When the trick-or-treat traffic finally trickles away and all the little ghosts and goblins have gone home to bed, here's some recommended home theater viewing for foot-weary doorbell slaves who yearn for some Halloween happiness of their own.
‘Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection'
The kings (and queen) of cinema creeps are gathered in one big spooky box and in high definition here, including Tod Browning's “Dracula” (1931), James Whale's triumvirate of “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Invisible Man” (1933) and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), Karl Freund's “The Mummy” (1932), George Waggner's “The Wolf Man” (1941), Rupert Julian's “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925), and Jack Arnold's “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954). Throw in a 48 page book, 12 hours of extras and a 2- and 3-D version of “Creature” and it's like ol' Drac said: “Children of the night. What music they make.”
Director Mike Nichols' stylish, smart and sexy adult entry in the monster genre has Jack Nicholson as an aging New York book publisher being edged out of his job by an ambitious and unscrupulous young newcomer (James Spader), when a bite from a wolf changes his life (not to mentions his shape, senses and appetites) and puts him in surprisingly good stead with his boss' gorgeous daughter (Michelle Pfeiffer). This one finds beauty in man's most basic animal instincts.
‘The Cabin in the Woods' (2011)
Five college kids take off for a wild weekend at a cabin hidden deep in the dense sticks and find themselves at the mercy of demons from hell. Sounds familiar of course, but there's more going on here than meets the eyes of these young sacrificial lambs as top-secret techs manipulate by remote control the horrible goings-on for stakes that are global. Wickedly cynical black comedy mixes with bloody shocks in this unpredictable chiller from writer-director Drew Goddard. Richard Jenkins as head tech, as always, makes things worth watching.
‘Jeepers Creepers' (2001)
A brother and sister driving home for spring break are set upon by an evil being in a souped up, rusted-out armored truck after they witness him tossing canvas-wrapped bodies down a dark hole outside a deserted church. Writer-director Victor Salva's highway nightmare gets a bit gory in the latter half, but the film is well crafted, fast-paced and dead-on in its portrayal of sniping siblings turned desperate allies.
‘The Evil Dead”/Evil Dead II' (1983,1987)
Bruce Campbell became a cult star when he strapped a chain saw on his half-severed arm, fired it up and cried “Groovy!” with vengeful delight. The low-budget original and its sequel, which was really a slicker and funnier remake of the first installment, made writer-director Sam Raimi (“Spider Man”) a star as well, with its story of college students weekending in a rural shack where they accidentally awaken an onslaught of demons. This is a wrecking-derby of jarring jolts enhanced by speed-demon Steadicam, acrobatic lens work and over-the-top violence that's really fun — if you get the joke.
‘Night of the Living Dead' (1968)
Between local TV commercials and industrial films, Pittsburg director George Romero ground out this cult gem, which still stands as one of the most frightening horror flicks of all time. A handful of strangers hole up in a remote farmhouse as corpses rise up and roam the countryside, hungering for flesh. The terror is relentless, the dialogue snaps, and black humor abounds. So does the gore. Cheap, grainy, black-and-white filmstock adds a stark realism to the gruesome proceedings, enhancing the feel of dread and doom, and the masterful use of light and shadow creates a disturbingly claustrophobic effect.
Janet Leigh in a bra and half slip, packing to run away with stolen money. Anthony Perkins as lanky, lonely, haunted Norman Bates, keeper of a forgotten motel, caregiver to a domineering mother. The shower scene. Mother. Indelible images from Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece. Often imitated but never duplicated, this one remains the greatest shocker of all time.
‘An American Werewolf in London' (1982)
Writer-director John Landis' loving, rock 'n' roll-fueled tribute to monster movies has a young American traveler bitten by a wolf on the British moors, transforming him into the creature of the title without the aid of computer-generated visuals. Funny, frightening and a bit tragic, as all good horror films should be.
Writer-director John Carpenter is the architect of the low-budget, blade-wielding stalker film as we've known it for the last 30 years. The difference between this original and all its second-rate, mean-spirited, blood-soaked sequels and imitators is that it's a well made, well-told, genuinely scary take on the boogeyman fear we all grew up with.
‘The Shining' (1980)
The best screen version of any Stephen King work is this masterful collaboration between Jack Nicholson and director Stanley Kubrick. Together, they explore the darkest corridors of malevolence, madness and the macabre, playing it all out on the Grand Guignol stage of a massive mountain resort hotel. The opulent, sprawling Overlook, closed for the winter and isolated from the outside world — a monster in itself — is one of the main characters, and Nicholson's portrayal of the blocked writer/caretaker, who goes mad and stalks his wife and son with an ax, is one of his best. They may not have stayed true to King's novel, but that's what happens when books become movies. Sometimes, they top the source material.
German director F.W. Murnau's brooding expressionistic masterpiece started a movie vampire vogue that lives on and on, much like its title character. Spooky shadow effects, inventive camera work and the overwhelmingly chilling screen presence of its star, Max Schreck, as the bald, bloodsucking Count Orlok make this silent creepshow a milestone in monster moviedom.