I have spent most of my life watching horror movies, and it has been my privilege to see many little-known films and share them with people (my ex-girlfriend sat through many movies like Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy with me; no doubt these weighed heavily on her decision to end the relationship). As a reviewer at this website I have tried to continue that by choosing to review releases out of my own personal collection which have not achieved the type of publicity that they deserve, a tendency that has led me to review many import discs. But for me the Halloween list is the best bully pulpit for sharing with you readers what I watch and would be thrilled to have you watch as well. I am not interested in further publicizing the classics of the genre. The ones that appear on this list do solely because they are my favorites. But I do use this as an opportunity to spread the word about a few movies which are undeservingly forgotten or maligned. So enjoy my top ten list, and Happy Halloween! 10. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) Say whatever you want about me, but this movie, which is the first and arguably the best of the post-Scream slasher films, deserves a certain amount of respect. Aimed at teenagers, and based on a 1973 novel that was also aimed at teenagers, the movie succeeded by tapping into the hidden feelings of anxiety that faced the generation of adolescents who came of age in the 90’s. We were a group of latchkey kids who were more independent from our parents than any generation before us, but facing a world that was even more confusing with new technology and new norms about what was possible in terms of drugs and sex. We lived in a world that was separate from that of our parents, facing and trying to resolve our own problems with brave faces, despite knowing deep down that we weren’t big enough handle all of these very adult issues. The characters in I Know What You Did Last Summer think they have all the answers and don’t want to get help when they hit a man on the road and, panicked, get rid of his body, not realizing he would come back to haunt them in reflection of our generation’s guilt over some of the things we did during those years. The older horror fans of the late-90’s just didn’t seem to get the fact that to my generation movies like this were what the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series were to them when they had been growing up in the 80’s. Movies like this were not aimed at adults, despite their ‘R’ ratings. They were meant for teenagers and, just as the little kid in me will always enjoy the old Godzilla and Gamera movies, the teenager in me will always enjoy I Know What You Did Last Summer. 9. Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973) When you look past the very phony gore effects and bad dubbing, Paul Naschy’s break from playing lycanthrope roles is really an effective – if crude – piece of atmospheric filmmaking, as a group of Parisian city slickers are trapped in the treacherous and swampy mountain region of France with the revived head of medieval devil worshipper Aleric De Marnac turning people into zombies. With brooding photography that makes excellent use of Spanish locations and some very creepy moments (including a scene where the undead rise from a swamp to attack our protagonists), Horror Rises from the Tomb is not Naschy’s best work, but it is also not the terrible misfire that so many fans have tried to portray it as. 8. Spiritism (1962) Amidst the brainiacs, Aztec mummies, living heads and other monsters that proliferated throughout the Mexican horror films imported by K. Gordon Murray, a few minor classics like Curse of the Crying Woman and The Vampire were able to sneak by. Add to that list Spiritism, a restrained and usually enjoyable supernatural thriller from director Benito Alazraki that never achieved the notoriety of so many of Murray’s other imports. The film tells the story of a Mexican family that refinances their house so that their pilot son can start his own crop dusting business. When that enterprise starts to falter, and when the family starts getting involved in spiritualism, the mother turns to the Devil for help with tragic consequences in a series of events clearly based on The Monkey’s Paw. Although slow moving and badly dubbed, the American version should be interesting enough to Mexican horror fans to enjoy this atmospheric little discovery. 7. Zombie (1979) There’s not much that can be said for Lucio Fulci’s trademark splatter film that hasn’t already been said, with the film now having received the type of critical analysis from writers normally reserved for movies like Citizen Kane. Once reviled by American critics, dismissed by horror fans as a weak George Romero imitation and only available on EP-mode videotapes, Zombie has crawled its way back to respectability one rotting limb at a time. Although it’s not my favorite Fulci film (that would have to be City of the Living Dead), it is an effective, creepy, and even sad film that that is surely one of his best works, aided by a few above average performers like Richard Johnson, excellent cinematography and the finest Neapolitan gore and make-up effects that the studio’s lira could buy. 6. Horror Hotel (1960) “Leave Whitewood. Leave Whitewood tonight, I beg of you. Leave before it is too late.” So says an old priest to pretty young college student Nan Barlow in an early scene of Horror Hotel. Disregarding the warning, Nan stays in the village of Whitewood, Massachusetts to do research for a paper on witchcraft, only to find herself sacrificed by a coven of witches whose blood rituals grant them eternal life. As someone who grew up in New England, I have a special affinity for movies set here (even though this particular one was actually filmed in Britain). The witch trials that swept through colonial Massachusetts in the 17th century still weigh heavily on the memories of those in this region. Horror Hotel is loaded with atmospheric photography, creepy music and even some genuine suspense, helped along by a great supporting turn from Christopher Lee. If you haven’t seen this yet please check it out, it’s also available on DVD under its original British title of City of the Dead in a special edition release. 5. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) It’s not often that a bit of quaint European folklore finds itself suddenly turned into a cinematic mix of horror, martial arts, historical drama and religious conspiracy theory with an epic running time (two and a half hours in its directors cut version). Okay, actually it’s probably never happened before this film. Based on a spate of horrific killings in the Gévaudan region of France in the 1760’s, which, depending on who you talk to, were either committed by a werewolf, a regular wolf, or a wolf-dog hybrid trained to attack by a human master. Brotherhood of the Wolf does a good job of throwing historical accuracy out the window, yet it has enough action, suspense and mystery to keep viewers entertained despite its exorbitant running time. 4. Häxan (1922) I had stopped collecting VHS tapes in 2000 when I more or less completely switched to DVD, but that year before I made the switch saw a flurry of videotape acquisitions on my part, some of which were left unwatched after I became a reviewer here. Over the years I have caught up with most of these films, but it wasn’t until this winter that I got to the Sinister Cinema tape of Häxan, which had sat on my shelf untouched for nearly eight years. I watched in surprise, then fascination at the silent images on screen, set to the narration of William S. Burroughs’ monotone voice (the SC tape was the 1968 re-release version that had a voiceover added to it after it was re-cut). Catching up with the Criterion DVD, which includes the 1968 cut and the original Swedish version, I again watched in fascination as the original vision of director Benjamin Christensen played out. Filled with re-creations of devil worship and witchcraft, Häxan is fascinating not just from a technical standpoint, but also from an intellectual standpoint as it dissects primitive superstitions and rituals and places them in context with modern society. 3. The Quatermass Experiment (1955) Hammer Film Productions had been experimenting with genre films even before they struck the mother lode with the violent and colorful Curse of Frankenstein, and two years before that production hit screens Hammer scored a hit with this movie adaptation of an immensely popular BBC serial from 1953. Filmed in stark black and white, this story of a British astronaut slowly mutating into a monster was terrifying enough on its original American release that a child with a heart condition reportedly died during a screening! Filled with interesting ideas by science fiction writer Nigel Kneale and directed by Val Guest, The Quatermass Experiment is an engrossing horror/sci-fi thriller that any fan of either genre should take a look at. 2. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) The granddaddy of all “monster from the surf” movies, Jack Arnold’s Creature of the Black Lagoon represented nothing short of a mammoth leap in the evolution of the horror film. Not only was its extensive underwater cinematography a groundbreaking technical achievement, but for the very first time we saw in a movie the creation and use of a full-fledged monster costume. Men in ape suits had been used as menaces before, but the real monsters seen in Universal’s films were created by make-up effects. Crew members at Universal not only built a full-sized costume of the gill man to be used on land, but also created an underwater variation on it as well. Every man-in-a-monster-suit movie that has come afterwards owes much of its existence to the work done in Creature from the Black Lagoon. 1. The Mummy (1932) The typical “walking mummy” of the movies has always had a difficult time fitting in with the other classic screen monsters. The problem is that, unlike Dracula, unlike Frankenstein, unlike the Wolf Man, the idea of a walking mummy is an invention of Hollywood, one which neither has a basis in folklore or literature like the other monsters do. Nothing remotely like it appears in Egyptian mythology. Consequently, this is the only mummy film that I can consider to be a true classic, and it is, in fact, one of the all-time great horror movies in history. It works by not falling into the “monster on the loose” rut that the Kharis series would run into a decade later. Coming in the immediate aftermath of James Whale’s Frankenstein, this film tried a different approach. As William K. Everson wrote in Classics of the Horror Film, “The Mummy instinctively sensed these problems, and aimed not at creating greater thrills than Frankenstein, but different ones. The Mummy offered uneasy thrills, not shocks.” Using Egyptian mythology as a jumping off point, Boris Karloff (in heavy make-up even in his human form) brings a terrifying restraint to the role of ancient mummy Imhotep, but also a genuine sadness. Floating free in a world over 3,000 years past the time he lived, his most important goal is also one of the most human, to be reunited with his true love, the ancient princess who has been reincarnated in the form of a modern woman.