Top 5 Scariest Films for Halloween
It’s October, which means it’s prime time for enjoying all the things that chill our bones, terrify our souls and spook us so bad that the only way we can fall asleep is with all the lights on, a crucifix over our beds and a copy of Infinite Jest on our night stands to be used as a blunt weapon against any potential demons or undead killers who may come for us.
I’ve never been a fan of haunted houses. I spook too easily, I guess. I’m not the guy they want walking through their halls anyhow. In past houses I’ve committed all offenses in reaction to being spooked: punched a worker square in the nose; stomped to death some kind of mechanical tentacle protruding from the floorboards; grabbed a psychotic clown by his wig and headbutted him in the teeth; made my wife go first.
Around this time of year, I’m a bigger fan of staying in where the people around me are safe. But I still enjoy giving myself the heebie-jeebies. That’s why I’m offering you, dear reader, my pick of the Top 5 Scariest Films you should watch this Halloween.
1. Shutter (2008)
Written by: an original screenplay by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom
Directed by: Masayuki Ochiai
Starring: Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor
A Japanese flick from the producers of The Grudge and The Ring, this supernatural tale makes you want to regret every photograph you’ve ever taken of dead Japanese girls. Like all good horror films, Shutter offers an important lesson: don’t bring your new wife to the city where you participated in raping an ex-girlfriend. The movie is allegedly one of Mark Judge’s favorites. But don’t let that keep you from watching it. Just don’t watch it with Judge in the same room. That’s scarier than even this film’s horrifying omega.
2. Gravity (2013)
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Thanks to the film Apollo 13, we know traveling in space is risky business. In part because of their affinity for Tang, astronauts are tough mofos. They have to be brave, incredibly intelligent and able to keep their calm in the most dire of circumstances. Such is the case in Gravity. While servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are forced to abandon their maintenance mission when high-velocity space junk rips through their orbit poking holes in their mission and their co-worker’s face. That’s all well and good. At this point, Gravity is an action film. It’s when Bullock is left in space with nothing else than a fire extinguisher and Clooney’s ghost running its oh-so-charming mouth off when the fear grips you tighter than Buzz Aldrin’s space diaper.
Oh, screw it. The trailer is enough to make you never want to leave the earth again with as much of a jump for joy.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: The ruined childhood of virgin 50-year-olds everywhere
The brief synopsis of this movie is Star Wars: A New Hope. There aren’t many seat-jumping moments in this film. Every opportunity to heighten the intensity and threatening nature of Kylo Ren and The First Order is met with almost slapstick humor. What makes this film a perfect watch for Halloween is hindsight. Unlike the best horror films where surprise is the most important element, The Force Awakens is a terrifying flick because we know the wreckage it leads to: Disney’s churning out diluted facsimiles of the Original Trilogy to take our money while leaving us wondering what we just paid for. The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film that can honestly be considered a suspense/thriller because of Disney’s ingenious mindfuck. It has more of a “Holy shit! I didn’t see that coming!” moment than Get Out and The Usual Suspects.
4. Superman III (1983)
Written by: David Newman and Leslie Newman
Directed by: Richard Lester
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Margot Kidder
I was probably 5-years-old when I first saw this. I thought Richard Pryor was funny. I thought Superman was awesome. I though Margot Kidder was beautiful. I thought the climax where Vera Webster is transformed into a cyborg was the stuff of pure evil. Satan’s nightmares. The worst possible way die. It was this scene that kept me from owning a Walkman and being unable to hug my dad if he was wearing his pager. I had a complete distrust of ’80s technology. I’m still not sure that our answering machine isn’t responsible for my parents’ divorce.
5. Mannequin (1987)
Written by: Michael Gottlieb and Edward Rugoff
Directed by: Michael Gottlieb
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Catrall, Meshach Taylor and James Spader
To start, this film’s main title song is Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. Yikes. Beyond that, this thriller will have you biting your nails down to your second knuckle as you watch the perverted delusions of a young man unravel all over the streets of Philadelphia. (Director Michael Gottlieb should have picked Bruce Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia as the title tune.) Ancient Egyptian curses, sexual attraction to inanimate objects, emotional psychosis and a demonic sidekick in Meshach Taylor’s Hollywood will leave you feeling haunted all the way through Thanksgiving. Mannequins, along with wax figures, are inherently terrifying; those unblinking eyes, the stiff limbs. Mannequins exist so that we may picture ourselves as them, which is fashionable, fit and always gorgeous. But they are lifeless, cold and as much alien as they are human. So when one comes alive in the form of ’80s-hot Kim Catrall, one would expect the fear imposed by these ceramic effigies to dissipate. Fortunately for your horror film-viewing pleasure and thanks to the genius of Cannon Films, this is not the case with Mannequin.
By the end of the film, you’re left wondering; if perception is reality, who’s perception are we perceiving? Mannequin is more of a mindfuck than The Force Awakens.