As Halloween draws near, I like to look back on all of the Halloween/Scary movies that have come out over the years. And as a means to do something special, I asked the Features Team what their favorite Halloween/Scary movies are. This is what they had to say, please enjoy.
Evan Krell — Halloween (1978)
While it didn’t start the slasher genre, it certainly perfected it. It’s the quintessential slasher film and its legacy can be seen in horror films even today. John Carpenter masterfully weaves together a film of suspense, terror, and an unforgettable score. Jamie Lee Curtus and Donald Plesence deliver stellar performances and Michael proves to be one of the most intimidating killers put to film without speaking a single word. It’s a film that warrants a watch every October.
The year after Carpenter shocked the world with Halloween, Ridley Scott followed it up with Alien. This piece is a master class in suspense. There are few scarier places than the cold vacuum of space, and Ridley Scott knows how to draw upon that fear well. The film is full of silence and dread broken up by the rare appearance of the Xenomorph, one of the most frightening creatures put to film. The film also deals with an even larger and more threatening monster, corporate greed and how it quite literally kills people.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Who says horror can’t be funny? And also full of singing! Little Shop of Horrors is adapted from a stage musical of the same name and relishes in its over the top nature. A score and book by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman respectively would be enough to guarantee a hit, but the film also features some of the best puppetry ever put to film. The monstrous Audrey II is a breathtaking, intimidating, but also hilarious villain for our heroes to interact with. As a personal note, this was the first musical I ever performed in, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Rick Rice — Dawn of the Dead
Reboots are seldom better than the original, but this 2004 debut feature of Zack Synder proves that when done right, the result can make a lasting impression. Throwing away the slow-moving undead in favor of the rapid and aggressive zombies, Dawn of the Dead is fast-paced, action packed and scary as hell. The film benefits from drawing inspiration from George A. Romero’s 1978 horror classic and not just remaking the film. The make-up is outstanding, the cast is perfect and for a horror film, it has everything you’d want that’ll keep you awake at night. Dawn of the Dead is bloody good time!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
One of the most iconic horror villains of all was introduced in Tobe Hooper’s horror masterpiece- Leatherface. This film was marketed as “Based on True Events” which drew in the crowds who were in for the shock of their life. Building the suspense graciously until the final third act when the horror really sets in, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. With only the implications of violence and hardly anything seen on screen, this film is still way more violent than the sleuth of slashers that followed in its wake. The sequels, remakes, reboots and even a new sequel coming soon have never matched what 1974 brought us. Leatherface is as terrifying as ever and we thank Gunnar Hansen for giving us all the nightmares!
Angelina Truax — The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
My entire life, I’ve never been into Halloween nor a fan of scary movies. When you’ve survived extensive trauma, being frightened is the last thing on your to-do list. Since childhood, I’ve made a point to avoid most entertainment around the holiday. The exception to my no-Halloween rule is a jump to the left and a step to the right, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Although it is not a “Halloween” film, the cult following has adopted it around this time of year. This film can and should be watched at any time of the year, but it is easy to get sucked in now with midnight performances happening across the country. You can tell a lot from a person based on where they know Tim Curry from. He is a talented actor with over 200 acting credits, so it comes as no surprise that some of those films get lost in the shuffle. Films like Annie, Clue, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and It are some of the go to people think of when they hear his name. When I think of Tim Curry, besides The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I think of FurnGully: The Last Rainforest, Congo, and Muppet Treasure Island. In a world obsessed with twist endings and gender identity, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still relevant to audiences today. This film ages well because it’s in on the gag, homaging classic B-movies, and the message of being it instead of dreaming it. This film taught me that it’s okay to be the weird theatre kid, be silly, and just be me. I think the world needs that message right now too.
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
The Ghost and the Darkness is a film with a number of flaws that prevent it from achieving the tropes great” or “classic,” but there are enough substance and suspense to keep new viewers on edge yet not be too scary for those sensitive, like me, to horror. When my husband made me watch this “creature feature,” I didn’t know what to expect and fortunately wasn’t expecting much. Afterward, I felt I enjoyed the film overall, and then I found out that it was based on a true story with theatrical embellishments
aplenty. The movie starts with African native Samuel (John Kani) recalling the events of deadly lion attacks in 1898. I appreciated Kani’s delivery mixed well with Samuel’s sensible personality. The use of real Maasai warriors as well as being shot in South Africa gives the film’s setting some authenticity. Val Kilmer attempts an Irish accent that comes and goes like my drug addict aunt’s “boyfriends.” He plays John Patterson, an engineer and hunting enthusiast with a military background, who is assigned the impossible task of building a bridge, across the river Tsavo, within five months. While bridging his crew’s stresses like malaria outbreaks and the Indian-Muslim conflicts, a slew of devastatingly morbid lion attacks leaves everyone afraid and unwilling to work. Mid-movie, we finally see Michael Douglas as Charles Remington called in to help fix the problem. Despite a Kilmer-esque tendency to stray from his Southern drawl, Michael Douglas makes up for it with humor while solidifying the movie. Though the film starts slow, the lion scenes were generally thrilling and dramatic due to the editing and cinematography. Movies still struggle with decent animation these days, but despite being a 90’s film, I think many can appreciate two decisions with this film. Firstly, hiring Stan Winston to throw in lifelike animatronic lions is always a plus. Secondly, going sans computer animation was visually pleasant and non-distracting from the suspenseful aspect of the film. Especially after seeing the remade Lion King, I double appreciate that direction in the mid-’90s. My husband and I honestly could not tell which scenes were real lions or animatronic. For me, there’s an added thrill due to possible believability because there wasn’t an heir of mysticism despite the locals naming these monsters the Ghost and the Darkness. Still, the realness backed with the Tsavo lions; genuine story adds a sprinkle of tension and believability compared to the other 90’s animal-horror flicks like Congo or Anaconda. Though tamer than your top demon or zombie flick, if you’re looking for a decently suspenseful thriller or maybe have a sensitive audience with you, I
recommend giving this little gem a watch as well as looking up the story of the “Tsavo Man-Eaters” whose skins reside at the Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
Natalie Holderbaum — My favorite horror movies are Silence of the Lambs and Susperia (2018).