We asked each of our DVD feature writers to give us their suggestions for Halloween videos. So each day this week you'll get their answers in our "Videoween" feature. Our resident horror expert Cargill starts us off.
Every year about this time I start hearing the question: "Hey, Cargill, do you know of any good scary movies that I haven't seen?" And while the answer is yes, it's not as easy a "yes" as the person asking the question thinks it is. Just Google "Top 20 Horror Movies." Almost every critic out there has a list. The problem is that they all have the same movies on those lists: Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Omen, The Thing, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And if The Exorcist isn't the Number One movie, The Shining is. Or Alien. So really, go rent one of those. I don't know what you're asking me for.
Wait, you mean you've seen all of those?
Well, of course you have. They're the best horror films ever made. And if you haven't seen one of those, you should. Right now. Don't even bother to read the rest of this list. You aren't ready for it. But odds are, if you're reading this list, it's because you want a scary movie for Halloween that you've never seen before.
So here's my list of "5 Creepy Classics" -- with each one fitting a different mood or theme.
The Classic: The Changeling
This 1980 George C. Scott classic is a must-see that still holds up today. Just days ago I showed this to a roomful of movie buffs who had never seen it and they all fell in love. A creepy masterpiece that has been mysteriously ignored by the mainstream for decades, this brilliant haunted-house movie pits a recent widower (Scott) against an angry ghost who wants revenge. Filled with incredibly haunting scenes, this virtually bloodless slow-burn ghost story is just the type of scary movie appropriate for older children and teens, but scary enough to creep out even grown men.
The Recent Classic: The Orphanage
This recent Spanish thriller shares a lot in common with The Changeling and would, in fact, make a great double feature (hint hint!). It tells the tale of a young couple who moves into a house that was once an orphanage with the hopes of getting it up and running again. As you might guess, not is all right with the house and when the couple's adopted son disappears they must turn to the mysterious spirits in the house for help. Creepy and chock-full of great scares, what makes this movie perfect is its absolutely masterful ending, which has me weeping little girl tears every time I watch it. A horror film that brings tears to your eyes? It's the kind of film we wish Spielberg were still making. And an absolute must for Halloween.
The Buried Classic: Below
When David Twohy's Pitch Black was plucked form near death only to become a cult hit, Harvey and Bob Weinstein offered him a three-picture deal to make horror films for them. The first effort was brilliant -- a WWII-haunted submarine ghost story he co-wrote with uber-genius Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain). But when The Ring broke box-office records as a PG-13 horror film, the Weinsteins demanded Twohy cut the film from its contractually promised R rating down to a neutered PG-13. When he refused, the Weinsteins fired him, tore up his contract and buried this film in a weeklong run in roughly 400 theaters, with little to no advertising. Thus a spooky horror classic found itself scuttled at the bottom of the cinematic ocean waiting to be discovered by the likes of you through lists like these. Bruce Greenwood and Olivia Williams team up in this frightening is-it-or-isn't-it-haunted thriller that's unlike any you've ever seen.
The Surprise Hit: The Substitute
Just out on DVD this month as part of Lionsgate's Ghost House release package, director Ole Bornedal's Danish film also recently premiered at this year's Fantastic Fest here in Austin, Texas. And man did it play. An unanticipated hit of the fest, everyone walked out of this talking about how much fun it was. The best way to describe it is what several people said to me at the fest: "[It's] The Faculty done right." It is the story of a class who gets a new substitute teacher, only to slowly discover that she isn't exactly from this world. The movie evolves as part Goonies, part The Faculty when the kids have to find out what the teacher is up to and ultimately rid this world of her. A fun, delicious horror romp, this is for those looking for an old-fashioned, fun horror film and not necessarily one that will scare your pants off.
The Import: The Cold Hour
Okay, so I know there are a few of you reading this rolling your eyes at me, thinking, "Dude, I've seen all these. Where's the truly unknown classic?" Alright, jerk-face. I've got your import right here. Not one you'll find at your video store (yet), The Cold Hour (released in the U.K. Region 2 as The DARK Hour) is a moody, creepy science-fiction horror masterpiece that was one of the very best things I saw last year. It is the story of the end of the world told through the eyes of an 8-year old boy. Born after the destruction of most of the Earth, he has grown up in an underground bunker with an ever-shrinking population of people who are trying to survive against unimaginable, post-apocalyptic horrors. A heavy, beautiful, almost melodic horror film, the last 10 seconds are so incredible they will be forever burned on your brain. This film has one of the greatest endings I've ever seen. Well worth the price of importation, this film will no doubt become that gem in your collection that you will pass from buddy to buddy.