It is undeniable that Halloween provides one of the best backdrops for enjoying formidably formulated and frightening films.

That is why this week the Daily Nebraskan decided to seek out film experts here at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and ask them their favorite movies to watch during the scariest season of the year.

Aside from suggesting well known horror classics such as John Carpenter's "The Thing" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," these cinematic scholars shed some light on more obscure films one may want to watch on an ominous October night.  

Dr. Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, a film studies professor at UNL, heads the top of her horror list with one of the most vintage villains of the genre.

"Terror of Frankenstein" is a 1977 Swedish film that Foster describes as both "mesmerizing and thoughtful."

This manifestation of the monster mirrors the 1918 novel he originated from, as Foster said "he's nothing like the stereotypical Frankenstein of most films. No silly bolts in the neck and giant jackboots."

Foster explained that Swedish director Calvin Floyd constructs a more serious tone for the barbaric beast, displaying a "stark beauty, but also harshness and brutality."

Psychologically slanted scares can be found in Dominik Moll's "With a Friend Like Harry" from 2000 or Kristian Levring's 2008 mind bending "Fear Me Not."  Foster advises fans of atmospheric spookiness to check out Herk Harvey's 1962 low budget film "Carnival of Souls."

"It does not behave like your average horror film," Foster said. "If you give it a chance it lures you away into a marvelous feeling of subdued horror."     

Another UNL film studies professor, Dr. Wheeler Winston Dixon, applauds the supernatural terror found in 1965's "The Skull," classifying it as "remarkably constructed with an incredible cast that includes Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing."

The film, directed by two-time Academy Award winner Freddie Francis, features "very little dialogue," Dixon said.

"It's purely visual. Something one must see to experience."

Dixon also endorses William Castle's exceptionally violent 1961 film "Homicidal."

"It's utterly unpredictable," Dixon said before advising that "you must witness this film for yourself because to say anything about it would ruin it entirely."

However, if you like a bit of comedy injected into your creepy, Dr. Foster has the fix.

The professor, a self-proclaimed enthusiast of all things cleverly campy, recommends director Cindy Sherman's 1997 film "Office Killer."

This deft blend of horror and humor puts a dark spin on a familiar narrative, with Foster characterizing it as a "crazy feminist ‘Office Space'." Murderous mayhem strikes an unsuspecting workplace when quiet employee Dorine Douglas is fired due to corporate downsizing. The tone turns gleefully grisly as co-workers quickly become victims of her vengeful violence and trials in taxidermy.

Foster described Dorine's eccentric exploits: "She stuffs them and keeps them at home in a ghastly series of tableaux vivant (translated as ‘living pictures')."

Preposterous as the plot may seem, Foster believes the film manages to make a condemning social commentary.

"It is very much a critique of consumption," Foster said. "I'd recommend it if you like dark horror."

Each of these frightening flick suggestions will offer viewers much more than senseless violence and gore since these cinematic connoisseurs demand meaning and significance from the works they bestow with appreciation.

Foster's high filmic standards are clarified as she said, "I like films that make you want to return to them over and over, finding new meaning and things you missed before."

mikehollins@

dailynebraskan.com