We Asked Local Film Buffs for Their Fave Spooky Flick Recommendations

Pop some popcorn, curl up and get ready to be spooked

Oct 1, 2018 at 4:12 pm
"Suspiria" starring Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion. - Provided
"Suspiria" starring Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion.

For those who partake in Halloween shenanigans, October — or "spooky season," as the kids say — is the ultimate excuse to curl up to creepy films all month long.

If you’re like my upstairs neighbors, the shameless streaming binge of all things horror has already begun. (This isn’t me passively asking them to turn the volume down. I love hearing the piercing shrieks and suspenseful soundtracks trickle through my ceiling.)

If you’re looking for new scare fare, we asked local Cincy film buffs to share their faves. Check ‘em out... if you dare.

C. Jacqueline Wood

You may know C. Jacqueline Wood as the director of Over-the-Rhine’s Mini Microcinema, which showcases experimental film and media outside of the mainstream bubble.

Suggestion: Suspiria (1977), directed by Dario Argento. “A ‘remake’ is coming out soon, recently premiering at the Venice International Film Fest. I am a bit wary of seeing the new one — why remake an already scary af film by the great Italian auteur? But...I am curious to see it.”

Synopsis: “It’s about a girl at a creepy ballet school. I know, sounds terrifying. But it is.” When Suzy arrives in Germany to attend ballet school, it’s a dark and stormy night. Another student runs from the building, later to be murdered. As Suzy tries to adjust to her new school, terror unravels.

The sell: “The music, by Italian Prog-Rock band Goblin is the best! Just the first few seconds of the Suspiria theme gives me the creeps.”

John Alberti

The director of the English department at Northern Kentucky University, John Alberti is also a professor of cinema studies and the author of several books regarding film, including Transforming Harry: The Adaptation of Harry Potter in the Transmedia Age and Screen Ages: A Survey of American Cinema.

Suggestion: Cat People (1942), directed by noir stylist Jacques Tourneur and produced by Val Lewton’s “legendary” horror unit at RKO Pictures.

Synopsis: “An All-American blockhead (Kent Smith) meets a mysterious young Serbian women in New York City (played by the unforgettable French actor Simone Simon) who fears that she carries a hereditary curse of turning into a deadly panther when she is sexually aroused (spoiler: she does and she is).”

The sell: "Moody, atmospheric, intensely beautiful and intensely creepy, Cat People is Freudian horror, and one of the most influential thrillers ever made. The sequel/not-really-a-sequel The Curse of the Cat People (1944) is equally worth watching (and if anything even more creepy)."

Tim Swallow

Tim Swallow is the brain behind Cincinnati World Cinema, which just opened a new home at the Garfield Theatre (719 Race St.) — previously occupied by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

Suggestion: The Devil’s Backbone (2001), directed by Guillermo del Toro. “I personally tend to avoid ‘scare’ films — those generally predictable scream-queen slasher flicks with abundant blood and gore. Instead, I gravitate toward psychological horror and suspense.”

Synopsis: A 12-year-old boy, Carlos, is sent to an orphanage after his father dies in war. Hint: the orphanage is haunted!

The sell: It’s a “beautifully shot, layered subtext allegory set within the Spanish Civil War.”  

Bonus recommendations: The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983), Eyes Without A Face  (Georges Franju, 1960), The Perfect Host (Nick Tomnay, 2011), The Others (Alejandro Amenabar, 2001),The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970) and Lady in White (Frank LaLoggia, 1988).

Kristen Erwin Schlotman

Kristen Erwin Schlotman is the executive director of Film Cincinnati, an organization that works to bring films to Cincy. Her credits include Carol, Ides of March, Secretariat, Dreamer and Elizabethtown.

Suggestion: Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Synopsis: A comet crashes to Earth and causes a radiation storm. The aftermath? Machines come to life and wreak havoc.

The sell: “Cult classic. I don't remember much of it — it's been so long — but I remember not knowing if I should laugh or cry or be scared.

Mackenzie Manley

As the person compiling this list — and the Arts & Culture editor here at CityBeat — I feel compelled to pitch in my own fave. Also, shoutout to Beetlejuice — I've watched Winona Ryder being edgy and Michael Keeton being weird almost every Halloween since I was a kid. Can I get a "Day-o"? 

Suggestion: The Shining (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick. Perhaps a more obvious choice, The Shining has been scaring me since I saw it as a young teen. Stephen King's book is equally terrifying but notably way different. (As much as I love King, the movie is better). 

Synopsis: A writer, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado during the Winter season, along with his family. Their stay becomes increasingly maddening as Jack unravels the Overlook's seedy past, steeped in terrifying mythos. Meanwhile, his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) experiences mounting (and horrific) premonitions. As the father spirals, tensions grow. 

The sell: It's a true modern classic. The opening scene alone — a car driving through winding roads as music pounds — is enough to make me squeamish. So many scenes will sear themselves into your psyche: Blood gushing from an elevator shaft; a wide-eyed boy riding his trike through dim corridors on dizzyingly geometric carpet; a set of pale twins donning blue dresses; a maddened Nicholson laughing "Here's Johnny!" as his wife (Shelley Duvall) squeals backward from an ax splintering a doorframe. The lore surrounding the film is equally fascinating. See: Room 237.


Maija Zummo

Maija is the editor in chief of CityBeat and watches a lot of really bad movies, all the time. (See: Her interview with Airborne star Shane McDermott here and a review of made-for-TV Christmas specials starring hot ghosts here.)

Suggestion: House, a 1970s surreal and disorienting Japanese “fantasy horror” and the first feature film from Japanese TV ad director Nobuhiko Obayashi.

Synopsis: “At its most basic level, House is about some Japanese schoolgirls who go visit a friend’s aunt’s house in the countryside because one of them has a new stepmom that they hate? I think — the movie doesn’t necessarily follow formal rules of logic or, like, the space-time continuum. The schoolgirls have names like ‘Gorgeous,’ ‘Fantasy,’ ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Sweet’ and are played by amateur actresses who get involved in some spooky weird, weird, weird supernatural psychedelic stuff at Gorgeous’ aunt’s house. They drop a watermelon in a well, one of them is decapitated and then her flying head goes around biting people’s butts, someone gets eaten by a piano and a portrait of a white cat shoots blood out of its face. I think the aunt is a spiritual vampire succubus who uses the house to eat school girls to stay young. Maybe."

The sell: “Trying to figure out what the hell is happening. Also, the special effects and graphics are wild. As is the ’70s Pop Folk soundtrack. It’s also a Criterion Collection film, so there’s that. It’s so, so, so weird.”