Staff Halloween Horror Picks: Richard Beer

I know it’s been daunting, but we’re almost done.  In our (possibly) final entry, we’ve got Film Action Oregon/Hollywood Theatre Artistic Director Richard Beer!  I must admit, the impetus for this week of recommendations was partially for me to find new horror films to watch and my colleagues did not let me down.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Halloween picks!  In Richard’s words:

Trying not to steal from anyone else’s list (THE SHINING, DOG SOLDIERS and THE HITCHER are all great and would have made mine).

MUTE WITNESS (1994) A mute American makeup artist is working on a low budget horror film in a gritty soundstage in Moscow. One night she forgets her bag and returns to find that some of the locals are using the camera to make what she thinks is a porno but ultimately turns into a snuff film.  There is more tension and twists in this film than a dozen modern day thrillers, plus there’s a great cameo by the late Alec Guinness (in his last theatrical release) as The Reaper. Seek this one out!

DEAD BIRDS (2004) I originally saw this when it was shown at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival a few years ago. Set during the Civil War, a group of bank robbing Confederate soldiers decide to hide out in abandoned plantation. Bad idea all around as supernatural forces begin to wreak havoc. Several stars before they were stars (Michael Shannon, Isaiah Washington) and E.T.’s Henry Thomas make this B-movie something special. And have your remote handy. There are a lot of “did I actually see what I thought I saw in that reflection” moments you will want to watch again.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) I saw this in 1983 at a late night screening at the movie theater I first worked at. Not a huge horror fan at the time, all I can say is that it creeped me out probably more than any movie has since. This film makes the list just for that scene where Leatherface grabs the guy and slams the locker door shut. And the scene with the old man sucking the blood from the girls finger. Ewww!

CAPE FEAR (1962) Lots of people like the Scorsese remake better, but DeNiro doesn’t hold a candle to Robert Mitchum’s ex-con Max Cady. In the remake, Cady just tries to seduce the teenage daughter. In the original, he flat out tells Gregory Peck he is going to rape her. J. Lee Thompson was an underrated director that ended his career making bad Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson sequels (with a couple of Planet of the Apes sequels thrown in the middle). This was his masterpiece.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (1993) The television sequel to the classic “have you checked on the children” cult film isn’t all that great, but the first ten odd minutes are 10 of the most suspenseful in any horror movie. Seriously. Director Fred Walton lives here in Portland now (he also directed the original APRIL FOOLS DAY which is worth a look too).  Click here for the trailer.

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) Ok, this one makes the list because of the circumstances of my original viewing. Back in 1984 I was a projectionist at the Showcase 4 in Quincy, Illinois. On Thursday nights we would build the prints up and screen all the new films opening on that Friday well into the wee hours of the morning. So my friend Brad Sullivan and I were watching NIGHTMARE at around 1am by ourselves. I found it pretty scary and quite unique at the time. Anyway, the film is ending and it all looks like it was just a dream and the kids are getting into the car and heading to school. All of the sudden the film breaks. So, we head up to the booth and I fix it and since there’s only about 2 minutes of pre-credits film left, we decided to watch the rest from the booth. Well as soon as it starts, the mother is waving goodbye to the kids and Freddy’s hand reaches through the window and pulls her through the door! We just looked at each other in shock and got the hell out of there.

And I can’t forget EVIL DEAD II, DAWN OF THE DEAD, SHAUN OF THE DEAD (see a pattern here?) PSYCHO, PSYCHO II, POLTERGEIST, THE OMEGA MAN…too many to name.


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