Round and Shiny: Haunted DVD Edition
If the fever pitch of election season isn't enough to give you the creeps this Halloween, allow us to recommend a few scare-raising films. Pop in these puppies once the trick-or-treaters stop ringing your bell, and settle in for some shivers.
The Woods (2005): Set in a girls' school in the '60s, this elegant, atmospheric nightmare is full of ghostly twists — not to mention some brutal "mean girls" tormenting the heroine. Imagine Heathers as a moody fright flick. With its darkly undulating trees and dazzling dream sequences, it builds up an oppressive aura of dread.
The Orphanage (2007): A woman's devastating loss is at the core of this ridiculously frightening Spanish-language thriller, which — like The Sixth Sense — arouses both fear and empathy. When I saw it on the big screen, the audience's palpable terror manifested itself in ripples of nervous laughter. You'll see.
The Descent (2005): An intrepid group of women rappels deep into a cave in this riveting British flick; they soon find themselves trapped in the very bowels of the earth. Then some really bad stuff happens. A virtuoso achievement in delirium.
Dead Silence (2007): The narrative setup isn't what you'll remember about this nifty entry from the creators of the Saw franchise. Instead, you'll be trying to get Mary Shaw, the sepulchral lady ventriloquist, out of your head. Good luck with that. I can't recall goosebumps more acute than those I felt watching dead Mary, her corpse done up like a dummy, hoist herself off the morgue floor.
More Goofy Than Gruesome
Fido (2006): This Canadian zombie spoof seems to have begun as a skit-worthy conceit: a faithful recreation of Lassie, only with a boy's loyal ghoul substituted for the faithful collie. But the clever creators of this impeccably art-directed production use the premise of a post-"zombie wars" society (in which the domesticated undead serve the living) as the basis for some lively social satire.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002): I'll make this as quick as I can. Having faked his death and gone into seclusion, Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell, best known for the canonical Evil Dead films), stricken with penile cancer, is living out his days in a nursing home, where he meets an elderly black man (Ossie Davis) who claims to be JFK. The two partner up to defeat a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy. I know, you've seen plenty of black-JFK-and-Elvis-vs.-soul-sucking-mummy movies. But this product of Don "Phantasm" Coscarelli's sick imagination has to be seen to be believed.
No Halloween is complete without a few black-and-white horror classics, and while you'd probably get more out of transcendent masterpieces like Bride of Frankenstein or The Wolf Man, you might as well treat yourself to the cheesy plenitude of a monster rally like House of Dracula (1945), featuring the bug-eyed vampirism of John Carradine (as the Count); Lon Chaney, Jr.'s reliably stressed-out lycanthrope Larry Talbot (aka the Wolf Man); and a lumbering Frankenstein's monster (as embodied, in a clock-punching sort of way, by Glenn Strange). How do all these horror icons get stuffed into a single plot? What do you care? Put this one on at your Halloween party for some frightfully perfect video wallpaper.