Thursday, May 29, 2008

The five greatest horror movies

Enough about marketing. Let’s have some fun! Today at work we were watching the trailer for the new movie ‘The Strangers’. In short, I had to clean myself up in the bathroom after watching only a few short minutes of the clip.

I love horror movies. Tonight I wanted to blog about some of the best classic and contemporary horror flicks out there.

Horror movies have always been popular. But today they take on a new significance with a younger generation raised in a highly borderless and uncertain world. See, the classic mysticism that surrounded the horror genre (The Blob, Nightmare on Elm Street, Rosemary’s Baby) isn’t as resonant with youth as graphic depictions of violence or extreme nail-biting moments of suspense. But sometimes the in your face, visceral, gore-filled scenes are overused because it’s so difficult to sicken a young audience that has been desensitized to the brutal and sick sides of human nature. I've decided to look at the best horror movies from an artistic perspective.

Fourth Runner Up: SCREAM (1995). That’s right, Scream. It’s not as lame as everyone tells me it is, but it was the vehicle to launch the careers of a few vapid, big-chested teen stars. What makes Scream unique is that it reinvigorated the stale slasher horror movie subgenre. After countless ‘quels of Jason, Freddie, and Halloween, the slasher genre became campy. Wes Craven acknowledged the inherent campiness of the slasher subgenre and sculpted a movie that could still laugh at itself and frighten audiences out of their seats. Admit it…that white ghost mask was pretty scary! I was too frightened to include a link to the actual movie, so please watch this clip of the ghostfaced killer speaking Italian in a chipmunk voice.

Third Runner Up: THE EVIL DEAD (1981). What a hoot this movie is. Evil Dead is so twisted and obscenely scary that it’s hard to draw comparisons to other movies or place it within a subgenre of its own. Isolated cabin in the woods, car that won’t start, arboreal rape, Teutonic Satanism. It’s like making horror movie PB&J sandwiches, it’s that easy! Love the axe scene, reminds me of how I get along with my friends. Watch the original Evil Dead trailer here.

Second Runner Up: ALIEN (1979). Ooosh! This one’s good. Make sure it’s the original Alien or at least the John Cameron sequel, Aliens. Sci-fi horror hasn’t come close to reaching the peak that Ridley Scott set with Alien. It unfolds and reveals itself so slowly the pace is almost languid. Sigourney Weaver’s character did set a new benchmark for kickass female heroes, but I find that it is her character’s quiet frailty and fear that make the movie so engaging. Check out Alien Loves Predator, a pretty funny comic if you can’t stomach the actual movie.

Runner Up: THE EXORCIST (1973). Classic cringeworthy moments. Who could forget a 12 year old girl screaming such memorable lines as “your mother [knits socks] in hell!”? I love The Exorcist for many reasons: the score, the cast, the unrushed dialogue and pace. However, what really stands out in this movie above others from its era are the scenes which lull you into a false sense of security before rushing back at you with the force of a truck. Terrific movie. My mom always tells me that when it was released back in 1973 audiences were really quite upset. Although the original Exorcist is great, I think the Chris Crocker version is better. Watch it, the power of Christ compels you!

Winner: THE DESCENT (2005). Hands down, The Descent is the best modern horror movie. All horror movies should be this good. The movie flows and deepens as the characters descend further and further into the cave system. Unlike other genre fodder which debases the main characters or leaves them so intentionally shallow so that we’re less upset when their guts spill out, director Neil Marshall spends time exploring the dynamics between The Descent’s heroines - yes, all female cast – before letting the shock play out. In fact, it’s nearly a full 70 minutes into the film before the horror actually sets in. Up to this point, the suspense builds through intensely claustrophobic cinematography and jarring cutaways of shadows and strange noises. Watch it in the dark with the door closed. Did I mention that it has the perfect philosophical ending allowing you to draw your own conclusions?

Sleep tight.


Corenne said...

I totally second the Descent! What an ending, I totally gave up with her.

Ana said...

I'll stick to my side-splitting comedies, mind-boggling thrillers and tear-jerking dramas. No horror movies for me, no thanks!

Stephanie Barcena said...

the descent was really scary.

Max have you watched the stage show "the evil dead: the musical"???

its really good and its coming back this year...i highly recommend it!