In honor of Halloween, I decided to make a list of my top five favorite horror flicks (yes, I just repeated my title, what’re you gonna do, take a chainsaw to me?). I picked these five because, one way or another, they all really got to me. I saw some of them when I was just a kid and still vividly remember them.
Which might explain a few of my personality glitches…
Now, before you horror movie diehards get too excited, let me say one thing first. I didn’t get to watch too many movies growing up (we were too poor to pay for entertainment), and certainly not many horror ones. And now, well, with having kids, the horror movies today are just too real and gory for me to watch. That means I’m sticking to those horror movies that I remember from childhood and teenagerhood. Though I must say, there are a couple on this list my mother should never have let me watch.
So, without further ado, here is my top-five list…
1. Burnt Offerings. This movie came out in 1976 and was based on a novel written by Robert Marasco. The story centers around a family who moves into a haunted house…but this is no ordinary haunted house. Each time someone dies, the house gets rejuvenated, literally coming back to life. Bette Davis plays an interesting role in this movie and she’s great in it, as usual. There is also a character in the movie that has haunted my dreams for years. I can still remember his face, and I still shudder at the sight of it in my mind. He is Creepy with a capital C. You’ll know right away who I’m talking about when you see him.
2. The Hand (1981). This movie stars Michael Caine, whom I love. In the movie, he plays a famous comic book artist who loses his hand in a car wreck. Unfortunately, the hand cannot be found. That is, until it starts stalking people and rubbing them out. I can still remember that hand crawling all over the place. The worst part? Not long after we saw the movie, my older sister played a horrible trick on me. Scene: I was lying in bed, innocent and nearly asleep, when I heard a noise. I turned my head slightly to the right only to see a hand, and it wasn’t one of my own. I was so scared I nearly peed the bed (maybe I did, I don’t actually remember). Anyway, after some silent panicking, I started talking to the hand, trying to get on its good side. "This is my pet hand," I would say in a quavering voice. "I like my pet hand and my pet hand likes me, right hand?" My sister must have been dying under that bed. I hate her.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). This is the worst kind of horror I can imagine. You can’t fall asleep or a child murderer will kill you? That’s just warped. After watching this movie, I had a hard time sleeping, for a long time. Robert Englund was perfect as Freddy Krueger. Johnny Depp is even in the movie, if you’re interested in him. Most women aren’t, I’ve heard. Certainly not me. But anyhoo, the premise of this movie is the perfect horror story. Don’t fall asleep or you will die. But if you don’t sleep, you will die, or at the very least, go crazy. There are no options here. That’s good stuff!
4. The Shining. Both Stephen King’s novel and the 1980 movie starring Jack Nicholson, are scary scary. The psychological elements, the woman in the bathtub, the two little girls, the creepy bartender, and the isolated setting, are all perfect for messing with the false sense of safety we all carry around. Plus, you just can’t beat Jack Nicholson in that role or the fact that the movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick (who directed A Clockwork Orange, which is another scary movie, but in an entirely different way). There were so many great scenes, so many memorable lines in this work, that I don’t think you can get much better than this. I guess that’s why it’s a classic. Stephen King wasn’t happy about Kubrik’s take on his book, but I like both for different reasons. It’s okay to love both…that’s what my therapist tells me, anyway.
5. The Birds (1963). This work of art is an oldie but a goodie, directed by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock. The movie was based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, one of my favorite authors, and is about birds who attack people. Admit it, after seeing this movie, who cannot help but cringe whenever a flock of birds passes overhead? People today may think the movie is too old-fashioned, not enough action or blood, but that’s the beauty of Hitchcock. He can scare you without using all those special effects. Just big beaks pecking your eyes out. That’s all he needed…and he didn’t even show that. You just imagined it. That, my friends, is good theater.
Well, that’s my list. Feel free to share your favorite horror movies. I’m interested to know what modern horror movies people like, or if you agree with any of my choices. And remember, don’t move into a haunted house, lose your hand, fall asleep, be a caretaker for a hotel, or get involved with birds.