Courting Creepy: 13 iconic movies – for those in need of a horror foundation – at Halloween (or anytime.)

Introducing Courting Creepy:

The Paranormalist blog, when it comes right down to it, is all about luring a wider audience to my beloved horror genre. This month, I am introducing a new feature – Courting Creepy – which I hope will make the world of the dark and paranormal a little more attractive and accessible to non-hardcore, non-typical fans.

Click to go to the page ‘o lists.

In his book about the horror genre, Danse Macabe, Stephen King wrote about the distinctions between (1) the gross-out, (2) horror and (3) terror:

“The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

Though we still call this genre horror, many recent horror movies (including torture-porn films like Hostel) seem more inclined to slop some gross-out our way rather than to strive to terrorize us – which is profitable, I guess, but not for me. I prefer to pursue terror and settle for horror. With that in mind, Courting Creepy is intended to be a catalog of movies (and other media) for people who enjoy the fantastic, the darkly beautiful, the suspenseful, the eerie and, yes, the creepy, even as they (generally) avoid gratuitous violence, gore or splatter. (Bloody films will occasionally appear, but I will warn you.)

Each list in Courting Creepy will have a suggested audience right in the title of the post. All the lists will be gathered onto a page, accessed via a tab, on the main page of my blog. As the lists appear, please let me know if I’m hitting my targets squarely, and feel free (even compelled) to make suggestions for inclusions. (Just remember that 13 is the magic number … for every one that needs to go on, one will have to come off. Delightfully brutal, yes?)

Note: Some films will appear on multiple lists, because some films are awesome that way.

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13 iconic movies – for those in need of a horror foundation – at Halloween (or anytime.)

To kick things off, on this first day of October, I thought I’d put up a sort of primer for those that are new to horror … and for those who missed some of the older films that are absolutely essential to appreciating the evolution of the genre. (These movies are where the horror tropes came from, folks.) Working your way through these classics will enable you to understand – even be “in on” – later examples of homage and parody.

For the most part, the following films will not gross you out, horrify you, or terrorize you. Some of them are much slower paced than our modern sensibilities are accustomed to. They are ideal for evenings of making Halloween costumes or carving pumpkins … or even drifting off to sleep. (Except Alien. Alien is freakin’ scary.)

Special note for film and history buffs: If you can find a copy which includes commentary by a film historian (for those very early films especially) you might be delighted by all that you learn.

Frankenstein (USA, 1931)
— Take a good look at some of the surreal settings.
Dracula (USA, 1931)
— Special acknowledgement for creepiest secondary character: Renfield.
Bride of Frankenstein (USA, 1935)
— Special acknowledgement for villain with the weirdest hobby: Dr. Pretorius.
The Wolfman (USA, 1941)
— Some damn sharp dialog goes on here:
Jenny Williams: Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
Larry Talbot: [after hearing it twice already] You know that one too ah?
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
— Special acknowledgement for worst mom: Sally Withers.
Psycho (USA, 1960)
— Special acknowledgement for best performance by an inanimate object: TIE Taxidermied Birds and Dangling Light Bulb.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
— You doubt me? Watch it again. It’s all there: children too often left to their own devices, disturbing sexual subtext in the backdrop, the scary house just down the block, a Halloween pageant, a scary walk through the woods, and a ghost named Boo.
The Haunting (1963)
— Watch for the ridiculously creepy scene involving the bedroom door … and for the house, which is amazing.
Night of the Living Dead (USA, 1968)
— Don’t lump this one in with the graphic zombie films that follow. This movie is the very definition of horror … and well worth watching, for the wonderful early graveyard scene and the girl in the basement, if for nothing else.   Even if you have to cover your eyes through the few gross (really gross) scenes.
Halloween (USA, 1978)
— The plot of this movie is almost beside the point. (Though Micheal is the blueprint for many who would follow.) This film is about the music and the seasonal visuals. (Some blood and gore.)
Alien (Great Britain, 1979)
— Special acknowledgement for best performance by a cat: Jones.
By the way, this is not a sci-fi movie; this is a classic, genuinely frightening, monster movie meets haunted house movie … in spa-a-a-ce.  (Remember, it is gruesome in parts.)
The Shining (USA, 1980)
— Special acknowledgement for strangest apparently non sequitur scene in any of these films: the guy in the dog suit with the other guy. (It only seems random in the film. It’s straight out of the book, guys.)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (USA, 1984)
— Special acknowledgement for most over-achieving, unnecessarily creative villain: Freddy Kruger. (Some blood and gore.)

Best bet for Halloween night: Halloween

Photo credit: What I am (classic movie posters) by Damian Gadal
The image has been cropped, converted to black & white, and layered under an information block.


25 Comments on “Courting Creepy: 13 iconic movies – for those in need of a horror foundation – at Halloween (or anytime.)”

  1. LordByrum says:

    Love your list! Though I would replace To Kill a Mockingbird with The Blob.

  2. LordByrum says:

    Also need some House On Haunted Hill!!

  3. ‘The Haunting’ is one of my favourite films of all time. I still shudder when I watch it!

  4. Excellent list of 13 (why 13?). I will have to check out, To Kill A Mocking Bird. I know I had seen it a real long time ago, but do not remember it.

    • To Kill a Mockingbird is a controversial choice for this list. It isn’t a horror movie, and there are many classic spookers that I’ve left off. Still, there’s just something about it that gets me right where I live. See it when you get a chance, and let me know what you think.

      Oh. 13 selections because, well, just because 🙂 A top-ten seemed too normal, and 13 seemed manageable as well as slight creepy.

  5. Hunter Shea says:

    I’m with you on every movie except Nightmare on Elm Street. I’d put Texas Chainsaw Massacre in its place.

    • I actually considered it. I think you can guess that I’m less fond of the maniac serial killer sub-genre than the paranormal-based monster-type BUT, I do think the original Chainsaw is a damn creepy film … creepier than Nightmare.

  6. The list is great. I remember as a kid watching To Kill a Mocking Bird and being entirely scared.-it’s a classic. Although,I can’t ever go into the woods again without thinking about Friday the 13th.

  7. Robyn says:

    Psycho, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Night of the Living Dead are definitely films people need to watch if they haven’t already. Those are four that stand out in my mind, along with a few others.

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