Photo credit by ky_olsen
We all love to be scared, just so long as we know that we will come to no harm. Halloween, haunted houses, and horror movies are the three h’s that satisfy that need. When I was a kid, I’d stay up with my Mum on Friday nights and revel in the old black and white horror flicks, double features that introduced me to Dracula, the wolfman, the mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster. I would watch wide eyed, and more than a little afraid, as my heroes, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee battled vampires and monsters, and I became hooked on horror.
You cannot, in my humble opinion, compile a list of the best horror movies of all time, without taking a journey back to where it all began. In 1922, F.W. Murnau released, “Nosferatu,” a vampire film, based, very loosely, on the Dracula legend. It starred uber creepy, Max Schreck as Count Orlock, and featured special effect that, for it’s time, were astounding. Schreck’s performance still induces shudders to this day.
The 50’s and 60’s saw the horror genre go the way of the creature feature, as Dracula and Frankenstein movies became popular, along with the likes of “The Creature From The Black Lagoon,” another personal favorite, and giant bug flicks. 1973 saw the horror world turned on its head with the release of “The Exorcist,” a terrifying, disgusting foray into the world of demonic possession. It was this movie, more than any other, which opened the door for the gore-filled, slasher flicks of the future.
The 80’s bore witness to the rise of the supernatural serial killer, as Freddy, Jason, and Michael carved their way through a gaggle of promiscuous teens in numerous sequels. The originals of all 3 though, will always remain superior to anything else made after. “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” featuring a young Johnny Depp, introduced Freddy Krueger, a burn ravaged, blade fingered, nightmare man who, before he became a cartoon character of sorts in the sequels, was seen in half shadow, making him all the more menacing. “Halloween,” introduced us to the unstoppable escaped mental patient, Michael Myers, and the original, “Friday The 13th,” became legendary in that it’s boogeyman, Jason Voorhees, had the distinction of not killing a single person (a piece of trivia that could win you a ton of money).
Other great horror flicks during this time period were, “The Shining,” a brilliant re-telling of Stephen King’s bestselling novel, although one the writer actually despises, “The Hills Have Eyes” (although I preferred the re-make), and “The Thing,” a spectacular alien flick set in the frozen tundra of the Antarctic, that brought ghastly, stomach churning special effect to a whole new level. You can’t mention alien films without mentioning Ridley Scott’s, “Alien.” The acid blood spewing extra terrestrials let loose on a deep space ship are the stuff of movie monster lore.
In recent years, horror movies have been on something of a downturn, as the studios churn out lifeless, PG-13 films aimed solely at the pocketbooks of a teenage audience who seem to enjoy the bland sort of, color by numbers, horror flicks like, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and its kin. Yet hidden among the gore free detritus are some absolute horror gems, most of them unseen as they failed to garner the advertising attention of the studios. Here are a few I’m sure you may have missed, but need to see;
“Altered.” From the makers of, “The Blair Witch Project,” comes the story of 4 men, abducted by aliens as kids, intent on getting revenge on their enemy. They finally manage to capture one, transport it back to a garage, only for it to get loose. It’s worth seeing just to watch one of the men gradually melt over the course of the movie.
“Reeker.” What starts out as your standard slasher flick, actually turns into a very clever movie with an ending you will not see coming.
“Flight Of The Living Dead.” This is everything that, “Snakes On A Plane,” wanted to be; hip, over the top, and clever. Zombies let loose on a commercial flight, what more could you ask for?
“Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon.” An astoundingly clever little flick that starts out as a pseudo-documentary and switches gears halfway through, turning into an effective slasher film, the scenes of which were all set up by our anti-hero in the opening.
“Hatchet.” Homage to the slasher flicks of the 80’s, only way better. Veteran movie bad guy, Kane Hodder, plays Victor Crowley, a mutated backwoods freak that sets upon the patrons of a bayou raft ride.
“Splinter.” Imagine if, “The Thing,” and “The Andromeda Strain,” spawned a movie child. The result would be, “Splinter,” a low budget gore fest that grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go. Great effects and surprisingly good acting set this one apart.
I could ramble on for hours, such is my love for horror, but I hope in the few hundred words here, I have provided a nice glimpse into the horror movie world and, better yet, provided you with a few treasures you may not yet have seen.