We challenged film writer Sarah to think of her top ten films for Halloween. Because she’s a fan of the classics, her choices might not have swish modern effects, but who wants those when you can have a bit of red paint? Or in some of these cases, a lot of red paint.
Definitely my favourite Halloween Howler, but then any film directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock is going to be one of the best. When Marion Crane runs away with a small fortune she decides to hide out in a small motel. However, it is not until her absence is realised that the disturbing nature of the quiet and refined motel owner comes to light in this shocking, genre defining masterpiece. The movie includes revolutionary visuals that really pushed the boundaries of mainstream media at the time, and gave a kick-start to the slasher movie genre with the memorable shower scene. If you’re yet to see this film, then it’s a must. With twists and turns throughout, in true Hitchcock style, you will without a doubt be on the edge of your seat from start to finish!
Directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck
When real estate agent Hutter shows a house to a new client, he realises that there’s something slightly spooky about the Count Orlok. As a silent film the visuals really work hard to build the sense of terror, and this film is rich with eerie shadows that build suspense throughout. The most iconic scene would be the creeping of Nosferatu’s silhouette up the stairs towards Mrs Hutter’s room – a scene that stands the test of time because of its palpable inevitability. The film caused controversy when it was released, and all but one copy of the film was destroyed because of its similarity with Bram Stoker’s Dracula story.
An adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel about a scientist who created a living being with his own bare hands from the remains of dead bodies. The film raises the difficult question of who the real monster is, man or beast. Nevertheless, as the monster, Boris Karloff pulls off one of the most convincing Frankenstein performances of all time. The film features some of the best make up work and set designs that help to visualise the extent to which mankind would go to achieve greatness, particularly with in the spectacular laboratory scenes where Dr Frankenstein can finally scream: “It’s alive!”
Bela Lugosi brings a performance of a lifetime to this thrilling adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and sets the mark for the ultimate characterisation of a vampire. The creepy gothic nature of the sets and cinematography was achieved by Karl Freund, who also encouraged similar techniques to be used in later adaptations of the story. This stand-out film started the trend of horror films for Universal. The intensely luring nature of the Count helps keep the audience enticed right until the end in this much-loved vampire story.
The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin and starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Linda Blair
Arguably the ultimate satanic horror, The Exorcist is often considered to be one of the scariest films of all time. With an amazing cast and crew, The Exorcist really sets the bill for modern horrors. When a young girl becomes possessed by a demon her parents and doctor have no choice but to call in an exorcist, in the form of a priest played by Max von Sydow. Not only was the film a huge success, so was its soundtrack, notably featuring Mike Oldfield’s signature piece Tubular Bells with its ghostly piano introduction as the film’s theme tune. The special effects in this film, I would argue, have a huge impact on its success – just the 360 degree turn of Regan’s head puts the film in a completely different league to anything else out there. Moments like this make this freaky film perfect for Halloween.
The Omen (1976)
Directed by Richard Donner and starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick
After Katherine and Robert Thorn experience the still birth of their child, Robert adopts another baby whose mother died giving birth. Five years go by, and little Damien is the light in his parents’ world, that’s until people start mysteriously dying around them, and suspicions arise that Damien may not be the child they thought he was. In fact, he could well be the antichrist. With a budget of just over $2 million, this classic 70s satanic horror has managed to gross over $60 million since its release – proving just what a renowned piece of cinema it is.
The Blob (1958)
Directed by Irvin Yeaworth and starring Steve McQueen and Aneta Corsaut
I’ve always wanted to watch The Blob after seeing the advert for it during the drive-in scene in Grease. The film could possibly be seen as one of the funniest horrors of all time for featuring the eponymous, far from intimidating monster. Yet, when this strange creature starts terrorising a small-town American neighbourhood, it’s up to the local teens to save the day in true Hollywood style. This film also really shows its age when it comes to the gender stereotyping of its characters, particularly when young Jane Martin sees The Blob for the first time and is completely incapable of doing anything other than fainting. However, if you’re in for a giggle and a light-hearted trip to the past, definitely give this one a watch.
The Thing (1982)
Directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley
This remake of the 1950s movie The Thing From Another World, shows the terrors that Antarctic scientists face when they come across a shape-shifting creature that can assume the appearance of anything that it kills. The special effects and make up in this film are what makes it so compelling, it is most definitely one of the initial films that gave a start to the now much loved sci-fi horror genre. The enigmatic storyline adds to the suspense, as the audience never knows what’s going to happen next to the scientists who set out to fight this thing—never knowing if it has resumed the appearance of one of their own in this chilling horror.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette
It’s a classic modern horror with one of the biggest and well known twists of all time. A child psychologist played by Bruce Willis, (who Shyamalan had in mind for the role when he wrote the story),starts to help a child who claims he can see dead people. This psychological ghost story was nominated for best film at the 2000 Oscars, and its infamous quote: “I see dead people”, is often considered to be in the top 100 movie quotes of all time. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you probably should, just so you can find out the twist at the end!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal and Allen Danziger
Although some may consider The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be pretty gruesome, just as many find the entire concept of the film so farfetched that it’s positively hilarious. The story revolves around a family of cannibals living in remote Texas, slowly killing each of the teenage protagonists. Despite its fanciful plot line, this low budget film has wowed audiences for years, and is a great prototype for the slasher movie genre. One of film’s most infamous and terrifying scenes includes a mask made out of human skin…something you certainly wouldn’t want to come across any time soon!
What do you make of Sarah’s list? Are there any other films you think need to be included? Drop a comment below and tell us what you think!