People watch shite horror movies. I witness the proof every time I stumble across the box office numbers. Why does anyone bother attending these pre-manufactured, uninspired crapsicles? (I dare not do an image search for crapsicle. Perform at your own risk.) In my neverending goal to better the world through music and movie appreciation I decided to force upon you (five or six) loyal readers my picks for the perfect 24 hours or 1440 minutes of underappreciated Halloween horror picks. I leave off some regular favorites for good reasons. You’ve probably seen them too much. Or they suck and you just don’t know it. It’s up to you to judge which side of the fence I’m on. My picks might be scary. They might be funny. They might be gory for the sake of it. They might be all of the above. I won’t waste space with Hitchcock, The Shining, Poltergeist, The Exorcist or any nonsensical remakes of unintelligible Asian horror. If it’s on here, I think there’s a good chance you’ve never seen it, forgotten it, or just needed reminding.
(btw, I can’t insert images into my posts right now. Sucks. So just use your imagination.)
GORE FOR THE SAKE OF LAWNMOWERS TO THE FACE – 189 minutes
Braindead (aka Dead Alive) / 1992 / Peter Jackson – 104 minutes
We’re so happy for Peter Jackson that he finally got enough clout to complete an unnecessary remake of King Kong. Don’t get me wrong. Great remake/homage… but it sucks because he’ll probably never go back to making New Zealand schlock films like this. I like new post-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson. He’s like a metrosexual Ewok. But I loved the pre-fame Peter Jackson that just made cool gore flicks with diseased monkeys, zombie slaying priests and the longest zombie-slaying/lawnmower sequence in cinema history.
Evil Dead / 1981 / Sam Raimi – 85 minutes
See the whole thing about Peter Jackson above. Sam Raimi used to make cool flicks before Spiderman. I thought cool-as-hell Sam Raimi had disappeared for good until he made the creepy/funny/cool Drag Me to Hell in 2009. Evil Dead 2 gets most of the love, but the original Evil Dead had a lower budget, bad acting and was just plain creepier. Plus, tree rape. I had this poster on my wall. The really cool blue one with the hand reaching up through the ground to grab the throat of the woman with the tattered lingerie. I miss that poster. But alas, we must be adults and adults don’t generally line their bedroom walls with schlock posters anymore. C’est la vie.
GIALLO: THE REAL SLASHER FLICKS – 195 minutes
Opera / 1987 / Dario Argento – 107 minutes
John Carpenter didn’t invent the slasher flick. He made it American. The original slashers came from Europe. They were stylish, grand pieces of gore and violence and genuine terror that played like symphonies. Argento is most remembered for Suspiria – a triumph of style and oddly unsettling macabre. It is also, potentially, his most palatable film for the average viewer. Opera is less perfect, more haunting and, dare I say, brilliant. You’ll never look through a keyhole again. Some might also substitute Argento’s Deep Red or Tenebre. Still others favorite Phenomenon or Inferno. The Argento catalog runs deep with the blood of his slain vixens.
Blood and Black Lace / 1964 / Mario Bava – 88 minutes
…but before there was Argento there was the original master of Italian horror: Mario Bava. Without Bava there’s no Argento. Bava’s films run the gamut of horror-styles from haunting brooders to giallo and odd horror/sci-fi offspring. If you’re going old school watch Black Sunday or Black Sabbath. If you want to watch the movie that kickstarted the giallo genre, watch this masterpiece of scantily clad chicks and creepy dudes with ill intent.
MINDF#CKS – 185 minutes
Cube / 1997 / Vincenzo Natali – 90 minutes
A much buzzed about movie at the time of its release, Cube has lost some of that mojo in recent years. It spawned a couple of pointless sequels and probably overshadowed the coolness of the original. A group of people with no obvious connection is dropped inside a maze of puzzles and intricate traps. Each room provides a new challenge and a new and creative way to get chopped to oozy bits. Without Cube there’s no Saw and therefore no Saw 5. With that in mind… Damn you, Cube.
In the Mouth of Madness / 1994 / John Carpenter – 95 minutes
John Carpenter made better movies. He made scarier movies and more purposeful movies. But it took a massive John Carpenter-sized ego to unleash this unusual beast into the world about Sam Neill gone insane… or has he? Or has the audience. And what’s with the creepy kid on the bicycle. The movie’s nonsense fosters the creepiness in images that won’t soon leave you. I saw this twice in the theater. This might explain a few things.
EURO-STYLE: GENERATIONS – 197 minutes
Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man) / 1994 / Michele Soavi – 105 minutes
Most trips to the movie theater are inherently forgettable. Buy your ticket, maybe some popcorn and plop your but down in an uncomfortable chair for 90 to 120 minutes. And then there’s the time I went to see Cemetery Man at the Denis Theater in Pittsburgh. I happened across a small review on the Post-Gazette for a cool Euro-trash zombie flick showing at one theater in the city. At the time I’d just discovered the wonders of George Romero. So I was down for whatever. The flick played in the tiny old upstairs theater at the Denis where you sat above the screen and looked down unto the action. Anyway. Long story shorter… 17 year old mind blown. Zombie killing. Rupert Everett having hot freaky sex on graves with Anna Falchi. Zombie killing. Lots of funny. And Rupert Everett before he sang and danced with Julia Roberts. I devoured everything that Michele Soavi (Argento apprentice) ever directed and then backtracked to Argento and Bava.
Black Sunday (The Mask of the Devil) / 1963 / Mario Bava – 92 minutes
The aforementioned early work of Bava might not appear scandalous by today’s standards but the film was banned in the UK for nearly 8 years. Launched the careers of Mario Bava and English bombshell Barbara Steele and became a worldwide success. One particularly creepy sequence makes this good film a necessary horror standard.
MODERN CLASSICS – 424 minutes
Session 9 / 2001 / Brad Anderson – 100 minutes
Don’t watch this movie with the lights off. Just leave them on. Serious. If they’re off you’ll spend all night making sure they stay on. If David Caruso doesn’t scare you, the whole abandoned mental institution and scratchy cassette recordings will surely put you over the edge. But man, David Caruso. Creepy.
28 Days Later… / 2002 / Danny Boyle – 113 minutes
Danny Boyle can direct anything better than you. He wants to direct a Kubrick homage. Bam. Sunshine. He wants to do Bollywood. Bam. End credits of Slumdog Millionaire. He wants to redefine the entire zombie oeuvre. Bam. 28 Days Later… He takes everything that made the original Night of the Living Dead a classic scarefest and then makes the “diseased” fast and more deadly. This movie is pure, adrenaline-fueled paranoia.
The Devil’s Backbone / 2001 / Guillermo del Toro – 106 minutes
Guillermo del Toro’s made a few stellar flicks (including Pan’s Labyrinth) but this one is his crowning achievement. The horror in this movie is both real and imaginary. Set in Franco’s Spain, the movie depicts a number of real world terrors, the alienation of an isolated orphanage and a ghostly boy. This one qualifies as a slow brooder that creeps up on you with a shocking conclusion that you might have seen coming if you weren’t so absorbed in the story. Rattled me to the core.
Below / 2002 / David Twohy – 105 minutes
Admit it. You’ve never even heard of this movie. That’s fine. The marketing for this movie sucked and there really wasn’t anyone in the cast of note except for the jerk in Legally Blonde and Bruce Greenwood, the guy that played JFK in Thirteen Days. The premise is brilliant. Submarines. Claustrophobia. Sensory delusions. Twohy does a terrific job of sucking the viewer into the “is it real?” / “is it imagined” terror. This is Event Horizon of the deep… except better.
THE ONLY LEGIT EDGAR ALLEN POE ADAPTATION (aka ROGER CORMAN MADE GOOD MOVIES… SOMETIMES) – 89 minutes
Masque of the Red Death / 1964 / Roger Corman – 89 minutes
I’m as shocked as you are. I wrote a massive paper on Poe’s resistance to cinematic adaptation in college and used this as the one exception to the rule. Corman shows a surprising amount of restraint regarding pacing. While not outwardly horrific or terrifying, Red Death impacts more upon reflection.
CLASSIC MONSTER REMAKES / NOT-SO-CLASSIC MONSTERS – 203 minutes
Nosferatu the Vampire / 1979 / Werner Herzog – 107 minutes
Klaus Kinski is just a scary dude but not as creepy as Max Schreck in the original Nosferatu (1922) — mostly because Schreck really thought he was Nosferatu. Here Herzog created the defining vampire film and probably one of the most beautifully photographed movies in cinema history. His use of chiaroscuro lighting speaks louder than words. Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula comes across as corny (but still a lot of fun) by comparison.
Tremors / 1990 / Ron Underwood – 96 minutes
Steven Keaton and Reba McEntire with shotguns and assault rifles. And KEVIN BACON and REALLY BIG WORMS! God, I love this movie.
TOTAL: 1482 minutes
(Just fast forward through some slow bits and you can sneak it under 24 hours… but no potty breaks)
NO HORROR LIST IS COMPLETE WITHOUT (YOU MAY HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW GOOD THEY REALLY ARE AND THEREFORE THIS IS JUST A REMINDER AND DOES NOT COUNT IN MY 24 HOUR RESTRICTION)
Bride of Frankenstein / 1935 / James Whale – 75 minutes : Whale was unparalleled.
The Mummy / 1932 / Karl Freund – 73 minutes : Karloff’s better performance?
Cat People / 1942 / Jacques Tourneur – 73 minutes : Horror-master Val Lewton’s first production. Skillfully explicit yet still implied horror, sex and violence.
The Haunting / 1963 / Robert Wise – 112 minutes : No haunted house flick will ever equal this original adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House.
Suspiria / 1977 / Dario Argento – 98 minutes : Argento’s coven-based symphony of horror.
Dawn of the Dead / 1978 / George Romero – 126 minutes : Romero’s perfect zombie film.
Alien / 1979 / Ridley Scott – 117 minutes : Aliens still gets more press… BUT IT’S NOT A HORROR MOVIE. Thank you. Also James Cameron is dead to me.
The Thing / 1982 / John Carpenter – 109 minutes : Carpenter’s best movie. Easy.