Thanks to Halloween falling on a Saturday, when kids and their parents will likely get their freak on during trick-or-treating and costume parties, local theaters and film clubs are jumping the gun with this week’s horrifying attractions. Here’s a rundown.
Goosebumps. The long-in-development cinematic adaptation of author R.L. Stine’s terror tomes for younger viewers scored nearly $25 million at the nation’s multiplexes. New teen on the block Zach (Dylam Minnette) moves next door to alluring cutie pie Hannah (Odeya Rush), which causes consternation with her mysterious dad (Jack Black). Turns out that her pop is actually author Stine, and that the monsters in his many page-turners can actually come to life if someone inadvertently unlocks each book, including a droll ventriloquist dummy named Slappy (also voiced by Black). Audiences are enjoying the performances from an appealing cast, which also includes a doofus played by Ryan Lee — who channels his inner Jon Cryer — while the special-effects sequences conjure plenty of non-scary PG thrills. Look fast for Stine’s cameo during the closing minutes of this loud but lively kiddie flick.
Hotel Transylvania 2. In this sequel to the 2012 cartoon, Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) ponders the genetics of his cherubic grandson Dennis, offspring of his vampire daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and nice-guy human Johnny (Andy Samberg). Hoping to coax Dennis’ “inner monster,” Drac and his pals embark on a road trip to a distant summer camp where the count first learned about his sawtooth skills. The script’s cornball gags from co-writers Sandler and Robert Smigel just might be older than Bram Stoker, albeit with some plot threads seemingly borrowed from Twilight and La Cage aux Folles. Sandler’s Hungarian accent also sounds like a cross between Danny Thomas and Hans Conreid’s Uncle Toonoose character from the old Make Room for Daddy sitcom. Meanwhile, members of the Sandler repertory company microphone it in with their respective shticks, including David Spade (as an invisible man), Steve Buscemi (as a werewolf) and Kevin James (as a Frankenstein-esque monster). Still, director Genndy Tartakovsky (from Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Laboratory) keeps things brisk and bouncy, while guest voice Mel Brooks provides a welcome aural presence as Drac’s dad Vlad. “Maybe he’s just a late fanger,” the great-granddad muses.
The Black Cat. Satanism, necrophilia and flaying are just some of the components for this classic creepshow, produced in 1934 by Universal Pictures just before the Production Code clamped down on Hollywood productions. The wild production designs and inspired direction by Edgar G. Ulmer enhance this first teaming of terror titans Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Also on the double bill for the Syracuse Cinephile Society’s annual Halloween attraction: Dick Foran in the 1940 reboot The Mummy’s Hand, a Universal shocker featuring the bandaged sleepwalker in murder mode. Check it out Monday, Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m., at the Spaghetti Warehouse, 680 N. Clinton St. Admission is $3.50. Dial 475-1807 for details.
Brides of Dracula. In Hammer Films’ 1960 semi-sequel to the 1958 smash Horror of Dracula, a new count is on the loose at a girls’ school, with dedicated vampire hunter Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) out to stop his evil. David Peel’s fey and feral turn as this film’s bloodsucker is creepily effective, especially when he puts the literal bite on Van Helsing during an eye-opening sequence. Cushing’s crusading hunter might be his best work in the whole Dracula series (he even does many strenuous stunts toward the end), while director Terence Fisher provides an atmosphere of delirious decadence, plus grand supporting turns from Freda Jackson and Martita Hunt. Best. Hammer. Film. Ever. Rome’s Capitol Theatre, 220 W. Dominick St., will screen 35mm prints of Brides of Dracula and The Gorgon (another Hammer item from director Fisher and star Cushing, this time with Christopher Lee) on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2:30 and 7 p.m. Admission is $6.50 for adults, $2.50 for children under age 12. Call 337-6453.
Friday the 13th Parts 4 through 6. Paramount’s long-running, low-budget slaughterhouses from the 1980s are always good for a few gruesome guffaws amid the blood-splattered screen. The fourth installment, billed in 1984 as The Final Chapter, was not exactly truth in advertising, with A New Beginning turning up the following year. No. 6, the 1986 Jason Lives, might be the best of this bunch, thanks to heavy doses of cartoonish violence (including Welcome Back Kotter’s Ron Palillo in a bit part) and songs by Alice Cooper. On Friday, Oct. 23, 6 p.m. Jason Voorhees is again on the loose in vintage 35mm prints, plus the Central New York shocker Hack-o-Lantern and music from One Last Shot at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Call 463-9240.
Last Man on Earth. Vincent Price fights zombies in this low-budget 1964 classic that was filmed on Italian locales, and at times looks like a predecessor to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It will be shown in a 35mm print, as well as the 1980s sci-fi spoof Killer Klowns from Outer Space. At midnight will be a digital showing of the campy rock musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It all takes place at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Call 436-4723.
The Mask. Fanboys will rejoice about the restoration of this 1961 Canadian thriller that features a handful of still-impressive 3-D sequences. Rome’s 50-seat Cinema Capitol, 234 W. Dominick St., will host shows on Friday, Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 24, and Sunday, Oct. 25, 4 and 7:30 p.m.; and Monday, Oct. 26, through Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. Film archivist Bob Furmanek will also be on hand for the Friday and Saturday afternoon shows. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students. Call 337-6453.