Christmas has cornered the market on the holiday movie, but Halloween has its own rich cinematic tradition that can be enjoyed any time of year. I have memories growing up of switching out popcorn for Candy Corns and watching Beetle Juice for the umpteenth time in October just before the Scooby Doo marathon. And of course, what is Halloween without MTV playing Thriller on an endless rotation? I love Halloween, and since my ‘Fright Night’ usually involves a lot of films, I thought I’d share my top 10; a few classics, a few you may not have seen, a few that will make you scream, and of course, my all time favorite… but beware! Those who may be ‘Time Burton intolerant’ read this article at their peril!
A Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984, 91 min.)
Every town has an Elm Street… and every town has its secrets. When a group of friends begin having terrifying nightmares about a man with a glove of knives for fingers, a dark secret of their town’s past is revealed. Don’t put this one on too late. The only way to stay alive, is to stay awake!
Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988, 92 min.)
After surviving a terrible car crash, Adam and Barbara Maitland return to their home, only to realize they didn’t survive at all. They are now ghosts haunting their own home as a new family moves in. They are determined to scare them away, but being new to the business, they call on someone with a little more experience. Stars: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Jeffrey Jones).
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992, 128 min.)
Based on the classic novel, a young lawyer, Harker, is called away on business to Transylvania to meet a mysterious client, Count Dracula. While Harker is held prisoner, Dracula goes to London to seduce Harker’s fiance. Stars: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins.
A few you may not know…
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1957, 96 min.)
A knight traveling back from the crusades meets Death, who says he has come for him. The knight challenges Death to a game of chess for his life.
Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, Germany, 1922, 94 min.)
The original vampire movie! A masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema, Nosferatu terrified its original audience and thrills audiences today. It even inspired a fictionalization of its making, Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000), in which John Malkovich plays Murnau and Willem Dafoe plays Max Schreck. The defining feature of Nosferatu is it’s use of shadow. There is a famous scene where the shadow of the vampire’s hand glides over a woman’s body to her chest and as the shadow clenches into a fist, she gasps and rises of the bed as if it had gripped her heart. It proves many of the best effects in cinema were made without special effects.
The Others (Alejandro Ambenbar, Spain, 2001, 101 min.)
A woman (Nicole Kidman) and her two children live in a large manor on a secluded isle awaiting her husbands return after the war. After a series of strange incidents they come to believe there are ghosts haunting the house, but are they really being haunted, or are they the ones doing the haunting?
Honorable Mention: Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton,1999, 105 min.)
A lesser known Burton film, Sleepy Hollow recreates the legend of the headless horseman. An exceedingly well written and shot murder mystery with an amazing cast, it has all the makings of a great Halloween, and Tim Burton, film: a haunted village, a ghost, witches, jekyle lanterns, a haunting musical score by Danny Elfman, and of course… Johnny Depp.
If you really want to scream…
The Haunting (Jan de Bont, 1999, 113 min.)
A doctor invites three people to an old mansion to take part in what he tells them is a sleep study, but is secretly a fear study. Upon discovering this, the participants begin to disregard the strange occurrences which they have assumed were designed to frighten them. They learn too late that the doctor chose each of them for a reason… and the house as well. Stars: Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson.
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001, 147 min.)
A woman (Naomi Watts) suffers from amnesia after a terrible car accident. As she attempts to piece together her past, the distinctions between memory, dream, hallucination and reality are blurred.
The Ring (Gore Verbinski, 2002, 115 min.)
After a woman (and again, Naomi Watts) watches an unmarked tape with startling images, she receives a phone call informing her she will die in seven days.
And my all time favorite… Since there’s no Tim Burton film to make you scream, why not one that’ll make you sing!
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Dir. Henry Selick, Written by: Tim Burton, 1993, 76 min.)
The perfect transition piece! A marvel of stop motion animation, The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who longs for something new. He discovers a door into Christmas Town and is determined that Halloween Town will ‘make Christmas’. Honestly, how different can it be? Music by Danny Elfman.
By Taylor Lockhart-Lang