Every Halloween, film experts recommend scary movies to get us in the holiday spirit.
And their tips usually draw blood – cinematically speaking.
But some horror movie favorites get a little too much acclaim.
WWTW reached out to some fellow movie critics – and a professor steeped in horror movie lore – to see which films get too much attention this time of year – and which ones deserve a bit more love.
- Nell Minow – AKA Movie Mom
Even before New York Times film critic A.O. Scott mentioned it in the paper this week I was a fan of “Dead of Night,” which I saw as a teenager because my mom said it scared her out of a night’s sleep when she was a kid, and just saw again. I have a special affection for “The Craft” and “The Faculty,” both of which I think are better than their reputations. As for overrated, I’d say “Planet Terror.” Yes, there are parts I love, but it is way too into itself.
- Film blogger James Frazier
Overrated: “The Exorcist” (1973): Perhaps “overrated” is the wrong term here. But for the gargantuan hype surrounding the film’s level of terror, count me as underwhelmed. While William Friedkin’s legendarily grotesque film sits at the top of just about every “Scariest Movies” list, my own enjoyment of it came from the human drama involving its conflicted protagonists. Linda Blair’s possessed (and ghastly abused) Regan was certainly one of cinema’s eerier characters, but not one that haunted my nightmares.
Underrated: “Day of the Dead” (1985): Perhaps the least respected of George A. Romero’s zombie films, “Day of the Dead” is more methodically paced and contemplative than what audiences are used to seeing out of a zombie film. While certainly inferior to “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead,” it had been so maligned to me that when I finally watched it, I was shocked at how tense and gripping it was. There’s some of the expected action and gore, but Romero makes the atmosphere claustrophobic with the realization that the film’s heroes are merely waiting for the inevitable end, which to me is the most frightening state one can exist in
- Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore
I’d say pretty much everything Rob Zombie has made qualifies as over-rated. He’s beloved by hardcore horror folks. I see him as an artless splatter artist who hasn’t figured out how to make all the gore and cretinism scary yet. People who laugh at his films are probably puppy torturers and should be watched.
Underrated is harder. I tend toward stuff that is realistic–leaves out the supernatural. The recent remake of “Last House on the Left” wasn’t a classic, but I thought was under-appreciated by critics and audiences. Sara Paxton’s performance gave the generic “victim” role humanity, pluck and gut-wrenching pathos. It’s been years since I’ve seen somebody commit that deeply to what is too often a thankless role in a horror movie
- Catherine Zimmer, Assistant Professor of the Film and Screen Studies Program at Pace University
Overrated: “Saw” (2004) – Though nobody thinks the Saw franchise is quality filmmaking in general, many people seem to think the first one is quite good. However, when I first saw the film it seemed to me to be totally derivative (if not an outright knock-off) of David Fincher’s far more disturbing and well-made “Seven, “released almost 10 years prior. So if only to give credit where credit is due I feel the need to take the wind out of the Saw sails.
Underrated: “The Changeling” (1980) -Not to be confused with Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film, this creepy ghost film from 1980 stars George C. Scott as a bereaved widower (his wife and child having been killed in a car accident) who is confronted with a large and haunted mansion. It’s a classic ghost story that still can give me the chills, but with “The Amityville Horror” and “Poltergeist” dominating the ghost market in that era, it has been somewhat lost in the shuffle.
(Photo: “Last House on the Left” didn’t get enough credit from his fellow movie critics, says Orlando Sentinel movie reviewer Roger Moore.)