So without further ado, I present to you my list of my top ten movies to watch on Halloween night, and they are presented here in no particular order:
“John Carpenter’s Halloween”
Despite having many imitators and endless sequels, not to mention the re-imagining by Rob Zombie (which was actually pretty good), there’s no beating the granddaddy of them all. Carpenter’s film is a true horror classic with a music theme that I never get sick of listening to. Thirty years later, the original “Halloween” has lost none of its power to creep you out as it offers a truly terrifying experience.
There are moments that have stayed with me long after I saw it for the first time on television, and yes, they cut some of the good parts out. That moment where Michael Meyers kills the boyfriend and then tilts his head from side to side always gets to me. Plus, the ending leaves you with the unnerving truth of how evil never dies.
“John Carpenter’s The Thing”
While his original “Halloween” remains a true classic, Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing” is his masterpiece. It bombed back in 1982 but has since gained a huge cult following and is now considered one of the best films of the horror genre. The story of a group of scientists doing research in Antarctica, one of the most isolated places on Earth, who ended up being taken over and almost perfectly copied by an alien is far more effective today than it was when it first came out. This film is a great example of how to keep escalating tension throughout a movie’s entire running time.
Rob Bottin’s incredible work on the makeup and the effects still looks disgustingly brilliant to this very day, and watching what he comes up with remains a devilish delight.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
I finally got to see this movie all the way through for the first time a couple of years ago when I rented it from Netflix. What I thought would be a fun and dated 70s movie to watch turned out to be the real terrifying deal. Even while watching it on my 32″ television, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” turned out to be no less brutally horrifying a film than when it first came out. It has lost none of its power to make you shrink in your seat if not piss in your pants. With a movie like this, it’s not what you see that gets to you; it’s what you don’t see that makes this one of the most unnerving movie going experiences you will ever have.
It was released about 30 years ago, and it remains Dario Argento’s true masterpiece of horror. There are very few directors out there who can make a grisly death look like a beautiful work of art. The tale of an American female dancer who comes to a ballet school which turns out to be a witches’ coven doesn’t always make sense, but then again a lot of Argento’s movies don’t. The movie is still scary as hell and beautifully horrific in a way most horror films can only dream of being today. A friend of mine once told me that if she were ever to be murdered (heaven forbid), she would want it to look like something out of a Dario Argento movie.
Be it the original version or Ridley Scott’s director’s cut, this is still an overwhelmingly terrifying experience. When I rented this one on videotape years ago and watched it on my parents’ 13 inch television set (which was on its last legs) in their bedroom (they robbed me of using the family room), I found myself hiding my eyes in key moments. The silence really got to me, and I impatiently waited for Jerry Goldsmith’s score to come back on. Keep in mind, I actually saw James Cameron’s “Aliens” before I saw this film, and it still scared the hell out of me!
I tell ya, these horror movies from the 1970’s still seem to have the same power to shock you today as they did when first released. When it got re-released a couple of years ago in “the version you’ve never seen,” it still had a visceral power to enthrall us even after we had seen it several dozen times.
The story of a girl who becomes possessed by an ancient demon benefits greatly from a documentary feel from director William Friedkin that has that “you are there” feel to it that made you feel like you are not just watching a movie.
“Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn”
All the “Evil Dead” movies are great fun, but if you have to go with just one, then you have to go with “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.” On a budget of $3 million dollars, maybe even less than that, director Sam Raimi gave us one of the most endlessly creative and hilarious horror movies that you could ever hope to watch. After all this time, it remains as scary as is funny. Plus, you have Bruce “Groovy” Campbell in his most iconic role as Ash, the pussy whipped salesman from S-Mart who keeps getting chased by demons that he stupidly awakened. Campbell gives a fantastic performance even if he keeps saying that he’s not much of an actor. That is so far from the truth, but you do have to admire the sense of humor Bruce has about himself. Just wait until you hear him do one of his audio commentaries!
“28 Days Later”
“Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle was said to have reinvigorated the zombie genre with this propulsive horror thriller where they are anything but slow. In this film, the zombies (who are actually referred to as “the infected”) are not the enemy here, we are. The virus that the infected has been stricken with represents our inability to face the darkness inside of ourselves which sooner or later will rise to the surface. There is no let up on the tension in this movie, and the thrills come fast and furious.
“Dawn of the Dead” (the original and the remake)
This one is a tie because both versions of this movie stand strongly on their own merits. George Romero’s brilliant sequel to his classic “Night of the Living Dead” is really a satire of the consumerist society we all live in. You know, the one that encourages us to buy all sorts of things which are said to make you happy, and yet all the money and objects you purchase end up making you feel empty inside. That’s what Romero is really saying with this film, and he does this while providing us with a great deal of blood, gore, beheadings, eviscerations, decapitations, and whatever else he could afford when he made “Dawn of the Dead.” All of you in the Fangoria crowd will be more than satisfied with this one, but you knew that already.
Zack Snyder, who later went on to direct “300” and “Watchmen,” helmed this remake which turned out to be the best of its kind since “John Carpenter’s The Thing.” This one is more of a straight forward horror action film with a surprising amount of emphasis on character development. It also features Canada’s greatest import in the lead role, Sarah Polley. The remake of “Dawn of the Dead” turned out to be a visceral thrill ride, and it was a much better than you would ever have expected it to be.
“The Silence of the Lambs”
The specter of Hannibal Lector, as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, never fails to unnerve me like he did when I first saw this movie on the big screen. Jonathan Demme’s Oscar winning classic remains one of the definitive serial killer films ever made. Hopkins’ performance is like a perverse love letter to HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” whose voice inspired the character of Lector. We also get one of cinema’s greatest heroines with Clarice Starling, brilliantly played by Jodie Foster.
Have a happy Halloween everybody!