During this first in a three part series, HOT 95.7’s Program Director Mark Adams examines 31 classic cinema centered around horror and suspense. He shares his list of Halloween-themed movies that are sure to invoke the the horror and uncertainty we experience with the unknown. What movies on the list are your favorite and which ones do you watch time after time to relive those feelings of fear and uncertainty? Check out these movies as we countdown to Adams’ #1 pick of the scariest, horrific and spookiest of them all!
31. Pan’s Labyrinth From director Guillermo Del Toro, (Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Blade II), set in the fascist Spain of World War II, this is the story of the shy daughter of a cruel army officer who escapes her mundane existence into a fantastic world of fantasy and fairies. The creatures she encounters are both fantastic and frightening and the quest she embarks upon is fraught with peril. Is it all make believe, or is it all terrifyingly real? Trivia: The faun who instructs Ofelia is played by Doug Jones; who is a Del Toro favorite who also played Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films.
30. Zombie Land: In the aftermath of the Zombie Apocalypse a nerdy college student from Texas (Jesse Eisenberg) has survived by following a number of self created rules, including rule one: cardio, (you have to be able to outrun the dead), rule eighteen: limber up, (you’d hate to cramp up while running from the dead, wouldn’t you?) and rule thirty two: Enjoy the little things (Because, really, everything now kind of sucks. Take your wins where you can get them, people.) On a quest to learn the fate of his parents in Ohio, he teams up with a good old boy with a love for both Dale Earnhardt and Twinkies, (Woody Harrelson) they eventually encounter a pair of lady con artists and the four of them set out on a tour of what’s left of America. This is a very funny movie and the best stab at the zombie-comedy since Shaun of the Dead. Zombie Land also features one of the best, funniest, and completely unexpected cameos of all time. I won’t spoil it for you and share who appears in the film but look closely and carefully!
29. The Last Exorcism: A troubled Christian evangelical preacher with wavering faith and an increasingly cynical worldview, agrees to allow a documentary filmmaker to film what he asserts will be his last exorcism. While he no longer believes in demons or angels, he sees nothing wrong in helping those who do overcome their imagined afflictions through the power of their own belief in him. In Nell, the seemingly genuinely possessed and deeply troubled daughter of a rural Louisiana farmer, the preacher’s lack of belief is put to a series of increasingly disturbing tests.
28. Quarantine: An American remake of the Spanish film “REC”, the film follows a young TV anchor and her cameraman as they shoot documentary style footage for a piece on the Los Angeles Fire Department. During a ride along on an emergency call that takes them to a small, claustrophobic apartment complex, the firemen and reporters encounter a resident who is deathly ill with something completely unknown that turns its victims into a fevered, psychotic, ghoul. When the government arrives they find themselves locked into and sealed up in the complex, and then abandoned to their fate as the disease begins to spread among the survivors.
27. In the Mouth of Madness: Director John Carpenter’s homage to the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft, the film is about an insurance investigator (Sam Neil) tasked with looking into the disappearance of a hack horror writer whose fevered imaginings may turn out to have been more real than anyone dared imagine. Arguably the movie works better if the viewer is familiar with the Lovecraft inspired source material, (The Cult of Cthulhu) but it’s still a twisted and scary movie with some demented and unsettling ideas.
26. The Descent: A group of friends go on a caving expedition and while exploring, and going ever deeper and into unknown systems, they are terrifyingly trapped by a series of cave-ins. Cut off, with limited supplies and with their lights slowly losing battery power, they discover they are not alone in the dark.
25. Escape from New York: While more of a science fiction-horror hybrid, EFNY scared the hell out of me as a kid and holds up well today due to it’s arresting images, fascinating setting, and the introduction of one of films most endearingly famous anti heroes: Snake Plissken, played by Kurt Russell. Director John Carpenter created a dark future where The United States is now a dismal union and the state of New York is now home to the nation’s one maximum security prison. Air Force One has just gone down on Manhattan Island with the President of the United States aboard. The police commissioner offers the recently apprehended Snake a deal: Go into New York, find the President and bring him out in 24 hours, and he’s a free man.
24. Dark Skies: Thw alien abduction film has never been done particularly well, (“Fire in the Sky”, being one of the few exceptions that comes to mind.) This film, however, does an excellent job of setting up the hopeless dread of being inexplicably stalked by beings whose motives are terrifying, ultimately unknowable and, well, alien.
23. Pandorum: Two astronauts (Ben Foster & Dennis Quaid) awaken from suspended animation aboard a spacecraft suffering from amnesia and disorientation. They soon make a shocking discovery. The vast spaceship is seemingly abandoned, suffering from an abundance of mechanical failures and falling into ruin and something non human may be aboard. As Bower (Foster) begins to explore the craft, bit by bit its secrets are revealed and the entire terrifying picture emerges. I think this is a highly underrated bit of science fiction-horror and is a lot of fun.
22. Storm of the Century: An original min-series written for TV by Stephen King and originally aired on ABC in 1999, SOTC is one of the best television horror series ever broadcast that you’ve likely never seen. The isolated New England island community of Little Tall Island always taken care of their own, but on the eve of a powerful Nor’Easter a murderer (Colm Feore) is apprehended by the town constable (Tim Daley) who offers not a word of explanation of defense for his terrible crime but instead a demand: “Give me what I want and I will go away”. What he wants, and who he actually evolves into something that is both fascinating and terrible.
21. Cloverfield: From producer J.J. Abrams, this is another “found footage” science fiction-horror movie. The film is entirely derived from what was documented on a hand held video camera, later recovered from Area 447: formerly known as Central Park. A group of friends are attending a party in Manhattan when, something, attacks the city and sends everyone running for their lives. We only see what they see, we only know what they know. Cleverly combining frightening sound and imagery evocative of September 11th with classic monster movie dynamics, this is a great scary movie.
Be sure to check back next week to see more movies that are apart of Adams’ “Classic Halloween & Horror Cinema Countdown”!