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Top 10 Halloween horror picks

JIM ERWIN

Candy may rot your teeth, but horror movies rot your brain. That’s

why nothing goes better with a great Halloween sugar buzz than

watching great horror flicks. It’s a tradition as American as Mom,

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Apple Pie, and monsters who attack promiscuous teenagers. Turn off

the lights and crank up the surround sound, here’s my top 10 picks

for Halloween:

Frankenstein (1931 -- Directed by James Whale) Dr. Frankenstein

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tries to create life using human body parts from a local cemetery.

Overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, Frankenstein’s monster roams

the countryside trying to learn how to love himself. Angry villagers

with torches make his quest for emotional healing a real challenge.

This movie turned Boris Karloff into a household name. When asked to

play the monster, Bela Lugosi said no and regretted it for the rest

of his life. If you have cable you can catch this one early Friday

evening on TCM.

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The Tingler (1959 -- Directed by William Castle -- banned in

Finland) It’s not Halloween without horror legend Vincent Price. This

movie is creepy, campy and a total hoot. Price plays a scientist who

discovers that each of us has an organism living inside our body

called the tingler. It grows stronger as your fear intensifies and

will eventually kill you unless you release your fear by screaming.

Back when this movie debuted, theaters hid vibrating gadgets in the

seats so you’d feel the tingler growing stronger. Hmmm ... it seems

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like there might be a market in Van Nuys and North Hollywood for

theater seats with vibrating gadgets. “Scream! Scream for your

lives!”

The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in

My Neck (1967 -- Directed by Roman Polanski) Vampires are an

essential for Halloween night and this is a very cool vampire flick.

It’s funny, scary and well crafted. Polanski must sneak into the

vampire’s castle and rescue Sharon Tate from a life of eternal

beauty, luxury and an occasional nibble on her neck. Polanski

co-wrote the story, which is beautifully photographed in cryptic

black and white.

Dawn of the Dead (1978 -- Directed by George Romero -- banned by

many nations) “Dawn of the Living Dead” is the sequel to the greatest

horror flick of all time, “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). Flesh

eating zombies now outnumber the living and civilization deteriorates

into anarchy. A small group of survivors decide to take refuge in a

shopping mall. The inside of the mall is safe, but for how long? Like

teenagers with credit cards, the zombies never stop coming. A remake

of this movie is in the works and is supposed to be released this

March.

Alien (1979 -- Directed by Ridley Scott) “Alien” is one of the few

movies I know of where the characters look afraid because the actors

really were afraid. One day everyone entered the set and saw that the

equipment and crew were wrapped in plastic. They didn’t learn why the

plastic was needed until after they started shooting their scene. The

cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt and Harry

Dean Stanton. This one’s a roller coaster ride from start to finish.

An “Alien Versus Predator” movie is scheduled for release next year.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988 -- Directed by Fred Olen Ray) If

it’s Halloween then its time to watch scream queens Linnea Quigley

and Michelle Bauer do their thing. This horror/comedy is near the top

of most lists of the greatest B movies ever made. Gunnar Hansen (the

original Leatherface) leads a chainsaw worshipping cult full of

Hollywood hotties. Quigley does the sexy “virgin dance of the double

chainsaws.” Bauer covers her Elvis poster with plastic before

dismembering a guy tied to her bed. This was shot in five days and

the budget came mostly from bottle returns.

Pet Sematary (1989 -- Directed by Mary Lambert) There are a couple

of basic things I’ve learned from horror movies. One is that

travelers who leave the main road are doomed. Another is that

whenever possible you should avoid burying anyone or anything in

cursed Indian burial grounds. Whatever you bury in sour ground comes

back evil. This story about letting go comes from Stephen King and is

a reminder that sometimes dead is better. Fred Gwynne is so

incredible that you’ll forget he was once Herman Munster. The Ramones

sing the title song and that alone makes this a keeper.

Candyman (1992 -- Directed by Bernard Rose) This is a variation on

the old “Bloody Mary” game where you turn off the lights and repeat a

name while staring in a mirror. A college student decides to do her

thesis on the origin of these modern myths. Her research of the

Candyman myth takes her to a housing project where reality is so

frightening that the myths pale in comparison. Then she runs into the

really scary stuff. This is based on a story by Clive Barker.

Ringu (1998 -- Directed by Hideo Nakata -- Japanese with

subtitles)/The Ring (2002 -- Directed by Gore Verbinski) “The Ring”

is a remake of the Japanese movie “Ringu.” It’s a supernatural

thriller that follows a reporter investigating the connection between

the death of some local teens and a mysterious video tape. Anyone who

watches the tape dies within seven days. The Japanese version doesn’t

have the big budget of the U.S. remake, but it’s the original and

it’s very creepy. The U.S. version has additional plot elements that

make it more intense. I like the ending of the Japanese version, but

overall I prefer the American version.

Other titles to think about:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925 -- Directed by Rupert Julian, Lon

Chaney Sr. (uncredited), Edward Sedgwick (uncredited)) Forget the

Broadway show! Lon Chaney Sr.'s legendary makeup has given nightmares

to people from every generation. I wonder if Andrew Lloyd Weber will

make a musical love story out of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”?

Night of the Lepus (1972 -- Directed by William F. Claxton) Giant

carnivorous bunny rabbits attack a town in Arizona. Behind their

twitchy noses and fuzzy ears lurks pure evil. This is so scary that

you’ll laugh yourself to death.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977 -- Directed by Wes Craven) Often

imitated, but never duplicated, this is the tasteless classic that

made everyone want to ditch civilization and start their own clan of

inbred cannibals. The mutant named Pluto looks a lot like Peter

Garrett, the lead singer from Midnight Oil (“Beds Are Burning.”)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982 -- Directed by Tommy Lee

Wallace) Michael Myers gets killed at the end of “Halloween II” and

he was supposed to stay dead. This was going to be the beginning of a

different series of “Halloween” movies. The plot involves Stonehenge,

Irish Halloween masks, massive carnage, and annoying TV commercials.

I love the ending.

Re-animator (1985 -- Directed by Stuart Gordon) and Bride of the

Re-Animator (1990 -- Directed by Brian Yuzna) These two horror

comedies are totally over the top and make a nice double feature of

silly gore. Medical student Herbert West reanimates bodies and

anything else that he can make walk around. The low budget special

effects are great.

* JIM ERWIN, 40, is a technical writer and computer trainer.


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