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Halloween

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    A Few Great Pumpkins V—Second Night: The House of the Devil

    “Are you not the babysitter?” For those who haven’t seen The House of the Devil, this is an innocuous question; for those who have, it will undoubtedly elicit shudders of recognition. The line of dialogue comes at a decisive turning point in the film, and instigates the first real blast of violence. That Ti West’s truly frightening horror film is not prone to such explosions—the director is more interested in the emotional toll of creeping terror on the audience—makes that moment, and the words that precede it, all the more disturbing. West proves to be a master of the unexpected in The House of the Devil, but the surprises aren’t the literal...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins V—First Night: Nosferatu

    Bring your carving knives—it’s time for Reverse Shot’s fifth annual weeklong “Great Pumpkins” celebration. Usually during this festive time of the year we bemoan the lack of great contemporary horror movies while recommending seven scary selections from years past (which needn’t be exclusively horror films, per se, but which have to be appropriately Halloween-y in some way—see complete list below of prior Pumpkins). In 2009, we were able to take a break from deploring the fright-flick landscape, in the light of such terrific terrors as Drag Me to Hell, Paranormal Activity, Orphan, and, expanding the boundaries of the category a touch, the sen...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV–Seventh Night: Fantasia's "Night on Bald Mountain"

    Now that you've been sufficiently scared all week, it's time to party. Rarely has there been a better celebration of the spirit of Halloween than the magnificently unsettling "Night on Bald Mountain" segment from Walt Disney's 1940 labor of love, Fantasia. Putting aside obvious narratives of how this terrified many a tot (coming after nearly two hours of plotless, dialogue-free, near abstract animated sequences, this piece de résistance sent kids over the edge, often from boredom into manic freak-out mode), this perfectly petrifying short film, based on Modest Mussorgsky's 1860 composition, is simply the most effective hand-drawn spookshow of...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV—Sixth Night: Witchfinder General

    by Andrew Tracy

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV—Fifth Night: La Cabina

    by Adam Nayman

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV—Fourth Night: The Uninvited

    Brother and sister Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald (Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey) while on vacation in Cornwall, decide to purchase a large cliffside house. The place is lovely, eminently classy and full of light. Better yet, its owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp) is willing to part with the place for a song. All seems fine, great even. Except for one room on the second floor. It’s oddly cold in there, even when the sun’s shining in. It gets more frigid, perhaps even...menacing, when local girl Stella Meredith (a luminous Gail Russell) stops by for a little flirtation. An old village hag lurks around glaring ominously, and it's clear Comman...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV—Third Night: Paranormal Activity

    No surprises here: Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity, currently terrorizing people across North America, is genuinely scary. It's also clunky, half-realized, and frustratingly compromised—none of which reduce its central, primal experiential heft. As far as inevitable comparisons are concerned, Paranormal Activity is no Blair Witch Project, as it misses out on that inadvertent masterpiece's allegorical elegance (the film was downright Hawthornian in its portrait of mythical Americana seeking vengeance against interlopers) and technical coherence, not to mention its unwillingness to give up its ambiguities right to the final devastating image. O...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV—Second Night: Onibaba

    During last year's "Great Pumpkin" series, I extolled the virtues of the face in horror cinema. It's so simple, really: few things are as terrifying as the makeup of a face, whether forthrightly demonic or human but just a little . . . off. The doubling terror effect of the mask, then, is not only t...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins IV—First Night: The Leopard Man

    This year, Reverse Shot's annual end-of-October "Great Pumpkins" series can finally get off on the right hobbled foot. We normally like to begin our Halloween recommendations with something of an assessment of the state-of-the-art of horror filmmaking, and since for the past few years the genre has become decidedly moribund, what should be a demonic celebration ends up something of a eulogy. Sounds funereally appropriate, but it's been disappointing nevertheless. So we can begin with very good Monday box-office news: The latest installment of Gruesome, Poorly Edited Faux-Morality Tales an Incredibly Cynical Mini-Studio Churns Out for Easy Pro...

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    A Few Great Pumpkins III—Seventh Night: The Drop of Water*

    A Few Great Pumpkins III—Seventh Night: The Drop of Water*

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