Each Halloween film fans are bombarded with media recollections and reminders of various titles for the occasion — ghost stories, Frankenstein movies, Dracula pictures, perhaps a slash and gore outing for two, and so on.
This time, rather than trot out the familiar genres and titles, we thought we’d make things a bit more personal by citing the films that scared the hell out of — us. These movies are classics in that they still frighten years after they first came out, no matter how many viewings.
Perhaps we’re a bit jaded, but there aren’t that many movies from the classic period — and the more contemporary one as well — that still alarm us. But here are a few titles that definitely do.
Joe’s not much into horror films but his favorite scary movie IS a classic, The Birds. He finds that Alfred Hitchcock film more frightening than any so called “slasher” flick.
If you haven’t seen The Birds lately, give it a whirl. Not too long ago the 1963 movie received some fresh publicity thanks to a recent HBO film about Hitch and his “supposed” obsession with the star of The Birds, Tippi Hedren.
Hedren, known today mostly as the mother of Melanie Griffith, was a model back in the late 50s. She was Hitchcock’s choice to replace Grace Kelly, who bowed out of the project after pressure from the folks in Monaco, who didn’t think it seemly for their princess to be working. Hedren only made two films with Hitchcock. She’s dreadful in Marnie, but passable in The Birds. They, after all, are the real stars.
There are many things to admire about The Birds, including the special effects that impressed audiences long before GCI became part of Hollywood’s technological arsenal.
Frank largely avoids contemporary horror movies post 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which he liked). Still, there are two movies of those which he has seen that so frightened the dickens out of him that he still can’t bring himself to re-watch them.
One is a genuine classic, the only movie that actor Charles Laughton ever directed. It’s 1955’s Night of the Hunter, in which a deranged preacher (Robert Mitchum) viciously threatens an old woman (Lillian Gish) and two young children. The movie is evocatively shot, meticulously acted and scary as hell. Be sure to watch in daytime.
Mitchum reappears once more — this time as a vengeful ex-con seeking to wipe out the family of an upright Florida lawyer (Gregory Peck) — in 1962’s Cape Fear. The movie was remade in 1991 by director Martin Scorsese with Robert DeNiro taking the Mitchum role. Skip the remake and take a look at the original. It is a grueling picture, and one that you should see — once.
Frank still finds it hard to view Hitchcock’s mighty classic, 1960’s Psycho, the slasher-thriller prototype, at night. Credit a good part of this fear factor to the movie’s sensationally frightening score by the great composer Bernard Herrmann.
Any movie with Maria Ouspenskaya in it is bound to get a rise out of Frank. Ditto for Gale Sondergard, who is truly alarming in William Wyler’s 1940 melodrama starring Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall, The Letter.
And let’s not overlook Gene Tierney’s chillingly deranged performance in 1945’s Leave Her To Heaven. On the film noir front, check out Robert Ryan’s obsessively menacing turn in Fred Zinnemann’s 1949 outing, Act of Violence.
Ok. Those are some of the titles that scare the bejesus out of us. We’d love to hear about your choices of the movies that really frighten — AND BOO TO YOU.