AWESOME-tober-fest 2008!! Some of my favorite scary movies
Welcome back to Week 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest. Last year I did an article telling you guys about some of my favorite scary books. It surprisingly became fairly popular and has been seeing steady traffic. So, this Halloween (AKA AWESOME-tober-fest) I thought I’d list out some of my favorite scary movies.
Now, this won’t be a “scariest movies of all time list”, that’s too easy. This list is gonna be typically Pax-centric. It’s all about what I like, my friends. That’s the only way I can work, ALL ABOUT ME. So this list will consist of movies that I really enjoy watching but not ones that I would consider the greatest Horror/Monster movies of all time. You can Google “Greatest Horror Movies” and literally get thousands of results if that’s what you are looking for, but this list will be a bit more nuanced. And by “nuanced”, I mean “stuff Pax likes”. If that is also your definition of nuanced, then you’ve come to the right blog.
I’ve put this list in chronological order. Let us begin.
Dial ‘M’ For Murder (1954) – A Hitchcock classic. This one really ratchets up the suspense (well, it is Hitchcock). Also, Grace Kelly is beautiful and wonderful as always. I prefer her in Rear Window, however, as she has more to do because, make no mistake, this is Ray Milland’s picture. Oh my lord, this guy is the balls. Cold, calculating, smart. He never once loses his calm demeanor despite being grilled by a Sherlock Holmes wanna-be detective. Ray Milland plays a husband who recruits a man to kill his wife (Grace Kelly). He has everything planned down to the last detail but something goes wrong and he must try to frame another man for the attempt. The script for this was originally a theatrical play, and you can tell by how the cameras were setup and everything was filmed. Also, it was originally released in 3-D, which not many people know, and I got to see it that way on the big screen at the Alabama Theater during Halloween 2003, I believe. This is a great movie.
Psycho (1960) – Hitchcock, again, at his best. Anthony Perkins pulls a fantastic performance here as Norman Bates. It’s easy to see why he was typecast after this movie. His performance here is so menacing, how could he be seen as anyone else? FYI…stay away from the sequels. They are awful. Psycho II is just embarrassingly bad. Wishful thinkers tend to say that four is not bad, but they are kidding themselves. This is the only movie with ‘Psycho’ in the title worth watching (and I’m including American Psycho in that statement too).
Trick or Treat (1986) – This movie is not good. Seriously. I’m not even trying to “reverse psychology” you into liking it. It’s terrible, actually. Bad script, bad makeup, bad acting. Watch this movie and I guarantee you will question my taste in movies (like you don’t already). However, for some reason, I have always enjoyed watching it when it comes on late night cable TV during the Halloween season. But make no mistake, this movie has been universally panned. On paper, however, this movie rocks. Check this out: Rock star, Sammi Curr, is burned to death in a hotel fire (awesome). A distraught teenage fan obtains the last demo record of Curr’s and finds he can communicate with the dead rock star by playing the record backwards (I swear I’m not making this up). The deceased Curr starts a killing spree that only the teen aged fan can stop. How awesome does that plot sound? With cameos by Ozzy Osbourne (as a televangelist!) and Gene Simmons this movie was headed for classic horror status. However, the whole is most definitely not greater than the sum of the parts. I implore you to watch this with an open mind. And by “open mind”, I mean “as much alcohol in your bloodstream as you can fit without actually dying”. And have friends there too. What good is watching something as bad as this without witnesses to the atrocity? Oh, the teen aged fan in this movie is Mark Price (not the basketball player, sadly) otherwise known as dorky Skip from Family Ties (with long hair!). Yeah, I don’t know how they screwed this one up.
Deadtime Stories (1986) – This is another one of those high concept, yet poorly executed horror films from the ’80s (see entry above) except this one doesn’t bog itself down with cool celebrity cameos. Well, unless you consider Scott Valentine a celebrity. Yes, like Trick or Treat, this movie also features a Family Ties alum, the guy who played Nick Moore, Malorie’s neanderthal boyfriend, on the later seasons (ie the “bad” seasons). I should try to fill this list with bad movies staring actors who were on Family Ties. I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard. Anyway, this movie is really three short stories that are reworkings of well known fairy tales/bedtime stores including a killer witch, Red Riding Hood and a werewolf and “Goldi Lox” and the three bears. I also saw this in the theater and remember liking it, but I have yet to see it since that initial viewing. I’ll have to Netflix the DVD this Halloween to refresh my memory on why I haven’t watched it since it was released over 20 years ago. The poster’s cool though.
The Worst Witch (1986) – Staring Fairuza Balk and Charlotte Rhea (Mrs Garrett!). This movie is based on a book series of the same name and was later turned into a popular kids show on Nick. Growing up, HBO would show this movie every year during the month of October which is how I came to watch it and start loving it. It’s similar to Harry Potter, what with the witches and the school and witchcraft classes and the Satanism. Wait, scratch that. No Satanism. Sorry, I had a small attack of Fundamentalism, there. My bad. Anyway, look for an unbelievably bad appearance by Tim Curry as the Grand Wiz (yeah, I know). Check out this little nugget of Halloween musical insanity sung by Mr Curry himself called Anything Can Happen at Halloween. What an entrance, check out that ginormous cloak! WTF?! If half way through this musical interlude you are not frantically looking for a rusty spoon to dig out your eardrums in an effort to stop the offending noise, then you are a better person than I. I still hear that song in my dreams…scratch that, my nightmares.
Misery (1990) – Oh man, this is probably my favorite of the Stephen King adaptations (followed closely by Firestarter and Shawshank Redemption). Everyone else likes The Shining, but I thought it was too weird (I know, I know, man’s descent into insanity and all that, but whatever, the movie was weird). This is a truly menacing movie and it’s every bit as good as the book. It really disturbed me. It’s a classic. Kathy Bates probably won’t give a performance any better than she does in this movie. Hard to believe this is the same Kathy Bates that was in Fried Green Tomatoes or About Schmidt (why did I watch that movie?) Where did this Kathy Bates go?
Apt Pupil (1998) – Based on a Stephen King short story this movie stars Brad Renfro as a disturbed teenager who discovers that the old man living next to him (Ian McKellen) was one of Hitler’s Nazi officers. The teen becomes obsessed with the old man and forces him to relive all the atrocities the Nazis inflicted on other people. Seriously dense and scary material. Watch at your own risk. And, just so you know, the short story is actually more disturbing than the movie. I’m glad I saw this, but I don’t plan on ever watching it again.
The Others (2001) – I was not expecting what I got out of this movie. It’s an interesting twist on your traditional haunted house movie. I really enjoyed the sets and the performances by Nicole Kidman and the kids. I was genuinely creeped out by this movie and the ending was very satisfying. Very underrated.
Frailty (2002) – This movie has the potential to do what The Mist did, and that is, get on my “list”. And while it is disturbing, it at least gives a satisfying ending. There are several good people in it like Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. It starts off with Matthew’s character talking to the FBI explaining that he thinks his brother Adam is the serial killer, God’s Hands. The rest of the movie is done in flashback to Matthew and his brother’s lives as kids and living with their insane father (or is he?), Bill Paxton, who believed he was on a mission from God (NOT like the Blues Brothers) to remove the evil from men’s souls. And he tries to teach his sons his work. There are some twists and turns, but the performance of Bill Paxton as Mr Meiks is haunting. This movie is tough to get through but I promise you will be rewarded with a clever ending.
The Mist (2007) – Another adaptation of a King novella from the book Skeleton Crew. This movie really puts its audience through the ringer with a group of people trapped in a supermarket after a deadly fog (or mist) covers their town and anyone who ventures into it is attacked by viscous creatures. The character work inside the supermarket with the small cadre of people fighting with the circumstances they are put in is really good. I was totally there…until the end. They changed the ending from the novella, and I have to say, it sucks. It is BLEAK. Heartwrenching. They bring you all the way through the monsters, the killing, the infighting and the uncertainty only to leave you at the end, like a babe in the woods, defenseless. The ending undid everything for me. I hated it. It’s not that it was done bad, it’s that I felt manipulated. Give it a try, see what you think, but I absolutely am pissed at this movie right now. If this movie were a person I’d headbutt them in the face and push them into oncoming traffic. The Mist is on my “list”. So if later on you ask me about the Mist, I’ll deny knowing what you are talking about. The Mist, to me, no longer exists. It’s dead to me.
So, those are some notable scary movies I enjoy during the Halloween season. Except the The Mist, if that were an actual movie, which it’s not because it’s dead to me. If you get a chance rent a few and marvel in the coolness (or lack thereof) in all of these movies. You won’t regret it.
That’s Week 2 of AWESOME-tober-fest!! Steph and I are going to Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights this weekend. I can’t wait!! Next week may be chronicaling our adventures there, so stay tuned. I may also have something else hidden up my short sleeves (I can do that because I’m a bad-ass, ninja mo-fo). See you on the other side.