As a treat for those embracing the spirit of all hallow's eve, Hawkesbury Gazette editor Matt Lawrence offers his top five scare flicks and ghoulish albums, guaranteed to put a fright in your night.
They're coming to get you, Barbara!Johnny, Night of the Living Dead
Please note, the following films are intended for mature audiences and may contain scenes some consider disturbing.
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974
The twisted tale directed by Tobe Hooper that gave the horror world Leatherface, the chainsaw swinging maniac and his family of butchers. This film is most certainly earning of its legendary status, despite being somewhat tame by today's standards when it comes to its depiction of gore. Be warned, this one definitely set the benchmark as far as mental terror is concerned. Particularly memorable is the family dinner scene and the introduction of grandpa. I've lost count the amount of times I've pulled out the popcorn for this one. Unlike its seemingly endless re-imaginings, this one is dark, gritty and the tension at times is quite full-on.
4. Evil Dead, 1981
Gore, gore, gore ... and then some. The Evil Dead is one of the early creepers that made the "cabin in the woods" a not-so ideal setting for family holidays. It's formula - now a horror staple - is simple; a group of friends head out to a secluded cabin for a weekend of fun, before one-by-one being picked off by an evil force, which in this case is just that, the spirits of some ancient demons, hellbent on "swallowing" their souls. While not as horrific as its more recent reboot [though still not for the squeamish], this original directed by Sam Raimi and starring b-movie legend Bruce Campbell, this is certainly the stuff nightmares are made of.
3. The Re-Animator, 1985
With a tag line that states: "Herbert West has a good head on his shoulders ... and another one on his desk" you pretty much know what you're in for in this shocker based on the short story by HP Lovecraft, directed by Brian Yuzna. Featuring a brilliantly cast Jeffrey Combs as the young doctor West, this horror-comedy [albeit a black comedy] has all the ingredients to guarantee a night of gut-wrenching chills. The gore certainly comes thick and fast and is fairly well done considering it wasn't made with lashings of CGI. The horror of course does become a little comical in several scenes, one in particular where the bottom of a "torso" prop is scene where the rest of the live actor should be. But don't let that put you off!
2. Night of the Living Dead, 1968
This one may be in black and white and be pretty much void of any real onscreen depictions of blood and guts, but this is the one that started them all as far as the zombie sub-genre is concerned. Considered by many to be George A Romero's defining moment, like Texas Chainsaw, the tension in this gem is real. Set just after the zombie outbreak it sees a group of strangers band together in a house surrounded by the pursuing walking dead. Again, its the psycho-drama of the scenario that gets to you ... what would you do if that was to happen? Would you lose it; would you take your chances on your own; would you have the stamina to survive? It all makes for an extremely cool horror movie. Also of great note here is the film's follow-up, 1978's Dawn of the Dead, Romero's gory second take on the zombie genre.
1. Halloween, 1978
It may seem a little obvious, considering this is a list compiled for Halloween, but this '78 thriller from John Carpenter is hands-down still the ace in the horror deck for me. There is something so disturbing about the Michael Myers character and his relentless, silent, pursuit of young Laurie Strode and her friends. Known among fans as "the shape", Myers scares because he could be real [at least in this version of the film]. Sure he gets knocked down a few times and gets back up, but the stalking component and the brutality of the character are quite freakish to consider. Unlike many other horror flicks, equally chilling are the scenes where Michael can be witnessed in daylight - look for him among the sheets on the close line as Laurie peers through her bedroom window ... arrgghhh ... still gives me nightmares.
Just like film, horror has found its way into the world of musical entertainment. There are many rock and heavy metal acts who draw from the macabre for their musical and lyrical inspiration. Here are a few releases of note that have stood above the pack.
5. Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe (1998)
Master of the spookshow Rob Zombie's debut solo release after leaving his popular band White Zombie. From the title to the cover art its a no-brainer as to what to expect from the content. Tracks like Superbeast, Living Dead Girl, How To Make A Monster, Meet The Creeper and Dragula mix campy horror lyricism with heavy metal grooves which incorporate sampling and a definite industrial edge. While he has maintained a regular recording and performing career, Zombie is also now well know for his film direction, which has included his own revisioning of Halloween.
4. Alice Cooper - Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)
One of the fellas for whom the phrase "shock rock" was first cast. To be honest, any number of Alice's creepy platters could have made its way to this list, but Welcome To My Nightmare is beyond doubt the classic pick from Cooper's peak period. Starting with the title track, Cooper and his then new band, set the pace for a truly macabre set of rockers, which relayed morbid tales of the Black Widow, the dead, the unhinged and the completely insane. Add to that the timeless, yet tragic, ballad, Only Women Bleed, and the rather out of place upbeat Department of Youth, and you've got classic spooky fare for your halloween party.
3. Misfits - The Devil's Rain (2011)
Another of those bands with a long list of horror-inspired releases, this one comes from the band's less successful post-Danzig era, featuring founding member and bass player Jerry Only on the vocals. While more heavy metal than punk, this version of the Misfits is equally as creepy. If anything, the band's borrowings from the realm of horror films is even more entrenched than on previous releases. Perfect examples are tracks like Land of the Dead, Curse of the Mummy's Hand, Cold In Hell, Dark Shadows and Jack The Ripper. If that weren't enough, there's also Ghost of Frankenstein. Essential.
2. The Cramps - Stay Sick! (1990)
This one is an unusual inclusion on the list, as Lux, Ivy and The Cramps were probably better known for their psychedelic tones rather than horror homages. But for me, The Cramps are perfect for halloween. The camp brilliance of their rockabilly, Lux Interior's off-kilt vocals and songs including Bikini Girls With Machine Guns and The Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon are just perfect for the occasion. Add to that the said psychedelia and you're well and truly in terrain where you'd expect to find carved pumpkins and the like. Certainly deserving of its number two spot.
1. Ghost - Prequelle (2018)
If halloween were to have a soundtrack, Ghost would be the band I'd employ. In fact, I reckon they've already done so. In the course of four strong album releases - and the creation of their own spooky back story - Swedish goth-prog-metal-rockers Ghost have rewritten the blueprint for theatrical macabre musical entertainment. Prequelle, their latest longplayer, represents a mighty leap for the band. While the sound is arguably more easily consumed than perhaps their debut release, the creepy motifs and unsettling soundscapes are certainly well defined. Starting out with a creepy take on "ring a rosie" dubbed Ashes, the listener is warned of the coming of Rats, before having their Faith questioned and then brought down to earth with the cleverly titled See The Light. As with many aspects of Ghost, not all is as the surface suggests. Singer, Cardinal Copia [aka Tobias Forge] and his band of names ghouls and ghoulettes [no kidding, they are unnamed] cast musical spells in such fine forms that repeat listening becomes essential. Dance Macabre is as the title suggests, extremely danceable, yet still carries an eerie overtone. Even the instrumental track, Miasma manages to get the skin crawling. If you've never heard of these guys, check them out.