Greetings, Glancers! Ladies keep your pants on as today we look at my favourite 10 Johnny Depp movies. I’ve been a big Depp fan since as long as I can remember. I’m not sure what the first movie of his I saw was, but I’m farily positive it is something from this list. Depp has been a megastar since the early 90s and a star long before then, and he was my personal pick for that wonderful hetero-male schoolyard question – ‘if you had to shag one man, who would it be’. Kids these days.
Johnny Depp is known (increasingly so in recent years) for picking offbeat characters to portray, usually those on the fringes of society, or quirky, or with romantic burdens. These are the roles which he seems to enjoy, but he has also featured as more serious, straight types – most performances though he gives himself entirely over and even though you know it’s Johnny Depp you can feel the character rather than the actor. Below are my top ten Johnny Depp films – a mixture of performances that I think are his best while also thinking of my enjoyment of the whole film, with a greater focus on the performance. This top ten is actually fairly interchangeable – Number 1 is the only 1 that remains fixed, while the others are all essentially the same ranking, and quite a few other films not included are roughly similar in quality in my eyes.
10. A Nightmare On Elm Street
Depp’s first major appearance was in my favourite horror movie of all time. A Nightmare On Elm Street sees the young star playing a typical teen boyfriend and his role doesn’t go much further than the tropes and expectations of the genre. This is Nancy’s and Freddy’s movie, but everyone remember’s Depp for his failure to stay awake and his gloriously bloody demise. He doesn’t quite have the look yet, or the star power, but the film is so good and he is an integral part, so it has to make my top ten.
9. The Libertine
Has anyone even seen this movie? I feel like nobody has because nobody ever talks about it. Sure, it isn’t the best movie in the world, and is probably in the lower half of Depp’s filmography if we’re talking about good movies, but Depp’s performance is excellent – dirty, horrific, and with the venomous charm of a street addict looking for a final fix. Depp stars as the Earl Of Rochester, The Libertine of the title, a notorious pleasure seeker and dandy. As the film progresses, the hedonism comes back to bite the character in the body, if not the soul, and he begins to wither to an emaciated husk. Even as he falls to bodily corruption, he flies his singular flag, acting like a 17th Century punk hero who burned brightly for a few moments, then was snuffed out – except here he portrays the character as mostly unlikable and dastardly. It’s one of his bravest, most visceral performances.
8. Donnie Brasco
I’ve spoken about this movie before, covering it in my favourite Al Pacino performances. Depp and Pacino work well together, and while Pacino’s weary, fading performance grabs the eye, it is Depp who goes through the changes – the loving cop husband seduced by the darkside. People never gave Depp’s ‘serious’ performances the credit they deserved at the time, and now moan about how every film now is some bizarro freakshow. You can’t have it both ways! Or more accurately where Depp is concerned – of course you can. Depp can play any sort of role, and here it is one of his finest straight shots. He gets to play a normal human, flawed and wretched like the rest of us, but without the need for grandiosity or make-up, and with all of that stripped away he still knocks it out of the park.
7. Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
As everyone knows, the sequels drastically went downhill while becoming increasingly convoluted, but the original Pirates Of The Caribbean Movie is as perfect a popcorn movie you’re ever likely to see. A fun adventure filled with larger than life scoundrels, daring escapades, laughs, romances, and good performances all around. Depp steals the show entirely in what may now be regarded his most famous role. Jack Sparrow is more of a Pirate to the public conscience now that Blackbeard or Long John Silver or Old No-Eyed Skip Stumpy Stump. His maniacal performance deservedly got an Oscar nomination, probably should have got the win, and is brimmed with swaggering confidence and anxious ticks.
6. Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
After some time away from bestie Tim Burton, Depp joined forces with his sullen goth pal once more to bring this musical to stinking life. I was genuinely shocked at how dark and depressing the film actually was, and that was after me already knowing the story since childhood. It’s one of the few instances where I felt kind of shaken leaving the Cinema, and that is as much down to Depp as it is the denouement and the gorgeous look and feel of the thing. Depp channels and then exorcises his Ichabod Crane and merges it with some malevolent, swamp monstrosity. The Demon in the title is key – this is a man, and a performance, possessed by something unspoken and arch, a foul parasite that destroys whatever it comes into contact with – and yet you still somehow manage to feel sorry for him.
5. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
Going full Depp, is that a thing? It is now. Yes, Depp goes full Depp in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, chewing the scenery as much as his own face, and making merry with Del Toro and go as they ravage Vegas to pieces in their quest for half-assed gonzo reporting and the finest highs the world can offer. It’s well documented that Depp and Hunter S Thompson were pals, and Depp takes his look, mannerisms, and speech, mangles them in a stoned haze, and tosses them through the looking glass to craft another colourful character and performance that can never be forgotten once seen.
4. Benny And Joon
This was pretty much ignored at release and beyond, except for a few years after the turn of the century when everyone remembered it existed. Since then it has vanished from people’s minds once more. Or so it seems to me. It’s a gentle comedy, a quiet romance, and features Depp being just off centre enough to still be adorable but not off-putting. The film is never laugh out loud funny, or heartbreaking, or anything extreme – it is light and airy, without becoming preachy or sentimental. It’s simply a sweet story, with Depp showing us a different side to what he was known to at the time, recalling the physical comedians of the past.
3. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
It’s Johnny at his most hearthrobby, whatever that means. DiCaprio rightly gets the plaudits for his performance, but Depp, Lewis,and all the rest all give it a damn good go to complete a touching portrayal of daily struggles. Depp is able to carry a lot of the film as the ostensible lead, and he doesn’t have the suit of armour or make-up to hide behind as in his previous hit. There is nothing inherently quirky about his character, name aside, but it is the situation he finds himself in which borders on the unusual. Depp is a strange mixture of passive, accepting, and keen – willing to be the father figure and brother, yet accepting of his lot even as he hopes for more.
2. Ed Wood
Depp’s other film of 1993 allowed him to unleash his more madcap and exuberant side as he plays the title character in the cult biography. Teaming up with Burton after their earlier success, Ed Wood was a much smaller movie and for many years remained that Tim Burton or Johnny Depp movie that no-one had seen. Even with the critical acclaim which was given to the film and its stars, it was a commercial failure which has luckily found a cult audience in the years since. What is key to the success of the film is that it does not outright mock or laud its titular figure – it simply presents a captivating story of people with a dream and a will – people who will never succeed, people who have already succeeded but been spat out, and people who remain enamored by an industry that doesn’t care about them. Depp’s Wood is stellar, ably backed by a terrific Martin Landau – another instance of the supporting performer getting the plaudits over Depp when both performers deserve all the praise. Depp’s character is child-like in both enthusiasm and despair, a most human Peter Pan, and is just out of place and time enough to be noticeable – he is someone for the powerful to swat away and the needy to cuddle and protect.
Once again my Number 1 should not surprise anyone – Edward Scissorhands is in my mind a flawless film and one of my all time favourites. The only criticism I have ever been able to lay at its feet is that it just isn’t long enough. This is a star-making performance by Depp, creating an emphatic 90s outsider and anti-hero, and showcasing his ability as a physically expressive actor and someone who is able to play the audience for laughs and tears in equal measure. Much of the credit of the film goes of course to Burton – the ideas of isolation, the frivolous horrors of suburban America, and the bizarre realities and feelings of the outcast are his – but all of these are portrayed through the script, the colours, and the performances, with Depp at his best as Edward.
Ten great films and ten great performances – 10 films every film fan should see. I think seven of these performances are worthy of Oscar nominations/wins, so once I get to the 90s in my Oscars rundown, you’ll see most of these popping up. Let us know in the comments what your favourite Johnny Depp films and performances are!
The sun is shining and my mouth is open. That can only mean one thing: I’m talking crap whilst rubbing myself in the front garden…
11. Aliens. (1987, Cameron): Aliens has a nice blend of Science Fiction, Drama, Horror, Comedy, even Romance, and dialogue which would shine in any genre film from the aforementioned genres, AND manages to blend into a seemless whole. Nothing seems out of place, and the balance between the gung-ho and the tender is perfect. Most of the film fixes on our group of hard as nails Marines, but we also get great lines from Scientists, suits, mothers, and children. Bit players like pilot Ferro get to say future Buffy classic ‘Five by Five’, and Frost (when informed they can’t use their firearms) ‘What the hell are we supposed to use man? Harsh language?’ while Sgt. Apone gets the best military dialogue sounding like a hardened, Vietnam vet: ‘Check those corners’, ‘Look into my eye’, ‘Assholes and elbows’ etc etc. Ripley and Hudson get the best bits. Everyone knows Hudson’s ‘Game over, man’ and Ripley’s ‘Get away from her, you BITCH’, but rarely a minute passes without something special being uttered; I honestly can’t pick a favourite, but I imagine it would be something from Paxton.
12. Battle Royale. (2000, Fukasaku): Battle Royale is less about the quotes and more about the action, emotion, and general Japanese wackiness. Although the likes of Kitano and Mitsuko get some memorable one liners, I think my favourite (and yours) has to be taken from our favourite fun-filled BR survival video; Woman is explaining that you each get a back-pack with food, water, and special item/woman produces hatchet from back-pack/woman grins and says ‘This one’s super lucky!’
13. Dawn of the Dead. (1979, Romero): Romero’s epic is filled with entertaining pie, gore, and blood pressure machine related hijinks, as well as plenty of well documented social commentary. Naysayers would say that this is just a mindless zombie film, but in many ways the power of the script is in the quiet moments where nothing is said; Fran staring through the shop windows at begging zombies, the utter horror of the situation felt by a suicidal soldier in the opening segment. The script does have plenty of zingers and memorable speak, best of all when discussing the inevitability of it all. Fran says ‘It’s really all over… isn’t it?’ when viewing the last gasp talk show solutions, Roger gives the simple comment ‘Jesus, it’s everywhere’ and gives my current favourite line in his final moments when hoping that he won’t die and come back as a zombie ‘ I’m gonna try… not to… I’m gonna try… not to… come back. I’m gonna try… not to… ‘ It’s at once funny, pathetic, tragic, and horrific.
14. The Crow. (1994, Proyas). The Crow made superhero movies Tits at a time when superhero movies were Balls. A lot of this was down to the Proyas look and feel, but most of it was down to the faithful adaptation of O’Barr’s grim comic. While there is the expected assortment of action movie one-liners, the script transcends the norm with moments of poignancy, thankfully none of which require the volume to be turned up to 11 and a world language/accent chip inserted into your brain.
The Sound Of A Dog Barking Backwards
The message of the film is ultimately one of redemption and remembrance, though it is the downbeat lines which come off strongest such as ‘Victims; aren’t we all’ and ‘childhood’s over the moment you know you’re going to die’ and my current favourite ‘nothing is trivial’ which can be understood in many ways.
15. The Stand. (1994, Garris): Stephen King’s greatest standalone epic gets an insane but justified amount of praise. The TV mini-series which adapts it? Not so much. Looking past the cheese, the (at times) cheap feel, the Molly Ringwald, you’ll find there is a bad-ass story about the end of the world which retains a bright outlook throughout even though almost everyone dies. Not to mention the glorious soundtrack. King wrote the screenplay, so you can be sure that there will be plenty of creative swearing and memorable one lines.
There is plenty of religious and spiritual spewing and some classic baddy lines from Flagg and crew, and even those who haven’t seen it or read the book know about M-O-O-N – that spells Meme. If I’m ever in dire need of some motivation though, nothing helps quite as much as a dose of Mother Abigail. ‘I’m 106 years old and I still makes my own bread’ is great while ‘mayhap it is or mayhap it ain’t’ gets used at least once a week. My choice today goes to immortal poultry related madness, a quote which I will endeavor to reenact frequently once the apocalypse hits: ‘Come down and eat chicken with me, beautiful, it’s sooo dark!’ Beautiful indeed.
16. The Thing. (1982, Carpenter): For a film which features only men, dogs, and aliens in extreme isolation , you’d be right in assuming that those on screen aren’t the chattiest bunch. Most of the men keep to themselves, either swearing at chess cheating computers (‘cheating bitch’), or following through after an Antarctic Curry (‘Which one of you disrespectful men have been tossing his dirty drawers in the kitchen trash-can, huh?’). All it takes to spice things up is the introduction of a spindly booty-stealing, arm-chomping alien freak. This leads to such treats as ‘I don’t know what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off whatever it is’ and ‘You believe any of this voodoo bullshit?’. However, one of the greatest movie shapeshifting scenes leads to one of the greatest sci-fi one liners ever. It’s not much of a line in and of itself, but after what we’ve seen and the way it is impeccably delivered, it is undoubtedly a classic: ‘You gotta be fucking kidding’.
17. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. (1989, Herek): As we eagerly await the inevitably disastrous 3rd film in the series, it’s good to look back at a more simple time – the late 1980s. This was a time when there was no such thing as terrorists in the US, when we had no idea what a Snooki was, when a Hilton was something to climb into at night and regret staying in for so long the next day
Music was more simple too, with MTV playing a healthy dose of good rock, bad rock, and crap rock. Senor Cobain and his wonderful ilk were on the verge of telling us that rock music did not have to be vacuous, empty, juvenile, flaccid garbage but until then we had to rely on Mr Reeves and Mr Winter for most excellent guidance. Amongst all the obvious ‘wooos’ , ‘boguses’ and ‘San Dimas High School Football Ruleses’ it is my little French friend, Napoleon, who gets my most quoted lines. ‘Le glace?’, ‘Attend!’ and of course, the reason why Bill’s little brother stopped looking after him – ‘He was a Dick!’
18. Edward Scissorhands. (1990, Burton): A timeless, perfect movie with wonderful performances all round, Edward Scissorhands is a bittersweet, twisted fairytale which catapulted Johnny Depp to superstardom. You’d expect a film about a weirdo with scissors instead of hands to be ripe with interesting dialogue
but Scissorhands charms us more with its imagery, quirky style, and performances. It’s also surprisingly funny, something which people seem to have forgotten over the years, with plenty of slapstick and visual gags. My favourite comedic line from Ed: ‘Mrs Monroe showed me where the salon’s going to be….. And then she showed me the back room where she took all of her clothes off’.
19. Scream. (1996, Craven): Scream was revolutionary in many ways, almost single-handedly bringing the horror genre back to profitability and back into the minds of critics who normally dismiss the genre for being dumb. Williamson’s script plays with plenty of tropes of the genre in a post modern way, but while poking fun at the genre it also pays its utmost respects. Unlike many of the other movies which were played for cools at the time, the dialogue here hasn’t aged at all – the only thing that has changed is that today we have a group of kids who are much more aware of horror clichés and old movies thanks to ease of access; in 96 it was still an unusual geeky thing to be a massive horror movie fan, now it’s much more widespread and acceptable. We all remember the questions and the rules, but what about Billy’s epic ‘That woman was a slut-bag whore who flashed her shit all over town like she was Sharon Stone or something’? or Sidney’s simple but evocative and pertinent ‘But this is life. This isn’t a movie’.
Why Yes, Mr. Nightman, I Will Marry You
20. Wayne’s World. (1992, Spheeris): Like Bill and Ted before it, Wayne’s World can be accused of dumbing down the rock music genre and making its fans look like morons, but this isn’t a satire, it’s just a love story about our relationship with the music we adore with a lot of silly moments and appreciation for big hair and guitars. Once again, we all know the obvious lines which have gone down into folklore, or worse, memes. I offer my quartet of underappreciated delights from Garth: ‘If she were a president, she would be Baberham Lincoln’, ‘Hey Mr. Donut Man, who’s trying to kill ya? I don’t know but they better not! AUGH UGH oh, that’s not good, I’m not happy! Oh NO!’, Glen: ‘You know, if you stab a man in the dead of winter, steam will rise up from the wounds’ , and Wayne: ‘No Stairway. Denied!’
Halloween isn’t just for murderers, psychos, and drunk frat boys, you know- I believe that children deserve to have some spooky fun too- you don’t want to scar them, no, but kids love to be scared, and I’m sure you love being the strong reassuring parent too.
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. And kids- just be sure that mum and dad have locked the doors and windows, and that they’ve checked under your bed and in your closet for… anything. After all, better they get chopped to pieces and eaten than you, right? Just remember, Mum and Dad are old, forgetful, and possibly drunk, so maybe you should check the doors yourself. And keep your toys and dolls close, because if and when the time comes they may be your only friends and your greatest protection against the dread armies of the night which are gunning for you and only you. Maybe sneak that baseball bat, hockey stick, or golf club into bed too- I’m not saying you’ll need it, but I’d rather be swinging that than a pillow.
Don’t worry, movies can’t hurt you- if anything they will prepare you for any real horrors you may be unlucky enough to encounter. So watch them closely, and listen as if your life depended on it. You never know when your fears will come in handy. Maybe tonight…
These don’t have to be watched in any particular order, but some would suit the big day (or night) better than others. Enjoy.
Abbot And Costello Meet Frankenstein: The first of several meetings with Universal’s monsters, I’ve included this because vampires exist more prominently on this list (plus all manner of creatures pop up here anyway). With a host of stars and a surprisingly smart script, this is obviously played for laughs but should act as a good introduction to the world of classic monster features. There are a few moments which younger kids should find entertainingly scary, and it’s short and fast enough to stop them from becoming restltess. Classic Halloween Scene: When Dracula rises in the House of Horrors.
Arachnophobia: Everyone’s afraid of spiders, right? If not, then you’re an idiot (spiders cause at least 14 million human deaths each year- need source…) and should watch this film to remind yourself of how deadly they can be. We follow the adventures of a deadly spider from Venuzuela to a small American town where it mates with a local and have thousands of evil babies. Amongst this we have a new family arriving in the town in classic The Birds style. Jeff Daniels plays the new doctor and he has to deal with some prejudice from the locals, but he soon finds himself investigating a string of mysterious deaths. This has just enough scares to unsettle the kids but enough laughs to keep the mood light- a good introduction to horror. Classic Halloween Scene: When the Doctor sees a dark shape on his bedroom wall.
Beetlejuice: More of an offbeat comedy this, but with enough surreal and disturbing moments to warrant its selection. Tim Burton’s film is a triumph of plot, ideas, visuals, acting, and comedy. An excellent all-star cast give some of the best performances of their career, while the ideas surrounding the afterlife are fresh and innovative. Kids will get kicks from both the gruesome jokes and some of the darker scenes. Classic Halloween Scene: Beetlejuice becomes a snake.
The Changling: This one seems to have been a rite of passage for some kids, but it is one which passed me by when I was young. I only saw it for the first time after my teens had disappeared behind me, and maybe some of the scares were lost on me. Watching from the perpective of a child though, the big house, the dark rooms and sounds, and that wheelchair on the stairs could be terrifying and make the youngster a bit more apprehensive about spending a few hours alone at night in their own home. Classic Halloween Scene: When we climb into the attic.
Casper: A lighter one for the younger kids, this at least deals with the ideas of ghosts, the afterlife, good vs evil, haunted houses, and is filled with good performances and action for the whole family to enjoy. Classic Halloween Scene: When Casper’s family show up for the first time.
Corpse Bride: Another lighter one, and another eye-fest from Burton. This has all the hallmarks of a Disney classic- the enchanting and enchanted characters, the weird and wonderful worlds, the struggle between an innocent goodie, and an ogre like baddie, though most of those conventions are turned on their heads. Burton gives it a grim Victorian feel where everything is dark and dank, and even above the shadows there are things which creep and crawl lurking around every corner. Classic Halloween Scene: When Victor first gets taken down to the land of the dead.
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.
Edward Scissorhands: There isn’t much horror here, but there are some ideas which are more usually found in horror- the crazy scientist, the old castle, the misunderstood outcast, the tyranny of normal people. Most of all though it is a love story but one which even you’re most manly son will enjoy thanks to Depp’s superlative lead. Classic Halloween Scene: When our friendly jock pushes Edward too far.
Frankenstein: This would act as a good partner with Dracula for an old school horror night. If the kids haven’t been scarred enough by The Count, then torment them with visions of lumbering giants who just want to live and be loved, and crazy scientists who just want to scream. Whale’s campy film has plenty of iconic moments and shocks and even though the film is roughly 400 years old, it should still have enough power to make the younglings tremble. Classic Halloween Scene: I wonder if this child can swim- another good example to call upon when telling your children why they shouldn’t talk to strangers.
Fright Night: This vampire flick has plenty of laughs and scares for ages 9-14 and can be enjoyed by all ages, especially those were around in the 80s. This will stir your child’s imagination with thoughts of what that funny new neighbour really gets up to by himself at night, and will have them questioning how they would react if a vampire was stalking his neighbourhood. Classic Halloween Scene: Evil Ed in a red wig, that’s scary, right?
Ghostbusters: Who ya gonna call? Mummy probably after being scared senseless by the opening scene in the library. This has just the right amount of scares for kids, balanced nicely by humour which all ages will appreciate. While the kids dream of hunting down monsters with their proton packs, dads can dream of being Bill Murray. Classic Halloween Scene: Rick Moranis being chased by the devil dog.
The Haunting: One of the best haunted house movies of all time, the atmosphere, the sounds, and the scares should be more than enough to keep your brood enthralled and make them forget they are watching a ‘black and white’. The film follows the standard ‘spend a night in a haunted house’ formula as two men and two women, each with their own reasons for staying, are put to a variety of supernatural tests. Classic Halloween Scene: Waking up to all that banging, booming, noise.
Hocus Pocus: This one is Halloween through and through, depicting all the things you’re kids will likely be getting up to- trick or treating, dressing up, trying not to be abducted by witches. Parker, Najimy, and Midler are eerily convincing as a trio of wicked sisters, whilst the younger actors are more than their match. Watch this with a few episodes of Eerie Indiana and remember that Omri Katz kicked ass before he vanished, possibly into a parallel evil milk man dimension. Classic Halloween Scene: When it looks like our heroes may be boiled in broth.
Jaws: You should be familiar with the film- chances are you saw it quite young, and you turned out mostly ok, didn’t you? The gift of childhood will mean that any bad effects will be overlooked thanks to the fantastic action on screen. Just be aware that your kid may not want to take a bath ever again. Classic Halloween Scene: A young boy shows America just how much blood he has, and how far into the air he can spew it with the help of a little fish.
Lady In White: Frank LaLoggia’s underrated gem is a treasure trove of drama, heart, nostalgia and asks the audience some important questions about race and morality, but more importantly is that it has some terrific tension filled scenes. When a boy is trapped in his school locker room by bullies he inadvertantly witnesses what seems to be the re-enactment of a young girl’s murder, via the spirit world. Moments later a man enters and catches the boy. He loses consiousness. The rest of the film sees the police trying to find a serial killer, while our hero is haunted by the event and by the ghost of an old woman- it seems he must find the killer too. This one also has an effective Halloween setting and an authentic 60s feel. Thanks to some great acting the scenes of horror still hold up today. Add this one to your list if you can find it. Classic Halloween Scene: The Lady In White coming down the stairs.
Poltergeist: Possibly the most famous of all the haunted house movies, Spielberg’s teaming with Hooper is a riotous success. Scares typical of Hooper, laughs and vision typical of Spielberg, we see a family brought to their knees by a house which doesn’t want them. Indian burial grounds, evil trees, loony psychics, clowns, freaky children, parallel worlds- it’s all here. There are some gory moments and the tension is turned up pretty high, so be on hand in case it is all too much for some of the kids. Classic Halloween Scene: Looking in the mirror, sometimes you just want to pull off your face and start over.
Q- The Winged Serpent: What says Halloween more than a giant, flying prehistoric Mayan dinosaur God? Not a lot. Marvel as Michael Moriarty and Shaft race around New York trying to prevent the beast from carrying off any more unwary sunbathers. Unfortunately their plan doesn’t involve resurrecting King Kong and having a ‘Giant Off’ but nevertheless this is a decent romp which the kids will enjoy for the big monster and the few moments of blood and terror. Don’t worry mum and dad, there isn’t much blood on show. Classic Halloween Scene: Any of the camera sweeps over the Manhattan skyline as I wonder what terrors are coming down for us.
Sleepy Hollow: This one is decidedly dark and if it wasn’t for Depp’s fun performance as Ichobod Crane which lightens the mood quite a bit, then I wouldn’t have included this for kids. All the Burton hallmarks are there- miniatures, gloom, pale faced oddities and so on. There are be-headings, but these are not shocking, and the sight of Walken as the headless horseman would be, I imagine, quite nerve-wracking for your bambinos- just what you want. Things don’t go too far though, plus there’s a love story thrown in, and though it looks and feels quite dark, there isn’t anything terrifying or brutal. Classic Halloween Scene: Any time Christopher Walken opens his mouth.
Village Of The Damned: Don’t bother with Carpenter’s version- not even Luke Skywalker and Superman could save that from being a disaster of Glee proportions. The original has all the ominous dread you could wish for, and as the film ends and the children turn slowly, in unison, to look at you with their eyes, you’ll wish you made them watch The Human Centipede instead. Classic Halloween Scene: When the kids decide to show off their power by making a man crash his car, and his brother shoot himself.
The Witches: Roald Dahl’s wonderful story is brought to the big screen with giant helpings of Angelica Huston and Mr Bean. A young boy is staying at a hotel with his family when he accidentally uncovers a massive group of witches who are plotting to turn children into mice. Can he stop them in time? There are some nicely gruesome effects here and thankfully the entire cast are excellent. Dahl’s storys are eternal and have that elusive quality of being enchanting to children and highly entertaining for adults. Classic Halloween Scene: When the witches first uncover themselves.
Monsters Inc: One of the first Pixar mega hits, this should please the wholy family with stunning animation, stellar voice cast, entertaining story, and homages to classic horror moments. I think we all wondered at some point in our younger days about what may be lurking in the closet or under the bed, and this film shows a delightful alternative to what we may have imagined. Classic Halloween Scene: I guess some of the monsters may look quite scary for younger kids.
Gremlins: Growing up in the 80s, this was a staple of both Halloween and Christmas. It has that small town America, nostalgic tone which movies nowadays just don’t have. Maybe things were more innocent back then. Although, when you think that this film depicts cuteness becoming evil when rules are not obeyed, animals being blown apart in microwaves, an old woman being fired out of her home via her roof , and assorted other nasties, it seems amazing nowadays that this was seen as a kids movie back then. If a kids movie now doesn’t feature singing, dancing, every token character imaginable, and at least one ridiculous romance, then it isn’t a kids movie. In my opinion, if there isn’t violence and minor atrocities then it isn’t a kids movie. Classic Halloween Scene: The Christmas tree.
Tremors: As entertaining now as it was then, and with effects which have held up surprisingly well, Tremors is like a cheesy 50s monster movie, but with modern humour and sentiment. It is pretty gross at times, and there is some swearing, but the blood and guts is mostly coming from the monsters while your kids will be too entranced by the plot and action to pick up on the cussin’. Maybe. Set in a desert wreck somewhere in the US, Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and assorted other inhabitants must battle their way to safety and survival whilst being hunted down by giant subterranian worm monsters. This takes a simple, well worn idea, and packs every moment with wit and invention to make it seem incredibly fresh and fun. There are some scary moments, but mostly this is a fun trip which will live long in the memory. Classic Halloween Scene: The old couple think their car will keep them safe…
The Frighteners: Peter ‘Barefoot’ Jackson makes the leap from New Zealand zombie weirdness to Hollywood ghosty madness, a few years before taking the final step to Mordor. This is a sometimes confused film, but has more hits than misses and should entertain young and old alike with the satire and scares. There aren’t many scares and the film relies on Michael J Fox and some snazzy effects, but that shouldn’t stop everyone from having a good time watching it. Classic Halloween Scene: The opening moments seem to suggest a scarier tone than what actually follows, but there are still some tense parts.
Critters: A more direct horror film than Gremlins, but still one with more moments of laughter than screams, Critters is to Gremlins what Twin Peaks is to Dallas. A group of evil, furry monsters land on earth to breed and eat- humans seem like a tasty target. Luckily for humanity, a couple of bounty hunters are not far behind. Classic Halloween Scene: Don’t these people learn? If your power goes off, you never go off by yourself to the barn/kitchen/basement.
The Watcher In The Woods: Ahh, Lynne Holly Johnson- she could walk through my woods any day. Whatever that means. Disney go for scares here, and perhaps they went a little too far because this sank without a trace upon release. The story follows a family moving to an old mansion owned by a creepy Bette Davis. Soon the daughters begin to notice and encounter some strange and frightening behaviour. This was a difficult shoot as there were disputes over how intense the scenes of horror should be, and indeed the film was pulled from theatres and some new endings were filmed. Check them all out on DVD. Classic Halloween Scene: Standing beside a pond is a terrible place to be hypnotized.
Monster House: The scary version of Monsters Inc. This may be an animated kids film, but be aware that some parts may be too intense for younger viewers. A young boy and his friend investigate their creepy neighbour’s house after the neighbour suffers a heart attack. It seems that the house has some dark secrets. Naturally this has plenty of funny, witty moments, and the animation is perfectly suited to the Halloween nature of the story. Classic Halloween Scene: When we see the house ‘come to life’ for the first time, and chow down on a toy.
IT: I remember the first time I saw this- i must have been 9 or 10, possibly 11. Just the right age to be exposed to this. Naturally you should know if you’re child could handle this or any other horror film. This one will give them nightmares, but if watched with friends then they can fight through their fears together and come out the other side stronger. Again it’s a good one to watch over a number of days. If they wake up screaming that a clown is after them you may feel that they shouldn’t see Part 2. But then they won’t have any closure- there’s nothing worse than never knowing how the nightmare ends. Classic Halloween Scene: Out of many, lets go for the rain-soaked opener with Georgie- once seen, never forgotten.
The Lost Boys: A great one for the younger teens to watch, before they get too self conscious and laugh about the hair and clothes. This was the epitome of cool at the time, and it still has that fleeting 80s air of cool which not even the passing of decades can shrug off. Yeah we can laugh, but Feldman, Patrick ,and Sutherland have never been better. Vampires are at once romanticized and demonized. We see how seductive the life (or death) style is- sleep all day, party all night- but also the cost of losing yourself, your family, your soul. This has plenty of twists, memorable scenes, humour, action, and one liners, and while it isn’t bloody it does have a high level of fear inducing moments. Classic Halloween Scene: When Sutherland and his team head for Michael’s house as soon as sun sets for a final battle.
The Hole: Joe Dante goes back to doing what he does best- family oriented horror adventures and does a good job of recalling his best work. A young family move to a new town, new home, and the teenage son falls for the girl next door- so far, so Dante. Upon finding a seemingly bottomless pit in their basement, the group investigate and a tonne of strange and scary events start happening to them. Dante has always known how to get the best out of a young cast and how to turn an interesting script into something fully entertaining. Most people missed this on the big screen, but there’s no excuse in DVD land. Classic Halloween Scene: The creepy TV eye.
Return To Oz: Vastly superior to the original in every way (don’t hurt me), Return To Oz is pretty horrific, portraying Oz as it should be- an unending nightmare. If your young son or daughter was sucked off to a magic parallel world of witches and wonder, chances are they’d spend the first few hours shrieking in horror and the next few sitting under a tree holding their knees in a foetus position and rocking backwards and forwards. If the tree didn’t eat them, they would eventually get up and explore. The film follows Dorothy who has, for all intents and purposes, gone crazy after her adventures in Oz (naturally) and has been sent to a hospital by her family. It turns out the hospital is more like an asylum, and after some terrifying moments, Dorothy flees, only to wake up once more in Oz- though the Emerald City has been destroyed and her friends have been turned to stone. Dorothy begins her quest to find out what has gone wrong. Featuring men with wheels for limbs, headless witches, hell, man eating rock monsters, and any other number of nightmares, this is either a wonderful movie, or the spawn of Satan. Classic Halloween Scene: Dorothy trying to sneak around the corridor of heads.
Feel free to leave any comments and suggestions- are any of these films clearly not suitable for kids, or have I missed any which you would show at this time of year? Which films spooked you as a kid?
Edward Scissorhands is a terrifying, grim fairy tale, the story of a deformed boy with scissors stapled onto his arms in the place of hands. It is a well known fact that Vinnie Price went buck nuts before he died, believing that he was a real mad scientist. He began experimenting on neighbourhood runaways, cutting them up and replacing their limbs with household appliances- he would sand off their feet and replace them with a couple of hairdryers; he scooped out their eyeballs and inserted Christmas lights; he ripped off their danglies and tied on glue guns. The list goes on- all I will say is that this is where Radiohead got their name from. Tim Button, fresh from his success with his version of Batfink which made enough money to let him make whatever film he wanted. He decided to base his next film on the continuing existence of one of Prince’s creations- Edward. It is made all the more horrific by the fact that a love story is tacked on along with some rather sick slap-the-stick comedy.
The film stars Julia Roberts as a suburban saleswoman. In a clear rip off of off Desperate Houses, all the women are sneaky, self interested pointlessly neighbour obsessed with lives so empty and meaningless that the only way to fill the void with something other than outright hatred for themselves is to spy on their equally vacuous mud dwellers. Julia decides one day to go up to the spooky castle at the bottom of her street to try to sell her magic beans there. Inside she finds (amongst an assortment of fetishist, S and M torture devices) a lonely young man called Edward. He seems normal other than the fact that he has scissors for his hands and is a complete weirdo. Naturally, Jaunty Depp was picked for the role. Judy takes him home to meet her family- husband Richard, son Barry, and daughter Winrunner Rideher. Eddie falls in love for Wineowner but she calls him a hippie and has an affair with local jock Rob Lowe. Jedward goes buck nuts and begins having visions of his daddy, Vinnie Jones, who advises him to become an assassin. He does, and the rest of the film is a blood soaked snowstorm of necks being sliced, eyes being gouged (with the camera placed on the tip of the scissor for maximum effect), and limbs removed as Tom Button shows his utter disdain for everything wholesome; it is basically him saying that he wishes everyone would murder everyone else and leave him alone to draw his zany pictures. The worst thing is, when Ed gets paid he can’t count or spend the money as he keeps accidentally ripping it up. The scene where he moves from house to house impaling and mauling all the pets is so awful I may well have invented it just so I don’t have to remember it. The thing comes to a climax when the FBI come to take Edwood away and he holds Winoprah hostage at the top of his castle. Helichopters swoop around the pair while he has a slow motion fight with their propellers. He finally cracks, and cuts off his beloved’s head and legs and is subsequently shot to pieces by the Feds. As the sad music rises, Winnie’s blood drops onto the floor and we fade to white.
Best Scene: The ending, where we fade back in to find that it is the future, and Wimpy is alive and well and a granny. Surgeons were able so sow her head and legs together with a thin strip of her torso, though her midriff is completely gone. She is telling her granddaughter this story (I assume the young girl was naughty and this is her horrific punishment). The child asks, ‘What happened to Ed, granny?’ Winotebook replies ‘Ed’s dead, baby. Ed’s dead’ before racing off on her space age mobility cycle.
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.