My countdown continued... #50-26
50) GRINDHOUSE (2007) A grand opus ode to cheesy exploitation cinema by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino this double feature includes a zombie flick called “Planet Terror” and a car chase thriller called “Death Proof” and don’t forget about the worth the price of admission horror trailers that appear in-between the two main features. This three hours plus flick was unfortunately split up when released on DVD but the blu-ray thankfully corrected that, as each film complements each other greatly. None of this is particularly scary, but is a great homage to not only the genre but of the grindhouse experience as well. A must-see for fans of this genre.
49) THE LOST BOYS (1987) This campy 80s romp, yes I said romp, is a fun vampire flick in which a boy and his family come across a teenage gang of vampires in their new West Coast California town. I think vampire movies in general aren’t that frightening but this one, like Fright Night offers some pretty cool vampire effects and some cool gory sequences. Director Joel Schumacher adds to the campy proceedings, but it’s mostly because this thing was made in the height of the overly cheesy 80s. And of course you can’t get more 80s than two Coreys in the same flick.
48) AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) One of the very few horror films to win an Academy Award (for Rick Baker’s Make-up which was a brand new category at the time) this tales of two American backpackers who get attacked by a werewolf on the English Moors. One of them dies and other is “cursed” and transforms during the full moon. Director John Landis (who also later directed Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video) keeps things equally funny and horrific. This sort of feels like the “Hostel” of its day going from raunchy Animal House type humor with graphic, gory death scenes. Arguably the best werewolf movie ever made.
47) FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) This is the film that not only started it all, but it copied them all. Taking a cue from John Carpenter’s Halloween, “Friday the 13th” helped usher in a new generation of graphic horror films. But unlike Halloween, there’s little artistic merit here, only truly gross death scenes featuring the work of the great Tom Savini. This was one of Kevin Bacon’s earliest films which follows him and a few other teenage camp counselors getting ready to open Camp Crystal Lake but a killer lurks in the woods seeking murderous revenge. The shocking revelation of the killer is notorious.
46) OPEN WATER (2004) This disturbing thriller, shot in a Blair Witch style, (though it’s not technically a “found footage” movie) is actually based on a real story about a couple who was left behind in shark infested waters while scuba diving in the Caribbean, where they most likely succumbed to the harsh elements they were left in. Real sharks were used and the two actors did all their own stunt work. This is a tense and frightening film that is a strange hybrid of Blair Witch and Jaws, two types of films that I never thought could ever be brought together. This is truly fascinating, visceral filmmaking.
45) THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) Speaking of visceral, the original “meat movie” The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a classic cult horror film about a group of young people who accidentally meet up with a family of cannibalistic rednecks. One of which is a chainsaw wielding maniac called “Leatherface” although I never quite remember him being referred to as such in the actual movie. Tobe Hooper directed the film in a gritty vérité style that makes the film feel more like a documentary. And it was even inspired by the real life cannibalistic crimes of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. This is a strange hybrid of slasher film and torture porn that actually shows very little onscreen gore – shot that way in hopes of actually getting a PG rating, which obviously didn’t happen.
44) SCREAM 3 (2000) The Scream series is probably one of my all time favorite series of horror films. I love all four of the films and they all appear on this list, which is something that can’t be said about every other horror series with the exception of the Jaws series. While part 3 is the weakest of the three, it ended the series (until the fourth one of course) in probably the best way possible and features the great addition of the hilarious Parker Posey. Here the setting is now Hollywood where life imitates art while imitating art. Though it remains the least frightening of the series, there is enough here to satisfy fans of this immensely popular series.
43) FRAILTY (2001) A lot of times in horror films, religion plays a very positive role. Most notably in The Omen and The Exorcist. However, in Frailty, the story focuses on a man who gets a message from God that he must rid the world of demons. And these demons are just people who he ends up brutally murdering with an axe. This man is played by Bill Paxton (who also directed the film) and this leads his two young sons to question what is really going on. His elder son refuses to believe such nonsense, but his younger brother is taken in by his father’s new found religious mission. This is a great little seen psychological horror film that has some pretty tense scenes and a pretty interesting message.
42) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988) If you’re not really a fan of Freddy movies there’s no need to watch any of the sequels, but number four is pretty good and the one where Freddy Krueger truly becomes the jokester he became infamous for. Freddy is resurrected yet again, by dog urine no less, where he meets a new teenage threat named Alice who intends on getting revenge after Freddy murders her friends and brother. Renny Harlin, who’d go on to direct Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea, adds some colorful production value but many would be turned off by some goofy proceedings. However, the girl who gets turned into a cockroach remains a highpoint in the entire series for me.
41) THE BLOB (1988) Although horror remakes are extremely popular today, they certainly existed back in the day. And here we have a truly disgusting horror/sci-fi take on the creepy crawly monster movie The Blob. The 50s version starred Steve McQueen and Kevin Dillon takes over as a rebellious teenage biker dude who unwittingly becomes involved in this gross mass of jelly that begins growing and killing the townsfolk in a small town. The film was co-written by Frank Darabont, who’d later go on to make The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist, and it features some outrageously gross effects. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a man being sucked down a sink drain.
40) THE FLY (1986) Another 80s remake of a 50s sci-fi film with an extreme horror bent. Canadian director David Cronenberg directs this truly sickening horror movie about a scientist who accidentally begins to transform into a fly when his DNA gets mixed with that of a housefly in his transportation invention. At first he gains superhuman powers but then his body begins to break down and his transformation is truly gross. Many have made comparisons of Cronenberg’s (who is known for his “body horror” films) film with the fear caused by the AIDS virus. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis give terrific performances in this Oscar-winning (best make-up) horror classic.
39) ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) This early chiller from Roman Polanski is a great product of the American New Wave. A newlywed couple moves into a fancy New York City apartment and meet the strange new neighbors next door (one of whom is Oscar-winner Ruth Gordon) who take a liking to the attractive couple. Soon Rosemary (Mia Farrow) becomes pregnant but she slowly begins to think that her baby may be the son of the devil! This slow burning horror film is truly a product of its time and features some terrific performances. Gordon is certainly a hoot and it features such a great ending, it’s crazy to think this movie was release in the swinging 60s. Definitely a horror classic that needs to be seen
38) THE RING (2002) This is a wonderful horror-mystery, based on a Japanese film, starring Naomi Watts that helped boost her career here in the United States. She’s British! She plays a journalist who is trying to solve the murder of her niece somehow involving a mysterious videotape that supposedly kills anyone who views it. Audiences ate this movie up a decade ago where the image of a creepy black-haired girl emerging from a TV set became an allegory for the fear of television controlling our lives. While not quite as scary as its reputation might suggest, it’s still a rather entertaining horror flick that helped usher in the Japanese horror remake craze.
37) DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) Sam Raimi returned to horror triumphantly with this little effort about a young female banker who gets cursed by an old gypsy woman. There are lots of wacky and strange effects and some rather gross things for a PG-13 rated film. Many fans have said this is Raimi back in his Evil Dead form. It’s a strange mix of looney toon comedic violence that I find way more entertaining than any of the Evil Dead films. This is a great movie that is highly recommended.
36) HIGH TENSION (2005) French horror director Alexandre Aja brought this French import Haute Tension to the US two years after its debut in France. The film involves two college girls who get attacked by a crazed killer in one of the girl’s family’s vacation home. The family is brutally murdered and one of the girls is kidnapped and other must save her. This thing is extremely gory and was actually influenced by the American exploitation films of the 1970s. Aja would later remake one of his influences, The Hills Have Eyes. This thing is fill with gobs of gore, but it also has some rather intense suspense as well. Definitely a must see for any fan of horror.
35) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) This sequel was rushed into production as soon as the first film became a hit. Set five years later, the film concerns Freddy trying to possess a teenage boy whose family has just moved into Nancy’s old house on Elm Street. This film is the odd man out in the series for several reasons. The rules established in the first film were basically thrown out the window as Freddy is able to come out into the real world and kill teenagers while everyone’s awake. Also, the idea of Freddy possessing a teenage boy has led many to refer to the film as the “Gay Freddy Movie.” The protagonist, Jesse, is a rather effeminate young man and years later it’s finally be reveled by the original screenwriter that the references to homosexuality were done on purpose. The film features some creepy effects (Freddy claws through Jesse’s chest) and some truly lame effects (exploding parakeet anyone?) It’s definitely one of the least liked Nightmare films, but I find it enjoyable for some strange, campy value.
34) THE FACULTY (1998) A product of the post-Scream era, The Faculty, also written by Kevin Williamson, is a great B-movie with a strong sci-fi element. Every teenager has had teacher who they thought could be an alien. Well this movie explores that idea, in which an alien invasion begins at a rundown high school. Tradition teenager stock characters fill the bill here as a small group of kids must band together to figure out how to stop the aliens from taking over the town and eventually the world. Director Robert Rodriguez offers some creepy effects but it’s mostly the witty teen banter that keeps this thing afloat and some appealing performances from the likes of Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, and Clea DuVall. A rather eclectic cast also features Jon Stewart, Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek, and Bebe Neuwirth as faculty members.
33) CHILD’S PLAY 2 (1990) Definitely my favorite Chucky movie features some better effects than the first film and some nice gory murders. The film is also notable as it features some truly bright and colorful camerawork which is definitely a product of its day. There’s no way a horror film would ever be shot like this today. Little Andy from the first film gets put in a foster home after his mother is committed. Chucky somehow is rejuvenated and begins to stalk him again trying to steal his body yet again. The film’s toy factory finale is great. A definitely highpoint for the series.
32) FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011) What a surprise the fifth Final Destination movie turned out to be! There’s no way in hell that the fifth entry of any series, let alone a horror series should be this good. The film brings the series full circle in such a clever and exciting way and truly has one of the best endings to a horror film in quite some time. This entry involves several employees of a paper company (not Dunder Mifflin) who escape a large bridge collapse and how death comes after them as they die in increasingly gruesome ways. The film is essentially like all the others but there’s a freshness involve here as the third act introduces the idea of possibly avoiding death’s design by causing someone else’s death instead. The climax is simply divine and everything a fan of this series could ask for. And some wonderful eye-popping 3D photography added to the absolutely fun proceedings.
31) URBAN LEGEND (1998) Another product of the post-Scream world, this slasher involves a serial killer who murders people based on popular urban legends. This movie is memorable for several reasons. First of all, it unfortunately introduced the word to Tara Reid, although she technically was introduced earlier in The Big Lebowski a few months earlier. But at least she gets axed to death. And secondly, it marked the welcomed return of two horror icons to the genre: Robert England (Freddy) plays a college professor and Brad Dourif (Chucky) plays a creepy gas station attendant in the opening sequence. There’s nothing really all that special here, but the film is witty and enjoyable enough to recommend it to fans of the post-modern slasher flick.
30) I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997) The film that gained the most success after Scream was released, was this fun little slasher flick about a group of teens who begin to be picked off one by one by an unknown assailant a year after covering up after a hit and run accident. Many joked about the film’s villain baring a resemblance to the Gordon Fisherman, because the film takes place in a North Carolina seaside town. The film was written by Scream’s Kevin Williamson and while it features a decent script for the genre, it features none of the real wit or spark that made Scream such a success. Nonetheless, I was a huge fan of the film during its release (and even read the book that it was very loosely based on) and still enjoy it today for nostalgic reasons.
29) THE DESCENT (2006) This wonderful little British import was a mild success in the summer of 2006, but fans of the horror genre who didn’t see it are definitely urged to check it out. It’s certainly a must see. A group of women go spelunking in the caves of the Appalachian Mountains and they come across a bunch of cave dwelling humanoid monsters who want to kill them. This gory and extremely claustrophobic film from director Neil Marshall is truly a frightening experience.
28) JAWS III (1983) I refuse to call this movie “Jaws 3D” since I’ve yet to actually seen it in that form. This pretty atrocious second sequel to Steven Spielberg’s classic is set at Sea World in Florida where a grown up Michael Brady works with his girlfriend. Yet another great white shark begins to stalk him where it begins munching on the guests and employees. There’s nothing really good that can be said about this flick, but it’s cheesy 80s vibe and bad acting from the entire cast and crew including Lea Thompson, Dennis Quaid, and Louis Gossett Jr. is only redeemable for it’s purely nostalgic feeling of silliness.
27) HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998) This is probably one of the most oddly titled horror sequels in the history of the genre. It also was inspired by the success of Scream and was actually an idea suggested by none other than Jamie Lee Curtis herself. The film follows Laurie Strode, 20 years after the events of the first two films, where we learn she’s living life in hiding as the headmistress of a private school in California as Keri Tate. But she’s still haunted from her traumatic bout with her Uncle Mike (a plot point they could have ignored, but chose not to, since they ignored films 3-6) and she’s a hopeless alcoholic. Her son John also attends the school, but Michael, who apparently has been “missing” since being blown up is after her and his nephew after these years. The film overall feels more like a Scream film than a Halloween film, but it remains one of the series’ best and offers lots of in jokes (like the wonderful casting of Jamie’s real life mother Janet Leigh as a secretary). This is also the very first R rated movie I saw in the theater.
26) THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) This is certainly a hidden gem that is really fun for horror fans. I saw it based on a recommendation and fell instantly in love. Director Ti West’s deliberately slow, but with a great payoff, thriller is made in the style of an 80s flick complete with zooms and shot on 16mm film stock. It concerns a young college woman, strapped for cash, who hesitantly takes a babysitting job in a strange house in the middle of nowhere. To say anything else would spoil the fun, but it’s a suspenseful film and you never quite know where exactly it’s going. As part of the film’s promotion it was actually released on VHS as a nod to the era the film depicts. A truly rewarding experience for patient horror fans wanting to discover something new and fun.
to be concluded...