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All Hallows' TV: October's Spooookiest Shows and Movies 

Tuesday, Sep 30 2014
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Like a 10-year-old who demands her birthday be celebrated for an entire week, I prefer to draw the entire month of October out into one long Halloween festival. It's absolutely the best month for television. Two obvious spook sprees will debut this month, principally the new seasons of The Walking Dead (Oct. 12) and American Horror Story: Freak Show (Oct. 8). The usual suspects will be broadcast, like AMC's Halloween marathon, but I like to use this time to stumble across footnote slasher films and lesser-known atmospheric thrillers. Here's my roundup of this season's best creepitude. Many of the movies listed are being broadcast in the wee hours of the morning, so unless you are a total night owl, DVR 'em.

Peeping Tom

(TCM, Oct. 4)

Michael Powell, half of Criterion Collection darlings Powell and Pressburger, directed this 1960 thriller about a serial killer who enjoys filming women as he's snuffing them out. Powell was pilloried for the movie, but now it's universally hailed as a masterpiece.

Five Minutes to Live (renamed Door To Door Maniac)

(TCM, Oct. 4)

Johnny Cash, Vic Tayback (Mel from Alice!), and "little Ronnie Howard" all appear in this incredibly godawful yet incredibly wonderful flick. Cash plays a sadistic maniac whose acting skills make Tori Spelling look like Greta Garbo. He tortures Cay Forrester by singing songs to her about her impending death ("ya got fiiiive minutes ta live..."). What a delightful monstrosity.

The Act of Killing

(KQED, Oct. 6)

A chilling, multiple-award winning documentary about the amiable mass murderers of more than a million Indonesian dissidents in the 1960s. These guys are still in power, and were more than happy to re-create on film the horrors that they carried out, as if they were making a low-budget slasher film with themselves as the stars. Bizarre and horrifying.

Town of the Living Dead

(SyFy, series premiers Oct. 7)

Residents of the dinky hamlet of Jasper, Ala., have been making their own low-budget zombie flick for six years, and the folks at SyFy rightly thought this bouillabaisse of dorkitude could make a good docudrama/reality TV show. I've only seen the trailer, but to borrow a phrase oft-used about The Walking Dead, "It's a show about the people, not the monsters themselves." Yes, and the people look super dippy.

Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan

(TCM, Oct. 9)

Anyone who combines a samurai revenge tale with a horror movie is a genius in my book, and this dark, black-and-white 1959 film is ichiban. Hey, if you decide to kill your boring wife in feudal Japan so you can score with a hotter chick, prepare to face the consequences.

The Spirit of the Beehive/El Espiritu de la Colmena

(TCM, Oct. 19)

This 1973 Spanish film is gorgeously drenched in dread. A little Castilian girl becomes fascinated with the movie Frankenstein — specifically the scene where he, erm, accidentally kills the little girl by the water. A tiny spoiler: It's all a metaphor for the Franco regime.

Pretty Little Liars "We Love You To DeAth" Fan Appreciation Special

(ABC Family, Oct. 21)

Attention ironic hipsters and 12-year-olds: The cast will be answering fans' questions and going over their favorite "scary" (cough) moments in the show on this Halloween special.

Nature: A Murder of Crows

(KQED, Oct. 21-22)

Big, black, and beaky, crows are synonymous with Halloween. Even spookier, these things are incredibly smart and "able to recognize individual humans and pick them out of a crowd up to two years later," according to KQED. Jeez, Hitchcock was really onto something.

Dead Of Night

(TCM, Oct. 28)

It wouldn't be Halloween without at least one horror anthology film. Produced by Britain's Ealing Studios in 1945, it begins with a gathering of people in an old English country home. Soon enough they are all sharing their spooky tales, the scariest of which is about a disturbed ventriloquist whose dummy may or may not be alive.

I Walked With A Zombie

(TCM, Oct. 31)

For my money, I prefer a monster with a cerebral cortex. However, "authentic" zombie movies that take place in the Caribbean and include voodoo and mojo are A-OK. This one was made in 1943 and is a sleeper classic loosely based on Jane Eyre. Atmospheric, evocative, and dagnabbit, even scary.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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