Sean P. Means: 10 frightening films for a Halloween horror fix

First Published      Last Updated May 26 2017 08:29 pm

After you send off the last trick-or-treater with the last Oh! Henry bar in the bowl on Friday, you may be in the mood to watch something scary.

Now you must face the tyranny of choice: too many options, some of them of questionable quality.

Here are The Cricket's 10 picks (listed alphabetically) for the perfect late-night Halloween horror marathon. Pop the popcorn, dim the lights and be prepared to scream.

"The Blair Witch Project" (1999) • It's been 15 years since three college kids got lost in the woods and were hunted by some unseen evil. It's also been 15 years of filmmakers copying the "found footage" vibe that directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez nailed so perfectly.

"The Evil Dead" (1981) • Director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell, high-school buddies from Michigan, cut their teeth on this low-budget gorefest that's so violent and disturbing that the uncut version was unavailable in some European countries for years. The "tree rape" scene is cringeworthy, but the rest is powerful old-school horror.

"Frenzy" (1972) • Alfred Hitchcock is often credited with inventing modern horror with "Psycho," but the later and lesser-known "Frenzy" is even more chilling. Jon Finch stars as a man wrongly accused of being London's "Neck Tie Killer," who must elude Scotland Yard as he hunts for the real murderer.

"Halloween" (1978) • The granddaddy of slasher movies, John Carpenter's low-budget creeper about a remorseless masked killer launched a new era of horror. Jamie Lee Curtis, as the terrorized Laurie, earned her "scream queen" credentials honestly: Her mom, Janet Leigh, starred in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

"Let the Right One In" (2008) • Eli (Lina Leandersson) is 12, but "I've been 12 a very long time." She's a vampire stuck in permanent prepubescence in this shocking Swedish thriller. The American remake, "Let Me In," is an OK substitute (with the exceedingly talented Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead), but the original is more unsettling.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) and "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987) • The rule with the "Elm Street" series is that, unlike the "Star Trek" films, it's the odd-numbered ones that are good. Wes Craven's original is still the best of the lot, but the third chapter, directed by Chuck Russell ("The Mask," "Eraser"), is a clever addition that features Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne in the cast.

"Scream" (1996) • Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson mock the conventions of the slasher movie — and then show how, when properly deployed, those conventions can still scare the bejeebers out of you. Kudos for starting the tradition of killing off a big star in the precredit sequence.

"Shaun of the Dead" (2004) • Screenwriters Edgar Wright (who directed) and Simon Pegg (who starred) launched their brilliant "Cornetto Trilogy" with this fond variation on the zombie movie. And while it mixes in comedy and even a little romance, it's so tightly plotted that it works quite effectively to make you jump in your seat.

"The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) • The only horror movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture, director Jonathan Demme's thriller about a rookie FBI agent (Jodie Foster) trying to find a serial killer (Ted Levine) while playing psychological games with the imprisoned murderer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is a marvel of perfectly coiled tension.

"28 Days Later" (2002) • Animal-rights extremists accidentally unleash a "rage" virus, turning London into a zombie wasteland. The coolest part of Danny Boyle's kinetic thriller is how the survivors (Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris and Brendan Gleeson) discover that the scariest monsters are their fellow uninfected human beings.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seanpmeans. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com.