From the frightening to fun, The Advocate staff picks our favorite scream-gems to screen this Halloween.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): "One, two, Freddy's comin' for you..." I had no idea those words - and the gloved maniac they warned of - would haunt my nights for years after a friend popped a copy of A Nightmare on Elm Street into the VCR during a summer sleepover. The film's concept alone was a frightening one (Hey, we all have to sleep at some point), but the fantastical ways in which Springwood's dream-stalking slasher murdered the teens of Elm Street terrified me unlike anything before. Since then the film has become one of my all-time horror faves thanks to those haunting special effects (Who could forget Freddy's face stretching through that wall, or Tina's death scene as she's dragged across the bedroom ceiling?), and the film's charming cast of characters. From the drag-matic, over-the-top performance of Ronee Blakley as the alcoholic mother Marge Thompson ("He's dead, honey, because mommy killed him") and the debut of Johnny Depp as the adorable Glen Lantz ("I heard you freaked out in English class today") to Heather LangenKamp's kick-ass Nancy Thompson ("Whatever you do, don't fall asleep") and the burned boogeyman himself ("Come to Freddy"), this horror classic is a scream every time. - Jase Peeples
Beetlejuice (1988): For those of us who prefer our Halloween cinema dark but not scary, Tim Burton's Beetlejuice is just the haunting house-call we were hoping for.
With Michael Keaton as the creepy, undead titular character summoned to oust the WASP-y new residents occupying the home of recently deceased couple Barbara and Adam Maitland (played to neurotic perfection by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin), the film toes the line between horror and comedy. In classic Tim Burton style, the stop-motion animation is still captivating (even more than two decades later), and the slapstick comedy is sprinkled with just enough raunchy jokes to keep grown-ups interested while the little ones squeal at the ghoulish inhabitants of Beetlejuice's world.
And at least for this baby queer and budding goth chick in the angst-ridden '90s, Winona Ryder's Lydia Deetz pretty much embodied my dream girl. -Sunnivie Brydum
Psycho(1960): Roadside motel showering hasn't been the same since Marion Crane stepped into one at the Bates Motel 54 years ago never to emerge. With his horror masterpiece Psycho Alfred Hitchcock inadvertently laid down the tropes of the modern slasher film that would influence everything from the original Halloween to Scream and beyond. Every flick that features a psychopathic, weirdo, loner wielding a pre-technological sharp object would not exist if it weren't for the Master of Suspense scandalously scaring the crap out of moviegoers back in 1960.
Psycho is hardly a feminist document, but it's representation of Marion (Janet Leigh) as the original transgressive woman in a horror has been the stuff of debate in feminist film classes for decades. After all, we first see the unmarried Marion post-coital in her bra and slip having just snuck out on her lunch hour for a quickie with her boyfriend (gasp)! For that, and for stealing from the place where she worked (but really more for the fact that she was a sexual being) she was doomed to die -- like every other non-virgin in horror films for the past 50 years.
If Marion's death dictated what would happen to girls who put out in horror, then her chaste (if not tom-boyish) baby sis Lila Crane (Vera Miles) would become the first Final Girl of the slasher film (the term coined by Carol Clover in her seminal essay "Men, Women, and Chainsaws"). Lila paved the way for Laurie (Halloween), Sydney (Scream), and Nancy (A Nightmare on Elm Street) to name just a few.
But what would Psycho be without the creepy taxidermist, peeping Tom with mommy issues Norman Bates? The wonderful, however closeted, actor Anthony Perkins eerily embodied Norman and his alter ego (his mother) in a role that examined variant gender identity in a less-than positive light, but likely in one of the few ways it could have been explored in 1960.
For all of its firsts and for the fact that I still triple lock the doors when showering at an off-the-grid motel, Psycho is the mother of all horror films. - Tracy E. Gilchrist
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985): Whether I was snickering over Jessie (played by out gay actor Mark Patton) screaming lines like, "Fred Krueger! He's inside me, and he wants to take me again," raising my eyebrows over his bromance with hunky pal Grady (Robert Rusler), or laughing my way through the frighteningly campy scene where he kills his coach in the locker room showers after getting caught at a leather bar, I knew Nightmare 2 was as gay as horror gets long before screenwriter David Chaskin admitted he'd purposely woven queer subtext into the plot.Of course I wasn't alone. Thousands of LGBT fans caught on to the fact that Freddy slashed both ways in this sequel, and the second Elm Street venture has been a staple of queer film studies classes for more than a decade. Also, Patton's recent courageous decision to reveal his HIV status and share how homophobia in Hollywood forced him to retire early from acting makes his onscreen fight with Freddy even more poignant. Today, Patton uses his platform as the "first male scream queen" to fight real-life horror as an outspoken advocate for LGBT civil rights and HIV prevention around the world. Who knew Freddy's Revenge would be so sweet? - Jase Peeples
The Haunting (1963): My parents were show folk, so at 12 I was considered old enough to spend the night alone while they were at a cast party. I watched The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson's popular novel, all alone and still can remember how freaked out I was. It's a standard set up: a group of disparates have to spend the night in a spooky old house where simply dreadful things have happened while a "doctor" monitors the house for paranormal activity. Julie Harris plays the neurasthenic, Claire Bloom plays the lesbian psychic named Theodora, of course. Russ Tamblyn plays the drunken beefcake. But the real star of the show is the set for the house. It's contrarily bright and clear, no dark corners, which for some reason makes it all the more threatening. Newly devised in-camera special effects were used for a subtle but frightening result. Brace yourself for the spiral staircase. I slept in my parents' room till they got home. -- Christopher Harrity
Continued on the next page...Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer(1986):As Friday the 13th and Halloween sequels were diluting their respective brands and producing more comedy than horror, this brutal shocker shook everything up. Directed and co-written by John McNaughton (who would go on to make the over-the-top bisexual grifter movie Wild Things), Henry was the story of a sociopathic, psychotic hunter of humans who felt nothing for his victims. He would soon meet up with another killer and leave a devastating trail of bodies. Everything about the film - the dialogue, the costumes, the murders - are shown with such realism that it came off as the most horrifying documentary every produced. One scene that involves a murder on camera will haunt your dreams for weeks. - Neal Broverman
Scream(1996):Out of nowhere in 1996 came this seminal horror movie, spoken in the same sentences as Psycho, Halloween, and Silence of the Lambs. Directed by Nightmare on Elm Street's Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, Scream knowingly poked fun at the conventions of teen slasher flicks, but also utilized some of their best tricks. Funny and knowing one minute, brutal and shocking the next, Williamson, Craven, and the film's actors managed to walk that tonal tight rope. The movie had a sensational beginning with a Janet Leigh-esque performance from Drew Barrymore, and a satisfying conclusion that both surprised audiences and made sense. Neve Campbell found her calling, though I wish Rose McGowan made it to the sequel. - Neal Broverman
Hocus Pocus (1994): I had heard of Bette Midler before I turned 9-years-old, but I didn't "get" it. I didn't "know" who she was. Her camptasticness had yet to influence my life. And then came Hocus Pocus. Flanked by Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, the coven of evil witches cackling and scheming together to stay young easily have defined my favorite Halloween movie of all time. Is it scary? No. Gory? The opposite of that. But I still love this movie, especially as I watch it as an adult 20 years later, because the jokes are only funnier (the adult-ish jokes at least). Yes, I still watch this movie about once a year. And yes, I will force my future offspring to watch it, and I will disown them if they grumble once. This film was by no means a critical success, but those of us who lived and died by our VHS players know the truth of how funny and captivating Najimy, Parker, and Midler were -- in fact, we're keeping the dream alive by illustrating every reaction on the internet with Hocus Pocusgifs. - Michelle Garcia
The Shining(1980): Based on the novel by Stephen King, The Shining, as directed by Stanley Kubrick, is perhaps one of the most terrifying films of all time. Blood-filled elevators, ghost twins, Shelley Duvall -- the iconic characters, both living and dead, of the Overlook Hotel tap into Jungian archetypes as well as horrific manifestations from the darkest corners of the mind. As the father who descends into madness while the winter caretaker of the isolated mountain resort, Jack Nicholson performs one of the most memorable roles in his career. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," he writes ad infinitum on a typewriter. When his wife, played by Duvall, discovers the inky evidence of his insanity, it sets off a cat-and-mouse game between an axe-toting Jack and his wife and son, Danny, who possesses a supernatural power known as the "shining" that gives him psychic forewarning of what is to come. "Red rum," the creepy kid mumbles in Pig Latin, cuing Nicholson's hacking of the door to splinters and an improvised line that will forever be associated with the film, "Here's Johnny!" The extent to which the hotel is haunted is open to interpretation, and the ambiguity of whether Jack is pushed into a murderous rampage by ghosts or mental illness is deliciously ambiguous. But for LGBTs, The Shining will forever be remembered for its creepy camp, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it glimpse of a kinky sex scene involving a man dressed as a bear. - Daniel Reynolds
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The Strangers(2008): If you haven't seen The Strangers, find a cuddle-buddy and hunker down because it's a nerve-wracking trip down disturbia lane.
Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a young couple staying the night at a remote vacation home, which may not sound scary. But, when you add three masked goons, machete-sized kitchen knives, and a horrifying soundtrack, it's quickly mutates into a nightmare.
From there the story unfolds as the cracked assailants terrorizing the couple and annihilating any hope of escape.
I saw The Strangers in theatres and it destroyed any desire I had for alone time. It's not excessively gruesome or torturous, but the thought of dagger-wielding crazies lurking around my house is the reason I now keep nightlights in every room. - Levi Chambers
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): There is some ambiguity over whether The Nightmare Before Christmas should fall in the oeuvre of Halloween films or Christmas films--Disneyland recently outfitted its Haunted Mansion ride in props, characters, and music from the celebrated dark fantasy film for the duration of both holidays, indicating that perhaps both categories are accurate. Regardless, the stop motion film, which originated as a short poem composed by Tim Burton, has titillated fans young and old for over two decades. With music and lyrics by Danny Elfman, Nightmare is essentially a musical spiritual journey of Jack Skellington, "The Pumpkin King" of the ghosts, witches, and monsters of Halloween Town, which coordinates the annual frights of All Hallows Eve. Yearning for a higher purpose in life beyond a once-a-year party planner, Skellington stumbles upon a door that leads him to Christmas Town, which in modern mythical understanding would translate to Santa's North Pole. Beguiled by the lights and siren songs of the Christmas holiday, the King stages a coup and reassigns the work of elves to the citizens of Halloween Town. He even has Santa Claus kidnapped, and dons his own red hat and beard to deliver ghoulish presents that, to his dismay, causes fright rather than delight to the children of the world. In its conflation of joy and terror, The Nightmare Before Christmas created a recipe for a delicious witch's brew, which subverts the established iconography of the seasons. At its core, it is also a heart-wrenching story of unrequited love between a zombie maiden and a skeleton man, who like Icarus of old, dared to fly too high in the heavens. - Daniel Reynolds
Poltergeist (1982): As a kid raised in cramped townhomes with thin walls, I frequently dreamed of treelined streets and huge four bedroom houses with leafy backyards and swimming pools -- the kind of endless suburban paradise promised in ads during the explosion of 1980s housing developments. That's why Poltergeist is so effectively disarming. At its core, the story represents how quickly the American Dream can be snatched, even if it's from a ghostly hand reaching through a snowy TV screen in the dead of night. And so it goes for the picture-perfect Freeling family in their dream house, as manevolent spirits slowly and surely take their youngest daughter Carol Anne for themselves, using everyday household items from chairs to uncooked meat to terrify them along the way. There are so many iconic scary moments in Poltergeist, but arguably the best is Robbie's violent encounter with his toy clown, which comes to life and attempts to kill him as a distraction while the "Beast" once again tries to pull Carol Anne into its otherworldly dimension just before the Freelands are able to vacate their haunted home. No matter how many times I watch the killer clown scene, it sends my hair standing and popcorn flying. That fear still resonates today as I watch new episodes of AHS: Freak Show! And of course, let's not forget the pixie-sized spiritual medium Tangina, played by the incomparable Zelda Rubinstein, who sealed the deal as a gay icon by primping her hair and looking into a camera to prematurely proclaim to the audience, "This house is clean." - Scott Ragan
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Scream 2 (1997): This rushed follow-up to Scream came out only a year after the original became a massive critical and commercial hit, so naturally, horror fans were worried.Somehow, screenwriter Kevin Williamson pulled off a sequel that was nearly as good as the original; and that's even with script leaks on the internet that necessitated last minute changes. Another incredible beginning scene, this time starring Jada Pinkett, and one amazing horror set piece after another; from Neve Campbell's Sidney being stalked while on stage, to Courteney Cox's Gale trapped in a sound booth, to a truly terrifying car chase scene.If only the Scream team could have kept up this momentum. - Neal Broverman
Continued on the next page... The Witches (1990)
: Anjelica Huston has worn the heels of many witchy women: Morticia Addams in The Addams Family
, the evil stepmother in Ever After
, the Lady of the Lake in The Mists of Avalon
. But her most terrifying incarnation is easily the Grand High Witch in The Witches
, a film adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl children's book. As the leader of a cult of conjurers, Huston's character has perpetrated an age-old mission of eradicating the world of children. Past tactics include entrapment in paintings, but a new witch's brew known as Formula 86 has the power to turn those who ingest it into mice. The Grand High Witch demonstrates the potency of the formula at a convention held at a seaside resort, where unsuspecting families are unaware of the evil in their midst. However, a young boy, Luke, witnesses the spell and the unmasking of the women to their purple-eyed, beastly, true forms. Although he is also transformed into a mouse, he escapes, and enlists his grandmother and a fellow child-turned-rodent, Bruno, to foil the Grand High Witch's dastardly plan. Enhanced by the magic of Jim Henson's creature shop as well as the deliciously villainous performance of Huston, The Witches
is a perennial favorite of both adults and children, who may be inspired to purchase complex hamster habitats, and will forever after decline to order watercress soup. - Daniel Reynolds
The Innocents (1961)
: Here's a tip for watching British films: If they call her a nanny, she's going to be lovely, warm, and possibly save the lives of her charges. If they call her a governess, well, I'd install a GovernessCam(c). Based on Henry James's gothic novel, The Turn of The Screw,
the 1961 film has a couple of notable gay production details. The master of the house is played by bisexual actor and father of Vanessa and Lynn, Michael Redgrave. The script was written largely by Truman Capote, and he manages to infuse this very British film with some southern gothic perversity. In fact, when the film was released in England it had a '12' rating, which essentially meant no one under 16 was allowed to see it, and that included the two young stars. It's mentally creepy rather than clowns-with-chainsaws creepy, but the source material and script are so rich, you are sure to be completely worn out after watching it. -- Christopher Harrity
The Black Cat(1934):
This 1934 film was the first pairing of many for Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. And although Edgar Allan Poe's name is in the credits, it has little to do with his story. Plot-wise, it's all over the place. Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) has been in prison camp for a long time. He takes up with two newlyweds and spirits them to Hjalmar Poelzig's (Boris Karloff) amazing art deco castle/mansion/fortress. Then the necrophilia, ailurophobia, drugs, a deadly game of chess, torture, flaying, and a black mass with a human sacrifice begins. When my design teacher in art school asked me to his apartment to watch it he said, "Forget the plot, imagine instead that Karloff and Lugosi were queeny old ex-lovers into some real kinky shit." Then we tried some of the stuff out that we saw in the film. -- Christopher Harrity
The Others (2001)
: In an isolated mansion on the British island of Jersey, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman), a woman whose husband is away fighting World War II, becomes convinced there are "others" in the house with her and her young son and daughter. Who are those "others"? Why are the new servants so creepy? Why can't the children stand light, and did Mommy really go mad, as they claim? A friend of mine says he saw the movie's big reveal coming early on, but it had me and most everyone else I know jumping out of their seats. - Trudy Ring
The Other (1972): Set in the Depression-era rural Midwest, The Other, involves good and evil twins, a series of violent deaths, and a shocking reveal. Actor turned author Tom Tryon, who was reportedly gay, adapted his popular novel for the screen, and Robert Mulligan of To Kill a Mockingbird fame directed the film, once again exploring the dark side of backcountry America. Twins Chris and Martin Udvarnoky were chosen to play twins Niles and Holland Perry after a nationwide talent search; it was their only movie. Actors audiences are more likely to recognize are the lovely and gifted Diana Muldaur as their unstable mother, the great stage actress Uta Hagen as their grandmother, and a pre-Three's Company John Ritter in a small but key role. - Trudy Ring
Practical Magic(1998): Practical Magic isn't a great movie, but it is a must see October flick.
Here's why: The film has an A-list cast including Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, who both have fierce hair. And, Stockard Channing lends her enchanting acting skills as the bewitching Aunt Frances. Need we say more? Most of the story takes place in the Owens' Victorian house, which doubles as this gay man's dream home. It even has a gourmet kitchen with a pasta arm for filling pots (or cauldrons) and space to conjure a cocktail or two.
If you're still not sold on Practical Magic, I have three words for you: Jimmy. Angel. Love. The picture's resident bad boy is vampirically sexy and even comes back from the dead for his love ... twice! - Levi Chambers