Saturday, October 31, 2009

 

Boo!

Exactly one year ago today, I told ya'll 'bout my favorite scary movies. Given that I just finished watched The Haunting, 'cause o' John J. Miller's recent name-check, and, well, let's just say that it's moved up a few spots in my list.

Anywho, here're my favorite scary movies (watch 'em if you dare!):

1. Psycho. What can I say about Psycho that's not already been said? From its unique-to-this-day opening title sequence until Anthony Hopkins' Kubrick-esque head down, eyes up look at the camera, Psycho is not only a fine horror film ... it's just a fine film, period. Next time you watch it, pay particular attention to the scene in which Norman (Hopkins) bites his fingernail as he watches his "mother's" victim's car, which also contains his mother's victim, slowly sink into a pond or lake or swamp. You'll want to start biting your fingernails along with him.

2. The Exorcist. I was ten-years-old when I first watched The Exorcist. My next-door neighbor rented it and insisted that I watch it with him. It so scared the bejesus out of me, I remember saying short prayers for weeks thereafter imploring God to save me from being possessed. As for the movie itself, everyone remembers Linda Blair's spewing pea soup and defiling herself with a crucifix. What most people don't remember about The Exorcist - and what makes it one of my favorite horror movies - is its deeply engaging back-story of Father Karras' questioning his faith, and regaining it as he takes an oh-so-memorable sacrificial tumble down a flight of stairs.

3. Suspiria. Dario Argento's masterpiece puts the gore in "gorgeous." The cinematography in Suspiria is just as impressive as the story it tells -- girl enrolls in an exclusive German ballet school and quickly learns that it's run by a coven of witches. One of the last movies to be filmed in Technicolor, the smashing stained glass and vivid rose-colored blood featured in the first 20 minutes of Suspiria will surely stick in your mind for days after you've watched the film.

4. The Shining. Steven King geeks have long criticized Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of what is arguably King's best novel. The idea that Kubrick was unfaithful to the book, in my view, is immaterial. The Shining is a truly great horror movie. Its lasting impact can be gauged by how often it has been, and continues to be, parodied. Perfectly cast and photographed in such a way that the Overlook Hotel shines (!) through as the true protagonist of the film, The Shining remains, as the Nashville Scene recently intoned, the most "chilling tale of cabin fever" in the history of cinema.

5. One Dark Night. This underrated film was the first horror movie I ever saw in a theater (I think I was in 6th grade). Since it was a PG-rated horror flick, my friends and I made a bee-line to our local theatre on the day it was released. Meg Tilly stars as a high schooler who must spend the night in a mausoleum as part of a club initiation. She quickly learns that a recent internee, if you will, who dabbled in the occult is still causing loads of trouble from beyond. The slow-motion introduction in which police and paramedics enter an apartment to find a closet full o' dead young women, as well as various kitchen bric-a-brac embedded in the walls, is one of my favorite all-time movie scenes.

6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I didn't see the Texas Chainsaw Massacre until I was in college. Prior to seeing it, I had labored under the illusion that it was an ├╝ber-gory flick. Wrong. If you've never seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre before, don't expect a lot of blood. What you can expect is a creepy tale of a group of kids who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time ... and it all seems so real. Spoiler alert: the scene in which the one-foot-in-the-grave grandfather futilely tries to kill a girl with a hammer is still a funny, if cringe-inducing, scene.

7. Bad Ronald. This movie was a staple on Saturday afternoon television until the late 1980s. Then it just disappeared. You can find VHS copies of Bad Ronald on eBay, but they'll cost you a pretty penny -- to which I can attest. Bad Ronald is a movie about a nerdy high schooler who accidentally kills a neighbor's young daughter. His mother, fearing no one will believe that it was an accident, moves her son into a bathroom that she's turned into a secret hiding place. When she dies, a new family moves in ... and that's when the fun starts. Ronald lurks about while peeping at his new "family" (who hear strange sounds that can never be explained); and he and his world-under-the-stairs is finally discovered in a climax that still makes me want to cover my eyes whenever I watch it.

8. Don't Look Now. You know you've watched a great horror flick when, at the conclusion, you can say, "I didn't see that coming!" That's what you'll say after watching Don't Look Now, which features one truly great climactic twist. Here's the story: John Baxter and his wife are living in Venice following the death of their daughter. He has psychic flashes of his daughter walking the streets in her red cloak, at the same time that dead bodies are turning up in Venice's canals. If you've never seen it before, just remember to watch for the red coat ... and pay particular attention to who is standing on the "funeral boat." 'Nough said.

9. Alien. "One more meal before bedtime. I'm buying." We all know what happens after that. I can remember the first time I saw Alien as if it happened yesterday. I was 9-years-old and I was at my grandparents' house. They didn't have cable, but their living room TV could inexplicably pick up HBO. I stayed up late one night and watched Alien ... and I don't think I slept a wink after I and my skinny ass finally got in the bed. There's one particular scene in Alien that sticks in my mind to this day, and it ain't the "face-hugger" or "white T-shirt" scenes. It's the scene in which Dallas "happens" upon the open-armed Alien in the bowels of his spacecraft. Scare-E!

10. The Haunting. This black and white gem is based on Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Led by Dr. Markway, who's doing research to prove that ghosts exist, a group of wayward souls enters Hill House -- a large, eerie mansion with a history of death and insanity. They soon learn that they've gotten more than they bargained for when a ghostly presence manifests itself in terrifying ways. The scene in which assorted bumps and knocks and noises precede doors bending inward sends a chill up my spine to this very day.





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