It’s that time of year again. The time when ghosts,goblins, and things that go bump in the night come to the fore and we cuddle up in front of our television, computer, and movie screens for a good scare or three.
When it comes to horror films, I like dread. Give me psychological terror rather than buckets of blood. I want the growing horror of the nameless thing lurking in the shadows, the suspense of waiting to see if it ever does suck someone right into perdition, leaving only some terribly disturbing clue behind.
There are a few slightly more graphic horror films I love. The Birds, for instance. Yes, there are a couple mildly (for today, not for when it was made) bloody scenes. But the parts that really freak me out of my socks are the scenes where we can see the birds gathering to attack, not the ones where they actually do it. I first saw that film when I was seven, and to this day the sight of a crow landing on a jungle gym or park bench is enough to make my stomach churn with dread.
Give me Rod Serling. Give me the work of Jacques Tourneur (particularly Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie). Give me The Sixth Sense. Pity about most of the rest of M. Night Shyamalan’s work… though I do really like Unbreakable. I love old-fashioned horror tales that rely on my brain to do most of the scary work for itself.
On the other end of the scale, I love movies that poke gentle fun at horror tropes. Every year I sit down at least once at this time of year to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. And every year I sit down at least once to watch I Married a Witch with the late, great Veronica Lake. They make me laugh. They appeal to my romantic side, though neither is particularly sappy. And they’re a great antidote to the ones that make me jump at every funny noise or unexpected sight. I’m also fond of the (very) occasional foray into Just Plain Bad horror films, like those of Edward D. Wood, Jr. How can you beat Plan Nine From Outer Space for sheer cheeseball hilarious rotten horror movie making?
It’s also fun now and again to sit down with something that’s pretty darn cheesy now, but scared the bejabbers out of me when I was eight… like Them! That one had an amazing cast, but the last time I managed to take the giant nuclear ants seriously, well, I was several years away from my first kiss, back then. I still enjoy watching it.
What sort of horror movies do you like? Are you all about the slashers? Completely into the classics? Crazy about the Hitchcockian twist? Utterly in love with the sort of films that encourage hurling popcorn at the screen in scorn? A little each from multiple columns? Do you have a favorite obscure horror film to share with the class?