Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Halloween)

By B.E. Earl

Hey kids! Earl here again in response to Slyde’s claim that I “wouldn’t know a good horror move from a teletubbies marathon”. That’s right, I left in his misspelling of the word “movie” and his lack of an apostrophe at the end of “teletubbies”. Dick! Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought I would share with you my Top 5 favorite Horror films, or at least the Top 5 that I could think of off of the top of my head. Whew! Quite a few “tops” in that last sentence, weren’t there?

My only criteria for including a film on this list is that said film had to have scared me. Not startled me or grossed me out, but out and out scared me. You see, I love Horror films, but very few actually achieve their goal with me. I dig werewolf films, but besides a few scenes in The Howling and Dog Soldiers (and one really scary scene in Bad Moon), they make me grin more than they frighten me. I like zombie movies, but I haven’t found any that have truly terrified me. Don’t get me wrong. Dead people walking around is scary stuff, but not something that has ever made me lose any sleep. Don’t even get me started on vampire movies. I’d have trouble naming even one that was truly scary. No, I prefer my scares to be a little more psychological and a little less visceral. So without further ado:

5. Halloween (1978) – I can’t have a Halloween-inspired Horror film list without the granddaddy of all slasher flicks. Some prefer Psycho or even Friday the 13th, but for my money it has never been done better than John Carpenter’s tale of Michael Myers and the night he came home. This is just an amazing film and it truly proves that less is more when it comes to a good scare. Halloween can be shown (and is shown) on network TV with the bare minimum of editing. No on-screen deaths, no graphic display of the victim’s bodies, and almost no profanity at all. Just a classic story of madman guided by some mysterious force to wreak havoc on an innocent town. The accompanying score, by John Carpenter himself, is so perfect that the mere sound of it is enough to frighten some people. Bonus shout-out to Mr. Carpenter for also making The Fog and The Thing, two Horror films that work almost as well as Halloween but fall short of making on my list.

4. The Shining (1980) – I used to be a big fan of Stephen King and I’ve always been one of Stanley Kubrick, so it should be no surprise that this film makes it onto my list. While the film version wound up being quite different from the novel, I feel that in many ways the film worked much better as a Horror story than the novel ever did. Stephen King always had a problem ending his novels (try figuring out why “The Stand” doesn’t end 100 pages earlier), and “The Shining” was no different. Instead of turning Jack Torrance into an actual monster (as King did in the novel), Kubrick’s version of Jack was much less over-the-top and much more sinister. The utter isolation that the movie portrays lends itself to the madness that eventually overcomes Jack, or IS IT madness that overcomes him? Is it a ghost story or is it a story of a man driven insane by a combination of solitude and his own demons? And just what the hell is going on in that room with the dude dressed like a dog? Scary and beautifully made, The Shining is a must-see for Horror fans of all ages.

3. Event Horizon (1997) – I just know that I am going to have a hard time explaining why I’ve included this film on my list. I didn’t like it when I first saw it, and I’m not so sure I even like it now when I think about it. But this film grew on me, and not in a good way. It is just creepy as all hell. From Sam Neill walking around with no eyes toward the end to those short (thankfully) peeks into the hell dimension that the ship came back from, this is one creepy film. It’s one of those movies that I will not watch if I see that it is going to be on, because its’ just too damn scary and I know I’ll be pissed at myself for getting creeped-out by a crappy film. Let us just move on.

2. The Omen (1976) – For all intensive purposes, I could have included Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist in this slot, but The Omen always frightened me a hell of a lot more than any of those other films. I think that one of the reasons is that the accompanying score by Jerry Goldsmith (much like Carpenter’s in Halloween) added so much to the terror factor in the film that it is difficult to separate one from the other. I especially love the ending shot of the movie when Damien looks over to the camera and gives the viewer in the audience a creepy little smile. Brrrrr! Chills people! Maybe it has something to do with evil kids, but this is a film that is delightfully scary. Damn, I gotta go out and get this one on DVD!

1. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) – This is the grand poobah of all scary films in my humble opinion. Sure, it was a cheesy made-for-TV film starring Kim Darby that probably played on a Sunday night when it was first shown, but oh the memories! In case you are unfamiliar with this little gem, the action revolves around a couple who have inherited a mansion from some long-gone relative. A bricked up fireplace is opened and a whole host of little pointy-headed demon critters come flooding out. You see, these dudes are what became of Ms. Darby’s ancestors and they want her to join their little club. Sounds goofy, right? Yet this was a movie that I had to watch every single time it was on when I was younger and it would scare the livin’ bejesus out of me for weeks! I haven’t seen it in a while, but I was an adult the last time I saw it and it still did the trick for me. Little demon walking across the bathroom floor with a straight razor just as big as it is coming to get you in the shower = scary in my book. If you can find it, give it a try and see how it ranks on your fright-O-meter.

Well, that should do about wrap it up. Maybe Slyde will grace us with some of his favorite scary movies some time in the near future, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Until next time, have a Happy Halloween! - Earl

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