As some of you may remember from my Myspace days, I would do a list of recommended horror films every October in order to get everyone in the mood for Halloween. 2006, 2007, and 2010 had 31 picks a piece, while 2008 was truncated. I skipped 2009. In order to prepare for this Halloween, I thought I would share my previous lists and then unveil the 2011 edition over the course of October.
Film I - Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) - Directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck
Why you should see it — What better way to begin a journey through fine horror films than by viewing one of the first, and still one of the most frightening, horror films? This is the infamous ripoff of the Dracula novel, with the names of characters and locations changed. Of course, the German filmmakers decided to present their vampire as a grotesque, animalistic creature that was barely human. The result is a hauntingly disturbing portrayal of evil.
Scariest scene - Honestly? Any scene with Max Schreck’s Count Orlok. The makeup job is that fantastic, leading to rumors that Schreck really was a vampire.
Quote — (From Text Frame) “Is this your wife? What a lovely throat.”
II - Shadow of the Vampire (2000) — Directed by E. Elias Merhige, starring John Malkovich and Willem Defoe.
Why you should see it — This is an interesting take on the filming of Nosferatu from the viewpoint that Max Schreck (Defoe) really was a vampire. The director, Murnau (Malkovich), knows the truth about Schreck, yet is willing to sacrifice his cast to make his celluoid masterpiece. Not only is this a pretty creepy movie, it’s a celebration of, and warning against, the power of film.
Scariest scene - Schreck’s first appearance in the film, which is wonderfully creepy (and funny, thanks to the reaction from Eddie Izzard). Also, any scene between Malkovich and Defoe shows some wonderful acting.
Quote — “Oh. The script girl. I’ll eat her later.”
III - Martin (1977) - Directed by George A. Romero, starring John Amplas.
Why you should see it — I tend to enjoy non-traditional vampire films, and there are few, if any, vamp films more non-traditional than Martin. Set in the sprawling urban decay of Pittsburgh in the 70’s, Martin tells the story of a young man, Martin, who moves in with a distant cousin from the Old County. Both Martin and his cousin believe that Martin is a vampire. The only thing is, Martin walks around in daylight, has no supernatural powers, and has no fangs. That doesn’t stop him from finding ways to satiate his thirst for blood.
Scariest scene - Probably the home invasion scene, when Martin breaks into a house that he assumes only holds one occupant. Too bad he’s wrong on that count. Also, the ending, while not scary per se, is creepy and saddening.
Quote — “Things only seem to be magic. There is no real magic. There’s no real magic ever.”
IV - Near Dark (1987) - Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, starring Lance Henrikson, Bill Paxton, Jeanette Goldstein, Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright.
Why you should see it — This is yet another non-traditional vampire film. Bigelow, and co-writer Eric Red, spliced the vampire genre with a modern day western, with a gang of vampires (although that word is never used in the film) roving Texas and Oklahoma. Make no mistake, these vamps, lead by the always reliable Lance Henrikson, are badass. A lot of people are down on the film’s presentation of a cure for vampirism, but the idea is taken directly from the novel Dracula.
Scariest Scene — The bar scene, when the gang goes batshit crazy and have some fun with some rednecks who just wanted a cold beer after work.
Quote — “I hate it when they ain’t been shaved.”
V - The Hitcher (1986) — Directed by Robert Harmon, starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, and Jennifer Jason Lee.
Why you should see it — Quite simply, see this for Rutger Hauer’s performance as John Ryder, a crazy serial killer that unmercifully stalks Howell’s character throughout the movie after Howell makes the mistake of picking up Ryder during a rain storm. Also written by Eric Red, this film uses its locations in the deserts of Arizona to the max.
Scariest scene - The truck scene. Howell and Jennifer Jason Lee think they’ve escaped Ryder and have safely holed up in a truckstop motel. They were wrong. Howell wakes up from a trouble sleep to find Lee tied between two semi trucks, one of which has Ryder behind the wheel. He threatens to let the clutch go, ripping Lee apart, unless Howell stops him.
Quote — “Because I cut off his legs… and his arms… and his Head. And I’m going to do the same to you.”
VI - Duel (1971) - Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Dennis Weaver.
Why you should see this — If you need even more reasons for why semi-trucks can be scary, look no further than the TV movie that put Steven Spielberg on the map. Here, Dennis Weaver plays a frazzled business man who innocently passes a semi truck while trying to make an appointment. Unfortnately for Weaver, this pisses off the trucker, who spends the rest of the film stalking Weaver’s compact car on the roads of the California desert. We never see the truck driver’s face, making the truck itself the villainous monster of the film.
Scariest scene - For me, it’s the scene where Weaver is trying to get away from the truck by going uphill while his car is breaking down. Weaver makes it to the top and is able to coast downhill…which does not let him escape from the truck.
Quote — “You can’t beat me on the grade. You can’t beat me on the grade!”
VII - Jaws (1975) — Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw.
Why you should see it — Considered by many (although not by me) to be the scariest film ever, Jaws makes use of the hidden terror of the seas to awe-inspiring effect. The audience never knows when the shark will pop up to kill and maim, and its appearances are worth the wait.
Scariest scene — If it isn’t the very first scene, and its subsequent kill, it’s the scene where the shark pops out of the water and almost bites Roy Scheider’s arm off. It’s a great jump scare, and it signals the shark’s attack on the little fishing boat carrying our heroes.
Quote — “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (1988) - Directed by George Sluizer, starring Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, and Johanna ter Steege.
Why You Should See It — The Dutch/French production presents the readers with a wonderful romantic movie about a young couple (Donnadieu and Steege) on a drive to France for a getaway. And then the film pulls the rug out from under the viewers by having Steege’s character disappear while the couple make a stop at a gas station. The film then switches to Bervoets’ character, a devoted family man and all around nice guy…except for the fact that he’s planning on doing something very nasty. The two threads come together when Bervoets approaches Donnadieu, who has spent years trying to figure out what happened to his love. Bervoets admits to knowing what happened to Steege’s character, but, in order to find out, Donnadieu has to allow himself to be drugged in order to experience exactly what his love experienced years earlier.
Scariest Scene — Easily the scene where Donnadieu finds out just what happened to Steege’s character. Chilling, chilling ending (be sure to see the original movie, not the American remake that screws up the ending).
Quote — “Saskia!”
IX - Cronos (1993) — Directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, and Tamara Shanath.
Why You Should See It — Another non-traditional take on the vampire myth, this film has Luppi’s character, the not so subtly named Jesus de Gris, discovering a device that grants immortality at the price of his humanity. The true heart of this film is the interaction between Jesus and his granddaughter, played by Shanath, who sticks with her grandfather despite the changes that he goes through.
Scariest Scene — For me, the creepiest sequence is when Jesus and his wife are at a New Year’s Eve party, and Jesus goes to the bathroom. One of the other party-goers has a severe nosebleed, and Jesus is compelled to get on all fours and lick some blood up off the bathroom floor. This is the moment that Ron Perlman’s character strikes and proceedes to lay a massive asswhipping on Jesus.
Quote — “My name is Jesus Gris. My name is Jesus Gris.”
X - El Espinazo del diablo (The Devil’s Backbone) (2001) — Directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, and Inigo Garces.
Why You Should See It — This is a perfect example of the Gothic genre being translated to modern film. Set in an orphanage haunted by the ghost of a young boy during the Spanish Civil War, del Toro presents the viewers with a film filled with tension, pain, creepy atmosphere, and the loss of innocence. The love story is the unrequited love between Paredes and Luppi’s characters, and the fate of the characters (especially Luppi) is tragic.
Scariest Scene — This film relies on atmosphere more than jump scares, so I’m going with the most heartwrenching scene — the explosion scene.
Quote — “What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”