By Christina Lane

Christina Lane, professor in the Department of Cinematic Arts and associate dean of graduate studies for the School of Communication, shares her top suggestions for films to watch this Halloween.

I love spooky films all year round, and especially during Halloween season. Here are my top 5 in no particular order:

Halloween (1978)

The 1978 “Halloween” is fantastic, beginning with its opening orange title credits and the iconic jack-o-lantern. I know that “Halloween Ends,” released this month, is receiving a lot of buzz, but it’s hard to beat John Carpenter’s original, which was an independent surprise hit which set the bar for shrewd, well-produced, and beautifully photographed horror.

The Birds (1963)

“The Birds,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is thrilling even by today’s standards. I recommend this movie for its optical effects, including matte paintings and superimpositions as well as its use of prop birds, animatronics, and of course very well-trained live birds. It has spectacular editing. And the score is great; it is completely symphonic rather than musical and includes simulated bird cries and wing flaps.

Scream 3 (2000)

Every fan of scary movies has probably seen the “Scream” series, and so the question is which one do we single out as our personal favorite. Beyond Wes Craven’s initial “Scream” (which, it goes without saying, is incredible), I love “Scream 3” because it takes the main characters to Hollywood and creates a “film within a film,” reenacting the original story and revisiting the trauma experienced by protagonist Sidney Prescott. I know some say that this is a weaker installment in the series, but I enjoy the use of a complex movie set to recreate spaces from the first film.

The Bitter Stems (Los Tallos Amargos) (1956)

“The Bitter Stems” (Los Tallos Amargos) is a 1956 film from Argentina that is not well-known, but I highly recommend it. Named by American Cinematographer magazine as one of the “50 Best Photographed Films of All-Time, “The Bitter Stems” is about a disillusioned reporter who teams up with a Hungarian refugee to create a fake correspondence school, taking advantage of would-be journalists. Soon a mysterious woman from the past emerges, and from there the plot takes a series of unexpected turns. This movie was recently restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and premiered in 2016 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It’s now available on Blu-Ray and merits a spooky home viewing.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962)

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis give knockout performances in the cult classic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.” Every time this movie plays, I become mesmerized. The cinematography, set design, costumes, and of course those performances are simply stunning. The movie was a tour de force when it was released in 1962, shattering expectations for what older women could and should do on the big screen. We know that when Joan Crawford first read the source material, she became so captivated by it that she wouldn’t stop until she convinced Bette Davis to sign on as Baby Jane. Thank goodness she did; indeed, we are fortunate for both women’s brutally forceful commitment to the project because this low-budget oddity shows them at their best. Oh yeah, and it’s terrifying.

Christina Lane is professor of cinematic arts at the University of Miami School of Communication. Her latest book, “Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock,” was published in early 2020.

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