The Price of October: The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

In 2013, a mere million years ago, Shout! Factory delivered to the world one of the most delightful October movie packages: The Vincent Price Collection, a Blu-ray set with six classics, including four from the Edgar Allan Poe/Roger Corman/AIP series. (The Haunted Palace is based on a short novel by H. P. Lovecraft, but AIP slapped the title of an obscure Poe poem onto it to make it another entry in the cycle).

Horror movie expert Brian Collins has said that if you go all of October without watching a Vincent Price movie, you’re doing it wrong. I won’t issue an absolute like that—and Collins has admitted he’s gone at least one October without Price—but it makes sense. Price as a persona matches the season: he combines sinister evil, charm, and the feeling of quality company. Halloween should feel sinister and cozy. It’s a holiday after all, meant to be fun, and Vincent Price invites us with his dulcet tones and long, gray face to enjoy ourselves for a few spooky hours and leave with good memories. 

And the best Vincent Price films for the season are the AIP-Poe films, which started with The Fall of the House of Usher. This was the first film I watched off the collection when I got it in 2013, and it was the Price film I chose this October to fill my quota.

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Another VHS Cover Disappoints: The Nesting (1981)

The haunted house movie The Nesting reached a few screens in limited release in 1981. But then Warner Bros. Home Video picked it up for one of its famous clamshell case VHS releases and hung haunting artwork on the cover. Suddenly, The Nesting achieved fame—not as a movie people watched and remembered, but as a spectral and sexy image on video store shelves that entranced youngsters who either weren’t allowed to watch horror films or were too scared to watch them. 

Could a film like The Nesting live up to such evocative, moody artwork? Of course not. I didn’t need to watch the movie to discover this, but I did anyway because it was on Amazon Prime and I’m easy prey for haunted house films, even rotten ones. I was once one of those kids in the video store and I wanted answers from that cover.

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It! (1967): The Golem Movie That Time Forgot

What if Norman Bates gained control of the Power of God, and the British military had to use a nuclear warhead to stop him? You don’t have to imagine too hard, because it happened … in It!

Two decades before the novel It monopolized the neuter pronoun for horrordom, a British film starring Roddy McDowall and a giant raisin-textured statue tried to copy the style of Hammer’s Gothic horrors and the characterization of Psycho. It is as weirdly entertaining as it sounds, a deep-cut from the Anglo-horror cycle that deserves more attention than nothing at all, which is where it currently is. The film has also gone under the alternate titles Anger of the Golem and Curse of the Golem to make its central monster clearer. If only the filmmakers knew Stephen King would use a similar title years later, they could’ve stuck with one of those alternates and avoided search engine confusion. 

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The Devil Rides Out: The Classic Hammer Movie

Now that I’ve examined Dennis Wheatley’s 1934 occult thriller The Devil Rides Out, I can get to the main event: the 1968 movie version, which is quintessential October viewing.

The Devil Rides Out is one of the best movies to come from the Hammer House of Horrors. It was not an enormous success on its first release, either in Great Britain or the US, where 20th Century Fox retitled it The Devil’s Bride out of concern that the original sounded like a Western. The movie’s reputation grew despite of—and possibly even because of—its antique and quaint approach to Satanic thrills, which dated the film from almost the moment it came out. The Devil Rides Out arrived before an onslaught of Satanic-themed horror movies hit theaters, such as The Exorcist and The Omen. Compared to them, the Hammer movie seems tame and quaint with its 1929 setting and fully clothed “orgies.” 

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I Try to Find Nice Things to Say About the Red Sonja Movie

Yesterday I beamed down my digital copy of Red Sonja, the 1985 fantasy flop starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that hastened the death of the sword-and-sorcery boom of the ‘80s. My intention was to find something to like about the movie. Red Sonja has a terrible reputation and I’ve never found myself on any side of the opinion spectrum more positive than, “Yep, this is pretty bad.”

But I try to avoid extreme negativity about art when writing on my website, even just for the laughs. One of my most popular posts is a semi-defense of Exorcist II: The Heretic, and that shows people do enjoy reading a few good words about a despised picture. I couldn’t mount the same defense for Night of the Lepus. And, sorry to report, I can’t do much for Red Sonja either after returning to it more than a decade after my last viewing.

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