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The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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Countdown to Halloween | The 5 best horror movies 

As spooky season kicks off, here are five classic scary movies to keep you up at night
Gabe Santos
Halloween is not just a time to drink pumpkin spice lattes and pick out costumes for trick-or-treating; it’s also a time to watch scary movies — and these five movies are essential viewing this time of year.

In the month where we celebrate all things scary, a common tradition is curling up with a blanket, some popcorn, turning off all the lights, and watching a good scary movie. Whether it is a psycho in a hockey mask or a haunted house or a murderous alien in deep space, there are plenty of movies to choose from to keep you up at night. These particular five, however, are guaranteed to keep you looking over your shoulder (that is, if your eyes are not glued to the screen).


5: “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”

Starting off the list with probably the most disturbing mainstream film that would not be considered “snuff,” this independent passion project filmed in the uncomfortable heat of the Texas summer in 1978 depicts a nightmare scenario from the dark mind of Toby Hooper. 

The film follows an unfortunate group of teens who stumble upon a demented cannibal family in middle-of-nowhere Texas, the most memorable of which being chainsaw wielding youngest brother, Leatherface. 

The filming of the movie could be a scary tale on its own, with many cast members recalling long shoot days, heat, and particularly in the iconic dinner scene, a stench of rotting food. That uncomfort makes its way into the grainy, homespun, almost grindhouse feeling of the movie that only adds to the terror. Surprisingly though, very little blood is present in the film, and despite its low budget, the cinematography is artistic and professional, allowing the movie to tow the line between snuff and art. 


4: “The Shining”

Iconic director Stanley Kubrick, known for films like “Full Metal Jacket” and “A Clockwork Orange” ventured into horror for the first time with “The Shining.” Being an adaptation of a novel by horror author Steven King, writer of “It” and “The Green Mile,” one would expect this film to be a masterclass in horror, but when it was first released it was not received that way. 

The film is centered around the Torrence family who have offered to take care of the Overlook Hotel during its off season. The patriarch, Jack (played by Jack Nicholson in debatably his most iconic role) is influenced by the dark spirits in the hotel to kill his family, who has to escape. The plot offers a promising blend of psychological and practical horror but despite it, critics and audiences hated the film when it came out. 

In particular, Shelly Duval, who played Wendy Torrance, got serious flack for her “annoying” performance in the film. However over the years this movie has garnered the reputation it deserves. 

Like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the process was brutal, with Kubrick being infamous for making his actors do a ridiculous amount of takes, and controversy even stirred over his treatment of Duval on set, being accused of “emotional torment” and “bullying” (though since, Duval has defended Kubrick on multiple occasions). 

This maddening process aided in the atmosphere of the film, and with performances like Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duval at the forefront, and iconic images like Jack in the snow, the Brady sisters, even the carpet print of the overlook, this movie became a cult classic and a must watch. 


3: “Scream”

While many dark creations that Wes Craven came up with over his years as a horror staple could have ended up on this list, like that of “Nightmare On Elm Street,” “Scream” seems to be his magnum opus. 

The film is a classic “who did it?” set in a high school, with an iconic twist ending. This film was first of its kind, being the first movie to have the characters acknowledge tropes of the genre as meta-dialogue. Scream acted as a commentary on the genre itself, and this blend of parody and genuine horror (as well as perfect character writing) made the movie a masterpiece.

In particular, the iconic performances of Neve Campbell as final girl Sydney Prescott , Skete Ulrich and (would be Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame) Matthew Lillard as the twist killers, and Courtney Cox and David Arquette, make this movie truly memorable. Its lightheartedness despite its dark subject matter make it a perfect film to sit down with some friends and have a movie night for. 


2: John Carpenter’s “The Thing”

Special effects are a key component to many horror movies, and the prize for best special effects definitely goes to this film. However, it shines in all components beyond that.

“The Thing” follows a team of arctic scientists who uncover an alien encased in ice. The alien has the ability to take the shape of anything it kills, and it begins taking the shape of some of the scientists. The paranoia is the scariest part of all, as you never know who is “The Thing” and who is not. 

John Carpenter (who will appear on this list again) is a master of suspense, and his ability to intertwine the maximalism of the gore that the tichilar “thing” causes and the minimalism of the human paranoia amongst the survivors is perfect and leads the viewer on a rollercoaster that they will never forget. This film is one you go back to and notice something new every time, and it is worth heavy analysis. 


1: “Halloween”

The first modern slasher film and the quintessential horror flick, this indie movie by the aforementioned John Carpenter is unlike any other in the manner that it set so many trends filmmakers have tried to imitate. Its miniscule budget only adds to the small town feel– as if the movie’s events could happen even to you.

It follows escaped mental patient Micheal Myers as he goes on a killing spree throughout his hometown of Haddonfield ,Ill. on Halloween night. Before this film, evil was always something that the characters stumbled upon. Whether it be a crazed family in the Texas countryside, an unassuming hotel, or an alien encased in ice, the villain was always something that the characters discovered through their own actions. Now, the killer was coming to them, and it was horrific. 

However this movie is nothing without the music, literally. Test screenings of the film had no music at all and numerous audiences said it was not scary, even boring, without any music. Carpenter developed the iconic original score, and the melody is enough to scare a viewer even with little gore and little action until the final act. All you need to know is Micheal is somewhere lurking whenever you hear his theme. 

While Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as Laurie Strode is iconic in its own right, Donald Pleasence as Micheal’s crazed psychiatrist Sam Loomis deserves a particular shout out. His cold, panicked, and fearful descriptions of Micheal sell the myth of “The Shape.” 

All in all, the movie “Halloween” will leave you feeling eyes watching from the dark, hearing footsteps where there are not any, and even hearing a breath over your shoulder any night, let alone all hallows eve, and is undoubtedly the greatest horror movie of all time.

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