It’s almost Halloween, which means it’s time to dust off those scary flicks (for those of you who don’t enjoy them year round as you very well should) and get your scream on. Now, there’s a lot of frightening films out there and it can be tough to decide which ones to dedicate your precious viewing time to; you don’t want to accidentally waste a perfectly good (and rare) free evening on, say, Texas Chainsaw 3D (sadly, I made that mistake) or Halloween III: Season of the Witch (suffered through that pile of horse manure, too).
Listen, I don’t want you to suffer either, so here’s a list of some of my favorite horror movies of all time. Check ‘em out – all of them – and I know, nay, promise, you’ll have a perfectly satisfying scream-time.
Now, in no particular order…
A low budget slasher where counselors not at Camp Crystal Lake are slaughtered by an unseen assailant (the killer’s hands belong to Jonathan Tiersten) has what may be the most shocking ending ever caught on film. I’ve made lots of people watch this film, just to see their reaction when the killer’s identity is finally revealed. Seriously, this one is freaking twisted – and if there’s one thing I know, it’s twisted (like, have you read any of my stuff?) and that ending would make M. Night Shyamalan (mostly cause he makes crappy movies with ending a three year old could see from a mile away) jealous.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHIL
One of my fondest memories from childhood is the first time I watched Freddy slash his way through his victims dreams while trying in vain to be reborn through returning Nightmare hero, Alice (Lisa Wilcox). Freddy’s sick humor and wit has always set him apart from other, silent-type serial killers and The Dream Child was when he hit the top of his creative murder spree. Sadly, producers chose to follow it up with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, which not only abandoned Alice’s story but went in a movie-suicide direction. At least Wes Craven erased the next one's sad memory with New Nightmare.
MY SOUL TO TAKe
A less-loved (by people who don't have good taste) Wes Craven film, My Soul to Take stars Max Thieriot (boycrush alert) as pretty much everyone is it. There are other actors in the cast but it’s Max that brings the film together. He had the unenviable task of not only bringing Adam “Bug” Heller to life but also the other six members of the Riverton Seven, children born the night the Riverton Ripper is said to have died. Legend has risen from that night that claims one a year, the killer can return to kill them. Not as gory as other slashers, it’s still fun and creepy. So don't listen to the haters; see this under-appreciated gem.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)
This remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 horror film is bright and shiny and filled with blood. Oh, such good times. Violent and disturbing, it’s not your average fright flick When a family on vacation are attacked by a group of nuclear-deformed baddies horrifying death and rape follow which leads to nerdish Doug Bukowski (Aaron Stanford) searches for his inner badass to save his baby while Brenda (Emilie de Ravin) and Bobby Carter (Dan Byrd) – both amazing – hold down what’s left of the fort. This one has everything from fountains of blood to a Schwarzenegger-like good guy massacre that would make the Austrian action hero smile with pride.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010)
There’s a lot of gross in this rape/revenge movie. As the genre name implies, after Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) is savagely gang raped by a group of local scumbags, she seeks out her inner Warrior Princess and tortures her way to payback. Butler, in a role that no one could ever find easy, takes Jennifer from happy writer to frightened victim to sadistic killer. While I do feel some pity for one of her victims (watch it and you’ll see what I mean), the others got off far too easy with the creative deaths she planned for them. Even Freddy could learn a thing or two about extravagant kills. Just be aware that the rape scenes are graphic, though not as much as the original.
This series made me a Ty Simpkins fan. A multigenerational haunting breathes new life into an aging genre when Dalton (Simpkins) falls into a coma. Uber-creepy and suspenseful, Insidious hits all the right notes and even has an excellent sequel in Chapter 2. There is a third one but since it replaces the Brenner family, I haven’t had much interest in seeing it. Why do so many filmmakers chose to “fix” what ain’t broke? Place this and its sequel at the top of your “must watch” list and enjoy the skin-tingling fun that awaits you.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING
I hate The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and every crappy sequel since – including that cinematic sin Texas Chainsaw 3D (even the continuity is a wreck!) but when Leatherface’s story was rebooted in 2003, I finally found one I could stomach. The Beginning, which told us some of the killer’s backstory, came a few years later and finally showed what this series was capable of. Sadly, when they announced 3D, it was not related to the reboot; instead, it was a direct sequel to the original that ignored the terrible sequels (much like I’m sure 2016’s Leatherface will be as well). So many mistakes in this series, I’m amazed it still exists.
A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT
Most haunted house movies are crap. Sorry, not sorry, but it’s true. Since The Exorcist (an excellent one, by the way) they all seem to use the same “girl-possessed-by-thing” storyline that got old with Exorcist II: The Heretic. With Haunting, we actually got something different; a possessed boy. I know, it doesn’t seem like much of a difference but once you see Kyle Gallner in the role, you’ll understand why it’s such a great thing. If you look, you’ll also see a sequel was released a few years later. Stay away from that one. It has nothing to do with the first one or Connecticut. And it sucks.
This one pains me. Not cause it’s bad – it is but it’s a “so bad it’s awesome” one – but because the director, Victor Salva is a dirty, disgusting, perverted child molester who did very bad things to Nathan Forrest Winters (Casey) during production. Winters was twelve, in case you were wondering. While I love this movie, and have ever since I first watched it at a friend’s house while his parents were at work, now that I know what happened behind the scenes, I can’t not think “that perv hurt you with his penis” while it’s on. The film itself is classic kids-in-peril-while-mom’s-out fare and filled with creepy atmosphere, killer clowns (sadly, not from outer space) and if not for the acts of the sick director would probably have a far larger fanbase (can’t really blame the producers for letting this one fall into near obscurity). It’s on the list but with a [*] 'cause, yeah, the making-of is far more disturbing than the final product. If you want to watch it but don’t want to give money to creepers like Salva, others have uploaded it to YouTube (not that I condone or encourage copyright infringement, of course).
Why are you still reading this? There’s only, like, forty days till Halloween and lots of scary movies to see! So go get your freak out on and enjoy the darker side of the entertainment industry. And don’t forget the popcorn.