The List (10-6):
10) Don’t Look Now (Roeg, 1973)—Don’t Look Now is, in essence, about a couple grieving the loss of their young daughter. They travel to Venice, where a serial killer is on the loose. There are disappearances and premonitions, and it all culminates in a dynamic, terrifying, and tragic conclusion. What is most striking about the film is the sense of ruin, of decay, that suffuses it. The doom here is cosmic and inevitable. Features bold editing decisions and stunning perfs by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.
9) Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)—One of the most successful independent films of all time, and one of the most influential of all horror films, Halloween is a movie with a simple plot: lunatic escapes asylum, returns to hometown and goes on a killing spree. What animates the film, though—what roots it in your brain and terrorizes you long after you’ve seen it—is Carpenter’s measured use of space, both onscreen and off, and the way he successfully plays with the subjective point of view of the characters and the camera. This movie is that bit of movement you see out of your peripheral vision (or do you?) when you’re alone in a dark place.
8) Häxan (Christensen, 1922)—This is a unique and difficult-to-classify film. While it is ostensibly and partly a documentary about superstition and witchcraft, it also contains several fiction segments. At the time of its release, it was a massively expensive production, and it was banned or censored in many territories, including the United States. It has since firmly secured its place in the horror pantheon and is one of only two silent films to make our list.
7) The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)—Friedkin’s intense and expertly directed film (adapted by William Peter Blatty from his own novel) about the demonic possession of a young girl name Regan has woven itself into our cultural fabric in a way few films do. When released, the shock of the film’s imagery surprised audiences, and today, contemporary viewing of it is heightened by the dialogue and whisperings that surround it: stories about the set being cursed, perhaps-overblown tales about the hysteria it caused in theaters, the discussion of its “subliminal” images. The Exorcist is no longer just a movie, but a myth.
Oscar Spotlight: One of the other rare horror films really able to breakthrough at the Oscars. It received a slew of nominations in Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Sound, Art Direction, Cinematography, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress (for the young Linda Blair), Actress, and Picture. It only won in Adapted Screenplay and Sound, however.
6) Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968)—This film, produced by legendary horror maestro and genius marketer William Castle, follows the plight of Rosemary, who becomes impregnated with Satan’s child and slowly discovers that nearly everyone around her is part of a Satanic cult. This film is made rich by the wonderful ensemble cast, led by Mia Farrow as the eponymous character. It unfolds slowly, but builds to a powerful and chilling final scene.
Oscar Spotlight: Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Ruth Gordon won Best Supporting Actress for her turn as Minnie Castavet, one of the cult members.
Next up: The List (5-1)