Afraid of the dark
RN&R movie reviewer Bob Grimm takes a look back at his favorite horror flicks and pees a little
Arts editor Brad Bynum recently called me and requested some sort of “Bob Grimm’s Favorite Horror Films” compilation because it’s Halloween and all that crap. After initially telling him to go screw himself, for I was far too busy and cool to be bothered, which is pretty much what I tell him any time he calls, even if it’s just to tell me “happy birthday,” I gave it some thought and came up with the following list of my favorite scary movies.
I like gory movies. If you make a movie where disemboweled intestines come to life, or somebody barfs so hard their ankles pass through their mouth, I applaud you. Actually, nobody has ever done the ankle barfing thing to the best of my knowledge. First person to put that in a movie gets an ice cream sandwich. My treat!
Rent and watch these in succession, although do take time out for sleep and work. You don’t want to be bankrupt from losing your job or puking and hallucinating from lack of sleep. No movie is worth that kind of pain. Well, maybe Eyes Wide Shut for the Nicole Kidman nude scenes, but that’s it.
I’ve listed the scary, bloody lot in chronological order because, well, it’s just sort of interesting that way. Happy Halloween … please don’t let any monsters eat you. That would suck.
King Kong (1933): When Kong drops that innocent woman to her death from atop a Manhattan apartment building, and we watch her fall from his POV, it’s as creepy as movies get … and that was put on film nearly 80 years ago.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Nice alien invasion movie that feeds off the post World War II communist paranoia. The 1978 remake gets high marks, too.
Psycho (1960): Sure, this movie’s big secret is kind of hilarious now, but Anthony Perkins is still a twisted delight as the murderous Norman Bates. He has cinema’s all-time great crazy stare. Changed horror movies, and American cinema, forever.
First Romero Zombie Trilogy (1968-1985): George Romero showed zombies eating human intestines in Night of the Living Dead, and the rulebook was thrown out the window for good. He topped himself in 1978 with Dawn of the Dead, and 1985’s Day of the Dead, while inferior to the previous two, has some classic gore. Romero has progressively lost it with his latest zombie trilogy (Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead).
The Exorcist (1973): Get the new Blu-ray, turn on the surround sound and, I guarantee, you will wish you were dead rather than watching it. It’s horrifying and has lost none of its sting.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973): I saw this on late night TV when I was a kid, and it gave me eternal nightmares. It features little gremlins coming out of a fireplace and dragging actress Kim Darby to Hell. A much anticipated remake produced by Guillermo Del Toro is in the can but held up by red tape.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): I thought this was lame when I first saw it, but now it terrifies me. I watch it when I want to cut back on meat consumption.
Jaws (1975): The one-eyed head peeking out of that boat hole still makes me jump, even though I know it’s coming. The underwater cage scene, nude swimmer, boy on a raft, and final Robert Shaw chomping sequence are all bone-chilling stuff.
Halloween (1978): The original John Carpenter offering, and not the Rob Zombie remake misfire. Michael Myers a.k.a. The Shape is my favorite slasher killer, mainly for that refurbished William Shatner mask he’s wearing.
Alien and Aliens (1979-1986): While both feature the same monster species, they feel entirely different. Ridley Scott’s original scored scary points for claustrophobia, while James Cameron got scares in the sequel by having seemingly invincible military figures get the shit kicked out of them.
The Shining (1980): Stephen King hates Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre adaptation of his novel, but I love it. I love it very, very much.
The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II (1981-1987): Sam Raimi’s original is still a wonder of spastic horror filmmaking. The sequel, which is essentially a remake of the first, added some humor, but it still manages to bring the fright.
An American Werewolf in London (1981): Not only is it the best werewolf movie ever made, it’s the only one I truly like.
The Thing (1982): John Carpenter’s shape-shifting monster movie is still one of the best special effects and makeup movies ever made. When that head sprouted spider legs and walked away, I immediately filed this film under “Badass!”
Creepshow (1982): Two horror greats, George Romero and Stephen King, came together for this anthology film. Charlie getting his head bit off by that monster in “The Crate” probably makes my “Top Ten Scariest Moments” list.
The Fly (1986): Great cringe horror … watching Jeff Goldblum transform and melt people’s hands with acid vomit is David Cronenberg at his best.
Angel Heart (1987): Robert De Niro’s big reveal in this satanic horror show knocked me on my ass. I still think this contains Mickey Rourke’s best performance. Personally, I feel the golden age of American horror began with The Exorcist and ended with this one.
The Vanishing (1988): Getting buried alive sucks! Watch the original Netherlands version, not that Kiefer Sutherland thing.
Dead Alive (1992): Before he went to Tolkien land, Peter Jackson was a sick master of genre horror. This is one of the granddaddies of all zombie and gore films, featuring stomach-churning effects and lots of gross-out laughs.
Ravenous (1999): Robert Carlyle and Guy Pearce play a different strain of cannibal in this little known horror classic from the late ’90s.
Ju-On (2002): That crushed throat sound coming out of the contorted ghost in this Japanese horror offering gave me the chilly-willies.
War of the Worlds (2005): While it’s not generally classified as horror, Spielberg’s H.G. Wells adaptation had me shaking. The scene where Tom Cruise discovers what makes the red vines and that first moment where the Tripod starts zapping people are totally sick.
The Descent (2005): After watching cave creatures devour women invading their habitat, I will never go spelunking. Ah, who am I kidding? I was never going to do that anyway.
The Host (2006): The first appearance of the monster in this South Korean horror treat is a monumental achievement … and piss-freezingly scary.
Grindhouse (2007): This Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino double feature of zombie-horror Planet Terror and stalker-terror Death Proof is a funny-scary blast.
Funny Games (American remake, 2007): Lord have mercy, the hostage horror in this one is disturbing. Michael Pitt is one of the great horror monsters of modern cinema, and nobody has seen the movie.
Let the Right One In (2008): This Swedish gem stands as my current favorite vampire movie. The recent American remake, Let Me In, is only slightly inferior.
Frozen (2010): There’s a scene in this harrowing, stranded-on-a-ski-lift movie that was so scary and disturbing it made me cry. I don’t think any other movie has ever done that to me. Bravo!