Looking to get into the Halloween spirit? Stick with the classics

Candace Hilligoss as Mary Henry in Carnival of Souls (1962).


Candace Hilligoss as Mary Henry in Carnival of Souls (1962).

Reanna Comiso, Features Editor

With the turn of the season comes a want for all things horrifying. Thanks to the various streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, a plethora of horror movies are right at our fingertips, just in time for Halloween. The catch? Most of them are a cheesy mess. To absorb the full essence of Halloween, sticking with the classics of the horror genre is a sure-fire way to get your adrenaline fix.

The horror genre has evolved from its early foundations. Modern horror encompasses all things bloody and terrifying, with a heavy emphasis on computer-generated imagery and special effects. Classic horror films tend to rely less on jump scares and more on the simplicity of suspense and mystery. The suggestion of the macabre was enough to get people on the edge of their seat with feelings of anticipation and fear.

I have definitely seen my fair share of horror movies throughout the years. No matter how scary movies that I watch, I always go back to the same few. These are the movies that I deem essential for the Halloween season, sure to give the audience a few chills.

“Carnival of Souls” (1962), directed by Herk Harvey, was one of the first movies of its kind. This horror movie was the start of the psychological horror movie wave that grew in the years to come.

The movie begins with the death of two women as their car sinks in a river, while a third woman survives. Since the incident, she tries to move on and begin a new life as a church organist in Utah. But she encounters a strange man who follows her and attracts her to a deserted pavilion, where she encounters a crowd of ghostly spirits.

The movie is not scary in the way many modern movies are scary. Instead, it elicits a general feeling of unease for the entirety of its 78 minutes. The film is slower-paced, but it includes good acting and plenty of interesting visuals, especially when the strange man appears. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” it is a movie that was way ahead of its time. It is not inherently scary, but it will definitely creep you out.

Another movie that is creepy and psychological in nature y is Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). This movie follows the story of Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, a young couple trying to conceive. They move into an apartment in New York City that has a questionable history, as the building they plan to move into has a history associated with cannibalism and death. Despite the warnings, the couple moves in any way. Rosemary eventually becomes pregnant but is unaware  she is actually the center of an experiment run by a satanic cult. She has been called by the cult to carry the son of the devil, leading Rosemary down a path of terror.

Just because a movie is more creepy than it is scary does not mean it is any less disturbing. “Rosemary’s Baby” is particularly unsettling. Despite Rosemary’s long, painful pregnancy and various cries for help, her husband and doctor tell her she is delusional. She knows something is wrong, but she does not know everyone around her is in on the plan. It’s not until the very end when everything comes together that members of the satanic cult surround the baby and invite Rosemary into the cult.

Several modern horror movies, such as “Hereditary,” seemed to take a few pointers from those films, specifically in regards to the eerie endings of both movies. Both feature visits from satanic cults for the initiation of their of new respective leaders. Jordan Peele, director of “Get Out” (2017), took direct inspiration from Polanski and “Rosemary’s Baby,” as did John Krasinski of “A Quiet Place” (2018). The influence taken from this classic should be enough reason for horror fans to watch this movie. It is essential to the evolution of filmmaking in this genre.

Many of the best horror films rely on psychological terror to scare the audience. It wasn’t really until Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)  that horror took on ideas of murder and gore as the main components of the genre. When the movie was first released, it was banned for several years in the United Kingdom for its intensity and violence. Now, it has become a Halloween staple and is noted as the origin of the “slasher” genre.

The premise of the movie is simple: a group of teenagers go on a road trip and find themselves in the middle of nowhere while they wait for the gas pumps at the local gas station to be refilled. While waiting, they start to explore the area for a nearby swimming hole but wander onto a mysterious property instead.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is the type of movie that leaves me feeling terrified, due to the realistic nature of the story. The movie is actually based on true events, which deepens that fear and sets it apart from other movies of this caliber. From start to end, the movie is filled with mystery, violence and overall terror. You won’t want to make any gas stops in the middle of nowhere after watching this movie. It is a staple of the genre and perfect for the Halloween season.

The next big horror movie to follow was John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” (1978). This movie created one of the largest film franchises ever made and gained a massive cult following. Since the original was released, 10 sequels have been made, with the most recent hitting theaters only last week. The franchise has made over $650 million, making it the fourth highest-grossing horror franchise, behind “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and the “Hannibal Lecter” series.

“Halloween” takes place on Halloween night when serial killer Michael Myers returns to his hometown after escaping from the psychiatric hospital he was detained in for 15 years. He makes it his mission to stalk and kill babysitters, particularly Laurie Strode, who is played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut role.

As the movie progresses, the audience is drawn into Laurie Strode’s increasing paranoia that she is being followed by Michael Myers. When he arrives, the audience is left to feel a similar sense of fear that Strode feels in the movie. Each encounter they have grows increasingly more frightening until they meet face to face.

Different aspects of the movie make it eerie, from the musical score to the grey-hued color scheme and the fact that Michael Myers never says one word throughout the movie, not until the ninth installment of the film series.. Being hailed as a culturally significant movie by critics, it is the perfect way to get excited for the holiday. For the small percentage of the population who hasn’t seen this classic, it is a must watch.

As movies continue to change and adapt, some will hold more weight than others. With all of the bad horror movies made each year, we can always rely on the tested and true movies of the genre.