Picks For Halloween If You’re Not a Hardcore Horror Film Fan

Although these movies do not skimp on blood and gore they show what filmmakers can do when they have the right combination of talent, ambition and style

The films below offer more than simply existing for the sake of scaring the (fertilizer) out of viewers by whatever means necessary …

Mute Witness

Russian actress Marina Sudina plays Billie Hughes, a make-up artist with an American film crew shooting a grade Z slasher pic in Moscow.

Accidentally locked in the studio after hours Billie discovers two Russians making a snuff film.

And here’s the twist: She can’t tell the police what she has seen because she is unable to speak.

She attempts to translate what she has seen through sign language but the authorities remain skeptical.

British writer/director Anthony Waller (An American Werewolf in Paris) filmed on location in Moscow with a mostly Russian cast and crew.

Sudina manages to be both waifishly appealing and resourceful as the horrified heroine, without uttering a word.

Waller cuts finely tuned suspense with moments of unexpected dark humor and throws in some surprises for savvy film buffs.

A knuckle-biting chase through the deserted studio can be seen as a visually witty variation on the cat and mouse chase between Audrey Hepburn and a trio of ruthless criminals in Wait Until Dark.

The snuff film sequence owes a stylistic debt to the shower scene in Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho.

John Carpenter’s Vampires

James Woods is in fine caffeinated form as Jack Crow, the tightly wired leader of a scruffy band of vampire slayers roaming the American Southwest.

The gang meet their match when they tangle with Valek (Thomas Ian Nicholas), a master bloodsucker searching for a sacred relic which will enable him to walk in the sunlight without getting burned to a crisp.

You might say that Jack has a stake in his future.

More gory than scary, the pic is both a vampire movie and a modern day western with B-flick auteur Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing ) slyly acknowledging the conventions of both genres.

The Faculty

Ever think that your high school teachers must be aliens in human form? That’s what it is going through the minds of the students in this sci-fi/thriller from director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Til Dawn)

Scream scribe Kevin Willamson’s script playfully references cult sci-flicks (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and TV shows (The X-Files ).

The casting is a film geek’s delight with Robert Patrick (the killer robot in Terminator 2); Piper Laurie (Sissy Spacek’s mom in Carrie) and Famke Janssen (Phoenix in X-Men:The Last Stand) in key roles.

The cast of this 1998 feature also includes future talkshow host Jon Stewart; singer Usher; Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings); Josh Hartnett (30 Days of Night) and Laura Harris (TV’s Dead Like Me).

Dark City

Young amnesiac John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wanders through a nameless city searching for his identity in this cult film classic from writer/director Alex Proyas (The Crow).

Along the way he meets a stony-faced cop (William Hurt), a singer (Jennifer Connelly) who may (or may not) be his wife and a race of aliens capable of altering reality.

Proyas samples from modern sci-fi (Blade Runner) and early German silents (Nosferatu, Metropolis) to produce some potent and striking visuals.

Skyscrapers rise out of the earth, rooms change shape and black-hooded figures glide through the air.

The Dark Half

Yuppie prof Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) writes trashy blood-and-guts bestsellers under the pseudonym George Stark.

According to his wife (Amy Madigan) the mild-mannered prof is “like Jekyll and Hyde” when he is writing the novels.

When a student threatens to reveal his double identity Beaumont decides to bury the Stark persona and concentrate on “serious” fiction.

Unfortunately for the prof, Beaumont’s razor-wielding alter ego refuses to go quietly.

Hutton excels in a dual role.

His wholesome good looks serve him well as the boyishly affable Beaumont.

As Stark, complete with black pompadour and menacing Southern drawl, the actor exudes the lethal charm of a deranged Elvis.

The Dark Half is more than a slickly crafted slasher flick.

Director George Romero (Night of the Living Dead ), adapting his screenplay from a Stephen King novel, cannily develops the underlying theme of King’s book: the plight of the artist trapped by his own success and struggling to break free.

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