Foreplay: Grizzly Man (2005) Werner Herzog’s scariest movie is not his vampire remake Nosferatubut this one all-too-scary documentary—a real Halloween horror story. The fact-based history of animal activist Timothy Treadwell, who got too close to the Alaska grizzlies he was studying, combines a wild life cautionary tale with an existential nightmare: The smiling Treadwell was mauled by a grizzly bear. This is what can happen when fate is against you and courage turns into madness. Herzog takes a forensic scientist’s approach to the details of Treadwell’s demise. This step-by-step process of scientist, naturalist and daredevil activity includes footage shot by Treadwell himself—more bloodcurdling than any of the found-footage fakery Hollywood turns out. Herzog’s focus on the universe’s chaos and Treadwell’s victimhood is both heartbreaking and truly chilling. It’s Jaws with claws.
Press Play: Snake Eyes (1998) A Brian DePalma thriller close to his blockbusters Carrie, Scarfaceand The Untouchables and Halloween ready. Nicolas Cage plays Rick Santoro, a corrupt Atlantic City cop who uncovers a bigger criminal conspiracy than he imagined possible. DePalma analyzes a crooked prize fight, a murder plot and a mob-related tale of political dirty-dealing all while playing with the audience’s point-of-view. Cage’s performance—big eyes, big choppers and lunatic intensity–matches DePalma’s bravura filmmaking. High pressure voyeurism and suspense dazzle the senses. A powerful opening sequence switches perspectives like throwing dice and an epic storm finale, crashing in from the Atlantic Ocean, reveal all political and moral secrets. This is a cult-classic waiting to be discovered.
Playtime: Queen of the Damned (2002) A Halloween memorial. Aaliyah’s only movie before her untimely death. It was a box-office smash and confirmed her iconic status. As Queen Akasha, a vampire empress, she is awakened by the stadium rock of pop musician and vampire Lestat (Stuart Townsend). Aaliyah entertains audiences with the same sexy, girlish charisma that made her a legendary hip-hop star. Queen of the Damnedbegins as a ghoulish adaptation of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles stories but Aaliyah turns it into a Halloween event. She’s a pop star playing dress-up and those bewitching eyes, sharp teeth and sinuous strut make her vampire queen the sexiest horror movie diva since The Bride of Frankenstein. Music fans can tell you: To be bitten by Aaliyah is to be smitten.