For many, it isn’t a real holiday unless there is some low-budget horror movie attempt with fake blood and bad acting to capitalize on the festivities. Surprisingly, a few of these flicks are pretty good—others, not so much. Join the Cos Blog as we take a look at the best and worst horror movies from every holiday.
The Best: Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) — Halloween purists are going to hate us for this, but the original Michael Myers appearance, though solid, is not the best Halloween film ever made. That honor would have to go to the moody, atmospheric chiller Dark Night of the Scarecrow that features Dr. Giggles himself (Larry Drake) as mentally retarded Bubba. Murdered by a group of locals led by Charles Durning for a crime he didn’t commit, Bubba comes back as the holiday approaches dressed as a scarecrow—or does he? From director Frank De Felitta, this made-for-TV terror bests John Carpenter’s Halloween by a hair, and if you don’t believe that, well, give it a watch now that VCI Entertainment has released it in a new special edition just in time for the 31st. We make no apologies.
The Worst: One More Minute (1979) a.k.a. The Day After Halloween — One More Minute (1979) makes the cut as the worst Halloween movie ever made because it is more popularly known as The Day After Halloween. While many of the Halloween films out there—and there are a bunch of them—are pretty solid, this one is a bloodless affair that in a cheap marketing ploy changed its name to The Day After Halloween in order to cash in on John Carpenter’s 1978 classic. We’re guessing November 1st didn’t have the same ring to it. Everything wrong with movie marketing is represented by this Simon Wincer-directed fiasco starring Sigrid Thornton as a woman into modeling who is being stalked by an ice cream truck driver. Destined for those hideous Mill Creek 50-movie collections you can buy on DVD.
Honorable Mention: Halloween (1978) This would easily be the best Halloween movie ever made if not for Dark Night. Scary precisely because we don’t know why Michael is doing what he’s doing, the scary was quickly stripped away from Haddonfield’s infamous killer when they started trying to expand the Myers-Laurie Strode mythos. In the original, he is a faceless, unhinged personality, and about as true a representation of the boogeyman as has ever been put to film. The series would soon attain idiocy of epic proportions as the “story” grew. If not for Halloween: Resurrection and One More Minute, the Zombie remakes would be slotted up there in the Worst position.
The Best: Home Sweet Home (1981) — Director Nettie Pena has the pacing down, but can’t seem to bring characterization or suspense into the mix. While Home Sweet Home is not a boring film—sporting interesting turns out of “Body by” Jake Steinfeld and a young Vinessa Shaw (3:10 to Yuma remake)—it is not a particularly good one either. The kills are poorly shot and the story never develops enough to warrant a second look. As one of the only Thanksgiving-themed horror films out there, it leaves a lot of room for improvement. But it does a hell of a lot better job making a mess of the holidays than does…
The Worst: Thankskilling (2009) — Thankskilling is a cheaply made, unfunny parody of monster movies and holiday horrors. Low-budget production values and horrible acting make this very nearly unwatchable. Of course, it does have one thing going for it: that tagline. “Gobble, gobble, motherf#@!er!” Eli Roth’s Grindhouse trailer Thanksgiving totally gets the spirit of these movies unlike Thankskilling. Here’s hoping Roth will one day give it the feature treatment.
The Best: Black Christmas (1974) Like Halloween, Christmas is a holiday that has often been celebrated by the horror community. The best effort is without question 1974’s Black Christmas from Porky’s and A Christmas Story director Bob Clark. Suspense powers most of the film unlike its blood-drenched 2006 remake. Clark’s film gives us some of the most genuinely frightening phone calls in the history of film, while also delivering stylish and suspenseful murder scenes on a hip young cast that includes Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, and Andrea Martin. The killer is kept in the shadows at all times, and the “calls are coming from inside the house” device starts here.
The Worst: Santa’s Slay (2005) — Santa’s Slay (2005) starring professional wrestling washout Bill Goldberg as a maniac dressed like Saint Nick. It was done far better in the horrible Silent Night, Deadly Night series if that gives you any idea of how much the filmmakers deserve a lump of coal in their stockings.
Honorable Mention: Inside (2007) — Inside is the best Christmas horror since the original Black Christmas. This French shocker finds a pregnant widow isolated in her home on Christmas Eve as she is stalked by a scissors-wielding madwoman dressed in black. Not for the squeamish, this is a moody, suspenseful, and violent little gem.
New Year’s Day
The Best: New Year’s Evil (1980) — In New Year’s Evil, you’ve got Roz Kelly (best known as Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) doing battle with a maniac, who promises to kill a woman as the clock strikes midnight in each time zone. His final target is Kelly, who plays Blaze, a punk rock queen hosting a sort of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year in Hell celebration. Where New Year’s Evil screws up is showing the killer’s face too early—Kip Niven just isn’t that creepy—and using the clown mask, which is horror movie gold by the way, to little effect. Even though it’s the best of this holiday, New Year’s is one time of year that could use more attention from the horror community.
The Worst: Bloody New Year (1987) — Bloody New Year is another misfire from Norman J. Warren, director of Horror Planet and Alien Prey. This particular film follows five British teenagers seeking asylum in an abandoned island hotel, which has been decorated for the New Year. Catch is it’s the middle of summer, and we all know decorations should be down by then. In the 90 minutes that follow, the teens discover they should have made a resolution to stay away from spooky hotels that want them dead. Unfortunately, we as an audience are the ones terrorized by bad FX and acting in what is essentially a pretty droll haunted house film.
The Best: My Bloody Valentine (1981) — Valentine’s Day, or V.D. as we like to call it, is a holiday more obsessed with real flesh-and-blood killers than anything supernatural. In 1980, George Mihalka gave audiences the reigning champ of V.D. horror flicks with My Bloody Valentine, a film that takes the tried-and-true slasher formula and puts an original spin on it with a group of twenty-something miners as the main targets instead of the standard bunch of obnoxious teens. The victims in My Bloody Valentine are a likeable lot, and the triangle between T.J. (Paul Kelman), Axel (Neil Affleck), and Sarah (Lori Hallier), is compelling and human for a cheap low-budget horror flick. In 2009, director Patrick Lussier revisited the legend of killer Harry Warden with a slick and bloody homage that wasn’t quite as good as the original, but still plenty fun.
The Worst: Valentine (2001) — Valentine is a slick-looking $29 million horror movie with a Cupid mask-wearing killer and loads of potential from its talented cast, which includes Katherine Heigl, David Boreanaz, and Denise Richards (okay, two out of three ain’t bad). Unfortunately, the murder set-pieces lack invention and the ending is damn near incoherent. And it’s worth noting, just to save any of you Heigl fans from the travesty of watching this crap, that the Life As We Know It star is the movie’s first victim, so don’t get too used to her.
St. Patrick’s Day
The Best: Leprechaun (1993) — Little person Warwick Davis has spent a significant portion of his life dressed as a leprechaun. In 1998, he starred in A Very Unlucky Leprechaun, but the role that’s been paying his bills for nearly two decades is as the murderous green-clad demon in the Leprechaun series, totaling six in all. By far the best of these is the original, and, folks, that’s not saying much. Sure, it does star Jennifer Aniston, but before you get too awfully excited about that, keep in mind she’s in her feature film debut here. There wasn’t much she could do to save it. The writing and directing from Mark Jones is all over the place. Leprechaun isn’t sure what it wants to be—suspense-driven or comedic parody of the horror genre. It’s lousy at both, and with only four deaths, there isn’t a lot here for gore hounds either. Somehow, though, it made money. Shame on you people!
The Worst: Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (2003) — Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood takes the bad joke of the leprechaun terrorizing “tha Hood” to a new low. One of the few times a direct sequel has been made using a sequel instead of the original as its source material. Bad puns, amateur gore effects, atrocious acting, poor writing, lousy direction, and a complete missing of the point of what it means to be a horror movie pollute an otherwise fine film.
April Fools Day
The Best: April Fool’s Day (1986) — The first of April is the little horror holiday that could. In spite of us not getting a day off work, it has still spawned three scary movies in its honor. The first April Fool’s Day, directed by Fred Walton of When a Stranger Calls (1979), When a Stranger Calls Back, and The Rosary Murders, was another one of those great spins on the slasher formula with an ending that was completely unexpected. Audiences didn’t seem to mind it either. Shot for $5 million, the film grossed $12.9 million and led to similarly themed films in 2007 and 2008. Both were terrible, which brings us to…
The Worst: April Fool’s Day (2008) — It’s hard to tell what April Fool’s Day (2008) is: a remake of the original, an independent horror movie built around the holiday, or just a gobbledygook mash-up of every bad horror movie cliché with no soul, no creativity, and no limits to its own stupidity. Ah, the last one, that’s it. It doesn’t help that the talent-less Scout Taylor-Compton is featured in the role of Torrance Caldwell. Many of you remember her as the Jamie Lee Curtis’s replacement in the Rob Zombie Halloween series. In part two, you hear her scream, cry, snot, and act like a buffoon for the whole thing. She’s not quite as detestable here, but adding her to any cast is a kiss of death.
The Best: Mother’s Day (1980) — Leave it to Charles Kaufman to defile the day in which we celebrate our mothers. The Troma Studios player, who is an executive producer on the 2011 Darren Lynn Bousman-directed (Saw 2-4) remake, first shocked audiences by taking Car 54 and The Phil Silvers Show regular Rose Ross and turning her into a bloodthirsty mongrel to two mutant sons, who like to torture, rape, humiliate, and murder young women. As Troma-associated movies go, this one leaves a rather disturbing impression.
The Worst: Mother’s Day (1980) — Mother’s Day is a depraved film that drew the ire of critics at the time. Many might even say it belongs here instead of up there. But given Bousman was the guy responsible for Saw 3 and Saw 4, we’re pretty certain that when his remake hits next year, this space will need to be reserved.
The Best: Still waiting…
The Worst: Memorial Day (1999) — The spate of horror creations that came in the wake of Scream did the genre little favors. Memorial Day is one such misstep. Poorly written, plotted, directed, and acted, it’s a textbook example of how not to make a horror film. Rachel’s brother was mysteriously killed a few years before. Now in typical slasher movie fashion, the heroine must return to the scene with a group of her friends to face what happened. What comes next is derivative of derivative of derivative (i.e. it sucks).
Fourth of July
The Best and The Worst: Uncle Sam (1997) The genius of William Lustig and partner Larry Cohen gave us Maniac Cop, but it also shat out this forgettable zombie-slasher hybrid about a Desert Storm veteran, who returns home to terrorize his hometown on the nation’s birthday. A good setup, creepy Uncle Sam costume, and several bloody kills may make it worth one watch, but the good qualities are ultimately hindered by slow pacing, poor acting, and an unsatisfying conclusion.
More for the Holidays
If the above haven’t sated your thirst for some good holiday horror, check out this selection of some of our other favorites.
Trick or Treats (1982)
Trick or Treat (1986)
Night of the Demons (1988)
Satan’s Little Helper (2004)
Trick ‘r Treat (2009)
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)
Christmas Evil (1980)
To All a Good Night (1980)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)