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Halloween Treats, On Film
NPR’s Bob Mondello Hands Out Scary Movie Picks

click for more Read Bob Mondello's list of Halloween film favorites

Psycho movie poster
Poster for Psycho
Copyright Paramount Pictures, 1960

"Film-inspired adrenaline tends to fry my synapses, allowing scary movies to get to me even though I’ve learned to spot the directorial tricks -- loud noises, sudden leaps from an unexpected corner of the frame -- that are the cinematic equivalent of shouting 'Boo!'"

NPR's Bob Mondello


Alien movie poster
Poster for Alien
Copyright 20th Century Fox, 1979

Oct. 23, 2002 -- In an occasional series on npr.org, film fanatic Bob Mondello offers holiday-themed suggestions for classic movies worth screening.

By Bob Mondello

Though more than a decade has passed, I can still recall how jumpy I was after a full day of slasher screenings in 1987 -- Fatal Attraction, Bedroom Window, and a third knife-in-the-gut epic the title of which I no longer remember.

Driving to the morning screening, the weather had been bright and sunny. But by day’s end there was a thunderstorm, and the road was lit by lightning flashes. On arriving home, I turned on every single light in my apartment and, using the storm as an excuse, I closed and locked every window. Then I backed through the place systematically, opening closet and cabinet doors, looking under tables and checking behind desks, until I was sure each room was secure.

Once satisfied, I closed the door behind me, and started on the next room. Finally, all the doors were closed, everything was locked tight, and I went to bed. As I recall, I lay there listening to the thunder -- eyes wide open -- for hours.

Which is to say, I’m susceptible. Film-inspired adrenaline tends to fry my synapses, allowing scary movies to get to me even though I’ve learned to spot the directorial tricks -- loud noises, sudden leaps from an unexpected corner of the frame -- that are the cinematic equivalent of shouting “Boo!” You’d think I could distance myself after all these years, but no.

Here, then, in no particular order, are a few film classics that have made me jump. They’re not necessarily the scariest movies ever; but they’re great fun for Halloween.

Mondello's Halloween film picks:

Psycho -- Tony Perkins behind the motel desk, Alfred Hitchcock behind the camera, Janet Leigh behind the shower curtain… Scree, scree, scree!

The Haunting -- See the 1963 version directed by Robert Wise, who makes the house itself a character -- not the 1999 version, which makes the effects way too explicit. (NPR’s Pat Dowell concurs: "You won’t believe a movie that doesn’t show you anything could be so scary.")

Wait Until Dark -- Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin; she’s blind and he’s in the dark. Proof positive that you can get a lot of box-office mileage out of one big jolt.

The Exorcist -- I have to be the only person on the planet who went into this movie having no idea it was going to be scary. I had not read the book, or even heard talk of it -- and by the time Linda Blair was spewing pea soup and spinning her head 360 degrees, I was a basket case.

Theater of Blood -- Now is the winter of Vincent Price’s discontent, as a much-mocked thespian who stages elaborate Shakespearean charades in which he offs the critics who’ve dissed him. A comic hoot for fans of the Bard.

Alien -- No one suspected sci-fi horror could be A-list classy until Ridley Scott set Sigourney Weaver to battling a shape-shifting stowaway on a deep-space cargo ship. In space no one can hear you scream, but don’t let that stop you.

Carrie -- This film calls up a memory from my days as a movie publicist: A sellout crowd is watching Brian De Palma’s classic on opening night, and another crowd, equally big, is in the lobby waiting to get in. About 20 seconds before the end of the picture, the crowd in the auditorium lets out a scream so bloodcurdling that the crowd in the lobby stops talking. Every single head swivels toward the auditorium doors. To this day, I've never seen a group of people looking more anxious -- in both senses of the word.

In Depth:

Listen Cinema Fall Preview
Bob Mondello offers a selective preview of the 154 movies Hollywood will be releasing this fall, from the serious drama Moonlight Mile, starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon, to the 20th James Bond flick, Die Another Day.

Click to search for more stories Browse more NPR reviews by Bob Mondello.

Other Resources:

Learn more about these and other movies at the Internet Movie Database.



   
   
   
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