Lisa asked me to do a guest blog post for Halloween. I decided to write on some of my favorite horror movies and why I love them. I realized soundtrack means about as much as the cinematography and effects to me. It’s a huge reason I picked these movies. I didn’t rank them and plenty more could be added to my list of favorites at any given time, dependent on my mood, here is the list I came up with:
This is my all-time favorite movie. I used to watch it at least once a month. While I don’t do that anymore, it’s still my favorite. TCM was a case of everything coming together perfectly for a horror movie. The budget was low so they skipped on trying to overdo it with over-the-top effects and went with what works. Too many movies out there DON’T do that. The soundtrack is just noise and helps the overall ambience feel that much more intense. The grainy film is perfect for helping set the tone, as well.
The story, itself, has been done and redone a thousand times but no one has ever nailed it like TCM. I think the “inspired by true events” line made it extra freaky to people when it came out because it IS something that could happen and it’s believable. Today, that line means, “I read a headline that caught my attention and made up a story I thought should go with it.” By now, most everyone knows TCM was based on the Ed Gein murders and while it was just one, little man who did all those things, each member of the Sawyer family seems to take on some of his traits. Let’s face it, a family of crazies is a lot scarier than the mild-mannered Ed Gein.
TCM is laced with screaming which to some, is kind of annoying. To me, it just brings up the intensity. The one character that I absolutely hate, Franklin, gets a satisfying chainsaw to the chest in one of the movie’s best scenes. And the meat hook scene… that meat hook scene is still one of the best in horror history.
Unfortunately, the franchise was soiled after part 2. With the second edition, Tobe Hooper knew he couldn’t match the first so he took it in a more black comedy direction. This worked, plus, the gore and (very 80’s) storyline worked well. The fact that Texas Chainsaw (3D) completely disregarded part 2 made me hate it. You can pretend the other sequels didn’t happen because they were made by different people, but you can’t pretend the original sequel, made by the original director, didn’t happen! Okay, my rant on the franchise is over. I could go on and on for days about the great things Texas Chainsaw Massacre offers. If you’re a horror fan and you haven’t seen it, you really should do yourself a favor and watch this one.
This is probably my favorite John Carpenter movie. Lately, I can’t seem to watch it enough. While other horror movies are content with being campy (and some do it very well, while others fall short), The Fog was straight horror. The score to this one is phenomenal. It fits perfectly with the movie. It’s simple, but it’s also great at setting the mood.
There’s always been something that intrigued me about The Fog, even before I saw it. When I finally did, I was not disappointed. The glowing fog comes in and brings the ghosts of Blake and his pirate crew to exact revenge on the entire town. The cast is great in the movie, too. John Carpenter has a habit of using a lot of the same actors, even in the smaller roles, but it’s because they all work.
I don’t want to give much away if anyone reading hasn’t seen this. Just know, if it feels a little slow to start, keep watching. It’s one of the best horror movies ever made.
Little Michael Myers has issues. What they are, no one really knows. What they do know is that he likes to scare people and he really likes to kill people. This has long been a horror staple for me. After 5 year old Myers kills his sister, he is committed to an institute under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis. Years later, he escapes and heads back home to Haddenfield. He dons a mask that scared the crap out of me as a kid. The plain white, expressionless face with wild hair was one of the creepiest things I had ever seen. Today, I still think it’s way better than the sewn together mask in the Rob Zombie remake.
Michael Myers slowly stalks his prey and, like all the great slashers, catches up to them somehow. He’s as emotionless as the mask he wears but inventive in his killings. He has a knack for setting up his future victims for a good scare using his past victims.
This is another that doesn’t play with campy set ups. It’s just a straight up horror movie. Also, as is the case with most Carpenter movies, the score is perfect with the movie. I’d say the theme is one of the most iconic in all of film, not just horror.
In the sequel, we find out why Michael Myers is so intent on getting to Laurie Stode but the unanswered questions in the original make it the best in the franchise. Don’t fall for the big budget hype of watching Rob Zombie’s remake. Pushing the boundaries of what you can get away with in a theatrical release doesn’t make your movie good. It’s the passion and execution that we see in this original that makes a movie great.
Everything we love about zombies started with Night of the Living Dead. Sure, there were zombie movies, but they were mindless minions under the control of one evil leader. As the flesh-eating dead who have risen, George A. Romero created a much more frightening zombie (even if it wasn’t actually zombies he meant to be making).
Romero likes to use social commentary as the undertone to his movies. The fact that Ben was the strong, rational voice as a black man in the 60’s spoke volumes. His interaction with other characters in the movie showed the racial tension of the times but it was the scene towards the end that spoke louder than anything else about that time. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
The zombies move slow, but if this were to really happen, this is a pretty realistic view of how things would transpire. No one would understand what was going on right away. Today, most people would think it was a prank. Slow moving or not, the zombies can definitely take a bite out of someone before they realize something real is happening. This is how the hordes of zombies come to be just that, hordes.
The fact that these people are in a secluded farmhouse makes the tension grow as well. The only population they know that there still is for sure is who is in that house. Do they stay and try to fight them off, hoping they give up before breaking through the boarded up doors and windows or do they make a run for it, hoping there is still someone else out there who can help? With every second they fight with each other over this question, the zombies come that much closer to getting in the house. The Tom Savini remake is pretty good but some of the key moments in the original were changed and it loses a bit in doing so. I recommend watching it but, as is usually the case, you can’t beat the original.
28 Days Later
I don’t think I’ve seen a new horror movie since 28 Days Later that has been great. There have been great horror comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland but no all out horror movies. Since this movie, I have only been underwhelmed by just about every other horror movie that has come out. In fact, I rarely take the time to watch a new one based on this.
While it’s considered a zombie movie, it’s actually a virus, the Rage Virus, that turns people into these “fast zombie” type beings and they’re not actually dead. The pace alone of the “zombies” in this movie makes it great. When they come at people, they come at them so viciously.
It’s easy to see The Walking Dead has taken a lot of ideas from this movie. The scene of waking in a hospital torn to shreds and not having a clue what has happened is a huge similarity right off the bat. But also the way that the uninfected are sometimes more of a threat than the infected makes me think TWD took more away from 28 Days Later, as well. They are completely different stories, but there are some huge parallels. (I apologize if I’m inaccurate and TWD’s graphic novels started first.)
When the movie is slow, it gives a feeling of vulnerability and when it’s fast, the tension is tremendous. It’s one of those movies that you just feel tense watching. I’m not saying you’re afraid of what you’re seeing. It’s just so tense that you’re probably holding onto something a lot tighter than you realize.
Basically, it all comes down to tension in this movie. The acting is superb. The look is perfect. John Murphy’s score is awesome. It all blends to make one of the most truly tense horror movies ever made. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched it but writing about it makes me think it’s about time to watch again. I liked the sequel, 28 Weeks Later. I had low expectations going in and was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t match the relentlessness of 28 Days Later, but it’s worth a watch.
This movie is one that I remember seeing at the video store when I was in high school and my first band made a flyer with the cover photo on it. Somehow, I never actually saw it until years later. I’m glad I didn’t, though, because the super slow start would have turned me off back then and the movie might have gotten turned off before the awesome started.
To start, there is a zombie vs shark fight. Seriously! Zombie vs shark! It’s my all time favorite movie fight. That’s the turning point in the movie. It goes from slow and somewhat boring to awesome just that quick.
The zombies in this movie look great. They are so decayed. Worms coming out of eyes… I cannot stress enough how great these zombies look. The gore is also top notch. Paired with the cinematography, it’s the perfect horror combination. Everything is done well with the budget Fulci had to work with. He was the kind of director who had a great sense of how to make gore realistic with what he had. An eyeball scene comes to mind here. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.
Fabio Frizzi’s score is also great. The theme song just screams zombies rising out of the ground to me. I think it struck me as somewhat happy sounding the first couple times I watched it but the score has grown into one of my favorites.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, do it. Don’t turn it off because it feels mindnumbingly boring for the first forty minutes. Everything that comes later is everything that anyone should want from a zombie movie.
Werewolves in Siberia