I’m going to ramble a bit. Normally when picking a best list you do five or 10. I’m doing six. It just worked out that way.
When you look at my picks you will note I deliberately left The Exorcist off my list. While some think it’s the best horror film of them all, I read the book and it pales in comparison. Other than Linda Blair’s spinning head, lots profanity and vomit, and Mercedes McCambridge’s brilliant work as the dubbed-in demon voice, there isn’t much substance.
I guess at this point you’ve guessed the topic of this post is horror movies for Halloween. You’ll want to get started early. These days they get gobbled up at the few video stores that are left. I know next to nothing about Netflix so I’m not sure what kind of a supply it has for those still doing the mail thing.
Do they stream these?
While nothing beats a good horror movie, we don’t get that many of them in theaters these days. Today, horror movies are either angst-filled, boring vampire flicks such as the Twilight films or gory messes like the now chain- Saw series, or cheesy but kind of creepy fake documentaries like Paranormal Activity.
In between, Hollywood will toss us a not-so-final Final Destination or some so-so ghost story or something stalking people in a cave. None of them work that well.
Want to catch a good horror flick this Halloween? Other than a couple of films, you will — unfortunately — have to take a trip back in the past. Here are my favorites:
1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): Guillermo del Toro’s flick is my new all-time favorite. From the monster at the banquet table who picks up his eyes to the horror of the sadistic Nazi stepfather, this is a riveting horror/fantasy. And when the monster picked up its eyes, I almost lost it.
2. The Shining (1980): One of the all-time great ghost stories features an ax-wielding Jack Nicholson in one of his best performances. While whacking away on a locked door as a terrified and helpless Shelley Duvall looks on, Nicholson’s “Heeerre’s Johnny,” highlights just one of a dozen lock you to your seat, nail-chewing scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s not-quite-sticking-to-book movie version.
3. Alien (1979): The first film in the series is light-years better than the sequels. Other than the alien exploding out of John Hurt’s chest and the climax sequences, what you don’t see in Ridley Scott’s classic is what scares the hell out of you.
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968): Frightening black and bleached white, shadowy and dark, George Romero’s original zombie flick is the best of them all. The scene where the kid eats her mom is just plain creepy and one of the most unforgettable scenes in horror movie history.
5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958): The 1978 version with Donald Sutherland is OK and a decent substitute if you can’t find the original. However, nothing beats the black and white thriller done at the height of the Cold War. You can’t go to sleep. Ever. If you do, you are replaced by the robotic personality of a bean pod.
6. Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Rosemary is pregnant. Her pregnancy is made difficult when strange things start happening in Rosemary’s building. Is she going crazy or is it just possible that Rosemary is having Satan’s baby? Creepy stuff and brilliantly done by director Roman Polanski.
Vampires always work on Halloween. But forget Twilight. How about some real vampire movies. Growing up we all liked a Bela. It was a he — not a she — note that the name had one “L” and the last name was Lugosi. He was the first Dracula but not the best. That honor goes to Christopher Lee. He was a nasty, dangerous Drac and hit his peak in Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1966 and Dracula has Risen from the Grave in 1968.
Horror never works better than when blended with humor. Funny makes fright more believable. For flat-out vampire fun, try the original Fright Night from 1985. If you can find them, the old Hammer films with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre are a blast. Comedy of Terror and The Raven come to mind first.
For something more modern, my two favorite zombie movies are the hilarious Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead.
Some consider the following films horror. While I don’t, I can see why. They are worth a mention if you’re looking for some great Halloween entertainment: The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws and Psycho.
Or you can flash back to 1933 and catch two of the most original films of all-time: King Kong and The Invisible Man.