Official Nominations: Jaws. Birds Do It, Bees Do It. Bite The Bullet. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The Wind And The Lion. Barry Lyndon. Tommy. Funny Lady.
It’s another year where the category is needlessly divided into Best Original Score and Best Adaptation Score. Just have Best Score, okay? Jaws and Barry Lyndon won their respective categories and if you’re not already humming the Jaws theme as you read this then you probably need to contact your Doctor post haste. I’m surprised Lyndon won over Funny Lady – usually it’s the musicals which win here. Either way, I’d be picking Tommy in that category. It’s not my favourite Who album or film, but it’s the best out of those three.
Birds Do It, Bees Do It (what? Fuck? Ah right.) is actually a documentary about just that. Yep, if you have a thing for watching frogs, chimps, and everything in between humping, then draw the curtains and stick this on. Gerald Fried is one of the great unsung composers, having worked on a bunch of early Kubrick films and just about every TV show from the 1950s onwards. Surprisingly, this score is not entirely made up of grunting and moistness. Bite The Bullet is a forgotten but interesting film about a cross country horse race and stars Gene Hackman, Jan Michael Vincent, Ben Johnson, James Coburn, and the Alex North soundtrack it typically sentimental without becoming schmaltzy.
When talking about One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest the score is something which rarely comes up. It’s use of a saw to get those ghostly ‘woo’ noises makes the score seem like a Western, and while the music as a whole is poignant and fitting I do think it lacks that big movie score hook to draw people in. Finally, The Wind And The Lion is a wonderful, rousing John Milius film which again few people remember. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is big, bombastic, and has all the things I love in film music – huge string arrangements and memorable cues and melodies. Still though… Jaws.
My Winner: Jaws
My Nominations: Jaws. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The Wind And The Lion. Tommy. Deep Red. Hard Times. The Man Who Would Be King. Monty Python And The Holy Grail. Nashville. Picnic At Hanging Rock. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Yakuza.
Deep Red is one of Goblin’s best, and funkiest scores – just listen to that bass and those high pitched, torturous squeals. You can see where Carpenter and many others got their inspiration from with this one. Hard Times has some wistful and tender guitar and string pieces which both counteract and fit with the violence and plot, while The man Who Would Be King has a typically rousing and patriotic theme. The Holy Grail has an unexpectedly authentic and stirring central theme, while the rest of the score has militaristic moments, elevator ad music, and jovially epic pieces. Nashville is the obvious snub here, especially considering how well the film was received – maybe something to do with the score being mainly songs than instrumental pieces. As much as I can’t stand country music, the score and film are of course satirical which makes them a little more enjoyable.
Despite making me think about The Karate Kid, the score for Picnic At Hanging Rock feels more modern than maybe anything else on the list. The mournful organ, the disjointed notes which drop off almost by mistake, there’s something airy and not quite right about the pieces here – the original ones or those based off classic pieces. It’s a stunning piece and would be my winner if not for a certain shark. The other omission which most would call a serious snub is of course for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now, I don’t love the film as much as many people do, but I recognize both the influence, lasting power, and quality of the score and its songs. Finally, The Yakuza is a film no-one remembers even though it’s Sydney Pollack and Robert Mitchum. I love Japanese traditional music and instruments, especially when merged with Western sensibility. The Yakuza soundtrack is one of the finest examples of this clash of styles – and it doesn’t make me think of The Karate Kid (which I love by the way).
My Winner: Jaws
Let us know in the comments which score gets your vote!
Official Nominations: Jaws. The Wind And The Lion. Birds Do It Bees Do It. Bite The Bullet. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Barry Lyndon. Funny Lady. Tommy.
There are a very small handful of movie scores, or musical cues that everyone knows; Most of them were written by John Williams. Jaws may be the most recognizable of them all. Doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the movie or not, you just know it. While the two note melody to symbolize the shark’s arrival was basically nicked from Bambi, it works brilliantly here, and Williams cranks up the tension by having it build and become more frenzied as it progresses. It isn’t all scares though, it also features plenty of more subdued moments which Williams would recycle and hone in later Spielberg and Lucas productions.
The Wind And The Lion is in with a shot of winning in any other year, a boisterous, heroic sounding theme with enough Eastern mystery to enchant Western audiences. Birds Do It, Bees Do It, remarkably isn’t a camp 1940s musical. No, it’s a documentary about animals fucking, featuring scenes of animals fucking. Yep. The score is bizarre – on one hand, it’s way too huge to be associated with animals frolicking about and feels completely out of place, on the other hand there are many twee moments which feel like something from a Tom And Jerry cartoon – if an animal falls over, you’ll get a flute going ‘weeeeeooo’ downwards for example. It’s a musical laugh track. Also, it’s a 1974 documentary, so it should’t be here.
Bite The Bullet feels outdated, a score two decades late for a film set seven decades earlier – some good moments, but doesn’t feel right for the Seventies. Nitzche’s score for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest shouldn’t work, but it somehow does – the weird saw playing and glass circling with spiked percussion sounding like a mind in free fall, childlike, almost anti-music – yet it fits the film wonderfully. Barry Lyndon picked up the win for best Adapted Score – it’s great, merging classical pieces you already know from various eras, while Tommy is as good as you would expect from The Who. It’s not my favourite album from the band, but it has its moments. Funny Lady is wank.
My Winner: Jaws
My Nominations: Jaws. One Flew Over The Cucko’s Nest. Barry Lyndon. Tommy. Monty Python And The Holy Grail. Deep Red. Katie Tippel. Lisztomania. The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I add a few obvious picks on my list – if you have Tommy and Barry Lyndon, then you have to have Lisztomania, with Yes providing the virtuoso licks. You can’t mention music in 1975 movies without mentioning Goblin – their soundtrack for Deep Red is one of their best, and head and shoulders above most scores which usually get nominated in this category. Similarly, there’s no getting away from the strength and influence of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Katie Tippel has many good moments, mystery and romance in equal measure, while Monty Python And The Holy Grail probably shouldn’t be nominated given that it was mainly pulled together from existing sources, but there are enough original pieces and it’s edited to the film so skillfully that you wouldn’t know otherwise.
Official Nominations: One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Barry Lyndon. Nashville
Jeepers, what do you do with this category? Five undisputed classics including three which have been personal favourites for most of my life. Anything you pick here is a worthy winner, but lets go through them anyway. One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest was the official winner and only the second movie ever to win the five major categories. If you’re here then you already know the story, but just in case – Jack Nicholson’s character RP McMurphy (who people forget is actually a scumbag criminal) is moved from prison to a mental institution because he thinks he’ll have an easier time. He meets the other inmates, has a lot of fun bending the rules, and clashes with the vicious lead Nurse. It’s iconic, filled with great scenes and performances, and runs the gamut from side-splitting laughs, to shocks, and tragedy. It’s a must see.
Next up is Jaws. Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t seen Jaws. Brody, Quint, Hooper, Orca, ‘we’re gonna need a bigger boat’ etc. Even if you don’t watch movies, you watch Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon also features iconic moments and is led by a blistering Al Pacino performance – when people begin watching Pacino movies, this film is one you’ll want to see as soon as possible, but it’s great for other reasons too – funny moments, an air of inevitability, and the general anti-establishment tone controlled by Sidney Lumet mean it’s a cult classic.
Barry Lyndon is Stanley Kubrick’s return, this time a period piece about the adventures of the titular character. Perhaps overlong and not as controversial or immediately engaging as some of his more popular work, it is nevertheless one of the most beautifully shot films ever. Finally, it’s Nashville. Possibly my least favourite film here, but when you look at the other four that isn’t a negative statement – it’s another masterstroke by Altman. In any other year any of these films would be in contention for a win, the fact that I enjoy it even though it’s a musical is a testament to its quality. It’s hilarious with a touch of the surreal, and bolstered by a bunch of good performances. For my win, I go with the one I know and love best.
My Winner: Jaws
My Nominations: One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Barry Lyndon. Nashville. The Holy Grail. Picnic At Hanging Rock
As great as the nominations are this year, there aren’t too many obvious choices to add or replace. Having said that, I add two personal favourites which never stood a chance of ever getting nominated. Monty Python And The Holy Grail is sheer British anarchy at its finest, turning comedy, and film, on its head in a parade of songs, violence, silliness, fourth wall breaking, and general inspired nonsense while Picnic At Hanging Rock is another symbol of the creativity emerging from Oz in the 70s. It’s an ambiguous mystery with definite beauty, a haunting score and the sort of tension only experienced inside the heart of darkness.
Greetings, Glancers! It’s been an age and a half since I did one of these Top Ten Tuesdays lists, and that is simply unacceptable. As it’s the season of ghouls and murder I’m going to throw my head into the ring and let you know my Top Ten favourite Horror Movies of all time. Now, I haven’t put a lot of thought into this – I’ve just gone back to my old, faithful, never updated since created Top 250 IMDB favourite movies list and picked the highest ranking horror films. The lowest ranking movie in this Top Ten comes in at 40th in my IMDB list – so you know how much I love horror when 10 movies appear in my top 40 favourite films of all time.
Yes, I’ve loved horror all my life, and I’ve always been the morbid kid. One of my first Primary School stories came back with a note from the teacher saying I had a keen interest in the macabre. I had no clue what that meant, or how to pronounce it. Most of my stories and the games I imagined up to play with my friends involved monsters and gruesome mayhem. And ninjas – it was the 80s after all. I’ve probably mentioned it before – how I was always drawn to the horror section of the VHS store – and I don’t really know where it comes from. I think some of us are just born the right kind of wrong. That’s a good thing too, otherwise we would have never had many wonderful works of fiction and film.
I’m not saying any or all of the below films are wonderful, or masterpieces, or anything like that – just that they represent a decent picture of what I love from the genre (however some of them are genuine masterpieces). I don’t think this list will be too different from any horror fan’s list but maybe there will be a few surprises. If I went back to my Top 250 there would be some definite changes, not just to the ordering but additions, removals, and not just from the horror genre. Enough warbling though. The below ten films are as good an introduction to Horror Movies as any, and they have provided me with a lifetime of entertainment and insight. Scares? Yeah, scares too.
10. Interview With The Vampire
This is probably the most controversial and least loved film on my list. I’m actually surprised I had it so high on my Top 250 too, but there you go. I do love the film, and it’s a great adaptation of one of my favourite books. The cast is top notch, it looks gorgeous, it’s sexy, bloody, and in Claudia we have one of my favourite tragic figures.
9. The Lost Boys
The ultimate MTV generation movie. One of the coolest movies ever too, but you had to be there around the time of release to see that, because watching today it looks either cheesy as hell or a product of another world. It’s vampires again, but rather than mopey, sorry figures, these guys are perma-teens of the cool kids club – sleeping all day, partying all night, pouting in leather and denim. Again there’s a great cast, everyone is ultra-hot, it’s hilarious, quotable, and endlessly entertaining.
8. Night Of The Living Dead
Probably the most important film on the list, this is where modern horror truly kicked off – Psycho started things rolling, but this brought realism where Psycho still felt like a movie. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the film where zombies feel most plausible and most scary. Other films use their zombies for sheer shocks and gore, Romero included, but here they are at their most chilling – we don’t know where they’ve come from, they look like our loved ones, and they just keep coming.
I’m going to assume everyone has seen this. It’s the ultimate gateway horror film, and one its best to see in your youth. Its scares range from jump-shocks, dread, tension, gore, but at its core it’s a story of man versus monster with universal characters and a simple, entertaining story.
Horror in the 90s was in a downward spiral – Scream almost single-handedly brought it back to relevance, making a tonne of money and getting praise from critics and fans new and old. As much as it nods, winks, and plays with tropes, it’s still an emotive story with a great heroine, tonnes of memorable dialogue and iconic scenes, and plenty of violence, laughs, and scares.
5. The Stand
I could get a lot of stick for this, but I don’t care – I love The Stand. It’s probably my favourite or second favourite book ever, and Mick Garris does it justice. Sure, some of the acting is painful in places and its age and budget are showing now, but the opening scenes and the following collapse of society were shamelessly stolen by The Walking Dead and yet are still effective. There are jump scares, there is violence, nihilism, hope, but it’s the ultimate battle of good versus evil. The soundtrack is also on regular rotation in my car/pocket. As much as I love it, I think an updated version could be epic.
4. The Thing
Now, these top four films – every one of them is a masterpiece – that can’t be disputed – and there isn’t much between how much I love, respect, and appreciate them. The Thing transcends horror – it’s one of the best movies of all time. It’s one of those movies I can’t really fault… the only thing I would say is, as great as the cast is, maybe we don’t spend enough time in the early moments with certain characters, and it can be difficult to differentiate between them. Regardless, it’s a perfect film.
3. Dawn Of The Dead
I can find fault with Dawn Of The Dead, and yet I love it just as much, if not more. The Thing is bad-ass, but Dawn Of The Dead was life-changing. I already loved horror, I already loved zombies, but this opened up a whole new world – it’s one of those movies that feels like something I would make or write. You know when you’re starting out as a writer or performer or artist – and I’m speaking to those of us who started young – as children – you get an idea and you begin tossing it around your juvenile mind, working out the plot and intricacies, and then one day you find out that someone else has already done it. They got there before you, and did it better than you ever could – suddenly you see your dream or nightmare on screen before you, but rather than being bitter, you love it. Someone else gets it. That’s Dawn Of The Dead, and it’s mind-blowing every time.
This one was also life-changing. I already love foreign movies, Japanese movies, but my experience of Asian Horror was fairly limited. When I first saw Ringu around 1999 I had never seen anything like it. It was modern, beautifully shot, paced to perfection, and holy heavens did it scare my soul away. I couldn’t buy it anywhere, but once it came to TV a year or two later I recorded it and must have watched it every day for a week, showing it to my brother, sister, friends, and loving it every time. I don’t think I’ve had a horror film which has made me do that before or since. Sure I have recommended films to people and have sat people down and forced them to watch some movies, but no movie felt so necessary – I had to see and feel their reactions and I had to be part of that world again. I love the sequels, I love the books, but this is where it started. I was picking up every single Asian horror film I could find after this.
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street
I don’t want to say this is where it all began – the first true horror film I remember seeing was Salem’s Lot – but really this is where it all began, and where it’s still at. Those VHS stores I mentioned – the Elm Street movie VHS covers were the ones which most caught my eye. Sometimes there would be a poster or cardboard cutout of Freddy there and I’d look at it cautiously, waiting for it to come to life. Who was this guy? What was that glove about? What happened his face, what was he doing? Somehow – credit to the wonderful powers of childhood imagination – somehow, though reading the backs of the videos, looking at the pictures, and splicing together rumours, by the time I was 6 or 7 I kind of had the whole thing worked out. I knew Krueger’s name, I knew the 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you song, I knew that he got you in your sleep, and yet I didn’t see any movie until years later.
I somehow caught the last minute or so of the movie once, and that stayed in my head for years, even after I finally watched the whole thing. The same goes for snippets of other films in the series – something about the characters crept inside me on a personal level to the extent that I credit Krueger, Craven, and the series as being my true doorway to horror cinema. That idea of not being safe in your sleep is something chilling for all of us, but I think it’s something kids are especially susceptible too. We’re supposed to go to sleep, dream sweet dreams, and wake knowing we are safe and warm and loved. Craven turns that upside down and inside out, and goes further, exploring that idea that it’s the fault of the protector, the parent, that we are put in this mess. That idea is explored in many of his films – the mistakes of the parent coming back to haunt the child, but it’s perfected here. I still have a crush on Langenkamp, and while the film doesn’t remotely scare me any more, I can still put it on and love the imagination, the characters, the nostalgia, the story, and all of the more artistic and technical elements.
So there you have it, my very own favourite horror movies. What are your’s? Let us know in the comments! Before I go though, as a bonus, I have other genre crossover movies which some would consider horror or as having horror elements that I rate just as highly, if not higher than some of the above (in other words, they are not lower than 40 on my Top 250 list):
Firmly placed in the action genre – it’s essentially a chase movie – nevertheless The Terminator has a lot in common with the slasher genre. There’s a final girl, an unstoppable killer, tonnes of violence, and plenty of kills.
Unstoppable killer, violence kills, sort of a final girl, but a bunch of bad-ass marines kicking ass. Predator is a horror icon, even though this is more entrenched in the sci-fi genre.
Unstoppable killer, violence kills, a definite final girl, but a bunch of bad-ass marines kicking ass. The Alien is a horror icon, even though this is more entrenched in the sci-fi genre.
It’s questionable that anyone should include this in the Horror genre… but if it’s not, then what the hell is it? Drama, action, satire, and horror elements – kids forced to kill each other. Regardless, I still say it’s the best film of the 21st Century.
Is comic book adaptation its own genre? There are loose connections to horror here, with the unstoppable killer being the hero. The dark visuals and the origin plot are horror.
Assault On Precinct 13
Like many (most?) of Carpenter’s movies, this is a siege film. There isn’t anything supernatural, but it features hordes of faceless gang members attacking relentlessly – Night Of The Living Dead anyone? Also – ice cream.
It’s lighter and more family friendly than Jaws, but it’s still Spielbergian horror. Kids under threat from dinosaurs, huge unstoppable monsters, nowhere to run – good stuff.
Happy October everyone – Happy Halloween, Happy Horror Watching, and don’t forget to share your comments and memories!
Arguably the most important figure in cinema of all time, surely of the later half of the 20th Century, Steven Spielberg has directed and produced some of the most successful movies of all time. The maestro of countless million childhoods, Spielberg’s output in undeniable with several films being inescapable parts of pop culture and of our lives. Love him or hate him, he is a storyteller and visionary of the highest order. Having said all that, when I was checking the list of films he has directed though, i was surprised though that I was actually struggling to find 10 films that i truly loved. I have enjoyed everything he has directed, but quite a few of his films have been good, just not the sort of thing I would tend to include on a top ten list. There are a lot of films that others may rightly include but as my lists tend towards personal taste rather than cultural impact or even how good a film actually is, this list may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Based on the Richard Matheson tale, this debut effort from Spielberg packs in a lot of taut action and early flair. Frequently voted as the best TV movie ever made, it is a simple tale of man versus the unknown, a chase film and road movie in one, and a story that shares many similarities with his later work. It’s proof of Spielberg’s ability to create timeless pieces of entertainment as the film still retains a power to shock and thrill today.
9. The Terminal
I’ll probably get some flack for this because it’s schmaltzy Spielberg at its most saccharine. But it works because we’re in the hands of a master and because Tom Hanks is always watchable when playing an offbeat character. You balk in the opening scenes and question why an American actor of his stature was used, but by the end it doesn’t matter as you’re won over by the charm of the performance and story. I skipped seeing this one until recently (last year I think) because it sounded like drivel. I think it’s a simple, heartwarming family film that won’t change anyone’s life but is a nice change of pace for what we have come to expect from the director.
Spielberg’s premier family favourite is one that I hope to re-appreciate as my children get older. I haven’t seen it in many years and if I was to watch it now maybe If wouldn’t feel the same youthful delight as when I was a kid. But I know that my children, like many others when they first see Eliot and his family and his friend, will be enchanted and me along with them.
7. Schindler’s List
A grueling watch which lacks most of the sugar-coating you come to expect from Spielberg, not surprising given the subject matter. Although it is ultimately a story of hope, the film is drenched in the shadow of the Holocaust as we watch hundreds and thousands of innocents march to their deaths under the tyrannical gaze of Ralph Fiennes. Liam Neeson as Schindler is the man trying to make a difference, but we get superb support from Embeth Davidtz, Ben Kingsley and others. A timeless film of great importance it is one that should shake even the most apathetic into action.
Unquestionably one of the greatest cartoons of all time, Spielberg’s touch is all over it. Meta before it was a thing, throwing a hell of a lot of adult humour in, references to past and current stars, movies, politicians, and more, with a massive cast of characters it’s the sketch show to end them all. Endlessly quotable, always hilarious, and with a range and scope unseen in kids cartoons before or since, and of course featuring a superb cast of writers, animators, and voice talent the show flies along at a breakneck speed, never apologizes, and it’s clear that everyone involved must have been having the time of their lives.
5. Saving Private Ryan
A more action packed, yet introspective partner to Schindler’s List, this takes the simple story of a group of soldiers undertaking a single basic mission as a template to discuss the War at length, humanity, senseless violence, futility, honour, duty, and the value of a life. It’s the stellar cast and gripping set pieces which set this apart as one of the great war movies, with the harrowing landing scenes at the start, the light discussions between the men as they march from disaster to disaster, and the sudden intrusion of violence and brutality, and unfairness which ensure that the film will haunt you. The film not only forces you to question the purpose of war and how you would react under certain circumstances, but whether it is possible to move on as a survivor, as a species. The question remains unanswered.
4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Maybe the best example of Spielberg’s ability to entertain, thrill, scare, to make you laugh all while telling a coherent engaging story with wonderful characters. If that wasn’t enough we get iconic scene after iconic scene, memorable one-liners, and those tiny Spielberg moments that few other directors would ever imagine. Add Harrison Ford, add Karen Allen, add a host of the most vile cartoon villains ever and you have yourself one of the best movies of the 80s.
3. Temple Of Doom
And yet I prefer Temple Of Doom. Obviously it isn’t the best of the series, but it’s the one I saw most growing up and the one I get most enjoyment from. I’d class most of the iconic scenes from this one as just as immense as those from Raiders – the minecart ride, the heart-ripping scene, the rope-bridge battle, and dinner scene – all have varying levels of obscenity, scares, laughs, and excitement and the cast hams it up to eleven. But where’s Dan Akroyd?
The one which nailed Spielberg to the map, becoming the biggest grossing film of all time and effectively creating the notion of a summer blockbuster. Once again it’s that mixture of an extremely talented cast giving their best performances to honour a simple story, all while Spielberg pokes and prods the audience for reactions and tries things no other director would dare. The fact that even today the film works when the effects are so bad is a testament to everyone involved, and to the director for holding it together.
1. Jurassic Park
If the likes of Hook and Empire Of The Sun showed that the director was possibly past crafting another mega hit, this one brought him roaring back into the limelight as a director. Coming hot on the heels of T2 as a special effects extravaganza the film succeeds on all fronts – the effects are still superior to many we see today, the story is again simple, yet based on a wonderful concept, the performances are each wonderful, those iconic moments are so iconic that I don’t need to mention them, Williams provides another epic score, and perhaps most important is the sense of awe and childlike wonder which was, and still is evoked. It’s this combination that each of the sequels have failed to re-ignite and while they are each watchable and exciting in their own right, they don’t come close to matching the joy this one gives.
Have I missed any of your favourite Spielberg films? There are plenty that I have not covered so let us know in the comments what you think his best work is!
It’s back! The series that opens the manhole cover of my mind to let my most fanatical followers get a glimpse of my truest loves, has returned. Please enjoy these exclusives!
21. Jaws. (1975, Spielberg): Everyone’s favourite film about sharks eating children, Jaws is undoubtedly timeless. Everyone has their favourite moment, and everyone has their favourite piece of dialogue. For such a momentous film, the dialogue is not something which gets a lot of respect, aside from the famous ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’. Much of the dialogue is delivered in such a way that it doesn’t sound scripted, which may be reason enough for why there aren’t many memorable one-liners. My personal favourite then will likely be a favourite of others, and due to its length, I won’t re-post it here; Quint’s Indianapolis speech is flawless – stunningly delivered, powerfully written, and the most chilling moment in the film, all the more so as it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the plot.
22. Assault on Precinct 13. (1976, Carpenter): It took quite some time for this film to get the recognition it deserves. Even after the recent John Carpenter resurgence, thanks to a raft of remakes (including one for this), Carpenter’s second film is still something of a cult gem. Brimming with pulp dialogue, the focus is most definitely on cool, on making a memorable impact with each word. Each character is almost defined entirely by their one-liners meaning that the almost mute father character fades into the background, but opposingly, the voiceless bad guys lack of speech makes them all the more menacing. The main group each have their moments, but the best bits go to one of the greatest anti-heroes of them all – Napoleon Wilson. Even his simple refrain ‘Got a smoke?’ becomes gold, but I’m especially partial to his ‘I was born out of time’ line. For such a tense film, Wells provides some brilliant comedy moment, particularly with his save-ass plan: ‘I got this plan. It’s called “Save Ass”. And the way it works is this – I slip outta one of these windows and I run like a bastard!’
23. Big Trouble in Little China. (1986, Carpenter): From one Carpenter classic to another, and from one anti-hero to another. Jack Burton is the 80s Napoleon Wilson, born out of time, always in the wrong place at the wrong time, always ready with a bullet and a quip. This movie has more quips than a stand-up comedian forced to make a deaf, dumb, and blind man laugh or be killed, whatever that means, and the dialogue comes thick, fast, and hammy. It also has a guy with the best/worst sunglasses ever (insert pic) but then again, it also has this (insert freak monster pic). While Wilson was born out of time, Burton was ‘born ready’ and has plenty of inspirational sayings like ‘it’s all in the reflexes’, whatever that means, but it’s when he is panicking that the real gold bubbles to the surface: ‘Tall guy, weird clothes. First you see him, then you don’t.
24. Jurassic Park. (1993, Spielberg): You would think a film about dinosaurs wouldn’t have all that much dialogue in it betwixt all the ROOARRGGHHs and SKKKEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAARRKs and chewing of flesh, but you’d be wrong. Jurassic Park contains several hundred words, and an all-round dialogue filled script, although clearly the focus was on the thunder lizards at release. This was one of the last old-school Spielberg romps and as such we can expect a particular eye for detail and script flourishes. Much of the dialogue does not feel rehearsed, seeming improvised instead, and most of the best moments fall on Jeff Goldblum’s leather clad shoulders. Actually, now that I think about it, this movie would have been so much better if the dinosaurs had had all the lines. Just imagine it from their perspective – Violently ripped from the eternal peace of extinction, a collection of dinosaurs must face off against a horde or white Americans, Santa Claus, and Samuel L Jackson. Classic moments include a husband and wife tag team of raptors attempting to snare a meal of snivelling kids to stave off starvation; a single, sexually tormented T-Rex must resort to eating from a toilet in order to survive; a spittysaurus tries to make friends with an obese man but instead tries to romance him in the back of a jeep. As for dialogue, I find myself shouting ‘Hold onto your butts’ at inappropriate, non-dinosaur related social events.
25. Leon. (1994, Besson): Luc Besson is a French guy who looked at Hollywood and thought ‘Hmm, ze films are not bon anymore, ze need some le garlic, le baguette, and le Johavich’ and lo, Leon was born. Besson already had made a decent career back in gay Paris with a string of hits, including the excellent Subway (which tells of Christoper Lambert’s immortal quest to find the perfect sandwich) and the breakthrough smash Nikita. Leon is an almost perfect movie, with career best performances from all the main stars. Gary Oldman is a baddie, Jean Reno is a baddie too, but because he’s nice and cuddly we’ll forgive him for being a cold-blooeded killer, and Natalie Portman is a little girl whose hateful parents are blasted into oblivion. It’s a thinking man’s action movie, which is unfortunate as thinking men do not typically watch action movies. The film has rightly earned a following over the years, and will soon be remade as ‘Cody’ starring Bieber as the lovable rapist/killer Cody, Emma Whatersface as Natalie Portman, and Ben Kingsly as Baddie, the bad man who wants revenge on Bieber for being the little freak that he is. I’ll let young Miss Portman get the final say here, with a child’s apt view of revenge: ‘Forget? After I’ve seen the outline of my brother’s body on the floor, you expect me to forget? I wanna kill those sons of bitches, and blow their fucking heads off!’
26. Commando. (1985, Lester): Growing up in the 80s and 90s was a wonderful time for movie geeks and those who lurk in everyday water-cooler conversations, waiting for the perfect moment to inexplicably drop a one-liner from a movie no-one else involved in the conversation has seen. If you grew up in the 80s you are action an action movie fan, or a woman. And for action movie fans who love to mix up their mundane daily speech routines with some spicy zingers, you need look no further than any Arnie movie. Commando is probably the most genuine cult movie of his repertoire, as most of his other films from that era are no regarded as classics or worse than drunken sex in a toilet with what you assumed to be a superstar but turned out to be a mushed collection of soiled bog roll. Camp characters with names better than Biceps McTouchem and Napoleon Bonerhard, approximately 14 thousand on screens kills, (and a zinger for each), actors and actresses with either past or future soft-core porn careers, guns, knifes, bombs, and the single greatest ‘preparing for war’ moment in movie history, Commando could be a contender for best movie ever. Roll a few of these around your laughing gear – ‘I eat Green Beret’s for breakfast’, ‘He’s dead tired’, ‘I lied’, ‘Let off some steam, Bennett’, ‘Wrong!’, ‘I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes, I’m going to shoot you between the balls’, and my personal favourite – ‘Fuck you, asshole….Fuck YOU, asshole!’
27. Beauty And The Beast. (1991, Trousdale, Wise): I was an ugly child. I am an ugly man. It is no wonder that this is one of my favourite movies ever, as it speaks to the beautiful, tortured romantic inside me, and the hairy, fanged creature on the outside. Actually, that’s not true, I was a cute kid, and I’m currently sexier than Liz Vicious wrestling with Ivana Fukalot in a giant tub of Hoi Sin sauce (which needs to be a scene in the next Bond movie. Or else). I was, and still am to an extent, a socially awkward buffoon who resorted to fantasy, movies, books, games, music, writing, anything that would shatter the reality of me being a hopeless-with-women bloke. Like all kids I liked a good Disney animation, but it wasn’t until I saw Beauty And The Beast that I truly appreciated the art, and uncovered the truth and cliché that sometimes the underdog can find love – you just need to kidnap a woman and/or her father to get it. Unfortunately, ladies, countless rewatches has turned me into a weirdo as I hold Belle up as the most perfect figure of womanhood who ever had life breathed into her, and you just can’t live up to her. Contemplate that before sending me a sexy Private Message. As for lovely dialogue, hows about the one that most frequently slips from my lips as I hide outside toilets – ‘Zut Alors! She has emerged!’
28. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s dead. (1991, Herek): If you know anything worth knowing (and the fact that you’re reading this tells me that, sadly, you don’t), you’ll know that 1991 messers Cobain,Grohl, and Novelisc made a wee album called Nevermind, which is named by man as single-handedly putting the 80s to bed, and gently placing a pillow over its face. Music was changed forever, almost overnight it now seems. Movies changed too, but at a more leisurely pace, and in 1991 we got one of the last great cheesy rock movies. The touch of Geffin is all over it, reeking of MTV, 80s cool, and a mix of heavy metal, cock, rock, and cheese. I loved this at the time, but it wasn’t until much later when I revisited it again, and realised what a great script it has, filled with unexpectedly strong humour, one-liners, and satirical twists on The American Dream. So, as much as I like to say ‘The dishes are DONE!’ after cleaning up, and shouting about the ‘buttcrack of dawn’ when I get up, and although Kenny gets the best lines, my favourite line, and joke, in the movie is ”No, I’ve never been to Santa Barbara’.
29. Night of the Living Dead. (1968, Romero): The original modern indie, made by a bunch of amateurs, friends, and family, and going on to being one of the most well-renowned horror movies ever made. The strength of the dialogue is in its realism – everyone is on guard, everyone is constantly in a panic, nobody trusts anyone, and the words coming out of mouths are exactly what I would expect people to say in such a dire situation. I love that it is so cold and, like this article, contains zero humour. Although there are few typical one-liners aside from the obvious ‘Hey Barbara, I’m gonna get ye!’ you would be hard pushed to find a stronger realistic script in the decade. We have to go to the Sheriff to get my favourite lines, classics such as ‘They’re dead, they’re all messed up’ and ‘Beat ’em or burn ’em, they go up pretty easy’.
30. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (1984, Spielberg): Until Spielberg and Lucas decide to resurrect Dr Jones in the ill-fated ‘Indiana Jones and the Magical Fridge’ (alternative title – Indiana Jones and the load of shite), Temple Of Doom was the least liked in the series. Naturally, this means it has always been my favourite. Sure Raiders has melting Nazis and Crusade has….I can’t remember, but Doom has Short-Round, cliffhanging fights, rope-bridge stand-offs, booby traps, Donkey Kong inspiring races, lava pits, blood drinking, heart-ripping – everything that every kids movie should have. As someone who loved those type of Haggard/Doyle/Verne/Burroughs movies which always featured sinking sand, giant spiders, and always ended with a volcano erupting, this was the epitome. It was a fantasy, but set in a realistic world. It was just real enough to make me think that some wacky priest could crawl out of my toilet and whisk me away to some underground slave trade, but thanks to short-round made me think that I could probably beat my way through thousands of baddies and get home safe. My most quoted line – especially when I run out of ANYTHING? ‘No more parachutes!’
Please share your pearls of wise-assdom in the comments!
Audition: A treat for the uninitiated; draw them in with a quiet (if a little odd) love story, then tear their face off with bizarre twists, sights, and an ending to make even the most hardcore horror fan twitch uncomfortably. Fairly ‘straight’ for a Miike film, fairly unconventional for a horror film, this will cut into your flesh and into your brain, staying with you for many Halloweens to come. Classic Halloween Scene: Kiri kiri.
A Tale Of Two Sisters: The past couple of decades have been good for Asian horror and this is one of the best. It stinks of quality from the first frame and is beautiful, sad, and horrific at every turn. It is one of the most eye pleasing horror movies ever, but also one of the most well acted and interesting. Naturally it wouldn’t be on the list without some scares and while this follows the slow burning style of the most popular Asian horror movies there are some quality frights. It’s a mind bender and will torture your thoughts as you struggle to remain calm and sane with your friends at the rest of the party. Classic Halloween Scene: The girls get a nasty bedroom visitor.
The Amityville Horror: For such a common and well known horro staple, the Haunted House movie doesn’t have too many great films. Then again, as horror sub genres go, it seems to be one which brings the most critically acclaimed films- The Shining, Poltergeist, Paranormal Activity. The Amityville Horror was fairly well received but was a commercial hit. Using the good old ‘based on true events’- something which is of no consequence to me as I’ve never understood why something which may have happened would draw people to watch a horror movie about it. Anyway, as Haunted House movies go, this one is up there- plenty of shocks, decent acting, and a creepy atmosphere throughout. It’s sure to get everyone talking about the ghostly experiences they may have had in their own homes. Classic Halloween Scene: She was shot in the head!
Bodysnatchers: If you don’t fancy the Sutherand version, bring things more up to date with Abel Ferrara’s excellent re-telling. Cold, angry, mistrustful like all of Ferrara’s best works this one condenses the countrywide paranoia of previous versions and makes it a family tale. Dad gets a new wife and job, daughter gets a new mum, brother, and home. On a military base. Mum and daughter don’t get along. Some of the soldiers on the base begin to act rather strangely and before long the family are trapped on the base surrounded by pod people. But who in the family isn’t who they say they are? This is an effective revamp and just as worthy as the past 2 versions thanks to some great effects and powerful performances. Classic Halloween Scene: Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere. Cos there’s no-one like you left….WAAAAAAAA!
Cemetary Man: A twisted love story of the highest order, pretty much everyone missed this first and second time round. An Italian horror movie about zombies- fair enough. An Italian zombie movie from the nineties with American and English actors… maybe not. It is low budget, but it is one of those films which is packed full of strong ideas and fun that any money constraints fade into the background. We have the interesting twist of Everett playing a zombie killer, the interesting take on the genre- that he works at a cemetary performing his normal duties, but also acting as a reluctant chosen defender of the world; the cemetary is cursed in that every week some of the corpses are brought back to life and go hunting. Everett puts them down in a never ending cycle. After a brief romance and tragedy, the caretaker’s life takes on an even more bizarre twist. Classic Halloween Scene: The husband comes back.
The Company Of Wolves: One for a more sophisticated party- discussions of politics and Bergman movies accompanied by Mozart and a few glasses of the finest virgin blood. This dark/adult/buck nuts fairy tale is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood and is filled with metaphor and artistry. Plus you get to see Murder She Wrote’s head slapped off her shoulders- literally. Classic Halloween Scene: Though the entirely movie is filled with an inescapable nightmarish dread, some of Granny’s stories up the chill factor and give an anthology feel. But the ending bursts through the windows will live long in your memory.
Children Of The Corn: Even the poorest Stephen King adaptation is worth watching at least once. COTC is not the worst, bad it isn’t a classic. However, it is a great idea for a movie and some of the early scenes are effective at raising those neck hairs. Whilst not as spooky or funny as Wacky Molestation Adventure, there are plenty of chases, jumps, and 80s pyro joys. Classic Halloween Scene: One kid is prepared for meeting He Who Walks.
Dark Water: With Ringu alone, Hideo Nakata has cemented his name in horror folklore, but when you follow it up with another critical and commercial hit then you enter the realms of superfandom reserved only for the giants of the genre. Dark Water is much more personal film and retains both the scares, tone, and tragedy of the Ring series. it’s one thing to be terrified by the antagonist, but to empathise with them too helps to raise the character above standard horror fare. One to put the heebies and jeebies up any single parent, anyone who has recently moved house, and anyone else who happens to be alive. It may be slow, and not have the whoop-ass pay off final of Ringu, but each superbly acted and directed scene drips with unnerving tension whilst the conclusion of gripping and upsetting. Classic Halloween Scene: What is it about horror movies and bathtubs?
Dawn Of The Dead Remake: This movie single handedly kick started the resurrgence of zombies in popular culture, astounding considering it is only a remake. Even more astounding is the fact that it takes the greatest zombie movie ever, sticks it in a blender, chews on the rules of the genre, and spits out a movie which is almost as good as Romero’s Bible. Heart pounding from the outset, refusing to pander to the gore police, and filled with interesting dialogue, fresh ideas, and realistic characters, this is a film for any audience. Classic Halloween Scene: Hello little girl. It’s a bit early to be in my house, don’t you think? What are yo- wait, what’s up with your face? Are you o- aggh, arrgghh ARRRRGGHHH!
Dracula (1958): Christopher Lee steps into the role as the Dark Prince and single handedly re-invents the 20th Century perception of vampires. While it may not have aged as well as some other films on this list it stands out for the strength of the preformances and for the fact that we have a pile of grissled old men battling it out to save our soles rather and a bunch of fresh/pale face teens. Lee doesn’t sparkle, he owns, pwns, and kicks every shade of ass imaginable. Classic Halloween Scene: Harker descends into the crypt to make his final Stand with the Count. There’s still an hour of movie left so you know this won’t end well…
The Evil Dead 2: There aren’t as many genuine scares here when compared with the first movie, but we get a bigger budget, more laughs, more gore, and what we’re left with is possibly the most entertaining horror movie ever made. Have this in your party and the cheers of the nerds will be drowned out only by the laughs of the uninitiated. Classic Halloween Scene: What the balls is that coming through the front door!
The Fly (80s): David Cronenberg was already known for his movies depicting the horrors of disease and transformations which can sometimes invade the human body. What better film for him to make then than one about a man slowly mutating into a human-fly hybrid. Wonderful ideas, great acting from Davis and Goldblum, and some astounding and vomit inducing special effects. There aren’t many shock moments here outside of the gore, just the nasty feeling that something horrible is probably making a host of your own body as you watch. Classic Halloween Scene: The best arm wrestling movie moment ever.
Fright Night: Cinemagoers’ love for the creatures of the night continued to flourish into the 80s, while in the seventies Vampires were seen as seductive enchanters, and in the nineties they became any post-modern type you could imagine, in the decade that everything forgot they were nothing but cool. From Lost Boys to Near Dark, this was the decade that we relaised that Vampires kicked ass, and Fright Night added considerably to that belief. This traverses the lines between horror, comedy, and entertainment successfully with plenty of jokes, in jokes, homages, scares, and smarts to keep any fan happy. Calling back to Rear Window we see through the eyes of a teen who believes that a vampire has moved in next door. And as only teens mattered in the 80s we find out he was right. It’s down to him and his misfits to destroy the evil. Classic Halloween Scene: Evil Ed in a red wig, that’s scary, right?
Halloween II: This had the potential of being a great sequel with most of the surviving cast members from the original returning and the film following directly on from the closing moments of the first. Unfortunately, Senior Carpenter jumped ship and the film descended into a titty fest with cheap gore and cheaper characters. It’s still good fun, but it sure ain’t great. Nevertheless, if you tire of watching the original every year (weirdo) then this will do fine as an alternative and simultaneously remind you to stick with what you know the follwing year. Laurie is recovering in hospital after her antics with Michael, but wouldn’t you know that boy just won’t stay dead. Soon he’s off to the hospital to pick off more horny nurses and chumps before the final chase and massacre. Hospitals are always good for atmosphere and jump scares and we get some of both here. Classic Halloween Scene: Laurie breaking down as she realises Michael can’t be stopped and that this nightmare may never end, but Loomis gives her a gun and hope. Inevitable doom is one of the most frightening things in all of horror.
Halloween IV: If the first sequel doesn’t take your fancy, then how about the third? The world is introduced to the young Danielle Harris- a horror Goddess from the outset and whose performance alone carries the dead weight of the other lowly cast members. Pleasance is still flogging the life out of the franchise, presumably to put food on the table, or possibly because by this late stage in his life he believed he had become Dr. Loomis. Homestly, this is the best sequel of the bunch, highly entertaining and with plenty of fun kills to appease the gore hounds. There’s even a nice twist at the end which is even more shocking than certain events of the first film. The Druid links from the second film start to take fruition here but don’t really come into play until the next film, also starring Her Royal Highness, Lady Harris.
The Hills Have Eyes Remake: Although Craven’s shocker is a classic in it’s own right this remake does the unimaginable (especially in a time when 99 out of 100 remakes are utter balls) and improves upon the original in every way- better acting, better plot, better characters, and a sow’s stomach full of blood and trauma. The crazy mutant sub genre has served us fans well since the turn of the century and Aja’s take on it is surely the best. A lovely American family are travelling cross country for some reason, complete with subserviant mom, Rambo/scout/stars’n’stripes loving dad, emo son, hot Australian daughter, inappropriately femanine son-in-law etc. As is inevitably the case, they get a little lost and before you can say ‘why do have an arm growing out of your head’ a bunch of crazy cannibals are making merry sport with our innocent suberbians. Will they lie back and get picked off one by one, or will they unleash their inner Neolithic? This packs a punch and a boot and will add a spark to any gathering. Classic Halloween Scene: Son In Law wakes up in a terrible place only to find himself in an even more terrible place.
I Know What You Did Last Summer: Scream was awesome, bringing horror quicking and screaming out of the silly, campy 80s, and into the wiser, sarcastic 90s. Due to it’s massive success both in scaring audiences pants off and pulling them off thanks to a cast of outrageously hot performers, every other studio wanted in on the action. How hard could it be? Make an 80s slasher movie with updated hair and fashion (but simultaneously mock that decade so that no-one notices the plagarism/similarities), and throw in some hot young ass and some new ideas written by the guys who grew up on the aforementioned movies. IKWYDLS (a Soviet Vodka) was successful too and at its heart has strong performances, decent scares, and a decent idea brought into the modern age. People have probably forgotten this one by now so it may offer some nice surprises. Classic Halloween Scene: Run, Buffy, Run!
Jaws: If you haven’t seen this by now you’re either a new-born or a Shopping Channel enthusiast. Sure the shark looks like it was brought forth into existence by Wallace and Gromit and we all know every single second of what is coming, ,but half the fun of an annual party is in the familiarity and tradition. Everyone can gather round and watch while Brody and co are terrorized by the giant shark and whilst some will break off into chattering sub groups and others will venture into the cold for a fag, most will come bag just to see Quint get a good old fashioned chomping. 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.
Last House On The Left: Craven was mentioned earlier on this list and upstaged by a young pretender to his throne who dared to make a superior version of one of his own films. The recent remake of this was decent, but it didn’t come close to touching the gritty, nasty realism of Craven’s beast. Horror films are a product now and have the power to make us laugh, to get our pulses racing, and sometimes make us think. But real horror should have the power to stop your heart dead, to make you luagh only because your respitory system has to make some sort of noise, and leave us reeling into the early hours, trapping our thoughts in an inescapable circular vault of panic. True horror should make you feel like you have suffered an ordeal and come out the other side scarred forever. Last House On The Left can make you feel all those things and when you see the bumbling, shambolic police scenes complete with capering music, you can feel your soul eating tself just so that it doesn’t have to endure another second of madness. Classic Halloween Scene: Take your pick; for me it’s the sight of a teenage girl sinking into a swamp with a dead eyed stare and the life that might have been disappearing forever into the murky depths.
Martin: Content that he had re-invented the zombie genre, Romero set his sights on vampires and damn nearly pulled off the same trick. John Amplas plays an awkward young man who believes he is a reincarnated vampire- in other words he’s crazy. Then again, Romero shows us several scenes which show that Martin may well be correct. Regardless of whether those scenes are real or imagined, Martin is a troubled young man, you know- the sort you see in every school, on every street corner, possibly dating your youngest now. This is psychological, real horror at it’s best, and though the budget and some of the acting leave a lot to be desired, the idea of a kid with a razor blade stalking women for blood is not the stuff of nightmares, but of weekly news reports. Classic Halloween Scene: The opener on the train tells us all we need to know- Martin is a killer, reluctant and enthusiastic, possibly a rapist, and that he can get at you very easily.
Near Dark: This has been going through a resurrgence over the past few years due to a love of 80s retro (i’m sure a remake will be on the way), a love of all things fangsome, and because Miss Bigelow finally received some acclaim via The Oscars. Near Dark is a sensual, beautifully pictured vampire film with fascinating characters and ideas, some memorable performances, and a healthy helping of the red stuff. And it’s heart it’s a love story based around a moral quandary; how far would you go to be with the one you love? Bringing together some James Cameron favourites we get wonderful cinematography enveloping spraying jugulars and murderous stares. Classic Halloween Scene: The bar scene, where Paxton kicks ass. Funny, scary, bloody, and a delight to behold.
Pumpkinhead: Stan Winston makes a foray into directing after spending years designing the things of nightmares, and what he made is an entertaining, cheesy romp of a B-Movie which is much better than it has any right to be. The effects are very 80s and low budget, but raised by the skilful touch of Winston. There aren’t many decent Scarecrow type horror films- this one is probably the best. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first hear Pumpkinhead’s voice beckoning one of the girls outside.
Pet Semetary: This is the stuff of nightmares. Like Last House On The Left above, this one is not to be taken lightly, althouth the movie treatments so far have not come close to the horror and tragedy of the book. That may be for the best. Depending on how you view it, this is either another cheesy, gore filled romp, or a desperately sad, creepy tale. I see it as a mix of both thanks to some decent special effects and an excellent performance from Miko Hughes. It does threaten to become a by the numbers horror film, but the tru horror lies in the calamity of losing a child and the maddening, unimaginable terror and grief it could bring. Classic Halloween Scene: There are quite a few to choose from, Gage waiting for Jud under the bed ticks all the boxes.
Re- Animator: Like Evil Dead this is a classic due to some wonderful humour and some of the best man made bloody effects ever seen. Inspired use of violence and make up films like this never fail to charm or impress and always go down well with a group of boozed up boys. Classic Halloween Scene: When the first corpse comes back and goes on a rampage.
Ring 0: Many people automatically assume that the Ring sequels aren’t good. Wrong they be, goblins be thine. Ring 0 has one of the most spine-chilling endings in recent history with a chase scene which will stretch your nerves beyond previously known realms until the shocking climax breaks your heart. This is a prequel focussing on the life of Sadako- the malevolant spirit crawling about in the first film. Rather than be a cheap expose or rip off, this lovingly delves into the characters and mythology of the series and turns a dimensional character into a fully formed person who we get deeply attached to. In places this evokes memories if Carrie, but if anything this is the classier tale- terrifying, yet ultimately tragic. Yukie Nakama gives an outstanding performance. Classic Halloween Scene: When Sadako feels herself slipping away, the screen turns a turgid sepia, and all those who deserve to get what’s coming to them prepare to get what’s coming to them. Watch behind the trees for hidden Sadako fun…
Shaun Of The Dead: If there are any hipsters at your party, or if there aren’t as many of your closest nerds in attendance then something like Shaun Of The Dead is the way to go- funny, throwaway if you want it to be, bloody in places, and entertaining enough for all types of people. This is easy viewing and isn’t likely to offend anyone. Classic Halloween Scene: Peter Serafinowicz in the shower. It could have been worse- it could have been Brian Butterfield.
Session 9: Haunted house, torture, ghosts, slasher, thriller, this one covers a lot of ground and is without doubt one of the sharpest, scariest, and most interesting horror films of the new millenium. The less said about it the better, but if you and your friends don’t mind a bit of subtitling (and why would you?) then add this to your list. Classic Halloween Scene: Going back for some coins.
Suspiria: Finely traversing the line between cheese and classic, Argento’s most famous work is juxtoposition brought to life- poor acting here, superb in other places, cheap gore placed against some of the best and most outrageous death scenes in history, haunting music set against trippy cinematography (and vice versa). Set in a girl’s school (another horror film standard) we have slasher chases, jump scenes, uber-violence, and of course some witchcraft. It is a girl’s school after all. Classic Halloween Scene: Room of wire.
PA2: A few sequels recently have been proving the old ‘sequels are rubbish’ rule wrong. PA2 is both a sequal, a prequel, and a remake and out of any other horror film i find it has most in common with Evil Dead 2. Both films are essentially bigger budget remakes of the original with similar themes, scenes, and styles, but both also act as sequels and standalones. On top of that, PA2 is also a prequel as it largely sets up the events of the first film whilst revelaing it’s details and reasons with deliberate slowness. It’s also one of the best group watching experiences I’ve ever had, with people screaming, laughing, clapping, and crying all around me. Some of the best jump scares of all time, some excruciating tension, and much more likeable characters than those jerks from the first movie. Classic Halloween Scene: Never sit in a kitchen on your own.
The Grudge: Take your pick- The TV version, the japanese movie, the american remake- they’re all good and pretty much identical. There are some narrative differences regarding the time-jumping, and some of the scenes will be modified slightly, but overall this is the same story- a tragic murder leads to a house being stained by a curse. ANyone who comes into contact with that house or anyone in it is also tainted and soon picked off by an evil cat/boy/long haired lady in increasingly scary ways. Great performances and terrific use of sound, and a good mix of traditional japanese slow burning fear and hollywood style BOO(!)s. Classic Halloween Scene: You’re not even safe in bed.
Insidious: The boys behind Saw strike gold again with this eerie haunted house horror. The set up and opening 2 thirds of the movie switch up the tension to excessive levels before it rapidly becomes a confused psychological mess of dream logic and twists. Having said that, the film from start to finish is a highly fun experience and packs in as many jumps scares per minute as any pic you could name. The film revolves around a young family being seemingly stalked by various ghosts and demons before calling in a trio of crazy investigators to try to find the route of the problem and rip out the evil. Classic Halloween Scene: Having been using a baby monitor quite a lot recently, any scene with creepy voices coming through or freaks standing over cribs is sure to send my balls cavorting up into my stomach.
As always, feel free to comment on my list: Have I missed any classics? Let me know what you plan on watching this Halloween.
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?
Without Spielberg and certain members of the original cast, this sequel to the seventies smash was never going to come close to being as good as its daddy. It has its moments though with a good amount of scares, humour and fair performances. As sequels to masterpieces go, it’s not bad.
Jaws 2 takes place in the same resort town Amity a few years after the original, with Sheriff Brody trying to lead a safe, peaceful life with his family. However, a few recent deaths cause suspicion in his mind, and he finds the half-devoured corpse of a killer-whale he believes another Great White is attacking in the area. Naturally no-one believes him, thinking he has grown paranoid over past incidents. The money grabbing mayor is trying to make the town popular again and will not listen. A sailing event is taking place soon, and although Brody warns his kids to stay out of the water, they disobey him and go with their friends in various tiny boats an catamarans. Brody is fired for scaring tourists, and he goes looking for his kids. Meanwhile the shark attacks the many boats, killing some, and soon each person is struggling for their life on pieces of driftwood.
Jaws 2 is a film which takes a deeper look at Brody’s family life, as well as the Mayor’s, dealing with similar issues to the first. However, the action and death count is increased, but unlike most sequels this does not cause it to suffer. There is a good amount of tension created, and we never know whose boat is going to be attacked next. Once the sizes of the boats and shark are compared, we know the kids have little hope. The mix of kids is good, with certain characters giving funny moments. Mostly the performances are good, particularly from Scheider, while most of the annoying characters are happily eaten. Memorable moments include the finale, the water-skier scene, and of course the helicopter scene. Much better than the next two, though I have a habit of marking high.
Unfortunately the DVD does not have any strong extras, so unless you are a massive fan of the film, you’ll be better off getting this in the box set. Still, as a stand alone it’s cheap.
Feel free to leaveany comments on the movie- is this a worthy sequel or a disaster? Check out my other Jaws reviews in the DVD section.
The film that truly launched Spielberg into the public eye, a film which overachieves and overcomes the odds stacked heavily against it. A story about a seaside town attacked by a shark would not seem to be the basis for one of the most loved, respected and successful movies of all time, but Spielberg and the cast make it happen-scares excitement, laughs, good characters and great acting all contribute, along with fluid direction and a now infamous score. The budget was low, the filming at sea extremely troublesome, the shark wouldn’t do what it was supposed to, but through all this the story prevails and we are left with a true classic.
Scheider stars as Sheriff Brody, an ex-city cop with a fear of water who moves with his family to Amity, a popular sea-side holiday resort. There have been a number of deaths recently, and young shark expert Hooper comes to town to long at the bodies. He believes the deaths have been caused by a Great White Shark which will not leave the are while there is still plenty of food around. He advises Brody to close the beach, but the Mayor thinks it should be kept open for the July 4th weekend, the time when the town makes a real profit. When attacks continue, Brody and Hooper decide to track the shark and catch it. Local fisherman Quint who has met one or two sharks in his time also comes. The three set out on the tiny boat, and the shark soon finds them.
There are scenes which have since become the stuff of legends- the opening night attack, the ‘need a bigger boat’ scene and others. The shark may look unreal now, especially as we all have a far better knowledge of sharks with all the documentaries and underwater technology. However, the tension is still high, and like Alien, we only see it near the end. The relationship between the three men on the boat, their arguments and jokes give the film a unique feel, ensuring the viewer is on the boat with them, and other touches such as Brody’s son mimicking him are now a Spielberg staple. The death scenes are gruesome and real, thanks to the acting, and the score will is one of the best anyone has done, suiting the film perfectly. By the last few minutes, as the ship sinks, we are with Brody, waiting for the shark’s inevitable return. Much has been made of the ‘jumpy’ moments, and every part of the film has since been dissected. It remains a film which everyone can enjoy, and one which will stay with you forever.
This 2 disc special edition has plenty of trailers, interesting deleted scenes, a good interview with Spielberg and a good documentary charting the history of the film. A piece of history which everyone should enjoy.
Feel free to leave your comments on the movie- is this Spielberg’s best? And don’t forget to check out my other Jaws reviews in the DVD section.
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.