Howie’s house of horror: Nave raves about scary movies
October 30, 2008
With Halloween kicking off today (and let’s face it: Lake Tahoe loves Halloween) I thought I would share some of my personal favorites, and not just for Halloween, either. Although with all that is happening on Wall Street and the financial markets, these movies might be a little tame. Oh, all of these flicks received the coveted five-out-of-five-bagel rating, by the way.
What better way to begin than with the title flick that would spawn so many sequels? Writer-director John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece introduced us to the new “Queen of Scream,” Jamie Lee Curtis, and a sci-fi standard, Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis. “Halloween” had it all, didn’t it? A psychotic murderer, the Shape (later Michael Myers in subsequent sequels), who loved to slash his victims, terrifying music that sticks to your soul, and by far one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had in a theater. There were some equally scary sequels, but nothing that captured that first scream as the original.
To this day when you witness that alien bursting out of John Hurt’s stomach, you know that director Ridley Scott’s terrifying flick has you captivated. “Alien” and its sequel “Aliens” (1986) are still two of the better sci fi/horror flicks out there, even though their version of high-tech looks antiquated by today’s standards. The aliens are still some of the creepiest and scariest I have ever seen in a movie, which, by the way were based on the work of H.R. Giger (for which he received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects).
It would forever typecast a little-known actress, Linda Blair, into always being that possessed girl who spit up that pea soup. One of the scariest psychologically tinged movies, “The Exorcist” caused a sensation when it first premiered prompting religious protests that of course only made me want to see it more! And yes, there were countless sequels and prequels but none of them holds up to the mother of all satanic movies.
Clive Barker knows a thing or two when it comes to messing with people’s minds, and this is one of his best and one of the most original, too. Originally titled “Sadomasochists from Beyond the Grave,” Barker (who wrote, directed and produced) must have been on some sort of medication (or stopped taking it!) when he came up with this classic horror gem. The character of Pinhead, the lead Cenobite, is one of the more original icons in horror. You’ll never play with a Rubik’s Cube again. Go ahead: I dare ya!
Based on Japanese director Takashi Shimizu’s movie “Ju-On: The Grudge,” the American version is just as good. Why? Because someone in Hollywood was smart enough to let Shimizu remake his own movie! How about that? The creator gets to do his own work, and the results are impressive. The part that still creeps me out is that of images of zombie-looking kids in this waterlogged black and white image with freaky noises that stay with you long after the movie has ended. You’ll never want to enter an uninhabited house again ” unless accompanied by an army of eyewitnesses.
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Hands down the best remake ever! I first saw this as a double feature, not knowing what to expect, and oh my: I was literally blown out of my seat. Starring a bearded Kurt Russell as the head of an American Antarctic expedition, “The Thing” still boasts some of the best special effects ever and has an all-star cast including Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard A. Dysart and Charles Hallahan. You’ll be grabbing anything when you see what happens when an alien being replicates itself into anything, starting with huskies and moving on up the food chain from there. Every movie mentioned so far has had a sequel or two, and yet this one is the one that I wanted to spawn a sequel. Alas: Carpenter felt otherwise.
Virus-themed movies have always creeped me out because you can’t see them, and you never know what’s going to kill our species first. Will it be an in-your-face bomb or an anthrax-type monster? Whichever it might be, director Danny Boyle plays on that scenario combining the terror of its after-effects with the tried-and-true zombie story. The movie also takes a look at what might happen if our experiments go unchecked. It’s that unknown element that can be the scariest.
Would you believe that back then executive producer (and writer) Steven Spielberg had to lobby to give this movie a PG rating? The film was originally R, so he (along with the filmmakers) protested successfully and got a PG. (The PG-13 rating did not exist at the time.) This was the movie that gave us the immortal line “They’re baaaaaack!” The movie is a stark reminder of what happens when developers, in their zeal to construct urban sprawl, forget to move bodies from a cemetery they are building on.
Dominique Dunne, who played the eldest daughter in the movie, was killed by her boyfriend upon completion of the first film. Actor Julian Beck died of stomach cancer after shooting the second film, and actress Heather O’Rourke died of intestinal stenosis shortly before completion of the third film. Also, many cast members’ careers have suffered. Still a great “scare factor” to this day, “Poltergeist” has a great story and great effects that rival only those of “The Thing.”
The one movie that would forever make showers a creep experience (if you’re a woman) and would brand men who are too close to their mom as horrors just waiting to unfold. Think of it as a momma’s boy becoming momma. Leave it to Alfred Hitchcock to deliver one of the truly frightening masterpieces of all time. You know a movie has stood the test of time when taking a shower still freaks out women after seeing this classic. Also, there were three sequels but none could capture the same uncomfortable feeling as this one did.
This movie would be tame by today’s standards, but “Night of the Living Dead” is a true classic that definitely deserves its place in the Smithsonian Institute of Horror.
The movie is still quite effective. I had the privilege of seeing a midnight screening in a theater. The audience found itself screaming and jumping as I did in certain parts. It’s raining weird rays from outer space that cause the dead to awaken from their graves to feed on human flesh. After seeing this movie on television, I never slept near my sister again. This falls into the same category as “The Haunting,” where I can’t decide if it is my all-time favorite horror film, but it ranks right up there.
So many other flicks make Halloween worth celebrating, including the original “Saw” (2004), “Basket Case” (1982), “Night of The Living Dead” (1968), “The Omen” (1976), “House of Wax” (not the Paris Hilton version but the original 1953 rendition with Vincent Price), “The Haunting” (1963), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984), “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), “Scanners” (1981) and the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece “The Birds” (1963). For campy horror fun you must see “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), “Scream” (1996) and “Shaun of the Dead” (2004).
Hitchcock insisted that audiences should be allowed to see the film only from the start. This was unheard-of back then, as people were used to just coming in at any point. The reason for this was that the death of Janet Leigh’s character in the first half. After the film’s release Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to bathe after seeing “Les Diaboliques” (1954) and refused to shower after seeing “Psycho.” Hitchcock sent a note back saying simply, “Send her to the dry cleaners.”