Here’s one from the archives for the Halloween season, updated with some additional titles that weren’t available in Instant Video format last year, when this post was originally written.
Remember the good old days, when horror films and thrillers left something to the imagination? Here are some of them that’ll be just the ticket for folks seeking a good Halloween scare without having their stomachs turned in the bargain.
1408 (PG-13, 3.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy)
The cynical and skeptical writer Mike Enslin writes books evaluating supernatural phenomena in hotels, graveyards and other haunted places, usually debunking the mystery.
While writing his last book, he travels from Los Angeles to New York to spend one night in the evil room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, which is permanently unavailable for guests.
The reluctant manager Mr. Gerald Olin objects to his request and offers an upgrade, expensive booze and finally the reports relating the death of more than fifty guests along decades in the cursed room. However, Mike threatens Mr. Olin, promising to sue the hotel, and finally checks in the room.
Along the night, he finds that guests of room 1408 can check in when they like, but they can never leave the room alive. - Written by Claudio Carvalho
One of the all-time greats: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (rated R, 4.75/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy) – From Amazon:
Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark masterpiece of the macabre stars Anthony Perkins as the troubled Norman Bates, whose old dark house and adjoining motel are not the place to spend a quiet evening.
No one knows that better than Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), the ill-fated traveler whose journey ends in the notorious shower scene.
First a private detective, then Marion’s sister (Vera Miles) searches for her, the horror and the suspense mount to a terrifying climax where the mysterious killer is finally revealed.
30 Days of Night (R, 3.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $7.99 to buy)
This is a vampire movie so there’s a lot of fake blood and some scary-looking teeth, but most of the graphic violence takes place off-screen. From IMDB:
In Barrow, Alaska, seventy percent of the population of five hundred and some dwellers travel on the day of the last sunset, since the town will stay alone for the next thirty days without sun light.
Sheriff Eben Oleson and Deputy Billy Kitka find several cell phones burned on the road.
Then they receive a call from the local caretaker saying that all his sled dogs have been slaughtered; later Eben finds the operator of the cell tower decapitated. He arrests a troublemaker drifter and the stranger frightens him by saying, “they are coming and the locals will be dead.”
Soon Eben discovers that the town is under siege by a gang of bloodthirsty vampires and with a few survivors, they hide in an empty attic waiting for the next sunrise. - Written by Claudio Carvalho
Fright Night (R, 3.5/5 stars, currently priced at $3.99 to rent and $14.99 to buy)
This movie is the remake of the 1985 film and is about Charley Brewster who lives in the desert suburb on the outskirts of Las Vegas. His neighbor Jerry (‘Colin Farrell’ ) has his windows all blacked out which catches the attention of Charley friend and “geek” Ed who is sure that Jerry is a vampire.
As time goes by some other friends and students of Charley’s school start disappearing and Ed tells him that he is sure Jerry is behind it. Then when Ed doesn’t turn up at school Charley checks it out for himself and breaks into Jerry’s house, as a result he see’s more than he bargains for and ends up with Jerry on his back. Charley ends up getting his family and friends involved in something they should have never been a part of.
He has to get a self proclaimed vampire killer Peter Vincent (‘David Tennant’) to help him save him and his friends from an eternal damnation as vampires from being “turned” by Jerry. - Written by Michael Hallows Eve
Fallen (rated R, 4/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $5.99 to buy) – Denzel Washington stars as a cop on the trail of a body-hopping serial killer.
Det. John Hobbes is convinced that when killer Edgar Reese is executed, all of his troubles are over.
But when people he knows and people on the street start to sing the same tune that Reese sang in the gas chamber, and those same people taunt him, he is told that maybe the cursed fallen angel Azazel is behind it all.
Azazel is cursed to roam the Earth without a form, and he can switch bodies by any contact, making him hard to track. When Hobbes is forced to kill a man possessed by Azazel, he must clear his name while protecting his family and others from the evil, vengeful Azazel. - Written by Ben Borg
Jacob’s Ladder (rated R, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $9.99 to buy)
From Rotten Tomatoes:
A tortured man finds himself caught in a middle-ground between hallucination and reality in this supernatural thriller, scripted by Bruce Joel Rubin of Ghost (1990) and My Life (1993).
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a soldier stationed in Vietnam who undergoes a traumatic experience on the battlefield – the nature of which is initially unclear.
The film then moves into his post-Vietnam experience in 1970s New York, where he feels consistently traumatized, but can never quite remember exactly what happened to him in Southeast Asia or to free himself from his anxieties over the recent tragic death of his young son (Macaulay Culkin)…Soon, Jacob’s tenuous hold on reality starts to slip as horrifying events befall him; he is nearly run over by a subway train, pursued by faceless demons in cars, and spots reptilian tails and horns protruding from the bodies of those he encounters.
Jacob also suffers severe panic attacks related to the chaos that may be reality, or may exist only in his mind… ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
In this supernatural thriller, Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is a fairly typical working-class guy living in Chicago with his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and his son Jake (Zachary David Cope).
One night at a party, Tom gets into a lively discussion with his sister-in-law, Lisa (Illeana Douglas), who believes in psychic communication and the power of hypnosis.
He challenges Lisa to hypnotize him, and she plants in him a post-hypnotic suggestion to be more open-minded.
But the results aren’t quite what Lisa or Tom expected; Tom now senses an air of terrible dread throughout his house and is convinced that evil lurks just around the corner. He also sees the spirit of a girl from the neighborhood who disappeared months ago — and Jake sees the spirit as well.
In London, lawyer Arthur Kipps still grieves the death of his beloved wife Stella on the delivery of their son Joseph four years ago. His employer gives him a last chance to keep his job, and he is assigned to travel to the remote village of Cryphin Gifford to examine the documentation of the Eel Marsh House that belonged to the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow.
Arthur befriends Daily on the train and the man offers a ride to him to the Gifford Arms inn. Arthur has a cold reception and the owner of the inn tells that he did not receive the request of reservation and there is no available room.
The next morning, Arthur meets solicitor Jerome who advises him to return to London. However, Arthur goes to the isolated manor and soon he finds that Eel Marsh House is haunted by the vengeful ghost of a woman dressed in black.
He also learns that the woman lost her son, drowned in the marsh, and she seeks revenge, taking the children of the scared locals. - Written by Claudio Carvalho
The Haunting (not rated but consider it a PG-13, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy, and currently FREE for Amazon Prime members to view) – From Amazon:
In an old New England house believed to be haunted, an ESP researcher enlists the help of two mediums in the hopes they can learn more about the house’s evil reputation.
Amazon reviewer Paulo Leite says:
The story has, by now, been imitated endlessly. Four people on a haunted house just to study it. But this is just the premise.
The great Robert Wise sets up the most perfect, most classic haunted-house film ever made. The screenplay is built on the principle that you don’t have to see it (the gore, the blood, etc.) to feel the fear. So, this is one of those great films where the tension is constructed upon the things you hear… the things you know are there.
In the pre-CGI era, you really had to create something out of what you had. So, Mr. Wise had a great script (years ahead of its time), great characters, great actors, a great cameraman, and settings that are a wow!
This is what makes this film so much better than any other (not to mention its remake – who clearly goes for the predictable cheap-trick CGI effects).
The Shining (rated R, 4.75/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy) – Another horror classic, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.
This film does include an axe murder and the infamous “blood gushing out of the elevator” scene, but the first is not terribly graphic and the second is certainly a little disturbing, but not exactly gory.
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
Poltergeist (PG-13, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy)
A modern supernatural classic! From IMDB:
While living an an average family house in a pleasant neighborhood, the youngest daughter of the Freeling family, Carol Anne, seems to be connecting with the supernatural through a dead channel on the television.
It is not for long when the mysterious beings enter the house’s walls.
At first seeming like harmless ghosts, they play tricks and amuse the family, but they take a nasty turn— they horrify the family with angry trees and murderous dolls, and finally abduct Carol Anne into her bedroom closet, which seems like the entrance to the other side. - Written by Thomas O’Rourke