So its Halloween weekend, this means it’s time to sit down with some classic horror films, here’s a list of what you should be watching this weekend.
An American Werewolf In London
It often hurts to merge horror with comedy. An American Werewolf in London
is one of the finer examples of that combination. American Werewolf was one of several iconic werewolf movies that hit theaters in 1981. Of the trio, American Werewolf remains the most popular and well-loved.
The film follows two backpackers traveling the English countryside. When only
one survives an attack by a vicious wolf, he becomes convinced he’s been
infected by the werewolf’s curse. And it wouldn’t be much of a werewolf movie
if he turned out to be wrong.
An American Werewolf in London stood out at the time thanks to its amazing makeup and special effects work. Never had the werewolf transformation seemed so convincing. The humor didn’t hurt either, particularly with the brilliantly demented nightmare sequences. But American Werewolf was ultimately a tragic horror film, and one certainly deserving of remembrance today.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
George Romero practically created the zombie movie genre single-handedly in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. Ten years later he refined the formula with Dawn of the Dead. Far bigger, gorier, and funnier than its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead remains Romero’s definitive work.
Whereas Night featured a small cast of survivors holed up in a remote farm-house, Dawn opens with a glimpse of a major metropolitan area falling to chaos during the zombie outbreak. It isn’t long before four heroes are forced to leave town and barricade themselves inside a shopping mall. But as it turns out, the undead hordes still retain enough of their old selves to feel the need to shop and consume.
The true brilliance of Dawn is how it combined straight-up zombie carnage with a healthy dose of satire and social commentary. At the end of the day, are modern Americans really so different from the shambling undead? They crave warm flesh; we crave iPods. It’s a message that was somewhat lost in the enjoyable but inferior 2004
The Thing (1982)
An alien with the ability to take the form of any life that it absorbs infiltrates an Antarctic
research base, and soon the 12-man team is up to their eyeballs in slaughter, suspicion and paranoia. John Carpenter’s best film has itself planted on either side of the horror and sci-fi movie lines.
The Thing plays fair within both genres, but leans more toward horror. Arguably Carpenter’s best movie since Halloween, the movie takes it time setting up the rules of the creature living amongst our heroes, while more importantly establishing each character – from Windows to MacReady to MacReady’s beard – as people we actually worry about. Such attention to character and pacing is a lost art in the current genre climate; we can only hope that the pending prequel/remake takes this into account.
The practical special effects hold up better than you’d think (save for the stop-motion Blairmonster), and Kurt Russell gives one of his best performances as team leader MacReady. Any self-respecting movie fan should have this in their library.
Get over Mia Farrow’s bird haircut and watch this movie. You’ll be surprised how much this unsettling creepshow from 1968 gets away with for, you know, being in 1968. Roman Polanski’s most “conventional” film outside of Chinatown is one of his best, telling the slow-burn story of a young New York couple who move into an apartment building home to several Satan worshipers who want to use Rosemary’s spawn as a means for Mr. Devil McBrimstone to return to our mortal realm.
Farrow is perfect in the role of Rosemary, as she slowly unravels the more she discovers what shady cult dealings are happening all around her. The entire world seems to be conspiring against the most innocent of people here, as the Devil watches from the wings and Rosemary breaks down.
Polanski’s “less is more” approach to delivering chills further support the storytelling rule that the more kept off-screen, the more the audience has to imagine, the scarier.
Alien movies are generally thought of as being planted in the science fiction realm. However, with the original at least, Alien was as much a horror film as a sci-fi one. With a small cast being hunted by a lone, terrifying creature, Alien was a long way removed from the Star Treks of Hollywood.
Alien is set several centuries in the future when humanity has ventured into the stars. The crew of the mining vessel Nostromo become unwitting hosts to a bloodthirsty alien life form. One by one, the crew members fall to an enemy that hides in the shadows and springs from above. Only Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is savvy enough to survive the
alien’s onslaught. Too bad for her it was only the first round.
Alien doesn’t resemble many sci-fi movies of the time. Artist H.R. Giger designed a world full of twisted tubes, cold hallways, and pervasive darkness. Before Alien, pop culture never warned us how dark, dirty and scary the cold depths of space were. Director Ridley Scott adopted a “less is more” approach that later sequels sadly abandoned. Modern directors can cram all the Aliens and Predators they want into their films, but none can
match the sheer claustrophobic terror generated in the original Alien.
Evil Dead 2
The most extreme horror comedy ever, mixing all out slapstick and pure schlocky shocks
in the mix to, Evil Dead 2 is half sequel , half remake of the fantastic first film, But Number two really holds a place for me.
When Ash takes his girlfriend to an empty old cabin in the woods, where he plays back a professor’s tape recorded recitation of passages from the Book of the Dead, all hell breaks loose as a horde of demons decide to crash the party. Armed with a chainsaw and a boomstick, ash has to rise to battle and send this evil back to where it came. It’s going to get groovy.
This film, is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the finest, most imaginative comedy horror films ever made. Raimi, the director has put all the aspects of the film
together in masterful fashion. The camera work and sound effects are pulsating,
and the timing is perfection. And in Bruce Campbell, the film has a lead actor
who gives an exceptional performance, grunting and grinning his way around.
Stupid and fun, but fucking well made and over all very scary.