The horror genre has existed for centuries, with a wide-range of subgenres. Whether it’s a Halloween movie featuring good ol’ “spoopy” fun, a twisted and tense psychological thriller or an 80’s slasher where naked teens die in increasingly gruesome ways, the horror genre is one of the most diverse in all of both literature and cinema. With Halloween closing in on us, what better time than now to take a look at which classic works of horror cinema give our writers thrills and chills!
Anna Daggett, Jeepers Creepers (2001)
For more than 200 years, a creature has been awakening to steal the body parts of those whom he feels worthy to be a part of his epic tale. No one knows where he comes from, who or what he is, or honestly if he is even a he. What is known is that this horror movie is said to be one of the best since Nightmare on Elm Street and countless critics agree. Although the second installment didn’t gross as much at the box office as wanted, a third installment was given the green light and hit theaters in September 2017.
For me personally, Jeepers Creepers is by far one of the best horror movies made to date. Its originality combines pop-up scares with long suspenseful themes, and the perfect amount of gore. There is even a level of sci-fi to it, as a woman named Jez seems to know a unique amount of things about the Creeper, such as how he comes every 23rd of spring for 23 days to take the pieces of the victims he likes until he is sure that he can be hurt no more. In a person’s fear, the creature can smell what he wants and in that fear, he gets what he wants. Perhaps the best part of the film, and the plot, is the song, indicating that the creature is not only near, but that he has found a new target as well.
The iconic movie and theme song has been gracing radio stations and home TV’s for the past 16 years and proves that it doesn’t have to be Halloween for evil to be lurking….
Katia Ibarra, Psycho (1960)
After stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away with her boyfriend, secretary Marion Crane stumbles upon the old Bates Motel after traveling in a heavy rainstorm. She then meets Norman Bates, the hotel’s owner, who is incredibly interested in taxidermy, but also seems to have a rough relationship with his mother, Norma.
Psycho is of course the film with the classic “killing-in-the-shower scene,” which brought a wave of paranoia to viewers from the 1960’s all the way to present day. Mr. Bates is the perpetrator of several murders throughout the movie, but if you watch this movie without being previously spoiled, the movie’s final plot twist will seriously leave you with something to think about.
I actually became more interested in the movie Psycho after experiencing the A&E series Bates Motel beforehand, which centers around Norman’s youth. I really do wish it had been the other way around, but I still enjoy both of them considerably either way. I watched Psycho recently, and I could easily point out why it is an instant classic. The vintage black and white, the suspenseful scenes (and the soundtrack that comes with it), and of course, Norman Bates. He is a particularly interesting character—fascinating in his own unique way of thinking and the significant love for his mother. Not to mention he is portrayed by the incredibly handsome Anthony Perkins. Aside from the suspense and gore, story and character are essential things for me to consider a horror movie “good” and Psycho has it all. A suspenseful and classic horror movie, filled with a fascinating story and antagonist, Psycho is a classic movie that worth watching and one that I find myself referencing quite often.
Eric Lowe, Evil Dead II (1987)
The story starts as many scary stories do. A young couple, Ash and Linda, head out to a cabin in the woods to on a nice weekend getaway. Unfortunately, after stumbling upon a book that has been bound in human flesh and inked in blood, Linda is possessed by a nefarious foul-mouthed demon and Ash is forced to cut her head off and bury her out behind the cabin- and that’s just the first ten minutes. What follows is an epic, insane and gory adventure in which the hapless and bumbling Ash fights to survive against demons that can possess people, the cabin, the surrounding forest and even his own hand.
I briefly wrote about the entire Evil Dead trilogy in one of last years’ Halloween articles, but this year I’m focusing on the middle, and best, chapter of the iconic cult horror series. Releasing in 1987, the film quickly joined it’s predecessor as an immensely popular cult film that gained wide popularity in the video rental circuit. The scenes in this movie are as grotesque as they are hilarious. The idea of a man being forced to murder his own girlfriend and then spend the next 90 minutes tormented by evil forces would be dark, heavy and pretty sadistic if this film weren’t so silly and over-the-top in tone, filled with one-liners ( the iconic “groovy”) and cartoonish special effects.
While there had been other films that previously blended humor with horror, such as 1985’s Return of the Living Dead, 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre and the majority of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead II perfected the craft and set the bar for future generations to try and emulate.
BONUS MOVIE! ASWNMU Attorney General and Horror movie aficionado Thomas Durham offers his opinion.
Thomas Durham, 30 Days of Night (2007)
30 Days of Night is not my favorite horror movie, but it is definitely one of them. This modern vampire tale is based on a graphic novel and tells the story of Eben and Stella and their harrowing experience defending their small Alaskan town from a horde of clever vampires who have figured out that in Barrow, they will be safe from the sun for a full month out of the year. Far from alone, Eben and Stella have family and friends in the mix, and collectively the residents of Barrow, Alaska soon realize that they are under siege from a predator the likes of which have never seen and are at first are ill equipped to deal with.
This film deserves inclusion in a favorite horror film selection because this contemporary version of a Vampire story achieves the incredibly difficult task of re-imagining the vampire as a metamorphosed human that has effectively become a different species. We all know the classic vampire, and the gothic, and these days the romantic tween version, but 30 Days of Night throws all of these styles out the window. The amount of thought that went into the design of these is such that they defy easy categorization right off the bat, which when it comes to vampires is no easy feat. According to the director’s commentary, the filmmakers effectively conceptualized vampires as something akin to sharks on land, voracious and cold and implacable.
As far as horror goes, I like a film that manages to successfully combine some older tropes with newer elements in such a way that you feel as if you are encountering something new after seeing umpteen versions of retread. As much a survival and siege tale as a creature feature, this film has central characters that you care about and a picturesque town which invites sympathy and for whose survival you root. The horror comes from seeing monsters dismantle the framework of our society when they are able to simply avoid their one natural predator: sunlight. It comes from a story in which humans are no longer the top of the food chain. If you think you have seen all the ideas on what makes a vampire, but you have not seen this flick, well then strap in and enjoy some good Halloween viewing with this modern classic of vampire cinema.
There you have it. An excellent collection of both modern and classic horror movies that are sure to make any Halloween a spooky one. Do you have a particular fondness for any of the movies on this list? What’s your favorite Horror/Halloween movie?