Films to Frighten: My Top 5 Halloween Flicks 

The Shining, Horror Films
Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’

“Horror fiction shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” -Clive Barker

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

I can still recall the very first horror film I ever saw in a theater. It was 1994 and I was visiting family in Mexico during Summer break.

The film was called Wolf and starred a very young, very hairy, very scary, Jack Nicholson. Michelle Pfeiffer co-starred as a love interest, but I’d be lying if I wrote that I remember her performance.

All of the attention that my 8 year-old brain could muster was directly and solely on Jack. From what I can recall, Jack starts out as a pretty normal guy; that is until he hits a wolf with his car (I remember crying when this happened) and decides to get out of his car to check on the damage. He gets bitten by the wolf and pretty soon after that, he turns into a werewolf.

My thoughts during the film went a little like this:

So, Thriller was real! Also, are wolves dangerous? Don’t dogs come from wolves? Am I in danger whenever I play with our little black mutt named Midnite? He should probably just go live with the other wolves. That would be fun!

I left the film feeling jumpy and frankly, a bit traumatized, but man oh man, what a rush! From then on I was hooked, and my drug of choice was adrenaline brought on by horror films.

Halloween is right around the corner (less than 5 days away!) and I thought it fun to reflect on All Hallow’s Eves past and share a few of my favorite films. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 films to frighten you this Halloween:

This newer flick (released in 2016) is not entirely a silent film, but the female protagonist is deaf. This only amplifies the viewer’s fears of being vulnerable as you watch her and later on, watch her being watched.

She doesn’t notice that she is being stalked (she’s a writer and is on her laptop typing away); she doesn’t notice a masked man is breaking into her house (again, this happens behind her as she is obliviously seated at her kitchen table); she doesn’t notice a damn thing. By the time she realizes that her back door has been tampered with and a window is broken, it is too late, because she can’t hear. And once she does notice, she can’t easily get help because she can’t speak.

Hush is neither gory nor classically scary, but it is a nail-biter that leaves you thinking “What would I do if I were in her situation?”

What else is there to say besides Rob fucking Zombie. I watched this film on a first date and while the date tanked, I left the theater on cloud 9. I had never seen anything like it.

The best way I can describe this Zombie film is like this: House of 1,000 Corpses is an art installation that moonlights as a haunted house, while also being a documentary. It is bizarre, amazing, and a few scenes are really difficult to stomach.

A classic that I somehow convinced my mom to let me watch at 12 years-old.

A brief summary: Little girl gets possessed by a demon or a devil or something ominous. Family has no idea what to do; a priest is summoned. Demon knows the secrets and fears of said priest and uses them against him. Little girl projectile vomits, stabs herself with a cross, and is just downright evil.

The ending is a bit underwhelming, in my opinion, but it’s also what makes this film stand to this day.

Endings aren’t always happy or perfect; in fact, most endings leave you with a heap of unanswered questions and an uneasy feeling that sticks with you.

I may be alone in this, but the remake of this film completely blew me away and exceeded my expectations

The 2003 remake starred Jessica Biel and while it stayed true to the original, it definitely upped the jump scares. And again, I may be alone in this, but I really bought Biel’s performance as the heroine protagonist.

Watch the 1974 original, follow it up with the 2003 remake, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

I found it only fitting to end this horror list with another Jack Nicholson film which just so happens to be one of my favorites films, period. An adaptation from a Stephen King novel, The Shining lifts a veil on paranoia, isolation, and delivers just a smidgen of a spooky ghost story.

Nicholson plays Jack Torrance who decides to take a job as caretaker at a hotel that is closed for Winter. He brings his wife, Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall), and son (or step-son? This always felt unclear to me), Danny along and pretty soon things get rather odd.

Danny has psychic premonitions, Wendy is sweet (and later on hysterical), and Jack is…a ghost?

Jack plays a writer (a man after my own heart) and one of the most infamous scenes of this epic film is when Wendy walks down this large staircase and across a grand hall over to a desk where Jack has spent most of his days writing.

She looks at the stack of papers next to his typewriter where Jack has been sitting for the past weeks. She is curious, as many of us would be, and picks up the first page. Then the next, and then the next. She is shocked to discover that Jack has only typed one thing, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ over and over and over again.

It is in this scene that Wendy realizes the pure madness that is going on inside of Jack’s brain; all hell breaks loose from there.

Having previously watched many ‘Making of…” documentaries on this and other horror films, I can say that Shelley Duvall’s performance is hands down one of the most authentically terrified (with Nicholson’s being one of the most believably psychotic) I have ever seen on film.

However, frightening or not, I still kind of had/have the hots for Jack Nicholson in this film. Is that weird?

Leave your comments down below with your thoughts and any horror recommendations.

Happy watching, ghouls and gals…

AC

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