Friday, October 31, 2008

1,440 Minutes of Screams, Thrills, and Gore!!

On behalf of John, whose schedule permitted him from posting this on his own:

I’ll come right out and say it – I’m not exactly what you would call a horror buff. Sure, I’ve seen a couple of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies, but I always had a hard time being entertained by those types of movies, simply because they lost their luster after, oh, the 4th sequel, perhaps? So when we decided to make this list, I decided to come up with a pack of movies that were either A) original or groundbreaking, or B) silly beyond all measure. So, these are some of the horror movies I prefer. Hope you get a kick out of them.

12:00AM - 1:25AM
The Evil Dead
Directed by Sam Raimi
85 mins

Because no list of quirky horror movies worth its salt can exclude an appearance by the legendary Bruce “Don’t call me Ash” Campbell, I figure I’ll kick the list off with the movie that made him (and Sam Raimi) cult icons. Admittedly, the comedy is better in Evil Dead 2 and especially Army of Darkness, but for an underground, relatively-low-budget film, it’s certainly entertaining. Looking back, some of the effects and make-up are kinda laughable, but at the time, it was seriously considered one of the most gruesome films ever made (hell, it’s still banned in Germany over 25 years later). Toss in some great tracking shots (which have now become a Raimi trademark), some very good special effects (the bleeding cabin scene, particularly), and you have a cult classic that’s more than worthy of kicking things off.

1:26AM - 3:23AM
Directed by Ridley Scott
117 mins

The quintessential sci-fi horror. There are so many things that make this movie stand out: Ridley Scott’s fantastic directing (big surprise there, huh?), a very good cast, special effects and animatronics that still hold up 30 years later, the sensible plot (well, except for using flamethrowers inside a spaceship), the now famous chest-bursting scene (sucks to be you, John Hurt), and of course, a young Sigourney Weaver prancing about in what can barely be call skivvies during the climactic final scene. Seriously, what’s not to love?

3:24AM - 5:02AM
An American Werewolf in London
Directed by John Landis
98 mins

Say this for John Landis – he knows how to make a movie entertaining. What could’ve been another The Howling (not that there’s anything wrong with that) had more than its fair share of jokes and subtle humor (I particularly like hearing “Bad Moon Rising” as David transforms). Again, the transformation effects and prosthetics were quite impressive for the time, and it was largely responsible for the Academy creating the Oscar for Best Make-up. Landis, of course, went on to direct the video for Thriller, which made 1983 Michael Jackson look like 2008 Michael Jackson. I’m telling you, John Landis knows horror.

5:03AM - 6:30AM
The Blair Witch Project
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
87 mins

This movie should be required viewing for any young filmmaker. It shows how an innovative concept and fine performances can turn a few thousand bucks into one of the most successful independent movies of all time. You never see the eponymous antagonist, which works in the filmmaker’s favor, because it enhances the viewer’s imagination and fear (plus, it’s cheaper). Also, by choosing to use hand-held camcorders, it made the film feel grittier and more realistic (in fact, it made a LOT of people think it was a real documentary). If you can make people suspend their disbelief and be outright chilled to the bone, you’ve done a hell of a job. I could do without the snot bubbles, though. Thanks.

6:31AM - 7:57AM
H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator
Directed by Stuart Gordon
86 mins

Another 80’s cult horror classic, updating a story from one of the all-time great horror writers. One of the first movies to portray the undead as aggressive and enraged (as opposed to lethargic and enraged), Gordon still finds opportunities to toss some slapstick humor into the mix, particularly when the villain romps around with his head cut off. Of course, the infamous scene where the girl is strapped to a medical table and receives oral sex from said villain’s detached head is certainly a bit awkward (and yes, you read that correctly). But since The Evil Dead also has a similar scene, I’m just gonna chalk it up to everyone being on some really heavy drugs back in the day. Nevertheless, I’d just skip past that scene if your parents are anywhere in the same area code.

7:58AM - 9:33AM
Directed by Ron Underwood
95 mins

Oh, what a great film. Between the graboids taking a chomp out of poor old Walter Chang (and about a dozen other people), the total demolition of a quiet little prairie town (complete with a ridiculously sweet explosion during the climax), and seeing Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre brandishing firearms like they were extras from a Rambo movie (Mr. Keaton? Really?), this is one of the coolest and silliest monster movies you’ll find. There’s no backstory for the monsters’ existence – they’re just there to be feared; and it’s always fun to just go with it and enjoy the ride.

9:34AM - 11:19AM
Dog Soldiers
Directed by Neil Marshall
105 mins

So, for those keeping count, that’s two werewolf movies set in England. This one does not get nearly as much press, which is a shame, because it’s a damn fun movie. A group of soldiers on a training mission get attacked by a band of werewolves and are forced to spend the night in a remote and poorly-fortified cabin. The jokes get flung about almost as much as the innards do. The make-up on the lycanthropes is pretty impressive, and the gore never looks cheesy or overdone (which is impressive, since, as I said, there is quite a lot of it). Even though the accents take a bit of getting used to, the dialogue is clever and well-written. Also, the sporadic massive explosions make for quite the entertaining show. A bloody good time! (Ugh, did I really just type that?)

11:20AM - 12:43PM
Black Sheep
Directed by Jonathan King
83 mins

How fitting that I transition from vicious wolves to vicious, um… sheep. In perhaps the most outlandish “Here’s what you get for messing with Mama Nature” horror film, a ginormous flock of sheep in New Zealand have been genetically altered to become whiter, fluffier, and thanks to a small side-effect, carnivorous. Yes, it sounds silly, and it is; but watching a bunch of sheep eviscerate people never seems to get old. The violence is surprisingly gruesome (especially the last victim… ouch), but the comedy is just as over-the-top. It’s a farcical, bloody romp that’s well worth a peek.

12:44PM - 2:17PM
Cabin Fever
Directed by Eli Roth
93 mins

I’m a little surprised myself that an Eli Roth movie made it on here (I hated Hostel), but his directorial debut is quite entertaining. Allegedly based on a real-life experience, Roth uses some great make-up and effects to show the ghastly effects of contaminants upon a group of horny teenagers (but really, is there any other kind?). Again, there are several moments of levity, but the real show is the gross-out horror that pays tribute to the 70’s classics (the rotting leg scene is always a crowd-pleaser). It also shows just how far people will go to ensure their own survival – a nice ethical drama. Oh, and it has the nastiest dog this side of Cujo in it. Yikes.

2:18PM - 4:11PM
28 Days Later...
Directed by Danny Boyle
113 mins

This is not your typical zombie movie, evidenced by the fact that Boyle refuses to use the Z-word when discussing this film. But it’s almost 3 horror films in one. The first is about isolation – waking up to an empty world, and finding that even your allies don’t care about you. The second is obviously the struggle to fight against the zo… oops, I mean, “the infected”. And even though the make-up isn’t intense, the acting is (although the blood-vomiting is pretty damn cool). But in a great twist, Boyle makes some of protagonists become monsters who are driven by their basest instincts, morals be damned. It’s a great way of telling what has often become a stagnant tale from a new perspective – how the psychological aspects of an infection are just as severe as the physical ones.

4:12PM - 5:44PM
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Directed by Scott Glosserman
92 mins

With all due respect to Lisa, this is the type of movie the writers of Scream should have made. Nathan Baesal is fantastic as Leslie, a slightly-deranged man with a dream of following in the footsteps of Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers by coordinating an executing a killing spree against a stereotypical group of teenagers. Having a documentary crew to film his training, he offers up some great tidbits about how serial killers think and act (I personally loved his reasoning for doing massive amounts of cardio). It does get a bit predictable at times, but the comedy and the satire of its own genre more than makes up for any weakness. Oh, and did I mention it has Robert Englund in it?!?

5:45PM - 7:18PM
The Tripper
Directed by David Arquette
93 mins

I know, I know. I have not gone totally bat-shit crazy; I am indeed recommending a movie brought to you by the former WCW World Champion David Arquette. But it’s such a strange film that I felt compelled to include it. A group of hippies attend a Burning Man-type festival in the California woods, where they get savagely butchered by an ax-wielding maniac dressed up as Ronald Reagan. It’s admittedly to bit hard to understand who could come up with a story like this (I’m sure acid helped), but it has quite a bit going for it. Thomas Jane and Paul Reubens steal pretty much all their scenes, the psychedelic trips are fun, and it has Jason Mewes romping around in a marijuana field (big stretch for him, I know). Plus, seeing Courteney Cox get attacked by a wild dog just makes me feel all warm and tingly inside. Maybe that’s just me.

7:19PM - 8:51PM
Directed by John Gulager
92 mins

Sweet! Back-to-back Jason Mewes (and he even plays himself this time)! The 2nd Project Greenlight winner is an absolute blast. A fun, diverse cast play their parts to perfection, notably Henry Rollins as a sub-par motivational speaker. And of course, the monsters are intense as hell – the attacks are quick and extremely bloody, which is more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. A bunch of tongue-in-cheek humor (for example, the life expectancy of each character in the movie) adds to what is already a great horror movie. If you haven’t seen it before, it is an absolute necessity this Halloween. And even if you have seen it, it’s well worth a second viewing. Probably the closest thing to a cult horror classic in the 21st century.

8:52PM - 10:19PM
Dead & Breakfast
Directed by Matthew Leutwyler
87 mins

This is a hokey little horror movie that hits a lot of good notes. Simple concept – a bunch of youths get lost in the boonies, stay at a bed & breakfast, and accidentally unlock a box that carries an evil spirit with causes the local townsfolk to turn into zombies. It’s nothing new, but it has a style that makes it work. The dialogue is pretty funny, the cameos from Diedrich Bader and David Carradine are certainly welcome, and the bloodshed is pretty well done for an indie. Also, I would be doing a disservice to the film if I didn’t mention the eclectic-yet-still-somewhat-country soundtrack provided by the great Zach Selwyn. If one of the songs doesn’t stick in your head by the time the movie ends, you might want to check your pulse. Not that that means anything on Halloween, but you get my point….

10:20PM - 12:00AM
Shaun of the Dead
Directed by Edgar Wright
100 mins

Was there ever any doubt? This is one of my favorite movies, period. It’s rare that a film that satirizes a genre is so appreciated by the pioneers of said genre. But when you have moments like Simon Pegg pointing out the features of a zombie, you can’t help but laugh. George Romero gave Pegg and Nick Frost roles as zombies in Land of the Dead – not sure you can get better approval than that. With a ton of references to other horror classics and British TV shows (Spaced reunion! Woot!), it never gets bogged down – in fact, it’s the original jokes that make the movie work so well. It’s absurdly funny, it’s sweet, and yes, it has violent killings. Is there any better way to complete a horror marathon than that?

1 comment:

Lisa Pas said...

No offense taken, John! I loved Leslie Vernon, too!

For a non-horror buff, you've put together a list I fully approved of!! ;) Great choices, save for that sheep movie...eesh. LOL