Tag: Halloween

31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Innocents

Deborah Kerr in 'The Innocents'

If The Haunting is the granddaddy of all haunted house movies, this is its godmother, the ultimate ghost story. Rather faithfully adapted from Henry James’ novella, The Turn of the Screw, director Jack Clayton and cinematographer Freddie Francis photograph the grounds of Bly — the grand estate wherein the film takes place — in deep focus, enlarging it even further and increasing the aura of loneliness that pervades. The performances are all around spectacular.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: Dracula

Frank Langella as 'Dracula'

As iconic as Bela Lugosi’s performance is, Tod Browning’s Dracula is a rather drab affair, unimproved by Philip Glass’s post hoc score. Hammer Studios bloodier Draculas were an atmospheric improvement but they veered much too far from the source material. John Badham’s late-70s update falls somewhere in between.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Thing

Kurt Russell in 'The Thing'

After the successes of Halloween and Escape from New York, Director John Carpenter took a risk in remaking one of the most popular science-fiction films of the 50s. Though he used elements from Howard Hawks’ classic version, he drew most of his inspiration from John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella Who Goes There? In the process, he created something that is as classic as the film that inspired it.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Haunting

The haunting ladies of 'The Haunting'

The granddaddy of all haunted house movies. Doctor John Markway, desirous of connecting the worlds of science and the supernatural, gathers his own little group of ghost hunters to spend the summer at Hill House in hopes of doing just that. During their stay they encounter the usual strange occurrences and things that go bump (or bang… or boom) in the night. It

31 Nights, 31 Frights: Fright Night

Amanda Bearse in 'Fright Night'

Tom Holland was quite keen to do a vampire film that was contemporary, rather than a period piece. Up to that time, there hadn’t been a successful one and the genre had lapsed into parody. With Fright Night, he gave vampires just the right jolt of bloodlust needed to bring the undead back from the dead.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia

Chernabog

Honestly, all of Fantasia is an enormous delight. Consisting of eight animated segments set to an arrangement of classical music, it’s a beautiful experiment in the evolution of animation. The penultimate segment, Night on Bald Mountain, is the real delicacy here. Ovelooking a small village, an ominous mountain comes to life in the form of the demonic Chernabog, a winged personification of Satan.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: House on Haunted Hill

Carol Ohmart

William Castle, though not a great filmmaker by any means, was a consummate showman. Many of his films relied on some sort of gimmick to augment the movie experience. In the case of House on Haunted Hill, a trick called “Emergo” was used, nothing more than a skeleton floating above the audience during the climax. It was hardly needed. As cheesy and laughable as the climax is, this remains one of Castle’s better cinema scares.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder in 'Bram Stoker's Dracula'

More like Oliver Stone’s Dracula, so infused is it with his frenetic cinematic stylings. This umpteenth adaptation of the horror classic hews closer to Bram Stoker’s novel than any previous version, though that’s not to say it doesn’t take its liberties. It is also a madhouse of editing and camera trickery. Yet that’s precisely its appeal. Eschewing computer technology in favor of practical, in-camera effects, Director Francis Ford Coppola demonstrates what good old-fashioned ingenuity can create when one is restricted by the tools he can use.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: The Others

Nicole Kidman in 'The Others'

Such a rare, rare treat it is that a truly chilling ghost story can be found that eschews lurid and fatuous shocks in favor of unexpected frights and unnerving ambience. Set in post-World War II Jersey, off the coast of Normandy, the film follows war-abandoned mother Grace Stewart and her two children, who apparently suffer from a photosensitive disease called xeroderma pigmentosum that precludes them from exposure to sunlight.

31 Nights, 31 Frights: Monster House

The kids of 'Monster House'

The perfect Halloween family film. Frightening enough to scare the kids, funny enough to amuse the adults and clever enough to entertain everyone. The motion capture technique does a fine job of emulating natural human movement, but the characters are rendered as cartoon caricatures so the effect is less creepy than in the pioneer motion capture animated movie The Polar Express.