It was a dark and stormy night ... and the scariest night of the year is upon us. So it’s only fitting that it’s time to have a good scare and the best thing to do for that is to see a scary movie. Whether you head to the movie theater with your special someone or you shut all the lights off at home and you put in something truly scary, it’s just the right time to throw some popcorn around when someone or something pops out of the shadows. My fellow patrollers and the Horrormaster himself, the Toddster, have truly put together some of our favorite horror movie memories since it’s Halloween. Get ready to be scared!!
“Ghost Story” 1981
This one’s almost as old school as it gets. Released in 1981, this classic ethereal tale is based on the best-selling Peter Straub novel and features a cadre of old Hollywood stars (many in their last screen roles ever) – Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman.
The four play members of “The Chowder Society,” a gentleman’s club in a quaint New England town who gather to regale each other with ghost stories. But the most terrifying tale the four men share is all too real. Your past eventually comes back to haunt you, they say – and in “Ghost Story,” that’s taken literally.
One of the men’s sons has been involved with a strange woman, Alma Mobley (Alice Krige), who drives his twin brother to suicide. Alma is a dead-ringer for the beguiling Eva Galli (also Krige, naturally), a free-spirit the four gents met in their youth in the 1920s. Poor Eva dies when she gets into a sexually-charged tussle with the boys. Panicking, the four young men on the verge of starting successful careers stash Eva’s body in a car and push it into a frozen lake. Just as the vehicle submerges, they see a horrifying sight – Eva’s still alive, banging on the window!
Now, of course, the ghost of the wrongly-killed Eva is bent on revenge, and one by one picks off the old gents. There’s not a lot of gore in “Ghost Story;” its frights come from careful plotting and mounting suspense. Quiet, thoughtful and brilliantly shot, “Ghost Story” is the grand old dame of the genre -- back when the movies knew how to scare you without piling up body parts.
As a kid, I had seen a few clips and scenes from “The Omen” and “The Exorcist.” I knew enough at that time to walk away from the TV viewing area – as far as possible. At the age of nine or 10, watching scary movies typically equated to bad dreams and nightmares.
To the age of 11, I had skillfully avoided any nightmares. That all changed when my mother and father took me and my three siblings out to dinner.
We had just come out of Nina’s, and my dad suggested we go to the movies at the Colonia Theater. What was playing at the time? “Halloween.”
I think we (the kids) made a quick query about the nature of the movie. While I cannot recall the my dad’s answer with complete certitude, I know for sure he stealthily avoided telling us that the plot centered on a depraved serial slasher hunting down a babysitter (a young Jamie Lee Curtis), and killing every person in his path.
Shortly after the movie starts, a young boy took a butcher knife from the kitchen, walks upstairs, and brutally stabs his sister to death. My first thought? Where was the exit? I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. For the next hour and a half, I was confined within the walls of the Colonia Theater.
Bathroom breaks were aplenty, but I saw plenty enough on that evening to scare me for weeks to come. I overcame my fears, and now relish the opportunity to take in a good spine chiller. I can thank “Halloween” for thickening my skin.
No matter what corner of the house or what level of supervision was exerted as a kid, I could always get my hands on that rated R movie I wasn’t supposed to watch.
The 1986 horror sci-fi flick “Aliens” was the first rated R movie I ever saw and I still watch it occasionally today. After a clever heist of switched videotapes from my parents’ room, I was free to view it later ... until the next time they reached for the tape and instead found Disney’s Snow White.
Being so young and in the single digits, I can’t recall the first time I saw it. I remember one of the trademark movie moments when the sleeking blood soaked eel-like alien burst out of the human rib cage and at the time it was the most frightening thing I’d ever seen on TV... it was awesome.
It traumatized me enough that for over a decade anytime I got a stomach ache my thoughts would turn to the scene – which always made it worse. Emotional scarring and paranoia – the true mark of any great horror movie.
I love the Alien series and it will forever have a special place in my darkest fears, for both its vivid depiction of Sigourney Weaver in a white T-shirt without a bra and the alien insect killing machines.
“Session 9” (2001)
An asylum, lobotomies, tortured souls, a demonic spirit and an asbestos problem. Session 9 has all the requirements of a scary movie. Simplicity and great story telling are what make it terrifying.
In this unlikely masterpiece, a rag tag gang of haz-mat workers, led by their troubled boss Gordon, take on a seemingly impossible job in the old Danvers State Hospital as a last ditch effort to save their business. With everything on the line, tensions run high as the deadline looms. And one-by-one each man senses an unholy presence among them. Stretched to the limits mentally and physically in the dark hallways of an abandoned loony bin, no one knows if the horror is real or imagined. Oh man do they found out.
With little violence or gore, Session 9 leaves much to the imagination. Solid acting, realistic plot lines and everyday dialogue bring the evil in this movie to life. You’ll feel like this could happen to you.
The story is frightening. The ending will leave you feeling a little wounded, a little raw, a little on edge. But you will certainly not be disgusted or feel cheap, which seems to be the goal of most horror flicks these days.
Hands down, this is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.
“Pitch Black” (2000)
While my fellow reporters jumped at the chance to write about their favorite horror flick, it was something of a challenge for me. You see, I’m not really the scary movie type. Over the years my friends have forced me to watch a few films in this genre. These occasions usually involved restraints of some kind, frequent use of the fast forward option on the remote, and equally frequent pausing to give me time to stave off panic attack(s). I didn’t watch any of them by choice, and the only part I enjoyed was finally seeing the credits scroll through at the end.
The first time I watched “Pitch Black” started out much like the situation’s I’ve just described. My friend and I had decided to go to the movies on a particularly dreary afternoon, and since he was having a rough week, I let him pick what we were going to see.
I should have known better.
It’s been years since I’ve seen this, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. The movie starts out harmless enough, with the crash landing of space craft on a barren planet. It doesn’t seem so bad at first, there’s minimal injury in the crash, there is a settlement nearby where they think they can get help. Their main concern appears to be Riddick, the convict they are transporting, played by the incredibly hunky Vin Diesel. (This was the first time I’d seen him grace the big screen, and I was in awe of his chiseled physique.)
But then the plot, as they say, begins to thicken. The settlement is abandoned, and they discover the planet is infested with huge Pterodactyl-like beasties which thrive in darkness. Not of too immediate concern on a hunk of rock with two suns, one might think. But as luck would have it, they are mere hours away from a total eclipse which will plunge the planet into, well, pitch blackness.
Blackness in which Riddick was uniquely capable of seeing in. (Apparently he’d had his eyes surgically altered to allow him to see on whatever penal colony he’d been previously housed. But does it really matter why? It looked hot.)
While the crew and passengers dithered about whether Riddick could be trusted to lead them to safety, I had no such qualms. Even with my limited exposure to horror flicks, I knew he was their only chance of survival. And did I mention he was really hot?
There were tense moments as the dwindling group battled their way through the vicious creatures. I can’t tell you much about that, because as I’ve found, it’s hard to see when you have your hands firmly clamped over your eyes. Suffice it to say that, after significant loss of life (both on the part of the beasties and the shipwreck survivors) Riddick succeeds in getting himself and a couple of others to safety.
I’m a sucker for a happy ending, even if it is wrapped up in a big horror bow. And did I mention Vin Diesel was in it?
I even watched the sequel.
“Salem’s Lot” (1979)
My Mom and Dad were never real horror movie fans so I didn’t get to see them a lot in the theater as a kid. So I had to settle for watching them on Saturday afternoons like the horror classics ”Dracula” or “The Wolfman” or late Saturday nights after the 11:00 o’clock news. That was the best time to watch them when my folks were asleep. This was where I saw the scariest movie I had ever seen. “Salem’s Lot” stars David Soul as Ben Mears who has had a successful writing career but decides to return to his old home town of Salem to do research for a book he wants to write. After he returns, Mears comes to find out that a lot of things have changed and not for the better. Strange things begin to happen and people start turning up dead with mysterious wounds in their necks. This movie made Dracula look like a cub scout. As the suspense kept building, the further my blanket got over my head. At one point, I was so scared I shrieked a little and my Dad woke up to see if I was OK.
When he saw what I was doing, he was a little mad at first but decided to let me see the rest of the movie. In his mind, maybe he thought this might teach me a lesson. The only lesson it taught me is that you have to watch the whole movie to the end and I always remember the end when Mears and friends are cornered by the Vampires. What will happen?? What will happen?? Not gonna tell you!! Suffice to say, scary movies are scary but fun. The Toddster dares you to rent this one.
It’s always fun drawing something for our own experience and letting you in on it. Hope everybody has a lot of scary plans for tomorrow including a scary movie or two. I know I will catching one or two. My pals and I will be teaming up for another DVD Patrol special about once a month. New releases are back next week with some good ones. Happy Halloween!!