Spook-tacular films to watch for Halloween

Matt Busekroos

As Halloween approaches, a slew of horror-themed films are headed to theaters to drive ticket sales before the holiday passes. However, it is the older films that should be seen this time of the year instead. Many are familiar with the “Halloween” series and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” These forgotten treasures could be viable alternatives to the new releases.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” set the tone for all horror pictures that preceded it after its debut in 1960. One of the most paralyzing scenes in film history is the infamous shower scene, which has been parodied a multitude of times since its incarnation. However, those parodies do not take away from the intensity of the moment when the unidentified murderer kills the heroine, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) within the first half of the film. Bernard Herrmann’s chilling musical score entitled “The Murder,” mixes a screeching blend of violins, violas and cellos, which captures the unpredictable and startling theme of the film. It would not be a Hitchcock film without several twists and turns; this thriller is too freaky to watch alone.

In 1968, Roman Polanski directed “Rosemary’s Baby;” one of the most chilling films-ever. In a career defining role, Mia Farrow stars as Rosemary Woodhouse, a newly married woman, who moves into an apartment with her husband Guy (John Cassavetes). The apartment seems normal and perfect for the young couple; however, their older neighbors, Minnie (Ruth Gordon, in an Oscar winning role) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer), have unsuspecting plans of their own. Krzysztof Komeda composed an original score for the film, which underlines the eerie and unusual nature of the film once Guy and Rosemary befriend the couple. One night, Rosemary has a bad dream where she is sexually violated by a creature that resembles the Devil. Rosemary begins to question everyone around her, including her own husband after the evasive dream that felt like real life. She must cope with what she believes is real, while everyone around her continues to tell her lies. “Rosemary’s Baby” questions the morals of the characters involved, especially those around the na’ve couple, who get more than they bargained for.

Director William Friedkin is famous for 1973’s “The Exorcist;” however, it is his 2007 thriller, “Bug” that has established his relevancy in Hollywood today. Ashley Judd is sensational as Agnes White, a vulnerable waitress who reaches the brink when she befriends an unbalanced war veteran, Peter Evans (Michael Shannon). The two hole up in a run-down motel in Oklahoma where the two embark on a provisional romance. Agnes does not realize the terrifying reality of her actions and experiences a claustrophobic nightmare that is rooted from delusion. Bugs are discovered throughout the bed, and the rest of the motel room, which Peter believes were implanted in him by the government when he served in the military. Soon, Agnes begins to suffer the same fate after having such close contact with Peter, which leads to an intensifying and devastating climax where the two go too far after they convince themselves of the supposed government conspiracy.

Three witches, one virgin and a black candle. These three elements form one of the great Halloween films of the 1990s: “Hocus Pocus.” Before directing the popular “High School Musical” series, Kenny Ortega mixed over the top camp and bewitching special effects in this Disney comedy. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy star as the three Sanderson sisters, who are hanged during the Salem witch trials. They were persecuted for their diabolical plans to use childrens’ souls as a way to make themselves young. The film follows Max Dennison (Omri Katz) during the present on Halloween when he and his friend Allison (Vinessa Shaw) visit the old Sanderson house and light the black candle, which unearths the three sisters from the dead. Max, Allison and Max’s younger sister Dani (Thora Birch) spend the entire evening (and film) trying to escape the witches after stealing their spell book, which is needed in order to make the potion to suck the souls from children. Midler, Parker and Najimy are a perfect comedy trio who create a sense of a simpler time in this “classic” Halloween film of our generation.

However you celebrate Halloween, nothing beats the feeling of curling up in bed with your favorite scary movie, some candy corn and apple cider to commemorate the spookiest holiday of the year.