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7 nights of horror: the best and scariest scary movies according to the Manchester Times’ Staff

Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Staff Writer
John Coffelt

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Counting Halloween evening, seven nights remain of the spookiest time of the year. It is in this vein that we share the staff picks of the best scary movies of all time.

1) Wednesday, Oct. 25 – Publisher Josh Peterson starts the list with the gold standard of scary movies: “The Exorcist,” (1973). Starring Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and based on the novel by Peter Blatty

Synopsis: Basically, the devil possesses the body of a young girl. The ensuing battle between the demon and the exorcist make for possibly the scariest 122 minutes of cinema history.

According to the Internet Movie Data Base, “Actress Mercedes McCambridge, who provided the voice of the demon, insisted on swallowing raw eggs and chain smoking to alter her vocalizations.”

At Director William Friedkin’s direction, McCambridge was also bound to a chair with pieces of a torn sheet at her neck, arms, wrists, legs and feet to get a more realistic sound of the demon struggling against its restraints.

“McCambridge later recalled the experience as one of horrific rage, while Friedkin admitted that her performance – as well as the extremes which the actress put herself through to gain authenticity–terrifies the director to this day.”

“Entertainment Weekly” and “Maxim” both rank it as the scariest movie of all time.

2) Thursday, Oct. 26 – A strong second in my opinion would be the “The Shining” (1980). Starring Jack Nicholson, Danny Lloyd, based on the novel by Stephen King and Directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Synopsis: the expression “some places are just born bad” is no more true that with the Overlook Hotel, when a caretakers take residence at the remote hotel during the winter season. Jack Torrence has aspirations to write the next great novel, but he and his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), don’t realize the spirits that live in the shadows, but Jack’s son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), does.

Author Peter Straub once called “The Shining”  “probably the best supernatural novel in a hundred years.” Stephen King was reportedly disappointed in this film.

According to IMDB, “In an interview in the June 1986 issue of American Film he said ‘It’s like a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside, you can sit in it and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery – the only thing you can’t do is drive it anywhere. So I would do everything different. The real problem is that Kubrick set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre.’ ”

Entertainment Weekly ranked it the ninth scariest film of all time.

3) Friday, Oct, 27 – advertising manager Teresa Bare’s choice for scariest movie of all time is the “Blair Witch Project” (1999). Starring Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard, and written and directed by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez.

Teresa said that “it’s not so much scariest, but I can’t stand to watch. The movement of the camera, the hand-held style recording, makes it hard to watch for me.”

Synopsis: “Blair Witch,” with a vague connection to the Bell Witch lore (at least to me), immerged as a pioneer in the found-footage genre. Three friends go into the woods to document the Blair Witch phenomena none immerge, only their footage.

In 1999, Robert Ebert wrote if the film, “We’re instinctively afraid of natural things (snakes, barking dogs, the dark) but have to be taught to fear walking into traffic or touching an electrical wire. Horror films that tap into our hard-wired instinctive fears probe a deeper place than movies with more sophisticated threats. A villain is only an actor, but a shark is more than a shark….. The noise in the dark is almost always scarier than what makes the noise in the dark.”

4) Saturday, Oct. 28 – Sports writer Demarco Moore rates “Arachnophobia,” (starring John Goodman and Jeff Daniels) as the scariest film ever. He did say if he has a problem with spiders.

Synopsis: A rare but deadly spider is brought to the states where it begins to kill off the residents of Canaima, Calif.

If “Blair Witch” is the king of making feel the monster breathing on the back of your neck, then “Arachnophobia” certainly has a place as one of the creepy crawliest films of all time, even if you don’t have a problem with spiders.

5) Sunday, Oct. 29 – toning it down for the first day of the week we move to the Editor Leila Núnéz’s pick for favorite scary movie, “Shutter Island” (2010). Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo.

Synopsis: it’s 1954 and a US marshal is tasked to find a missing patient, but soon the film causes you to question the fabric of the reality that it created.

One IMDB reviewer calls the film the best adaptation of a novel.

“ ‘Shutter Island’ represents exactly what one should hope for when seeing a novel (of the same title,by Dennis Lehane)  being interpreted to film. While it certainly does the source material justice, it also adds small changes that make for a distinctive experience.” Director Martin Scorsese, contributor TheDeadMayTasteBad writes, “Perfectly recreates the menacing atmosphere of the island on film. Every location is foreboding and drenched with hints of unseen danger in dark corners. The lighthouse, the caves, the civil war fort housing ‘the most dangerous patients,’ and the island itself–every locale seems large yet claustrophobic and isolated at the same time.”

6) Monday, Oct. 30

Advertising Rep. Lori King isn’t a big fan of the genre, but the first film to come to mind is “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

The original film was released in 1974, claiming to be a true story. The truth is limited to Leatherface, the power saw-wielding villain, is loosely based on real-life killer Ed Gein.

Synopsis: In a now common theme a group of young people go into the an unknown to them area of rural America. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker who directs them to an old homestead. The mayhem ensues.

A markedly, Texan film stays true to its regionalism if not to its raw, low budget cinematography through a series of remakes and sequals. One even boasting Matthew McConaughey and the 2003, 2006 production by Michael Bay.

Since 1974, it’s topped lists of best horror, most controversial and most influential films. It has even garnered a place of the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

7) Tuesday, Oct. 31 Halloween

For the last selection, we return to my list for favorite scary movie, “Trick ‘r Treat,”starring Anna Paquin and Brian Cox because what film better to celebrate Halloween than by watching a film that celebrates the lore of the holiday. Spiked candy, Halloween pranks, and gore galore brings the season’s equivalent to the yuletide’s “A Christmas Story.”

Synopsis: an anthology of short vignettes bound by the Halloween theme and the characterization of the spirit of Halloween, Samhain, a mysterious child trick-or-treater wearing shabby orange footie pajamas with a burlap sack over his head, who makes an appearance in all the stories whenever a character breaks Halloween traditions.

IMDB reviewer JD sums up the film perfectly, “You’ll feel sorry for the works of Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino, because “TRICK ‘R TREAT” has taken the best of these auteurs, blended them with ten pounds of candy corn and razor blades, and shoveled the whole mess down your throat.”