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To Scare or not to Scare: Part III

To Scare or not to Scare: Part III

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Ah, Halloween. The perfect time of year to bring out the spooky decorations, the candy, and the Horror Movies! Now, if you are the type to look ahead at the list, you will not find the classic film "The Exorcist" anywhere. The reason is that everyone recognizes this film as one of the scariest of all time. These are my favorite movies to watch around this time of year. (And just about anytime of the year when you're in the mood for a fright.)

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984, Directed By Wes Craven): Serial Killer Freddy Krueger is torched by the adults of Springwood and extracts his vengeance by stalking their children in their dreams. Wes Craven's classic film is still one of the most enduring Horror franchises in cinema. Sadly, with the exception of Nightmare 3 and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, none of the other films in the series have come close. The first one is still the best. And it's still scary enough to watch only in broad daylight.

"Scream Trilogy" (1996, 1997 & 2000, Directed By Wes Craven): A nameless serial killer stalks a group of horror movie savvy teenagers. While the first movie is great as a stand alone piece, you get the full story and the true identity of the mastermind behind everything by the third one. All three movies have a healthy mix of horror and humor and they one of the few horror trilogies where some of the characters actually survive to the very end of the trilogy. (Also, watch for a funny cameo from Kevin Smith and Jason Mews as Jay and Silent Bob in Part 3!)

"Poltergeist" (1982, Directed By Tobe Hooper): A little girl mysteriously disappears when her family discovers that their home is also home to some truly terrifying ghosts. Now this is a film that holds a special place in my heart as one of my all time favorite scary movies. It was written by Steven Spielberg. (Who also reportedly directed one of the movie's more visually stunning moments.) It was directed by Tobe Hooper who directed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the all time greats. There is a great mix of horror and humor, and the tension is slow but it really creeps up on you, and the finale is something that definitely not to be missed.

"Halloween" (1978, Directed By John Carpenter): A silent killer stalks his sister on October 31st while she baby sits for a friend. This is a memorable movie for several reasons. One, it made a star out of Jamie Lee Curtis. (Who is the daughter of the late great "Psycho" starlet Janet Leigh.) Two, it made John Carpenter a household name for both his directing, and his truly memorable and chilling score. And finally, the mask that the killer wears is a William Shatner mask, thus becoming one of the funniest in-jokes in movies today. Easily one of the scariest movies ever made and one that I simply refuse to watch at night.

"Dawn of the Dead" (1978 and 2004, directed by George Romero and Zak Snyder respectively.): Both movies are about the same thing. The dead have awakened and have begun to overrun the Earth, while a small band of survivors are holed up in a shopping mall. The '78 version is effectively scary and truly a gore fest, and also a social commentary on our overdependence on manufactured products. The '04 version is an all out horror/action flick. Both films are very scary in their own respects and have their distinct touches that make then stand apart from each other. Both are very highly recommended.

"Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn" (1987, directed by Sam Raimi): A young couple go out to a cabin in the woods where they find a book that unleashes a terrible evil and all hell breaks loose. My all time favorite horror movie and one of the films that I will recommend to anyone who wants a great time watching a horror flick. "ED2" was written and directed by Sam Raimi, the man who later went and made a little known movie about a guy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a super hero. (Go figure, who makes this stuff up, honestly?) With a mix of horror and some ingenious physical comedy (by the greatest B-Movie Actor that ever lived Bruce Campbell) "Evil Dead 2" spawned a sequel, (the utterly hysterical "Army of Darkness") and even became a Broadway musical! Truly a geek classic and we just might have the return of the movie's hero Ash, fighting two other genre favorites in the very near future. (But more on that later!)

"The Ring" (2002, directed by Gore Verbinski): A young journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone in a week of viewing it. Who would have thought that this movie would be so scary? I can't watch this movie unless it's in broad daylight. It's just too creepy. And strangely enough, this movie has a couple of ties with Disney. Daveigh Chase who voiced Lilo in "Lilo and Stitch" played the creepy girl that appears throughout the film. (She even won the MTV Movie Award for best Villain!) Also, Gore Verbinski, the film's director went on to direct the tremendously popular "Pirates of the Caribbean." "The Ring" is shocking, frightening, and all around creepy. Not a movie for the faint-hearted.

"Night of the Living Dead" (1968, directed by George Romero): The radiation from a fallen satellite causes the recently deceased to rise from the grave and seek the living to use as food. A horror classic, "Night" was the movie that had attached to its trailers the ad that the theater showing the movie would not be responsible for your demise should you die from watching this film. The movie has definitely held well through out the years and the original black and white version (stay away from the colorized and the 1990 remake!) is still the one of the scariest movies ever made.

"Jaws" (1975, Directed by Steven Spielberg): A police chief, a scientist, and a grizzled sailor set out to kill a shark that is menacing the seaside community of Amity Island. This is the movie that kept people away from the beaches for a very long time. But while the shark attack scenes are truly frightening, they are few and far between. The reason is that the mechanical shark used in the film refused to work 90 percent of the time. (So much so, that the movie was nicknamed on the set "Flaws.") But through editing, some great photography, and John Williams chilling score, the movie has some great scary moments. Also, the movie is definitely helped by the great performances from the three actors, Richard Dreyfus, Sebastian Shaw, and Roy Scheider.

"Saw" (2004, Directed by James Wan): With a dead body laying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who's been nicknamed "Jigsaw" by the police because of his unusual calling card. I don't want to say much about this movie as it comes out this weekend. I will say this. This movie is scary as hell, truly disturbing, and easily one of the best horror films to come out in a long time. The pieces of the puzzle as to what is going on are given slowly but the scares are dominant from beginning to end. Not to be missed. Worth your ten bucks should you decide to catch a flick this weekend in the theater? Definitely.

Honorable Mentions

"Freddy vs. Jason" (2003, Directed by Ronny Yu): Freddy Krueger (From the Nightmare movies) and Jason Voorhees (From Friday the 13th) return to terrorize the teenage population. Except this time, they're out to get each other, too. One of the big geek movies to come out in a while, made by geeks, for geeks. Not too big on the scares, horribly predictable and the acting is so bad that you can tell which facial expression the actors are going to use next. The reason to see this movie is the fight between Freddy and Jason which is a true ripsnorter of a fight. The movie was so popular that a sequel is in the works. The rumor going around is that Bruce Campbell's character Ash from the "Evil Dead" films will fight Freddy and Jason. Let's hope that this actually happens as it sounds like it might be fun.

"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993, Directed By Henry Selick): Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn't quite understand the concept. This is a movie that has become a tradition twice a year for my family; once for Halloween and once for Christmas. Truly a classic and cherished film, and definitely something for people with kids or who would rather watch something other than psycho killers and ghosts killing people.

And no list would ever be complete without....

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" (1966): The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween while Linus does yet another stubborn vigil for the Great Pumpkin. The other tradition for my family is something I have watched once a year every year since I was a kid. After all these years, this is still a funny and heartfelt tribute to Halloween.

Well, that's it. Hopefully these suggestions were enough to help you decide on some fun and scary entertainment for this weekend. Although, I'm sure you all have your favorites to watch this time of year as well. That's it for me, see you all next time!

Rick Gutierrez is a Theater Arts Directing Major with a minor in Journalism. He lives in North Hollywood California with his wife, Molly and his hamster, Pippin.

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