Suspense makes for better Halloween film

Halloween is right around the corner — the corner in this case being Sunday — and if you are anything like me, the holiday is a great excuse to combine two of my favorite things in the world: hanging out with good friends and watching horror movies.

We’ve all seen the old horror classics: The Exorcist, The Shining, Texas Chainsaw Massacre — which, as Patton Oswalt so insightfully realizes is “the best movie title of all time” — The Omen, The Evil Dead and Carrie.

Don’t get me wrong. These are awesome movies. They’ll scare your pants off. But if you’re looking to branch out cinematically this Halloween, here are five films off the beaten path that are guaranteed to make you afraid of the dark.

The Tenant

The last of Polanski’s famed urban trilogy (Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby — two great Halloween watches by the way), it is without question my favorite Polanski film, topping the likes of Chinatown and The Pianist.

Polanski himself stars as Trelkovsky, an ordinary man who has the misfortune of renting an apartment formerly occupied by Simone Choule, a woman who hurled herself out of her apartment window.

What could have driven her to this? Much like the suicide in Rosemary’s Baby, the key to the film lies in the answer to this question. Driven to a state of near delirium by his antagonistic neighbors, Trelkovsky slowly finds himself turning into the dead woman, going as far as dressing up in drag. Driven by shear terror and paranoia, he is a man fighting to hold onto his very identity.

In The Tenant, Polanski gives us a truly terrifying psychological thriller that will leave you on the very edge of your seat as he finally declares: “I am not Simone Choule.”

Don’t Look Now

Most unfortunately, Don’t Look Now is best known for the graphic and controversial sex scene between stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland (trust me — in 1973 this wasn’t as disgusting an image), obscuring the fact that it is one of the best thriller and horror classics of all time.

Christie and Sutherland play a middle-aged couple haunted by the death of their young daughter — a scene which is one of the more emotionally moving I’ve ever encountered in the horror genre. In order to escape from the heartbreak, they take a vacation in Venice, but each are haunted by ghostly premonitions which seem to foreshadow their own deaths.

Based on the short story Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, the film offers both thrills and chills while also exploring the fine line between reality and the hereafter, sanity and insanity.

By the end, you will not only be terrified, you will also have acquired an acute phobia of red-cloaked dwarves.


Like The Tenant, Suspiria is one part of a famed director’s trilogy. This time, it’s Dario Argento’s The Three Mothers trilogy (also including Inferno and The Mother of Tears).

A cult phenomenon, Suspiria is well-known to many yet watched by surprisingly few. This is unfortunate, as the master of horror’s masterpiece is truly chilling to behold.

It elegantly spins a story about a young American dancer (Suzy Bannion) who unknowingly enters a witch’s coven believing it to be a prestigious dance school. A series of supernatural events unfold, causing young Suzy to doubt the appearance of her surroundings. By the time she discovers the truth, it is too late.

Perhaps best known for its unforgettably traumatic murder scene, Suspiria is, however, much more than cheap thrills. It is the Cadillac of the horror genre, one of the most beautifully shot and designed horror flicks of all time.

High Tension

Roger Ebert gives this Alexander Aja production one of four stars. This can mean one of two things: either Ebert has lost his touch or I have no taste. Even though I’d put my money on the latter rather than the former, High Tension (also known as Haute Tension in France and Switchblade Romance in England) is well worth your time this Halloween.

The best I can describe it as is Saw meets Memento, which is a sinfully subpar comparison that is nonetheless guaranteed to make you want to see this film.

If you’re a fan of gore, you most assuredly should. It is a simple exploitation story about two young French women who are hunted in the countryside by a nameless, faceless killer. Their mission is simple: survive. Echoing the title, after the relatively slow first 15 minutes, Aja never lets up on the tension or the gore, making you want to turn away while at the same time forcing you to watch — the best kind of horror film.

If you can, get your hands on the original French cut. The American version features subpar dubbing and is edited down two minutes to drop the original NC-17 rating to an R.


What can I say? It’s the best monster movie of all time, yet for some reason, come Halloween, everyone seems to forget it. This is inexplicable to me, because it might just be the best Halloween film out there. Think about it — what could top getting some buds and brews together this Sunday and screening Jaws? Sure, everyone’s seen it a dozen times, but that’s the genius.

You can Mystery Science Theater 3000 the thing, reciting lines and taking shots every time Quint says or does something awesome. You will not find a better group movie watching experience. I guarantee, however, by the end, when Jaws is munching on the Orca, ain’t nobody sayin’ nothin’.

So, have fun this weekend. Be safe. And, if you watch these films, be scared. It is Halloween, after all. What else are you going to do — watch romantic comedies?

Sam Colen is a junior majoring in economics/mathematics. His column, “’O Lucky Critic,” runs Fridays.