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Scare yourself silly - a guide to movies for Halloween
« on: October 27, 2006, 10:46:59 pm »
Scare yourself silly - a guide to movies for Halloween
28 October 2006 
By SIMON THOMPSON
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3841905a1870,00.html

Compiling a list of the scariest movies to watch on Halloween is harder than you might think.

It's purely subjective. What scares the living daylights out of one person might titillate another; personal phobias and fears might influence a person's selection and of course people might have their own favourite sub-genre they stick to and watch more than another.

However, whether you're a fan of teen slasher flicks, gore, comedy-horror or psychological terror there are few standout films - in nor particular order - that deserve to be in anyone's movie collection or at the very least, seen before you die. horribly.

Psycho (1960)
It's the horror film that the word 'classic' was invented for and is largely credited with inventing the genre of the modern horror film. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 'Psycho' has had its fair share of imitators and has inspired more movies than you can shake a stick at.

Anthony Perkins plays lonely motel keeper Norman Bates, who presides over an out-of-the-way motel under the domineering spectre of his mother. Marion Crane, played by the iconic Janet Leigh, a blonde on the run with stolen money, checks in for the night, but Momma doesn't like loose women, and she never checks out.

Although not as bad as some critics made out, ignore the shot-by-shot Gus Van Sant remake that was released in 1998 - this black-and-white shocker has creepiness by the bucket.

Shining (1980)
'The Shining' is not so much a screen adaptation of Stephen King's best-selling horror novel but more of a re-imagining of it.

Set in The Overlook Hotel, a force possesses off-season caretaker Jack Torrance - played by Jack Nicholson in arguably his best maniacal performance ever - prompting him to go on a murderous rampage with his wife and young son the victims.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick it's like watching a pressure cooker getting ready to blow. Truly terrifying. It might just put you off a romantic weekend away in the snowy mountains though.

Saw (2004)
If you want gore then this is the film for you. Using a horrific combination of Hitchcock-style terror, full on blood and guts and classic nothing-is-what-it-seems philosophy, 'Saw' is one of the most innovative horror films in over a decade.

Adam wakes up in a room with Dr Lawrence Gordon and the body of a guy who, it appears, has recently blown his own brains out. His bad day gets worse when both men realize that they've been chained up and pitted against one another by an unseen but apparently omniscient maniac who's messing with their minds as revenge for past sins.

An ordeal to sit through for all the right reasons - it will make you want to track down everyone you've wronged in the past to say sorry, just to make sure they don't get any ideas.

Alien (1979)
Strictly speaking - as this is set in Space - it's a sci-fi film, but the fact that it contains one of the most impressive killing machines in the galaxy it makes the list.

The film works along the same principles that are applied to haunted house movies. Like Psycho, often imitated but never bettered, Alien is a piece of landmark filmmaking by Ridley Scott.

Set in a nightmare - and strangely sexual - world designed by H R Giger, mining ship Nostromo investigates a suspected SOS and lands on a distant planet. The crew discovers some strange creatures and investigates. They never learn do they?

The film made a star out of Sigourney Weaver and is a seminal movie. In Space no-one can hear you scream, but at home no-one can you see slowly wetting yourself in fear.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
One, two, Freddy's coming for you; Three, four, better lock your door. It's the film that gave us the iconic bogeyman Freddy Kreuger - a dead paedophile and child murderer who returns in the dreams of the children of his old enemies, and torments them.

The mixture of macabre humour and surreal death sequences including a telephone with a tongue is one of Wes Craven's finest moments as a director. Plus, it's got a cameo from Johnny Depp.

Made in 1984, it hasn't aged as well as some films of the genre, however, it still packs a punch - or should that be slash? - and is a perfect example of effective and inventive horror movies can be made on a moderate budget.

Nosferatu (1922)
It's black-and-white. It's a silent movie. If you read out the cast list to the average guy on the street they would look at you blankly. Widely considered as the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula - although never billed as such - 'Nosferatu' is still as creepy as the day it was made 84 years ago.

Max Schreck's hollow-eyed, cadaverous vampire is pure genius and will chill you to depths of your soul. It's sexy, evil and erotic.

If you're not the kind of person who would usually watch this kind of thing then I dare you to hunt it down and watch it in a darkened room. Then try to get a good night's sleep. This is what terror looks like.

The Exorcist (1973)
This tops many Horror Top Ten lists but I have never quite understood why.

Adapted by William Peter Blatty from his controversial best-seller, this thriller focussed on a young girl, Regan - a career-making performance by a young Linda Blair - who is possessed by a demon.

The Exorcist was mysteriously plagued by troubles during production including co-star Ellen Burstyn receiving a permanent spinal injury during filming. There are numerous also reports of a curse hanging over the film including the deaths of nine people associated with the production and stories about a mysterious fire that destroyed the set one weekend.

I've never heard of anyone falling foul of the curse after watching the movie but there's always a first time.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Based on Ira Levin's novel, Rosemary's Baby focuses on Mia Farrow's character of the title and her husband who find the apartment of their dreams in a luxurious complex in Manhattan.

Soon after moving in and making friends with a group of elderly neighbours, Guy's career takes off and Rosemary discovers she is pregnant. The future is looking pretty rosy. It always does in this type of film doesn't it? Gradually Rosemary begins to sense that something is wrong with this baby, and slowly and surely her life begins to fall apart.

If you're looking for gore then this is not the film for you, but if you are looking to be genuinely chilled to the core and put right off starting a family then slip this in your DVD player, sit back - but I doubt if relaxing will be on the agenda.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
If the dead rose from the grave and walked the earth slowly chomping their way through the human race, where would they hang out? The shopping mall, naturally.

This George Romero classic is not just a cheeky statement on our obsession with materialism but is both terrifying and gory even by today's standards. The ingenious macabre comic asides ensure its status as a horror gem.

Four people lock themselves inside a shopping centre to get away from the marauding dead but will the doors, walls, floors and windows be strong enough to keep them out? Brilliantly remade in 2004 - and a brilliant remake is rare these days - with fast-moving zombies, the original 'Dawn of the Dead' hasn't suffered and still stands alone as one of the best horror films of all time.

Halloween (1978)
Michael Myers - not the one from the Shrek and Wayne's World movies - likes to kill. His favourite victims are usually busty teens who are either just about to have, or have just had, sex with their boyfriend. He's been in an institution since he was a young boy, after murdering his sister. She'd just had sex with her boyfriend funnily enough. Now he has escaped and is heading back home to terrorise the quiet community which still remembers him.

This film is one of the few on this list that aren't out-and-out fright-fest. It's essentially a slasher film but as far as the genre goes it's quite intelligent and actually has a plot.

Michael wears a mask so you never get to see his face, but here's a fact you might not know; due to the film's miniscule budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest mask that they could find in the costume store - a Captain Kirk mask - which they spray-painted white, teased out the hair, and reshaped the eye holes. Voila, instant serial killer!

Evil Dead II (1987)
You get a few days off work or college or whatever so you think you'll head off to a cabin in the woods for a break. Isn't it typical that the one you end up at just happens to be where a copy of the Book of the Dead is lying around. Naturally, you accidentally unleash a horde of demons that slowly but surely rip your guests to pieces.

This film isn't a sequel to the low-budget original but rather a re-imagining of it, however, the tongue-in-cheek instinct is far more prevalent here. It's a real rollercoaster of shocks that will leave you breathless - and maybe bringing up a bit of your dinner - and is rammed with quotable lines and set pieces that will stay with you long after you've finished watching the movie.

Directed by the brilliant Sam Raimi - yes, the same guy who made the Spider-Man movies - it's a masterclass in terror.