13 (Nearly Forgotten) Unappreciated Horror Films for Halloween

31 Oct

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

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Some horror flicks come and go as part of the must watch tradition when All Hallow’s Eve approaches. Others are just plain forgotten over the years, if not in the passing of a century. If there’s ever a list that need to bring the ‘classics’ back, the hope is to bring the movies from the yesteryear back to the fore. These are the movies I loved watching while growing up. Whether it’s Halloween themed or not, I feel certain films should never get discarded in favour for new ones. A couple of comedic films are added just so some folks will not come out scarred after a marathon view of these movies.

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1929)

If this classic silent film is viewed along with The Wicker Man, then just maybe the third Halloween film can be better appreciated. Although very dated in its special effects technology and very primeval, this movie is just as effective now for its haunting terror. I love this film because it is very atmospheric. It blends a documentary and fiction together as the history of witchcraft is explored. While the Wiccans of today proclaim that they are not witches, there are similarities that must be studied.


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The Times of Their Lives (1946)

This Abbott and Costello horror-comedy outshines all their other scary products (except Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein) for the simple reason of them not acting as a team. This movie was made when tensions between the pair was at its peak, and some of it can be seen on-screen. That made for some of the best laughs, however suitable or unsuitable that was for the camera to capture.

While they masquerade as their characters, I really do have to ask how upset were they with each other in real life when the movie was made. Lou Costello is hilarious and adorable as Horatio Prim. When he gets branded a traitor and denied an afterlife, he has reason to be upset! When his rival Cuthbert Greenway (Bud Abbott) outdoes him in his bid for affection of Nora (Anne Gillis), Prim’s fate is sealed when he and Melody Allen (Marjorie Reynolds), are mistaken as traitors to the American cause and are shot. A century passes and they are forced to haunt the old estate they worked for until they are proven innocent.

The plot is very nicely thought through and this movie offers a look at how badly ghosts can behave when provoked by the living. Very rarely will a movie offer this look at life on the other side. Audiences never get to see what the spirit is feeling, and that’s what makes this movie a joy to watch.

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The Haunting (1963)

This Robert Wise classic makes its contemporary remake, The Haunting (1999) look pale. Part of this film’s success is to make the scares happen off camera. All it takes is excellent direction by Wise and strong acting from Julie Harris (as Eleanor) to make the scares feel real. To really feel the psychological tension, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson to which this film is based on is worth reading. Even though I saw the 1999 film first, I thought I should work backwards and when I had to compare the three products, it’s now the book or the original that’s worth visiting more than the glitzier version where I still think the sound-mix is worth blasting on Halloween night. That’s the only time I can work out the subwoofer.

But when I consider how the best ghost stories work, I’m of the firm belief that the emphasis is about some character finding a place where he or she can belong and not be bothered with the trivial aspects of life. There’s no place like home here, whether or not the denizens are dominated by an angry lord or not.

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