In the spirit of Halloween, we thought we’d share some of our favorite horror books, movies and games with you. This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything we love (that would take so much time!), but here are a few things we love (and a few that scare us):
1. The Thing, dir. by John Carpenter – Anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows how much I love John Carpenter’s The Thing, so it shouldn’t be a shock that it tops my list. A perfect exercise in paranoia and mistrust, there’s not a false note in this movie. The effects, the mood, everything still holds up today. And that ending, oh my friends, they just don’t make them like that anymore.
2. Suspiria, dir. by Dario Argento – Argento’s masterpiece isn’t exactly a horror movie, it isn’t exactly a giallo, it’s truly its own thing. And that thing is incredible. Perfectly the art of the beautiful death, Argento combines the best of the giallo and the best of Lovecraftian horror in this story about a witch and her worshippers hiding within a ballet academy. Argento uses gorgeously lush colors in both the lighting and the sets, and a score by frequent collaborators Goblin, giving the whole film a surreal, dream-like quality both in look and sound. While Argento’s other body of work is uneven, this one is beautiful, haunting and yes, scary.
3. The Spiral Staircase, dir. by Robert Siodmak – In our write up of the top ten final girls for cinedelphia, JennyD and I give Helen Capel, the heroine of this movie, the ninth slot for being a proto final girl in a time period where that word hadn’t even been invented yet (1942). What I didn’t mention at that time is that out of every film I’ve ever watched (and friends, that is a list), this is the one that kept me up almost seven full nights until I fell asleep from exhaustion. Seriously, this one scared me so much I couldn’t sleep. I was young, but I was also a young kid who had seen plenty of genre stuff (from all times periods, some perhaps younger than I should have) and had never really had that major of a problem with anything (with one notable exception for another post). But this movie about a serial killer murdering young women with disabilities and Helen, his mute would be victim, got under my skin and into my soul somehow. To this day I can’t entirely explain it, and I don’t know if I want to. Some films just hit you, and I appreciate that power in a movie. The movie’s definitely well done, with solid acting and beautiful lighting design – especially the lighting. The use of those long shadows, long parts of the film played in near darkness and lighted close-ups of the killer’s eyes all combine to make images that will stay in your mind, especially when you’re young. I don’t remember how young I was when I first saw it, but I didn’t have the guts to see it again until after college. This film got me. It’s not a ghost movie, but it sure as hell haunted me.
4. The Haunting, dir. Robert Wise – I already wrote about The Haunting in another post for 31/31, but I needed to mention it here because it’s that good. Read my other article, then go watch this movie.
1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: I already discussed my feelings on the 1963 film adaptation, but the novel deserves its own mention because it’s just as good as the movie. Stephen King dedicated a book to Shirley Jackson once, with the inscription that she never needed to raise her voice. I find that one of the most apt descriptions of Jackson’s work – the lady knows how to scare, but it’s not cheap, loud or overwrought. It’s matter of fact, and that makes it all the more frightening. And did I mention it has the best opening paragraph ever written in a genre novel?
2. The Shining by Stephen King – I love Stephen King novels. I know people might judge or whatever but I don’t care. Shut up. I understand their flaws, but I love his work anyway. But The Shining is the only one that scared the shit out of me when I read it. Don’t get me wrong, It did its fair share of damage (mostly because my third grade teacher read us all the murder parts in class and I was too scarred to read the book until college), but The Shining is the only King book I remember both having me in such a grip I almost couldn’t stop reading even if I wanted to (this award goes to It also), but then kept me up at night after I was done. And the funny part is, I only realized just how much it had affected me until after I was finished. Maybe because I was reading too fast to notice it earlier. Either way, The Shining is a frightening portrait of a man gone mad in a place gone mad. It’s evocative, character intense and a great read. In short, it’s a Stephen King work, and one of the best.
3. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – This isn’t just a book, it’s an experience. Reading it is sort of like what going mad must feel like, and the deterioration of the book itself represents the deterioration of that worlds’ reality. And you’ll be scared by math. And not like in school, this is totally different. It’s hard to explain, and it’s not perfect (it has trouble in the third act), but it’s a unique and scary reading experience that is well worth getting into despite the flaws.