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The Movie Guy: Last of the Top 5 Horror Films

By   /   October 28, 2012  /   Comments

 o continue from my last article about the top 10 horror films, I give you the rest of the best horror films that money can buy or rent, here is the best of the best and again in no particular order…

Halloween: No list of Halloween movies is complete without someone mentioning John Carpenter’s classic horror film. When people talk about how bad horror films are in terms of violence or blood, they often lump this movie in with the bunch. Surprisingly there is actually little blood in the movie, a splash of nudity from P.J. Soles (of ‘Rock and Roll High School’ fame…) and some creative deaths.So why does this movie get lumped in with much worse movies? I think it has to do with the music in the movie; the score created by John Carpenter is haunting and memorably used to brutal effectiveness. Having grown up in the mid-west the look and tone of the movie, supposedly set in Illinois but filmed in California evokes memories of chasing multi-colored leafs through the streets that had been pushed around by fall winds, the dancing of candle light from within the carved pumpkin and that feeling that anything could happen on Halloween.

The movie is about a boy named Michael Myers who commits an unspeakable act of murder as a child and who through that action becomes the town legend and local boogey-man. Flash forward to years later and Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis of Jamie Lee Curtis fame…) and a group of friends who are picked off by Michael Myers as Doctor Sam Loomis (played to perfection by Donald Pleasence who starred in the original ‘Escape from Witch Mountain’, ‘The Great Escape’ and the rather infamous ‘Pumaman’…) who spends the majority of the movie chasing after Michael before catching up to him near the end of the movie. Just so you’re not kept in suspense Loomis spends the next four movies of the series chasing after the masked killer.

So is it gory? Not as much as people think it is, as you only ever see blood in two spots in the movie. The music and atmosphere makes it out to be much worse than it really is and with those two things firmly in place the imagination of the viewer runs wild as you’re watching a guy with a spray painted ‘William Shatner mask hack his way through the teenagers in the movie. Is it scary? With the lights off and curled up on the couch under a blanket to protect you, absolutely.

John Carpenter’s The Thing: Thisis a moviethat all too often gets left off of many horror film lists, the most recent prequel (remake is more like it…) didn’t do much to garner many fans and made people forget about this classic film ‘sequel’ to the original 1951 Howard Hawks ‘Thing from another world’. This is a movie made by a director at the top of his game, having already given us ‘Halloween’, ‘The Fog’ and ‘Escape from New York’ before setting his sights on making this film. ‘The Thing’ is the second of many collaborations between the director and Kurt Russell who, had been a major star in Disney films of the 60’s up until this point. If not for John Carpenter, Kurt Russell might not be the actor he is today….

The plot isn’t really that hard to follow. An American Antarctic research team has a strange encounter with a Norwegian helicopter crew chasing a dog through the icy wastelands that ends with the death of the helicopter crew and questions as to just what was going on. The Americans (led by Kurt Russell…) check out Norwegian’s base only to find out that it has been on fire and partially destroyed by the time they arrive. What they discover is that the Norwegian’s discovered a ship and frozen creature in the ice with the creature supposedly being killed in the battle at the Norwegian base.

Or so the American’s thought….

It turns out that the creature operates at a cellular level and invades a host taking it over and living inside until replicating a new body killing off the original template. Oh, and it arrived at the American base in the body of dog the Norwegian’s were chasing. The movie builds from there with the various members of the American research team trying to discover who is a carrier for the ‘Thing’ and who are only human; people turn on one another, things get nasty and in the end you’re left wondering who is really human or if there are any humans left at all.

This movie sets up the horror and suspense by building on the paranoia and the fear of not knowing who to trust or even if you can trust yourself. This movie has a fantastic cast with Kurt Russell, Keith David, Tom Waites, and Wilford Brimley rounding out the ‘big names’ in the movie. So is it scary? In a ‘Halloween’ or ‘Salem’s Lot’ sort of way? No, not really. The movie is really straight forward in that way. On the other hand the gore factor gets kicked up a notch when you see The Thing in action moving between hosts and shifting forms.

Ghost Ship’: This 2002 horror film starring Gabriel Byrne, Julianne Marguiles and assorted others rates highly among my all time favorite movies and in the small collection of Horror films that I like from more recent times it rates very high indeed. The movie starts off with the death of sixty plus people aboard the cruise ship Antonia Graza. From there we flash forward to modern times as a group of sea-going salvage experts celebrate a recent success in a local bar. It’s there that they are approached by a stranger telling them a story of having spotted a derelict ship in international waters, a ship that they could salvage and sell for scrap thus making a fortune.

The crew reluctantly agrees to take the stranger along so that he can claim his share of the salvage rights (and because he is the only one who knows the ship’s location….) and heads back out to sea to find their salvage. Locating the ship isn’t difficult at all; they are able to get aboard to look around and discover that the ship they had hoped to salvage carries with it a cargo of gold, the bodies of the dead inhabitants and an evil force hoping to bind them to the ship. Like the smart people that they are, the crew decides to take the money and run. Some force destroys the ship they arrived on and sets about killing them off or turning them against one another until the ghost of a little girl killed at the beginning of the movie reveals the force behind the salvage crew’s troubles.

This movie is creepy and atmospheric leaving you to guess who is lying to who until the truth comes out. There are enough scares and frights to keep you jumping before the Twilight Zone like ending that happens leaving you begging for more. This deserves more attention than it ever got and comes highly recommended for those Friday night fright-fests you might engage in during the bluster October evenings.

Trick r’ Treat’: I can remember seeing the trailer for this movie attached to a video I had rented. The fleeting glimpses of scenes and scenery made me realize that I HADto see this film as soon as it came out. Oddly this wasn’t meant to be as the ‘Trick R’ Treat’ wasFilmed in 2007 but never managed to make its way into theaters for reasons that remain unknown and unstated. Instead it would pop up online in news blurbs or articles indicating that the premiere of the film was ‘just around the corner’… Instead of this smart, well filmed and terrifically written original movie we get stuff like ‘Saw 4, 5 and 6’. I find Hollywood’s lack of faith in original material to be quiet disturbing, it’s as though the studios are saying that the audience is incapable of enjoying original material or that we might not find something to like about it.

Trick r’ Treat’ is a horror anthology; the movie takes place on Halloween night and tells four interlocking stories connected by the silent burlap covered figure named ‘Sam’. The movie deals with the traditions and legends around the ideas of Halloween and how one shouldn’t break traditions, even those they don’t believe in. It’s also about the fact that secrets and legends have a place in our world and that often times we forget why things should remain secret. This movie really has it all, serial killers, werewolves, hidden secrets, vampires and things that go bump in the night.

Trick r’ Treat has a wonderful cast including Dylan Baker (Road to Perdition, Spider-Man 2 and 3), Anna Paquin (The X-Men series, Finding Forrester) and Brian Cox (X-Men 2, The Bourne series and the Ring). The movie was directed by first time director Michael Dougherty who also wrote the movie (as well as Superman Returns and X-Men 2) with the production values of the movie, you can’t tell that Dougherty didn’t have any real experience when he made the film.

This movie, much like John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’, is a classic throwback to horror films and the time of year that likely inspired them. It’s atmospheric and haunting in the way that it brings all of the elements used in the movie together under one umbrella. Run, don’t walk, and go find this movie today!

The Exorcist’: There can be no top 10 list of horror films without the Exorcist finding its way onto said list. Released in 1973 this film was made well before the idea of C.G.I. existed and gets by on building atmosphere and tension with music, shadows, cutaways as well as practical effects that heighten the mood and establish what (I think…) is one of the scariest films of all time. I have a childhood memory of this movie that predates my actually having watched it, I was in a Halloween related ‘haunted’ house somewhere in southern Ohio in 1977 and saw a re-enactment of the infamous shaking bed scene from this movie. I had no idea what was going, but was terrified of my bed moving like that for months afterwards.

This movie is as straight forward as they come, a young girl is possessed by a demon and the mother calls upon the local Catholic Church to help after conventional medicine fails to diagnose the problem (attributing it as everything from puberty to lesions on her brain…). The movie goes into high gear when the priests are brought in and the fight for the soul of a little girl begins.

I truly believe that there are things in life, whether it’s on film or in photos that once you have seen them there is no ‘un-seeing’ them. These images haunt you by running unfiltered through your mind popping up when you least expect them and it’s those things that linger there in the dark scaring us. This movie does an excellent job of showing us evil; it permeates every frame of this film and scares people enough that years after they’ve seen it they still remember that tension gripping at their heart. To me this is easily the scariest movie of all time; because it’s the only horror film that could actually happen, assuming you believe in the bible.

And there you have my top 10 horror films list, I hope you enjoyed it…see you at the movies!

 

 

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