Frightful films: Monstrous scares, laughs and thrills in the BLC theater

Michael Myers (Nick Castle), with knife in hand, begins to murder naive and unaware teenagers after escaping from a sanitarium.By Heather Fiore

During this chilly time of the year, many people curl up on the couch with the necessities (popcorn and plenty of blankets, of course) to watch some of the most famous horror and Halloween-themed movies our country has come to love and fear.

With this in mind, the Student Entertainment Council (SEC) is getting into the Halloween spirit by showing three time-honored spooky film favorites in the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) this weekend: Hocus Pocus, Halloween, and Ghostbusters.

Halloween, one of the most well-known horror movies of modern cinema, seems to be untraceable in local blockbusters at the end of October.

Staged in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Ill., Michael Myers, played by Nick Castle (director of Dennis the Menace and Major Payne), begins his legacy on the night of Oct. 31, 1963, as one of America’s most feared and immortal serial killers.

The movie starts with 6-year-old Michael brutally murdering his 17-year-old sister with a kitchen knife in their home. His parents arrive shortly after and they are forced to send him to Smith’s Grove-Warren County Sanitarium.

There, he is put under the care of child psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis, played by Donald Pleasence (from the James Bond film You Only Live Twice).

Most of the movie tracks Michael’s eight years of treatment, while Sam discovers that there is more to Michael than meets the eye. As Sam tries to have Michael committed indefinitely, he has to transfer him to be tried as an adult.

This leads to chaos when Michael escapes from Smith’s Grove, steals the institution’s car and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield.

Sam, knowing Michael’s interest in his destination, follows him. Upon his return, Michael stalks teenager Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies). Director John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13) ultimately chose Curtis because of her mother’s role in Psycho, claiming that it would boost the movie’s publicity. At the time, Curtis was not well-known, and thus Halloween, her feature film debut, launched her career as a “scream queen” horror star.

Michael continues to follow Laurie, and on Halloween night begins to unleash his wrath on random people who cross his path.

Unlike present-day horror movies that display helpless people running from the killer, doing typical things like tripping and falling or going towards the weird sounds, Halloween is in a class of its own.

The characters who are killed, such as Strode’s two friends, Annie and Lynda, played by Nancy Kyes (Assault on Precinct 13) and P.J. Soles (Carrie), are intelligent in their moves to escape Michael’s wrath; however, Michael outsmarts them all.

Although Halloween may encompass an aura of evil, some directors, such as Kenny Ortega (choreographer of Dirty Dancing and High School Musical trilogy), portray Halloween-themed movies with a comedic edge. Hocus Pocus, which played last night in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater, begins in Salem, Mass., in March of 1692, at the onset of the infamous Salem witch trials.

The three witches of the movie, Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson, transform a young boy, Thackary Binx, played by Jason Marsden (Full House), into an immortal black cat as punishment for trying to prevent them from absorbing the life force of his younger sister, Emily. The three sisters are tried and hanged by the locals.

However, because of a curse created by Winifred’s magic spell-book, they vow to return when a virgin lights the Black Flame candle on Halloween night, when there is a full moon.

Three hundred years later on Halloween night, a curious teenager, Max Dennison, (Omri Katz, Adventures in Dinosaur City), along with younger sister Dani, (Thora Birch, American Beauty) and love interest Allison, (Vinessa Shaw, The Hills Have Eyes), relights the Black Flame candle and conjures the three sisters from the dead.

Winifred, played by Bette Midler (The First Wives Club), is the smartest of the three, and the most cynical. The other two sisters, Sarah and Mary, played by Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City) and Kathy Najimy (Sister Act), are the less sensible ones.

Midler does an outstanding job in the role of the lead witch of the clan. Her sinister eeriness contributes greatly to the overall mood of the movie. With the other sisters at her every command, Midler’s sense of authority and leadership couldn’t have been better.

Through this comedic yet frightful adventure, the sisters chase the three youngsters throughout town, and Max, Dani and Allison are forced to take matters into their own hands and try to defeat the sisters before they absorb the life force from another child, thus keeping them alive for good.

As Ortega shows with Hocus Pocus that not all killing has to be scary, director Ivan Reitman (National Lampoon’s Animal House) puts an unrealistic, yet comedic touch to the idea of eliminating fictional nemeses. Reitman, director of the well-known comedic/inimitable “horror” film Ghostbusters, creates another realm in The Big Apple.

Three misfit parapsychology professors specializing in research on ghosts, Drs. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis, writer of Groundhog Day), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places), and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray, Lost in Translation), are expelled from Columbia University at the termination of their research grants.

To maintain their livelihood, they create an organization known as “Ghostbusters,” which is described as a professional paranormal investigations and eliminations service.

They adopt an old firehouse as their headquarters and a beat up, old Cadillac ambulance as their transportation. The business is unsuccessful until an event at a local hotel sends the Ghostbusters into a client-frenzy. Because of the overwhelming number of jobs they are hired to perform, the trio hires another member, Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson, Miss Congeniality).

Together, all four members, with the help from their handy proton packs — used to trap and contain the ghosts ­— defeat the pests of the city.

While on duty, they receive a request for assistance from a woman named Dana Barrett, played by Sigourney Weaver (Alien). A demonic figure by the name of Zuul, who turns the people it possesses into dog-like creatures, is speaking from the inside of her refrigerator.

Reitman cleverly turns New York City into a ghostly world, which, at the time, was amazing to see on the big screen, even if the special effects are no longer realistic by today’s standards.

However, Ghostbusters does a good job of comically portraying the ghosts — especially the leader of the ghosts, Gozer, depicted as a gigantic version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

So, despite the cold weather and seemingly dreary mood this time of the year brings, Halloween is the one day out of the year where people get to jump out of context, act crazy, and enjoy some candy along with some great flicks.

Don’t miss your opportunity to see these classic Halloween films. Hocus Pocus showed last night. Halloween will play tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Ghostbusters shows tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. All showings will take place at the BLC Theater free of charge.

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