By Andrew Ho
The Exorcist is undoubtedly a masterpiece among horror flicks given the chills it has inspired in audiences for years with wonderful performances and lines. Starting with an archeological dig of a sinister origin, the tone remains set at “ominous” even as the story moves along into the lives of an aspiring actress and her daughter. The little girl goes from cute and bubbly to disturbed and dangerous within minutes of screen time. It’s certainly hard to forget the split pea soup scene or the moments the darling little devil-girl displays a few neat contortionist tricks. The Exorcist is a sure bet to scare the pants off of anyone who thinks that the modern demon children and special effects are frightening enough.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
By Chris Ernst
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic, and this is Johnny Depp’s first movie! All you fans can see the 20-year-old dreamboat in the making. With a budget of less than 2 million dollars in 1984, the result is some fantastic ‘80s cheese. Enjoy the big hair, the parents who just don’t understand and the awesomely dated technology. The small budget gives it a very claustrophobic feel that really adds to the scariness. The kids in the movie didn’t do anything to provoke Freddy. They just went to sleep. There’s no way to really fight fatigue, try as the characters might. Freddy is a man in a dream, both very comprehensible things. The movie keeps you off balance by not letting you know whether or not the onscreen characters are dreaming.
By Daniel Spiller
In 1996, Wes Craven singlehandedly saved the “slasher” genre with his very smart and very scary Scream. By pointing out the overused plot devices in horror movies, Wes Craven was able to make something very original and refreshing out of the same exact stuff he was making fun of. Thanks in large part to writer Kevin Williamson, the movie works so well because of its self-aware script and a cast that can deliver it. All of the characters are parodies of themselves, yet not in a way that detracts from the film. And though the audience is constantly reminded that they have seen all of this stuff before, we’re still tricked into getting scared of something that we knew was coming all along.
By Philip Tharp
Senior Staff Writer
Despite the film’s classification as more family friendly (affirmed by the constant airing it receives on children’s channels), the awesomely juvenile comedic and horror aspects of Hocus Pocus make the movie a treat to watch each Halloween. The story follows teenager Max, his younger sister Dani and his high school crush Allison as they try to correct Max’s unfortunate mistake of unleashing three witches upon their hometown of Salem, Mass. The sister-witches, Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy), need a virgin to light their Black Flame candle during a full moon on a Halloween night, which would bring them back from the dead after being hanged three hundred years earlier. However, in order to stay alive, the witches require the life force of a young child, which they hope to find in one of the three children. Along the way, the trio of scared adolescents tries to convince the town of the witches’ plot with the help of a talking cat (a young boy transformed by the witches in 1693) and a reanimated corpse named Billy (Doug Jones in an early role).
Silence of the Lambs
By Swathi Narayanaswamy
This eerie suspense thriller tells the story of a young FBI agent in training, Clarise Starling (played by Jodie Foster) and her investigation of a rampant serial killer, Buffalo Bill, who is killing young women across the Midwest. To understand more about this killer and hopefully save the last hostage, Clarise meets with imprisoned murderer and cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins). In exchange for information about the killer, the deranged Dr. Lecter uses his trained skill as a psychiatrist for his twisted gains by asking Clarise questions about her personal life. Clarise is challenged now not only by her assignment but also by her own thoughts and her past. A film about mentally unstable murderers and a cannibal has, of course, glorious scenes of blood and gore. However, the effects in this film are a bit disappointing. They cannot go unnoticed, but can be forgiven by the genius acting, direction and music that fit perfectly together creating perfect nightmares of Anthony Hopkins eating your guts out.
By Andrew Ho
Chock full of blood-spattered torture, Saw V does little to really deviate from the torture formula but ties up enough loose ends in the story and has enough screams to please the fans. Starting like all the other movies with a gruesomely-designed game and its hapless player, the audience is subjected to what is basically a series of flashbacks and flash forwards. While it’s nice to see how some events in the past movies played out in detail, with a good number of plot holes being filled, much of the developing plot is predictable. To its credit, Saw V is easier to follow than the previous two sequels, and the visuals are nice in the sense of the foreboding feeling they inspire. If you just happen to be into splatter flicks or you are a fan of the series, then Saw V is definitely worth the money.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
By Daniel Spiller
Known for its gritty look and gallons of gore, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre actually has very little of either. The film is so well directed, the audience ends up seeing more than was actually presented onscreen. Tobe Hooper effectively uses camera angles and tight sets to give the film a dirty and claustrophobic feel. Combine that with a good script and surprisingly solid performances, and suddenly a little Texas movie about a deranged family has become a cult classic. Though the 2003 remake wasn’t horrible and can be admired for trying to add something new to the story, it doesn’t come close to capturing the same personal (almost documentary-style) feel of the original. The abruptness of the ending still remains as one of the greatest ends to a horror film.
By Richard Otis
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of horror, The Shining, continues to entertain nearly three decades since its 1980 original release. Though the film received a lukewarm critical reception while in theaters, the movie has since been lauded for Jack Nicholson’s brilliant portrayal of a man falling victim to supernatural forces far beyond his understanding. The movie was the source of some of the most memorable lines in cinema, like the iconic scene where Nicholson busts through a door with an axe and leeringly calls out, “Here’s Johnny!” Stephen King, the author of the novel, had mixed feelings about the film’s accuracy to his original story, but the ability of The Shining to send chills down the spines of audiences, even in broad daylight, has been rarely matched.
By Daniel Spiller
John Carpenter’s original Halloween is absolutely relentless. Though it’s guilty of spawning the “slasher” genre which is inundated with predominately horrid movies (and not horrid in the way they are supposed to be), all is forgiven considering just how good this movie is. The primary strengths of Halloween are its simplicity and its pacing. The very oversimplified summary of the plot boils down to a crazy man escaping from a mental institution who returns to his hometown to wreak havoc. Though the story is clearly a little more complex than that, it doesn’t matter. The power comes from the way the story is told more than from the story itself. The tension subtly increases throughout the film, and though there is a fair share of pop-out moments to scare the audience, the real terror comes from the overpowering sense of dread that is evoked. Is it when the knife-wielding Myers lunges out of a closet at an unsuspecting teen that we the audience are most afraid? No, it’s when we see him standing in a yard across the street, obscured by the shadow of the house. Just standing. Waiting. Though the stellar ending provides the perfect segue into a sequel, it never should have happened; the original stands alone as a masterpiece.
Evil Dead 2
By Philip Tharp
Senior Staff Writer
Who can deny Evil Dead 2’s status as a cult classic (and, for that matter, the other two movies in the trilogy)? Both the movie and the entire series reinforced the fact that Sam Raimi is a brilliant director and solidified Bruce Campbell as one of the best B-movie actors to ever grace the screen. The film itself took a more comedic approach to the gruesome horror storyline introduced in the first movie, serving as somewhat of a sequel/semi-remake.After a brief recapitulation (albeit using re-shot scenes) of the brutal and horrific events that occurred as a result of the mysterious Necronomicon Ex-Mortis (“Book of the Dead”) in the first The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 plunges the audience directly into the horrors that S-Mart employee Ash (Bruce Campbell) is experiencing as he runs from the demonic “deadites.” Joining forces with two archeologists and two unwitting locals, Ash works to fight off the evil forces that claimed both his girlfriend and his hand in the small, creepy cabin isolated in the woods. The second movie also introduced us to the legendary chainsaw that Ash used to replace his sawed-off hand and his unforgettable boomstick (for the unacquainted: sawed-off shotgun). This movie is a must-see for any film lover or horror-buff.