It’s the beginning of October, and that means it’s time for the chills.
The weather is turning cooler, but it’s also time to start binge watching all those scary movies.
To help with choosing the “can’t miss” horror flicks this year, local movie producers Jeff Monahan of Connellsville, and Cody Knotts who used to reside in the Uniontown area — both of whom have been involved in their own horror films — are weighing in.
Top on the list for Knotts is “The Exorcist.”
William Peter Blatty’s best-seller is on the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States. A little girl named Regan proves quite a handful for her actress-mother, Chris MacNeil.
When the girl gets completely out of hand, Chris calls in young priest Father Karras, who becomes convinced that the girl is possessed by the Devil and that they must call in an exorcist: namely, Father Merrin.
His foe proves to be no run-of-the-mill demon, and both the priest and the girl suffer numerous horrors during their struggles.
“The best horror films always have a basis in reality — like it feels that whatever the story line is could really happen,” Knotts said. “’The Exorcist’ goes straight to our primal fears — a mother protecting her child — and it taps into our cultural understanding of Christianity.
“I feel like it’s a masterpiece on every level,” he added. “I”m not a fan of gore films or ones with a villain who’s impossible to kill. There has to be the potential for victory.”
Because of his aversion to gore, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is not on his favorites list, although he admits that it was brilliantly made.
Knotts said he can’t help but be drawn to the old vampire, mummy and Frankenstein films of the 1960s and 1970s that were produced by Hammer Films.
They included such films as “The Brides of Dracula” and “The Curse of Frankenstein,” both of which were directed by Terence Fisher.
“The films created that iconic look of women vampires running around in nightgowns,” Knotts said. “The sets were bad, but I loved that stuff. The things that were created in those films were the basis for other films to come, such as ‘Van Helsing.’”
He is also a fan of director Wes Craven, who has been dubbed the “Master of Horror” for his decades-long work in the genre.
“Scream” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” were two of Knott’s favorite films by Craven.
In the 1984 film, a group of teenagers are terrorized by “Freddy Krueger,” an evil being from another world who gets to his victims by entering their dreams and killing them with gloves that have knife blades attached to each finger.
In the 1996 film “Scream,” the sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There’s a killer in their midst who’s seen a few too many scary movies.
Suddenly, nobody is safe, as the psychopath stalks victims, taunts them with trivia questions, then rips them to bloody shreds.
“I think Wes Craven was incredible,” Knotts said. “He always took horror to the next step, Wiithout him guiding where horror goes, it’s been a little weird.”
But Knotts added that director Jordan Peele seems to have picked up the mantle with films such as “Get Out” and “Us.”
In the film “Get Out,” Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating and she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with her parents.
At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.
Haunted by an unexplainable and unresolved trauma from her past and compounded by a string of eerie coincidences, Adelaide feels her paranoia elevate to high-alert as she grows increasingly certain that something bad is going to befall her family in the film “Us.”
After returning to their vacation home after a tense beach day with their friends Adelaide and her family discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway.
The film pits an endearing American family against a terrifying and uncanny opponent: doppelgängers of themselves.
Knotts said he’s not necessarily a fan of films made from the books of horror writer Stephen King other than the original “It” film and “Carrie.”
“I find that the movies adapted from Stephen King novels are like reading James Patterson novels,” he said. “They always have a simple premise an are very commercial.”
Connellsville resident Jeff Monahan who has written, acted in and produced horror films, gave his opinion on what makes a good horror film.
“It’s something personal — visceral — something that touches a nerve emotionally in a certain way,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about breaking a taboo.”
Monahan added that his two favorite horror movies denegrate as lesser films, so the suspension of disbelieve has to be higher if it’s going to be effective.
Truman Kapote’s 1961 film, “The Innocents” with actress Debra Kerr is one of his favorites.
An adaptation of Henry James’ classic novella “The Turn of the Screw,” 19th century British governess Miss Giddens (Kerr) arrives at a bleak mansion to take care of Flora and Miles, the wealthy household’s two children.
Outwardly the children are little darlings, but the governess begins to feel that there’s something unwholesome behind those beatific smiles.
After several disturbing examples of the children’s evil impulses, Miss Giddens gets information from the housekeeper that suggests that the children may be possessed by malign spirits — or are all these events just the products of Miss Giddens’s own imagination?
Monahan said the film is really effective, with even the opening credit sequence being a bit creepy.
“You really never stop wondering if the governess is sexually repressed and crazy or if she’s really being visited by ghosts,” he said.
Another of his favorites is the 1963 version of “The Haunting” staring Julie Harris.
In the film, Anthropology professor Richard Johnson investigates reports of psychic phenomena at a “troubled” New England mansion known as Hill House.
He is joined by two women of radically different temperaments who share a common gift for ESP. Cynical Russ Tamblyn, who stands to inherit Hill House, goes along with the paranormal investigators, hoping to get a few laughs.
“To me this is one of the scariest films,” Monahan said. “It’s disturbing. It really reached me on a visceral level.”
More recently, the 2014 film “Babadook” and the 2015 film “The Witch” are two of Monahan’s favorites.
“Both are very effective,” he said. “For both you’re just in a psychological state where you’re not sure what’s going on.”
“Babadook” follows the story of Amelia who lost her husband to a violent death six years ago. She struggles to discipline her ‘out of control’ 6-year-old, Samuel, a son she finds impossible to love.
Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called ‘The Babadook’ turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about.
“The Witch” follows the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession, which are innovatively brought together to tell the intimate and riveting story of one family’s frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness circa 1630.
Monahan said the film has beautiful dialogue and has you wondering if someone actually stole the baby or not.
Finally, 2018’s “Hereditary” and this year’s “Midsommar,” both directed by Ari Aster are both equally disturbing to him.
When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter Annie Graham’s (Toni Collette) family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.
“Toni Collette should’ve won an Oscar for this film, but horror films aren’t really considered,” Monahan said. “She’s a woman navigating a family crisis. She was brilliant.”
In “Midsommer,” Dani (Florence Pugh) invites herself to join her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village.
What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.
Other films worth checking out include: “Night of the Living Dead,” Amityville Horror,” "Psycho,” “The Birds,” “The Conjuring,” “The Shining,” “Poltergeist,” “The Blair Witch Project” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”
The synopsis of each movie was written with the help of Rotten Tomatoes.