Saturday, August 13, 2011

Horror Movie Recommendations: Part 1/3 (The Important movies.)

These are movies that I think everyone has to see. Most of these are on every best horror movie list, and I think maybe because they're so omnipresent and old, it's easy for people to ignore them. A lot of movies on those "best horror movie" lists are boring as hell. These might not be the best horror movies ever made, but they are an important part of what *I* love about horror, and I think the horror genre would be much lesser without them. A lot has been written about these movies already, so I will try to focus on how they affected me personally.



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1. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) This is one of my favourite films. I wrote an essay about it earlier this year, but here I will simply say that it is one of the most visually imaginative and creepy movies of the eighties. Despite the 80s cheese, it has some amazingly creepy scenes that still stick with me. A scene where there's a lamb braying in a hallway for no reason, with a wail like a baby. And a scene where a girl is in a clear body bag, opening and closing her mouth like a fish. This is a movie that takes nightmares seriously and understands what makes them scary.


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2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)  The original TCM is not a perfect movie by any means, but it is devastating. There's a briefness to the violence that makes me more sick to my stomach than any of the extended torture scenes in the remake could. Someone will be alive, walking, talking, and then BAM. He's not a person anymore. He's a convulsing, twitching piece of meat. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has other amazing parts too, the weird animal confusion and frustration of Leatherface when he first finds someone in his house for instance. But first and foremost this is a movie where the horror comes from realizing that you are just meat.

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3. The Exorcist  (1973) I didn't see the Exorcist until I was in my early twenties. I had seen parodies on the Simpsons and a dozen other places, and I didn't think I was missing much. This was a movie people had found frightening in the seventies. There was no way it could compare to modern horror movies, I thought. When I did see it, finally, it blew my mind. It seemed dangerous and over the line, and I honestly couldn't believe that a major studio had made the film. The acting is great and the special effects are mostly great too. But the defilement of the little girl in this movie is truly shocking. Her head twisting around is funny on the Simpsons, but visceral on the screen. And the Simpsons never once had anyone stabbing themselves bloody in the vagina with a crucifix and then smearing their own mother's face in the blood.

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4. The Others (2001) The Others is another movie I recently posted about. It is perfect in almost every way, and builds atmosphere and tension as much through character as through setting and circumstance. It is creepy as fuck, and has a twist at the end that not only makes perfect sense, but which only makes the movie more interesting and satisfying to watch. I watch this movie at least once a year. It is a haunted house movie that understands why haunted house movies are scary. And it understands that sadness can be so much more chilling than gore.


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5. Slither (2006) Slither is a strange, strange movie. I was tempted to save this for the next section of recommendations (Interesting, rather than Important) but Slither is important to me, if not necessarily to Horror as a genre. Slither is about an invasion of slug creatures that take over people's brains, and it does everything just a little bit differently. The characters are well developed and compelling, especially the first victim of the slugs - the main character's rich, controlling husband. He's painted as a jerk right away, but then the film undercuts this at almost every turn, showing us moments of caring and compassion. On characterization and hilarious dialogue alone, Slither would be one of my favourite horror movies, but it is also constantly one-upping itself with disgusting biological nonsense and some unsettlingly dark humour. It has a great B-Movie mentality about the creatures and the gore, especially when people start getting pregnant.


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6. The Evil Dead (1981)  Evil Dead was the first horror movie I ever LOVED. Right down to the weird sound design, I think this movie is great. It doesn't get as much respect as its sequel/sort-of-remake, Evil Dead II but I enjoy it much more. Evil Dead II is a comedy. It sets out to be campy right from the start, but the original Evil Dead is genuinely trying to be scary. It often fails and is often unintentionally hilarious (or, as with the tree rape scene, offensive) but there are some great scares in Evil Dead. The woman in the cellar, and the possessed friend who just sits there giggling are great. Because why wouldn't evil taunt and tease you before killing you? Why wouldn't it try to drive you mad?




Part 2 of this recommendation list will be "Interesting" movies, movies that aren't exactly successful, but which try something original or different and are definitely worth watching.

Part 3 of the recommendations will be "Fun" movies. Horror movies that are just great gory ridiculous fun. Maybe not so scary, but definitely awesome.

7 comments:

  1. I liked Slither and The Others when I saw 'em in the theater, but I haven't seen them since. Maybe I need to revisit them.

    Have you ever seen Night Of The Creeps? It was kind of like Slither before Slither, and it was also sorta postmodern before Scream. Fun '80s horror, definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it.

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  2. Glad to see the original Evil Dead get some love. I always felt like it was a much more effective horror film than it gets credit for being.

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  3. I couldn't agree more about your comment under TCM, that the real fear comes from realizing you are just meat. It's absolutely the case with gore, but it's funny how some movies confront you with that fact more than others. I find the German movie "Anatomy" to be another great example but coming from almost the opposite perspective. If you haven't seen it, the plot centers around people being carefully dissected to create real models of human muscle, veins, tendons, etc. Kind of like the "Bodies" exhibit. The campy quality of the movie makes it hard for some to take it seriously, but I find something so haunting about the idea of watching your own body slowly get taken apart piece by piece.

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  4. EVIL DEAD FTW! But I do agree with the others(except slither, but I havent gotten around to watching it yet, now I must). The only probalem I had with the original TCM was the scene with her at the tale screaming with the camera jumping. It was really anoying. But I have pretty uch all of these in my Blu-Ray collection(which I only really buy those if its a movie worthy of a "collection"). Although if I had to pick, I would probably say 28 Days is by far my favorite.

    @Spinner
    Totally adding that to my list of movies to watch. Gonna see if they have it on Netflix instant for later.

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  5. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is on my list of great films I will never ever watch again. It's almost impossible to explain why this movie is so deeply unsettling, but I think you did a great job.

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  6. I have always avoided horror movies, and wondered why the hell people would intentionally subject themselves to that kind of thing. I've been wondering more recently, as a result of a better understanding of enjoyment of things like endorphin rushes. And, perhaps, wanting to be more comfortable with the terrifying. So I'm thinking about trying one of these out. I had no problems with Jaws when I was very young, but was pretty traumatized by Alien when a little older but still young. I'm thinking about starting with Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    So:
    1) Why do people do this to themselves?
    2) Any recommendations for me to start with?

    I love a softer world, and came here via its RSS feed.

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  7. Really huge list..!! I like the most The Exorcist which is the best movie of all time, a true masterpiece, very impressive, spent more than 30 years and is still shocking to the public. A classic that never dies, and yet be overcome. Turn off lights, turn up the volume and get ready for the scariest experience ever.
    Openbox S10

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