Rotten’s Choice Cuts: 10 Halloween Treats

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The best in DVD, books and in theaters

Choice Cuts is a list of your grade-A horror-related “best bets” for the month across the board – theatrical fare, DVD (new or re-issues) and special events. It’s been a while since I’ve cobbled one of these columns together; what better time than October to resurrect it and turn your decrepit head towards a few delights that will get you in the mood for Halloween. As a reminder, you can click on the titles for full cast and crew details, plot synopsis, photos, and reviews (if available). For a complete list of releases this month visit Shock’s database here.

1.) Trick ‘r Treat (DVD, Warner Premiere): It made my top 10 “best of ’08” list last year, it will likely make the list sometime this year (yes, again). You want to get into the Halloween spirit? This film is it. The chills you get from watching it come like that first autumn breeze when the leaves start to change; Dougherty’s ode to the anthology horror format is the equivalent of a late-night sugar rush after you’ve pillage every home for candy on Halloween night. Warner Premiere finally releases the film on DVD and Blu-Ray October 6. You can read my 10/10 review here.

2.) Hellbound Hearts (Pocket Books): Hellraiser, the film, not only gave birth to a slew of sequels – some of which were D.O.A. – but its universe permeated various mediums (art, comics, et al.). But let’s not forget where it originated from: Clive Barker’s novella “The Hellbound Heart.” In this new anthology collection, Mick Garris, Steve Niles, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola, Tim Lebbbon, Peter Atkins, Yvonne Navarro and many more submit their own tales of the Cenobites. Barker provides the foreword and the afterword is penned by…who else? Doug Bradley.

3.) Zombieland (Columbia Pictures): Some films you wish would never end. Or, at least run a little longer than their running time allotted. In recent memory, I remember my heart sinking when Pulp Fiction and Shawn of the Dead wrapped up. When I saw this feature directorial debut from Reuben Fleischer – a measured blend of comedy and horror – and I wanted more. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson’s chemistry is xxx; furthermore, Harrelson is one of the finest zombie ass-kickers we’ve seen in some time, a MacGyver of walking corpse-slaying. Give him a tool, he’ll know how to turn it into a weapon of destruction. Everything works in this film: The road trip dynamic (love the soundtrack’s nod to Midnight Run, a heavy influence) and the comic timing. Zombieland is a snapshot of four characters that find each other in chaos and make everything seem okay.

4.) Hammer Glamour (Titan Books): I’ll be frank. This book is boner-inducing. After all, many of the women that, ahem, aroused me in my youth came from the silver screen and many were the women of Hammer’s horror films. Hell, I knew in the third grade I wanted to marry Caroline Munro. In this gorgeous coffee table tome, all of the lovely ladies from Hammer’s output like Lust for a Vampire, The Satanic Rights of Dracula, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (Valerie Leon – yum), Scars of Dracula and more are given their own profiles accompanied by vibrant, knock-out photos. It’s a perfect companion piece to Titan’s “The Hammer Story” and a must-have for the studio’s aficionados.

5.) Drag Me to Hell (DVD, Universal): Why some of you didn’t see this film in theaters is beyond me. You’re on crack, I tell ya! Raimi’s boisterous return to horror doesn’t take prisoners and is definitely worth a look, if you missed it. Both the DVD and Blu-Ray are light on the special features, but the latter looks and sounds incredible. Read my 9/10 review here.

6.) The American Cinematheque/New Beverly Horror Los Angeles Film Programs: Equal love to both revival cinema families is in order. The American Cinematheque is lining up screenings of Night of the Creeps, The Lost Boys, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and Maniac. Meanwhile, the New Bev is boasting Argento’s Inferno, Shocker, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Fade to Black, Night of the Demons and more. Click here for the New Bev calendar and right here for the American Cinematheque lineup.

7.) The William Castle Film Collection (DVD, Sony): Two types of films I reach for every Halloween? Universal’s classics and William Castle’s chillers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, why Sony didn’t package the latter as a Blu-Ray collection is beyond me, nevertheless, I’ll take what they’re feeding me. In a well-designed package – a tri-fold design containing five discs and images of Vincent Price, Joan Crawford and poster art – this set contains 13 Frightened Girls, 13 Ghosts, Homicidal, Straight-Jacket, The Old Dark House, Mr. Sardonicus, The Tingler and Zotz! That’s more than a few titles to work into whatever Halloween movie marathon you might be planning this month. The master showman of cinema lives again!

8.) The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks (Graphic Novel, Three Rivers Press): Max Brooks’ undead mythology breaks the prose format and is fleshed out, so to speak, in this comic book illustrated by Ibraim Roberson. There’s zombies versus tribal warriors. Zombies on the high seas. Zombies versus the Romans. If you’ve loved what Max Brooks has done in the past (“The Zombie Survival Guide,” “World War Z”), you’ll groove to these corpse ‘n maggot-ridden accounts.

9.) The Gate/Night of the Creeps (DVD, Lionsgate/Sony): Okay, it’s a bit of a cheat throwing these two together, but screw it. They’re ’80s cult classics that I held tight like a security blanket when I was growing up and both are getting the special edition treatment on DVD and Blu-Ray (well, The Gate is just coming to DVD, but a Blu-Ray may follow). Creeps arrives on October 27 and The Gate strikes, looking better than ever with a new transfer, on October 6. Between 1987 and now, it’s eerie to see how Stephen Dorff still looks the same, except somewhere along the way he sprouted a neck during his teen years.

10.) Dracula The Undead (Dutton): Admittedly, I just received this and have begun reading it. So far, I dig. The novel, written by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt, is a direct sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic and picks up with a haunted, drug-addicted Dr. Seward pursuing Countess Bathory. We’re introduced to the Harkers’ kid, too, and I think it’s safe to presume the legendary bloodsucker is bound to bare his fangs again somewhere along this journey. Again, a brisk read and it’s getting me into the Halloween spirit…

Don’t forget, if you’re in Los Angeles, be sure to check out Screamfest which runs October 16-25.

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor