An Arthouse Halloween

Criterion Collection

Veer away from the normal.  Come to the wacky, weird, and downright disturbing side of horror and suspense for Halloween.

Instead of watching Halloween or Friday the 13th for the 15th time, try these independent and criminally overlooked films. Some are beautifully laid out, and some downright insane.

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Some of my favorite French films were made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It was when America was still producing relatively tame movies in comparison with France, mostly because of the ridiculous Production Code enacted at the time. Watching a movie like Eyes Without a Face might be shocking to those who think this era of movies as just a bunch of happy-go-lucky tales about girls and cars.

It’s basically about a surgeon whose daughter has become disfigured, and he attempts to amend the heartbreaking situation by taking the faces from other girls and transplanting them onto his daughter’s. Just like Gidget, right?

There’s one scene in particular that might even still make some people (including my mother) squeamish. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the movie is its relevance to today’s society- because there really are people getting face transplants.

House (1977)

Where do I even start with this one…there’s people-eating pianos, floating heads, blood-spewing clocks, evil cats- everything you could want in a 1970s Japanese movie! There’s no doubt it was made with a tongue-in-cheek vibe. The animation is purposefully silly, and the acting is amateur and borderline annoying. However, it’s a lot of fun, and certainly memorable. Fans of David Cronenberg’s movies will love it.

There’s not really much to the plot: a girl and her friends go to a haunted, messed-up house, furniture attacks, and mayhem ensues, but the mayhem is unlike anything else.

Diabolique (1955)

Here we go with those French films again! It’s just so good I can’t help myself. One of my favorite French films ever, it blends suspense, eerie cinematography, and a twist ending into a mysterious and nail-biting ride. Simone Signoret stars and Henri-Georges Clouzot directs this mystery/suspense film, so that’s reason enough to see it.

If you’re looking for something immediately gratifying and fast-paced, this isn’t for you. The slow build to a shocking ending is the reason I love it in the first place.

The Shining (1980)

Maybe I’m kind of cheating by allowing this one on the list, but it’s Stanley Kubrick, so why not? This will forever be one of my favorite horror movies because it’s so unlike anything else. There’s more than just a case of misguided cabin fever going on here.

The most enjoyable experience is right after the film- when everyone can discuss what the heck just happened, and argue aimlessly about the true meaning and explanation for the last few minutes, or really, the whole movie. All I know is Jack Nicholson is great at acting like a maddening, psychotic killer. What a compliment!

Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below and let me know!

San Francisco playlist

Since I will be on my way to San Francisco throughout the Christmas holiday after this semester is (finally) over, I have decided to put together a playlist of songs that mention San Francisco, whether it’s in the chorus, song title, or just one verse.

The songs in the collection are quite varied. There’s anything from blues to punk rock, but isn’t that the fun of mixes anyway?

Click here to listen to the playlist.

Unfortunately, 8tracks wouldn’t allow me to add The Mamas & the Papas version of “San Francisco” since I didn’t have the album title labeled, so here it is for your enjoyment. I personally like it just as much as the original Scott McKenzie version.

Here are the songs included on the playlist:

1. “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”- Scott McKenzie

Scott McKenzie and the world before Photoshop

Besides being an exhausting title, this track can also be noted for the beautiful melody. Once it’s stuck in your head, good luck getting it out. You’re welcome.

2. “Left of the Dial”- The Replacements

Ok, so San Fran is only mentioned once, but it’s such a good line:

“Headed out to San Francisco, definitely not L.A.”

The Replacements certainly had an affinity for humorous lyrics. This band, along with R.E.M., introduced me to the plethora of fantastic music known as the ’80s underground (college radio!).

3. “Judy is a Punk”- Ramones

I honestly had no idea what “they both went down to Frisco, joined the SLA” meant. After looking it up, I discovered that it was referring to the Symbionese Liberation Army– the militant group that kidnapped Patty Hearst in the ’70s. Who says you can’t learn anything productive from punk music?

4. “Back in San Francisco”- Orange Peels

Orange Peels. Believe it or not, this isn't from the '60s

It’s not really a popular song, but it has a laid back feel that (I assume) fits the vibe of San Francisco. Ironically, they will be performing in the city while I’m visiting.

5. “Linden Arden Stole the Headlights”- Van Morrison

Veedon Fleece is an underrated album, and Van Morrison is an underrated artist in general. His songs have always been able to capture a mood or moment perfectly through both lyrics and vocal styles. “Linden Arden Stole the Headlights” is about an Irishman living in San Francisco. It doesn’t exactly end up well.

6. “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”- Tony Bennett

Is it possible to not love Tony Bennett? I’m not a big fan of crooners, but something about his music just makes me all smiles.  This song is an official song of the city, so others must feel the same way.

7. “Hello San Francisco”- Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy, still rockin' at 75 years old

You will probably find yourself nodding to the slow, grooving beat whether you like it or not. Chicago blues would not be the same without Buddy Guy. Also, this may just be the perfect song for someone like me who is visiting San Francisco for the first time because of the following lyrics:

“Hello, San Francisco. Oh, we finally got a chance to meet. I knew someday that I would walk up and down your hilly streets.”

Yep, pretty much perfect.

8. “Deep Kick”- Red Hot Chili Peppers

The happy couples in the Red Hot Chili Peppers circa 1995 (can you figure out which member left the band?)

Believe it or not, this Red Hot Chili Peppers song is about drug use. Who would have thought! The beginning is quite odd, and if you’d like to get on to the headbanging, skip to 1:40. Flea does some strange singing near the end. Let’s all be happy he’s an excellent bassist.

9. “Fake Tales of San Francisco”- Arctic Monkeys

Always writing songs with a wink, the Arctic Monkeys poke fun at an imaginary British band trying too hard to relate to American culture.

10. “Frisco Blues”- John Lee Hooker

If Ray Charles and the blues were mixed together, it would probably sound very similar to this. I love the female backing vocals as well .No one has ever sounded quite like him. Maybe there are 20 songs about San Francisco that he made, but I wouldn’t know since he made over 100 albums!

11. “Grace Cathedral Hill”- The Decemberists

It’s a fairly simple acoustic song with baroque leanings. Colin Meloy’s voice is very unique, and allows the song to stand out a bit more. Just don’t listen to it if you’re sleepy (unless you are wanting to go to sleep).

12. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”- Otis Redding 

Why does the album artwork from the '60s always look so cool, and why did it take me so long to realize he wasn't singing into a tennis ball?

I saved the best for last. This song paints a picture of the bay so beautifully. I can’t really even describe why it’s so good, because it really isn’t a complex song. It’s most likely because Otis Redding’s voice exudes soulfulness. He could sing about a sandwich and make it emotional.

If anyone knows of some other fine tunes about San Francisco, let me know!

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