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October 25-31, 2006

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Cult Leader

Halloween, A to Z: A holiday viewing guide

By Steve Palopoli

Audition (1999) Takashi Miike's J-horror masterpiece will blow your mind. But fair warning: it's easily the most fucked-up movie in this list and should be approached accordingly.

Basket Case (1982) Everybody keeps asking "What's in the basket?" The demented evil-twin monster-puppet, of course! Awesome!

The Crazies (1973) If you've seen his zombie flicks over and over, this is a good alternative George Romero viewing experience. Government troops in unforgettably creepy white suits go apeshit on a small town as they try to contain a military virus that causes insanity. God, I miss the '70s.

Deathdream (1974) The weirdest horror movie you've never seen. Hard to find (it's sometimes called The Night Andy Came Home or Dead of Night), but worth it. Directed by the underrated Bob Clark, who's better known for schlock like Porky's, with makeup effects by newbie Tom Savini.

The Evil Dead (1981) No matter how popular this movie gets, it's still the height of cult-horror cool.

Freaks (1932) To me, this movie is great Halloween viewing because it's one of the few early horror films that's warped enough to mess with people's minds even today. Great for friends who think they don't like "olden" movies.

The Gore-Gore Girls (1972) It wouldn't be right to let this list go without an H.G. Lewis movie. The Godfather of Gore's flicks really only vary in watchability; this and The Wizard of Gore are the best. And I use that term loosely.

Halloween (1978) It's not just that it's a great horror movie with the appropriate holiday tie-in. With its nostalgic vision of suburbia in autumn, you don't have to be Michael Myers to feel like you're going home. (Note: Halloween is being released nationwide for two days, Monday, Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Oct. 31. For locations, go to

It's Alive (1974) Believe it or not, I struggled with my pick for this letter more than any other. This Larry Cohen evil-baby movie is one of my faves, but runners-up are The Innocents for a good ghost story and all three Invasion of the Body Snatchers films.

Jacob's Ladder (1990) Like any worthwhile cult movie, this has grown in reputation since it first came out. One of several films that is a better Twilight Zone movie than Twlight Zone: The Movie.

Kwaidan (1965) For the horror fan who's seen everything, this Japanese anthology is truly something different. At first, its pace and quiet are off-putting, but it'll grow on you.

The Lost Boys (1987) There's just something about this movie that never stops being fun. It's like a John Hughes flick for horror fans.

Misery (1990) There aren't many Stephen King horror movies I like too much, but this one has a nice mix of restrained suspense and over-the-top wackiness. Plus, don't we all secretly think James Caan deserves to be terrorized?

Night of the Hunter (1955) Another film that will catch your olden-movie-hating friends off guard. Between Robert Mitchum as a psycho preacher and Lillian Gish with a shotgun, what's not to like?

The Others (2001) Smarter, spookier and all-around better than any ghost story starring Nicole Kidman has the right to be.

Parents (1989) Bob Balaban told me he can't get anymore directing jobs because this pitch-black comedy about the scary side of mom and dad freaked everybody out so bad. Funny thing is, I got the feeling he thinks it was worth it. I agree wholeheartedly.

Quartermass and the Pit (1967) Amazing British sci-fi/horror for when you've burnt out on Alien.

Re-Animator (1985) The "literate gore film" never really came into its own, making this E.C. Comics-style Lovecraft adaptation from Stuart Gordon practically a genre unto itself.

Spider Baby (1968) "Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!" Saying this freaky modern Gothic is one of a kind is like saying "they don't make 'em like Eraserhead anymore." Duh!

Trilogy of Terror (1975) I make it a point to watch the third story in this Karen Black anthology—the one with the insane little Zuni Fetish Doll—every year around this time. It just doesn't feel like Halloween without it.

Unsane (1984) OK, I'm going to cheat by using the American title of one of my favorite Dario Argento thrillers, Tenebrae. If you're in the mood for a slasher flick, this is as stylish and quirky as they get.

Videodrome (1983) I'm not sure I even want to know what David Cronenberg was thinking when he made this, but it'll get under your skin.

The Wicker Man (1972) You can love or hate "the Citizen Kane of horror movies," but you gotta watch it.

Xtro (1983) Bizarre alien-horror flick with dad issues. Will make you wonder "Did I just watch a woman give birth to a full-grown man?"

Young Frankenstein (1974) Oh, go ahead. You've earned it!

Zombie (1979) Lucio Fulci's gritty, gory Romero rip-off ended up being a groundbreaking film itself. Dig that zombie-shark fight!

Cult Leader is a weekly column about the state of cult movies and offbeat corners of pop culture. Email feedback or your favorite Halloween holiday film here.

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