Monday, April 8, 2013

Revenge Is Sweet: An Exhaustive Countdown Of Messy Vengeance, Part One

Today feels like a great day for revenge. Revenge in horror films, that is. Or at least films wandering around the horror genre.

First things first. In a related side note, I have to say that most of the men that I know and/or associate with, both here online and in the “real world”, are awesome. I don’t have a complaint to sound and I don’t care which way the plumbing works. But we all know it’s not always that way.

We live in a world of deluded, disrespectful, sometimes even misogynistic men who occasionally seem to disregard all sense of decency and choose instead to objectify and demoralize women.

Well… you know what happens to those dudes in a horror movie? They die a fairly gruesome death. And oh yes, I clap my hands and give a rousing whoo-hoo! when that occurs.

That being said… I have to admit, sometimes women are equally as cruel, unforgiving, and psychotic as men, so I have to give everyone their due. There are a LOT of pissed off women on this list.

Horror seems to be the perfect fit for this type of film, and SO many horror movies are all about revenge in one way or another.  That makes it really hard to pare down a list of hundreds to fifty.

But on that note, I bring you my exhaustive top 50 personal favorite films of revenge and retribution, counting down to my number one. As hard as it is to place any kind of order with these films, I hope you'll just bear with me - my top ten are in part two, and those are pretty much the way I see it - but the rest, well they are all fairly equal.

Oh, and beware ‘ye spoilers!

50) Friday the 13th (1980) - It felt right to start on a good note, as this is one of my favorite horror flicks from way back. Vengeance is mine, saith the mother.  Pamela Voorhees had nothing but revenge on her mind when she saw they were opening Camp Crystal Lake again.  I mean, those damn counselors let her baby drown in the lake (which really does beg the question, where were YOU, mom?). So after them she goes, dispatching them one by one with various sharp implements. Everyone remembers that Jason is pissed off because they killed his mother, but we need to remember what started it all in the first place!

49) The Toxic Avenger (1984) - This Troma camp-classic pits scrawny Melvin against four dolts who tease him relentlessly.  One day during a prank the four set up, Melvin falls into a vat of toxic waste that proceeds to burn and horribly disfigure him. Yet Toxie lives to exact his revenge by becoming a bizarre superhero of sorts, at the ready to fight crime and kill each of his tormentors with pluck and determination.  Strange film, but everyone should see this craziness once!

48) The Craft (1996) - I've written about The Craft before and got some backlash about it not being horror. Well to that I say, yeah...whatever.  When Nancy (Fairuza Balk) makes snakes crawl out of toilets to attack a friend, causes her pervy stepfather to have a fatal heart attack and causes teen heartthrob Chris (Skeet Ulrich) to fall out a second story window to his death because he shunned her, you realize this vengeful girl knows her stuff.

47) Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002) -Park Chan-wook is pretty much the South Korean master of revenge films, I do think.  In this ridiculously violent film, Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) is in search of a kidney for his sister, and after finding out he is not a viable donor, takes to the black market to exchange one of his own kidneys for one that will match his dying sibling's. Unfortunately, the deal he makes goes sour when after the operation, he awakes to find both the kidney and his money gone. Yeah, that'd piss me off too.  I think you can take it from here....

46) Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) - Chan-wook is at it again. In this installment, Lee Geum-ja  (Lee Young Ae) has served a long prison term for a murder of a young schoolboy that she did not commit - a murder she was forced to confess to so that the true murderer would not kill her newborn daughter. Needless to say, she's fairly amped up after her early release for good behavior.  And that's where the can of whoop-ass is opened up. In particular after Geum-ja discovers that the true killer has murdered many other children, and made movies of the deaths.

45)  Straw Dogs (1971) Sam Peckinpah's controversial film from the early seventies tells the tale of David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), a man who takes his beautiful wife Amy (Susan George) back to her quaint home town in rural England where he quickly finds out that the locals aren't too keen on him trying to fit in. Which is the question itself - does he even fit in?  Amy's former lover and his friends come on strong, and when they are hired to renovate part of the property, lines are crossed and Amy ends up raped. Things eventually escalate into a night of violence - one in which David shows the townsfolk just who IS in charge. Remade in 2011 with questionable results.

44) What Lies Beneath (2000) - It's a sad day when you have Harrison Ford in a film but cast him as a villain. A fine little supernatural film, What Lies Beneath tells the story of Clare Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer), a woman adjusting to a move into a beautiful house by a lake in Vermont. Sounds idyllic, to be sure. But soon it seems a ghost has set its sights on Clare, who thinks it is the murdered wife of the neighbor next door. As she tries to make contact with said entity, other things come into question - such as the sanctity of her marriage to Norman (Ford).  In reality, the ghost isn't after Clare, it's after revenge - or at the very least closure to its own murder.

43) House of Wax (1953) - Forget the remake, I'm talking the Vincent Price version here, of course!  Henry Jarrod (Price) is a museum-caliber sculptor who uses wax to portray people and animals. The museum where his displays are showcased is owned by a greedy business partner who has been asking the exhibits to be more dramatic - vulgar even- in order to increase ticket sales.  Jarrod refuses so the partner burns the museum down to gain the insurance monies. Jarrod, half-crazy and nearly perishing in the fire himself, takes his revenge by sealing his victims in hot wax for all eternity.

42) Cape Fear (1991) - I use the remake gladly when noting this film, as Scorsese really knows how to put a villain on the big screen.  Ex-con Max Cady (Robert DeNiro) has a big grudge against his previous lawyer Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) due to evidence that was not released during the trial and purportedly increased Cady's sentence in prison.  Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Cady and he tracks Bowden down and starts stalking him, showing up at his house, getting close to his wife and daughter, and finally has a big showdown on the family houseboat. This one really shouldn't be missed, if you haven't seen it yet.  Powerful.

41) Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) - I've already sang the praises of Rutger Hauer in this film, so if you want to you can check that out. Suffice it to say, any film with a title like that just has to be a revenge film, right?  A hobo checks into a random town that ends up being rife with violent crime due to a pair of brothers and their demented father, Drake.  So what is a hobo supposed to do?  Grab himself a shotgun and start dispersing of the filth that is ruining his new town!

40) The Burning (1981) - This early eighties slasher film doesn't really open any new doors as far as revenge films, but it is one of the only ones that has a supposed link to a true crime.  When teen campers play a prank on an unsuspecting caretaker, it goes horribly wrong, leaving "Cropsy" horrifically burned.  Years later he makes his presence known by attacking a new round of campers with his signature weapon of choice: gardening shears.

39) The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) Never has Rebecca DeMornay been more frightening than right here in this thriller. When a pregnant woman's husband is arrested for molesting several patients and he soon commits suicide, the woman not only loses all her assets but her unborn child as well.  She sets off to get revenge on the first patient who initially implicated her dead husband. She gets herself a suitable pseudonym, Peyton Flanders, and suavely weasels her way into the Bartell family home as a nanny.  And it all goes downhill from there.

38) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - The arrest of Freddie Kreuger years ago on child murdering charges didn't stick, allowing the madman to walk free. However, the parents of the murdered children weren't having that, so they burned the guy alive. Now Freddie stalks the children of those parents in their dreams, killing them with his finger-knives when they fall asleep.  Was a great concept in its time, and was a solid entry into the slasher sub-genre. Freddy was really scary when he started out, all pissed off and vengeful. Then he unfortunately got silly.  But that first film, revenge central!
 
37) The Fog (1980) - Another great revenge film, The Fog has a group of a seaside townies conspiring together to make sure a clipper ship heading for Antonio Bay doesn't make it any father than the rocks and a watery grave.  The seamen on board apparently wanted to set up a leper colony nearby and the citizens of the town weren't having that. So they coaxed the ship with false lights and made sure it hit the rocks and sank. The townsfolk then stole all the gold and treasure on board and established the town. Needless to say, when the 100 year anniversary came along, so did the ghostly crew of the Elizabeth Dane, seeking retribution.

36) Dead Silence (2007) - Is there anything more creepy than dolls and puppets?  Yep. Vengeful dolls and puppets. Mary Shaw was a famous ventriloquist, but when a child questions her ability and says he sees her mouth moving, that child eventually goes missing. Shaw was held accountable and the people of the town murdered her bu cutting out her tongue.  Coincidentally, those same villagers who killed Mary Shaw ended up dead with their own tongues cut out, some of them turned into living dolls.  Goddamned dolls, anyhow.

35) Urban Legend (1998) - An underrated film of its time, it was inventive with its kills and had a slick edgy feel to it. As each victim is offed according to an urban legend, it is up to our main protagonist Natalie (Alicia Witt) to discover the method to the killer's madness. Turns out, Natalie and a friend made the mistake of playing a joke (the gang-initiation headlights legend) on an unsuspecting young teen, causing him to have a fatal accident.  Now the girlfriend of said victim is killing everyone near and dear to Natalie in acts of revenge against her slain beau.

34) Happy Birthday to Me (1981) - Were we really ready to see Mary Ingalls as a murderer?  Anyway, with a crazy crazy ending that defies common sense, Happy Birthday still has great kills and a coherent plot (at least till they throw that kicker in at the end!).  Ginny is a pretty, popular girl at school, and is in fact a member of the Top Ten Club.  Her 18th birthday is rapidly approaching but there's a killer at large! Someone is pissed at the Top Ten club! Could it be Ginny? After all, Ginny is a little unstable and makes frequent visits to her dead mother's grave. On top of all this, we get a black-gloved killer! Giallo wannabe! Regardless, someone has revenge in their heart - and all will be revealed at the birthday party!

33) Scream (1996) - Scream really set the horror genre on fire back in '96 when it was released, ingniting a fire that was rapidly dying out.  It was witty and fun and killed off Drew Barrymore ( à la Psycho) in the first ten minutes. The revenge factor here comes from Sidney Prescott's mother being a bit of a tramp and sleeping around with half the town, including Billy Loomis's father - causing their marriage to implode and Billy to become a vengeful murderer.  He gets his pal Stu involved and it's havoc and death until the last reel.

32) I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) - While we're talking teen screams, we may as well bring up this gem from '97.  Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends accidentally hit a man on the road while they are driving recklessly on a ocean-side highway. Thinking the poor soul dead, they throw him in the water, hoping that a shark will make a nice meal of him and all will be forgotten.  But we know that is never how it works, and the fisherman comes a callin', hell-bent on getting his revenge on the stupid, beautiful teenagers that left him for dead.  Is that your hook or are you just glad to see me?

31) Inside ( À l'intérieur, 2007) - God this film is brutal. It's so difficult to watch, and the tension just keeps rising throughout the entire 82 minutes. Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is pregnant and recovering from a car accident that took the life of her husband.  Enter La Femme (Béatrice Dalle), a woman who, for unknown reasons, wants to take Sarah's unborn child. No, scratch that. She wants to cut the baby right out of her abdomen. And now. After a relentless evening of attacks, we finally realize why La Femme has revenge on the mind.  Nasty stuff.

30) Oldboy (2003) - The third film from Park Chan-wook on this list, but with good reason. This is the middle film in the so-called trilogy with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and the final Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Oh Dae-Suis is kidnapped on the evening of his daughter's birthday and is held in a prison for fifteen (yes, FIFTEEN) years with no explanation. Naturally, anyone confined to a cell for that long has got nothing but vengeance on the mind.  And he takes his revenge without question or guilt.

29) Terror Train (1980) - You know, people should know better than to play nasty pranks on others. Especially when there is the possibility that the person you're pranking is possibly a little (or a lot) unstable. After a group of college kids engage in a bit of tomfoolery by placing a corpse in bed with a nerdy geek named Kenny.  Kenny doesn't take the joke well and ends up in a mental hospital. Three years later the same group of pranksters board a train for a costume party.  And even though we have known it would happen all along, Kenny does end up on said train with a grudge and a great big knife.

28) The Ring (2001)  - To me, this version of Ringu is really good, which is the reason I am putting the Americanized Ring here.  Rachel Keller gets wrapped up in the mystery of her young niece's death after she apparently died after watching a doomed video tape. What she uncovers is a young girl who was feared by her adoptive parents and subsequently killed by her mother by way of a long fall into a deep well.  The young girl in question, Samara, has alternate plans rather than resting in peace. She wreaks vengeful havoc by somehow creating a tape of fearful and disturbing visuals that condemn whoever watches it to death after seven days. The exact amount of time it takes someone to die of starvation.

27) My Bloody Valentine (1981) - The town of Valentine Bluffs is sick of not celebrating Valentine's Day. Sick of it, I say!  They turn their back on the town legend of Harry Warden, who apparently was trapped in a mining accident twenty years ago.  Harry watched as his four co-workers died but he was rescued several days later, having resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. The bosses at the mine were too worried about getting to the Valentine's dance that they forgot to check the levels of methane gas, causing the explosion that trapped the miners. A year after Harry's rescue, he killed those bosses with a pick axe and vowed that the town had better not ever hold another dance, or there would be Harry Warden Hell to pay.  So what do they do?  Well they hold another party.  In the mine, no less.  Dumb asses.

26) The Crow (1994)  - Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his girlfriend Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are randomly attacked and left for dead. Somehow, Shelly survives only to suffer for longer than thirty hours before her death. Upon the beckoning of a single crow, Eric raises from the grave (because you can do that in movies) and avenges his and his girlfriend's death by going after the thugs that murdered them. Best part of this scenario?  He has a crow guiding his vengeful acts. Only in the movies, folks.

                                STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO, COMING SOON!!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The Ring" came out in 2002, not 2001.

Christine Hadden said...

Gee, anonymous, so glad all you took away from this article was a clerical error. Meh.

James Gracey said...

Great list Christine! It has helped pass half an hour while I wait for system errors to be amended in work. Stupid work.
Some of my faves are present and correct - plus a few I really need to check out. Looking forward to part 2.

Christine Hadden said...

Thanks, James!
Very much agreed, work sucks.

But thanks for stopping by and hopefully it won't be forever till I get part two posted!! xo

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