’tis the season for some creepy scares.
THE more horror movies change, the more they stay the same, as the release of Paranormal Activity 3 seems to prove. It’s the kind of low-budget, home-video-style horror flick that’s popular with the social-networking generation, but it’s also a throwback to the haunted house movies that have thrilled audiences for decades.
Will it fit the bill as your Halloween season must-see? That depends. Horror movies can be as subjective as comedies: What sends you into hysterics might leave your seatmate unmoved. With that in mind, here’s my list of the 10 best horror movies of all time, with enough demons, serial killers and space creeps to satisfy just about everyone.
If these don’t keep you awake long after your pumpkin candles have burned out, nothing will. 1. The Shining (1980): Stanley Kubrick’s towering monolith of horror gave us some of the most memorable moments in movie history: an elevator gushing blood, a terrifying Jack Nicholson (“Heeere’s Johnny!”) and little Danny Lloyd riding his tricycle through the silent halls of the Overlook Hotel. After more than 30 years there have been few imitators and absolutely no equal. 2. Alien (1979): The sequels became action movies, but Ridley Scott’s original about an acidblooded creature running amok on a spaceship remains a horror landmark. It’s dark, claustrophobic and mercilessly intense, but also hugely entertaining, with a jolt around every corner and the curdling screams of an excellent cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Harry Dean Stanton. 3. The Exorcist (1973): The story of a young girl (Linda Blair) possessed by Satan, The Exorcist turned sophisticated modern audiences into hysterical villagers who reportedly fainted, vomited and went into seizures at screenings. Media hype aside, it’s still a whoppingly effective shocker. 4. Jaws (1975): Steven Spielberg’s epic horror-adventure about a killer shark is part oceanic slasher flick, part Moby Dick and one white-knuckle ride from start to finish. The trailers alone permanently scarred most of America: Has anyone since 1975 ever gone for a swim without looking around for a fin? 5. Eraserhead (1977): This extended hallucination so defies description that first-time writerdirector David Lynch called it simply “a dream of dark and troubling things”. One of the most ghastly things about its central creature – a malformed fetus growing in a dark hotel room – is that Lynch still won’t discuss how he made it. 6. The Thing (1982): The story of Antarctic researchers battling a shape-shifting alien, John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 classic was panned for its stomach-churning special effects but has since become a populist favourite. Part of the reason is its cast of tasty hams, including Kurt Russell, Keith David and an unhinged Wilford Brimley losing his Quaker Oats. 7. Seven (1995): Few movies can elicit the emotional and physical nausea that truly defines horror, and one is David Fincher’s Seven, about two cops (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman) tracking a gruesomely patient serial killer. The Saw films can’t hold a candle to its pervasive atmosphere of dread, decay and doom. 8. Audition (1999): This Japanese film begins as a sensitive drama – it’s about a widower searching for a new wife – then suddenly becomes a screaming freak-out with eye-watering scenes of torture. Even if you go in prepared, it won’t lessen the shock. 9. The Blair Witch Project (1999): A low-budget film about backpackers in a haunted forest, Blair Witch relied on nonprofessional actors, hand-held cameras and zero effects. It spawned a new genre of 10. Diabolique (1955): The headmaster of an isolated boarding school, his unhappy wife and his scheming mistress are the players in this ghostly, goose-pimply French chiller. Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, called this his favorite horror movie. – Newsday/ MCT Information Services