It’s midnight on Friday the 13th… the perfect moment for my latest post. I’m about to creep into my attic lair with a stack of creepy DVD’s. And without further delay, feel free to enjoy…
Someone Else’s List of the Top 25 Horror Movies of All Time (and My Responses)
Part Two: 18 thru 10
Last week, I started ripping through a famous list of the Top 25 Horror Movies of All Time, praising the films I agree are worthy of honor, and skewering those I disagree with. Last week, I discussed: Friday the 13th (1980), Scream, Dracula (1931), The Haunting, The Blair Witch Project, Suspiria, and Let the Right One In.
So without further suspense, I shall continue my dissections.
18. An American Werewolf in London: Here’s a Horror Movie where the Special Effects Crew is the real star of the show. Before An AWIL, the archetypal Movie Werewolf was little more than a man with a hairy face and an under-bite. But this beastie was a real monster, in fact, a complete reimagining of the Wolf-Man: Down on all fours, pure animal, not a shred of humanity. This movie also showed us what others had not (or had not been able to): The complete transformation (in all it’s painful glory).
17.Dawn of the Dead (1978): Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes! You get no argument here. Night of the Living Dead seems to end on an optimistic note, like: “It’s been a hell of an ordeal, but we’ve got the situation under control.” Ten years later, Dawn of the Dead shows us just how not-okay the situation really is, descending into the first, truly gripping Zombie Apocalypse. Don’t even think about your old life. They might as well have dropped the bomb. Game over, man. But wait—we’ve banded together with some other survivors and holed up in an abandoned shopping mall. And for a while, well, it feels okay. There’s something comforting about leaving your old life behind to start anew. No job, no boss or IRS breathing down your neck, no rat-race, no responsibility—just sanctuary. But alas, we can’t hide from reality forever. Sooner or later, you have to face mobs of violent bikers and hoards of flesh-chowing Zombies. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself on a helicopter headed to the fabled “Safe-Zone”, but even if you do, you don’t have enough gas to get there. Love that Nihilism. In a future article, perhaps, I’ll spend time comparing this masterpiece with its amazing 2004 Remake, discussing, for the most part, slow-staggering Zombies vs. fast-rabid Zombies. I have amazing respect for 2004’s Dawn of the Dead for many reasons but one really stands out: Zombie Baby.
16. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): I love this movie so much that I’m only going to talk about how much I hate, nay detest, the recent Reboot. Freddy Krueger was always the slasher I most wanted to be. (Not in real life, but in Imagination Land or at a Halloween school-dance or something.) As opposed to Jason and Michael Meyers who are silent as knife-wielding church mice, Freddy is a charismatic, sharp, vivacious, intelligent, creative, wise-cracking son of a gun! We know little about Freddy’s mortal life in this first chapter, except he was a killer—and that’s all we needed to know. So why, in the name of all that is cool and righteous, did you Reboot with a back-story that, 1. Shows what Freddy looked like before he became hideously scarred, and, 2. Turns the most awesome Boogie Man ever into a child molester? Well hell, who wants to be Freddy Krueger now? Not me. He’s a pervert and he looked like a whiney wimp before he met his fiery doom. I’ll try not to place blame for this catastrophe or hypothesize “Why?”, rather I’ll suggest these filmmakers follow the example of another failed Reboot. A decade ago, Tim Burtin made a visually stunning but otherwise ludicrous Reboot of Planet of the Apes (a real bummer since the Apes’ story is always ripe for reinterpretation). What did they do? Swept it under the rug, pretended it never happened, waited ten years, and tried it again (Rise of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters this Summer, thank you very much). That’s my advice. Kill this goofy, disgusting, foolish Freddy and give it another go in 2020. And get it right next time, you knuckle-heads!
15. The Thing: An all around great flick on so many levels. It’s got monsters, gore, paranoia, and its cast is trapped in a remote, claustrophobic Arctic research station. Once you discover that the alien can imitate anyone it touches, everyone is your enemy. My favorite part, hands down, is when the decapitated head sprouts legs and scurries off like a spider. Classic! Forget Quaker Oats, this movie is why I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Wilfred Brimley.
14. The Fly (1986): Oh yeah, The Fly hit me hard, maybe because I saw this movie at age twelve, the onset of puberty. The monster in this film is, you see, your own body as it changes you into something you don’t even recognize. The acidic neon-green vomit was disturbing, but not as much as the medicine cabinet. When Jeff Goldblum loses an ear, he nonchalantly puts it on a shelf beside his teeth, his nose… his penis. But what really sent us all reeling was sharing Gina Davis’s nightmare of birthing a three-foot maggot.
13. Poltergeist: Speaking of maggots, how sick was that crawling steak scene in Poltergeist? Besides that, we have spooky trees, creepy clowns, and a Medium with the voice of a Muppet. I’m not trying to be flip, it’s just that, while I thought Poltergeist was a great movie at the time, I’m having trouble remembering anything truly outstanding. On reflection, Poltergeist feels like a family drama where they triumph over adversity by sticking together. But part of what makes Poltergeist a Horror legend is, of course, the film’s “Curse”. The actress who played the teenage daughter was murdered by her boyfriend and the little girl who played Carol Anne died of some gastro-intestinal ailment. I think some other creepy stuff happened too. Hey, has anyone else heard the rumor about a Poltergeist Reboot?
12. The Ring: See, more politics. You had to have an Italian Horror film, so now you have to have a Asian Horror film. I get it; got to make sure no one gets in a twist. And since you already gave props to an original foreign film with Let the Right One In, you feel justified in honoring the American remake in this case (even though the original is better—and part of a trilogy). Nonetheless, The Ring does deserve some credit for getting Hollywood to look East for new and innovative storylines. Hence: Pulse, The Uninvited, One Missed Call, Shutter, and The Grudge Part I and Part II. The big problem with The Ring is that its premise is better than its execution, even in the Japanese version. A video tape that kills you if you watch it, now that I like. But by the time the tape is connected with the dead girl in the well, well, everything seems ridiculously convoluted. And as far as making television sets scary, Poltergeist beat them to the punch ages ago. One thing I noticed about The Ring, and many Asian Horror Movies, is an instant acceptance of supernatural elements (whereas characters in American Horror movies usually spend the fist hour saying, “No… That’s impossible…” before they grudgingly accept that ghosts might be involved).
11. Halloween: For the record, my favorite JC film is The Fog. Yet with Halloween, John Carpenter claims to have invented the Slasher genre. Bravo! And once again, you list-makers honor a film for its aftermath as opposed to its stand-alone artistic integrity. Halloween doesn’t suck, but it doesn’t rock my socks either. Michael Myers is, without a doubt, the most unexciting, uninspired Boogie Man of the bunch. Even Jason takes off his mask every once it a while to growl for the camera. And another thing Michael, you’re one of those slashers who always catches his victim even though they’re running and you’re just walking. For shame. But if what they say is true (“they” being John Carpenter and his legions, perhaps), it was you who spawned Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, Hannible Lecture, the flying scarecrow from Jeepers Creepers, Ghost-Face from Scream, the Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer, the Crawlers from The Descent, the Miner from My Bloody Valentine, Evil Santa from Black Christmas, Chucky from Child’s Play–probably even the Gremlins form Gremlins. Yes, I’m being sarcastic.
10. Night of the Living Dead: I like this movie the way I like an old episode of The Twilight Zone and I appreciate what this film did for the Horror genre. I also think it’s kind of boring. What I like best about the story is that they never explain “why” everything is happening. It just is and you better deal with it or you won’t live for long. This is the film that defined “Zombie” as we know it today: a shambling living-corps with a hunger for live flesh (as opposed to a mindless slave under the control of a Voodoo Master like in White Zombie). The other important standard established: If a Zombie bites you, you will become a Zombie yourself (ditto if you die of natural causes). And while NOTLD might not have made my own personal Top 25 list, I’m not mad at you for including it on yours.
Check back next week for the conclusion as I ponder the merits and significance of heavy-hitters: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1978), Rosemary’s Baby, Bride of Frankenstein, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs, Alien, Jaws, Psycho, and The Exorcist.