Love them or hate them, there’s no mistaking that scary movies have a way of significantly affecting people that other movies do not. They can gross you out, freak you out, haunt your dreams and even make you cry … and we love them all the more for it! Leaving out all the plotless slasher movies and cheesy remakes, here’s a list of must-see horror movies for those looking for a good fright this Halloween night.
Whether they were brilliantly acted or just horrifying to look at, there are a few bad guys that define the movies they’re in. If you don’t know Hannibal the Cannibal, Freddy, Jason and Jack Torrance, you don’t know horror.
“Silence of the Lambs,” directed by Jonathan Demme, 1991
Arguably more thriller than horror, “Silence of the Lambs” is a character portrait of one of the most iconic and perfectly acted serial killers to grace the screen. Institutionalized cannibal Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and FBI Academy student Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) develop an unsettling relationship, as each uses the other for their own ““ partly sick ““ benefit. I’ll let its five Oscar wins speak for themselves.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street,” directed by Wes Craven, 1984
Who hasn’t heard of Freddy Krueger? With long knives stemming from his gloves and scars covering his face, his appearance alone would startle even the bravest of viewers. As the ruthless child-killer begins to haunt the protagonists in the form of hellish nightmares, they try not to fall asleep. And after watching “Nightmare,” you might do the same.
“Halloween,” directed by John Carpenter, 1978
At the start of the film, Michael Myers is introduced as a six-year-old wearing a clown suit and holding a large knife that he has just used to kill his sister. He is a born killer void of any human emotion, as he continues to hunt Laurie (a young Jamie Lee Curtis) after escaping from a mental institution on Halloween. Scarier still ““ as the multiple sequels and remakes reveal ““ he never dies!
“The Shining,” directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1980
Director Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining” has a lot going for it. For one, Jack Nicholson plays crazy beautifully. And the plot is pure horror gold. Is there anything more terrifying than a little kid trapped in a haunted hotel that is slowly turning your dad into an insane ax-wielding killer? With images like a hallway filling with a wave of blood and a rotting corpse in a bathtub, it blends just the right amount of reality and hallucination, all leading up to an epic chase scene.
Some movies are all about that shiver-up-your-spine factor. They may not be full of blood and guts but will likely leave you with a haunting image or two that you just can’t seem to shake. Either that or an increased sense of paranoia.
“Psycho,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1960
You can’t call yourself a horror-film buff if you haven’t seen “Psycho.” It’s a story about a woman who chooses the absolutely wrong hotel to stay at and pays for it at the hands of a totally crazy ““ and totally intriguing ““ villain (the best kind). If for nothing else, see this movie for the infamous shower scene (warning: may cause shower-phobia).
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” directed by Tobe Hooper, 1974
Also known as THE reason not to pick up hitchhikers. A group of teenagers make an unfortunate stop at the house of total psychos filled with human bone furniture and tools that can only be used for slaughtering. It goes without saying that there are casualties. The chain-saw-wielding Leatherface wears his victim’s faces. Enough said.
“Carrie,” directed by Brian De Palma, 1976
Based on a Stephen King novel and directed by thriller master Brian De Palma, “Carrie” is the ultimate warning to bullies. Carrie (played to scary perfection by Sissy Spacek) is a troubled high school girl with special ““ and evil ““ powers, who is tormented by her peers at school and her mother at home. But she gets her revenge. And boy does she. The image of the blood-soaked and crazy-eyed Spacek is enough to make you never look at the actress without shivering again.
“The Ring,” directed by Gore Verbinski, 2002
A few gems have redeemed the 2000s from being a total drought of good horror movies. And “The Ring,” for one, was a downpour. It taught us a few things: Naomi Watts plays the freaked-out card superbly, a ghost crawling toward you with really long hair covering her face is downright terrifying, and you should NEVER pop in an unmarked video tape without thinking first. It could kill you!
“The Exorcist,” directed by
William Friedkin, 1973
There’s nothing like a good old story about a demon-possessed kid who pukes green bile and spins her head completely around. But “The Exorcist” is not just one of the greats because of its graphic depictions of a nice girl transforming into an obscenity-screaming, hideous monster ““ it’s a movie with depth, as it touches upon personal struggle with the two priest characters who dare to battle their demons, literally.
“The Sixth Sense” took the average ghost story and made it 10 times scarier. “The Blair Witch Project” convinced viewers it was real footage of a real haunted forest. “Saw” proved that a slasher flick could be thoughtful. And just the trailer for “Funny Games” could give a person nightmares. The horror flicks that have stepped outside the box are:
“The Sixth Sense,” directed by M. Night Shyamalan, 1999
Shyamalan’s breakout movie “The Sixth Sense” is just a great story. With a precious little Haley Joel Osment as a kid with the serious problem of seeing (really scary) dead people and Bruce Willis as the psychiatrist trying to help him with that. It’s a must-see for not just horror buffs but anyone who likes a good plot and good acting. And there’s also that little twist in the ending.
“The Blair Witch Project,” directed by Daniel Myrick and
Eduardo SÃ¡nchez, 1999
At the time this ridiculously low-budget and ridiculously haunting mockumentary came out, it was a part of a hoax that had viewers swearing it was real footage. And watching the movie now, it’s still hard to believe it was just a hoax. In “Blair,” three film students venture into the woods with a camcorder to uncover the history behind a community’s witch “myth.” Bad idea. What makes “Blair” so scary is that we see everything through the cameraman’s increasingly terrified eyes.
“Saw,” directed by James Wan, 2004
Some horror flicks are all about the gore. Although this may seem the case for the uber-graphic “Saw” series, chronicling the Jigsaw killer as he traps his victims in torturous surroundings and watches how far they’ll go to escape, what’s made the franchise so popular is that there is more to it than just blood. With the psychological horror just as disturbing as the saw-your-own-leg-off violence, “Saw” represents a new wave of horror movies that test which viewer can keep from covering their eyes the longest.
“Funny Games,” directed by Michael Haneke, 2007
A remake of an Austrian horror film, this home invasion movie really shakes things up. The premise seems simple enough: A family arrives at their vacation home only to be taken hostage by two young men (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) posing as neighbors. The pair proceed to play sadistic games with the parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) and their son, speaking matter-of-factly and laughing jovially all the while. Although no violence happens on screen, the unapologetic film style, raw emotion and unfeeling villains do their share of psychological damage, begging you to find some underlying message.
DUE FOR A REMAKE:
With talk of a “The Birds” and “Poltergeist” remakes, here’s some recaps to get you excited:
“The Birds,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1963
Though “Jaws” and “Cujo” are close contenders for top animal-turns-evil movie, Alfred Hithcock’s “Birds” has to take the cake. Ready for the plot? Birds suddenly start attacking people! Look out! Sound funny? They peck people’s eyes out. Who’s laughing now? Naomi Watts has signed for the remake.
“Poltergeist,” directed by Tobe Hooper, 1982
Hooper’s ghost story is about a family being taunted by pesky paranormal forces. Those darn ghosts take their daughter through the TV set! The remake is scheduled for 2011.