The Top 100 Halloween Movies, Part 4: The Meaning of Halloween Review
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Halloween was in jeopardy -- anti-Hallo-weenies had devised a diabolical scheme to throw the world into chaos by eliminating the date from calendars (thereby rendering day planners obsolete.) In a dimly-lit, symbolically significant Irish pub, my friend John and I, imbued with the spirit of the Great Pumpkin, had assembled a team to save the holiday by making a list of the top 100 Halloween movies. How our list was going to save Halloween had never been too clear -- to understand these efforts, we need first to understand the meaning of the holiday.

Two thousand years ago, Celtic society, throughout what is now Great Britain and Northern France, was rigorous and rigidly scheduled -- the celebration of Samhain, held October 31st to November 2nd, marked the passage of the seasons from light into darkness. This was the beginning of a new year, a time when the veil between the world of the dead and that of the living was pulled aside to party. For three days, the concept of time vanished, chaos reigned, insanity was embraced, and revelry ensued. Fire, the symbol of divinity, was evoked in mass pyres to release the hold of the past and initiate new beginnings. The Celts knew how to get down.

  
 
When the Romans arrived on the scene, they brought their own holidays and a bushel of apples. The celebration of Pamona, the goddess of fruit and trees was symbolized by the apple and integrated into Samhain festivities. This later gave rise to the modern tradition of apple bobbing. "Trick or treating" was a latecomer; the All Soul's Day tradition of begging for "soul cakes" (crusts of bread) was added several hundred years later, which evolved into the tradition of children pan-handling candy.

In 2,000 years, even after losing its religious status, the core values -- the "spirit" -- of Halloween has not changed. The modern "trick or treating" experience: the parade of goblins streaming down the streets, the full regalia of pumpkins, cobwebs, skeletons, and cardboard creature decorations adorning shop fronts and front lawns, fosters not only a sense of community but a ritual-based communal catharsis. Gypsy pirates, vampire ballerinas, and ghoulish rock stars serve as live-action metaphors, allowing children and adults alike to escape into the timeless wonderment of fantasy where real-life social anxieties can be temporarily purged.

Back at the bar, our experience acted as a microcosm of these values -- our community of strangers bonded by discussing the most frightening features of horror movies past, and together we recaptured the "spirit" of Halloween.


Obscure Classics
Compiled by Josh Gryniewicz and John Murphy

25. The Hunger (1983)
24. Scanners (1981)
23. I Spit on your Grave (Day of the Woman) (1978)
22. House of Wax (1953)
21. Crypt of the Living Dead (1973)
20. Rawhead Rex (1986)
19. The Gate (1987)
18. The Fog (1980)
17. The House on the Edge of the Park (1980)
16. Deep Red (1976)
15. The Cabinet of Dr. Calagari (1919)
14. Re-Animator (1985)
13. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
12. House of Frankenstein (1944)
11. White Zombie (1932)
10. Cemetery Man / Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)
9. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
8. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
7. Trilogy of Terror (1975)
6. The House on Haunted Hill (1959)
5. Freaks (1932)
4. The Last House on the Left (1972)
3. Nosferatu (1922)
2. The Changeling (1980)
1. Demons (1985)


Disclaimer: Please note -- the list of top 100 Halloween Movies includes 125 films. However "Top 100" has a more official-sounding ring. Also, subheadings were added long after the titles were collected. The authors would like to thank N&W.com, John Dewey of Dark House Cinema, Erika, Melanie, the Great Pumpkin and the entire crowd at Teehan's for helping save Halloween.

For more of Josh and John's list, see:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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