Monday, October 01, 2007

31 Horror Movies

I sent off my list of nominees for the 31 Flicks That Give You The Willies.

Some probably push the edges of my rules, although obviously not the rules.

I pondered quite a while over the list before just starting in. As it stands, I am unwilling to call this a definitive list of any sort. It's neither my favorites nor those I consider, in my objective best critic's mask, the best. I won't even define it as a specific blending of the two.

Here then, for you enjoyment, are The 31 Horror Movies I Felt Like Voting For In This Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Seven.

  1. Candyman (1992 - Rose)

    Taken from The Forbidden, featured in Clive Barker's Books of Blood, volume 4 (or The Inhuman Condition), this is a haunting blend of a genuine kind of urban mythology with some very deliberate elements taken from "slasher" movies. It is, in fact, a woman's story, with Virginia Madsen and Kasi Lemmons giving rich, three-dimensional performances. The Philip Glass score is haunting.

  2. Cronos (1993 - del Toro)

    This was on my 19 Foreign Language Films, so it should be no surprise here.

  3. Curse of the Werewolf (1961 - Fisher)

    There's not a lot of people who would include this as their one Hammer movie on a list like this. A bit of blame for that probably needs to go to my man-crush on Oliver Reed. I promise, it is a smart, poignant and genuinely disturbing story as well as a vehicle for Reed, however.

    Based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, Curse of the Werewolf is much more of a life story than most werewolf stories, which tend to take place over a very specific period following the protagonist becoming cursed. It's also one of the richest looks at the problems involved.

  4. Dark Water (2002 - Nakata)

    Another of the 19 Foreign Language Films. I also briefly reviewed it here.

  5. Dellamorte Dellamore (1994 - Soavi)

    This will probably be viewed as my one "comedy-horror" choice, but frankly, while it is funny, it's listed as a beautiful and haunting story of the macabre, with the comedy just icing on the cake. Frankly, I feel "comedy-horror" is sadly underrepresented on my list.

    Based on a novel by Tiziano Sclavi, as well as taking influence from Sclavi's comic book series Dylan Dog, Dellamorte Dellamore is a story of love and death, as its title play on words states. I watched it once in Italian with no subtitles and it's amazing how much story and emotion are conveyed in the layered and haunting images created by director Michele Soavi.

    I have more thoughts here.

  6. Don't Look Now (1973 - Roeg)

    Do I need to explain or defend this one? Seriously?

  7. Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965 - Francis)

    I love the Amicus anthology horrors. This is my favorite. As I said before, probably in part because it's the first I saw, but it also has the strongest wraparound story of the bunch, with a group of passengers on a train getting their fortunes read.

  8. Frankenstein (1931 - Whale)

    I chose this and not Bride of Frankenstein. Some other day, I'm sure I'd not have, but I expect most I'd go with this. Something about the performance by Boris Karloff in this one keeps me coming back for more.

  9. From Beyond (1986 - Gordon)

    I just recently reviewed this here.

  10. Gates of Hell (1980 - Fulci)

    How to pick a single movie by Lucio Fulci... I know, there are those who would ask why anyone would want to. All I can say is that this period of Fulci's career is the literal stuff of nightmares. The stories don't reward intellectualizing in the slightest. The viewer must give themselves completely to the madness, which is why he does so poorly with critics. For those of us who have allowed his movies to take us completely, the rewards are terrifying... and brilliant.

  11. Ginger Snaps (2000 - Fawcett)

    The story of two sisters and the process of growing up, told as a smart, funny and ultimately creepy tale of lycanthropy. Clever and completely watchable.

  12. Godzilla (1954 - Honda)

    Another of the 19 Foreign Language Films. And still a nearly perfect movie! Some more thoughts are available here.

  13. Hellraiser (1987 - Barker)

    Directed by Clive Barker and adapted from his novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser found a way to bring the transgressive ideas of Barker's literary work into a set of images that resonated with a remarkably broad audience. After Hellbound: Hellraiser II, none of the movies in the series would even attempt to expand or develop that aspect, preferring a simpler mythologizing of them.

  14. The Howling (1981 - Dante)

    Adapted rather freely from Gary Brandner's novel, The Howling, by screenwriter John Sayes and director Joe Dante, this is easily taken as a satire of cultish feel-good psychology movements of the time... imagine what a later version could have said about the Robert Bly kind of movements or the goddamn Promise Keepers, but, of course, the series went in much different direction. The original movie, however, is both hilarious and terrifying, and holds up better than anything has a right to.

  15. I Walked With a Zombie (1943 - Tourneur)

    A loose adaptation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, this is my favorite of the great collaborations of director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton.

  16. Incubus (1965 - Stevens)

    Another of the 19 Foreign Language Films.

  17. Inferno (1980 - Argento)

    I suppose if Suspiria fails to get a nomination, I'll regret this choice. Ultimately, Suspiria always feels strangely alone without this equally brilliant if less inviting follow-up. Another of those strange and surreal nightmare visions I go on and on about.

    Like many fans, I'm both nervous and excited about the possibilities of The Mother of Tears, the recently produced third movie in the series. Will it eventually settle in as part of how the series go in our minds or simply a disappointing Return of the Jedi style sputtering out of the trilogy? Happily, nothing it does will actually diminish the brilliance of the first two parts.

  18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 - Siegel)

    How did Don Siegel end up so terribly underappreciated as a director? He consistently made excellent movies in a variety of genres for decades. This is, of course, among the best of them.

  19. Kill, Baby... Kill! (1966 - Bava)

    Influencing moviemakers from Frederico Fellini to David Lynch to Tim Burton to nearly every J-Horror director of the last ten years, this is one of those movies that's significantly more important than well known. This is a particularly a shame as it is indeed an entertaining, creepy and beautiful movie.

  20. The Legend of Hell House (1973 - Hough)

    The novel, Hell House by Richard Matheson, is challenging and brilliant. The movie is a step below that, but nevertheless is a magnificent look at a diverse group of characters under extreme duress and manages to sneak some surprisingly shocking images in.

  21. Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973 - Blackburn)

    Occasionally, movies remind us the place where fairy tales and horror stories intersect and what fairy tales are really intended to represent. This beautifully shot movie, with a charmingly innocent lead performance by Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith, does that as well as anything I've seen.

    My original review is here.

  22. Marebito (2004 - Shimizu)

    Being from 2003 and before was a requirement of being nominated for the 25 Non-English Language Features. This is the one movie I kept wanting to attempt a cheat, elaborate or simple, to nominate, I felt so pained not to be able to include it.

    Well, here it is, dammit!

    My original review is here.

  23. Night of the Living Dead (1968 - Romero)

    As I suggested in another post, if I were asked to make a list of one movie that gives me the willies, this would be the one. The single most frightening movie ever made. It's in my Top 5 movies of all time. Assuming it doesn't by some fluke end up nominated, it will be the number one movie on my ranked list.

    I could take this opportunity to write a book on its perfection, but I'll merely leave a link to My Dad by Kyra Schon as my belated tribute to the recently deceased Karl Hardman, who did as much as anyone, as producer and co-star, to make this movie.

  24. Nosferatu (1922 - Murnau)

    The greatest vampire movie 85 years running.

  25. Prince of Darkness (1987 - Carpenter)

    Another movie that may be better experienced than considered. This is John Carpenter working straight from the imagination to create something not quite like anything he'd done previously.

  26. The Tomb of Ligeia (1964 - Corman)

    My favorite of the Roger Corman Poe Cycle. A haunted love story, featuring a particularly fine performance by Vincent Price.

  27. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971 - de Ossorio)

    This is partially a vote for this entire series, a strange series about a group of zombie knights that return from the grave for revenge and punishment. They are filled with unforgettable imagery and intriguing ideas.

  28. Uzumaki (2000 - Higuchinsky)

    The last of the 19 Foreign Language Films to play double duty.

  29. Videodrome (1983 - Cronenberg)

    In my opinion, the masterpiece of David Cronenberg's early cycle. This shocking story of the way media invades our lives remains as powerful and relevant today as it was at the time it was made.

  30. The Wicker Man (1974 - Hardy)

    I confess. With this one, I either broke my own rules or bent them ridiculously out of shape, but then I've said too much, haven't I?

    It's in my Top 10 movies of all time, so that it toys with horror conventions and generates an incredible feeling of unease, shock and terror, only makes it impossible to leave off the list. The fact that it's a musical, too, only makes it more awesome!

    If you haven't seen it, definitely make the effort to see the longer version available on all two disk editions.

  31. The Wolf Man (1941 - Waggner)

    This my favorite Universal Monster movie. Yes, over any, or even all, the James Whale classics. I read an essay by Gary Brandner once, in which he says that noted that nearly everything we "know" about werewolves was made up by Curt Siodmak, and that, my friends, is the pure brilliance this movie. The moving performance by Lon Chaney, Jr. seals the deal and makes this movie a true icon of horror.

There are a couple of notes I'd like to make.

I always limit my lists to one movie per director, so some may question my choices for each director, but that's the reason some were kept off. Some, in fact, with some degree of hardship.

Several movies such as Alien, An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 2, The Haunting, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Return of the Living Dead, had been on my list and might have held on except they seemed more likely to make the final list than whichever other movies I was considering them against. I do wish them well in the final voting. Depending on the choices available, I may include some on my final voting.

I have to say that Hammer Films feels underrepresented, considering my exuberant fandom. The Dracula series feels particularly notable in its absence.

Likewise, the often disreputable subgenre of "lesbian vampire" movies struggled to be respresented, favoring Vampyres, but considering Daughters of Darkness and The Vampire Lovers. Am I unique in feeling the need to defend the fact that I failed to include a lesbian vampire movie?

In the end, these and other similar groups, which hold dear places in my heart as a whole, simply didn't have a strong enough single film to hold up as a representative.

And, yes, it would definitely seem I have a thing for werewolves. So, where are The Company of Wolves and Dog Soldiers? Somewhere on a list with some of the movies above and others, like Village of the Damned, that I may include among The 31 Horror Movies I Feel Like Voting For In The Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Eight.


Cinebeats said...

Nice list Neil! It seems very personal and individual, which I always appreciate when it comes to these list-making things.

As I mentioned over at Jeremy's blog, I just can't participate due to personal list burnout and the fact that I would give myself a migraine trying to narrow down my favorite horror films to a mere 31.

The only film on your list that I haven't seen is Marebito so I've added it to my "must see" list and I hope to give it a look sometime this month.

Booksteve said...

DR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS was on my list at first but replaced at the last minute. I know how you feel about THE WICKER MAN. It was NOT on my list in spite of being my favorite film of all time! Then, the more I thought about it, the more I had to include it.

Neil Sarver said...

Kimberly, thank you very much. I completely understand list burnout. I was reluctant to start this myself, but ultimately decided I wanted to take the opportunity to specifically champion some of these movies, regardless of how well they ultimately do.

I do still love Marebito, and should revisit it soon. I originally watched it because of the intriguing Tim Lucas review, which is certainly better written than my own.

Steve, thanks for your comments. I can understand dropping Dr. Terror..., it was partly there as to represent a lot of things, Freddie Francis as well as anthology movies... although I just rewatched Spirits of the Dead and can't help thinking of it as one I'd have possibly liked to include instead, but with a number like 31, there will always, for me, be big omissions. It's always good to hear more celebration of The Wicker Man, which I love as much as I love anything else on the list. It's everything I want from a movie.

Jeremy Richey said...

Great list Neil,
Looks like our lists will share a dozen or so titles...I admire how diverse yours is and how much time it spans.
A couple of notes...glad to see you mention Virginia Madsen's performance in CANDYMAN. She is fantastic in it and I rarely see that mentioned...
Your description of Fulci's work is incredible and sums up my love for his films, especially the ones in this period.
I love that Lemora is on your list as it is near the top of mine...great to see some love and respect given to Rainbeaux.

I also haven't seen Marebito so I am really going to have to give that a look.

Great list...thanks for posting. I hope to get mine up in the next few days...

Daniel Vella said...

It's great to see someone else who loves Dellamorte's a masterpiece and a woefully underseen and underappreciated one.

I'm not sure I'll contribute a list, as I tried to make one and only came to realize how many horror films I still have to see.

Neil Sarver said...

Jeremy, I look forward to seeing your list. Even with both of us, it still seems a long shot at Lemora getting nominated, but that's still better than I would have expected. Thanks for the kind words regarding the rest.

Daniel, thanks. Glad to see more fans of Dellamorte Dellamore. I totally suggest trying to make up a list. There's still more than a week and you can always turn in a short list, just a chance to celebrate your favorites.

Movie Reviews Collection said...

Thanks for sharing those list. I'll try to watch some of your list.

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