A list of favorite old and new flicks for creepy Halloween fun

October 25, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |

There's nothing like a good scare to get your heart pumping.

And what better time to celebrate things that go bump in the night better than Halloween?

In celebration of Halloween, I have put together a list of some of my favorites for the season. Some might not truly be Halloween movies, but ones I believe are an ode to all things that just creep us out.

When it comes to capturing the essence of Halloween on film, for me at least, body count can never trump psychological thrillers. Although, I do like the sound of a chain saw when I need to let out a blood-curdling scream (it's good for you, honest).

Not a fan of thrills and chills? Campy is just fine as well, and I have included some of those.

So here is a small round-up of some of my favorite Halloween movies to get you in the mood. Have a favorite? Share your thoughts on Herald-Mail Lifestyle Facebook page.

Read as evil cackle: Ahaaaa, Ahhaa, Ahaaa ...

"The Exorcist" (1973) — This movie gave a generation nightmares. It has also entered pop culture reference galaxy with pea soup, and well, a few things I can't print. Linda Blair didn't have much of a career after this (see 1990's campy "remake" called "Repossessed" PG-13 ), but Max von Sydow's tortured Father Merrin is the stuff of classic movie characters. Rated R.

 "Hocus Pocus" (1993) —  Bette Midler, Kathy Nijimy and Sarah Jessica Parker star as the Sanderson Sisters who come back to eat the children of their little town, but it's up to Max, his sister, his new girlfriend and a talking cat to stop them. Make-up transformed the three ladies into ugly witches, and all three play it up. This Disney flick also gives us a great song-and-dance number with Midler. A fun coming-of-age tale that has some spooks and laughs. Rated PG.

 "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" (1966) — Linus is convinced that the Great Pumpkin will arrive to shower kids with gifts. The made-for-TV cartoon has remained a classic for generations. What creator Charles Schultz was able to do was make the audience root for Linus, even if his friends are a bunch of naysayers. Not rated.

 "Lady in White" (1988) — Lukas Haas is locked in the school's cloak room when he witnesses a ghost of a little girl and the guy who killed her. This period piece is set in 1962 and strives for accurate detail. The taut writing keeps viewers guessing who the killer is and how the kid is going to protect himself. This might be hard to find to rent, but it will be worth it. Rated PG-13.

 "The Shining" (1980) — Stephen King reportedly was not a fan of Stanley Kubrick's take on his best-selling novel. But only Kubrick could have been able to build a world where reality and fantasy seem to be fluid. Starring Jack Nicholson as Jack and Shelley Duvall as his tortured wife Wendy, the movie has enough spots to make you jump and make you wonder if their kid's OK. There are also plenty of memorable, quotable lines — "Herrreee's Johnny." Rated R.

 "House of Wax" (1953) — Who better than Vincent Price to make this list? Although some parts of the special effects might be laughable to today's standards, Price is committed to his role. This film originally was in 3-D when it was first released, which might have helped with people jumping with fright. The best part is the wax used as torture. It's campy, but that's why I like it. Not rated.

 "Halloween" (1978) — OK, so there are a lot of bodies in this, but the first "Halloween starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis is by far the best in the "Halloween" franchise. The real story is that Michael is her mentally disturbed brother, which made the tension so much better in this first flick than any others by making the pursuit of Laurie by Michael extremely personal. Rated R.

 "Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) — Tim Burton outdid himself with this musical number of Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, who discovers Christmas. You'll be humming the tunes hours later; "This is Halloween," is a favorite. Rated PG.

 "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975) — Tim Curry is just a sweet transvestite from Transylvania as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick costar in this musical number. With its themes of sex, I wouldn't recommend it for younger children. But the show — a stage musical before making its leap to the big screen — was penned by Richard O'Brien who played Riff Raff in the film. Rated R.

 "Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) — A bogeyman that not only haunts your dreams but can kill you while you sleep? Nothing says horror more than Freddy Krueger. This one stars a young Johnny Depp. Rated R.

  "The Haunting" (1963) — This has been redone several times, but this black-and-white version is the best. The body count is high in this film, but it's not too bad for those who are squeamish. Director Robert Wise makes the house feel as if its another character — almost giving it an eerie heartbeat with the use of early special effects. Not rated.

 "Paranormal Activity" (2007)— What's spookier than the unseen? The first of the four-part installment plays on everyone's fears of fighting the unknown. This is one of those movies that uses "found footage" to give it a more realistic visual. It helps with the scares. Rated R.

 "Psycho" (1960)  — I would be remised to not include the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock on this list. Several people have tried to capture the essence of this first film with sequels and remakes, but there's something that they are never able to recreate what Hitch was able to do in this film. Anthony Perkins plays the tortured Norman in all his creepy glory as he does whatever Mother wants. Not rated.

 "Bell, Book and Candle" (1958) — Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart reunite after their much better pairing in Hitchcock's "Veritgo" of that same year. Novak is a witch who puts a spell on Stewart. It's perfect, harmless 1950s fare. Not rated.

 "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) —  Zombies are taking over the country and a group of people are trying to keep from becoming the next member of the undead. This film was remade in 1990, and although there have been advancements in special effects, nothing holds true to the original. Not rated.

 "Young Frankenstein" (1974) — This quotable Mel Brooks' comedy stars Gene Wilder, who cowrote the script, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn. An ode to the original "Frankenstein" with a lot of laughs. Oh, and do you recognize the Monster? That's Peter Boyle underneath all of that makeup. And his friend the Blind Man? That's Gene Hackman. PG.

  "Beetlejuice" (1988) — Michael Keaton is Beetlejuice who is summoned by the newly dead Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis by muttering his name three times. Great FX make-up helps to bring this fantasy film alive. It doesn't hurt that there's a fun dance number involving Winona Ryder and the song "Banana Boat." Rated PG.

  "Evil Dead II" (1987) — It must be Bruce Campbell's chin that makes him look like the ultimate hero. Campbell is Ash, a lone survivor who is trying to protect himself from a group of flesh-eating spirits, so there is plenty of gore. But to true Campbell nature, there's also comedy.  Rated R.

  "Ghostbusters" (1984) — Who ya gonna call? Getting slimed and giant Stay Puft man taking over the city are just two of the memorable bits in this film. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson are a group of Ghostbusters, trying to rid the city of ghosts. Great laughs, great fun. And you won't forget seeing someone getting slimed for the first time by Slimer. Rated PG.  

  "Friday the 13th" (1980) — Although this has become a laughable franchise, nothing scared people more than Jason who kills kids at a sleepaway camp. His hockey mask has become a horror icon in itself. This is a pure blood bath. But it's also a great excuse to hang on to someone next to you. Rated R.

 "The Omen" (1976) — Gregory Peck stars as a father who realizes that his son is actually the devil, and it's up to him to get rid of him. Although the 2006 version of this film wasn't actually that bad, Liev Schreiber is no Peck. Rated R.

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