‘Tis the season for Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and every other slasher film favorite.
Halloween gives these movie monsters a PR boost, and understandably so. October is prime time for horror movie watching, and these despicable souls deliver. They usually do it by leaving a long, red streak in their wake.
Yet not every horror movie is a blood-splattered fiesta. Some films hold back on the gore but still get under our skin. Consider the following five movies as prime examples. You don’t need fake blood to get us to the edge of our seats. These horror films prove it.
The Blair Witch Project
Yes, this 1999 sleeper smash is to blame for all the horrible “found footage” films that followed. It’s still a slick exercise in the “more is less” school of horror.
Three student filmmakers head into the woods, camera in hand, to make a movie about a local witch legend. What they find might just scare them to death — with nary a drop of blood in sight.
While 90 percent of “found footage” horror is terrible, this is a welcome exception. Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, THAT Bobcat Goldthwait) directs this sharp indie about a couple who make the terrible decision to go camping in the woods.
Why? He’s a Bigfoot devotee, hoping to visit the same place where classic Sasquatch footage was purportedly shot. She’s patient enough to put up with his whims. Bad move.
The dialogue here isn’t as atrocious as the usual horror fare. Plus, Goldthwait tightens the storytelling screws at all the right times, giving the film an intensity other found footage films lack.
It’s rare for an A-list director to delve into the horror genre. When it happens, the results are often exemplary. Think Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” or Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Here, Roman Polanski trains his camera on a young couple living in a New York apartment building with plenty of character — and possibly a cult with designs on the woman’s unborn child.
Mia Farrow is outstanding as the frightened mamma-to-be, and Polanski captures Big Apple life in a way that makes the terror pop.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
It’s simply one of the best horror remakes ever made. Donald Sutherland stars as a health inspector who suspects his friends and neighbors are no longer themselves. Literally. The sturdy cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy, aided by nimble effects that have aged as well as possible.
Gore isn’t the focus here. It’s paranoia, the kind that can speak to any age about any current problem.
Nicole Kidman anchors this taut Spanish-American production that quickly became a horror favorite. She plays the mother of two children with a rare condition that makes simple sunlight toxic.
The family, minus a father who may have been killed in World War II, gets some good news when a group of former house servants reclaims their old gig after the mysterious disappearance of their regular servants. Only they may not be the only new souls in the family’s Victorian mansion.