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I love to be scared
Holiday movie guide

October 31, 2002
The Iranian

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It's not that I like candy and costumes, or carve pumpkins. The simple reason is: I love to be scared. And this is a time of year that my favorite horror movies get shown on TV round the clock.

The thrill I get from watching a really good horror movie in the darkness and stillness of my own comfortable home is unequalled. I know in advance that I am not going to be able to go to sleep, that every weird creaky sound emanating from dark corners of my house will keep me awake, my heart pounding into my chest, until the wee hours of the morning. It doesn't matter. I am a glutton for punishment.

This obsession has resulted in the accumulation of a great number of films over the years. I thought I could share with you some great movies to rent tonight, on Halloween night, which may be a bit off the beaten path but nevertheless do the job. I will stay clear from obvious choices such as The Shining, Psycho, The Sixth Sense, and the like. Rather, I like to (possibly) invite you into new territories of terror.

My first choice would be the Mexican film Chronos. To say the least, it is a "different" vampire film. Chronos was made in Mexico in 1992 starring a "Great Actor you've never heard of", Federico Luppi. Aside from your usual gory stuff, the film is filled with black humour, and even some real, touching moments.

In particular, the relationship between Luppi's Jesus Gris, an antique-store owner who stumbles onto a magical device, and his granddaughter Aurora, makes this more special than your average horror film. Aurora speaks only one word at the end of the movie. If you are brave enough to watch the whole movie, you may be very moved at its ending.

The French film A Pure Formality is a real treat for me because I get to watch one of my favorite horror directors, Roman Polanski, act opposite a giant of cinema, Gerard Depardieu. The film opens with a disheveled and distraught looking man (Depardieu), running through the woods during a violent storm. Dripping wet, he is taken to an isolated provincial Police Station where he declares that he is the famous novelist and playwright, Onoff.

The Inspector (Roman Polanski) is highly skeptical of the man's tale. Harrowing interrogation takes place during the night, with various psychological manoeuvers made between both men, one who is trying to hide the horrible truth, the other who is trying to probe the confession. This horror movie has a definite existential flavor to it (what else would you expect from the French?). Ultimately, it may make you more profoundly sad than scared.

There have been countless versions of the classic movie The Body Snatchers since the beginning of cinema. My personal favorite is Abel Ferrara's 1993 American production starring (the half-Iranian) actress Gabrielle Anwar. The concept of the film (a bunch of aliens take over our bodies during our sleep in order to invade the earth) is deceptively simple and pulp. Ferrara's take on this story is a chilling metaphor for political oppression.

The aliens are creating a regime that literally sucks the humanity out of the population and turns individuals into unthinking, unfeeling machines. A great cameo by Forest Whitaker highlights the drastic rebellion against this campaign of conformity. At another level, this film is also a metaphor for a teenage girl's hysteric fantasy taken to the extreme, in the same way as Billy Friedkin's first Exorcist, made decades ago.

You thought Nicole Kidman was the first lady to scare us in an English castle setting? Puh-leeze. I always thought that the best horror films relied on the power of suggestion, not on all-out bloody depictions of fantastic creatures. This is because I am a firm believer that the human imagination has an unequalled propensity for inventing the most unthinkable horrors. Putting an image in place just restricts the wide journeys that our own imagination could take.

This is why I really am terrified by the 1961 classic The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr as an English governess who starts suspecting the two little children in her charge are possessed by demonic spirits. Of course, you can't get better than black and white for true suspense. The lighting in this film (lots of candles and shadows) and the sound effects are amazing and timeless.

If it's visual effects that do it for you, there's no way you will find anything more creative and unique than the City of Lost Children. This 1995 French film will remind you of the many terrors you had as a kid, putting your head under covers and wishing secretly that a boogeyman would not come to kidnap you in the middle of the night... Or, maybe that was just me? In any case, there is a reason, believe me, that this little heard of feature has developed a cult following worldwide.

There are so many more films to be shared but there are only a limited number of hours on Halloween's Night. And who's to say you can even muster the strength to turn on that screen and enter this fantastic journey. If you do, then I would like to wish you A HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



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