This is also the best time of year for one of my favorite things: scary movies.
A month ago I decided to write a “Top Ten” sort of list of scary movies and realized 1. That sort of list existsalllll over the internet and none of them are very good, and 2. Nobody would need or want to read a list of my personal favorites. I know what I like in a scary movie, but giving advice to other people? That’s a different matter. It was time to call in an expert. I called in my friend Michelle.
A lot of you already know her as the wickedly funny, amazing jewelry guru behindMich L in LA…but you might not know that she spent years as a successful Hollywood screenwriter, not to mention that she’s the creative force behind one of the greatest cult-classic spoof horror films of all time. She will tell you about that in a sec, but I would like to say that I knew the movie longgggg before I knew her as a blogger and a friend. When I learned of the connection, I nearly crapped my pants and called my former art school boyfriend to brag that I now knew the woman behind the “foxy aliens with vegetable lasers!” and then he would have crapped his pants too. And it would have been awesome. Thanks for the fantasy, Mich.
So, as she is an expert on the subject (don’t let her be bashful and tell you otherwise), Mich was kind enough to assemble a list of recommendations. Not just her own personal favorites, but movies that covered a variety of audiences. There is something in here for everyone. Enjoy!
Hi, all you fabulous Fans-of-Aunt-Peaches! I’m one, too – isn’t she the coolest person? So happy to be sneaking in here today to give you some spooky movie recommendations.
Some of you might have heard of me from my blog Mich L. in L.A. What most people don’t know (discovered, somehow, by Aunt Peaches, Girl Sleuth): when I was nineteen, I met a boy with similar taste in trashy genre films. We fell in love, wrote a script, and made a goofy homage to 1950s alien invasion movies, called Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space. The boy has been my husband now for – gulp! – more years than I can count on my fingers and toes. Ain’t that romantical?
I still love genre films best. Who needs Oscar contenders? Give me a guilty pleasure crapfest any old day! So here are a few of my favorite scares – some you may never have seen, some you might have forgotten about and need to watch again…
If I can make even one person whimper into her microwaved popcorn, my work here is done.
They Live (1988) OMG, hordes of well-dressed, aggressive Young Republicans are taking over the world…and that’s not even the bad news! (heehee) This hilarious/horrifying John Carpenter film is really fun; you’ll giggle and scream at the same time. It features an unusual lead actor, pro wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. And a storyline so relevant, you’ll wonder who had the time machine.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) The Sixties sure were fun! Batty old neighbors, supernatural chocolate and nightmares of bestial violation: good times, good times. Poor, sweet newlywed Rosemary puzzles over her strange pregnancy and her husband’s growing alliance with a pair of elderly weirdos in their groaning old New York apartment building. This movie is so stylish, you’ll want to live in it – while screaming for Rosemary to get out, get OUT!
The Innocents (1961) A 19th century British governess is supposed to be watching two angelic orphaned children…but are these darlings actually children at all? Awesome performances, and a psychological thriller that builds slowwwly toward panic and terror. Great for a night when you feel like settling deeply into something deeply unsettling, or in the mood for a cool classic in stunning black and white.
Sleuth (1972) Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier are oh-so-polite, oh-so-deadly adversaries in a brilliant two-character thriller. Filled with shocks, twists and turns, these two play vicious mind games to make your head spin, all set in an enormous 16th century mansion. Who’ll win out? I’m not telling, but there’s an evil clown involved and you know that spells quality.
Tremors (1990) Not exactly Halloweeny? Maybe not – but it’s a genuine thrill ride of funny sci-fi horror. A small desert town is under attack – from below. This one will charm your socks off – but don’t ever let your bare feet touch the ground. I am not sure why this is rated R – maybe some bad words? The grue is pretty tame by today’s standards. Watch with older kids and have fun!
The Fly (1958 and 1986) Two great chillers about an accidental merging of man with housefly. The original is spooky in a campy 1950’s way – love it! And the remake with Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis is one of the grossest movies I have ever seen. Watch Dr. Brundle transform in gory, goopy, hairy, dripping technicolor. Oh, Geena – you really should pick ’em more wisely.
Freaks (1932) Now this one is fascinating. It stars a troupe of actual circus sideshow performers, in an engrossing story of humiliation and vengeance. If you think it exploits the actors, I’d argue that the film portrays the ‘freaks’ with a real measure of dignity and humanity. An old-fashioned morality tale, try watching it like a fable. Plus when the circus troupe turns the tables to exact revenge on their tormenters – yiiiiikes.
The Dead Zone (1983) Maybe it’s just a favorite movie of mine, but I find this darker and more affecting each time I watch it. A Stephen King story about a man named Johnny (Christopher Walken, who does tormented better than anyone) awakened from a coma able to read the dread future of anyone he touches. Gee, neat superpower – until, uh-oh! He realizes it’s up to him to save the world, ’cause it’s gonna explode and no one believes him. Man. I hate when that happens.
The Omen (1976) Infants switched at birth, Satanic rumors and mysterious deaths surround the adoption of a perfect little boy by an American diplomat and his wife. As young Damien grows, horrors escalate. The diplomat (played by Gregory Peck) kinda sorta knows there’s a teensy problem, but how to tell the wife? Featuring the best name for an Exorcist ever penned. Look out, Lucifer – it’s Father Bugenhagen to the rescue!
The Others (2001) A terrifically atmospheric ghost story, complete with haunted house, innocents in danger and murky, menacing fog banks along the English coast. Nicole Kidman is an anxiety-ridden single mom, fiercely protecting her two photosensitive children from the daylight – and from the haunting presence of ‘the others’ that may be living inside the walls of their spooky old mansion.
Duel (1971) Steven Spielberg was a baby of 23 when he directed this edge-of-your-seat cat and mouse film. Before he made swimming in the ocean terrifying, he did it with driving on the freeway. A psychopathic, unseen truck driver terrorizes an ordinary motorist…so real, so brilliantly plotted, you won’t even notice there is almost no dialog! Road rage may have originated here.
The Night Of The Hunter (1955) Beautiful and horrible, a nightmare of a story with the most terrifying preacher man ever committed to film. Don’t you love a villain who seems so righteous and gentle, but turns out to be evil personified? This is a thriller and a horror movie rolled into one. C’mon, I know it’s old and you weren’t even born when these people were famous, but it’s a goodie. Sometimes horror hits you right in your gut – the final third of the movie is one of those times. Don’t watch it with younger kids, mmkay?
Angel Heart. (1987) Set in the 1950’s, with seedy back alley voodoo, Satanic ritual murders and Mickey Rourke as a private dick with a dark secret. Lisa Bonet is absolutely incandescent as the damsel in distress and more-than-disturbing love interest. Why that girl never became a giant movie star is beyond me. This film made me avoid gumbo for years – see it and you’ll understand.
Dead Ringers. (1988) Young Jeremy Irons plays creepy twin gynecologists with an evil bent. This whole movie, in fact, is pretty bent. The twin docs share lovers (pretending to be each other to consummate relationships), and the women don’t realize it. Ugh! And then it starts to get psycho, and you kind of want to crawl under the covers but it’s dark under there, and what if Jeremy Irons is hiding at the bottom?! This is classic David Cronenberg – if you have a tolerance for ooky, this one’s for you. Note to self: make gyno appointment, review all my friends’ online matches for guys with twin brothers.
Thanks for having me over, Aunt Peaches! I loved picking these for you and your readers.
What a list! Some of my favorites and some I have never seen. Don’t anybody request Freaks on Netflix until I get my hands on it first, OK?