A hybrid of documentary and fiction, this silent film explores the history of witchcraft, demonology and satanism. It shows representations of evil in a variety of ancient and medieval artworks, offers vignettes illustrating a number of superstitious practices and presents a narrative about the persecution of a woman accused of witchcraft. The film ends by suggesting that the modern science of psychology offers important insight into the beliefs and practices of the past.
The Old Dark House (1932), dir. James Whale
Driving through a brutal thunderstorm in Wales, three travelers take refuge in an eerie house owned by the Femm family. Reluctantly admitted by Horace Femm (Ernest Thesiger), the three sit down to a strange dinner. Horace is neurotic; mute butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) is an alcoholic; and Horace's sister, Rebecca (Eva Moore), raves about chastity. When the storm brings in an industrialist and chorus girl Gladys DuCane Perkins (Lilian Bond), Morgan's lust and Rebecca's ire are ignited.
I Married a Witch (1942), dir. René Clair
Just as she is about to be burned at the stake for witchcraft, 17th century witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake) casts a curse on the family of her accuser, dooming all the men of future generations to marry the wrong women. Freed from her ethereal prison some 250 years later, Jennifer decides to make the most recent descendant of her accuser (Fredric March) even more miserable by using a love potion on him that makes him fall in love with her, a plan that has unexpected results.
Cat People (1942), dir. Jacques Tourneur
Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon), a New York City--based fashion designer who hails from Serbia, begins a romance with marine engineer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). After the couple gets married, Oliver becomes concerned about Irena's notion that she is cursed and may transform into a large cat in the heat of passion. Confiding in his beautiful assistant, Alice Moore (Jane Randolph), about his marital issues, Oliver unwittingly triggers Irena's curse, with tragic results.
The Uninvited (1944), dir. Lewis Allen
While vacationing on the English coast, composer Rick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) find an an abandoned 18th-century house and decide to buy it. The owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp), associates it with the tragic death of his daughter and is willing to part with it despite his granddaughter Stella's (Gail Russell) objection. The Fitzgeralds move in and soon find themselves, with the help of Stella, battling it out with two very prickly ghosts.
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), dir. Frank Capra
Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the knot on Halloween. When the newlyweds return to their respective family homes to deliver the news, Brewster finds a corpse hidden in a window seat. With his eccentric aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), disturbed uncle (John Alexander), and homicidal brother (Raymond Massey), he starts to realize that his family is even crazier than he thought.
Diabolique (1955), dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot
In this classic of French suspense, the cruel and abusive headmaster of a boarding school, Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse), becomes the target of a murder plot hatched by an unlikely duo -- his meek wife (Vera Clouzot) and the mistress he brazenly flaunts (Simone Signoret). The women, brought together by their mutual hatred for the man, pull off the crime but become increasingly unhinged by a series of odd occurrences after Delassalle's corpse mysteriously disappears.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), dir. Don Siegel
In Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is baffled when all his patients come to him with the same complaint: their loved ones seem to have been replaced by emotionless impostors. Despite others' dismissive denials, Dr. Bennell, his former girlfriend Becky (Dana Wynter) and his friend Jack (King Donovan) soon discover that the patients' suspicions are true: an alien species of human duplicates, grown from plant-like pods, is taking over the small town.
Eyes Without a Face (1960), dir. Georges Franju
Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is riddled with guilt after an accident that he caused disfigures the face of his daughter, the once beautiful Christiane (Édith Scob), who outsiders believe is dead. Dr. Génessier, along with accomplice and laboratory assistant Louise (Alida Valli), kidnaps young women and brings them to the Génessier mansion. After rendering his victims unconscious, Dr. Génessier removes their faces and attempts to graft them on to Christiane's.
The Innocents (1961), dir. Jack Clayton
Based on the Henry James story "The Turn of the Screw," a psychological thriller about a woman who takes a governess job for two orphans in a Victorian home. She begins to see what she believes are ghosts and suspects the children's bizarre behavior is the result of supernatural powers.
Carnival of Souls (1962), dir. Herk Harvey
Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) ends up the sole survivor of a fatal car accident through mysterious circumstances. Trying to put the incident behind her, she moves to Utah and takes a job as a church organist. But her fresh start is interrupted by visions of a fiendish man (Herk Harvey). As the visions begin to occur more frequently, Mary finds herself drawn to the deserted carnival on the outskirts of town. The strangely alluring carnival may hold the secret to her tragic past.
Kwaidan (1964), dir. Masaki Kobayashi
Taking its title from an archaic Japanese word meaning "ghost story," this anthology adapts four folk tales. A penniless samurai (Rentarô Mikuni) marries for money with tragic results. A man stranded in a blizzard is saved by Yuki the Snow Maiden (Keiko Kishi), but his rescue comes at a cost. Blind musician Hoichi (Katsuo Nakamura) is forced to perform for an audience of ghosts. An author (Osamu Takizawa) relates the story of a samurai who sees another warrior's reflection in his teacup.
Night of the Living Dead (1968), dir. George Romero
The dead come back to life and eat the living. Several people barricade themselves inside a rural house in an attempt to survive the night. Outside are hordes of relentless, shambling zombies who can only be killed by a blow to the head.
Sources: Film summaries by Google, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
ONTD, what are your favorite classic movies for spooky season?