It’s Halloween folks! It’s conveniently fallen on a Wednesday, which means that while most people got their partying out of the way last Friday and Saturday, we can still celebrate by reading my blog… preferably while wearing a costume. I may or may not be wearing one right now. (I definitely am.) So, what does a pop culture blog do on Halloween? Best pop culture themed costumes? Worst pop culture themed costumes? Pop culture pumpking carving? There are so many options.
Since it’s a Wednesday and you’re all probably a little partied out after the weekend, I thought maybe you could all share a quiet night in having the bejeezus scared out of you with some of my favourite horror films. Because it’s hard to choose, I have helpfully divided them up into categories of “things that are going to rip you into tiny pieces” in order to include more films. Lets get this show on the road.
Vampires have always trod a difficult ground between sexy and scary. Unfortunately, recent cinematic history has not been kind to the fanged ones,with Twilight turning them essentially into fanged disco balls. If you’re into your vampire angst, but want something better than the clap trap Stephanie Meyer scribbles, then Anne Rice is your obvious next stop. Interview with a Vampire has better writing, better character development and a better movie.
If you’re a scaredy cat who doesn’t want too much horror but would also like your vampires slightly more badass than Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, I would recommend The Lost Boys, because it’s a flipping excellent film. Vampires + the 80s + motorcycles = cinematic gold.
Personally though, on Halloween and generally, I like my vampirism either creepy or outright bloody. For creepy you can’t go past the 1922 German Expressionist nightmare Nosferatu, which, if watched in an appropriate setting absolutely sends shivers up my spine.
For blood I love 30 Days of Night, which surprised me by being a film I enjoy that also stars Josh Hartnett. What I really like about this is that there is nothing even remotely sexy or alluring about these vampires. They’re not tortured, they don’t want redemption and drinking your blood is not a metaphor for the sex. They’re totally nihilistic and they’re going to rip you to shreds and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it because the sun is never coming. Excellent. If you’re interested, the graphic novel is also worth a read.
The trailer really doesn’t do the film any justice, but you should definitely watch it.
So many good zombie movies, I don’t even really know where to start. Night of the Living Dead is an obvious one… actually, all of George Romero’s Living Dead films, but particularly the first three – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. These are obvious because when people think of zombie movies they’re basically just thinking about the Romero archetype of what a zombie is. Obviously you should watch the originals rather than the remakes (yes… this is that kind of pretentious blog).
My favourite modern zombie movies have to be the British stand outs, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. These ones move away from the slow, lumbering reanimated corpses of Romero’s films and make zombies super-fast, super-aggressive attack zombies. As far as I am concerned these are the worst kind of zombie and these are films that I do not watch with the lights off or expecting to get a good night’s sleep afterwards.
Again, that might actually be the worst trailer ever made…Wow. Sorry. It’s a good movie though, I swear.
The Occult – Possessions, Ghosts and Stuff
This is basically “pick your poison” kind of area because there’s a lot of different ways an occult-themed movie can pan out. You’ve got your regular everyday possessions by Satan, because Satan has nothing better to do than hijack the bodies of virginal girls, apparently. (Does anyone else feel like Satan should be finding things to fill his time? Knitting, perhaps?) The Exorcist is probably one of the best known examples of this – one of my flatmates finds it so scary he considers the fact that he managed to sit through it at all a badge of honour. Apparently, on release it had people vomitting in terror in the cinemas. This is a reaction I understand, but only because the repeated crotch-stabbings the possessed gives herself make me physically cringe.
In terms of modern possessions, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is legitimately terrifying. You know those films where not heaps of stuff happens, but you’re filled with a creeping sense of dread anyway so that by the time something actually scary happens you’re so wound up that you nearly die? This is one of those. Also, from memory, it features crabwalking, which is a sure-fire way to freak me the fuck out. IhateitIhateitIhateit, ohmygod. It scares me so much more than it should.
If possession isn’t your thing, there’s also actual rebirth of Satan, usually featuring a creepy child. You all know that I’m thinking of The Omen here. I recommend all The Omen films highly, to anyone and everyone, because they’re scary and they also have the best and most melodramatic soundtrack of any horror movie ever made.
Seriously, sometimes, when my life needs more melodrama, I like to just put the sound track on and walk around my house.
If you’re looking for less specific supernatural themes (see: I need less Satan, more weird happenings), The Shining is a particular favourite of mine and also of my housemate. It’s possibly the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever made… unless you want to talk about It, which I don’t. Jack Nicholsan is kind of scary anyway, so when you put him in an isolated house with elevators full of blood and creepy twins it’s a recipe for weird.
If you’re into ghosts and things, I will forever be recommending Poltergeist to people (only the first one), but if you want to actually be scared out of your mind you can’t really go past Japanese cinema because they’ve got it down. Most people have seen the Hollywood adaptations of The Ring and The Grudge, and they’re pretty good but the original Japanese films are genuinely scary. Like, I once watched the original Grudge alone in a hotel room and was later found hoarding snacks and bottles of water under a doona which didn’t make any sense because even in the film beds aren’t safe. BEDS AREN’T SAFE. It’s really good. Same goes for The Ring (I’ve never made the mistake of watching that one by myself though). If you’re looking for the biggest scare available, Ring is the highest grossing horror film in Japan, and was also voted scariest Japanese film in an Oricon survey. So there you go.
The disco soundtrack really takes the edge off.
Really Big Animals
Mostly things involving really big animals aren’t actually that scary, although I remember being terrified of Anaconda as a 9 year old. Then I realised that it stars Jennifer Lopez AND Ice Cube AND Owen Wilson, so as an adult I don’t actually find it that intimidating.
Bascially, we all know that the best and scariest film involving a gigantic animal is Jaws, because despite it very obviously being a a giant rubber shark I still didn’t want to go swimming after a saw it (admit it… you didn’t either). I have also developed issues with not being able to see the bottom of bodies of water. Essentially, Steven Spielberg has ruined the beach for me. Thanks, Steven. You dick.
We all know that the scariest villains of all are always just people, because unlike scenarios in which Satan kidnaps your virginal body and uses it as a meat puppet, there is always the chance that people are gonna get you. In terms of films that are going to stick with you, I always find 1971’s Blind Terror (also known as, See No Evil) to be horrifying. It stars Mia Farrow as Sarah, who is visually impaired. She comes home and her whole family has been murdered and are scattered in gory poses around the house… BUT SHE CAN’T SEE THEM OR THE KILLER WHO IS STILL LURKING AROUND. So she comes home and just goes about her business assuming that nothing is wrong. It’s really good.
Last House on the Left is an oldie but a goodie. Having said that it’s less scary than vaguely traumatic. It’s directed by Wes Craven, who is very good at what he does, and it provides an interesting commentary on post-Vietnam America. But you probably don’t want that. It’s Halloween. You just want blood.
In which case, look no further than Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s nothing supernatural going on here, there’s no reasoning – it’s just a bunch of backwoods weirdos who wipe out a group of teens using a chainsaw and store their meat in the freezer. It also has probably one of the best final scenes in horror movie history.
So, thus concludes a not-very-comprehensive list of horror films that I like. Share some of yours in the comments and we can give each other the heeby jeebies.