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13 Scary Movies for Halloween
13 Scary Movies for Halloween '
Halloween and Horror movies go together perfectly. As DVD became popular, more and more studios began releasing their catalog of horror movies to the format. The following list of 13 films is by no means a complete list or a countdown of favorites (although they are 13 of my personal favorites). It’s meant as a sttaring point, a DVD-a-day until Halloween festival of sorts for the month of October. So turn off the lights, turn up the sound and enjoy!

Night of the Living Dead – George Romero’s low budget success about zombies mysteriously walking around a northern town remains one of the most disturbing depictions of what is wrong with society today. His attitude toward the media and discrimination are subtly revealed in this powerful, low-key film that paints a disturbing portrait of American life. When looking for this film on DVD, the only version to pick up is the Millenium Special Edition, unless you find a copy of the old Elite version around. It has two good commentaries and trailers, but does not change the film in any way. It’s pretty hard to find, but still lurking around. There was a 30th Anniversary edition released in 1999 by Anchor Bay that mutilated the film beyond belief. That version can be found extremely cheap, avoid it. If you must pick up a cheap version, several abound that present the film only with a bad transfer that is still better than VHS. [Full Review]

The Exorcist – This is truly one of the most disturbing films ever. Brilliantly directed by William Friedkin, this adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel maintains its scare factor by not relying on makeup or gore, but instead delivering the chills with atmosphere and emotionally disturbing scenes. The 25th Anniversary Edition of the DVD packs in several great features. The deleted scenes recently restored in theaters are included, as well as a great 75min documentary that offers a fascinating look behind the scenes. Also included are the standard trailers and TV commercials. When shopping, look for the older disc, which is a better version of the film. The so-called Version You’ve Never Seen isn’t quite as good story wise. [Full Review]

Jaws – Steven Spielberg’s ocean based, realistic horror story worked so well because it was a believable story that dealt with primal fears. His exploitation of the fear of water and fear of the unknown has ruined the beach for many scared moviegoers; just the next film did for the shower. This is still one of the best films I’ve seen and was the first movie I remember scaring me as a child. The DVD for the film does a nice job of providing extra info, but it lacks in more ways than one. There is a great documentary, but little else is provided other than the standard trailers and deleted scenes. Perhaps Steven Spielberg will stop being scared and do a commentary track. [Full Review]

Psycho – While not as scary as some of the other films, it has to be listed for a perfect combination of camera work, story, shock ending, score, and acting. Hitchcock’s adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel based on Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein fathered modern slasher horror and influenced movies for years to come. This film shows how Hitchcock was the master manipulator. He made audiences think and see exactly what he wanted them to see. Another great DVD, with an excellent documentary that revisits nearly every key player involved in the original. Also included is Hitchcock’s original, shocking trailer.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – This more faithful adaptation of serial killer Ed Gein played upon America’s inner fears following the Viet Nam war. Dissolution of family values, lack of gas, and the hash brutality of the country and media at the time are all touched upon by this disturbing film. A great commentary and deleted scenes help this DVD as well. Cast and crew put aside years of differences and a long feud to come together and record one of the best commentaries on DVD. Other Chainsaw series trailers are included, as well as a blooper reel and alternate footage. [Full Review]

Bride of Frankenstein – One of the classics from the Universal Studios period of films in the 30;s that still holds up today. James Whale’s clever tale of love, death and betrayal works on so many levels it remains the perfect combination of sci-fi, horror, and slapstick. The care and features that Universal puts upon this classic series is amazing. Each DVD has commentaries by noted film scholars as well as behind the scenes documentaries, and this one is no exception. To learn more about this film, pick up the 1998 Academy Award winning film Gods and Monsters [review] by director Bill Condon. It is a semi-autobiographical account of Frankenstein director James Whale that details the events leading up to his death.

Nosferatu – This 1922 vampire film by German director F.W. Murnau is still the best and eeriest depiction of a vampire ever filmed. Visually stunning with its gothic style, this reworking of the Dracula story was ahead of its time. This silent classic has aged well and remains hauntingly simple and scary to this day. Similar in style to the Universal series, Image treats fans with a commentary by film scholars along with an explanation as to why this film was almost lost completely 80 years ago. There are also several cheap and alternative versions of this disc around. I’d recommend sticking with the Image version. [Full Review]

Evil Dead 2 / Dead Alive – It’s a tie between these two films. They both blend splatter –horror with extreme humor, but vary a little in style. A fan of the Three Stooges, Sam Raimi’s sequel is full of slapstick and ironic humor. This slapstick horror film gave rise to the popular splatter-punk style of horror, but the original remains the one of the best by combining humor, attitude and horror perfectly. The DVD comes packed with an entertaining commentary by both director Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell. It also has the standard images and a hilarious documentary included as well. See where the director of the Spider-Man developed his style by looking at his roots. [Full Review]

Another blockbuster director rooted in a similar style is Peter Jackson. Before making a name for himself with Lord of the Rings, Jackson produced several of the most twisted and demented films to come out of New Zealand. Dead Alive is the most professional looking of these and the blood and gore is extreme and extremely funny. Unlike traditional Zombies, ones that have been bitten by the Rat Monkey keep coming. Body parts and internal organs take on a mind of their own until Jackson seeks to outdo Raimi’s chainsaw-on-a-hand with his own version, a lawnmower. Basically devoid of features, here’s hoping that Jackson’s newfound popularity will produce a special edition of this title similar to his first feature Bad Taste. [Full Review]

Alien – Much like the previous films, this one is important because it took the slasher film and set it in another location, specifically outer space. Directed by Ridley Scott, this organic look into sci-fi horror remains the best of the popular series. It serves up a double dose of fear by endangering the characters on several fronts and threatening them with the ultimate killing machine. Included on the DVD are the standard director’s commentary and a few deleted scenes. The highlight of this disc would have to be the isolated score that can be listened to. [Full Review]

Blair Witch Project – Considered by many to be a letdown, it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. Aside from that, this film presented a fresh and new take on horror and left audiences dangling, literally, with an ambiguous ending that was missed by most. I still remember watching a bootleg copy on video months before it arrived in the theaters. I was excited about it before I had a chance to be hyped up beyond expectation. The highlight of this disc would have to be the excellent documentary done by the Sci-Fi Channel that treats the Blair Witch as if she were real. Extra footage and other actors weave into this intricately created program that strengthens the understanding of the film. [Full Review]

The Devil’s Backbone – Before Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro exploded into Hollywood with Blade II, he created one of the best ghost stories ever committed to film. Full of the most beautiful cinematography you’ll see in a horror story, the film deals with the horror and lust within all people as much as it does the story of a dead boy. This is the film that should have everyone excited about him making a film of Mike Magnolia’s Hellboy. The DVD is a Spanish language edition with English subtitles. Extra features included a great set of interviews and a documentary, as well as Del Toro’s first DVD commentary. [Full Review]

The Wicker Man – Another non-traditional film, this time from 1973, The Wicker Man deals with religion in a unique fashion. Police Sergeant Howie travels to a Scottish Isle looking for a missing girl and discovers a Pagan society whose beliefs strongly disagree with his Christian ones. This short (88 or 99 minutes, depending on your version) film isn’t truly shocking until the final moments when Howie realizes that Lord Summerisle, played fantastically by Christopher Lee, has been leading him on from the beginning. The boxed set released in 2001 featured two cuts of the film, rated and un-rated. Aside from a few interviews and a beautiful wooden box, there’s little else on this great set. [Full Review]

The Crow – Technically not a horror movie, this gothic super-hero tale is included for it’s wonderfully dark portrayal of revenge. Perhaps made all the more chilling by the unfortunate and accidental death of the film’s star (Brandon Lee) during a stunt, it’s filled with an eerie feeling of dark and dread. Lee turned in a haunting performance as the boyfriend back from the dead to avenge the death of his fiancé. A proper edition was released last March that had a nice collection of deleted footage and artwork. Most revealing is the interview with Crow creator, James O’Barr and a haunting interview with star Brandon Lee. [Full Review]

Don't limit yourself to these few films this Halloween. There are hundreds more that are worth exploring and every bit as scary.
- Phillip Duncan


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