Monday, August 13, 2018

Celebrating My 50th with 50 Favorites ~ Part 3

Still counting down - here's numbers 30-21...

30. Session 9 (2001)

Psychological horror makes an indelible impression on me. A movie need not have even a drop of blood, if the story-line is compelling and plays with my emotions, I'm hooked.  Session 9 is one of those films, with its subtle yet ominous mood.  It digs under your skin until it finds a place to relax, then it hits you when you least expect it.  With the benefit of probably one of the greatest movie locations, the former Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, the hulking ediface just screams haunted, so it is with great ease that one gets sucked into the atmosphere of quiet terror it presents. Gordon (Peter Mullen) owns a small asbestos removal company and he takes on the contract of removing the nasty product from the hospital, claiming that it will be done in one week.  He and his crew, led by Phil (David Caruso) begin the task as Gordon grapples with problems at home, and a sense of deja vu at the hospital.  Meanwhile, another crew member, Mike (Stephen Gevedon), becomes obsessed with the audio sessions of one of the patients, Mary Hobbes, who displays a number of distinct personalities.  To say more would ruin the film, so I'll leave it at that.  Seek this out if you haven't seen it.  It's disturbingly excellent.

29. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

"I'm sorry I called you a meatloaf, Jack."  John Landis's brilliant werewolf film is equal parts fright and fun.  Special effects by Rick Baker won an Academy Award and there's a reason for that - they are outstanding.  Poor David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), all they were trying to do is see the English countryside when even after being warned, they veer off the road and onto the moors, where they are promptly attacked by....something.  Injecting humor at every turn, Landis nonetheless creates a terrifying film with gruesome and suspenseful attacks. You're rooting for David to discover the truth, and with the help of new girlfriend Alex (Jenny Agutter), he's bound to figure things out, right?  I've loved this film since I was in high school, shortly after its release.  When it comes on TV, I'm compelled to watch it.  Likewise I can throw my BluRay in for some much needed comfort horror, it's just that good.

28. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 

I love Donald Sutherland.  Who doesn't?  He's great in everything he does and this film is no exception.  With the benefit of a stellar cast including Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, and Veronica Cartwright, this remake of the 1956 classic is an unnerving look at an alien invasion that occurs much more inconspicuously than most sci-fi flicks.  When Elizabeth (Adams) comes to her co-worker at the Health Dept, Matthew, and describes the change in personality that her live-in boyfriend has been displaying, they take it upon themselves to investigate, realizing that something is happening all over the city.  People are devoid of emotion and completely unfazed by the growing epidemic.  Science fiction has never been my favorite, but when it's as exceptional as this I am totally all-in. 

27. The Fog (1980)

Following up with a film after Halloween must have been a difficult task for John Carpenter, and I'm not here to say The Fog is superior to Halloween even though it is higher on my list.  I just happen to find the themes and atmosphere of The Fog more intriguing.  I love the ocean, so anything creepy and set at the sea does it for me.  The Fog also has some serious horror heavyweights in it, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, and Janet Leigh.   When the town of Antonio Bay is set to celebrate its 100th Founders Anniversary, a curse is let loose upon them - seems the original founders sunk a ship full of lepers before they made shore and then proceeded to steal all their gold to build the current town.  And the ghosts of the pissed off sailors exact a nasty revenge....

26. Gojira (aka Godzilla, 1954)

First things first - stay away from the 1956 Americanized version with Raymond Burr....just NO.
When I was a young whippersnapper, Mom and I used to watch Godzilla movies on Saturday afternoons and this was my first experience with the great monster from the deep.  And I LOVED it.  I still have unwavering love for the big guy, but I will always count this one as my favorite.  Long story short, giant dinosaur-like creature is awakened deep under the sea by hydrogen bomb testing and wreaks havoc on unsuspecting Japanese folks. Some viewers may say this is hokey, and of course they'd be right.  But Godzilla is KING OF THE MONSTERS and don't let anyone tell you different.  If you've seen all the remakes and sequels but haven't seen the original, you need to rectify that shit right now.

25. From Beyond the Grave (1974)

Another Amicus anthology starring Peter Cushing as the owner of an antiques shoppe, it has four stories that involve antiques purchased at said shoppe.  Each customer tries to trick or rob the proprietor, but he has the last laugh.  A man buys a haunted mirror that talks to him and requests victims; a disgruntled husband finds love with a match & shoestring salesman's bizarre daughter; a witch warns a man of an 'elemental' on his shoulder; and after purchasing a door from the shoppe a man finds more than he bargains for after installing it in his home.  Of note, Donald Pleasence and his daughter Angela (who truly is very creepy, whether she means to be or not) star in the second segment. What can I say?  I love Amicus and their anthologies.  There are many more of them, such as Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror, just to name a few. They are all fairly dated, having been produced in the late 60's and early 70's but they are all worth a look!

24. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

One of the newest films on my list of 50, this movie is a joy to behold. I don't particularly like comedy in my horror unless it's done right (as in An American Werewolf in London) but this is truly one of the funniest movies, any genre, that I have ever seen.  With a random group of vampires from many different eras all sharing a flat, you can expect laughs - and this delivers.  Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi wrote and directed this independent film from New Zealand that has a quartet of vampires trying to fit in to "normal" society, with hilarious results.  There is a supposed sequel in the works that involves the werewolves (not swearwolves) in the film, and an American television program based on the film heads our way in 2019.

23. Jurassic Park (1993)

I know what you're thinking.  Jurassic Park (and all its counterparts) is not a horror film, and while I would agree with you on a grander scale, this is my blog and I think anytime you have man-eating dinosaurs, it feels like horror to me.  As the Steven Spielberg train keeps a' rollin' down this prehistoric track even today, Jurassic Park is the one that started them all and still packs the biggest punch.  Who wasn't psyched to see those dinos out on the grasses just like Dr Grant & co?  But of course the greatest thrills in the film come from the Velociraptors and the big man himself, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  I can honestly say the huge lump in my throat when the T-Rex made his presence known is just as big as any other horror film I have been terrified by.  And those raptors in the kitchen? Yikes!  I love dinosaurs, and who doesn't? I would be happy if there was a Jurassic Park sequel every few years FOREVER.

22. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Yes, I know The Devil's Rejects is a better film.  No, I don't usually love exploitation films. Yes, I know this movie is trashy.  But damn if I don't adore it.   Rob Zombie has a mixed bag of tricks in his director bag, and there are a few of his I could toss by the wayside.  But I truly appreciate his devotion to the genre because I know he is a true-blue fan.  House of 1000 Corpses plays like a 90 minute music video by Zombie, which would seem unbearable.  And though the film falters a bit at the end, the first hour is just so much fun.  With humor (intentional or not) rife throughout, the 70's vibe is spot on and the disturbed Firefly family is ridiculously over the top, but in a good way.  Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon, has a starring role as is the norm in his movies, and here she plays Baby with all the demented intensity she can muster.  Playing her mom is genre favorite Karen Black, and Bill Moseley as Otis and Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding make up the craziest motley crew you've seen since the Sawyers in rural Texas.  Chris Harwick as Jerry and Rainn Wilson as Bill bring their girlfriends along on a road trip to discover unique roadside attractions.....and they hit the mother lode when they stop at Captain Spaudling's.

21. Candyman (1992)

Candyman is actually a fairly frightening film. It benefits by the great Tony Todd starring as the title character and Virginia Madsen as the fearless Helen Lyle, a graduate student focusing on urban legends for her thesis.  She hears the local story of Candyman and goes in search of the truth behind the speculation.  It's a gritty look at the seedy underbelly of a major city, where the lore usually comes from actual events in the past - and I'm not sure what's scarier, the made-up stories or the truth.  The Cabrini Green housing projects of Chicago figure prominently into the plot, and to me, they are vastly more scary than anything else on screen, with its graffiti-laden walls and fiercely protective gang members.  When Helen comes face to face with the evidence, it all backfires and she becomes the hunted, much like Candyman was in his bleak and depressing past, where just falling in love comes with a price.  Clive Barker's tale is brought to the screen with fervor and passion, and a captivating score by the great Philip Glass adds an extra layer of depth. 

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