Tuesday, October 31, 2006

31 Movies Fit For a Ghoulish October 31st

This may be a tad late, but the spirit of the day is really with me. These are some of the movies that I think really best exemplify the essence of Halloween. They frighten, they horrify, and they even make us laugh. If you want an extra little chill tonight to celebrate the season of terror, check one of these out. Just make sure you put the kids to bed first.
In alphabetical order...

1. 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)
A London hospital patient awakens surrounded by an eerie silence. It seems that most of London has been killed off by the undead. Will he survive?
What a fantastic idea to start a movie off with. Imagine waking up and finding that life has nearly been wiped out and you are among the few that remain. With such a great idea, the movie could fall and disappoint, but it doesn't. It's filled with thrills.

2. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (Barton, 1948)
Can Abbott save Costello from the scariest gang of monsters the world has known?
Abbott and Costello were famous for their shtick. It's silly, sure, but it's funny. Here they are at their best (with maybe the exception of the sublime "Who's on First" routine), and we get to have a fun, old-fashioned monster movie to boot, complete with Dracula played by Bela Lugosi. There is tons of spooky, horror-movie shadows and creepy sets, and lots of laughs.

3. The Blair Witch Project (Myrick, 1999)
A group of bold young adventurers wander into a reputedly haunted forest with video cameras. They are never heard from again, but now we get to see the footage they recorded.
This is one of the scariest movies ever made. As far as I'm concerned, it raised the bar on scary. I was shaking for some time after watching this. Sometimes only a shot of something strong and someone to cuddle with all night long will help after seeing something like this.

4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, 1920)
A future-telling somnambulist informs a man that he only has until dawn to live. Will his prediction come true?
The beauty of this movie is in its art direction. It spawned an entire genre of film known as German Expressionism. The sets are creepy and moody, over-the-top, but terrific, and the plot works perfectly in that environment.

5. Child's Play (Holland, 1988)
A bewitched doll, containing the soul of a murderer, comes into the possession of a little boy. As people all around the boy start dropping off, how long will it take people to figure out who the killer is, and if they can stop him?
This may be hokey, but it is still creepy and scary as heck. I remember seeing a Chucky-sized doll in my sister's basement once. I thought that thing was going to run out and kill me! I love that this movie takes something that is familiar and safe, like a child's toy, and makes it threatening. How can we ever be safe if we can't even trust our dolls?

6. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Derrickson, 2005)
The Exorcist and a courtroom drama. Who knew law could be so scary?
This is loosely based on an actual possession case in 1970s Germany, but it is set in modern-day America. I would have loved it even more I think if it would have stayed truer to the real story, but I loved this all the same. It's chilling to watch, and the courtroom aspect adds an interesting plot framework. It all really works, and the atmosphere is just right.

7. Final Destination (Wong, 2000)
A group of high school students escape death's clutches one time when they decide not to board an ill-fated plane flight, but this reaper doesn't give up so easily.
This is surprisingly terrifying for a teen horror flick. Some scenes stayed in my brain for weeks afterward. A nice little thrill ride.

8. Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)
A hapless group of ghostcatchers find themselves in the middle of a sudden increase in paranormal activity.
You just can't go wrong with the ghostbusters. It never gets old. It's spooky fun for the whole family. Well, maybe not for the teeny tots. I do remember that library scene at the beginning freaking me out quite a bit when this first came out.

9. Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
The original stalker/slasher teen thriller.
What's more appropriate than Halloween on Halloween? Just be wary of any trick or treaters this Halloween that come to your door wearing William Shatner masks. Especially if they are fully grown and walk slowly but still catch up to people running away from them. Just a little holiday safety tip for ya.

10. Hellraiser (Barker, 1987)
The corpse of a man is reanimated by drops of blood accidentally reaching his body. People must be sacrificed for his newly buidling body to be complete.
Full-on gore, and crazy S&M sexuality, not to mention a fun puzzle box and bunch of menacing dudes called cenobites. Their leader, Pinhead, is probably one of the most iconic of the modern movie monsters. Great stuff.

11. High Tension (Aja, 2003)
A couple of girls go to a French countryside house only to be followed home by a gruesome killer.
Upping the ante on movie gore. This one will definitely have you covering those little peepers. Or maybe I'm just sensitive.

12. Ju-on: The Grudge (Shimizu, 2003)
A cursed house brings horror to those that enter it.
The Japanese seem to really know some stuff about scare-making. This is some of the most unsettling stuff I have seen in recent years.

13. The Lost Boys (Schumacher, 1987)
A gang of teenage vampires rule Santa Clara, California. When a couple of brothers move in and one gets infected with the vampire's virus, little bro must face some real scary shit in order to save big bro.
Probably my favorite vampire movie ever. It's fun and campy, but not too campy to not still have some cool factor going on. The soundtrack is great, and Keifer Sutherland is fantastic as the vampire gang leader.

14. The Mothman Prophecies (Pellington, 2002)
Richard Gere is a reporter in search of answers after his wife dies. Can the secret lie in the mysterious appearance of a dark, winged figure?
What's scarier than a dark story that has a dose of truth in it? Apparently people really have had visions of this 'mothman' just before some really bad things have gone down. Oh gosh! WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??

15. Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)
The recently dead are coming back in droves, and they want only one thing: to consume the flesh of the living.
A seminal zombie flick that so many have imitated since. But who knew that horror flicks could also have a political message? This has one of the best portrayals of black men I have seen to date.

16. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984)
A man with knives for fingers attacks and kills teenagers in their dreams.
"Whatever you do, don't fall asleep!" This one is nice and creepy, but it's fully aware of it's camp factor and plays it up. This is possibly the first horror to really make use of comedy, and to have a witty killer. Doesn't his morbid humor just make him all the more frightening?

17. Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922)
The first vampire movie.
There's something about this movie that still works more than 80 years later. It's story, based on Dracula, is timeless, but it's much more than that. For me one of the best parts is the look of the vampire in this film. He's so much creepier than a Bela Lugosi kind of vampire with a widow's peak.

18. The Others (Amenabar, 2001)
Some strange people come on to work at a house that is shrouded in darkness and secrets.
One of the best horror movies of recent years. The atmosphere is outstanding, the plot is wonderfully structured, the twists and turns are unexpected and titillating, and the fright factor is way up there. And all this is achieved with very little gore. A must see.

19. Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)
A stalker uses a camera to kill his victims.
What's more frightening? For a killer to be lurking in the shadows unseen, unsuspected? Or to see the world through the eyes of a terrifying killer, to know a person's fate before they do and to be able to do nothing to stop it? This movie takes voyeurism to another level.

20. Pet Semetary (Lambert, 1989)
Animals (and people) buried in the local pet cemetery come back to life, but they aren't the same.
This is a variation on the same old story of 'be careful what you wish for.' You may want your loved one back, but at what costs? This movie is almost as terrifying as the book. One of the best from Stephen King. Give me this over The Shining any day.

21. Poltergeist (Hooper, 1982)
A family unwittingly moves into a house built on an ancient burial ground. Trouble, in their case, is spelled with a capital P-O-L-T-E-R-G-E-I-S-T.
Ooooh so good. And poor little Carol Ann. She can't catch a break in this or subsequent Poltergeist movies. She is just more susceptible I guess. She is drawn over to the other side, and all hell nearly breaks lose while her family tries to bring her back.

22. Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)
A lonely traveler stops for a night at Bates motel. It's one of those lovely little inns where you check in, but you don't check out.
A real masterpiece. Hitchcock was such a genius. Light and shadow play a huge role. The famous shower scene is still shocking. And Anthony Perkins inimitable performance here is so delicate and so perfect. Too bad he kept trying to imitate himself after this.

23. The Ring (Verbinski, 2002)
A journalist investigating unexplained deaths gets more answers than she'd ever want, and now that she knows, her own survival is at stake.
This movie is fairly groundbreaking. One of the things we love about seeing movies is our ability to see what we don't normally see, to be absorbed into a world yet still be removed from it and be able to experience it all from the safety of our seats. That is until the act of viewing can be just as dangerous. There is no safety in that cozy theater or living room armchair. No protective barrier between this world and that exists. Watch the forbidden tape and you too will die.

24. Saw (Wan, 2004)
A man wakes in a room finding himself in a situation of inescapable death. What is he willing to do to survive?
A unique idea, and a new level of disturbing killer. It wasn't the best movie ever, but it's still intriguing and makes you ask yourself some questions no one ever wants to have to answer. What would you do?

25. Scream (Craven, 1996)
A teenage girl is phone-stalked by a serial killer.
Bringing self-reference and irreverence to the horror flick. Okay, it's over-parodied and completely passe now, but this movie was really exciting when it came out. It single-handedly redefined and reinvigorated a genre. It also brought a new level of Hollywood gloss to horror film. This may be both good and bad, but money is certainly spent on fright flicks these days, and it's all thanks to Scream. That didn't all come from nothing. I think this movie will be considered one of the great classics of its time once it no longer has its current stigma.

26. Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004)
A British take on the zombie movie, complete with some of the best of Brit humor in years.
Probably one of my favorite movies in the last couple years. It has enough gore and sincerity to be taken seriously as a zombie movie, but its wit is even more biting than its scares. Terrific. I think I might "have a bit of a sit down" and watch some of those "bitey" zombies tonight actually.

27. The Sixth Sense (Shyamalan, 1999)
A whispering boy "sees dead people," and they just won't leave him alone, but his shrink may have an idea of how to help him.
Isn't it so sad when a movie is so imitated and spoofed that we have a hard time taking it seriously anymore? (see: The Matrix) Well, try to bring yourself back to before its 1999 release and watch it for its genius instead of its acquired camp.

28. The Stepford Wives/Children (1975, and 1987)
The town of Stepford has a little bitty secret: its husbands are secretly replacing their wives (or children) with more perfect robot versions.
Take your pick. The first (Wives) is a feminist story with a strong political message (FAR superior to the horrendous remake that recently came out), and the second (Children) scared the bejeebees out of me at a slumber party when I was a kid. The former is disturbing, the latter is more overtly frightening and disgusting. Both leave us with one question: What is wrong with men? (And when are we going to replace them -- actually they did a Husbands movie too, though I haven't seen that one.)

29. Stir of Echoes (Koepp, 1999)
A ghostly presence haunts a family in their new home. The husband nearly loses his mind and his family to find the answers that the ghost so desperately wants to communicate.
A surprisingly good little ghostie story. Good creep factor. I think I watch this one every time I pass it on TV.

30. Thriller (Landis, 1983)
Back when Michael Jackson was a cutie pie, he took his girl to see a horror flick. She was terrified by what she saw, but at least it was just a movie, or was it?
This elevated music videos to a whole new place. But rarely have any since come even close to matching the new height. A wonderful monster-movie musical fest of gore, music, dance, entertainment.

31. What Lies Beneath (Zemeckis, 2000)
A woman is haunted by the spirit of a murdered college girl. Will her husband believe her before the haunting consumes her?
A really thrilling ride. One of the most fun, jump-off-your-seat flicks in a while. And there is a wonderful Hitchcock-like aspect to it. It's smart, sexy, stylish, and is smothered in just the right amount of Hollywood. Love it.

Back to the full blog...


Caroline Jameson said...

I love it that you got Michael Jackson into your list of horror films!

Elisabeth said...

Welcome Caroline! Thanks for visiting. :) Is this your first time to the blog?

You know, I'd thought about writing a disclaimer or defending my choice to put thriller on the list, but then, the two movies from the 1920s are short also, so what's the difference? Because it's a short and a music video? Pah! It's just a musical! And it's a great addition to anyone's Halloween.

Soooo.... we didn't end up watching Shaun of the Dead or any other Halloween-appropriate movie last night. Instead we watched one of our netflix selections. Ah well.

Not sure if I am going to manage to get that piece on composition up on the blog today, but I will do my best. If not today, hopefully tomorrow.


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