Halloween's coming and it's time to get spooked. Our recommendation: Watch a scary movie. Local video stores stock plenty of frightening choices, but some films are more disturbing than others. Here are our recommendations of some recent (mostly) releases guaranteed to curdle your blood:
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The remake currently in area theaters lacks the subtlety of the classic slasher, which was so overpowering that many viewers thought they saw more gore than was actually present. Director Tobe Hooper's cheapie original proved to be one of the most significant and influential films in the history of horror by being the prototype for all the youth-in-peril films that followed. Few could match the brilliance of this film that mixes dark humor with its almost dreamlike quality.
Joy Ride (2001). While technically not a horror film, Joy Ride creates more tension than many recent films in that genre. A young man on his way to meet his girlfriend picks up his irresponsible brother who foolishly plays a prank on a trucker with a CB radio. The joke backfires. The trucker's a psychopath, and his unrelenting pursuit of the three young people is reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's Duel, but with a dose of violence. Get this even if you saw the movie in theaters: The DVD includes a 20 minute-plus alternative ending and restores many scenes that were deleted from the theater release.
The Ring (2000). Here's proof that a remake can improve on the original. The Ring enhances the clever idea from the Japanese horror film Ringu about a bizarre videotape that carries a curse. Anyone who views it dies in one week. The American version creates a spooky atmosphere that is missing from the somewhat flat original. The Ring also takes more time with the investigation into the source of the tape, and it offers a much more intelligent female protagonist, wonderfully played by Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive). The one great moment in Ringu, the climactic scare scene, is also better handled in the remake. There is a reason why The Ring is the biggest horror film in recent years: It is the best in a long time.
House Of 1000 Corpses(2003). This gem is directed by Rob Zombie, who is better known for his horror-laced music, first with his band White Zombie, then in his subsequent solo career. Zombie's goal with his first film was to recreate the style of the more mean-spirited horror films of the '70s, and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the inspiration. The similarities are obvious, but Zombie's movie does display some demented originality.
May (2003). May is a character study of a deeply disturbed young woman whose attempts to lead a somewhat normal life fail. No matter how hard she tries, her obsession with body parts overcomes her ability to blend in. Be forewarned: the climax might be a bit too grisly for some viewers. This little low-budget gem has received almost no attention, but it is likely to develop a cult following.