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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Posted: October 26, 2010 12:29 AM

Last Halloween, we discussed the very best direct-to-DVD horror films. The year before, we dealt with the very worst horror films that my wife ever forced me to watch. This year, we're dealing with the new classics. The goal of this list is pretty simple. I'm sure we're all sick and tired of seeing countless "scariest movies of all time" lists every Halloween that basically include some combination of the same several movies. Among the movies that will not be on this list: Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws, Halloween, Alien, and The Shining. Nothing against those films, but I'd imagine that any film nerd who cares enough to read a list of great horror movies has probably already seen them. By limiting the list to the last twenty years, we automatically discount most of the staples that usually fill up such "best of" lists for Halloween. Oh, and another thing, this is purely about theatrical movies that actually scared me, regardless of how high they rank in the quality totem pole. The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, and The Sixth Sense are among my all-time favorite movies, but they didn't particularly frighten me in the traditional sense. So, without further ado, let's dive in.

Candyman (1992)
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Based on a short story by Clive Barker, this genuinely disturbing fairy tale concerns an urban legend that haunts a poverty-stricken housing project in Chicago. As a grad student (Virgina Madsen) investigates the legend of Candyman, the hook-handed murderer who can be summoned by speaking his name into a mirror three times, Helen Lyle finds herself affected by the unending violence and desperation that grips Cabrini-Green. Effortlessly weaving in ideas involving class and race without aggressively preaching, director Bernard Rose crafts a mournful little picture where the underprivileged find it easier to blame their misfortunes on a ghostly hook-handed psychopath than accept the random misery and violence in their midst . Deftly dealing with the core power of urban legends (they only have power if you believe them), the film resists revealing the truth about the mythical Candyman until the last possible moments. Personified by a foreboding but sensual Tony Todd in a star-making-but forever typecasting performance, the world of Candyman is one where it's easier to fear the boogieman than to fear your neighbors.
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Child's Play

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And that's a wrap for this year. There are several worthy pictures that almost made the list (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Descent, etc), but I had to limit it somehow. I'm sure I left off a favorite or two of yours, so let's have at it in the comments section.


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