Horror / Suspense

  • A Christmas Carol
    One of the most memorable adaptations of A Christmas Carol is a short, animated film of the same name. Made in 1971 by animation icons Richard Williams, Ken Harris and Chuck Jones, this is by far the most eerie and dark version of the much-filmed Dickens classic. Despite being condensed to 25 minutes, this […]
  • Curse of the Demon
    Director Jacques Tourneur didn’t make many movies and is largely forgotten today, but he has a cult following of which I am a part. He made horror films such as I Walked with a Zombie, film noirs such as Out of the Past, and films that exist somewhere in between, such as 1957’s suspenseful […]
  • Dial M for Murder
    I have recommended a clutch of Hitchcock films (Notorious, Psycho, The 39 Steps, and The Lodger), but omitted some of his best known. Some of his classic films (e.g., Rear Window) have been written about so much that I can’ t think of anything novel to add. Others exceed my powers: I’ve seen Vertigo […]
  • Forgotten Draculas **Triple Feature**
    Other perhaps than The Bible and The Sherlock Holmes stories, no book has inspired as many movies as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Everyone knows the famous Bela Lugosi version, but few people are aware of the versions I am recommending here. Count Dracula was broadcast on BBC in 1977, and is perhaps closer to the […]
  • Grip of the Strangler
    When Jean Kent died, I decided to watch one of her films that I had never seen, and came away happy that I did. In one of her many roles as a naughty British lass, Kent is a chanteuse/madam threatened by a serial killer apparently risen from the grave in this week’s film recommendation: […]
  • House on Haunted Hill
    Producer/director William Castle was part film maker and part carnival barker, being famous for gimmicks such as placing nurses in theater lobbies ostensibly to aid any viewers who were overcome with fright, wiring seats to give mild shocks when a monstrous “Tingler” came on the screen, and, for this week’s film, pioneering “Emergo” technology […]
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 Version)
    For political paranoia, it’s hard to top a movie that is at once a sci-fi chiller, a B-movie classic, and an utterly unnerving destruction of any ability you may have to trust the people around you. It’s the legendary original adaptation of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Made for peanuts in 1956, […]
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 Version)
    When I recommend multiple adaptations of the same story, I typically package them as double or triple features. But in this case, the remake of a classic film I have recommended is so well-made and so distinctly its own work of art that I grant it an essay of its own: the 1978 version […]
  • It
    Most made-for-television movies are disappointing. Most movies based on Stephen King books, likewise. But here’s a nightmare-inducing film that overturns both those rules: The 1990 adaptation of It. Ask an adult who saw it many years ago what they remember and you may hear, after a shudder, the half-whispered words “That clown…”. The plot […]
  • Kiss Me Deadly
    They? A wonderful word. And who are they? They’re the nameless ones who kill people for the Great Whatsit. Does it exist? Who cares? Everyone everywhere is so involved in the fruitless search for what? In 1955, detective film noirs were nearing the end of their magnificent cycle, with seemingly little fresh to say. […]
  • La Maschera del Demonio
    American film fans probably associate Italy first with spaghetti westerns, and next with romances or white telephone films. Few realize that Bel Paese is also the source of some chilling horror fare, including the 1960 film that put Mario Bava on the map: La Maschera del Demonio. The story opens with a witch (Barbara […]
  • Les Yeux Sans Visage
    In the decades immediately following the war, French film makers didn’t produce many horror movies, but when they did they took more risks than studios in other countries who simply revived classic monsters or reworked hoary ghost stories. Among the most compelling and influential of such productions shocked audiences when it was released in […]
  • Lured
    No doubt you have often said “I’d love to watch a 1947 Douglas Sirk movie starring Lucille Ball and Boris Karloff that was a remake of a French film and was re-made again a half century later with Lucy’s part played by Al Pacino.” Okay, you’ve never said that, but nonetheless I gave you […]
  • Män Som Hatar Kvinnor
    The left-wing Swedish author Stieg Larsson had a strange and remarkable life. As a teenager, he witnessed some of his friends commit gang rape, and was haunted thereafter both by guilt about his failure to intervene and the omnipresence of violence against women. As a journalist he was unknown outside of Sweden when he […]
  • Masque of the Red Death
    Low budget film genius Roger Corman once said the two films he was proudest of were The Intruder (a searing film about racism and civil rights which I recommended here) and the superb horror movie Masque of the Red Death. Corman had been enchanted by Edgar Allen Poe stories since reading The Fall of […]
  • Murder by the Clock
    In its early days, Hollywood turned out some engaging films about ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night. Let me offer an admittedly off-beat film recommendation from the early days of talkies: 1931’s Murder by the Clock. The plot centers on the Endicotts, a wealthy family in decline. The […]
  • My Name is Julia Ross and Dead of Winter **Double Feature**
    The 1941 novel The Woman in Red has been used as the basis of a film twice, with a four-decade gap between versions. As a special double feature, I recommend both adaptations: 1945’s My Name is Julia Ross and 1987’s Dead Of Winter. My Name is Julia Ross was a modestly budgeted Columbia production […]
  • Night of the Eagle
    Fritz Leiber Jr. was a talented fantasy, science fiction and horror writer who is mainly remembered for the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books, which surprisingly have never been adapted for the cinema. In contrast, Leiber’s Conjure Wife has served as the basis of multiple movies, including the fine 1962 film Night of the […]
  • Night Slaves and The Screaming Woman **Double Feature**
    I generally don’t recommend made-for-TV movies because they generally aren’t worth watching (With some exceptions, such as Stephen King’s It). But there was a quality series of such films in the 1970s known as the “ABC Movie of the Week”. It gave audiences memorable moments such as Karen Black being stalked by an evil […]
  • Obsession
    In my recommendation of Dear Murderer, I described my fondness forBritish films in which brutal people say awful things with perfect manners and diction. Another fine example of the “Terribly sorry old chap, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to kill you” school of Brit Noir is 1949’s Obsession. Like Dear Murderer, the […]
  • Onibaba
      When movie aficionados think of Japan, their minds typically turn to Akira Kurosawa. That’s understandable, as one could make a plausible case for him being the best director in the history of cinema. But Kurosawa is far from the only brilliant filmmaker to hail from the Land of the Rising Sun. Another is […]
  • Psycho
    Part of Alfred Hitchcock’s magnificence as a filmmaker stemmed from his restlessness. He ruled 1950s cinema, delighting both audiences and critics with big budget, suspense-and-romance movies shot in glossy color. The studio heads at Paramount Pictures expected that for the final film he was contracted to shoot for them, he would go back to […]
  • Suspiria
    From Italian origins, Dario Argento became an international force in horror films for several decades. His best film is probably the ultra-stylish, ultra-bloody, and ultra nerve-jangling 1977 movie Suspiria. If it’s possible to make a slasher film for the art house set, this is it. The plot: American dancer Suzy Bannion (An intrepid and […]
  • Tales of Terror
    Low budget whiz Roger Corman revered Edgar Allen Poe and brought his stories to a new generation through film. The best known is probably Masque of the Red Death (my recommendation here), but most of them are rewarding, including Tales of Terror. This 1962 film is a trilogy of stories based on four different […]
  • Tarantula
    “Invasion of the Giant-Sized X” films were almost their own genre in the 1950s. Many of them were wretched (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman being generally considered the nadir), but some of them stand the test of time. If forced to choose my favorite giant insect film I would go with Them!, but […]
  • Taste of Fear
    London-based Hammer Films had a fertile and fiscally rewarding period in the 1950s and 1960s styling itself as the British second coming of the old Universal Studios Monster Movies. They gave Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy quite a workout, relying on generally solid and scary scripts, a stable of dependable stage-trained actors, not-bad special […]
  • The 39 Steps
    Alfred Hitchcock had a successful directing career in Britain that preceded his American super-stardom. Hitchcock fans rightfully consider the 1935 comedy-romance-thriller The 39 Steps among the very best works of the Master’s “British period”. Robert Donat cuts a dash as Mr. Hannay, the hero of the film, who tries to save England from the […]
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
    Film buffs are one of the few groups of people who have extremely positive associations with the words “Weimar Republic”. The German film industry had an embarrassment of talent and explosive creativity in the 1920s. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of a number of innovative German movies of the era that profoundly […]
  • The Hands of Orlac
    The idea that a possession or even more creepily a body part of a dead person can take over the life of its living owner has appeared in fairy tales and ghost stories for centuries. In cinema, the touchstone story of this sort is Maurice Renard’s 1920 novel Les Mains d’Orlac, which has been […]
  • The Hitch-Hiker
    Ida Lupino was a central figure in the breaking of the all-male lock on the Hollywood director’s chair. While she was looking for a new project to make with her then-husband Collier Young, she met one of the men who had been kidnapped and forced to drive through Mexico by spree killer Billy Cook. […]
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
    Hound of the Baskervilles has a special place in The Sherlock Holmes canon. Arthur Conan Doyle’s story is substantially longer than the typical Holmes outing, allowing him to weave two distinct mystery tales together. It’s also remarkable for putting Watson at center stage for a significant part of the book, allowing the sidekick a […]
  • The Howling (Plus a Trivia Quiz!)
    There may be only one film that’s more packed with references to other horror films than Scream: Joe Dante’s 1981 cult favorite, The Howling. Originally intended as a straight-ahead werewolf film, it was changed significantly in tone by a late-arriving co-screenwriter, the ever-creative John Sayles. Sayles kept the scary bits, but added a pile […]
  • The Innocents
    Many an eerie film has been described as a “spine-tingling” experience, but few live up to that description literally for most cineastes. The movie that did that to me more than any other, giving me physical shivers like a bucket of ice down my back, is The Innocents. Producer/Director Richard Clayton’s 1961 art house […]
  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
    Hollywood superstar Jodie Foster had a remarkable 1976, with five movies hitting the theaters. They showcased her talent and poise — both startling for an actress who has just become a teenager — and also the tendency of 1970s cinema to lionize teenage liberation while at the same time exploiting it through sexualization. Foster’s […]
  • The Lodger **Double Feature**
    I had long wanted to experience Alfred Hitchcock’s first foray into suspense, 1927’s The Lodger (sometimes subtitled “A Story of the London Fog”), but could never get through the film because the available prints were so beat up as to make it virtually unwatchable. To the rescue came British Film Institute, which despite the […]
  • The Most Dangerous Game
    One Halloween, I was looking for a lurid and creepy pre-code film to recommend. I was tempted by White Zombie but like many films of the period, the existing prints are sadly too beaten up to make the film an enjoyable experience. But then I found a movie that is not only better purely […]
  • The Night Stalker and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde **Double Feature**
    I’m a fan of the horror and science fiction work of writer Richard Matheson and Producer/Director Dan Curtis, including films on which they collaborated, like the electrifying Amelia segment of Trilogy of Terror (My recommendation here) Their admirers could argue forever about which of their films were the most entertaining, but purely in terms […]
  • The Parallax View
    The horrifying assassinations of the 1960s generated countless conspiracy theories that continued to rattle about in the 1970s, particularly after Watergate further damaged the public’s faith in once-respected institutions. During this period, Alan J. Pakula was arguably the film maker who most effectively translated the public’s anxieties onto the screen. The two best known […]
  • The Wicker Man
    Not long after the Callan TV show ended (My recommendation here), Edward Woodward starred in an unconventional low-budget horror film that has no monsters or ghosts, includes almost no night time scenes, blood, gore or special effects, yet is unquestionably harrowing: 1973’s The Wicker Man. The plot: Uptight, devout and dedicated Police Sergeant Howie […]
  • Three Adaptations of I Am Legend
    One of the best books I read in 2018 was the sci-fi/horror classic I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Matheson wrote it in 1954, years before he became famous as one of the creative forces behind The Twilight Zone. It’s a grim, powerful, novel about isolation and trauma, centering on Robert Neville, the last […]
  • Trilogy of Terror – Amelia
    “Doll horror” is almost its own cinematic sub-genre. Villains like the murderous clown doll in Poltergeist, the knife-wielding Chucky, and the ventriloquist’s dummy in Dead of Night, all scared the pants off of audiences. Let me recommend another triumph of the subgenre: The Amelia segment of the 1975 movie Trilogy of Terror. Trilogy of […]
  • Unman, Wittering and Zigo
    I have recommended the film Flirting, in which sadistic masters torment the new students in a boys’ school. I now turn the tables by recommending a film in which a new teacher John Ebony (David Hemmings) and his wife Silvia (Carolyn Seymour) are terrorized by the fifth form from hell. The last three students […]
  • Vampyr
    Some film historians consider Carl Theodor Dreyer cinema’s most visionary director. His talent is on vivid, memorable display in the pioneering 1932 horror classic Vampyr. The story, which Dreyer and co-writer Christen Jul adapted in part from the writings of Sheridan Le Fanu of Carmilla fame, concerns a student of the occult named Allan […]
  • Whistle and I’ll Come to You
    In my transatlantic existence, I’ve had many opportunities to observe the differences between British and American culture. One of the smaller ones: only the former have a broadly-shared tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas. A Christmas Carol is of course the touchstone of this British pleasure, but it apparently started centuries before Dickens’ […]