The Reel: Best and Worst of 31 Nights of Halloween


Ben Conniff

As my second annual “31 Nights of Halloween” horror movie marathon approaches its zenith, I would like to share some of the best and scariest films I watched for the first time.

Plus, I’ll clue you in on some of the ones that should be avoided like the dentist down the street who gives out toothbrushes to trick or treaters.

Ghoulishly good

“The Frighteners” (1996)

Peter Jackson directed this darkly humorous tale about a man (Michael J. Fox) with the ability to see and communicate openly with spirits, who uses his gift to fight a demonic presence.

A quirky “Ghostbusters” vibe and revolutionary special effects that showcase Jackson’s now-famous technical wizardry make “The Frighteners” a great option for Halloween. Now streaming on Netflix.

“The Awakening” (2011)

This thriller, starring “Iron Man 3”’s Rebecca Hall and “300”’s Dominic West, is set in post-World War I England at a boarding school for boys. While there, a famous hoax exposer (Hall) sets out to explain sightings of a missing child’s ghost.

The musical score by Daniel Pemberton and cinematography from Eduard Grau create a chilling atmosphere. The final plot twist is jaw-dropping. Now streaming on Netflix.

“Poltergeist” (1982)

Director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg bring to life the story of a family whose daughter gets kidnapped by vengeful spirits who have taken over their home.

Young Heather O’Rourke’s performance and a host of spectacular visual effects have instilled “Poltergeist” as both a horror classic and a pop culture phenomenon. “Monster House” director Gil Kenan will resurrect “Poltergeist” in a remake slated for 2014.

Brutishly Bad

“Silent Hill: Revelation” (2012)

Inspired by the Konami video game, “Silent Hill: Revelation” follows a high school girl (Adelaide Clemens) who is drawn into an alternate reality while investigating the disappearance of her father (Sean Bean).

Along the way, she finds answers to the terrifying nightmares that have haunted her since childhood. While the creature make-up and special effects are indeed horrifying, the rest of the narrative is too muddled to follow.

“A Haunted House” (2013)

Following in the footsteps of the Wayans Brothers’ “Scary Movie” franchise, “A Haunted House” spoofs recent horror films such as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Devil Inside.”

The jokes are too crass to be funny and the characters are so stupid that they make you eagerly cheer for their demise. Stay away.

“The Collection” (2012)

“Saw” franchise veterans Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton return for this sequel to their 2009 thriller, “The Collector.” “The Collection” picks up when a man who escaped the clutches of The Collector in the previous film is blackmailed into the killer’s booby-trapped warehouse.

Uninteresting characters and an abundance of gore prove too much to warrant a recommendation.