Halloween Endurance Test(ed): Report Card Edition (2011)

Pulling off a month-long horror movie marathon takes a lot of work. If past successes (here, here, and here) and failures (umm… here) are any indication, it takes more than just 31 different movies to succeed. You have to fully immerse yourself in Halloween minutia if you want to have any chance of making it through. So, in closing this year’s Halloween Endurance Test, here’s a list of some of the addends I ended up coming across.

The first thing you’ll find when attempting one of these is that a childhood of studying horror movies just isn’t enough. Sure, your knowledge of Todd Browning’s drunkenness, and Bela Lugosi’s reliance on phonetic script-reading might get you through the easy years, but eventually you’ll hit some movies that you’re not too knowledgable in. This is what happened this year when I started to take on the Hammer films.

I knew going in that they were considered more erotic than their Universal counterparts. (Except for maybe George Melford’s Spanish version which provides just as many ample buxom shots.) I knew Christopher Lee is considered by many to be the ultimate Dracula; though I never agreed with it.

(How could I? Us Slavs have to stick together! Plus, Dracula, in the story, is Transylvanian, which makes Bela Lugosi’s Hungarian accent a nearly perfect fit. Sure, Lee knows the English language, and his performance isn’t first run through a filter of heroine, but those are just minor details. Dracula is supposed to be about a stranger in a strange land, not about a 6′ 6” cleavage addicted Count from Westminster. Plus, Lee also starred in the Man with the Golden Gun and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Let’s leave something for Bela!)

This year’s marathon was actually preceded by Redguard’s On Loving Dracula zine. A throwback to my own past of zine collecting, it proudly holds that Universal’s version to be the best, along with Lugosi being the world’s finest vampire. (Shockingly, it also attempts to make a defense for Browning’s poor directing, one point I certainly don’t agree with.)

Firmly convinced of Universal’s superiority, I picked up a copy of Allen Eyles, Robert Adkinson, and Nicholas Fry’s the House of Horror: the Complete Story of Hammer Films for a 2nd opinion. I knew that Hammer Films was a major contender, though, the actual how’s and why’s behind its ascension certainly weren’t clear to me.

It turns out any supposed enmity between the two studios was short-lived. Just two films into Hammer’s horror cycle Universal realized their inability to stop the rising powerhouse, and instead chose to team-up, by loaning out the original scripts to Hammer. Making Hammer’s version of the Mummy a direct ancestor to our modern remakes. Remember that Hammer’s “classics” were once held in the same light as the newer Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of Wax, or Day of the Dead.

I also read a lot (two books worth!) about Steven Spielberg’s original summer blockbuster, Jaws; a movie I haven’t covered, and have no plans of watching in the immediate future. But if you have a chance of picking up a copy of Nigel Andrews’ Jaws: Bloomsbury Movie Guide No. 5, do so. It’s an enjoyable read full of useless, yet entertaining factoids, about the classic shark film. I’d avoid Edith Blake’s (by Andrews) recommended read, On Location… On Martha’s Vineyard (the Making of the Movie Jaws, though, as it’s a rather unentertaining read painfully light on repeatable factoids. Unless you really care about getting a detailed look on how the filming of Jaws changed Martha’s Vineyard’s traffic patterns. (A topic which will undoubtedly come up if I ever cover the film.)

Books such as these are essential in keeping the drive behind the marathon alive. Because, let’s face it, once you hit Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, you’ll be ready to yank your eyes out. You’ll need a distraction.

This year’s best, “oh my God, this man’s a genius”-level distraction goes to artist/blogger Brad McGinty. For a donation of a $1, oops $2 now, but I remember only paying a buck, Brad would send you his own version of a Mars Attack trading card. A genius #56, as the original series had a total of 55, McGinty’s shows just what’ll happen when the Martians decide to take Halloween.

I’d advise you head over to Paper Pusher to see if Brad has any left, because they’re all kinds of awesome.

I’m ashamed to admit, but even after dedicating an entire post to decorating my apartment, I still failed to put all the decorations up. My giant (6 foot tall), paper Dracula took half a month to hang (damn these perversely tough walls!), and is now forever mocking me for it. Look!:

A 6-ft. tall paper Dracula utilizing pop-up technology and housing an optional stake? Luckily this decoration only cost me 87 cents, otherwise there’d be quite the fight for this year’s “best use of a dollar” contest!

Above is this year’s movie pile. Below is the “also ran” pile of movies that didn’t make the cut.

Also, somewhere in this pile should lurk Alexandre Aja's "High Tension."

In the spirit of full disclosure, I decided to nerd it up this year by looking up each movie’s respective IMDB rating and calculating an average. (One of the untold advantages of running an immensely “popular” annual event is easy access to vastly talented mathematicians.) Here they are, along with their scores:

Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood: 3.6

the Strangers: 6.0

A Bucket of Blood: 6.7

Planet Terror: 7.5

Class of 1999: 5.1

Young Frankenstein: 8.0

Leprechaun: in the Hood: 3.3

House of Wax (2005): 5.3

Blood for Dracula: 6.0

Twitches: 4.9

Horror of Dracula: 7.6

Leprechaun 4: in Space: 3.0

Paranormal Activity 3: 6.4

Gorgo: 5.3

Entrails of a Virgin: 4.4

Leprechaun 3: 4.4

the Uninvited: 6.2

Leprechaun 2: 3.8

Leprechaun: 4.3

Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter: 4.1

Attack Girls’ Swim Team Vs the Undead: 4.4

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter: 2.6

the Awful Dr. Orlof: 6.1

the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003): 6.1

the Whip and the Body: 6.9

House of Wax (1953): 7.0

Frogs: 4.1

My Bloody Valentine (2009): 5.6

Vampyr: 7.6

Day of the Dead (2008): 4.5

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf: 2.8

the Midnight Meat Train: 6.3

Hard Candy: 7.2

the Mummy (1959): 6.8

the Curse of Frankenstein: 7.1

Giving us a total average, peer movie, of: 5.46 (score rounded up). Which, on a scale of 1-10, means almost every movie watched was just a hair shy of being “horribly wretched.” Thus was my October, how was yours?

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