Each year on Halloween, video chains are flooded with crowds searching for the scariest films. Popular horror films such as Halloween, The Exorcist and Nightmare on Elm Street are usually the first to go, leaving patrons to base their decisions solely on the glossy cover images or misleading titles.
People searching for scares this Halloween can rely on this guide of franchise favorites, underground frights and films that have since been replaced by modern slasher flicks.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994): Bending the rules of a typical horror, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare puts Freddy Kruger in our reality. Paying homage to Nightmare on Elm Street and acting as a precursor to the director’s Scream trilogy, the film focuses on Freddy’s atempt to transform from a fictional character to a real threat. Smart, witty and strung together by a few well-placed scares, New Nightmare serves as suitable replacement.
The Exorcist III (1990): While the film lacks the same disturbing images as the original, it is not without its own chills. Demonic possession takes a new form as a supposedly dead killer continues to claim victims. In a terrifying scene, a pit of the damned is revealed. The results are never as intense as in the first, but the film is guaranteed to get hearts pounding as viewers are drawn into a world of possession.
Red Dragon (2003): Returning to the original formula that made Silence of the Lambs a classic thriller, Red Dragon pairs everyone’s favorite cannibal against Edward Norton. The events of the film take place several years before those of the original and involve a detective questioning the famed killer to find another who refers to himself as the Red Dragon. The film is a perfect choice for viewers looking for more than a supernatural killer with an unbelievable back story.
Dawn of the Dead (1978): A milestone in the zombie genre, George A. Romero’s second installment in the Dead franchise continues the despair and hopelessness of Night of the Living Dead. In a world overrun by the undead, a group of survivors barricade themselves in a mall, hoping to escape the chaos on the streets. Dawn of the Dead is one the scariest and most socially conscious horror films of the last 30 years. Since its recent remake, Dawn of the Dead has become regarded as the best zombie film ever made.
Ginger Snaps (2001): This twisted tale of two sisters obsessed with death packs more bite than the typical werewolf movie. Ginger Snaps dares to be original with sharp writing and an outside perspective of the werewolf folklore. One sister must search for a cure as her older sibling, Ginger, slowly begins to transform into a bloodthirsty beast. Filled with gore, blood and a sarcastic sense of humor, Ginger Snaps is the perfect antidote for viewers tainted by past genre fluff.
Frailty (2001): Bill Paxton’s first outing as director yields surprising results: Frailty works as a compelling thriller and an insightful drama. Two brothers are changed as their father begins to believe God appeared to him and gave the family a mission to carry out: to search and destroy demons. When the eldest son objects, the family begins to become unglued. Frailty keeps the viewer’s attention while keeping the mind working to unravel the mystery and find the truth.
American Psycho (2000): Based on the third novel from controversial writer Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero), American Psycho is less a horror film than a commentary on the greed and attitude of the ’80s. Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a successful Wall Street investor with a lust for blood who acts upon his dark impulses. Director Mary Harron does a fantastic job bringing this gruesome novel to the silver screen without losing much of its edge.
The Fly (1986): One of the most visually disturbing films of the ’80s, The Fly graphically shows the transition from man to fly. Jeff Goldblum plays a scientist who invented teleportation pods, but the experiment goes wrong when he enters with an unexpected guest. At first, he begins to experience heightened strength and agility, but the horror begins when the fly’s DNA starts to overtake his human side. One can only explain what comes next as 40 minutes of disturbing, unsettling images, such as fingernails falling off, to name one.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987): The film digs deep into the world of voodoo to tell the tale of real-life zombies. A scientist is sent to Haiti to investigate the sudden reappearance of a man considered dead weeks earlier. While there, the young American scientist begins to uncover the ghastly truth and the man behind these voodoo curses. A powerful concoction that leaves its victims without a heartbeat or pulse for hours then magically revives them has the locals spooked. It is his job to bring this back to the states to be analyzed but only if he can escape without becoming a target himself.