Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My favorite spooky movies of all time. So far.

Tomorrow is Halloween, which means I've been binge-watching my favorite scary movies all week.

Now, I don't get scared by a lot of movies.  Just because it's super bloody (or lately, the way that most horror movies are going - really, really gross) or because somebody is hiding and waiting to jump out at some unsuspecting schmuck doesn't guarantee that I'm going to be frightened.

What really gets me is a spooky movie.  Ghosts.  Scary, evil children.  Bible verses sung in slightly off-key Latin by a Gothic children's choir.  The people that you trust the most suddenly trying to murder you for no reason.  That stuff gives me the true heebie jeebies.

So, in honor of tomorrow, here's a list of my absolutely favorite spooky movies, in no particular order:

1.  The Lady in White
I saw this movie when I was about nine years old, and it horrified me.  I couldn't sleep for weeks.  I've since seen it many, many times and it still makes me shiver.  The story, set in the 60s, centers around a little boy (played with perfect little-kid panic by 80s wunderkind Lukas Haas) who is locked in his school's cloak room on Halloween night by some class bullies.  What he sees in there - a ghost of a little girl and her very-much-alive murderer - sets the tone for a surprisingly nostalgic and utterly creepy movie.

Scariest moment: "Have you ever seen a dream walkin'?  Well, I did..."  (Trust me.  You'll never be able to hear that song again without getting goosebumps.)

2.  Pet Sematary

Um, need I say more?  Look at that kid!  Stephen King is my favorite author (he writes some really great non-scary stuff, too), and this movie is pretty pitch-perfect with the mood the original novel evokes.  King wrote the screenplay (and even has a small cameo as the minister), so needless to say, it's so, sooo scary.  It's all about a dad who loses his 2-year-old son in a horrific accident, and out of his mind with grief, decides to bury him in the Pet Sematary near his house (which, of course, is really an Indian burial ground) because he'll come back.  And when he does come back, he's no longer his little boy.  At all. 

Scariest moment: "I played with Jud...I played with I want to play with yoooooou..."  And honestly, the ghost of Victor Pascow scared the junk out of me when I was a kid.  Even though he's supposed to be a good guy.

3.  The Changeling

George C. Scott plays a composer whose wife and daughter have been killed in a car accident and he decides to move to this huge Victorian mansion in the middle of nowhere so he can just grieve and play music.  That's all the poor guy wants.  Of course, that's not going to happen because the house just happens to be haunted by the ghost of a little boy who was murdered there by his dad about 100 years ago (who locked him in the attic in a secret room, along with his wheelchair - which is still there).  Never has a wheelchair been more sinister.

Scariest moment:  "How did you die, Joseph?  Did you die in this house?  Why do you remain?"  This is tied with the scene where the wheelchair chases Scott's girlfriend down the stairs.

4.  The Shining

My parents let me watch this movie at my 12th birthday party (although they fast-forwarded through the naked lady in the bathtub scene), and this may have been what hooked me on scary movies.  Also based on a book by King, I think what's so terrifying about this movie is the thought that your dad - your dad - could just go ape-poop crazy and decide that he just wants to kill you and your mom.  Yes, the hotel is evil (sooo evil), but really, the betrayal is the scariest thing about this story, in my opinion.

Scariest moment: 
1.  When I was 12, it was the dead sisters.  "Come play with us, Danny....forever...and ever...and ever..."
2.  As an adult, the part where Wendy finds the "book" that Jack has been working on and realizes that all he's been doing for weeks is writing the same sentence, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and it hits her all at once that he's completely lost his mind --- aggggh!  And when he follows her up the stairs saying, "I'm not gonna hurt you, Wendy.  I'm just going to bash.  Your.  Brains in.  Wendy?  Put the bat down.  Give me the bat."

5.  The Ring

I went to see this with my friend Bridgett, and we just happened to run into my cousin Colin, who also enjoys all things scary.  We sat together, and at one point, I looked at Colin through my fingers and whispered "It's just too scary!  It's too scary!"  I actually left the theater with a headache from squinting my eyes in anticipation.  To quote Stefan from SNL - this movie has it all.  Evil dead children, creepy hair, and more creepy hair.

Scariest moment: When the chick climbs out of the TV to scare the dude to death, everyone in the movie theater started mewling and hiding their eyes.  And it just kept coming.  Did I mention there's a lot of creepy hair involved?

6.  The Devil's Backbone

This movie is in Spanish, so it's subtitled.  I thought, "Can't be that scary, then."  And I was so, so wrong.  The film was directed by Guillermo del Toro, and the ghost in this movie literally gave me nightmares.  I was 28 when I watched it in my apartment (by myself!  Stupid move, Amanda!), and I am not kidding - I slept with the light on for like three nights.

Scariest moment: When you find out what really happened to the horrifying ghost with the weird head injury.

7.  The Others
I love almost all Gothic ghost stories, and this fits the bill.  I'm not a huge Nicole Kidman fan, but she does a wonderful job of playing a harried mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and you actually sympathize with all she has to go through.  The cinematography is beautiful in this film too, and it adds to the chilling setting.  This is just a really good, old fashioned ghost story.

Scariest moment: When the little kids find the secret graveyard, and everything that follows.

8.  Let the Right One In

This Swedish movie (another subtitled gem) is the only vampire movie where I've actively rooted for the vampire. The friendship between the two main characters - a little boy who is being mercilessly bullied at school and the little girl (well, that's subjective to opinion) vampire - is actually pretty touching. The absolute starkness in the setting of the movie also makes it super unsettling.  They've since made an American reboot, which is good, but this one is the most effective.

Scariest moment: The last five minutes.  In the pool.  Enough said.

9.  Silver Bullet

Yep, yet another Stephen King offering, but this is an underrated one, in my opinion.  Corey Haim (before his sad spiral into drugs) gives a really great performance as a paralyzed child being pursued by a werewolf.  Yeah, I know.  It sounds stupid, but it's really, really creepy.  Especially since the werewolf just happens to be the town minister.  As an added bonus, Megan Follows - yes, Anne of Green Gables! - plays Haim's sister. 

Scariest moment:  When the minister corners Haim in an abandoned covered bridge and he can't get away because he's out of gas in his cool powered wheelchair (also called "The Silver Bullet") and then...the minister starts changing form...

Happy Halloween, everybody!!!