Josh's Top 5 favorite Horror Movies for Halloween!!!


What is a great horror movie made of?

Is it blood and gore? Teenage girls running from chainsaw-wielding maniacs? Or perhaps, a location that becomes a character itself in the movie? Add these recognizable tropes with some amazing cinematography, great acting, and an imaginative director, and the final product can become quite memorable.

If you're like me, then you love getting these elements in the horror movies you keep coming back too every Halloween. Thinking of my top five favorite horror movies wasn't easy because I have so many that I love to talk about. But after thinking it through, I've decided to settle on these favorites.

Warning: Many spoilers alerts. You've been warned!!!!!

5. Rosemary's Baby:

Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, and Maurice Evans.

Directed by Roman Polanski and based off a novel by Ira Levin.

Set in late 1960's New York City, Rosemary's Baby centers around a young newlywed couple named Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse who have just moved into the Bramford Apartment building. Guy (played by Cassavetes) is a struggling actor who's desperate to get his big break on Broadway, while Rosemary is his loving and supportive wife. Not long after moving into the Bramford, Guy and Rosemary befriend the Castevets, an elderly couple who live next door to them. After going to dinner at the Castervets one night, Guy suddenly gets a big Broadway part he wants. A few days later, he convinces Rosemary that he's ready to start the family they've long talked about. So after a romantic meal - which includes a desert made by Millie Castervet - Rosemary passes out and has what she thinks is a bizarre night with Guy - in which he turns into a demonic monster that rapes her.

Rosemary soon discovers that she is pregnant, but she is worried that there is something wrong with her and the baby - due to frequent instances of pain and unusual cravings for raw meat. To make matters, her old friend Hutch (played by Maurice Evens) remarks about how pale and thin she looks. Curious about Rosemary's condition, Hutch - being a writer and researcher who knows a bit the Bramford building - begins to delve deeper into the residence's history. However, as he does so, he mysteriously falls into a coma.

Though our friend Hutch eventually manages to recover, he unfortunately dies. However, this is not before he sends Rosemary a book about the history of witchcraft. It is in this book that Rosemary - as well as us, the audience - discovers that Roman Castervet's father, who was a warlock and leader of a Satanic cult, used to hold black masses in the Bramford building! Rosemary now convinced that the Castervets want to use her baby in a demonic ritual, decides that its imperative to move out of the Bramford right away. Unfortunately, Guy, thinking the whole thing as nonsense, won't listen to her.

Of course the truth is soon becomes clear that the Castervets do, in fact, have designs on the baby, just not in the way that Rosemary thinks. You see, the child is not Guy's, but Satan's!

This movie is both a great psychological film as well as very creepy. Managing to have one foot in the supernatural, while also having another in the very real and frighting world, it's also a very smart horror film which comments on women face when dealing learned healthcare professionals when addressing very real concerns. There isn't a lot of scary scenes (perhaps beyond the sex scene), but there is a lot of nail-biting tension throughout (i.e. like when Rosemary tries to make her escape from the cult).

All in all, probably the best of the film comes at the end when Rosemary learns the truth. Though we never actually see the baby, this 'less is more' attitude works to the film's benefit, because the latter approach might have caused the film to take an unintentional turn into the comedic. Instead, Polanski's choice to let Farrow carry the scene with her expressions of horror is far more effective!

 

4. Ringu:

Starring Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Ōtaka, and Yoichi Numat. Directed by Hideo Nakata from a novel by Kôji Suzuki.

When a group of teenagers all mysteriously die within seven days of watching a video tape, renowned investigative reporter Reiko Asakawa (played by Matsushima) - who also just so happens to be aunt to one of the teens - takes it upon herself to investigate. However, after tracking down the tape and watching it herself, she then gets a phone call telling her that she has only seven days to live. In true horror trope fashion, the protagonist drags another unfortunate soul into her predicament, this time in the form of Reiko's ex-husband, a psychic researcher named Ryuji.

After himself watching the tape, Ryuji (of course) gets the same call and joins his ex-wife in tracking down whoever made the video. In time they learn that it originated with a discredited psychic researcher named Heichachiro Ikuma and his lover, a psychic named Shizuko. You see, after his lover committed suicide, Ikuma was left alone to raise their daughter, Sadako, by himself. Eventually, however, Ikuma soon discovers that Sadako has psychic powers that far exceed her mother's. Fearing that these said abilities would be a danger to humanity, Ikuma tries to kill her - managing only to leave her to die in an old well. Before this happens though, Sadako manages to imprint her essence onto a video tape which begins to circulate around Japan.

Hoping to break the curse, Rekio and Ryuji find Sadako's remains and lay her to rest properly. However, when Ryuji dies, the truth about the curse becomes clear: The only way to be free of it is to get someone else to watch the video and remove the curse from one's self. Thus creating a never-ending ring-cycle throughout the world.

The reason I liked this movie - back then and even to this day - was because it was something new. Around that time in the late nineties, I was burned out from watching an endless stream of Wes Craven-produced slasher movies and rehashes of Freddy Kruger-like boogeymen that kept killing the almost-identical groups of twenty-somethings pretending to be in their teens. While I will say that The Blair Witch Project was interesting to me, listening to fellow horror fans deride it while harping on how great Scream was, made me want to give up and declare that horror movies were dead to me and we would never produce anything original again. Then DVDs arrived and ancient American video stores started adding more foreign movies to their libraries, including Asian horror films.

American studios tried to replicate this trend by remaking Asian horror films (i.e. The Ring, The Grudge, etc.) with American actors, but failed to help audiences understand the underlying cultural context of the movies and the legends that they are based on.

The Ring itself is based on an old folk tale called Banchō Sarayashiki, in which a young servant girl is murdered by a nobleman - having her body thrown into a well - and afterwards continues to haunt the nobleman.

 

3. The Thing:

Staring Kurt Russel and Keith David.

Directed by John Carpenter, based off the novella Who Goes There, by John Campbell Jr.

While doing research in the Antarctic, a team of researchers discover an alien spaceship buried under the ice. Soon after, the team discovers that a highly adaptive life-form has been in suspended animation for thousands of years on the ship. When it's released, the life-form begins to take on the different likenesses of the research team, while also replicating itself.

This movie is so creepy on so many levels. First you have the sheer remoteness of the research station that Carpenter expresses so beautifully in his cinematography, that it overwhelms the audience and almost frightens them with it's isolation. Add to this Carpenter's original music-scoring to keeps the sense of dread that something is coming at any moment and you have quite the film.

Ultimately, Carpenter takes a 'more-is-more' mentality to this movie by showing us the creature in several forms tha