Halloween is almost here. What a better time to curl up on the couch and watch a scary movie. Each day this week we’re recommending some lesser-known horror films to keep you creeped out until the big night next Tuesday.
Amelia, is an Australian single mother haunted by memories of her late husband’s tragic death. He was in the midst of taking his very pregnant wife to the delivery room when the couple had a devastating car wreck. Mother and baby were saved; dad perished. That was six years ago. Now, as the story opens, Amelia is raising her young son Samuel, a sweet-natured but very precocious and troubled little boy. On a nightly basis, Samuel grows convinced that monsters lurk beneath his bed, and he has even constructed homemade weapons, such as a miniature wooden catapult and crossbow, to fend off the invading enemies. His eccentric behavior alienates his schoolteachers, who insist on removing him from a group setting in the classroom in favor of a special-needs situation with a one-on-one tutor. Meanwhile, Samuel’s conduct stresses Amelia to the breaking point. The situation at home grows much more bizarre when Samuel asks his mom to read to him, and produces a strange children’s storybook from his bedroom shelf. Entitled “The Babadook,” it’s an eerie pop-up book with charcoal illustrations of a demonic figure that announces itself by knocking at the door of a house six times (“Ba-ba-ba-DOOK-DOOK-DOOK”), and then devours all who reside within. Neither Amelia nor Samuel have ever seen this volume before, nor do they know how it turned up in their home. Stranger still, it lacks an author and publishing information. The book instantly has Samuel in tears, and Amelia plans to dispose of it, but that same night, six knocks sound on the door and rattle the house.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
This remake of the 1956 horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers moves the action from small-town USA to 1970s San Francisco and replaces at least part of the original’s psychological horror with special effects. Spores rain forth, unseen, from outer space, and soon strange flowers begin popping up all over the city. After bringing one of these hybrid specimens home with her one night, biologist Elizabeth Driscoll notices that her live-in boyfriend, Geoffrey, doesn’t seem like himself; he’s cold and distant and somehow just not quite there. When she turns to her friend Matthew Bennell, a colleague at the Department of Public Health, he convinces her to see his friend Dr. Kibner, a pop psychologist who argues that the problem is all in Elizabeth’s head. Soon, though, Matthew and Elizabeth begin to notice that people all over the city are changing subtly and inexplicably. When their friend Jack Bellicec and his wife Nancy find a lifeless, half-formed doppelganger covered with plant fibers in the mud baths they own and operate, the group of friends finally begins to understand that a sinister transformation is sweeping their city.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. story “Who Goes There?” on which it was based. Carpenter’s film is more faithful to Campbell’s story than Hawks’ version and also substantially more reliant on special effects, provided in abundance by a team of over 40 technicians, including veteran creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. The film opens enigmatically with a Siberian Husky running through the Antarctic tundra, chased by two men in a helicopter firing at it from above. Even after the dog finds shelter at an American research outpost, the men in the helicopter (Norwegians from an outpost nearby) land and keep shooting. One of the Norwegians drops a grenade and blows himself and the helicopter to pieces; the other is shot dead in the snow by Garry, the American outpost captain. American helicopter pilot MacReady and camp doctor Copper fly off to find the Norwegian base and discover some pretty strange goings-on. The base is in ruins, and the only occupants are a man frozen to a chair (having cut his own throat) and the burned remains of what could be one man or several men. In a side room, Copper and MacReady find a coffin-like block of ice from which something has been recently cut. That night at the American base, the Husky changes into the Thing, and the Americans learn first-hand that the creature has the ability to mutate into anything it kills. For the rest of the film the men fight a losing (and very gory) battle against it, never knowing if one of their own dwindling number is the Thing in disguise. Along with Ridley Scott’s futuristic Alien, The Thing helped stimulate a new wave of sci-fi horror films in which action and special effects wizardry were often seen as ends in themselves.