Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Going BUMP in the night

Halloween is just around the corner. It's my favorite holiday, because we get to dress up, eat candy, and get a good scare in. I have always been sensitive to horror films, but I love them because they produce such a strong emotional reaction.

So, in honor of my favorite holiday, here are some of my favorite scary movies. Six seems like a good, spooky number:

The Shining- Stanley Kubrick knows how to make hypnotic and violent movies, Stephen King knows how to write stories that evoke our most basic fears. Together, with the ever-talented Jack Nicholson, they created one of the most iconic horror films of all time. Who can forget the blood crashing out of those elevator doors? Who isn't terrified by the concept of your own family being turned against each other? This movie still gives me the creeps, no matter how many times I've seen it. Part of its genius, and part of the reason why any child who sees it at a young age is scarred for life, is that we see most of the action from 6-year-old Danny's point of view. The scenes with him rolling around the vacant hotel on his big wheel, hiding in the kitchen (which Stephen Spielberg later used in Jurassic Park), and the end sequence with the hedge maze will never leave your mind. The acting is stellar and the pacing is flawless.

A young family is hired to care for an old hotel during the off-season, but it seems they are not alone, and some buildings are not composed of simply brick and mortar.

The Exorcist- If you've seen this movie and didn't think it was that scary, watch it again. Once you already know the dark things plaguing poor Regan, the hints scattered by director William Friedkin along the way are like breadcrumbs leading to a place you know you don't want to go. Part of the horror is that the answer to what is wrong with Regan is so simple, but a world of non-believers fail to see it, and the girl suffers greatly as a consequence. This movie scarred an entire generation of people. My mother, and most women my mother's age, refuse to even discuss this film. They won't even joke about Ouija boards. The Exorcist's success in horrifying us is that it makes the most ridiculous concept- demonic possession- seem perfectly real. Linda Blair is a wunderkind.

A young actress calls upon a priest when her daughter becomes plagued by a horrible illness.

Audition- Can there be anything more frightening than discovering the person you love is not who they seem to be? This brilliant Japanese horror film has some pretty powerful thoughts about the dangers of sexism, trust and innocence. I can't forget this movie. When people tell me about acupuncture, this film leaps to mind, its graphic scenes coating my eyeballs like a paint no thinner can remove. It will haunt you. It will disturb you. Click on the title for my full review.

A lonely man accepts his friend's offer to "cast" him a new wife, who turns out to be a much better actress than he bargained for.

Silence of the Lambs- I adore this film. It is incredibly watchable and entertaining, yet sophisticated and creepy. Anthony Hopkins IS Hannibal Lector. Accept no substitutions. He fills up this monster of a man in a way that is totally terrifying. And the final scene with Ted Levine in the claustrophobia-inducing basement is unforgettable.

Jodie Foster plays hot-shot FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling, tapped by her mentor to crack a serial killer case. In order to get to the bottom of who "Buffalo Bill" is and why he's skinning his victims, she turns to an imprisoned, murderous, former psychiatrist Dr. Lector for clues. The rabbit's hole he leads her down is far darker and twisted than Clarice ever could have imagined.

The Ring- Normally, I don't recommend re-makes. However, the slick sensibility of the American version of The Ring lets the frightening concept of the curse shine. This film is cold and calculating, and it scared the hell out of me. I watched it by myself at 11:00 a.m. on a bright, sunny day, and I was still too spooked at night to turn off the lights. The impending sense of dread this film creates, the inescapable nature of the curse, knocks down every "it's only a movie" sensibility you could hold.

A young reporter is determined to discover the reason behind her niece's sudden, violent death. But, some secrets go viral once they are let out.

Beetlejuice- Okay, so this one really isn't scary, but it's just a great movie that's damn fun to watch and it reminds us why we go looking for frights on October nights. You can't beat this cast: Alec Baldwin. Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones. Helmed by Tim Burton, Beetljuice is the perfect mix of funny, scary and heartfelt.

A recently-deceased, young, country couple find themselves having to share their home with odious city-dwellers. They seek a way to drive them out, but their desperate measures begin to interfere with the kinship they feel with the new family's Goth teenage daughter.


Nena Nadine said...

Have you re-watched The Shining on blue ray? It's so amazing. I'm not one to watch old films on blue ray. Most of the time the end up looking worse or just modified for modern TV's. But Kubrick knew what was up. He filmed all of his movies in wide screen and high definition. The studio(s) were against it but he stated that in the future this is how people are going to watch movies. Well something like that.

Noel said...

I do not own a blu-ray player, unfortunately. In fact, I'm not sure if any of my close friends or family own one. I'm sure it's gorgeous. Kubrick was the kind of visionary, like George Lucas, who always used the best technology so that people might someday have the chance to see his work as he always meant it to be seen, budget be damned. The difference being that Lucas relies too heavily on special-effects technologies that always look out-dated within a few years. The blood-flooding the hallway in The Shining was done with miniatures. The real deal will trump CGI every time.

Nena Nadine said...

I completely agree. The werewolf transformation in An American Werewolf in London still looks amazing. Which was made in 1989 (thanks imdb).

Noel said...

I was very tempted to put American Werewolf on the list, but I tried to keep the funny-horror category down to just one.