Hosting a scary-movie marathon this Halloween but need suggestions for some decent flicks? Here’s a mix of five recommended horror films, all guaranteed to make your night a resounding success:
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (d. John Carpenter, 1987)
Known in most circles as the “Satan in a Canister” movie, Prince of Darkness has one of the creepiest dream sequences in just about any horror movie you can think up. A team of physics students team up with a Catholic priest to save the world from Satan himself when he’s found to be trapped inside a canister of swirling green liquid in the basement of a neighborhood church. It’s very moody B-horror and has several effective sequences with more than a passing similarity in look and feel to director John Carpenter’s other films. Look for Alice Cooper in a cameo as a homeless man who falls under the sway of Old Scratch. Donald Pleasance is also here as well, in his final starring role in a Carpenter-directed film.
IDLE HANDS (d. Rodman Flender, 1999)
It’s not necessarily a scary film but still worth watching for several reasons, not least of which is Jessica Alba in an angel costume that would get a thumbs up from Miranda Kerr. Devon Sawa from the first Final Destination movie plays Anton, a perpetually stoned teen whose hand gets possessed by an evil spirit, leading to all sorts of hijinks of the homicidal variety. Sawa gives a great performance by displaying an impressive set of slapstick/physical comedy skills worthy of Bruce Campbell’s genre-defining work in Evil Dead 2. Add to that some liberal doses of Seth Green, Jack Noseworthy, Fred Willard and Vivica A. Fox, and you have yourself an entertaining horror/comedy with plenty of gore and some good laughs. And did I mention Jessica Alba?
THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (d. Wes Craven, 1988)
Though the movie falls apart near the end when it gets heavy-handed with all the religious mysticism, The Serpent and the Rainbow still has plenty for horror fans to appreciate. Dr. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) is sent to Haiti to look into reports of a hallucinogen-induced state of zombification, an assignment that drops him deep into a world of religion, politics and other fun things like being buried alive. Zakes Mokae delivers as Dargent Peytraud, a member of the Tonton Macoute who has some rather effective ways of dealing with those he’s not particularly crazy about, both mental and physical. With imagery that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it, The Serpent and the Rainbow remains one of the better and more thought-provoking films of Wes Craven’s career.
THE UNTOLD STORY (d. Danny Lee & Herman Yau, 1993)
Anthony Wong won best actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards for his work here as Wong Chi Hang, a murderous psycho who, long story short, kills people and repurposes their bodies for use as pork-bun filling. This is a film unlike just about any other, a weird mix of comedy and brutal, horrifying violence that only becomes more unsettling when you realize that it’s based on a true story. Be forewarned as the movie features some pretty harrowing stuff … when it’s not trying to make you laugh with the slapstick antics of a team of investigating cops led by Danny Lee (The Killer), who also co-directed this engrossing but admittedly vile film.
THE MIST (d. Frank Darabont, 2007)
A lot of people had problems with this film upon its release, mostly thanks to the controversial ending, which we’ll leave for you to experience for yourself if you haven’t yet seen the film. Probably the bleakest of all of Frank Darabont’s Stephen King adaptations, The Mist focuses on David Drayton (Thomas Jane), a father who must contend with a mysterious mist that quickly envelops the small town that he lives in. Jane ends up trapped in a supermarket with the rest of the locals (played by various Darabont regulars, including Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, and William Sadler) and a few out-of-towners. As you probably have guessed, it’s not the mist itself that’s the problem but rather the unspeakable things hiding in it. The movie plays really well as a pure B-movie with some great acting in it, especially Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody, a hateful religious nut who thinks the mist is a special message from God. The two-disc sets of The Mist includes a black-and-white version of the film, which gives it an elegance sorely missing from recent horror films, one that hearkens back to movies such as Night of the Living Dead and The Thing From Another World. You almost wish they’d have released it that way in theaters. You’ll probably end up loving or hating it depending on how you feel about the ending, but try to watch the black-and-white version, as it offers the more worthwhile viewing experience.