Thanks to AMC’s Fear Fest ’08, Overlord has been collecting Frankenstein movies for me. I know Frankenstein is really a monster for all seasons so I ought to stick to the ghost stories for my 13 Days of Halloween film fest, but since I recently read Susan Tyler Hitchcock’s excellent book Frankenstein: a Cultural History I feel I should watch some extra Frankenstein this year.

After I watch Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Dracula (1945), House of Frankenstein (1944), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Curse of Frankenstein (1957), and, of course, Young Frankenstein (1974) I may not think so anymore.

Tonight is Rowland Lee’s Son of Frankenstein, the 1939 Classic that asked the immortal question, “What if Dr. Frankenstein had a son named Wolf Frankenstein and what if he was as batshit insane as his father?”

This is the film that introduces the viewer to the character of Ygor (played by Bela Lugosi) and introduces the police inspector (Lionel Atwill) with a wooden arm – details Mel Brooks would later have great fun with in Young Frankenstein. Starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi, this is actually the 3rd outing in Universals Frankenstein’s monster franchise, Bride of Frankenstein being the immediately sequel to Frankenstein. Since the Frankenstein movie mythology begins it’s decent into nuttiness with this picture it’s probably better not to include the first two in discussions with the rest. In Son of Frankenstein, we also get a precocious curly-headed child who pops in now and again to attempt to humanize his father, Dr. Wolf Frankenstein. Or annoy the viewer. Maybe both. (Why the hell does that kid have a Colonel Sanders drawl?)

…sorry, got distracted, Ygor just showed Wolf Frankenstein the Monster and Wolf shrieked like a girl, “It’s alive!” which made me jump….

While I’m getting my thoughts back on the rails I should make a confession: I’ve actually taken a few days off to rest my eyes and recover from a migraine, so the last few Halloween posts were drafts I already had ready that I had my blog auto-post. I think some wacky things have been happening and a few posts have auto-disappeared in the process so if things seem weirder than usual around here it’s not you, it’s me. Really.

I’m slowly resuming my television watching by sticking with older black and white movies with nice steady camera work so as not to become nauseated and have to shelve the project again. So, that brings us back to Son of Frankenstein. The first two films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, were directed by James Whale and have a sense of gravitas and pathos. From Son of Frankenstein on the films engage in a race to the middle of the Saturday morning Creature Feature pack.

Next up I planned to scare myself witless watching (the original) The Haunting, after which I could awake all night listening to my house creak and those fucking banana leaves slap against my windows. I wised up in the nick of time and put on the loopy William Castle classic, House on Haunted Hill. As a bonus, I remember enough of the movie that I can pretty much listen to the movie while resting my eyes and just peek in on it periodically to catch the best shock effects. The 1999 remake lacks the goofy charm of the original and, most importantly, Vincent Price. Also, Elisha Cook, who was in Rosemary’s Baby and pretty much everything else ever made.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the first “horror” movie I ever saw and it scared me witless when I was 5 years old. I’ve seen it many time since, but each time I’m struck by how great the animated opening credit sequence is. Husband and I also enjoy the very high-waisted men’s pants – I think their belts are nearly under their arms.

My favorite part of the movie, now that I’m old enough to notice such things, is that there’s a huge spooky Medieval castle where the evil scientists and Dracula collude to restore Frankenstein’s monster and no one thinks the castle is the slightest bit strange. The castle is in the United States, a place not known for forbidding castles. This time when we watched the movie I noticed that they’re supposed to be in Florida. No one really thought much about the architecture of Florida in the 1940s, or looked for realism from Abbott and Costello.

The Frankensteinia blog has a number of interesting posts related to the film. I tried to find the opening sequence online, and I’m sure someone has it posted somewhere, but my head hurts too much for much surfing.

The Omen is a nice follow-up to Rosemary’s Baby. In The Omen, Gregory Peck and Lee Remick give birth to the antichrist and teach the world that Evil has a predilection of choral music.

Jerry Goldsmith won his only Oscar for his work on The Omen, but he had – oh, wait for it…wait for it – a hell of a career. John Williams does what he does, and he does it well, and it’s not hard to identify the “Williams sound.” Goldsmith, on the other hand, created radically different compositions for different projects and experimented widely with instrumentation, so much so that even devoted fans don’t recognize his work by any specific sound or recurring motifs. There’s an impressive fansite at Jerry Goldsmith Online that highlight’s Goldsmith’s extensive career.

I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but since some people these days consider even the tagline on the DVD box to be a spoiler, you’ve been warned: this could be spoilery.

Our next Halloween film fest selection was Candyman. For almost 10 years, the tagline of my blog(s) has pretty much been, “pop culture and politics.” To that end, you’d think I would have been very excited to discover, as I viewed Candyman, that it’s a sharp political and social critique of race and economic inequality in America. You’d be wrong. I wanted a brainless teen slasher movie that I could half-watch while I tried to salvage a knitting project gone horribly wrong.

Candyman is a slasher movie with a slightly rather peculiar pedigree. Story by Clive Barker, score by Philip Glass. Director who reached this project by way of the Muppet Show and then went on to make an acclaimed version of Anna Karenina. Plus, the lead is played by Virginia Madsen, who’s not your typical scream queen.

It’s also got loads of late 80s/early 90s poofy hair.

It wasn’t the ankle-length jeans and penny loafers that made me periodically fast-forward through the movie, though. It wasn’t even the gore. It wasn’t even the left-turn into “women in prison” territory. It was when the movie landed in the hospital for the better part of the 3rd act. I don’t do hospital movies, I’ve had enough of doctors and hospitals.

The end was almost as uplifting as The Mist, but I have to say that as far as one can say that the ending to a supernatural slasher film is “realistic” or plausible, this one is plausible and realistic. Again, I mean within the context of the movie – I don’t think it’s realistic in the Ken Burns sense.

Although it’s rather dated and the broadcast print I watched was faded, it’s still a pretty impressive outing and I understand the critical acclaim now, it’s not just another teen slasher movie.

Of course, there’s allegedly a remake brewing.

Today, I think I’m going to watch the first “horror” film I ever saw, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It scarred me for life, but at least I know how it ends.

Continuing the 13 Days of Halloween film fest, last night we watched the Paris Hilton classic, House of Wax.

I can’t even type that with a straight face.

We watched The Mist. Husband liked the movie and liked the ending. I liked the movie but didn’t like the ending. That may not make sense, but really, how can you dislike a movie that features Andre Braugher? Plus, it has Marcia Gay Harden as Sarah Palin.

I’m not sure how to describe this one without spoiling something for someone. How about: mist rolls into town, townspeople get trapped in a grocery store, there’s something in the mist, terror, suspense, human drama and gloppy gore effects ensue. It’s remarkably well-paced, no small feat for a movie that’s contained in one location for most of the 2 hour running time.

I will say that it was a very effective ending, but it was really depressing.

If you’ve neither watched nor read Rosemary’s Baby, that rare text that is relatively unchanged in adaptation, beware of spoilers.

I haven’t seen Rosemary’s Baby in ages so I decided to kickoff a Halloween marathon with it. This is a movie that seriously stands the test of time. It’s also the rare film that I can tolerate Mia Farrow in. The cinematography, the editing, and the camera angles brilliantly convey Rosemary’s downward spiral into fear, paranoia, and her ultimate break from reality. The casting of so many brilliant older character actors as the Satanists is probably what saves the movie from devolving into camp.

When I said I was going to rewatch this one, a friend scoffed at the character of the patronizing doctor who forbids Rosemary to read pregnancy books or talk to her friends and family, saying he made the movie dated and unrealistic. She hasn’t encountered some of the doctors I have over the past few years – many, like the doctor in the film, also considered the best doctors in town and thus infallible.

But I digress. Let’s get back to those Satanists. Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are pitch perfect as Minnie and Roman Castevet, the annoying nosey geriatric couple who make keeping tabs on their young neighbors into an Olympic sport. Unbeknownst to Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, the young couple who move into the apartment next to the Castevet’s, when they aren’t being busybodies, they’re worshipping Satan. Quicker than you can say, “deal with the devil,” struggling actor guy sells out Rosemary in exchange for a successful acting career. Rosemary senses something is wrong with her pregnancy, her neighbors, and her husband. Terrific point-of-view shots through keyholes and peepholes and reflected images, such as the glimpse of herself Rosemary catches on the side of her toaster give the viewer the same slightly distorted perspective Rosemary seems to be experiencing thanks to the daily “vitamin drinks” supplied to her by Minnie Castevets.

This is a fine film which was nominated for many awards, features a stellar cast, looks terrific, and has stood the test of time. Consequently, it’s being remade by Michael Bay. This is such an idiotic idea that we can only assume the Devil is making him do it.

Here are a few suggestions to make sure you’re in the spirit of the season. I’m feeling lazy, so this isn’t an exhaustive list. Consider it…selective.

There are of course a million books on Halloween and horror and such, but I’d suggest two by David Skal. The Monster Show is a terrific cultural history of the horror film. Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween is, like the title states, a cultural history of Halloween.

If you want to read more about classic horror movies but don’t want to leave the warm glow of your computer, Monsterfest is a blog run by AMC.

If you’re looking to update your Netflix list, TVGuide has an intriguing list of less-traditional horror movies. I think some of them may even be part of the Netflix streaming service (which I haven’t tried since it only works on my office PC, not on my Mac). Of the movies on the list, I’ve only seen Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone. (You know, the guy who made Pan’s Labrynth). If the others are even half as good as Devil’s Backbone I think it’s a list worth investigating. I may have seen The Crazies, it sounds familiar. (A joke about co-workers would be like shooting fish in a barrel so let’s just move along). I’ve been dying to see another movie on the list, Black Sheep, for a while.

Classic-horror.com reviews classic horror movies and also has a cool biography section.

So there you have it. What you have, I don’t know. But you must have something. Celebrate accordingly.