Horror of Babylon, Part 1

Do you like horror movies? I like horror movies. Everyone should like horror movies. I’m sad it will be many years before I can introduce my daughter to them, but exposure too early in life might result in a Dexter-style origin story. After lengthy internal debate, I am more or less convinced that would be a bad thing.

I recently tallied my score on Bloody Disgusting’s Ultimate Horror Challenge (a surprisingly poor 51 out of 61) and decided I needed a pulpit from which I might babble about my own top X horror movies of all time, X being a positive integer of a value equal to or slightly greater than the number of movies about which I have clever shit to say. So it is with all thanks and praise to the Rex that I present my top however-many must see, can’t miss, lightly sweetened horror moves of all time. We kick things off with the best movies for the genre novice. These are the big release, oft-imitated but never surpassed titans of the industry. If you’ve seen all or most of them, congratulations, you’ve earned your white belt in Cleave Sick Sigma and are invited to join me for Part 2: Electric Boogaloo just as soon as I get around to it. The list:

  1. Psycho Rosemary’s Shining Halloween Exorcist

See what I did there? Each is a fantastic film worth watching over and over but they’re not given individual treatment here because they’re universally beloved by film school professors and comic-con attendees alike. (Shut up, ghost of Pauline Kael, you hated Star Wars. ) These are the safe bets, the mega-classics. If you’re having an intelligent conversation about horror movies and someone chimes in with one of these, tell him you’ve heard good things about an up-and-comer named Alfred Hitchcock while delivering a crushing elbow smash to his sternum. Then steal his collection of coffee table books.

See the rest after the jump…

  1. Frankula: The Wolf Man to a lesser extent From the Black Lagoon

No list of horror classics is complete without the Universal monsters, which range from the sublimely beautiful Frankenstein to a host of lesser critters and deranged wackos. Werewolves are a top contender for Best Monster in the Universe Ever but I have a soft spot for Gill Man. There’s no way less than three men drowned while wearing that massive rubber wetsuit and I will hear no argument on the subject.

  1. Night of the Living Dawn of the Dead

Not even close to the first zombie movies ever but certainly the sole watershed moments in the genre. (28 Days Later was excellent but short of groundbreaking.) Gotta give credit to Romero for doing the interracial thing with such little fanfare, and right around the same time Kirk and Uhura were going at it on the small screen. Did you know Romero was driving the print of Night to New York to screen for distributors while Martin Luther King’s murder was being announced on the radio? True fucking story.

  1. Alien

There’s plenty of other sci-fi horror I could have mashed in here but this is the quintessential entry. Nothing has even come close except 1999’s seminal classic,Virus. William Baldwin at the height of his legendary career, subtle representations of man’s innate corruption like Donald Sutherland’s latex face glued onto Johnny-5’s chassis…quite possibly the pinnacle of high concept art as political commentary. (Note: false.)

  1. The Blair Witch Project

It didn’t invent the found footage convention but Blair Witch remains the best use of the technique to date. Granted, part of its effectiveness came from an excellent marketing campaign, but the movie’s impact is impressive nonetheless. The downside of its enormous success is that now found footage horror films are like genital warts: laser one off and two more take its place. Wait, what? Blair Witch also revitalized indie horror more profoundly than any movie since Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Speaking of which…

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This movie still makes me a little nauseated. Leatherface’s clan is at once impossibly grotesque and yet, as anyone who grew up far from a major metropolitan area can attest, grotesquely possible.

  1. Scream

Not sure if it killed the sub-genre or just pointed out the parts that had grown flabby. Psycho may have birthed the modern slasher film, but it became self aware on December 18, 1996. And the Drew Barrymore opening is worth its weight in something valuable.

So in this equation, X=7. Or 15. If you answered either 7 or 15, you get full credit. BUT ONLY IF YOU SHOWED YOUR WORK. More interesting than what made the list are the movies that didn’t. Silence of the Lambs? Jaws? Not horror. Cronenberg’s The Fly? Superb, but not required viewing. An American Werewolf in London? Great but too idiosyncratic to merit inclusion. Nightmare on Elm Street? Maybe an oversight. Friday the 13th? Not even a good movie. DISCUSS.

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