5 horror classics on DVD. Find out which thrillers are worth renting

By Ty Burr
October 18, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Evil Dead II: © Rosebud Releasing Corp/Courtesy Foto Fantasies
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…


No. 5

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.”

Introduction No. 4

Image credit: Evil Dead 2: © Rosebud Releasing Corp / Courtesy Foto Fantasies

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.

 No. 5 No. 3 


imageCredit += ‘ Evil Dead II: © Rosebud Releasing Corp/Courtesy Foto Fantasies’

Image credit: Rosemary’s Baby: Kobal Collection/Paramount

Rosemary’s Baby

Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes
Directed by Roman Polanski
First released 1968

WHY Because it’s the one Satan-worship movie that’s actually elegant and subtle and suspenseful. Which only makes it creepier. If that idea bores you, hey, your loss (but go on to No. 2).

PEAK SHRIEK Easy: When Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is brought to see her baby by her nice, devil-cult New York neighbors. “What have you done to its eyes?” “He has his father’s eyes?”

DVD EXTRAS A featurette made during the filming shows director Roman Polanski living the late ’60s high life with wife Sharon Tate, soon to fall victim to the Manson family.

 No. 4 No. 2 


Image credit: The Exorcist: Everett Collection

The Exorcist

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.

 No. 3 No. 1 


Image credit: Halloween: Everett Collection


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).

 No. 2 Introduction