THE NAKED AND THE DEAD Ted Raimi in ”Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn”
EW.com counts down the top 5 scariest movies
by Ty Burr
What makes a great scary movie? Buckets of gore? Stomach-knotting suspense? A classic monster? That shot of the heroine oblivious to the killer looming OUT OF FOCUS IN THE DOORWAY?!? Our countdown of the best Halloween DVDs covers all the ghoulish genres, from creepy comedy to full-out fearmongering. Put one on and reduce your party (or yourself) to shrieks of delight. Just don’t answer the phone…
Image credit: The Old Dark House: Kobal Collection/Universal
The Old Dark House
Starring Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Gloria Stuart Directed by James Whale First released 1932
WHY Because it’s a) An unsung classic horror flick from Frankenstein director James Whale, b) a sly parody of horror flicks from one smart filmmaker, c) a total ”turn off the lights and shriek” party experience. Have a potato?
PEAK SHRIEK That’d probably be when the stranded-in-a-storm travelers sneak upstairs to discover the demented family patriarch (who’s played by a woman — go figure).
DVD EXTRAS Two audio commentaries, one of which is by hotcha costar Gloria Stuart — who went on to 1990s fame playing the older version of Kate Winslet in ”Titanic.”
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn
Starring Bruce Campbell Directed by Sam Raimi First released 1987
WHY Because it’s the funniest gore flick of all time. Or the goriest comedy. Take your choice, but don’t watch it after a full meal.
PEAK SHRIEK The moment when, as he battles the forces of hell, our supermarket-clerk hero (the brilliant Bruce Campbell) fights his own possessed hand — and suddenly comes through with an homage to the Three Stooges.
DVD EXTRAS The audio commentary track from Campbell and director Sam Raimi (among others) is legendary among DVD buffs for its off-the-wall humor.
Starring Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn Directed by William Friedkin First released 1973
WHY Because it’s the least subtle but most undeniably scary story of Satanic possession ever made, and it’s most people’s benchmark of modern horror.
PEAK SHRIEK You can keep the head spinning and pea-soup vomit. The part that really freaks us out is when Linda Blair’s skin gets that “help me?” rash.
DVD EXTRAS “The Version You’ve Never Seen” DVD has 12 minutes of previously unseen footage — including the notorious “spider walk” sequence. The “25th Anniversary” DVD preserves the original cut and ponies up an excellent BBC documentary about the film.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence Directed by John Carpenter First released 1978
WHY Because it’s the granddaddy of teen-slasher flicks, and still more primal (and thus more frightening) than any of the gazillion knock-offs that have pounded its breakthroughs into cliché. And, yes, we mean Scream too.
PEAK SHRIEK This one’s hard, since the movie is basically a series of shockers strung along a thin plot. And that’s its genius. But we’d have to go for the simple shot of Michael Myers standing in the doorway, covered by a sheet and wearing a dead guy’s glasses?
DVD EXTRAS The “Collector’s Edition” DVD also includes the “television cut” that director John Carpenter assembled around the time of Halloween II, including 14 minutes of new footage shot at that time (which is why Jamie Lee Curtis is wearing a towel on her head in one new scene — her hairstyle was different).