Frightful features to screen this Halloween: Review fear fan picks favorite fearful films

The fourth annual installment of horrifying Halloween viewing recommendations by the Review’s Arts/Entertainment reporter — and resident scary movie junkie — Luciano Marano.

Bad times make for good horror movies. It’s a fact certain as death or taxes — or the ensured doom of any group of good looking teens who go camping near Crystal Lake.

In the amazing documentary “Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film” (2009) — now available to for free via Amazon Prime, and highly recommended by this reporter — a host of genre icons explore the constantly changing relationship between national anxieties and the monsters on our screen. There is a definite historical correlation between the best fright flicks of any given day and what’s keeping even the rational grownups among us awake at night, be it economic turmoil, war abroad, disease, technology or our own darkest impulses.

These days are no different.

The past two years have seen a swath of stellar spooky movies unleashed upon the distraction-seeking, economically-wary, politically-weary populace. So, for this year’s list I thought we’d keep things fresh.

Anyone can celebrate the scariest time of year by cranking up “The Exorcist” AGAIN, or “Halloween” for the millionth time. They’re classics, and rightfully so. But, if you’re bored with the boogeyman and the latest “Saw” sequel makes you seriously sleepy, read on and consider getting to know a title among this menacing, modern fare.

I have watched and personally recommend them all … if you’ve got the guts.

1. “Get Out” (2017)

Every wonderful thing you heard about this movie is true. Just see it. Don’t read any more reviews, don’t seek out spoilers or critical essays, or “What did that part mean?” blog posts. Just see it.

This movie is smart, atmospheric, fun (at times), and 100 percent timely. I can’t recommend it enough.

If you’ve got to have more, here you go: Written, coproduced and directed by comedic powerhouse Jordan Peele (actually his directorial debut), the movie follows a young black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) on his way to spend a weekend in the suburbs and meet the wealthy parents (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener) of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) for the first time.

They’re nice. Almost too nice.

And their servants are behaving strangely, too.

And their friends are just a bit too eager to get to know him.

Eerie weirdness ensues. Is it all the guy’s mind, or is something truly insidious going on?

The release of this movie was a true moment in the history of the genre, one fright fans will eventually talk about in the same reverential tones we now use for “Halloween” or “The Shining.” Mark my words.

2. “Under the Shadow” (2016)

Written and directed by Iranian-born Babak Anvar (his directorial debut, as well), the film follows a mother (Narges Rashidi) and daughter as they are haunted by a mysterious evil in 1980s war-torn Tehran, during the War of the Cities bombings.

With her husband gone to war, and living in a society more concerned with her headwear than her welfare (one particularly effective moment sees them trying to flee their apartment in the middle of the night, only for the mother to be arrested for being outside in indecent attire), Rashidi has to rely on herself to save her child from the forces that seek to claim her.

Certified 99 percent “fresh” by and selected as the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards, this film is well worth the investment the super brief run time (just 84 minutes) asks of the viewer.

3. “The Bye, Bye Man” (2017)

For less political, but no less potent, fear fodder, check out this supernatural slasher film from director Stacy Title.

Though it was not loved critically, and it’s far from a perfect production, I recommend this as an awesome scary movie to screen for Halloween. In it, three college students move into an old house off campus and unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to prey upon them once they discover his name. They must then try to keep each other safe, as The Bye Bye Man attempts to drive them to commit horrible crimes, as he’s done to others in the past, all the while hiding his existence from the world to spare others their fate.

Think of it as “Urban Legend” meets “Candyman.”

Like I said, it wasn’t loved by the critics, but if you go in expecting creepy fun, you won’t be disappointed. I recommend it as the second half of a double feature with “Lights Out” (2016), a similarly simple scary movie.

4. “Don’t Breathe” (2016)

I’d just about had it with home invasion movies, believing there was nothing new to be done in that particular sub-genre.

Then, I saw this movie.

Oh, how wrong I was.

This is another movie that more than deserves the praise that’s been heaped on it. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

But I wouldn’t watch it alone.

Three young Detroit thieves make quick cash breaking into the houses of wealthy people. One gets word about a blind veteran who supposedly won a major cash settlement following the death of his only child. Figuring he’s an easy target, the trio invades the man’s secluded home in an abandoned neighborhood, one of many in the fallen city. Finding themselves quickly trapped inside, the intruders must fight for their lives after making a few shocking discoveries about their supposedly helpless victim.

Stephen Lang is shocking and painfully believable as the blind vet, and the thieves (well, two of the three, anyway) are developed, complex and relatable characters, too.

I loved this movie.

5. “The Evil Within” (2017)

You have never seen anything like this movie. I promise.

With a backstory almost as unique as the plot and aesthetics of the film itself, this movie is a true experience. In it, a developmentally challenged young man begins to talk to his own reflection in a mirror, which soon reveals itself to be a demon (maybe) who haunts his dreams, encouraging him to kill, first animals, and then the people around him.

Now, that plot is problematic at the outset, obviously. But, if you can put that aside long enough to enjoy the film simply as the one-of-a-kind, nightmare-fueled, fever dream that it is, you will be thankful afterward.

The movie was written and directed by Andrew Getty, scion of one of the richest, most scandal-prone dynasties in America. Originally titled “The Storyteller,” the movie was an obsession for Getty, who supposedly poured $4 million to $6 million dollars of his own money into its painfully arduous production, which took 15 years.

Sadly, the movie was finally finished by friends and released two years after Getty died, at the age of 47, from complications due to habitual methamphetamine use.

Honorable mentions:

Hush (2016)

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Lights Out (2016)

Train to Busan (2016)

The Wailing (2016)

Raw (2016)

The Void (2016)

31 (2016)

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Hounds of Love (2016)