A Halloween Advent Calendar For A DIY Film Festival

As Halloween approaches, we turn our attention to things that go bump in the night. Normally this is done by picking out a horror film from the home video collection and turning out the lights. Although for others, the bumps come from the people you though were buried in basement. We’re going to focus on the first group since I don’t want to be an accessory to a second attempt at murder. The vision came the other day that there ought to be an Advent Calendar for Halloween so that each day a door pops open and instead of piece of chocolate is a nightmare inducing Blu-ray. Coincidentally this is the 7th anniversary of Scream Factory, the home video line from Shout! Factory that celebrates the genre. Over the year, Scream Factory has been able to dip into numerous studio vaults to cover frightfests from the early days when Hollywood had no Hays Code to hold back the shocks to recent releases that have played major festivals. So in celebration of Scream Factory’s anniversary, here’s how you can spend every night during the Spooky Season month with our do it yourself home movie festival.

October 1: The Howling
Joe Dante had quickly proven he was an above average student at Corman University. His Piranha proved to be more than the rip-off of Jaws that Corman was going to run during the summer of Jaws 2. Dante brought a level of horror and comedy to the screen so that you really enjoyed watching little fish with teeth devour unexpecting swimmers. The Howling was Dante’s first non-Corman work. His tale of werewolves of California quickly found an eager audience. Dee Wallace (E.T.) is a news anchor being stalked by a guy who might be a bit more hairier than her average psychotic fan. She blacks out when she meets the guy in an adult video store. To recover from the trauma, her doctor (The Avengers‘s Patrick Macnee) sends her to the woodsy Colony for treatment. What she finds is quite transformative. The film has Dante working again with screenwriter John Sayles (Brother From Another Planet). He also pays his old boss back with Roger Corman popping up on the street. The Howling is a fine way to start of Spooky Season. The film inspired seven sequels so you can keep the night going since Scream Factory also released Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf and Howling III: The Marsupials.

October 2: Sleepaway Camp
After the success of Friday 13th, theaters were overwhelmed with a wave of films that put mass murderers at summer camps. The teen body count films were a big success since it gave kids a good feeling that their parents didn’t send them off for the summer to a ritzy camp with a bunch of posh kids that were hormonally challenged. Sleep Away Camp‘s Camp Arawak is the kind of place where you can imagine a mass murderer showing up and the distracted counselors not noticing a thing. The movie opens up with a horrific accident at the camp that kills a father and one of his kids in the mid-70s. To show no hard feelings, the girl comes to the camp in the early ’80s. However the specter of death has followed her into the wilderness. Who is killing the kids? Could it be the creepy cook who seems to want to lure the kids into isolated parts of his kitchen? Or is a seemingly neglectful counselor? Or is it a camper? The film starred Felissa Rose as the survivor of the boat accident. You might know her from visits with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder’s The Last Drive-in. She’s an expert on mangled private parts. In case you need more, Scream Factory put out a double feature of Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers & Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland.

October 3: Nosferatu the Vampyre
Is it time to put a little art house tingle down your spine? Back in 1979 Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) teamed up once more to recreate F. W. Murnau classic silent horror film. The movie is basically Dracula changed up slightly so since Murnau didn’t get the rights to Bram Stoker’s novel. Herzog’s remake happened after the book hit public domain so he’s restored the characters proper names instead of Murnau’s cover up. Now the good news for people who can’t understand German and don’t want to read subtitles is that Herzog made a German and English version of the film. Kinski is otherworldly as Dracula. The tempting Isabelle Adjani (The Tenant) is the equally tempting Lucy Harker. Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire) pulls off her devoted husband Jonathan Harker. Herzog shot the film on the cramped and quaint streets of Delft, Holland near the canals. Kinski doesn’t get overwhelmed by the make up and let his inner creepy guy shine.

October 4: Army of Darkness
This was the third installment of the Evil Dead series that made Sam Raimi a household name…if your house was filled with Deadites. Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds himself in the Middle Ages looking for the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Can he survive in the past? Or will he weird them out with his modern devices used to kill the “witches”? When Raimi was making the film he had a free hand to create his film. Things got tricky when Universal agreed to distribute the movie. They wanted a PG-13 cut. This lead to a lot of edits of the film. Luckily the boxset contains 4 different versions with different running times including the theatrical (81 minutes), director’s cut (96 minutes), international cut (88 minutes) and the TV version (90 minutes). You can play “guess the cut” with your guests.

October 5: The Amityville Horror Trilogy
Buying real estate is already a nightmare. Getting the house inspected during due diligence will turn up lead paint, termites, foundation issues. But rarely will they warn you that the basement features a gateway to hell. The Lutz’s bought the perfect waterside home that should have been out of their price range. But the price was under market value. Why? Because the previous owner had gone nuts and killed his family. While that’s kind of disturbing, what are the odds that it can happen again? And that’s why James Brolin and Margot Kidder buy the house. The Amityville Horror became a major box office smash as people frightened by real estate wanted a way to express the horror of signing a mortgage. Amityville II: The Possession tells us all about the previous owners and what drove them over the edge. Things go wrong when blood comes out of a faucet. The third film does what all great movies did during this era – had the horrific action coming towards you! Amityville 3-D has the evil coming out of the screen. Tony Roberts (Annie Hall) buys the house to see if it’s really haunted. Meg Ryan has an early role here. The boxset has the movie in both 3-D and 2-D depending on your TV.

October 6: Universal Horror Collection Volume 1
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were icons on their own from Frankenstein and Dracula. When the two icon were brought together, they had amazing chemistry. The Black Cat has the two going at it like cats. Karloff is just pure evil as an architect who dabbles in the dark arts. There’s a bit of devil worshipping that seems to be the secret of Karloff’s success. Lugosi arrives at his estate to discover a lot of dark secrets about his own life as well has his former friend. This film crosses a lot of boundaries that you might not expect from a time before George Romero. Also in the boxset are three other films from their days of being the kings of scares at Universal including The Raven, The Invisible Ray and Black Friday. The movies are rather short so you can have an all night marathon with Boris and Bela.

October 7: Prince of Darkness: Collector’s Edition
John Carpenter is one of the kings of horror with Halloween, The Thing, The Fog and In the Mouth of Madness. But this year why not focus on one of his smaller works? Prince of Darkness features a priest who allows a bunch of college folks to drop by his church one evening to investigate a swirling green substance. What could go wrong. How about discovering Alice Cooper is lurking on the grounds as a homeless man? Dirk Blocker (Baa Baa Black Sheep) is part of the probing crew. This is a small film, but good and creepy.

October 8: Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Collector’s Edition
The easy way to view The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is as an allegory about political mindset sweeping through a community. You stare around at people you thought you knew with a certain horror of how can they think this way. Kinda like when you see a group of “friends” posting the same article on Facebook without anyone trying to be ironic. But rewatching Phillip Kaufman’s remake of the original and my personal life experiences has given me a different perspective. This is a movie about what happens when a relationship goes bad. The film captures the moment when you wake up and haven’t a clue about the person sleeping next to you. They have become emotionally detached from you. All warmth and real emotions vanish from their face when you enter the room. Your formerly mutual friends also treat you with a certain indifference as they bond with your soon-to-be ex-lover. In the midst of this crisis, you’re searching for the pod or organic remains of the person you thought you had emotionally bonded to for the rest of your emotional life. This is the world Donald Sutherland and company encounter when they wake up to a changed San Francisco in 1978’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Collector’s Edition.

October 9: Ginger Snaps: Collector’s Edition
Puberty is a confusing time for a teenager. Their bodies are changing. Their body chemistry is altering their emotions and attitudes. Their getting hair in strange places. One of the Fitzgerald sisters is about to go into puberty overdrive during Ginger Snaps. The Canadian film from 2000 has built up a major cult following on cable TV after a rather disappointing theatrical release.

October 10: I’ll Take Your Dead
This is a new film that really gets under your skin as a father disposes of bodies. Travel Channel has lately been wall to wall shows about ghosts haunting places around the country. My favorite is Dead Files where a woman walks around and sees the dead complain about how they were violently killed on the property. Then her cop partner uncovers the homicide file to prove the ghosts have a reason upset at being stuck there. But rarely do they ever have an angry ghost who was killed in one place and disposed at the property. I’ll Take Your Dead is a very morbid tale of a child dealing with ghosts, becoming a teenager and her dad’s low key profession.

October 11: Day of the Dead: Collector’s Edition
Decades before The Walking Dead dominated TV, moviegoers relished George A. Romero’s Dead films. Night of the Living Dead became a cult sensation when it was released in 1968. It played for years as a midnight movie since there was no way a broadcast channel could run a film about the undead rising from their graves and feasting on the living. Even in black and white, the images were stomach churning to timid viewers peeking between their fingers. Romero went even further in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead with full color grotesque attacks courtesy of special effects wizard Tom Savini. In a theatrical world obsessed with trilogies, it was only natural that Romero would return to his zombie universe with Day of the Dead in 1985. How was humanity doing nearly 20 years since the first corpse returned to a life? The answer can be found on the Blu-ray of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead: Collector’s Edition.

October 12: It’s Alive Collection
Time for trip back to “back in my day” land. In the mid-70s, there was basically two ways to experience a scary movie when you were an elementary school kid. The first was to have cool parents who didn’t mind taking you to a horror movie matinee. The second was to be friends with a kid who had very cool parents who took them to a horror movie and they didn’t hide under their seat. You’d see an ad for a scary movie on TV or the ad in the newspaper. But since there was no home video and HBO wasn’t provided by the local cable company in 1977. There was no way to sneak a viewing at home. When It’s Alive came out, there was no way my folks were going to take us to see it at the Cross Creek Twin. But during recess, I found a classmate that swore he got to see it. While hanging out near the monkeybars, he related all the nightmares of a couple that discover their baby is a man eating monster. He even gave away the ending because we didn’t care about spoiler alerts in the ’70s. For all I know he was lying and trying to sound like the coolest 5th graders that day. But It’s Alive sounded like a scary movie. Now thanks to the It’s Alive Trilogy boxset, I know he was telling the truth and he had cool parents. What he said was the truth.

October 13: Vincent Price Collection II
Vincent Price may be called the Prince of Horror, but he’s really a king. The actor became a major fright figure in the 1950s and proceeded to give scary performances until his final appearance in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Why was he only given the title of prince? Mainly because he arrived after Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr, the kings who made Universal the horror headquarters. Vincent was no mere pretender to their throne. He didn’t assume their roles of Frankenstein monsters, mummies, werewolves and vampires. He made his own path in the world of Horror. The Vincent Price Collection II shows a man who knew how to bring a suave nature to horror that handle a comical touch. I’d recommend the first collection, but it’s out of print.

October 14: Phantom of the Paradise : Collector’s Edition
Paul Williams didn’t look out of place as he accepted the Grammy for Album of the Year while standing next to two men in robotic masks. Daft Punk’s look was not new to the star of Smokey and the Bandit and composer of “The Rainbow Connection.” His greatest artist achievement involved another masked performer. Williams starred in and wrote the music for The Phantom of the Paradise. The movie brilliantly exposes the evils of the music industry. The film blends The Phantom of the Opera with Faust and a touch of Picture of Dorian Grey. Now this underrated masterpiece is being given a release worthy of its status with Phantom of the Paradise: Collector’s Edition. During the ’70s, way too many directors wanted to make a musical. Coppola, Scorsese and even Spielberg all did their best to revive the MGM That’s Entertainment era of song and dance. Yet only two filmmakers of this group created musical masterpieces. Bob Fosse scored with the historical Cabaret and Brian De Palma with PhantomNight of the Demons: Collector’s Edition
Every year people want host the most outrageous Halloween party ever. They want to scare their guests with gruesome noises, squishy foods and bloody stumps. They try to find interesting locations with a spooky nature. But it’s hard to come up with a more perfect location than the one in Night of the Demons. Not only did the party take place in an old funeral home, but the previous owners were victims of a mass murder. Plus the land might be cursed. The hosts might not have to worry about how to top the party since odds are high that none of the guests will survive the night. Night of the Demons: Collector’s Edition covers the party of a lifetime.

October 16: Carrie: Collector’s Edition
High school is always a perfect place to set a horror film since high school often turns horrific without much help from inhuman monsters. The nightmares lurk around each hallway corner or hide inside lockers. They send evil messages through Number 2 pencils. Classmates are cruel. Teachers are indifferent. There’s no real escape from them since running for the hills will get you busted for truancy and denied admission to Harvard. Carrie pushes the nightmares of secondary education with a supernatural twist courtesy of Stephen King. Think of this as Mean Girls with fire and pig’s blood instead of a slam book.

October 17: Cat People: Collector’s Edition
Paul Schrader’s Cat People made feline action sizzle on the big screen. The film transformed Nastassia Kinski from the art house discovery of Tess into a soft voiced scream queen. Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People was always regarded as a classic horror film that scared with subtle moments back in 1942. The audience was left guessing if the heroine really transformed into a big cat. When Paul Schrader remade Cat People in 1982, there was little subtle about it. There’s no guessing if people turn into cats and what inspires them to revert to their wild form. Schrader did have the advantage of working in an R-rated atmosphere instead of fearing the code. He could make a movie that exposed people who turned into wild animals during intimate moments.

October 18: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2: Collector’s Edition
A good horror film has a title that sets up the frights before the cinema lights come down. My Bloody Valentine, Night of the Living Dead and Nightmare on Elm Street are a few that scared eyes from the marquee. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a title that didn’t just scare, it told a horrific story in 4 words. The better news was that the movie that appeared on the screen completely lived up to the title. Director Tobe Hooper ruled the drive-ins as Leatherface with his chainsaw was the star of 1974. After the bitter success of Poltergeist, Hooper found himself getting a three picture deal with Cannon films. The first two projects were an adaptation (Lifeforce) and a remake (Invaders From Mars). The third was the most anticipated of the package: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. Hooper was putting the band back together for another gruesome buzz-fest. The Blu-ray includes the deleted scene with Shudder’s horror host Joe Bob Briggs (also Monstervision)

October 19: The [REC] Collection
After releasing both Urban Legends movies, Scream Factory gives us one of the best films about an urban legend with Candyman: Collector’s Edition. The urban legend is that fantastically bizarre story that you swear is true because it happened to a friend or a friend or your barber has the proof. It can be as simple as the tale of the couple that adopt a cute in an ugly way dog on vacation that turns out to be a rat. Or it can be as creepy as that whole Slenderman business. Candyman goes straight to the creepy spirit that you can easily summon.

October 20: Tales From the Crypt/Vault of Horror
Are you ready for Joan Collins in 1080p? Brace yourself for seeing a youthful Joan in Tales from the Crypt when it’s double featured with Vault of Horror on Blu-ray this December 2. Both films were anthology horrors that used to scare theater goers in the ’70s. Both films were made by Amicus which was as noted for its British Horror films like Hammer. Amicus used plenty of Hammer’s stars and crew in their scary output. The difference between the studios was Amicus rarely did Gothic period pieces.

October 21: Candyman: Collector’s Edition
After releasing both Urban Legends movies, Scream Factory gives us one of the best films about an urban legend with Candyman: Collector’s Edition. The urban legend is that fantastically bizarre story that you swear is true because it happened to a friend or a friend or your barber has the proof. It can be as simple as the tale of the couple that adopt a cute in an ugly way dog on vacation that turns out to be a rat. Or it can be as creepy as that whole Slenderman business. Candyman goes straight to the creepy spirit that you can easily summon.

October 22: Clovehitch Killer
As a former Boy Scout, there were adult leaders you just didn’t fully trust. Not the creepy guys who seemed to be doing this as an excuse to get away from their family on the weekend without their wives nagging them that they’re having an affair. Or even the guys who seemed to be a leader so they could hang out with the rest of grown ups running the troop. These were the ones that seemed shocked that the kids also came along on the camping trips as they hung out with their adult buddies around the fire smoking cigarettes. The ones that you just weren’t sure about were the lifelong scouts. These were guys who had received their Eagle rank and couldn’t take a break. They seemed to live in their uniforms or wore khaki and brown during their downtime. You imagined their house was decorated with knot demonstration boards and their merit badges. Simply put: they had no life outside of scouting which is scary. So scary in fact that it’s the perfect basis for a horror film. The Clovehitch Killer is a movie that won’t be playing during the next Jamboree.

October 23 Misery: Collector’s Edition
People often dream of being famous and having a massive adoring fan base that fills the Rose Bowl. While the fantasy is pure bliss, those who achieve a public profile discover that not all fans wonderful, charming and have their own lives to live. The fans are very supportive as they buy whatever gets released and attend all public events. Even though they’re paying, there’s a price in the relationship. There is a bit of shock when they believe you have all the answers and somehow their day depends on you. It can become rather scary very quickly. Novelist Stephen King must deal with this a lot over the decades with his rabid fan base eager to devour his massive horror stories. Misery adapts his book about a writer being “saved” by his number one fan.

October 24: Return of the Living Dead: Collector’s Edition
The summer of 1985 was a banner year for zombie cinema fans. Around 4th of July weekend, George Romero arrived with Day of the Dead, his third zombie installment. The film had the survivors of the zombie apocalypse holding up in an underground missile base. A month later came the film that flipped the zombie genre around with a punk rock attitude. The Return of the Living Dead was spearheaded by producer John Russo who had made Night of the Living Dead with Romero. He had a contract that let him also make a sequel to the iconic horror flick. The Return of the Living Dead was doing more than cashing in on the world that Romero created in the original and Dawn of the Dead. Russo’s film made you believe zombies could slam dance. Now The Return of the Living Dead: The Collector’s Edition allows the sequel to stand alone.

October 25: Sssssss
There’s more to remembering a film than the movie. The place and way that you watched a film plays a major part in the memory that allows a movie to have a personal bond with a viewer. We don’t watch all of our movies in hermetically sealed environments. Most of the time we don’t watch a film in a cinema or megaplex. When you think of the film, the memory of viewing experience enhances what makes the film special to you. When word got out that Sssssss was coming to Blu-ray, the vision wasn’t merely of all the snakes, but of a summer rental in Chatham, Massachusetts and a crummy black and white TV in the master bedroom. For a week I bent the rabbit ears and bowtie antennas and adjusted odd knobs praying that the ancient set could scoop up distant signals from Boston across Cape Cod Bay. And as if a miracle occurs and to the dismay of my mother, I received a channel. And it wasn’t just any channel, but the amazing WLVI on a Saturday night. While the afternoon had them showing Creature Double Feature, the night had the more adult fare Creature Feature, that night it was Sssssss. This was the mid-70s so the fact that the movie starred Dirk Benedict didn’t have the same impact since he wasn’t quite yet Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. But I sat on the edge of bed startled at what was being done to Dirk in the name of snake science. The ocean waves could not calm the shivers of a man gaining scales.

October 26: The Human Centipede (The Complete Sequence)
There’s so many gross horror films that have been released over the last few decades that it can be hard to tell them apart. How can the next Eli Roth make a film that will set it apart from the latest Eli Roth? How can they reach down and discover a concept so horrible that it won’t be treated as a fan fiction version of Saw? Not merely gross out an audience, but do it in such a twisted fashion that it becomes a sensation. Dutch director Tom Six did such an accomplishment when The Human Centipede (First Sequence) became the must see at numerous horror festivals. The Human Centipede (The Complete Sequence) brings together all three films so that fans can truly merge the experience together with unrated director’s cuts.

October 27: The Omen Collection: Deluxe Edition
The Omen was a sensation when it arrived on movie screens in 1976. Families across America checked the birthmarks of their hellion children to see if they were really a 666 in disguise. The movie about the birth of the Anti-Christ spawned three sequels and a remake on the 30th anniversary. Now all five films are being boxed together for The Omen Collections Deluxe Edition. Not only are the films being upgraded to Blu-ray, there’s dozens of bonus features to keep you glued to the screen.

October 28: Frankenstein Created Woman: Collector’s Edition
Frankenstein Created Woman is the second best in the Hammer’s seven movie series after The Curse of Frankenstein. Part of this is Cushing never looking more dashing in the role of the scientist who must always play God. His hair looks enthralling on screen. He also creates a body that doesn’t look like a plastic surgery disaster. When he brings Christina back to life, Frankenstein fixes up her face, adjusts her bones and bleaches her hair blond so the locals don’t recognize the new girl in town. Denberg does a remarkable job playing her character on both ends of the transformation. Her only high profile roles after posing in Playboy as Miss August 1966 was being one Mudd’s women on Star Trek and being a Frankenstein creation. Cushing’s character just can’t back down from proving that you can overcome death. Although nobody should complain when he’s got an urge to revive Christina.

October 29: Blacula/ Scream, Blacula Scream
American International Pictures made its name in the ’50s with horror films and troubled teen movies. They had a major hit when they merged the genres with I Was A Teenage Werewolf. AIP was riding high in the early ’70s with urban action movies starring black actors. It seemed natural to infuse a touch of horror into the explosive hood. What sort of supernatural creature could scare audiences used to Jim Brown and Fred Williamson? TV’s Dark Shadows had made vampires cool with Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins. This was the right monster to lurk around a downtown neighborhood that only comes alive at night. The key to any AIP release was a great title that could get people talking. They stuck gold when they named went with Blacula for their version of Count Dracula. Things got even better when they cast William H. Marshall in the title role. The Shakespearean actor brought the same essence to his Prince of Darkness that Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee exuded. Blacula & Scream Blacula Scream is a double feature of urban horror that lives up to the undead glory promised. The second film should be called Blacula Vs. Pam Grier.

October 30: Ninja III: The Domination: Collector’s Edition
If you want to grasp the essence of Cannon Films in one movie, just put the Blu-ray of Ninja III: The Domination – Collector’s Edition into the player, press play and be prepared for an ultimate ’80s experience. This film is what happens when you smoosh Enter the Ninja, The Exorcist and Flashdance in a blender and press the puree button for 92 minutes. When Scream Factory released the original Blu-ray 5 years ago, people were astounded that this film existed because it was kitsch weirdness at so many levels. Unlike so many “so bad they’re cool” films, Ninja III looks great and has fine acting including legend James Hong (Kung Fu Panda). It’s just pure weirdness from the studio that gave us Cobra, Mannequin and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. the best news is that you can truly enjoy Ninja III without watching the first two entries. There’s no real carryover characters just actor Shô Kosugi back to kick butt Ninja-style. The star of the film is Lucinda Dickey from Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. She’s a triple threat on the screen as she dances, kills and gets possessed in her ground breaking role of Christie.

October 31: Halloween III: Season of the Witch
What’s in a name? A bad or confusing title can cost a lot in the world of movies. Halloween III: Season of the Witch learned that lesson in the Fall of 1982. Critics were expecting another installment of Michael Myers running around with a knife looking for victims. Friday 13th Part 3 had played the movie theater with Jason stabbing everyone in the face thanks to 3-D. But Halloween III wasn’t coming close to the formula of how to beat a horror film series to death. There would be no Micheal Myers to create the scares. John Carpenter and crew were going to shake things up. They wanted to use Halloween to be the brand for movies about the holiday. The audience was turned off by movie reviews that pointed out that this was the night Michael Myers took off. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Collector’s Edition) makes a case that the film is better if you ignore the Halloween part of the title. This remains my favorite Halloween sequel even though my film school classmates named the jerk podcaster after me. And if you don’t trust me, ask Darcy the Mail Girl on Joe Bob’s Last Drive In what’s the best sequel.

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