Though there’s no shortage of Halloween-themed movies to watch during this most glorious season, I’ve always looked at Halloween as a chance to catch up on some of my absolute favorites. These are films that I have, of course, seen many times over the years, but are also titles that I don’t currently watch too often, because I’m too busy watching new stuff, or maybe for fear that they will lose some of the power they have over me. Halloween is the perfect time to rediscover these films again and remind myself just why they are so special and important to me. This year, Wicked Horror contributors are giving their own version of a top five list featuring films they like to watch on Halloween, and mine actually parallels my five favorite horror films of all time. The list hasn’t changed much over the years, and I don’t think it ever will. These movies are classics in their own right, but there are also the pictures that have had the most effect on me as a horror fan and continue to influence and inspire me to this day.
The Omen (1976)
I hardly see The Omen mentioned on anybody’s list of favorites, and that is surprising to me. This movie is awesome, and it all has to do with the time period it was made in, the high-caliber talent involved, and that ridiculously amazing score that, to me, no film has yet been able to top. As far as religious horror films go, The Omen is right up there with The Exorcist, and though its more intense scenes are more subtle than that picture, they are still just as shocking. Who can forget the priest getting impaled right outside a church, or the splendid, slow-motion decapitation of David Warner? Where would creepy kid movies be today without the spawn of Satan himself, Damien? Gregory Peck gives as much of a commanding performance here as he always did, and his character’s conflict and eventual acceptance of the situation bring depth and urgency to the story and really helps sell it. The soft ’70s look of the film is beautiful, and again, the music is something that just cannot be ignored. If you haven’t seen The Omen in a while, I strongly urge you to give it another look this Halloween season.
It is probably no coincidence that Hellraiser and the next film on my list are favorites because the source material for them comes from the mind of two horror author titans. Hellraiser is of course the brainchild of Clive Barker, who is still arguably the most imaginative voice in horror today. Barker adapted and directed this version of his story The Hellbound Heart, and what he created is something that is grotesque and gorgeous at the same time. The character of Pinhead went on to become one of horror’s most popular villains, but Frank and Julia are up there with him, and they are all put against one of the best and smartest final girls, Kirsty. Though the effects are dated in some places, the film’s concept and gore still grosses me out, especially the image of Frank’s body growing out of the floor. The otherworldly aspect of the Cenobites and what they represent takes you to a place that only a horror film can, and yet you understand it, even if you can’t really relate to it. Hellraiser is a unique and visceral film that gets under your skin and really makes you think about what you’ve just seen.
Carrie was almost destined to be a favorite film of mine. It is the first adaptation of the first published novel by Stephen King, and it was done in a way that is psychologically testing and hauntingly beautiful. The story of the bullied teen who takes revenge on her tormentors remains relevant, but the movie is so much more than that. Carrie is a film that I have to watch all the way through every time I put it on because it is so captivating on every level-the acting, the direction, the editing, the music. Piper Laurie’s performance as Margaret White is one of my favorite performances in a film, horror or otherwise, and Sissy Spacek as Carrie fits the role like no one else has been able to since. Though the prom sequence is, of course, the most popular and memorable part of the film, everything leading up to it is perfectly laid out and paced so that the audience is shocked by what happens, but also able to understand and sympathize with it. Just thinking about Carrie makes me want to watch it again because I know that it will mesmerize me just as much as it did the first time I saw it. It really is a perfect film in my book.
Though Poltergeist has since been sort of dethroned as my number one favorite horror film (see explanation below), it is one of those movies that I am still awed by, and I love every second of it. For me, Poltergeist is a perfect conglomeration of everything that I love about horror movies. The film is equal parts scary, funny, and gory and that brings out a childlike enthusiasm every time I watch it. The Freeling family is the most endearing part of the movie, and I am always drawn to the way they are portrayed as a normal, but still quirky, hilarious, and inherently loving family whose actions are believable and honest. As a lover of the supernatural types of horror films, this one has some of my favorite spooky sequences (like the clown, and the chair-stacking and face-ripping sequences) that are enhanced by the movie’s lighter scenes because you never know what you are going to get. Poltergeist is not just about nostalgia. The effects hold up incredibly well, the scares still work, the Freelings are wonderful characters, and the movie has so much heart that I can’t help but love it.
For years now I have said that Poltergeist is my favorite horror film, mostly just to have an answer to the inevitable question that people will have when you tell them that you are a horror fan. But recently I’ve had to admit to myself what I’ve probably always known to be true: Child’s Play is my favorite horror film of all time. Some of my earliest horror memories pertain to Child’s Play, like being scared out of my wits watching it in my dark basement TV room or at a friend’s house at a sleepover. Chucky is the only character from a horror film that I had recurring nightmares about as a child, and he is the reason I used to have to sleep with my legs tucked up to my chest because I was scared that Chucky was going to come up from the end of my bed and cut off my toes. I just watched it again with my 11-year-old nephew (who had to see it because he is going to be Chucky for Halloween this year. I’m so proud!) and it holds up just as well as one would hope. It is still incredibly suspenseful and creepy, and the careful direction and acting still pack an enormous punch. It has been the most influential horror film in my life and it will forever hold this very special place in my horror-loving heart.