Top 100 Horror Flicks #40-31

#40 – WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979)

When A Stranger Calls

Directed by Fred Walton
Genre:  Slasher
Last Year’s Rank:  42
Rating:  3 stars
Remake:  When A Stranger Calls (2006, D: S. West, 2 stars)

Review:  I first saw this movie on tv when I was around 10 years old and it scared the shit out of me.  When I caught it a few years back on HBO, I was expecting a cheese fest that would embarrass me for ever thinking it was scary.  I was wrong.  It holds up pretty well.  The remake is okay for PG-13 horror, but nowhere near as scary as the original.  I guess in the age of cell phones and caller i.d., it’s tough to pull off the evil crank caller movie.

#39 – GRINDHOUSE (2007)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)
Genre:  Zombie/Maniac
Last Year’s Rank: NEW
Rating:  4.5 stars

This sort of bombed at the box office, but for the few who actually bothered to go see it in the theater it was a great, unique experience.  The trailers they insert between the features are great.  The look and feel of the films is just what you’d hope for and expect.  And the movies themselves are pretty good.  Rodriguez’sPlanet Terror is a “70s” zombie flick with over-the-top gore and a top-of-her-game Rose McGowan.  Tarantino’s Death Proof is Kurt Russell at his best with some of the most jaw-dropping CGI-less stunts I’ve seen in a long time.

#38 – AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

Directed by John Landis
Genre:  Werewolf
Last Year’s Rank:  35
Rating:  4 stars
Sequel:  An American Werewolf In Paris (1997, D: A. Waller)

The original is arguably the best werewolf movie ever made.  It’s got everything that makes a horror movie entertaining.  Scares, suspense, nudity, comedy, talking corpses, great special effects, a sympathetic leading man, and a kick ass director.  It might seem slightly dated today (the effects anyway), but it’s so much better than CGI.  The plot is pretty standard, but done well.  Two American friends are backpacking through Europe when a wolf attacks them.  One friend is killed and the other is badly wounded.  As the night of the full moon approaches, the dead friend appears to the wounded friend begging him to kill himself so that the dead friend’s soul can be free and no one else need be cursed.  The remainder of the movie plays out the only way it can as the curse of the werewolf claims more and more victims.

#37 – JEEPERS CREEPERS (2001)

Directed by Victor Salva
Genre:  Mutant Bug
Last Year’s Rank:  34
Rating:  3.5 stars
Sequel:  Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003, D: V. Salva, 2.5 stars)

I guess this is a mutant bug movie.  I’m not exactly sure what the Creeper is.  He’s scary, though.  You might be fooled at first into thinking that this is another Mutant Human movie.  All the obvious signs are there.  Rural location.  Creepy old house.  Rusty old truck.  Cellar full of corpses.  But something more is going on here.  Once every 23 years the Creeper gets to eat.  And while Whoppers are really good, they’re not on the Creeper’s menu.  The sequel takes place later the same night that the original takes place (to get past the “every 23 years” stipulation) and it was more of a so-so movie for me.  The original really focused on the protagonists (a brother and sister) and their deepening dread and horror as they slowly uncover what the Creeper really is.  The sequel was more your typical Dead Teenager movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

#36 – DEAD RINGERS

Directed by David Cronenberg
Genre:  Psycho
Last Year’s Rank: NEW
Rating:  5 stars

A very creepy film from David Cronenberg.  The gore is sparse, but the ick factor is taken to the limits with a story of twin gynocologists who really enjoy what they do.  When a woman with a unique biological part shows up, a twisted love triangle combines with some interesting new gynocological instruments to create some of the most squirm-inducing moments to grace the screen.

#35 – THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

Directed by Wes Craven
Genre:  Mutant Human
Last Year’s Rank:  31
Rating:  3 stars
Sequel:  The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985, D: W. Craven)
Remake:  The Hills Have Eyes (2006, D: A. Aja, 3.5 stars)
The Hills Have Eyes II (2007, D: M. Weisz)

Review:  I gotta confess that the last time I saw the original was when I was probably 14 or 15 years old and I wasn’t too impressed.  I never did see the sequel.  But I looked forward to the remake with much anticipation.  Why?  It’s the second movie from the director of instant horror classic High Tension.  Does it live up to my expectations?  Yes and no.  There’s definitely some brutal scenes.  Just absolutely barbaric.  The scares and suspense are almost suffocating.  But it left me a little hollow.  I didn’t really like the characters and, I don’t know, maybe the whole Mutant Human genre is just wearing a little thin.  Still, if you like horror, this is well worth checking out.

#34 – I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997)

Directed by Jim Gillespie
Genre:  Slasher
Last Year’s Rank:  28
Rating:  3 stars
Sequels:  I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998, D: D. Cannon, 2 stars)
I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006, D: S. White, 1 star)

Even though this film co-stars Freddie Prinz Jr., it still deserves high ranking on this list.  It has genuine scares, a good visual design for the killer, and a better-than-average screenplay by Scream writer Kevin Williamson.  The sequels aren’t worth checking out, especially the last-gasp direct-to-dvd third entry.

#33 – THE OMEN (1976)

Directed by Richard Donner
Genre:  Devil
Last Year’s Rank:  22
Rating:  4 stars
Sequels:  Damien:  Omen II (1978, D: D. Taylor, 2 stars)
The Omen III:  The Final Conflict (1981, D: Graham Baker, 2 stars)
Omen IV:  The Awakening (1991, D: J. Montesi)
Remake:  The Omen (2006, D: J. Moore, 3 stars)

In an obvious attempt to cash in on the worldwide phenomenon of The Exorcist, devil movies started being grinding out by the studios.  In The Omen, the devil isn’t taking over a child.  This time, the devil IS a child.  Expertly constructed by Donner, the tension of the film builds and builds as Thorn (played by Gregory Peck) refuses to see the screaming warnings that there is something horribly wrong with his “son”, Damien.  By the end of the movie, Thorn is driven to the unthinkable, but the prophecy of the Beast has been written and nobody can stop Damien’s terrifying destiny from being fulfilled.  The sequels are entertaining, if not particularly good.  The remake isn’t bad, featuring some good scares and gore effects.  But the leads are miscast and the screenplay doesn’t have the texture of the original.  Still, it makes for a creepy night in front of the tv.

#32 – MAY (2002)

Directed by Lucky McKee
Genre:  Doll, Psycho
Last Year’s Rank: NEW
Rating:  5 stars

Wow.  You know there are some good movies ahead when this is stuck at #33.  This is a great movie, with a really great performance from Angelia Bettis.  It’s funny, scary, dark, weird, and sad.  I really can’t recommend this highly enough.  The story centers around a, uh, weird girl with a lazy eye (whose only friend is a fucked up porcelain doll), the lesbian who has a crush on her, and the clueless mechanic that May loves. When the doll gets broken, May needs a new friend.  Really the only thing keeping this from being in the top ten is that it’s not all that scary, though there are some definite horror moments. Shit, I can’t do this justice.  Just see it.

#31 – ODISHON (AUDITION) (1999)

Directed by Takashi Miike
Genre:  Psycho
Last Year’s Rank:  34

Rating:  5 stars

There really isn’t a lot I can say about this film without giving away a lot of what makes it so great.  I’ll just say, “Kiri, kiri, kiri,” and give those of you that have dared to watch it a knowing wink.  This is a must see for not only one of the biggest shocking twists in any movie you’ll ever see, but for a richness of character development that you just don’t normally see in horror movies.  This is a special film.

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