For a horror fan, the month of October is naturally designated for everything related to Halloween. So this month’s installment of Deep Cuts Rising features a variety of horror movies that take place on or around October 31st. As usual, though, these selections can generally be considered overlooked, forgotten or unknown.
This month’s Halloween-themed offerings include zombies, witchcraft, killers, and more.
The Midnight Hour (1985)
Directed by Jack Bender.
The Midnight Hour is a great warm-up for the Halloween season, right before diving into heavier or scarier movies. This telefilm originally aired on ABC, then later showed up on cable. While it didn’t open to rave reviews, it has certainly found an audience over the years. The plot is simple enough: teens fool around with magic and accidentally raise an evil sorceress on Halloween. As the night goes on, the town is taken over by ghouls and monsters.
Admittedly, the story isn’t too complex or even original, however, the production values are unusually high and intricate for an ’80s TV-movie. If you start to notice this goofy chiller acting more like a sequel to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” that’s because production designer Charles L. Hughes also worked on the iconic music video. The cast here includes Shari Belafonte-Harper, LeVar Burton and Dick Van Patten.
Anchor Bay’s DVD of The Midnight Hour is long out of print and expensively priced on resale sites. So until someone digs this up for a re-release, fans and curious parties will have to make do with digitized copies.
Scary Movie (1991)
Directed by Daniel Erickson.
Haunts and horror attractions are a great setting for a movie, but before there was Dark Ride, Haunt and Hell Fest, there was Scary Movie. Not to be confused with the 2000s parody franchise, this regional production was shot with a cast and crew from Austin, Texas, and the the movie’s own haunted house was built in Driftwood. The protagonist was played by John Hawkes before he went on to bigger roles in Hollywood.
In Scary Movie, a Halloween haunt’s patron (Hawkes) becomes increasingly terrified as he wanders the creepy attraction by himself. News of a serial killer on the loose also eats away at his sanity, and soon he believes everyone is in danger. The movie stretches a thin plot, but the outcome is memorably twisted.
The American Genre Film Archive has since remastered and restored Scary Movie. It can be found on Blu-ray as well as on streaming sites such as SCREAMBOX.
Directed by David Howard.
Flick, which was shot on location in Wales, follows the American detective investigating a strange series of murders overseas. This isn’t the work of an ordinary perp, though. No, the movie’s titular character is a zombie (Hugh O’Conor) who was originally a young man killed back in the 1950s. He’s now seeking revenge as well looking to reconnect with a past sweetheart.
There aren’t a lot of rockabilly horror movies, and only one of them stars Faye Dunaway. This offbeat movie regularly looks like a graphic novel brought to life, and the tone is humorous despite the sympathetic villain’s over-the-top vengeance kills. The retro-pastiche style will keep viewers interested even when the story starts to feel too familiar.
Flick can be found on DVD, and it’s also currently available on Prime Video.
Mischief Night (2013)
Directed by Richard Schenkman.
There are two 2010s horror movies that go by the name of Mischief Night, but between them, this is the more straightforward one. Travis Baker’s movie takes an unexpected turn, to say the least. Meanwhile, this Mischief Night is for fans of home invasions and slashers.
Noell Coet plays a teenager who developed conversion disorder — in her case, she is now blind — after a car accident that also killed her mother. While home alone on the night before Halloween (a.k.a. Mischief Night), she is paid a visit by a masked killer in a yellow raincoat. The evening turns into a terrorizing game of cat and mouse as the protagonist struggles to fend off an attacker she can’t see. Mischief Night doesn’t reinvent anything, yet it’s an entertaining hunt-and-kill movie.
Mischief Night is available on home video, and it’s also currently streaming on Tubi.
Directed by James Roday Rodriguez.
Horror and dark humor are served together in this Halloween comedy. On All Hallows’ Eve, one restaurant’s unlucky staff is taken hostage by customers with unique diets. Before getting to the main course of their terrifying evening, the captives are subjected to torment (of course they are).
The star of Psych made his directorial film debut here, and the outcome is more quirky than frightening. Viewers might not appreciate the self-awareness either. Nevertheless, it’s weird, bloody, and the cast boasts some familiar faces (Sutton Foster, Sarah Silverman, Gabourey Sidibe, Jimmi Simpson and Michael Weston).
Gravy is available on home video, and it’s also currently streaming at sites such as SCREAMBOX.
No genre is as prolific as horror, so it’s understandable that movies fall through the cracks all the time. That is where this recurring column, Deep Cuts Rising, comes in. Each installment of this series will spotlight several unsung or obscure movies from the past — some from way back when, and others from not so long ago — that could use more attention.