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10.22.08

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Phaedra

I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE: Jared Kusnitz and Greyson Chadwick battle prom zombies in 'Dance of the Dead.'

Halloween, A to Z

Cult Leader's new viewing guide for 2008

By Steve Palopoli


Asylum (1972) Every so often I get a craving for the old Amicus horror anthologies from the mid-'60s to early '70s. They were the first company to bring the Crypt Keeper from E.C. Comics to the screen in Tales From the Crypt, but this collection of four Robert Bloch stories is my favorite. It has the most suspenseful, engrossing wrap-around story of any horror collection ever.

The Beyond (1981) Last year, I recommended Lucio Fulci's Zombie. This is his second greatest horror film, much weirder but just as gory. No zombie vs. shark fight, though.

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972) Once again, let's take a moment to salute the late Bob Clark, the most versatile cult director in history. This was his first zombie film, and while it's not as unique as his later Deathdream, it's an interesting spin on Night of the Living Dead and an early classic of the genre.

Dance of the Dead (2008) My favorite from the new "Ghosthouse Underground" set out this month. It's the rare horror-comedy that actually works, with kids battling zombies at the prom. Entertaining cross between Shaun of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, and the only zombie film I know of to salute the power of rock & roll—it paralyzes the undead.Eraserhead (1977) In heaven, everything is fine. In heaven, everything is fine. You've got your good thing, and I've got mine. Friday the 13th (1980) Before the remake comes out, go check out the original again. Agatha Christie plus gore equals pure B-horror gold!

God Told Me To (1976) Writer-director Larry Cohen was once the master of low-budget, high-concept cult horror. This is his best movie, featuring a string of murders committed for the reason cited in the title. What's really going on turns out to be pretty nuts. Halloween (1978) It's not just that it's a great horror movie with the appropriate holiday tie-in. With its nostalgic vision of suburbia in autumn, you don't have to be Michael Myers to feel like you've come home.Inside (2007) Lesser-known entry in the new wave of French horror films is actually the freakiest of the lot. No movie since Rosemary's Baby has tapped so deeply into the dark side of pregnancy, and this one is a lot sicker. If it's 21st-century French horror, you know there's blood on the face!Jaws (1976) What was up with that poster that had the gigantic shark about to eat the teeny-tiny swimmer? That was the scariest thing I'd ever seen when I was a kid. Then the actual movie made me afraid to go in a swimming pool, let alone the ocean. I wouldn't even go in a bathtub for a few days.

King Kong (1933) The Peter Jackson remake is growing on me, too.

Last House in the Woods (2008) Another new one from the Ghosthouse Underground set. This badly dubbed throwback to the Italian exploitation of yore features acting by dead-eyed amateurs and throws in way too many plots, then paints it over with a layer of gore. Loved it.

THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008) This Clive Barker adaptation got a very limited theatrical release but I caught it on Fearnet and was pleasantly surprised.

Nosferatu (1922) The original name in creepy, and better than the authorized Dracula a decade later.

Opera (1987) Blood and birds in one of director Dario Argento's most delirious and stylish horror films. The People Under the Stairs (1991) I don't understand why this film doesn't have a bigger following. Despite the fact that it's right in line with director Wes Craven's suburban-hell obsession, it remains the red-haired stepchild of his oeuvre.

Quarantine (2008) and REC (2007) REC is the original Spanish film on which Quarantine was based, and features possibly the most original origin for a zombie outbreak ever. The explanation was changed for the remake, but they came up with something pleasingly wacky for that, as well.

Spider Baby (1968) "Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!" Saying this freaky modern Gothic is one of a kind is like saying "they don't make 'em like Eraserhead anymore." Duh!Trilogy of Terror (1975) I make it a point to watch the third story in this Karen Black anthology—the one with the insane little Zuni Fetish Doll—every year around this time. It just doesn't feel like Halloween without it.Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend (1989) Okay, I can't really recommend this famously wrong animated Japanese tentacle-sex epic, but it's really hard to think of horror movies that start with "U."

Visitor Q (2001) If you're the type that can't let scary-movie season go by without some extreme J-horror, you know you can always count on director Takashi Miike. After Audition, this almost as disturbing, yet more bizarre and surprisingly funny flick should be your next stop.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) She's got Bette Davis crazy eyes!X: The Man With X Ray Eyes (1963) This Roger Corman cult classic was made for $250,000 but looks like it was made for $25. And yet, there's something still unsettling about the simple story of Ray Milland inventing X-ray vision and then slowly losing his mind to it.Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960) Georges Franju's classic is as beautiful, moving and fascinating a film as you could possibly make about a mad doctor cutting off faces. Zodiac (2007) On first viewing, this was a letdown after the incredible book its based on. But on repeat viewings, I've started to think that director David Fincher nailed it with his cold, quiet vision for the Zodiac Killer story.


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