Top 100 Horror Flicks #20-11

#20 – JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)

Directed by John Carpenter
Genre:  Alien
Last Year’s Rank:  24
Rating:  5 stars
Original:  The Thing (1951, D: C. Nymby)

In a remote Antarctic research station, something from another world has infiltrated the small group of researchers and it has the ability to assume any shape.  As the researchers are picked off one by one, they race to figure out who – and what – the killer is.  A masterpiece of isolation horror from one of the genre’s best at the top of his game.  You’ll want to watch this one over and over again.

#19 – Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Directed by George A. Romero
Genre:  Zombie
Last Year’s Rank:  23
Rating:  5 stars
Sequels:  Dawn Of The Dead (1978, D: G. Romero, 3 stars)
Day Of The Dead (1985, D: G. Romero, 3 stars)
Land Of The Dead (2005, D: G. Romero, 3.5 stars)
Diary Of The Dead (2007, D: G. Romero)
Remake:  Night Of The Living Dead (1990, D: T. Savini, 3.5 stars)

There’s really not much I can say about this movie that hasn’t been said a thousand times.  There’s a reason Romero is the godfather of the zombie genre.  He literally created the genre and established the rules.  And the films are actually scary, too.  Especially the original.  The hopelessness of the film’s protagonists in a world gone completely insane is made all the more terrifying with the final realization that the real evil in the world isn’t something as ridiculous as the walking dead — it’s us.

#18 – HELLRAISER (1987)

Directed by Clive Barker
Genre:  Devil, Mind Fuck
Last Year’s Rank:  19
Rating:  5 stars
Sequels:  Hellbound:  Hellraiser II (1988, D: T. Randel, 4 stars)
Hellraiser III:  Hell On Earth (1992, D: A. Hickox, 2 stars)
Hellraiser IV:  Bloodline (1996, D: K. Yagher, 3 stars)
Hellraiser V:  Inferno (2000, D: S. Derrickson, 3 stars)
Hellraiser VI:  Hellseeker (2002, D: R. Bota, 3.5 stars)
Hellraiser VII:  Deader (2005, D: R. Bota, 2.5 stars)
Hellraiser VIII:  Hellworld (2005, D: R. Bota, 2 stars)

I think I’m the only person in the entire world that has seen all eight Hellraiser movies (including the last four direct-to-dvd entries).  Here’s the thing:  they’re not bad.  They are by far the best direct-to-dvd movies I’ve ever seen.  Which isn’t saying a whole lot, but it’s something.  The original is a classic of the genre, with the introduction of Pinhead and his Cenobites.  The Cenobites are necessarily evil like Freddie or Jason or Michael.  They’re more forces of nature, summoned by desire.  They’ll show you pleasure beyond your wildest imagination, but the price for that is pain beyond comprehension.  This is an intelligent series with notorious (for its time) gore. Some people think II was better than I (not me) and III is almost universally despised.  The pick of the direct-to-dvd litter is probably the fifth entry, which is a serious trip.

#17 – THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez
Genre:  Witch
Last Year’s Rank:  18
Rating:  3.5 stars
Sequel:  Book Of Shadows:  Blair Witch 2 (2000, D: J. Berlinger, 4 stars)

There’s very little middle ground in most people’s reaction to The Blair Witch Project.  They either think it’s an amateurish mess with no scares, bad acting, and nausea-inducing camera work or they think it’s a minimalist horror classic.  Obviously, I fall into the latter category.  The film captures the sense that these three people are lost in the woods, and that’s frightening enough, but throw in a witch with a penchant for making her victims stand in a corner, waiting their turn while she dispatches others, and you’ve got a nightmare captured on celluloid.  What it all comes down to for me is that final shot.  One of the best and outright scariest final shots in horror cinema history.  People were divided on the sequel as well, but I thought it was actually a better movie than the original.  Maybe not quite as scary, but it had a solid story that builds on the legend laid out in the first film, and takes it one step farther.

#16 – THE FOG (1980)

Directed by John Carpenter
Genre:  Ghost
Last Year’s Rank:  17
Rating:  5 stars
Remake:  The Fog (2005, D: R. Wainwright, 1.5 stars)

John Carpenter makes his fourth, but not final, appearance with this crazy scary ghost story that features pirates, lepers, a lighthouse, a drunk priest, ghosts, scary music, and, of course, fog.  Carpenter sets up a classic ghost story in the first half hour and then pays it off for the remainder of the film’s running time.  While not particularly gory, there are a lot of scares, enhanced by another creepy Carpenter soundtrack.  The remake starts off good, but just derails entirely in the last act, leaving more a sense of confusion and outrage than horror.  Skip it and rent the original.  It still holds up today, hairstyles aside.

#15 – THE SHINING (1980)

The Shining

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Genre:  Ghost
Last Year’s Rank:  16
Rating: 5 stars
Remake:  The Shining (2005, D: M. Garris, 3.5 stars)

I’ve seen this movie maybe a half dozen times, have read the book at least once, and seen the remake once or twice.  And, honestly, I never really understood why people went so crazy about it.  That is, until the last time I happened to catch it on tv.  Suddenly, it just sort of clicked with me and I got scared.  Like most of the really good Stephen King stories, the premise is deceptively simple:  an already somewhat unbalanced man and his family become caretakers of a haunted hotel.  It’s the slow build-up that gets us and Kubrik’s ability to draw us into the story and identify with Nicholson’s Jack Torrence.  We’re rooting for him to find someway to escape his fate, knowing full well that he can’t until we’re forced to acknowledge the story’s unhappy ending and switch our allegiances at the last minute.  The tv-movie remake isn’t bad at all.  Everybody does a good job with the material and it hits notes that Kubrik’s version doesn’t.  But Kubrik’s is just a lot scarier.  It’s psychologically traumatizing as we realize that, like Torrence, the only thing keeping our sanity in check in some instances is the thin veil of society and once that’s stripped away, we’re capable of anything.

#14 – THE RING (2002)

Directed by Gore Verbinski
Genre:  Ghost
Last Year’s Rank:  15
Rating:  4.5 stars
Sequel:  The Ring 2 (2005, D: H. Nakata, 1.5 stars)
Original:  Ringu (1998, D. H. Nakata, 3.5 stars)
Ringu 2 (1999, D: H. Nakata, 2.5 stars)
Ringu 0 (2000, D: N. Tsuruta)

I was having a conversation with a friend about this list the other day.  He was saying that almost all the movies in #s30-21 would be in his top 20 and I commented that, if pressed, I could make an argument for any of these top 40 movies to be in the #1 position.  There’s just a lot of really good horror films out there, and I’d guess that every one of these movies is at least somebody’s favorite.  Which, sort of, brings us to The Ring.  This is one of my favorite horror movies and probably deserves a higher ranking, but I just couldn’t fit it in anywhere higher.  I first heard about The Ring maybe six months before it was released.  I knew it was based on a Japanese horror movie, but didn’t have all that much interest in hunting down the original release.  That changed after I caught an advance screening of this remake.  I was blown away.  I’d never seen anything like it and I kind of figured out that maybe the Japanese were onto something with their horror films.  I hunted down Ringu and Ringu 2.  I know a lot of people claim that Ringu is a lot scarier than The Ring, but I’m not one of those people.  The American sequel is abysmal, but it’s worth a look for the deer scene alone.

#13 – CANDYMAN (1992)

Directed by Bernard Rose
Genre:  Slasher
Last Year’s Rank:  14
Rating:  5 stars
Sequels:  Candyman:  Farewell To The Flesh (1995, D: B. Condon, 3 stars)
Candyman:  Day Of The Dead (1999, D: T. Meyer, 2 stars)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big Clive Barker fan.  I just eat up his films, comics, and especially his books.  I read “The Forbidden” (the short story the film is based on) years before and thought it was one of Barker’s better entries in his Books Of Blood.  But Rose really brought the story to life and setting it in Chicago’s Cabrini Green was a masterstroke.  There’s the real sense that it’s almost a different plane of reality, where the words “Be my victim” are more seductive than threatening.  Candyman himself isn’t your typical movie monster.  His origin story is unique in all of horror, that I can think of.  His tale is tragic.  He’s not killing out a particular menace or insanity.  He’s killing to immortalize his victims.  Their deaths put their names (and Candyman’s) on the lips of the denizens of the projects and that notoriety gives them life beyond the grave.  I can’t recommend this film more.  The sequels are adequate, but nothing particularly special.

#12 – SCREAM (1996)

Scream

Directed by Wes Craven
Genre:  Slasher
Last Year’s Rank:  13
Rating:  4 stars
Sequels:  Scream 2 (1997, D: W. Craven, 3.5 stars)
Scream 3 (2000, D: W. Craven, 1.5 stars)

The Scream trilogy is somewhat over-rated, but there’s one big reason why it ranks so highly on this list:  the first 15 minutes of the first film is some of the scariest stuff ever put on the screen.  It starts out playful, building in menace and voracity until the final gut-wrenching moments when Cassie (played to perfection by Drew Barrymore) is violently murdered mere feet from safety.  As the film continues, you get the impression that you’re not just watching a slasher movie; you’re watching a movie about how the conventions of a slasher movie would play in the real world.  And you can tell Wes Craven is having fun subverting the very rules that he helped create in A Nightmare On Elm Street.  And I can’t not mention that he and screenwriter Kevin Williamson have created a worthy successor to the movie maniacs of the 80s in Ghostface.  The second movie is still very scary and a little less self-referential.  A pretty solid thriller.  The third one is a complete misfire.

#11 – CARRIE (1976)

Directed by Brian De Palma
Genre:  Psychic
Last Year’s Rank:  12
Rating:  5 stars
Sequel:  Carrie:  The Rage (1999, D: K. Shea, 2 star)
Remake:  Carrie (2002, D: D. Carson)

Another Stephen King story that was made into a great theatrical movie early on that he recently went back and remade as a tv movie.  The original is a frightening story of teen angst, sexual awakening, and religious fanaticism.  DePalma uses all of his best cinematic tricks to bring the story of Carrie White to life, including his trademark split-screen and long tracking shots.  The film begins with an anointment in blood as Carrie gets her first period in the school shower.  That blood is mirrorred in the shocking end when, covered in pig’s blood, she takes her revenge on everyone that she thinks wronged her.  But the scariest scenes feature Piper Laurie as her mother, a religious zealot who wants to shelter Carrie from the wrongs she’s suffered at the hand of Carrie’s deadbeat dad.  The very end has been copied so many times it’s become a cliché, but it works to chilling effect here as we realize that the sole survivor’s horror is just beginning.  The sequel would have been better served by not trying to cash in on the “Carrie” name.  It’s not a bad movie, it’s just a not-very-good run-of-the-mill dead teenager movie.  I never saw the remake, but given Angela Bettis’ (who plays Carrie in the remake) haunting performance in May, I’m no longer as steadfastly opposed to seeing it as I used to be.

About BlackJack

BlackJack lives in Seattle. He enjoys crying children, old people, and drinking. In his spare time, BlackJack practices that one thing Tony Jaa does.

Posted on October 27, 2008, in Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 193 other followers

%d bloggers like this: