The Horror Banana's Top Ten Favorite Horror Films
Well, it's been a long month. I've watched over 60 movies this month, most I've never seen. And really, not much has changed in my opinion of the best. I've seen some old classics for the first time (Wicker Man, It's Alive!, Creepshow), some lost treasures (At Midnight I Will Possess Your Corpse), some overlooked slashers (Happy Birthday To Me) and some new classics (V/H/S).
And of course, I got some real crap, like "Paranormal Activity 4" and "Mountain of the Cannibal God" to go along with all of this.
Still, I'm a man who knows what he likes, and for the first time, I'll let you know exactly what it is that I look for in a horror movie. Here's my top 10, and why I love them.
10. Nosferatu- I don't like many silent films. And truth be told, I haven't seen "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" yet. So I don't know if that would take this one's place. I found this in a dollar bin at a hardware store. So I brought it home and was stunned. The film looks incredible, even after all these years. But even more incredible is the makeup on Max Schreck's character. He is easily the most frightening vampire I've ever seen on screen. The story follows "Dracula" pretty well, but does deviate a little. Not that it bothers me. I love watching this with all the lights out in the house, although it's tough to get others to watch it with me.
9. Hellbound : Hellraiser II - So I like the second one better. So sue me. Don't get me wrong. I love Clive Barker to death. But his movie lacked the surreal atmosphere this one has. Not that I'm overly praising Tony Randel here. This film does have one of the most hurried endings of any film I've ever seen. But from beginning to end, it's a marvelous sight to see. Hell is a maze, with individual torture rooms, intimately torturing each of the souls inside. And Pinhead is revealed to be a multi-layered villain, with a purpose rather than the mindless slashings of Jason, Freddy, and even himself in later films. Each moment Doug Bradley is on the screen, your eyes are glued. It's unfortunate that his character meets such an abrupt end, but for the few seconds he's having the standoff with Dr. Channard, I get goosebumps every time. Throw in the (second) best score ever to grace a horror film by Christopher Young, and you've got one hell of a film.
8. Evil Dead 2 : Dead By Dawn - So one Christmas my aunt asked me what movie I'd like, and I was only 12, so I asked for Friday the 13th. But rather than get me what I wanted, she generalized that I liked horror, so she bought me a movie she thought I'd like "because there's a skull on the cover." I had no idea, nor did she, what she was introducing me to. I popped this sucker in and never looked back. This movie singlehandedly brought me headlong into horror. I could see the humor, the over the top effects, the goofy acting. And the gore. Oh my, the gore. Everything about this movie made me smile. Even the jump scares. Watching the movie now, I still feel that ultimate satisfaction Bruce Campbell's corny one-liners give me. The series will forever be a favorite of mine.
7. The Ugly - This is a movie I got into because of a sampler DVD called "Boogeymen". The scene they picked for this movie really piqued my interest. Simon's having his final breakdown, fading in and out of his memory of killing the only girl he loved, and trying desperately to shake the demons that control him. Or do they? That's what's so great about this movie. Everything is up for interpretation. Including the ending, which might be the first film to include an alternate ending as part of the storyline. Or not. This is a film that requires many, many multiple viewings, with so many red herrings that end up actually being meaningful, or not, you'll be talking to yourself after you've finished it. I still don't know whether to feel sympathy for Simon or to feel sympathy for Karen, who Simon seems to be toying with. Or is he? See why I like this so much?
6. Cannibal Holocaust - A while back I randomly wrote down 50 horror movies that people should watch on Halloween. Cannibal Holocaust came in at #34. So I watched it again. And again. I think the reason I put it so low was because of the animal deaths. And I guess I don't blame myself for that. But there is an option on the DVD that blacks out the animal deaths, thank goodness. So I watched it again, and wow. What a movie. The first half is as well acted a film as I've maybe ever seen for this genre, or even horror in general. It's far better acting than today's remakes and sequels. And originality, well, it's off the charts with this film. Try finding a movie today where a group of people go into someone else's habitat, destroy their homes, rape their women, and then meet an untimely demise. These aren't your run of the mill slasher victims where you laugh when they die. You actually hope to see them killed. Because the atrocities they inflict are inexcusable. It's funny to see the producers of the television company turn on a dime when their superstar civilized reporters are killed on screen. In fact, after about ten or so viewings of this movie, a lot of stuff starts seeming funny. Dr. Monroe's surprise when he finds out he's invited to dinner definitely lightens the intensely brooding, dark, almost helpless mood. Overall, if your stomach can handle it, and if you turn off the animal deaths, this is a true classic that deserves at least some praise.
5. Re-Animator - Jeffery Combs is a true hero of mine, at least after seeing this film. What always makes me laugh is a lot of the horror films I have were given to me at Christmas, without me ever hearing of them. This is another example, as my mom actually got me the Special Edition. When the movie opens with an eye-explosion, you know you're in for a wild ride. I used to show this to my friends when they'd come over to have drinks. No one ever paid attention until the famous head giving head scene. Then all the sudden, people were asking me to rewind it, to find out what they missed. It is a little talky, yes, but the dialogue, if you're listening, is rewarding in itself. However the action is over the top. Guts attacking people, Arnold body-doubles attacking people, hearts being bone-sawed, heads being shoveled. It's all a gory blast and it never, ever gets old.
4. Paranormal Activity - I'm one of those doofus kids who saw the advertisements on Myspace and suddenly got the fever. Specifically, I remember watching the trailer early around 5 AM before work and seeing the possessed girl on the computer and thinking, wow. This thing is gonna make me piss myself. So I requested it, like every other goofball who bought in, and now, my name is in the credits! Hoo-ray! Anyway, when I went to the theatre with a couple of my friends, we bought VIP seating, still the only movie I've ever done that for. Sitting up in the balcony on a recliner drinking a rum and coke, I slowly got sucked in. The tension was built beautifully. Not only did the movie nail the demonic possession signs correctly, specifically when Katie is catatonic on the porch swing, but the subtlety. Oh my goodness. When her hair blows on its own, when the growl is heard on the voice recorder. Nothing about this movie has lost it's edge to me. Sure, the sequels have turned it into some sort of wacky witchy mess, but nothing will ever keep me from sleeping like this movie did. Effective, creepy, and not at all as boring as people claim. I love this movie.
3. The Blair Witch Project - So the first time I watched this movie was with my dad back in 2000. And he not only hates horror, he hates movies where nothing happens. So watching it with him the first time was really ridiculous. I could tell he hated it, even at the end when he yelled, "What the hell? Was that a witch? Ah, bullshit!" So a few years went by and I went back to it on my own, and damn. I missed a lot. Really, what makes this movie work so well is the stories the townspeople tell at the beginning. Stories of kids in the woods being killed, a rescue team being killed. Witches coming out of the water. And the creepy old lady in the trailer, well, it turns out she's sort of the most important character in the movie. The reason it all works is that every time something happens to the characters, even though you don't see it, you think about all the things it could be. Is it the witch? Is it some possessed town crazy? Is it ghosts? You just don't know, and your mind runs wild. The scene in the tent when the children start laughing outside is unforgettable. And the ending, despite what my dad yelled 12 years ago, is not "bullshit". It's scary as hell.
2. Suspiria - So remember when I said Christopher Young's "Hellraiser" soundtrack was the second best? This is the best. Goblin's pounding rhythm, chanting lyrics and creepy keyboard are just part of the atmosphere this film is known for. And the colors, Duke! The colors! Dario Argento actually made this part of an anthology known as the "Three Mothers" story, and this is my favorite. The opening death scene is so overdramatic, it will make you say "WOW!" out loud. The characters are both lovely and innocent, and the setting is seemingly also safe. A dance studio. However, when maggots start falling from the ceiling and girls start falling into razor wire rooms, it's apparent there's more going on here. Honestly, the first time I saw this movie I hated it. The second time, I liked it a little more. Now, after each viewing, I like it more and more. To me, it's like pizza. It's comfort food, and when I want something I know for sure I'll enjoy, I pick this. Unless the next movie is available.
1. Cemetery Man- I bought this movie for $1 at a movie store going out of business. What a find. I have never seen a horror movie with more heart and complexity to a character as this one has. Dellamorte is a caretaker at a cemetery where the dead can, and absolutely do, come back to life after seven days. His job, as appointed by the mayor, is to keep the dead in the cemetery by killing them after they return. He doesn't really think too much about it. He just does it. And his goofy, short bald companion Gnagi just kind of goes along for the ride as well. Everything changes, in an extreme way, when a beautiful widow shows up for her husband's burial. You know, let's not give too much away here. Let me sum it up like this. A caretaker kills the dead, has sex with a girl on her husband's tomb after turning her on by taking her to the tombs and turning her on. She's bitten by her dead husband, and when she wakes up, Dellamorte kills her. Then has to kill her again later. A look alike shows up, and he has his penis turned useless for her. Then kills her. Meanwhile, a headless mayor's daughter tries to marry a short bald man. When it fails, the head flies through the air and bites her dad. The Grim Reaper shows up and tells Dellamorte to kill the living before they die. But his friend takes credit for his crimes. So he kills his friend and a hooker that looks like the look alike of the first girl, but the cop won't believe that he did it. So he drives out of town, but hits a cliff that signifies the end of the world. So yeah. That's the movie. Did you get all of that? It's amazing. The dialogue that Dellamorte spits out is incredibly morbid and thought provoking at the same time. There's not a flaw I can find in this movie. It knows what it wants to do and does it without flinching. Zombies, the Grim Reaper, floating heads. What else do you want in a movie?
Just missed the cut- Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Friday the 13th IV- The Final Chapter, Exorcist III, Pumpkinhead, Zombi 2, Insidious, Hatchet, Phantasm