Halloween horror movie picks

Ben Raymond

So much about the horror genre has changed.

Believe it or not, there was a time when Karloff’s slow-moving, playfully homicidal Frankenstein would have people screaming white in the face.

There was a time when kissing was racy, and violence was implied – a time when swamp-things and giant bugs made audiences freightened with glee.

Today’s horror movie is a depraved mélange of cutlery, kinky sex and viscera.

The rise of the torture-porn subgenre has all but destroyed the charm of a once substantial brand of filmmaking.

Much like modern horror films, so too has Halloween taken a turn toward the gratuitous.

In the seventh grade, Halloween meant dressing up like a vampire or princess.

Now it means dressing up like a pirate’s wench or stripper-policeman.

But at some point during the costumed debauchery surrounding Halloween, make the time to watch a good scary movie.

So take off your gory masks and slinky stripper getups, sit back and partake in one of these classic horror flicks:

“Psycho” (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is not only the best horror film of all time; it is one of the 10 best films ever made in any genre.


It brought about a new paradigm of filmmaking.

Each and every picture made since owes it a debt of gratitude for its depth, boundary-breaking storytelling and overall daring nature.

Starring Janet Leigh and the incomparable Anthony Perkins (who delivers one of the finest performances in film history) as the notorious Norman Bates, “Psycho” shocked early-’60s moviegoers nearly to riot.

Audiences were shocked by the then-unabashed violence and were flat-out appalled by the amount of skin Leigh showed in the iconic shower scene.

“Psycho” is everything film should be. It’s powerful, enthralling and revolutionary all at once. Steeped in controversy and teeming with still-effective fright, it’s one of cinema’s crowning achievements by any measure.

“The Exorcist” (1973)

When “The Exorcist” held its Los Angeles premiere the day after Christmas in 1973, audience members shut their eyes, vomited and even had asthma attacks and nervous fits.

Some of them ran screaming out of the theater – many straight into a church to give confession.

Though much of the initial shock of “The Exorcist” has evanesced due to overexposure, the film remains as potent and lingeringly perverse as ever.

Try as we might, we will never forget Regan’s creepy 360-degree head spin.

We’ll always remember her potty-mouthed, pea-soup-spewing exorcism.

And we will never, ever escape the image the infamous bedroom scene.

It doesn’t get any sicker than that.

So much about the film is iconic. It’s the standard of terror to which all horror movies aspire.

It’s ballsy, rebellious and downright terrifying nearly 35 years after its release.

For my money, “The Exorcist” is the scariest film ever made.

“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

“The Blair Witch Project” is a textbook example of the love-it-or-hate-it picture.

Some think it’s fresh, ingenious and terrifying – a film that injects creative life into a slowly dying genre.

And so it is.

“The Blair Witch Project” is tense, haunting and at times petrifying.

Unlike so many other horror movies released in the ’90s, it dares to do something different and wholly artful.

Others think it’s cheap, disorienting and campy – a movie that amounts to little more than a clever plot device with atrocious acting shot on a shaky 16mm camera.

Yes, “The Blair Witch Project” is cheap, disorienting and campy.

It cost a mere $60,000 to produce, its handheld camera did make people physically ill and the protagonists do in fact go camping.

Though it does rely on a sly plot device and positively dreadful acting, “The Blair Witch Project,” despite its obvious imperfections, is an inventive, baleful piece of fine moviemaking that should be revisited.

“28 Days Later” (2002)

Danny Boyle’s pre-apocalyptic zombie flick is more than meets the eye.

Part mind-numbing festival of entrails, part penetrating socio-political commentary, “28 Days Later” is nothing short of a modern horror classic.

Among the jugular-tearing, bowel-slashing delight lies a smartly crafted political thriller that explores issues like genetic engineering, containment and even government oppression and terrorism.

Themes of allegiance and family loyalty are also an integral part of the picture.

Resistance leaders turn into flesh-eating monsters.

Once beloved family members now gorge themselves with the brains of their siblings.

Sensational, yes. But it is also inexplicably poignant.

Whether analyzed thematically or enjoyed purely for its mind-numbing violence, “28 Days Later” is the best horror movie of this decade.

“Let the Right One In” (2008)

The best chance this year has at producing a great horror movie comes with the critically acclaimed Swedish picture “Let the Right One In.”

“Let the Right One In” tells the story of 12-year-old Oskar.

Quiet, awkward and bullied at school, he meets Eli, a beautiful, raven-haired girl who soon befriends him. They fall in love.

But like Oskar, Eli is an outcast of sorts; she’s a bloodthirsty vampire who is soon hunted by the community on which she preys.

Unlike the overrated, nonsensical and criminally juvenile “Twilight,” “Let the Right One In” appears both compelling and substantial, both enchanting and ominous.

It has an eerie, come-hither quality. It’s inviting, almost charming, but nevertheless sinister.

“Let the Right One In” looks like one of the year’s very best.

Happy Halloween, Villanova.