It’s hard to make a more iconic Halloween movie than Halloween, but that’s not to say that there aren’t legions of other films where Halloween plays a critical role. Much like Christmas, Halloween is such a big holiday in the American imagination that it appears in a number of films that aren’t directly about Halloween, or even horror. Last year, the Post took a look at “The OTHER Classic Christmas Movies,” so it’s only fair that we do the same for Halloween.
10. Batman Forever (1995)
For some reason, the first three modern Batman films all rotated around some kind of holiday celebration. 1989’s Batman featured the Gotham City bicentennial, 1992’s Batman Returns took place at Christmas, and 1995’s Batman Forever landed on Halloween. The holiday doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall plot, but it shows up significantly later in the film. Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey), having discovered Batman’s secret identity and fool an unusually dim Alfred (Michael Gough) using Halloween costumes. With Alfred’s guard down, the villains and their henchmen invade Wayne Manor, destroying much of the mansion and Batcave while kidnapping Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) and setting up a final showdown between the villains, Batman (Val Kilmer), and his new partner, Robin (Chris O’Donnell).
9. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
EVERYBODY knows that Meet Me in St. Louis is where we got “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” But not everyone quite recalls that the movie basically takes place over most of a year from 1903 until the World’s Fair opens in 1904. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Sally Benson, which was originally presented as a string of short stories in The New Yorker. The Halloween sequence represents a pivotal moment in the plot’s central relationship. Esther (Judy Garland) has been in love with John (Tom Drake) from a distance for a while. However, her sister Tootie alleges that John hurt her while Tootie was out for trick-or-treat. Esther attacks John in a rage, but Tootie admits that John actually protected her and sister Agnes from the police after a bungled prank. Esther’s apology to John leads to their first kiss.
8. Mean Girls (2004)
Tina Fey took on a terrifying subject when she adapted Mean Girls from Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabees, and that was the teenage trauma associated with high school cliques. Mean Girls covers a lot of ground when it comes to how young women interact, including social expectations versus reality, the spitefulness that can arise in a compressed setting like a high school, and how kids are often unaware of the damage that words can do. One key scene takes place at a Halloween party; the lead-in starts off light, playing off of the ongoing trend of hyper-sexualized costumes, but it takes a turn when Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is betrayed at the party, setting her on a course that affects the rest of the film.
7. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
A soul-crushing novel made into a soul-crushing movie, We Need to Talk About Kevin deals with one of the worst possible nightmares for a parent: what do you do when your child is the one who conducts a school massacre? The epistolary novel by Lionel Shriver was made into a haunting film starring Tilda Swinton as Kevin’s mother, Eva. As Eva drives home one night, the demons plaguing her and her family seem to come to life, moving in and out of the shadows as she sees them out her car window. It is, however, only Halloween, but the frightening vista underscores Eva’s own inner turmoil and the tragedy that has played out over the course of Kevin’s life.
6. The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
Take a hugely successful book series. Recruit appealing newcomers for the young leads. Add some of the most accomplished adult actors in England. Never stray too far from the books. Spend ten years becoming of the one best loved movie series of all time. We all watched that work for the Harry Potter series. Obviously, the magic-based series lends itself to Halloween. Moreover, since every book roughly covers one school year, it’s easy to slot those scenes in the plot. Each book at least references Halloween. Not all of the films touch on it, although there are recurring references. A running concern is the fact that Voldemort was originally defeated on Halloween Night. Rowling also tied important events to the holiday in the first four books. Easily one of the most memorable Halloween scenes is in the first book and first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When a Mountain Troll gets into the school, the student body panics. Only Harry and Ron keep their cool to try to find Hermione. Making their way to the girls’ restroom, they find Hermione under attack by the creature. Encouraged by Hermione, Ron performs a spell that uses the troll’s own club to knock him out. Not everyone is pleased (Quirrell is a double-agent, Snape is annoyed), but Professor McGonagall gives the lads points for saving their friend.
5. The Crow (1994)
The supernatural revenge thriller based on the comic book series by James O’Barr found tragedy in the on-set death of leading man Brandon Lee and triumph in the critical and financial success of the film and its soundtrack. The plot turns around October 30th, once known as Devil’s Night in Detroit for a phenomenon of arsons taking place on that date over several decades; on one Devil’s Night, Eric Draven and his fiancée, Shelly, are murdered on the day before their wedding (which would have been Halloween). Draven returns one year later to deal out harsh vengeance on those responsible. The city, already portrayed in a dark and gothic manner by director Alex Proyas, also has the trappings of Halloween, including trick-or-treating children that pass Draven in costume.
4. Watchmen (2009)
Based on the medium-changing comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (seriously; it’s on Time’s list of 100 Best Novels from 1923 onward), Zach Snyder’s Watchmen takes great pains to present an adaptation that’s as close to the page and panel as possible. The story takes place in an alternative 1985 where Nixon is still president and America won the Vietnam War thanks to the intervention of the super-powered Dr. Manhattan. Though the story constantly jumps in time, the main narrative is set in 1985 on the verge of Halloween . . . and nuclear holocaust. Halloween imagery sneaks in at the edges, and several critical plot developments (many of which are horrifying in their own right) occur across October 31 and November 1.
3. The Karate Kid (1984)
One of the more memorable Halloween scenes from any high school-related film happens in The Karate Kid. At a Halloween dance, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) wants to be with Ali (Elisabeth Shue), but he’s been trying avoid the bullying of Johnny and his Cobra Kai buddies. Daniel cleverly dresses in a shower costume to conceal his identity. But when Johnny breaks off from the other Cobra Kais (who are all dressed in matching skeleton costumes and facepaint) to smoke weed in the bathroom, Daniel takes the opportunity to rig up a hose and douse Johnny. The Cobra Kais chase Daniel down and deal him a violent beating until Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) intervenes. Miyagi dismantles the bullies by himself and helps treat Daniel’s injuries. Soon after, Miyagi begins to train Daniel so that he can confront the Kais at the All-Valley Tournament.
2. E.T. (1982)
Is there anyone who doesn’t know E.T.? What you might not recall is that Halloween actually plays a crucial role in advancing the plot. E.T. wants to “phone home” so that his people can come back for him. However, Elliott and his brother Michael need to sneak E.T. and the communication array he’s built to the nearby woods where they’ll have a better chance of making contact. That’s where Halloween comes in. The boys use that most reliable of disguises (from a kid’s point of view): a white sheet ghost costume. They first have to convince their mother that they’re actually taking their little sister, Gertie, out, which works. Although a chance encounter with a kid dressed as Yoda distracts the alien, they are still able to get him to the forest to make his call.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Speaking of important scenes occurring at Halloween . . . the climactic action of To Kill a Mockingbird happens on Halloween night after a pageant where Scout is dressed as a giant ham. As Scout and her brother Jem walk through the woods toward home, they are attacked. Scout can’t see much because of her costume, but she realizes that someone else stopped their attacker. It soon becomes clear that they were attacked by Bob Ewell, whom Atticus had shamed in court. The man who saved them was their reclusive neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley. As Atticus and Sheriff Tate piece together events, they realize that Boo stabbed Ewell, killing him. However, Tate decides to list it as an accident, sparing Boo the attention and circus of a trial.
Featured image: leolintang / Shutterstock
News of the Week: A New Harry Potter, a Really New Captain America, and the Dangers of Netflix Adultery
Harry Potter is Back!
We all knew this was coming. What, you thought that we’d seen the last of Harry Potter?
Yup, the boy wizard is back, only this time he’s a man, and it he won’t be in a book or movie (not yet anyway — stay tuned). The adult Harry and his teen son Albus will be seen in a new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opens in previews at London’s Palace Theatre next week. Pottermore, the official Harry Potter site, has details on the play, along with photos of the cast in costume.
Remember that issue of Superman where you find out the Man of Steel has always been working with General Zod, and then he kills Jimmy Olsen? Yeah, I don’t either, because it never happened. But it could!
I don’t see why not, because it seems to have happened to Captain America. In a new comic book, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, we find out that not only is Rogers — the most American of superheroes — working with the evil Hydra organization now, he has always been working with Hydra. An editor for Marvel attempts to explain this to Time, and while he says the twist isn’t a gimmick, I think it’s safe to say it’s a gimmick.
Now, I’m not the ideal fan or even demographic for comic books. I like a lot of superhero movies (the Captain America series in particular), but I haven’t read a comic book in many years. And the story lines for comic books are really hard to follow now. There are constant reboots and the killing off (then resurrection) of characters and “re-imaginings” of a comic’s universe, so that we’re in a time when literally anything can happen. It all seems confusing and needless and inconsistent. Supposedly, hardcore fans will eventually understand why Rogers has gone to the dark side, and in a way that even old comics will hold up. I don’t buy it. On the other hand, I don’t plan on buying it, so I’ll just pretend this never happened.
Let’s just hope that the new Harry Potter play doesn’t show he’s been on Voldemort’s payroll since he was a kid.
Print Books Are Back, Too!
Harry Potter isn’t the only thing making a comeback. Apparently, print books are back, too.
Of course, they never really went away, but for the past several years all we’ve heard is that print books (and newspapers) are on the way out and they’ll be replaced by e-books and other digital offerings. The New York Times reports that in 2015, sales of print books rose 16 percent while the sale of digital books fell 10 percent from the previous year’s sales. Even younger readers like print books more.
Now, e-books and digital aren’t going away. That probably is the future, but I don’t think that print is ever really going to go away. Maybe in the far-flung future, when we’re all living like The Jetsons. But even then I think there will at least be a niche space for paper, even if our brains are hardwired directly to social media and we make all our purchases via a retinal scan.
Christopher Kimball Launches New Cooking Venture
Last year, I told you about America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country founder/host leaving the company he started. This week we found out why Kimball was let go and what he plans to do next.
Kimball has started Milk Street Kitchen, a new cooking venture that will include a PBS show, a magazine, books, and even a cooking school. And while that might sound an awful lot like his former venture, he’s actually taking a different route. He’s going to focus on the foods and cooking methods of other countries. As Kimball puts it, “I don’t think I have anything left to add about how to make an oatmeal cookie.” He’s currently renovating the Flour & Grain Exchange building in the Financial District of Boston, which will serve as the headquarters for the company.
Interestingly, Kimball will continue to host the weekly America’s Test Kitchen radio show.
RIP Irving Benson and Mike Dann
Irving Benson was one of the last of the classic vaudeville performers, and he had a bunch of roles on television as well. He was on shows like Here’s Lucy, Happy Days, and The Tonight Show, and you might remember him as Sidney Shpritzer, the guy in the balcony who would heckle Milton Berle on all of Berle’s shows in the ’60s:
He must have been one of the inspirations for the Sesame Street characters Statler and Waldorf, right?
Benson passed away in May at the age of 102. His wife Lillian passed away this March. They had been married for 79 years.
Mike Dann wasn’t a household name, but he had a big hand in many TV shows that were beamed into your household. He started at NBC and helped create both Today and The Tonight Show; then later at CBS, he gave us rural shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, along with more metropolitan shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, an extremely controversial show that CBS canceled even though it was popular with younger viewers.
Dann passed away last Friday at the age of 94.
I Don’t Remember John Daly Bumping and Grinding
Regular readers of this column know that I’m a big fan of old game shows like What’s My Line?, To Tell The Truth, and I’ve Got A Secret. I have this fantasy that What’s My Line? will come back in a new version, but that fantasy is tempered by the realization that it wouldn’t be the same show at all. They’d try to make it more “modern” by having the celebrities be reality show stars or C-list celebs, and the witty, urbane, classy vibe of the original show would be replaced by screaming and raunchy jokes and a loud audience. The contestants on the show would no longer have normal occupations or be in the military, they’d all be porn stars or YouTube stars, and the audience would “whoop” at all the dirty lines. They couldn’t do live commercials during the show because we’re so drenched in irony and cynicism now.
But some of the old shows are coming back. In April, I mentioned that Match Game would return to ABC this summer with Alec Baldwin as host, and we now have the previews for ABC’s reboots of To Tell The Truth and The $100,000 Pyramid. Watch these previews for both shows and see if you have the same reaction I did. At first, you’re excited these shows are back, and then, a few moments later, you’re thinking, “Oh, um, well …”
This is To Tell the Truth:
And here’s The $100,000 Pyramid:
While I don’t know if these new versions will work, it’s really great to see Betty White on game shows again, and I’ll certainly be watching. Please don’t screw this up.
Have You Cheated on Your Partner (with Netflix)?
Don’t you hate it when your significant other watches a TV show before you do and you can’t watch it together? It’s apparently a major problem in modern-day marriages and grounds for divorce in 33 states. But there’s a solution.
Introducing Commitment Rings, rings that you and your partner can wear that will actually block one of you from watching the streaming of your favorite show if the other person isn’t watching it with you. They’re from Cornetto, a British ice cream company. Yes, a British ice cream company.
I don’t really understand how it works. I mean, unless you can set up the streaming apps to not even work at all unless both rings are being used, can’t you just take off the ring and cheat on your partner? I mean, that’s how real adultery works.
June Is National Iced Tea Month
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but Mother Nature seemed to have just flipped the summer switch this past week, as it went from rainy and cool to muggy and gross in just a day or so. The screen door is in, the windows are open, and the bugs are out in full force.
It’s a perfect time for iced tea! I’m a fan of the packaged, sugary stuff. “Real” iced tea, to me, just tastes like regular tea that’s been sitting out for a while and gotten cold. I guess you get used to a certain flavor when you’re a kid and it sticks with you forever. But if you’d like to mix up a batch yourself, here’s a classic recipe from Lipton. If you want something a little bit different, how about an Arnold Palmer, which combines iced tea and lemonade and just screams “summer.”
The first suit I ever bought, back in the ’70s, was one with the Arnold Palmer label. How many people can say they have a classic drink and a clothing line named after them?
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
President Ronald Reagan dies (June 5, 2004)
George Orwell’s 1984 published (June 6, 1949)
Jean Harlow dies (June 7, 1937)
The film star was only 26 when she died.
Cole Porter born (June 9, 1891)
You can learn more about the iconic American songwriter at the “Cole Wide Web.”
Hattie McDaniel born (June 10, 1889)
The first black actress to win an acting Oscar accepted her award at a segregated Los Angeles hotel.