August is when store shelves start filling with Halloween merchandise, I get email coupons and catalogs from the yearly Halloween stores…and I start looking for Halloween themed Halloween movies to blog about! And this selection of 3 films from my collection covers three decades!
ERNEST SCARED STUPID (1991)
Ernest Scared Stupid is one of those movies that makes me miss the days of good Halloween family films, but looking at it from a different perspective now I realize someone who wasn’t around for the days of Ernest and his shtick (which began in TV commercials before moving to big screen features) might not totally get it. It’s like watching an Abbott & Costello monster film if you’ve never heard of the comic duo.
The CHARACTER is the star despite everything going on around him. So in between monster encounters—and during them—we are firmly entrenched in the character’s identity and idiosyncrasies, which could easily upstage the other fun for those just looking for a straightforward Halloween movie.
For the rest of us, it’s bliss. Ernest is in his zone, delivering his funny humor as he tries to help kids battle a giant troll that he accidentally conjures on Halloween Eve. And his dog Rimshot is fricking adorable.
Plus, Eartha Kitt plays the witchy lady whose property is the troll’s home.
Laughs aside, Ernest Scared Stupid is actually scarier than your usual family fright film. Many were the children I got to scar for life by recommending this film to their parents when I worked in the video store in the early 90s.
Not only is the troll huge and monstrous with a disgustingly slimy mouth, but there are some surprisingly effective jump scares, and the troll attacks and turns children into little wooden statues to feed to his icky little offspring!
As for the “family fun” part of the film, the main boy and girl get a little adolescent romance action, there’s an obligatory “bicycle adventure” scene, they have to contend with bullies, adults don’t believe their story…you get the picture.
And it all leads to…a big confrontation at a town Halloween party of course.
HALLOW’S END (2003)
It’s one from the early days of Halloween haunted attraction movies and the last days of post-Scream slashers.
The opening scene is loads of fun—a cult is slaughtered by some sort of creature in shadow puppet style.
Next, a group of kids gets together to work at a haunted attraction. We watch them set up, fight, talk about an urban legend related to the location, and have sex (and it’s two lesbians that have the major sex scene) for an hour. At the 27-minute mark, one dude dies, but it’s a forgettable kill scene.
The real fun begins when the attraction finally opens, and while the tour segments of the attraction in this type of flick are usually overkill, this one actually has a cool, creepy atmosphere, and gives us just enough of a taste without padding the film (that’s what all the talking was for earlier).
With very little time left, the best part of the film shows this could have been a much better movie if only they’d expanded the thick of the plot in lieu of all the filler.
Everyone begins turning into their costumes and killing each other on the creepy sets…vampires, zombies, pirates…
Such a shame it’s such a brief part of the film. You get more fun out of the same exact plot in a Halloween episode of Buffy.
CAESAR & OTTO’S PARANORMAL HALLOWEEN (2015)
Just like Ernest, Caesar & Otto come from a series of films (my blog here), so you either love them or…don’t get it (see my Abbott & Costello analogy above).
Even so, you can get into if you appreciate goofball comedy, numerous horror queen cameos, and loads of references to your favorite horror movies.
This installment begins with one of its best—and most Halloween themed—scenes. The duo is babysitting (in drag) when they are stalked by an escaped killer in a mask in a spoof of Halloween, naturally.
Their always funny father helps them save the town from the killer’s clutches, so the mayor offers to let them take care of his summer home during the off months, à la Jack Torrance.
However, don’t expect a secluded mansion. This place is in a very populated area (they intentionally poke fun at how disappointing it is).
A host of crazy stuff goes on. Aside from ghosts, there are two suspicious babes living next door (one of them is Tiffany Shepis), Otto befriends a set of creepy twin ghosts (played by Brinke Stevens), a crazy priest needs to be called in to do an exorcism…or not, a psychic medium (Felissa Rose) sends Caesar into Insidious territory, and a weird in-house maid is the most unforgettable help since Lurch.
Also, Caesar, whose sexuality is always in question, catches the eye of the gardener, played by lead actor/director Dave Campfield’s real life lady, who could be Eliza Dushku’s doppelgänger.
The nonstop comedy takes us through a series of semi-connected skits, spoofing numerous horror moments, while also indulging fans of the series with a ton of self-deprecation (like Campfield always being shirtless). One of the funniest slapstick segments takes place in Caesar’s dream of a life with his new gardener friend.
We also have Debbie Rochon in a cameo, a dance party with awesome faux 80s music, a funny scene in which Caesar and Otto have to perform an exorcism on their dad, and an evil villain whose plan is like an eerily accurate prediction of how Donald Dump is totally making our country a dictatorship.
The one thing that’s missing is…Halloween! After the opening scene, aside from an occasional plastic pumpkin in the background and the dates leading up to Halloween flashed across the screen, things get so schizo with the barrage of linked skits that the film doesn’t really focus on the holiday at all.