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Comics 101 for 10/26/2006
My Top Five Favorite Horror Films and The Horrors of Canada
Hey, everybody! For all of this month and just in time for Halloween, Comics 101 will be featuring articles of the more macabre variety as we focus on the theme of 'horror' (one of my favorite genres of comics and film). So here each week in October, sink your plastic fangs into a horror flavored Comics 101 feature!Run away...'cause now it's Halloween. Shave your hair and burn your jeans. Evil could be right next door... or maybe just inside this week's Comics 101 column! Here comes my list for the top five best horror films of all time! And just in time for that unholiest of nights, "All Hallow's Eve".
I can't think of any other festive occasion that gets my blood pumping faster or my imagination running more rabid full of thoughts of monsters and undead eating hapless victims, serial killers stalking nitwit teenagers (and the obligatory virgin) and the occasional demonic force that could swallow your soul. Yes, I love horror movies and Halloween is the perfect time to celebrate in watching an excessive amount of this particular genre of cinema.
So if you're a creepy horror geek like me (or like my pals Justin and Tom Mandrake) and just love talking about horror movies and watching them anytime of the year or if you're planning your own costume bash or ghoulish get-together this week and need some movie ideas then you've come to the right cyberspace. I recommend visually torturing your eyeballs and annihilating your brain with any or all of these titles from this definitive list of all films fearful, frightful and freakish for your sick and twisted viewing pleasure.
Here we go with the list for my top five horror flicks of all time -
5) Evil Dead 2
Let's give Justin first stab at this one....
"A cabin in the woods, soul swallowing demons and just an ordinary guy... with a chainsaw hand. Directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead 2 is a excellent mix of fun, fear and style."
Very well said, Justin. This is one of the best horror films *ever* created. Not only is it scary, but it's damn funny too. It's a horror film that wasn't happy following formula so it crossed genres and escaped the mainstream, setting the standard for all "undead" features to follow. Excellent over the top acting and perfect comic timing by Campbell and inspired, eccentric and energetic camera work by Raimi. This movie is still *genuinely* scary at the all the right moments and doesn't pull any punches... or leave out any gore.
And Raimi's and Campbell's follow-up, Army of Darkness, still stands as one of the best action/horror/comedy/fantasy movies ever in my book. In fact, I think it created that mixed-up genre so it may be the sole entry in that particular category.
4) The Exorcist
Justin - "The plight of twelve year old Regan MacNeil is disturbing, fightening and shocking. Regan seems to suffer from some sort of mental disorder that only gets worse over time. At first, her mother turns to modern medicine and doctors to diagnose and treat her condition. She will slowly learn that it's not Regan's body or even her mind that needs to be saved, it's her soul. William Friedkin directs a compelling and revolutionary horror movie."
Again, another movie that doesn't pull any punches and made more disturbing and horrific by the fact that a twelve year old girl (Linda Blair) can be portrayed to be so insanely evil in such a believable and convincing fashion as the living vessel for Satan incarnate. I love the slow steady build-up of this film. When Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) shows up to open a can of whup-ass on ol' Satan himself this movie really takes off. The theme music - unforgettable.
People tend to forget how truly scary this film is and make light of it's portrayal of demonic possession and the multitude of obscene vulgarities spewing from the mouth of a child like a machine gun. Though folks are pretty much desensitized to the kinds of images present in this film from other media today (most notably other films that were inspired from this original work), I dare you to sit in the dark and watch this in the privacy of your own home... alone.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Don't bother with the newer Michael Bay produced remake montrosity. Save your money and pop this true original and truly frightening classic into your DVD player instead. From the opening imagery of roadkill and death and decay along with the narrator's dry delivery of dialogue, you know there's something seriously wrong going to happen in this movie. It's powerful sense of impending, maddening doom threatening the sanity of a group of innocent young travelers is made all the more dreadful by the film's raw, almost documentary type feel (due in no small part to Tobe Hooper's low budget I'm sure). It seriously feels like your watching and witnessing and honest to goodness 'snuff' film. When people are killed in this movie, it really feels like they are *killed*.
It's straight for the jugular, viscious and completely humorless film-making. You can literally feel the uncomfortable, sweaty Texas climate exude off the celluloid putting you right in the thick of the carnage. A scary film so effective that it's only soundtrack is the bizarre, organic and mechanical noises coming from the sounds of pigs, chickens, cameras, chainsaws and the decaying household that is the centerpiece of the gritty on location shoot. It's the pacing, convincing acting, bizarre visuals and frenetic camera work that make this movie unsettling and nerve-wracking, not the actual gore (which is all implied since in fact there is very little of it in comparision to an average horror film).
Justin - "Texas Chainsaw Massacre has compelled countless numbers of horror fans and remained in their minds since it was first released in 1974, but not me. I don't really feel much for this film one way or another. I have to be honest, I haven't seen this movie for a long time so this may not be a fair assessment. I'll watch it again before next Halloween and let you know what I think then."
Shame on you, Justin. You're not the true horror freak I thought you were! And this coming from the self-proclaimed lover of all films "serial killer".
I can think of only a few other horror remakes that *did* improve on the original like Carpenter's The Thing or David Cronenberg's The Fly. But the recent remake didn't improve on Tobe Hooper's classic in anyway and felt like a watered down, History Channel version of the original. The young actors looked too pretty and their characters instantly stereotyped (unlike the original) to even feel anything for them or relate with them in their fear and terror. The cinematography, though visually impressive and interesting (actually completed by the original film's cinematrographer) was hindered by uneven pacing of story, pointless characters (what was with that unnecessary 'infant' subplot really? And don't even get me started on that kid from The Ring). I should have known better with a movie produced by Michael 'attention deficient disorder' Bay.
Trust me folks, they don't come any more meaner, grittier or shocking than the original version of this movie. 'Who will survive and what will be left of them?'
*Special triva or useless knowledge blurb* - The dialogue spoken by the narrator in *both* versions of the film is none other than John "Dan Fielding" Larroquette of Night Court fame. Now that's scary.
2) John Carpenter's The Thing
John Carpenter's best film with a budget. Rob Bottin's effects are so frightenedly well done it's like watching a train wreck... with aliens. You just can't look away whenever the FX work is on display here. Well you could since you'll most likely be scared or freaked out, but you would be missing some of the best moments of the movie.
Exceptional acting by an ensemble cast including genre favorite Keith David and Wilford "Quaker Oats" Brimley. And Kurt (Snake Plissken, Jack Burton) Russell is the only actor in the world who can pull off wearing a giant sombrero in artic weather conditions while flying a helicopter since he's that damn cool.
The script, editing and brave yet ambigious, apocalyptic "un-Hollywood" ending (a staple for Carpenter's work) turned off fans and critics alike at the time (this was the year of Speilberg's much more friendly and popular alien invader - E.T.). But Carpenter's vision for the remake really not only exceeded Howard Hawk's The Thing from Another World original but it put this movie on another level above most horror films and has proven to stand the test of time.
"What can I say? This shape-changing, paranoia-inducing, ass-kicking, isolation spinechiller is another John Carpenter classic." - Justin
Definitely. To describe this chiller thriller I think King Willy said it best, "This is dread, man. Truly dread."
According to Justin, "Mentally disturbed Michael Myers (in actuality an inhuman cypher for evil itself) escapes from lifelong imprisonment in an institution and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to go on a babysitter murder spree on Halloween night. It's hard to believe such a simple concept makes such a great movie... but it does. Skillfully executed, atmospheric and suspenseful. An almost perfect horror film by John Carpenter."
Almost perfect? How about the PERFECT horror film.
Like it's predecessor, Psycho, this movie is the modern day grandaddy of all true horror films since. It's the archetype for the teen slasher formula and set the standard for most horror classic serial killer films following it. I still wish more horror film directors today would take cues from this movie, just as you can see the influence of Carpenter taking cues from horror auteur, Alfred Hitchcock. It commands multiple viewings, much like any Hitchcock film, to see it's artistry on all of it's levels. It's not what we see of "the Shape" that scares us, it's what we don't see. The violence, gore and murders are skillfully implied, subtle and controlled along with some really tight, claustrophobic visuals.
Carpenter's creation, the unstoppable, enigmaticly evil Michael Myers is truly one of the most scary movie slashers of all time. This monstrous sociopatch still gives me nightmares from watching this movie. Even with the likable and talented Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, veteran actor Donald Pleasance as the unflappable, obsessed Dr. Sam Loomis steals the show here and creates one of the most iconic horror film protagonists ever (right up there with the late, great Robert Shaw as seaman Quint in Jaws). And the soundtrack (written and created by Carpenter himself) alone induces serious chills and takes the visual aspect of the film to a whole other level.
Perhaps the best independent horror flick ever made (again, I say the Blair Witch can take a hike) and Carpenter's best film 'without' a budget. But like Tobe Hooper, Carpenter gets the most shock value out of his limited resources here, proving yet again that less is more. He creates the slow building, eerie sense of atmosphere superbly letting the audience explore their own nightmares and psychological baggage with his work along the way. The last fifteen minutes will chill you down to the bone.
Here are my very close calls for fifth place....
One of the best films from Italian horror maestro, Dario Argento. From the opening, very elaborate and totally entertaining death scene, this movie is filled to the brim with eerie tension with superb directing and editing. Only Argento with his garish visual palette and masterful timing can make sliding glass doors look unnerving and deadly. This horror experience is also enhanced with incredible music by Goblin (co-produced with Argento) and is probably one of the most effective horror film scores ever comparable to Carpenter's Halloween and The Thing (which Carpenter co-produced with legendary composer Ennio Morricone).
The film is about a New York ballerina (Jessica Harper, with some of the most expressionistic eyes in a horror film since Barbara Steele) who enrolls at a haunted 'Black Forest' dance school run by a coven of witches. And these aren't the likable or sexy kind of witches you'd expect to find these days on shows like Buffy or Charmed either.
Seek this classic out and like the original trailer for the film says, "nothing will prepare you for the last frightening ten minutes of this film". Well... maybe you're a little desensitized like me and possibly feel the dated effects of this movie, but it's still genuinely and satisfyingly creepy nonetheless.
Delamorte, Delamore (a.k.a. Cemetary Man)
I just *love* this Italian horror flick. Directed by Michele Soavi (The Church, The Devil's Daughter) Dellamorte, Dellamore is by far one of the most stylish and beautiful zombie films, or horror films for that matter, ever made. Soavi is the protege' to the Italian "giallo" master, Dario Argento. While watching Soavi's film one can easily see the influence from one of the masters of great Italian horror but this student of the macabre really comes into his own and excels in true form here.
In fact, not since the original Dawn of the Dead or even 28 Days Later has there been a horror movie about zombies this refreshing and unique with its macabre subject matter balanced with an appealing, philosophical approach on life, love and death itself. In recent years, the fabulous Shaun of the Dead has only come close.
The film also complements the over the top violence and perfectly staged gore gags with artfully done cinematography and dialogue. It really is levels above your typical zombie-horror fare. The film's exceptional score really enhances the moody characters and twisted plot. I wish I could track down and own this soundtrack on CD, it's that good. Everything in this film is really much deeper than at first glance. It's layers, upon unfolding layers and the final scene should make you go back and watch the opening frames of the film with an even more attentive eye.
Do yourself a favor this Halloween and track this movie down. Especially if you're an Evil Dead or Romero fan. It's not to be missed and even if you don't like the plot or get the philosophy there's at least plenty of Anna Falchi throughout to tide you over.
I *highly* reccomend this movie from Gore 'Pirates of the Carribean' Verbinski. A geniunely CREEPY, HAUNTING, SCARY movie without the typical gore and cheap scares of regular horror flicks today. If you're thinking because it's PG-13 it can only be "scary-lite" as a "thriller" like The Sixth Sense... think again. This film is so much more disturbing I feel bad even mentioning it in the same sentence as that movie. The sound effects and editing in this film are exquisite and superbly elevates the tension and scares in this expertly paced shocker. Gore's level of control and tight directing is almost unparalleled in regards to most modern horror these days. This is the 'almost' perfect horror film.
If your ticker can handle the previous films I've outlined how about kissing your nerves goodbye and tackling these flicks? Here's my list of honorable mentions...
AlienHaven't seen one or two of these yet? Seek them out, you won't be disappointed.
Justin, "Joe has some great notable mentions for best horror movies. I'll match his list with mine!"
Jaws"For almost horror movies, I'd like to mention A Chinese Ghost Story and The Crow."
Great list, Justin! Aliens and Jaws are indeed truly some of the scariest films of all time.
The Horrors of Canada
Awhile back on Tom Mandrake's Official Message Board we had a discussion on the finer tastes of imported horror cinema. Not from Italy... nope, not England either... wait for it... yep, you guessed it 'eh. So whether you're looking for some quality chills (the other kind) or laughable and 'not so hot' fright fests for your Halloween party or even your own personal, late night horror movie marathon then check out these scary flicks of 'The Great White North'.
So here's Tom with the weather... er, I mean the horror... take it away, Tom!
Tom: So I've done the research, here's a list of Canadian made horror movies, 1959 to 2000. Any favorites? Honestly I don't know most of these movies but there are several I'm going to track down:
The Bloody Brood (D: Julian Roffman. Starring Peter Falk)
The Mask (D:Julian Roffman. The first Canadian film to be widely distributed in the United States, and the only Canadian 3-D feature.)
Creature of Comfort (D: Graham Driscoll. Starring Donald Pleasance)
Flesh Feast (D: Brad F. Ginter. Veronica Lake's final film.)
Flick (D: Gilbert Taylor. Starring Robin Ward)
The Pyx (D: Harvey Hart. Starring Christopher Plummer.)
Cannibal Girls (Ivan Reitman's first film. Starring Andrea Martin and Eugene Levy.)
Seizure (Oliver Stone's first film. Starring Hervé Villachaise.)
The House That Cried Murder (D: Jean-Marie Pélissé)
House by the Lake (D: William Fruet. a.k.a. Death Weekend)
The Keeper (D: T.Y. Drake. Starring Christopher Lee)
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (D: Nicholas Gessner. Starring Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen.)
Rituals (D: Peter Carter. Starring Hal Holbrook)
The Uncanny (D: Denis Héroux)
Death Ship (D: Alvin Rakoff)
Ghost Keeper (D: James Makichuk)
Phobia (D: John Huston)
Funeral Home (D: William Fruet)
Incubus (D: John Hough)
The Pit (D: Lew Lehman)
Curtains (D: Richard Ciupka. Starring John Vernon, Maury Chaykin)
Deadly Eyes (D: Robert Clouse)
Skullduggery (D: Ota Richter)
Spasms (D: William Fruet. Starring Al Waxman, Peter Fonda)
Evil Judgment (D:Claudio Castravelli) (?)
The Blue Man (D: George Mihalka)
Blue Murder (D: Charles Wiener)
Identity Crisis (D: Bruce Pittman. Starring Robin Ward as psychotic twins)
Junior (D: Jim Hanley)
Psycho Girls (D: Gerard Ciccoritti)
The Housekeeper (D: Ousama Rawi)
Blood Relations (D: Graeme Clifford)
Blue Monkey (D: William Fruet. Starring John Vernon, Joe Flaherty)
Graveyard Shift (D: Gerard Ciccoritti)
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (D: Bruce Pittman. Starring Michael Ironside)
Rock n' Roll Nightmare (D: John Fasano)
Zombie Nightmare (D: Jack Bravman. Written by David Wellington. Starring Adam West and Tia Carrere.)
The Brain (D: Ed Hunt)
Graveyard Shift 2: The Understudy (D: Gerard Ciccoritti)
Pin (D: Sandor Stern)
Watchers (D: Jon Hess. Starring Corey Haim, Michael Ironside)
The Carpenter (D: David Wellington)
Freakshow (D: Constantino Magnatta)
Blood Clan (D: Charles Wilkinson. Starring Gordon Pinsent)
Cursed (D: Mychel Arsenault)
Prom Night 3: The Last Kiss (D: Ron Oliver)
Red Blooded American Girl (D: David Blyth. Written by Allan Moyle.)
Prom Night 4: Deliver Us From Evil (D: Clay Borris)
Whispers (D: Douglas Jackson)
Frat Fright (D: David Mitchell)
Happy Hell Night (D: Brian Owens)
Psychic (D: George Mihalka)
Jack of Hearts (D: Cynthia Roberts)
Little Devils: The Birth (D: George Pavlou)
Blood Symbol (D: Maurice Devereaux, Tony Morello)
The Club (D: Brenton Spencer)
The Dark (D: Craig Pryce. Starring Neve Campbell)
The Paperboy (D: Douglas Jackson)
Relative Fear (D: George Mihalka)
Blood and Donuts (D: Holly Dale. Starring David Cronenberg)
Witchboard III: The Possession (D: Peter Svatek)
Twists of Terror (D: Douglas Jackson)
Bleeders (D: Peter Svatek. Starring Roy Dupuis and Jackie Burroughs)
Lady of the Lake (D: Maurice Devereaux)
Winter Lily (D: Roshell Bissett)
The Clown at Midnight (D: Jean Pellerin. Starring Christopher Plummer, Margot Kidder)
Urban Flesh (D: Alexandre Michaud)
Christina's House (D: Gavin Wilding)
Rats (D: Jacques Holender)
Wow. Alot of these are unknown to me. Some of them do sound like they are indeed worth tracking down for mere title alone. The Bloody Brood, Cannibal Girls and Flesh Feast sound fun (though how scary can a Eugene Levy movie be... wait a minute, scratch that, I suddenly remembered Armed and Dangerous). And an Oliver Stone film starring Tattoo? I thought The Hand (written by Stone) starring Michael 'don't fro your bloody Eskimos at me' Caine was bad enough. Zombie Nightmare with Adam West? Sounds too good to be true.
I can comment on the following selections from your list since I've either seen them or am least familiar with them...
Black Christmas (D: Bob Clark. Starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Andrea Martin, Doug McGrath, Art Hindle, Kier Dullea)
The *original* slasher film and a great horror gem from director Bob Clark. It's an eerily effective thriller about sorority sisters who are terrorized by a stranger who makes frightening phone calls and then murders them one by one during Christmas break. Besides Hitchcock's Psycho, this "slasher" progenitor is one of the inspirations for John Carpenter's classic Halloween both in terms of plot and in it's stylisitic, visual camera work. I recommend this one highly.
Shivers (David Cronenberg's first film. a.k.a. The Parasite Murders, They Came From Within)
One movie I've known about for years and have always been meaning to see. Plus I really have never seen a bad Cronenberg movie yet. They play the original trailer for this movie every year at the all night horror movie marathon I go to here in Columbus and it looks like cheesy, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead inspired, fun.
Rabid (D: David Cronenberg)
Behind the Green Door's Marilyn Chambers stars as a young woman who develops a taste for human blood after undergoing experimental plastic surgery. Her victims turn into rabid, blood-thirsty, zombies whom proceed to infect others which turns into a city-wide epidemic in this highly enjoyable, early David Cronenberg horror flick.
The Changeling (D: Peter Medak. Starring George C. Scott.)
I think Justin has reccommended this movie to me on more than one occassion so I need to track this one down.
Terror Train (D: Roger Spottiswoode. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, David Copperfield and Joy Boushel.)
Trashy 70's slasher flick fun. Nothing too exceptional here but worth seeing for early Jamie Lee and a painfully wincing yet hilarious appearance by David Copperfield (yes, that David Copperfield).
The Brood (D: David Cronenberg)
Cronenberg followed up Shivers and Rabid with this one which is perhaps his most personal film, a disturbing story of repressed memories, the legacy of brutality and the unholy art of Psychoplasmics! Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar star in this disturbing classic.
Happy Birthday To Me (D: J. Lee Thompson. Starring secret Canadian Glenn Ford.)
I barely remember this one. I saw it as a kid on cable and remember it scared me but then again I was like 9 or 10 years old I think. I'm really interested in tracking this down since either it's a forgetten gem or maybe best forgotton on purpose.
Prom Night (D: Paul Lynch)
Even more Jamie Lee Curtis plus you get Leslie Nielson in a rare, dramatic role (harking back to is more square-jawed days like in the awesome Forbidden Planet). Not a great movie, mediocre like Terror Train, both of which were made to capitalize on Ms. Curtis' previous Halloween popularity, but kinda fun on a late, late Saturday night nonetheless.
Humongous (D: Paul Lynch. Written by William Gray. Starring Joy Boushel.)
Actually, not a bad, obscure horror flick. I haven't seen this one in a long time but enjoyed it numerous times renting it in junior high and high school. The beginning and ending are worth it but the middle of the movie is pretty standard stalk and slash fare. This one and Hell Night (starring Linda Blair - check this one out too if you can find it) were two of my favorites to freak my friends out with when we would have all night horror movie fests. Not sure if it has aged well though but maybe I'll come across it again and check it out one more time.
My Bloody Valentine (D: George Mihalka)
Like Humongous and Hell Night, worth checking out at least once. Reeks of typical 70's slasher formula but the on location backdrop of a serial killer in the mineshafts makes it kind of fun and interesting to watch for the shadows and overall creepiness factor of the environment. Just watched this again a few months ago on Cinemax while I was up late working and it still holds up better than most similar flicks from the era.
Visiting Hours (D: Jean-Claud Lord. Starring Lee Grant, William Shatner and Michael Ironside.)
You would think a horror flick with such 'icons' like Michael Ironside and Bill Shatner would be worth watching but I remember this one as being... forgettable unfortunately. Sociopath Ironside stalks and attacks a TV reporter (Lee Grant) at a hospital with Captain Kirk in a small supporting role. A curiosity of a film that should be seen at least once if you're a fan of either actor.
Videodrome (D: David Cronenberg)
This one stars Debbie 'Blondie' Harry and James Woods and it's a classic. Some neat special effects for the time and typical Cronenberg psychological, mind-bending material (which he later refines in Naked Lunch and the more accessible eXistenZ). I really liked seeing this one again on the big screen at a sci-fi marathon a few years back. A definite must-see for any fan of the genre (also see Scanners for more interesting Cronenberg gross-out horror fare).
Of Unknown Origin (D: George P. Cosmatos)
Hmm... I'm curious about this one. It's directed by Cosmatos of Tombstone, Cobra and Rambo 2 fame so it can't be too bad.
The Gate (D: Tibor Takacs)
Early Stephen (Blade) Dorff. A good horror film if I recall. Haven't seen this one in years though.
Top of the Food Chain (D: John Paizs)
Bizarre, great, low budget Ed Wood-like inspired horror film. Caught this at a horror marathon back in '99 and really enjoyed some of it's truly ingenious absurdity. Have your friends bring the cheap beer over and check this one out for plenty of laughs.
Ginger Snaps (D: John Fawcett)
(my provisional favorite right now).
Great movie, Tom! I loved Ginger Snaps. I've seen it about three times so far. I was really surprised and impressed with this one. Both Emily Perkins (who was just great in her episode of X-Files) and Katherine Isabelle (totally beautiful, and totally misplaced in Freddy vs. Jason, but perfect here) do a great job of playing angst ridden, semi-suicidal sisters on a downward spiral only to be taken even further down the spiral when big sister is bitten by a big bad werewolf. Great make-up effects, suspense and horror along with believable characters and solid writing. Even Mimi Rogers (see also X-Files) performance as the clueless, two dimensional mom character works well here. Probably one of the best, true werewolf flicks to come out in recent memory (even better than Dog Soldiers to a degree I believe).
I'll leave everybody with the following post that originally inspired Tom to investigate these 'Horrors of Canada' for us all. Enjoy...
Tom: I had never seen Silent Night Bloody Night before, this turned out to be another pleasant surprise, well worth the $1.60 it cost me. Many of the '80s slasher movie techniques such as the killers pov camera work, evil phone calls and ax murders were utilized in this cheap early '80s movie. A great movie? NO! It stinks of Canadian film making, usually a death warrant for a horror movie (I probably should check the credits before I say that but I'm too lazy to go downstairs) and it looked like the dog chewed on the film before it was tranfered to digital but another winner anyway!
Sorry, Canada. After all most of the X-Files were filmed there... I take it all back. You're the best country I ever lived next to!
What?! Evil Dead 2 is in your top five horror films? You've got to be kidding me! Who is this guy?
Now this guy, he has class!
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