As Halloween draws near, more and more horror movies are appearing on TV and at theatres. People like stories that frighten, and scary movies are a big draw – and very profitable for the movie industry. I’m not a horror movie fan, personally, and the few that I’ve seen didn’t really scare or frighten me. Maybe I’m made immune by all the B-horror movies I watched on “Creature Feature” growing up, or the hype and talk I heard before seeing the movie.
Despite that, a few movies have engaged me enough to make me squirm in my seat; even hesitant to turn out the lights and go to bed! Here’s a list – in no particular order – of my favorite horror and suspense movies:
The Blair Witch Project - Three student filmmakers get lost in the woods while out filming a documentary about a witch legend and are stalked by an unseen force. The movie doesn’t follow any typical horror story paradigm, which irked many viewers. But if you appreciate psychological horror, that’s half the battle.
28 Days Later - A virus hits the British Isles and turns folks into literal raging lunatics. A group of survivors fight through the mass of flesh hungry creatures to a haven set up by a military unit. When they arrive, they learn that the military has other plans for them. This film broke out of the usual zombie movie trappings with flesh eaters who can run faster than a juiced up track star.
Alien - An acid drooling creature makes its way onboard an intergalactic cargo ship, and begins eating the crew one-by-one. On a ship in deep space, there are only so many places to hide, and the creature is finding them all. This is the first film in the Alien franchise, and by far the scariest.
Night of the Living Dead - I’m not talking about the remake, but the original watershed black and white. The dead have risen, and are looking for the living to snack on. A group of people take refuge in a farm house, and try desperately to secure it from the advancing flesh-eaters. But clashing egos inside the house become a greater threat than the zombies outside. Despite its age and low budget look, this film still has the ability keep you on edge.
The Shining - Stephen King didn’t care for Stanley Kubrick’s film version of his book, but The Shining stands as a horror movie masterpiece, and the first horror movie I can recall that evoked an emotional response from me. After seeing the tale of a writer’s blocked author going murderously mad in an isolated hotel, I turned on every light in my apartment and kept them on for a good hour afterwards.
Psycho - Everyone is familiar with the famous shower scene, but the rest of the movie to me is far and above more suspenseful and shocking than that 2 minute sequence. Alfred Hitchcock shows why he was the Master of Suspense in this tale of the search for an embezzling secretary, whose stay at a motel ends in murder.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula - Visually slick and stylish, and more gory than scary, this film is the most faithful to the novel, bringing the story of undying love to the forefront. Don’t look for the Count in a cape and thick Hungarian accent, because you won’t find him!
Jaws - It’s really an action/adventure film, but a small coastal town sheriff’s quest to take down a big daddy man-eating shark keeps me on the edge of my seat, even after seeing it umpteen times.
The Silence of the Lambs - Also not a horror flick, this crime thriller can easily pass for one. It’s an intense film, especially when Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter appears. Some former friends were so disturbed by him that they held an impromptu prayer vigil to shake the effect.
Seven (Se7en) - Also a crime thriller, Seven is a dark, disturbing tale of two detectives’ quest to stop a serial killer, whose gruesome murder spree is patterned after the seven deadly sins. You don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head… or John Doe.
The Other Side - A supernatural thriller about a murder victim who escapes from Hell, and must find his killer before three relentless bounty hunters called Reapers bring him back. Plenty of action and impressive production value make this Atlanta made “no-budget” film a must-see. Check the website for more information.