"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit." Elbert Hubbard

Friday, October 21, 2011

What to watch for Halloween...

Why? Because I said so, that's why! After all, I am a cineaste. Or maybe just snobbish and opinionated. I do like using the term though because it makes me sound sophisticated. Besides, I know that you come here for my wisdom in these things dear readers.

So, here is my list of ten films that I'm sure will entertain, delight, and satisfy your need for things that go bump in the night. The season of Halloween, or if you prefer, Samhain is upon us. When the veil between this world and the next weakens and things from the other side may come through to visit. You never know...

1.The Uninvited (1944). A ghost story set on the coast of Cornwall. The first time I saw this I was alone in my darkened living room and got so creeped out I had to turn a light on.

2.The Others (2001). Again, a ghost story. I like ghost stories ever since I was a child. Creepy and effective, the tension builds and builds in this superb film. Is Nicole Kidman's character unhinged? Or is there something very, very wrong going on in this empty old house?

3.The Innocents (1961). Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It slowly but surely builds up the atmosphere of uncertainty. Oh how cute, the children have imaginary friends...or do they?

4.Carnival of Souls (1962). A very low budget B-film when it was first released, it has become recognised as a classic of the genre. Who is that silent, white as death man? And why won't he stop following her? Yessss... another ghost story. Told you I like them didn't I?

5.Curse of the Demon (1957). The American version of the English made original, Night of the Demon. Watch the full length original as the US release was cut from 95 minutes to 83. A no nonsense man of science attempts to banish superstitious beliefs. Mere hallucinations he says. Gullible peasants and old wive's tales he says. Hypnotic suggestions implanted in weak minds he says. But he's starting to see and hear them too...

6.Dracula (1974). Yeah sure, this has been done so many times. But this version? Ah, a true delight. Directed by Dan Curtis, written by Richard Matheson, and starring Jack Palance. I found this made for television film to be quite the scary story. No sparkly teenage vampires in love here. Twilight...feh...

7.Don't Look Now (1973). Based on the short story of the same title by Daphne du Maurier, it is a ghost story. Yeah...another one. A couple move to Venice after the death of their young daughter. Who is that young child they keep seeing out of the corner of their eye? I have to give credit to my friend Adrianna for introducing me to this film for which I am grateful, otherwise I might never have discovered it.

8.Black Sunday (1960). Ah...a true masterpiece of gothic Italian horror, directed by Mario Bava and starring Barbara Steele. The atmosphere is thickly laid on with a trowel in this tale of a witch come back from the grave to wreak vengeance on the descendants of her executioners.

9.The Legend of Hell House (1973). You think Ghosthunters is scary? You'll think it's more like Scooby Doo after watching this tale of paranormal investigators who get more than they bargained for. Based on the book of the same title by Richard Matheson. I've read the book and find the film just as scary.

10.Lady in White (1988). This takes me back to the Halloweens I remember as a boy. The grey overcast sky, the smell of the leaves as they turn and fall, the much simpler things we considered scary, and the growing anticipation of trick or treating. But, there are ghosts and it's not Charlie Brown in a bedsheet either.

So, there it is. My recommendations for what I watch when I am in the mood for horror. I'm sure you've noticed a trend towards ghost stories, which I absolutely delight in. Why? For starters it was the first form of horror I remember as a child, being told around the fire on camping trips. Secondly, they are truly effective with little or no blood spilled. It is the craft of a good storyteller (or film director) to give you that mood and atmosphere without beating you over the head with it. Any jackass can splash blood and gore all over a thing, but that doesn't build a true sense of horror, it just shows their inability to craft a tale guaranteed to give you the creeps.

I hope you, my dear readers, watch one or more of these films and get as much enjoyment from them as I do. And no this is not a complete list by any means. There are many films in the genre of the fantastic to share. But that is for another time.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Hamlet: Act 1, scene V. William Shakespeare


  1. I remeber watching all these movies with you . But what no changling?

  2. One list at a time. Don't want overwhelm folks with my geeky awesomeness too fast ya know?

    Besides, I need to save material for more posts.

  3. Yessssssssss...The Innocents is one of my favorite films!

  4. It has been done at least a dozen times over, but the only other version of note is the one made for television by director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker) in 1974 titled The Turn of the Screw.

  5. the changling shit the scared out of my 11 year old self. my netflix queue is chokablock of spooky this month. just watched legend of hellhouse for the first time in ages - still effective and you can't shake a stick at roddy mcdowall! ~ adrianna

  6. Great list! I haven't seenthe Jack Palance version of old Drac since it first aired, but it left such an impression on me that any movie I see him in makes me think of it! I guess close to 40 years later it's time to see it again!