Friday, October 31, 2008

Top 50 Halloween movies: Part 5

Today is Halloween, and we conclude our countdown of the top 50 Halloween movies of all time. The list consists of new and classic films from all horror sub-genres as well as horror themed comedies.

10. “Young Frankenstein” (1974)
Writer/director Mel Brooks is at his absolute best in this spot-on parody of the classic Universal monster movies. The hilarious Gene Wilder is the grandson of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, who follows in granddad’s footsteps. The pitch-perfect cast includes Peter Boyle as the monster, Marty Feldman as Igor and Madeline Kahn as the bride of Frankenstein. Brooks used the same castle and laboratory props that appeared in 1931’s “Frankenstein.”

9. “Frankenstein” (1931)
Forget all other versions, especially Kenneth Branagh's bloated 1994 adaptation starring Robert DeNiro, this is still the best version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” Throughout his career Boris Karloff played many creepy villains and monsters, but his best work is as Frankenstein’s monster. He is able to create a monster that is complex, creepy and even sympathetic. Gothic and expressionist set and lighting design raise the story to unforgettable epic proportions.

8. “Dracula” (1931)
Frank Langella, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman among others have all put their own stamp on the role of Dracula, but Bela Lugosi still remains the quintessential Count. His thick Austrian-Hungarian accent made Lugosi the perfect Transylvanian vampire. Some of the effects are dated, but the film’s great lighting creates excellent atmosphere that in combination with Lugosi's seminal performance make this as effective and eerie today as when it first came out.

7. “Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
FBI agent in training Clarice Starling (the excellent Jodie Foster) is recruited to get information from the imprisoned Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) on how to catch the serial killer Buffalo Bill. The climatic encounter with Buffalo Bill is a pulse-pounding experience, and the psychological mind games between Foster and Hopkins are fascinating. Hopkins’ Lector is terrifying not just for his actions, but more for his cold intellect and ability to get in people’s heads.

6. “Ghostbusters” (1984)
College professors decide to become paranormal investigators just as ghosts begin to run wild in New York. Bill Murray spits out one classic one-liner after another while the film’s screenwriters Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis are excellent straight-men to Murray’s antics. Sigourney Weaver is funny and sexy as the love interested turned ghost dog, and Rick Moranis, as Weaver’s nerdy neighbor, provides comic relief, as if the film needed any more.

5. “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
This musical, horror spoof is the cult classic above all others. Newlyweds Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) are forced to stop at a house full of weirdoes during a rainstorm leading to all kinds of bizarre and kinky events. Tim Curry’s Frank N. Futter Transylvania is a one-of-a-kind character that Curry plays to perfection. Memorably odd songs like “Time Warp” and “Dammit Janet” make this one of most unique musicals ever created.

4. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
George A. Romero’s low-budget gem established the rules and set the standard for the zombie movie. The plot is simple: The dead are raising and eating the living. A group of survivors hole up in a house and try to endure the night. While disturbing upon its original release, by today’s standard the gore is tame, but the film has a raw power that can still make you jump.

3. “Halloween” (1978)
You know the routine: a masked killer, in this case the iconic Michael Myers, is on the loose. The film opens with an ingenious and horrifying concept: the camera is behind the mask. The film created the formula for all the vastly inferior sequels and rip offs, but they all missed the point. Director John Carpenter wasn’t interested in grisly deaths and high body count, but in building a relentless tension that finally snaps.

2. “The Exorcist” (1973)
When little Regan (Linda Blair) gets the devil inside her, all hell literally breaks loose. Pea-soup vomit and obscenities flow out of her like a river and she does exceptionally wrong things with a crucifix. Ellen Burstyn, Lee J. Cobbs, Jason Miller and Max Von Sydow fill out the superb cast. William Friedkin’s moody direction in combination with Blair’s makeup and sound and visual effects enhance the performance and make this one of the scariest films ever.

1. “Psycho” (1960)
There was a reason Alfred Hitchcock was called the master of suspense, and “Psycho” makes it absolutely clear why. From the film’s score to its lighting to its pacing to the infamous shower scene, everything is perfection. Anthony Perkins’ brilliant performance as the perennial momma’s boy, Norman Bates, is one of the most memorable characterizations to grace the screen. The roots of the slasher films can easily be tied back to this film, as can psychological thrillers like “Silence of the Lambs.”

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