The Curse of 31 Nights, 31 Frights

Score Card: Halloween

'Halloween'

I find it difficult not to give the number one spot over to that classic slasher film that birthed the infamous killer known as Michael Myers, and tonight is no exception. The rightly-celebrated Halloween theme is as iconic as Bernard Hermann’s Psycho or John Williams’s Jaws. If Alfred Hitchcock can credit Hermann for 33% of the frightening effect of Psycho, Carpenter can credit himself for saving his movie with a terrifying score. Even divorced from the film, those quick, high piano notes overlayed with long, low tones (and that ever present staccato chirp underscoring the whole thing), instill a feeling of dread and foreboding.

Serial Thriller: The Brides of Dracula

'The Brides of Dracula'

Hammer Studios didn’t always produce the best scripts for their classic horror series, but when it came to timeless icons Dracula and Frankenstein, they perfectly captured the spooky, haunting atmosphere. In this follow-up to their adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, the thunder claps, the wind howls, the townsfolk fret and the beautiful young sex-kitten is… well, young and sexy.

Serial Thriller: Dracula — Prince of Darkness

'Dracula: Prince of Darkness'

Christopher Lee returns as the undead count, despite having been turned to ashes in the previous episode. And you thought it was only modern movie monsters like Jason that were hard to kill. Peter Cushing is absent in this follow-up, leaving Andrew Keir as the reproachful Father Sandor to take up arms against the fiendish foe.

Serial Thriller: Horror of Dracula

'Horror of Dracula'

Though it followed in the footsteps of the trailblazing The Curse of Frankenstein, this second film in Hammer Studios long-lived love affair with horror virtually invented traditional gothic atmosphere with its quiet, windswept countryside, cozy village inn and brooding, spooky castle. Christopher Lee puts on a tall, dignified air until his dark side comes out, at which point his towering height and unsettling snarl become truly menacing.

Rear Window

'Rear Window'

Rear Window may not have the slasher pedigree of Psycho, but it does boast some of the finest tension and suspense of director Alfred Hitchcock’s extensive career. Utilizing a single set and no musical score, Hitchcock delivers a higher degree of believability than most films attain on location with hand-held cinematography.

The Cabin in the Woods

'The Cabin in the Woods'

Genre deconstruction has become quite chic in the years following Wes Craven’s reflexive horror classic, Scream. It gave a boost to the horror genre, which was then immediately slogged with cheap spoofs, high-profile remakes and at least two new sub-genres: found footage and the unfortunate and aptly-named torture porn.

Score Card: Session 9

'Session 9'

Session 9 is an atmospheric creeper about an asbestos removal crew working at an abandoned mental asylum, and the mounting tensions between them as they begin exhibiting unusual behavior. Director Brad Anderson hired experimental music band Climax Golden Twins to score his subtle psychological horror and what they created is a fascinating aura that defies conventional motion picture composings.

Special Screaming: Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Halloween'

For those of us disenchanted with the new films that have plagued theatres this year, the good news is there are a good many classic film revivals lighting up screens in the third quarter of 2012. Perhaps the imminent end of the worldis triggering a bout of movie nostalgia.

Serial Thriller: House of Dracula

Martha O'Driscoll as the hunchback in 'House of Dracula'

Four years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and four months after the bombing of Hiroshima, the Universal monster movies gasped their last as literary monsters gave way to monsters of the atomic age. The plot itself is a Frankenstein creation, cobbled together from bits and pieces of previous Universal monster movies for one last cash grab. That doesn’t mean it lacks any kind of enjoyable charm.