12 October 2008

Top 5 Halloween movies

The Lightning Bug’s Lair is holding a Halloween Countdown of favorite horror films for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year™. Along with Lightning Bug’s own favorites will appear lists submitted by readers of their Top Five. I’ve sent along my list, but I’ll share it with you people here, ‘cuz shucks, I like you folks:
  1. Dracula/Horror of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958)
  2. The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976)
  3. The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963)
  4. Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
  5. Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
You will immediately glean from this list how I lean with regards to horror films—and Halloween. First, I like Hammer Horror films. Second, I like Universal Classic Monster films. Third, haunted house stories are favorites of mine. Fourth, I’m not much of a fan of gore-filled horror films (with some important exceptions). Yes, The Omen has the legendary decapitation, and Peter Cushing delivers a grisly staking in Dracula, but otherwise this is much more an “atmosphere” and “unseen terror” list. In my Halloween world, atmosphere trumps all.

Something I noticed myself after I compiled the list is that four of these movies are literary adaptations: Dracula from the novel by Bram Stoker (although screenwriter Jimmy Sangster makes some free adaptations, some of which I think improve on Stoker), The Haunting from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (perhaps my favorite horror novel of all time), Bride of Frankenstein from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (it takes more inspiration from the novel than its predecessor, the 1931 Frankenstein, does), and Night of the Demon from the short story “Casting the Runes” by M. R. James. Only The Omen comes from an original screenplay, written by David Seltzer. My horror movie loves apparently dovetail with my literary ones—not much of a surprise, of course.

I included the director and the year for each movie because I want there to be no confusion: both The Omen and The Haunting have suffered from remakes… dreadful remakes. Fortunately, both remakes have been mostly forgotten, but I just want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding here. I couldn’t bear to think that somewhere, someplace, there might be a person who thinks that I liked the Jan de Bont 1999 evisceration of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

I limited the list to horror films; there are a few non-horror movies that I associate strongly with Halloween, most notable among them Batman Begins, the best Halloween superhero movie ever made. (Although I think The Dark Knight is an even better film, I don’t find it as Halloween-drenched as Begins.) And there’s always Nightmare before Christmas. I’ll probably add Hellboy II: The Golden Army to the list next year.