I know that this is a book blog and therefore always about books, but when I saw that this week the Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and The Bookish was Top Ten Books/Movies To Read Or Watch To Get In The Halloween Spirit, I jumped at the chance to talk about movies for a change!
I love a good scary movie, but what I consider scary and what others consider scary are probably very different things. I don’t get anything from gore and slasher flicks, I prefer my fear to be more psychological, although I’m not averse to something that can make me jump out of my seat! This list will almost certainly show my age as the ’70s and ’80s are well represented!
1. Rec (2007)
Angela is a TV presenter, who is looking for some televisual action on a night with the local firefighters. Angela and her crew find themselves quarantined within a locked-down tower block when a ‘trapped’ resident takes a bite out of her would-be rescuers. What follows is more action that Angela could hope for as all hell breaks loose and is duly captured on shaky, blood-splattered video. There is nothing new in Rec, but what is fantastic is its brevity. It is 70 minutes long. There are 10 minutes of preamble and then one full- on non- stop hour of zombie horror. After it was over I was too scared to go to the toilet by myself. And yes, I was a grown up at the time!
2. The Vanishing (1988)
Based on Time Krabbe’s great book The Golden Egg, The Vanishing is a deeply disturbing psychological thriller about a young man’s search for his girlfriend after she disappears at a rest stop during a short trip. He looks for her for three years and finally the killer gets in touch promising to let him know (first hand) what happened to his missing girlfriend. This is a deeply creepy masterpiece and I would urge anyone to watch the Dutch original rather than the remake (despite having the same director) as the stunning twist of an ending was removed from the American version.
3. La Cabina (The Telephone Box) (1972)
Flicking channels late one night in the early 1990’s I caught the start of La Cabina, a short film made during the last years of General Franco’s right-wing dictatorship in Spain, and was immediately intrigued. The premise is so simple. A man goes in to a phone box and finds he can’t get out. Some people try to help him, some ignore him, some laugh at him until something very unexpected happens. There is little dialogue in this disturbing, unforgettable little movie and if you have a spare 30 minutes over Halloween, watch it on YouTube. You won’t forget it in a hurry.
4. Audition (1999)
I’m a big fan of Asian Horror and very nearly included Ringu in this list, but if there’s one movie I can’t shake its Takashi Miike’s Audition, a revenge nightmare that defies categorisation. A filmmaker wants to marry after the death of his wife, so he stages an audition for a new partner, only the woman auditioning think it is for a part in a movie. Don’t be fooled by the restrained, dark and thoughtful beginnings, Audition is filled with twisted psychological turns as it blurs the lines between fantasy and reality and it boasts a final fifteen minutes that will shred your nerves while you watch through your fingers.
5. The Exorcist (1973)
I went to see The Exorcist at a midnight screening in the Stella Cinema in Rathmines, Dublin. My flatmate and I went and were the only people in the cinema, which seemed to make it all a little worse. After it, we had to walk home in the dark. Maybe that’s why I remember it being so damned terrifying! The Exorcist is a classic. Not just a classic horror movie but a classic movie, full stop. Plus, I do a mean Regan impersonation when I’ve had a few too many glasses of wine…….
6. Halloween (1978)
Another classic and probably the only slasher movie that I like, Halloween was one of the first horror movies I ever saw. I had a babysitter with nerves of steel who would watch horror movies on her own while looking after me, but I joined her for this one, albeit from behind the sofa. Literally. I screened it at my theatre last year and it may have aged, but the entire audience still jumped out of their seats. I blame that William Shatner mask myself…..
7. The Thing (1972)
Another John Carpenter movie, The Thing is one of the most claustrophobic horror films ever created. The story centres on a group of men led by Kurt Russell stationed at a remote Antarctic research facility. Things go terribly wrong when a shape-shifting creature infiltrates the centre and slowly erodes the bond of the group while killing them off one by one. It’s a tense, terrifying 109 minutes that makes the viewer as paranoid as the characters. And don’t expect a happy ending.
8. Funny Games (1997 or 2007)
Whether you watch the original or the US remake, both directed by Michael Haneke is irrelevant. I hate this movie but I had to include it because it is the most frightening thing I have ever seen.
A well-to-do couple arrives at their fancy vacation house with their little boy for a sailing holiday. Two well-spoken, but strange young men appear at their door, and their impeccable manners, and apparent membership of the rich white people’s club, gains them easy access. The nightmare begins from here. There is no horror as such, no explicit violence either, but it is explicit in a far more horrible way, making us live through the anticipatory fear, giving us no let up, no breathing space and no pay off. It is genuinely horrifying in a way that no other horror movie could be. I don’t recommend it.
9. Angel Heart (1987)
Back when Mickey Rourke had a normal face and Robert DeNiro was still considered a mark of quality in a movie, Alan Parker made this fantastic, nightmarish tale of a private eye, Harry Angel who takes a missing persons case for an enigmatic man named Louis Cyphre (think about that one for a minute). As the leads go nowhere and bodies pile up, Harry Angel soon discovers the horrifying true nature of his assignment. It’s stylish, moody and scary with a twist of an ending that will make you want to watch it all over again. Plus, nobody peels a hardboiled egg like DeNiro.
10. Phantasm (1979)
Here’s some advice. If you have a kid, or know kids, don’t let them watch Phantasm. I bet my Mum and Dad wish I hadn’t seen it as The Tall Man was a regular fixture in my nightmares for years afterwards. There’s a bizarrely large mortician creating slaves for the afterlife, green blood, creepy little black creatures running round graveyards and a gruesome flying metal ball of death. Phantasm really is a nightmare of a movie, working on the logic of dreams and tapping in to our primordial fears and it created an icon of the horror genre in the terrifying Tall Man.
Special mention must also go to 28 Weeks Later which almost made the cut – solely for the opening 10 minutes which is to my mind the most frightening opening to a movie, ever!
So, have you seen any of these? Did I leave anything obvious out or have I tempted you to scare yourself silly with any of my choices?