Written by: Andrea Martin. Media by: Charley Phillips.
For horror movie fans, October is the greatest time to invest some time in films that look to heighten our sense of fear. Many wonder why some even bother to watch a movie that is just out to scare them, but the feeling of anticipation is what some people feed off of. As a fan of scary movies, I’ve created a basic list of classic horror movies that are sure to stir up fear and anticipation in anyone.
1. The Silence of the Lambs – Dir. by Jonathan Demme –Starring Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Released in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, an up and coming F.B.I. agent who teams up with the imprisoned Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, in hopes of stopping a serial killer, named Buffalo Bill, who starves and then skins his victims. Though the movie is not blatantly gruesome in its nature, The Silence of the Lambs twists the minds of its audience by the use of close-up shots, intellectual social interaction, and themes of stalking, manipulation and physiological endeavors. Adapted from the book of the same name, The Silence of the Lambs is considered a horror classic, and has the accolades to back it up (it went on to win the big five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay; the third film to accomplish that feat). Compared to other horror films there isn’t tons of gore to go around, but the story itself is fascinating and creepy enough to be considered a classic Halloween movie.
2. The Exorcist – Dir. by William Friedkin – Starring Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller
Considered the granddaddy of them all, The Exorcist tells the tale of a 12-year-old girl who, after playing with an Ouija Board, becomes possessed by a demonic spirit, and her mother, desperate to help her daughter in any way, seeks the help of two priests (one who is currently struggling with his faith). The Exorcist became the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture during the 46th Academy Awards (it was nominated for 10 and won two). For a movie that was released in the 70s, the makeup, acting, and goriness of the film were something that was never seen by American audiences. Known for the famous “head twist”, in which Regan (the young possessed girl) is able to fully turn her head in a full 360 motion like an owl, The Exorcist left audiences traumatized and scarred with such an overpowering scene. Today, The Exorcist is still considered the scariest movie of all time, especially considering its supernatural background that is embodied within the film. With no graphic backgrounds to back it up, you’ll see what I mean when I say that, for a 70s film, the art direction and eeriness of the film is what serves up quite a fright, even for this scary movie lover.
3. The Shining – Dir. by Stanley Kubrick, Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall
Next up is one of Jack Nicholson’s most challenging roles. Here, Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a man who decides to take a winter job as a caretaker at a local hotel to focus on writing his next big novel (only him and his family will be staying there). But while he is there, his attitude and mindset begin to change due to the overbearing evil spirits that exist within the hotel, and, in a cliché statement, he starts to suffer from cabin fever. His son, who has psychic abilities referred to as “The Shining,” starts to have visions pertaining to the future of his mother and father, and also gets glimpses of the murder of a family that took place long before his family arrived at the hotel. Directed by the great Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is considered a significant contribution to the movie genres of thriller and horror. Like The Silence of the Lambs, Kubrick relies on close-up shots as well as panoramic-like capturing of certain environments, adding to the unnaturalness that surrounds and smothers this unsuspecting family. As Nicholson might say: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
4. Psycho – Dir. by Alfred Hitchcock, Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
In this psychological thriller, Marion Crane is given $40,000 to bank, but instead he sees this as an opportunity to start a new life somewhere else. She leaves town, but ends up staying at Bates Motel after she is caught in a storm. There she meets Norman Bates, a quiet and respectful man who seems to be dominated and controlled by his mother. As many people are familiar with, this is the movie where the famous “Shower Scene” takes place. Released in 1960, this movie shocked audiences with its bizarre storytelling, twisted characters, and the violent nature that stood behind it. The paranoia that it leaves upon audiences is what makes this classic noire film a must-see during October, and Alfred Hitchcock, one of the all-time greatest directors, never disappoints in creating a distressing atmosphere that can be felt even after the movie is over.
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Dir. by Tobe Hooper, Starring Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger
A 1970s horror movie classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre deals with a cannibalistic and psychopathic family that wreaks havoc upon five teenagers who have mistakenly stopped at their house for some gas. The chainsaw wielding antagonist, Leatherface, presents an interesting side to horror movies as he seeks to destroy anything within his sight that has a pulse. What makes Chainsaw so frightening is its ability to make audiences fear the unknown. The mask that defines Leatherface leaves a person to fend for his or her own ideas of who the person may be, and as the movie starts to reach its climax, it still refuses to give the audience answers. The movie also presents a “cat-and-mouse” environment as the five teenagers dodge and lurk underneath the shadows, hoping to not become the next meal for Leatherface and his family. Towards the end, the movie becomes an all out blood bath as Leatherface devises schemes to catch his prey, but encounters a small problem with one of the teenagers named Sally, who gives the audience hope in this devilish film. Beware, though, as Ed Gein, the infamous body snatcher, heavily influenced the production and story of Chainsaw, as well as The Silence of the Lambs, and Psycho. If you take the time to read a little about Gein, you’ll see why his acts make Chainsaw much more gruesome, deadly, and very realistic.