Friday, October 23, 2020

FIVE CLASSIC SCARY MOVIES FOR HALLOWEEN

by Carla Neggers

Happy (almost) Halloween! It’ll be different this year for many of us, but I’m seeing lots of people talking about lining up scary movies to watch. There’s even going to be a full moon this Halloween, a relatively rare event.

Perfect. 

In honor of Halloween 2020, I’ve come up with five classic scary movies for our viewing, um, pleasure. I’ve personally watched all of them start-to-finish, if not always with both eyes open. In chronological order, we have:

1. Psycho.

The New York Times called this 1960 classic "icily terrifying." Yep, I agree. Based on a 1959 novel by Robert Bloch, the movie was directed by legendary Alfred Hitchcock.

A debate question during our movie-night break: which iconic Hitchcock movie is scarier, Pscyho or The Birds

2. The Exorcist

William Peter Blatty wrote both the 1971 novel and the screenplay for the 1973 movie. I don’t think I need a spoiler alert to say we’re talking the devil here. 

Blatty, who died in 2017 at the age of 89, had been making his living writing comedy before he holed up in a cabin in Lake Tahoe and tackled The Exorcist. As he explained on its fortieth anniversary, “the season for ‘funny’ had abruptly turned dry and no studio would hire me for anything non-comedic.” 

He describes his breaking point “when at the Van Nuys, California, unemployment office I spotted my movie agent in a line three down from mine.” 

Nothing like good ol’ demonic possession to revive one’s fortunes, and in a big way. 

3. Jaws. 

Like Psycho, there’s no supernatural element in this 1975 classic, well known as Steven Spielberg’s breakout movie about a killer shark. 

The story is based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name. I read the book after seeing the movie. The Washingon Post describes the book as “a tightly written, tautly paced study of terror that makes us tingle.” 

As the Philadelphia Inquirer put it, “It isn’t a tale for the faint of heart.” That could be said about all five tales on this list.

The making of Jaws sounds like a bit of a nailbiting adventure itself. Richard Drewfuss famously said, “We started the movie without a script, without a cast and without a shark.”

It all worked out.

4. The Omen

I admit this 1976 supernatural horror movie about the antichrist got to me. I recommend it all the time to friends who love scary movies but it’s one I would never rewatch. I haven’t watched any of its three sequels, either. The first one did its job too well for me! 

David Seltzer wrote the screenplay as well as a movie tie-in book. The movie is directed by Richard Donner, who also has produced and directed many other popular films, including Superman with Christopher Reeves and the Lethal Weapon series. Plus. now 90, he’s an accomplished comic-book writer. 

5. Alien

It’s hard to believe the long-running Alien movie and extensive media franchise launched back in 1979. Dan O'Bannon wrote the screenplay with Ron Shusett contributing to the story. They pitched it as “Jaws in space.” 

O’Bannon describes his nugget of inspiration, a process many of us writers would recognize: "I knew I wanted to do a scary movie on a spaceship with a small number of astronauts." 

Mission accomplished.

I have to say. I love Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley. 

These five classics would make for a heart-pounding scary movie weekend, but there are countless alternatives I haven’t seen, classic and recent. Rosemary's Baby and anything involving chainsaws come to mind. 

Why no Dracula movie on my list? Well, I read the book as a teenager, babysitting two delightful little boys on a dark and stormy night (literally) at their house in the woods. Thought twice about seeing a movie after that! 

Written by Irish author Bram Stoker and published in 1897, Dracula has spawned countless vampire books, movies and spinoffs. I wonder if anyone has a count. Not all of them are scary.

Now it’s your turn. 

What would be on your scary movie list? Or will we be more likely to find you tucked in on Halloween with popcorn and your favorite comedies?

13 comments:

  1. This is a great list for those who "enjoy" scary movies. However, I will undoubtedly be watching a Hallmark Movie with no violence at all...one that is "light-hearted"...warm...with a happy ending....Karna Small Bodman

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  2. How about Amityville Horror (I think that’s the name) from 1970s? Right now just started to watch Locke and Key series in Netflix, a thriller series, not bad, but I’m only halfway through the series.

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    1. I've never watched that one but have heard it's scary. I'll check out Locke and Key. We've been watching Icelandic crime dramas (e.g., Trapped).

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  3. John is the big horror fan in our house, and to this day I don't understand it. Then I ask myself how any of we Rogues can write such suspenseful books that have scary parts and violence and NOT like horror. I am an enigma to myself, but I sure do join John for the popcorn. I love your list, Carla. Seen them all (sometimes from under the chair). :)

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  4. My favorite is The Ring--the one about the videotape that if you watch it, you'll die in 7 days. Sounds like the stupidest thing ever, right? But a great lesson for writers--if you pay attention to craft and detail, if you lay the foundation, the most far-fetched plot becomes not only plausible but inevitable.
    Or so I was going to say in the blog I wrote I wrote for next month titled 'My 5 favorite scary movies'--DOH!!

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  5. Oh write that blog anyway! I've never seen The Ring. Good points on writing. Will check it out

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    1. And I didn't see The Exorcist until I was in college...I remember thinking that the scariest parts were all the tests she had to undergo at the hospital when they were trying to figure out what was wrong with her--ugh!! That's the kind of stuff I'm a baby about.

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  6. Love this--so many faves! "I did it for you Damien..." I would add Misery, directed by Rob Reiner, with an Oscar-winning role by Kathy Bates! Happy Halloween!

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    1. Kathy Bates is amazing in Misery! Happy Halloween to you. :-)

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  7. Valerie ConstantineOctober 24, 2020 at 11:11 AM

    Your list is spot on, Carla. I have shivering memories of all of these great horror films. I saw Psycho on its release in a New York movie theatre and had to take the subway - at night - back to a friend's. We were both terrified. I would add The Shining. I can still see "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" typed over and over on page after page. I can't watch horror any longer. At this stage I'm all for smooth sailing and happy endings.

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    1. Taking the subway after Psycho, yikes! I’ve never watched The Shining start to finish. :)

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