Classic Films For The Halloween Season
There’s something about October that just makes you want to curl up and enjoy some fiction. For a lot of people that means curling up with a long novel they’ve been meaning to get to, or even one they re-read every year. But for we film lovers, it means digging up a few scare flicks. As for yours truly, I like to opt for older gothic and horror films, because they’re the ones I watched growing up this time of year and there’s a sense of nostalgia. Sure, some of them are campy (if not straight up ridiculous), but there’s a charm to all of that, and there are usually some genuinely scary moments mixed in.
If more modern horror is your thing, take a look at this previous list of recommendations Our Crater published last October. But if you’re also curious about which classics might go well with the October vibe this year, read on for some of my picks.
The Exorcist (1973)
I may as well go with the scariest first. William Friedkin’s disturbing freak show of an exorcism movie has rightly been ranked as the best horror movies of all time by Paste Magazine, and probably other publications as well. As that ranking put it, the film works its way under your skin and then stays there forever. Granted, that doesn’t sound like the most pleasant experience, but the point is that it can spook you deep into your snuggie even if you’ve watched it 10 times before. I’m actually not usually a fan of the films that actually make me feel unsettled or unsafe – I like a degree of humor or campiness mixed in – but this is such a masterpiece at what it’s trying to do that it has to be mentioned.
It’s easy to take the name “Frankenstein” for granted, but this is the film that really helped establish the story’s legacy. It was the first major project based on Mary Shelley’s iconic horror tale, and its significance lingers to the present day. Even now, in 2017, there’s an awesome-looking game developed in association with Universal Pictures and based on the movie. Black-and-white character images are used on reels and in the background of virtual slot machine that players enjoy online. And one of those images – that of Boris Karloff in the title role – has probably done more to define the Frankenstein character than anything else. He helped establish the dead-eyed, large-headed look that will undoubtedly inspire Javier Bardem, who’s taking on the same role in a forthcoming reboot. You get the idea. This is a major film in the genre and one that’s always fun to look back on. It’s old-school enough that it doesn’t feel particularly scary, but it’s still easy to appreciate.
I could basically duplicate everything I just wrote about Frankenstein with regard to its fellow Universal monster flick from 1931. This is kind of the movie that started the whole vampire thing. Without it, we may never have had things like True Blood or the Twilight series (which may be good or bad depending on your feelings toward these stories). There’s a misconception that this film was a direct adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel. But in fact, it was based on a stage play that emerged in 1924 and bares only some resemblance to the novel. Even so, it has as much to do with establishing the Dracula character and narrative as anything. Bela Lugosi’s performance in the role was perfectly creepy and the littlest bit alien and director Tod Browning managed to make it as much of a mystery as a monster movie. Like Frankenstein, it’s a little bit old school and campy at times when you watch now, but it’s no worse for it.
This isn’t a traditional horror flick so much as a sci-fi masterpiece that just happens to be delightfully creepy. But I thought it was a nice option to include on the list because it’s a little bit different – not a ‘30s monster movie or a foundational project for the modern genre. Plus, this is a good year to revisit it given that another of its prequels was recently released, with the critical consensus being that it delivered another satisfying round of close-quarters deep-space terror. Actually, this series has kind of reached all over the place by this point. But the 1979 original still stands tall as the best project of the bunch, and possibly Ridley Scott’s best film. Alien drama, space intrigue, and that tingling sense of claustrophobia make it a movie that you truly experience rather than just watch.
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