by the pricking of my thumb, something bloggy this way comes
A character from John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness peers deep into this Halloween-themed blogpost...
October can be among the best of times for film fans and cineastes, but how's the busy wage-earner/student/cat burglar supposed to stay ahead of the genre curve? Never fear, yo - the Booth is here. Though money may be short, thankfully art is long, and we can help you stay scared in these waning days of the Halloween season with some of our personal horror and thriller faves.
Creepshow (1982) - A George Romero-Stephen King collaboration from the early 1980s with a cast sent from fanboy-heaven (Ed Harris, Gaylen Ross, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, David Gale, E.G. Marshall, Tom Savini, and King himself, among others), Creepshow is a loving homage to E.C. Comics, ingeniously conceived, with a witty script from King at the height of his powers. I'm still at a loss as to why it still manages to be so woefully underrated, but I have to assume many horror fans were (and are) no doubt looking for something mind-blowing and intense, put off by the film's light touch - it's a shame, since vignettes three and four of Creepshow, "The Crate" and "They're Creeping Up on You" are among the best things Romero (or King) have ever done.
Safe (1995) - Todd Haynes brings his tale of suburban anomie and bodily dissociation filtered through ecological panic to a slow burn early...and lets it simmer..and...simmer. What will happen? Who knows! We've ruined the planet, we're all alone, we're all doomed, and nothing we do can save ourselves or our loved ones, no matter where we hide or how much money we spend. Happy Halloween!
Prince of Darkness (1987) - John Carpenter managed to make a perfect horror flick for Reagantime - Jesus is an alien, Satan's in a jar, and all around us, devil-possessed homeless and hot California winds - that managed to be stark, lean and far-out and trippy all at the same time, confounding critics and audiences. But next to The Thing (1982), this middle installment of John Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy" remains one of his best pure horror films, something that's still unnerving to see 20 years on.
Peeping Tom - Michael Powell - UK - 1960
Psycho made a bunch of money while Peeping Tom destroyed a director’s career. Equal to Hitchcock’s visual genius yet far more sophisticated in its depiction of homicidal pathology, Powell’s serial killer movie is less interested in toying with spectator/character identification and more interested in revealing cinema’s inherent fascination with sadistic voyeurism and murder. This is by far one of the creepiest films I’ve ever seen.
2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick - USA - 1968
Although this is obviously one of, if not the greatest science fiction movie of all time, I consider it one of the greatest horror films of all time. There’s something about mankind’s unwavering toil to “advance” itself back to a stage of infancy that I find enthralling and truly terrifying. Living inside a talking computer suspended in outer space is my idea of horror.
Thirteen - Catherine Hardwicke - USA - 2003
We live in a sick, sad and twisted nation and it’s all aimed at our female youth. If and when you have a daughter of your own, you will understand why I consider this a horror movie; it scared the bejesus out of me. Be afraid. Be very afraid of your little girl’s teenage years.
Mother's Day - Total trash, and yet I can't stop renting it every few years after the initial seven or eight times I saw it back in the 80's. The short version: three college friends reunite for a camping trip in an ill-chosen stretch of woods populated by "Mother" and her two idiotic sons who she's trained since childhood to protect her from "Queenie," her beast-like sister who may or may not even exist. The women are kidnapped, brutalized, escape, and exact their revenge, following the classic exploitation formula. But performances, dialogue, and set design of Mother's house are so great (for me) that they rise above most of the competing objets d'trash from the era.
Nosferatu - 1979, the Herzog remake of the Murnau classic. Kinski is as classic as Schreck in the role and Bruno Ganz is way more intriguing. I also like that Herzog changes the end to keep the film in line with the absolute aura of dread that permeates the whole enterprise. See the original, sure, but this one's way more empty and filled with despair for my money.
Day of the Dead - Until the recent couple of Dead films, this was widely considered the worst of the series (maybe still is?). But I love it and have fond memories, partly because my friend and I snuck in to see it. Well, we didn't exactly sneak in, but we were 16 and the film was released without a rating, meaning that no one under 17 could go, period. So we went to Aurora Mall to see it, held our licenses about 6 feet away from the girl working the booth and she (kindly) let us in anyway, even though there's no possible way she could've made out our birthdates. For that I got to see a man torn in half, a group of unpleasant people screaming at each other for two hours, a muddled ending (a dream? not a dream?) and a totally hopeless and bleak vision of zombie apocalypse that in retrospect is quite apropos to the middle of the Reagan era. I love it. Love it love it love it.
All I have to say is this:
An American Werewolf in London is the greatest horror flick ever.