Happy Halloween! Dreadful Andrew here with a short list of underrated movies and a few books that are specifically related to Halloween.
An informal survey of various online lists of underrated horror movies turned up multiple mentions for three titles specifically related to Halloween. First up, Trick 'r Treat from writer-director Michael Dougherty, released in 2007, was by far on more lists than any other titles. Fellow Dreadful, Brian Carlin, reviewed this movie in depth recently so I will refer you to his review. http://cascadiadread.squarespace.com/features/2016/10/10/movie-review-trick-r-treat
If you are a fan of writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's 2016 film, Green Room, watch his first feature film from 2007, Murder Party, which appeared on several underrated horror film lists. Christopher (played effectively by Chris Sharp) finds an invitation to a murder party on his way home from work on Halloween night. With no one to spend the evening with other than his beloved cat, Sir Lancelot, Christopher creates a homemade knight costume out of a cardboard box and heads off to the party. He arrives at the party in an industrial area in Brooklyn to find it hosted by a group of five unlikable, pretentious art students who are all vying for a grant from Alexander. Christopher is captured by the artists and discovers he is to be the subject of their murderous art project. Tensions grow among the artists after Alexander shows up with his drug dealer Zycho. Drugs and alcohol are consumed and a game of extreme truth-or-dare involving sodium pentothal brings out some surprising revelations, ups the competition and quickly increases the body count. It is amazing to see what Saulnier could do with a small budget and limited digital effects in this horror comedy.
Also appearing on multiple lists was Halloween III: Season of the Witch released in 1982. Now we know that the original intent of the team of this franchise was to create an anthology series and tell a different story with each film. This film was their attempt to go in that direction and it did not work at the time. There is not much of Michael Myers here (a cameo, of sorts), but if you forget about him and go with the premise, you have a pretty good '80s horror movie. While this may not be a perfect movie (and this is one the Dreadfuls would like to explore in depth in the future), it deserves a second look.
Anthologies of short stories are popular in horror fiction and Paula Guran has compiled two fine Halloween anthologies. Halloween (Prime Books, 2011) is a collection of writings which have been previously published and includes pieces by Thomas Ligotti, Peter Straub, H. P. Lovecraft, E. Nesbit, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and many others. Guran's newer collection, Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre (Prime Books, 2013), is a compilation of stories written specifically for this collection and includes works by Laird Barron, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Bellevue, Washington-based author Brenda Cooper.
Earthling Publications is a small press located in Northborough, Massachusetts which publishes limited editions in its annual Halloween series of novels. Their 2016 title is They Say a Girl Died Here Once by Sarah Pinborough. A complete list of the books in the series can be found at http://www.earthlingpub.com/halloween.htm
If you have seen Trick 'r Treat, you know that a graphic novel/comic book approach fits nicely with the film. It is only fitting that until there is a sequel, we have Trick 'r Treat: Days of the Dead (Legendary Comics, 2015) to tide us over. This anthology includes 4 stories with the beloved Sam tying them all together.
Dark Tides by Chris Ewan (Minotaur Books, 2015) is more of a thriller, but includes some tropes that will be familiar to horror fans. Many residents on the Isle of Man celebrate a tradition called Hop-tu-naa on October 31. When she was eight years old, Claire Cooper's mother vanished on Hop-tu-naa. As a teen, Claire is befriended by a group of local teens who try to help her move past this unfortunate anniversary. They participate in dares and pranks until things go badly one year for the group. Years later, members of the group are being killed on Hop-tu-naa and Claire, now a police officer, investigates their murders.
I hope you enjoy discovering some new treats for Halloween or savor some old ones.