Fear… The Good Kind

I avoid things that scare me. I don’t go into small spaces for extended periods of time. I don’t go places where I know there will be clowns or spiders. I watch carefully when I walk in the grass to keep clear of snakes. I shake my shoes out before putting them on, because I don’t like to share with spiders or scorpions. If you walk into a room and see me standing on a chair, you can bet I saw a mouse. I’m old-fashioned that way.

So why is it that every year around this time I look for ways to scare myself? I have a theory that a little measure of fear is good for people—especially if it’s absolutely safe.

Now, I’m not brave by any stretch of the imagination. My sons are working a haunted house this month, and I took a quick walk through. All the lights were on, and I got to see all the technical, behind-the-scenes works. Was I scared? YEP! Am I going through it at night, with all the black lights and bloodied characters? NOPE!

I like my frights on the silver screen. I grew up watching Jaws, The Amityville Horror, Halloween, Carrie, and The Omen. I watched the black and white classics like The Wolfman, The Mummy, and Frankenstein. Most of these films have been remade, speaking to their timeless appeal.

One of the first movies ever made was a silent Frankenstein. The motion picture industry was new, but the story of a man’s creation becoming the incarnation of his darkest fear is part of human nature. Watch Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s still as frightening as any slasher film out there.

We all enjoy—to one extent or another—the thrill of fear, when we know the consequences of the experience are minimal. Maybe a nightmare follows, but usually an elevated heart rate is the only result of a fright.

This is the time of year when a scary movie is only a click of the remote control away. Enjoy the good ones. Just to be safe, invite your friends to share some popcorn and screams at your side.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

October is Scary Fun!

For the month of October, my family reviews and re-orders our movie queue to include some good fun scares. We don’t do the slasher films—plenty of those on late night TV already.

We like to compose a Halloween medley of cinematic masterpieces that include both horror classics and contemporary frights. We invite our friends over, make a little popcorn, and then enjoy the fear fest. Last year we watched our Friday Night Frights on TCM, with a sampling of aliens, vampires, werewolves, and other creature features.

We enjoyed these 50’s and 60’s movies so much, that this year I’ve included Earth Vs. Flying Saucers (1956) and Rocketship X-M (1950). Also on board is the original 1951 film, The Thing From Another World. I loved the 1982 version of The Thing, which starred Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley. With a new version coming out, I like to get a refresher for comparison.

What other movies made my short list?

Of course we have the monsters—The Mummy, both classic and recent. We included a variety of Frankenstein flicks, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. That should cover just about every way to look at the quilted beast. And we can’t have October without Van Helsing to meet our werewolf and vampire quota.

In case you wonder, last year’s The Wolfman impressed me. If you can, rent the edition that includes the original 1941 The Wolf Man, and watch them both. (You’re welcome!)

We want to keep the classic thrillers in the mix, so we added Hitchcock’s Life Boat, and Orson Welles’ 1944 version of Jane Eyre. We maintain a family tradition of enjoying the Halloween treat of Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ve seen it dozens of times, and I still giggle all the way through.

For some new classic tongue-in-cheek fun, rent The Lost Skeleton of Cadavara, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, and Dark and Stormy Night, all by comic genius Larry Blamire and his crew.

My guys and I will enjoy a date night or two at the movie theatre as well. I want to see Dream House, which opens this first weekend, and The Thing, which has a mid-month release.

I could recommend many other suspense films. Hitch has dozens, with varying degrees of fright factor. M. Night Shyamalan created a few good ones, too. I loved The Sixth Sense and Signs, and while I enjoyed The Village, it is not scary.

There are plenty of monster movies to enjoy. If you need some crazy blasts from the past, you might like Once Bitten, Earth Girls Are Easy, Weird Science, or Teen Wolf, all from the 80’s. For the scarier side of the 80’s, catch American Werewolf in London, Poltergeist, and The Howling. The 70’s brought us creepy films like The Stepford Wives and Dracula.

What’s on your October list? Please share!

That’s a wrap for this toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!