Okay, I admit it. I’m a bit of a weenie when it comes to horror movies. Not my cup of tea, as they say. The only movie that has ever truly scared me out of my wits is The Exorcist (which I will never, ever watch again), but mostly they just make me feel uncomfortable. Still, I do love a good ghost story, so long as it comes with an ample side of humor and is played more for laughs than for chills. So while I will probably include at least a couple of reasonably scary movies on this list, by-and-large it is likely to be angled more toward fun than fright, and it will not under any circumstances include The Exorcist. (I still wish I could un-see that movie!)
1. Abbott and Costello meet the classic universal monsters, what’s not to like? Out of their depth as usual, Abbot and Costello’s characters, Wilbur and Chick, having been lured by Wilbur’s girlfriend, who it turns out is interested in him only for his mind, find themselves in Dracula’s castle pursued by the “big three” Universal monsters. The pacing is good; the gags are good, and the end result is charming. The plot device of revealing the monsters first to Wilbur so he can slowly convince the incredulous Chick is tailor made for the Abbott and Costello dynamic. If you’re an Abbott and Costello fan, it doesn’t get any better than this.
2. This movie is like a warm cup of cider on a cold, damp night. It’s a perfect love story. Sentimental without being maudlin, it tells the story of Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) who moves into a seaside cottage with her maid and daughter only to discover that it’s haunted by a crusty old sea captain played to perfection by Rex Harrison. Rather than allow herself to be frightened away, she chastises the ghost upon being confronted by him and strikes a bargain to allow them to co-exist peacefully. Financial and emotional complications, however, arise, and in resolving them lies the story.
3. Time for something legitimately scary. Alien takes the classic Universal monster movie trope to it’s logical and artistic conclusion. A confined space. A terrifying monster. And an atypical hero. Put these three ingredients together with a perfectly mysterious back story and brilliant art direction and you’ve got one of if not the greatest monster movie ever made. And let’s not even talk about the creepiness of the movie when viewed as a sexual/reproductive metaphor.
4. Basically a screwball comedy with ghosts, Blithe Spirit is another super fun one with a good cast, including Rex Harrison as the lead and the always entertaining Margaret Rutherford as Madame Arcati. Adapted from a play by Noel Coward, it tells the story of Charlies, a novelist who hosts a seance in the hopes of getting ideas to spur his writing and winds up getting a great deal more when, to his amazement, the spirit of his deceased wife Elvira shows up and proceeds to create mischief between Charles and his current wife Ruth. Recommended as a good classic movie for people who don’t like classic movies.
5. Okay, so my wife’s giving me grief about their not being anything Halloween on my Halloween movie list, so how about The Fog? Jamie Lee Curtis and Adrienne Barbeau! Scream queens anyone? To be honest, I haven’t seen this movie in several years, and I have a feeling it’s probably not as scary (or as good) as I remember it, but it left quite an impression the first time around. It’s about a coastal town, Antonio Bay, that harbors (yuk, yuk) a deadly secret from its past. One hundred years ago, something unspeakably evil happened in this town, and it’s rolling back in tonight with the fog! Ummmm, did I mention it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis and Adrienne Barbeau in it? Janet Leigh too, for that matter. Up next on my ultra super scary movie list, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island. Just kidding. Sort of.
6. Is there anyone who plays a better underdog than Don Knotts? In The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, he plays the goofy, but decent and loveable Luther Heggs, a typesetter aspiring to become a real reporter, to get the big scoop, and, of course, to get the girl. Unfortunately, to do so, he’s going to have to spend the night in a haunted house. Hilarity ensues. Per Wikipedia, Andy Griffith was an uncredited writer and the one who suggested the haunted house theme based on an earlier Andy Griffith Show episode. Certainly, it’s a perfect vehicle for Knott’s physical comedy skills, and I, for one, can’t help rooting for him every time.
7. What comic Halloween movie list would be complete without Ghostbusters? The go-to movie for family Halloween fun, Ghostbusters primary strength, of course, is it’s casting, but there’s no obvious weak link anywhere. Which is why, I suppose, it has a 96% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. The Thing presents a rare case where the remake actually improves upon the original. The 1951 version, The Thing from Another World, is a great movie in its own right. However, sheriff Matt Dillon made up as sort of a cross between Frankenstein’s monster, the creature from the black lagoon, and Cro-Magnon man unfortunately just doesn’t hold up well, especially compared to some of the disturbing incarnations the thing takes in Carpenter’s version. P.S.- And Carpenter of course did the awesome music, right? Wrong. Ennio Morricone scored it. Who knew, right?
9. I’m a werewolf, you’re a werewolf, wouldn’t you like to be a werewolf too! Ummm, no. Not really. Equally funny and scary and a little bit sad too, AAWIL gets kudos for taking the werewolf mythos and doing something clever and interesting with it.
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