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Tag Archive: The Fog


Thirty-eight years ago in 1980 I saw my first horror movie in the theater, John Carpenter’s The Fog.  Referred to as “the most beautifully shot of all John Carpenter films,” “a better Halloween movie than the slasher that bears the holiday’s name,” “an incredibly atmospheric horror flick,” and “a horror classic,” The Fog is returning to theaters in time for Halloween.  It’s distributor, Rialto Pictures, contacted borg.com with the below trailer for the film’s new 4K restoration edition from Studiocanal.  This is the first restoration for John Carpenter’s first follow-up to the mega-hit 1970s slasher flick, Halloween.

“Out of theatrical release for years due to faded, unplayable prints, The Fog can now be viewed again as it was intended, with the restoration of its breathtaking color cinematography by Dean Cundey (Escape From New York, the Back To The Future series, Apollo 13, Romancing The Stone), who deftly captured both the daylight beauty of the Point Reyes shore and the ghostly goings-on in the dark, eerie night,” according to the publicist for Rialto.

The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau in her first feature film, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, and Janet Leigh(star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Curtis’s mother), plus John Houseman and familiar Carpenter stock actor John “Buck” Flower.  The beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay is visited by a large fog bank on the anniversary of the town’s founding.  Two women in the town, a radio DJ stationed at the lighthouse (Barbeau) and a drifter (Curtis), try to escape what lies within the fog as the town preacher learns the terrible secret behind the fog’s appearance.

The release coincides with the release of the new Halloween reboot movie’s release, also starring Jamie Lee Curtis (a great excuse for Alamo Drafthouse theaters to schedule a double feature?).  Check out this trailer for the 4K restoration of The Fog:

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All my life, I’ve been waiting for someone and when I find her, she’s… she’s a fish.

With 13 nominations and expected to lead in overall wins in tonight’s Academy Awards ceremony, The Shape of Water is the film of the hour, and the popularity of the sea creature lore is at a peak right now.  Taking advantage of the interest in seafaring lore and gilled creatures, the Freeform channel (formerly ABC Family) is airing new trailers this weekend for its own new mermaid/merman series, Siren.  It’s not Splash or The Little Mermaid.  It looks like it may have more of the feel of The Creature from the Black Lagoon at least initially more so than The Shape of Water.  No, the new series Siren looks more like a thriller or horror series than a romance, something mixing Stephen King’s Haven with John Carpenter’s The Fog and The Thing, and the British space vampire cult classic, Lifeforce.  

Eline Powell (Game of Thrones, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) plays Ryn, a mysterious girl who arrives in the Pacific Northwest coastal town of Bristol Cove, a town that boasts its local lore–a town once known for its mermaids.  Aylya Marzolf plays a mermaid leader, and Sedale Threatt, Jr. a warrior merman.  From its several preview trailers, Siren has a great, creepy look.  Art direction is by The Predator and The Returned’s Peter Mihaichuk.  Costumes were designed by Pirates of the Caribbean and The Exorcist’s Lorraine Carson and iZombie and The Flash’s Maria Livingstone.

Based on a story by Eric Wald and Dean White (originally to be called The Deep), marketing for Siren is evoking all the aforementioned films and TV shows in its key imagery–even the back of a man in a parka straight out of The Thing, a strange killer young woman as seen in Lifeforce and The Ring, a trapped creature being studied in an aquarium as in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Shape of Water.  And it features that familiar coastal town seen in Jaws, Haven, and The Fog.

Check out these several previews for Freeform’s Siren:

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magnificent-seven-banner-2016

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost more useful to critique the critics than the new movie The Magnificent Seven, released in theaters this weekend.  You’ll find the whole lot so predictable.  The Magnificent Seven is a reboot or a remake (call it what you want) and so the best that critics are willing to do is provide the phoned-in, knee-jerk dismissal of it being something less than the original and therefore not worth the time it takes them to write a thoughtful review.  Or they will compare it to the best Westerns of all time, and tell you why it falls short.  The better reviews will point out that it’s a remake of the 1960 classic Western starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.  The smarter ones will remind you that even that version was based on the original Japanese version, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Paycheck earned.  Existence justified.  But that’s all too easy.

Yes, the original 1960 John Sturges version is both a great Western and quite fun (it’s on my top ten list).  The darker original Japanese film is more dramatic, brilliant in its simplicity, and not so much a rousing popcorn movie.  Is the 2016 remake among the best Westerns of all time?  Maybe not.  But is it a good Western?  Absolutely.  Do we always want to see the best picture nominee when we go to the theater?  I don’t.  I want to have fun.  And The Magnificent Seven is a blast.  In fact, critics are looking at it wrong.  It’s actually the year’s best superhero movie.

I understand the modern film critic’s dilemma, especially when Hollywood seems to have lost its imagination, churning out remake after remake.  It’s the same old song:  If you were a fan of–or better yet–love the original, you’re more likely than not to brush off the remake altogether, or at least not give it the attention it deserves.  Those who never saw the original or those who can view a remake as its own incarnation–those who can tell themselves their feelings for the remake will not “ruin” their feelings about the original–probably enjoyed the Star Trek reboot from 2009, or Always, or Assault on Precinct 13, or The Flight of the Phoenix, The Fog, The Jackal, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Money Pit, Ocean’s Eleven, RoboCop, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, or Walking Tall.  Each of these, viewed on their own merits is a great film.  They may even be good remakes.  Those who avoid The Magnificent Seven are missing out on a fun outing.  And a good remake.

sensmeier-magnificent-seven-scene

Today’s ensemble movie is mostly found in the superhero genre.  Stack up The Magnificent Seven against The Avengers, The Avengers 2, or Captain America: Civil War, or any DC Comics superhero film of the past 20 years, and it leaves them all in its dust in its success in introducing a team, getting them to work together, and MacGyver the situation into some giant climactic battles.  Each of the titular seven stars of the movie have their own extraordinary abilities, they just don’t wear capes.  It’s an ensemble piece.  A superhero team-up.  So why don’t we have a casting Oscar?  The three casting directors knew what they were doing–they created the teams for Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Sin City, and Star Wars Episode VIII.

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Stevie Wayne Adrienne Barbeau
This is Stevie Wayne, on top of the world tonight and I’ll be here right up until about one o’clock.

If you ever sat around listening to the radio to answer a trivia question for a prize, or driven across town for some radio station event to get a free giveaway hat or bit of swag with the logo of your favorite station, and if you’re a big John Carpenter fan, then you might appreciate the latest T-shirt offering circulating the Wild Web this week.

John Carpenter’s 1980 horror flick The Fog was my first Rated R drive-in movie and I’ve always been a fan of the movie since, as well as the rest of Carpenter’s catalog and the remake with Tom Welling in 2005.

Adrienne Barbeau (and Selma Blair in the remake) played Stevie Wayne, DJ at the secluded K.A.B. Radio station at Spivey Point Lighthouse in Antonio Bay.  She is the first to identify the mysterious fog rolling into the bay and call out a warning to the locals and ship traffic like the Sea Grass.

Stevie Wayne remake Fog

If you’re a sucker for a good pop culture tie-in, like the “I Was There” shirts for Back to the Future Day last year, or the Quint’s Shark Hunting shirts based on the salty Jaws character, then you probably need this K.A.B. Radio shirt:

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Bates Motel

That’s right, Halloween is almost here.  This year we’ve been able to obtain an interview with one of the best horror writers around.  Who will it be?  Check back here on Halloween for a special borg.com interview.

For many, this week means tracking down spooky shows on Netflix, cable, or in the theaters.  Back in 2011 the four borg.com writers posted each of their top favorite Halloween flicks.  Since 2011 new films that fit the genre continue to be made, like The Woman in Black reviewed here last year, but there was also a few to skip, like Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows and John Cusack in The RavenThis year we were impressed by the totally fun and totally watchable Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and the over-the-top but fun Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  There are plenty of opportunities to get your fix of dark, spooky, creepy, or just plain scary movies.

ALVH-217 - Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) and his vampire-battling mentor Henry Sturgis (Dominic Cooper) plan their next move during a fateful battle with the undead.

One film available on Netflix we haven’t reviewed yet here at borg.com is 2009’s Orphan, which should appeal to fans of The Others and Skeleton KeyOrphan stars Bates Motel’s Vera Farmiga and Skeleton Key’s Peter Sarsgaard as a couple adopting a third child into their family, played by the brilliant young actress Isabelle Furhman.  It also features Warehouse 13’s CCH Pounder and Genelle Williams–both as nuns.  Orphan is excellently creepy and an all-around good thriller worth checking out.  And speaking of Vera Farmiga, if you haven’t been watching Bates Motel, you should.  It’s a great creepy spin-off of Hitchcock’s Psycho, and Season 1 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Orphan movie - creepy little girl

Here is the link to our Halloween movie series from 2011 where you can view all of our recommendations.  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.   Jaws 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 seem to rise above the rest, showing up on two lists.  Seaside locales were the favorite location 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–count ‘em–NINE of our 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). And we can now add Orphan and The Woman in Black to that creepy assembly.  (We Are What We Are was due out this year–another creepy little girl story, but it’s only been released in the UK so far).  For us the supernatural won out over monsters, saws and axes.  Four movies were by John Carpenter, three by Alfred Hitchcock.  The oldest movie was Rebecca from 1940, the newest came out in 2011, Paranormal Activity 3And look, we’ve got another one of those available now, too.

Happy Halloween watching, and don’t forget to come back to see what we have in store Thursday!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Following cast

Last Monday, January 21, 2013, The Following premiered on the Fox network. It’s a dark, bloody crime drama from Kevin Williamson, creator of the Scream franchise, Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries.  It’s the Scream franchise that might come to mind if you check out the premiere on Free Per View before tonight’s episode “Chapter Two” airs.  Expect some horror movie jumps and startling revelations as well as a little more than you might see as far as crime scenes from other series (although not a lot more than what you might have found on something like TV’s Medium when it still was on the air).

The big draw for The Following is the series star, Kevin Bacon.  You might also have checked out the pilot if you were a fan of Maggie Grace, star of the Taken film series, The Fog remake, and Lost, the TV series.  If you’ve missed the original Law and Order, you might be happy to see the return of Annie Parisse in an ongoing role beginning with tonight’s episode.  And if that weren’t enough, you might think you’re watching Warehouse 13, Veronica Mars, Smallville, Lost Girl and In Plain Sight’s Aaron Ashmore as Agent Michael Weston–but you’d be wrong.  Turns out Aaron has a clone, twin brother Shawn Ashmore.  (And hey, don’t TV writers watch TV?  That’s at least the third Michael Weston on TV right now).

Spoilers ahead.

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By C.J. Bunce

(Insert a spoiler alert here as a courtesy to anyone who really thinks a 50 year old film needs one!)

Sometimes you are at the right place at the right time.  Having recently heard about the new Fathom Events series, where the satellite-video entertainment company transmits a one-night only event around to movie theaters across the country, I keep going back to the Fathom website to see what is next.  And I marked my calendar when a Hitchcock film made the list.  Last week we let borg.com readers know about this past Wednesday’s screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a Turner Classic Movies presentation to celebrate the 100th year of Universal Pictures, on the cusp of the 50th year since The Birds first premiered.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A lot can be said for the DC Comics New 52 reboot, and without re-hashing every bit of that for the umpteenth time, one single high note comes to mind.  With so many #1 titles, with stories starting for the most part from scratch, it allows anyone to become a new reader, anyone to become a fan of something they weren’t a fan of before.

Oddly enough, when DC Comics said that they would have 52 titles, I actually believed them.  I am glad they didn’t stick with that approach.  Several books have been layered into the New 52, some relevant, some not.  Titles like Batman Incorporated and Huntress.  Another title I was surprised to see was Smallville: Season 11.  And I am surprised it is a good series adaptation.

Smallville, the TV series, at its high point had millions of fans.  Over its incredible ten-year run on the CW Network, it boasted both comic book fans and a mainstream audience.  It never grabbed me, but once in a while I’d watch an episode and could see the appeal.  As TV series are concerned, my preference was the earlier, slightly different but still similar Lois and Clark TV series.  That series featured Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane and Dean Cain as Clark Kent, and–one big difference from Smallville–Clark donning the Superman suit and cape.  Although I really liked Tom Welling in the remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog, it’s probably that distinction that kept me away from Smallville.

Smallville: Season 11 gives fans of the TV series Tom Welling finally portraying Superman, in the suit, and continues the story of the characters where the series left off.  This works like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, etc. series–so long as every other panel is drawn to look like the actors who played the characters on TV, this can work.  It actually works really well with Smallville Issue #1.

Writer Brian Q. Miller knows the characters enough to make you feel like you’re watching the show, with snappy dialogue and a relevant story.  He should, as he wrote for the TV series.  The banter between Clark and Lois is likely the best part of the first issue, with Lois as a particularly funny character.  Pere Perez’s renderings aren’t picture perfect but he often nails the actors’ appearances and their roles, enough so that Smallville: Season 11 Issue #1 hits all its marks as you’d hope.  Perez gives readers several good splash pages of Welling as Superman.  Better yet, Miller and Perez give a substantial part of the story to Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and his wife Chloe Sullivan-Queen.  Here the differences between Smallville and the New 52 series are obvious, including the fact Oliver is married, confirming Smallville as a parallel universe story in the DCU.   As much as I know diehard Superman fans love the current Action Comics series, by comparison I found Smallville: Season 11 Issue #1 more interesting than Action Comics Issue #1.  I was also surprised I prefer the Justin Hartley-influenced Green Arrow look, vibe, and story in Smallville to the current New 52 Green Arrow series.

At a dense 33 pages, including an alternate cover image and recap of the TV series season 1, with Smallville: Season 11 you’ll for once feel like you got your money’s worth.

By C.J. Bunce

The focus of my creepy movie list is mood and surprises and re-watchability, as the setting and ambiance is what calls to me when it’s time to pull out some movies every October when each day gets darker and the wind starts kicking up the leaves.  I don’t like slasher flicks, and over-the-top shock horror isn’t my thing.  Movies like Hellraiser II and Phantasm may be flat-out scary, but they don’t give you much else entertaining.  I like the “modern classics,” the original Friday the 13th and Halloween, but ultimately they didn’t make my list because I don’t re-watch them as much as other movies.  I really liked The Ring and Donnie Darko, but ultimately they didn’t make it to the Top 10 for me, only because I haven’t had time to watch them over and over as much as most of those that made the cut.  On another day the ceiling hopping raptors in Jurassic Park, non-fantasy horrors of Coma and The China Syndrome, the creepy terror in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the stylish suspense in Hitchcock’s Rear Window or Otto Preminger’s Laura, the sheer panic in Steven Spielberg’s Duel, the nervous tension in Blair Witch, as well as the “Zuni fetish doll” segment of Trilogy of Terror and one of my favorites–the “oil spill attacking kids at a lake” segment of Creepshow 2–could have made this list for me.  Every one of the shows above will make you jump when you least expect it.

So here’s where I did end up:

10.  Young Frankenstein (1974).  I figured any list I’d create for creepy/suspense/Halloween watching would have to reflect the classic Universal monster movies in some way.  My favorite is the parody of all of them, made by the master of parody, Mel Brooks.  Brooks held the classic horror films with such reverence that he re-created the original design for the Frankenstein laboratory for Young Frankenstein.  Yes, I know it’s not scary.  But as dark, gothic ambience is concerned, I know of no other film that did it so well, and in black and white this movie could have been made 40 years earlier–it feels like a 1930s film.  It’s also a movie all ages will enjoy–kids won’t understand the innuendo in most of the comedy, but the physical humor will have them laughing out loud.  I’ve watched this one so many times I have it practically committed to memory.  One of the best ensemble casts I can think of performed in this one.  Look for Gene Hackman in a great cameo, too.  Like a funhouse, there are startling jumps here, but they are all cloaked in humor.  Pull out the humor and you have a ghoulish Frankenstein story where off-camera you know the monster, with an inside joke-like smirk to the audience, is going to launch that little girl into the well after the last flower petal is gone.  Not a scary film, but Transylvania never looked creepier.

9.  28 Days Later (2003).  In a tie as the most recent film on my list, this is a rare occurrence where zombie-like people are actually interesting, creepy, and scary.  A few weeks after an outbreak engulfs Great Britain, a handful of characters try to find sanctuary away from the sub-humans that have resulted from the disturbing virus.  It doesn’t get much creepier than the plague in the single drop of water falling into Brendan Gleeson’s eye in 28 Days Later.  The movie is full of characters who look like they really are feeling the panic you would feel when there is no hope left and it’s left to every man for himself.  An opening scene with Cillian Murphy playing a patient who finally awakens to find an empty London was instantly a classic piece of cinema, reminiscent of the Australian film The Quiet Earth or The Day the Earth Stood Still.  With the feel of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the creepy UK film Lifeforce, and a little An American Werewolf in London, the filters and UK setting for the American viewer adds to the strangeness of this movie’s vibe.

8.  Prince of Darkness (1987).  My addiction to the TV series Simon and Simon and series star Jameson Parker is what caused me to rent this one back in the late 1980s.  It is John Carpenter’s approach that makes this one plain scary.  It is almost a scientific view of what university types would do if they were encountering an invader entering our world.  This time the invader is the devil, and the gateway is via a “hellmouth” of sorts made of gelatinous green goo.  Forget about any prior appearance you’ve seen of Alice Cooper.  He’s the coolest right here as one of the zombies creeping about to usher in the evil and trapping the researchers in their building with some very bad happenings.  The classic Carpenter crew is here, too, with Donald Pleasance as the priest, Peter Jason as the doctor, and Victor Wong as the professor.  The ultimate form that the “prince of darkness” takes at the end of the film is the big shocker.  And, yes, there’s some gore, but ultimately this film tries to be a lot better film than straight horror, and like all Carpenter flicks, manages to succeed.

7.  Final Destination 2 (2003).  Although this film certainly brings in the latex blood and gore by the boatload, this movie takes the concept of “death stalking those who cheated it” further than the original film and is actually a lot more fun.  It’s the first Final Destination mixed with some more carefully concocted Rube Goldberg-inspired chain reactions.  Ali Larter, co-star of the first film, gets a bigger role here, trying to help the cast of “lucky” survivors.  Suspense is amped up in this film, and non-stop angst, as you wonder just who and how the next guy is going to get eliminated by the seemingly random events.  Lots of red herrings, but all are fun, with plenty of opportunity for you to jump out of your seat.

6.  They Live (1988).  I saw the premiere of this film in 1988 and the name Roddy Piper went by in the credits.  I never made the connection the star was THE Rowdy Roddy Piper of WWF fame til years later.  The guy could act an dhe is very cool as this character.  They Live has a number of cool elements for a genre film:  an outsider-type fringe hero, a sci-fi twist, surprises around every corner, a feeling of paranoia seeps in, a big revelation that makes you question what is going on around you as you walk from the theater, and cool gimmicks–contact lenses and sunglasses that let you see the truth, including some creept subliminal messages.  My bias toward John Carpenter is evident on this list, but his movies are so dissimilar I just can’t help it.  Oppressive government, unfair economic advantages, sell-outs–this movie is much more than another horror flick–it’s part horror, part sci-fi, part political thriller, part action flick.

5.  The Birds (1963).  Like John Carpenter’s The Fog and Spielberg’s Jaws, this movie takes place on the seacoast, one of my favorite locations for an eerie thriller.  Alfred Hitchcock’s direction in this movie makes you feel claustrophobic, like you’re almost choking on the birds that inexplicably attack this little seaside village.  In the end it all comes down to being trapped again, this time in a house.  As a kid this one caused its share of jumps out of bed in the middle of the night.  It must be scary if it causes nightmares, right?  Some of the imagery will stick with you forever.  And check out the sultry and creepy character played by a young Suzanne Pleshette.  Compare The Birds and Jaws and you can see common themes and approaches the best masters of suspense use.  As Tom Petty says, “the waiting” is the hardest part, and sometimes you don’t really want to see what’s coming next.

4.  Silver Bullet (1985).  A series of deaths in Tarker’s Mill promps a town to band together to flush out the killer.  A fog shrouded forest, men splitting up, and one by one the men don’t make it out of the woods.  The town becomes paranoid of the night, canceling Independence Day festivities.  Enter cool uncle Gary Busey, who gets his wheelchair bound nephew Marty, played by a young Corey Haim (Lost Boys), a rocket and surreptiously fire it off despite all the adult fear.  An old covered bridge, a sheriff played by Terry O’Quinn (John Locke in Lost), a preacher played by Everett McGill (Twin Peaks), and a lot of creepiness.  The killer isn’t human.  Hey, sheriff, don’t go snooping around in there.  And a bat named Peacemaker.  Probably the quietest creepy thriller in the Stephen King adaptation arsenal, that quiet makes the gotchas all the better.   A perfect autumn night movie, not too much gore or irrelevant gross-outs, but the surprises are guaranteed to make you jump.  Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables) plays Marty’s older sister, who sells a good portion of the fear through her powerful expressions.

3.  The Fog (1980).  I was 10 years old when I saw this at the drive-in theater.  It was a double feature with Phantasm and my brother and sister smuggled me in.  I got no sleep that night.  At the time both movies were blurred together, and I don’t know which movies the nightmares came from.  Years later I realized Phantasm was just another cheesy slasher flick, but I have re-watched John Carpenter’s original The Fog too many times to count.  This is my favorite ghost story movie.  One hundred years ago, Antonio Bay’s founders weren’t quite as honorable as the townsfolk see them today at the town’s centennial celebration.  It’s setting makes this an old sea tale of sorts.  Sultry-voiced Adrienne Barbeau (yes, I like sultry brunettes in my scary flicks) plays Stevie Wayne, who works in the lighthouse as a radio jockey, also warning boats about this strange fog… inching closer to the bay.  Hal Holbrook is the preacher who is slowly losing it as he realizes the truth of the town’s past.  Jamie Lee Curtis is a drifter who stumbles into the wrong town on the wrong night.  And there are a lot of ghosts that, despite looking like giant ticked-off Jawas, deliver sufficient creepiness.  Check this out for some great atmosphere.

2.  Jaws (1975).  Thinking I would quickly fall asleep my folks took me to this one at the drive-in theater.  I did fall asleep, but not before the opening scene.  How many movies can claim all that Jaws has accomplished?  Where Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho made everyone check behind the shower curtain, Jaws has kept people on the beach.  There are generations now who still feel a little nervousness whenever they put on fins and take that first step in.  The defining tuba theme alerting us to when the shark is really coming is forever apart of everyone’s musical vocabulary.  John Williams’s score is so brilliant because most of it is a light-tempo, summer frolicking medley, so when the clashing violin scare themes arrive the contrast makes the music its own character.   The fear is underscored by Robert Shaw’s ominous USS Indianapolis speech.  One of the best films of all time in any genre.

1.  Watcher in the Woods (1980).  When I was in junior high, as a treat to students, the school would play movies on Friday afternoons, each movie split over two Fridays.  I saw this movie on a full size screen in our huge auditorium, which roughly looked like the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot.  My friend Jeff lived literally next door to the woods…you could see them out his window.  Jeff held his hands over his eyes for the first hour of the show and didn’t come back the next Friday for the rest.  Twenty-five years later my co-worker asked me for a recommendation because he was hosting a Halloween party for his kid’s group of 10 12-year-old boys.  I recommended Watcher in the Woods instantly.  The following Monday he thanked me and said the boys, and he, were glued to the entire movie.  Watcher was one of Disney’s first forays into something new.  It’s probably my favorite Disney movie.  Imagine you fall into a creek, what would be creepier than Bette Davis standing above you trying to push you down deeper with a stick?  Look for a lot of ambience and mood in this one, and a few things that go bump.  Bette Davis is scary here, even compared to her prior frightening performance in make-up in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?   She was made for creepy roles.  And, hey, that strange little girl, Kyle Richards, has her own TV show now.  Note:  Stay away from the original director’s cut or expanded version as it was so bad it almost canned the film in pre-production.  Stick with the theatrical release.

And that’s it!

So where did the four of us end up? 

Jaws gets the highest ranking, making three of our lists, and The Shining, The Exorcist, The Exorcist 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Ring, and Paranormal Activity seem to rise above the rest, showing up on two lists.  Seaside locales are the favorite location 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–count ’em NINE–of our 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).  And the supernatural wins out over monsters, saws and axes.  Four movies were by John Carpenter, three by Alfred Hitchcock.   The oldest movie was Rebecca from 1940, the newest came out this year, Paranormal Activity 3.

I hope you like our lists and they prompt you to check out something you haven’t seen before.  Look for other lists here in the future.

And let us know what is on your list!

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

To be honest, this was a challenging list for me.  On the one hand, there is nothing I love better than a really great ghost story, so you’d think I’d be able to rattle off a list of ‘em just like that.  But that’s the thing—the really great ones, the ones that well and truly conjure up that perfectly spooky atmosphere and transport me wholly to the Hallowe’en, ahem, spirit… well, they’re pretty rare, actually.  I’m a little bit critical; I acknowledge that.  But that’s another reason to love these lists: I’m always on the lookout for the next The Others or Watcher in the Woods.

For me, atmosphere is everything.  Strike the right spooky ambience in a film, and you can overcome any number of shortcomings—including the total lack of an actual ghost in the story.  So here’s an assemblage of ten films that get the mood right, at least, making them excellent viewing when the lights are off and the late October wind howls outside.  In no particular order…

1.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Ok, I hear you.  A Harry Potter movie on a Hallowe’en list?  Well, bear with me here.  Everything franchise-related aside, Azkaban has everything you’d want in a Devil’s Night creep-fest: the redesigned, gothic Hogwarts; the ghostly manifestations of the dementors haunting the castle and campus; the homicidal maniac on the loose; and oh, yes, the werewolf!  The film also drips with backstory and dark secrets, another element paramount to a great spook story.  And did I mention the werewolf?

2.  The Others (2001)
This one is creepy almost without trying.  Nicole Kidman plays the harried and pathologically overprotective mother of two light-sensitive children, occupying a remote English manor house in the days following World War II.  Though the scares here are primarily psychological, skin-crawling elements abound (what is up with those creepy kids? And those servants! Egad!), and the story has one of the best twist endings you’re likely to find.  So pull the blinds, get away from the windows, and watch for the seriously unsettling appearance of The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, as Kidman’s estranged (or something) husband.  I can almost guarantee you’ll want to watch this one again, straight through from the beginning, when it’s over.

3.  Watcher in the Woods (1980)
For me, this film is the archetype of everything I want in a ghost story (erm, absent the actual ghost, I mean).  This 1980 Disney offering was based on a young adult novel by Florence Engel Randall, but this is a rare case of the film eclipsing (no pun intended!) its source novel.  It follows a pair of young American sisters who are renting a haunted English manor house for the summer, and who awaken the property’s chilling secret—and its chilling landlady, Mrs. Ayelsworth (Bette Davis).  Many years ago, Ayelsworth’s daughter disappeared from the estate, in a secret ritual her now-grown friends have sworn to keep silent.  But the past won’t be buried, and the apparent ghost of Karen Ayelsworth tries desperately to communicate with our heroines.  The setting here is pitch perfect, from the foreboding house to a murky lake, to the chapel ruins with ravens stirring through the dead leaves.  I loved this movie as a child, and it’s lost almost none of its wonder, atmosphere, and suspense. (Extended DVD scenes notwithstanding.)

4.  Rebecca (1940)
This 1940 Best Picture Oscar winner is a faithful rendition of the Daphne du Maurier novel by the same name. Du Maurier’s writing, Alfred Hitchcock’s direction, and George Barnes’s Academy Award-winning cinematography are so skillful and subtle that you will swear you’ve seen the ghost of Rebecca de Winter haunting Manderley yourself—though she makes no actual appearance in the film.  While the entire cast (particularly stars Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier,) turned in top-notch performances, the disturbing heart of the film is the unforgettable performance by Star Trek alumna Dame Judith Anderson as the first Mrs. de Winter’s devoted lady’s maid, Mrs. Danvers—the archetype for every creepy British servant to come.  This is psychological horror at its best; an exploration of how our own memories are the most frightening ghosts to put to rest.

5.  Skeleton Key (2005)
I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy this film as much as I wanted to, but the fact that someone in our house bought the DVD, and our TV is mysteriously tuned to this movie every time it airs on late-night cable, should count for something.  Set in rural Louisiana, Skeleton Key drips with Southern Gothic creep-factor: Spanish moss, an old plantation dank with rot, an aging Southern belle, evocative voodoo set-dressing, and the unmistakeable tinge of old racism.  Add a smart heroine in over her head in something she doesn’t understand, plus a satisfying twist ending, and you’ve got a solid haunter with staying power.

6.  The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shamaylan’s career has been so utterly panned by now that it’s hard to remember that we all loved The Sixth Sense, and couldn’t stop talking about one of the best Gotchas! in horror film history.  Debate all you like, but this measured, thoughtful story of a boy with a problem, and the child psychologist who goes to unparalleled lengths to help him, is a mastery of mood, pacing, and misdirection.  You can watch it as a straightforward drama, and it’s a perfectly solid film.  The characters are skillfully drawn and acted with sincerity and subtlety, and you feel for the plight every single one of them is going through: the haunted boy, the caring therapist who can’t understand that his marriage is over, the lonely wife, and the desperate mother struggling to understand her troubled son.  But it’s in the moments we peek inside the child’s terrifying world that the horror of this story comes home, and whether or not you see dead people (or saw the ending from a mile away), you know you were a little skittish walking into your kitchen alone.

7.  The Ring (2002)
In the immortal words of Bravo’s Hundred Scariest Movie Moments, “There’s nothing creepier than a decrepit eight-year-old.” And while the combined lists on borg.com seem to bear that out, this is the decrepit eight-year-old you definitely don’t want to see climbing out of your TV late at night.  It’s not immediately obvious why this adaptation of the classic Japanese thriller is so frightening—is it the disturbing iconography in the underground video?  The ghoulish backstory?  The jarring cinematography and special effects?—but it all adds up to seriously unsettling viewing.  Bolstered by a strong mystery, a determined and believable lead, and the chilling ordinariness of her investigation, the contrasting horror seems all the more convincing, no matter how far-fetched a haunted videotape may sound.  Trust me: you’ll be glad you ditched your VCR.

8.  The Turn of the Screw (1999)
Henry James’s dark, “are they or aren’t they?” tale of two haunted siblings and the devoted governess desperate to protect them has been baffling audiences for 123 years, but that hasn’t stopped people from making movies out of it.  1961’s The Innocents, penned by no less a scribe than Truman Capote, is considered a modern classic, but this 1999 BBC version starring the brilliantly-cast Jodhi May in all her sloe-eyed anxiety captures all the frightening bewilderment of the original.  It’s never entirely clear what’s bothering the children in her care.  It could be ghosts, it could be pedophiles, or it could be the overactive imagination of the governess herself—but it’s from that uncertainty that the horror emerges.  With no true resolution to the tale—no laying to rest of the ghosts, no cozy denouement now that the danger has passed—The Turn of the Screw is ultimately unsatisfying, leaving you vaguely uncomfortable yet somehow wishing for more.

9. The Fog (2005)
At first glance, there really wasn’t an obvious reason to remake John Carpenter’s classic tale of a seaside town getting a belated and ghostly comeuppance.  But unlike ill-considered remakes before and since, The Fog loses nothing in translation—and even manages to surpass the original.  One of the most vital elements of a ghost story is arguably its backstory—the chilling past that rises to menace the present—and this 2005 adaptation gets it absolutely right.  The story of a town’s ill-gotten fortune at the cost of a doomed ship of lepers comes alive (or undead, at least) in rich period details, elaborate sets and costumes, and a powerful enriched storyline, all of which combine to create a pretty much perfect ghost story.

10.  Dead Again (1991)
This may seem an odd choice for a Hallowe’en list, but this 1991 Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson film deftly blends film noir, gothic romance, and the paranormal in a gripping, genre-bending mystery thick with atmosphere and suspense.  In two parallel storylines, Dead Again explores a post-war Los Angeles murder mystery that continues to haunt two people into the modern age.  Playing dual roles, both Branagh and Thompson excel, first as doomed lovers Roman and Margaret von Strauss, and as their modern counterparts, trying to unravel the secret of how that epic romance ended in a gruesome murder.  With its edgy, atmospheric soundtrack racing to a shocking twist ending, Dead Again is another film that will have you hitting the “replay” button on your remote as soon as the end titles roll.

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