So there's a big-budget update of schlockmeister William Castle's "13 Ghosts" hitting theaters in time for Halloween. What was wrong with the original?"
No blood, no oozing guts, no nudity, no millions in special effects? Who needs the fancy stuff? Anyone who saw the original "13 Ghosts" back in 1960 was given "ghost viewers" to see the spirits! You won't find that service today.
So if you're heading out to the video store for Halloween horrors, don't forget the nostalgic charm of older films or some nonblockbusters of recent years. Here's a list of 10 off-beat suggestions:
- "Black Sunday" (1963). This is Italian director Mario Bava's masterpiece! Big-eyed Barbara Steele in a double role as a revenge-seeking Russian witch put to death and her look-alike ancestor. Freaky and creepy, it mixes German expressionism with the Hammer horror films of the day. So horrific (for its time), this film was accompanied by a parental disclaimer when it aired on WKBW-TV's Fright Night. Don't confuse it with the 1976 film.
- "Dead Zone." Director David Cronenberg made arguably the finest film ever adapted from a Stephen King story. Christopher Walken is perfect as the man who awakens from a coma with psychic powers that can change the future. Haunting, powerful and chilling.
- "The Fog" (1979). Lost among the greatness of John Carpenter's eerie "Halloween" series is this great old-fashioned ghost story. Adrienne Barbeau and Jamie Lee Curtis in a film about the scary stuff that comes out of the fog in a quaint seaside town. Stick around for the credits.
- "The Haunting" (1963). There's no Catherine Zeta-Jones in this original film adaptation of the Shirley Jackson story. This is the creaky old Robert Wise film about psychics and scientists investigating a haunted house. It's literate and restrained -- and you won't believe how scary it is when you use your imagination.
- "Near Dark" (1987). A wicked cast, including Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen, stars in director Kathryn Bigelow's stylish vampire story about a young man (Adrian Pasdar) kidnapped by a traveling band of savage bloodsuckers. He falls for the pretty one. We get the ending many vampire fans have always wanted.
- "Night Breed" (1990). If Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" film adaptations are just too gruesome and sickly for you, try this story with a twist. Craig Sheffer and David Cronenberg star in a surprisingly sympathetic story that turns the tables on the stereotypical monster-hero scenarios. Barker directed and adapted from his novel "Cabal."
- "Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993). So it's not quite scary. But it's already a cult classic (just try finding any tie-in merchandise). This stop-motion animated film produced by Tim Burton is dark, charming and filled with wondrous things. Jack the Pumpkin King, disillusioned with Halloween, stumbles into Christmastown, where he turns everything terribly upside down. Must-see viewing from Halloween to Christmas.
- "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" (1997). Check out this gothic interpretation of the Grimm Brothers fairytale that's definitely not for the kids. Sigourney Weaver is the Wicked Stepmother, and Gil Bellows is the disfigured, yet still handsome prince stand-in.
- "The Thing" (1982). A sci-fi classic and exception to the rule that remakes shouldn't be made. It's a story about a shape-shifting alien whose ship crashes in Antarctica. It's claustrophobic and terrifying as a group of scientists tries to figure out who among them is the ever-changing alien. Kurt Russell leads the brigade. John Carpenter directed and Rob Bottin created the awe-inspiring alien forms that still set the standard.
- "When a Stranger Calls" (1979). "The phone call is coming from inside the house." The creepiest line ever uttered in film came from right here. Carol Kane is the baby sitter; Charles Durning the cop obsessed with finding a killer.