So, it's Halloween night. You want to watch a movie after all the kids are safely tucked away in candy-induced comas. But you've seen The Shining too recently, you're not in the mood for gore, and you're out of ideas. Well, I'm here to help. Here are 13 movies you may not have seen that might be just the ticket.
13) Manhunter (1986) Based on Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon, the prequel to Silence of the Lambs. William Petersen, who would go on to play Gil Grissom in CSI, plays an FBI profiler looking for a serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy. Ignore the 80s cheese and give in to the creepy. The scene with the tiger. The "In a Gadda Da Vida" scene. Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter. Holy cow.
12) Flatliners (1990) Kiefer Sutherland's character convinces his fellow medical students to participate in an unorthodox experiment--they'll each take turns dying, be brought back by the rest of the team, and report on what they found in the great beyond. It also stars Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon--and almost feels like a John Hughes movie gone very, very dark.
11) The Woman in Black (2012) Based on Susan Hill's excellent novella, this movie tells the story of the grief-ridden Arthur Kipps and his attempts to clear up the estate of Alice Drablow, which includes the forlorn Eel Marsh House. Daniel Radcliffe plus Ciarán Hinds? Yes, please.
10) The Messengers (2007) I do love me some Asian-influenced horror, and this is probably the most accessible of the lot. It was directed by the Pang brothers and stars Kristen Stewart--but don't hold that against it, because it came out before Twilight. A Chicago family buys a creepy old farmhouse, and the rest is history. Bonus: Dylan McDermott.
9) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) So. Super. Freaky. The 1956 version was filmed in my new hometown, but this one stars Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy. It was a huge hit 35 years ago, but deserves attention from today's audiences. The last scene: gahhhhhhhhhh.
8) The Hearts of Age (1934) It's almost 80 years old, it's silent, and it's only 8 minutes long. Never mind that; Orson Welles's haunting first film (he made it when he was 19) will stay with you (this time the link takes you not to the trailer, but the entire film). There used to be a version of it on YouTube set to a string quartet by Philip Glass, and the pairing was fantastic. It's gone now, unfortunately, but the original is plenty creeptastic.
7) The Omega Man (1971) I adore the 2007 Will Smith movie I Am Legend, based on the novel by Richard Matheson, but this version of the story, starring Charlton Heston as a scientist who believes he's the only survivor of a plague-induced apocalypse, is more subtle in its unsettling despair.
6) Lake Mungo (2008) I'm a huge fan of the found footage genre, and this one from Australia is a doozy. This mockumentary tells the story of the grieving family of 15-year-old Alice Palmer, who has drowned. Watch all the way to the end of the credits.
5) Mirrormask (2005) Neil Gaiman wrote it. Need I say more? If you've got older kids (say, 9 and up) hanging out with you, this is the one to watch.
4) Brazil (1985) This is my favorite Terry Gilliam film. Psychedelic, dystopian, and satirical: it's a 143-minute geekfest.
3) 1408 (2007) I couldn't make a spooky movie list without including something by Stephen King. John Cusack (HEART) plays Mike Enslin, a grief-stricken writer who deals with the loss of his daughter by investigating haunted houses. An anonymous postcard leads him to check into Room 1408 in New York City's Dolphin Hotel. Bad, bad things ensue. You'll never hear the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" in the same way. Bonus: Samuel L. Jackson! Double bonus: if you're a writer, the opening scene, in which John Cusack sits at a bookstore signing with an audience of two customers, is priceless.
2) Upstream Color (2013) I love, love, love this independent film by Shane Carruth; it will likely be my top film of 2013. A young woman named Kris is drugged by a thief at a club; afterward, she remains in a highly suggestible state for some time. Her frustration with her subsequent intermittent amnesia leads her to search for answers regarding what really happened to her.
1) Donnie Darko (2001) Dig the haunting soundtrack by Michael Andrews, including the best cover theme song ever. Watch the movie at least a couple of times, because it gets better with repeated viewings (and it's great to begin with). A young Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie, a disturbed teenager, who is given a vision of the future by a monstrous rabbit named Frank. Donnie finds a way to change that future--at great cost.
There: problem solved. Feel better? What under-rated or overlooked creepy film would YOU add to the list?
After getting valuable feedback from several brilliant beta readers, I recently finished making another round of revisions to my contemporary fantasy Enthralled. Longtime readers of this blog will remember the story as ZF-360; that was my working title for my retelling of Mozart's The Magic Flute set in modern-day Manhattan and the Hudson Highlands among the elusive Irish Travellers.
Well, I've entirely rewritten since I first came up with the story, and I'm very happy with it now. Irish folk music figures heavily in the story. My male protagonist plays in a Celtic fusion band and receives an Abell ZF-360 pennywhistle as a gift.
As I went through the printed manuscript, catching tiny errors on virtually every page, I also made a list of all the (real) songs I mention in the story. Most are Irish folk songs, but some are not. Here's the playlist, with links where available:
"Katie Campbell's Rambles"
"Summer is Coming"