Horror Watch: Revisiting 'Halloween,' 'House of Wax' and 'World War Z'

Heat Vision's roundup of the films (and one TV show) to view as Oct. 31 approaches.
"House of Wax"   |   Courtesy of Bill Gold
Heat Vision's roundup of the films (and one TV show) to view as Oct. 31 approaches.

If you’re into the experience of watching horror movies in a dark theater with other like-minded people, you might be out of luck this year.

Carrie, which opened last week, was really the only scary movie out this year, and it's not doing all that well. Next year promises to be better, but until then, what’s a person who wants some scares supposed to do?

Well, the proliferation of haunted theme parks continue and might even give you the scares you're looking for.

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But if it’s scary movies that you want, there are some good options at the video store. Or Best Buy. Or Redbox. Or iTunes. Or whatever your movie mainline of choice is. Here are some that the folks at The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision like:

1) Halloween 35th Anniversary Edition:

This 1978 independent has still got it. The movie that introduced Jamie Lee Curtis to the world, that introduced serial killer Michael Myers to horror, that launched John Carpenter’s cult career, cost only $325,000 to make and, on one level, you can see that on the screen. Why are there leaves blowing on one side of the sidewalk but the rest of the street is green? If this story is set in Illinois, why do I see a palm tree in the background?

But the movie’s simplicity, the normal people-you-know quality of Curtis’ character and that of her friends, the POV work and the distinct score still draw you in.

The movie is an all-new HC transfer, has a new 7.1 audio mix and a rather cool commentary track that reunites Carpenter and Curtis for the first time in years.  

The commentary is annoying at first (blame Carpenter), but eventually becomes more insightful and convivial. Carpenter maintains that the movie never needed a sequel and laments about how audiences nowadays are impatient. Curtis, meanwhile, reveals how producer Ray Stark called up her mom (classic screen actress and Psycho star Janet Leigh) and asked if the then 15-year-old could audition for The Exorcist. Leigh said no.

2) House of Wax

A true classic. House of Wax was the first color 3D feature released by a studio, and now Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has restored and re-mastered the movie in time for its 60th anniversary.

And it’s available in 3D to boot.

The 1953 movie stars the great Vincent Price as a figure sculptor who is left for dead by his business partner. Horribly disfigured by a fire, he returns to exact revenge and uses the bodies of his victims to populate his wax museum.

I’ll be the first to admit the movie, and certainly its final act, is dated, but Price is such a joy to watch. (The movie changed the course of Price’s career and set him on the path of horror movies for which he eventually became known.)

And the movie has moments clearly made for the gimmicky 3D that was just beginning to take hold of the audience (watch for an extended sequence in which a museum barker breaks the fourth wall, talking to the audience as he whacks a paddleball into the camera).

The movie comes with some new features, a 2D version and the 1933 film, Mystery of the Wax Museum, on which Wax is based.

3) World War Z

One of the best movies of the year is a summer tentpole AND a horror movie.

In case you missed it, the $540 million hit stars Brad Pitt as a U.N. employee tasked to find the source of a virus that is causing folks to mutate into zombies. He leaves his loving family behind, travels around the world -- where almost everyone he comes into contact with ends up dead -- and saves the world (sorry for that spoiler).

The movie manages to balance tense, edge-of-your-seat large canvas set pieces (the fall of Jerusalem is a sight to behold) with tense, edge-of-your-seat quiet sequences that show studios can make certain kinds of scary movies.

The Blu-ray, by the way, is the unrated cut “with intense footage not shown in theaters!” (Exclamation point mine.)

4) The Walking Dead: Season Three

This year, with horror ruling the TV airwaves, there’s plenty of great creepy binge-viewing to enjoy. You can spend the entire weekend with American Horror Story: Asylum, The Following and Bates Motel.

Here at Heat Vision, we are cuddling up to The Walking Dead: Season Three. A little obvious, sure, but zombie love has never been stronger, judging from the over 16 million viewers that tuned into the season four premiere on AMC.

Season three redeemed season two, which had our scrappy gang of survivors, led by Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) languishing on a farm, introducing a great villain in the Governor (David Morrisey). The guy was twisted and manipulative and … well, check it out yourselves. Or revisit it for yourselves.

The set from Anchor Bay comes with a eight featurettes, commentaries on five of the episodes and a host of deleted scenes.

5) Straight-to-DVD nostalgia

This season has seen a bunch of movies made for the home market based on titles from classic 1970s and 1980s horror movies: Curse of Chucky from Universal home Entertainment, Fright Night 2: New Blood from 20th Century and I Spit On Your Grave 2 from Anchor Bay.

The most interesting one is Chucky, because of what it tries, and fails, apparently, to do.

The Chucky movies devolved into cheesy, silly claptrap, but the original was a fun horror movie about a kids doll that is possessed by a serial killer. This movie tries to take the franchise back to its horror roots and, at first, succeeds. Interesting camera angles, some good teases, all take steps in the right direction for a good time.

That is, until the characters turn stupid and do stupid things, the clichés pile up and the movie ends back in the silly zone it tried to leave behind.

Happy viewing!