31 Days of Halloween! #1. The Exorcist

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.

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THE TOP 31 HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIME

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#1. The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by: William Friedkin

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair

Plot: A movie actress taking up temporary residence in Washington D.C. has her troubles. The script for the movie she’s filming seems inadequate. Her ex, who is also the father of her adolescent daughter, Regan, neglects to call the girl on her birthday. And the attic has rats. Meanwhile, Father Karras, a priest and a psychiatrist, is losing his faith; and he’s dealing with a sick mother who needs medical care he hasn’t the money to provide. Another priest, the old and ailing Father Merrin, has just returned from Iraq with forebodings of evil. These three persons meet when the sweet and cheerful Regan turns foul-mouthed and violent. But her sickness is beyond the reach of a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. What Regan needs is an exorcist.

My Thoughts

H.P Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.The Exorcist taps into that primal fear unlike any other work of fiction. Our fear of the unknown is put on glorious display in William Friedkin’s 1973 horror film and once it was seen, things would never be the same. The Exorcist is based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, which in turn was based on a real life event that took place in Maryland in 1949 where a young boy was supposedly possessed by a demon and given an exorcism – and it seemed to have cured him. I won’t waste time going into the debate of whether or not demon possession is real or just a brain disorder, I’ll just say that this is a real phenomenon where the cause is, you guessed it, unknown. So why do we love to be frightened? Why do we flock the the theaters to see a 12 year old girl turn into a hideous demon? Is it because we need to be scared to remind ourselves of the goodness of our lives? To be able to experience something so horrendous from a distance, like a voyeur? It’s probably these reasons and more but the bottom line is – we just love a good scare. The Exorcist does an excellent job of that. I’ve heard it said by filmmakers that the more outlandish and ridiculous the subject matter the more seriously the director needs to approach it. Friedkin took this notion to heart and set out to make not just a horror movie but a movie that rings true and doesn’t take any shortcuts or cheats the viewer. It’s a movie that never backs down or turns away, even when what we are seeing is abominable and leaves us with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomach. The power of The Exorcist lies in the camera never flinching and thus exposing us to lurid and savage scenes. We are forced to bare witness to a battle between good and evil. To a battle of faith and unbelieving. Battles that we face in our own lives day to day, but never to the degree that’s displayed in The Exorcist. And I guess in the end that is why this movie has stood the test of time, and continues to scare generation after generation – because through fear we feel alive.

31 Days of Halloween! #2. Salem’s Lot

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.

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THE TOP 31 HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIME

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#2. Salem’s Lot (1979)

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Starring: David Soul, James Mason, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres

Plot: Salem’s Lot is a town which a new member, Mr. Straker, has taken as his new “home”, and has a mysterious partner, namely Mr. Barlow. Not too long after Straker arrives in Salem’s Lot, people start disappearing from sight and dying from odd causes, and no one is sure why, including Ben Mears who is in town to write a new book on the town’s rumored haunted house called the Marsten House, which overlooks the town and hides a terrible secret about to be unleashed.

My Thoughts

All totaled I figure I lost about 582 hours of sleep thanks to the Salem’s Lot mini series. I was 8 when this this made for TV movie first aired and I remember my parents would not let me watch it – but I did see the ad’s in the TV Guide and paperback book in Safeway showing the vampire Barlow, in all his Nosferatu glory. But it really wasn’t Barlow that haunted my pre-teen nights, it was the other vampires in the movie – the townsfolk that have been bitten by Barlow and turned into the most appalling bloodsucking undead creatures ever shown in film. These vampires are unholy abominations that exist only to feed and damn the living to hell. This is how vampires should be portrayed  I’ve railed for years about how I hate the “romantic” vampire – I mean, there are some movies out there were it shows that vampire curse to be almost the opposite – that being a vampire is pretty awesome! You get to stay up all night, fly, turn into bats and wolfs, get to have sex with hot chicks, can’t die, live forever, mind control people, shit man, if this the case fucking turn me into a vampire RIGHT NOW! But in Salem’s Lot being a vampire is possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to a human being. It does not look fun. Anyway, yeah I love this movie. I still get the chills when the kid vampire floats outside the window of his friend, scratching at the window, asking to be let in. I mean, just writing that sentence I got creeped out. Stay away from the Rob Lowe remake – it’s bullshit – stick with this one. In fact, go out right now and buy this at your local video store or record store or wherever you can find old DVD’s for sale and watch it tonight. It’s the perfect film to get you in the mood for Halloween tomorrow. It’ll be playing tonight at my house for sure.

SCRATCHY SCRATCH SCRATCH

31 Days of Halloween! #3. An American Werewolf in London

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.

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THE TOP 31 HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIME

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#3. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Directed by: John Landis

Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

Plot: Two American students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a Werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The Werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he find a way to die to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths

My Thoughts

Werewolves are one of my favorite monsters, right after vampires. The trouble is there are very few werewolf movies that are good. There is the classic 1941 Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. and a few of the sequels that followed that are pretty good – not scary but very atmospheric, and that goes a long way. But then, for like years, nothing. Sure there were some attempts like that one werewolf movie starring Oliver Reed and one with Peter Chushing The Beast Must Die  but really, there was nothing worth writing about until the year 1981 rolled around. By ’81 the special effects field had grown by leaps and bounds and now Hollywood was able to give us more realistic horror then ever before. This was good news for a young director named John Landis. Landis had been sitting on a screenplay he wrote for years called An American Werewolf in London. He was waiting until the time was right to make his monster movie. Waiting for special effects to get better – he knew it was only a matter of time before you could show a human transforming into a werewolf in real time, and not using old tired techniques like lap-dissolves. He was right, and in 1981 a make-up artist named Rick Baker showed the world for the first time how it would look if a man changed into a wolf – for fucking real. And it fucking ruled! Baker would go on to win the Academy Award for his work on this movie and pave the way for practical effects to change the horror genre for ever. An American Werewolf in London is a fantastic movie and a truly frightening one as well. One of the reasons this movie works so great as a horror movie is that we genuinely like the two American dudes hiking through England. David and Jack are our brothers, our uncles, our best friends, we know these guys, went to school with these guys, hung out with these guys. They are good dudes, and what happens to them is unreal and supremely horrific. It pains us to see then go through what they go through and what makes it even worse is that in all this terror and darkness they still manage to joke around and try and laugh – and that makes it all more painful. An American Werewolf in London is depressing yes, but it also one of the finest examples of a horror movie that has ever been made. There is nothing else like it. A remarkable film.

31 Days of Halloween! #4. The Shining

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.

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THE TOP 31 HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIME

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#4. The Shining (1980)

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall,Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

Plot: A novelist – Jack Torrance take a job interview as winter caretaker of the isolated, old, huge and beautiful Overlook Hotel. In the interview, Jack is told by the manager himself, that the previous caretaker – Grady, chopped his family and later killed himself with a shotgun. Ignoring the story, Jack brings his wife – Wendy and his son Danny. It happens that Danny, has a mysterious power known as “The Shining” that shows him things from the past and future. Some of the visions come from Tony – “the little boy who lives in Danny’s mouth”. Danny meets Hallorann – the hotel cook in their first day arriving at the Overlook, who also has this “Shining” and he warns him about the hotel and the sinister Room 237. As the days go by, Danny has visions of previous guests and employees who died at the hotel years before, meanwhile Jack starts driving into insanity, turning more and more aggressive, at the point that Danny and Wendy gets convinced that Jack might try to do the same thing, Grady did.

My Thoughts

I’ve written about The Shining about a billion times, the most recent being when this 1980 classic made my Top 50 Movies of All Time List at #30 (Check out what I said HERE). So, forgive if this blurb strays a bit. Everyone knows The Shining is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, but the funny thing is, if you read the novel it is almost a completely different story. Kubrick only takes a few beats from King’s novel and goes from there to make his own version of The Shining. And honestly, I sorta like Kubrick’s vision a little bit better. Here, in the movie, the sense of utter dread begins right from the opening shot. There is no, “oh Jack Torrance is a nice guy and gets corrupted by the evil of the Overlook Hotel.” as it happens in King’s story. Not in the movie though, Jack is already on the edge when we first meet him, and to me, this enhances the horror 10 fold. We know this dude is a hair away from snapping and the tension is incredibly thick because of this – almost too tense to watch. The film builds and builds and builds on this tension until Jack comes bursting thru the bathroom door looking for Wendy and Danny so he can split their heads open. It is a moment that has gone down in film history not only because of Nicholson’s ad libed line “Here’s Johnny!” but because we as the audience over the course of the two hours have looked for someone to relate to – to latch onto as our link to something good and pure – and Wendy Torrance has become that person. We ARE Wendy by the time she is facing off with her husband. And when she is screaming in that bathroom, crying for Jack to stop, we feel her terror. Jack is coming for us.

31 Days of Halloween! #5. Halloween

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.

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THE TOP 31 HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIME

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#5. Halloween (1978)

Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles, Nancy Loomis

Plot: On a cold Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his teenage sister after she had sex with her boyfriend. Michael is then locked inside Smith’s Grove Warren County Sanitarium where he is placed under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis who is the only one who sees the pure evil within the soul of Michael. On October 30, 1978, Michael escapes from the sanitarium. After witnessing the escape, Dr. Loomis heads back to Haddonfield where he knows Michael will kill again on Halloween night. Michael begins stalking three teenagers, Laurie Strode and her friends Annie and Lynda. With the help of the town sheriff, Loomis hunts for Michael and hopes to put an end to his grisly murder spree

My Thoughts

There are two main reasons why Halloween is one of the scariest films of all time: One, it convinces us that the boogeyman is real. Two, the music. John Carpenter originally set out to make an extremely low budget horror flick about a dude that kills babysitters. In fact that was the name of the project in the early stages, “The Babysitter Murders”. But during post production something happened – they stumbled upon a formula that since 1978 has been copied more times then I can count. Using a cheap mask bought at the local grocery store and hiring a non-actor to play the killer, Carpenter created the ultimate boogeyman. A faceless, emotionless killing machine that you cannot stop  and that will always be around the corner in the dark. The Fucking Boogeyman! Then, to top it off Carpenter himself scores the most bone chilling music in the history of film. Like theme to Jaws, the music in Halloween is the harbinger of evil. Nowadays we hear it playing in the aisles of Target in the costume section, but can you imagine back in ’78 and watching Halloween in a dark theater and that music comes on? Jesus Christ. This is a perfect horror film. I suggest watching it again but try and get rid of all the stuff that came after it, all the sequels, all the cliches that it created, everything. Just watch it tonight, with the lights off, hopefully it’s windy outside, turn off your cellphone, put that laptop down and just give yourself over to the movie. I guarantee that for the rest of the night every bump you hear will be the boogeyman coming to get you. Happy Halloween.

THIS IS AWESOME. WATCH THIS YOUTUBE CLIP WITH AUDIENCE AUDIO TAKEN FROM A 1979 VIEWING OF HALLOWEEN.

31 Days of Halloween! #6. IT

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.

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THE TOP 31 HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIME

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#6. IT (1990)

Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring: Tim Curry, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Annette O’Toole, John Ritter, Seth Green

Plot: In the quiet town of Derry, Maine, Seven friends  Bill, Eddie, Mike, Bev, Stan, Richie and Ben (the losers club) have all been seeing and hearing strange things. Most of which revolve around a Clown called Pennywise in which they all admit being real, the kids eventually discover that the leader of the club, Bill’s little brother fell victim to this evil. The group sets out to stop the force and put it to rest once and for all. 30 years after defeating IT, Mike Hanlon, the only Member who remained in Derry, is suspecting that IT has returned and is forced to call back all of the Losers club, due to a promise they all made to return if its evil shall ever resurface. Uncovering new powers, clues and evil the club reunites as adults and come face to face with the evil that has haunted and fed on Derry for the last centuries.

My Thoughts

This is Stephen Kings love letter to his childhood growing up in Maine in the 1950’s. In a way IT, along with The Body (Stand By Me), is almost his autobiography instead of a work of fiction. You can tell that the characters in this story are based on real friends and enemies and episodes that may have really taken place in young King’s life. If so, then no wonder Stephen King writes some of the most fucked up scary shit ever. Although I think Salems’ Lot is his most frightening novel, IT scares in a different way, it taps into our early fears. Fears that we had as kids that over the years faded – replaced by real world problems: Mortgages, Jobs, Economy, etc. King captures in his story those nights alone, in our bedroom, when the shadows of our closet held monsters. IT the movie does a fantastic job of adapting the novel and translating those pages, realizing Kings world for all of us to see. Unfortunately this 2 part made-for-TV mini-series loses a lot of its steam in part 2, which focuses on the adults. It is in part 1 where this mini-series truly shines and where the clown Pennywise makes the strongest impact.  In the book Pennywise the Clown is a malevolent force that haunts the kids but as with all novels, we make our image of what Pennywise looked like. In the movie Tim Curry brings Pennywise to life with such flair and power that cast members would avoid Tim while shooting the film. Pennywise is one of the greatest horror creations of all time.

Movie Clip of the Week! 1975

Every Thursday I post a clip from a film you may not have seen but should. This week it’s a film from 1975.

Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975)

Directed by: Dick Richards

Starring: Sally Kellerman, Mackenzie Phillips, Alan Arkin, Harry Dean Stanton

Plot: Hapless driving instructor and former Gunnery Sergeant Rafferty, living in squalor near Hollywood, California, doesn’t put up too much of a fight when two ladies hitch a ride and attempt to kidnap him in their attempt to get to New Orleans; while initially put off, Rafferty finds he’s charmed by the kooky pair of misfits and the three of them drive to Las Vegas, Nevada and later Tucson, Arizona, where their bond eventually unravels.