Yes, an obvious pick for the season, perhaps, but the Jamie Lee Curtis original happens to be screening live for audiences, twice, in a 35th anniversary edition on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Richmond's Movieland at Boulevard Square.
Any early John Carpenter film, from "Assault on Precinct 13" to "The Thing," is a treat with a live audience, but there's something special about "Halloween," all color corrected and restored to its original box-office-shocking glory.
The next time you watch "Scream," another recommendation, you'll know a lot more of the references, and you'll also see why that tongue-in-cheek update to the slasher film is so reverential to Carpenter's film. Buy tickets in advance if you can.
Before you go calling "Halloween" the father of the modern slasher film, don't forget this trailblazing work by master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. A stark departure in tone from his previous success (studios wanted another "North by Northwest"), "Psycho" is, even among Hitchcock's most esteemed films, a landmark work of a genius.
Hitch combined his awareness of new audiences in both the art house and the grind house with his perfectly honed command of the medium, and the result was a prescient reflection of cultural shifts taking place, and of a personality like Norman Bates. Both are seen partly in the purposeful disorganization of traditional movie structure.
The connections to "Halloween" a decade and a half later are unmistakable, but there's much more going on in "Psycho" than well-crafted horror. The film seems to reinvent itself on every subsequent viewing. Definitely one worth owning.
Yes, there is a remake, starring Chloë Grace Moretz. But definitely take a look (before or after) at the Brian De Palma original. The director's early feature is a doozy, a powerful mixture of paranormal freakiness, still the rage after "The Exorcist," and the normal, maybe even scarier kind. They collide in a trio of horror featuring a psychotic mother, a group of malicious small-town teens and the shy but highly powerful psychic (Sissy Spacek) who they unleash with their torment.
Spacek's riveting performance will get the most attention in comparisons to the new version, but the film itself, from its Hitchcockian suspense to the employment of innovative camera lenses and split screen, creates visual tricks and treats that will be difficult for the 2013 version to match. As of this writing, "Carrie" is streaming on Netflix Instant.
4. "Vampire's Kiss"
There may be nothing more frightening in all cinema than Nicolas Cage in full-throated overacting, but sometimes he does it for good reasons. One of those instances is almost certainly the lesser-known cult film "Vampire's Kiss," in which Cage plays a successful literary agent slowly turning into a member of the walking dead. Or is he?
It's best not to know anything more going in, because that slow-burning question provides the glue among a litany of infamous Cage-ian rants and well-worn one-liners. Remember the Cage Rage meme? Much if not most of that montage of over-the-top acting was taken from the indelible "Vampire's Kiss." Don't see this one alone, but not because it's scary. As of this writing the film is streaming online at the Viooz.co.