Friday, October 03, 2008

Top 50 Halloween movies: Part 1

Halloween is the time of year to get together with friends and family and scare yourselves silly. In the spirit of that idea, I give you part one of my top 50 Halloween movies. The list includes not only scary movies, but ghoulishly-themed comedies.

50. "Friday the 13th" (1980)
The original 1980s slasher film is basically a poor man’s version of the far superior "Halloween," but it still managed to spawn one of the longest running horror franchises. The counselors of Camp Crystal Lake are getting set for the reopening of the camp 23 years after a horrible tragedy. It is no surprise what happens next. Gratuitous sex and nudity, grisly deaths, high body count, it is all here.

49. “Saw” (2004)
The 1980s had Jason, Freddy and Michael. The 21st century has Jigsaw, a killer who challenges social deviants to change or die through terrible torture. In this first installment, two men are trapped in a bathroom with one told he must kill the other or his family will die. The rest of the series has become increasingly more gory, but this one is more based in the mind and all the better for it.

48. "Dead Alive" (1992)
If you thought Norman Bates had mother problems just wait until you meet Vera. Poor Lionel not only does he have an oppressive mother, but after a bite for a mysterious monkey she turns into a bloodthirsty zombie. Before director Peter Jackson made the Academy Award winning "Lord of the Rings" he was the man behind some of the most creative horror movies ever, including this hilarious, but gruesome comedy. An iron stomach and a twisted sense of humor are pre-requisites for viewing.

47. "The Ring" (2002)
Based on the Japanese film "Ringu," this remake in some ways out-does the original. The film quickly made its way into our cultural lexicon with the premise of a tape that promises death seven days after viewing it. What sounds like nothing more than a gimmick transcends its somewhat silly premise thanks to atmospheric direction by Gore Verbinski and strong performances from Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox.

46. “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)
The first, but not the last, musical to appear on this list tells the story of the nebbish Seymour (Rick Moranis) and Audrey II, his man-eating plant from outer space. Director Frank Oz successfully captures the zaniness of the Motown-flavored off-Broadway show and peppers the film with hilarious guest appearances by the likes of John Candy and Bill Murray. Steve Martin steals the movie, though, as the sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, DDS.

45. "Gremlins" (1984)
When a boy is given a cute fuzzy little pet, he is told three rules: Sunlight kills him, don't get him wet and don't feed him after midnight. But you can't give kids anything. Before long the nice Gizmo has spawned the gross, mischievous gremlins. Director Joe Dante makes a scary and funny homage to monster movies. If your tastes lean more toward comedy than scares, check out the more slapstick, but worthy sequel.

44. "The Others" (2001)
The first of many haunted-house films to appear on the list, this is the best of the most recent entries to this horror sub-category. A mother (Nicole Kidman) and her light allergic children live in a house that is poorly lit by oil lamps and candles, leaving all kinds of creepy shadows for ghosts to hide in. The film gets scares the best way — by not showing things and leaving the mind to assume the worst.

43. "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948)
The comic duo behind "Who's on First?" not only meets Frankenstein's monster, but Dracula and the Wolfman. This was the last hooray for the original Universal Studio monsters including Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman. Bud and Lou made a series of creature feature comedies and this one is best, if not their best movie period. The monsters are in great form as is the comedy duo.

42. "House on Haunted Hill" (1959)
When it comes to campy horror films, this is hard to beat and is probably Vincent Price's most entertaining film. Price asks five strangers to spend an evening in a haunted house for $10,000 each. Naturally all sorts of sinister things start to happen. Is it the eccentric Price the whole time or is the house really haunted? It really doesn't matter, it is all just cheesy fun in the best kind of way.

41. "The Haunting" (1963)
Somewhat similar in premise to "House on Haunted Hill" this time around a doctor doing research in the paranormal invites a group of researchers to the supposedly haunted Hill House. Through voice-over, we hear the thoughts of Eleanor (Julie Harris) as the house slowly drives her mad making the film's bumps-in-the-night all the more psychological. Sets the standard for haunted house films.

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