I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend before Halloween, the best holiday of the year! Hopefully you’ve had a chance to listen to our special episode devoted to scary movies. Nick and Craig did a great job giving you their top picks and some honorable mentions, as well as mentioning some of my favorites and honorable mentions I told them about. Sadly, I was unable to record that night, so I wanted to fill in the gaps of what they missed and give you even more recommendations for my favorite Halloween films!
Before we get to that though…there is one pressing correction that needs to be addressed. While reading my top 5 picks (Night of the Living Dead, The Shining, Psycho, The Exorcist, and Halloween), Nick said he enjoyed the remake of Psycho…American Psycho. While American Psycho is a great film, if you’ve seen either you can very easily tell that they are in no way related. This snafu also sidetracked the discussion away from Psycho, the film itself. Hitchcock is the master of suspense and this film is widely considered to be his best work. A great, creepy performance by Anthony Perkins and a shocking move by (SPOILER ALERT on a 57 year old movie) killing off who you thought was a main character very early in the film. That had never been done before! Also, the technicalities of being able to pull off the murder scene in the shower without showing too much, yet making the blood believable in black and white. Pure genius, I could go on and on and that is why it was in my top 5. I would also put Rope, The Birds, Dial M for Murder, and Rear Window as just a few more that belong in my honorable mention list. All great suspenseful films to watch around this time of the year.
Now back to more honorable mentions. My top snubs that they failed to mention were The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (A classic, gritty, realistic story based on a real story), Slither (a great horror comedy from James Gunn), Trick R Treat (an underrated and mostly unknown modern classic), Silence of the Lambs (Anthony Hopkins best role), and The Thing (John Carpenter and Kurt Russell = great sci-fi horror). Some other faves that were left off the list were They Live (“I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum”…also John Carpenter), and Shaun of the Dead (a perfect zom-com).
Other than these favorites, I also wanted to mention the early stuff that was super influential. Without Universal’s monster films of the 30’s we wouldn’t have many of the films we do today. The Invisible Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Creature from the Black Lagoon were all groundbreaking for their time. They featured great makeup/effects and amazing performances by legends like Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains and Boris Karloff. I also liked some of the films of the 50’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a film that played on political hysteria of the times, as horror films often tend to do.
George Romero, who recently passed, also deserved a little more discussion. Night of the Living Dead did start the zombie craze but he continued the series and was groundbreaking himself in effects/makeup, pushing the boundaries of gore, while also including political undertones in his films. The Crazies continued to feed off political fear of the 70’s and then the Dawn of the Dead/Day of the Dead dealt with the 80’s and our consumerism culture. Even the remake of his Dawn of the Dead was great because it continued the evolution of what zombies were capable of.
I know the guys mentioned Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon (a reimagining of The Invisible Man) as well as Friday the 13th, another horror film he starred in. However, I love another Bacon film, Stir of Echoes. It’s a lesser seen and underrated suspense film of the late 90’s. Go check this one out if you haven’t had the chance.
Admittedly I do sway to the more classic films, as my top 5 all came from the years before I was born. I also have heard there are a few great ones that have come out in the last 5 years or so that I haven’t gotten to yet. It’s my goal to catch up by next Halloween. That being said, there are a few more modern ones I’ve seen that deserve a mention. It Follows did a great job of using the sex angle which is common in teen horror movies and making it the way the evil is transmitted. Pretty genius twist of concept that is pulled off quite nicely. Also, House of the Devil did a great job of being a modern movie that paid homage to it’s predecessors in a way that made you feel like you watching a film from the 80’s.
I also wanted to mention a smaller subgenre, foreign horror. Foreign horror has only really become popular here in the last 20 years or so with Japanese remakes like The Grudge. However, most times the originals are better if you can seek them out, or don’t hesitate to give other original foreign language films/reading subtitles a chance. Zombi 2 (which has an underwater zombie vs. shark scene) and are some great Italian horror films from the 70’s, Wolf Creek and Dead Alive came out of Australia, High Tension from France, Funny Games from France, Let the Right One In from Sweden, The Orphanage from Spain, and Audition which also came from Japan.
As I am now approaching a thousand words and getting long winded, I am gonna try to wrap up with some quick hitting recommendations:
–Sci-fi films can skew to horror, Event Horizon is a terrifying film all in space, unlike Jason X which is in space…for no reason…and not terrifying. I also love the Jeff Goldblum version of The Fly.
–A couple of family friendly Halloween movies I like are Arachnaphobia, and The Frighteners, directed by Peter Jackson.
–Rob Zombie did a decent job with his House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects…not so much when it came to remaking Halloween though.
–Bill Paxton (RIP) did a great job starring and directing Frailty. An unexpected psychologically scary film.
–Strangers was also a nice modern take on the home invasion concept, similar to 70’s films like I Spit on Your Grave, The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left, or Straw Dogs.
–Before I wrap up, it’s already been mentioned many times, I love most Stephen King adaptations, Misery and The Shining were mentioned on the episode. However, we can’t forget Pet Sematary, Carrie, Cujo, and Christine as some great 80’s films.
–And speaking of 80’s films…Near Dark (also Bill Paxton), The Fog (also John Carpenter), and Reanimator are classics.
That’s it folks! If you made it this far, thanks! I tried not to repeat most of what was already said on the episode.
To recap: Originals are usually better, don’t be intimidated by foreign films, and if it says Carpenter or Hitchcock it is almost certainly gonna be worth your time.
I hope I provided you with some good recommendations, now go check out some films this weekend before taking the kids out for candy! You know you already binged all of Stranger Things season 2 anyways.