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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Halloween movies to make the scariest day of the year even scarier

Many great horror movies are now available on streaming services

By JACOB ANDERSON — arts@theaggie.org

    I get it, we’ve all been there: It’s that most horrifying, most shriek-fueled, bone-rattling month of the calendar year and yet there’s nothing to watch. With so many horror movies being somewhere between tepidly bad and unwatchable as a result of the genre’s decades-long oversaturation, it can be difficult to know where to start. But fear not, The California Aggie is here to mollify you with arcane knowledge of the prime cuts of streamable horror.

“Hellraiser” dir. by Clive Barker (1987) — Watch on Hulu:

After being sent to a sort of BDSM-hell by unknowingly activating a demonic artifact, Frank must convince his brother’s wife (with whom he’s had a long-running affair) to murder enough people so he can reconstruct his body before the Cenobites (of the aformentioned BDSM-hell) discover he’s escaped them. Endlessly creative and gruesome, almost every scene is saturated with gooey, primordial practical effects and incredible exploits. Also the progenitor of so many awful sequels.

“The Lighthouse” dir. by Robert Eggers (2019) — Watch on Amazon Prime:

A modern horror masterpiece. Two (mostly) unnamed lighthouse keepers, one veteran — played by the filth-master Willem Dafoe — and one gloomy newbie portrayed by Robert Pattenson, are orphaned on the sea and under siege by a foghorn that shrieks with maddening regularity. The duo grow both more intimate and detached as a haze of repetition and a missing supply ship fuel their descent. The film spirals wonderfully, and as it does, insanity drips into every aspect of the filmmaking.

“Frankenhooker” dir. by Frank Henenlotter (1990) — Watch on Amazon Prime:

“Frankenhooker” was at one point a video store rental legend: Discerning clerks could point to its absurd case with a cool smile as a response to inquiries about the dirtiest, funniest movies available. The film’s reputation grew steadily in the years following its direct-to-video release.  And justifiably so: The movie is singular. The film’s plot is so literally incredible that describing it here would do it no justice, especially when watching it is so much more fun. 

“Rosemary’s Baby” dir. by Roman Polanski (1968) — Watch on Hulu:

It’s been named among the greatest horror films ever made for good reason, and it is masterfully constructed and to this day one of the textbook examples of immaculate buildup in cinema. The eponymous Rosemary and her struggling actor husband (Mia Farrow and John Cassavettes respectively — fantastic leads) move to New York City, finding themselves in the company of some subtly strange neighbors. It is a film that doesn’t deserve to be spoiled. If you haven’t seen it, you’d do yourself well in giving it a watch (in spite of Polanski’s involvement).

“Kiki’s Delivery Service” dir. by Hayao Miyazaki (1989) — Watch on HBO Max:

This is maybe cheating slightly, but a film about a witch is conceivably Halloween-tangential enough to justify a spot on this list. If you’re not in the mood to be scared, but still want something great in theme with the season, it’s hard to do better than this classic Studio Ghibli film. Pleasant and beautiful and suitable for all.

“Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter” dir. by Joseph Zito (1984) — Watch on Hulu:

The definitive slasher. A group of campers arrive for a weekend away from society — you know the drill. The film is surprisingly creative, featuring what is probably the greatest defenstration-murder scene in slasher history and myriad other moments of pink-stained ‘80’s terror. Crispin Glover’s mesmerizing, off-kilter performance as camper Jimmy keeps the film from falling prey to the slasher’s ubiquitous, mind-numbing issue with unstimulating first halves. His dance scene alone makes this film a must-watch.

“Winterbeast” dir. by Christopher Tines (1992) — Watch on Amazon Prime:

Charmingly amateurish (although altogether “unexperienced” might be the better term here), this film was pieced together over the course of several years, filmed on weekends and only being released years after production ended. It makes no sense, dialogue is often nonsensical or inaudible and practical effects are incompetent enough that it’s nearly impossible to discern what’s supposed to be happening. There’s an incongruous scene, however, toward the end, in which the troublesome owner of a ski resort, who has been haranguing the protagonists for wanting to shut down the slope in light of recent mysterious deaths in the film, masks himself, unknowingly observed by the protagonist, grinning serenely, and mimes along to a muffled recording of some old song. The scene is baffling and strangely long, and it penetrates too well for a movie this awful.

Written by: Jacob Anderson — arts@theaggie.org

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