Thursday, October 23, 2008

Essential Halloween Viewing

So we're just about a week out from Halloween...and please don't come to my house trick-or-treating, as we're not giving out candy this year. Please don't blame me for that, though. I love to stay at home, with a bowl of candy by the door for the kids and a horror movie in the DVD player for the times between knocks on the door...but I'll be at work, and my room-mates have expressed a preference to instead hang out in the basement and play video games. Spoilsports.

But the question is, what horror movie would go into that DVD player if I wasn't stuck at work? I'm going to take a moment to suggest some personal favorites. Obviously, these are my own choices based on my own tastes in horror. I look for a fast pace--movies like 'Halloween' or 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre', where it takes a half hour to get to the first real scare, just bore me. I don't get hung up on wanting tons of plot, but I don't like movies that have plot holes so glaring I can't ignore them even if I try. And genre-blending films score bonus points. So with that in mind, here are my picks...and I'd be interested in hearing other suggestions (hint, hint, I've got a luvverly comments section just waiting for you to fill it up...)

1. The Evil Dead Trilogy. Honestly, I can't choose just one of these three. They're all brilliant, each in their own way. In terms of pure horror, the first one is probably the most effective; Raimi studied dozens of horror movies, figuring out how to make the leanest, meanest, most terrifying thriller he could, and it pays off. The second one is probably the best of the three, and the most influential--Raimi's use of motion in his direction and the way he mixed genres together show up in practically every modern movie, not just the horror flicks. And 'Army of Darkness' has all the best lines.

2. Slither. A vastly underrated horror flick that is, quite honestly, the best horror film of the last decade. (If not longer.) It's smart, it's funny, every actor in it gives a terrific performance that really lends believability to the whole story, it moves like a freight train, and it has the best gag reel of any movie you'll ever see. If you call yourself a horror fan and you don't have this DVD on your shelf, you should be ashamed.

3. The Holy Trilogy. Of course, by now it's "The Holy Pentalogy", but Romero fans tend to have Views on 'Land' and 'Diary'. (For the record, I love 'Land' unabashedly and in some ways, it's my favorite just for the upbeat ending...and 'Diary', while uneven as all hell, is tremendously entertaining at times and has the most badass deaf Amish farmer ever. Oh, and the most badass drama teacher, too.) But when zombie fans talk Romero, they mean 'Night', 'Dawn', and 'Day of the Dead'. Romero's not a perfect film-maker--he wears his politics on his sleeve, and his characters have a tendency to speechify instead of talking. But his movies have a sense of realism to them that makes the horror hard to shake. You feel like you're watching a documentary, and the effect haunts you long after the credits roll.

4. Flight of the Living Dead. This one is not a Romero movie--it's a straight-to-DVD slice of beautiful cheese. I'm not going to defend it as a quality movie, but it's wonderfully entertaining; the movie unapologetically loads up a plane full of stereotypes and then gets straight to the zombie action. Half the fun is predicting who's going to be zombie chow and in what order. Will it be the Pilot Who's On His Last Flight Before Retirement? Will the Golfer Who's Obviously Supposed To Be Tiger Woods get to use that putter on a zombie? Just how will the Amoral Scientist Who's Responsible For It All get his comeuppance? A wonderful guilty pleasure.

5. Jason X. And speaking of guilty pleasures...this one is one of those movies that nobody went to see because they knew it must be bad, but us secret fans know that it's the best of all the 'Friday the 13th' movies. It's got some great one-liners, and the "holodeck" sequence is the apotheosis of the entire series. (In order to distract Jason, the good guys program in a Crystal Lake simulation, complete with holographic teenagers who say, "Hey, do you want a beer? Or do you wanna smoke some pot? Or we can have premarital sex! We love premarital sex!" Instant win.


Anonymous said...

I will never watch the Exorcist again, but I recommend it as the best evil movie ever (notice I said "evil" and not "horror"). I also get really spooked watching the original Poltergeist(Carol Anne, midget lady, haunted tv, evil toys, a neighborhood built on a grave yard! That stuff wrote itself, I'm sure!) and The Shining(a masterful mood setter!). And if you're looking for the creepy mood sans the mayhem you JUST have to see Rosemary's Baby. I always feel sorry for Mia Farrow's character; her vulnerability just sucks me in every time to the point I want to throw Bibles at the screen and give her a big hug (especially the scene where she's trying to call the doctor on the payphone, don't even get me started).

Favorite Modern Horror Films: The Ring, Saw (all of them), and 30 Days Of Night.

---Jon M.

Kate Holden said...

'The Thing'. Probably a bit slow for your tastes, but chilling, claustrophobic, really good effects for the time and it's really freaking scary!
The film version of Silent Hill isn't bad, though I mainly rate it because it's one of the only half decent films based on a video game ever made.

Of course, for me, the most frightening and traumatising film ever made was the film of 'Watership Down', the book was pretty scary for a children's book about bunnies. Add a trippy near death experience and horrifically graphic depictions of rabbits tearing into each other and getting buried alive and you've got some pretty scary stuff there.

Austin Gorton said...

Ha! My buddy and I LOVE Jason X! A few years ago we made a point to watch all the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies. Jason X was easily our favorite.

It's scary, funny, not afraid to take itself too seriously, contains a smidgen of gratuitous nudity (a must for a slasher flick like this, I believe)and (a rarity in these movies) you actually care about some of the characters and hope they make it. Plus, it wins for that holodeck scene you mentioned alone.

But you already love it, so why am I trying to convince you? What other horror movies do I love? Well, I enjoy Halloween's "everything's normal, except for this creepy guy standing by the clothes line in broad daylight" schtick, but you already shot that one down...

How about the Tim Burton Sleepy Hollow? It's not really a horror movie, but it is a great "Halloween" movie, if you know what I mean, with a fantastic atmosphere to makeup for some of the more "Hollywood-y" plot elements. I try to watch it at some point every October.