As I mentioned multiple times on the blog, I love classic horror movies. Way back when AMC’s Fear Fest used to begin with the black and white classics and move up to the modern-day slasher films. Sadly, they’ve cut the movie marathon down to about a week rather than a month so they tend to strictly focus on the slasher films. At least the streaming services still have them available to watch. Of course, I took a bunch of film classes where we studied the likes of Psycho, The Exorcist, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari which gave me a greater appreciation for the classics.
My limit of horror movie watching stops after the original Scream because I just can’t stand whatever they are trying to pull with modern horror/slasher films. I mean, the modern Halloween remakes? Pass. There’s a lot I just can’t take seriously and its important to be able to suspend your disbelief to view them. With today being Halloween I thought I might share my favorite movies just in case you’re looking for something festive to check out tonight while waiting for (or avoiding) trick or treaters.
In 1963 Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old sister, Judith, but on October 30, 1978 he breaks out during a transport from his mental hospital. He steals a car and terrorizes his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.
Why I Like It: It’s a fact Halloween defined the slasher film genre. It takes an already eerie holiday and elevates it with an even creepier, almost silent, killer. Despite it being over 30 years old, and there being plenty of things to laugh it, there’s still plenty of enthralling suspense. Michael Myers is a magnificent villain with an emotionless mask that depicts the soulless, evil person Michael truly is. The John Carpenter score could easily be my favorite film score. It’s hard to imagine Halloween (the holiday) without Michael Myers.
A secretary steals $40,000 from her employer intending to run away with her boyfriend. She becomes exhausted traveling the back roads to avoid the police, and stops at the Bates Motel. She meets Norman Bates, a high-strung young man with an interest in taxidermy and plenty of mommy issues. What could possibly go wrong?
Why I Like It: Psycho is one of the greatest thrillers of all time (not to mention one of Hitchcock’s best films). Despite the film not being as shocking as it originally was in 1960 (it genuinely made people fear showering), and being made with a low-budget, the film is still incredible today. It’s tense and nerve-wracking. One of the most iconic scenes in film history is the killing of Janet Leigh’s character paired with the extraordinary score, but I might go as far as to there are plenty of other great scenes. I also love how it was partly filmed in Downtown Phoenix giving me a little slice of movie history here in my hometown.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
A young couple move into a New York City apartment building with quite the reputation, and end up with some pretty creepy neighbors. When Rosemary becomes pregnant she is isolated more and more until the truth about the diabolical cult who wants to use her baby for their rituals comes to light.
Why I Like It: Rosemary’s Baby was outlawed by my mother when I was a child, but as a rebellious teenager I went ahead and watched it. Hey, it was this or the Omen (which I’m still not able to watch again). Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological thriller about a conspiring cult who want to steal her baby but their own dark causes. As the world around her unravels the story becomes more and more uncomfortable. Roman Polanski takes the opportunity to create optimum scariness by leaving much of the storytelling to the imagination of the viewer. There’s nothing more unsettling than realizing you have the ability to create your own darkness based on a few small prompts on-screen, right?
The Shining (1980)
A writer hoping to cure writers block becomes the winter caretaker of an isolated hotel in Colorado. He is joined by his wife and son who is prone to psychic premonitions. Danny’s visions become more disturbing as time goes on, and Jack begins to unravel along with the dark secrets of the hotel.
Why I Like It: The Shining is a genuinely scary movie, and not simply because it is the upsetting story of a man having a psychological breakdown and terrorizing his own family. It has everything including creepy kids, a set of twins, and blood pouring from an elevator. There are cinematically beautiful shots mixed with eerie and creepy ones. So many of the iconic scenes have made their way into the pop culture lexicon, and considering it took nearly 5 years to make, I’d say it was worth it. There are also plenty of conspiracy theories about the film (I didn’t really know this), but one thing I love about the film is Danny’s NASA sweater. I mean, how cool is that?
The Amityville Horror (1979)
A family is terrorized by supernatural phenomenon after moving into a home which was the scene of a mass killing. Flies begin to swarm, the walls begin to ooze slime and blood, and a priest is called in to exorcise the home from evil spirits.
Why I Like It: Based on the “true” story of George and Kathleen Lutz (true used very very loosely) and their experiences living in the haunted home of a recently killed family. The detectives aren’t sure what caused the killing of the family, but the Lutzes and their children are menaced by the lingering evil it caused. It’s not necessarily a true classic horror film (it’s horribly rated on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s a really great ghost story. It perfectly gives off the creepy, eerie feeling movies in this genre need to have. They need to be unsettling, and the Amityville Horror succeeds. Sure, there is something to learn here; Have you seen a listing for the home of your dreams at an incredibly low price and you have to question how this could possibly be real? Just. walk. away. I don’t know how the story claims they made it an entire month. I would have been out right at the pig with glowing red eyes.
An average California family is menaced by ghosts communicating with them through their television set. At first the spirits are friendly but begin to terrorize the family unexpectedly. When the youngest daughter, Carol Ann, goes missing they must turn to a parapsychologist and exorcist for help.
Why I Like It: Poltergeist horrified me as a child, and strangely it doesn’t change much as an adult. Nothing is creepier than Carol Ann staring at a television and saying “they’re hereeeeeeeeeee.” What makes Poltergeist so terrifying is the normal situation where the story takes place. It wasn’t a monster filled ancient castle or a haunted mansion, it was a regular family home in California. It was just like any other cookie cutter home and town in anywhere USA. Okay, unless you count that whole ancient Native American burial ground filled with violent, unhappy ghosts thing. Those skeletons in the swimming pool is still the thing nightmares are made of.