Friday, October 28, 2005

It’s the Great Update, Charlie Brown!

I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday, hands-down. I have ALWAYS loved Halloween, although I’m not really sure why. Now, I am not one of those people who go totally Halloween “gaga” and decorate their home with spider webs and severed heads and the like, but I DO love the spirit of Halloween. I love the horror genre in general, and I think Halloween is the one time every year that I can express that, at least a little.

So this weekend, I will carve my pumpkin (a ritual I have been doing for the past 20 years), and when I’m done, I will select one of my favorite horror films and watch it late at night.
Since I need to pick which horror film I want to watch, and because I was somewhat inspired by B.E. Earl’s list, I thought I’d give some thought about my favorite horror movies of all time. The movies that scared me the most, or the ones that, to this day, still give me a case of the heebie-jeebies.

So, my top 7 Horror movies (I just couldn’t shave this group down to 5) of all time are….......

7. When a Stranger Calls – This movie gets to be on the list solely for the first chilling 15 minutes of the film. That opening scene scared the Hell out of everyone who has ever seen it. It’s just such a shame that the rest of the movie is such complete trash, because if that wasn’t the case, this movie would be rated higher. This movie had every teenager calling their baby-sitting friends in the middle of the night asking “Have you checked the children?”.

6. The Howling – I love a good werewolf movie, and between the cutting-edge-for-it’s-day special effects, good performances and tight story, this movie rates as one of the best werewolf flicks around. This whole movie gave me the creeps, from beginning to end. I watch it now, and admittedly it looks a bit dated, but it’s still a good horror yarn.

5. Demons – When this Italian horror movie was first shown in the states, in the summer of ‘86, I took my girlfriend at the time. Although still in high school, I was already on my way to being a horror junkie, and was excited to see this movie. Sadly, my girlfriend was NOT a horror junkie, or even close to one. Cut to 15 minutes into the movie when my girlfriend throws up all over the center aisle of the theatre, forcing us to leave and to me have just thrown 15 dollars down the toilet.

It was a few months later that I finally was able to rent this movie to see it in it’s entirety. The movie has flaws. ALOT of flaws. But Demons, and it’s sequel, Demons II, were just downright creepy, and they are always movies I don’t mind watching again and again.

4. Evil Dead – Sam Raimi’s first and best horror movie. This movie was completely unknown to anyone, least of all me, when I rented it in the summer of ’86. The violence, gore, and more importantly, the suspense where pretty much non-stop. The scene where the first unsuspecting girl to became a demon, floating in the air as she shouts out the suits of the playing cards in the other girl’s hand from across the room, made me shiver. I watched the movie 3 times that weekend, stunned at how brutal and unrelenting the tension was. Imagine my surprise when I got to college a few months later, and found that this movie was starting to develop a large cult following, an accolade that it still enjoys to this day. The 2 sequels have their charm, and their moments, but for me, they trade too many of the first movie’s scares for laughs, so they just don’t work for me. Certainly not enough to make it to this list.

3. He Knows You’re Alone (1980) – For most people, this movie is known simply as the answer to the Jeopardy question “What was Tom Hanks’ first movie?”. Whenever Mr. Gump is asked about this movie in interviews, he always knocks it, which is a shame. This movie was one of the first movies I remember seeing uncensored in the early days of cable, and it would always give me a fright. The killer in this movie, and unnamed weirdo with a mean staring problem, kills brides. Like many movies of this type, the killer only strikes when the victim is alone, separated from any others, but this movie put real menace and fright into me whenever someone was suddenly alone on screen. In the early days of cable, this movie was played incessantly, and I was always a contest of wills for the young little Me to see if I could sit through the whole movie before I had to put the light on. And the scene with the fish tank, while copied many times now in countless slasher movies, was quite twisted, and just brilliant for it's day.

2. Halloween - Were there actually ANY professional babysitters still working after this movie came out? I know Earl has already said his piece on it, and I agree whole-heartedly. John Carpenter did this slasher movie right. It makes you jump in the right places, and is cast and acted well enough when it needs to be. Poor Jamie Lee Curtis’ frantic flight from Michael Myers in the last 20 minutes of the movie is enough to make anyone pee themselves with fright the first time they see it. And the second, etc… . The sequels don’t come close, but some of them are actually watchable….

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978) – For me, this is the granddaddy of them all. I love werewolf movies, I love vampire movies, but nothing draws me in and scares the pants off of me like a good zombie movie. There have been so many, but none better than George Romero’s “Dead” 4-part epic; and the second one , Dawn of the Dead, is the best of the lot. I don’t know what it is about Romero’s zombies that chill me to the bone, but this movie has always done the trick. I have seen this movie at least a dozen times now, and If I watched it today, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would have a nightmare about it tonight. It’s just THAT good. Even the 2004 remake, which I was dreading when I heard of it's production, turned out to be a great movie in it's own right. Mr. Romero should be proud.

So that’s it, my friends. There is my “definitive” list on what I consider to be the BEST of the horror genre. If you find yourself this All Hallows Eve looking for a good scare, do yourself a solid and rent one of these, and watch it late at night with the lights off. You KNOW I will.

Happy Halloween all!

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