Goth Christmas is just around the corner: the one holiday out of the year devoted to embracing and embellishing the very things we otherwise would gladly banish from our minds.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the ‘70s and ‘80s were the prime of the horror genre, bringing us cult classics such as Day of the Dead (A personal favourite, in general), The Monster Squad, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead, Black Christmas (Although I’m more prone to watch this one during the more appropriate December season) – and of course the king pins: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, I’ve found the horror genre hasn’t been the same since — something happened that changed how horror movies affected Western culture around the late ’90s – early ’00s: unnessecary remakes; a heavier reliance on jump scares over an intense, terrifying atmosphere; and the heaviest axe to the artery: the dreaded PG-13 rating. Though don’t get me wrong, there have been diamonds in the rough, such as Hatchet and The Devil’s Rejects, I can’t help but feel a little violated whenever I see a trailer for another Platinum Dunes release.
Smile for the camera, Hexen Dethshadow!
Anyway, I’m getting totally off-topic. I thought it would be a great and appropriate opportunity to peg off some of my favourite horror movies, in no particular order. Naturally, there are more than a fistful of fright-filled films out there, and admittedly, I’m not as well versed as other horror movie buffs, so don’t get all nasty on me when movies you hate or like do or don’t appear on this list – that’s the beauty of the internet – if you don’t agree with me, you can make a list of your own. WordPress is free.
It was incredibly difficult to choose just ten movies that I like the most and would willingly watch over and over annually, without the list being riddled with cliched entries. I tried my best to offer some fresh material from other lists of this nature, and all I can hope is that you enjoy.
Well, without further ado, this is my personal top 10 Halloween movies.
This one’s for the kiddies. While the title is actually pretty misleading, it’s still one of my favourite Halloween movies of all time. The movie is based off a novel written by RL Stine, the king of children’s horror literature back in the ‘90s, with book series like “Goosebumps” and “Fear Street”.
When Good Ghouls Go Bad is about this kid named Danny, who moves to the sleepy town of Walker Falls, a municipality named after Danny’s namesake lineage. The town hasn’t celebrated Halloween in over twenty years, due to the Curse of Curtis Danko, a kid who was burned alive in the school’s kiln after an accident, and swore revenge over the town if the holiday was ever celebrated again.
Despite this, Danny’s negligent father is obsessed with reopening the family-owned chocolate factory and using Halloween as a means to promote the occasion. Unfortunately, Danny’s grandfather, simply known as “Uncle Fred” and played by Christopher Lloyd, is killed after he is crushed by a mountain of pumpkins.
But Uncle Fred’s undying love and appreciation for Halloween unleashes a magic that brings him back as a zombie, as well as giving unlife to the entire deceased population of Walker Falls – including the cursed Curtis Danko. Awesome.
While it’s really not scary by any means, it’s a great movie about the importance of family and being true to yourself, all wrapped up in the spirit of Halloween. It’s cheesy and funny, and just a blast to watch. Christopher Lloyd easily steals the show as undead Uncle Fred. Check it out.
All right, so I realize The Grudge remake and its sequels aren’t really all that great. They jump from story to story too much, they’re incoherent, and overall just confusing – and that partly has to do with the crossing of a Japanese story and film crew working with an American businessmen who really don’t “get it”. Let me just say that while yes, the theatrical version of the remake was total garbage, the extended director’s cut is worth every penny. It’s chilling, it’s well done, and most important, the story makes sense.
But why bother talking about the watered down remake when you can talk about the far superior original? If you haven’t seen Ju-On it shares a near-identical plot as the American rendition – but conveyed a whole lot better: A mother and son are brutally murdered by the husband when he discovers his wife may be cheating on him — which raises the question if their son is his legitimately.
In Japan, there’s a legend that states if you are murdered by someone consumed by a blinding rage, you are doomed in the spiritual world to relive the horrific events over and over – affecting those who come into contact in the physical world. So basically – this house where the family died is a death trap for unwitting visitors.
It’s a very suspenseful and effective story-within-a-story, and what makes Ju-On so frightening are the special effects. Most modern J-Horror films still rely on organic effects with very little use of CGI. You know, the kind of practical work prevalently used in the ‘80s and ‘90s by such masters of the craft as Tom Savini. And what can I say? Ghosts scare the crap out of me — especially wide-eyed Asian ghosts.
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part VI is easily the best entry in the Friday series next to the original in my opinion, but unfortunately gets so overlooked, mashed in between the clashing horns of the abrasive hatred against Part V: A New Beginning, and the absolute adoration showered upon Part VII: The New Blood.
Jason Lives is the final entry in what many fans refer to as “The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy”, offering a fresh look into the Camp Blood experience that provides a dark sense of humour, an awesome ‘80s hair-metal soundtrack — primarily provided by the man himself, Alice Cooper — and even changing Camp Crystal Lake’s name to Camp Forest Green to give new air to the lore of Wessex County (Yes, I’m that much of a nerd that I know the township where Crystal Lake is located).
Tommy Jarvis, the protagonist from Part IV: The Final Chapter and Part V: A New Beginning, digs up Jason’s long-since rotting corpse and inadvertently brings him back to life when a bolt of lightning strikes in the middle of a rage-ensued beatdown. Now awake as a soldier of the undead as oppose to his nearly indestructable though mortal self in previous entries,, Jason lays waste to anyone in his way back to Camp Blood, now reopened and active for the first time in years.
Jason Lives is fantastic; While the writing is a bit hedgy by 2011 standards, the characters are great, the film’s twisted and dark sense of humour is perfectly executed, the deaths are just complete eye-candy, and I love that the movie is totally reflexive of not only the horror movie genre, but of pop culture in general. Also seeing Tommy Jarvis make a return to take responsibility for Jason instead revert to being an awkward and annoying introvert like in A New Beginning really makes this movie worth while.
It’s totally great to see Jason have a kind of rivalry with Tommy, much like Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis or Dracula and Van Helsing. It’s just a shame the future writers of the franchise didn’t go any farther with the two characters afterward. I read once that Tommy likely went into hiding after the sixth movie, and it’s annoying that he hasn’t been referenced at all since in the main series, outside of a comicbook spin-off. I mean, come on, if Corey Feldman was willing to take up the mantle as Edgar Frog two more times since the original The Lost Boys, should it be so difficult to tickle his Tommy Jarvis bone again? He’s admitted to having great respect for the character, even though he played him just once.
Ahh, childhood: Is there any better outlet for nostalgic memories? Awesome cartoons, classic cereal mascots … AND POSSESSED DOLLS THAT FRIGGIN’ WANT TO MURDER YOUR ASS AND TAKE OVER YOUR BODY! Child’s Play is the purest representation of that one creepy-looking stuffed toy or doll everybody owned as kids that watched us at the foot of our beds as we slept.
Child’s Play tells the tale of Charles Lee Ray, or Chucky, the notorious “Lakeshore Strangler”. When Chucky is shot during a getaway heist, he uses voodoo magic to transfer his soul into a popular kids toy, a Good Guys doll. He comes to the realization that if his soul remains in the doll for a certain amount of time, the transfer will become permanent … unless he uses a child as a host sacrifice.
Child’s Play is an interesting story of revenge from the Charles Lee Ray character, and the whole “wild imagination” aspect a lot of adults see in kids, which occurs between the various grown-ups in the film, and the child character of Andy Barclay, played by Alex Vincent.
Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the sequels, and I’ve heard mixed things about them, but as the story goes, the original has always been said to be the best – and to be honest, with the ending of Child’s Play, the need for a sequel seems pretty unnessecary to me. Oh well, whatever.
What makes a mad man tick? Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer shares a similar theme to the more recent Mr. Brooks in that both are the perfect window into the warped mind of how a serial killer’s mind works. The movie is incredibly loosely based off of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who made claim to alledgedly murdering over six hundred people between the years of 1975 and 1983. Lucas was found guilty of only eleven murders, including twelve-year-old Frieda Powell: Lucas’s lover and niece to crime-partner Ottis Toole.
As with most film biographies, the plot is exaggerated and embellished, but the filmmakers behind Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer decided to focus more on Lucas’s reported violent fantasies of power, manipulation, and human annihilation, as opposed to the actual crimes he was found guilty of.
An effective, gripping, and most of all, disturbing movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is definitely one to check out. Even if you’re not into the horror scene, I’d reccomend checking this one out, even once, based on its biographical merits, despite being only loosely based on reality.
The Changeling is a movie I kind of hold dear. It was recommended to me by my highschool English/Drama professor shortly before he succumbed to phenomia, and the fact that it’s a pure and geniune “Canadian” film, I often feel the need to go to bat for it, toting Black Christmas and Ginger Snaps right beside.
The Changeling is based on events experienced by the film’s screenwriter, Russell Hunter, while he lived at the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion in Denver, Colorado. Plotwise, the movie’s about a university music professor and composer, named Dr. John Russel, who loses his wife and daughter in a tragic car accident. To get away from the probing demons of the past, John moves into an abandoned mansion, which turns out to be haunted by the ghost of an invalid boy named Joseph, who just wants the truth of how and why he died to be known.
While the average horror buff may think the movie suffers from taking too long to establish the characters and relying too much on jump scares (a personal annoyance of mine), I can’t help but think that this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The relationship between John and the ghost character are a great contrast, as John wants to help the ghost, if only to finally have closure for the deaths of his wife and daughter, and the ghost simply wants to use John as a means of revenge.
The twist in the plot near the end is just so diabolical and priceless; you seriously want to see the ghost of Joseph get his just deserts. And if you thought kids threw nasty temper tantrums when they were alive, you ain’t seen nothing from the wrath of the afterlife.
Say what you will about the absolute redundant tripe that the Final Destination franchise has turned out to be, but you can’t argue that most people are afraid of dying – to the point that there are a lot of folks who literally live day-to-day, not thinking about what the future brings, because it scares them so much. What can I say? Death is a scary topic, especially when we don’t know what’s waiting for us in the afterlife. And I think the first Final Destination exploits the fear the best.
There’s no point in summarizing the film outside of what it is, because if you’ve seen 2, 3, 4, and/or 5, you already know what you’re in for — it’s literally the same basic plot over, and over again but with different characters and more graphic and elaborate deaths. But if you’ve lived under a rock these past few years well … a kid dreams people are going to die in some huge accident, warns everyone around him, his dream comes true, and all the survivors are picked off one-by-one by a fate worse than what they would have initially experienced as they struggle to figure out death’s “pattern” and escape it over and over. That’s all five movies in a nutshell. Really.
The first movie was interesting, because it delved into a theory no one had ever considered before: Death having a kill pattern. But if the survivors somehow skipped over their time to die somehow (like by being pushed out of the way of an oncoming train, for instance), they could figure out the loop and keep on living.
Though let’s be honest, how long did the screenwriters think the characters could pull this off for? I mean, who thinks of that idea, anyway? Death having an all-encompassing pattern that just looped until everyone was dead? As a kid, I always thought Death was just this guy with a clock, and when your time was up, that was it, no ifs, ands, or buts – you’re gonna die. Oh well.
In any case, the original movie is an instant classic in my regard. Ignore the rest. Like I stated, they’re stupid and redundant, especially since the first entry does it the best.
Okay — this is the only cliche entry on this list, I promise. I swear!! How many top ten horror movies lists has Halloween on there? Although really, how can you have a top ten horror movies list without Halloween slated somewhere? But why just pay tribute to the first one, when you can pay tribute to its direct sequel, as well? The first Halloween is absolutely classic, and I go out of my way to watch it every October. However, I really can’t say anything about this movie that hasn’t already been said. What more can you say about John Carpenter’s Halloween that hasn’t been addressed? It’s a complex story of family ties, Satanic power, and best of all, babysitter murders.
While most horror movies now rely on excessive profanity and gore, Halloween is a fine testament that less really is more. Despite all the death and chaos shocased in the film, I can’t recall a single drop of blood ever being spilt. John Carpenter truly made a statement by doing that: You don’t need to be over the top to make an effective cinematic experience. But not just cinema; I think that goes for everything.
Halloween II picks up literally just as Halloween ends — which to me, kind of makes it an obligation to watch both movies in a single sitting – much like Kill Bill. Micheal Myers is back with a vengeance, slaughtering anyone while on his undying search for his sister, Laurie Strode.
The most notable parts of this movie belong to Donald Pleasance as Doctor Loomis, and Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Bracket during their chaotic search for Myers, and uncovering what kind of evil he truly is. My biggest gripe about this movie is that it just feels like The Shape is just killing people just for the sake of racking up a body count. People are killed off in such gory and stereotypical setups not unrecognizeable in Crystal Lake. Right at the start of the film, The Shape murders some teenager in a completely arbitrary act. There was no reason for her to be knifed; she wasn’t in Myer’s way, nor was she in anyway related to Laurie or the events in the previous film. It bugs me a lot, because the first film was so fresh and different from such horror movie ideologies. That being said, there really wasn’t anything to compare the original Halloween to except for Black Christmas, and it’s a shame that Carpenter’s classic tale that grandfathered an entire slasher film subgenre fell into particular tropes like “sex in a jaccuzzi” and “kill the teenager for the sake of killing teenagers”.
I also find that the pacing of the film drags a lot compared to the first entry, which can make watching Halloween II all the way through just a bit of a chore. To be honest, I think I’ve only ever been able to to watch the whole thing through to the end credits a grand total of twice. However, while not as great and cinematically important as the original Halloween, it’s still worth a watch, even if for the sake of continuity.
Of all the more recent independent horror movies to actually bring “scary” back into the genre, I think writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez succeeded with The Blair Witch Project. If you thought Cloverfield had copious amounts of hype and viral marketing surrounding it, 1998 was absolutely bombarded – which would eventually make The Blair Witch Project itself one of the most known, as well as one of the most-spoofed horror movies to date.
Taking unconscious cues from controversial Itallian horror classic, Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project made it seem like the film you were watching could have actually been lost footage found years after the presented events. To further drive the point, a false documentary on the Blair Witch and the missing film students, called The Curse of the Blair Witch (You can find it on YouTube, and is included on the DVD.), was aired before the film’s release. Because of the film’s impact on Western culture in an age when the Internet was just becoming making itself known for mass consumption, many people found themselves asking the question, “Is this real? Did this actually happen?”
A lot of criticism that stems from The Blair Witch Project comes from the fact that not a lot actually happens during the film other than the crumbling sanity and rising mutiny between the three characters as they wander aimlessly through the woods, trying to find their way back to civilization. But the main thing people complain about? The fact that you never see the Blair Witch. But unfortunately, the people who make those claims, while valid, are missing the point of the whole movie: which is that the power of the imagination is much more twisted and frightening than anything that can be shown to you on-screen.
Whether you’ve seen it or not, whether you’re young or you’re old, everyone’s been exposed to The Exorcist in some way, shape or form. William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel, “The Exorcist”, is a universal phenomenon, tested by time, infamously toted as the scariest movie of all time.
But what few people come to realize was that there were actually sequels: Exorcist II: Heretic — which was critically panned and completely destroyed Linda Blair’s acting carreer outside of hosting Sci Fi Channel specials and parodies of the very film that made her famous — and the even more obscure The Exorcist III, directed by William Peter Blatty himself, adapted from his own novelized sequel of “The Exorcist”, titled “Legion”.
The Exorcist III takes place fifteen years after the original, and slates the bumbling, yet philosophical Detective Kinderman in the role of protagonist – this time starring George C. Scott, instead of a reprising Lee J. Cobb, who died years after the first film’s release. Detective Kinderman, who still hasn’t come to terms with the death of Fr. Karras from the first film, gets thrown into a case that involves Satanic murders and a long-deceased serial killer named The Gemini, a guy who possesses people and goes around decapitating everyone with a huge pair of scissors. It’s great.
It’s a really intense and frightening movie, and I wouldn’t feel right giving anything away, but George C. Scott as Kinderman and Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer give fantastic performances – and there’s even a great cameo that is overall surprising and satisfying, while helping to tie up the plot. Even William Peter Blatty has been quoted that he’s quite proud of this film and honestly believes it far surpasses the first Exorcist in both quality and horror. I agree.
…Well, that’s it, and as I said before, there are just way too many great horror movies to just pick ten. And though I’m leaving out quite a few notables, like the Evil Dead trilogy and the Hellraiser movies, that doesn’t mean I like them any less. There’s a great horror resource site that I frequent at times, called The House of Horrors. It’s a fantastic site run by a truly dedicated fan of the horror genre. Check it out – and have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone.