by James Christian
The madness continues…
Jacob’s Ladder—The cinema canon is littered with deranged Vietnam vets, from Colonel Kurtz to Travis Bickle. Practically every auteur filmmaker—Scorsese, Coppola, Kubrick, Cimino, Stone…—had their spin on the trope. Released in 1990, Jacob’s Ladder is somewhat late to Nam-Vet table, but nevertheless a powerful depiction of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also, there are monsters. Jacob (Tim Robbins) survived the war and became a mailman in New York. Decades on, his quiet life begins unraveling as he suffers panic attacks and demonic hallucinations. Beautifully showcasing the decaying, bombed-out underbelly of NYC, the film’s overwhelming gloom is remedied with frantic detectiving and government intrigue. Call Number: PN1997 .J326 1998
Session 9—What’s worse than a haunted mental hospital? A haunted mental hospital full of asbestos. That asbestos needs to go, and five contractors accept the backbreaking clean-up job. There’s a major paycheck, but they have to beat the clock. As the long hours, dangerous conditions and bickering fray their nerves, the workers fall prey to the hospital’s hostile vibes. Someone—or something—nearby wants them dead. Session 9 is a slow burning spook show that, while thin on plot, overflows with surreal creepiness. As the hospital slowly reveals it’s mysteries, a foreboding sense of doom permeates the film. The flashy camerawork belies a tight, bare bones spin on the haunted house genre. Call Number: PN1995.9.H6 S47 2002
Frankenstein—Who doesn’t love the Universal monsters? Weirdos, that’s who. Dracula, Wolf Man, The Mummy and their beastly ilk are horror royalty, and Frankenstein is the king of the bunch. Okay, maybe Dracula is more popular, but Frankenstein is easily the superior film. It’s scarier, the special effects are better, and the lead monster didn’t need sex appeal to rivet viewers to their seats. Bela Lugosi may be no Brad Pitt, but women went nuts for his seductive bloodsucker. Dracula has had countless iterations, each sexier than the last. There are dozens of Draculas, but only one real Frankenstein monster, which is Karloff. The squarish head, stumbling gait, big shoes, tiny jacket, the neck-bolts: they all came from this movie. Except the green skin. The film’s in black-and-white, so green skin came from somewhere else. Call Number: PN1995.9.F8 F735 1999
Mad Monster Party?—Hey, maybe you’re not a horror person. For readers who like the cuter, softer side of Halloween, Mad Monster Party is all candy, no razor blades. This scare-free claymation treat comes from Rankin Bass, the company behind Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, and it shares those films cuddly optimism and dodgy songwriting. Doctor Frankenstein is ready to hang up his lab coat and retire. He invites all his monster pals to his retirement bash. Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Mummy, Wolf-Man and others are on the guest list, as is his clumsy, stammering nephew. Halloween shenanigans abound. Boris Karloff voices the kindly mad doctor, and Phyllis Diller does her cackling schtick as the monster’s Bride. Despite all the groovy ghoulies, the film is less threatening than your average Disney flick. Especially Brave Little Toaster. Now that’s a scary movie. Call Number: 6044
And there you have it. Eight must-see films for Halloween. If you’re reading this after the 31st, don’t despair. It’s never too early to kick off your own mad monster party.