Christian Hardy, Paul Bogdan, Joel Blechinger, Megan Narsing, Jen Squires
Halloween is the perfect time for horror movie marathons. Not only is there a lot of candy lying around to munch on, this time of year just makes for a great evening of scares – whether you’re watching some alone or in the company of friends. The horror genre is huge, though, and not knowing what films to watch can scare away moviegoers before they can even decide which fright flicks they want to watch. There are also so many remakes that it can be tough deciding whether to watch the original, or the ujnrated cut of the remake.
To help you decide what to watch this Halloween, we asked our staff and contributors what their favorite scary movies are.
Christian: I could write forever about horror. Aside from comedies, films from the late ’80s to early ’90s, and weird Euro shit directed by people like Werner Herzog, they are my favorite kinds of movies. That being said, I’ll keep this brief and restrain myself to listing off just two films that I think would make a great double feature this Halloween.
If you’re in the mood for a good slasher film, there is no better choice than John Carpenter’s original Halloween. This movie has everything: a classic villain, chilling atmosphere, an eerie and memorable score (written and performed by Carpenter himself), and a young Jamie Lee Curtis. If you’re only familiar with the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween or some of its later sequels, then you need to see the original. With the possible exception of Scream, it is the best slasher film ever made.
The next movie I’d recommend for this double feature is a newer one, and probably unfamiliar to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the genre. House of the Devil was filmed just a few years ago, but is directed in a way that replicates the look of classic horror films from the late 1970s and early 1980s. If you watch it right after Halloween, the similarities between the two films will become strikingly obvious.
House of the Devil isn’t about a knife-wielding maniac. It’s a story about a young college student who takes a babysitting job to make some extra money. I can’t say anything more than that without revealing some major spoilers, but I will say that it’s the best modern horror film I’ve seen in years. Next to Rosemary’s Baby and Suspiria, I’ve never seen a scarier film about satanic cults.
Paul: My favorite horror movie has to be The Shining. The soundtrack plays such a huge role in this movie. It creates enough tension and suspense that I think I could just listen to it and not even watch the movie and still be creeped out.
I love watching the mental deterioration of Jack Torrence (played by Jack Nicholson). It’s fascinating to watch him slowly lose his grip on reality until he reaches complete insanity and goes on a rampage – trying to hack his family to death with an axe. The scenes with the little twin girls are pretty freaky too. There’s something about little kids in horror movies that always gets to me, especially when their mutilated corpses are sprawled in a hallway with their blood spatter dripping down the walls.
The creepiest part of The Shining has to be when Jack goes into room 237. It seems relatively normal – as normal as making out with a naked ghost can get – but as soon as she morphs into a rotting corpse the freakiness of this scene skyrockets. I remember the first time I watched it I stared at the TV wide-eyed like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, completely unable to look away yet absolutely horrified, disturbed, and disgusted by this decrepit, naked old woman howling with laughter and pursuing Jack. That scene gives me the creeps every time I watch it.
Joel: When I stumbled upon Larry Fessenden’s 1997 independent movie Habit, I felt genuinely troubled in a way that lingered on after that first viewing. Habit is a modern-day vampire film that challenges us with remarkable ambiguity woven into its very fiber.
Fessenden directs and stars in the film as Sam, a troubled thirty-something living in a rundown Greenwich Village apartment. Neither himself nor his group of desultory friends acknowledges his growing alcoholism. His estranged father died two months earlier, and his girlfriend Liza has left him – tired of waiting for Sam to get sober. One night at a friend’s Halloween party, Sam draws the attention of Anna – a mysterious woman who is entirely ‘too good for him.’
The question ensues: why is Anna interested in Sam? Their relationship is fueled by a dangerous, carnal desire. Anna frequently bites Sam to taste his blood, which he thinks is a somewhat bizarre, yet mutually pleasurable primal sexual practice. Sam becomes as enslaved to Anna as he is to the bottle, and Fessenden complicates Anna’s implied vampirism by limiting us to the discontinuous reality of Sam the addict. The final scene, wherein Sam hunkers down in his dead father’s flat with traditional anti-vampire arms – garlic, knives, and a crucifix – is particularly stirring.
Is Anna a vampire? Is Anna a representation of Sam’s troubled psyche? Habit is a horror film that treats the viewer as thinking subject and cloaks a harrowing tale of addiction in the trappings of vampire horror.
Megan: By far the scariest movie I’ve ever dared to watch is hands down the Japanese original Ju-On: The Grudge 2. Oh, don’t think that the first movie in this two-part series didn’t make me want to turn on every light in my house and grab a teddy bear too, because I totally did.
The sequel is scarier in many ways than the original. In case you never saw or heard of the American remake of Ju-On, called The Grudge, it’s about the ghost of a murdered housewife and her son. The ghosts terrorize anyone who comes into contact with the house they haunt, or the person they decide to haunt. In other words you can never escape it. It will never stop until you die and it’s a nightmare.
The reason that the sequel is the worst is because of the death of the reporter that goes into the house. Her death is by far the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. Another terrifying scene is the one where you hear that noise that the ghost makes and the photocopier starts printing off black pages that start to show her face and then he turns it off, and the pictures begin to appear on the wall.
Just recalling these events has made me continually look over my shoulder while typing this. Words can’t explain how scared I am of dark spots on the floor, photocopiers, and dark ceilings. If you’re looking to scar yourself for life, watch this movie. The American version doesn’t hold a candle to it.
Jen: John Carpenter’s The Thing is certainly my favourite horror movie of all time. Released in 1982, The Thing is about a team of researchers stationed in the Arctic. The team adopts a dog only to find that it’s actually a parasitic alien life form that is able to infiltrate other life forms and imitate them, using their bodies as a shell.
The best death scene in the movie comes when Norris (Charles Hallahan) has a heart attack. Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) uses a defibrillator in an attempt to save his life, but Norris’ chest opens up like a mouth, and the jagged teeth bite off Copper’s hands. The alien then comes out of Norris’ chest in a wave of yellow slime. MacReady (Kurt Russell) watched the entire scene coolly from the background, until this moment when he uses a flamethrower to burn the alien thing.
This movie is my favourite because of the awesome combination of aliens, flamethrowers, Kurt Russell, and Wilford Brimley. The old school special effects make this film a work of genius. The Thing works on the basic premise that the scariest thing is the unknown. Any movie where the evil creature looks like a spider has my vote for one of the scariest movies of all time.