Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Classic Horror for Halloween

Halloween is the perfect time to enjoy classic horror from cinema's early days. These movies make great ambience enhancers during your annual costume party, but they're also good choices for an October evening's main entertainment. Here are ten horror classics to get you in the spirit for Halloween. Look for them on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or Hulu.

Nosferatu (1922) - F.W. Murnau's silent and unofficial adaptation of Stoker's famous novel packs plenty of visual thrills. Max Schreck's hideous Count Orlok is still considered the scariest movie vampire by many film fans.

Dracula (1931) - Bela Lugosi stars as the iconic count in Tod Browning's very loose adaptation, but Dwight Frye steals the movie as the doomed madman Renfield. Edward Van Sloan also creates a definitive interpretation of the Van Helsing character.

Frankenstein (1931) - Boris Karloff creates the popular face of the man-made monster in James Whale's stylish treatment of Shelley's classic novel. Be sure to follow up with The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), featuring Elsa Lanchester as the iconic monster's mate.

The Mummy (1932) - Karl Freund directs as Karloff once again establishes an icon in this tragic story of eternal love. Fans of the 1999 treatment by Stephen Sommers absolutely need to see this original version to appreciate the later director's love for his source material.

The Wolf Man (1941) - George Waggner helms this production with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the title character; Bela Lugosi also appears as the gypsy werewolf who passes his curse to the unlucky Larry Talbot. Don't miss excellent performances from Claude Rains and Maria Ouspenskaya in the supporting roles.

Cat People (1942) - Under the auspices of Val Lewton, Jacques Tourneur directs this elegant variation on the werewolf theme, with Simone Simon as the tortured heroine. The swimming pool scene is justly regarded as one of the finest moments in classic horror history.

Edith Scob stars in Eyes without a Face (1960).
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) - This screwball comedy from Frank Capra is a Halloween staple for those who prefer lighter fare; Cary Grant stars as a newlywed whose dotty old aunts turn out to be homicidal maniacs. Look for Peter Lorre in a hilarious turn as the plastic surgeon who makes Mortimer Brewster's murderous brother (Raymond Massey) look like Boris Karloff!

Night of the Demon (1957) - Another Jacques Tourneur outing, this British horror classic stars Dana Andrews as a scientist who doubts the existence of the supernatural, even when he himself becomes its target. Peggy Cummins also stars, but Niall MacGinnis steals the picture as the sinister Dr. Karswell.

Eyes Without a Face (1960) - This French masterpiece from Georges Franju delivers dreamlike horror as a guilt-ridden surgeon tries to replace his daughter's hideously disfigured face by stealing replacements from other young women. Edith Scob stars as the disfigured heroine, with Pierre Brasseur as her obsessed father and Alida Valli as his faithful accomplice.

The Haunting (1963) - Robert Wise's terrifying adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel offers plenty of thrills without the gore for those who like their horror on the psychological side. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn star as the unfortunate visitors who rouse the house's malevolent spirit.

Looking for even more classic horror? Check out all of the posts under the "horror" label, including full-length reviews of most of these films. You'll also find plenty of classic horror films in my book, Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching, now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com.

An earlier version of this article originally appeared on Examiner.com. The author retains all rights to this content.