Monday, June 3, 2013

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

It's been a while since the first part of this feature, and for that I apologize. (Life gets in the way sometimes, I'm sure all are aware of that and have the same issues sometimes!)

 But here is the second half of my list of favorite revenge films within (or around) the horror genre. 

Please do not take this as a definitive list. I reiterate that these are my favorites.

I'm sure there will be some films that are notably missing, and you're most welcome to post in the comments what your favorites are, whether they are found on this list or not.

So here we go with part two!  Enjoy!

 25) Theater of Blood (1973) - One of my first experiences with revenge films was watching Vincent Price in this 1973 chiller.  Price stars as a begrudged actor, Edward Lionheart, who after being ridiculed by critics and looked over for a prestigious acting award, sets forth to murder each of them in ghastly ways that in fact match the Shakespearean stories he so avidly admired. The ways in which Lionheart dispatches his victims (drowning in wine, electrocution, dragged behind a horse, decapitation, being forced to eat pet poodles, etc.) was pretty shocking for a young child such as myself, but I have always remembered the way I felt when I watched this film. Riveted!

24) Drag Me To Hell (2009) - From the mind of Sam Raimi comes a revenge film about Christine, a young woman (Alison Lohman) who denies an elderly gypsy (Lorna Raver) a loan at the bank she works at. The old woman needs an extension on her mortgage or she will lose her home. Christine, trying to impress her boss and get a promotion, declines the loan and all but throws the old lady out the bank doors. Word to the wise: Don't fuck with gypsies. All manner of hell breaks loose, with the title totally living up to its name.

23) Hard Candy (2005)  - When 14 y/o Hayley (a fabulous Ellen Page) decides to take it upon herself to flirt online with 30-ish Jeff (Patrick Wilson), she finally convinces him to meet with her. Thinking he's about to get lucky, they end up back at his place where she proceeds to knock him out with a drugged cocktail and tie him to a chair, where he wakes up and learns that she has known all along about his fixation on young girls.  She takes it upon herself to become his worst nightmare, a young vigilante who tortures him into admitting not only that he is a pedophile, but that he was involved in the death of a young girl in the neighborhood. Any man that watches this movie cannot help to cover his crotch and cry.

22) Sweeney Todd (2007) - You'd think a musical would be too happy to fit in a revenge category. Not so, however, with the case of Sweeney Todd.  While the 2007 feature film is not the first to tell the story, it stars my favorite actor, Johnny Depp - who plays the crazed barber with relish and wild abandon. Benjamin Barker was a happily married man with a young daughter when a wealthy judge went about framing him for murder so that he could step in and take his wife away.  Fifteen years later Barker returns from a long prison stint and exacts his bloody revenge on the judge (who now lusts after Barker's daughter!), with the help of Ms. Lovett -who makes meat pies out of murdered citizens! You gotta love it.

21) Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) - Even made-for-tv movies can pack a punch sometimes. This 1981 flick tells the story of Bubba, a good 'ol boy who is mentally challenged and totally harmless. When he befriends a young girl in his hometown and she goes missing (she is actually unconscious at a doctor's office after Bubba saves her from a brutal dog attack), Bubba is pegged as the guilty party without any kind of investigation. The unforgivable townsfolk form a lynch mob and set about finding Bubba.  Bubba's mother disguises him as a scarecrow, going as far as to hang him on a post in a field. The mob finds him anyway, torturing and murdering him. I think you know where the story goes from here.  Believe me, Bubba is sure to have the last word.

20}Prom Night (1980)  -When a pre-teen prank goes south and a young girl dies, the guilty parties try to cover up the crime. But someone has witnessed the deed and forges ahead with a revenge plot to make the now high school seniors pay for their deadly stunt. Jamie Lee Curtis stars in this 1980 slasher film, and her dance moves in the gymnasium at the titular dance are truly unsurpassed.  While the plot seems trite today by our standards, back then it was one of the classic slashers the early eighties were so populated with.  It's your standard revenge film, and truth be told doesn't hold up as well as say, The Burning, but it has its moments and I'm proud to say it's on my DVD shelf!

19} Audition (1999) - Oh hell. This consummate Takashi Miike movie is really an odd sort of revenge film, as the lead character of Asami is so psychologically fucked up that I'm not sure she even feels she is committing acts of vengeance.  It so happens that she has a penchant for torturing men that claim first to love her and then don't devote every waking moment to her happiness. Asami (Eihi Shiina) is so demented and obsessed that she can just sit by her phone for DAYS waiting for it to ring. When her latest conquest, Aoyama, does not return her calls immediately, she can't seem to move on. Worse yet, when she finds a photo of his deceased wife in his apartment, that is the final straw. She drugs him and proceeds to maim and torture him in what is one of the most famous (and ghastly) scenes of uncomfortable horror I've ever seen. 

18}The Grudge (2004) - This film is the epitome of revenge. It is said that when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse is born.  Which is precisely what happened here. You can either watch the original Japanese film (Ju-on) or the Americanized version, but either way it's a fine slice of vengeance. Housewife Kayako unfortunately falls in love with her young son's American teacher and obsesses about him manically in her diary. Which her husband finds. Uh-oh.  He murders Kayako and then his son, along with his pet cat. And everyone that enters the doomed house ends up dead. It's how they get that way that makes the film a really spooky tale.  Some may say there are too many jump-scares in the 2004 version I mention here, and I don't disagree. Nevertheless, the core of the film and the revenge that stirs the plot are a force to be reckoned with.

17} Irréversible (2002) - A brutal film – at times almost unwatchable, Irreversible has the unique distinction of being told in complete reverse order. Which means the revenge comes near the beginning of this one, and it’s only later that you see – or should I say experience?- the brutality that warrants it.
Suffice it to say that it is only well after a man gets his head bashed in with a fire extinguisher that the attacker understands that the victim wasn’t even the man who deserved it.

16} The Descent (2005) – I don’t think our ‘final girl’ Sarah could have possibly had it any worse. First her hubby and daughter are killed in a freak accident, then she goes on a caving expedition in which the system of subterranean caverns are not actually known or mapped. Next, the freaky nocturnal humanoid crawlers show up. After which she finds out the girl that lead them down there not only led them astray, but previously slept with Sarah’s husband. Later in the caves, Juno leaves their mutual friend to die a horrible death, one which Sarah prevents by giving her a quick but gut-wrenching demise. So it’s no surprise to feel elated when Sarah wounds Juno in the leg with a pickaxe (ouch!) and leaves her for the crawlers to catch, making her own escape.

15} The Loved Ones (2009) - Australian horror films are some of my favorites, and this one has got to be at the top of the bunch. From 2009 comes a film starring the beautiful Xavier Samuel as Brent, a young man whose father passed away in a car accident in which Brent was the driver.  Six months (and a whole lot of cutting and maryjane) later, Brent is set to attend his high school prom with his girlfriend. He politely declines an offer from Lola (Robin McLeavy), who is utterly (and dangerously I might add) fixated on him. She attacks him when he is alone, drugs him, and when he wakes he is tied to a chair in Lola's house. Her father has decorated the house for a "dance" and after Lola injects bleach into Brent's voice box so he cannot talk (or scream), the torture just kind of worsens as you go. This. Film. Is. Awesome.

14} Hostel (2005) – While this isn't truly a typical "revenge" film, sometimes just a scene or two of feel-good vengeance can make a whole movie. I can’t express my feeling of gratification when that Dutch businessman got his comeuppance in the train station bathroom at the end of the film. Matter of fact, I do believe the entire theater where I saw it exploded in applause. That dude was creepy from the using-his-hands-as-utensils (!) get-go.

13} Pumpkinhead (1988) - People, I absolutely LOVE Pumpkinhead. It's a great kick-back to the old 'scary monster in the woods' type of film, and it delivers in spades.  Plus, you get Lance Henriksen!! Who can top that?  Story goes like this: Ed Harley (Henriksen) owns a general store out in the lower-class country. He and his little boy Billy are happy as clams until a group of asshole twenty-somethings come a callin'. The biggest dick of the bunch ends up killing Billy in an accident with a dirt bike. Harley is beyond vengeful and finds himself looking up a local witch who can help him conjure a murderous creature, Pumpkinhead, who will wreak havoc and dispatch every last asshole in a truly horrifying manner. As you would expect, things go off course fairly quickly.

12} Hostel 2 (2007) – Roger Bart is a creep. Well, at least he played one on tv…and in movies. In the second Hostel flick, he’s a swarmy dude who followed his BFF to Slovakia to kill for a price – and for the thrill of it. Initially, his buddy Todd is the one who is all gung-ho to slaughter his little blonde victim. Instead, he chickens out and it is Stuart (Bart) who has the balls to do the dirty deed. Alas, but not for long. He soon loses a certain part of his anatomy to a spit-fire intended victim who gives him up to save her own life. Combination “most oogie/truly bad-ass” part? The dog.

11} Ghost Story (1981) - A great tale of revenge by Peter Straub was turned into a chilling film of the same name in which a superb leading performance by Alice Krige sets the film apart from others of its kind. In small-town Vermont, a foursome of men commit an unspeakable yet accidental murder and pay for the crime for decades to come. Eva Galli teased and flirted with the quartet of young college students until one night a horrible mishap ends in her death, but she didn't stay dead. Isn't that the way it always goes?

10} Martyrs (2008) - This is a film that has so much brutality and awful content it's almost tortuous to watch. But it needs to be seen, and its writer/director, Pascal Laugier, is to be commended for not flinching and for making this ridiculously compelling revenge piece. Basically, we have Lucie, a young girl who has survived unimaginable horrors after being held captive for an unspecified period of time. She escapes and is put in an orphanage where she befriends another girl, Anna. Fifteen years later Lucie believes she has discovered who her captors were and violently murders them in their home, then calling Anna to help her clean up the mess. To tell more would be a disservice to those who have yet to see this gritty and truly fascinating (yet undeniably brutal) film. All I can say is, if you have a weak stomach you may want to steer clear.

9} Misery (1990) – Just the fact that a cast iron pig was used as a weapon of death is enough, right? But after all her “oogie messes” and “cock-a-doodie” comments, it was such a feeling of joy when her eyes finally crossed and we said goodbye to the lovely Ms. Annie Wilkes.
Wonder who got the real pig in her will?

8} Carrie (1976)  - Oh yeah. Now that’s a way to get retribution!  Burn down the whole place with everybody in it.  Perhaps they’re all gonna laugh at you…but then again, I think the joke was on them in the end. Who doesn’t smile (even just a little) when they see those gym doors slam shut?
After the tampon-tossing, name-calling, and fake-friending those assholes were up to, they deserved the wrath of Telekinesis Girl! Sounds like a super hero. I like it.
And you know what else? I’m glad she killed the damn gym teacher. That Betty Buckley kind of creeps me out.

7} Last House on the Left (2009) – I picked this version of LHotL simply because though it was completely implausible (you can’t run a microwave with the door open!), it was unique- and I wanted that jackass to suffer. And it also made a statement by showing that men can be pissed off and get revenge as well. Vengeance is mine, saith the pissed off daddy. In the original film, the mother of one of the murdered girls bites off the penis of the killer. That kind of rocked as well, revenge-wise.

6} Fatal Attraction (1987) – One of my favorite moments in a film…ever. Just when you think Michael Douglas is down for the count, a gunshot rings out. The camera then pans to Anne Archer and the smoking evidence that she is not just a woman scorned, but a woman who stands by her man. Then back to Glenn Close, sliding down the wall and leaving that lovely red streak while she falls into a lump. Redemption then gratified the hell out of us.

5} The Woman in Black (1989) - This film version of this chilling story by Susan Hill is in my top five favorite films, any genre. Yes, it was just remade last year (starring Daniel Radcliffe), and while that was an acceptable offering from Hammer films, the original is just a far better spook-fest.  Arthur Kipps is a lawyer sent to a small village in rural England to close up the affairs of one Alice Drablow, who lives across the marsh in a remote old estate that is unreachable until low tide. As if the isolated location isn't eerie enough, the titular character (who first shows herself in a graveyard, standing in the distance) is downright chilling. She appears like a breath of evil and startles the viewer into submission every time. This film emotes a devastating and dreadful tone that lasts until the very last minute on screen. I just cannot recommend it enough, if you can find it. I've written about it several times here on the blog, so check it out.

4} I Saw The Devil (2010) - This is seriously my new favorite revenge film, ever. From the mind of Kim Ji-woon comes this brilliant South Korean gem about a man who will do anything to find the killer of his fiancé.  Joo-yun (Oh San-ha) is driving home in a snowstorm when she gets a flat tire. Unfortunately, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) is her would-be rescuer. He's a serial killer, and things do not end well for Joo-yun. When her fiancé  Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) finds out about her death, he becomes absolutely obsessed with finding, torturing, and eventually killing Kyung-chul. The best part is the fact that Joo-yun is a secret service agent, which proves to be a very unlucky turn of events for our murderer.  Graphically violent, beautifully shot, surprisingly emotional, and very well acted - I Saw The Devil is one of the best films I have seen in over a decade, at least.

3} Freaks (1932) - A year after Tod Browning gave us Dracula, he bestowed upon us a film so delightfully wicked that it was banned in the UK for decades and was quite the controversial piece. Taking place at a carnival setting, Browning used actual sideshow performers as his cast, giving the film an unsurpassed realism. A trapeze artist, Cleopatra, discovers Hans (one of the midget sideshow performers) has a hefty inheritance and so she seduces and marries him.  His fellow performers (all "freaks" themselves), take it upon themselves to determine Cleopatra's true colors after one of them overhears her plotting with the strong man (she's been sleeping with on the side) to kill Hans. What the group ends up doing to get their revenge for years of ridicule that have culminated in Hans' humiliation is the very best part of this wonderful old film. See it!

2}Ms. 45 (1981) - One of the best revenge films is one perhaps many haven't seen because it isn't strictly marketed as a horror film. It's an awesome movie starring Zoë Tamerlis Lund as Thana, a mute woman who is attacked and raped not once but twice in the same night - by two different assailants! While the possibility seems entirely unheard of, the film doesn't back down from hard-to-believe events one bit. After the second attack, Thana kills the perpetrator (with an iron, no less), keeps his gun (yep, a .45), but loses her sanity. She begins to get a feel for the vengeance, and starts killing off folks like it's free. If you haven't seen this one, may I recommend it wholeheartedly!

1} Day of the Woman/I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – How could this not be number one?  DotW is a hard-ass, suck-it-up-and-take-it kind of film. I saw it oh so long ago when I was waaaay to young to be exposed to something of its lurid and controversial content. The simple premise: a young beauty comes to a cabin in the woods to write a book and is tormented and later accosted and raped by a group of good 'ol boys.  But she doesn't just lie down and take it. Oh HELL no. A powerful statement of revenge, it made me feel all warm inside when Jennifer gives one of her attackers a nice bath…and proceeds to take her revenge, quite literally. Score!

Man, I feel better all the sudden....

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