Saturday, August 11, 2018

Celebrating My 50th with 50 Favorites

 So in just a few days, I'm turning 50.  While it sounds monumental and scary, I'm really okay with it.  It's better than the alternative, right? It's also important to mention that this blog is now ten years old.  In March of this year, it turned a decade old and it's still going, despite going bursts of time with no updates. 
In correspondence of these two "historic" events, I've decided to do a little countdown, because everyone loves lists and because it's been many years since I've done a favorites list.  Back in October of 2011, I did a list of 31 favorite films, in which I essentially just did a review of each of those films to celebrate the Halloween season.  
I have noticed that while many of my favorites still made the cut this time, I have replaced several of them with other films I have grown to love. 

So without further ado, here are numbers 50 - 41.

50. The Resurrected (1991)

This adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story is directed by Dan O'Bannon and stars Chris Sarandon as as Charles Dexter Ward, a man dedicated to the science of bringing the dead back to life. While some of the acting is campy, the special effects are very good and the story compelling enough to look past the hokey parts.  Ward's wife (played by Jane Tibbett) hires a private investigator (John March) to look into Charles's unusual behavior.  Unusual is quite the understatement, as you'll find out. What's so great about The Resurrected is the mood it sets and the unnerving feeling you get as you watch events unfold.

49. Pet Sematary (1989)

I couldn't leave this Stephen King adaption off my list.  It was one of the first King novels that I read so it holds a special place in my heart. When the movie came out, there's no denying it was downright scary.  From Victor Pascow's nightly jaunts to good ol' Jud introducing Louis Creed to the power of the "real" pet graveyard to Gage's accident and subsequent trip to the Micmac burial grounds to Rachel's sister Zelda, there is a whole lot to be frightened of.  And we can't forget Church. What a cat!

48. Subspecies (1991)

It's all about the atmosphere for this vampire tale set in Romania. Filmed on location in Bucharest, the ambience of rotting castles and vampire-fearing locals only adds to the film's appeal.  While the acting is actually pretty bad, it's a truly dark and moody journey into the heart of a (formerly) communist country.  Radu (Anders Hove) has killed his father, the vampire king (horror royalty Angus Scrimm), in order to be able to utilize the "bloodstone", an ancient relic that drips the life-sustaining blood of the saints.  Three beautiful college friends travel to Castle Vladislas to do research on the ruins and run smack into a power struggle between Radu and his extremely attractive half-brother, Stefan.  Chaos ensues.  Hilarity also becomes unavoidable once the stop-motion sub-species creatures come into play.  But I can overlook silliness for pure atmosphere....and a great soundtrack.

47.  The Shining (1980)

 This is a film I have watched countless times and would consider one of my go-to "comfort horror" favorites.  I know Stephen King isn't crazy about this version of his best selling novel, but there's no doubt it's a juggernaut of terror.  Jack Nicholson is over the top as Jack Torrance, a man with just enough inner crazy to be sent over the edge when holed up in a haunted hotel for the winter with his passive wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and young, psychically-enabled son Danny (Danny Lloyd).  So much shockingly ghastly goodness to love here but I'll say the blood-drenched elevators, the wacky ballroom party, the rotting woman in the bathtub and the last scenes of the chase in the maze all say horror to me, and in a big way.

 46. Rogue (2007)

It's kind of hard to find a good crocodile horror flick that isn't a comedy. But I have found it, and it's glorious.  Michael Vartan stars as a travel writer who hops on a touristy cruise down an Australian National Park river.  The always great Radha Mitchell is the guide for a group of folks that even includes the lovable Aussie John Jarratt (Wolf Creek).  Long story short, the gang runs smack dab into a giant crocodile's territory and getting out is one big pain in the ass (and a lot of other places).  Run aground and stuck on the edge of a small island about to be submerged by the tide, the group slowly stops placing blame and begins to work together to devise a plan for survival.  Great effects, stellar casting and a lovely yet fierce score make this one to admire.  If you haven't seen it, do get on that, stat.

45. Pumpkinhead (1998)

Now this is a film that wins me over every...single...time.  With superb creature effects by Stan Winston (who also directed) and the talents of the stupendous icon, Lance Henriksen, Pumpkinhead is a delight to be savored at each viewing.  What is thought of as B-grade horror is near the top of any discerning horror fan's monster flick list.  Henriksen plays Ed Harley, a backwoods proprietor of goods and the loving father to Billy, who sadly becomes the victim of the antics of a group of snot-nosed twenty-somethings out for a good time.  Ed, overcome with relentless grief, has the local witch conjure up a terrifying revenge.  And its name is Pumpkinhead.  Suspense and atmosphere are key here, with the monster effects certainly worthy of the great Winston name. 

44.  The Wolfman (1941)

Universal monsters have a special place in my heart, as they do for many a horror fan.  I love all the classics, but a few of them I hold a little dearer, this werewolf story being one of them.  Lon Chaney Jr. portrays Larry Talbot, a man heading home to the family estate after the mysterious death of his brother. When the friend of his love interest Gwen (Evelyn Ankers) finds herself attacked in the dense fog, it's up to Larry to attempt a rescue.  Instead, he gets bitten by a wolf, at least that's what he thought...  With gypsies and silver bullets and transformations, The Wolfman has it all, topped off by the sheer charisma of Chaney.  And do keep in mind: 
Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night;
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

43. The Birds (1963)

When Hitchcock finished Psycho, I'm sure he was wondering what he could possibly do to surpass the popularity and critical acclaim of that film.  Did he accomplish it here?  No.  But The Birds is a damn fine film in its own right, and I still love popping it in and singing a rousing round of "Risselty-Rosselty."  Ahhhh! Total ear-worm.  I digress.  I love The Birds. I love Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, I love Jessica Tandy.  Hell, I even love Veronica Cartwright.  But what I love most is those birds. EVERYWHERE.  On the power lines, at the school, the monkey bars, the roof, the cars, the restaurants, the gas station....even in the attic.  Such a powerful statement these birds make, for just one bird is nothing...not scary in the least.  But put hundreds together and it's just totally unsettling.  In the best possible way!

 42. Misery (1990)

Misery, by Stephen King, is a fantastic read. And the film is just as extraordinary.  With two knock-it-out-of-the-park performances by James Caan and most especially Kathy Bates.  Centered on a writer who always finishes his novels in the same way, Misery introduces us to Paul Sheldon, a best-selling author who wrecks his Mustang in a snowstorm and is rescued from near death by one Annie Wilkes, who just happens to be his number one fan.  After treating his multiple injuries (because she is a nurse, you know) she neglects to notify his family and friends and proceeds to hole him up in her cabin and force him to re-write one of his novels after he had the audacity to kill off the main character that Annie lived and breathed.  Bates won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance and Caan is equally as stellar in his role.  The title is perfect for this one.  The film is equally as perfect.

41.  The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Based on a book by the genre favorite prolific horror writer Richard Matheson, Hell House is a British film that tells the tale of the Belasco house, supposedly the "Mount Everest of haunted houses".  Dr Lionel Barrett is tasked to prove one way or the other, and takes his wife and two psychics with him over Christmas holiday to debunk the mansion and all its ghosts.  Now, there's nothing I like better than a good haunted house flick, and this was one of my first experiences with one, I vividly remember watching this one on television with my mom on a rainy Saturday afternoon, so it holds very dear memories for me.  Through electromagnetic experiments, seances and other manners of ghost-hunting, they find the source of the hauntings, at least they think they do.  But all is not as it seems.  And Belasco is not finished with our ghost-busters.  Not by a long shot.  There's something very eerie and unsettling about this film, and I think it is just the tremendous bones the story itself has, and we have Matheson to thank for that.

Next up, numbers 40-31...

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