October is my favorite month. Here in Kentucky, the leaves turn beautiful colors of scarlet and gold, fall vegetables like butternut squash and pumpkin emerge, there’s more festivals and fairs than you can shake a stick at, and the sky is a heartbreaking shade of striking blue. October’s prime holiday, of course, is Halloween, and for the past three years I’ve been celebrating October’s advent by trying to watch as many horror movies as possible, from Italian giallo to Japanese white-skinned waifs to American slashers, searching for a new favorite to join the ranks of all the other horrors I hold dear.
I have a few friends who are also into horror. A special light comes into their eyes when we discuss a new movie we’ve just discovered that scared us anew. My other friends shake their heads and roll their eyes when I try to explain why I like horror so much. It’s not easy to elucidate, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that in horror, the characters aren’t dealing with the mundane facts of life that beat so many of us down – paying bills, getting to work on time, disciplining a child, marital difficulties, etc., etc. Nope, in horror, it’s very pure – do you want to live? The characters in a horror movie have to make that decision, and then they’re tested, often very thoroughly. Horror movies often deal with mental issues as well – is a character going insane, or did they really just see a ghost? The physical, mental, and spiritual stakes couldn’t be higher.
I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite horror films – and I realized as I started tallying them that there’s quite a few from the past decade or so, so I’m going to start with those. Over the next few days I’ll share these wildly varying movies with you, and I would love to hear what your favorites are. Here we go…
“Session 9,” directed by Brad Anderson, came out in 2001. This movie was mainly shot in Danvers State Mental Hospital, and apparently the film crew had to do very little to make the location look creepy (unfortunately, soon after Avalon Bay Properties purchased the hospital and tore it down to make way for apartments). The hospital is a truly imposing structure in the film, and that alone gives “Session 9” a lot of power. But the plot definitely hooks you in – an asbestos abatement crew has been hired to work on the hospital. They’re a crew who have known each other a while, and each of them have their issues. One of them discovers and starts to play the session tapes of a former hospital patient who had multiple personalities. And the fun, I assure you, definitely takes off from there. The movie features David Caruso of “CSI Miami” (and “Jade”) and Josh Lucas.
The Japanese movie “Pulse” also came out in 2001. Kiyoshi Kurosawa wrote and directed. “Pulse” was later remade in the U.S., but believe me, you shouldn’t accept any substitutes – the original chills me to the marrow. It’s a slow-moving tale of a few young folks in Tokyo who start seeing ghosts, not only in the physical realm but on computer screens. What’s so chilling about this movie is the vision of death as a place that can be not only too crowded, but also where nothing really…happens. This is a film where the viewer needs to settle in and pay attention – but is it scary? Oh yes.
Next up: two very different slasher films, including one that made the music of Huey Lewis and the News tunes to slay by…
Don’t forget to let me know your favorite horrors!