TRICK ‘R TREAT Writer/Director Michael Dougherty’s Halloween Movie Picks!

Happy Halloween weekend, devoted Icons Of Fright readers! Like most of you, we’ll be celebrating by carving pumpkins, eating tons of candy and watching our usual batch of classic horror movies all day! One of the movies that’s going to be getting heavy rotation this (and every) year is Michael Dougherty’s loving tribute to all things Halloween TRICK ‘R TREAT.

Considering the writer/director has crafted one of the best Halloween movies ever, we thought it’d be fun to check in on him to see what he watches around Halloween time! So below is Michael Dougherty, in his own words, filling us in on what you might find in rotation come Halloween season ’round his house. Read on! -Robg.

“There are the few basics. HALLOWEEN, obviously. No brainer. That one’s kind of on loop around my house. HALLOWEEN 1, 2, 4 and H20 more specifically. Those four tend to be in heavy rotation. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, every now and then. There’s just something about the music that’s so iconic and classic and the tone and feel of these films that capture the spirit. When I was a kid I used to play the Disney Haunted Mansion album over and over again around the house, but now it’s HALLOWEEN.”

“I would say just underneath that one is THE EXORCIST, because I don’t think that many people realize that the beginning of that movie starts on Halloween. There’s a classic shot of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) walking down the street and she walks past a handful of trick ‘r treaters as all the leaves are blowing past her. Just that one shot has been such a big influence on me.”

NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a great Halloween pick, especially if you have kids. I haven’t seen it in 4D yet, but I want to. I think that one is more for the playful side of the holiday to the stark contrast of HALLOWEEN. I loved that movie from the first 10 seconds. (Laughs) It was love at first sight when I saw that movie. I remember thinking “finally! Someone did it.” Finally someone made a feature length, creepy animated film. It was so different, because it was around the time that we had a lot of big animated Disney films but those were the classic fairy tales with the classic heroes, whereas this one was about undead children with their eyes sewn shut! So it was an eye-opener and I was very happy and in love with it when I first saw it, and it’s weird, because it doubles as both a Halloween and a Christmas film, which I think is fantastic.”

“After NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, another favorite of mine that a lot of people tend to overlook is THE CHANGELING. One of the best, best haunted house ghost stories you’ll ever see. It’s slowly been forgotten, but it’s so amazing and a great classic creepy haunted house movie that just relies on sound FX and shadows to get its scares. There’s little to no visual FX. And if you really watch it, you can see how it influenced so many films that came after it including THE RING. If you’re a fan of dead children at the bottom of wells, between THE RING and THE CHANGELING you can’t go wrong.”

“It’s funny because recently this year, I’ve been watching a lot of the classic black and white horror movies to get in the Halloween spirit. All the classic Universal monster movies like FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, THE WOLFMAN. Those have been playing a lot around my house. They’re just great to play in the background as you put your decorations up. Those are also really great horror movies for kids, because they’re so tame by today’s standards that they made great “gate-way” horror movies for kids.”

“I watch THE SHINING around Halloween too. THE SHINING is a great one. That one I usually end up playing more around Christmas, because it’s got a nice winter-ey setting. In my own twisted way I think of it more as a Christmas movie, but it also works for Halloween. It’s a good ghost story.”
IT’S A GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN. For the little kid in you, you can’t go wrong with that. That’s the thing, I really believe that Halloween and even the movies that you pick to watch around the season aren’t really about trying to scare the crap out of you, because Halloween has such a playful side to it. If it was really about scaring the crap out of ourselves, I don’t think it would be as popular as it is now. It’s about making scary things fun. So, creating a movie playlist with John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN and then you contrast that with IT’S A GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN, that’s where you really capture the essence of the holiday; those are the yin and the yang of it. That’s why NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS works so well too.”

“If you can find it, DISNEY’S HALLOWEEN TREAT is kind of fun. It was a TV special that aired back in the 80’s and it’s really hard to find. It might be on VHS. It was never put out on DVD. All they did was went through the Disney library and cobbled together their favorite Halloween-esque moments and one of the clips which really does capture the purest essence of the holiday is the Night On Bald Mountain sequence from Disney’s FANTASIA. Again, not that many people seem to remember it! But watch that clip, because it really captures the most primal aspect of what the holiday is about. It’s the one part of FANTASIA that’s really dark and creepy and beautiful. It involves this giant bat winged demon on the mountain top and he summons all these ghosts from this little village around the base of the mountain, so you see these wispy spirits drifting up from graveyards and out of ravines and trees and flying through the air and soaring around him. It’s sort of like the first Halloween party. It’s all set to Night On Bald Mountain and it’s just beautiful. Those 10-15 minutes of that movie put you in the mood.”

“One last one would be PSYCHO. Because there’s something about what could be a classic haunted house sitting on that hillside in the rain. It’s like you’re walking into a local haunted house. There’s something amazingly moody about the PSYCHO house. Obviously, it’s not set on the Halloween holiday but it really captures the feel. Although, Norman Bates does eat the candy corns from that paper bag the entire time!”

Check out Michael Dougherty’s own tribute to Halloween with TRICK ‘R TREAT! And Happy Halloween!

BONUS VIDEO: Michael Dougherty’s Animated Short Film SEASON’S GREETINGS!

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