October 28th is International Animation Day and October 31st is Halloween. We couldn't decide between two of our favorite celebrations so, this time, we're bringing you both in a double feature! There are plenty of scary and/or animated treats in store.
Personally, I love both animation and horror and it's great when they combine, as they often do!
Fantastic Planet (La Planete Sauvage) may not be everyone's idea of horror but this 1973 experimental Czech and French collaboration in animation is unsettling, creepy and thought provoking. The mood is enhanced by Alain Goraguer's incredible score that is a perfect soundtrack to a Halloween evening and available from Freegal. The Criterion disk features a beautifully cleaned up image, sound and the addition of some equally creepy animated short films by director, Rene Laloux.
Famed animation director, Henry Selick's stop motion masterpiece, Coraline has always been a source of horror to me. The imagery and the scariness of the main character's isolation combine to create an ideal animated horror movie. Bruno Coulais' alternately eerie and beautiful score is worth checking out as well.
A more traditional source of horror, director, John Carpenter's Halloween (which has its own scary theme) features snippets of the film Forbidden Planet running in the background. The spooky, electronic sounds of Louis and Bebe Barron's innovative electronic score (available from Freegal) enhance the horror in Carpenter's film and make for another great spooky soundtrack for a haunted evening.
I'm not sure why, but most of my favorite horror movies are made in other countries. If you want a typical horror movie full of jump scares, these films aren't for you. But if you want creepy and disturbing, don't miss these.
A Tale of Two Sisters (Korean) is a brilliant psychological horror film. In addition to the intricate plot, unexpected twists, and superb acting, the cinematography is off the charts. It can be confusing until the reveal at the end, and then you might want to watch it again. Very very creepy. Also available on DVD.
Goodnight Mommy (German) - Once again, we have siblings. This time it's twin boys who doubt that the woman who returns home after having cosmetic surgery is really their mother. Extremely disturbing.
The Babadook (Australian) is another film that explores psychological disorientation and horror, in this case the taboo territory of a mother's suppressed feelings of hatred for her own child, after experiencing loss and trauma. Especially scary and disturbing if you're a parent.
We Are What We Are (United States; remake of the Spanish film Somos Que Lo Hay Que Lo Hay) This remake transfers the action from Mexico City to a remote rural town in the Catskills. Beautifully filmed, with a slow build to dread. And cannibalism.
Let the Right One In (Sweden) I haven't seen the American remake (Let Me In) but I loved this Swedish movie. It's a beautiful coming-of-age story and a truly creepy vampire movie all in one. It's so realistic, that I had forgotten about some truly scary moments, which shocked my daughter when we watched it together much later. Also available on dvd.
And finally, here’s a new movie I watched a short time ago, from the USA: Ready or Not is the kind of movie I don’t generally watch, but I really enjoyed this comedy-horror, over-the-top, gory satire.
Two movies from Czech director Jan Svankmajer use both live action and stop animation. Alice is in more of a nightmare than a Wonderland in his creepy take on Lewis Carroll’s already surreal disturbing tale. Also available on DVD.
Little Otik uses only a small amount of animation in this subversive comedy based on an old Czech legend. An infertile couple whittles a tree stump into a baby, whose appetite grows monstrous as it swallows up everything in its path, including the mailman and the social worker.
I like the old fashioned thrillers. The films that have you on the edge of your seat, unable to figure out who killed whom and how…These three films are ones that I love and even though I now know who killed whom, I am still transfixed by the story, and the acting.
The 39 Steps – Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - 1935 - It concerns an everyman civilian in London, Richard Hannay, who becomes caught up in preventing an organization of spies called "The 39 Steps" from stealing British military secrets. After being mistakenly accused of the murder of a counter-espionage agent, Hannay goes on the run to Scotland and becomes tangled up with an attractive woman while hoping to stop the spy ring and clear his name.
Since its initial release, the film has been widely acknowledged as a classic. Filmmaker and actor Orson Welles referred to it as a "masterpiece". Screenwriter Robert Towne remarked, "It's not much of an exaggeration to say that all contemporary escapist entertainment begins with The 39 Steps.”
Gaslight – Directed by George Cukor – 1944 - Lights flicker and dim. Footsteps sound from a sealed-off attic. Mysterious events only vulnerable young Paula sees and hears make her fear she's losing her mind, exactly what treacherous spouse Gregory hopes. Charles Boyer makes such a good “Baddie” as my mother would say. Ingrid Bergman is wonderful as well as the wife being gaslighted by her husband. I first saw this when I was 17 or 18, and 40 years later…still chills me.
Dial M for Murder – Directed by Alfred Hitchcock – 1954 - Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an English professional tennis player, is married to wealthy socialite Margot (Grace Kelly), who has had an affair with American crime-fiction writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). When Tony retires from tennis, he secretly discovers the affair and decides to murder his unfaithful wife, both for revenge and to ensure that her money will continue to fund his comfortable lifestyle.
Batman: The Animated Series first aired in 1992 and was influenced by Tim Burton's Batman films, even using music written by Danny Elfman for the films as its theme. I love the show's dark tone and film noir aesthetics, did you know the art department painted backgrounds on black paper? Also, Mark Hamill is amazing as the joker, this series is a must watch.
Speaking of Mark Hamill, he's also great as the voice of Chucky the killer doll in the recent Child's Play reboot. Some of my favorite parts include Chucky, a high-tech toy, becoming evil when a programmer in a sweat shop simply turns off his safety settings and Chucky learning to kill by watching a slasher film.
Spirited Away is a movie that I would describe as a modern classic. Whether or not you're into anime, I feel like this movie is worth watching if you haven't already seen it. Miyazaki's movies always feel like magic while you're watching them and that is certainly true for this one about a girl who inadvertently ends up trapped in the spirit world. You can watch In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Miyazaki, on Kanopy and on DVD.
At the beginning of the year, I was looking forward to seeing Onward in theaters. I didn't have a chance to go before shelter in place started, but I was happy to have the chance to still see it at home. It was worth the wait. The idea of taking Dungeons and Dragons themes and making them into this real universe where everyone has lost their connection to magic was really well done, and of course since it's a Pixar movie, it was also heartwarming.
I've been seeing Birdboy float through the library for a while now and decided now was the perfect time to check it out. I enjoy seeing things have a cute and unusual art style and tackle dark themes. Also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Not a horror fan? Here are a couple of films you can watch this Halloween if cheesy comedies are more your speed.
The so-bad-it's-good 1988 horror comedy Killer Clowns From Outer Space is worth a watch, if not for the scares then at least for the laughs.
As someone who regularly attended the Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation, in the 1980s and 90s, I've long had an appreciation of the great wide world of animation. It was at one of those festivals that I first saw a short film titled Luxo Jr. produced by an unknown studio called Pixar Animation. Now, decades later, little Luxo still shows up in every Pixar feature film and we've all gotten to enjoy so many great stories, along with the memorable music that drives those stories.
You can search for your favorite film soundtracks through our catalog or request one of these compilation albums, for a "best of" experience:
And, as a bonus album (just because it's that time of year), grab yourself a copy of Coco, too!
COCO - If you haven't seen this one yet, you must! It might even have greater appeal to adults than to kids. Coco is truly one of my favorite animated films and might make you see the meaning of a life and being remembered in a new way.
In trying to straddle the line between horror and animation I'm including two films from the 80s.
The first, 1982's Creepshow, is written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero. It's an anthology film that tells five tales of horror that are inspired by a young boy's reading of a horror comic book. Each story weaves animated elements from the comic book into their prologues and epilogues.
The second film is another animated anthology from 1981 called Heavy Metal, based on the magazine of the same name. The film consists of 10 animated short films, all of which contain some elements of adult content (horror, graphic violence, and/or nudity) as well as dystopian and science fiction depictions and themes. Although Heavy Metal received mixed review upon its release, it has since achieved cult status. The soundtrack is also excellent, and, as you might imagine, features music from bands such as Blue Öyster Cult, Nazareth, and Black Sabbath.
Movies & Music - Question of the Week
During an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?”, this Hocus Pocus actress discovered that an ancestor was one of the accused during the Salem witch trials.
Sarah Jessica Parker0
Last Week's Trivia Answer: Oscar