It’s Halloween in a few days, and most people like to celebrate this day in some way or other. There’s of course a variety of things to do, but mainly you have two options: you can do a party, or you can watch movies. And just in case you decide on the latter, here’s a list of suggestions for you.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
An absolute all-time classic, not just for horror fans. Sure, nowadays it does not hold the same shock value it had fifty years ago, but this movie is still great. Suspenseful, dark, creepy, superbly acted, and the score alone is haunting enough, even without the bizarre dream sequence in which Rosemary conceives her hellish offspring.
The Exorcist (1973)
Once considered the most scary movie ever, horror fans will not be shocked as much now, but this movie is undeniably a true piece of horror that made a lasting impression on all occult horror flicks that came later. I still cannot watch it at night, or alone.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
It is not the first zombie movie ever (that credit goes to “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” from 1920), but it is considered the one that laid down the ground rules for all zombie flicks to boot, and it led to the five subsequent movies George Romero made, which were remade and inspired more than one generation. It is not really scary, but then, most zombie films are not, and if you are a genre lover, you have to see it. Also, as far as I know, it was the first movie ever to cast a white woman and a black man as the two lead actors.
The Shining (1980)
One of my all-time favorites. Even watching it for the 20th time, you can still get a kick out of Jack Nicholson’s acting. From the haunting score, to the kid actor that is ridiculously good for a 7-year-old, to the rotting corpse in the bath tub, to the chase through the icy labyrinth, everything about this Stephen King adaption is perfect. One of the best scenes in movie history is the scene in the bathroom where Delbert Grady cleans Jack Torrance’s jacket. Oh, and the bloody elevators. And the twins in the hallway. The horror that Kubrick managed to create with such limited means is still awe-inducing.
Could have been placed in the Classics section, since it is the mother of all slashers, laying down ground rules like the final girl and the masked killer. I guess I was too old (21) when I finally saw it, because it did not make much of an impression on me. But I will not deny that it is a good movie, and perfect for a Halloween movie night.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Tried to hop on the train that “Halloween” (1978) started. I have to admit that I have not seen it, but Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide gave it only 1 ½ stars out of four, calling it a cardboard thriller. However, it has developed into a cult classic, and it has brought to the genre the idea of a secluded camp area that has been copied a million times.
This one could have also been placed in the Classics section, since it revived the genre and defined its tropes, as well. Never say you’ll be right back! Not scary after watching it 20 times, but that is the one downside to slashers—they usually only work once. However, this first installment in a (too prolonged) series is at times exciting, sexy, hilarious, and just enjoyable.
You’re Next (2011)
A fairly new movie that is surprisingly fantastic. It is an independent project with no known names, but I was completely thrown by how good it is. The action starts suddenly, and brutally, and when the suspense starts picking up, your heart rate will definitely rise. Its solution is not really a surprise, but that hardly matters, nor do any potential plot holes, because the movie artfully plays with the genre tropes, spinning and twisting them without ever breaking any rules, turning the slashers into the slashed.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Another one for the Classics. Not actually a spoof of “Dawn of the Dead”, a misconception that must stem from the title. This brilliantly intelligent British production is a zombie film that just happens to also be extremely funny. Dozens of shout-outs at classics of the genre and other pop culture phenomena, as well as dialogues sprinkled with hints at the entire plot that you only catch if you pay really close attention, make this a pure pleasure to watch. Look out for Michael Smiley’s two-second-cameo as a zombie.
Wonderful comedy with big names like Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone that gives us a quite realistic view of what the life post-zombie apocalypse might look like. Like, for instance, the fat ones die first because they cannot run that fast. The characters are relatable, and also this movie has one of the best cameos ever. Of course, most people are already spoiled, but I will not mention it.
This Australian production might just be the best zombie film I have ever seen. Gory, yes, of course, but also very funny, and sad, and shocking, and with so many new ideas to the genre it makes your head spin. I saw it at the Fantasy Filmfest without having seen any trailers or reviews, which is a true blessing because you will not get the full experience if you do not watch it completely ignorantly. No, seriously, do not watch the trailer. It tells you everything.
Outrageous production from New Zealand about a teenaged boy who founds a band with his pals and then they inadvertently play a song that brings hell to earth. While the idea is not new, the variety of weapons the survivors choose to employ to fight off the zombies surely has not been seen like this before. And the humor is so rudely, incorrectly, gut-wrenchingly funny that you just have to fall in love with it. Also probably the most gory flick I have ever seen. An absolute must for genre fans.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Very funny, but also really creepy movie with Oscar-winning make-up effects that were unbelievable back then and still are today. I watched it when I was way too young and was absolutely terrified. I am certain it would not have as much of an effect on me now, but it is perfect for a nice scary movie night.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Exciting, slightly scary movie about two sisters, one of which gets bitten by a wolf. The movie is not surprising, but well acted, and the characters are relatable. There is a significant amount of tension created as we watch Ginger slowly change, starting with her personality and the fact that she suddenly has very hairy legs.
Also a werewolf flick, with Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg as siblings that both get bitten and go through some interesting changes as a consequence. Funny, fairly suspenseful and with a nice twist in the end.
Black Sheep (2006)
Completely absurd and extremely hilarious creature horror from New Zealand in which crazy scientists try crossing human DNA with sheep DNA and inadvertently create genetically modified sheep that crave for human flesh and bite people who then slowly turn into sheep themselves. And the hero, of course, has an extreme sheep phobia. Very gory and brutal, but the effects are handmade, which makes the whole thing very likeable and just plain awesome.
Another one for the Classics, and, to my knowledge, one of the first movies ever to display such a clear example of the Haunted House motif. I admit I have not seen it. I am not made for this genre because of my vivid imagination. However, there is nothing but praise to be found for this horror flick that was cowritten and coproduced by Steven Spielberg (!). If you are a fan of the genre, I guess you need to see it.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
There is a long history of movies centering around the same story that I was not aware of. This installment is the only one I have seen and that is enough for me. Again, classic Haunted House, but with a striking resemblance to “The Shining” (1980) at times, just with a slightly different ending.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
I have not seen this one either. All I know is I watched a few snippets of it and then had to sleep with the lights on that night. This film (that is also a classic example of the found-footage-genre) represents the epitome of why the Haunted House motive is so scary—because it is an invasion by an offender you cannot fight against, in an environment where you are supposed to be safe. If you can watch that kind of thing, this is your movie.
There are those who found it boring, and then there are those who were a complete mess after watching. I have to admit I belong to the latter group. Starts out as classic Haunted House, until it turns out it is not the house that is being haunted. A mean ending, and well-acted with a lot of jump scares and a very sinister atmosphere.
Miri – @OriginalSGreenD
Tell us in the comments what you’re favorite movie is to watch for Halloween!