Sunday, October 31, 2010

My favourite horror picks for Halloween!

Halloween in my part of the town has been quiet – except for the occasional drunken hoots of teenagers. However, the weather seems to be in accordance with the spirit of Halloween – gloomy, grey with a constant drizzle. I am well stocked with popcorn; and all I need to do is get the scary DVDs out for a cosy evening.

I’ve always been a fan of horror movies – not the yucky Evil Dead types – but the more psychological ones; the ones that can stir a fear in you and make you sleep with the lights on.

Here are some of my favourite picks (in ‘ascending’ order – least scary to most scary. Nonetheless, all ARE scary.) I’ve included trailers too!

• There is a Kannada movie called ‘Naa Ninna Bidalaare’ (literal translation – I will never leave you... LOL!) It’s a simple storyline – a girl is spurned by a guy (she has a crush on him, he loves someone else). She tries to seduce him, but he throws her out of his house. She raves and rants, and meets with an accident. Yeh, she dies. And comes back to haunt the guy. Ananth Nag is the possessed one. There is no extraordinary makeup for Nag. Yet, he was S.C.A.R.Y. The screenplay is fantastic. The movie came out in 1980s I think; first of its kind as far as I know and it was a rage. Possibly the scariest scene – on the first night of his wedding, Nag goes into a kind of trance and sleepwalks to the graveyard where the spurned girl is buried. I think he kind of crawls up to her grave when the ghost ‘possesses’ him. And then, ‘intermission’ was announced evoking a collective, frustrated gasp in the theatre. I did not find a trailer – but here is a song from the movie -

• Turn of the screw – Henry James novella. The story is about a governess who looks after two children; and there is something very strange and very scary about these two angelic kids. Set in the English countryside, in a typical manor – the story moves in a brooding pace, gripping you by the throat. There is a T.V. version too, but it was not as powerful as the book. Trailer -

• Hound of Baskervilles – the most captivating Sherlock Holmes story. I love the Jeremy Brett T.V. version (in fact, I don’t think anyone else can ever replace him as Holmes.) The moors, the fog and mist, the legend of the hound...all so very haunting. I think the entire episode in on youtube. Here is the first part as a teaser!

• Picnic At Hanging Rock – this cannot be classified as horror in the ‘modern’ sense. Based on a novel written by Joan Lindsay, this movie has a haunting narration, and the ‘open ending’ leaves you frustrated, a bit scared, and the story lodges in your brain for ages. The story is disarmingly simple. Set in Australia, a group of teenage girls, studying (and boarding) in strict convent, are taken out for a picnic to Hanging Rock (Australia). Four girls (or was it three?) vanish into thin air. It is never revealed what happened at Hanging Rock. The movie narration is languid, the setting of the Australian bush seeps into your bones as you watch the young, carefree girls go on their picnic. You are eaten away by the curiosity...what exactly happened to those girls? What is wrong with that place? Truly, truly a classic! A work of art! Oh, by the way – the music thrums your soul. Here’s the trailer -

• Cujo – This Stephen King’s novel is a million times scarier than the movie. After reading the book, the goddamn dog was barking inside my head. The movie has tried to remain faithful to the book; but the intensity is lost. It’s about a rabid dog. Enough said. Go read. Trailer -

• Stigmata – I love this one! A stigmatic is a person who suffers physical injuries that resemble the crucifixion wounds of Christ. Such a person is usually extremely devout. So why does a punk hair dresser in Pittsburgh suddenly become a stigmatic? Patricia Arquette plays the stigmatic, and Gabriel Byrne is the priest who comes to investigate. I thought Arquette was brilliant, and I loved the rock score for the movie. The narration is fast paced, the screenplay is edgy. The chemistry between Arquette and Byrne is subtle, yet strong enough to burn the screen. Trailer -

• Exorcism of Emily Rose – loved this one. A legal twist to an exorcism! A girl dies during an exorcism. The priest is charged with homicide. Laura Linney (the beautiful Linney who acted in Congo and Primal Fear) defends the priest. Was the girl, Emily Rose, really possessed, or was she just psychotic resulting in those horrible body contortions? Did she really need psychiatric help? Could the girl have been saved through exorcism? Did modern psychiatric medicines hinder the exorcism process? Gripping courtroom drama – and the horror scenes are enough to make you scream! Trailer -

• Rosemary’s Baby – based on a novel of the same name by Ira Levin (author of Stepford Wives, Sliver – yeh the hot Sharon Stone, William Baldwin starrer); the story is about a young couple who move into an old apartment in New York. At first, they seem to have rather odd neighbours, old but endearing in a parental kind of way. Soon, Rosemary realizes there is something wrong with her neighbours – they are probably not just the genial elderly couple she made them out to be. They are way too interfering, way too nosy. The book is one of those rare ones which you have to finish at one go even if it means you hold your pee. That you will be too scared to run across to the bathroom is another matter. The movie, directed by Roman Polanski was really good. But the book is better. The trailer sucks.

• Dracula aaah! I loved the book better than the movie. The book takes possession of your mind and body. From the first page to the finish line, you cannot but hold your breath. None of the vampire movies or stories of today can ever reach the intensity of this original Bram Stoker classic. And to think this masterpiece came out in 1897! I liked the movie (1992 version)...but it was more sensual than horror. Nonetheless, it is Francis Ford Coppola so the direction was perfect. But I did not feel the desperation of Mina Harker...or the horror of Jonathan Harker as he watches the Count scale the wall like a lizard. The movie has an impressive star cast – Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Winona Rider, and Gary Oldman as the Count (Gary has acted as Sirius Black in Potter movies). Trailer -

• The Shining – based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, this movie is absolutely terrifying. As far as I am concerned, this is the best screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novels. Directed by Stanley Kubrick no less, Jack Nicholson had me cringing. The story is simple, the horror bone-chilling. Jack Nicholson accepts a job as a care taker for a sprawling hotel during the off-season months. The hotel is located in a remote location, and is cut off from civilization during brutal winter months. So once the hotel shuts down, it’s just Jack, his wife and his little boy. It was just too horrifying to watch the loving, gentle Jack Nicholson transform into an absolute psychotic maniac. I promised myself never to step into sprawling hotels ....yewwww! Trailer -

• Misery – another Stephen King masterpiece. Another brilliant adaptation on the screen. The story is about a famous writer Paul Sheldon (played by James Caan) who meets with an accident during a blizzard. He is saved by a middle-aged woman Anne Wilkes (Kathy Bates – scariest villain I’ve come across!) who happens to be his ardent admirer. Well...luckily for the writer, this woman who is his fan, is also an ‘ex-nurse’. So yeah, she takes care of him real well. Until he realizes that he is a prisoner in her house. She’s every famous person’s nightmare – not the average psycho stalker. Oh no! She’s the woman-next- door, all warm and good-natured and caring...who will do everything in her power to keep you with her. The scariest scene – she breaks Sheldon’s legs (was it with a hammer?) when she comes to know that he tried to escape. Oh. My. God. Bates was nominated for an Oscar for her performance I think. Trailer

• The Omen - undoubtedly rocks! Based on David Seltzer’s novel, the storyline is so powerful and believable. The fact that it is based on a line in the Book of Revelations adds credibility to the plot. So far, we’ve been used to ‘adult’ villains. Who could ever think of a chubby, cherubic baby as evil? And that is where Omen packed the atomic bomb shock value. Mrs. Baylock as Damien’s governess was kickass scary. The scariest scene – the graveyard scene where Gregory Peck and the photographer are chased by those horrid heart really stopped beating! Trailer -

• The Exorcist – so far, no movie has matched the horror depicted in this one. The terror is absolute and complete. Based on the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty, the story is about a 13-year old girl who is possessed by Satan himself; and the subsequent exorcism. I could not get past even half the novel; I found some of the details so vile and revolting. But the movie is a clear winner with the taut screenplay, guaranteed to stretch your nerves to the limit. Perhaps what really worked for me is the absence of horror clich├ęs – dead body in bathtubs and faces appearing on the mirror and idiotic background score. This was in-your-face physical presence of the devil himself, in the battered body of a thirteen-year old, mocking you, taunting you, scaring the hell out of you. Trailer -

Oh! And Boo to you!

Image courtesy - // - that's the poster for The Exorcist.

©Sumana Khan - 2010 


  1. absolutely lovely and well timed post! I have been meaning to write about the genre myself and reading this one makes me want to get off my laziness :)

    I love this genre and like you said.. it's not the blood.. but the menace that is more enticing!

    Out of the movies you listed.. I am a fan of The exorcist... it came in the 70s and it can give any, absolutely any horror movie a run for its money! Emily, though recent and similar in story just doesn't match upto the exorcist :)

    And yeahhh, the wild dogs scene in the Omen is one of the finest ever... that scene alone was enough to give me the goosebumps!

    I suggest you watch The Others too. I think it's one of the best movies ever made...

    Also check out a spanish movie by the name of "The Orphanage".. again, a treat for horror flick fans :)

  2. @Mukta - perhaps I should send you a copy of my book ...would love to read your review since you love the genre!

    I agree - nothing can match Exorcist. But those japanese horror flicks can be real mean. yuck!

    I've seen THe Others - Kidman right? I liked it in a Sixth Sense kind of way. But it did not make me jump up and stay awake. Will try and get a copy of the Spanish one you've mentioned.

  3. Yes, the others is more of a psycho/thriller/horror combined. Again, the sixth sense was good too :)

    Infact, if u remember Junoon, the hindi movie (Rahul Roy).. won't call it a horror flick.. but it was quite terrifying when it came out!

    Japanese - I have just seen the Grudge.. and somehow.. was disappointed.. do u have other recommendations?

    I would love to read your book :)

  4. I remember Junoon - he turns into a tiger (instead of a werewolf)...right?

    the original japanese version of The Grudge, The Ring..are quite terrifying.

    check out the link for my novel and let me know if it interests you!

  5. The blurb was quite interesting and I would love to read this one! :)

    Just makes me think.. just how much research did you have to do for the book?? Though you are from Karnataka... yet.. this is a massive project! How long did you take to write the first version? Were there edits?

    Another reason I want to try out the book (though unrelated to the plot).. is Vijaynagar! This post is the reason :

  6. Spooktacular list ! Will check out the ones I have missed. I agree, exorcist is the spookiest.

    Talking of Ananth Nag, there was this hindi movie called 'Geharayee' (starring Nag, Amrish Puri and a youn Padmini Kholapuri).Have you seen it?

    @Mukta..I highly recommend Sumana's novel...gripping and gave me the chills . And yes , the research..!

    Sumana, I wish one of our kannada film makers gets a hold of your script !

  7. Naa ninna bidalare is a horror movie? I thought it was a comedy. hehehe.. :D But loved Anant Nag though. :)
    By the way, Upendra's 'Sshhh' and RGV's Bhoot were good, weren't they?
    Exorcist and the lot were funny too, but I think they were scary when they were released back then.

    The best in the list for me is The Shining. I watched it recently. It's one helluva movie really. Even those scenes where the boy peddles his tricycle in the house is creepy. "Here's Johny". ;)

    Haven't watched a few. Thanks for the list. :)

    Well, I've not read a single Stephen King novel. Could you recommend some of his top books please? You know, the kind of books that scare the hell out of you. :)

  8. Great site! Continue the good posts.

  9. @Mukta - I referred to a book called 'A forgotten empire (vijayanagar) written by Robert Sewell.It includes the chronicles of portugese travellers - Domingo Paes (1520) and Fernao Nuniz (1535). My reference was more from a 'way of life' perspective, and also the events of battle of thalikote. I checked out the link you sent...and it Lonely Planet's take is indeed amusing!

  10. @Ranjana - yes, I have watched Gehrayee. It was very disturbing. And thanks for the kind words regarding my book. My only worry with sandalwood, bollywood - they might make the ghost do item numbers!

  11. @Karthik - the only way i can find Exorcist funny is if i get stoned. Bhoot - I found it good. But could not help comapre many scenes with sixth sense and exorcist. I actually found RGV's Raat more captivating!

    Stephen King - my favourites - Carrie, Cujo, Christine, It, Bag of Bones. You must start off with Cujo.

  12. @Anonymous - my mystery reader...thank you!

  13. Gosh! You are morbid!
    Thanks for the list of movies that I can keep a safe distance from.

    I hate horror movies and avoid them.
    Why pay to get frightened?
    I have seen a few but did not know they were horror movies!
    Even the suspense scenes in the average movie makes me bite my finger nails!

    I love Hrishikesh Mukherjee films.

    1. :) gosh! my debut novel is a paranormal thriller!!

  14. Wow, nice list! Am bookmarking them and will read books for those I can find and movies for the rest! Nice blog, loving all your posts.