It’s 5 weeks until Halloween. In the run-up to the big day, there will be parties, costumes, candy and decorations. Part of celebrating the season includes watching scary films. If you’re too busy to look through the longer lists available online, here’s a short tally of recommendations for your viewing pleasure, one per week, in the run up to Halloween 2016.
- The Thing (1982) Dir: John Carpenter
THE GREATEST HORROR MOVIE EVER MADE. All the films on this list lose nothing with repeated viewings, but The Thing is so well constructed, that the mystery deepens each time. Details emerge that we didn’t notice on the first (or fifth) viewing. Every shot, every edit and every plot twist are perfectly crafted to keep us guessing and on the edge of our seats. There is no waste. It is a lean, mean scaring machine with great acting, atmosphere, real in-screen special effects and creatures the way your wannabe Tom Savini-loving cousin used to make. You haven’t seen it? “You gotta be fucking kidding me!” If you have, go watch it again. See if you can figure out if Doc was infected when he logged on to the computer.
- Halloween (1978) Dir: John Carpenter
The second of two films by John Carpenter on this list. Though the re-make by Rob Zombie gets its fair share of respect from audiences, I was not one of the champions. I threw my remote at the TV as the credits rolled. Then I re-watched the original classic to wash the bad taste from my mouth. Michael Myers was scarier when we didn’t know why he killed. He just did. That’s all we need to know. The story, though simple, is so well photographed, acted and scored that it still holds up 38 years later. Watch it with the lights off and if you’ve seen it, watch it with someone who never has. It’s fun to see people jump the way we did the first time we watched it and it really brings home how effective Carpenter is as a director.
- The Exorcist (1973) Dir: William Friedkin
Lauded as the “scariest movie of all-time” it needs no exposition. Full disclosure: I was unable to watch this film all the way through until I was 41 years old and yes, I had nightmares after.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Dir: Tobe Hooper
Far superior to the 2003 re-make. I base my opinion on my experience of watching a restored print at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA with an audience of millennial film students. Initially, they were dismissive, chuckling at the bell-bottoms and early ’70s astrology-driven dialogue. But, once Leatherface made his first kill with his handy sledgehammer, they became silent. They remained so through the continued mayhem until well after the end credits. When the house lights came up, they revealed expressions of traumatized dismay. 42 years later, it still packs a punch. Right in the gut. With the business end of a sledge.
- Evil Dead (2013) Dir: Frede Alvarez
In a sea of bad re-makes of horror classics, this one stands a mountain above the rest and deserves a place on this list. It respects the Sam Raimi classic while updating it smartly. It increases the tension of the original situation by adding the specter of drug addiction to the narrative and ramps up the pace and special effects to such an extent that when it was over, I had all but forgotten all about my undying love for Ash and his boom stick. Of course, if this list were longer, I would honor that love of my life and tell you to watch the original as well as its two awesome sequels. Groovy.
Got a scary film you’d think I overlooked or a list of your own? Please share it in the comments section! Happy Halloween and Happy Viewing!