A few days ago, I wrote a list of ten horror movies I found really effective (as well as three additional movies that a lot of people disdained but I thought were better than they are given credit for). This is something I intended to do from the get-go, a follow-up list that includes more movies, focusing on ones that might not everyone's cup of tea but are still interesting to me. This fills in a few more gaps. As you might can guess, this does not completely fill in the gaps (I imagine that thirty, though, would pretty much exhaust my "horror movies I definitely recommend" list) and so I think there will be two more lists of a slightly different bent forthcoming: "horror movies pre-1970" and "bad horror movies worth watching". These movies are, overall, a little bit more to the fun side and probably make for a better "group of friends watching horror movies" night, while still being good.
And, horror movie fans, don't forget Six (now eight) vampire movies I can watch over and over.
Stan Winson (make-up and effects artist extraordinaire) gave us this great movie, possibly the best Appalacian horror out there. Most "redneck horror" paint the natives in the light of inbred monsters, their barefoot poverty a sign of moral decay. Winson, though, paints them as sympathetic. Sure, they are still a bit, well, backwoods; but the reason the ancient demon Pumpkinhead is summoned is one that most of the audience can understand. And when the man who brought it forth goes toe to toe with it because he realizes his mistake, you get a movie that is a bit more than your average horror movie. This, like The Thing is partially on the list because it is good to remember a day before CG monsters and CG blood took over the genre, as well as its unique feel and vibe. This is one of my most watched movies, period, and definitely one of my most watched horror movies.
Horror-comedies (hormedies?) have been around for a bit, the most notable early examples being the Abott & Costello matchups with Universal's team, though arguably The Mummy's Hand played with the genre a few years earlier. A lot of the Hammer studio horror movies had one or two comedic relief scenes, and the horror movies of the 1970s and early 1980s with their increasingly campy plots and delivery were intended to be somewhat funny; but for me, this is the movie that best formulated the concept of the genre (maybe some care should be had between comedy with horror parts, like Ghost Busters and horror with comedic parts, like Night of the Comet). One group of idiots lets loose the plague, another group of idiots becomes the first victims. This usually painful plot device is handled in such a way by Dan O'Bannon as to be awesome (though maybe still groan worthy), and then the fun really starts. Zombies can now run fast, talk, use tools, and live past a head wound. Burning them just spreads the infection. Crazy references to punk culture, military secrets, and homegrown Americana mix in with a plot that brought us the "braiiinnnns" stereotype for zombies (most non-zombie fans don't seem to realize that zombies do not eat brains, that was created for this movie as a gag). The scene with "Send more cops" is frankly one of the top ten scenes from the zombie genre, no joke, and Clu Gulager is also awesome.
Speaking of zombies, how could we leave out the non-zombie zombie movie? A virus that creates intense rage, a hyperrabies of sorts, wipes out London (and beyond) in 28 days. A young man wakes up from a coma, finds the place deserted, and survivors few. The killers are still on the lose, roaming in raging packs and seeking to kill others. What starts as a basic survivor horror, though, becomes a contemplation of the nature of anger and starts to preach a little (I would argue never so much as to be intolerable). "It's just people killing people, the same as always." Well-shot, and Cillian Murphy leads a cast that nail their roles (as far as a horror movie goes, this one is top-notch in the acting department, being one of the best cast movies in history). The ending was something like the third or fourth choice for the writer and director, but I think it ties the whole thing with a hint of hope for a better tomorrow (with possible nods to Lord of the Flies).
This movie is a testament to the sentiment mentioned above, that good horror does not require CG, and may even be hurt by it. It is also paranoid as heck. An alien form is found in the ice by an Anartic team (is anartic a word? Anartican?). They soon learn that it spreads like a virus, killing the original and taking its place. Distrust and paranoia increase in a group already tired of isolation and prone to outbursts, and the unsurvivability of the world outside of their camp means they are trapped. Not only does it offer several famous scenes of the creature changing and/or attacking, but has one of the best "up in the air" endings ever. Rather than feel cheated by the ambiguity, you will realize how essential it is to the plot.
I include this one as my personal favorite from the sub-genre I call gorepunk (or gonzo gore) and most others tend to call spatterpunk or cyberpunk or splatter gore or really gross or hyper-gore or whatever. A bit over the top on the fake blood packets, let's just say. I put this out there because its storyline is strangely compelling (even if it only takes up maybe fifteen or twenty minutes of the whole thing, tops), the necroborgs are like badguys from some PowerRangers Go to Hell series, and the ending leaves a awesomely bad taste in your mouth. Never quite realistically gory, never quite sexual, never quite emotional, it somehow triggers responses as if it were all three. Man.
One of the movies it pained me the most to leave off of the other list, this is one of the best examples of Spanish horror. Reporter and firecrew are trapped inside of a building after answering a call (the reporter was covering the late night fire fighters). They find themselves the subjects of quarantine. Inside the building, the situation is not much better, with something causing more and more to attack others in a violent, uncontrollable manner. Somewhere between zombies and 28 Days Later's rage-creatures, the [REC] creatures are made all the worse because there is nowhere for the victims to run. Then, when the few remaining survivors are at the end of their rope, the ending changes gears just slightly, and it downshifts to a very tense couple of moments as they realize something even worse may be in the building. Shot in 'handcam' mode (this time it makes sense, though) so that you feel especially close to the action. One of the few movies where I recommend the American remake (Quarantine) as much as I recommend the original.
What if werewolves were metaphor for a most wonderful change in the female body? That's the point of this movie, but it works much better than it sounds. A young, goth hotty (Ginger) gets bitten by a werewolf and her younger, not quite as hot but smarter, sister (Bridgette) has to find a way to save her. Teenage drama erupts in the midst of it all with older men, horny guys, parental fights, bully issues, school troubles and drugs woven right into the horror plot. Works both as a horror movie and as a movie about two sisters who really need time apart (the younger sister has been "absorbed" by the older one, more or less) but still love one another even if they don't stop and put it into words. Kind of a coming of age movie, but more of a learning to be yourself while your sister becomes a man-eating beast movie.
Another horror comedy that is possibly my second personal fave of the sub-genre (Shaun of the Dead is my favorite, but I think Slither embodies horror just a little bit more, while SotD is a little more clever and a little more meta-horror). A small town is infested by things that take over your brain. It is pretty much a copycat movie of Night of the Creeps and Shivers but I think it works on its own, partially because Nathan Fillion does what he does best: a mildly smart ass but sympathetic character fighting for his town and the woman he loves. Some great one-liners, funny scenes, generally believable action (at the end, it goes a little hokey), and as much lovable Nathan Fillion as you can want. Also, deer verus cop was awesome. Also, the speech about how marriage is a sacred bond, Starla, is awesome. Also, as a friend pointed out, you can see the girl's nipple(s) in the bath scene.
Did not include this one in the last one because of it being on the vampire list, but let me get one thing straight, it's an awesome horror movie in general with a very effective final handful of scenes. Of course, you possibly already know this, because every list like this one includes this movie. I imagine it's the most praised horror movie since, I don't know, maybe The Ring was getting everyone's attention.
I'll end this one with one of the greats composed by two of the greats: Stephen King and George Romero. This is an anthology horror that spawned Tales from the Darkside. Five stories (I think) ranging from vengeful zombies (two of these stories, but Romero did direct) to killer critters brought back by explorers to insects to a meterorite that spreads a hyperweed. Tons of quotable lines—"We're already dead", "Meteor shit!", and "Where's my Father's Day cake?" to name three—and mostly effective stories (the father's day cake one may be the least effective, but unless you really like bugs, good luck with the roach one) combine around an honest homage to the old EC comic days. Well worth watching.
Since I don't want to write a "ten MORE horror movies..." list, I figure I will take a moment to point out a few honorable mentions, maybe movies that are even less easily recommendable, or movies that I like but not moreso than the ones on this list. Clive Barker was overlooked by the list, but his Hellraiser (the first one, mainly) and his Candyman (first and second) series are both worth taking a gander at. There are many more movies in the horror comedy genre that I skipped over, but three are especially worth mention: The Toxic Avenger, Gremlins (the first one is more effective than people realize, and the creature is interesting), and Re-animator. There are plenty of zombie movies not mentioned, some will show up on my "best bad movies" list, but almost all of the Romero movies are worth a look-see and Zombi 2 is a good movie, but a bit rough for most people. The gonzo horror genre (aka gorepunk) also includes Bad Taste and Dead Alive and the Japanese set include Tetsuo and Tokyo Gore Police. I only recommend these if you can put up with over the top violence. Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy is missing, but definitely worth watching (being, as it were, a horror movie, a horror comedy, and a adventure horror comedy, respectively). Bubba Ho-Tep and Tremors are not talked about anywhere, but I thumbs up them. I have seen Shaun of the Dead a crap number of times, and as I mention, it is my favorite horror comedy, but part of me doesn't feel right putting it on the same list as things like Creepshow, maybe that's just me.
Finally, a lot of people are huge fans of Exorcist and Poultergeist. The only reason these did not make the list is because it has been too long since I have seen them. I only vaguely remember them.
Si Vales, Valeo
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Written by Doug Bolden
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