by James Christian
Need something sinister to raise your Halloween spirits? Here’s the crème-de-la-creepy from our DVD dungeon.
The Bad Seed—Rhoda Penmark is polite, tidy, obedient, the perfect 8-year-old angel. She’s also pure evil. This 1956 cult classic follows Rhoda’s ruthless antics and her increasingly frantic mother, who suspects the wide-eyed tyke of murder. The placid suburban drama rapidly escalates into mayhem. Based on a stage play, Bad Seed is a histrionic, screamy melodrama reminiscent of Tennessee Williams, complete with boozers, armchair psychoanalysis and unsavory sexual underpinnings. Some moments border on camp, but I find its sweaty, seething desperation absolutely delightful. As the pint-sized sociopath, Patty McCormack boomerangs from screeching tantrums to saccharine wheedling, manipulating every adult around her. If you like the ‘creepy kid’ subgenre, The Bad Seed is required viewing. Call Number: 3380
The Phantom of the Opera: No, not that Phatom of the Opera. The original 1925 one. If you’ve never seen a silent movie, here’s your gateway drug. Lon Chaney, Hollywood’s first horror icon, is truly ghoulish as the phantom. No darkly-handsome pretty-boy Eric here; Chaney’s incarnation is hideous, with sunken skull-like features and snarled teeth. His bugged-out eyes—achieved with great physical discomfort by looping wire around his eyeballs—are the stuff of nightmares, even nearly a century later. For more silent horrors, check out The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Vampyr, The Golem and Chaney’s own Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you’re feeling creative, watch the films on mute and add your own soundtrack. Type O Negative or Bauhaus would be ideal, but do the Monster Mash if the urge hits you. Call Number: PN1995.75 .P42 1997