The Schleicher Spin now proudly presents:
A Guide to a Great Halloween Horror Film Festival
Step One: Set the mood with the classics.
- Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932) — Though religious persecution was a dominant theme in Dreyer’s canon, this moody piece of work was his one attempt at pure horror. This plays like a filmed night-terror and contains so many dreamy, spooky, and downright bizarre images that you’re left with but one choice: surrender to the Dane’s macabre vision. The corpse’s-eye-view of a funeral procession is a special delight that has yet to be matched in nearly 80 years of cinema.
- Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932) — While it’s easy for some to dismiss this as a literal circus sideshow, Browning’s still controversial masterpiece is a haunting portrayal of the horrors of Group Think. When our anti-heroine receives her final comeuppance in the scene with the deformed and unfortunate beings crawling through the mud in the rain under railroad cars wielding knives and revenge, it makes for one of the most chilling climaxes in film history.
- Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) — Boris Karloff’s lumbering monster has become memorialized and overused to the point of mockery, but there’s still something both horrific and sympathetic about his portrayal. The infamous “drowning scene” still packs a wallop…especially with the emotional follow-up of the father carrying the little girl’s body through the village streets. After all these years…this film is still ALIVE! IT’S ALIIIIIIIIVE!
Step Two: Settle in with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, get cozy and watch a classic ghost story.
- The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961) — Deborah Kerr’s performance and Freddie Francis’ cinematography make this a near perfect adaptation of Henry James’ potboiler “The Turn of the Screw”.
- If you care to watch something more modern, the recent spins on the same psychological horror, 2001’s The Others (anchored by Nicole Kidman) or 2007’s The Orphanage (anchored by Belen Rueda) would also fit the bill quite nicely.
Step Three: Break out the popcorn and have a hell-of-a-time with these creepy “fun-scary” hits.
- Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) — Really? Did you think this wouldn’t be on the list? For the love of all that is holy, please make sure you watch the Carpenter original and not Rob Zombie’s ridiculous Hillybilly-deluxe retread.
- Fright Night (Tom Holland, 1985) — This Rear Window-inspired tongue-in-cheek vampire romp is one of my all time favorites from childhood. Comes complete with a kick-ass totally ’80’s theme song and awesomely grotty make-up effects.
- Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009) — Gypsy curses, nasty demons, mortgage re-financing, cheesy effects, a smoking-hot Alison Lohman and a talking goat made this the most fun I have had at the movies in years. Raimi pulls out all the stops and all the eyeballs and drains all the embalming fluid along the way. Enjoy.
Step Four: Get artsy.
- Nosferatu (Werner Herzog, 1979) — Okay, so F. W. Murnau’s 1922 original is iconic and undoubtedly one of the most celebrated classics of silent film and German Expressionism. But Herzog’s brilliant update compliments, enhances and celebrates the original while creating its own ghastly imagery. This is that rare case where the remake might be better than the source. Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani are like tortured images from gothic paintings and etchings come to life to become undead. More of a meditation on vampire iconography in film and the mythology that haunts our minds, from the skull-and-bones opening credits to the Wagner-themed journey to the Count’s castle to the dire closing shot of the sand blowing over the beach, this is the most artistic horror film ever made.
Finally: Watch the greatest horror film ever made.
What film combines the iconic imagery, the psychological horror, the ghosts, the classic performances, the genuine scares and the artistry?
- The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) — Kubrick’s eerily symbolic and painstakingly detailed re-working of Stephen King’s hack-novel is a masterstroke of filmmaking hubris. Here’s that rare instance where the film adaptation is better…way better…than the book. In fact, I would argue it exists in a whole different universe. The music…the maze…the pacing…the blood…the elevators…and those hallways are the stuff of nightmares. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. And anyone who puts together a Halloween Horror Film Festival without The Shining should be axed.
Written by David H. Schleicher
Check out the great thread on Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining, over at Wonders in the Dark.
For a comparison of The Innocents with its source material, “The Turn of the Screw”, read my previous article, Turning the Screws.
Here’s my original review of The Orphanage.
And check out my raving about Drag Me to Hell.
So what’s your favorite horror film? What movie scared you the most? What would you include in your own Halloween Horror Film Festival? Speak your mind in the comment box.