Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hallowe'en Chills

As the nights continue to draw in around us, Hallowe'en will soon be here. I'm unfortunately too old for trick-or-treating so I have to get my creepy kicks elsewhere. I'm not a fan of gory horror films, and can do well without the likes of Freddy, Jason and the rest. For me, scary films that manage to deliver eerie atmosphere with a good dose of psychological suspense leave a much more lasting impression. I wanted to share my choices for perfect Hallowe'en films to watch with the curtains drawn, lights out and something (or someone!) to hide behind, and wondered...what would yours be?

Sleepy Hollow (1999) Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci:

Being a massive fan of Tim Burton's gothic vision of the world, it's always hard to choose between his films. In his version of Irving Washington's story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane steps onto the screen as a contemplative hero (unlike the self-serving, snivelling character of the book) in favourable contrast to the all-brawn-and-no-brain of Brom Van Brunt (the actual hero of Washington's story). Plot and character changes aside, Sleepy Hollow is a half-slumbering, half-fearful village swathed in mist and old superstitions, terrorised by the psychotic, ghostly Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken with a fantastic set of sharpened teeth). Constable Ichabod Crane is dispatched from New York to investigate a series of beheadings which the villagers attribute to the Horseman, determined to prove that the killings are the work of live human hands.

Laura (1944) Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews:

If you need a good introduction to film noir, look no further than Otto Preminger's Laura, because it has it all: the serenely beautiful heroine who may be harbouring a dark secret (Gene Tierney playing the eponymous Laura), the wise-cracking, beleaguered yet good-hearted police detective (Dana Andrews), stylish sets and costumes, moody cinematography and a crisp, witty script. The film opens with a murder - Laura's murder, as we follow Detective Mark McPherson's investigations and his increasing fixation with the victim herself. I don't want to spoil the story for you, but the film has a now classically famous plot-twist that leaves both the detective and the viewer confounded.

The Man With Two Brains (1983) Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner:

A completely insane film that always makes me laugh, and perfect viewing if you like your Hallowe'en films to be about mad scientists, disembodied brains and inventive murderers, with a healthy sprinkling of stupid sound effects, bizarre scientific apparatus and impossibly silly situations. Steve Martin plays pioneering brain surgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, who accidentally mows down the gorgeous Dolores Benedict (Turner) and saves her life by performing emergency surgery on her. The couple are soon married, but unbeknown to the doctor however, Dolores is a scheming gold-digger. Chaos, attempted murder, actual murder and a love affair with a brain in a jar follow...

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Hurd Hatfield, Angela Lansbury:

Forget last year's version of Oscar Wilde's story: this is the adaptation to watch. There are certain liberties taken with the plot, but this is a far more atmospheric and subtle version that stays more true to Wilde's vision of a charmingly brittle young man who becomes so obsessed with the idea of staying young and handsome that he sells his soul. The price of eternal youth: that his life of debauched decadence never shows upon his beautiful face, but instead twist and changes a portrait of him so horrifically, that it is locked away from view. The London of this 1945 version has a smoky, grimy underbelly, glittering town-houses and an unsettling depiction of Dorian Gray's repulsive portrait.

Hocus Pocus (1993) Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker:

The only film on my list that is actually about Hallowe'en itself! Disney's cinematography is a chocolate box painting of the town of Salem, but with a twist. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy play three seventeenth century witches, hanged for their crimes but unwittingly brought back to life by a group of children. Determined to stay alive, the wicked sisters set about brewing potions, conjuring spells and unleashing bedlam onto the holiday going townsfolk (even finding time for some song-and dance routines along the way). It's worth watching just to see Bette Midler playing head-witch Winifred with pantomime evilness and a ridiculous, plummy English accent. 

And, if all of those choices leave you wondering - what-no-zombies...? I'll concede that Shaun Of The Dead is a brilliant film...


  1. Salut Laura, great choice of films. I do like Sleepy Hollow and Hocus Pocus (sweet and fun) and I simply cannot stomach any of the gory horror films either... I'd add The Witches of Eastwick, Bram Stoker's Dracula (with Gary Oldman) and Psycho (the Hitchcock one) to that list, BOOO! ;-) Love from London xo

  2. Hi Laura,
    I urge you, if you haven't seen it, to watch 'The Haunting' with Claire Bloom and Julie Harris. It's terrified me since childhood...but in a good way. A good scary movie of a haunted house. I'll be watching it again on Sun. night on TCM.
    All the best,

  3. hello! Have you ever seen 'The Woman in Black' - the TV adaptation of the book by Susan Hill? I watched it when I was far too young. It's so scary it's barely enjoyable :-) I am a sucker for ghost stories, though. Hope you are well! x

  4. Carole- The version of Dracula with Gary Oldman is great! I totallty forgot that I own it. Mostly so I can snigger at Keanu Reeves "English" accent. Bad of me, I know, but you have to get your kicks somewhere... :D

    Catherine- I haven't seen the original The Haunting, but I would really love to now. That remake is abysmal!

    Karen- I've never seen The Woman In Black, but you've piqued my interest now! I'm a sucker for creepy ghost stories, too. Hope everything is good with you!

    Hope everyone had a good Halloween. :)