The chills are out there. It’s fall, the best season out of the four. For me, fall is the standout of all the seasons, the scene-stealer of weather. The perfect combination of sun and cold weather, it’s enough to make me ecstatic. What’s more, the fall creeping in reminds me that Halloween is practically upon us, and it’s time to get scary.
Everyone has holiday tradition, and Halloween is no exception (and if it is an exception, shame on you). I try and watch my favorite horror movies every year; it’s nostalgia at its best for me. I love reminiscing to when I was younger and rushing home to watch these kinds of movies, back when channels like AMC and Sci-Fi showed the classic films (Does anyone remember Monster Vision on TNT?! ) Nowadays, everything sucks, and tradition is threatened by normalcy. No one apparently wants to see science fiction marathons or horror marathons anymore, so I have to assemble my own collection to bring back the past and bring some sanity back. So, to celebrate and honor All Hallows Eve, I am throwing down some of my personal cinematic recommendations for Halloween.
The Thing (1982)-Hands down, my favorite science fiction film, The Thing is also the scariest film I’ve ever seen. John Carpenter’s classic involves a group of Antarctic researchers/explorers/Kurt Russell encountering a fierce alien organism that imitates life forms perfectly, at the cost of said life form’s life. With John Carpenter’s genre expertise, Ennio Morricone’s understated score, and a talented ensemble of character actors, the film explores paranoia at its worst; stuck in the frozen tundra while not knowing who’s who. Even more impressive, the lack of any recognizable actors makes it hard to identify who is or isn’t The Thing; even Kurt Russell acts suspicious enough to warrant…suspicion. The special effects aren’t amazing, but they’re still impressive and quite gory, and they only add to the excellent tension-building drama. My highest recommendation on this list.
Halloween (1978)-Another John Carpenter classic, the original slasher film about a young boy who kills his sister only to grow up into a strapping young man…who breaks out of the loony bin and kills people (Hey, you can’t fix everyone). With a memorable score by John Carpenter himself, the film moves at a slow pace, much like The Thing, but it definitely builds up the suspense all the way to its shocking conclusion. Unlike its successors, Halloween is not flashy, and the violence is minimal, almost quiet in a way. It happens, and that’s it. Very little blood, but a whole lot of scare.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)-A very good thriller about an FBI rookie tracking a serial killer with the help of another serial killer, Silence of the Lambs boasts one of THE most terrifying scenes in a film: the escape of Dr. Lecter from his prison. I can’t go into how it happens, but it’s sudden, brutal, sadistic, and quite clever, everything you expect from a man named “Hannibal the Cannibal”. Just that scene alone is worth watching at night without the lights, but the film remains a suspenseful thrill ride nonetheless.
Aliens (1986)-While more action-oriented than the original Alien, Aliens is still terrifying in the sense that, in my opinion, the second scariest alien of all time (behind The Thing) is not alone, and there’s more. A lot more. A hell of a lot more. A film that perfectly blends action, drama, humor, and suspense, the idea of these Marines outmanned, outgunned, and with little chance to survive is nerve-wracking. It almost makes you feel like you’re there with them, trying to figure out how to escape. The film works best when providing more obstacles for the humans to overcome, making the characters more complex and all the more heroic. Standout scene is the Ripley vs. Face Hugger scene. See how fast your heart beats while watching.
Universal films-For me, the Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula films are just so much fun to watch. Back when makeup was the best special effect a studio had, these films, to me at least, make me appreciate Halloween even more, not to mention the effort it took for these films to be made. Cheesy? No, more like dedicated. More than any other type of film, these movies always bring me back to Halloween night, the cold weather outside, the marathon of Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, and then Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Very few emotions are as great as reliving a joyous moment, when nostalgia brings you back and for a second, revitalizes you with the smells, sights, and sounds of where you once stood; media nostalgia at its best.
Friday the 13th movies-Probably not my top choice to watch, but when you’ve had enough suspense, and you absolutely, positively want to see some brutal mayhem on Halloween, accept no substitutes. I usually flip back and forth from these movies to something else just because I can’t swallow the plot and the acting from the Friday films, only to switch back and see how stupid a girl in the woods can be when she’s trying to find her boyfriend, who has been dead since his name rolled off the credits. Still, there’s something appropriate about watching these movies on Halloween. The brutality of Jason is still unnerving; you never know when Jason is going to pop out with a blunt instrument; and when else are these movies going to be on, to save you the trouble of actually going out and having to buy them (which I will never ever do). This is more of an honorable mention.
These are, to me, the definitive Halloween films to watch. For hardcore genre fans, I’d even throw in a Halloween II and IV, some Puppet Masters, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Predator, which is a great film to watch any day of the week. So don’t be afraid, check these out, and let me know what you think!