Note: This is largely reposted from a few years ago in honor of Halloween – I update it with a new film or two every time I repost it, though..
I started doing this on Facebook a few years ago… Watching a Horror Movie a night for two weeks.
I’m a HUGE horror movie fan. I mean, enough of a fan that I was discussing them on Usenet in alt.horror 15+ years ago, and owned all the good Asian films (thanks to Bootlegs purchased on Ebay) years before the American remakes were even thought of. It’s a hobby, for sure.
I like all kinds of horror movies – I love a good, atmospheric ghost story; I like zombie films; slashers; weird stuff; vampires; I even like utter trash, like HG Lewis’ sixties “gore” films like Blood Feast and 2,000 Maniacs.
So one day, on a whim, I said “I’ll watch one a night until Halloween” and posted such on Facebook. I decided that they’d all be what I consider “good to great” horror films. I guess my goal (besides watching them) was to maybe expose someone to a movie they have not seen. As a film buff, I like doing that.
Anyway, I was asked for a list, so I’ll post it here, with a short synopsis of each movie. I’ll also link these to their IMDB entries, so you can find out a little more about them, and will post links to amazon if I mention a particular version.
**Please note: In a “get off my lawn” moment, I have to admit I’m not a big fan of these fairly recent “jump scare” movies, complete with screaming ghosts and a helpless family besieged. So this list will skew more classic.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) – George Romero’s classic zombie movie is the perfect place to start. Shot in beautiful black and white, and filled with tension, this is the movie that kicked off the zombie genre as we know it. He’s gone on to do better (Dawn of the Dead / Day of the Dead), but for pure “Halloween style” atmosphere and scares, you can’t beat the original.
Friday the 13th (1980) – Before Jason became caricature, this was a strong, scary series of movies (1, 2, and 4 are good). And none better than the first, which, with Halloween, prettymuch created the slasher genre. My mom took me to see this when I was 13 (I have a great mom!), and we both loved it. Brutal, scary, tension, realistic looking murders… this movie really grabbed viewers, as we never saw anything like this before. And that ending made everyone jump, as audiences in 1980 were not used to jump-scares and false endings.
The Exorcist (1973) – You can’t have a list of great horror films without The Exorcist. This movie utterly shocked people in the early 70’s, and it’s aged well – it’s still pretty disturbing today. The makeup and effects were really well done for 1973, but it’s the fairly simple story/set that really makes this film – almost all of the key scenes take place in Regan’s bedroom. Personally, I prefer “The version you’ve never seen“, which includes the really creepy “spider crawl” scene. Just a note to anyone looking to pick this up.
Nosferatu (1922) – The first vampire movie. Max Schreck plays Count Orlok not as a suave, sophisticated, angst-ridden vampire, but as a horribly deformed, cursed soul – he’s really something to behold. This is an old silent film, so don’t expect whiz-bang in your face scares, but to me, the mood of this film is second to none. There are a million versions and prints around, but this one, from Kino, is easily the best. It has the correct speed, and the original score.
Ringu (1998) – This is it… the big one. This is the Asian film that got all the “US remakes” started. Ringu is a creepy supernatural story about a vengeful, thoroughly evil spirit that kills people seven days after they watch a cursed video. It is a really scary film, with an immense feeling of dread that doesn’t let up. And it has one of the best endings ever. I actually liked the US remake also, but feel the Japanese one is superior, because the spirit (Sadako) is so twisted and dark… she was made a little too cute in the US version.
Session 9 (2001) – Great little scary movie that never got any real press. David Caruso (from NYPD Blue) is part of an asbestos cleanup crew working in a creepy, abandoned asylum, where things are not what they seem. This is one of those movies that drips with atmosphere, because the location is just so dominating (the asylum may as well be a character). It takes a little while to get going, but the interplay between the actors is good enough to keep you interested. It gets really gripping about halfway through, and the climax is pretty disturbing.
The Shining (1980) – We’ll continue with the “location is almost a character” theme and go with Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” (that’s the one with Jack Nicholson – not the one with the Wings guy). Stories abound on how difficult Kubrick was to work with, but the results are spectacular, as the Overlook hotel is just a deathly foreboding place, not to mention Jack’s maniacal performance. The score on this film is also superb- just listen to the music in the beginning as you see the little yellow volkswagen go to the hotel and tell me that’s not one of the best opening pieces to a horror film ever… and those two little girls. Eeek.
I could go on – if you haven’t seen this, you must, and if you have seen it, watch it again this week. This is horror at its best.
I’ll post part two next week