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Spooking up the Screen

To spare you a list of obscurities, it occurs to me that there are a lot of great movies for Halloween viewing, which are rather accessible but most people just haven’t gotten around to seeing. Here are nine recommendations to spook up your screen this season.

creepyIt Follows (2014)

This recent horror-thriller about a sexually transmitted demon found a decent theatrical reception, but I suspect that many folks who can appreciate psychological horror films may have avoided this one due to its marketing giving it the appearance of a standard-issue torture-porn/jump-scare flick. This is a movie that builds a very original atmosphere of dread without utilizing cheap tactics.

Attack the Block (2011)

This English film has equal doses of scary and funny as it follows a London gang of delinquents led by a teen played by John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) who realize that their high-rise apartment complex is being swarmed by man-eating alien beasts. Its all-in-one-night structure is reminiscent of early John Carpenter films.

The Mist (2007)

Before Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”) would bring “The Walking Dead” to television, he made his third Stephen King adaptation. As a small town fills with mist and things resembling the biblical description of the rapture occur, survivors stuck inside a grocery store become slowly divided through the influence of a religious fanatic (Marcia Gay Harden). This movie is masterfully morbid and features an ending that is upsetting but possibly brilliant. It is best when viewed in its black-and-white version, if available.

Zodiac (2007)

David Fincher’s journalist/police procedural starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. retells the happenings surrounding the unsolved Zodiac Killer case, which shook-up northern California in the late-’60s and early ’70s. While the film is nothing supernatural, Fincher’s astounding period atmosphere and dreary visuals make the experience a nerve-racking epic of obsession.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is seeing demons while working as a mailman in New York City. What seems at first to be the results of PTSD begins to develop into something more intense and terrifying than anything he can imagine. The film is brilliantly directed by Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction”).

Little Shop of Horrors (Director’s Cut) (1986)

Inspired by a low-budget Roger Corman film about a man-eating plant, “Little Shop of Horrors” took on a life as an off-Broadway darkly comedic musical before it was brought back to cinematic form through muppeteer/filmmaker Frank Oz. When I saw the movie as a kid, I found it amusing but it didn’t stick with me. What a revelation it was to discover that footage of the original, more sinister ending still exists and is now available for viewing. With its over-the-top apocalyptic finale restored, the movie is now among my Halloween favorites.

The Brood (1979)

Director David Cronenberg has a legacy of uncomfortably provocative films, many of them in the horror genre. This nightmarish tale follows a divorced father (Art Hindle) trying to protect his daughter from an ex-wife whose sessions with an experimental therapist (Oliver Reed) may be manifesting a very threatening force. The movie is absurd but unforgettably nasty for a little low-budget Canadian film made in the late ’70s.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

This story of the human race being invisibly replaced by alien copies has been remade several times over, but I think the second go-round by Philip Kaufman (“The Right Stuff”) starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum is among the creepiest films I’ve ever seen.

The Innocents (1961)

This Gothic haunted mansion film set during the Victorian era is gorgeously captured in black-and-white with clever widescreen composition. Based on Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” it follows a governess (Deborah Kerr) hired to look after two peculiar orphaned siblings who may be under the influence of a wicked presence on the estate of their absent uncle. VT