Seasonal selections: spooky-sweet cinema

For some, Halloween is a time to celebrate and remember those who have departed; for others, it’s a great excuse to get in costume and let their wild have a night out on the town; and for others, it means some of the best, blood-curdlingest, fright-filled and tantalizingly tackiest flicks ever created. Ranging from the scary to the sentimental, we asked Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group staffers to talk about what films get them in the spirit of the season.

Melissa Spinelli, advertising representative
I have been watching a ton of Halloween movies lately! My top picks are “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” – a must watch every year; “Poltergeist” – still scares me to this day, especially with the real-life horror stories that happened to the cast and behind the scenes; and “Halloween (1978)” – classic.

Alison Woo, book club editor
For me, Halloween begins with the classic, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” This time of year isn’t just about Hallowen but also great pumpkin patches, the leaves turning colors, glorious mums, sweater weather and football. This show tunes me into all those great things and, of course, lays the groundwork for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which is just around the corner!

Stacie Mounts, graphic artist
Of course, it must be “Beetlejuice!”

Steve Pigg, graphics director
“Fright Night”

Kara Lopp, Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly ­editor
Is it bad that I don’t have any Halloween movies I like to watch?

Ryan Hill, movie critic
Swallow this: “Evil Dead 2” is the greatest horror film ever made. It may not be the scariest horror movie, or even the funniest, but director Sam Raimi cranks up the dial to 11 for 90 minutes and doesn’t let up until the credits roll. Bruce Campbell is a film god.
Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” is everything that is great about zombie movies, with an added layer of self-awareness that makes it the arguably the best zombie movie ever made. If it isn’t the best, it’s at least the most watchable.
One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you … Wes Craven’s classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is everything that was great about ’80s horror – an outstanding villain in Freddy Krueger, a score heavy on the synthesizers, a pure, angel-faced heroine and Johnny Depp getting swallowed up by his bed. What’s not to love?
And any Halloween movie list that doesn’t have John Carpenter’s “Halloween” on it is trying to be too cool for the room and should be mocked mercilessly.  Every slasher movie over the last 30 years owes its existence to “Halloween.” It’s a classic for a reason.

Cathy Kowalski, advertising representative
Oddly enough, one of the first that comes to mind is “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” The scene where they dress E.T. up like a ghost to go trick or treating is endearing. Also, I feel like “Red Dawn” fits the spirit of the season.

Tim Ross, movie critic
“A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)” – Wes Craven was one of the first to successfully blend the psychological thrills of Hitchcock with the gore of slasher films such as “Halloween (1978)” and “Friday the 13th (1980).” The scene where Freddy stretches out his arms and scrapes his glove blades along the wall is one of the most iconic images in the horror film genre.
“The Exorcist” – The idea of being possessed by the devil is bad enough but having your head do a 360 while spending your days projectile vomiting is just, well, hell on earth.
“The Amityville Horror (1979)” – Haunted house stories are favorites of mine. I first watched the film at my girlfriend’s house and had to drive home alone – it was not a pleasant drive. And if a strange voice told me to “get out” of my house, I think I would.

Franchesca Lamkin, advertising representative
There aren’t really any movies that make me think of Halloween, but I do wonder how some people could be so scared of a 2-foot-tall, ginger doll named Chucky. I’m more of a fan of the old-school TV shows that replayed Halloween episodes each year. You know, like “Saved by the Bell” and “The Cosby Show,” where there’s always a Halloween party that turns into a disaster!

Frank DeLoache, managing editor
Halloween movies scare me and I eschew them – I refuse to pay to be scared!

Brian Carlton, Union County Weekly editor

My favorite Halloween movie is the stop-motion animation classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” It’s got a twisted script, music that years later you can still sing along to and that little touch of the weird that we can all relate to. C’mon, who hasn’t felt  unappreciated and considered tackling something else? For the creatures of Halloweentown, however, that idea just includes kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over Christmas, which goes wrong at every turn.

Josh Lanier, Herald Weekly editor
“Psycho (1960),” “Halloween (1978),” “Paranormal Activity,” “The Exorcist,” “The Amityville Horror (1979),” “Night of the Living Dead (1968)” and “Shaun of the Dead”

Mike Parks, South Charlotte Weekly editor
If there’s one movie you’re going to get the family together and enjoy this Halloween, it’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Now, 44 years after it first aired on television, the morals of The Great Pumpkin still hold true: never skip trick-or-treating to spend the night in a pumpkin patch; never fly your doghouse against the Red Baron if you can help it; and if someone gives you a rock in your trick-or-treat bag, remember where that house is and go back later to cover it in toilet paper.
And forget all these Halloween movies full of gore and death, if you want to get scared this Halloween, there’s nothing quite like “Ernest Scared Stupid,” with a monster/troll that can only be defeated with delicious, nutritious milk. Let it be a lesson to everyone out there – keep a bottle of milk on you at all times, unless you are, of course, a monster/troll. Really, be careful out there.

Cynthia Wittig, copy desk chief
“Donnie Darko,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Ernest Scared Stupid,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Debbie Archer, production manager
Best Halloween movie ever: “The Monster Squad.” In addition to having all your favorite legendary monsters, we all learn something interesting about the wolfman.

Aaron Garcia, assistant sports editor
“Halloween” – This failsafe uses equal parts suspense and downright terror and still makes grownups scared of the dark all over again. The movie’s relative lack of gore compared to its modern counterparts gives it a Hitchcock-like subtlety that allows it to hold up three decades later. That, and Mike Myers is the best stalker ever.
“Killer Klowns from Outer Space” – Alien clowns invade Earth and encase townies in cotton-candy cocoons. Seriously. Obviously more of a comedy than a horror flick, this cult-classic’s clowns are still pretty creepy, even by clown standards.
“Paranormal Activity” – In most cases, a silver bullet, a wooden stake or just a good-old machine gun will get you out of most horror-flick jams, But you can’t fight a demon.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)” – A killer that attacks when you sleep? At least with “Jaws” you could refuse to step foot in the ocean again.
“The Ring” – Even the black screens counting down the days make you jump. I haven’t played a label-less VHS tape since and not just because I don’t own a VCR.
“28 Days Later” – Zombies usually overwhelm their prey with sheer numbers, which helps counteract the lumbering. But these undead run like brain-starved gazelle. Very effective.

Michael Kerr, layout director
It’s hard for me to know where to begin with my Oct. 31 movie binge list. No, that’s a lie. It’s “Hocus Pocus.” From there, I hit up a couple of cartoon favorites – “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure” and the animated version of the Ray Bradbury novel “The Halloween Tree.” Then it’s off to the races with some Tim Burton (“Beetlejuice,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), some Stephen King (“Carrie,” “The Shining (1980)”), spooky genre standbys (“Suspiria,” “Hellraiser”) a few B movie classics (“White Zombie,” “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” Andy Warhol’s “Blood for Dracula”), a couple of new favorites (“Planet Terror,” “Death Proof,” “The House of the Devil”) and finish off with some flicks that are terrific year-round but always get me in a special way this time of year (“The Addams Family,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Heathers” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”). Also a great time for marathon screenings of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Twilight Zone” and, of course, an abundance of selections from the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” catalog.

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