It’s All Hallow’s Eve! And to celebrate the dark holiday, we’re looking at the top 31 horror films to make Halloween even scarier. Raven is going to countdown the best, the goofy, the terrible and the macabre to help make your holiday rock!
Check out the first four films of Raven’s top 31 below!
31. The Haunting
The Haunting of Apartment 6
For those not familiar with the story, the film is (very) loosely based on the Haunting of Hill House, written by Shirley Jackson and published in 1959. The book is written from the perspective of Nell, who, by the end of the book, may or may not be mentally disturbed, leaving readers wondering whether or not the supernatural events that unfolded in the book actually happened or not. The movie is far less subtle, wandering more into fantasy and leaving no room for misinterpretation. Nell is not crazy, the house is haunted, although for a chunk of the film the other characters question her mental state because if someone told you they discovered secrets by being led to a secret passage after following footprints in blood would you think they were sane? No, you probably wouldn’t.
In the 1999 film, Nell (Lili Taylor), Theo (Catherine Zeta Jones), and Luke (Owen Wilson) travel to Hill House in order to participate in a study on sleep disorders being led by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson). Nell is troubled after dedicating more than 10 years to her sick mother, who recently died, and is still haunted by her memory. Through the spirits of children in the house, Nell is given clues to the history of the house and how she fits into it, although a more malevolent spirit wants her there as well.
I saw this movie for the first time last October. While I’m not a huge fan of many of the casting choices, it is always fun to see where these actors, that have been so type-casted now, began.
I’ve always been a sucker for haunted house movies and the setting in this house was certainly not lacking. The entire set was absolutely gorgeous, yet still has the inherent there’s-something-a-little-off-here element. I love seeing the way that the director built the house, itself, as a character. The concept of The Haunting is definitely an interesting one. I love that not only are our “victims” ignorant of the house’s malevolence, but also the professor who is there to observe them.
I do wish they’d relied a little less on CG and used a few more practical effects to achieve the scary moments, but I feel that even the CG achieved its purpose. Other than that, the only thing that I wish I could have seen from this movie was a little more of a build in the scariness factor for more than just the main character. I would have loved to see the other characters have things happen to them that they either ignored, or talked themselves out of being real.
However, if you’re looking for 90s camp in a horror setting, this is definitely a movie for you. I put this movie on the same scary-scale as Chucky. I give it one and a half spooks.
P.S. – I want to raid Catherine Zeta-Jones’s character’s closet from this movie. Her outfits were gorgeous.
My Debit Card is Scarier Than You
Remember that time Alice Eve was in a horror movie? No? Good. It wasn’t worth watching. Yes, our beloved Star Trek: Into Darkness star had her horror debut in a 2012 film entitled ATM.
ATM revolves around 3 characters who get trapped in an ATM booth on Christmas by a hooded figure who stalks them from outside. After just creeping them out by staring at them ominously from outside the ATM, our hooded figure does actually manage to kill a guy walking his dog in our abandoned-parking-lot-setting. Where the dog goes after this encounter? No one knows. It was never seen or mentioned again. He also manages to kill a security guard and stand around ominously for another hour or so. Eventually Josh Peck decides to make a run for it – which should have worked, since he is no longer fat – but no such luck. He trips over something and then gets stabbed with a screwdriver. Alice Eve manages to die in the least awesome way possible. While trying to set off the fire alarm (which had to wait until almost the end of the movie, because the practical solution is never the first thing that comes to horror victims) guy-who-is-not-Josh-Peck slips and she hits her head and dies.
There is a minor subplot where the-guy-who-isn’t-played-by-Josh-Peck has a thing for Alice Eve, but it goes no where, and it really isn’t that important to the story other than as something for the characters to talk about when they aren’t staring at the hooded figure. It’s one of those movies where the plot isn’t even interesting enough to learn that character names.
I have a few major issues with this movie. The first being that they make plot points and then don’t use them. For example, our victims made a big deal at one point about the fact that the front door wasn’t locked and the killer didn’t know about it. BUT THEN THEY DID NOTHING WITH IT. At one point, the killer even seemed to notice that they’d re-entered the ATM without using a card and then… proceeded to do nothing with it. I get it. Maybe he had better plans, but then don’t bring it up and not use it. You’re just teasing your audience at that point. Another example is when our hooded killer manages to cut the power in the ATM, which definitely could have led to a very interesting change in dynamic, only to have the lights come back on again 30 seconds later. Why bother cutting the power if you aren’t going to use it to terrorize our victims? I get that it would have taken away the killer’s advantage of being able to see them better than they can see you, but then why do it at all?
My other issue is with our victims’ characters, themselves. I get that you don’t need to flesh them out all that much. It is a horror movie after all, and if we like them too much, we might actually be upset when they die instead of cheering. However, do we have to make them so stupid? Even after the-guy-who-is-not-Josh-Peck discovers that the killer has made his car no longer a viable means of escape AND another car is provided for them (via the death of the security guard), when they make a break for it, do our victims run for the car that still has its keys in the ignition? No. They go for the gutted car that wouldn’t take them ten feet, never mind to somewhere safe. Another lovely moment of stupidity from our victims actually ends up leading to Alice Eve’s death. After losing the only working debit card in the ATM booth, the victims have a conversation about setting off the fire alarm. They decide not to do it, and then after Josh Peck has been killed AND there is freezing water all over the floor, Alice Eve and the-guy-who-is-not-Josh-Peck decide to actually set off the fire alarm by making a human ladder with a wastebasket of paper on fire. While this is a solid plan until guy-who-is-not-Josh-Peck slips and literally brains Alice Eve on a shelf, it would have been an even more solid plan if they’d done it when it was first mentioned and could have used Josh Peck as a spotter. Oh yeah. And Josh Peck wouldn’t have had to die (as much fun as that was).
I do like that the writers did their research about the reverse pin hoax. It has become a common urban legend (since a 2006 chain email) that if you enter you ATM pin backwards it will allow you to withdraw money while summoning police. Although some states and counties are trying to implement this system, as of 2012, when this film was released it was still a hoax. Alice Eve does mention this urban tale in the film, and, lo and behold, when the characters try it, nothing happens.
Sadly, while this film does play with an interesting concept, the direction and execution do not help the writing out enough to make it scary. It gets zero spooks.
29. Stay Alive
Was it Real? Or All Just a Video Game?
I was really excited to watch Stay Alive. It combines so many of my favorite things: video games, murder, and a legend based on one of my favorite historical figures, Countess Bathory. I’d almost watched this one last October, but failed to because I felt that it deserved better viewing quality than my laptop screen. Boy, was I wrong.
The premise is that there is a video game where when you die in the game, you will die in real life. Yes, it is a little more complicated than that. The film starts off with a few, mostly-unimportant people playing our evil video game. They get killed off and the plot actually gets kicked in motion when one of their best friends gets given the video game by the deceased’s sister (consolation prize?). Said friend, Hutch, decides that a whole bunch of people should play the video game in the deceased’s honor (because I don’t know about you, but the best way to remember a friend is not by bringing up their accomplishments or reminiscing about their life, but by the mindless games they played to pass the time). They all recite a semi-ominous chant to start off, and the group starts playing. Eventually, they discover that when someone dies in the game, they get killed the same way in real life. Oh, and for some unexplained reason, wild roses repel ghosts.
After quite a few unnecessary and wishing-they-could-be-gratuitous-in-a-PG-13-rating deaths, the survivors discover how to get the ghost of the Countess Bathory, who has been killing everyone, off their back, and our protagonist faces his fears to save everyone.
Of course, then, once everyone thinks they’re safe, we get an ending that R.L. Stine would be proud of, as the game is shown being released to the public for mass consumption.
While the characters and the writing could have used a little tightening up, the writing and the ridiculous premise were actually not my biggest problem with this film. I could have gotten to that if I’d been able to get past the fact that half the time while watching the movie I couldn’t tell whether the characters were in the video game or IRL.
They over CGI-ed so many things happening in the “real world” that a few times I had to pause and Wikipedia which world a certain scene was taking place in. The in-game graphics were pretty cool, though. I just wish they’d either spent less money on crappy CGI for the “real world” or more money so the CGI was good enough that it wasn’t so blatantly bad CGI. There were a few decent visual effects houses out there by 2006 for the right price.
While this horror flick does lose a lot of believability in its bad CGI, the filmmakers did do a pretty decent job of setting the tone, especially within the game, itself. Between the creepy lighting and the heavy silence, there were a few scenes that had me almost on the edge of my seat. I don’t know if it is due to me watching Stay Alive at 4am, but I will even admit to jumping a few times at scares in this film.
Although I do wish they hadn’t quite twisted the Countess Bathory legend as much as they did (Trust me. She is perfectly creepy enough in history’s telling of it), I do appreciate that she got some love as the villain of this piece. Unfortunately she is not enough to give this film more than three spooks.
28. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Can I Just Have All of Their Masks?
I need to stop putting off certain movies until next October. Some of them aren’t worth the wait, while others, I wish I had never waited for. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon certainly falls in the latter category.
This film takes place in a world where all of our fictional serial killers like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers are all real and still upping their body counts. A documentary team follows Leslie Vernon as he solidifies his legend and is about to go on his first murder spree to take his place with those greats. The documentary team, led by Taylor Gentry, watches Leslie pick his first group of victims, show up a few times to spook them, and rig the house to his advantage for his final killing spree. At this point Taylor and the rest of her team grow a conscience and decide to try to save the group of teenagers, which slots them to become victims in Leslie’s spree, themselves.
I adore the concept behind this movie, as well as the chance to see what the great horror figures could be like, behind the scenes. The amount of thought and detail Leslie puts into his plans is meticulous and his analysis of the terrified mind is shown to be spot on. The guest appearance of Robert Englund did nothing to make me love this movie less. And while I had been spoiled to the film’s twist ending, it didn’t make it any less awesome.
Leslie’s character, himself, was one of my favorite parts of the film. He is the perfect blend of quirky, to make you love him, and psychopathic, to make you believe he would really slaughter dozens of innocent teenagers, as well as turn on the rest of the main cast when they stopped following his plan. His acrobatics and his aesthetic choices in both outfits and make-up were the perfect blend of straight up spooky and twisted to fit him right in with the horror greats. The setting he chose was perfectly spooky and legend-making. From the mist filled apple orchard, to the somehow-well-kept abandoned house, it became obvious that if all went according to plan, this would not be Leslie’s only rodeo. His mask was my absolute favorite part, though. I wish I had one to scare all of my friends on Halloween.
While the writing could have used a little tightening, my main issue with this film is the abrupt change in style when the documentary crew stops going along with Leslie’s plan. Up until that point, the entire film had been shot as found footage from the documentary crew, with the exception being when Leslie would spell out his plan. As soon as the crew decides to stop being a part of his murderous plan, the style of the film switches to the traditional third-person shooting style. When I was watching the movie, it actually took me out of the story and I had to re-adjust to it before I could get back into the film. It would have been better to either shoot the entire thing third-person, with interjecting shots of what the documentary cameras were seeing, or to have each of the documentary crew members retain their cameras and finish the film found-footage style.
All in all, this is one of my favorite films that I have watched this October. I give it three spooks.
Don’t forget to check back for more of Raven’s scary delights!
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