‘Be afraid … be very afraid’
13 of the finest films to watch around Halloween
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 14:10
Halloween is one of the most interesting times of the year for movies. Not only does it precede the period when Hollywood releases its slate of what generally becomes “accepted” as the best films of the year (in preparation for awards season), but it also reminds us of a genre too often reduced by certain sects of the cultural warriors: horror films.
As we are now facing that time of year when people feel compelled to revisit some horror classics, here is a list that will provide you some excellent choices. I have never been satisfied with any type of list that details what the “best” of anything is. And this is not that.
I have constructed this list with no consideration over what is the “best." It has simply to do with what I think is good. Below you will find 13 of the films I find most appropriate to watch during the Halloween season – films that are genuinely scary and induce a visceral reaction that plays on their audiences’ emotions; films that are made with superlative technical craftsmanship; that present intellectual and moral dilemmas, which force you to keep thinking about them long after you’ve finished watching.
As you enjoy the upcoming seasonal aroma and wonder what movies to pick off your shelf to scare you senseless, here are some that may render you terrified.
1. Audition (1999) Takashi Mike
For those who enjoy the thrill of being freaked out, this is a film I recommend. Audition is one of the scariest Japanese films of the modern era. Based on a novel by Ryu Murakami, this film is a paragon of psychological intensity and visual horror. A film producer is encouraged by his son to hold a fake audition for a new wife. After becoming infatuated with one of the young women, he later comes to realize she is a disturbed victim of childhood abuse with major issues. It leads to one of the most thrilling climaxes in all of cinema, involving acupuncture needles and a limb-sawing wire. This film features one of the most sadistic femme fatales to ever grace the screen.
2. Caché (2005) Michael Haneke
One of the most intensely suspenseful films of the 21st century, Caché centers on an upper-class Parisian family that suddenly receives surveillance tapes of themselves from an unknown source. Haneke (Amour) has a masterful sense of camera placement and firm control of tension. Highly allusive of Hitchcock, the film is an incendiary look at the role of watching other people in a technology-saturated age. It poses more questions than it does provide answers – leaving audiences in excruciating agony over trying to explain any conclusions to the film.
3. Carrie (1976) Brian DePalma
With the recent release of a dismal remake, now is the perfect time to visit DePalma’s haunting supernatural thriller. One of the best films ever made about high school alienation, Carrie exudes a sense of incipient horror. A young girl who’s shy, pretty and seems to keep to herself, Carrie reminds us of someone we all once knew. Trapped inside the home of her religiously fanatic mother, she begins to realize she has paranormal capabilities that turn her high school atmosphere into mayhem.
4. Cat People (1942) Jacques Tourneur
Tourneur, an immensely evocative director and master of dark undertones, made Cat People with no reluctance to broach the absurd. The story is of a young Serbian woman who thinks she comes from a line of people who turn into cats when sexually aroused. A study of the inherent power of female sexuality, Cat People was an act of political and cultural subversion at the time it was released. Today, it remains an exceptional cinematic experience. Embedded in all its sexual tension, it is, at its core, a discerning look at emotional tragedy.
5. The Changeling (1980)Peter Medak
No list of movies for Halloween would be complete without a haunted house entry. After the deaths of his wife and child, John Russell (George C. Scott) discovers the ghost of another dead child may be in the mansion where he is staying. A film that conveys horror through innate angst and sadness, The Changeling presents internal terror through external chaos.
6. Don’t Look Now (1973) Nicholas Roeg
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are captivating as the parents of a drowned daughter who may or may not be sending them messages. Roeg presents the Daphne du Maurier story with psychic intensity; everything is presented as an enigma – executed with sublime imagery and ominous feeling. Rarely do films so chillingly express that things are not as they seem. Don’t Look Now is a horror masterpiece.
7. The Last House on the Left (1972) Wes Craven
Wes Craven’s finest film is one of the scariest of all time. The Last House on the Left penetrates a fear as intense as any – that of home invaders. There is a moment of such unforeseen terror, it may surpass all other scary scenes in the history of movies. A remake was made in 2009 that was an utter piece of rubbish. The original film is one you can rely on to really push the limits of your adrenaline.