THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween: Getting in the Spirit of the Season

Posters by R. Black

I must confess, I miss New Jersey, especially this time of year, when Fall feels chilly, in shades orange and gray. I had a lousy childhood but I loved growing up on the East Coast, just for the incidental seasonal ambiance, which you don't get so much out here in California, which I love for different reasons. Halloween is one of my favorite times of year, the kickoff for the Holiday Season. I equally love Christmas (Thanksgiving is just an in-between warm-up act to me). This is the first year I'm not hosting any Halloween shows at the Parkway or Cerrito Speakeasy Theaters, or at Copia up in Napa (all three sadly closed - is it me?). But I am hosting Halloween shows for the first time at the Balboa Theater in San Francisco and the Camera 3 Cinema in San Jose - THRILLVILLE'S HALLOWEEN GORE 'N' SNOREFEST, featuring Fred Old Ray's notorious dice 'n' vice classick HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988) plus Larry Buchanan's infamous, infectious invasion of inept insanity ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS (1966). Shows are October 22, 7:30 at the Camera 3, with live music by Actual Rafiq, and October 29, 7:30 at the Balboa, with musical guests The Deadlies and live burlesque by Lady Monster. But I celebrate Halloween all month (actually, all year) long with my own home tiki lounge programming. Here are a few annual favorites I suggest for Thrillville: the Home Edition.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) is like the It's A Wonderful Life of Halloween, as it should be a similar annual tradition. It has it all, Halloween-wise - Bud and Lou are at their funniest as they encounter and try to elude Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange), Dracula (Bela Lugosi, for only the second time in the role that made him immortal), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) and even a cameo by the Invisible Man (Vincent Price). Another Universal "monster rally" that floats my pumpkin is HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944), the first tag team of the aforementioned trio of terror, except Drac is played by John Carradine and he doesn't interact with Frankie and Wolfie. Still, the hunchback, the sexy gypsy girl, and guest star Boris Karloff as a "mad scientist" make this required trick 'r' treat viewing. Likewise the Rankin-Bass animated musical feature MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967), featuring the voice of Boris and Phyllis Diller, as well as Jack Davis-inspired monster puppets covering the whole gamut of monsterdom. Nothing says Halloween to me like a Jack Davis monster illustration. Get this: The Invisible Man in Party is a guy wearing shades, a fez and a smoking jacket. The loungey-jazzy soundtrack is catchy, too. 1988's WAXWORK also features several classic monsters (werewolf, mummy, vampires), as does Fred Dekker's THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987), Universal's all-stars re-imagined, but well designed and executed, as it were, 80s style. All five of these fun flicks consolidate the classic monsters into one convenient package, like the OCEAN'S 11 of horror, highly recommended.

Along with Universal, Hammer horror films really invoke the Halloween spirit for me, with their rich, lush, colorful Euro-depresso settings, gorgeous gore, heaving cleavage and innovative, influential monster makeups. My favorite Hammer flick is still HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) starring my favorite Count, Christopher Lee, in his most celebrated role. I also love anything from drive-in empire American International Pictures, and I have to include my favorite childhood fright flick I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), which actually features a teenage Halloween party! (I blog more about this all-time favorite of mine here.)

I'm not a big slasher fan but I love John Carpenter's films, and his iconic theme music for HALLOWEEN (1978) has become the sound of the season to me. I actually prefer his follow-up freakfest THE FOG (1980), one of the creepiest flicks I've ever seen. Speaking of creepy, no Halloween party would be complete without George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), the grand-daddy of all modern zombie movies. Flesh-eating trick 'r' treaters descend on a remote house full of terrified goodies, how Halloweeny is that? Also recommended is Romero's EC Comics-inspired anthology CREEPSHOW (1982), chock full of old-school chills.

These are all tried and true classics that'll delight any gathering of ghouls. As for the type of offbeat fare I often feature in Thrillville, I don't recommend trying that at home without a professional to guide you through this cinematic graveyard. Stick with the safe stuff indoors - but come out to Thrillville for something you can't get via Netflix. Last I heard, they don't deliver burlesque can hear me rambling about all things Halloween on Peter Finch's Fogfile podcast here.

Cheers 'n' chills, Will the Thrill