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This year, put the horror back in Halloween. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.
This year, put the horror back in Halloween. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.

It's Fright Time

Oct 22, 2012


Allow me to write something actually useful. I am incurably fond of spooky stories. As a result, Halloween is my second favorite holiday. I find nothing better on that dark evening than sitting down to a good horror movie while waiting for microgobblins to ring the doorbell. Movie industries across the globe pump out a vast river of shadow and gore every year, most of it not worth the time it takes to push the play button on your remote. If, however, you share my taste for the macabre and you are looking for something that won’t inspire you to go after the director with a real chainsaw, I have some suggestions.

At my blog I write an occasional Halloween movie guide. Here I offer a list of thirteen very good movies for the grim holiday, in no particular order. I have provided links to detailed reviews posted on the blog. If you have Netflix instant watch, you will have a lot of these at your fingertips.

  1. Bubba Ho Tep. This is my favorite movie. Bruce Campbell plays an aging Elvis (or Elvis impersonator) stuck in a retirement home. Along with a black guy who thinks he’s JFK (played by Ozzie Davis), Elvis battles a life-sucking mummy wearing cowboy boots. Trust me on this one: every element of this film is superb.
  2. The Ring/Ringu. Both the American version of the film and the original Japanese version are examples of high art in the genre. A journalist races against time to find the secret of a tape that curses anyone who watches it. It is based on a novel by Koji Suzuki.
  3. Pulse. Avoid the American version and go for the subtitled Japanese original. This is a truly creepy story of a world invaded by gobbling ghosts. It mixes themes of the loneliness and ennui of modern civilization with the Asian notion that our world is only a thin film over a much darker and sinister reality. Warning: this is not a film for the easily depressed.
  4. The Eye. This is an exquisitely beautiful, eerie and sad film from Hong Kong. A woman receives a cornea transplant that carries with it the ability to see both ghosts and approaching disasters. Again, avoid the American version.
  5. Let The Right One In. This film is a very original interpretation of the vampire tale from Sweden. A bullied young man befriends a girl who is, let us say, not your ordinary playmate. The original is recommended, but the American version, Let Me In, is a slavish copy and for that reason just about as good.
  6. Troll Hunter. A very fine, very unexpected movie from Norway. It is one of the recent crowd of found footage movies, all of it shot by the characters in the film. The shots of wet highways cutting through Nordic valleys are worth the watch. The fairy tale beasties are astonishingly real.
  7. Paranormal Activity. Another found footage film and perhaps the most successful. Here is a bit from one of the comments left on my blog review: “Holy cow! My wife and I are from Atlanta and we saw this movie tonight. She will not go to sleep or walk through the house without me. She covered her eyes more than one time and almost walked out of the movie. I DO NOT get scared easily and found myself almost not wanting to watch in fear of what's going to happen when the lights go out.”
  8. Demon Knight. A Tales from the Crypt movie. An heroic demon hunter wanders the world with the secret that keeps all of us safe from the darkness. I love this movie.
  9. Death Note. Another Japanese masterpiece. This one is several hours long on two DVDs. It is really a mystery in form with a heavy supernatural element. If you have got the time, have I got the film.
  10. Absentia. The subtitle to my blog review is a hint: “A Dark and Flawless Modern Fairy Tale.” This is one of the most inventive and genuinely evocative horror films that I have seen in years. If you were never scarred by The Three Billy Goats Gruff when you were a kid, well, that’s about to change.
  11. The Cabin in the Woods. Suppose for a moment that every horror movie ever made is in fact a depiction of real events. This recent movie, co-written by Josh Whedon, explains precisely why these events are necessary to save life on earth. It is about as clever as a movie can get.
  12. Tremors. Another brilliant monster movie. If you are having troubles with gophers or earwigs, this will make you feel much better.
  13. Halloween. You can’t do much better than the classic John Carpenter original. A fine cast and good storytelling fit right into the mood of the day. I would also add that this film has one of the best last lines in modern cinema.

‘Tis the season to be scary. Any of the above will entertain you on All Saint’s Eve. 


Editor's Note: Ken Blanchard is our political columnist from the right. For a left-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Cory Heidelberger every other Wednesday on this site.

Dr. Ken Blanchard is a professor of Political Science at Northern State University and writes for the Aberdeen American News and the blog South Dakota Politics.



01:19 pm - Thu, October 25 2012
Laura said:
Nice list, Ken. I go in for Lon Chaney Sr., Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff myself.

I'm trying to think of a horror film with a South Dakota connection. The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock starring Deadwood's Dorothy Provine hardly counts. Any ideas?
01:22 pm - Thu, October 25 2012
Laura said:
Oops - spoke too soon. The Beast from Haunted Cave was filmed in Deadwood.
06:41 pm - Fri, October 26 2012
Jim said:
Good choices. Halloween viewing should include westerns.

Curse of The Undead: Eric Fleming, Clint Eastwood's boss in the Rawhide series is great. Makes you wish the piranhas didn't eat him.

Billy The kid versus Dracula: a cheesy, campy great bad movie. John Carradine would do anything.

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning. Not for little kids. Watch it and you will never be comfortable in a frontier fort surrounded by werewolves.
11:21 pm - Fri, October 26 2012
Laura: I love the classics as well. Karloff's Mummy was a perfect horror film. I'll have to look up The beast from the Haunted Cave.

Jim: I have never seen Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, though I remember reading about it in Famous Monsters. I would add the recent Cowboys vs. Aliens.

I haven't seen the Ginger Snaps movies. I have much to look forward to.

Happy Halloween.

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