Happy Halloween from the Odinson,
Aw, the Odinson’s favorite time of year is upon us. Fall. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colors, and fall means Halloween! Halloween is the Odinson’s favorite time of year. This is when all the ghosts and goblins come out of hiding and for one magical night of the year they rule the world. The Odinson has a Halloween tradition. Every year while I am handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, I watch John Carpenter’s Halloween and The Crow, two of my all time favorite movies.
Halloween is the perfect time to watch scary movies. The only problem is that you have to decide from which Era of Horror your delightful fright will come.
The Odinson’s Eras of Horror
Universal Monsters (1923-1958) – Ah, these are the classics, an era when horror was portrayed with elegance and style. The gothic settings and ambiguous time periods of the Universal Monster movies make these must see ventures timeless and just as entertaining today for modern horror fans as they were seventy years ago. With actors like Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, the charismatic Bela Lugosi, the incomparable Boris Karloff, and the manic Lon Chaney, Jr. the rock stars of the monster world – Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, and the Wolfman – came to life and became pop culture icons for many generations to come. To this day, if you show a seven-year-old a picture of Bela Lugosi, they say – “Dracula!”
About ten years ago, these classic films were digitally re-mastered and re-released in a DVD collection with documentaries and behind the scenes features to die for. The Odinson’s personal favorites from this classic era of horror are Dracula (1931), The Wolfman (1941), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), and House of Frankenstein (1944). And, without a doubt, a must-see chapter of this era has to be Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). It’s an all-star event that caps off one of the greatest horror eras in history.
The Atomic Age (1950s) – In the years following the end of World War II, mankind lived in the shadow of the atomic bomb. The threat of nuclear destruction and the uncertainty of the unknown washed the land with a paranoia that led to some of the most inspired horror movies in history. Features like Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955), and IT Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) played on the people’s fears of nuclear fallout and the effects it might have on the world around them.
But no film explored this fear more so than Godzilla (1954). This science fiction monster movie introduced the world to Godzilla, a mutated dinosaur that stood a hundred stories tall and breathed atomic fire. On a good day, Godzilla would defend mankind against the invading alien Kaiju, but on a bad day, the mighty Godzilla was just as big a threat to the world as anything else. Whole cityscapes would be left in ruin in the beast’s wake. Godzilla has starred in dozens of movies over the course of six decades, and is the undisputed King of All Monsters!
The Golden Age of the Slasher (1974-1996) – It all started with that chainsaw-wielding maniac Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), a new kind of horror film loosely based on true events that featured a cannibalistic family that preys on a group of young people. For the next twenty years, a new era of horror would rule the cinema and a new kind of monster rock star would be born. Names like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and Leatherface would become icons of the genre and have recognition not seen since the classic Universal Monsters.
If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre started it all, John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) set the standard for all others to follow. The writer/director set a mood with camera work, music and the disembodied-breathing of his masked boogeyman that to this day is the benchmark of slasher horror. Like the Universal Horror Era that came before, the Golden Age of Slasher Movies hit its apex with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek deconstruction look at the genre. Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) dissected and broke down just what it was that made these types of films so entertaining while at the same time poking fun at the absurdity of it all, even taking jabs at his own expense.
Sci-Fi Horror (1968-Present) – Sci-fi horror is a different kind of animal all together. It’s usually a morality tale dressed up in the future and more times than not ends with an O. Henryesque spin to it. Sure there were probably sci-fi horror films before it, but the one that really launched this genre has to be Planet of the Apes (1968), a sci-fi adventure with perhaps the most iconic O. Henry ending in cinema history.
For the Odinson, this genre took shape in the form of Alien (1979) an intense thriller that told you …in space, no one can hear you scream. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) features a Ten Little Indians scenario with mood-setting music, an isolated backdrop, and top drawer acting. Another must see film in the sci-fi horror movie genre has to be Event Horizon (1997). This terrifying movie wrapped in a science fiction bow answers the question about what happens when man tampers with things that far beyond their comprehension. Reach for the stars, but be careful for you never know what may reach back.
Zombie Apocalypse (1968-Present) – To say that the Zombie Apocalypse genre is a phenomenon is a huge understatement. The origins of this phenomenon can be traced back to the Richard Matheson novel I am Legend, a story about the last man on Earth’s daily fight for survival against the vampires that have overrun the world. But the grand daddy of all zombie movies is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). This unique film set the stage, established the rules, and launched a genre that is still going strong to this day.
The Apocalyptic world Romero created in Night has been followed by a Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2010). Not only has this long running film series captivated and terrified audiences for five decades, but it has inspired a slew of fans and filmmakers alike. Inspired by Romero’s template modern zombie classics like 28 Days Later (2003), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Zombieland (2009), and World War Z (2013) have continued the tradition began all those years ago in Night of the Living Dead. (NOTE: I know 28 Days Later is technically not a zombie movie but it does fall into this genre and was inspired by it.) The Walking Dead is a top selling comic series, a best-selling graphic novel series, and one of the highest rated television shows in basic cable history. The Walking Dead is the zenith when it comes to Zombie Apocalyptic Horror.
So pop some popcorn, grab a loved one and settle in for a chilling night of horror movies. Pick the Era of Horror that best suits your needs but keep one eye over your shoulder because you never know what may be creeping up behind you.
THEY’E COMING TO GET YOU BARBARA. Yes, I mean you, Barbara, sitting there in Sandusky, Ohio. Look out!
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell