One of the great things about Halloween is the chance to watch as many stupid/wierd/creepy movies as you want with little danger of being forever labelled in the eyes of your friends as stupid/wierd/creepy. I thought I'd take a few moments and share with you some films I believe help make any All Hallow's Eve celebration complete.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
One of the all-time classic horror films with an ending that is refreshingly un-Hollywood. Sure, the zombies are little more than slow-moving bad actors with heavy eye make-up, but the overall creepiness of this movie has stuck with me for years. My favorite scene comes in the first fifteen minutes when Barbara and Johnny encounter an unfriendly undead visitor to a local cemetary. Johnny taunts his creeped-out girlfriend with the classic line, "He's coming to get you, Barbara!"
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A brilliant idea with a genius lead-up to its release resulted in one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. Now, it certainly has its detractors, but most of the complaints I've seen center on the "improbability" of getting lost in the woods for six days in suburban Maryland. Personally, I think that simply adds to the mystery behind the disappearance of three film students. I love that they never show "the monster," instead relying on the imagination of the audience to fill in the blank with whatever terrifying images they can come up with to explain what happens. The scene where they wake up in their tent at 2am and hear kids laughing and screaming outside gives me the willies every time I watch it.
This Japanese film is not for the squeamish. However, if you can handle some pretty graphic scenes, this movie will give you one of the most dramatic "I didn't see that one coming" 180 degree plot twists you'll ever witness. And one of the most improbable bad guys ever cast in a film. Sonja didn't like it. In fact, I think she actually left the room because it got too...disturbing. Some of the scenes were rather unnerving, even for me. "Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri!"
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This is one of those movies that, as a kid, you were afraid to let your parents know you had seen it. Back in the 70's and 80's, the level of gore depicted in this film was so extreme when compared to other movies of the time that many video stores refused to carry it. When held up to today's films, with the over-the-top gore depicted in "Saw" and "Hostel" unfortunately redefining Hollywood's standards for horror, it almost seems tame by comparison. Sure, some of the special effects are pretty hokey, but if you like "serial killer slasher" films, skip all the remakes and sequels and forget about Freddy, Jason and Mike... you simply can't get much scarier than Leatherface in this original version.
28 Days Later (2002)
One of many contemporary zombie flicks, this one has an interesting spin on the concept. The story is pretty simple...a guy wakes up in a London hospital completely alone, 28 day after an apocolyptic outbreak of a deadly "rage" virus that turns everyone into flesh-eaten monsters that run very, very fast. Most zombie films before this one portrayed them as slow-moving, mindless drones who prefer to feast on "braaaaiinnnnns!" The "zombies" (they aren't technically zombies, since they're not even dead...or undead for that matter) in this movie are anything but slow, mindless drones. The speed of these guys is one of the things that makes this movie so scary. That and the fact that they tear you apart if they catch you. It's a great indy film that made it big.
Session 9 (2001)
Set in the condemned, but very real, Danvers State Psychiatric Hospital, this movie depicts a hazmat crew sent in to rid the building of asbestos. If that weren't scary enough, one of the crew members finds a storeroom filled with audiotapes of various psychiatric sessions, including some from a woman suffering from multiple personalities. The building itself is the scariest part of this film, eclipsing even the creepy, and sad, story of one of the hospital's patients. Just knowing that places like this still exist should be enough to creep anyone out.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Tim Robbins at his best. And, it's even got George Castanza! This is a fantastic psychological horror film that never really answers any of the questions it poses. Unlike so many modern filmmakers that think they need to hold the audience's hand through the story, this one keeps you guessing, and wondering, long after the credits roll. Was it real? Was it a dream? Jacob's journey from sanity into delusion is terrifying.
So, there you have it. Not a complete list, by any means. But some of the better ones, anyway. Maybe this list will give you some ideas as you prepare for any upcoming Halloween parties and scary movie nights.