AMC has a “Walking Dead” marathon going on, and that’ll end tomorrow with the new season opening up. If you have Netflix or a DVD collection, what follows are my favourites to watch around Halloween. Some aren’t necessarily frightening, but I think they’re all great flicks to watch late at night. The stories stand out (else I wouldn’t be recommending them). These titles aren’t arranged in any particular order, that’s too much work for me. It’s Thanksgiving eve, and I’m taking both days off :). And no, you won’t see much in the way of slasher flicks here. Those aren’t for me. Halloween, Friday the 13th, and the like, no. Not saying they’re bad, just not for me. Titles are all linked to IMBD.
The Exorcist. 1973. Linda Blair
Can’t think of a better start to any horror movie list than the Exorcist. I still won’t watch this one alone. Frightening, shocking, and good enough for 2 (3?) sub-par sequels. If you want to be scared, this is the one of any you should watch. Brrrrr.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 1978. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams
Saw the original but I’m not usually a big fan of old black and white movies. Anyway, this version of the body snatchers is a quintessential “they’re taking us over!” movie with a great cast and wonderful atmosphere. One scene –the one with the dog (you know it if you seen the movie) is particularly… startling, and still comes to mind whenever I think of this movie.
The Fog. 1980. Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis
Classic ghost story from John Carpenter. Forget the reboot. This is the one you want to see if your town is subjected to eerie mysterious fog banks. Good clean campy fun.
The Howling. 1981. Dee Wallace
If you’re going to see any werewolf movie, this one, and the one below, are two you probably should look into. Campy fun now, but back in the day, the transformation sequences were gob smacking. News reporter has a close call with a serial killer and gets sent to a coastal town for some well earned R&R. Trouble is, well, there’s couple of things off with that little coastal town.
An American Werewolf in London. 1981. David Naughton
Quirky yet frightening where it needs to be, I don’t really understand why there aren’t… more werewolf stories out there.Maybe it’s the budget? Couple of guys from the States go abroad and while walking about an English moor, get attacked by a werewolf. As with ‘The Howling’ the transformation sequences are just eye popping (no computers).
The Shining. 1980. Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall
Wonderfully atmospheric take on the haunted house story with uncle Jack as the lead. Guy gets hired for the winter to caretake an historic hotel way up in the mountains, which gets cut off from civilization. All’s fine and dandy and just ducky for Jack–who’s a writer getting in his daily word counts–until, well…. he goes crazy. Frights, some great lines, and a underlining, palatable sense of dread in this one, of seeing things perhaps you shouldn’t really see. Top notch. I know and watched the remake, which is, in fact, truer to the book–but this version is something special.
The Thing. 1982. Kurt Russell
Who hasn’t seen this gem of a movie, and if you haven’t, shaaaame. Bunch of scientists in the antarctic are visited by a dog and a couple of initially perceived crazy Norwegians trying to blow fido’s head off. They fail, and the dog becomes one with the US team… only it really isn’t a dog. It’s a Malamute taxi for one pissed off alien. And now, it’s among the scientists. This one–like most 80’s John Carpenter movies, is just plain fun. The effects are eye-popping, even by today’s standards, and I really really wished the folks who brought us the prequel in 2011 (?) would’ve just taken their time with the material.
Fright Night. 1985. Chris Sarandon
I liked the older version better than the new. Vampire moves in next door and the neighbour spots him taking a bite out of a young lady, who then tries to raise the alarm. Trouble is, no one believes him. Except the vampire himself. Good bloodsucking fun.
28 Days Later. 2002. Cillian Murphy
Probably one of the more intense zombie flicks I’ve seen in the theatre. “The Tunnel” sequence is an lesson in suspense done right, and the whole movie is what a solid zombie story is all about. Bicycle courier wakes up in a deserted hospital after being in a coma for a month (see title), goes exploring, and soon discovers the devastated world he woke up to. Thrills, suspense, horror, and frights.
The Evil Dead. 1981. Bruce Campbell
This was one of those haunted cabins in the woods stories that, well, was just friggin’ exhausting for me to watch. Why? Well, when you see the shit the characters go through, you’ll understand. Spawned two equally entertaining sequels both with Bruce Campbell, and if you have the time, I’d recommending watching all three in one sitting. They go from really hard core to more humorous, but still entertaining.
Jaws. 1975. Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfus
“We’re going to need a bigger boat…”
I watch this thing every two or three years now. The movie that made me fear going into the water (and still do!).
The Blair Witch Project. 1999. Heather Donahue
There’s two camps of people on this one. The first group considers this pretty much a waste of film. The second, of which I’m a part of, believes it’s one of the more frightening movies in a very long time. Saw this one in Toyko with my girlfriend and, damn, I was dreading the night sequences! Bunch of young folks head into a mysterious woods to investigate the Blair Witch, and soon… all too soon… learn that the stories and legends are all terrifyingly real. Bare bones budget, but a ton of chilling atmosphere. Something which the big budget noisefests of today could take note of. When the material is scary, you don’t have to rely on loud music to make viewers jump.
What George Romero did in this… well… is the backbone of any zombie flick you’ll see anywhere, anytime today. It’s 1968, and obviously a low budget effort, but man, there’s nothing lacking in this movie. It spawned a few sequels, but I think you can stop watching the series at “Dawn of the Dead” and then start following (or reading, even better) Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead.” Sequence at the end in the basement–brrrr!
Probably the best new vampire movie I’ve seen since… the original Salem’s Lot. Haven’t seen the US remake (which I hear is quite faithful) but this one is just wonderful. Another vampire moves in next door story, but it fires on all cylinders. I don’t really want to say much about this one. If you like old fashioned vampires stories, this is one.
And there you go. Not all the quality movies I could’ve mentioned (didn’t even say anything about Alien/Aliens–and forgot to include “Jacob’s Ladder”) but enough for a stay-home movies fest if you’re so inclined. So, if you haven’t already, watch ’em.