Not all horror films are created equal.
That’s an understatement in a genre teeming with impoverished acting, stale dialogue and atrocious direction. For every classic like ‘The Shining’ or ‘The Omen,’ there’s a dozen ‘Saw’ sequels to make horror fans want to run and hide.
AMC is currently running its second annual Fearfest programming, a horror movie marathon meant to scare us silly right through Halloween. It’s a wonderful gimmick, but you’ll need to be wary of the clunkers littering the lineup.
So, here’s a handy guide to help you make the most of this grisly movie marathon. Treats are always better than tricks this time of the year:
Monday Oct. 24 – ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ (10 a.m. EST) – ‘The Exorcist’ casts an impossibly long shadow over any film that dares to deal with demonic possession, but ‘Rose’ manages to blaze its own intriguing trail. AVOID: ‘Dreamcatcher’ (5 p.m. EST) – The worst Stephen King adaptation committed to the big screen and the lowest point of writer/director Lawrence Kasdan’s otherwise brilliant career. Even Morgan Freeman looks ridiculous here, in part thanks to a pair of eyebrows gone wild.
Tuesday Oct. 25 – ‘Thinner’ (Noon EST) – This little-seen adaptation of Stephen King’s novella (written under the pen name Richard Bachman) tracks an obese man cursed to keep losing weight by a gypsy. Not first-rate King, but it bristles with unsettling thoughts and imagery.
Wednesday Oct. 26 -‘Slither’ (4 p.m. EST) – Combining horror and comedy sounds easy, but it takes a special elixir to get it just right. The genre’s standard bearer remains ‘An American Werewolf in London,’ but ‘Slither’ deserves credit for fusing the genres with an assured touch. Plus, we get a young Elizabeth Banks battling an alien invasion as well as a heroic turn by genre fave Nathan Fillion (‘Firefly’).
Thursday Oct. 27 -‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (8 p.m. EST) – Noteworthy for being the only ‘Halloween’ feature not to focus on killing machine Michael Myers. An evil company is manufacturing Halloween masks which will explode and kill their young wearers. Hardly a classic, but the sing-song chant introduced in the film will burrow into your brain until Thanksgiving.
Friday Oct. 28 – ‘House of Wax’ (11 a.m. EST) – This competent remake is known more for an appearance by Paris Hilton than any signature scares. But it’s an example of a competent horror movie that hits the spot when you’ve seen ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Exorcist’ too many times. AVOID: ‘Survival of the Dead’ (4 p.m. EST) Horror maestro George A. Romero keeps cranking out zombie films, but his latest undead affair is DOA.
Saturday Oct. 29 – ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (8:15 a.m. EST) – You’ll have to get up early to enjoy this hair-raising classic, but ol’ Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester will make it worth your time. If only Frankenstein’s Monster had access to Match.com or eHarmony.
Monday Oct. 31 – All ‘Halloween,’ all the time. AMC trots out five films from a franchise that refuses to die. The best, of course, is the original ‘Halloween’ (9:30 a.m. EST, 8 p.m. EST). The film set the template for the slasher movie genre, but we’ve yet to meet one that rivaled director John Carpenter’s shock classic.