We may not experience invitingly crisp Autumn breezes or changing Fall colors, but come this time of year Houston is exactly like any other city in America. Despite the sticky humidity outside, inside Houston retailers, like those across the country, are gearing up for their busiest time of year. And like the rest of the country, the only holiday Houston retailers enjoy more than Christmas is undoubtedly Halloween. Randall’s started stockpiling their candy aisle mid-August. By the beginning of September, Walgreen’s had already strategically placed out all those excruciatingly annoying talking mummy, ghost and witch heads that demand to know where you’re going as you pass the candy section, thereby conveniently reminding you to grab a bag of mixed miniatures before it’s too late.
Conversely, Fall marks the end of the busy season for the film industry. Sure they try to grab your attention with the occasional mid-Autumnal blockbuster release, but industry insiders realize that people generally crave interactive fun this time of year; and for the month of October, Houston offers some of the very best in Halloween high jinx. For all-around creepiness nothing’s better than listening to true tales of the Houston paranormal as you take a nighttime downtown stroll with Discover Tour’s Annual Ghost Walk. Those requiring more booze than “boos” can party at the massive kegger that is the 21st Annual Big Ass Halloween Bash. Even prepubescent Houstonians will be reveling when the Children’s Museum of Houston hosts the ultimate in trick or treating action during their McDonald’s® Monster Mash Bash. So, just like the rest of the country at Christmas, movie theaters in Houston don’t expect a full house for Halloween. How can they possibly beat the idea of getting a free Snickers bar just for dressing up like Susan Boyle?
And yet, if you’re someone who’s got a hankering for Halloweenly type fun, but not interested in the plethora of Haunted Houses, family faire or any of the above, there are still plenty of Houston movie houses that will not only be showing all manner of Halloweenesque movies but having some events of their very own.
There are several movies which fall into the creepy-fantastical-spooky-nasty-horror Halloween movie genre all being released just in time for All Hallow’s Eve; and it looks like all three of the major chains in Houston (AMC, Edwards, and Cinemark) will be screening them. For my money, no one beats the Edward’s Marq*E off of I-10 and Silber. The place is always clean and safe; and the management is always going out of its way to showcase their movies with tie-in decorations and special screenings and events, like book signings and giveaways. The best part of all is if you hate the movie you’ve just seen, just go outside and take a stroll in the delightful Marq*E Center promenade, make a right into nearby Café Adobe, grab yourself a margarita, and forget that you wasted your money on a worthless movie. See, the Marq*E is a can’t-lose all-around entertainment venue and the movie ticket prices are the same here as those other theaters – $9.75 Adult, $8.75 Student, and $6.50 Senior & Child. Wow. Come to think of it you may not be able to afford a margarita after the film.
Then again, if you’re planning on seeing Saw VI (yes, there have been five others), the American Red Cross needs you sober anyway. They have once again joined together with the makers of the Saw series to present the 6th Annual Give ‘Til It Hurts Blood Drive and nothing says Halloween quite like intravenous donation. The drive is all day, Saturday, October 24th and you’ll receive free Saw VI gifts for your contribution. But don’t worry; none of the other upcoming releases are asking you to make that kind of commitment, although I can’t guarantee the following films will be entirely pain-free.
Zombieland, a horror comedy starring Woody Harrelson, opens Oct 2nd and seems to be heavily influenced by Shaun of the Dead. So if you like your horror comedies more pot-head than Python, this film may be just the thing.
Where the Wild Things Are roars into theaters Oct 16th. I initially thought director Spike Jonze was the perfect man to bring Maurice Sendak’s classic fantasy to life since his fantastic video for Tenacious D’s “Wonderboy” contained fantastical, humorous and even ominous moments. Unfortunately, judging by the trailer, Where the Wild Things Are comes across as a big-budget H.R. Puffnstuff without the Sid & Marty Kroft whimsy.
The Stepfatheralso comes out on the 16th and also reeks of nostalgia. Starring former TV heavyweights Sela Ward and Sherri Stringfield, the trailer even plays a version of The Cars hit “Drive.” But the film’s dangling circular saws may not be a match for Terry O’ Quinn’s spectacular menace in the original film so we’ll have to see how this one plays out.
Law Abiding Citizen is another Oct 16th release and coincidentally contains a disturbing scene with a circular saw. Normally I wouldn’t watch anything that has to do with dismemberment, cuz you know, it’s dismemberment; but just after that scene in the trailer, we get a glimpse of what made Gerard Butler exceedingly watchable in 300, ladies.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, opening Oct 23rd, is another horror comedy and looks both eminently creepy and funny. Plus it’s got the glorious John C. Reilly sporting a Beetlejuice hairdo.
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day opens on Oct 30th but doesn’t look so much scary as incredibly violent – unless you count Judd Nelson’s nostrils, which have always scared the bejesus out of me. However, just hearing the sublime Billy Connelly whisper, “Daddy’s working,” while holding a gun to someone’s head makes me consider seeing this one.
Looking for something a little different? Try mixing some music with your macabre. The Metropolitan Opera will broadcast Puccini’s Tosca live into movie theaters nationwide on Oct 10th with an encore on Oct 28th. Yeah I know, what’s an opera doing in the same list as Saw VI? Well, asides from perhaps the greatest score in the entire opera world, Tosca sports perhaps the greatest villain from ANY world. Add to that torture, knifings, shootings and people plummeting to their death and you’ve got what Met Music Director James Levine likens to the “melodramatic vitality of one of the great Hitchcock films. ”
If opera is just a bit too highbrow but gore is still not your scene, you should check out Mummies 3D: Secrets of the Pharaohs starting Oct 5th at the Museum of Natural Science Wortham IMAX Theater. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for seniors/students/military/kids, and $6 for museum members but make sure to check directly with the museum for show times since screenings at the IMAX sell out frequently. The film follows researchers and explorers on a real-life Mummy adventure that is sure to give Brendan Fraser a run for his money.
For all you spooky night owls, The River Oaks Theatre has got you covered throughout the month with their Midnight Madness Series. For $9.50 you have your choice of:
Boris Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein – Oct 2 & 3
John Carpenter’s They Live – Oct 16 & 17
Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone – Oct 23 & 24
and most importantly, The Rocky Horror Picture Show featuring live shadow cast The Beautiful Creatures on Oct 10 and Oct 30 & 31!
Rocky’s not enough partici…pation for you? Then take advantage of the Zombie Short Competition during Alamo Draft House’s 2016 Dismember the Alamo Zombie Film Festival. The Alamo is challenging you closet auteurs to create a 10-minute Zombie masterpiece for a chance to win cash and prizes. And the Alamo in West Oaks Mall will be setting the foreboding mood with their Cult Thursday series throughout October. Screenings are at 10pm; but more importantly, are FREE! But be advised; The Alamo warns: “Cult films are known for their shocking imagery. They typically contain overt sexuality, graphic violence, gore, and nudity.” So keep the kiddies at home and make sure you think twice about ordering the nachos.
Whether for the whole family or just the adults, with its dazzling array of parties, events, and of course special screenings, H-town typifies that ole sentiment, “everything’s bigger in Texas.” And in our case, that includes the list of entertainment options. So, despite the stifling heat and humidity, why would you spend your Halloween holiday anywhere else but Houston?
James Levine, The Met: Live in HD, The Metropolitan Opera.
Alamo West Oaks, Cult Thursdays, The Alamo Draft House.