Rusty knives, demonic
possessions, mindless zombies, axe welding maniacs, and mad scientists make up the classic films worth checking out this Halloween season. After all, what’s Halloween without a good horror flick?
New horror films have the
advantage of new technologies
to make them extra-gruesome and extra-frightening, but to truly understand the horror genre, we must first look back at the films that made it what it is today.
First up is one of the earliest slasher films in American cinematic history: Psycho (1960). This film stars Anthony Perkins as the infamous Norman Bates. He is the owner of the Bates Motel and caretaker of his ill mother.
Alfred Hitchcock’s directorial masterpiece was twisted and vile for the time period, and is still considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. Much like modern directors, Hitchcock utilized technologies available at the time. He could shift the mood of a scene with simple lighting tricks to create suspense and amplify it with a killer score that makes your skin crawl.
It’s hard to believe a film that once scared my grandfather could still have that same effect, half a decade later, on me.
Everybody knows the next film, The Exorcist (1973), but how many people have actually given it the chance to truly gross him or her out?
The film stars Linda Blair as the possessed Regan MacNeil and Max von Sydow as Father Merrin, who is called upon to perform an exorcism. The opening scene draws the viewer in instantly with the slow progression and eerie, dark lighting. From that point, it’s 122 minutes more of stomach-churning, head-turning mayhem.
This film was controversial when it was released due to its religious implications, yet still received critical praise. It is currently one of only two horror films to ever be nominated for best picture at the Oscars.
Something about the total
collapse of civilization intrigues many people, and if that concept speaks to you, take the time to watch Dawn of the Dead (1978). Zombies are more popular now than ever. They appear in many forms on TV shows, in graphic novels, films, and video games. There’s even a zombie survival guide that you can purchase with awesome tips for the zombie apocalypse.
This is George Romero’s first colour zombie flick, and he took advantage with squibs and blood packs. The phrase “shoot ‘em in the head” means nothing if we aren’t seeing zombie brains flying around in much of the film.
The film (which had a popular remake in 2004) follows a group of survivors taking refuge in a nearby mall. The usual close-up camera angles and cheesy 70s music made the killing of zombies extremely enjoyable.
The only advantage the remake has on the original is Ving Rhames’ one-liners. However, Ken Foree does a much better job establishing character as the leader carrying much of the film.
The fourth film worth watching this Halloween season comes with a hidden message: REDRUM. The Shining (1980) features this ominous phrase, and makes my list of all-time creepiest films. Blood-filled elevators, mind manipulation, seclusion, and an axe are the make-up of a film shrouded in mystery.
Director Stanley Kubrick’s mastery of plot twists and suspense puts him on the list of greatest directors of all time, having created such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.
The film’s slow progression leads up to a twist that still to this day leaves people puzzled and confounded, a true masterpiece of its time period.
Finally, what would Halloween be without a few laughs? Young Frankenstein (1974) appears to be a horror film on the surface—a black and white film with monsters and mad scientists—but keep in mind that this Mel Brooks directed film stars Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle.
Perhaps the funniest of the escapades of the young Victor Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronkensteen”) is the monster running amok after an impressively choreographed dance routine with his creator.
The film draws on comedy styling of the 70s. It has a timeless charm and although it is not literally a horror film, it deserves a mention on my list.
All these films have a few things in common: they have all stood the test of time and can be considered classic, and they all come from a time period when directors had to think outside the box to create their vision. Reintroduce yourself to the roots of horror films with five classics to put your mind in the mood for malevolent mayhem and murder that goes hand in hand with Halloween.