My Nominations: 1941. Alien. Apocalypse Now. Kramer Vs Kramer.
Steven Spielberg’s 1941 is one of the least remembered in his filmography, and in line with this curio is quite the unusual cast, containing comedy masters, new faces, and veterans – Dan Akroyd and John Belushi, Toshiro Mifune and Warren Oates, Nancy Allen and Tim Matheson, along with Spielberg favourites and many many more – John Candy, Lorraine Gary, Robert Stack, Patty LuPone, Michael McKean, James Caan, Ned Beatty, Christopher Lee, Mickey Rourke, Dick Miller, John Landis, Sam Fulller – you get the idea.
Alien is one of the great centralized ensemble casts, an an example of of each actor bringing each character fully to life (only to be killed off). Sigourney Weaver is the standout, but John Hurt and Ian Holm aren’t far behind, without forgetting Skerritt, Cartwright, Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton. Apocalypse Now is in a similar vein, but has the added benefit of the central group coming into contact with a variety of other characters – any film with Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando, and Martin Sheen is always going to make a category like this, but then we also throw in Laurence Fishbourne, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall. Kramer Vs Kramer is hard to avoid given both leads received Oscars.
My Nominations: Alien. Apocalypse Now. Dracula. Hair. Mad Max. Nosferatu. Star Trek. Zombie Flesh Eaters.
We’re really on the precipice of peak Make-Up now, with the official aware still a couple of years away. Yet look at some of these nominees and think of how iconic they are in terms of film history and this category. Apocalypse Now may not seem like a Makeup movie at first, think of both Kurtz and Willard’s later arrivals in the film, one camouflaged in muck and ooze, the other adorned in sweat and shadow, along with all of the crazed followers of Kurtz and the many painted soldiers Willard meets heading up river. Mad Max would really amp things in sequels but even in the original there are notable effects to make certain characters look more monstrous or off-putting. Frank Langella’s Dracula is one of the more seductive takes on the eternal creature, but elsewhere there are plenty of ghostface and fanged loons dripping or hunting blood.
Nosferatu takes a more demonic, animalistic approach to its antagonist, and is memorable as the original version from decades earlier. Hair, as the name suggests, would have been a sure fire nominee if this category had already existed with early awards more focused on hair and costume and base makeup rather then the outlandish. Speaking of the outlandish, Zombie Flesh Eaters features such delights as a zombie fighting a shark and a wooden splint through the eye – it’s great. Star Trek features the expected array of aliens with less of the hokey nature of the original series. Finally, Alien features arguably the greatest original creature in the history of cinema – but does it class as Makeup? We don’t have a Best Creature Design category yet, so in lieu of that ever happening, it’s getting my vote. Beyond that, it has plenty of great, squirting stuff going on.
Official Nominations: All That Jazz. Alien. Apocalypse Now. The China Syndrome. Star Trek.
A decent list of nominees for a change, with The Academy fully embracing genre movies. They still picked the musical for the win, but what are you gonna do. All That Jazz deserves a nomination of course, but it pales in comparison to Alien. The set design of the Nostromo and beyond in Alien takes the work of 2001 and Star Wars to the next level. The film looks both futuristic and familiar, advanced and run down, human and alien. It’s the obvious winner.
Apocalypse Now succeeds in every level – Art Direction is no exception, while Star Trek advances upon the work of the series and takes inspiration from the big hits of the interim. Finally, The China Syndrome is the Chernobyl of 1979, and as such is tense and authentic.
My Winner: Alien
My Nominations: All That Jazz. Alien. Apocalypse Now. Star Trek. Dracula. Escape From Alcatraz.
I add a number of notable choices to my list. 1979’s Dracula is an exercise in style and eroticism more than anything else, with a style not truly replicated until Coppola’s 90s effort. Escape From Alcatraz is impressive due to the work to authentically recreate and capture the look and feel of Alcatraz just before its closure.
My Winner: Alien
Let us know in the comments what you pick as winner!
Official Nominations: Breaking Away. All That Jazz. And Justice For All. The China Syndrome. Manhattan.
As strange as it may seem, this is both a very 70s selection of films and a very Oscar selection of nominees. You know you’re getting a court movie (And Justice For All), you know they’ll do anything to get a musical in there (All That Jazz), you know they’ll go for a Woody Allen (Manhattan), you know they’ll go for an All American Coming Of Age story (Breaking Away), and you know they’ll throw in a topical political thriller (The China Syndrome). There’s nothing wrong with any of these choices and they’re all good films with solid screenplays – it’s that there are no real surprises in the choices or the films themselves. Any is as worthy a winner as any other, but I’ll stick with my personal favourite.
My Winner: And Justice For All
My Nominations: And Justice For All. Alien. The Jerk. Mad Max. Life Of Brian.
I punt for the more interesting choices, again there was no way The Academy would have ever voted for any of these – possibly Alien due to its unavoidable success is the front-runner of the ‘could have been nominated’ category. While it’s not the most quotable movie in the world, it does a stellar job of world and character building and somehow presents itself as a truly grounded and realistic science fiction horror movie rather than the more operatic and fantastical offerings of the preceding years. There are also plenty of surprises and revelations within the script which have reverberated through Cinema in the decades since. The Jerk is silly and vulgar and just the antidote to the usual sour-faced drama or up-market comedy The Academy usually goes for, while Life Of Brian pulls off the same trick while also being highly quotable, controversial, and ridiculous. Finally, Mad Max flips notions and expectations of US action movies and apocalyptic dramas over, and knocks them rolling fourteen times down a dusty lost highway. The characters are rarely given a voice to be heard over the growl of engines, a personality beyond a name, or emotions beyond merely trying to survive in a bewildered thousand yard stare fashion.
My Winner: Alien
Let us know in the comments which film you would pick as winner!
Official Nominations: Kramer vs Kramer. All That Jazz. Apocalypse Now. Breaking Away. Norma Rae.
1979. You have the film fan’s favourite; the other film fan’s favourite; and the audience favourite. Then two other ones no-one cares about. Apocalypse Now is the winner here for me, and it’s not even close. I like Kramer Vs Kramer but it feels too much like a TV movie – I’ve always felt that way about court movies, no matter how cinematic they may be. Of course it isn’t strictly a court movie, but you understand my meaning. All That Jazz – you can already anticipate my feelings on this one given that it’s a musical. Surprisingly though, it’s not as distasteful to me as other musicals and a fine end to Fosse’s career, with as much darkness as any of his other work. It’s just a pity it has all that singing and dancing crap. Roy Scheider has rarely been better, and yet the film’s attempts at the surreal don’t always work.
The final two films are Norma Rae – Erin Brockovich for the 70s in which Sally Field stands up to The Man, and Breaking Away, in which a bunch of friends leave school and have no clue what to do with their lives. It’s fantastic, and probably my second favourite here, but then I’ve always had a thing for coming of age movies. So two undisputed classics, and three very good movies to round off the decade. Still though, only one winner.
My Winner: Apocalypse Now
My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Alien. Mad Max. Scum. The Warriors.
I add four personal favourites to my list. Of these, Alien is the only one who could have genuinely seen The Oscars nominate. It made a tonne of money, critics loved it, and was nominated for two Oscars – winning one. It’s every bit as chilling and epic now as it was then, with a set and sound design few films since have rivalled. It’s the perfect streamlined horror plot – people are trapped with an unknown and seemingly unstoppable killer – with just enough mystery to let our imaginations create a wider world and internal horrors. Unfortunately the Prometheus side of things has taken the mythology in ludicrous directions and slightly soured the impact of the original. As it stands, it’s undoubtedly one of the best horror movies ever made.
Mad Max is a film which, as I’ve mentioned before, has an unearthly atmosphere which I’ve rarely encountered in Cinema. Part of that is what I bring to it as a viewer, but much of it is just the weirdness of it all – it truly does feel ugly and apocalyptic and genuine – a world away from most modern Cinema’s attempts at depicting a world in collapse. The Warriors also takes place in a world, or a city, in a state of decay and acts like a road movie without cars – a chase movie on foot, a siege movie where the besieged are constantly moving. Finally, Scum is the least likely of my picks to ever have been nominated – it’s a British movie filled with gritty violence and peppered with controversy to the extent that it was one of famous needless busy body Brit Mary Whitehouse’s personal crusades – she wanted it banned and never spoken of again. Featuring future stars giving terrific performances – Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels, Julian Firth, it’s neither a pretty nor pleasant watch as it follows the glamour-free Scarface-esque rise of one troubled youth within the walls of a Borstal (pretty much a prison for kids).
My Winner: Alien
Let us know in the comments which film you would choose as the Best of 1979!
Greetings, Glancers! On today’s Top Ten Tuesdays List I change things a little by taking two of Cinema’s finest British exports – the Scott brothers. Both brothers achieved incredible commercial success and more often than not plenty of critical and fan acclaim. I’ve split the list so I get five films by each brother, mainly because I was struggling to select 10 films by both Ridley and Tony that I truly loved. That means of course that some great films are missing, but I still feel the 10 films below are worthy of every film fan’s time, some iconic, some timeless, others pure entertainment. I will say there are a few films I have not yet seen, namely The Martian and Exodus by Ridley and Unstoppable by Tony. But alack and alas and alarum, lets proceed with the things! Exeunt!
10: Black Rain
A film which I almost never see on any Top List of Ridley Scott movies, this is drenched with 80s cool through and through and features decapitation – that’s two big thumbs up from the outset! I’ve always loved the look and feel and atmosphere of the movie, what starts off as a buddy cop movie soon takes a darker turn as Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia get sucked into Japan’s lethal underbelly. This one has slipped off the radar of most people who enjoy 80s (particularly action) movies, but it is worth another look thanks to the cast, the action, the sound, and the cool.
9: The Fan
Unfairly savaged by critics and quite a commercial bomb upon release, The Fan may not be as good as the earlier (unrelated) film of the same same which starred Lauren Bacall and Micahel Biehn, but this is still a thriller which deserves better than what it got. Robert De Niro is great as the titular fan, taking his stalking to crazier levels than in The King Of Comedy and Wesley Snipes also does a good job in a rare straight role. Through in a superb supporting cast including Ellen Barken, John Leguizamo, and Benicio Del Toro and you have everything you need for a rip-roaring tale of paranoia and celeb hunting.
8: Top Gun
As much as I watched Top Gun in my youth, I was never as huge a fan as most people. It’s difficult to dismiss it though as it is both a highly watchable piece of entertainment which will suck in modern viewers as much as those who were around first time, even if all the young, bronzed bodies and cliches are hilarious. Still, it features some of the best aerial action scenes ever captured, a number of stars on the rise gives excellent performances, and it has a number of iconic moments, memorable pumping soundtrack, and an encyclopedia of quotable dialogue.
Ridley Scott’s 1990s movies were, by and large, forgettable flops. Indeed, by the turn of the century it seemed that he had lost his way and was out of favour with regards to the viewing public. Enter Gladiator. This film shot Scott back into the pantheon of great directors, introduced the world to Russell Crowe, and portrayed the first truly breathtaking view of Ancient Rome. It is hardly a film without flaws, but again the violence and action, the score, visuals, gripping performances, rousing speeches, and of course the engaging story all pulled together to create a massive hit and a film which is still enjoyable sixteen years later. Yikes, sixteen years. I saw this upon release as part of school trip. I studied Latin in school, and upon the advice of a fellow pupil who had already seen it several times, we were able to convince the teacher to take the class on this valuable trip. Memories.
6. The Hunger
Tony Scott is often remembered more for his flair than his storytelling. Visual flair is of course a way of telling stories and with The Hunger the visuals and the atmosphere they create are often what are solely remembered. David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve (what a pairing) are the eternal couple of vampires who engage in a love triangle with Susan Sarandon – a Doctor who studies the correlation between sleep and aging. It’s a highly stylized, highly sensual, and quite violent vampire movie, arguably the first of the modern era to truly show these creatures as overtly sexual and able to exist in the 20th Century.
5. Blade Runner
Speaking of visuals, it would be hard to argue against Blade Runner being one of the most visually influential movies of all time. Rain-drenched futuristic cities, trash-ridden and neon-laden and populated with hunched shouldered denizens who weave in and out of crowds, between starbound vehicles and Asian marketplaces, surrounded by towering monuments to commercialism, power, money, and soullessness. Luckily there is an enigmatic story too, one with rambling philosophy and existential crisis, and at the heart, if there is a heart, a number of fine performances from Harrison Ford, Darryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer.
4. Thelma And Louise
Any of the top five movies could be number 1 for me, but it’s these top four which have had the longest lasting impact. Thelma And Louise is a flawless tale and sadly a film the likes of which we have seen all too rarely. I love its blend (and twists) on the road movie, camaraderie, action, comedy, and its performances. It’s rare to have a cast this good all being this strong together and for the film to churn out memorable moments and dialogue throughout.
3. True Romance
I often wonder what this would have been if it had been directed by Tarantino himself, but I don’t think it could have been bettered. Tarantino’s dialogue is of course one reason to recommend the movie, and when coupled with Scott’s stylish direction we have a pseudo road movie which is one of the finest ensemble pieces of the decade. It’s difficult to think of any movie with a more impressive cast – Joining Slater and Arquette as leads we have the likes of Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Samuel L Jackson, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini, Chris Penn, Michael Rappaport etc etc. There are so many great scenes in this movie, from the Sicillian speech to the final shootout, and the pacing is breathless and energetic without being frantic (I’m looking at you, Domino). And at the core it’s all about love.
2. The Last Boyscout
I’ve of course spoken about my love for this film elsewhere on the site, but it’s one big macho, quotable sensation which never fails to have me laughing my nuts off. Highly recommended, but I also appreciate that many will simply find it too dumb or too offensive to enjoy.
My number one (as I’ve said) could have been any of the previous few films, but I feel that Alien remains the best out of any of the films which the brothers have made. Of course it’s a personal favourite – how could it not be? A nightmarish vision of the future, an all too realistic approach to science fiction, and the first film of the modern era to make people genuinely believe that somewhere up there, there could be a creature lurking around with acid for blood and a tongue like a piston, ready to snap us in half. It plays sublimely on main of our fears – the unknown, the dark, being helpless, claustrophobia, sex, disease, even technology, and the cold and detached atmosphere broken sporadically by howling sound or shocking bouts of horror and violence create a spectacular sense of tension and unease. The creature itself is glorious, the effects hold up today, and the cast is wonderful.
What are your favourite movies by Tony and Ridley Scott? Obviously there are quite a few big films I haven’t listed, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Aah, Halloween- the most wonderful time of the year. When even those who wouldn’t usually subject themselves to all manner of terrors decide to watch the odd scary movie or 2. Unfortunately for me, this part of the Spac Hole which I currently inhabit does not indulge in the season as seriously and joyfully as other places, so I have always felt a little deprived. Sure, we had some parties, sure we threw fireworks at Gerry’s house, and yes we would watch whatever limited choice of movies were on over the few days but compared to other places (particularly you festive folks in the US) it just didn’t seem as much damn fun. In my mind, the whole month of October should be a vessel for Halloween activities, from dressing up to trick or treating, to watching scary movies and hiding under the beds of people you don’t know with a chainsaw.
To that end I have helpfully made a few lists of classic horror movies which sould chill you to the bone, and add to the singular atmosphere of this most evil time of the year. This list of 31 movies was created so that you can split the fun over the entire month (alternatively you could wait until closer to the day and have a few marathon sessions) and let yourself tremble ever so slightly in the supposed safety of your own home. Just be sure to lock your doors and windows, close the curtains, and tuck up the kids tightly in bed (checking underneath and in closets for me) before turning off the lights. Maybe check those locks once more, you can never be too sure or too safe. Oh, what’s that? That noise from outside? I wouldn’t worry, probably just the wind. By all means go out and check, but that would mean going into the basement to find batteries for your torch. Really, just relax and watch the film, your paranoia can’t hurt you. The thing outside, yeah- it could hurt you. But you locked the doors, right?
These don’t have to be watched in any particular order, but some would suit the big day (or night) better than others. This is not meant to be a list of the best or even my favourite horror movies (though I love them all) but rather I feel these offer something of the atmosphere of Halloween. Enjoy.
An American Werewolf in London: This one has it all- gore, jump scares, atmosphere, action, humour, and a great plot with likeable characters. WereWolves, like Vampires have taken a rather glossy beating recently. This proves that you can wrap up a love story with horror without being teeny, without being sparkly, without being demeaning to viewers with brains. Classic Halloween scene: The Nazi section.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: Wes Craven, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund- lovely ingredients for a tasty Halloween Pie. This is the original and best, before the horrific character of Freddy (Here just Fred) became a snuggleable, bantering chum. What could be better for Halloween than scaring yourself so badly that you can’t sleep- knowing that something terrible may be waiting for you in your dreams. A story with more depth than it gets credit for, dealing with the Craven standard of ill-advised parenting and how the children have to cope with the mistakes of the elders, this is full of genius set pieces and bloody action. Classic Halloween Scene: Nancy gets a bloody post coital surprise- but not what you’d expect. And did they say she was 14??
Alien: Often described as Halloween in space, or a Haunted House in Space, Alien deals with our fears of isolation, of being trapped, of being in s situation way beyond our control and way above our heads. Remove the alien, remove the setting, and this could be any slasher movie from the time. However, that would be taking away the fun, the fear, the atmosphere, and the ingenuity. This is dark, claustrophobic stuff, and the perfect film for Halloween to make you look out the windows into pitch darkness and wonder if something is staring back. Classic Halloween Scene: Dallas goes hunting, but realizes too late that he is the prey.
The Blair Witch Project: Similar to Alien this deals with our fears of isolation and the un-experienced unknown, but spices things up with issues of abandonment, paranoia, and things that go bump in the woods. A classic survival tale for city folk poking their ill-prepared noses where they don’t belong, Blair Witch succeeded because of it’s innovative filming and marketing techniques. It still succeeds today amongst a rubbish tip of similar films because the plot is solid, the acting is real, the rising tension and fear played out between the characters feels exactly like how we would react, the growing dread is almost unrivalled, and the climax is absolutely chilling. Classic Halloween Scene: The search for Josh in the freakshow house at the end will get you tingling and gripping the seat every time.
Creepshow: Halloween isn’t just about traumatizing each other, it’s also about good old fashioned camp-fire tales to warm the heart and soul. This is cheesy at times, but never boring or irritating, it feels nostalgic both for children of the 80s and of the 50-60s. The tales are brief, well written and acted, the effects are still top-notch with an earthy feel, and the scares are tense and fun. Classic Halloween Scene: Trying to convince your abusive wife to enter a box where a monster lives has never looked so enjoyable.
Candyman: Both Cliver Barker and Tony Todd are vital ingredients in any scare-fest- put them together and you’d better have a few spare pairs of pants lying around. An intellegent, sexy, city based horror which merges old world supernatural fears with the modern world of big business, CSI policework, snooping journalists, and end of the century hairdos. Barker at his height was a fountain of invention, bringing a freshness to the genre which made everyone else’s ideas look like old creaky mummy movies. Candyman merges urban myths with ancient folklore, mysticism with science, gore and shocks with beauty and lyricism. Todd’s presence is as powerful as any of the classic monsters, while Madsen gives a refreshing twist on the final girl character. Classic Halloween Scene: Hook through the chest.
Carrie: One for the teens this, though it may have aged some due to being so authentically 70s, the scares and the themes of abuse, loneliness, bullying, and separation are no less relevant or universal today. The story is simple but pumped up by ideas of religion, extremism, and psychotic mummies (not those ones). The acting by the main players is superb, there is something bleak about the whole sordid business, and we manage both to sympathize with and be scared by Carrie. And wish we had her gift. De Palma twists the tension knobs until they break off, though some of the intrusive camera guff is laughable now. Classic Halloween Scene: Everything between the bucket dropping and the school burning.
Child’s Play: The evil doll is a well worn sub genre of horror, but one which has very few, if any, classics. Child’s Play is amongst the best, and the series is certainly the most notorious. Like many 80s horrors, the series was unfairly derided for it’s supposed impact on our youth with some people going so far as blaming it for some grisly murders. As with most of these series, the quality decreased as the sequels increased, but the original remains surprisingly effective given the silly subject matter. If you don’t know the story- multi murdering maniac transfers his soul into a popular doll moments before his death, doll is picked up by young boy, doll begins murderous rampage again until it realises that it needs to sacrifice the boy to become human again. There are sure to be some laughs, some screams of just kick him in the balls and throw hm out the window!’, but maybe a few jumps too. Classic Halloween Scene: Chucky terrorizes the baby-sitter and we all jump when the phone rings.
Dawn Of The Dead: There is something quite special which you may not know about Dawn. If you watch it at Dawn- depending on where you live etc, try to time it where the film will just be ending as the sunrises. Then go for a walk immediately. It’s likely there won’t be many people around. The ones you will see will probably be shambling. The bleak nature of the film rarely hits harder than in these moments and you will surely look around yourself and feel a stark aura fill your being. There are few things more terrifying than waking up to an otherwise beautiful day and not wanting to be any part of it. Classic Halloween Scene: So many to choose from, from funny, to scary, to bleak, but I’ll go for the truck parking section as we realize that paradise can quickly become hell, and a haven can suddenly become a tomb.
Day Of The Dead: Surely the most grim of all the DEAD films, this is perfect Halloween viewing, not only because of the exquisite gore and effects. Claustrophobia and paranoia again play a large part, and you can’t help wondering why all these psychopaths keep getting in the way of your enjoyable apocalypse. Most people would be happily looting and whiling away their days watching DVDs, playing games, reading books, getting drunk, but there always has to be a crazy doctor or maniacal military group to spoil your good times. Halloween is all about good times, stick this on to reap the benefits. Classic Scene: When the Zombies step on the lift and it begins moving downwards- you just know all hell is about to break loose.
Dracula (30s): A classic to chill the bones of all comers, this still has the ability to… worry those who haven’t seen it before. A film that’s almost a hundred years old- how could that possibly be scary? Well, there’s a reason why this is still considered the best version. Classic Halloween Scene: When Harker first meets The Count.
The Exorcist: Now we get into the truly demanding territory. A rarity in the genre, The Exorcist was a massive financial and critical hit upon release, pampered with awards and then…uh, banned. It may not be as hard-hitting these days, but it’s still rough, creepy stuff. Plus it is played extremely coldly, and without a hint of humour. This is as bleak as horror gets, and even the supposed happy ending leaves us with a bitter, fearful taste. Excellent performances, bewildering jump scares, and freaky moments all conspire to chill the soul and ensure you cuddle up to your beloved in bed. Classic Halloween Scene: Spider walk.
The Evil Dead: This was mostly played for scares over the played for laughs sequel, and while there is humour here, the main focus is on sudden frights and wonderful, innovative camera techniques. You’ll have fun watching this one as each character gets picked off, comes back, and gets picked off again. Classic Halloween Scene: Cheryl at the window, not in the cupboard.
Friday The 13th: One of the original slashers and one of the most successful, this one has plenty of ideas and violence, and staples of the sub genre which have now become clichés. It has dated, it is silly and quite tame, but it was made with love and ambition and freshness. The ending is shocking, the performances are ok, and there isn’t a hockey mask in sight. Classic Halloween Scene: Arrow through the neck- don’t have sex kids.
Final Destination: Another rarity- an inspired modern horror film with great ideas which blends humour and genuine frights. We have a series of characters who rather than getting picked off one by one in an uncaring fashion, are shown to be real kids with real lives, fears, and concerns- and then they are picked off one by one in increasingly exciting, tense, and innovative ways. A film which deals with our fear of death, of inevitability succeeds on every level. Classic Halloween Scene: During a heated discussion in his car, one reckless character refuses to accept that his life is pre-destined or that death is stalking his every move. To prove the point he parks his car on train tracks with his friends as the train hurtles towards them. He soon realizes he was wrong.
The Fog: One of the great campfire spook stories, The Fog is still sadly underrated. Carpenter creates a wonderful atmosphere here which suits the season perfectly- even better if you’re near the sea or if there is fog around. Classic Halloween Scene: The introduction with the wizened old sailor sets the tone for the rest of the show, and should set the tone for your night.
Hellraiser: Another British one now, offering something different from our American cousins. We have sex, violence, lots of gore, and some S&M themed fun. This is gritty in an Eastenders sort of way- you don’t really want to look or have anything to do with these characters. Classic Halloween Scene: When Kirsty first meets the Cenobites- what is the finger in the mouth about?
Halloween: What more can I say? This is the movie which should be watched every Halloween- not only is it a genuine classic of the genre and a kick-ass movie no matter which way you look at it, it drips with and evokes that special Seasonal feeling that few things do. Make this the highlight of your night. After you’ve cut some throats. Classic Halloween Scene: Young Laurie runs screaming down her street being chased by a murderous maniac. She clambers to the front door of a neighbour, knocks and begs for help. A light is turned on. Then switched off. Did they think it was just kids messing around? Were they too afraid to help? Welcome To America folks.
Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (70s): Some us like to dress up at Halloween as ghosts, vampires, or our favourite horror movie characters. Some people go further and pretend to be the person that the costume depicts. This definitive version of Bodysnatchers takes the idea of hiding behind a costume to dramatic and terrifying extremes- what if person next to you on the bus, your neighbour, your friend, your wife, or child was no longer the person they once were? In fact, what if some alien creature had taken their body as host and was walking around as an imperfect mockery of that person’s life? What if this alien race had designs on all your friends and everyone you’ve ever known, and what if you were next? This chilling view of a world snatched away from under our noses is all about loss of identity and mistrust, and makes for unsettling Halloween viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: The final moments. I’ll say no more.
Night Of The Living Dead: A staple of midnight viewing, the surrounding darkness makes the black and white all the more stark and cold; There are no easy answers or happy endings here. If you are watching this with a group of people, ask yourself which ones you would trust in a life/death situation. If your cosy home was surrounded suddenly by thousands of undead, who amongst you would come out as leader? Would you sit back, would you make decisions, would you think only of yourself or would you think of the safety of the group? Either way, you’re bound to get a chewing. Classic Halloween Scene: They’re coming to get you, Barbara.
The Omen: So far we don’t trust our neighbours and friends, but what if you thought your son was the Antichrist? The Omen is an apocalyptic film in more than one way and is filled with strong performances, gripping and bloody deaths, and a memorable, frightening score. Music is often pivotal in horror movies, and as you clamber the stairs to bed after this, with infernal monks chanting obscenities in your head, that corner of darkness you can’t quite see clearly may fill with unspeakable evil more readily. Classic Halloween Scene: Damian decides to ride his bike.
Prince Of Darkness: I find this to be Carpenter’s most underrated film mostly because it is awesome and should be mentioned in the same breath as Halloween and The Thing. Sure the plot is messed up with it’s evil green satanic liquid taking over zombies and bums mixed with time-travelling dream messages and psych jargon, but seriously it is awesome. It has more effective jump scares than any of his other shows and there is a creeping sense of dread and atmosphere throughout. In many ways it is classic Carpenter- a group of different thrown together in a building who have to team together or fall apart and stand against an overpowering threatening external force. It is a siege movie, it is clever for the genre though at times it doesn’t know what genre it wants to be. I think that was part of the fun though- like Big Trouble In Little China it is more than just it’s labels instead transcending notions of what it should or shouldn’t be, and is well ahead of it’s time. Classic Halloween Scene: The final survivors holding up behind some furniture while one of the crazies admires himself in a mirror with a large blade.
Ring: Please please please watch the Japanese version, not the abomination that is the remake. Sure the remake has plenty of jump moments, but it also has a deer on a boat, Brian Cox in a bath, and a director who decides it would be clever to cut away from the movie’s most important scene for the sake of a car chase. The original has Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada and if that isn’t enough of a recommendation then please remove thine eyes from mine page post haste. Watch this deep into the night, possibly as the last film, then play the lovely game of phone your friend once they have left to terrify them. Unfortunately the ideas first seen here have been so over-used that these games have become diluted, but the film still has an unflinching power. Not a drop of blood is shed, there are no knives, guns, or people bursting in from behind doors with a loud noise- this is the best horror film of the nineties and goes against everything that decade threw at us. And it’s a damn good story with excellent performances. Classic Halloween Scene: Sadako. TV. Sleep tight.
Scream: The second best horror movie of the nineties is the stuff of parties. By know everyone should have seen it, but many of you will have forgotten it and how good it still is. Plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and action as well as a script the quality of which horror movies rarely get. And my beloved Neve Campbell is in it. Few horror films provide this much entertainment whilst still being scary, funny, and clever. The nods to horror movies will keep the nerds amongst your bunch happy and you can shout out when you spot a reference. Classic Halloween Scene: The final house chase scene as Neve doesn’t know where to run or who to trust.
The Shining: It’s rare for most people to get snow at Halloween, even more rare to be completely snowed in and surrounded. Try replacing the notion of snow with rain or darkness- would you want to go wandering outside if it was completely dark or hammering down? Anyway, this is another film which plays on isolation, claustrophobia, and paranoia. It’s probably best not to watch this one as a cosy night in flick with your little family- you’ll start wondering what the hell is going through each other’s minds. This is a giant of the genre with heaps of atmosphere and plenty of unsettling moments which deserves to be menti0ned at any Horror Movie Marathon. Classic Halloween Scene: Danny was warned not to go in that room. Prepare to be scared when Daddy goes looking too.
Silence Of The Lambs: The critic’s choice. Don’t invite any critics to your party as they will moan, groan, bore your girlfriends, and likely drink all your wine. There should be wine. This is nasty stuff from start to end as poor Jodie Foster tries to solve a murder whilst hiding her own fears from the unlikely Terminator Anthony Hopkins. This is better suited to smaller group viewing as it isn’t exactly cheery, blood n guts fun but it does the job when you’re on your own. Classic Halloween Scene: Anything with Bill really.
The Thing: In many ways the ultimate John Carpenter film, the ultimate macho man fest, and the number 1 examination of the paranoia which creeps into people during periods of isolation. The effects here still blow me away and they are only part of a long list of quality to describe this film- look at the cast, the performances, the music, the scares, the cinematography, and the way Carpenter drags the tension out of every shot until we don’t know who has been infected and who hasn’t. Great action adds to the great scares, but the special effects and story are kings here. Classic Halloween Scene: When the survivors are tied to chairs and Mac goes through each one by one to test if any are not human. Genius.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: This one still hurts today- it’s just so damn grim, dirty, and repulsive as to make the horror timeless. Sure they scares may be cliché now and the gore is almost non-existent, but the low down atmosphere, the miniscule budget, and the amateur (but good) performances all conspire to make this uncomfortable watching. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who still think that there could be a family like this in their town, just as much as I’m sure that there probably are still families or people like this in the world- maybe not in your town, but possibly the next one over. And chainsaws are awfully easy to come by these days. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire dinner scene. Truly horrific, the use of sound and various camera techniques make this one of the most intense few minutes in any horror movie.
28 Days Later: A modern classic, and one of the few great British horror movies of the last few decades. Taking riffs from Romero and King this is a post apocalyptic survivalist’s wet nightmare. Empty streets, shops to loot, cars to steal- all great if it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of psychopaths charging towards you in search of your blood. This is the 21st century folks, and zombies ain’t got time to amble and stumble about- these are confident, successful, modern big business, stepping up to the plate, corporate bull-shitting zombies, and they won’t take closing a door in their face for an answer. If you can’t run fast, you’re screwed. And just to make things Mega Man 9 difficult- these fiends don’t even have to bite you to kill/convert you- one drop of their blood/saliva entering your body, through a gash, a scratch, a kiss, or a tear is enough it recruit you. And sheesh! They don’t even give you time to grieve for your fallen comrade- within seconds of getting exposed, your best friend will be diving for your jugular too. My advice- kill everyone you see and hide under a pile of coats till it all goes away. Classic Halloween Scene: An abandoned car sitting in the middle of an abandoned London- nothing to fear but technology.
The Wicker Man: Nothing to fear but religion. Look closely enough and all religions begin to look like cults; they all have a figurehead, the followers worship the figurehead unquestionably and offer prayers, thanks, songs, and sacrifices, there are certain rituals usually borne of centuries long since dusted, those involved are usually inviting to outsiders in person, but have a secret hatred, anger, or issue against them once backs are turned. So we have The Wicker Man, possibly the best British Horror Film of the whole sorry lot. Aah, the confusion of two worlds colliding as we watch a upstanding lawman and guardian of his own archaic faith fall victim ever so slowly to a cult even more decrepit than his own. He knows something terrible is amiss, but it isn’t until his toes turn to cinders that he realizes his fate was sealed the second his feet touched the land. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first see Mr Straw and realize our hero’s fate.
Paranormal Activity: Proof not only that horror movies still have the power to scare, entertain, and bring in the mega bucks, proof not only that a good story well executed can be more than a match for buckets of blood, but also proves that in this day and age of $200 million dollar movies that a small group with talent, an idea, and a few months worth of average salary can make a great movie. Romero did it in the 60s, Carpenter did it in the seventies, Raimi in the 80s, Myrick and Sanchez in the 90s, and now Oren Peli has continued the tradition. Using every trick in the book he has made a classic pastiche of the genre and a thrill ride akin to running naked through a field of land mines. The setting of the movie is perfect for Halloween viewing- primarily it is set in the home and most of the scares happen at night- the film invades you with a sense that you aren’t safe in your own house and makes you take a second or third glance at that cup that you swore you set on the table which now sits on the ground. Likely to lose its impact with subsequent viewings this is best served to people who haven’t seen it. The scares (while you sense them coming) are unexpected and rewarding and while the characters are painfully annoying, you’ll still soil your drawers. Classic Halloween Scene: NEVER leave your foot hanging out of bed.
Trick R Treat: Anthology movies have had their heyday- we had a succession of British hits in the 70s, then a slew of bloodier efforts in the 80s. Then for 20 years anthology fans didn’t have a lot to be excited about aside from a few cheap efforts (although Asia did produce some great ones at the turn of the century). Trick R Treat is good enough to kick start a revolution in the genre, or at least it would have been had it been released in any cinemas. Straight to DVD (yet with a decent budget and big name cast) Trick R Treat features four shorts linked by an over-arcing plot and is to Halloween what presents are to Christmas. This one is destined to be shown and loved every Halloween for years to come, possibly as a double header with Carpenter’s classic. Classic Halloween Scene: The creepy opener sets the tone for the movie and features everything we love about the season, dripping with atmosphere, and settling us in for a bumpy ride.
Please leave your comments and suggestions for films you think are best viewed at Halloween, and let us know which films terrified you when you were growing up at this time of year.
The movie which forever changed the sci-fi genre, taking elements from past monster movies, going against the spotless visuals of 2001 to create a new vision of the future, and one of the most atmospheric movies ever. Rarely does this genre produce a film which inspires acclaim from both fans and critics, but Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic does just that, beginning a famous franchise, story, character and monster, and spawning many inferior clones.
Some time in the future, mankind has the capability of effective space travel, with many planets holding outposts. We are introduced to a crew of miners who work for an all-powerful Foundation, and are returning home on their massive ship- the ‘Nostromo’, after a long period of work. The crew are Dallas-in charge, Parker and Brett-mechanics, Ash-doctor, and Ripley, Lambert and Kane. However, they have been awakened from hyper-sleep early, by it seems an SOS signal. They discuss what to do, eventually deciding that they must investigate. They follow the call to a planet, and Kane, Dallas and Lambert go outside for a closer look. After discovering what appears to be a crashed ship of unknown origin, some sort of organism attaches itself to Kane’s face. Tension grows as they try to take the creature off, but eventually it goes by itself, and dies. Kane wakes and seems to be OK. Soon though, things turn nasty, and a creature is lose on the ship. The remaining crew members try to find it and kill it, but it has grown, and is violently hungry.
Alien works primarily because of three factors; 1. The performances are all immaculate, with some actors giving career bests. Weaver is immensely strong coming to movies from the stage, the veterans all take it seriously even though it first appeared to be a silly scary movie, Holm is extremely good as Ash etc. 2. Scott’s taut direction adds an edge to the script, his stunning visual style giving the sense of isolation and fear perfectly, the lighting is effective, everything is wonderfully detailed, and he knows that less is more when it comes to showing the monster. 3. Geiger’s creature is terrifying, and one of the best monsters ever made, beautiful, sultry, horrifying, mysterious, mechanical and deadly, everything a predator, and a monster should be. The story itself is strong, but it is these three factors which raise it from B-movie status, as well as some truly memorable scenes-The chest burster, Dallas in the tunnels, Ripley’s final encounter, and Ash’s revelation. The film is incredibly intelligent at a time when sci-fi movies were taking over, and it is one of the few which still remains powerful today. Everything about the film is near-faultless, but perhaps it suffers slightly from being too detached or cold. This is a minor complaint clearly. The set designs, the creation of the Alien and the face hugger are all realistic in the sense that we believe these things could conceivably exist. It is definitely the stuff of nightmares, an unseen foe stalking us, seemingly without weakness or emotion, its single motive to kill us. The recent director’s cut shown in cinemas proved that the movie can still excite audiences, even those who have seen it several times, and there were certainly screams as I watched.
This DVD is available at a great price, and is littered with every sort of feature you could possibly want. The new version is also worth buying, but only if you are a big fan.
Feel free as always to comment on the review and anything you disagree with- is this still the best monster in space film? Where would you rank this in the series?
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