Halloween is right around the corner! Here’s a vintage Halloween pinup of actress Ava Gardner. Find more great vintage Halloween pinups at Listal. Have a safe and happy Halloween celebration!
Ultimate List of Scary Stylish Halloween Films
Are you planning a Halloween get together and looking for some smart, stylish Halloween films for your bash (or your monster mash?) Perhaps you’re enjoying a quiet night in and searching for some great films to entertain you on All Hallows’ Eve.
As a Halloween aficionado, I’ve got you covered!
My last post featured six stylish Halloween movies—I like to call them “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Halloween Films.” Today I’m back with six more scary films to help you celebrate the season.
That’s twelve Halloween movies in all, the perfect way to get your fright on!
Here’s my Halloween movie list, a great alternative to the same old “scary movie.”
1. Theatre of Blood (1973)
What is Halloween without crazy costumes, creepy music, lots of candy and a little Vincent Price? Theatre of Blood, a cut above the usual pedestrian horror flick, offers Vincent Price at his eerie best.
Price stars as Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearean actor who exacts revenge on his critics in gruesome, creative ways. Theatre of Blood, said to be one of Vincent Price’s favorite roles, has a deliciously droll script, classically trained actress Diana Rigg as Lionheart’s daughter Edwina, and a thrilling, fiery climax.
Price is campy in The Abominable Dr. Phibes; he is shattering as Lionheart in Theatre of Blood (that’s saying something, as Phibes is one bloodcurdling dude!)
2. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Creeped out yet? You will be after an evening of Vincent Price followed up with some Christopher Lee in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave!
Lee plays Count Dracula, who rises from his grave to seek revenge when Monsignor Mueller (played by Rupert Davies) exorcises Castle Dracula. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, one in a series of Hammer horror films, was directed by Freddie Francis, and his clever use of colored filters creates a moody vibe.
The film is memorable as an example of classic British horror; Christopher Lee’s acting, the stylish atmosphere and rooftop chase scene make it a must see Halloween movie.
3. Dracula (1979)
Christopher Lee is a horrific Dracula, but Frank Langella, star of Dracula (1979) is certainly “the thinking woman’s vampire.” Long before we had cinematic heartthrob vampires in films like the Twilight saga, Frank Langella was making pulses quicken as Dracula, sexiest bloodsucker ever to hit the big screen.
With his languorous attitude and liquid brown eyes, actor Langella brought a potent sensuality to the classic vampire tale, reinvigorating it for modern audiences.
Dracula taps into our shadow side that is attracted to the dangerous and forbidden; the vampire becomes a symbol for the ultimate thrill beyond our wildest imaginings. Watching Frank Langella, we know we should run away, but our shadow self secretly longs to be smitten, and bitten.
4. Nosferatu (1922)
Before Christopher Lee was Count Dracula, or Frank Langella played the sexy vampire, we reach deep into the celluloid vault to talk about Nosferatu.
Nosferatu, a classic silent horror movie, is a totally different take on the vampires we know (and love?) from American cinema. In this German Expressionist film from 1922, a version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the famous vampire is called “Nosferatu” and Count Dracula is named “Count Orlok.”
Unlike Frank Langella (or Christopher Lee) this vampire isn’t tall, dark and handsome. Played by the incomparable Max Schreck, Count Orlok is one vampire you won’t want to cuddle up to. Later versions of Dracula present the vampire as an attractive man; here Count Orlok is a hideous monster with sinister claw like fingernails who certainly won’t prompt any sort of sensual awakening in susceptible females…
It’s interesting to see how vampires have been represented on screen throughout the years, and are they a reflection of cultural attitudes and mores?
Nosferatu is pure intellectual horror, creepy in an artsy kind of way.
I enjoy this film because it is an authentic vampire movie that relies on atmosphere and storytelling instead of digitally enhanced special effects. If you’re a fan of the Bram Stoker novel, you need to see Nosferatu.
5. Carnival of Souls (1962)
Can a horror film be beautiful? Carnival of Souls, a 1962 low budget independent horror film directed by Herk Harvey, has a certain haunting beauty that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Carnival of Souls is a story with a lot of soul, proof that you don’t need a lot of money or special effects to make a chilling horror movie. I often wonder why this scary stylish film which has a cult following is overlooked and all but forgotten.
Candace Hilligoss plays Mary, a woman who experiences eerie visions after she survives a car accident. Soon Mary begins hearing strange sounds of organ music and seeing the macabre figure of “The Man.” Then Mary is drawn to an abandoned pavilion where she meets with the ghouls who have been haunting her, culminating in a satisfying ending that sheds light on Mary’s soulful journey.
Carnival of Souls is one of my favorite Halloween movies of all time, along with Ghost Story (1981) and Halloween (1978). I love the film’s terrifying, yet stylish quality. In my opinion, Mary’s detachment from the living could symbolize the restless discontent and feelings of alienation that arise while searching for a sense of identity and one’s rightful place in the world.
Whatever your interpretation of the story, don’t miss this unforgettable masterpiece with surreal images and fine acting.
6. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
There are more zombies than you can possibly handle in this classic horror film that’s gruesome yet surprisingly thought-provoking and stylish.
Directed by George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead is an independent low budget 1968 horror film about a bunch of characters trapped in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse under attack by “the living dead.” One by one, each character in the house meets a grisly demise until one character is left, his fate revealed in a shocking twist at the film’s end.
I’m usually a more hopeful optimistic person, but Night of the Living Dead’s surprising ending made me think the movie’s message could be nihilism—existential nihilism, the view that life is essentially meaningless, or perhaps moral nihilism, the idea that as humans we are capable of all kinds of behavior, even acting like “zombies!”
This film is open to so many interpretations, and that’s what makes it so enduring and fascinating. Definitely see Night of the Living Dead and draw your own conclusions, just don’t watch this classic Halloween movie alone!
Must See Halloween Films:
Only have time for a few Halloween movies? Want to plan a killer movie list for Halloween night? These are my top five must see stylish Halloween films:
- Halloween (1978)
- Ghost Story (1981)
- Night of the Living Dead (1968)
- Carnival of Souls (1962)
- Dracula (1979)
My Ultimate Halloween List. Don’t miss these! Enjoy your Halloween!
(Images: Wikipedia, The Movie Poster Database, lobbycards.net)
Looking for a great film to watch this Halloween season, but tired of the same old “scary movie?” Perhaps the standard Halloween blockbuster, with its predictable storyline (and gruesome violence) isn’t really your thing. If, like me, you are repelled by senseless gore, and you want some style and sophistication with your thrills and chills, check out these six stylish Halloween movies.
The Thinking Person’s Guide to Halloween Movies
The 2007 Halloween remake, written and directed by Rob Zombie, only makes me long for the original. Halloween (1978) starring Jamie Lee Curtis sets the bar for Halloween entertainment (ignore the tedious sequels; the first one is the best!) It is by far one of the best Halloween movies ever, and stands up to repeat viewings due to its suspenseful plot and strong female lead.
The story concerns teenage heroine Laurie (Curtis) who must fight for her life when trapped in the house with killer Michael Myers. The film uses psychological horror to deliver its thrills, and has become a Halloween ritual for me. Don’t watch this one alone (when Jamie Lee reaches for the knitting needle and a clothes hanger, you don’t want to be in the house by yourself!) I guarantee that when the credits roll on this one, wherever you are, you’ll be double checking to see if all the doors are locked.
Practical Magic (1998)
Based on the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman, this beautiful, surreal film stars Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sisters (and witches!) who are misunderstood and ostracized by the inhabitants of their small New England town, because they are “different”: they have the gift of magic.
Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock) is the more serious sister, who refuses to use her powers; she is nicely balanced by her free spirited sister Gillian (Nicole Kidman.) The sisters live with their eccentric aunts (Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest) in a rambling Victorian house, and must battle a centuries old curse: any man who falls in love with an Owens woman meets with an untimely death.
Not only is this a fun tale about a pair of witches, there are inspiring messages about celebrating our gifts, rising above adversity, and finding the courage to love.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
It just isn’t Halloween without some Vincent Price! He stars here as the titular Dr. Phibes, in one of the campiest, creepiest films I have ever seen. Without ever being overly explicit or gruesome, in my opinion, the movie has some extremely scary scenes. The highly stylized art deco design and seventies feel also make the movie a lot of fun to watch.
Giving away too much of the plot might ruin the element of suspense, so I’ll just reveal that Dr. Phibes was severely disfigured in a car accident on the way to see his very ill wife. He discovers that his wife died on the operating room table. He blames the doctors for not saving her life, so he proceeds to murder them in very inventive ways (the murders are patterned after the Ten Plagues of Egypt.)
In one of the most chilling scenes in the movie, Phibes kidnaps the son of one of the doctors, threatening to disfigure the boy with acid if the father cannot save him in time. The film’s ending is equally disturbing, (hmm, something involving embalming fluid?) and those final moments will stay with you for long time. Does Dr. Phibes die? I can’t answer that for you, but he does come back for a sequel (equally campy Dr. Phibes Rises Again…)
The Shining (1980)
You can’t go wrong watching a Stephen King film on Halloween night, and The Shining has become a cult classic, for good reason: the film’s strange images will haunt your memory long after the movie is over (the film’s theatrical poster bills it as a “masterpiece of modern horror.”) Jack Nicholson stars as Jack Torrance, an alcoholic writer who is hired as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel.
When Jack, his wife Wendy (the eerie Shelley Duvall) and his son come to live at the hotel, they are warned they will be snowbound through the winter months, and this might cause them to suffer cabin fever. Sure enough, Jack’s mental condition starts to decline, and he develops the dreaded writer’s block–typing over and over again the same phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” (Writer’s block can be a real killer…)
Jack’s son Danny is telepathic, a power referred to as “the shining.” He keeps seeing visions, such as blood flowing from a hotel elevator (a disturbing image that is repeated throughout the movie.) Danny starts to wonder what happened in Room 237 (does his curiosity have something to do with the fact that the previous caretaker killed his wife and two small children, before ending his own life?)
Soon Jack is wielding an axe and in the film’s thrilling climax, Wendy and Danny are running for their lives through a bizarre landscape that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. The most unsettling aspect to The Shining is that it raises more questions than it answers. Not only does this stylish film deliver scary moments the first time you see it, it is also very thought provoking, and ideal for repeat viewings.
The Birds (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock is the master of elegant, stylish gore. The Birds, starring a then unknown Tippi Hedren, is one of his greatest masterpieces. Hedren stars as Melanie Daniels, a young woman who finds herself repeatedly attacked by birds in the small seaside town of Bodega Bay.
As the film progresses, the attacks become more and more gruesome, involving bird attacks at a schoolyard, a diner and a gas station. As the film reaches its conclusion, Melanie is trapped in a house as the bird’s attack, and watching the tense and claustrophobic scenes, we wonder: will Melanie make it out alive, or will she finally be killed by the birds?
Poor long suffering Tippi Hedren: first Hitch had prop men throw live birds at her for a week while filming the movie’s climactic scenes, then he proceeded to ruin her career after she rejected his advances on the set of their next collaboration Marnie. Like Grace Kelly before her, Hedren typified one of Hitchcock’s “cool blondes.” She was plucked from obscurity by Hitchcock and his wife to star in The Birds, and he involved her in almost every aspect of the production. The Birds is classic Hitchcock and a truly terrifying film (you’ll never look at a phone booth the same way again.)
Ghost Story (1981)
This film, starring the hauntingly beautiful South African actress Alice Krige, is one of my absolute favorites to watch during the Halloween season. In the movie, Krige skillfully plays the dual role of Eva/Alma, a woman who has an important role in the lives of six men, played by Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Craig Wasson (in a dual role.)
The four older actors (Astaire, Douglas, Houseman, and Fairbanks) are members of The Chowder Society, who meet to drink brandy, gather round the fire, and tell each other ghost stories. Many years ago, each man in the group loved a woman named Eva. The tale they never talk about is how the men accidentally killed her.
One of the men has two sons (played by Wasson) and both of them fall in love with a woman named Alma (also played by Krige) who looks a lot like Eva (could there be a vengeful ghost coming back to haunt the elderly gentlemen?)
One by one, the old men start having nightmares before they die…could this be the work of the ghost of Eva, disguised as Alma? Part of the fun of Ghost Story is that it is told in flashbacks, so we get to enjoy period costumes and some very stylish set design. It’s also very enjoyable to watch classic actors like the graceful and elegant Astaire bring some Old Hollywood glamour to the story. The movie’s greatest charm is the stunning Krige: she is so luminous and stylish in the dual role of Eva/Alma that it’s easy to see how six men could fall in love with her!
Ghost Story is scary in a drawing room, smoking jacket kind of way: if you appreciate old fashioned storytelling and psychological horror, this is the film for you (don your smoking jacket, pour yourself a brandy, light the fire, and settle in for Ghost Story…)
There you have it: some Stephen King, a taste of Alfred Hitchcock, two films with that retro seventies vibe, a movie with a bit of Old Hollywood glamour, and a modern adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s novel about a pair of witches.
These movies represent the best type of Halloween fare–intelligent, stylish horror that engages the mind as well as the body. A warning: don’t try to watch all these films in one night, or you probably won’t sleep for a week! (They’re that scary!)
Have fun watching these films, and feel free to come up with your own best list of “Halloween classics.”
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
(Images: Wikipedia, The Movie Poster Database, lobbycards.net, famousfix.com)
Alice Krige has always been one of my favorite actresses, and she stars in Ghost Story (1981) one of my all-time favorite Halloween films! So it seems only fitting that with Halloween upon us, I chose the lovely Alice as our “Photo of the Day.”
(Images: famousfix.com and The Movie Poster Database)