It’s October. Time to talk horror. I’ll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.
And so it’s Halloween.
I’ve already given you thirty-nine of my favorite horror films and here are thirteen more. I had fun shifting over to horror this month (I plan to do it again next year), but I look forward to getting back to this blog’s usual topic: science fiction. William Gibson’s got a new novel out and so far it’s pretty awesome. And don’t forget Interstellar releases in a little over a week. Hopefully I can scrounge up thirteen more horror films for next year, but for now, this is the last one.
Here’s a wonderfully kooky film with Lon Chaney Jr and a surprisingly young Sid Haig. Even if you’re one of the misguided poor souls who think “Ew, black and white movies are yucky!” you’ll probably enjoy this movie. It’s just plain likable. If I had to guess, I’d say this is one of the films that make Tim Burton hard. The End ?
Chan-wook Park’s Thirst
This is the guy who made Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy, and Mrs. Vengeance (my favorite of the Vengeance trilogy). Much like Let the Right One In, Thirst came at a time I was so sick of vampire flicks I couldn’t see straight, which means this one had to be extremely likeable to make this list.
I’ve long defended Hostel for not being as pointlessly insulting as the Saw films. Hostel really has an interesting “what-if?” premise with tones of adventure, which were absent from other torture films. Now, I don’t know why the hero thinks snipping an optic nerve is the best thing to do for a woman whose eye has been popped out, but all that matters is what happens next.
I’m an unashamed Eli Roth fan and I’m hopeful we’ll get to see his take on the cannibal genre sooner than later.
The Ninth Gate
I’m trying to only choose one movie per director for these lists, but since I let Clive Barker onto the list more than once, I might as well let Polanski slip in twice. The Ninth Gate has been pretty much disliked by critics and audiences since the beginning, but I always found it to be strangely compelling. For one, it puts a cool but despicable book dealer (Johnny Depp) in the shoes of a traditional detective role. I don’t know why, it’s just cool. Then it gives us a very creepy version of Frank Langella, who turns out to be a devil worshiper. Langella hires Depp to track down an antique book written by The Devil. The camerawork is good, the somewhat-classical soundtrack gets stuck in your head, and the “hero” of the film is refreshingly unheroic.
It’s just one of those movies that doesn’t deserve the hate it gets.
Everyone has their favorite William Castle film. This one’s mine. Castle was known for screening his movies in theaters rigged for real-life theatrics; The Tingler’s tour involved vibrating seats, which were designed to startle audience members and stimulate screams. Unfortunately the gimmicks is something that’s lost when watching Castle films on video, but the cool thing about The Tingler is the more important gimmick is built in, even when you watch at home: if you don’t scream, the tingler is gonna kill ya because the tingler lives inside of us all. Not that the movie is scary enough to make even children scream these days, but it was a great example of the kind of guy Castle was. (If you’re unfamiliar with Castle, John Goodman played a character like him in Joe Dante’s Matinee and John Waters has plenty to say about him in interviews and such.)
Here’s another creepy movie with unusually good acting and direction. Supernatural films typically don’t scare me… although Frailty is not actually a supernatural film (or maybe it is… I don’t want to spoil it), it makes me uncomfortable during the final reveal because it makes you question everything it has shown you beforehand. It also makes you question the sanity of at least one of its characters. It may not fit into the neat little box most people label horror, but any movie that has axe murders deserves the designation.
The Toxic Avenger
The only reason The Toxic Avenger didn’t appear on this list sooner was A) it’s really not horror and B) it’s really, really not horror. I know I was just talking about horror being a neat little box that people use unfairly, but I’m admit it: I’m guilty of doing it, too. So to make up for that, I’ll include this—one of my all-time favorite films in general, genre not withstanding. And let’s face it, if you like horror movies, you’ll probably like this.
I’m kind of slapping myself in the forehead for not remembering this one sooner. I loved this movie as a kid. It’s probably what prepared me for the mind-fucking awesomeness of Raimi’s Evil Dead series. I wish I could say more about it, but I’m beginning to realize I need to watch it again, this time on something other than an aging VHS that’s been rented a million times.
The Blair Witch Project
I was hesitant to include this one on the list, but then I remembered just how enjoyable I found the movie when it came out. I think a lot of horror fans disliked the movie simply because it’s annoying when something like this gets crazy attention from the mainstream while better horror films usually don’t, but that’s no reason to hate it. It wasn’t the first found footage movie, either, but we should be honest with ourselves: it was probably the first one that was worth a shit.
Bride of Frankenstein
I always liked the original Frankenstein, but it wasn’t until my teenager years I realized that the sequel to the original was kind of like the sequel to Evil Dead: the humor was cranked up a few notches and shit just got plain weird. I love the addition of Dr. Pretorius, whose bizarre presence makes the film superior to the original. Speaking of Franken-stuff….
Here’s yet another film I can’t believe I forgot when I wrote the other lists. Like Basket Case, I haven’t seen it since well before DVD became an option, so I’m overdue for another viewing.
Return of the Living Dead
I must confess: I saw Return before I ever saw any of Romero’s zombie pictures, which would be pretty sad if Return of the Living Dead wasn’t such an awesome movie. I was so young the first time I saw this movie, I couldn’t even speak in complex sentences. I just called the movie “Braaaains!” This is the movie equivalent of punk music and the soundtrack is one of the coolest in the history of film. The casting is downright excellent, too.
The Slumber Party Massacre
Of all the nightgown-sleepover-slasher films (and I’ve seen way more than any sane individual should), The Slumber Party Massacre is my favorite. It’s funny, it’s wittingly ridiculous, and unlike meta-horror flicks like Scream, it’s not so damn wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Here’s the thing: the movie’s parody elements are so subtle, people unfamiliar with horror will probably think it’s just another horror film. Instead of a guy with a knife you get The Driller Killer, a psycho-murderer whose power tool of choice must have the world’s longest and most discreet extension cord. The film is also notable for being written and directed by women, including a well-known feminist. And The Driller Killer doesn’t get many lines, but when he does, they’re hilariously memorable for the bizarre deliverance alone. “I… love!… you?” I can’t think of many times I laughed so hard.