Another milestone – and it’s clear I need therapy…
Yes, contrary to belief, I do have a life (even though I keep a list of every horror I’ve ever seen). However, I’m on a quest to find those few good horrors in a sea of foul smelling waste that seems perpetual.
I indulged in the 1991 limited release feature DOLLY DEAREST. A doll becomes possessed by a 900-year-old demon and reeks havoc on an American family in Mexico. The movie starred Denise Crosby with not enough Rip Torn. Though far from scary, there was a decent moment or two, but young Chris Demetral stole the show. The worst part was the doll’s twisted and demonic face, which was clearly Chucky – with a bit of Regan from THE EXORCIST (1973) for good measure. For better “dolls alive” stories, I recommend the best of the best: DOLLS (1987) from Stuart Gordon of RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and FROM BEYOND (1986) fame. I watched it again after a twenty year break, and still find the movie enjoyable.
As a horror fan with 1,400 films behind me, I’ve watched a ton of garbage to find 80 great tales. And for the best of the best, I’ve given the following 4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars:
The War of the Worlds (1953)
Peeping Tom (UK, 1960)
The Pit and the Pendulum (1981)
The Haunting (UK/USA, 1963)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
The Legend of Hell House (UK, 1973)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia, 1975)
The Last Wave (Australia, 1977)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The Changeling (Canada, 1980)
The Shining (UK/USA, 1980)
Possession (UK, 1981)
The Thing (1982)
Videodrome (Canada, 1983)
Lair of the White Worm (UK, 1988)
Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Dust Devil (UK, 1992)
Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) (Italy, 1994)
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Cube (Canada, 1997)
The Devil’s Advocate (USA/Germany, 1997)
Office Killer (1997)
Perfect Blue (Japan, 1998)
eXistenZ (Canada/UK, 1999)
The Ninth Gate (France/Spain, 1999)
Ôdishon (Audition) (Japan, 1999)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Blood: The Last Vampire (Japan, 2000)
Ginger Snaps (Canada, 2000)
Bijita Q (Visitor Q) (Japan, 2001)
Earth vs The Spider (Television, 2001)
She Creature (Television, 2001)
Dog Soldiers (UK, 2002)
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
The Ring (Japan/USA, 2002)
A Tale of Two Sisters (Korea, 2003)
Gozu (Japan, 2003)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Love Object (2004)
Shutter (Thailand, 2004)
The Uninvited Guest (Spain, 2004)
Yogen (Premonition) (Japan, 2004)
Isolation (Ireland, 2005)
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Grimm Love (Germany, 2006)
Head Trauma (2006)
30 Days of Night (2007)
Blood Car (2007)
The Orphanage (Spain, 2007)
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008)
Martyrs (France/Canada, 2008)
Pontypool (Canada, 2008)
The Skeptic (2009)
Suck (Canada, 2009)
Triangle (UK, 2009)
Wyvern (Television, 2009)
Black Swan (2010)
Tucker and Dale vs Evil (USA/Canada, 2010)
I’m sure you’ll notice that many “classics” are missing, but I certainly have my reasons. And you’ll see more of that soon when I post my “Most Over-rated Horror Films of All-time”.
As for the ones I love, there is a common denominator: An intriguing story with compelling characters. That’s fairly simple, but it holds true. I’ve seen movies that look great but don’t hold up due to bad acting, clichés and weak stories, or others that had killer scares, but everything else fell apart. I can even forgive weak special effects if the narrative is decent enough.
Granted, the list does include some guilty pleasures. SyFy’s “Wyvern” for TV just wowed me for whatever reason (no, I wasn’t drinking). Feature-wise, I love WISHMASTER and can practically quote the entire movie.
But with a list like this, I’m usually asked the inevitable: What’s your top ten list? Hard to say, though Ridley Scott’s ALIEN would be number one due to story, characters and atmosphere. But I won’t go too heavy into why I love it so because I may just do what my friend and fellow scribe Randy Brzoska suggested: Post “Horror Classic” reviews. I’ll work on the first one soon enough.
Some quick recommendations:
For one of the most unique horrors of all time, with a truly intriguing story, check out PONTYPOOL. If you love ghost stories, THE CHANGELING should blow you away. For werewolves, DOG SOLDIERS and the quirky GINGER SNAPS. If you prefer off-beat character studies, enjoy MAY, LOVE OBJECT and EXCISION. A personal sub-genre favorite is the vampire, and though I’m sure you’ve seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, don’t overlook the dramatic tension of HABIT. For those who love disturbing cinema, you can’t pass up MARTYRS, DEADGIRL and GRACE. When it comes to riveting, dramatic features, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, THE ORPHANAGE and ROSEMARY’S BABY – who would be forty-four today, and on the cusp of taking over the world – are paramount.
Horror is not some second rate genre of escapism. These movies unsettle us and remind us that we have a heartbeat. They keep us on our toes and sharpen our minds. Whether they leave us screaming or laughing, it’s great to know that we can be transported to fantastical worlds beyond our own – or simply appreciate that the uncanny can leave us questioning the illusions of safety in our own homes.
Enjoy, indulge and may horror deliver that little jolt to remind you that you’re alive.