October 21, 2010

MRQE Rewind: Cinema's 35 Best Paranormal Movies

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time for the annual deluge of horror films from studios hoping to capture a scare-hungry audience. This Friday sees two major spooky releases going head to head. Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, with Matt Damon, explores the more emotional side of the line between the living and the dead, but still promises to deliver some creepy moments. The big buzz, though, is revolving around Paranormal Activity 2, the sequel to last year’s surprise mock-doc smash. To mark this Friday’s release, here are MRQE’s top paranormal picks for the spooky season. The top five are below, but be sure to check out MRQE’s complete list of films that go bump in the night. Check out as many as you can take; we won’t tell anyone if you sleep with the light on afterwards.

5. Don't Look Now (1973)
MRQE Metric: 85
A bereaved couple (the 1970’s superstar pairing of Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) attempt to recover in Venice after the drowning death of their young daughter, but they soon become tangled in a web of mysterious visions, elderly psychic sisters, and the specter of a serial killer. The sumptuously shot sex scene between Sutherland and Christie generated a lot of heat in the press, but the film should be remembered for how director Nicholas Roeg brings a stylish twist to the classic ghost story. The film eschews becoming a thrill a minute crowdpleaser, opting instead to envelop the audience in a dark and moody atmosphere as thick as the Venetian fog. When it comes to an inescapable sense of dread, nothing does it better. Don’t Look Now is a triumph from its dreamlike beginning to its surreal, shocking ending.




4. Alien (1979)
MRQE Metric: 86
With Alien, Ridley Scott delivered a dark thrill ride that forever changed the face of the science fiction film. Anyone who claims not to be frightened by at least one of the iconic scenes is lying to you, simple as that. Alien is remarkable not only for its classic scares, but also its astounding character work. The members of the doomed crew interact like a particularly foul-mouthed family, which makes it all the more horrifying when they meet their sticky ends at the claws and jaws of the titular beast. Sigorney Weaver is a standout, of course, and her Ripley is perhaps the most recognizable heroine in extraterrestrial film history. It’s the alien, however, that is the true star of the show, and H.R.’s slimy design will go down in horror history.




3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
MRQE Metric: 87
Spielberg’s mammoth blockbuster is remembered as more of a heartwarming adventure than an appropriately creepy Halloween pick, but don’t judge the film by its reputation. Close Encounters is rife with spooky moments, especially during the first half. Those who have been exposed to the alien presence, among them a young Richard Dreyfuss, become creepily obsessed with their experience, creating mashed potato mountains and frightening their family members. Just as they don’t know whether the forces behind their encounters are real or imagined, kindly or malevolent, we the audience initially have no idea why these things are happening. It’s this uncertainty that makes Close Encounters a hair-raiser, and the movie stops being as scary once the aliens are revealed to be benevolent beings. Spielberg was so inspired by the theme of humans and aliens meeting that he revisited the theme, with a much more cuddly twist, in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.





2. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
MRQE Metric: 89
Rosemary’s Baby represents a perfect storm of talent. Roman Polanski is in his prime as director, and the exquisite Mia Farrow heads up a phenomenal cast. The premise works so perfectly because it’s rooted in simple, everyday fears and annoyances. Everyone’s had a creepy neighbor or two, and most women (and men, perhaps?) can understand the potential of mixed emotions surrounding pregnancy. What is done with these fears, however, is what puts the film at the head of the pack. Polanski and scriptwriter Ira Levin painstakingly weave a world where Rosemary can trust no one, and where even her husband is in on the devilish conspiracy. The horror of Rosemary’s Baby is that Rosemary’s life and body are no longer her own. In an increasingly complicated world, this is a sentiment that nearly everyone can relate to.




1. Frankenstein (1931)
MRQE Metric: 90
This one may be the senior citizen of the list, but it’s number one for a reason. Mary Shelley’s classic novel may have provided the blueprint, but director James Whale crafted a uniquely macabre vision that still stalks popular culture to this day. This movie is what we think of when we think of the Frankenstein story: the mad scientist, the dastardly late-night experiments, and of course Boris Karloff as the shambling monster. There’s tragedy at the heart of this beast; Doctor Frankenstein is supposed to be our hero, but we can’t help but feel sympathy for his monster’s plight. Of course, our sympathy is replaced by dread as soon as the monster starts his rampage of unstoppable violence, but the callous actions of his frenzied creator lead us to wonder who the real villain is.





There's more paranormal movies than just the Top 5. Catch the rest of our list of the Cinema's 35 Best Paranormal Movies on MRQE!

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