The Greats: Horror

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Top Lists
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m too scared to write a proper into. Horror movies are scary!



Creepshow
Have I mentioned how much I like this one before? I have? Oh good, then I don’t have to belabor the point. If you don’t know why I think you should watch this movie after reading the review, then I’m not sure how else I can convince you.


Alien
What’s interesting about this one is that Ridley Scott made a good old-fashioned “Monster in the House” sort of movie and made it into something new. All the classic scare tactics are here, from gross out spurts of blood, to jump scares to genuine slow building terror and paranoia. It’s not a bad piece of sci-fi either, which is rare. I’ve sort of run out of things to say about this without engaging in a more lengthy discussion than I want to right now, so I’ll just cut it short and move on to the next movie.


Phantom of the Opera
Is this a great movie? Well, no. There are several points in the movie where it could be stronger, more effective, and it could have had better pacing. The problem tends to be that when Chaney isn’t on screen, the movie drags. However, it clicks like crazy when he is around. Is it a great piece of cinema? Yeah, pretty good. Does it have some fantastic visuals? Pretty fantastic. Lon Chaney’s makeup is sublime, and his performances are always awesome, although he may seem a little over the top these days. This is an amazingly influential film, which contains one of the first great horror reveals. One slight issue though is that there are about a half dozen cuts of this movie floating around on DVD and they are of varying degrees of quality. I have three different versions myself, and maybe more are floating around in a Pain Box or two. If you get this version though, you’ll do alright.


Misery
What if you shot a novel written by the most famous horror writer of our time as if it were a suspense picture? If I had a section called Essential Suspense, I suspect this picture would have gone there instead. While there isn’t a supernatural element in the movie, I would say this is certainly a horror story. There is a monster after all, and there certainly are horrific scenes that will stay with you for a while once you’re done. And hey, rare movie that managed to one up the book. The hobbling in the movie makes me wince, while in the book it’s so over the top it’s practically comic.


Cat People
You want to talk about a movie built almost entirely out of atmosphere? Let’s talk about Cat People for a moment. A Film Noir style horror movie made by legendary producer Val Lewton. Much of the horror in this movie is made out of things you can’t see. Partially as a cost saving move I suppose, but also because the thing you imagine will always be scarier than the thing on screen. The movie carries with it an intense sense of paranoia and dread. It’s also a fairly sexy movie for the time. While not bringing it up directly, along with the suspense is an undercurrent of sexual tension, which is always helpful when watching a scary movie.


Interview with the Vampire
Gots to have a vampire movie in here somewhere and this one greatly changed the way we viewed vampires for quite a while. More so the book than the movie I would say, but the movie is highly influential in both tone and type. While the vampires don’t actually sparkle, they are pretty fabulous in this movie. They’re pretty raunchy here too. As much as people talk about the sexual undertones (or sometimes overtones) of vampires today, I’ve not found a lot of folk discussing it until the Vampire Chronicles came along. Again, more the books than the movies, but the movie did open up a lot of sexuality that hadn’t quite been tapped yet.


Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
While you might not agree it’s the best silent horror movie, you should agree that it’s currently one of the most influential. Tom Burton seems to use this movie as a template for half his films, and he’s not the only one. I don’t want to weigh the list down with German expressionist pieces, so this will be the only entry for that genre. However, you probably should see a bunch of them, so you can understand what a lot of current film makers are working from.


Evil Dead II
Because it’s Evil Dead II. It’s one of the funniest horror movies you’ll ever see, and amazingly enough it still manages to bring some actual chills to the table from time to time. This is a great example of how horror was changing in the 80s, although there isn’t enough room for me to mention all the slasher movies, which exploded into the main stream in that decade. I’ll get to slashers later, right now, go watch this.


The Omen
Some would argue for The Exorcist, but I just don’t find that movie scary. I realize that’s heresy, but there you go. The Omen though, I do find that a little creepy. It’s a great example of the scary children sub-genre. It’s also particularly interesting because it never really does show its hand on the whole real/imagined question. It’s creepy, atmospheric, and really works that children’s choir singing Latin words for all they’re worth.


Bride of Frankenstein
This one is held up as the best of the golden age of monster movies. No reason not to name drop it again here, and just tell you to go see it. Yeah, you’d have to solider though the original Frankenstein, which I trashed, but Bride is a classic for a reason and you should totally see it. If for no other reason, than you’ll be able to feel smug when you see all the movies that have ripped it off since

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