Movies to chill your blood this Halloween
Get yourself in a spooky mood with these 14 frightening classics. Warning: Don’t watch them alone.
Ghoulish ghost stories, foreign frighteners, spooky TV series, classic creepfests and one heckuva scary shark movie are the highlights of this year’s crop of terrifying treats.
If you’re tired of renting or streaming the same movies every Halloween, check out our list of 14 newly-released gems which are guaranteed to raise a goosebump or two.
DON’T WATCH ALONE The Shallows (2016, Sony,
PG-13, $30): Now, this is how you make a big splash with a scary movie! Blake Lively stars as Nancy, a medical student drop-out still smarting over the death of her mother. Alone for an afternoon, she decides to go surfing on a secluded beach in Mexico and almost instantly finds herself in danger of becoming a tasty meal for a great white shark. Running an incredibly taut 86 minutes, the suspense never lets up. But, at its heart, this aquatic scare-machine is a metaphoric battle between a despairing woman and her own hopelessness.
Salem’s Lot (1979, Warner,
PG, $15): Based on a Stephen King novel, this miniseries has been called “one of the last truly great Gothic vampire films.” There’s scares aplenty as a writer (David Soul) returns to home town to write a book about an old hilltop home which has recently been purchased by a mysterious antiques dealer (James Mason) and his creepy, pale-skinned partner ( Reggie Nalder). Director Tobe Hopper (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) is great at creating an atmosphere of impending doom even as he plays sly homage to “Psycho” and “Nosferatu.” This one’s got bite. Twin Peaks (1990-1992, Paramount, unrated, $70): Newly repriced ahead of Showtime’s 2017 relaunch of the series, this Blu-ray set collects the original thirty episodes of the show as well as the 1992 feature film “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” which served as both a prequel chronicling slain high-schooler Laura Palmer’s last week and a sequel involving Agent Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) and another murder investigation. In high-def, the spooky soap opera looks stunning, right down to the last cherry pie.
Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition (1986, Fox, R,
$25): Sigourney Weaver won a well-deserved Best Actress nod for her turn in one of the rare sequels that’s as good, if not better, than the original. Taking over for Ridley Scott, director James Cameron turns an interstellar mission into a meditation on motherhood, with Weaver’s Ripley facingoff with an alien queen trying to snatch a young girl (Carrie Henn) away from her. Three decades on, Ripley remains one of the toughest, most triumphant action heroes in Hollywood history.
Lady In White (1987, Shout Factory, PG-13,
$30): Now available on Blu-ray, this absorbing ghost story revolves around an 11-year-old named Frankie (Lukas Haas) who, after getting locked in his school overnight, is visited by the spirit of a murdered child. After he’s rescued, Frankie attempts to put the pieces of the decade-old mystery together. Despite an easyto-guess twist, “Lady In White” is a winning portrait of a brave youngster willing to stare into the heart of darkness to help a restless apparition find peace.
Carrie: Collector’s Edition (1976, Shout Factory, R,
$35): One of Brian DePalma’s best films remains achingly modern thanks to the way it delves into issues involving repression and sexuality. Sissy Spacek is at her eerie best as a telekinetic high-schooler who is bullied at school by vicious classmates (Nancy Allen, John Travolta) and abused at home by her religious fanatic mother (scary Piper Laurie). But after a prom gone wrong, Carrie gets her revenge. From the dreamy opening shower scene to the unforgettable final shocker, “Carrie” is a stone-cold classic.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, Twilight Time,
unrated, $30): Routinely cited as one of the best adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s clever mystery, this new-to-Blu-ray thriller, produced by Hammer Films, benefits greatly from a matter-of-fact turn by Peter Cushing as the witty and brilliant Sherlock Holmes. Another Hammer regular, Christopher Lee, co-stars as a man seemingly haunted by a family curse who calls upon Holmes to uncover what’s really going on out on the misty moors. Hang on tight.
Cat People (1942, Criterion, unrated, $30): One of the RKO Studio’s biggest hits of the 1940s, this gem stars Simone Simon as Irena, a Serbian émigré who falls hard for an architect (Kent Smith). Even though they marry, Irena is scared of becoming intimate with Smith for fear of awakening an ancient curse that will turn her into a feline predator. Pulsing with weirdness and slow-burn intensity, “Cat People” is at its best when, out of jealously, Irena’s claws come out and she stalks her husband’s best friend (Jane Randolph). While never overtly scary, “Cat People” casts a strange spell.
Child’s Play: Collector’s Edition (1988, Shout
Factory, R, $30): Far less campy than the subsequent films in the series, this genuinely scary thriller, now on an extras-heavy Blu-ray, stars Brad Dourif as a killer who transfers his soul into a Chucky doll purchased by a hard-working single mom (Catherine Hicks) for her young son (Alex Vincent). Thanks to the nifty special effects, Chucky looks surprisingly real as he walks around wielding an axe and a bad attitude. Even charred beyond recognition, this doll is nobody to toy with.
Cat’s Eye (1985, Warner,
PG-13, $15): The success of the Stephen King-ish “Stranger Things” on Netflix proves that audiences never tire of eerie tales with “Twilight Zone”-ish twists. In this involving anthology movie, now on Blu-ray, three stories starring James Woods, Robert Hays and Drew Barrymore are linked by a wandering feline. It’s far from a classic but there’s enough creepiness involving luckless gamblers, nicotine fiends and doll-sized trolls to keep horror fans purring with pleasure.
The Thing: Collector’s Edition (1982, Shout
Factory, R, $35): One of John Carpenter’s best films is part monster movie and part study in extreme claustrophobia. Kurt Russell stars as the head of a unit of scientists stationed in the Antarctic who discover a once-frozen, now-unthawed alien. The slimy beast creates terror with its ability to mimic human beings, including members of the research team. Carpenter uncorks scores of stomachchurning set pieces, including a sequence that aims to outgore “Alien’s” infamous chest-burster scene. But to the filmmaker’s credit, the paranoia which infects the men is scarier than the creatures themselves.
Trilogia De Guillermo Del Toro (1993-2006, Criterion, R, $99): Criterion collects Guillermo Del Toro’s three Spanish-language stunners, including “Cronos,” a tale of vampires and the quest for eternal youth; and “The Devil’s Backbone” a ghostly tale set at a creepy
orphanage. The highlight of the set is “Pan Labyrinth,” an eye-popping fairy tale about a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who is taken by her pregnant mother to Northern Spain to live with her monstrous stepfather (Sergi Lopez), a member of Franco’s Fascist Army. When reality gets too much
for Ofelia, she escapes to an underground world full of fairies and nymphs. Boasting special effects which netted three Oscars, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a magical gem that still packs a wallop. American Horror Story: Hotel (2016, Fox, unrated, $50): While Jessica Lange is much-missed this season, Ryan Murphy’s anthology series is still intriguing enough to get your blood pumping, especially if you don’t mind heaps of weirdness that doesn’t always make sense. Wes Bentley stars as a police detective who, in his search for a serial slayer, visits the Hotel Cortez, a haunted Los Angeles inn that’s home to the blood-sucking Countess (Lady Gaga) as well as the sadistic Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) and a mysterious mother (Kathy Bates) and son (Matt Bomer). Imagine a blend of “Seven” and “The Shining” with a smidge of “Nosferatu” thrown in for good measure.
The Wailing (2016, Well
Go, unrated, $25): A huge hit in South Korea, Na HongJin’s gripping supernatural thriller begins like any number or police procedurals, with a flawed cop named Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won) investigating the first of a series of grisly murders. Then, Jong-gu’s daughter (Kim Hwan-hee) seems to fall under the same spell as the killers. This is when “The Wailing” jerks into high gear, with Jong-gu going to great lengths to save his youngster from a mysterious Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) whom he believes to be an evil spirit. You will watch this film with nerves clenched, right up until the jaw-dropping finale. It’s scary good.
A scene from “Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition.”