Creepy Halloween Music of the Day:
John Carpenter / ” Halloween Theme“
In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d list some of my all-time favorite horror movies. I grew up on horror movies. OK, horror movies and Mel Brooks’ movies, but mostly horror movies. Every time a new Friday the 13th premiered on cable, it was family night. (And despite what the spouse says, I turned out just fine after having watched so many horror movies throughout my life, thankyouverymuch.)
You may notice the absence of such classic horror movies as Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That would be because, being of the generation I am, they don’t scare me. My list also doesn’t include any torture-porn movies, either, because to me, gore is not scary — it’s just gross (I admit I liked the first Saw, but the franchise as a whole was overkill).
This is my list of horror movies that for one reason or another scared the shit out of me.
I made the mistake of watching this late at night, by myself, right before bedtime, in our cave-dark basement bedroom in our A-frame. Because I’m smart like that. What makes this such a scary movie to me is how we never actually see the killer. And the phone calls are the creepiest ones in a horror movie outside of When a Stranger Calls and The Ring. The tagline says it all: If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl, it’s on too tight.
Skip the horrible remake, which featured an actor dressed unconvincingly in drag, indistinguishable characters (Girl With Bangs, Girl From Party of Five, Girl With Glasses, etc.), and a green villain — yes, green. It’s impossible to be scared when Kermit the Frog’s son is the killer.
This is the first haunted house movie I remember watching that really frightened me. And, boy, did it stick with me. Never had a house seemed so creepy, and so life-like. Who can forget how those half-moon-shaped windows looked like the house’s eyes? I won’t get into the terror the little girl’s “imaginary friend” instilled in my young, impressionable self.
*I could not for the life of me get the trailer for this embedded, no matter how many different versions/URLs I tried. Go here to watch.
The Shining (Kubrick version)
“What?! You’ve never seen The Shining?!” My friends introduced this movie to me in college. And after watching it, I realized it was one of the best, most atmospherically creepy horror movies I’d ever seen. The Shining is proof that sometimes the best scares don’t involve any blood or gore. Except for that classic elevator sequence. And the twins in the hall, of course.
(It seems like sacrilege, but I saw The Simpsons‘ spoof, The Shinning, before I ever saw the original movie. Talk about a dead-on parody.)
This movie is the reason why, up until maybe three years ago, that being in fog, driving in fog, or so much as merely seeing fog scared the bejesus out of me. I love how this movie still has the power to scare me. That morgue scene? That’s the stuff of nightmares right there. This is a horror movie that has it all: a good ghost story, spooky, danger-concealing fog, people trapped in an isolated church, and leper pirates. Leper pirates! Thanks so very much, John Carpenter.
This was my introduction to Americanized J-horror. It stuck to the J-horror tradition of minimal (or no) gore, a central story about a ghost done wrong, and an overall sense of creeping, impending doom, best exemplified by how it took something as innocuous as everyday phone calls and transformed them into something to fear. Combined, it added up to a scary movie that inspired me to dive into a whole new genre of horror. Oh, and it inspired a few nightmares. The image of a creepy dead girl crawling out of a well — and out of your television — will do that.
Great female friendships? Check. Characters that embody female strength and empowerment? Check. Hungry, blind, creepy-ass things living in caves? Check. The reason why I will likely never go caving? Check.
The not-a-zombie-movie zombie movie (it was an infection of rage) that introduced the concept of fast-moving, well, zombies. Sacrilege to some, a fresh new terror to others. Count me in the latter camp. The living dead were scary to begin with. 28 Days Later made them a force to really be reckoned with.
A haunting gothic horror movie in the best sense, El Orfanato has the hallmarks of a few other Spanish horror movies I’ve seen: a spooky haunted house, mistreated and possibly vengeful spirits of children, and a strong story, altogether resulting in a relentlessly creepy, atmospheric film that will ultimately break your heart. Add in a devastating, powerhouse performance by lead actress Belen Rueda, and El Orfanato is a movie that will stay with you long after it has ended.
Be sure to watch it in Spanish with English subtitles.
This movie is the reason why, at Girl Scout camp as a child, I made sure to always flank myself with my fellow hikers. That way, in case Jason Voorhees grabbed someone, it would be my friends on the outside of the path, giving me a chance to run and my best odds of survival. See? This is what happens when you watch horror movies starting at a young, impressionable age. I blame all those family nights.
The movie that changed the face of horror, Halloween is largely credited as the original slasher movie. I credit it as the movie that still scares the living crap out of me with the theme music alone. And imitators be damned — Michael Myers is the boogeyman.
Honorable mentions: The Changeling, El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone), Rec
*The originals, not the (mostly bastardized) remakes.