Now that we’ve collectively — and finally — turned to the October page of the calendar, it’s officially Halloween season.
Halloween is my favorite time of the year. Every October around my house, the Count Chocula and Boo Berry cereals flow like wine. Pumpkin spice coffee is constantly brewing. There’s always a horror movie on the TV.
This year, though, my TV will get some rest as I’ll be doing a fair amount of my horror movie watching at the Hanford Fox Theatre.
Throughout October, the Fox presents its 13 Hours of Horror series bringing eight iconic classics to the big screen. Here’s a list of the frightful fest’s films. Some minor spoilers may apply. Beware.
Friday, Oct. 4: “Psycho” (1960)
This Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece modernized horror and set the template for the slasher movie phenomenon of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
I don’t mean to spoil the most-spoiled movie in cinema history, but this film has a shocking mid-way shift. Not only does the plot change drastically, but so does the main character. The $40,000 that Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is running away with after having heisted it from her employer is thematically tossed away by Hitchcock just as it’s literally tossed away by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in the film. The film then, becomes something darker and stranger altogether. This protagonist shift would later be paid homage to by Wes Craven in “Last House on the Left” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Anyway, pay close attention during the scene where Norman and Marion chat while the latter has a sandwich. The set dressing foreshadows their predator/prey relationship as well as Norman’s zeal for the hobby of taxidermy.
Saturday, Oct. 5: “The Birds” (1963)
The culmination of the Hitchcock double feature is the director’s 1963 film about nature run amok. Birds attack the residents of a coastal town. This film works on two spooky levels. Obviously, crazed birds pecking at your eyes would be a frightening on its own, but the small town besieged by the unknown is even more unsettling. No answers are given. No help comes. One minute life is normal and the next, the very rules of nature have come unglued.
Friday, Oct. 11: “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
No one could have guessed that this intensely scary and unrelentingly gory slasher film about a burnt killer who preys on teens in their dreams would have spawned a pop culture icon in Freddy Krueger (played brilliantly by Robert Englund).
There’s no hint of the Groucho Marx-like jokester that would go on to have his own Nintendo game and toy line here.
Saturday, Oct. 12: “The Lost Boys” (1987)
Two brothers move to the town of Santa Carla (it was filmed in Santa Cruz and doesn’t try to hide it) only to discover that it’s infested with blood-sucking fiends.
They do the only reasonable thing they can – team up with Corey Feldman – and fight back.
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This film may be single-handedly responsible for making vampires the cool young rebels they’d become in popular culture. These vampires – led by Keifer Sutherland -- are The Sex Pistols to Bela Legosi’s Mozart.
Friday, Oct. 18: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)
The most gruesome and violent horror film ever made doesn’t even have a single drop of blood in it.
OK, maybe there’s a drop here or there, but director Tobe Hooper alludes to violence so well that this movie is drenched in blood in our collectively wrong memory.
This story of a group of teens who break down in front of a house belonging to backwoods hillbilly cannibals (including the infamous Leatherface) would be a brilliantly hilarious satire of the post-Vietnam nuclear family if it wasn’t so dang scary.
Saturday, Oct. 19: “An American Werewolf in London”
Two American college students backpacking through the English Moors are attacked by a strange animal one night. The lone survivor goes through some odd changes on the next full moon.
Director John Landis was best known at the time for comedies like “The Blues Brothers” and “Animal House” and his comedy chops shine in this fish-out-of-water comedy, but when it’s time to turn up the horror dial, few werewolf movies are this disturbing.
This movie also has the world’s greatest werewolf transformation scene. You’ll leave the theater wondering if actor David Naughton is actually a werewolf.
Friday, Oct. 25: “Child’s Play” (1988)
This movie brings to life every parent’s nightmare – what if you unknowingly buy your young son a birthday present that is possessed by the soul of a foul-mouthed, voodoo-practicing serial killer named Chucky?
This movie is responsible for every kid in the ‘80s being secretly afraid of their Teddy Ruxpin doll.
Saturday, Oct. 26: “Pet Sematary” (1989)
The series closes out with this Stephen King classic about a family that learns the hard way that it’s hard to say goodbye to a pet when the cat they recently buried shows back up with a new – and homicidal – attitude.
Fred Gwynn says it best in the film – “Sometimes dead is better.”