October is the month of Halloween movies, which often means the same thing as Christmas movie season: watching the same films for the millionth time just because it's tradition. This Halloween, I decided to delve beyond my scope of horror movies and watched a slew of movies that were entirely new to me. Here is a brief overview of nine fright fests right on time for a Halloween movie marathon.
"Eyes Without A Face" (1960)
Georges Franju's cult classic is highly respected amongst small circles of arthouse horror cinephiles. In it, a wealthy Frenchman forgoes morality in an effort to fix his daughter's face after she was horribly disfigured in an accident. Makeup and effects make the most chilling images in the film stand out, but it's the way the characters idolize beauty and scorn otherness that makes this most horrifying. Melding psychological drama with a murder mystery makes this a good film for fans of "Psycho."
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)
Trailblazing for its unflinching brutality, Tobe Hooper's low-budget gorefest paints a rough picture of rural America. Though Leatherface is the film's franchise-starting icon, his entire family has some issues. "Massacre" is most effective when Leatherface finishes his prey with disturbing speed and nonchalance, like butchering a pig. But the protagonist's unending screams in the film's final act turn it into a grating slog.
A tall-haired man deals with life's struggles: weird neighbors, his girlfriend's overbearing parents and a horrifying colic mutant baby. You know, the usual. "Eraserhead" is David Lynch's surreal directorial debut, an experimental touchstone about the paranoia of young manhood and fatherhood in a dystopic industrial society. The incredible effects and haunting black-and-white cinematography make this existential drama a nightmarish experience.
"Amityville Horror" (1979)
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Perhaps the most legendary "real-life" haunting, this ghost story has very little to make it feel interesting decades after its release. Not that it was well-loved then; critics lampooned it at the time. Watching James Brolin slowly lose his grip on sanity as the house's demonic presence strengthens is sometimes effective, but the overall story lacks any real sense of urgency or importance.
"The baron of blood" David Cronenberg's breakout hit is a sci-fi thriller about people with telekinetic abilities. This premise has one major hurdle: the "action" scenes involve people that fight with their minds. On camera, that means they look at each other really hard for a long time. Still, a chilling score and gruesome body horror infuse those scenes with excitement. Unfortunately, the scariest part of this film is its lifeless performances.
"The Thing" (1982)
In Antarctica, residents of a remote American research location are attacked by maniacal Norwegians. They try to figure out just what's going on and unearth a horrifying, shape-shifting alien in the process. Most movie monsters have a defining look; The Thing is terrifying because it doesn't. It is a disgusting amalgamation of tentacles and skeletons that is constantly stretching, exploding and falling into pieces. But the most suspenseful moments involve the crew's distrust and paranoia. The blood testing scene is one for the ages.
"The Fly" (1986)
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) develops two teleportation devices, but when he decides to go through the device without proper testing, a fly teleports with him. The resulting fusion is one of the most disturbing in body horror cinema, even by today's standards. Underlying the gag-inducing visuals is a pair of fantastic performances from Goldblum and costar Geena Davis. At the end of the day, "The Fly" is a poignant tale about humanity and a relationship where the romance dies, but the love never will.
Even in his first movie, Guillermo del Toro had a knack for the fantastical. "Cronos" is a reimagining of the vampire genre so unique that it takes a while to notice it's about vampires at all. The horror elements are scarce, but they mingle well with the humor, magic and tragedy throughout the story. Argentinian actor Federico Luppi gives a touching performance, and Ron Perlman is funny and scary as a violent American willing to do anything for a fat inheritance.
This might be the billionth "Halloween" movie, but in the eyes of its creators, it's the second. A direct sequel to the legendary 1978 slasher, this "Halloween" has survivor Laurie Strode (the phenomenal Jamie Lee Curtis) deeply shaken by her run-in with Michael Myers. When he breaks out of custody 40 years later, a chain of grisly murders leads to a clash of wills decades in the making. It has plenty of frights, but it's also the most fun to be had in a scary movie in recent memory. The laughs are genuine, the characters are likable and the frenetic pace after the exposition-filled first act is immensely satisfying.