Saturday, October 30, 2010

Scary Halloween Movies

Well, not all of them are scary. A few are funny and light. In these, the supernatural and the natural collide with utterly charming results. This genre includes:

-I Married a Witch with Veronica Lake and Frederic March. An oldie but a goodie from 1942.  Ms. V is at her slinkiest and most sublime. And, oh baby, that hair! Bewitching. In fact, the hit television series "Bewitched" starring Elizabeth Montgomery was based on this film.  However, you'd never have found VL doing anything so vulgar as twitching her nose. Although, I don't know how she maintained her dignity wearing that hat!

-Bell, Book and Candle with Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon and Hermione Gingold (I actually sat and had a drink with Miss Gingold. She always carried her diminutive Pekingese dog with her). Contemporary urban witches in Greenwich Village. Originally a play on Broadway by John Van Druten. It featured a great Siamese cat named Pyewacket, Kim Novak's character's familiar (all witches, and Novak plays a witch, have a familiar to  help them cast their spells.).  George S. Kaufman (the Marx Brothers, Dinner at Eight, the Algonquin Round Table) gave his granddaughter, a childhood friend of mine, a Siamese cat and because she could not keep him because she was allergic, she gave him to me.  His name was Pyewacket and I adored him.

The remainder are your "scaries":

-Any or all films by the great Val Lewton who produced small masterpieces of psychological terror and horror for RKO in the 1940s. A personal fave is Cat People, again from 1942, with Simone Simon, at her most kittenish. It's the psychological study of a young woman who avoids romantic intimacy for fear she will turn into a cat and kill her lover. Just when you thought you couldn't go any further into mining the psyche for fears and tears, Lewton takes you deeper. Other great titles include I Walked with a Zombie, The Seventh Victim, The Leopard Man and The Isle of the Dead. Martin Scorsese made a terrific documentary about Lewton titled "Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows". Highly recommended.

The original film adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novella The Haunting of Hill House from 1963 starring Claire Bloom and Julie Harris. One of the creepiest and scariest ever. I remember going to see it in NYC at the Coronet Theater on Third Avenue and 61st Street. People were literally screaming and jumping out of their seats. Myself included. Shudder.

-The Innocents adapted for the screen by none other than Truman Capote from the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw.  Stars Deborah Kerr. A good old-fashioned ghost story with a psychosexual twist. It's got it all.  Insanity, evil children (or are they?), a perverse caretaker, a suicidal lover. Enough psychopathology to go around and please the most discerning palette.

-Psycho  Need I say more? Positively iconic. Still The Champ. It's just as scary the 25th time you've seen it as the first. Never fails to shock or needle itself under your skin. Insidious, suspenseful and terrifying.  More popcorn please!

-Don't Look Now. A real killer from the director Nicolas Roeg. Set in Venice with the gorgeous Julie Christie and the adorable Donald Sutherland (they were having a romance at the time). Involves second sight, strange twin sisters, a malevolent dwarf, premonitions and seances.Totally creepy. Contains a very famous sex scene between Christie and Sutherland which is pretty amazing and  often copied in other films. Not much chance replicating the chemistry between those two however. Highly charged and erotic. You can't make that stuff up.

-The Shining  Stanley Kubrick's very brilliant take on the nightmarish institution of marriage. Really. That's what the film is actually about.  Kubrick used Stephen King's rather conventional ghost story to satirize the myth of marriage. Instead, Kubrick let's us in on the dirty little secret that  marriage is the real horror show. However, this  does not detract  from the sheer scariness of this movie which is bone crushing. You remain frozen in your seat,  too scared to move while watching between your fingers.

-The Exorcist. Is there anyone out there who didn't go home cowering after leaving the theater? I was hypervigilant for weeks after seeing it.  Even had nightmares of that dam Virgin Mary statue spouting blood from all her orifices. This film had it all.Violation of the sacred, exultation of the profane, disgusting images (projectile vomiting for God's sake!), grotesqueness, exploitation of a child. Those images were highly disturbing and continue to intrude when you least expect it.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post,
    how about Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas tho?
    Heres my machinima version...
    Happy Halloween