Friday, September 28, 2018

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

MT. PLEASANT, Mich. -- If you're too old to trick-or-treat and parties aren't really your thing, the next best thing to do on Halloween night is to grab some snacks and plop down on the couch for an evening of scary movies! While you might already have some favorites on the agenda, we at Graff Mt. Pleasant would like to share with you some legendary titles that paved the way for the subgenres of horror that you enjoy today.

Without further ado, here are ten influential horror movies that are essential viewing for Halloween!

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

1. NOSFERATU - 1922

Before Bela Lugosi portrayed everyone's favorite bloodsucking aristocrat in 1931, vampires actually made their theatrical debut in F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu released in 1922. This silent thriller was supposed to be a film adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the rights to use the exact plot and character names could not be obtained, although that certainly does not take away from its legacy.

When you eventually see actor Max Schreck as Count Orlok, he is a hideously terrifying departure from the suave and seductive denizens of the night that we're used to nowadays. According to the folklore of the day, however, vampires were monstrous creatures rather than supernatural beauties. Years later, Orlok's repulsive appearance would go on to inspire that of Kurt Barstow in Salem's Lot.

A key aspect of Nosferatu's fright factor is its ambiance, most notably the use of dramatic shadows to build suspense, a technique that inspired numerous thrillers after it.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

2. HALLOWEEN - 1978

The "slasher" is perhaps one of the most popular horror movie subgenres, and there are a ton of them out there. Who brought this bloody breed to the mainstream? None other than the one and only John Carpenter and his silent psychopath, Michael Myers. Halloween is widely regarded by horror movie buffs as being responsible for a number of tropes that went on to become synonymous with the subgenre, such as the "final girl" trope which involves the killing off of "morally wayward" characters leaving the "innocent" one the lone survivor, as well as the "absentee parents" trope that explains the lack of responsible adults in the midst of a life-threatening situation.

While Halloween is not the first horror movie to feature a serial killer as its main antagonist, it ushered in a new era of scares particularly amongst its principle viewers: teenagers. Halloween's terror, as well as that of every other slasher flick that followed in its footsteps, lies in its relatability to moviegoing youth who saw themselves in the onscreen characters being hunted by a ruthless killer, and the not-so-unbelievable idea of having it happen while they're just hanging out.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

3. PSYCHO - 1960

If Halloween is responsible for popularizing the slasher subgenre, Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece that forever made showers the stuff of nightmares originated it. Psycho is famous for pioneering two game-changing camera techniques. First is the use of the first-person perspective, allowing the audience to see through the eyes of the characters as an involved party than simply bystanders. Second is "quick-cutting", used during the famous shower scene, which creates the illusion of graphic violence as well as feelings of anxiety and dread in the viewer through rapidly changing shots.

You might think that you saw Janet Leigh getting stabbed to death, but in reality, the knife is never shown actually touching her skin. Although, the fact that this scene remains the freshest in the minds of viewers to this day - despite only lasting 45 seconds and happening towards the beginning - proves that imagination and perception are two very powerful tools of terror.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween


Ever see Paranormal Activity or Cloverfield? Well, these are the shoulders that they stand upon. Blair Witch is an independent film turned mainstream success and incredibly influential to the horror genre as it introduced the concept of "found footage" cinematography, which puts the characters into the visual driver's seat as we the passenger audience look on in terror as their fate unfolds in real time. This style of camerawork adds a whole new level of chilling realism, as it is designed to make us forget that we're watching a movie, and rather a genuine account of three actual people being stalked mercilessly through the wilderness by an evil monster.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween


Wes Craven's classic slasher carried on many of the tropes popularized by John Carpenter, however, the thing that made it stand out from the many movies of its kind at the time is its ability to cross the line between reality and imagination, as we struggle to determine if the seemingly normal bedroom in which a 21-year-old Johnny Depp is enjoying music is actually that, or the dreamland hunting ground of Freddy Krueger.

The other thing that makes A Nightmare on Elm Street so memorable is Freddy himself, being a departure from the standard silent, knife-wielding slashers whose every detail was specifically engineered to scare. For example, his signature "Christmas" sweater is really not related to the holiday at all, and his unique razor glove is more than just a weapon.

While creating the character of Freddy Krueger, Wes Craven spent a long time researching things that are generally scary and unsettling to people. He found that the colors of red and green - when viewed side by side - are the most difficult for the human eye to process, therefore inspiring a sense of uneasiness. He also found that the number one common fear shared across many of the world's cultures is being torn apart by animal claws, which inspired the razor glove's design.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween


Although it was not the first movie to introduce the concept of the walking dead to the horror genre, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is responsible for how we know zombies today. While the term "zombie" is never applied to the creatures in the film (Romero called them "ghouls"), it nevertheless revolutionized the subgenre and transformed the definition of a zombie in popular culture from a product of voodoo magic to the shuffling, rotting husks hungry for brains we all know and love.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

7. THE EXORCIST - 1973

Considered the scariest movie of its day and the first of the horror genre to be nominated for Best Picture, The Exorcist is so influential for how it redefined the concept of the demonic possession subgenre, and thus the sheer mortal terror that it inspires. Previously, it only happened to people who were "asking for it", so to speak, by recklessly dabbling in the occult or not having faith in God. However, given that the victim in The Exorcist is an innocent little girl, it proposed the idea that it could happen to anyone at any time - an idea that caused numerous moviegoers in 1973 to sleep with crucifixes out of fear that they too would end up an unwilling vessel of the Devil.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

8. THE LOST BOYS - 1987

The Lost Boys follows the story of a young man named Mike, who together with his mother and little brother move to the fictional seaside California city of Santa Carla to start a new life. That all changes, however, when he befriends a group of leather-clad youth who only seem to come out at night, and finds himself in a battle for his humanity.

Before the cult classic directed by Joel Schumacher hit the scene in 1987, vampires were portrayed in horror cinema as cape-wearing eccentrics who lived in castles and slept in coffins. The Lost Boys, however, is considered the birth of the "modern vampire". That is the effortlessly cool nocturnal playboys that remain fan favorites throughout the entertainment world as seen in titles like Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and Queen of the Damned.

Although, those supernatural good looks and wicked charms aside, The Lost Boys introduced a whole new level of danger when it comes to vampires: they now look exactly like us. Walking undetected amongst the human population. Free to prey on whomever they choose.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

9. THE HAUNTING - 1963

We've talked about vampires, zombies, witches, and all manner of horror movie staples. But what about ghosts? Based on the book The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, British-made The Haunting is widely regarded as the originator of the "haunted house" subgenre, about a paranormal investigator who invites two ordinary women to spend what turns out to be a night of terror in the very spiritually active Hill House.

What makes this film so interesting is that we never actually see the ghosts. The Haunting relies solely on the power of ambiance and the audience's natural fear of the unknown to garner scares, which proved to be a highly effective strategy. Think about it. When we physically encounter something scary, we can see it and avoid it, and even study it for weaknesses. When we can only hear it, however, when we don't know what we're looking for, our imaginations run wild and we psyche ourselves out trying to determine the threat.

First in Fright: 10 Influential Horror Movies You Need to See this Halloween

10. THE EVIL DEAD - 1981

The final title on our list of influential horror movies is none other than the first honest-to-goodness "survive the night" offering to the genre, directed by and starring Michigan-natives Sam Raimi and Bruce Campell, respectively. You know the type. A group of youth goes away for a weekend to a remote location for a raucous good time, no parents allowed, only to have their party crashed by a nasty something or other whose appearance could have easily been avoided had they not been reckless. In the case of this movie, it was reading an evil book full of evil words that summoned evil...uh...dead.

The trope has been carried on by numerous titles, but it all, for the most part, began with The Evil Dead. Like the slasher flicks that were beginning to become popular around this time thanks to Halloween, this movie relies on its relatability to its primary viewers: youth. Although, instead of showing a killer barging into the homes of their on-screen peers and butchering them to death for seemingly no reason at all, The Evil Dead attacks the general assumption of invincibility amongst kids. In other words, if you do stupid things, there are stupid consequences.

To quote a certain ghost-faced killer not listed here: "What's your favorite scary movie?" What titles are on your essential horror movie night list for Halloween? Let us know!

At Hank Graff Mt. Pleasant we strive to provide our customers with a car buying experience that is accommodating, stress-free and fun! Visit us at our Chevrolet dealership located at 4580 E Pickard Rd in Mount Pleasant, Michigan 48858 or our Buick GMC Cadillac dealership located at 116 N. Mission St in Mount Pleasant, MI 48858.

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