Monday, November 8, 2010

74 Excellent Horror Movies (w/Sells and Trailers!)

Inspired by Stephen Graham Jones doing it, 74 horror films with short sells attached to them, in case I can persuade you. I deliberately left out anything shorter than feature length and what I perceived to be primarily adventure/thrillers (Lost Boys; Vampires), inevitable tragedies (Daughters of Darkness; Rocky Horror Picture Show), disaster and weather movies (Towering Inferno; Dawn of the Dead; The Mist), heroes against darkness (Split Second; Bloody Mallory), angry movies (The Devil’s Rejects), movies that are wittier than they are scary (Evil Dead 2; Razor Blade Smile), those made safe by persistent humor or eventual total happy closure (Watcher in the Woods; Bucket of Blood), monster flicks (Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 2; Tremors) and grand guignol (Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl; Repo: the Genetic Opera), no matter how much I loved them.

Alien - Filled with emptiness, pregnant with malignancy, it amazes me still how Walter Hill mutilated and rebuilt a relatively innocuous space exploration chiller into a psychosexual gothic masterpiece. Some of Scott's best direction, too; much less involved than some later films.

Angel Heart - Hopelessness and damnation in about ninety minutes worth of celluloid.

Apt Pupil - Acted with a sharp conviction that mirrors the razor's edge quality of the edititng, and a range of sound from Ottman extending through the near-subliminal to the overwhelming. One of the best Stephen King adaptations from that fine collection, which has yielded so many excellent films.

Audition - My sympathies fall on her end. When they revisit their date and you see everything he's not listening to her divulge? That scares me more than extra fingers at a crime scene (but makes me jump less than that bag).

Bio Zombie - The Hong Kong Bill and Ted in Dawn of the Dead, and all the better for it. Funny as hell, the movie can be heartbreaking when situations are clearly beyond the skills, and perhaps even the understanding of characters who demonstrate a genuine, unaware earnestness, occasionally called "heart" in pictures of more serious pretension.

Bubba Ho-Tep - Everything about the mummy is hilarious and goofy. Everything about dying slowly, old, alone, forgotten somewhere no one knows - or cares - who you are, is not.

Butterfly Kiss - A road movie where they go nowhere. A romance where without love. Familiar in its discomfort, reassuring in its strangeness, and inescapable for all.

Candyman - Bernard Rose should have his own special Bernard Rose Prize. Tony Todd, should, too, but for other reasons.

Cape Fear - Condensed intimidation. Robert Mitchum takes up the frame, occupies whole rooms, and he's breathing down the neck of every scene he isn't actually in.

Carnival of Souls - When a carnival of damned celebrants is the comfortable part of the movie, that's just magick.

The Cat People - Show don't tell sucks. Now, know don't show... that's something. Terrifying by intimation, the best part The Cat People is that it doesn't matter if most of the suspected stuff is happening or not, it doesn't matter how much you simplify, de-violence, or pare down, because even the simplest truth from this, the smallest actuality, is revolting and cruel and so sad.

The Changeling - The solidity of this film, the unwavering nature both of the characters and events, but also the telling, the motions, sounds, and cuts of the movie itself gives you now time to compose yourself.

Cigarette Burns - Taps that fear of helplessness, of others suffering the consequences of your weakness, and has a good punished for curiosity vibe, that always gets me.

The Company of Wolves - Like a zen knife parable some kid made up: no matter where you stab, you stick yourself. Brilliantly shot, cut, acted, written, and committed.

Curse of the Cat People - One of my all-time favorite films in any genre, any mode. The brutalization of innocence, the torment of enthusiasm, and the corruption of possibility. The nicest person in the film, the best representation of hope and optimism, has been dead and ignored for a long time.

The Dark Half - A vicious, vivacious and twitchy flick. A great example of the externalization of fears without absolution.

Day of the Dead - The desolation and loneliness. You never really do know other people, but that doesn't stop some folks you think you know from scaring you. And, that damned wall scene at the beginning. Every. Single. Time.

Dog Soldiers - Takes bad situations and makes them worse before just dropping the floor out from under them to the situation fall on some hidden spikes. Not literally, but that's what it feels like. And, still, there's quips and jokes and mourning.

Doom Generation - Builds itself up through satire, cartoonish butchery, and throes of casual eroticism and neurosis, until all the humor gets bled out while the thing is held down, bellowing in death, fighting the inevitable.

Eko Eko Azarak - Gorgeously shot, masterfully edited, there is genuine emotional resonance behind the primary emoting of the cast and more twists, revelations, and subtleties than films of this nature are often afforded.

Eko Eko Azarak 3: Misa, the Dark Angel - Shot to look cheap and old before that was a thing, the movie exudes the atmosphere of the best of Bava, Argento, Fukasaku or Franco. The avoidance of showing or discussing makes horrors implicit and stronger for it, while the broad strokes of physical horror, the magic and violence, are astonishingly operatic, operating on a poetic rather than narrative wave of rightness.

Event Horizon - Mean, bloody, and sadistic. A direct response to a spate of movies meant to be horrific by using the signs to tell us it was horror and who cares if it was felt. Inevitable and inexplicable, just like all the best sadism to fear.

Evil Dead - Even the guy marked out as The Jerk, isn't, really; he's just a dope. Ash, who will get jerkier with each succeeding movie, is quite earnest and meek, here, and the other characters are a good range of decent enough folks who are simply ill-equipped to deal with evil, possibly dead, spirits coming out of the woods and cellar to torment and convert them with blood, pain, and Three Stooges humor.

The Fly - The best avoidance of closure ever. Even as an amoral, nonnegotiable monster, Brundle Fly is still less horrendous than much of the world extant. The difference is that ability to negotiate. You can negotiate with idiots, bigots, bad bosses and jealous exes, but you can't negotiate with an insect, and you can't negotiate with your own body, your own mind.

From Dusk Till Dawn - What if The Getaway had vampires half the way through. A half-dozen hypocrites of varying degrees, criminal and otherwise, trapped in a bar full of bloodsuckers and vigorously out-acting each other.

Gemini - Poetic, operatic, and cruel. Gemini offers no optimism that is not immediately taken away, like taking the hands off a baby.

Ginger Snaps - Mean, petty, and shortsighted. Puberty as a werewolf metaphor and social violence externalized as physical mutilation; even if it's the other way round, does that change much?

Ginger Snaps 2 - Empowerment is often just a feeling, something realized when it stops working. An exploration of varying degrees of socially-acceptable and unacceptable dehumanization with gore between.

Girls School Screamers - So silly and predictable it shouldn't be creepy. Like campfire tales you hear all the time, but still make you jump or watch the woods keener after every telling.

Gothic - Excitedly inaccurate, a mystery play for the damned, covering those wonderful artificial binaries of God and Devil, whore and virgin, man and woman, day and night so intensely it makes skin crawl and eyes twitch, so absurdly it shows their artificial boundaries like a windowpane revealed by moonlight glinting on the slick trails where slugs have passed.

Grindhouse - A big, loud, visceral bastard of a double feature with built-in extras, and a loving homage and sensible continuation of whole swathes of cinematic history. Props to Rodriguez for making someone slipping in the rain and hurting their wrist more painful to watch than Tarantino's extended slow-motion mutilation of a car-full of women.

Halloween - Scarier because Laurie Strode is not a terrified screamy distressed victim, and she still can't kill the fucker. That's what makes The Shape the bogeyman and Freddie Kreuger and them all comedy acts, in the end: fighting back doesn't really help except to delay.

The Haunting
- The movie does stuff to your head. There are things happening in it that are not actually there.

Hellraiser - Pinhead's a great, desolate monster. And, he's the least horrifying thing in the movie.

Horror Hotel - Every hotel you stay in? Every strange new town you go to? People are doing horrible things the moment you shut your door.

House on Haunted Hill - Gleeful and careless, even when people start dying. The party never ends and Vincent Price never disappoints.

The Hunger - Desire plus helplessness plus loneliness plus ?

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte - People ain't no good.

Ichi, the Killer - It's been called the ultimate Batman vs Joker movie, and the meanest romantic comedy ever. Designed to take filmic violence and entertaining trauma to their ultimate extensions, any intimation of kindness ends up revealing a delineation between choice and a state of being, shows that "kindness" is not a set position, but relative, always relative.

In the Mouth of Madness - Best Lovecraft homage ever. If, They Live is a fairytale of the things that really run the show, then In the Mouth of Madness is the life lesson that strips away heroism and pretension from that fairytale. As a friend of mine said to Sam Neill's character, when we were watching this one night, "You're fucked, Son."

The Innocents - Freddie Francis, here the cinematographer, is a genius, and here, he is in the company of many brilliant people working their individual arts to a greater whole.

Land of the Dead - When the dead walk the Earth, people will still be bastards. Class horror, body horror, identity politics and the military industrial complex wrapped up in a bow they made by gutting your sister and tying her intestine tight around the thing.

Lord of Illusions - By the end, the movie entirely subverts itself, the early horrors beyond horror made pathetic, the inane turned magnificently wrong and insidious, and poor, traumatized fear junkie D'Amour wading through the cesspool storm of it, face turned up to see through the shit and lightning. (This also wins my personal award for Most Improved By Having a Director's Cut.)

Lost Highway - First time I saw this was at a private screening, middle of the night, sleep deprived and wired. The shrill pitch of the film, alone, did me in, but when a phone rang, everyone in the theater jumped up and tried to answer it, we were so enmeshed.

Lust for Dracula - Meant to be a softcore porno and nothing more, I'm sure it is if it's playing latenight Cinemax and you're treating it as background static. Having seen it in a theater full of people, I think we were all traumatized by twenty-foot-tall schoolgirls dazedly working invisible Thighmasters between their legs and chanting, forced medication via bottles with obviously handwritten labels, the care and feeding of imaginary babies, and Darian Caine hanging around naked at empty swimming pools at night, being wistul, chatty, and lonely.

Lust for a Vampire - Scripted by the awesome Tudor Gates and featuring Pippa Steel, the male star, Ralph Bates called it "the worst vampire film ever", which is a ringing endorsement when you realize what he primarily objected to was irreverence and a discarding of subtlety in an area/sub-genre that had been long guilty of too much subtlety and not enough self-awareness.

May - Every line spoken to May either plays like a pick up line or a rejection. Every interaction, a seduction or abandoning. Every person a failure to measure up to their best parts. That she chooses to take the best and ignore the rest, in the end, is almost sensible beyond its explicit cruelty and violation.

Midnight Meat Train - Unflinching and full of rough hungry lifestuff. Voyeurism and honor perverted in equal bloody measures. And, Ted Raimi dying bad in another Clive Barker adaptation!

Necronomicon - Atmospheric anthology film earmarked by enthusiasm and real effort, and a great transfiguration of some HP Lovecraft stories and the sense of reported madness and dreadful interconnectivity of his fiction.

Night of the Hunter - The Story of Right Hand Left Hand has been told many times in film, but it begins here and amazingly, only here is it made implicit that a just or an evil hand look pretty much the same, operate the same, and can be capable of the same things without ever knowing they are more than a hand, or what sort of hand they might be. Plus, like in Cape Fear, Robert Mitchum will fuck you up, just 'cause.

Night of the Living Dead
- There's a sense of pervading emptiness that isolates every scene, every emotion and character, and it's shot and cut like newsreel footage more than a fictional film. Like Carpenter, Romero seems to believe fervently that a movie lives and dies by its cuts, and that the participants should be restricted to their strengths, not their potential range.

Nightbreed - It is said that the final offer on getting this cut from X to R was to take off a few seconds of David Cronenberg smiling. A happy David Cronenberg, all by himself on camera, is more than a hard R.

New Nightmare - Turns the audience's enjoyment of and enthusiasm for Nightmare on Elm Street movies into complicity with murder, cruelty, and wrongness of every shade. Extended the reach of those knifey fingers so far the only thing to do was start over completely or have Freddy come down to each viewer's house and have him put a hand on their shoulder as they rewatch one of the old ones.

Nightmare Castle - Murder is always more awesome when someone who looks just like the dead person shows up after. And, the only thing scarier than darkness is brightness and clarity.

Perfect Blue - Mean, fast, and inescapable. Take a sad song and make it... unbearable.

Phantasm - An excellent balance of plot-based creepiness and just-for-the-hell-of-it horror, with an unsettling depth of ramifications and jangle along for the ride.

The Prophecy - Christopher Walken improves everything. So do remorseless horrible statements made by innocent-faced children and a piss and vinegar Satan. Adding Eric Stoltz and Elias Koteas into the mix is just chocolate sprinkles and a whiskey heart to a sundae of the apocalypse.

Psycho - A tense and deeply physical film, you feel like a voyeur and inappropriately judgmental whether watching two lovers in a hotel room, a woman stealing from the office, or murder in the shower.

Psycho 2 - All the naive stabs at mastering fate from the first movie? Practice for things really going wrong.

Re-Animator - The mad scientist is the sanest person in the movie. And, really, once you do something, why should it stop there? Vive la ciencia or bust!

Return of the Living Dead 3 - Zombie malaise in the rivethead concert called life.

Shaun of the Dead - It's easy, and comforting, to be funny and scary by turns, but this movie manages both simultaneously, while also having something to say.

Suspiria - A beautiful film, in terms of image and motion, a cruel movie without exception to character, and an awesome production of intimation. Can't you use schoolgirls for your school? Build the doors and halls bigger so adults are child-sized and the world dominates them regardless.

Tales from the Dark Side - Snappy, slick, and gooey! Every segment offers a different pacing and a different kind of horror, wrapped around a casually-portrayed scene of Debbie Harry getting ready to cook her paperboy.

Tenebrae - The best "ten minutes into the future" movie. The public and the press are as horrifying as the killer, the second people start trying to defend the murders as some sort of social correction or moral adjustment.

The Thing - Isolated from anything but cold, ice, and death, one of a small group of researchers may not be who he seems. As they terminally pare down the suspects, does it matter, eventually, who?

Twilight of the Dark Master - It's bad enough when someone sprains an ankle or gets a cold and no one cares. When rape, murder, dismemberment, and possession are things everyone around you ignores as they go on about their daily lives, it can get to be a bit much.

Vampyros Lesbos - Sometimes you think - you insist! - I want to be alone. Sometimes you are alone, at which times, that want isn't quite so prominently featured. This movie demonstrates that with scorpions, kites, and people dressing each other in a restaurant.

The Vampire Lovers - Sex dreams often feature giant screeching cats, don't they?

Videodrome - Everyone, at some point, feels used in their lives. But, there are levels of use.

White Zombie - Old school zombies are just slaves that were buried for awhile. Bela Lugosi's character cares for his zombies as they work his sugar plantation, about as much as most slave-owning plantation-running rich egomaniacs care about their slaves.

The Wicker Man - Christopher Lee in a dress and Cher wig dancing with scythes, happy as a clam on make love to a clam and buy it a drink day. The Equalizer trying very hard not to be excited by sexy young things hitting on him or anyone trying to buy him a drink. And, there may be a dead or missing young girl in there, too.

1 comment:

Mizuno wave rider 13 said...

Great list of horror films

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