Yesterday, I kicked off Spook Series with Part One of my Creepy Classics. If you missed it, you can read Part One by clicking here. But that was the least of the best—merely the bottom seven. What classic horror films grabbed the terrifying top six slots? Read on to find out…at your own risk. Mwahahahahaha.
#6: Carrie (1976)
Synopsis: “A young, abused, and timid 17-year-old girl discovers she has telekinesis, and gets pushed to the limit on the night of her school’s prom by a humiliating prank.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Classically Creepy: It’s always the quiet ones you have to worry about, isn’t it? Poor Carrie (Sissy Spacek) has a rough life. Nobody at school likes her, and many of them actually go out of their way to make her life miserable. The only real friend she seems to have is her gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), which is pretty pathetic. Oh yeah, plus Carrie’s mother (Piper Laurie) is a raging psychopath with deeply twisted religious views. So, needless to say, growing up is hard. But things start to look up when she’s asked to the prom. She starts to take control of her life not just through an attitude adjustment, but through her intriguing telekinetic powers. After prom, however, things take a sharp turn for the worse. Spacek does a fantastic job of taking us on this journey with Carrie, who starts out so timid and painfully shy, yet ends up incredibly powerful and terrifying. It’s a perverse coming-of-age story, really; it’ll shock you, it’ll make you cringe, and it’ll leave you with an unsettling feeling after the last, chilling scene. Also, as Carrie’s mother, Laurie is easily the scariest mother in a horror film ever. I’m very interested to see how this classic King tale will be reinterpreted in this year’s Carrie remake. It’ll have a tough time topping or even touching this classic.
My Grade: A-
#5: The Omen (1976)
Synopsis: “An American ambassador learns to his horror that his son is actually the literal Antichrist.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Classically Creepy: You can never go wrong with a good ol’ story about the Antichrist. Whoops. Actually you can. Anyone who saw this film’s 2006 remake knows that. But after seeing the original, I can understand why so many people were insisting that I watch The Omen. What happens is this: American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) knows his wife will be devastated when he learns that her pregnancy resulted in a stillbirth, so, taking the advice of a shady priest, he swaps his deceased baby for another newborn whose mother passed away. Five years later, Thorn learns that his child’s origins may be much darker than he realized. When Robert partners with photographer Jennings (David Warner) to investigate the boy’s past, the film becomes as much thriller or mystery as it is horror, maintaining a consistently creepy tone throughout and always foreshadowing something worse to come. The story is intriguing, the performances are all solid, and to top it off, there’s even fantastically eerie music that gets louder and louder only to suddenly stop when the film cuts to another scene. The Omen does a great job of building tension until the very end, where we get a pretty ridiculous yet weirdly awesome finale. It can be a little over the top, sure, but as far as horror classics go, this film is good to have on hand.
My Grade: A-
#4: The Shining (1980)
Synopsis: “A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Classically Creepy: Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title, The Shining is easily one of the most iconic horror films of all time. It’s been analyzed, referenced, and spoofed so much that if you don’t know at least a little bit about it, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Granted, it is over 30 years old, but it’s so bizarre and disturbing that even now people are still trying to figure it out. It leaves that much of an impression. When the Torrance family moves into the isolated Overlook Hotel to take care of it for several months, you immediately sense that there are going to be problems. We’ve got a hotel almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world, a couple with a strained marriage, and a young boy who suffers from extremely vivid, violent visions. Throw in an ominous story about a previous Overlook caretaker who went mad and slaughtered his family, and The Shining becomes a perfect recipe for horror. Jack (Jack Nicholson), the patriarch of the family, begins a downward spiral to crazy town almost immediately, leaving his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), to cope with his terrifying moods. Nicholson expertly takes crazy to a whole new level with Jack. You’re scared of him pretty much from the get-go. And though she’s not the best actress in the world, you can’t help feeling for big-eyed, pitiful Duvall, whose character is in an absolutely wretched situation. It’s too bad the film strays from the novel (because Jack is actually much more sympathetic), but The Shining is still a classic that horror fans must see.
My Grade: A-
#3: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Synopsis: “A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Classically Creepy: Poor Rosemary. All she wants is a loving husband, three kids, and nice, quiet neighbors who will leave her the heck alone. Apparently, that’s just not in the cards. There’s a reason this film has been able to stand the test of time. Forty-five years after its release, Rosemary’s Baby is still a master horror film. It has a fascinating premise that flawlessly blends the supernatural with the seemingly ordinary, and unlucky Rosemary (Mia Farrow) gets thrown right into the middle of it. Farrow’s performance is superb, making Rosemary into a wonderful heroine who is sassy, sweet, and clever, yet also very sympathetic. You ache for this character, who constantly seems trapped—trapped in her apartment, trapped by her husband, trapped by her neighbors, and especially trapped by her pregnancy. There’s a constant atmosphere of paranoia, and it’s incredibly effective and eerie. Even the music is awesome—particularly the haunting tune at the beginning and end of the film. The best/worst thing about this film? The ending. It’s perfect, but at the same time beyond frustrating. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it right now. This is a classic you simply can’t miss.
My Grade: A
#2: The Exorcist (1973)
Synopsis: “When the devil possesses a teenage girl, her only hope is an exorcism.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Classically Creepy: Forty years after its original release, The Exorcist is still regarded as one of the most terrifying and deeply disturbing films of all time. There are so many layers to this film. First, we have Regan (Linda Blair) and her mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), who are at the center of the film. Regan begins acting strange, gradually deteriorating into someone—something that shocks and terrifies Chris. Unable to find any relief after going through dozens of doctors, tests, and treatments, Chris finally, desperately seeks out a priest for an exorcism. Cue Father Karras (Jason Miller). The film had already been following Karras prior to his introduction to Chris, so we know a little about his past. He’s a sympathetic character—a good man on the verge of losing his faith due to guilt concerning his mother’s demise. Karras secures an exorcism, and in comes Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) to take charge. Merrin is briefly shown in a series of strange scenes at the beginning of the film, and his connection to the main conflict is finally made toward the end. So much about The Exorcist is brilliant—the writing, the performances, and especially the overall chilling effect of the possession. Watching sweet little Regan become a monster is a horrifying process with so many eerie, visceral scenes along the way. And the finale is moving in a way that few horror films are anymore. The Exorcist should definitely be on your Halloween movie list, and if it isn’t, I “compel” you to make it an addition (if you’ve seen the film, you get the joke).
My Grade: A
#1: Psycho (1960)
Synopsis: “A Phoenix secretary steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.” –www.imdb.com
Why It’s Classically Creepy: I think there should be a law that you have to watch this film at least once before you die. In fact, I might even bump that up to at least once every year. It’s that good. Psycho is not only a great horror, but a great mystery, a great thriller, and even a sort of psychological study toward the end. And what’s really interesting is it’s almost like two separate movies. It begins with secretary Marion (Janet Leigh), on the run after she impulsively swipes $40,000 from her employer’s client. She winds up at the eerie old Bates Motel run by sweet yet not-quite-right Norman (Anthony Perkins). Halfway through the film, Marion is gone, and the perspective switches to her sister (Vera Miles) and her boyfriend (John Gavin) as they try to find out where she went. As soon as Marion takes the money, tension is high, and it remains high throughout the whole movie. Director Alfred Hitchcock’s filming style is flawless, and there are more memorable moments than you can shake a stick at. Although I will point out three excellent moments of pure horror in this film: the shower scene, the staircase scene, and the revelation of Norman’s mother. These are truly classic moments that can never be topped. What more can I say? Psycho is a masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it yet, SHAME ON YOU! Go watch it this instant!
My Grade: A+
Well, that’s the end of my 13 Creepy Classics, but Spook Series 2013 is only just beginning! Coming soon: 11 Family-friendly Frights. Check back in a few days for a post! Also, just to have everything all together, I’m going to list my lucky 13 classics below. How about it—any you would have added or subtracted? I’d love to hear about your top classics!
#1: Psycho (A+)
#2: The Exorcist (A)
#3: Rosemary’s Baby (A)
#4: The Shining (A-)
#5: The Omen (A-)
#6: Carrie (A-)
#7: Nightmare on Elm Street (A-)
#8: Halloween (A-)
#9: Poltergeist (A-)
#10: The Evil Dead (B+)
#11: Night of the Living Dead (B+)
#12: The Stepfather (B)
#13: The Hitcher (B)