In the spirit of Halloween, I would like to talk about horror movies for a bit. For whatever reason, I have always been a fan of horror movies. Even as a very “frightened of my own shadow” kid, I was attracted to these crazy movies! I guess I was, and in many ways still am, a glutton for punishment!
I would like to talk about two things; the movie itself and then the musical score that went with the movie. If you are like me, just a few notes from one of these movie scores can stand your hair on edge! I would love your thoughts and feedback as well!
The first horror movie that I remember that created continuing nightmares ( glutton for punishment) was Hitchcock’s Physco. ( The Original) I had seen the classics as a very young child( Frankenstein, The Wolf Man Dracula), and they scared me, but not with the lasting effect of Physco. Hitchcock was a master at creating suspense and catching a viewer quite unawares. I jumped out of my seat a few times during my first viewing of this movie. There was not really much of a musical score to the original, but those high pitched, pulsating notes that accompanied the frenzied moments of the movie are unforgettable. Do you remember that sound? Just a brief second of hearing those notes, and I’m back at the Bates Motel looking at that freakin house on the hill. I swear that after viewing that movie, I became a huge fan and supporter of taking nice long, baths, not showers, and, l if perchance I did take a shower, I found myself peaking out of the shower curtain every few seconds to make sure that the shadow I was certain I saw, was nothing.
Another horror movie that had a lasting effect on me was The Exorcist. This one hit particularly close to home because the scene in which Father Karras listens to the tapes of Regan’s dialogue was filmed in the basement of Keating Hall at Fordham University in the Bronx, which is where I went to college. In addition, William O’Malley, who plays Father Joseph Dyer in the movie was a real-life assistant professor of theology at Fordham at the time. The movie was loosely based on real events, which made it even more frightening to me. The iconic scene where Father Merrin, the elderly priest, steps out of a cab and stands silhouetted in a misty streetlamp’s glow and stares up at a beam of light from the bedroom window, still sends a shiver or two down my spine!.. and what about the unworldly score of this movie! If you have seen the Exorcist you know the haunting, “Tubular Bells”. Even now, if I hear this… I get uneasy… I’m looking up at that beam of light from the bedroom window…. “shudder!”
How can we speak of “Halloween Spirit” without highlighting Wes Craven’s masterpiece, “Halloween”. I find it hard to believe that the original was released 41( almost 42) years ago. It still resonates with me as one of the very best horror movies made. The plot, the camera angles, the ominous atmosphere, and the nerve-racking suspense make this a classic. Michael Meyers and his iconic mask have reached the level of movie legend. Haddonfield will be forever, where Michael Meyers will eventually return. The very first time I saw this movie, From the opening credits ( with the sinister Jack-o-Lantern on the screen), I was properly frightened. Just as important ( perhaps more so) as the plot, camera angles, atmosphere etc, was the unforgettable soundtrack. Unbelievably, it only took John Carpenter three days to write this musical score. Made up of a bone-chilling piano motif with contrasting base notes, the score itself still has me expecting to see Michael Meyers staring at me at the end of a deserted street. Every Halloween since my first viewing of this classic, when I see a lit Jack-o-Lantern….. I hear that ominous music. No matter how many times I see this movie, it will always be required viewing for the holiday for which it’s named. I could ramble on for quite a while about my favorite Horror movies, but I will spare you the potential boredom. However, there are a few others that I want to give an honorable mention to.
The Ring: this movie was just eerie from the opening scene. Long black hair that covers the face is definitely forever a no-no and the scene when the girl crawls out of the television set? Lights out for me!
Blair Witch Project; the “ feel” of this movie simply creeped me out. The use of the camera was outstanding, simulating a handheld video that gives the impression of reality and the action happening in real-time. The final scene, with Michael standing in the corner, was simply haunting for me. No more “ walks in the woods “ for this New York kid. I hear very varied reviews of this movie, but it did its job of scaring the crap out of me!
The Shining: Perhaps the most graphic of scenes in The Shining was the little boy, Danny, innocently riding his bike along one of the long, narrow and terribly claustrophobic hallways of the hotel when he is stopped dead in his tracks by the untimely appearance of two twin girls. The camera is from Danny’s vantage point and the sudden appearance of these two young girls, in the already frightening hall, stood my hair straight up! I now compare all hotel hallways to those in this movie. If the hallway is deserted….it’s back to the lobby for me.
Paranormal Activity. I have seen this “security-cam” horror movie many times and it still sends chills. This movie about possession (that launched a paranormal franchise ) still leaves a mark. That last scene… on the security camera? I almost fell out of my chair. We have a security camera at my house today… the problem is….. I’m afraid to check it. ..and if I DO check it, and it happens to catch a shadow ( usually of a raccoon or something), I am jumping for cover! I had better stop here.
I could go on and on…and I am leaving so many out. I realize this is a very subjective list, but I would love to hear about your top picks. I’m certain that we will agree on many.
Until then, stay away from any Cabins in the woods. Enjoy your Halloween