Friday, October 10, 2008

Top 50 Halloween movies: Part 2

You are about to enter the second installment of the top 50 Halloween movies list. The rules are simple: Any horror sub-genre or horror based comedies are fair game. Contemporary and classic films are all in the mix.

40. “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)
Director John Landis puts a droll spin on the werewolf legend, when an American backpacker (David Naughton) is bit by a wolf in the remote hills of England. The film features a spectacular transformation scene created by effects master Rick Baker that in spite of digital advances has yet to be matched. Macabre comic relief is provided by the slowly decaying ghost (Griffin Dunne) of the title character.

39. “Audition” (2000)
This Japanese horror film is one of the most deeply disturbing films on this list. For the first 45 minutes it seems like a sweet, funny romantic comedy of a widower who uses his friend’s film industry connection to meet women at a phony movie audition. Then the tone shifts, building to a surreal, twisted and horrifying ending. The reality-based opening makes the actions later in the film all the more shocking.

38. "The Fly" (1986)
In this remake of the 1958 camp classic, a scientist accidentally combines his DNA with a housefly causing him to slow turn into a human fly. This is a rare remake that manages to one-up its predecessor. In spite of all the effects — which are quite graphic — there is a genuine emotional resonance. Jeff Goldblum's dynamic, heartfelt performance is what makes the film so successful, keeping his man-fly human even as he becomes more monstrous in appearance.

37. “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
It is easy to dismiss M. Night Shyamalan now that he’s become a one-trick pony, but his first trick still packs a punch. The movie has some undeniable jolts, superb atmosphere and one heck of a twist. Bruce Willis’ understated performance proved he could effectively play against his action hero persona. Haley Joel Osment's performance as the quintessential creepy kid that can “see dead people” is a classic for the ages.

36. “Rebecca” (1940)
Alfred Hitchcock makes his first appearance on the list with a very different kind of ghost story. Widower Laurence Olivier marries Joan Fontaine in a whirlwind romance, but when they arrive at his expansive estate the memory of his first wife lingers in every corner. Although there are no ghoulish apparitions, the film is dabbed in dread and the cold housekeeper (Judith Anderson) is far creepier than any spirit.

35. “The Addams Family” (1991)
Based on the 1950s TV show, the film is closer in spirit to the macabre humor of the Charles Addams New Yorker comic strip that inspired the show. This is dark yet family-friendly humor at its absolute best, delivered to perfection by the ideal cast of Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci, in the role that made her a star.

34. “Scream” (1996)
More than a decade after creating “Nightmare on Elm Street,” director Wes Craven, working from a self-referential script by Kevin Williamson, brought back the slasher film by making a movie that was both horror and a satire of itself. The film’s characters have seen all the same movies the audience has and know the rules. A must-see for fans of the slasher sub-genre.

33. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)
The population of a small town is slowly being replaced by “pod-people,” alien replicas that look like and have all the memories of the original, but none of emotions. Great film noir lighting, a tight pace and a great performance from Kevin McCarthy raise the film beyond the limitations of the genre. Also check out the excellent 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy.

32. “Poltergeist” (1982)
The haunted house movie gets kicked up several notches in this film written and produced by Steven Spielberg. The daughter of a family is kidnapped via a television by evil spirits — and thus begins a battle to save her before she is lost forever. None of the quiet psychological moments of “The Haunting” or “The Others” here. They have been replaced by highly effective, hair-raising, edge-of-your-seat special effects. Well-paced and genuinely disturbing.

31. “Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
Imagine a British romantic comedy with a slacker (Simon Pegg) trying to win his ex-girlfriend back. Nothing special, right? Now add zombies into the mix. Pegg and his best mate on and off camera, Nick Frost, are a dynamic comedic duo as they use everything from cricket bats, records and pool cues to battle the undead. This is a genre parody that doesn’t forget to create characters that we actually care about.

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