Today’s pick might be a little unconventional for the countdown as it’s technically neither a horror film nor a Halloween film, but it’s one of my favorites to watch around this time of year. I also happen to think it’s criminally underrated, and as a result, largely forgotten.
High Spirits came out in 1988 and boasts a star-studded cast. Just look at these names: Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg (what the hell ever happened to him?), Daryl Hannah, Beverly D’Angelo, Liam Neeson, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher, Martin Ferrero–but a lot of these actors weren’t so recognizable back then. None of that really matters, however–the film received terrible reviews. It’s also kind of a difficult movie to classify, as it combines several different genres. It’s somewhere between horror, comedy, and paranormal romance. It’s “scary” in the same way The Frighteners is scary, if you’ve ever seen that–which is to say not very. It has a large cast of quirky characters, lots of action, slapstick comedy, and yes, GHOST SEX (more on that in a bit).
The premise goes like this: The owner (Peter O’Toole) of a dilapidated Irish castle-turned-hotel is deep in debt and gets the brilliant idea to market the place as haunted in order to attract more tourists and help business. Naturally it works, and soon a large group of American tourists arrive to visit “the most haunted castle in Europe.” The entire staff of kooky characters all work together to fake the hauntings (and of course nothing goes right), but soon the scares turn genuine when the “real” ghosts turn up. The story primarily centers around Jack (Steve Guttenberg) and Sharon (Beverly D’Angelo) an unhappily married couple who both end up falling in love with ghosts (Daryl Hannah & Liam Neeson). Meanwhile, the rest of the hotel guests band together to go on a ghost-hunting adventure, and lots of wacky hi-jinks ensue. All of this culminates in a rather over-the-top scare-fest that involves undead jealous lovers, ghostly revenge, dead people coming back to life, living people crossing over into the afterlife, and MAKING OUT WITH A CORPSE. Hey, I never said this was Oscar material.
A horror/comedy/romance/whatever-the-hell movie with such lofty ambitions is bound to have some shortcomings, of which there are many–Daryl Hannah’s acting, pacing problems, and gaping plot holes. But you know what? None of that matters. This movie is just plain fun and they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Here are the main reasons why I love this film
1) It was directed by Neil Jordan ( Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, among others). His body of work may not be huge, but I’m in love with his dark, dream-like style. You know it when you’re watching a Neil Jordan film.
2) I always love a good haunted house movie, and haunted castles are even better. The set design and scenery is beautiful, and the special effects, which even include animation, are surprisingly good (for the time).
3) Ghost sex.
Watch the Trailer
I couldn’t find any good movie clips on YouTube, so you’re getting the trailer instead, sorry.
What is 31 DVDs of Halloween?
As a special feature for the Halloween Countdown, I’m showcasing 31 Halloween DVDs from my personal collection. I have a lot of Halloween-related and horror DVDs in general, but for this year’s countdown I’m only going to focus on my absolute favorites–the ones I consider 100% essential for my enjoyment of the holiday.