The Phantom of the Ville’s Weird & Wacky List of Alternative Halloween Movies!

If you’re looking for something a little different to watch this Halloween, the Phantom of the Ville has some suggestions that might add a little pumpkin spice to your regular brew!

Happy Halloween, my Monster Kid friends, it’s the Phantom of the Ville here with a few Halloween viewing recommendations from the forgotten crypt of misfit movies. This isn’t meant to be a Top Ten list, a “best of” list or in any way a comprehensive list. Not all of the titles I’m going to mention here are for all tastes, and a couple of them are even downright terrible, but all of them have a connection to my love of the orange-and-black holiday that I hope you’ll understand or at least forgive me for!

There are hundreds of fang-tastic horror classics out there to seek out, any of which would make a great Halloween slumber party horror marathon, with a tub of hot buttered popcorn and a cup of pumpkin brew. But you’ve seen all the “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequels, remakes and reboots. You’re all familiar with the Universal Monsters, the bloody and colorful Hammer Horror series and Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films with the legendary Vincent Price. If not, stop reading now and go seek out those classics!

Below you’ll find the most common Halloween favorites in some of the most popular sub-genres after which I will offer an alternative or two that you may not have seen. Fasten your seat belts.


Favorite: “The Exorcist”/”The Omen”: Both of these films are classics as well as a couple of the scariest movies ever made. New on DVD this week, “The Conjuring,” is also a terrifying new take on the demonic possession genre that you should see this Halloween if you missed it in theaters.

Alternative: “Devil Dog: Hound of Hell”: Originally broadcast on October 31st, 1978, this made-for-TV shocker is a personal favorite of mine because it was broadcast on the first Halloween I skipped trick-or-treating and stayed home to hand out candy to the other kids. As I watched Richard (“Rambo”) Crenna battle a demon dog adopted by his family, I contemplated what it meant to “grow up” and still celebrate Halloween. Crenna’s kids in the movie are played by Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, the psychic kids from Disney’s “Escape to Witch Mountain,” so I’ve always thought of “Devil Dog: Hound of Hell” as a weird “Witch Mountain” sequel!


Favorite: “The Lost Boys”/”Fright Night”: Both of these 80’s classics are gems of the vampire genre, although anything seems like a vampire classic next to the “Twilight” series that today’s kids have been force fed.

Alternatives: “Near Dark” (1987): Director Kathryn (“Zero Dark Thirty”) Bigelow’s weird vampire pseudo-Western staring Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton as the alpha males of a family of vampires that travels the country in a Winnebago with the windows painted black. This is one of the most criminally under-seen and underappreciated vampire films in screen history!

Salem’s LotMiniseries (1979): Still the scariest vampire film I’ve ever seen, I think Tobe Hooper’s made-for-TV masterpiece actually improves on the Stephen King novel. This film has the creepiest screen vampires in cinema history, and the choice to re-invent Kurt Barlow as a Nosferatu-type creature is inspired! If you want to see star, David Soul, face off against another vampire, check out the Halloween episode of “Starsky & Hutch,” called “Vampire” from the TV show’s second season. John (“Enter the Dragon”) Saxon plays the vampire sucking the life out of Starsky & Hutch’s Halloween.


Favorites: “Night of the Living Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “Return of the Living Dead”: George Romero’s classics and Dan O’Bannon’s send up of them are Halloween holy ground, and the recent explosion of the zombie genre gives you plenty of choices. Here are a couple of the weirder ones!

Alternatives: “Shock Waves” (1977): The best film of the “underwater Nazi zombies” sub-genre features Peter Cushing as a Nazi mad scientist who has created a race of undead Nazi soldiers that rise from their watery graves to attack the living!

The Children” (1980): One of the creepiest and most disturbing little indie horror films I’ve ever seen, this one mixes the zombie and evil kid genres when a school bus full of grade school children pass through a strange green, toxic mist only to emerge as mini-zombies who burn their victims to a crisp with a hug! The only way to stop them is to cut their hands off. They don’t make weirder flicks than this one.


Favorite: “Suspiria” (1977): Dario Argento’s dizzying, art-house master thesis on witchcraft might be the most popular film on the subject with hardcore horror fans, but I have a couple of other more obscure favorites. Perhaps the best film on the subject, “The Wicker Man” (1973), will be playing the Baxter Avenue Theaters in a new, extended version at Midnight on Friday, November 8th and Saturday, November 9th, and that’s the only reason it’s not included as an alternate recommendation for Halloween.

Alternatives: “Horror Hotel AKAThe City of the Dead” (1960): Christopher Lee is featured in this tale about the New England village of Whitewood. It isn’t Halloween without fog, and “Horror Hotel” is one of the foggiest films ever made. This movie is drenched in creepy atmosphere.

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages” (1922): This amazing silent film depicts images of witchcraft and Satanism in different countries and time periods, but the version I really like is just called “Witchcraft Through the Ages,” which cuts together most of the best imagery into a 76 minute version narrated by the incomparable William S. Burroughs!

Curse of the Demon” (1957): Maybe the best film ever about witchcraft and the power of suggestion that also features one of the coolest screen demons ever created.


Favorites: “An American Werewolf in London”/ “The Howling”: You can’t go wrong with either one of these 1981 classics, or with the classic Universal Studio’s, “The Wolf Man,” but here are a couple of other hairy minor masterpieces to consider.

Alternatives: “Ginger Snaps”: This may be one of the best “coming of age” films ever told from a female perspective even without the werewolf plotline.

Dog Soldiers”: This British, action packed horror films follows a troop of reserve soldiers on a training exercise that run afoul of a pack of beautifully designed werewolves.


Favorite: “Halloween”: John Carpenter’s little miracle of suspense and atmosphere rightfully sits on the throne as King of All Halloween Movies, but there are others!

Alternatives: “Satan’s Little Helper” (2004): This criminally overlooked, subversive Halloween gem directed by Jeff (“Squirm”) Lieberman follows a young trick-or-treater who befriends a serial killer dressed as the Devil himself as the kid follows his Halloween hero on a murder spree through his small town on Halloween. Of course, the kid has no idea that all of this carnage is real and neither does anybody else! Strap yourself in for the finale, because this one gets weird!

Trick r Treat” (2007): No, this isn’t the heavy metal horror film with Skippy from “Family Ties,” it’s a “Pulp Fiction”-style anthology of stories that all happen on the same Halloween night, and they’re all tied together in one way or another. This might be the best film about the iconography of October 31st ever made.


Favorite: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: Do you want to do the Time Warp again, or would you rather rock n roll all night this Halloween?

Alternative: “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park”: This TV movie was originally broadcast on October 28th, 1978, and featured the make-up wearing rockers as super powered heroes battling the forces of evil in a theme park setting. KISS fights animatronic Universal Monsters in a haunted house, robot were-apes by a rollercoaster and, ultimately, their evil robot clones! If you were ten years old in 1978, this was probably the greatest movie you had ever seen (after “Star Wars”!). It’s so incredibly cheesy, I can’t believe it hasn’t yet fostered a Midnight screening, “Rocky Horror”-type of following.


Favorite: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”: I’ve yet to miss a Halloween without joining Linus in the pumpkin patch, and I’m not about to start now, but there’s another animated film I now feel the same way about.

Alternative: “Mad Monster Party?” (1967): Long before the stop-motion animated masterpiece, “The Nightmare before Christmas,” rocked both Halloween and Christmas, there was another stop-motion classic created by Rankin-Bass Entertainment, the same company that created the legendary Christmas specials, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and many others. Boris Karloff is the voice of Baron von Frankenstein who invites all the classic monsters to his castle for a swinging party and a special announcement. Even King Kong crashes the party during the climax. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

The Halloween Tree” (1993): Currently available on the Warner Archive burn-on-demand website, this Hanna-Barbera production is based on the book by Ray Bradbury who also serves as narrator. With an excellent score by John Debney, this made-for-TV animated feature rises to the challenge of adapting Bradbury’s evocative, time traveling Halloween epic and it cuts right to the beating heart of the dark holiday.

I’ve only scratched the surface, of course. If I had the time and space, I’d also recommend Mario Bava’s Gothic masterpieces, “Black Sunday,” “Black Sabbath” and “Baron Blood,” the Spanish werewolf films of Paul Naschy and a hundred other lesser known chilling, thrilling Halloween spook shows. What are some of your own favorite Halloween flicks that only you and your friends seem to know about and love?

The Phantom of The Ville

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