ST. LOUIS — Scary movies aren't exactly a dying art, but many horror fans will tell you the classics easily outrank the more recent scare-fests.
They will champion films like "The Exorcist" and they aren't wrong. But for me, horror films should look different and try to stick to practical magic-at least part of the time.
As Halloween draws closer, and thankfully on a Saturday so the kids can enjoy a late-night sugar rush, we figured serving up six horror films that I love was a fine idea. Before we get started, we will inform you that we are not diehard fans of the genre. Far too many times, it relies on old tricks and lacks creativity. Here are a few examples of a scary film making a dent.
"A Nightmare on Elm Street"
The original film still smacks your senses hard. Why? The man attacks you in your dreams! Robert England will always have a place in the coldest area of my chest due to his ability to freak me and millions of others out by wrecking our sleeping hours. He sure got your attention by killing a young heartthrob in Johnny Depp, yanking him through his actual bed! While the films tired with subsequent sequels, the original couple stories still purr late at night in our head. Can we go to sleep? Is it safe? When filmmakers attack real life phobias and security blankets, horror films hit a peak high.
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Once again, the original film is best in this series of overwrought yet addicting horror violence. Tobin Bell is like the sinister Bryan Cranston here, amping up the misery in his voice and compelling us to keep watching. A story of a doll named Jigsaw who asks his victims to play a game, most likely the last one those people will ever play. The film rebooted Cary Elwes' career and put Leigh Whannel on the proverbial Hollywood map. "Saw" tricked an entire theater audience at the Esquire theater when it opened, prompting consistent "NO WAY" gasps from the audience in the final scene. A twist ending for the ages always helps a genre shine up good for the camera.
*Available for free with a subscription to Hulu and Amazon Prime, and can be purchased on YouTube for $1.99.
"Stir of Echoes"
Being hypnotized has always perked my interest while sending a shiver down the spine. Something about releasing yourself to something more powerful than you and giving up control. David Koepp has done a lot of fine work in his career as a storyteller, but "Stir of Echoes" is a unique slice of entertainment. Bacon plays a guy whose world comes undone when he is hypnotized and starts seeing visions of a dead girl. In order to get the horrific imagery out of his head, he must find out what happened to her and bring the person to justice. Easily one of Bacon's best roles and a film that grabs your attention.
*Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu with a subscription.
"Ready or Not"
One of the biggest surprises of 2019, this was a horror film with some edgy humor inserted inside the usual "one night to survive or die" plot construction. Samara Weaving, a face barely recognizable from the show or movie you saw once upon a time, playing the new bride who must play the ultimate game with her in-laws. Every single person who married into a family has thought about a few twisted "what if" scenarios in his head, so the film has some fun with that and is highly engrossing.
*Available on HBO Max, Hulu, or Amazon with a subscription.
"A Quiet Place"
A truly ingenious idea realized by a gifted writer-director-star in John Krasinski, "A Quiet Place" took millions by storm a few years back when it opened. Featuring an unforgettable climax and resolution, along with wonderful lead performances from Emily Blunt and Krasinski, this film hit hard. It grounded the elements of a (near?) future society where large creatures had overrun civilization, preying on the sounds people make. I remember the teaser trailer with the family playing a board game and having to be silent and still when one of their kids knocks over a lantern. Imagine that tense atmosphere for 90 minutes (exactly!) and you have this instant classic.
*Available for purchase on Youtube and Amazon.
While I am sure the remake will be superb (anything with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II highly compels), the Tony Todd-starring classic from 1992 was something else. A small-time actor known mostly for embodying evil killers, Todd was the perfect choice to be the larger-than-life soul who appeared on command behind you with a large hook. Virginia Madsen went for it in the co-lead as a person who learns about the urban legend known as Candyman, and finds herself stalked by him. The end is still shocking and Todd's work hasn't wilted with age. Check it out.
*Available on YouTube and Amazon for purchase.
Now, go find these films and be scared. Let them in this one time and allow the fright to spring bright for just one night. Enjoy.