I’ve been dreadfully slow getting any Halloween recommendations put up this year. Heck, by this time last year I had run several Halloween themed Friday Night Double Features. I think it’s because I’ve become more and more aware of how I’m not really a huge horror buff. I like the movies, but I have trouble assessing them with the same critical eye real horror addicts enjoy them with.
So for this year’s haunting festivities I’ve turned to several members of our crack DVD critics (or is that DVD critics on crack…) and gotten them to recommend some of their favorite horror movies. I played the part of Ghostface, asking them, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” The results include some new, some old, and a lot of camp, but make for a decent night’s entertainment if you don’t have trick or treating to take on.
Here’s this year’s favorite scares, brought to you by the Cinema Blend DVD staff:
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
Clowns are comical performers, stereotypically known for their bright-colored outfits and wigs, painted faces, and red noses. But, Klowns from Outer Space, while fitting the stereotypical image, don't necessarily like to clown around. Instead, they prefer to knock your head off with an oversized boxing glove or kill you with popcorn, before hauling you off to their spaceship-turned-tent in a big balloon or a bloody bundle of cotton candy.
These clowns terrorize a small town where teenagers drive around in ice cream trucks and conduct their own "anatomical experiments" at "Make Out Point." The town is run by the chief of police, Curtis Mooney (John Vernon), who doesn't believe in any of the stories the local kids are telling him about the possibility of Killer Klowns killing innocent people in his town. That is, however, until he comes face-to-face with one of the clowns who shows him anything but a good time. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a low-budget classic, brought together by the Chiodo Brothers (Stephen, Edward and Charles), that takes everyone's fears of clowns to a new level in a out-of-this-world experience that will have you laughing to the point where a colorful scarf will come out of your mouth - along with your spleen.
The Ring is the scariest movie ever if you're afraid of Japanese girls with long, wet hair. And what's funny about this movie is that I never knew I was even scared of such a thing until I saw this movie. Go figure. But now, believe it or not, I am, and I attribute that all to the fact that The Ring has such a dreadfully terrifying build-up to it. What starts out as an early, cheap scare ("I saw her face"), turns into a movie that ramps up the horror piecemeal, making for something that gets all the worse for you because you have no idea where it's going to fling you next. The sequel was just a bunch of lousy fluff (although, climbing out of a well like a spider is kinda spooky, I'll admit), but the original is pure, keep-you-awake-at-night horror. You really can't get much horrifying than the original Ring.
Continuing with that whole Japanese-girl-with-long-hair-thing is The Grudge, which has a lot more cheap thrills than The Ring, but isn’t hampered at all by that fact. Whereas The Ring hits you slow and easy, The Grudge jumps out at you like a pop-out book with its scares, and makes something like a frog stuck in your throat sound like the most disturbing noise on the face of the planet.
The Grudge + The Ring in one night equals total heart failure from fright. Mark my words.
The Wicker Man(1973)
The Wicker Man is a little bit of everything, and all of it creepy in the extreme. A rigidly honor-bound police officer, who is also a near-zealous Christian, sets off to find a missing girl in a small, rural community. He finds himself ensnared in a pagan society, and the main thing keeping him from escaping the inevitable is his own perspective. As his investigation moves forward, and he becomes more aware that he's dealing with a fairly bizarre cult which may be doing very scary things, he slowly comes to the realization that he may be powerless to alter the course of events.
There may not be that much in the way of shock-scare factor here, but the psychological power play is unnerving and definitely Halloween-worthy. It is scary on a deeper level, mostly a result of the casual seriousness behind the most uncomfortable situations. It isn't so much shocking, as it is simply disturbing. It opts out of going for jumps, and prefers its viewers to squirm.
The People Under the Stairs(1991)
There isn't much chance of recommending this Wes Craven throwaway if you're looking for any level of cinematic artistry. It's just that stupid. On the other hand, it scared the hell out of me. The story is that of a brother and sister who have deemed themselves mother and father, and have a house that is a prison for those in their basement (aka under the stairs). When a young boy from the not-so-sunny side of the street finds himself among the newly trapped, the adventure of escape and horror begins.
The film takes place almost exclusively inside the house, and Craven manages to make the viewer feel uncomfortably boxed in with his shots, angles, and perspective. The tension moves along pretty well, and there are more than a few "Boo!"s thrown around with the freaks in the basement and the house's booby-traps competing for attention. The main scare of this one however, is something like extreme icky. It is similar to an episode of the X-Files in which the dynamic duo find themselves battling a group from Deliverance.
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