April 23, 2009

Fave Five: Horror Flicks

I don't apologize for being a fan of horror movies. I shouldn't have to. Frankly, it's not so much I categorize myself as a fan of that specific genre, but a fan of quality movies. Unlike so many people, I don't look down my nose at certain genres. If I think a movie is good, it doesn't matter which section I rented it from. The Notebook is about as chick-flicky as it gets, but I thought it was a damned good movie. And, I'll wager quite a few men enjoyed it too, but are too pent up with their machismo to admit it.

While critics and the tamer movie fans dismiss horror movies, I tend to give them a more serious-minded consideration. Are there bad horror movies? Yes, of course there are, and what's more ... there are some out-and-out abominable ones—the remake of
House of Wax springs to mind. However, the film industry has come out with some stellar offerings over the years. The best of which I would put up against any Citizen Kane, Dr. Strangelove, or Terms of Endearment you would care to throw at me.

To give examples of what great horror movies look like, allow me to list my five all-time favorites in the genre. Some might be classified in other genres, or be considered less horror than suspense, but it's my list. If you don't like it, make your own.

From Dusk Til DawnI think I adore this movie so much because I was one of those people who had no idea it existed until my college buddies picked it up at Blockbuster one weekend, and had my jaw dropped when the swerve came halfway through. No one told me what it was about. I never saw trailers or heard a thing about the vampire twist. I was expecting classic Tarentino fare with gangsters and guns. I got that. But, I got so much more, and I could still sit down and watch the entire movie again just for the moment when Salma Hayek goes all bloodsucky on them.

The Ring/RinguAmerican or Japanese, it doesn't matter, because this is one scary-ass movie. One of the few times where I can tolerate subtitles in my movie-watching. Both versions managed very well to maintain an unsettling sense of dread and terror through most of the movie, and kept it from being overwrought or melodramatic. Sure, there were moments where I watched and silently berated characters with, "Don't do that! Don't go in there!" All things considered though, it's still a fantastic thrill ride ... and "the tape" still creeps me out thoroughly.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)My favorite zombie movie. Ever. The group of people trapped in the mall were such a random assortment of potential stereotypes and one-dimensional characters, but it worked. Thanks to the writing, and the acting chops of Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley, I cared about whether these strangers lived or died. Even the slimier ones like the mall cops. I can't recall ever seeing the original, but I doubt I'd love it more than this. And, frankly, I find many of the other Romero offerings fall short of the mark. Blasphemy? Perhaps.

The ShiningThe TV mini-series was good, but the motion picture starring Jack Nicholson was great. If you've ever been snowed in with your family for a single weekend, imagine an entire winter with only Mom and Dad for company. As frightening a prospect as that is, Stephen King's classic ups the ante with one of the scariest haunted houses ever. I mean, c'mon ... an elevator full of blood? Jiminy Christmas, when I was a boy I didn't want anything to do with elevators until I was in my teens, thanks to that scene.

The ThingIf Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China weren't enough to put Kurt Russel near the top of my list for favorite actors, this masterpiece of a horror flick definitely does. Some may be nostalgic over the original from the 1950s (or was it early 60s?), but the remake by John Carpenter is the dog's bullocks. Take a crew of men into the arctic, strand them in a life-threatening blizzard (I sense a weather theme), and toss in a shape-shifting alien for good measure ... and you've got yourself one of the most spine-tingling horror/suspense/sci-fi movies to ever hit the silver screen.

Some honorable mentions go to:
Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness, Saw, 30 Days of Night, and Event Horizon.

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