Remember the flicks that used to have you peeking between your fingers to semi-avert your eyes from the monster on the screen, pulling the covers over your head to protect you from whatever it was that you felt could quite-possibly scare your from the television, and even those flicks that had you running passed that dark, freaky living room (while flipping the light-switch all in one cautious motion) to the kitchen for a midnight snack? What the hell ever happened to those types of movies? Not many proclaimed “horror-movies” today can compare to the ones of yesteryear. Let’s break it down to some of what the greater “horror-movies” are/were from…of course, this is all just opinion and I’d enjoy hearing other’s thoughts and questions. (SPOILER ALERTS to some movies)
The 1978 flick that began the slasher-movie craze. Director John Carpenter had a sleeper-masterpiece here and did not even realize it. Originally titled, The Babysitter Murders, Carpenter did a bit more research and found that no one had used the title, Halloween, flat out before. The antagonist, Michael Myers, a 21-year old lunatic in a workman’s jumpsuit, donning a plastered William Shatner mask, is on the hunt for his baby sister, 16 year old-Laurie Strode, played by scream-queen Jamie Lee Curtis. On his hunt after escaping out of an insane asylum, he stumbles upon his old hometown and watches Laurie from afar at times. On Halloween night is when he makes his move and begins to kill at will. The interesting thing about this film, is that you never see any blood, yet you are captivated and scared none the less. There is a scene where Michael chokes out a German Shepherd, however, for the most part it is implied that the dog is being choked to death (no animals were harmed during the making of this film).
The scares come out of the darkness and tension builds with Carpenter’s own simple piano skills with the scoring of the movie which has become synonymous with the franchise itself. The theme music to the movie is so simple and genius, that it is now known as a Halloween (holiday) anthem. Donald Pleasance plays Michael’s doctor, Dr. Samuel Loomis, and seals an amazing character with his performance. An absolute classic in the horror movie genre and quite possibly my number 1 favorite.
The Brood (1979) – David Cronenberg
Disgustingly, awesome effects in this 1979 flick. Directed by David Cronenberg, who is known for venereal horror; this movie is about a woman, Nola, who pathogenically-births these freak-babies to do her evil bidding. They have no teeth, and they “loosely” resemble mutated Teletubbies melded with Garbage Pail Kids. These little dwarfed minis go around and brutally kill whomever Nola has ill-will with. The birthing scene is this film was rated one of the most disturbing in film history.
This is definitely a woman (Nola) that you don’t want to have pissed at you. In this movie, she is upset that her husband wants full custody of their daughter Candice. Well, her rage is such that it broods an evil (several evils) which is expressed through the form of an odd means of Immaculate Conception. If you’re into body-horror, then this is one for you.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Wes Craven
Now, Nightmare was not the true grandfather of the slasher movie genre, but it certainly did broaden the spectrum for more viewers. The dream-stalker, Freddy Krueger, makes his debut in this 1984 masterpiece of fright. Stalking teens on Elm Street in their nightmares in vengeance of his death some years beforehand. Tina is the first to go in a very memorable scene out of the entire Nightmare franchise, as she is suspended in mid-air and spun around as she is being carved up by an invisible Freddy. The film’s heroine, Heather Langencamp, who plays Nancy, watches almost helplessly as her friends get picked off one-by-one. This is also the film debut of acclaimed actor, Johnny Depp, which of whom also has a pretty prolific death scene as he gets sucked into his bed, then is regurgitated onto the ceiling in the form of a geyser of deep-red blood. Definitely a movie that needs to be seen for any horror/thriller movie buff. The lines may be a bit cheesy, but remember, it’s the 80’s.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) –Chuck Russell
In my opinion, this Nightmare-installation is the best of the bunch. You have a group of troubled teens that end up banding together to face and fight their worst nightmares, Freddy. Through the help of their exceptional brains and the returning character from the first Nightmare, Nancy, the teens are able to control partial destiny in their dreams, as they take on various powers and personas to match the unpredictable, Freddy Krueger. Several casualties are experienced, but perhaps the most remembered happening of the movie…is that this was the debut of Patricia Arquette. I know, I know…but hey, it’s Patricia Arquette. The ending finds one of the teens’ facilitators in a junkyard, towered by piled up cars, going toe-to-toe with the bones for Freddy Krueger. In a stop-motion like animation for this scene, looking back at it now is rather comedic, but somehow still keeps you watching.
The dream-sequences are probably the best out of all in the franchise and the way that Freddy is immolated is one of the better endings out of all the franchise as well. Check it out.
28 Days Later (2002) –Danny Boyle
A seemingly post-apocalyptic vision of the remnants of a biochemical mishap; made possible in part by the military across the pond. A bloody nightmare (British-pun and double-entendre intended) befalls the city of London after a few lab monkeys injected with a virus serum (the rage), escape their laboratory testing cages, viciously attack the scientists that apparently have no backup plan for when animals attack, and with a single bite from an enraged, infected simian; personnel then becomes infected, thus rapidly spreading the virus. Bloodshot red eyes, projectile blood vomiting zombie-like humans run amok in the war-ravaged streets of London. A few survivors make it to what is believed to be a safe-haven, where military personnel has setup shop, full of heavy artillery, shelter and food. Corrupt soldiers began to take on the antagonistic role and take advantage of our heroine and her counterparts. A flick guaranteed to have you jumping every so often, one of my absolute favorites.
Alien (1979) – Ridley Scott
I was unsure of classifying this into the horror movie genre, but it definitely has its share of horrors. Introducing, the face-hugger alien, who attaches itself to a hosts’ face, implants and egg, which will some short time afterward burst out of said host’s chest and wreak havoc. Sigourney Weaver plays a hard-ass, Warrant Officer that has the daunting-duty of basically babysitting the crew aboard the spacecraft, while trying not to become a host for the rouge alien onboard. H.R. Geiger’s rendition of the alien is very iconic and drifts away from what people think or have thought that those little green men with bulbous-eyes should look like. Out of the entire crew aboard the ship, including the shiftless android-Paul Rieser-character; the only members that survived were Sigourney Weaver…and a cat.
This sci-fi masterpiece of space horror spawned three sequels and two prequels; each of which were crap, compared to this 1979 original.
Arachnophobia (1990) – Frank Marshall
Let me first begin be stating that I am completely terrified of spiders. This movie was just creepy to watch due to the fact of how realistic many aspects and situations were. An infestation of 8-legged arachnids…come on now! That is just a little too close to real for me! If there were to ever be a remake of a movie, this should be in the works for simply due to it being a great original to rehash or setup a new angle on. Although it was dubbed a comedy-horror, this movie was freaky-creepy.
The way the Venezuelan spider was transported and its arrival at a family farm was very believable and entertaining to watch. The cross-breeding of the common house spider and this foreign-deadly spider, creates a brood of infertile, but equally deadly offspring. A queen/general spider was produced and she started to create a new nest, but in the end, good prevails over evil as the large arachnid is disposed of in flames, as well as her minions/offspring. I can’t tell you how many times I have offed a few spiders with a lighter and an aerosol can.
Child’s Play (1988) – Tom Holland
Another one of my worst nightmares comes to life in the form of a possessed, foul-mouthed children’s plaything…a damned doll. All little Andy wanted for his birthday was a Good Guy Doll, which was a 3-foot tall, plastic talking doll that donned moving blue eyes and a voice processor to respond back to you. What Andy didn’t know, was that this particular doll also carried the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray ( the killer’s name was derived from American serial killers – Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray), which of whom possessed the doll 5 minutes into the movie. Brad Douriff’s voice is classic as he portrays the evil-killer plastic powerhouse, Chucky. Chris Sarandon, the guy who played Jerry Dandridge in the 1985 vampire horror, Fright Night (also directed by Tom Holland), plays a detective in this film as he, Andy and Andy’s mom attempt to rid themselves of this doll, hell bent on possessing Andy.
You just can’t keep a Good Guy down, as they shoot, throw, and burn the ever-living hell out of Chucky; he continues to come back for more. If you like dolls, you won’t after this one. I hear that there is a remake in the works to make Chucky less of a comedic nuisance, and more of a dark-sinister killer. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.
Clownhouse (1989) – Victor Salva
Yet, another movie that can live up to being a suspenseful horror/thriller. Void of any huge special effects, this movie pits three brothers that are home alone, against some looneys. Oh what joy, there seems to be a carnival in town! Lucky for the carnival, it has set up shop not too far from the local mental institution. Even luckier, three patients with murder on their minds, have escaped. What better way to hide out from authorities than to disguise yourself as a friendly clown? For one reason or another, the leader of the crazies finds out the younger of the three brothers (Casey) is terrified of clowns, and follows the boys back through the woods, to their large, parentless home. The eldest brother, a young Sam Rockwell, antagonizes his younger brother Casey by dressing up as a clown to play on his fears. The real excitement and goose-chase takes hold as the real clowns make their way inside the dark house to have a little deadly fun.
A house being taken over by crazy people dressed up as freaky-ass clowns wanting to kill you…sounds like a recipe for a fright-filled night in this 1989 flick, which was one of the last slasher flicks of the era.
It (1990) – Stephen King
This Stephen King classic is filled with a barrage of stars and stars-in-the-making, from John Ritter to Seth Green. Tim Curry plays the horror of everyone’s (including my own) dreams, Pennywise the Clown. Hard to believe that this is the same guy from Home Alone 2 underneath all of that greasepaint. I am not ashamed to admit that to this very day, if I were to see Pennywise, I may just pee-myself. I don’t get freaked out over many things (aside from spiders and cockroaches), but I can make a healthy exception for Pennywise. The razor sharp teeth, the simplistic white greasepaint on an emotionless face, the raspy voice accompanied by a playfully psychotic demeanor…yea, I can’t do it. I had a thing against clowns as a child, and this just ushered that dislike along (oddly enough, I grew to enjoy and actually like the Insane Clown Posse).
This evil (Pennywise) has followed a group fo children from childhood on into adulthood, haunting, hazing and killing them along the way. It was a long tumultuous trip during the movie and the lives of the antagonists, but a few made it through unscathed, while others may have had their hairs turned white with fright, or ended up dead. All in all, this movie was definitely a great scare at times.
Darkness Falls (2003) – Jonathan Liebesman
Finally, a chilling tale about a childhood joy, the tooth fairy! Not only was it scary that this tooth fairy/witch creature could grab you in the darkness, but her eerie gasping sound she would make upon her presence is somewhat reminiscent of the Ju-on character’s (Kayako) dry, long clicking raspy sound that just sends shivers down your spine. One of the more memorable scenes was the entire first 10-minutes while the young boy is in bed, protecting himself with the sheets and the evil witch is staring him right in the face as he relinquishes cover. He flees to the bathroom as the witch snags his unbelieving mother and makes quick work of her. The witch then posts up in the shadows of the wall just above the bathroom door, flowing grim reaper-like cloak and all, waiting for the young boy to step out into the darkness (I felt that this was very eerie scene as the camera pans out).
The remainder of the film is decent with a few spots to keep you on edge, but nothing too greatly scary. Nice movie to sit back with a girl that easily gets terrified and have her hold onto you. If you’re an evil parent, or a parent that just likes to scare the innocence out of your children, tell them about this tooth fairy; they’ll scream every time they lose a tooth.
Katasumi and 4444444444 (1998) – Takashi Shimizu
This is essentially the Ju-on series/franchise, not that remake with Sarah Michelle Gellar-Grudge crap. This was definitely a top-drawer horror idea. The whole premise is that when a person dies horribly and/or with a deep burning grudge, a curse is born (I like that thought, very chilling). The idea of a curse attaching itself to a person or people that have either entered the dwelling of the deceased, or come in contact with someone that is already cursed, is a genius vision for a horror movie.
The sound that I referenced earlier (the clicking, raspy gasping sound) was made popular by the ghost-character, Kayako (the freaky Grudge-woman), who seemingly appears at will out of nowhere. Her ticked-movements as she crawls, and her smooth and self-urniation inducing descent from ceilings and corners make her one of my all time favorite/scary antagonists. The other antagonist, a little boy named Toshio that also pops up out of thin air with an abjure-iced expression, creates a cat-like meow that transforms into a screeching sound…this pretty much signifies that whomever is around during this will be dead shortly. Again, one of the better and scarier flicks of all time.
The Fly (1986) – David Cronenberg
Jeff Goldblum sells his portrayal of a scientist, gone insect on us. This movie had me cringing as a child, watching the changing of his human body into that of some overgrown Diptera. At first it was kind of cool when he was able to overpower some people with new found strength, and scale walls like…well, a fly, but when the transformation began to fully take hold…I’m sorry, but that shit was just straight up disgusting. Vomiting on his food so he could better devour it, body parts falling off of him like a Mr. Potato Head toy…simply gross to the 10th degree.
Great camera work and effects done equally, acting was nicely held, and this was a remake that was actually better than its original, kudos Cronenberg, kudos.
The Exorcist (1973) – William Friedkin
Linda Blair is Reagan, a young girl who is possessed by Pazazu, an ancient demon. Throughout the beginning of the film, her mother thinks that it is just a sickness that her daughter has (one instance is where Reagan in a zombie-like state, begins urinating on the carpet in front of guests), but as religious intuition sets in on the priests that have been asked to meet with Reagan, they find that it is much more than the common cold and a weak bladder. This 1973 film set the tone for possession and supernatural movies of the like. Projectile split-pea soup-vomiting, head-spinning, blasphemous banter, sacrilegious slander…this demonic masterpiece of the macabre is sure to be a classic for decades to come. Several notable scenes were shown in this film; one in particular that was originally removed was the spider-walking scene. A 4-5 second scene were a possessed Reagan descends the long staircase much to her mother’s horror, in a contorted back-bend, spider walking notion, kinda creepy at the initial sight of it.
It has spawned two sequels and a couple of prequels…even spoofs, and many movies have tried to recreate the feel of this original, but only one in my opinion can even come close, and that is The Last Exorcism.
Cloverfield (2008) – Matt Reeves
Loved this movie. Though it is dubbed a disaster-monster film, it is still in the horror genre. Camera work was very nicely done, as it was setup like that of the 1999 docu-horror, The Blair Witch Project. Imagine chilling at a party with a slew of your best friends, atop of a penthouse in lower Manhattan; when in the distance, you see the east end being destroyed by some unseen assailant. Tremors are felt, but wait, there’s no earthquakes in New York that have been recorded in the 2000’s! Screams are echoing from the distance, you run into your apartment, down the stairs of your building and rush to the streets, which are now filled with surrounding neighbors and stopped vehicles. When out of the sky comes an object that you can’t decipher until it is maybe 100 feet from destroying you; the giant head of the Statue of Liberty! An almost Godzilla-like attack on the city of New York has its inhabitants running, screaming and crying for their lives of some 200-foot tall creature that is decimating everything in its path. One of the freakiest scenes happens in the dark subway system while our main stars are trying to escape the chaos on ground level. If you don’t cringe or jump during these scenes…check your pulse because you’re probably not breathing.
Will our main attractions survive through this siege? What will become of the hot-girlfriend (Jessica Lucas a.k.a. Lilly Ford) of the main character’s brother? Questions that I wanted to know, and were certainly answered at the culmination.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez
This is one of the first documentary-like horror movies that I had ever seen and thought that is was well-done. The viral hype, the “missing” movie posters plugging the film, and the genius way of filming the movie itself made for a very stylistic and unique showing. No fancy-Hollywood makeup, no costly special effects, no A-list actors/actresses, just amateur footage shot in the woods of Burkitsville, Maryland, where three young filmmakers aim to gain knowledge on the legend of the infamous Blair Witch. The entire film/documentary takes place deep in the woods as our travelers become entangled in the darkness, void of any other living life, and bear witness to a few strange happenings on their journey. If you allow your mind to wander with this one and take into account that this is more of a documentary than a movie, it comes across as a fairly creepy flick. Heather puts on a great performance as a hyper-emotional, narrator and makeshift director of the documentary, while Josh and Michael add to the comedic satire of the film.
Never seeing a damn witch anywhere in the movie, much of the effects and presences are implied by sound and thought throughout the film. The ending tends to be a little creepy when Josh goes missing, Michael is posted up in a corner in the basement of a dilapidated home, and Heather is holding the camera screaming and crying until she is seemingly struck in the back of the head by some unseen force, leading to the ending credits. Not the best of films, but it holds its own standards in a cult-classic-creepy way.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Tobe Hooper
I was born in the early 1980’s, this movie was released in theatres in the summer of 1974; I did not physically watch this movie until the summer of 2001…what the hell was wrong with me? All of the reviews that I had heard about it, how it was banned in several countries after being released, how people would be violently ill during the viewing of this movie and how theatres began to put a cease on the showings of this flick; I guess it kinda made me think, “Do I really wanna see this?!” Finally, I did…and it was nothing like what I was led to believe. It was a grainy, 70’s horror flick with mostly implied-deaths. The chainsaw and Leatherface were mainly the focal-points of the film, and I suppose the thought of someone being butchered by a lunatic who wears people’s death masks, weilding a chainsaw can really cause your mind to conjur up a load of sh…stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very gritty and awesome thought of movie, with horrific implications of gruesome deaths happening before your eyes, but let’s face it; there was minimal blood, and nothing to truly make someone want to vomit in terror. Great movie for its time, and can still hold its own for today with some scenes. One famous scene is the postlude where the herione escapes bloodied in the back of a pickup truck, while Leatherface swings his chainsaw wildly and dances in the middle of the road…kinda creepy alluding to the thought of him still being out there to bring about a sequel.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – Marcus Nispel
The remake was definitely a great one. The original story plotted out with an updated edge to it. And Jessica Biel, aside from being an amazing specimen to watch by any means, she played her part fairly well. The death and torture scenes were among some of the better ones found in horrors these days. There were a few good scares with Leatherface popping out and the buzz of his trusty chainsaw in tow.
The thing that always got me with this franchise, was that people actually believed that this was a true story. It was only a tag line for the films. The character of Leatherface and a few minor plot details were derived from the true life American killer, Ed Gein; however, being from Texas, and a huge horror fan…there were no records of any man or woman committing the crimes as Leatherface had done in Texas.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007) – Michael Dougherty
Waited for a little over a year for this movie to finally arrive in theatres/DVD, and it was surely worth the anticipation. It was based on the short film by the director titled, Seasons Greetings. The way that the movie was pieced together was brilliant. Four different Halloween-themed stories in one, all intertwined by one pint-sized, sack-headed, trick or treater known only as Sam (short for Samhain). Tales of werewolves, poisoned treats, Halloween customs, and cranky old hermits that should learn to play nice with children.
The stories were great and the way that they were all together was very well told. Dread Central gave it 5 out of 5 stars and stated “Trick ‘r Treat ranks alongside John Carpenter’s Halloween as traditional October viewing and I can’t imagine a single horror fan that won’t fall head over heels in love with it.” Based on 17 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall “Fresh” approval rating from critics of 85%, with an average score of 7.7/10; the site’s critical consensus states “An deftly crafted tribute to Halloween legends, Trick ‘r’ Treat hits all the genre marks with gusto and old fashioned suspense.” Here’s a bit of an ear-gasm for you that also enjoyed this movie; a sequel is in the works!
Saw (2004) – James Wan
The original and possibly the best out of the franchise. Torture-horror and mind-screwing horror at it’s finest. It was a great concept to have a mind-bending, psychological horror pieced together the way that this film was. It was scary in the sense that something like this, under the right (or dire) circumstances could possibly happen.
Just how far would a person go to gain their freedom? How much blood would they shed? I don’t know about other people, but I doubt seriously that I could saw off an appendage. Cary Elwes held his role well in this film, and hats off to Tobin Bell for lying on the floor the duration of the actual filming process (not just the movie, but the filming itself). Pardon the colorful language (but I tend to speak/write in prose), but this was a great mind-fuck of a movie.
Paranormal Activity (2007) – Orin Peli
Director, Peli, was terrified of ghosts as a child just as many of us were; he however turned his fear into gold with this film of supernatural horror. Along the lines of a Blair Witch type filming, this movie was actually pretty well done. I will be the first to admit that I initially thought of it to be a load of crap while watching the previews, but watched it alone one night and I kinda felt creeped out. I have been through some superatural/unexplained happenings and this movie brought back a few memories. The effects and sounds were great (especially if you have a nice surround sound/home theatre system) and add an abundance of detail to the film itself.
The sequel was average, but I do have to give props where props are due. Not looking forward to the thrid installment, but what the hell; I’ll still go check it out.
And that is all that I have for movies that are somewhat scary. This is my first posting, but I will have many others including short stories, more reviews and a nest of other topics in regards to the horror/halloween genre.
Please leave comments, questions, your picks, agreements, disagreements, snide remarks, but…I most likely will not be responding back to the latter of the aforementioned (snide remarks).