As I write this I am busy handing out candy to trick-or-treaters on a beautiful, crisp autumn evening in upstate New York. It’s a perfect Halloween eve. We are all artists at Warmpicture, and of course I have my favorite art forms. One of my guilty pleasures has always been scary movies. I’ve been watching them, and even collecting many of them, for the last 30+ years.
So without further adieu, I present to you my Top 3 favorite scary movies for Halloween 2011.
Halloween is one of the most successful independent movies of all-time, and arguably the best horror movie ever conceived. Consider that John Carpenter worked with an estimate budget of $320,000 on a movie which went on to gross over $600 million in its first year. Now that is the definition of success!
Armed with the relatively new Steadycam, Dean Cundey delivered expert cinematography. Carpenter and Debra Hill collaborated on an expert screenplay in which they fused together their favorite campfire stories into a cohesive movie. The as of yet undiscovered Jamie Lee Curtis delivered a stunning lead performance, with great support from the venerable Donald Pleasance.
Add in a blank face mask (which was actually a Captain Kirk mask painted pure white) that became a legendary symbol of horror, and a simple yet effective musical score from Carpenter, and a legend was born. Watch it again, and appreciate it for how great a piece of art it truly is.
I am often torn between the fact that I love this movie so much, and that I love Steven King so much. King never liked Kubrick’s interpretation of his classic novel. And I can understand why. The book and the movie are very different animals.
But the bottom line for me is that Kubrick delivered one of the most frightening and creatively filmed horror movies of all time. The Shining is so torturous and horrific that it can be difficult to watch. This isn’t the type of horror movie you kick back with a bowl of popcorn to watch, and have fun with. It’s definitely not the type of scary movie you see on a date.
Kubrick’s cinematography, writing style, and choice of location creates a strong sense of claustrophobia and dread. You know something horrible is going to happen from the opening credits. But that doesn’t prepare you for Jack (Nicholson) Torrance’s murderous rampage in the film’s climax.
An entire film course could be written on Kubrick’s direction. And given the sad state of Hollywood remakes and not-so-scary cookie cutter movies, maybe such a course would be good for the future of film making.
We’re going old school here. Many of you may not have heard of this one. But if you saw Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, or many of the classic horror movies from the late 1970s and early 1980s, you saw the unmistakable influence of Black Christmas.
Black Christmas was directed by the late Bob Clark, who is also famous for providing us with a much happier Yuletide moment: A Christmas Story. Black Christmas featured a brilliant cast, including Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Keir Dullea, John Saxon, and a young Margot Kidder.
A sorority house is receiving very disturbing crank calls. The calls escalate in their intensity, as a rash of unsolved murders and attacks terrorize the small college town.
The killer in Black Christmas is not your garden variety Boogeyman. He is a complete psychopath. Disturbingly so. His phone calls contain multiple voices screaming at each other, including one of a screaming child. Somewhere in that mayhem is his full back story, and frankly I don’t want to know it. Although we never see him, I consider him to be one of the most violent killers in the history of horror. Certainly he is the most unstable.
The twist of this movie loses some mojo 37 years later, mainly because the twist has been stolen and re-used multiple times in subsequent horror movies. But make no mistake. This is one of the most frightening movies ever made.
If you decide to seek it out, just make sure you get the 1974 version and not the less inspiring 2006 remake. Let me know if you like it!
In the meantime, I need to get back to handing out that candy.
So what are your favorite scary movies?