Halloween Haunts

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Let’s face it, I’m a scary movie junkie. But don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not a big fan of buckets of blood, graphic violence, and a non–stop carnival of terror. In my book, subtle is always scarier. I prefer tingles going up my spine instead, with the occasional jolt of surprise to get some exercise. With that in mind, here are my favorite Hollywood Halloween haunts:

Pre-ClearPlay (no filter needed)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) Not Rated — Bad makeup notwithstanding, this silent film from the German Expressionist period holds up well. Dr. Caligari comes to town with a somnambulist who does his evil bidding. Goofy sets with oblique angles actually make sense in the end.

Nosferatu (1922) Not Rated — Frame for frame, F.W. Murnau’s silent classic has more haunting screen images than any other vampire movie before or since. The story is familiar — an Eastern European blood-sucker moves into town — but the treatment relies more on chills than on shocks. Great fun!

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Not Rated — The Universal horror films of the ‘30s and ‘40s are classics, but aside from the monsters, there’s nobody to care about. Enter Abbott and Costello, whose sympathetic clowns give some fun people for the monsters to chase.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Not Rated — In the 1950s, about half of the sci–fi or horror films are veiled metaphors for the spread of communism. This one is ‘50s paranoia at its best. Alien pods are producing replicas of all the townspeople. Will the population realize it before it’s too late? They will if Andrew McCarthy has anything to do with it. Starts out slow, as any good invasion would, and builds to a frenzy. A 1978 remake pays homage to it, but this version is creepier.

The Haunting (1963) Not Rated — The greatest haunted house movie ever made, bar none. A group of would–be ghost hunters seek psychic phenomenon in a “bad house.” What makes The Haunting so great is 1) it’s based on killer material by Shirley Jackson; 2) it’s impeccably directed (by Robert Wise, who gave us the medium’scary West Side Story and the downright terrifying Sound of Music), and acted (Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn); and 3) the terror is 90 percent psychological. You don’t need to see a ghost if you can feel it.

ClearPlay in Action!

And for good measure, here are some for ClearPlaying:

The Sixth Sense (1999) Rated PG-13 — There’s something bothering a troubled youth (Haley Joel Osment) and a child psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) is going to get to the bottom of it. Still M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie.

The Others (2001) Rated PG-13 — Haunted house movie starring Nicole Kidman as a 1945 mom in a spooky home. When the kids complain of “visitors,” she conjures up her motherly instincts to protect them at all costs. Atmospheric, with a few chills and lots of mood.

The Ring (2002) Rated PG-13 — Entertainment Weekly called this the scariest movie of the last decade. I just call it fun. Part mystery, part creeper, all scary. Rachel (Naomi Watts) hears about a video that supposedly led to the death of her niece, and begins investigating the legend.

The Orphanage (2007) Rated R — Spanish film about a woman who moves her family to the home where she grew up as an orphan. Soon after, her son begins communicating with some friends who’re make believe … or are they?

Marty Nabhan—ClearPlay Cryptkeeper
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