Superhuman tales of bloody vengeance are our picks for the Halloween weekend
October is here once again, which means all things spooky, creepy, and outright horrifying are currently making their way into the homes of millions of people – through their screens, of course. All Halloween aficionados know that this is the month where we attempt to watch as many horror movies as we can, marathoning as much blood and guts as anyone might be able to stand (or delight in). It may as well be a sacred tradition.
In that spirit, Knotfest has called on our very own Ryan J. Downey as well as resident film critic Nicolás Delgadillo to put together two individual lists of vital Halloween horror picks for every day of the month. The wide variety of macabre favorites range from classics to more obscure cult films and feature zombies, demons, serial killers, vampires, and monsters of all kinds from all different eras.
Today’s picks are both incredibly influential on horror and film in general, with both featuring superhuman main characters with a thirst for vengeance.
‘The Crow’ (1994) Directed by Alex Proyas
“Here’s to Devil’s Night, my new favorite holiday.”
October 30, the night before Halloween, Motor City madmen and women all across Detroit would set the city ablaze, in a perverse ritual of crime, destruction, arson, and violence. This is the setting of The Crow.
Eric Draven, a local musician, arrives home to find four thugs beating and raping his fiancé. They shoot him to death; she dies of her injuries. Exactly one year later, Draven rises from his grave, guided by an otherworldly crow, to exact revenge, “to put the wrong things right.” To paraphrase the Cure song written for the now legendary soundtrack, Draven paints his face “in shadow smile” and goes on the hunt, armed with lightning-fast reflexes and regenerative healing powers, making him invincible, so long as he doesn’t deviate from his dark mission.
Draven, played with pathos, menace, sorrow, and glee by Brandon Lee, tracks and kills each of the people responsible for the tragedy that befell him and his fiancé, Shelly (Sofia Shinas).
The colorful villains are T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), Tin-Tin (Laurence Mason), Funboy (the late Michael Massee), and Skank (Angel David), all of whom work at the behest of Top Dollar (the amazingly gravel-voiced Michael Wincott), his lieutenant, Grange (Candyman star Tony Todd), and his lover/half-sister, Myca (Bai Ling).
Unforgettable dialog, brilliant action sequences, gothic flourishes, rock n’ roll swagger, and the supernatural abound, but never at the expense of the darkly romantic story at the center. The ability of The Crow to operate so seamlessly within multiple genres, including antihero vigilantism and gallows humor, is thanks largely to the nuanced and athletic performance from the truly gifted burgeoning movie star Lee (son of martial arts legend Bruce) and the sharp visual style of Australian music video director turned filmmaker, Alex Proyas.
The Crow is forever linked to real-life tragedy. The original comic, by James O’Barr, emerged as part of the grieving process after his girlfriend died in an auto accident. The revenge fantasy is filled with lyrics from Joy Division, ensuring its place in the black hearts of the goth faithful even before the film adaptation.
As most folks with any awareness of the movie know, an on-set accident took Lee’s life with just two weeks of filming left to do, a tragic mishap brought back to the fore of pop culture consciousness following a similar death on the set of Alec Baldwin’s Rust in 2021. (Contrary to the most ghoulish of urban legends, Lee’s real-life death is not in the film. The footage was destroyed and the movie re-edited, with pickup shots, CGI, and a stand-in, completing and releasing The Crow in tribute to Lee’s brilliant performance.)
Lee’s star was on the rise. A made-for-TV Kung Fu: The Movie and low-budget action films like the Hong Kong produced Legacy of Rage (1986) and West German made Laser Mission (1989) hinted at his talents, demonstrating his onscreen charisma despite the poor quality of the films.
Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), in which Lee starred opposite action-star Dolph Lundgren, came with a bigger budget, great action, genuine laughs, and perfect chemistry between the two martial artists.
But it was Rapid Fire (1992) that really blew the doors down, a genuine A+ action vehicle with Lee solely in the lead, flanked by the late Powers Boothe. Lee choregraphed many of the movie’s fight scenes, pitting his character against drug smugglers, Chicago’s Italian mafia, and crooked federal agents in imaginative and detailed battles.
Video rentals surged for Rapid Fire in the wake of Lee’s tragic death and The Crow became a critical and eventual box office success, grossing nearly $94 million worldwide against a $23 million budget.
Sequels, a television series, and several aborted attempts at reboots followed. But even with talent like Bradley Cooper, Luke Evans, Jack Huston, and Jason Momoa attached to star at various points, there’s simply no way to recapture what Lee left behind.
The Crow is a damn near perfect movie and my favorite film of all time.
‘Carrie’ (1976) Directed by Brian De Palma
Based on the very first novel by American icon Stephen King, Brian De Palma’s Carrie has remained a staple of the horror genre and one of its major influences even nearly half a century since its initial release. The film stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a repressed and shy 16 year-old girl who has been living under the torturous thumb of her fanatically religious mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie).
Carrie is often teased and bullied while at school, culminating in a cruel prank that gets played on her by her fellow classmates at prom. But what none of them know, and what Carrie is struggling to understand herself, is that the awkward and lonely girl has a strange and incredibly dangerous way of fighting back. All it takes is one final push over the edge.
De Palma’s 1976 version of the story was the first film adaptation of a King novel ever, and it accomplished quite a hell of a lot. Both Spacek and Laurie were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances as daughter and mother, King’s career began to speed along to astronomical heights, and the film itself is to this day considered an indisputable horror classic. The climactic scene at prom is easily one of the greatest movie scenes in history.
Knotfest 2021 Halloween Horror Coverage: