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A Horror Fanatic's Spree de Corpse

We asked rocker and composer Danny Elfman, creator of creepy music for cool films, to pick the best movies to rent for Halloween.

October 30, 1994|Robert Levine | Robert Levine is a frequent contributor to Calendar

"You realize what you're asking me to do is next to impossible," Danny Elfman says when asked to name his 10 favorite movies to rent on Halloween. "I'm a horror fanatic of major proportions."

Elfman, 41, who leads a dual life as the singer-songwriter of the Los Angeles band Boingo and the composer of scores for such films as "Edward Scissorhands," "Beetlejuice" and both "Batman" movies, is somewhat of an expert on horror films, and he thinks Halloween's a good time to watch them.

One good bet this year, he says, is "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas," which was recently released on video. Elfman wrote the Grammy-nominated music for the stop-motion animated film and also provided the singing voice of Jack Skellington, the bony Pumpkin King.

"I think anyone who might be into the movie would enjoy it on Halloween," Elfman says. "Of course, I'm biased."

Elfman himself rarely gets the chance to rent movies on All Hallow's Eve--he's busy putting on Boingo's almost-annual Halloween concerts (for seven of the last eight years). This year's shows are at the Universal Amphitheatre tonight, Monday (both sold out) and Tuesday (tickets available through Ticketmaster).

But for those more inclined to stay home and rent than go out and rock, here are Elfman's favorite flicks for Halloween. He couldn't limit it to 10, though. Here are the lucky 13, which, he says, "are all worth searching out":

1. "The Shining" (1980). "That falls into the adult category," Elfman says of director Stanley Kubrick's film of the Stephen King novel. "It's one of the best done of its genre. . . . And, of course, I love it because (the twin girls) are saying, 'Hello, Danny,' so they're talking to me. 'Come play with us forever and ever,' and I'm always going, 'Uh, OK.' "

2. "The Haunting" (1963). Elfman enjoys watching this chilling haunted house film because it's a "classic ghost movie" that director Robert Wise made all the more powerful by the absence of on-screen spirits. "It's very imaginative the way they put it together, making a scary movie without ever showing any prosthetic makeup or scary images in your face. (That's) kind of a hard thing to do."

3. "The Beast With Five Fingers" (1946). This tale about an aging pianist was the film that scared Elfman most--he was 7 when he first saw it. "It's silly, but it's really fun," he says. "It's a classic Peter Lorre performance."

4. (Tie) "Evil Dead II" (1987) and "Dawn of the Dead" (1978). "Both of these movies make me laugh so hard while I'm enjoying them, as gore often does," Elfman says of these funny gross-out flicks. "There's something about malls and flesh-eating zombies. Getting disemboweled by zombies in a mall is classic stuff."

5. "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). Elfman calls this classic "one of the original great horror movies," partly because of its Franz Waxman musical score, which he ranks alongside the score to "King Kong" as one of the best--and earliest--scores ever written. "(But) 'King Kong' doesn't rank up with 'Bride of Frankenstein' for Halloween," he says.

6. (Tie) "Tales of Terror" (1962) and "The Raven" (1963). These Roger Corman-directed movies that featured Vincent Price and Peter Lorre "were my best-loved movies somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13," Elfman says. "They're still fantastic. They're fun."

7. "Black Sabbath" (1964). This three-part horror film hosted by Boris Karloff is an Elfman favorite mostly because of the middle story directed by Mario Bava. "It's a really scary half-hour piece," Elfman says. "The other stories are OK, but this one's a classic."

8. (Tie) "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" (1963) and "Eyes Without a Face" (1959) (also known as "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus"). These low-budget horror flicks revolving around crazed surgeons tie as Elfman favorites in the "low-budget films of my youth" category. "Great, cheesy (movies)," he says. "They can't be beat."

9. "Repulsion" (1965). "Now we're moving into the Danny Elfman, young teen-age auteur (category)," he says of this unsettling film directed by Roman Polanski. "This is a perennial favorite. One of my teen-age birthday parties was spent getting very (messed) up, seeing 'Repulsion' and returning home for a rabbit dinner. If you see the movie you'll know why."

10. "Eraserhead" (1978). "It's just one of the best films ever made," Elfman says of this David Lynch-directed cult favorite. "I think it's got enough tie-in with Halloween. . . . There was nothing about it I didn't like. It's just filled with great imagery."

Titles not available at neighborhood or chain stores can be rented at Vidiots, 302 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 392-8508, or found through Movies Unlimited, (800) 523-0823.

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