“Halloween is no longer a communal celebration,” Freeman said. “Actual door-to-door trick-or-treating is dead and may never be reanimated to the state it once was.”
The good news is those that get thrills in harming others, politically correctness and anti-groups have not nailed the coffin shut and buried Halloween just yet. In fact, the National Retail Federation’s Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey has estimated that consumers are expected to spend $5.07 billion this Halloween, up from $4.96 billion a year ago. So while Halloween as the baby boomers and generation-X’ers knew it seems to have disappeared, Freeman says the holiday itself will never die, it will just take on different forms.
“People like to be scared and enjoy that adrenaline rush of being horrified,” Freeman said. “But they want it to happen in the safest way possible. They want to be able to celebrate in their own homes or get in their car, drive to wherever it is they are going, have a scream and then get back home.”
Haunted attractions are places of fear many visit. HauntedHouseOnline.com says “there are over 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission fees” in America with an estimate of “over 300 amusement facilities producing some sort of Halloween or Haunted House event.” Typical spook houses are averaging around 8,000 paid guests, while bigger attractions can pull in those numbers in two days. Attractions like Knott’s Scary Farm scare over 300,000 paid guests over the month of October. HauntWorld.com has gone as far as saying, “Haunted Houses are now the most popular way to celebrate Halloween in America.”
But Freeman says movie theaters and living rooms provide the best scares for most budgets. The film critic has been speaking with movie makers and genre fans - from screenwriter Stephen Susco (“The Grudge”), fellow critic John Fallon (ArrowInTheHead.com), to guitarist John 5 (Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie) - for the past month about recommended films to watch in celebrating Halloween. Now Freeman is sharing his top ten list. David Slade’s “30 Days of Night” tops his list.
“This is a must watch film this month,” said Freeman of the number one film at the box office. “It’s easily the best horror movie in 33 years. Movies don’t usually scare me and this one did.”
Second on the list is the last film that frightened Freeman - Tobe Hooper’s original version of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He says most of the people he talked to about his movie recommendation articles also mentioned the 1974 film, which was named “Creepiest DVD” in Racket magazine’s current issue.
Another often mentioned movie was Richard Donner’s 1976 classic “The Omen,” number three on the list. Freeman even recommends seeing it on the big screen if you can. It will be showing on Halloween at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre (1328 Montana Avenue) in Santa Monica, Calif. PollyStaffle.com is currently giving away tickets to the showing.
The American Cinematheque is showing five days of Halloween programming, including a seven film marathon on Oct. 27. The Dusk-to-Dawn Horrorthon is featuring one of the films tied for number four on Freeman’s must see list – Wes Craven’s 1972 cult favorite “The Last House on the Left.” The other movie sharing the number four slot is 1978’s “I Spit On Your Grave.”
“These are the original torture porns,” Freeman said. “I hate that term, but since that’s what others love calling the ‘Hostels’ and ‘Saws,’ so be it. These are the old school real deals. ‘Last House’ got the ball rolling and ‘Spit on Your Grave’ sent the ball crashing into the front windshield of your car, sending you off a cliff.”
Christopher Smith’s “Severance” checks in at number six. Released on DVD in September, “Severance” is a great horror comedy using the “Hostel” formula without the mean spiritedness.
An oldie, but goodie recently released to DVD in all its glory is Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend,” which is number seven. The 1986 sci-fi/horror movie stars Kristy Swanson as a girl that gets a robot chip implanted into her brain that makes her turn homicidal.
“Craven has supposedly said this is his worst film,” Freeman said. “I disagree. I’ve always loved it.”
Jim Sharman’s 1975 musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is number eight. Freeman says if you haven’t experienced it in a theater with live actors and plenty of rowdy fans, do so. Las Vegas troupe Divine Decadence has an Oct. 27 show at the Onyx Theater (953 East Sahara Avenue).
For those looking for more family friendly entertainment, Freeman rounds his list out with Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which was recently re-released in 3D, at number nine and the two-disc DVD set of Chuck Williams and Daniel Roebuck’s documentary “Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America” at number ten.
“I actually liked ‘Corpse Bride’ better,” Freeman said. “But come on, can you go wrong with any Tim Burton production in 3D? And as far as ‘The Bat Pack’ (Williams and Roebuck) and their look at this wonderful holiday, it’s a must own DVD with tours of haunted attractions, a bit of history, interviews and enough visual frights to satisfy even the most ravenous trick-or-treaters.”
Links of interest: