Sunday, December 4, 2016

10 Unconventional Horror Movie Recommendations for This Halloween

As Halloween quickly approaches families are preparing by stocking up on candy, buying costumes and completing the search for that elusive perfect pumpkin. Many families will also be planning out the perfect horror movies to watch over the week. The list will no doubt always include such Halloween favorites as “The Exorcist,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “The Shining,” and any of the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare On Elm Street” films, not to mention the classic “Halloween.”

I have compiled a list of 10 movies that the casual movie fan may not be aware of to recommend for this Halloween season. These are lesser known but no less scary and entertaining and would be a great companion piece to any of the classic standards. The films are listed in alphabetical order with guidelines as to how scary they may be for children. When you curl up on the couch alone or with a loved one to watch a good scary movie, I hope that one of these films will be discovered by you and enjoyed enough to become a staple in your Halloween movie must-see list.

THE CHANGELING (1980) – Perhaps the best haunted house movie that few people have seen stars George C. Scott as a recently widowed composer who moves away and finds the perfect house that happens to be inhabited by the spirit of a dead child. Soon Scott starts hearing strange noises and a music box plays a piece of music Scott composed only the night before. Scott begins investigating which leads to a séance scene that is one of the film’s highlights.

Director Peter Medak wisely chooses to infer the ghost with sounds and actions without ever seeing a thing, which only punctuates the scares. The casting of Scott is a real coup here as he represents the everyman perfectly adding credibility to what could have been just another haunted house movie. Originally R rated but likely would be PG-13 today so it is recommended for teenagers and above who don’t scare easily.

THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN (1966) – The perfect Halloween film for the entire family to enjoy. Don Knotts plays a small time reporter on a small town newspaper that finds he may have the scoop of his life when he chooses to spend a night in the town’s haunted house. There are plenty of laughs and a few chills for young kids but thoroughly entertaining enough for everyone.

THE HAUNTING (1963) – One of the truly scary movies of all time is this chiller based on Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House.” Three people are invited to the eerie Hill House by an investigator to explore the deepest realms of the supernatural with bone chilling, hair-raising results. Much like “The Changeling,” director Robert Wise chooses to never show the evil haunting the house but implying through terrifying noises, written messages and spooky voices. Many people are more familiar with the inferior 1999 remake that foolishly showed the spirits and removed all tension and suspense. This is one film you definitely don’t want to watch alone. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 10 or those who scare easily.

LADY IN WHITE (1988) – Nostalgia and the supernatural are blended together beautifully in this thriller, set in the 60’s, about two brothers and what happens to them one Halloween. The younger brother encounters the spirit of a murdered girl and sets out with his older brother to solve the mystery, which leads to the lady in white who resides in a haunted house. A sometimes funny and sometimes very spooky little film that was overlooked at the time of its release despite mostly positive reviews. Recommended for teenagers and older.

MAGIC (1977) – Anthony Hopkins stars as a small time ventriloquist who, as his star rises, becomes convinced his dummy is alive. Retreating to a cabin in the woods he encounters an old high school girlfriend and attempts to rekindle the romance, much to the chagrin of the jealous dummy. Hopkins delivers a strong performance that was sadly overlooked by the Academy Awards as a man fighting to save his sanity and, later, his life. Ann-Margret co-stars in this creepy thriller directed by Richard Attenborough. Not recommended for kids under 16.

SISTERS (1972) – Brian De Palma directs this shocking thriller with Margot Kidder as separated Siamese twins – one of whom is a homicidal maniac. Jennifer Salt co-stars as an inquisitive reporter who swears she has witnessed a murder from her apartment window but can’t provide any proof to the authorities, so she goes it alone in her investigation. De Palma ventured into Hitchcock territory for the first time and successfully pulls it off with thrills and tension that builds up throughout the film by showing a brutally violent murder early on and then keeping further threats alive the rest of the film. This film is not for the squeamish and definitely recommended for adults only.

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983) – Based on the short story by acclaimed author Ray Bradbury, who also wrote the script, “Wicked” tells the story of a carnival that plants its stakes outside of a small town set in the early part of the 20th century. Soon after people’s deepest fantasies and wishes are being fulfilled such as the homely old woman becoming young and beautiful and the athlete who lost his legs and soon is walking again. Two young boys notice the strange happenings and begin to investigate and come to realize that these fantasies are fulfilled at a steep price.

British actor Jonathan Pryce stars as Mr. Dark, the owner of the carnival with Jason Robards as the older, unhealthy father of one of the boys. A highlight is when Mr. Dark visits the older father with an offer of health and youth. Robards, sitting in his library in the dead of night, intones the film’s title when he realizes he is no longer alone and says “Through the prickling of my thumbs – something wicked this way comes.” Much like “Lady in White” this film mixes nostalgia and thrills with entertaining results. Recommended for all but the smallest of children.

THEATER OF BLOOD (1972) – Vincent Price made a career of starring in horror films and while he may be best remembered as Dr. Phibes, “Theater of Blood” is easily his best film. Price plays a Shakespearean actor who fakes his suicide after critics overlook him for an important acting prize. Then, one by one, Price starts killing the critics in the style of deaths as written by the Bard himself. Though scary this film mixes a strong amount of black comedy into it and the result is shockingly funny. The murders may be a bit too gory for some people but the end result is a terrific film. Not recommended for anyone under 16.

THE UNINVITED (1944) – One of the earliest and most frightening ghost stories stars Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey as a young couple who move into a house they soon discover is haunted and try to aide a woman whose mother’s ghost is terrifying her to death. This is a straightforward thriller with no twists and turns that has some chilling moments and the interesting inclusion of visually seeing the ghosts. This is probably the film on this list that few people have seen but it’s one not to be missed. Only the youngest of children who scare easily will be bothered by it.

WOLFEN (1981) – Albert Finney stars as a New York detective trying to solve a rash of brutal, violent murders that could be the result of werewolf attacks. Gregory Hines delivers a nice performance as a coroner aiding Finney in his investigation. The film is filled with imaginative ideas involving spirituality and historic elements and is not just a straightforward horror film though there are a few scenes of brutal violence. A box office flop at the time of its release possibly due to the fact that “The Howling” and “An American Werewolf in London” were released at the same time and audiences weren’t up for yet another werewolf movie.

This is easily the best of the three films though fans of the other two expecting the same will be disappointed. “Wolfen” is beautifully photographed and well directed by Michael Wadleigh, making his first movie after “Woodstock” eleven years earlier. For whatever reasons Wadleigh has not directed a movie since even though his talent is obvious from his two credits. Not recommended for anyone under 16.

Hopefully you will discover a few of the films on this list and enjoy them enough to pass along the word to others so they can discover these films that deserve to be seen.

Labels: 10 Unconventional Horror Movie Recommendations for This Halloween

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