|TOPSY-TURVY: Horrorfest (inks on bristol / 2010)|
We'll start the countdown with the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Of course the director is known for countless affairs which have kept us on the edge of ours seats. The Birds brings another element into the master's work as a character in themselves. Actress Tippi Hedren was actually cut up a little bit filming with live birds swooping at and around her. It's the ultimate confrontation of man and nature as the winged armies attack in legions. In true Hitch fashion, the director had speakers planted in trees outside of the UK premier in London. When the audience left, they were scared out of their wits by the screeching and swooping noises of birds.
Saw (directed by James Wan) 2004
This is the movie which started a franchise of Halloween-release sequels for the better part of a decade. In just 18 days, this gem of an indie film was shot and originally slapped with an NC-17 rating. The killer Jigsaw is a man of many games and makes his victims play for their lives. The final R-rated version which was released still shocked and mesmerized everyone who saw it (pardon the pun.) Pushing the limits of the human will to survive, Jigsaw plays out his game with carefully orchestrated plans. A clever script and intense acting really set the tone and make this film truly great (the endless sequels- not so much.)
Interview with the Vampire (directed by Neil Jordan) 1994
Anne Rice wrote the screenplay (based on her own novel) for this sweeping epic of vampire lore set across the backdrop of New Orleans. Rice made certain every detail was correct in the life story of Louis de Pointe du Lac as he tells his tale for the silver screen. Being a period piece, the set design, costumes, music and feel of the entire movie is just superb. The vampire makeup was concealed during filming and actors used tunnels to move to and from the set. Each person playing a vampire was hung upside down during part of the makeup preparations so their veins would bulge out and could be traced with cosmetics. This moving tale is certainly a modern classic.
Rosemary's Baby (directed by Roman Polanski) 1968
Paramount unleashed the now infamous director Polanski on American audiences with this movie adaptation of the novel by Ira Levin. A successful trend began in the late 1960's Hollywood of taking very recent best seller's and turning them into big budget movies. Mia Farrow took the lead in this unsettling tale of the birth of Satan's child into our world. A shocked conservative viewership would never forget and Polanski's rollercoaster in the good old US of A had just begun. Satanic rituals and the true fear of Hell on Earth were summoned to create this legendary classic of a movie.
28 Days Later (directed by Danny Boyle) 2002
British director Danny Boyle reinvented the Zombie movie with this edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. When animal activists break loose a room full of chimps who've been experimented on, they release the RAGE on London and the entire island which is the United Kingdom. Survivors have to keep on the move and eventually find themselves at odds with a militant group which has formed from the wreckage. Athletes were cast as the infected raging zombies which were glaringly different from the staggering mindless beings which came before in the zombie genre.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) 1992
Coppola made the ultimate Dracula movie based on the original novel from 1897 by Bram Stoker. The acting all around in this masterpiece is wonderful including one of my favorite musicians, Tom Waits stepping in as Renfield. Of course Gary Oldman steals the show as Dracula in ALL of his states of transformation. Keeping it real, Coppola only used traditional special effects and no computer graphics were utilized on the entire production. These traditional techniques helped the film to win three Oscars. A haunting love story is the backbone for this tale which spans oceans and centuries.
Jacob's Ladder (directed by Adrian Lyne) 1990
Drawing inspiration from scriptures of both The Holy Bible and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tim Robbins (Jacob) battles his innermost demons through visual hallucinations in search of his self. A Vietnam veteran, the main character suffers from sever disassociation making him question every aspect of reality and identity. Jacob's visions are terrifying and done very well with no post-production special effects. Cinematography plays a vital role in the distress and unease as the film causes you to experience the terror of these day-mares Robbins's character is haunted by. We find later the true nature of Jacob's condition is a result of massive doses of an LSD cocktail from military experimentation.
Halloween (directed by John Carpenter) 1978
John Carpenter wrote, produced, directed and composed the staple title theme of one of the most successful independent films of all time- Halloween. The creation of the masked psycho Michael Myers ushered in an entirely new sect of Horror cinema with the Slasher genre. Jamie Lee Curtis was chosen for her very first role as Laurie, becoming one of the original scream queens. The villainous murderer spun off a half-dozen sequels as well as a few other "silent" killers. A tasty morsel of trivia: the famous Michael Myers mask is in reality a modified William Shatner mask!
Carrie (directed by Brian De Palma) 1976
Any movie which begins with a tampon fight and ends in with buckets of pigs blood makes this list by default. Sissy Spacek took the screen as Carrie, the troubled and tormented telekinetic prom queen from Stephen King's debut novel. You just can't push a girl across her threshold when she can flip cars with her mind as these teenagers learn all too well at at the hands of Carrie when their cruel bullying backfires. Spacek got an Oscar nod for her performance and Stephen King became the best-selling novelist of ALL TIME.
Parents (directed by Bob Balaban) 1989
Set in the 1950's suburbia, this movie will create an unease in anyone's stomach when you realize along with little Michael what's really for dinner. Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt keep a healthy home for their son including plenty of ground meat in the deep freeze. We suspect and then gasp in horror when we find out it's not just burgers cooking on the grill but perhaps some recently missing persons. This grossfest will turn anyone into a vegetarian. I couldn't eat ground meat for months after seeing it as a child.
Poltergeist (directed by Tobe Hooper ) 1982
Suburban sprawl crams houses into every nook and cranny of civilization as we pave over and over our planet. The Freeling family find themselves with some very spooky visitors as they find their home to be built on top of burial grounds. The governing spirits of their lot want them gone but want their little girl Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) to stay! This is the scary movie which made us terrified of our televisions. Many of the special effects were done post-production with Stephen Spielberg working on them at the same time as E.T. and the movies were released one week apart!
The Omen (directed by Richard Donner ) 1976
Here is another staple of 70's cinema. Robert Thorn (played by the magnificent Gregory Peck) suspects there to be evil incarnate in his home as his son Damien is in fact the Anti-Christ. This film is thick with suspense. The death scenes orchestrated by the stone-cold child actor (Harvey Stephens) are brilliant and nerve-racking. Jerry Goldsmith scored the legendary music for this film which won an Academy Award in 1977 and echoes on today. Now when I see a creepy kid with a cold stare, I check behind his ear for the 666.
Silence of the Lambs (directed by Jonathan Demme) 1991
Anthony Hopkins won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the anti-hero of Thomas Harris' trilogy of novels. Dr. Lecter is a sophisticated and manipulative killer who loves nothing more than to dine on the flesh of those he finds rude or insulting. Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) must employ this serial murderer in a game of cat and mouse as he helps her profile and catch a another killer on the loose. Dick tucking, skin suit wearing and face eating fun earned the film 5 Oscars including Best Actor and Actress, Best Director and Best Picture.
The Fly (directed by David Cronenberg) 1986
"Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid." Science Fiction takes a sick turn to Horror when an ordinary house fly enters Seth Brundle's (Jeff Goldblum) teleportation machine with the scientist inside. This Kafkaesque storyline is Cronenberg at his gory best showing off a plethora of special effects and Oscar-winning make-up (some of which took 5 hours to transform Goldblum into the monster he becomes.) The scene which always blew me away involved an arm-wrestling match in the early stages of Brundle's transformation where the breaks the other mans arm, splintering the bone clean out of the flesh.
Hellraiser (directed by Clive Barker) 1987
Clive Barker is a man of many talents as author, visual artist and movie maker. He adapted his own novella, The Hellbound Heart into a classic movie with his vision of Hell and its torments. The Cenobites, S&M demons from Hell, were unleashed on movie audiences to great acclaim. It took actor Doug Bradley 6 hours in makeup to become Pinhead- the lead Cenobite, during each day of shooting. After filming, Barker had to make numerous cuts to film to avoid a NC-17 rating. The director felt this watered down the movie, which went on to terrify audience for the next couple of generations.
The Hitcher (directed by Robert Harmon) 1986
Rutger Hauer is haunting here in his psychopathic role of John Ryder. An unassuming driver Jim (C. Thomas Howell) picks up Ryder hitchhiking through the desert and narrowly escapes the maniac's wrath. Jim proceeds to be stalked along the highway and stands witness to a murderous rampage for which he is framed as the culprit. There are many classic scenes from this gem of a flick including an almost-eaten severed finger and dismemberment by an 18 wheeler. Hauer was so deep into his role, he insisted on doing most of his own stunt driving and even had a tooth knocked out by a shotgun. Since its release, Howell has admitted to being truly afraid of his counterpart on set.
Alien (directed by Ridley Scott) 1979
The deep space towing vessel Nostromo wakes its crew from hypersleep to investigate a distress call from a foreign planet. Here the Alien legacy and franchise begin with suspense and terror. Claustrophobia settles in when the a crew member becomes the living incubation chamber for an Alien with acid running through its veins and a very nasty disposition. Much deserved Visual Effects and Art Direction Oscars went to the creative team who designed the creatures and sets including artist H.R. Giger. This masterpiece perfectly blends Science Fiction with Horror. In Space No One Can Hear You Scream.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (directed by Wes Craven) 1984
It's the movie which made you afraid to go to sleep (or take a bath) featuring Johnny Depp's first role and 500 gallons of fake blood. Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund) was named after a bully from Wes Craven's childhood and became a cinematic legend. This scar-faced menace with the bladed right hand occupied the dreams of teenagers. In the beginning these teens were specifically the children of the parents who set him ablaze for- well... killing kids. Englund went on to play Freddie in countless sequels, adding a cheekier sick humor to what was a quieter and darker role originally. Nightmare on Elm Street bailed out New Line Cinema from its early grave and went on to be a staple of the Horror genre.
The Shining (directed by Stanley Kubrik) 1982
Kubrik obsessed over the shooting of this movie to create the perfect tone. Actors endured performing their scenes 30, 40, even up to over 150 times to get the proper suspense and desperation out of the characters. Based on the novel by Stephen King, the small cast headed up by the role of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) are in remote isolation watching a hotel for the winter. Jack suffers a case of writer's block in his side work and descends into murderous insanity under the spell of the evil which lurks in the hotel. Torrence's son Danny (Danny Boyle) sees the evil all too clear as he has the gift of clairvoyance and "shines."
The Exorcist (directed by William Friedkin) 1973
Twelve year old Regan (Linda Blair) has an acute and messy case of demonic possession. No doctor or medicine prescribed can cure her... only an old priest (Max Von Sydow) and a young priest (Jason Miller.) Despite the gore and very graphic language from the Demon, The Exorcist gathered 8 Academy Award Nominations and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture and Director. The entire cast worked in 30 below zero temperatures created in the bedroom at times for the chaotic shots. Each delivered epic acting which earned them Oscar nods and top billing on my list of the Top 10 HORROR MOVIES of ALL TIME!
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