With Halloween right around the corner, VRV is spotlighting some of its spookiest offerings to get folks in the mood for frights! Here are a few of our favorites here at The Geekly Grind!
The Evil Dead (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981) is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Two teenage couples vacation in an old cabin in the middle of the woods. All is well until they discover The Book of the Dead. And read the passages aloud. Then things go downhill. This is the movie that simultaneously put director Sam Raimi (who would go on to direct the original Spider-Man trilogy) and producer/star Bruce Campbell on the map. And with good reason: it’s a nightmare of unsettling music, creative cinematography, and nasty special effects that blend together perfectly with a bit of sadistic camp, despite its meager budget. You’ll never look at a tree in a movie the same way again. And be sure to check out the sequels (Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness), and the brutal 2013 remake by Fede Alvarez!
Grave Encounters is a Canadian found-footage film, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out. It follows a paranormal investigative TV show crew that decides to spend the night in a spooky, abandoned asylum. Much of the movie is filmed in night vision mode, with jump scares lurking behind every fourth or fifth lightless corner. It’s not the scariest movie, and the writing and acting lack polish. But, in a way, that makes Grave Encounters that much more endearing. Watching the hapless TV crew flail about as they slowly piece together of the asylum’s dark origins makes for a fun, sometimes goofy ride. It’s a pleasure to watch them grow ever-more panicked as they are picked off one by one.
Creepshow 2 is a fun anthology movie full of 1980s special effects and camp. Like its predecessor, Creepshow 2 is the brainchild of Stephen King and George A. Romero. This movie suffered budgetary restraints, and two of the five stories originally planned had to be cut. But what remains is three increasingly-bloody tales of revenge and mayhem. In Old Chief Wood’nhead, an oversized wood carving of a chieftain comes to life to enact revenge on its owner’s killers. In The Raft, some teens head to a remote pond for a swim… but they’re not the only ones in the water. Finally, in The Hitch-hiker, an unfaithful woman is haunted by guilt in more ways than one. Sandwiched between each of these tales are animated segments of a young boy trying to find a solution to his persistent bully problem. This movie terrified me as a kid, and remains one of my guilty pleasures as an adult. For bonus creepiness, you can watch one of the cut stories, The Cat from Hell, in the film Tales from the Darkside.
Re-Animator is Exhibit A in the case for why there should be more movies based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Herbert West is a brilliant medical student who takes unorthodox measures to further his experiments. He brings all kinds of things back to life: his professor in Zurich, the remnants of a cat, and more. As is the case in most horror movies, Mr. West tampers with powers he does not fully understand, and things quickly go awry. There’s something satisfying about the dry humor sprinkled throughout the inevitable mayhem and carnage, and that’s why Re-Animator has retained a strong cult following through the years. Feel free to disregard its mediocre sequels, though.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Are You Afraid of the Dark? is another Canadian offering on our list. Thanks for all the horror, Canada! This anthology series, which ran on Nickelodeon from 1992 to 1996, focuses on The Midnight Society, a group of teenage friends who gather around a campfire in the middle of the woods to tell scary stories. Each episode begins with the group meeting up to eagerly await the night’s tale. One of the teens begins with, “Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society: I call this story The Tale of the [insert story of the week here].” Then he or she throws some magic dust onto the fire, causing it to roar, and that week’s story begins. Once the story concludes, the friends extinguish the fire and adjourn the meeting. The cool thing about Are You Afraid of the Dark? is that, although the show was for kids, it wasn’t afraid to pull punches. Not every story has a happy ending, and some of the episodes are downright terrifying. For the best of the show’s frights, check out The Tale of the Lonely Ghost, The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner, or The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float.
Aahhh!!! Real Monsters
Aahhh!!! Real Monsters is a Nickelodeon cartoon created in 1994 from the same studio that also brought the world Rugrats and Duckman. It’s easy to see the similarities. All three feature endearing characters, garish but very well-animated visuals, and wry humor. Aahhh!!! Real Monsters follows Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm, who are attending a monster school to be the scariest monsters they can be. Their antics constantly annoy their professor and headmaster, The Gromble. One might be tempted to compare this universe to that of Monsters, Inc. or Monsters University, but Pixar’s pristine, charming movies would contrast sharply to the dingy strangeness of Aahhh!!! Real Monsters – and that goes for the story as much as it does the visuals. In one episode, Oblina contracts a parasite, which causes her to rabidly consume until she swells to gargantuan sizes. In another, Ickis learns the monster version of sex ed, then attempts it in an alley. Heck, the letter S in the show’s logo is a maggot with spikes coming out of both ends. Though kids might fail to recognize it, this cartoon is weird and filthy, and that’s part of its charm.
Junji Ito Collection
Junji Ito Collection is an anthology series that does its best to adapt the works of horror manga artist Junji Ito. The collection spans much of his offerings, from Slug Girl, in which a girl finds that a giant slug has taken the place of her tongue, to Tomie, in which a girl displays mind-altering powers over her concerned neighbors, who unsuccessfully try and try again to be rid of her forever. The stories are faithfully adapted, with each frame closely mirroring the panels of Ito’s haunting manga. Unfortunately, the sense of dread and revulsion that Ito so masterfully conjures with each page turn is lost due to the show’s weird transitions and cuts, and the sometimes poor animation. The result is that what once was the stuff of nightmares in the manga is translated into something merely unsettling in this anime. Despite this, it is definitely worth the ick factor just to visit a colorized version of the twisted body horror from Junji Ito in motion.
Ready to be spooked? You can find all of these and more at VRV!
Anything from this list jump out at you? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Discord!