is all about decadence and sweets, and food that will go straight to your gut, heart and thighs.

If you’re up to actually making food, instead of just breaking out the store bought candy and chips, here are a few recipe suggestions. I’m not really one for baking, so I’m just linking a few recipes that I personally like.  If I ever continue this series, there will most likely be “real” cooking involved, and I’ll post my own recipes.

Better than Reeses Peanut Butter Squares

*Important note for this recipe, instead of letting it set, put it in the freezer for at least 40 minutes.

These are the most incredible things ever. It doesn’t have to be Halloween to make them, because they’re like… the best thing ever.

Mud Cake

I’ll let the greatest network in the world do the rest of the work for me, go to the Food Network, I’m sure there are a lot of goodies to be had.

For those who need a little Irish in their festivities, fun punches are always in order. Go for red, it’s like blood! RIGHT! RIGHT?

Another important ingredient to a successful Halloween movie marathon, is obviously, costumes! Tell people to bring them, wear them, live in them… threaten them if they refuse to humiliate themselves, and make sure to have a lot of spare sheets, because if they won’t comply, they’ll just be ghosts and will be shunned by everyone else. I think movie themed costumes are fun, and since this is a movie marathon for movie fans, there will hopefully be (less) embarrassment because nobody recognizes that you are Nana from Vivre sa Vie, or Norman Bates dressed as his mother, not Eddie Murphy in drag.

Now onto the fun part, the movies! As I said earlier, the ideal movie night is four films… that is the model I will be working with.

The Fun, Recent Film

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In my experience, starting with a fun recent horror is always a good idea. Though this is a marathon for film buffs, it can’t be expected that everyone attending will have the same level of experience and enthusiasm for cinema. Starting with something that people will be familiar with, perhaps even that some have seen is a good way to start the evening. It’s also the kind of thing that can be talked through, it’s often culturally relevant, and if others have seen it, there is no great loss if full attention is not kept.

My top recommendation is Sam Raimi’s Drag me to Hell. Not only is it a film that balances comedy and horror beautifully, it is one that is best enjoyed in a group setting. I know many people have seen it, but I also know just as many wouldn’t say no to see it again. This is a film that demands audience involvement, and it’s difficult to ignore talking goats, vomiting gypsies and crazy house flies.

Other options: Trick r’ Treat, Shaun of the Dead, Planet Terror and Death Proof (I guess this counts?)

Nostalgic Favourite or So Bad, it’s Good

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Now that people are a bit more comfortable and more into the horror mood, I recommend going for a classic favourite. Now for most people, this category would probably be a bit more narrow, but for the film fan the pickings can come from a good 80 years of horror. It’s best to remain accessible, because you might still have a few “outsiders” hanging about, but it is also about time to start going for the more unconventional choices. I also recommend avoiding classics that don’t deserve their status, like Friday the 13th. Go for something good, not something that is thought to be good.

Though, a suitable alternative to this category is the so bad it’s good film, so I’ll be including two top recs.

Top Recommendation for Nostalgic Favourite: Carrie, De Palma’s film about a battered adolescent with powerful psychic powers. The film has wide appeal, and is quite popular, but still underseen.  It provides the holy trinity of great horror, boobs, blood and evil mothers (I wish I could have another ‘b’, it might catch on!). It is at once frightening, and yet, I think can also be seen on a less serious level. It’s a lot of fun, and is great cinema. It shouldn’t disappoint!

My top recommendation for So Bad, it’s Good: Top of the Food Chain is a strange Canadian film that needs to be seen to believe. It’s a high bred of cheap horror and cheap science fiction, and plays around with strange sexuality and strange scientific politics. It has all the right elements of great bad movies; boobs, mannequins, aliens, countless one-liners, musical sequences and a nonsensical setting.

Other recs (for both categories): A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Happening, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, The Wicker Man (1973), The Birds and The Bride of Frankenstein.

Foreign/weirdo film

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Now we get into the fun weird part of the whole thing, when you move beyond entertaining the masses and we take some risks. There are many directions you can go with the foreign/weirdo film, and there is a good chance that at least one person will walk away annoyed, upset or bored out of their mind. That’s part of the fun! At this point of the night, most people are getting a little sleepy and are more prone to pay attention. It’s also far more likely that people will really get into this, because of their state, and already into the horror spirit.

Top Recommendation:  Nosferatu (1979), while many people have seen the original by Murnau I’d personally argue that Herzog’s remake is even better. It is just as disturbing, while also capturing the strange level of humour involved. Having Kinski involved is an added bonus, as there is inevitably one person in the room familiar with his insanity, who will always joyfully convey some stories to the ‘audience’. This is the kind of film that gets under your skin, but will inspire as much melancholia as it does fear. It is a beautiful film and one that should be seen by more people.

Other Options: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Black Sunday, Suspiria, Possession (1981), [rec], Trouble Every Day and Eyes without a Face.

It’s at this point that people are really into the horror mood that it’s a good idea to take a little break, have people tell their favourite scary stories and experiences. You’ll be surprised at people’s brushes with the ‘supernatural’ and even the non believers will have a story or two that defy explanation. It’s also the perfect lead in to the final film of the night, which should also be the scariest.

Scary Scary Scary

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Part of the fun of Halloween is indulging in the horror of… horror. End the night on a note of true horror and choose something that is truly terrifying. In the spirit of evening, its’ best not to go for the obvious, though there are many films that are classics for a reason. I’m naming a few of them as other options, only because I think they are horrifying and reputations are earned.

Top Recommendation: The Legend of Hell House. As much as there are many films that earn their titles, there are some that are criminally underseen. Though somewhat divisive, I’d put The Legend of Hell House  at the top of my recommendation list for the truly “get under your skin” horror. It’s a battle between science and religion, and the attack of a truly terrible man who has long been dead. The film invokes Cries and Whispers with all the red wallpaper and darkened rooms. It is also the only film I can think of that involves ghost rape.

Other Options: Black Christmas (1974), The Innocents (1961), The Shining (1980) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I also think it’s not entirely wrong to let the third category just bleed into this one. Most of the weird foreign ones are also really scary and disturbing.

Hopefully that was of some help, and I lived up to my promise of going beyond the obvious horror movie night choices. I know I fell on a quite a few ‘classics’, which almost defeats the purpose of this post entirely, but I can’t help it… they’re so good! If you have any recommendations, for movies or for the event don’t be afraid to post it!

6 responses to “A Horror Movie Marathon Guide for the Horror Movie Fan

  1. Pingback: Reading « Nerves Strengthened with Tea

  2. Great list. Unfortunately my girlfriend doesn’t like gruesome horror movies, but I reckon I could sell her on Nosferatu.

  3. This is a terrific, meaty post (but god spare those poor audience turkeys above!).

    My only main quible might be that a film like Dawn of the Dead, for instance, is so epic and (at least for me) so galvanically scary & intense, it also qualifies for the Part 4 slot and, if watched earlier, would leave you drained.

    It’s odd to see Legend of Hell House because I’ve only just become aware of this film (haven’t seen it)–isn’t Pamela Franklin in this? Sounds wonderful. And of course The Shining is always all-absorbing.

    Jean Rollin or Fulci would be great for your Film 3 slot; Rollin’s films, so fascinating sometime and easy to think about, can sometimes be excruciatingly tiresome to sit through! And the two Fulcis I’ve seen can be scary but are ludicrously weird and silly. Suspiria, on the other hand, is seriously frightening!

    Have you seen Happy Birthday to Me, a very early 80s film directed by J Lee Thompson. I haven’t seen it (have i seen anything?) but it’s just come to my attention and someone has called it an English-lang. giallo. It sounds as if it could be interesting.

    I think John Carpenter might work well for your 2nd slot; many of his films have been widely-seen & are perhaps familiar enough not to overwhelm the audience early on. Though again–Halloween [the film] is a potentially draining experience. The Fog, which I dearly love, is somehow at once very chilling yet pleasurably old-fashioned and comfortable somehow. The Thing might belong in Part IV.

    God, maybe if Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel works there could finally be a great “trilogy” carveable from the much-deteriorated Alien franchise? As is, only Alien and Aliens are canonical in my book–the rest DIDN’T HAPPEN!

    These are great ideas though, loved reading them. Where would you put your favorite Cronenbergs?

  4. Tea Drinker: I think Nosferatu is something you can sell on nearly anyone, good luck! Or if you’ve tried I hope it worked out!

    Mango: I wish I could take credit for finding it, one of my friends did last time we had a marathon last year:(

    Jason: you make a point about Dawn of the Dead, I think it could easily dall into the last category instead. I think a lot of people receive it differently though, and I know some who see it as somewhat lighthearted,as blasphemous as that may be.

    I never heard of The Legend of Hell House before my partner in horror watching crime, brought it to my attention last year. Franklin is in it! Very cute.

    I’ve yet to see any Rollin or Fulci, I meant to this month, but never got around to it unfrotunately. I imagine they would fit though!

    I haven’t even heard of Happy Birthday to me :/

    John Carpenter would work very well, I’m not the biggest fan, but his films certainly have the right ‘feel’.

    The Thing would work in the fourth, I’d include it if I were a bigger fan. As is, I’m only fond of it, not much more.

    I think most Cronenberg’s fit into the third and fourth category. Thouh English, I think for most people they’re pretty out there and far from traditional Hollywood values.

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