Author: Sydney Reade

“The Cutting Room Floor” is a handy guide to all things film. Sydney Reade discusses the merits of a movie from the camera angles to that line of dialogue you just can’t get out of your head. Appearances by classic gems, modern favorites, and every movie in between to help you decide what to watch on Friday flick night.

There are two camps of Halloween movie watchers—those who want to be ensconced in the spirit of Halloween, costumes, candy and all, and those who just want to be scared out of their minds when “scary” costumes don’t do the trick.

I’m still not one for horror movies, but for a dose of seriously messed up and kind of weird, watch The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992). I have a very distinct memory of this being the only movie on the hotel TV channels when I was a kid and staying with my grandmother at her favorite hotel when she came to visit in New York. She was horrified that her young grandchildren were so intensely interested in this film, if that’s any indication of the plot.

Basically, it’s a psychological thriller with a crazed and vengeful woman at its core. Claire Bartel makes some allegations against her obstetrician that force him to take his life, and his wife Mrs. Mott, after losing her own child, gets it in her head that she is going to take revenge. She insinuates herself into the Bartel family by faking her identity and getting hired as the nanny. Then starts a string of bizarre and terrifying plots to kill everyone and steal the children. Mrs. Mott makes Claire go crazy, faking affairs with her husband, killing Claire’s best friend, and framing the gardener for child molestation. She even induces an asthma attack after emptying all of Claire’s inhalers. The sheer constancy of the events in the movie build to a furious tension that, if you were in a very dark room, might cause you to fear for your own sanity and family. The movie might even make you very suspicious of nannies for a while (to rebuild your confidence in them, just watch Mrs. Doubtfire). Of note, Julianne Moore makes a small appearance in this film. Although not one of her more refined roles, she is always a joy to watch.


Now, if you’d rather not worry if your windows are locked and if there are any psycho-killers in your life, try The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Tim Burton is always a safe bet for those craving the supernatural and weird. Plus, it’s available on Netflix. Halloween Town, where this animated stop-motion musical takes place, is just one of many towns based on the holidays of their namesakes. Halloween is sacred here, and it falls to Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, to ready the town for the festivities year after year. Jack, tired of the routine, stumbles into another town based on Christmas—a place that is happy and bright, not filled with boogie men and ghosts and everything black. Jack tries to capture the spirit of Christmas with what is available in Halloween Town, although his love interest Sally tries to stop him, especially when he captures Santa Claus who accidentally falls into the hands of the town villain. Still, Jack proceeds with his plan to emulate Santa Claus and deliver presents containing shrunken heads and snakes—dark things beloved in Halloween Town—to children all over the world. Ultimately, the film has a nice moral arc about realizing that multiple points of view exist in the world; we are all but one manifestation, and those viewpoints and characterizations of the self are not mutually exclusive.