As a rule, I really hate “top five” or “top ten” lists, especially as we steamroll towards the end of every year, and they become more and more ubiquitous by the time we crash through December’s wall and into a new year. But, on the other hand, I love October, Halloween, and horror movies, and I guess in this case, the latter won out over the former. The result, for you, is this loosely focused ramshackle list of five horror movies that I think you need to check out this Halloween season.
Before you start questioning my list, which is always the point of a list I suppose, please understand that there are tons of horror movies that I like and that ultimately and inevitably are left off the list, including many classics. There were also several movies that I consider classics and genre crafting choices that are very dear to my heart, but I just don’t think they translate well over time. My final list, appropriately I believe, contains some iconic films as well as some newer soon-to-be classics.
Unfortunately, Hellraiser is a movie that I feel can come across as a bit dated, mostly because of some very questionable, well, more like terrible acting (or overacting). The cenobites appear to be the only characters with any acting chops. However, the story is great and the cenobites are iconic, which make it a must see for any horror fan. This is also a perfect example of a horror movie having the ability to capture deeper, more meaningful themes that go beyond the basic need to scare the audience or prove that you shouldn’t walk in the woods alone while a maniac is running around rearranging body parts on teenagers. It’s rare that a horror movie can scare the crap out of you and say something meaningful about life and the world we live in, but Hellraiser succeeds in this aspect. Of course, it helps that it is the creation of Clive Barker, who also happens to be one of the greatest and most prolific horror writers of all time. I would also suggest that you read a couple of his books. I personally love The Great and Secret Show. If you’d like a quick peek, here is the trailer.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Original!)
I will put The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, produced on a shoestring independent budget back in1974, primarily for the drive-in film circuit, up against any crappy, predictable horror movie glutting up the market today. This film is a perfect example of scaring the audience through the use of tension and mood, the gore is generally implied and certainly not gratuitous. It seems that contemporary horror movies, such as Saw and its subsequent dozen or so sequels, are merely an exercise in gratuitous gore and just a way to see how many different ways they can dismember a hapless victim. In many ways, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is partially responsible for this trend, opening up the doors it did when it came out, but the violence is not splattered all across the screen. Even the chainsaw and meat hooks scenes are extremely tame by today’s standards. The fact is that there was no need for buckets of blood and realistic severed heads to create fear in this movie. If you haven’t seen this classic, and I do mean classic, do yourself a favor and put this one on. Don’t forget to turn out the lights! If you’d like a quick peek, here is the trailer.
3. The Shining
There’s not much I can say about The Shining that you probably don’t already know or haven’t heard before. This movie scared the crap out of me as a kid, when I first saw it, and still gives me a heavy dose of the creeps to this day. The ghostly twins and the blood elevator are still two of my all time favorite scary scenes/images. I don’t care if Stephen King purists, and King himself, complain that he deviated too far from the book or wrecked the book. This movie is fully capable of standing on its own, aside from the book. That’s the genius of Stanley Kubrick. Visually, thematically, and atmospherically, this movie is fantastic. Do yourself a favor and watch the documentary Room 237 before you give The Shining another viewing, whether you buy what the producers of the documentary are selling or not, it still makes The Shining an even more interesting watch than before, if that is possible. If you’d like a quick peek, here is the trailer.
2. The Cabin in the Woods
When I first saw this movie, I was watching with a friend and more out of boredom than anything else. The trailer made it look like just another kids-stuck-in-the-woods-and-killed-one-at-a-time type of movie, one of what seems a zillion of them since the appearance of the original Evil Dead. The name of the movie didn’t really help either. I don’t know whether I just hadn’t been paying attention or if the fact that it was a fantastic parody was completely lost on me in the advertising and for about the first twenty minutes of the movie. However, once I realized what they were doing with the movie and how they were manipulating a tired horror genre cliche and using it to their benefit, the movie became sheer genius. If you’d like a quick peek, here is the trailer.
1. House of 1000 Corpses
From the first time I saw it, I have said that I believe House of 1000 Corpses is the best horror movie produced in a couple of decades. Leave it to Rob Zombie, I suppose, to absolutely hit the nail on the head, or rather the beautiful helpless blonde camper on the head with a shovel, on his first attempt. As with The Cabin in the Woods, Zombie takes many of the tired cliches used in far too many horror movies and breathes fresh air into them-whether it’s cheerleader carnage, clowns, foreboding isolated farm houses, creepy old grandfathers, demonic beasts, and many others. I also enjoyed Zombie’s sequel, The Devil’s Rejects and his contributions to the Halloween franchise, which were by far the best Halloweens besides the original, but House of 1000 Corpses is just about perfect as far as everything you want from a horror movie. Do yourself a favor, and watch this one on Halloween. If you’d like a quick peek, here is the trailer.