A look at some smart, scary and artsy films for your Halloween viewing pleasure

October 27, 2013 

It's the time of year when pumpkin farmers make most of their money, the heirs of Bobby "Boris" Pickett make plans for their annual royalty check for "The Monster Mash" and Netflix gets a lot more orders for horror movies.

With the possible exception teen sex comedies, the horror genre has more schlock than any other, from the unintended laughs in Ed Wood movies to the overly solemn sequels to "The Exorcist."

But there are some cinematic masterpieces in the genre, many of them not as well-known as say "Bride of Chucky," but a lot less bloody and a lot scarier. Here's a selective, subjective and incomplete look at some of the best.

First, though, a note on some omissions. A lot of people would put Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" at the top of this list. I didn't like it, but I always hid my dislike for it until recently when I heard Stephen King say he disliked it, and for precisely the same reasons I did.

And "The Exorcist" isn't here, because while it's the most terrifying movie ever the first time you see it, the pea soup and some of the dialogue that comes from Linda Blair's mouth make it hilarious with repeated viewings.

1. "The Haunting": The scariest haunted-house movie ever. A chilling adaptation of Shirley Jackson's even-more-chilling novel, "The Haunting of Hill House." Literate and philosophical and shot in gorgeous black-and-white by Robert Wise, with luminous performances by Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. Seriously, do not watch this alone at night. Oh, and avoid the 1999 remake.

2. "The Innocents": Adapted from Henry James' novel "The Turn of the Screw," this one stars Deborah Kerr as a Victorian governess to two children with some deep secrets.

3. "The Tenant": Roman Polanski's 1976 film may be more of a thriller than a horror movie, but it's awfully scary, and the last couple of seconds make it jump the line into horror. Polanski plays a meek bureaucrat who rents a room whose previous occupant committed suicide, and he's drawn in a psychological trap. Also stars Melvyn Douglas and Shelley Winters.

4. "Let the Right One In": Maybe the best, and definitely the scariest, vampire movie ever, this 2008 Swedish film revolves around a boy, outcast and bullied, who falls in love with the beauti

ful but strange girl next door. She turns out to be a vampire, and that's just one of her dark secrets. If you're not up for subtitles, try the 2010 American remake, "Let Me In," which is almost as good.

5. "Carnival of Souls": An eerie, very-low budget existential and surrealistic film, this almost-forgotten 1962 cult film has become popular in the past few years thanks to its DVD release. It's dreamy, spooky, not 100 percent satisfying but undeniably unique and effective. Beware the awful 1998 film of the same name.

Almost made the list: "Blair Witch Project," "Burnt Offerings" "Nosferatu" (1922 version); "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" (a black comedy with some real scares); "Rosemary's Baby," "Diabolique," (1955 version) and its excellent TV remake, "Reflections of Murder."

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.

Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service