People who know me know I am an insane horror movie buff. After seeing Kev Brock’s post on HIS favorite horror movies, I thought it would be fun to go off-topic here and name my own for the Halloween season. These are not in order of most favorite to least favorite. although the ones at the start of the list were thought of first because they are a LITTLE bit more beloved to me. I’ll do ten in this post, and another ten in another. So anyway, without further ado:
1) DEEP RED: When it comes to classic, over-the-top visual style, you don’t get much better than this, Dario Argento’s fourth movie. His previous movies (known as the “animals trilogy”) were slightly off-beat, interesting films, but they pale in comparison to the explosion of personal style that is splattered all over this film. The movie is about a pianist named Marcus Daly who witnesses the murder of a German psychic. Something about the crime scene strikes him as odd, so he sets about trying to figure out what it is he did or didn’t see. (As it turns out, it was something he saw INCORRECTLY.) Plenty of interesting set pieces and visual flourishes abound: the close-up panning shot of several bizarre trinkets as the killer gets ready to strike again, a weird mechanical doll charging into a room before the next murder, a mummified body in a room hidden behind a wall, and plenty of inventive, bloody murders.
2) SUSPIRIA: When it comes to Argento, it is hard to decide whether this or DEEP RED is his true masterpiece. An American ballet dancer goes to a German dance school. Two students are murdered just before she arrives…and things just keep getting more bizarre and surreal. The use of color is specifically important in this movie; colors seem to bleed over the edges of every object. This is the first in Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, but it is the only one worth seeing.
3) PSYCHO: The shower scene. The first toilet flushed on camera. Killing off its big-name star within the first twenty minutes. There are so many classic moments about this movie that I am not even going to bother naming them here.
4) HALLOWEEN: What more can be said about this movie? I never get sick of watching it. The storyline itself is kind of boring: we watch a bunch of teenage babysitters getting ready for a night of debauchery while scenes of Michael Myers stalking them (and Michael’s doctor stalking HIM) are sprinkled in between. It is the visual style, music, and pacing that REALLY make this film work. In fact, I hear that Carpenter wrote to Argento and said that this movie was his “Argento film.? If you watch this movie after SUSPIRIA, you will see it’s a pretty close match.
5) FRIDAY THE 13TH: This movie followed fast on the heels of HALLOWEEN and was just supposed to be a little knock-off, but it had a surprising amount of style on its own. Hard to believe that, once upon a time, there was no hockey mask.
6) TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: You may notice by now that the majority of these films are from the ’70s, and that is because I really feel that’s when people thought of horror movies as something that could be a form of art instead of just a cheap way to make a lot of money. They actually put their SOUL into these films, and the original TCM is no exception.
7) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: Aside from being forms of art, horror filmmakers also thought horror movies could work on multiple levels other than just the physical shock. Case in point: ANY movie by George Romero, especially this one (and its sequel). Romero’s films are loaded with social satire/commentary, which was apparent right from the start.
8 ) DAWN OF THE DEAD: A bunch of zombies stumbling mindlessly around a mall isn’t the most sublte swipe at American consumerism, but hey…if you don’t want the social satire, then just watch it for the fact that this is the be all, end all of ALL zombie movies. This is a true tour de force, magnus opus gut muncher. Screw the remake.
9) THE EXORCIST: Another undeniable classic. This one is obviously far different from the high body count movies on this list, but it is still frightening in a different way.
10) ALIEN: This is basically a haunted house movie set in outer space. Just think of the scene where one of the characters wander around the ship looking for a cat. It takes all those old cliches and puts them in a new setting. However, a change of scenery isn’t enough to make an old idea seem fresh. For that, you can thank Ridley Scott’s direction.