The Frida Cinema

Orange County's Year-Round Film Festival

THE WRITER’S ROOM: Halloweeeee!

The Writer’s Room is a questionnaire about movies done with the entire Frida Cinema’s writing staff.  Continuing our survey from last year, we look at the symbiotic relationship between horror movies and Halloween.

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What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Justina Bonilla: Making my own Halloween costumes.

Connor Davis: Watching a horror movie.

Penny Folger: Pumpkin seed eating.

Josh Green: Trick R Treating, and watching horror movies.

Austin Jaye: A good, aimless, miles-spanning walk through morning fog.

Anthony McKelroy: Jack-O-Lantern making is still as fun as it was when I was a kid–probably always will be. 

Mick Nguyen: Disneyland, when it turns into Halloweentown.

Nicole Nguyen: Passing out candy and seeing everyone’s costumes.

Reggie Peralta: Probably watching scary movies. Granted, I watch scary movies all year long, but there’s just something special about sitting down to watch a good horror movie or two after a long night of Halloween fun.

What is your favorite holiday besides Halloween? Why?

Justina Bonilla: Christmas, because of its deep meaning for me culturally and religiously. I also love Christmas music, especially from old Hollywood musicals. 

Connor Davis: Christmas, because it’s cold and everyone is–supposed to be, at least–happy.

Penny Folger: Dia de los Muertos. Also spooky, but perhaps a tad more meaningful.

Josh Green: Christmas cause it’s a time where I can give items to the people I love and care for despite me gifting occasionally before. Also the lights. I love the light displays and creativity people expel during Christmas.

Anthony McKelroy: Can I say my birthday?

Mick Nguyen: Christmas (as a kid, for the presents, movies, and school traditions, but the magic’s gone now); Now it’s Thanksgiving for the dim sum, and my nieces and nephews.

Nicole Nguyen: Lunar New Year! Just close enough to my birthday to liven up the beginning of the year but just far enough away from it to merit separate celebrations.

Reggie Peralta: This is probably a safe answer, but Christmas. It’s funny because I feel like I’m too old to get excited about it the way I did as a kid, but for some reason I still find myself getting into the spirit of the time. Maybe it’s the fact that there are still a lot of radio stations that play nothing but holiday music around the time, meaning there’s a good chance I’m subliminally programming myself into liking Christmas more than I otherwise would.

 

Do you believe in ghosts?

Justina Bonilla: Yes, without a doubt.

Connor Davis: I don’t know if I could handle it if ghosts were real.

Penny Folger: Just the feeling of weirdness in a room at rare moments, but nothing you can see or anything. Is it telling that it makes me nervous to answer this question?

Josh Green: Yes. Yes I do.

Austin Jaye: Not to sound condescending but how could anyone not? I’m a firm supporter of recognizing ghostly presences in any space I occupy. I love imagining how its past occupants must have utilized it and what they left behind of themselves in it. Not in a gross way or anything, but more of a general matter of feeling. Every night I pray to Zak Bagans and thank him for his services.

Anthony McKelroy: Sure. I just hope they like being called ghosts. Maybe there’s another term they prefer. Guess we’ll find out sooner or later.

Mick Nguyen: No, but I could under the right lighting.

Nicole Nguyen: I lean towards “yes,” but it’s really dependent on how dark it is outside and whether I’m alone in the house.

Reggie Peralta: Short answer, no. I’m a bit of a skeptic, so I’m not inclined to accept supernatural explanations for unexplained phenomena. That being said, I do know that there is a lot that we–that is, humans–still don’t know about this world or the next (assuming for the sake of argument that there is one), so I can only speculate what happens to us once we pass.

What are your favorite horror movie cliches?

Justina Bonilla: Ghosts, creepy music, and unknown creatures lurking in the shadows.

Connor Davis: Weird, deformed bodies.

Penny Folger: I don’t really like cliches, but maybe my annoyance is that nobody ever remembers how to turn on the lights when they’re frightened and/or being stalked by something? Or that if you’re sexually active in any way, or even sexually expressive — especially if you’re a woman — you must die. I guess that one is fun.

Josh Green: Surreal Hallucinations that turn out to be real.

Anthony McKelroy: Besides sexy co-eds getting into scrapes? Hm, let me think. I really love it when characters in horror movies don’t say the name of the monster, or whatever. Be it zombie, vampire, ghost, serial killer, demon, characters will just say “Some thing is after us!” as if we don’t have names for them already.

Nicole Nguyen: What else can top walking directly towards the danger/creepy noise/certain death?

Reggie Peralta: I don’t know if I have a favorite cliche, so much as a favorite recurring theme in horror movies. I’m really compelled by the idea of people encountering the unknown and struggling to make sense of it, all the while trying to come out of the experience in one piece. It might be the Lovecraft fanboy in me, but I’m a sucker for forbidden knowledge and its consequences (or at least, other people dealing with its consequences).

 

Favorite Halloween candy?

Justina Bonilla: Candy corn.

Connor Davis: Twix.

Penny Folger: I never ate my Halloween candy much. Just carefully catalogued it and then put it on a shelf, like it was a savings account. I was a strange child.

Josh Green: Candy Corn

Austin Jaye: The Wonder Ball! My favorite candy/choking hazard.

Anthony McKelroy: The pumpkin shaped Reese’s cups. So simple, but so ingenious.

Mick Nguyen: Whoppers and DOTS

Nicole Nguyen: Twix.

Reggie Peralta: I’m not big on Halloween candy specifically, but I definitely can go for some Laffy Taffy and Sour Patch Kids! On the chocolate side of things, I’m always good for Hershey’s Cookies N’ Creme and Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups.

What are the main traits of a traditional “Halloween movie?”

Justina Bonilla: A Halloween movie is any film that makes Halloween enjoyable for you, whether it’s a sweet film like The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile (1979), or The Exorcist (1973).

Penny Folger: Vincent Price? Christopher Lee. Peter Cushing…

Josh Green: Superhero costumes, random jump scares from main characters friends, and lots of blood.

Austin Jaye: Pumpkin destruction.

Anthony McKelroy: In the strictest sense, a significant portion of the film’s event’s need to occur on the actual holiday. Otherwise, the film needs to depict characters interacting with Halloween traditions: pumpkin carving, costume party, scary movie watching, etc.

Nicole Nguyen: Seasonal and spooky but not necessarily scary.

Reggie Peralta: Probably having the trappings of Halloween more so than any story or formal elements. Kids wearing costumes and trick-or-treating, decorations like jack-o-lanterns, and traditional markers of autumn time like falling leaves and brown or orangish hues.

 

What would you say are the main traits of a traditional horror film?

Justina Bonilla: Any film that gives you a scary good time. Like Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Blade (1998), or Hereditary (2018).

Penny Folger: Something going way beyond the control of the central characters that they’re in turn tormented by. Usually something they can’t see or grasp completely for a while. Maybe it kills them. Maybe it doesn’t.

Josh Green: Lots of blood, jump scares, and a psycho.

Anthony McKelroy: Much of horror is predicated on creating a recognizable reality, so that the introduction of the scarier elements are heightened. While the scares are important, it’s these more banal traits of horror movies that are as critical as the suspense.

Mick Nguyen: Mindf*ckery, nudity, and campy humor.

Nicole Nguyen: Provokes genuine fear in the audience, not necessarily beholden to a particular season or holiday.

Reggie Peralta: Kind of a tricky question since there’s a big difference between, say, a slasher movie and a Universal Monster movie. If I may piggyback off my early answer regarding the unknown however, I would say a key trait of traditional horror movies is introducing the fear of something unknown or unexpected into settings that might be familiar or at least known to audiences, whether it be campgrounds, Eastern European villages, or even suburban neighborhoods.

 

What are the scariest movies you’d recommend for an all night Halloween marathon?

Justina Bonilla: It depends on your definition of scary. If body horror chills you to your core, then Audition (1999), Hostel (2005), Hostel 2 (2007), The Fly (1986), Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), and The Human Centipede (2009).

Connor Davis: Hereditary (2018), Insidious (2010), Lights Out (2016).

Penny Folger: I grew up my whole life with my dad saying Les Diaboliques (1955) was the scariest movie he ever saw. So, I have to say that. (No spoilers, please.)

Josh Green: Audition (1999).

Austin Jaye: Not necessarily the scariest, but Bones (2001) starring Snoop Dogg turns 20 this year if you’re looking for an incredibly fun take on Lucio Fulci to watch with friends as much as you’re looking for a cause to celebrate. Also turning 20 is The Piano Teacher (2001), if you’re by chance in the mood to permanently scare your friends out of falling in love. 

Anthony McKelroy: The scariest films are the ones that are real. Given the current cultural moment around true crime stories, why not watch some “horror” documentaries for Halloween this year? Prophet’s Prey (2015), The Act Of Killing (2012), and even the Oscar nominated Collective (2020) from last year are all chilling portraits of human tragedy that rival the scariest of fiction films.

Mick Nguyen: A Nightmare on Elm Street (I haven’t seen the classics).

Nicole Nguyen: Hereditary (2018). I’m not even sure I have it in me to watch it all the way through again.

Reggie Peralta: The movies that strike me as “scariest” tend to be atmospheric slow-burners, so they might not lend themselves best to marathon-viewing. That being said, I’d recommend:

  1. Willow Creek (2013), a Bigfoot mockumentary by Bobcat Goldthwait(!)
  2. Images (1972), a bizarre, rare dip into horror by Robert Altman of all people.
  3. The Wicker Man (1973), the original with Christopher Lee, NOT the remake with Nicolas Cage.
  4. And, of course, The Shining (1980).

Favorite original horror film score/theme?

Justina Bonilla: The theme from Panna a Netvor (Beauty And The Beast) (1978).

Connor Davis: Maybe The Shining (1980).

Penny Folger: Anything by John Carpenter and/or Goblin. And the organ music from The Ghost & Mr. Chicken (1966).

Josh Green: Paranorman (2012).

Austin Jaye: Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell’s score for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was genuinely ahead of its time and for some reason I never realized it until like a week ago. Completely nerve-shredding musique concrète with samples of slaughterhouse noises and everything, and I believe one of the earliest examples of the industrial genre to boot.

Mick Nguyen: The Shining (1980)

Nicole Nguyen: Suspiria (1977)

Reggie Peralta: I feel like this is the “correct” answer (in the way that Citizen Kane is the “correct” answer to the question “What is your favorite movie?”), but I really do love “Tubular Bells”, aka the theme from The Exorcist (1973). The funny thing is that my favorite part – the last five minutes or so building up to the final climax – isn’t actually heard in the film, something that I think really speaks to the power of the piece on its own.

Which horror movie character from the last year would make a perfect Halloween costume ?

Justina Bonilla: Nicolas Cage from Willy’s Wonderland (2021).

Penny Folger: I’m not sure I watched any horror films that came out last year, because the real life coming out in 2020 was horrific enough for me. Those two teenagers from The Vast of Night (2019) would be a fun one though. Maybe holding a UFO.

Josh Green: It wasn’t last year but The Babadook (2014) is a good one.

Austin Jaye: Hubie Shubie Dubois. This is your reminder to watch Hubie Halloween (2020) before the 31st, or else.

Anthony McKelroy: Do people think of Zola (2021) as a horror movie? It has the hallmarks of a good horror/thriller: danger, suspense, dread. Plus there’s simply too many good outfits in that movie for us not to see at least one costume.

Mick Nguyen: Everyone in Host for a lowkey zoom party.

Reggie Peralta: I’ve actually seen woefully few of this year’s horror movies, but I do have the perfect idea for a Halloween costume from an unlikely source. My brother and I watched The Boulet Brothers Dragula: Resurrection (2020) recently, and one of the queens, Saint, wore an outfit that absolutely blew us both away. Wearing a white gown and mask that evoked the traditional idea of female ghostly figures, she put a clever twist on this tried and true image by pairing them up with piercing green contact lenses and sharp fangs, staring and smiling from behind her mask. Truly the stuff bad dreams and wet beds are made of, and as such perfect for the Halloween costume treatment!

What other holidays need more movies made about them?

Justina Bonilla: Jewish holidays, Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday.

Connor Davis: Easter. Some surreal, Easter Bunny kind of thing would be cool.

Penny Folger: Mexican Independence Day? I’d like to see that get more hype.

Josh Green: Thanksgiving slasher films.

Anthony McKelroy: Administrative Professionals Day. Office Space (1999) was over twenty years ago now. Surely in this world of remote work and virtual meetings, there’s room for a new 9 to 5 office movie.

Mick Nguyen: National Donut Day

Nicole Nguyen: This might just be indicative of a gap in my movie knowledge, but New Year’s has some potential to it. Promises made/broken/kept, intentions to change, goals to be met (or fail to meet), the passage of time, etc. A little vague, admittedly, but I think the broadness leaves room for creativity.

Reggie Peralta: Aside from Halloween and Christmas, I have a soft spot for April Fool’s Day so it would be fun to see more movies (particularly scary ones) about it.

 

Horror movie crossover you’d like to see?

Justina Bonilla: The Bad Seed (1956) and Audition (1999). It would be interesting to see what these unsuspecting homicidal leading ladies would do when fighting each other, or combining their forces.

Penny Folger: Maybe suffragettes as slashers? Does that count as a crossover?

Josh Green: The one that never was, which was Ash (Evil Dead), Freddy (Nightmare On Elm Street), and Jason (Friday the 13th).

Austin Jaye: Titane (2021) and Christine (1983). Vroom vroom beep beep!

Anthony McKelroy: The pig from Pig (2021), and the lamb from Lamb (2021). Paired with truffles and an aged merlot – delish.

Mick Nguyen: A24 turning Halloween into a story about a family coping with loss.

Nicole Nguyen: I want to see how long Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter (Silence Of The Lambs [1991]) would last in a locked room with Black Phillip (The Witch [2015]), for no other reason than I think the sheer absurdity might be kind of funny.

Reggie Peralta: The Thing (1982) vs. The Blob (the 1988 one)! I have no idea how the logistics of the story would work, but the idea of two amorphous, almost-unstoppable alien entities facing off each against other–with us puny humans caught in the middle–is one ripe with potential, to say nothing of one that appeals to my taste for cosmic horror.

Trick or treat?

Justina Bonilla: Treat!

Connor Davis: Definitely treat.

Penny Folger: I have no candy for you.

Josh Green: Yes darn it yes.

Austin Jaye: Smell my feet you rat’s ass!!!!

Anthony McKelroy: Can I just say how weird this “song” is? I mean, “Give me something good to eat. If you don’t, I don’t care. I’ll pull down your underwear.” Like, what?? Anyways, the correct answer is treat. Always treat.

Mick Nguyen: Trick!

Nicole Nguyen: Surprise me 🎃

Reggie Peralta: Treat!