October 24, 2011
It’s the best week of the year, and with Halloween coming up, I thought a whole week of horror-themed articles are in order.
Let’s talk about the must have’s for any Halloween movie viewing marathon.
The thing to remember when trying to pick horror movies for mass viewing is that everyone is going to have vastly different tastes. Some people want gore. Others want something scary but funny. Maybe others love the suspense. With that in mind, this list is going to include a little bit of everything. It’s not a “The Best Horror Movies EVAH!” list. It’s what I think works when you have to satisfy a lot of tastes.
Genius inventor Jigsaw traps people in elaborate traps designed to metaphorically make them face something about themselves. This is usually a dark secret or a vice that makes them inadequate in the killer’s eyes.
Okay, so the sequels could have done without basically turning into a series of more and more elaborate scenarios that missed the whole thematic point of the original. So what if pretty much the point of the movies after the third one was to show how sadistic the writers could be?
The original movie is AWESOME. It barely shows any blood (unlike the sequels), and it’s more concerned with the characters actually finding a way out, unlike the rest of the series where we just get a sickening countdown until someone dies because, let’s face it. If you’re in a Jigsaw trap, you’re dead. Most the gore is implied, making this, surprisingly, a good intro to novice horror watchers. Trust me. They don’t show anything you wouldn’t see on a graphic episode of CSI.
This is it. The gore-fest. The standard. Every movie with exploding bodies or dismembered body parts wishes it has the kind of humor, shock, and lasting power this movie has enjoyed.
Herbert West is a medical student with a secret. He’s working on a serum, his “reagent,” that can bring dead flesh back to life. His goal is to wipe out death, to make humans immortal, but the tests aren’t promising. Anyone brought back suffers from violent personality and animal-like hunger. That’s not going to stop the good doctor from trying, though.
This has to be not only one of my favorite horror movies, but also one of my favorite horror films. Not only do we get Jeffrey Combs at his hammy best, but the film is very much aware of what it is: a horror comedy. And it does it well. The gore is over the top. The humor is dark. The whole movie’s like finishing an onion blossom by yourself. It’s fried and you know it can’t be this good, but damn if it’s not tasty.
I showed this to a friend who is very squeamish about gore, and while she shrieked and yelped, she admitted she had a great time with it. It’s just so over-the-top that it works.
“Halloween” and “Halloween H20”
Okay, so this one’s two films instead of one.
Halloween is the classic story of horny teens getting offed by a masked killer on a meaningful holiday. Michael Meyers is one of the templates for every slasher after 1977. The films that came out afterwards? It gets crappier and crappier until the last few movies where the writers decide to throw in something about a Celtic curse and some psychic powers. Needless to say, those last few movies are… not good.
If you watch only the first movie, the 1977 film that made Jamie Lee Curtis one of the undisputed scream queens, then jump twenty years to the unfortunately named Halloween H20, you get a decent storyline that actually has plot.
H20 still has the trappings of the slasher genre, but it’s smart enough to bring back Curtis as a more mature, grown up version of her original character. Think about it. She survived one of the most traumatic nights of her life and evaded a serial killer that is the stuff of legend. What would something like that do to a person? That’s pretty much what H20 is about, and it leads up to a climactic battle that caps off a 20-year old rivalry.
Just ignore the movie that came after this one, too. Trust me. It’s better if you don’t know.
Monsters attack diner. Diner Patrons fight back. Monsters start killing off patrons one by one. No one has a name.
Feast is both a parody and homage to horror movies. Every character is designated by a convenient subtitle like “Hero,” or “Harley Mom,” or “Beer Guy.” We even get a little leaning-on-the-fourth-wall subtitle telling us everyone’s chance of survival. Some of these estimates are clearly sarcastic.
The result is a movie that is actually a lot smarter than it looks. The patrons are very much aware of how screwed they are and they aren’t all dumb. In fact, they’re quite mortal and when I say anyone can die, I mean ANYONE. No, really. Just try and guess who makes it out and who actually bites the dust and when.
“In the Mouth of Madness”
Let’s say you got that one guy in the crowd that wants something a little meatier, something more psychological. Bust out some Sam Neil.
A prominent author (lovingly modeled after Stephen King) has vanished as his new book is due to hit the shelves. A series of strange murders tied to his books has the publisher worried, so they send a private investigator to find the elusive writer. The journey takes our investigator on a trip into a town that should be fictional, a town filled with beings and situations that cannot possibly be real. All the while, our hero and the audience have to wonder… Is it all real, or are we seeing things through the eyes of a madman?
The movie never really concerns itself with fully explains where the eldritch abominations from beyond time and space came from or why they chose to come through books and other media. It doesn’t explain why the author is seemingly the avatar of alien monstrosities. It doesn’t even bother showing you if things are real or just a dream.
It’s just going to throw weirdness after weirdness and you and you’re going to accept it. Why? Because it’s cool…
It just is. Trust me.
There are MANY more movies out there you could use. Of course there are: The Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Psycho, The Shining, etc. These are just a few of the ones I think would be good for a party. If you just want to do some drinking games with dum kids getting killed, any old slasher film will work. I recommend something from the 80’s or somewhere between 1999 and 2009. Most of the schlock came from these years. The more obscure, the better.
Just remember. There are no bad movies. Just movies you can make REALLY funny with the right crowd.
To show you how to properly riff, here are Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy doing what they do best.