The leaves have fallen off the trees, jack-o'-lanterns glow with flickering light and 8-year-old kids are threatening to egg your house unless you give them fun-size Snickers. All this can only mean one thing: It's time to scare the bejesus out of yourself.
With Halloween once again upon us, it's time for everyone to have a good scare, either alone or in the company of some freaked-out friends. And when Hollywood horror stars were asked to name their own go-to fright fests, they unsurprisingly recommended the classics.
"I just saw 'The Exorcist' for the first time, and [I was] done," shrieked "Saw II" star Beverley Mitchell while invoking the name of the 1973 flick about a little girl's dance with devil possession. "I can't do it ever again. Just that it's 'The Exorcist,' I don't know, it just freaks me out. I sat with the blanket over my face the whole time, terrified."
But this Halloween, Mitchell urged, you don't need to fight the crowds in the video store horror section to make you soil your SpongeBob costume. " 'Seven' also really screwed me up," she laughed, referring to the grisly Brad Pitt/ Morgan Freeman detective drama.
"There's always got to be a monster," insisted Cillian Murphy, star of the 2002 zombie thriller "28 Days Later."
"If I wanted to be really scared on Halloween, I would probably watch 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' — the original one," said Donnie Wahlberg, who has appeared in such creepy flicks as "The Sixth Sense," "Dreamcatcher" and the "Saw" sequel.
"It's just real creepy, man," Wahlberg remembered of the controversial 1974 flick about a group of cannibal killers led by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface.
"It never fails to make my skin crawl," Wahlberg added, before throwing in a warning about the Jessica Biel remake. "Not the new one though; [rent] the original. ... It's just a very unsettling film. I've never really gotten past the feeling I get when I watch that movie."
"It just bothers me," Wahlberg laughed, summing up the feeling most fans have toward their favorite horror movies. "But I still can't resist watching it."
At first glance, gory horror classics like "Chainsaw," "An American Werewolf in London," "Evil Dead" and anything starring Freddy, Jason or Michael Myers may seem like a simple recipe of special effects and Karo syrup blood. Such supposedly brainless thrill rides, however, require great skill to effectively terrorize the Halloween crowd.
"There's incredible emphasis on the pacing," said Rachel McAdams, who gained a new appreciation for the genre while working with horror maven Wes Craven on "Red Eye."
According to "Scream" mastermind Craven, there's one thing that makes a good horror movie: "A good horror director," he laughed. "Somebody who says, 'This is not just a horror film, this is going to be as good as I can make it, and it's going to get as deep as I can make it, and it's going to be around for 50 years.' "
When asked to name the movie of his that he would most recommend as a Halloween rental, Craven gave an answer nearly as shocking as anything he's ever committed to film. " 'Music of the Heart,' " he joked, referring to the 1999 inspirational drama he oversaw. "The scene they cut out with Meryl Streep killing all the kids? That was some of my best stuff, yeah."
" 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' was fun," Craven said, getting serious about the 1984 slasher flick that introduced Freddy Krueger and has terrified scores of teenagers since. "There were kind of high points in 'Nightmare on Elm Street,' 'The Hills Have Eyes,' 'Scream,' they were all little classics of one sort or another."
According to Murphy, who also worked with Craven in "Red Eye," monsters like Krueger often come in second to the viewer's desire to believe that what they're watching could actually happen. "When the audience can see themselves in that position and go, 'How in God's name would I react?' or, 'How would I get out of this situation?' — [then] they can envision themselves in that. I think in Wes' movies, there's always that thing where people can go, 'If I was there, I'd be ... .' I think that's the key to them."
In Murphy's red eyes, however, one masterpiece rises above the rest when it comes to such horror: " 'The Shining,' for me, is the definitive one."
The 1980 classic, based on a Stephen King novel, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, tells the story of a family stuck in a snowbound hotel for a long, torturous winter. Cited consistently by the stars as one of the scariest movies ever made, if you aren't instantly terrified by the word "Redrum" or the phrase "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," then your Halloween viewing decision has been made.
"I had never really watched scary films before," 19-year-old actress Camilla Belle said while working on remake of "When a Stranger Calls," another horror classic. "I watched a couple before I did [this movie], and 'The Shining' was probably up there out of all the ones that I saw."
The image of Nicholson losing his mind and terrorizing his family is so powerful, in fact, that it is influencing the production of future Halloween classics in more ways than you'd expect. "Whenever I think of the Stranger," Belle said of the unseen voice that terrorizes her babysitter character in the upcoming film, "I put Jack Nicholson's face on that character, [and that] gets me scared really easily."
"That's my stranger," Belle revealed, laughing. "Jack."
Whether you want to invite Nicholson, Freddy, Leatherface or even the Leprechaun over to scare you this Halloween, one thing is for certain: you'd better hurry up and make your rental soon. Otherwise, a scare-seeking celebrity might just grab the last copy.
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