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Halloween Picks from Our Fiendish Staff

by Rob Gonsalves

'Tis the season to eat candy and watch horror films. So what should you rent? Our esteemed staff writers/editors, asked for their favorite fright flicks, have a few suggestions...

First up is David Cornelius, who talks up the obvious disc to spin today, Halloween:

Because I'm going by "favorite" and not "what do you think is the best," I can't quite bring myself to calling Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (an annual viewing tradition) a horror movie, and because I am not above dipping into clichι, and because the realization that I've purchased the movie on home video in five (maybe six?) different releases, I've gotta go with Halloween. It's a masterstroke of storytelling economy, visceral thrills, and playful suspense. But most of all, it's just plain scary.

Needless to say, he's talking about the John Carpenter original, not the oafish Rob Zombie remake.

Jack Sommersby picks "The original Alien, with the original Dawn of the Dead a very close second":

The thing with Alien that I simply adore is that I can watch the damn thing over and over, and even though I know exactly what's going to happen, I'm still held spellbound and terrified for the entirety. Very, very few horror films manage to do that. (And, yes, I consider Alien more Horror than Science Fiction.) And I just so fucking hate it when I read some jerkoff complaining that the characterizations are thin, when, as Ridley Scott has succinctly pointed out over the years, you know enough about them that you need to know. Not much room for going-for-the-Oscar speeches when a quintessentially evil monster is lurking on board the same spacecraft you're on. (Oh, and I fucking hate the director's cut. I don't need seconds shaved off some scenes when the appropriately deliberate pace is perfectly complimented with the increased pace when the adult alien has materialized.)

Jack's runners-up are Mutant (1984), The Believers (1987), The Evil (1978), The Invisible Man (1933), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

William Goss concurs with Jack:

Either Alien or Jaws, depending on which day you ask me.

Today, I'm picking the former, with The Thing in third place.

MP Bartley says, "Obvious choice perhaps, but I'll still plump for The Shining" (link goes to his own review):

It took me 4 attempts to watch that fucker. 4. The first 3 times I got to the first appearances of the dead twins before I had to turn it off and say, "Nope, sorry, not for me". I just couldn't take the inexorable feeling of dread that builds up right from the beginning. From the first shots of the tiny car crawling along the mountains to the Overlook with the doom-laden score over the top, there's a sense that this is a horrific tragedy with an inescapable destiny. The sense of being lost in one man's madness is intensified by the sheer randomness of the title cards ("Tuesday") and the eerie, snowy isolation is matched only by Carpenter's The Thing.

Scariest moment? Take your pick from Jack's bathroom conversation with Grady, the weirdly dressed dinner guests engaged in fellatio in front of a terrified Wendy or the woman in the bath. Yikes.

Good choice, just as long as you don't mess up and rent the dull 1997 TV remake instead. And if you wanna watch the scene that scares the shit out of me after all these years, click here. Come and play with us, Danny...for ever...and ever...and ever...

Jay Seaver looks outside America to Ju-On: The Grudge:

Shimizu would eventually beat the franchise to death, but at the time, the J-horror style was new to me. The thing I especially loved is how it embraces the idea that the living grudge inhabiting the house was both very simple but also utterly incomprehensible; despite frequently appearing in the form of human ghosts, it's a force that can't be fully understood or negotiated with. It's just pure, blind anger. And it's spreading; the unspoken idea is that given enough time, this hate could consume the world.

I personally recommend The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (again, the original, not the diarrhea-resembling remake), which I have long held to be The Great American Horror Movie. (That there link goes to my own review, if'n you want to find out more about why I rank Chainsaw above the rest.) There's an excellent piece on this classic by John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs) entitled "They Came, They Sawed," and though it's not available for free online anymore, it's worth looking up at your library — ask them to request it through interlibrary loan, from the November 2004 issue of Texas Monthly.

Other, lesser-known horror flicks to look for:

The Reflecting Skin — Philip Ridley's Lynch-meets-Faulkner oddity is flat-out indescribable. You should go into it knowing as little as possible, though if you have a soft spot for frogs, this isn't your movie.

The Wicker Man — Oh, dear bleeding Christ, not the Nicolas Cage remake ("Bees! Beees! In my eyes!!!"), unless you want to shit yourself laughing. Stick with the chilling 1973 original with Edward Woodward facing off against Christopher Lee.

The Eye — Watch this Asian blood-freezer before the probably-inferior Jessica Alba remake hits theaters. The scene in the elevator is real nightmare material.

The Burning — The best of the Friday the 13th ripoffs, with a rapid-fire raft massacre still unsurpassed in the annals of slaughter.

Carnival of Souls — This on-the-cheap chiller, one of the greatest movies ever made by a director who never directed a feature again (Herk Harvey), was an obvious influence on George Romero and David Lynch. See it and see why.

Ginger Snaps — The freakiest, funniest monster movie in years, with a distinct post-Buffy sensibility, not to mention being one of the two best girl's-first-period horror flicks (Carrie being the other). Get the Canadian DVD if you can.

If any other staffers pipe up throughout the day, we'll add their picks here. Happy Halloween. As Sheriff Brackett says, everyone's entitled to one good scare...

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originally posted: 11/01/07 02:28:59
last updated: 11/01/07 14:23:34
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