There are few holidays as divisive as Halloween.
Some people see the holiday as nothing but child's play, only applicable to knee-high rascals or, at best, pimply teenagers being peer-pressured into toilet-papering their neighbors' house. Others, however, cling to All Hallow's Eve as an excuse to wrap themselves in outrageous costumes while engaging in alcohol-fueled debauchery.
Underneath their superficial differences, these two approaches are startlingly similar. The underlying principle behind both is a spirit of fun, an escape from the monotony of everyday life and an embrace of the strange, spooky and just plain weird.
Although there are countless films that attempt to capture the spirit of Halloween through copious amounts of blood and gore, only a handful of films have managed to truly convey the unhinged sense of fun and the inherent creepiness that the holiday embodies. Here are a few that have managed to succeed:
The Monster Squad (1987) -- Capitalizing on the success of The Goonies, director Fred Dekker tells the story of a group of young horror enthusiasts faced with the apocalypse at the hands of Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and a host of other real-life monsters. For anyone born in the early 1980s, this rollicking -- and yes, somewhat cheesy -- adventure was likely an annual Halloween tradition. The film manages to pack in some great laughs, genuine scares and classic lines (Wolf Mans got nards!) galore.
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) -- Hardcore horror fans criticized this particular monster mash for just not being scary enough, but thats not really the point here, when Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger) -- two of horrors most iconic boogeymen -- come face to face in this mythology-melding ride. The film does a great job of referencing both series, and while it may be light on scares, seeing these two onscreen together is just too much fun to ignore.
Tim Burtons The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - - Burton and composer Danny Elfman have worked together on over a dozen films, but none of their collaborations is as pitch-perfect as this stop-motion musical about the culture clash that occurs when the residents of Halloweentown discover the spirit of Christmas. The film is full of jaw-dropping visuals, outstanding music and Burtons signature balance between quirkiness, creepiness and heart.
Evil Dead II (1987) - - Spider-Man director Sam Raimi proved with last years Drag Me to Hell that no other filmmaker can blend horror and comedy as well as he can. However, this sequel to his breakthrough film (starring the always-awesome B-movie legend Bruce Campbell) is probably the quintessential example of just how much fun the horror comedy genre can be when done right. Just try not to burst out laughing (and be a little creeped out) when Ashs zombie girlfriend starts dancing with her own disembodied head.
Editor: "Piece of Mind" is a new biweekly column published Tuesdays.
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