As Halloween draws steadily closer we at the Farm pick some of our favourite Halloween movies…
The Thing is my favourite horror film, because it is truly horrifying. It doesn’t raise the blood pressure with intense chase scenes, nor rely on ludicrous twists and passé murderer resurrections to scare the viewer. The Thing isn’t a scary film; it is a horrifying film. It belongs to the broad sub-genre known as ‘body horror’ – horror involving – you guessed it – the human body.
A crew of American scientists are working at their Antarctic camp when a dog approaches, being chased by a helicopter. The dog is being shot at by Norwegian scientists, one of whom accidentally hits one of the American scientists on the leg, which sends the Americans into full-on defence mode. They kill the Norwegian scientist, assuming he has been driven mad with cabin fever, and take the dog as their own. Little do they know that the dog is in fact a shape-shifting alien – the eponymous Thing of the title – which then seeks to hunt down the scientists one by one.
What makes The Thing stand out against other films of its genre is it’s mixture of extreme gore, dramatic music, brilliant performances and pervasive atmosphere. It’s that rare beast – a film that could have been a very serious and very good drama, but with added scenes of melting human bodies, dogs on fire, and decapitated human heads turning into screaming alien spiders. It sets out to frighten and disgust the viewer, and more than succeeds in doing so. Usually films rely on special effects to make up for a lacklustre script, or for terrible performances. This film uses those disgustingly realistic special effects in the context of the narrative, for story telling purposes, along with a great script and a fantastic central performance by the one and only Kurt Russell as Macready, somehow making giant novelty hats cool in the process. Mac is the centre of the film, the flawed and possibly infected hero around whom the tensions of the film surround.
One scene that stays with me more than most is the infamous blood-testing scene, in which Mac attempts to discern which of his fellow scientists is infected. How the scene ends is completely unexpected and involves a lot of fire, a lot of blood, and disgusting alien tendrils being whipped every which way. It’s quite simply great. This scene alone is worth the price of entry but, when coupled with the great story, tense action, and one of the most depressing endings in horror movie history, it is enough to justify its place as my favourite horror film.
LET ME IN
Currently, my favourite horror film is ‘Let Me In’, the 2010 horror-romance directed by Matt Reeves, based on the 2008 Swedish movie Let The Right One In and the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Admittedly, I am not huge fan of the horror genre which is probably why I am so attracted to this film, the horror aspect is secondary, the childhood romance is primary. The story of the bullied and lonely Owen, befriending the vampire Abby is such a touching exploration of companionship. I have seen the original Swedish film and in most cases I do agree that original movies are the strongest. In this case however, the American remake is just so much more powerful. The beautiful essence of the story is as poignant in both, however the American film is produced on a much larger dramatic scale, making it, for me, my favourite horror movie.
Corpse Bride is my favourite Halloween themed film because it shows that they don’t have to be all blood and gore – they can be fun too… Which is what most people want from Halloween? Right? Some fun and a party? What other way to show this on Halloween than a wedding between a corpse and a man? Not only this, but from a film addict’s point of view, it is refreshing to see the old traditions of puppeteering and set creations compete against the computer animated worlds in most of modern day films. The use of bright colours for the dead characters, (which would normally be dark) in contrast to the grey and mundane colours used for the living represents that maybe the dead are living life a bit more fully than the living in this film. It makes you think that maybe we should try to make each day a celebration otherwise we could end up with a grey looking life. It is a great story too – full of treachery and mistaken identity and has a few catchy songs in it too as can be expected from Tim Burton’s work.
If you combine a 10 year-old boy with a possessed girl, the chances are the result is not going to be pretty. I was that 10 year-old boy and Regan McNeil was the possessed girl in question. The film, of course, is William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. The film that inspired my love for cinema, and my fear of falling asleep (at the time). I stumbled downstairs late one evening after having trouble sleeping and found my Dad watching a film, I asked to watch with him, he agreed, and the rest was history.
The qualities of The Exorcist, the factors that make the 1973 film a masterpiece, are endless. The terrifying make up, the heartfelt and convincing acting, and a chilling soundtrack led by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells all contribute, but the film is so much more than that. Never before has a film prompted such a reaction from the general public. Vomiting and fainting in the cinema aisles. Priests calling for people not to go in. Death threats to lead actress Linda Blair. The film had power, and still does today.
The plot itself is pretty simplistic but extremely effective. Regan McNeil becomes possessed by a devil named Pazuzu and transforms from a sweet school girl to a venomous demon whose monstrosities cannot be understated. Exorcists are called in to exorcise the demon from Regan’s body, which leads to a confrontation that no-one will ever forget.
I have watched the film once since that fateful night and found the film to be less intimidating, but more interesting as I was now old enough to understand some aspects that I had not before. The Shining, Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist are all fine examples as to how a horror film can work without the use of blood and gore, and are to this day some of the most frightening films ever made. But, unfortunately for Kubrick, Demme and Cooper, I feel The Exorcist cannot be topped in terms of sheer horror.
Having never been a fan of gore-porn I can honestly say that the scariest films for me are the ones that leave a little too much to the imagination. I got super freaked out when Nicole Kidman’s daughter turned into a creepy old woman in The Others, I failed to sleep a wink after The Exorcist and had a completely Amish turnover when I thought a dead girl might crawl out of my TV a’la Ringu. Even eighties cult hit Return to Oz gave me the wiggins. Guys with wheels for hands? A woman that can take off her own head? What the hell was that all about!?
I LOVE horror, the adrenaline rush, the anticipation of being scared out of your wits is what makes it so special. Yet ashamedly, my adult life has now been tainted by Saw creator James Wan’s summer thriller Insidious, with the most frightening scene being utterly hilarious to anyone else I know.
Taking the top prize away from the final part of Rec 2, the bit that really got me is where Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson move into their new home, convinced that its all over and ready to start a new life. Wait, what was that? Did you see it too? Cue creepy Victorian ghost boy popping up to put on his favourite record which just happens to be Tiptoe Through The Tulips by bizarre Russell Brand lookalike Tiny Tim. Chasing him through the house, you know he’s about to take you by surprise, and boy does he not. I almost passed a kidney.
Made even more disturbing by the discovery that he was played by a fully grown adult, my nightmares have since been dominated by ukulele solo’s and flat caps. That scene was so good because of its simplicity and completely brazen execution. The un-dead chimney sweep just reminded me of the realism in Paranormal Activity used and then shot to pieces by amazingly-timed shocks giving Insidious the bumps and whistles of a ghost train, complete with some terrifying images that still remain the reason as to why I no longer turn off the lights.
Some of our writers aren’t huge fans of the horror genre… if you agree, read our Wimp’s Guide to Halloween!