"The Thing" (1982) [Universal Pictures]

Give Us Those Classic Film Scares

October 26, 2021
By: Jeff Boudreaux

If life within a pandemic for a year-and-a-half or the stress stemming from the aftermath of the most devastating hurricane in the last 15 years isn't horrific enough for you, then it is at least time to add some entertainment value to your scares, just in time for Halloween.

"The Black Cat" [Universal Pictures]

Yes, it's that time of the year again, the chance to soak in all things scary, wicked, and evil…as long as it's on the other side of our television screens! From bona fide classics of the genre to thrillers that will keep you on the edge of your seat, simply grab some candy and adult beverages (you deserve it) and check out our staff picks for the films that will make the most of your frightful holiday:

The Black Cat (1934) - One of eight classics which teamed horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, this loose but terrifying adaptation of Poe's short story was released at the tail-end of Hollywood's "Pre-Code" era. It truly is fascinating to see the adult themes that director Edgar G. Ulmer was able to get away with, such as the first depiction of a Satanic cult onscreen, heavily-implied necrophilia, genocide, and even a man being skinned alive! A true masterpiece of psychological horror, The Black Cat would become Universal's biggest box office hit of 1934. (Jeff Boudreaux)

"Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" [Universal Pictures]

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - A film that excels at both horror and comedy, pitting the "Who's-on-First?" team against Universal's classic monsters, including Bela Lugosi's Dracula, Lon Chaney's Wolfman, Ben Strange as Frankenstein's monster, and even an uncredited "cameo" by Vincent Price as the Invisible Man. When Chaney warns the duo that "the moon will rise and I will turn into a wolf," Costello's eye-roll response: "You, and 20 million other guys!" still cracks me up. (Robert Witkowski)

Last House on the Left (1972) - An "exploitation" horror film, which was written and directed by Wes Craven, it explores the concept of evil, suggesting a monster lives inside all of us. Upon release, the film was not only panned by critics for its graphic depictions of violence and rape, but some horrified audience members also demanded theaters destroy the film, with a few going so far as to steal it themselves! Anyone interested in viewing this truly horrifying and disturbing film should be prepared for the raw brutality it depicts. (Kim Ranjbar)

"The Exorcist" [Allstar / Hoya Productions]

The Exorcist (1973) - This movie is a perfect storm of creepiness. I first became hooked on this film's horror when I was in high school, as the idea of demonic possession awakened my darker curiosities. But the head-rotating, crab-walking, pea-soup-puking, levitating main character Regan is frightening in so many other ways. Add in that incessant and eerie musical jingle, a priest thrown down about 100 steps, and the condition of Regan's face, and you won't sleep for days. Of course, some of the more humorously naughty exclamations of the demon and what she does with that crucifix somewhat lighten the mood. (Kathy Bradshaw)

"House" [Toho]

House (1977) - Not to be confused with the 1986 American movie of the same name, the best way I can describe this Japanese horror film is that it's like a mix of a Scooby Doo episode, a drug-induced hallucination, and a farcical comedy sketch all tied up in a spooky bow. I dare not give a ton of details away, because you need to go into this movie as blind as possible (as well as with plenty of booze and friends). Creepy, dumbfounding, and highly entertaining, House is a haunted house movie that's anything but boring. (Burke Bischoff)

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - George A. Romero's high energy sequel to his groundbreaking ghoulish classic Night of the Living Dead has a group of survivors escaping the zombie horde by holding up in a shopping mall. The movie has well-drawn characters, a driving score by the Italian progressive rock group Goblin, and is chock full of ripping flesh, spewing guts, and exploding heads courtesy of practical effects master Tom Savini. Remade in 2004, the original Dawn of the Dead is a fun zombie flick that even injects social commentary about consumerism into the gory mix. (David Vicari)

The Thing (1982) - A universal human fear is the thought that we can never truly know the people we're surrounded by. Director John Carpenter plays on that fear brilliantly in this sci-fi/horror masterpiece, a remake of 1951's The Thing from Another World. Here, the staffers at an Antarctica research station learn they have been infiltrated by an alien life form that kills human beings and perfectly imitates them. They then find themselves both terrified of the alien and each other. Carpenter establishes a sense of dread, paranoia, and loneliness that builds throughout the film as the men realize they are helpless and can trust no one. Critics were put off by the film's extreme gore, and it wasn't a hit at the box office. Thankfully, audiences did embrace The Thing over time, and it's now widely acknowledged as a classic. (Fritz Esker)

"The Thing" [Universal Pictures]

Cape Fear (1991) - A remake of the 1962 film, Cape Fear focuses on Max Cady (Robert DeNiro), a convicted rapist and psychopath. After his release from jail, he begins to terrorize his attorney, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), and his family. The plot thickens when Cady targets Bowden's 16-year-old daughter, causing the lawyer to take the law into his own hands. Bernard Herrmann's score and Martin Scorsese's unique camera angles really add to this suspenseful thriller. It's a must-see for the director's fans. (Celeste Turner)

"American Psycho" [Lionsgate]

Scream (1996) - Scream is a time capsule. It encompasses its era perfectly, pays homage to classic slasher films, and has inspired countless copycat franchises. But no other horror film has nailed the biting cynicism of 90s teens like Scream. Or the real fear of a faceless murderer stalking you while you're home alone. As a character in one of Scream's sequels says, compared to ghosts and monsters, "there's something real and scary about a guy, with a knife, who just snaps." (Andrew Marin)

American Psycho (2000) - As hilarious as it is shocking, this prescient portrait of a prototypical 80s-era yuppie with a thirst for blood will be familiar to modern viewers for its protagonist's pre-influencer obsession with trends, brand-association, and mass approval. Even more horrifying is his incessant idol worship of then yuppie standard-bearer—and fellow sociopath—Donald Trump. (Greg Roques)

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