Leftridge: Eleven Quality Scary Movies, Because Why Not, It’s Halloween

pumpkinIt’s raining as I write this, and that helps to accomplish Halloween just about as well as anything else. Some rain—some fog if you can get it—a crispness to the air, maybe a fire roaring in the fireplace, and some ghost stories. I enjoy reading quite a bit more than the average person, but if that’s not your bag, there are always scary movies.

I love those, too.

The problem with scary movies, though, is that there’s a ton of shit out there. No field is more replete with schlocky garbage than the “horror” genre. And while sometimes I can get behind something mindless with a lot of blood and guts, usually I want something that genuinely makes me afraid to turn the lights off and head to bed.

So I’ve compiled a list of horror films that actually scare me. Movies that instill a bit of dread or unease, the kind of picture that sticks with you… at least until sunrise.

 

the-strangers-sequelThe Strangers (2008)

Now that I own a home, I don’t trust anyone knocking on my door, regardless of time-of-day. Oh sure, it’s probably just some Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to give me a Watchtower, but it could also be like this film. The premise is simple and timeless. A group of masked intruders terrorize a couple at a lake-home with predictably violent results. The Strangers fear works on two primary levels: A) the inability to stay safe in a place of safety (your home), and B) those fucking masks. Masks are just the worst.

 

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Though not as fleshed out (get it?) as every single undead film that followed it, this is the flick that launched a thousand zombie-ships. It drags throughout, and features remarkably prehistoric makeup and effects, but I’ve been terrified of this movie—specifically the opening with the ridiculous Johnny and his sister Barbara—since I first saw it as a very young man. Few things cinematically are as startling as the initial appearance of a walking corpse, goofy Johnny’s early demise and Barbara’s absolute terror.

 

movie_orphanOrphan (2009)

The tagline is, “there’s something wrong with Esther,” and holy hell, is there ever. Though it flew a bit under the radar upon release, this classic tale of “evil kid adopted into new environment” comes with a huge reveal and is, at times, pretty psychologically terrifying. If you’ve been considering adopting a nine year old Estonian orphan, I strongly encourage you to watch this film first. It could mean the difference between life and death.

 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

While it’s not the first “slasher” flick—many give that distinction to the inferior Black Christmas—it’s certainly one of the categories better early offerings. Combining elements of multiple horror sub-genres, this murderous tale of a large, flesh-masked maniac and his inbred family preys on both the psychological horror of isolation and abandonment, as well as the non-psychological horror of being killed to death with a chainsaw and possibly eaten or turned into a garment.

 

session9Session 9 (2001)

Don’t let the fact that David Caruso is in this picture keep you from seeing it. Session 9 is a solid thriller about an asbestos crew working in a decrepit, long-abandoned insane asylum. After the group—already teeming with internal strife—uncovers recorded audio sessions from a deeply disturbed former patient, shit starts to get weird in a hurry. Insane asylums (this one was filmed in the very real, very scary Danvers State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts) are always good backdrops for discontent; when the residual evil permeates the previously sane, it’s doubly entertaining.

 

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Because this is such a masterpiece of a movie, many are reluctant to define it as a horror film. And that’s fine, I get it. You don’t want your fancy Oscar winning movie sullied with such low-brow company. But the facts remain: this is a movie about a cannibalistic, sadistic doctor who aides a young FBI agent as she tracks a creepy, penis-tucking, would-be transsexual serial killer who is making a suit out of lady-skin. Pretty goddamned scary, if you ask me.

 

samara_well1The Ring (2002)

For a period in the early 2000’s, every American horror film was based off of a slightly older Japanese horror film, primarily because the Japanese are—at times—horrifyingly insane. The Ring is easily the best of the “J-Horror” remakes mostly because of the absurdity: it’s about a videotape (SO ANTIQUATED!!) that, after watching, results in the death of the viewer. And although the premise sounds pretty laughable, the atmospheric fright and haunting visual imagery—SAMARA CRAWLING OUT OF THE WELL—make it a must-see.

 

ZELDAPet Sematary (1989)

Based off of the equally-as-scary Stephen King novel with the same title, Pet Sematary deals with mans’ eternal inability to handle mortality.  It’s also a collection of scary individual scenes, even removed from the sum of their totality. The expired patient with the gaping head wound. The toddler with the scalpel severing Herman Munster’s Achilles. The flashback of the Indian burial ground’s first (un)successful interment, a young man who died in WWII. Zelda, the dirty-secret sister who died in a backroom, ravaged by meningitis. I’m kind of scared just recapping this, to be honest. Let’s move on.

 

Candyman (1992)

What’s scarier than a large, undead black guy with a hook-hand who’s prone to eviscerating victims? A large, undead black guy with a hook-hand who eviscerates people, is composed internally of angry bees and lives in 1992’s most notoriously awful housing project, Chicago’s Cabrini Green. Based off of Clive Barker’s excellent short story “The Forbidden,” Candyman visits the intersection of urban legends in conjunction with a communal mistrust of outsiders. (Think, “no-snitching” or “snitches-get-stitches” before the pervasive mindset was well-known outside of the urban community.) It’s also got a really freaky theme song and a large, undead, hook-handed killer.

 

The Shining (1980)

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like The Shining, and with good reason. Like Silence of the Lambs, this is an amazing film front-to-back, that doesn’t get tied down by the genre itself. It’s a great horror film, sure, but it’s also a great FILM-film, period. It doesn’t sounds like a million dollar idea when you succinctly summarize it—failed, alcoholic writer goes crazy in haunted hotel and tries to murder his family with an axe—but the acting, directing, setting and suspense take a simple premise to previously unrealized heights of terror.

 

exorcist-faceThe Exorcist (1973)

Based on a real case of alleged “demonic possession,” The Exorcist sets the bar for all other horror films. I didn’t see the full thing until the theatrical re-release in 2000, but I’ve seen it many times since. (The re-release—available on a remastered 2010 Blu-Ray—is a must see, if only for the infamous “spider-walk” down the stairs, a pants-pissingly frightful scene cut from the original production.) Plagued by real off-screen incidents and post-release controversy, the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Quasi-Subliminal Appearance of a Demon Face That Will Forever Haunt Your Dreams.

So, those are my Halloween flick-picks. What about you? What movie am I missing? What movie am I ridiculous for including?

@StandfordWhistle

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28 Responses to Leftridge: Eleven Quality Scary Movies, Because Why Not, It’s Halloween

  1. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    Saw the Exorcist on tv when I was a kid in the 80’s with my mother. Being a devout Catholic, it disturbed and frightened her to no end. Scared me to death as well. Didn’t sleep for a couple nights after that.

  2. admin says:

    I saw it with a friend in Nashville and it was…disturbing.

    While I’m sure I could easily handle it, it’s one of those rare, high quality horror films that I’ve chosen not to re see.

  3. chuck says:

    “The Excorcist” was a game changer in the horror flick genre as most of us know. I don’t think that folks under the age of 55 or maybe 50 really get how shocking that flick was compared to the previous flicks we all had seen previously. I thought that “House on the Haunted Hill” was really good and Bella’s “Dracula” and “Nosferatu” were superb, but for gut wrenching, shocking stuff, in the early 70’s, “The Excorcist” just killed it.

    I saw it with some stoner friends of mine at a place on the Plaza called “The Embassy”. I hate Hallucinogens, but my 3 friends all did Mushrooms before the flick, I sh*t you not. They were literally hunched down in their seats with their hands over their faces. I would have to shake them a little and say, “It’s a movie, you’re ok.”

    They were not right for the whole night and next day.

    Kinda funny now…

    🙂

  4. the dude says:

    Poltergeist, The Dead Zone and Let the Right One In (the original) are pretty good horror flicks.

    • 1) Agreed
      2) I’ve never seen
      3) Sounds decent… you say the original? I’m only finding one, from 2008.

      • Hearne says:

        I also rec The Dead Zone for you, Brandon

      • the dude says:

        They did a Hollywood remake since most lazy Uhmercuns hate reading subtitles in movies. I never saw the remake, I figured the original could not be improved upon.

        • Eric H. says:

          The remake, “Let Me In” is not a bad movie at all. But it’s really unnecessary as the original Swedish film is already great. I don’t get what people find so hard about subtitles.

  5. Hot Carl says:

    The original “Halloween” should be on any list. “Evil Dead”, 1982 “The Thing”, 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, original “Nightmare on Elm Street”…all classics and the list could go on and on. But you were right about one thing. There is a ton of absolute CRAP riddling the ranks of horror films.

  6. Kyleen says:

    I would absolutely recommend seeing Let the Right One In (2008)–it’s one of my favorite films in general, another genre-crossing masterpiece, AND it’s totally scary (wait for it). I think your list is spot on! I would add that I’m afraid to watch Event Horizon again, 2001, A Space Oddessy is brilliant, and the abduction scene from Fire In the Sky ruined my life.

  7. The Excorcist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU8HDLwbLVU

    I am still the funniest guy who ever lived.

  8. PB says:

    Some great picks in here. I would second the original Halloween as that was itself sort of a game changer for the genre upon it’s initial release. And Carpenter’s eerie music is an added bonus to the visuals. Rob Zombie’s remake isn’t half bad either because I like they way they address how Michael first became a murderous kid.

    Let The Right One In is creepy as fuck. The Hollywood remake, Let Me In, is also pretty good. Watch them both, in that order.

    ‘Rec’ is another good one, but make sure you watch the original Spanish version. Another flick that was remade by Hollywood only retitled as Quarantine (not terrible).

    And if you really want to watch an ‘out there’ horror flick, check out Pontypool. I’m not even sure if I liked it or not, but it’s weird as fuck and Stephen McHattie kills in it.

  9. Stomper says:

    I was living in Washington, DC in 1973 when the movie came out. Immediately went down to Georgetown just to stare at the stone staircase. I think I’ve seen it 2-3 times since then and the hair on my neck still rises whenever they approach the door to the bedroom.

  10. CG says:

    WEll PLAYED great list, I agree, mine was the Exorcist as well, saw it on the Plaza as a young guy…long line, had no real idea of what it was about, opening night, went home got my gun and told my cat if his head turned, he was a dead cat…yeah it scared the crap out of me…I like all these on the list, plus a few more like The Hills Have Eyes…Tourista…Last House on The Left….and as a kid believe it or not the one film that scared me as a little boy THE WIZARD OF OZ, that wicked witch was a monster back in the day…

    • You mentioned some good ones… definitely considered including Last House… (the original). It borders on being cheesy, but it’s got a lot of scary elements, too. And yes, Wizard of Oz is surprisingly frightening for a “family” film. The monkeys, the witch… even the munchkins. Underrated scary.

    • the dude says:

      Argh, those damn flying monkeys gave me nightmares as a kid.

  11. Orphan of the Road says:

    A Boy and His Dog is worth a look too. Don Johnson’s first foray into non-porno movies.

    Tod Browning’s Freaks merits a watch as well. Not so much a horror film but his use of actual people (he used some of the cast in earlier films, The Unholy Trio for one) gives it a vibe that may make you uncomfortable. It is actually a film about relationships and extended family. Originally Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow were going to be the female leads.

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