The only thing more played out than wearing a slutty nurse costume is watching Halloween. Again. Here are ten overlooked horror essentials sure to get your party guests seeing red.
Audition (1999) Two Japanese men are getting drunk in a bar. They grouse about their industry (the movie biz), women, their country. “It’s like a game of torture,” one says. Suddenly, the other has an idea: auditioning hot chicks for a fake film. You know their scheme is bound to end badly, but just how badly places Takashi Miike’s comeuppance thriller in the pantheon of pure pain. Lionsgate, $14.98.
Black Christmas (1974) Accept no remakes. Join the cognoscenti and bow to Bob Clark’s atmospheric sorority-house stalker—a huge influence on John Carpenter’s Halloween but nowhere near as well-known. Superman’s Margot Kidder is the lovable drunk of the sisterhood, but don’t go pegging your affections on anyone; survival isn’t based on fitness. Somerville House, $24.98.
Eyes Without a Face (1960) Horribly disfigured and isolated in her rural mansion, a young woman aches for an identity that never formed. Her brilliant surgeon father, still guilty over the accident that caused her deformity, grafts the faces of unsuspecting victims onto his daughter. Beyond icky, this morose French masterpiece sneaks up on you. It may be greatest psychodrama not made by a Swede. Criterion Collection, $29.95.
Final Destination 3 (2006) Already, we hear you groaning. (And it’s a sequel, no less.) But seriously, the team behind this franchise hit its stride with this particular concoction of Hitchcock-worthy suspense edits, hapless teenage victims and a vicious sense of humor straight out of Spy vs. Spy. High-school yearbook editor Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the shrewdest horror heroine since Jamie Lee Curtis; her antagonist happens to be fate itself. New Line Home Video, $14.98.
Ginger Snaps (2000) Tough as it is growing up geeky and Canadian, the gothy Fitzgerald sisters pass the time by staging fantastic suicides. After being bitten by a stray dog, older sib Ginger has her first period—then her first boyfriend, her first fangs and her first kill. Making a witty connection between lycanthropy and puberty, Ginger Snaps should have been another Buffy. First Look Pictures, $9.98.
In My Skin (2002) Esther is a high-powered businesswoman. She enjoys signing big deals, going to swanky parties and picking at that nasty scab on her leg. Actually, forget about the deals and parties—this scab is way too interesting. Better call in sick. Written and directed by its toothy French star, Marina de Van, this obsession thriller will creep you out for weeks…until you find your own scab to pick. Fox Lorber, $19.95.
The Mist (2007) Last year’s suggestive science-run-amok thriller stunned viewers who made it through to its bleak ending. Already, that finale is beginning to seem like one for the ages. A special two-disc DVD edition offers the film in color and—as director Frank Darabont originally intended it—crisp black-and-white, which lends the story Twilight Zone intimations. Genius Products, $32.95.
Opera (1987) Just because Dario Argento was name-checked by Juno MacGuff doesn’t make him any less of a badass. Let’s assume you’ve already seen Suspiria (the place to start) and suggest this later effort, Argento’s last truly scary movie. It’s about a cursed production of Verdi’s Macbeth. We promise: You won’t fall asleep before the fat lady sings. Blue Underground, $14.95.
Resident Evil (2002) Yes, from a video game. But once you’re done hating, take note of the many things Resident Evil does well, including its dark-hued cinematography and art-damaged techno score by Marilyn Manson. Meanwhile, is there anything wrong with a long-legged runway model in a miniskirt (the perennially underrated Milla Jovovich) doing stoic battle with the undead? We thought not. Sony Pictures, $19.94.
The Stuff (1985) You’d think more satires about rampant consumerism would have emerged from the greed-is-good ’80s. But this comical chiller, about store-bought goop that turns Americans into zombies, does the sociopolitical lifting of ten lesser flicks. The writer-director is B-movie genius Larry Cohen, later of Phone Booth. Anchor Bay, $9.98.