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Tag Archive: Halloween


When we created last year’s preview of 2018 movies we were pretty sure we were going to have some great movies this year, but we were surprised by what ended up being the best.  All year we tried to keep up with what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best Movies of 2018.

GenredomAs always, we’re after the best genre content of the year–with our top categories from the Best in Movies.  There are thousands of other places that cover plain vanilla dramas and the rest of the film world, but here we’re looking for movies we want to watch.  What do all of this year’s selections have in common?  In addition to those elements that define each part of genredom, each has a good story.  Special effects without a good story is not good entertainment, and we saw plenty of films this year that missed that crucial element.

Come back later this month for our TV and print media picks, and our annual borg Hall of Fame inductees.  Wait no further, here are our movie picks for 2018:

Best Film, Best Drama – Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox).  For the epic historical costume drama category, this biopic was something fresh and new, even among dozens of movies about bands that came before it.  Gary Busey played a great Buddy Holly and Val Kilmer a perfect Jim Morrison, and we can add Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee’s work as Freddie Mercury and Brian May to the same rare league.  But it wasn’t only the actors that made it work.  Incredible cinematography, costume and set recreations, and an inspiring story spoke to legions of moviegoers.  This wasn’t just another biopic, but an engaging drama about misfits that came out on top.  Honorable mention: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Sci-fi Movie, Best Retro Fix, Best Easter EggsSolo: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm).  Put aside the noise surrounding the mid-year release of Solo before fans had recovered yet from The Last Jedi, and the resulting film was the best sequel (or prequel) in the franchise since the original trilogy (we rate it right after The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars as #3 overall).  All the scenes with Han and Chewbacca were faithful to George Lucas’s original vision, and the new characters were as cool and exciting, and played by exceptional talent, as found in the originals, including sets that looked like they were created in the 1970s of the original trilogy.  The Easter Eggs scattered all over provided dozens of callbacks to earlier films.  This was an easy choice: no other science fiction film came close to the rip-roaring rollercoaster of this film, and special effects and space battles to match.   Honorable mention for Best Sci-Fi Movie: Orbiter 9 (Netflix).

Best Superhero Movie, Best Crossover, Best Re-Imagining on Film Avengers: Infinity War (Disney/Marvel).  For all its faults, and there were many, the culmination of ten years of careful planning and tens of thousands of creative inputs delivered something no fan of comics has ever seen before:  multiple, fleshed out superheroes played by A-list actors with intertwined stories with a plot that wasn’t all that convoluted.  Is it the best superhero move ever?  To many fans, yes.  But even if it isn’t the best, its scope was as great as any envisioned before it, and the movie was filled with more great sequences than can be found in several other superhero movies of the past few years combined.  But teaming up Thor with Rocket?  And Spider-Man with Doctor Strange and Iron Man?  That beat all the prior Avengers team-ups that came before (and anything offered up from the other studios).  It’s easy to brush off any given film with so many superhero movies arriving these days, but this one was the biggest, grandest, and greatest made yet and deserves all the recognition.  Honorable mention: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures Animation), Black Panther (Disney/Marvel).

Best Fantasy Movie, Best Comedy MovieJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Columbia Pictures).  No movie provided more laugh-out-loud moments this year than last winter’s surprise hit, a sequel that didn’t need to be a sequel, and a video game tie-in for a fake video game.  A funny script and four super leads made this an easy pick in the humor category, but the Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired adventure ride made for a great fantasy film, too.  Honorable mention for Best Fantasy Movie: Black Panther (Disney/Marvel), Ready Player One (Warner Bros./Amblin).

Best Movie Borg, Best Borg Film – Josh Brolin’s Cable, Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox).  Brolin’s take on Cable ended up as one of those great borgs on par with the Terminator from the standpoint of “coolness” factor.  But the trick that he wasn’t really the villain of the movie made him that much more compelling in the film’s final moments.  Ryan Reynolds was back and equal to his last Deadpool film, and his Magnificent Seven/Samurai Seven round-up of a team was great fun.  If not for all that unwinding of what happened in the movie in the coda, this might have made the top superhero movie spot.  But Deadpool 2 was a good reminder there is something other than Disney’s MCU to make good superhero flicks.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Even better than seeing the original on the big screen again, writer-director David Gordon Green’s Halloween hits all the right notes to make the latest, but surely not the last, installment in the Halloween series the best sequel of the franchise.  This Halloween may be the best horror sequel so far, in any series.  Some may think that’s an easy task, yet for fans of the genre and nine previous sequels, including a similar effort 20 years ago with Halloween H20 and a reboot series by Rob Zombie, this weekend’s theatrical release will probably become the new go-to movie after the original, next year and the year after.  Horror fans knew the film worked on paper–genre-defining scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis returning again to the role that made her famous, this time showing her extensive preparation for the inevitable return of the serial killer that she barely slipped past as a teenager, contributions from co-creator John Carpenter as executive producer and composer, and Michael Myers’s return, even performed by original actor Nick Castle and a weathered 40-year-old latex mask.  The actual delivery fulfills the promise: the retro-style opening credits and Carpenter’s haunting theme prepare the audience for the suspense, thrills, and jumps over the next two hours.

Tha performances are everything:  Curtis’s Laurie Strode is tough, smart, and prepared, but she’s not perfect, a bit addled by a lifetime of fear and not physically strong enough to take on Myers, so the outcome is not entirely predictable.  Will Patton (The Mothman Prophecies, The Postman, Armageddon, Falling Skies) joins the cast as Sheriff Hawkins, an older version of the first young man to arrive at the original murder scene in 1978.  He, along with Omar Dorsey (Castle, Chuck, Starsky & Hutch) as Sheriff Barker, bring the added gravitas and nostalgic vibe from former go-to Carpenter company cast members like Peter Jason and Keith David.  Strode’s granddaughter Allyson, played by Andi Matichak (Orange is the New Black, Blue Bloods), like her grandmother, turns the horror genre upside down, as less of a victim, instead taking charge of the situation when possible.  To a lesser extent the script provides some opportunity for Ant-Man’s Judy Greer to protect her family as Laurie’s daughter and Allyson’s mother.  Rounding out the performances are a young Jibrail Nantambu as more than the stock kid stuck for Halloween night with his babysitter.

When a genre’s failings are part of what define it, even the film’s lesser components are consistent with the spirit of the original film.  A doctor and an institution that are overly interested in a 40-year-old murder that gets mocked by a group of students, along with events that occurred in sequels that are ignored this time around and dismissed as the stuff of local legend, all somehow fit the movie and the genre.  Could Carpenter himself have filled in some of the story missteps had he directed this one?  Who knows.  For the most part, Strode, Myers, and their new story follow the rulebook for the characters established 40 years ago.

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Odds are, you’re going to find this year to be the best year yet for accessing your favorite Halloween movies in October.  Particularly if you have a DVR and basic cable, you’ll be able to find many staples of the holiday season.  Below we’ve provided hundreds of movies scheduled to air–hundreds to choose from with a mix of classics and brand new shows–our annual compilation of the movies you get with the typical national basic cable packages.  Syfy’s 31 Days of Halloween is back, along with Freeform’s 31 Nights of Halloween.  AMC’s Fear Fest begins October 14, this year swapping out many movies for reruns of The Walking Dead, leads up to the new season premiere of the series (AMC’s listing below will be updated once they publish their final official schedule).  And TCM is back with monster classics and special theme days.

We’ve bolded some of our recommendations and other notable events in October.  A new Halloween movie will be in theaters and you can watch all the past entries in the series on AMC.  TCM honors the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein with several classic spin-offs.  You won’t want to miss Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, too.  A Stephen King movie marathon, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Bela Legosi, Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and lots of exorcisms.  Plus lots of animated movies on Freeform, and the Disney channel will be releasing its listings for Monstober later in the month.

All month long on Netflix you can watch horror movies including The Sixth Sense, The Lost Boys, The Boy, Cloverfield, Coraline, Children of the Corn, Cult of Chucky, Van Helsing, plus series like Stranger Things, The Twilight Zone, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Requiem, Bates Motel, and The Frankenstein Chronicles.  On Starz you can find a mix of sci-fi and horror movies including John Carpenter’s The Thing, They Live, and Ghosts of Mars, Young Frankenstein, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Underworld: Blood Wars, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Zombieland, Life, Scream, Amityville: The Awakening, Sleepy Hollow, Hollow Man, The Craft, and many more.  If all else fails, you can probably grab your favorite ghost story or other horror classic on Vudu and Amazon Prime, where you can buy or rent recommendations like The Fog (both versions), The Birds, The Shining, Orphan, Let Me In, The Others, The Woman in Black, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Ring, Grimm, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  

So take notes and put your watch list into your DVR now so you don’t miss anything.  (All times listed are Central Time):

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Halloween is going to be upon us before we know it.  It was only three months ago that we got our first look at the new Halloween movie, and today Universal Pictures released a second trailer.  I had a friend momentarily confuse Sigourney Weaver and Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis today, and I think there is a good reason for that: Curtis has been the Scream Queen for 40 years and this latest trailer seems to indicate this next movie may be what the franchise needs to give Curtis’s character full badass screen hero status.

In case you missed it, take a look here at borg.com at the prior trailers for the run of the Halloween films showing Strode’s appearances.  Strode is one of those heroines audiences love to see return, as proven by her multiple appearances from a variety of writers and directors.  Like Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, Curtis has created and re-created one of genredom’s enduring characters, even if that character is usually running from a crazed killer.  Like fans hope for Hamilton’s return as Connor again next year in a new Terminator movie from James Cameron, in the latest trailer for the new Halloween, Curtis looks tougher and smarter, and more badass than even shown in the first trailer.

In the real world it is public knowledge that Curtis and Weaver are close friends.  Can you imagine walking into a restaurant with these two women having a normal lunch sitting across from you?  You’d either feel very safe or keep looking over your soldier for something bad to happen.

Get ready for Halloween with this great trailer with Curtis’s character–40 years in the making–taking charge:

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The crazed killer in the William Shatner Captain Kirk mask returns.  Again.  Much has been said about John Carpenter’s 1978 horror flick Halloween.  It launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis and an entire genre of movies.  Curtis is back for more in the eleventh film in the franchise, this Halloween’s holiday horror release, Halloween.  Yes, that makes the third movie titled only Halloween.  A plus for horror fans is Nick Castle returning as Michael Myers–the first time since 1978.  Castle has had an interesting and varied career, directing films including The Last Starfighter, and writing films like Escape from New York.  Even better, this sequel disregards everything but the original: Halloween 2 (1981), Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) (the only film not about Michael Myers), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Halloween (6): The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and the reboots Halloween (2007) and Halloween 2 (2009).  So forget that stuff about Myers being Strode’s sister.  Or Myers being dead.  Or Strode being dead.  It didn’t happen.  And best of all, John Carpenter is back, this time as executive producer and composer (cue the creepy piano keys now).

Laurie Strode is one of those heroines audiences love to see return, as proven by her multiple appearances from a variety of writers and directors. Like Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise as Ellen Ripley and Linda Hamilton in the Terminator franchise as Sarah Connor, Jamie Lee Curtis has created and re-created one of genredom’s best loved cinematic heroines. Like fans hope for Hamilton returning as Connor again next year in a new Terminator movie from James Cameron, in the trailer for the new Halloween, Curtis looks only edgier, and, well, more badass than ever before.

This will be Curtis’s fifth time playing Laurie Strode.  First was Curtis’s first appearance as Laurie Strode in the original film.  Keep an eye out for film audience’s first look at Curtis as Laurie Strode, plus Carpenter movie staple Donald Pleasance (Escape from New York, Halloween 2, 4, and 5), a young P.J. Soles (Stripes, Law & Order), and an even younger Kyle Richards (The Watcher in the Woods, ER).  Curtis was back one more time–we thought, in 1981 as Carpenter and Debra Hill tried to bank on the original’s success with Halloween 2, finding Strode stalked by Michael Myers in a hospital (with an appearance by The Last Starfighter’s Lance Guest).  Twenty years later Curtis returned as Strode again, this time teaching at a private school, and protecting her son from the return of Michael.  The 1998 sequel is pretty good for a horror sequel, and so is the trailer (keep an eye out for Curtis’s real-life Mom or horror icon Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Fog), Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, and four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams).  And Curtis then came back another last time five years later in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, possibly the lowest point in the franchise (yep, that’s Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff in the trailer).  Strode returned to confront… her brother (?) Michael and he didn’t seem to make it out of Halloween H20, and Laurie didn’t make it out of Halloween: Resurrection.  Now we forget all that:  Donald Pleasance’s psychiatrist character did shoot and wound Myers, and he’s been in jail since.

Check out clips of their last stands and film trailers featuring Curtis below–you can really see comparisons like those between Linda Hamilton’s transition from Sarah Connor in The Terminator and Terminator 2 comparing Curtis as Strode in Halloween (1978) versus Curtis as Strode in 2018.  But first here is the trailer to the latest, director David Gordon Green’s Halloween:

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Author Sue Lowell Gallion and artist Joyce Wan first introduced kids to friends Pug & Pig in the 2016 picture book Pug Meets Pig.  Pug was a happy pup whose life was perfect until newcomer Pig moved in, but it wouldn’t be long before they realized they’d be inseparable friends.  In their next adventure, Pug & Pig decide to take on a Halloween adventure together, but it doesn’t quite go as planned.

In Pug & Pig: Trick-or-Treat, Pug and Pig get new Halloween costumes.  They’re about to venture out as skeletons and Pig couldn’t be happier.  But the costume is not right for Pug and he rips his costume apart and decides not to go along with Pig.  Can Pig help Pug figure out a solution?  Or will Pug be able to make sure both he and Pig still have fun on Halloween night?

Pug & Pig: Trick-or-Treat is a perfect story for little ones, sharing what it means to be friends, with adorable images of the unlikely pals, sure to get anyone into the holiday spirit.

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Halloween poster

Halloween–the 1978 movie that put both director John Carpenter and actress Jamie Lee Curtis on the map–is coming back to theaters for one night only.  The film was created for only $300,000 and premiered at Kansas City’s downtown Midland Theater 37 years ago this month and then spread by word of mouth across the country to earn $70 million and become the first modern horror blockbuster.  To illustrate the low budget, Nick Castle, the actor that played the story’s villain, Michael Myers, wore a last-minute found $2 William Shatner/Captain Kirk mask.  Now Halloween is Fathom Events’ next big Halloween event.

More than 200 theaters will air Halloween on the eve of All Hallow’s Eve (that’s the night before Halloween).  The movie, co-written by the late, great Debra Hill, will include an introduction recorded by John Carpenter.

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween

If you make it to the screening, keep an eye out for an already well-known young actress back in 1978 named Kyle Richards, who had been a household name for her recurring role on Little House on the Prairie and the Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain, and would go on to co-star in the great ghost story Watcher in the Woods.

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The Fog banner

It’s our favorite month of the year.  Glorious October.  And the leaves are already blanketing the yard.  The month of Halloween.  And with Halloween comes a month crammed full of some of the great–and not so great–horror flicks.

We all have our favorites.  We at borg.com offered up our recommendations back in 2011 here, with an update last year hereJaws got our joint highest ranking, making three of our lists, and The Shining, The Exorcist, The Exorcist 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Ring, and Paranormal Activity rose above the rest.  Seaside locales were among our favorite locations for scares, with Jaws, Rebecca, The Birds, The Ring, The Fog (both the original and remake) all taking place there, and creepy little girls are the favorite subject of nine of our favorite haunts (The Ring, The Exorcist, Let Me In, Paranormal Activity 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, Turn of the Screw, and The Others).

Birds kids running away

Some of the staples of Halloween horror did not make our lists, like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Saw, Scream, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Amityville Horror,  but that doesn’t mean we don’t love watching them each year.   So we’ve put together an exhaustive list for you so you can set your DVRs and not miss out (or make your list for Netflix).  These cable networks: the Syfy Channel, AMC, Sundance, TCM, IFC, and ABC Family, are leading the way, piling on the goods to promote our annual October Halloween movie fest.  After the break, check out the ginormous schedule we put together of Halloween movies for this month.  If you’re looking for something special, use the borg.com search box or “find” to go right to your favorite spooky flick.  Keep in mind many of these older films haven’t made it to Netflix and they often only are shown once a year.  So watch ’em while you can!

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Scotty in kilt

That is, if you’re in Scotland.

Census records estimate that more than twice as many people of Scottish ancestry live in the United States than in Scotland.  Is it the destiny of Scotland to declare its independence from Great Britain?  If not now, then when?  At the beginning of the day everyone has been waiting for, polls show the likely outcome as a dead heat.  We’ll soon learn the answer we’ve all been asking:  Will they or won’t they?

Of course there are all sorts of implications to a yes vote, not the least of which is what kind of economic impact it will have on England, on the United States, and the world.  If Scotland wants to make a statement to the world this could very well be Scotland’s day.  So if you’re one of those Scots that are 16 years old or older and done voting or you’re in the States and can’t vote today, then what better than a brief celebration of all things Scottish?  As Mike Myers’ character Stuart Rankin, proprietor of the store “All Things Scottish,” said on Saturday Night Live, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”

Sean Connery

Scotland is well known for its inventors and their inventions.  You wouldn’t be reading this website or surfing the Internet at all without the communications technologies that sprouted from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  John Logie Baird would invent the first television.  Scots invented the refrigerator and the flush toilet, the kaleidoscope and the lawnmower.  And–shazam–James Goodfellow invented ATMs so we can get money to buy stuff on nearly any street corner.

Our future is defined in part by the adventures of a Scot in space–James Doohan’s Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from Star Trek, an engineering miracle worker who exemplifies Scottish ingenuity.  And of course, there’s James Bond, the character, whose parents were Scottish, and Sir Sean Connery, the Scottish actor, the most famous Bond, and a supporter of today’s “yes” vote.

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By Art Schmidt

People are funny.  Different things mean different things to us all: songs, pictures, movies, books.  Art.  It’s all interpreted by the individual, but even more so by the place in life that the individual is in at the time the art is experienced.  People cling to old songs like gold; a song from high school not only sounds good, but refreshes the happy memories associated with the song in the listener’s mind.  A one-hit wonder band from the mid-eighties may have written the best song you’ve ever heard, but no one else even remembers who they were.

Fans of the original Star Wars Trilogy of the 70s were appalled when Lucas made his infamous modifications to the film, especially the scene in the Tatooine bar in Episode IV where Han Solo shoots Greedo.  ‘Artistic license,’ said Lucas.  ‘Blasphemy,’ the fans screamed.  ‘My movie,’ Lucas retorted.  ‘Our childhood!’, the fans wailed.

Halloween always brings out the focus on all things macabre, and will generate ‘Top 10’ lists as long as kids dress up as Darth Vader and adults go to costume parties as politicians (there’s a moral lesson in there somewhere, BTW.  I am sure of it).  Every Top 10 list is different, and that’s the way it should be.  We all experience things in our own way, our own time, and through our own filters.  So rather than attempt to list an absolute ‘Top’ 10, predestined for failure, I have listed my own personal favorites.  Doubtless others will have vastly different opinions, and some of the things I found terrifying may have barely elicited a small gasp from others.

And that’s ok.

My personal list is not in order of preference or fondness but rather experience, from my earliest memory to the present day.  Obviously, my early years contain the larger amount of my personal favorites; the younger we are the more accepting we are of the impossible and the more susceptible to suggestion, therefore media designed to have a strong emotional impact will generally be felt more so by the young.  After all, you can only read a Stephen King novel for the first time, or watch Jaws without knowing what’s going to happen once.

Which of course leads me to one of the stories on most people’s lists…

Jaws (Movie)

The movie that changed movies, the blockbuster that defined blockbusters, the summer event movie on which the term ‘summer event movie’ was coined.  When it came out it was truly a phenomenon, one most people who did not experience it can never truly appreciate.  My parents were no less caught up in the feeding frenzy of the movie’s release than anyone else.  At the time it was rated a solid PG (there was no PG-13), so taking elementary school children to see it was not a big deal.  After all, most Disney movies of the time were rated PG, weren’t they?  So along with a large contingent of my aunts and uncles, I was taken to see the movie that would strip me of all my eight-year old innocence and leave me strangely wanting more.

My mother shrugged off the initial shock of the opening scene; it was just an attention-getter, right?  Then the child being eaten off of his inflatable raft started her worrying about me.  When the head popped out of the boat, my mom literally threw her box of popcorn all over the row of people behind us; she apologized profusely while my dad laughed his head off.  My eyes were glued to the screen, what I could see of it between my tiny fingers.  By the time the ORCA launched to sea with its two unprepared passengers and doomed captain, my parents had forgotten I was there; everyone was entranced by the story.  By the time the greatest and most re-used horror movie joke of all time came, (“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”), the entire audience needed that release of nervous laughter.

Viewed today, Jaws is much more an adventure movie than a horror film.  Contrasted against the majority of horror films, the comedy of Jaws is heart-felt and sophisticated rather than flippant; the characters are dense and alive rather than stereotypical caricatures; the story is fun and adventurous rather than weighted and dark.  And for all those reasons (thank you Mr. Spielberg!) Jaws remains my earliest, most heartfelt and yes, one of my favorite ‘horror’ movies of all time.

Trilogy of Terror – Part 3 “Amelia” (Made for TV Movie)

It was a classic horror story setup: a babysitter, a dark night, a quiet house, a child in front of a television, a killer on the loose. Except, in this case, the babysitter was our next-door neighbor, the house was mine, the kid was me and the ‘killer’ was a little doll on television.  My parents were out, my sister was asleep and the babysitter let me watch whatever I wanted.  Which in the mid-seventies meant a horrifyingly narrow selection of channels, none of which had the potential for cable profanity or pay-per-view violence.

However, on that fateful night, as I sat in front of the television a bright-eyed eight year-old, I watched a movie that I honestly believe to this day physically altered my DNA.  Trilogy of Terror was a made for television movie containing three short stories, all starring Karen Black in varying and un-related roles.  The first two I can honestly say I have no memory of whatsoever.  I’ve since read about them in IMDB and Wikipedia, but I can’t picture any of it in my head.

The third story, however, I remember in vivid detail.

A woman buys a gift for her boyfriend; a Zuni fetish doll with a gold chain around its neck and a warning.  If the chain comes off, the doll will come to life.  Of course, the chain came off, the doll came to life, and the ensuing fight for survival within the small apartment left me breathless and terrified.  The angry patter of tiny feet throughout the apartment, the monster unseen by the viewer, was brilliant.  I put all of my G.I. Joe action figures and army men in my closet, inside a shoebox, then put a small chair in front of my closet door, but I still didn’t sleep a wink that night.  The image of Karen Black crouching down in a dark corner bearing the doll’s sharp teeth still makes me shudder.

Sure, it was kitschy. But it was also scary as hell.

The Shining (Novel & Movie)

I read my first Stephen King novel in the summer of 1979, a paperback of The Stand.  It was long and brutal and opened up my adolescent mind to all sort of things I had never heard or dreamed of before.  It was good, but it didn’t really scare me.  There were people and events in it that were big and apocalyptic and scary, and I got all of that, but they didn’t creep me out or make me want to hide under my bed.  My second King novel, Salem’s Lot, was also good but didn’t really scare me, either.  Then I read Carrie, which creeped me out, and then I read The Shining, and I was blown away.  The slow burn of the Jack Torrance character from out-of-work recovering alcoholic to raging failure seeking vengeance on the world is a thing of beauty and horror.

All of King’s powers as a storyteller of horror and tragedy come to bear in The Shining.  The huge hotel, empty of people but full of their tragedies, claws its way out of every page, and the Torrances in the novel are among King’s more well-conceived and believable characters.

As far as the movie goes, well, I have to admit that I’m not a big Stanley Kubrick fan.  I respect 2001: A Space Odyssey for its vision, but I don’t particularly care for the movie itself.  A Clockwork Orange wasn’t my cup of tea, and Eyes Wide Shut made me want to shut my own.  But The Shining was nearly as brilliant as the book, despite the changes to the plot and devices and the difference in feel from King’s book to Kubrick’s film.  As a horror movie, it stands firmly on its own.  The movie captured perfectly not only the demise of the man inside Jack Torrance but also the eerie hotel, the crazy loneliness of the long, cold winter, and the strain on the family that the hotel creates.  Despite decades of stand-out horror films ever since, from Paranormal Activity to Scream, for my dollar The Shining is still among the best horror movies ever made.  It’s not the best (IMO), however, as that title belongs to another film from the Seventies…

The Exorcist (Movie)

I’m not one for slasher movies, or serial killer movies, or vengeful spirit movies.  The first Friday the 13th wasn’t bad, nor was the first Nightmare on Elm Street, but all that followed were tired re-treads of the same old idea: a supernatural killer that you can’t stop who wants to kill you and all of your friends.  Lots of blood, lots of deaths, lots of shock.  Lots of yawning, IMO.

Then there’s The Exorcist, the horrifying movie from William Friedken that set the bar, that made you think, that grabbed you by your heart and made you really, emotionally believe in Hell.  Statistics (and opinions) vary, but The Exorcist was arguably the first movie after Gone with the Wind to gross over $100 million in its initial box office run, and its psychological impact is still rarely matched even in modern times.  You have to experience it to believe it.

I know that for me, as a struggling young man with questions about everything, it shook my faith in my beliefs about the larger world around me.  That’s the thing about well-crafted characters and dialogue; once you buy in to those people and their world, you buy into their problems and their actions, and then you are affected by what affects them, whether on the surface you find it particularly believable or not.  I used to tell people, when they asked, that The Exorcist was my favorite movie of all time.  After years and years of odd looks, I began replying Reservoir Dogs, The Empire Strikes Back, or, more recently, The Lord of the Rings.  All three of which are in my Top 5.

But I always smile when I think of the chills I got from watching adorable little Regan MacNeil in all of her pea soup-spewing, head-spinning glory.

DOOM & DOOM 3 (Video Games)

When DOOM originally came out in the early 90s it created a sensation throughout the entire video game industry for its unprecedented software engine, evolutionary 3D rendering, and take-no-prisoners play style.  It was derided by parental groups for its depiction of blood and carnage, and use of the word ‘demon’ to describe most of the player’s enemies and for the fact that you could play in the previously unheard of mode of ‘Deathmatch’, which virtually every other first-person shooter has implemented since.

Of course, all of these advances in rendering technology and gameplay chutzpah overshadowed one of DOOM’s best qualities: a game that was truly scary as hell.  Forerunners in the ‘horror’ video game department were admirable, most notably the ‘Alone in the Dark’ and ‘Resident Evil’ series.  But whereas Alone relied heavily on psychological horror and RE on stock horror movie themes, DOOM delivered something new.

The lighting was dark, shot through with spotlights and spinning emergency lights right out of Alien; the monsters popped up out of nowhere and chomped on your character with gleeful abandon; and nothing, I mean NOTHING compared to being extremely hurt, low on ammunition, and hiding in a dark corner with hungry alien/demons prowling around just a few feet away.  Playing at night with low-lighting and headphones on, DOOM is more an experience than just a game.

A rash of copy-cats and money-making follow-ups came flowing forth, all adding their own little bits to the new genre and making advances in lighting, sound, and graphics engine technology.  None could knock the original from its perch, however.  Then, in 2004 the makers of DOOM came out with DOOM3, a completely re-vamped gaming engine with even scarier-looking monsters and genuine leap-out-of-your seat moments than any other game in the medium.  The story was nothing special, and the game-play was not ground-breaking enough for the die-hards, but the game sure kept me jumping and looking frantically around my bedroom whenever I played it.

The Exorcist III (Movie)

Little seen, under-appreciated, and largely panned by critics and audiences who had given up after the absolutely terrible trash of The Exorcist II: The Heretic, I loved this movie.  It’s doubtful that anyone else will even consider it on any Top-Anything list, but it worked for me.

It ignores the second installment of the Exorcist movies completely and places itself as a sequel to the original classic.  George C. Scott plays a detective who was friends with Father Damien Karras of the original movie, and is currently investigating a series of murders in Georgetown where The Exorcist took place.  The film draws from the original, having been written and directed by William Peter Blatty, author of the original Exorcist novel.  Despite the studio-mandated addition of an exorcism near the end of the movie, where none existed in the screenplay or Blatty’s novel Legion on which the movie was based, and despite the complex plot of demonic revenge against both the catholic church and an abusive father, there are scenes in the film that horrify, and the reconciliation between old friends, one dead and one alive, is a satisfying end to the movie.

There are scarier movies out there, however much I loved this one, and one of the best that came out around ten years later was…

The Ring (Movie)

As previously mentioned, I don’t particularly like revenge spirit movies, but The Ring was so much more than that.  It was a mystery movie as well, as the mother races against the clock to save not only herself but her son from the supernatural killer that no one can stop.  Much like The Exorcist, the fact that the spirit was a little girl made it all the scarier.

The video tape within the movie is a neat twist as well, creepy on its own and adding to the subtle nuance of the movie’s overall disturbing nature.  It doesn’t come right out and scare most of the time, though those moments are there, too.  But the little things all add up; the short film, the father’s ranch, the fly coming out of the film, the horse’s reaction to our heroine.  The movie is more disturbing than out-right scary, which just makes it all the more horrifying.

The Road (Novel)

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was unexpected recommendation from a friend, not something I knew much about or was really jazzed about reading.  And it hit me square in the gut.  The Pulitzer Prize winning book is a lonely, desolate tale of a nameless father and son struggling to survive in a savage, hopeless post-apocalyptic world.  I identified myself so strongly with the father character that when he would make a bad decision I felt personally guilty.  I saw in the son my own son, completely dependent upon his father to provide him food, shelter, and protection from the horrible people crawling the ashen landscape.

That novel stuck with me for months after I read it in a way that no book ever has.  Movies are visual and visceral, images stick with us for years or even our whole lives, but books generally do not have that affect.  I have always heard people talk about being ‘haunted’ by something; a movie, a book, a chance encounter.  Having been a horror fan since birth, I always thought of the expression in the literal sense, and largely dismissed those notions as silly and melodramatic.

After The Road, however, I understood what that really meant.

McCarthy spun a tale at once so deceptively simple and unbelievably complex, so innocent and so wicked, so hopeless and yet so rooted in the need for hope, that it’s mesmerizing.  Some parts made me physically squirm, and not in the good-to-be-scared way.  Nor did I want to finish it because it was exciting or thrilling; actually, there are long portions of the novel where not much at all happens, and then when something does it’s kind of… plain.  Simple, even.

When I first saw No Country for Old Men, based upon another McCarthy novel of the same name, I spent the first half of the movie trying to figure out why there wasn’t more action in it.  Once I settled back to the understanding that the guns were just metaphors, and the movie itself wasn’t about money, or greed, or even good and evil, I was able to focus on the dialogue.  Re-watching it, I now appreciate all of the interplay between the characters; the slow, steady, knowing march of Anton Chigur and the moral decay of western civilization that he represents; the lament of the older lawmen who just can’t understand that the people they have sworn to protect have abused that security by evolving into the very things that the lawmen held at bay.  “The rising tide,” one of them called it. “The dismal tide.”

The savagery and violence of the novel The Road, when it does appear, does so in the same vein.  It’s not the focus of the story, it’s just part of life, not actions but rather the consequences of actions or inactions.  For good or ill, it has its place.  To be fair, I have to say that my wife read The Road and she didn’t particularly care for it.

But then, she’s not a father struggling to protect his innocent child against the dismal tide.

Paranormal Activity (Movie)

I pride myself on being able to predict where movies are going, what’s going to happen to the characters, which ‘type’ of story it is and how it will end, and what details are provided that play into the movie later on.  And for Paranormal Activity, this was mostly the case.  The low budget and low quality of The Blair Witch Project left me wanting; wanting something better from that type of movie.  I was disappointed in that effort to say the least, so when the buzz started up about Paranormal I was frankly not interested.  Recent offerings in the horror genre like the Saw series, Hostel and the recent slew of vampire movies left me wondering if there was anything that would really scare me again.

I sat through the first three quarters of this movie and was only slightly impressed.  It was a neat take on the haunted story, had some clever ideas, and the night-time recordings of the goings on in the couple’s bedroom was ingenious and carried a few frights with it.

However, it was the last ten minutes of the movie that landed it on my personal Top 10 list.  The end of the movie kept me guessing, and when the loud footsteps climb the stairway the last time… and what follows… made me leap off of my seat for the first time in years.  If you haven’t seen it, and want to be scared, you should definitely give it a try.