As Halloween is fast approaching, and I’m a fan of horror movies, I thought I’d mention a few of them. However, I’d like to start by mentioning that “scary” movies don’t actually scare me, and there’s a very good reason for that…
You see, I was brought up on Hammer Horror films. Now, I know that by today’s standards these films are old hat and pretty much nobody would find them scary today, but when you’re only seven years old, people would expect you to be turning pale at Christopher Lee in Taste The Blood Of Dracula! I never did – because of my Mam.
My Mam always seemed to love the old Hammer Horrors (I’ve no idea if she still does) and as they were pretty mild, I was allowed to watch them with her. Under her instruction, the blood dripping from Dracula’s mouth was never blood – it was tomato sauce! It was constantly reinforced to me that nothing that happened on the screen was actually real, and that can make all the difference to a kid if they can be made to truly believe that – and I did!
So, here, without further ado, are thirteen of my all-time favourites – the list is far from exhaustive and represents a cross-section of my faves from the past fifty years or so, and are presented in chronological order. I hope that if you haven’t already seen them, you’ll look them out and give them a try, and that even if you’ve seen them a million times already, you’ll watch again.
1. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Christopher Lee and Charles Gray are fantastic in this Satanic abduction horror. It’s atmospheric and Lee is doing what he does best – being incredibly imposing and charming! I like this one far better than all the Dracula films Lee did, despite being a BIG vampire fan.
2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Another chillingly atmospheric thriller as Mia Farrow falls foul of her devil-worshipping neighbours with nefarious plans. Based on the equally brilliant book by Ira Levin, Polanski managed to perfectly capture the full horror of Rosemary’s situation.
3. The Wicker Man (1973)
Badly remade in 2006, the original starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward is far superior! Village mentality mixed with a Pagan cult (which does no favours to real Pagans, but can be forgiven because it’s such a damned good film!) lead to a good, Christian copper desperately searching for answers as the clock ticks. And there are a couple of excruciatingly nasty shots which will make you feel sick to your stomach.
4. The Exorcist (1973)
Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells will forever be associated with this dark study of a child possessed by demonic forces, but that’s no bad thing! Linda Blair is wonderful as the girl under the control of evil, and Max von Sydow is always a name to be reckoned with. GO and watch it now – the power of Christ compels you!
5. Carrie (1976)
Who hasn’t at least heard of Stephen King’s debut? WHo doesn’t already know about the final shock at the end? Don’t you still jump, even though you’re expecting it? Sissy Spacek’s perfect turn as the bullied telekinetic teen ensures this film’s place on the list of all-time horror classics!
6. The Omen (1976)
Another one that was recently remade (2006) although the remake wasn’t half bad, even if it was nowhere near the original on any level. It had a very hard act to follow – who could hold a candle to the suave Gregory Peck playing a father who finds his son isn’t his son at all. How would you handle it? Would you have the strength to go as far as he does? Stunning performances all round, but special mention goes to Billy Whitelaw as the sinister Mrs Baylock!
7. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
John Landis’ film featured pioneering special effects which at the time had never been seen, and had to be seen to be believed. Now, of course, we have CGI that looks so much better, but it’s still worth revisiting this classic and marvelling at not only the effects, but the performances, writing and direction. It has horror and humour in spades. It also caused my sister, Leni, to be terrified of going to the bathroom alone after viewing it for the first time. Fair enough – she must have been about 6 or 7 at the time!
8. The Hunger (1983)
David Bowie, Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve are, for me, the unholy trinity! Beautifully shot with touching scenes depicting loss and longing with stirling performances from all three. The horror of the situation is actually the fate of Miriam’s lovers…
9. The Lost Boys (1987)
This was the film that brought vampires bang up to date with a hip young gang of teenaged vampires running amuck in Santa Carla. It had the double-whammy of the two Coreys (Feldman and Haim) who were pretty big at the time, eye candy Jason Patric, and the wonderful Keifer Sutherland who was perfectly cast as David.
10. Candyman (1992)
Kickstarted a slew of urban legend related movies in the 90s, but this is the original ad best. Virginia Madsen is compelling as a student working on her thesis, and Tony Todd put the willies up a LOT of people who will never feel quite safe repeating the name Candyman in front of a mirror – just in case!
11. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Part road trip, part crime caper and part vampire flick – this might sounds like a terrible mix, but it really works! An unual cast that included Harvey Keitel as a preacher who has lost his faith, Juliet Lewis as his sweet an innocent teenaged daughter, and George Clooney as a hardened criminal on the lam sounded like it was all back to front, but Tarantino pulled it off with quirky aplomb.
12. Event Horizon (1997)
This is actually the horror film that came closest to completely wigging me out. In my defence, I was more than a little drunk when I went to see it in the cinema, but it is incredibly graphic and even now causes me to wince at some of the scenes. It was once described to me as “The Shining in space”, but I never thought much of The Shining and loved this. There are some similar elements – going slowly mad in a confined space being the main one – but this, for me, outshines The Shining on every level.
13. Ring (1998)
No, not the sloppy American re-make, but the original, tense Japanese version. If you watch this alone late at night, I guarantee you’ll be unplugging the TV before you go to bed! It really is rather freaky and the tension builds so well that you hardly notice it until your nerves are twanging!
So, there you have it, thirteen of my favourites. There are plenty of others I had to leave off the list, and I’m sure I’ve missed many of your own favourites, but I’d love to know which horror flicks you love, so please leave a comment and let me know!