I wanted to take a moment and communicate. This isn’t my Top Five Horror Films list. I can’t do it. There are so many scary movies that I love and hold dear in the tiny, dark crevices of my soul. I just wanted to share a handful that I find special and are suitable for Netflixing. Here you go…
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Five years after director Tobe Hooper gave the Drive-In Generation the seminal masterpiece, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he delivered this vampire classic based on a novel by Stephen King. A master of the gruesome and macabre, Hooper did the unthinkable and gave us a fantastic horror film that was originally created for television, keeping the gore to a minimum and generating tense moments that forced the audience to use their imagination to fill in the bloodless blanks. Featuring a gothic and mysterious James Mason and a bland and soulless David Soul, Lot’s real fun is dispersed by cast members wearing the fangs. The main baddie, perfectly named Kurt Barlow, is a frightening figure that is an apparent homage to the original vampire, Count Orlock from the silent film Nosferatu (1922). Barlow is a haunting creature from your nightmares to be sure but the real devil’s work can be seen in nearly every frame of Salem’s Lot; the abomination that is David Soul’s hair.
Trick R’ Treat (2007)
This is a wonderful anthology movie that provides humor and horror in equal doses. Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, (writer credited with the scripts for X-Men 2 and Superman Returns) this film is good old-fashioned fun that doesn’t rely on loud sound effects and phony computer generated effects to get the job done. Boasts a solid cast (Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker…) who seems to have had as much fun making the film as you will have watching it. Best described as Old School, Trick r’ Treat plays like a souped up modern cousin to Creepshow with various stories and characters weaving in and out of each other. Features werewolves, vampires, zombie children and serial killers. Watching this film has become an annual custom in my household and Trick r’ Treat is the first Halloween classic since John Carpenter’s Halloween was released way back on Halloween in 1978.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
One word: Important. This is important cinematic cinema that bears the wonder fruit from the splat-shtick gods. Director Sam Raimi (all three Spiderman movies) slings this camera at Bruce Campbell’s head for the entire running time of the flick. Pressure spewed blood drips by the gallons from every frame of the film. Chainsaw wielding Ash is an archetypical hero. He gets the broads and slays the demons. He has the sugar. Hilarious. Classic. Must see. Why am I telling you this? You’ve seen it and agree. If you haven’t seen it, what are you doing? Go now!
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Polarizing film that is either viewed as a lo-fi work of genius that scares you to the core or a cheap piece of crap that features homemade footage of doors opening and closing by themselves. I find it highly effective and one of the most exhilarating and nerve-racking movie going experiences I’ve ever had. What is so fantastic about Paranormal Activity is that it has opened a new doorway in filmmaking. This is a film made by a couple of people in a house with a camera. It is that simple. Director Oren Peli has said that once he realized that all you need is an idea, and then you can make your movie. The initial production cost $11,000 and is a genuine achievement. The good, scary stuff happens in the bedroom. These are expertly staged throughout the film, showing a little more and turning the tension up as the story unfolds. This is where the magic of the film lies. The rest of the film left me waiting for the action to get back in the room where the scary stuff dwells. It’s in those bedroom scenes that the audience becomes so intensely focused on every noise and movement on the screen that it becomes almost unbearable. Watch it home alone in the dark and just wait for the knocks and noises to start after you turn the Blu-ray player off.
The Exorcist (1973)
The Citizen Kane of the Horror Genre. I vividly remember the first time I watched it. I was way too young and my mother set the film up with the definitive statement, “This really happened” then turned the living room lights off and my mind was molested and destroyed by visions of a tormented twelve year old girl doing terrible things with a crucifix. I constantly hear complaints about the pacing of the story but I think it is a fantastic example of 1970’s sensibilities, with a nice build up and the best final act ever. Director William Friedkin created a demented piece of art that feeds off our fears and beliefs.