Saturday, October 27, 2012

Top Fifteen Best Creepy Old Halloween Movies.



I can't stand a gory horror film.  Ever since catching glimpses of Friday the 13th at a fellow five-year-old's b-day party, I was spooked and grossed out by the buckets of blood and limbs flying.  Viewing horrific murders in graphic detail just sounds like the worst way to spend an evening.  However, I absolutely adore a creepy old psychologically spooky film from the olden days (pre-70s).  Anything Hitchcock or Vincent Price-- preferably featuring a haunted mansion, spooked maiden, candelabra, creepy old guy, ornate wallpaper, handmade ghoulish costumes, and old-time movie make-up-- absolutely tickles my fancy.  I love the mysterious, the occult, and the dark looming atmospheric themes that loom over those old movies.  This time of year, I love delving into the old spooky archives for a weird B-picture or an old classic I still haven't seen.

Its so hard to narrow the list to the top ten best old spooky movies, so I had to devise a list of those top fifteen that are on constant play in my house this time of year.  Most of these films you can find via Netflix Instant or in full length on Youtube.



Dracula's Daughter (1936)



The haunting imagery in this movie puts the modern vampire tales to shame.  Dracula's little girl, a fellow vampire-- or more like vamp-- tries to free herself of her dad's dark influences, she believes are haunting her.  She gets wrapped up in a kidnapping/love drama, ripe with thick lesbian undertones.  Fantastical dark capes and spooked wooded areas... and oh! that 30s-era make up is just perfect for a ghostly tale: pencil- thin brows, severe tight lips that you just know are crimson or plum even though you're staring at it in black and white. 




The Haunting (1963)



A classic psychological thriller, this British film follows a team of supernatural investigators hosting a sleepover in a haunted castle-mansion.  A perfect film when you're seeking a good ghost story in a lush interior.... Ghosts really know how to live their afterlife, don't they?  You'll never find them stuck a trashy old trailer park, no, they go straight to the high priced real estate.  Lots of cool 60s camera angles and an equal measure of cool 60s youth, the skeptics and the scared, all loose in the mansion for the haunting. 



Rosemary's Baby (1968)




Just one of the greatest films period.  Of any genre.  Rosemary's Baby is a seductive mix of conspiracy theory, occult, magic, glamour, history, and hollywood fiction.  Filmed in the rich, historic Dakota apartments (John Lennon's 70s era home and site of death, as well as the location of a legacy of New York dwelling celebrities and weirdos of the 1900s) by infamous director Roman Polanski just before his wife and unborn child's horrific murder. Conspiracy theorists say that Rosemary's Baby angered Hollywood Satanist so much, they plotted against his wife and child as revenge using Manson to do the dirty deed.  Gossip aside, its a bewitching, beautifully shot film.



Psycho (1960)



A stone cold classic.  Hitchcock play thing and stone cold fox Tippi Hendron, stars in this tale that made me never shower home alone again.  What can I say that hasn't already been said?  Who hasn't already seen this one?  There's a reason Hitchcock is called the Master of Suspense.




Carnival of Souls (1962)



I saw this one late one night/early one morning and was completely in love with the imagery and soundtrack!  Oh, its full of amazing organ music and images of teen rebels racing into the night, against their own fate.  There's not a whole of substance to the story but the fantastical imagery, themes, and 60s styling make it among my favorites.   




Masque of the Red Death (1964)



I've gushed exclusively about this film this week.  You just have to see this one in all its technicolor glory.  The occult themes and lush settings frame consummate horror actor Vincent Price and Beatle dream girl Jane Asher.  




Cat People (1942)


One of my fav films period, I've raved about Cat People in the past. Made as a B film in 1942, with time it became a critical darling with adoring fans like Martin Scorscese. You find find stills and descriptions I've posted here and here.




Nosferatu (1922)



Naturally some of the greatest creepy films are silent-era films: The deep shadows and shaky nature of the era's cinematography make for the perfect setting for a monster, murder, or evil scientist to concoct a dastardly plan.  Nosferatu is a classic German film and early adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula-- the hitch was, the production company couldn't obtain the rights so names had to be changed, from Count Dracula to Count Orlok, Vampire to Nosferatu.  The make up and mise-en-scene come together so perfectly that, even in this CGI-era, its a visual spectacle. 




The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)


Another silent-era German horror film, its considered the greatest horror of the era, and was the first film to utilize the 'twist ending'.   A great example of the German Expressionist style, the sets are stylized like an amazing painting and the actors use a strange, dance-like, creepy motion.  It is truly like a storybook come to life, inhabiting some strange dimension between two and three dimensions.





Freaks (1932)




If you like modern fringe filmmakers like David Lynch, you have to see this haunting precursor, "Freaks".  Panned in its day for being crude and disgusting, it pretty much ended director Tod Browning's career and was banned in the UK for 30 years after its release.  To modern eyes it is magical and wondrous.  Browning employed real people who worked as "circus freaks", placed them beautifully in the settings, and filmed them in crisp black and white.  While the treatment of 'disfigured' and disabled people on film is always controversial, I find this movie to be entrancing, and sometimes touching, beyond the novelty label "freaks".   




Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)


This movie haunted me for so long.  This was way too freaky for me to see as a kid, but as an adult I think it is a masterpiece.  Aging Hollywood dames Betty Davis and Joan Crawford at their freakiest/best.  The sick idea of two aging child stars vying for fame, living in the past, dressing up like elderly doll babies, and willing to do whatever it takes for a comeback, is creepy beyond belief.  If you love Sunset Boulevard but haven't seen this one yet, put it first on your queue because the similar themes of washed up hollywood, fame vampires, and aging beauties will keep you glued.




Les Yeux San Visage (Eyes without a Face) (1960)


The only Frenchie on this list, Eyes without a Face could be seen really any time of year, but I think the damsel-arrives-at-mad-scientist's-mansion-late-at-night theme gives it such a great Halloween feel.  Among the themes here are beauty, plastic surgery, science, youth, class and family ties.  Dr. Daddy is willing to do anything to give his masked daughter a new face after her horrific accident... Even at the expense of another young girl.  This film is a visually striking film in that great early 60s French style.  




House on Haunted Hill (1959)  


What lengths will people go to get a potentially life-changing amount of money?  Risk their lives in a haunted mansion? Why, yes, of course they would.  Millionaire Vincent Price plays cat and mouse games with his wife and their money grubbing 'party guests'.  BUT, this party has rules, and each guest is packing a pistol... Unfortunately a pistol is useless against a ghost.  So, of course, the once amicable guests start turning the pistols upon each other.  This film is full of hilarious tricks and effects, one of the greatest moments is when the dame in the above picture screams for a full thirty seconds barely moving away as a slow creepy skeleton inches towards her and eventually taps her lightly to fall into a conveniently placed pool of water to drown.  



Creatures from the Black Lagoon (1954)



I love the creature costumes in this movie and the juxtapositioning of them with the healthy, all-American scientists traveling through the mysterious Amazon of Brazil (which is represented erroneously as a stereotypical composite of all Latin America).  This movie represents the scientist-encountering-new-life-forms horror movie, as it tracks a boat of expert divers who spot the previously unidentified creature as it reeks havoc on unknowing swimmers and boat travelers.  




King Kong (1933)


King Kong isn't normally acknowledged during Halloween but I absolutely love it this time of year.  Of course, I'm speaking of the 1933 version, which is the only one that truly matters.  The 30s-era deep, shadowy black and white, the screaming beauty, and that monstrous ape-- found on a mysterious, supernatural island.  If you've seen the modern versions but haven't seen this one yet, you really haven't seen King Kong at all.  This original version with its handmade sets and shaky stop-motion animation is the true gem. 





1 comments:

William Morris said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Love it! One correction however, the stone cold Psycho fox is Janet Leigh.

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