Halloween is upon us, which means it is time to binge horror movies. Instead of returning time and again to the same franchise entries, why not try something new this year? Did you know the Library has hundreds of horror films available on both DVD and streaming? To get you started, here is a list of ten great horror movies available in the Library. There is one from each of the last ten decades, giving you the chance to experience a hundred years of horror films. See how horror movies have evolved and what tropes remain the same from the silent era all the way up to today.
Nosferatu (1922): The first filmed adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” was actually an unauthorized production that was nearly lost to time. The producers failed to secure the rights to the novel and Stoker’s widow recognized enough of her late husband’s work in the film to sue. She won her lawsuit and all prints of the film were ordered destroyed by the Judge. Obviously some prints survived and this surprisingly faithful adaptation of Stoker’s novel is considered a classic as the vampire Count Orlok (Max Schreck), looking for all the world like a human/rat hybrid, stalks his victims. Streaming and available via the Library with Campus Connect.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935): Improving on his own 1931 adaptation of “Frankenstein,” director James Whale crafted possibly the first comedic horror film for the sequel. While the existential horror that Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff) faces is still the driving force here, Whale plays up a campy subplot that finds an even more crazed mad scientist in Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), taking glee in forcing the merely regular mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) to create a mate for his monster. As with most stories involving mad scientists playing God, things end tragically for most everyone involved, but getting there is a lot of fun. Available at the Loop Library, call number: DVD. 791.4372 B8511w1999.
Cat People (1942): One of the first of several horror films produced by Val Lewton for RKO Pictures, this exercise in restraint succeeded on Lewton’s belief that the less shown, the scarier. Of course, that mantra was born from the fact that Lewton’s productions did not have the budget to show much of anything, but Cat People works as a perfect piece of suspense and creepy atmosphere even if you do not actually see anyone change into a cat. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number: DVD. 791.4375 C3571t2005.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): This stone-cold classic of paranoia came out just three years after the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for treason for funneling U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union and on the heels of McCarthyism. Some have claimed that the film is an allegory for the encroachment of Communism into American life. Others have claimed that the film is an allegory for the paranoia that caused large numbers of Americans to falsely believe the country was being infiltrated by secret Communists. You have to love any movie that can be read in such disparate ways and that is before the creepy plot of alien invaders replacing and taking on the appearance of humans is taken into account. Kevin McCarthy is at his bug-eyed best as one of the only humans aware of what is happening and is powerless to stop it. Available at the Loop Library, call number: DVD. 791.4372 I62s2002.
Night of the Living Dead (1968): Not the first movie to use zombies (the “z word” is not even used in the film), but the one that set the template for modern zombie horror. Aside from being a trendsetter in the zombie subgenre and pushing the envelope with onscreen violence that American audiences were unaccustomed to in 1968, with its brutal, nihilistic ending, it is a howl of anger directed toward the forces that violently opposed the Civil Rights movement. One of the few classics that truly lives up to its reputation as something original and important. Available at the Loop Library, call number: DVD. 791.4372 N687r2008.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): It is on this list for a very simple reason; it is quite possibly the scariest movie ever made. Believe the hype. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number: DVD. 791.4372 T355h2006.
Videodrome (1983): In writer/director David Cronenberg’s body horror classic, a weapons company uses subliminal signals broadcast under violent images on television to cause physical changes in viewers that lead to increased violence in real life. Take away the part about physical mutations and it is not far off from predicting the way certain groups use social media to stoke hatred and violent outrage. Of course, that could be a reach. Even without the pointed social/corporate greed critique, this is a hallucinatory gem that earns its shocks. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number: DVD. 791.4372 V652c2004.
Candyman (1992): The theme of how segregation, urban planning, and racism all intertwine has been written about so much (rightfully so) when it comes to this one that it is easy to forget that it also contains some of the most memorably horrifying imagery and one of the most iconic horror characters of the ‘90s. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number: DVD 791.4372 C219r 2004.
[REC] (2007): A pure blast of fun. Managing to take the found footage subgenre and give it the feel of being in an extreme haunted house, this is the movie you show someone if they say they like jump scares. What it lacks in characterization or deeper meaning, it makes up for with plenty of demon possession. That seems like a fair tradeoff. Streaming and available via the Library with Campus Connect.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014): Easily one of the more original vampire films ever made, Iranian-American writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour describes her movie as “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western.” It is hard to argue with that description, as the movie never spends much time explaining what is happening, instead letting genre tropes act as shorthand in telling the story of a lonely vampire (Sheila Vand) who finds herself dragged into the drama of the living people she observes, sometimes kills, and sometimes protects. While it is a classical horror film in many ways, it allows for moments of droll comedy and manages to stick a satisfying landing. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number: DVD. 791.4372 G525A2015.
Fittingly, this list began with a vampire film and ended it the same way, proving that some of the best tropes and ideas never die.