Halloween: While the “Halloween” franchise has stemmed tons of remakes and sequels, and at 63, Jamie Lee Curtis is still kicking ass as Laurie Strode, John Carpenters’ 1978 slasher flick (also Curtis’s film debut) remains the best. Fifteen years after murdering his sister, a psychopathic Michael Myers escapes a sanitarium and stalks a babysitter and her friends on Halloween night in a small Illinois town. Donning a plain white mask, Myers is such a terrifying villain because he silently creeps in the night, doesn’t say a word, and gives zero reasons for his motive. Two years later, the original “Friday the 13th” premiered with a similar premise of a killer who murders teens one by one, and while “Friday the 13th” is a fun, campy, slasher flick, it’s hard to beat the original “Halloween.” (Steam on Shudder)
A Nightmare on Elm Street: After her friend Tina is mysteriously murdered in her sleep, high school student Nancy finds it impossible to sleep. A man in a striped sweater and fedora named Freddy Kruger terrorizes her in her sleep. Nancy later learns that Freddy was a serial killer from several years ago who was killed in a fire. The scary part of her dreams is that injuries that occur in her dreams come true in real life, and if you die in your dream, you die for real. While Michael Myers’ silence is the factor that makes him so terrifying, what makes Freddy a standout among the slasher villains is his sassy personality and campy one-liners. Plus, since Michael and Jason are silent, they’ve been played by multiple actors over the franchises, but Robert Englund has always portrayed Freddy. As ridiculous as the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies became over the years, Englund always seems like he’s having a blast playing Freddy.
As Nancy, Heather Langenkamp stands out in the slasher genre because while everyone in her life seems to want to ignore Freddy’s murderous antics, Nancy is willing to fight him. Director Wes Craven notes that while writing the film, he took advice from his daughter, who said, “You know, just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m clumsy. You don’t have to have them falling down,” which inspired Craven to break some stereotypes and write Nancy as a more resourceful teen heroine. (Stream on HBO)
Psycho: When this movie was released in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock demanded that no theaters allow viewers to enter late because he wanted them to get the whole and unpredictable experience. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a real estate secretary in Phoenix who is having an affair with a married Sam Loomis. Due to his debt, Sam cannot divorce his wife for Marion, so in desperation, Marion steals $40,000 from her boss and packs up to California to meet her lover. After driving all night, she stumbles upon a vacant hotel owned by a seemingly friendly and childlike Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his overbearing mother. Unfortunately for Marion, Bates Motel may be her final stop.
If you haven’t seen this movie, I don’t want to give too much away, but the hype is justified, and “Psycho” remains one of Hitchcock’s best and a true example of masterful horror and suspense. As Normal Bates, Anthony Perkin reinvented how a horror villain acts and looks. In the 1960s, this unconventional actor was considered a bit of an oddball and was typecasted for the rest of his career, but in 2022 Hollywood, the lanky and awkward Perkins would fit right in. (Stream on Peacock).
Carrie: I’ve listened to countless podcasts and read many articles debating what Stephen King adaptation is the best, and while many will argue Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” which obviously deserves a top rank, is the best, but my pick will forever be “Carrie,” the tragic tale of a teen girl with telekinesis who is pushed too far. High school student Carrie White (a haunting and creepy Sissy Spacek) is disliked by her classmates at school and abused by her overly religious mother, Margaret (played by a wildly unhinged Piper Laurie). After a humiliating incident in the girl’s locker room, Carrie’s classmate Sue (Amy Irving) convinces her own boyfriend to ask Carrie to the prom. Sue hopes that her act of kindness will help the troubled Carrie have at least one memorable high school experience, and for these seniors, it will undoubtedly be a night they’ll never forget.
The first 3/4 of the movie is more creepy and sad than scary, but all the suspense that leads up to the final bloody finale makes “Carrie” worth the wait. No matter how many times I’ve watched this film, I always hope things will go differently for our main character. “Carrie” is not only an iconic horror movie, but it’s an iconic high school and coming-of-age movie. She isn’t just some ruthless killer with an agenda. You’re afraid of her, but you also feel her pain and sadness. While not as good as the original 1976 film, the 2013 modernized remake starring Chloë Grace Moretz is also worth a watch. (Stream on Amazon Prime)