The Exorcist (1973): To me this is the grandaddy of them all. This film scares me as much (or more) today than it did when I first saw it many years ago. You don’t see many scary movies that attract the Oscar voters, but this one did– it was nominated for 10 Academy awards and took home two, including Best Adapted Screenplay. This is a truly haunting movie about a possessed girl and her mother’s fight to save her daughter. Brilliantly directed and acted with superb performances from Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, and Max von Sydow, be sure to leave your lights on after watching this one.
Halloween (1978): Hats off to director John Carpenter, who took a budget of next to nothing and managed to scare the pants off movie fans! To me this horror film is as much of a classic as Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) and in my eyes, maybe even more so. This film started all of the slasher films, but at least Halloween did it with class. Other than a bit of blood in the opening scene, there is no more to be found. Of course one of the most famous facts about Halloween was that it was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first feature film. After you watch the film, some of the most memorable images in horror history will be engrained with you forever, from the pale white mask coming out of the shadows to a figure standing at the foot of the bed wearing a sheet….and glasses! Doesn’t sound scary at all….but it works!
The Ring (2002): Ok, there are some more modern films that are done very well. The Ring is one of those. Based on the Japanese film Ringu (1998), this remake is a great story. Unlike so many modern horror movies, this film doesn’t base its story around teenage girls who end up running from hatchet-wielding inbreds in the backwoods. This is such an intriguing story, I won’t spoil a second of it for you by revealing much– just take my word, this movie offers its share of scary movie moments.
Salem’s Lot (1979): Ok, what is the movie guy doing picking a TV miniseries as a scary film? Well, it wouldn’t be a Halloween list without involving the great Stephen King, who wrote Salem’s Lot. Watching as a kid, this one kept me up a few nights, between the image of Geoffrey Lewis sitting in the rocking chair and revealing his yellow glowing eyes as he opens them, and of course Mr. Barlow, the monster himself. This is a good old fashioned evil vampire movie, not the local, good looking high school hunks who fall in love and then fight with the local werewolf clan. These vampires will terrify you with their crooked teeth and pale blue faces. If you haven’t seen this one in a while, give your DVD another spin.
The Descent (2005): After preaching about good horror films not being bloody, this one almost makes me change my mind. This movie is about a small group of friends that go cave exploring, and things go terribly wrong. With no way back to the surface, they try to find a way out by going deeper in the cave, where they encounter a stranger form of humanoid predator. This film is very claustrophobic and will do for cave exploring what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean.