Why John Carpenter’s Halloween Rules

31 Horror Movies I Own #31: Halloween (1978)

Still one of my favorites, Carpenter’s original Halloween may not be packed with the level of blood and gore that movies made now are, but it’s still creepy, unsettling, and yes, even scary.

Good girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Leigh Curtis) has a boring evening of babysitting planned for Halloween while her two slutty girlfriends hook up with their dudes. Unfortunately for all of them, “The Shape”, AKA Michael Myers, has escaped from the mental institution he’s been in for the last 15 years.

Some of the best scenes are of The Shape stalking Laurie and planning his attack, and of course, Donald Pleasance as the over-the-top Dr. Sam Loomis (a nod to Hitchcock’s Psycho), exclaiming how Michael is “pure evil”.  I also thoroughly enjoy Curtis’s excellent screams and her traumatized appearance throughout the killer chasing her around the house.

I consider it a must-see every October 31st. My Halloween wouldn’t feel right without it!

The sequels—well, they all have their problems, and I’ll dissect them another time. But for my thoughts on the Rob Zombie remake(s), take a look at this entry I made back in January.

Happy Halloween!

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Cabin Fever

31 Horror Movies I Own #30: Cabin Fever

I know everybody likes Hostel more, but I still stand by my belief that Eli Roth’s first film is his best (so far). Cabin Fever evokes the feeling of old-school slasher movies complete with the requisite amount of drugs, booze, and T&A—but instead of a crazy killer, it’s an unstoppable virus that’s killing people.

The gist is that some college kids head out to a small cabin to party, and unfortunately encounter a very sick gentleman who stumbles out of the woods and vomits blood all over their car, and well, that’s when the trouble starts. Mysterious skin rashes turn into melting piles of goo, exploding bodies, and friends turning against friends as they try to fight something they can’t win against.

There are definitely a few “really?” moments that aren’t perfect, but as a whole, this film is highly entertaining. Blood, gore. More blood, more gore. Cringe-worthy close-ups of skin, bone and entrails, and the grossest shaving scene I’ve ever seen. I still think it’s great, and deserves more praise than it gets.

I recently caught Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, and it was also good in a similar way—as in: more blood and guts on screen than actual plot…and it’s actually even grosser. If that’s what you’re in to, check it out.

Dead Alive

31 Horror Movies I Own #29: Dead Alive (AKA Braindead)

My second favorite Peter Jackson film (Heavenly Creatures is the first), Dead Alive is a hilarious 1992 blood-fest from the LOTR master that makes me extremely happy.

Shy Lionel Cosgrove is trying to escape his overbearing mother’s clutches so he can woo the girl of his dreams, when oops! Mom is bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey (omfg. The monkey! makes me laugh. and laugh. and laugh), and turns into a maniacal, flesh-eating zombie.

Once Lionel realizes his mom is of the undead, he tries to hide her in their house, subsequently stuffing all the other zombies she creates in the basement—which eventually results in buckets and buckets and buckets of blood, and insane puppet-y zombie creatures that try to consume the entire town.

It’s totally low budget and slapstick-y, and the acting is almost ridiculously bad, but I still love it to death. The amount of blood and entrails alone is enough to warrant multiple viewings.

I highly recommend this when you’re in the mood for something that will make you laugh, but is also gory enough to satisfy your love for bloody special F/X.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

31 Horror Movies I Own #28: A Nightmare on Elm Street
“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy

I’ve written previously about my love for A Nightmare on Elm Street, but I wanted to reiterate how AWESOME the original 1984 movie is.

Wes Craven created one badass sicko in the form of Fred Krueger, which is why I continue to forgive him for crap like Cursed. Sure, the hair and makeup are incredibly dated, and twee little Johnny Depp getting sucked into his bed with his television doesn’t make any sense, but those things aren’t enough to tarnish this classic. It’s just that brilliant.

In case you don’t know, the story centers on teenager Nancy Thompson, her boyfriend Glen (Johnny) and her slutty friend Tina and bad boy counterpart Rod being terrorized in their dreams by a man with knives for hands. The only problem is that if dude kills you IN your dream, you actually die in real life. Oh, and it’s actually all their parents fault. Oops!

So lets talk about the good stuff: SO much great gore! So many buckets of splatteriffic goodness. The scene where Tina is being thrown around on the walls and ceiling while she’s being slashed to bits? So, so, so, so great. And Robert Englund as Freddy; the expert at deadly wit, the dream master, the bastard son of 1,000 maniacs—well, what can I say? The man rules all schools.

I also own the complete set of sequels, none of which, of course, are as great as the original, but I do still appreciate them as a whole. It’s also worth mentioning that Freddy Vs. Jason was a nicely done tongue-in-cheek film, with total devotion to both the horror icon’s legends in a way that made me very, very happy.

So the only question is, how did I feel about the 2010 remake? Well, I thought it was horrible and completely unnecessary. There’s no reason for you to see the update, guys. Just rent this one instead.

An American Werewolf in London

31 Horror Movies I Own #27: An American Werewolf in London

Another horror-comedy, An American Werewolf in London is the film that kicked off my obsession with gory special F/X.

College backpackers David and Jack are hiking across some spooky, fog-covered moors in England when the stumble upon a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”, and notice that everyone inside is a bit jumpy. They leave and a large wolf attacks them both, killing Jack and leaving David alive but wounded.

David, now in the process of becoming a werewolf, is then haunted by Jack—as it seems the rule is werewolf victims are doomed to roam the earth as bloody ghosts until their murdered is killed. To complicate matters, David and sexy nurse Alex start to fall in love…just before the full moon.

The best part is of course, the climatic scene with lupine David terrorizing Piccadilly Circus, but really I love everything about this film. There’s tons of great blood and gore and clever humor, and overall it’s just tight, well-constructed cinema.

But the scene that I tend to watch over and over again is David’s first werewolf transformation, when latex-effects master Rick Baker rocked the 80s horror movie genre by winning the Oscar in 1982 for Best Makeup effects. However, if you’ve only seen that part, you’re missing out. You should DEFINITELY see the entire film.

Unlike most other fans I’ve talked to, I also like the sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, ignoring the somewhat sub par CGI werewolves because of the adorableness of both Tom Everett Scott and Julie Delpy, and also because I heart it to death for coming up with the whole “Americans Only” party invite/slaughter-fest thing. Trust me, it’s good!

Rosemary’s Baby

31 Horror Movies I Own #26: Rosemary’s Baby

Featuring the most frightening old people I’ve ever seen (with the exception of the rigor mortis smiling couple in Mulholland Dr.), Rosemary’s Baby is a beautifully filmed piece of terror-inducing thrill.

Rosemary Woodhouse couldn’t be happier about being pregnant with her first child, until all her new neighbors start acting uber-creepy, fawning over her a little too much, and she notices her doctor is being shady as hell. To top it all off, her struggling husband snags a coveted role after a random freak accident befalls the originally cast actor…or so everyone would have Rosemary believe.

Eventually the mom-to-be figures out what’s up: she’s carrying the devil around in her belly, and he’s got a whole slew of minions making sure she’s too weak to get away or do anything to stop it.

It’s not so much the idea of a satanic cult prepping Rosemary to be the mother of Satan that’s so frightening, it’s the WAY this film portrays it. By picking what look like perfectly normal looking people to play devil worshiping, orgy-obsessed monsters, Director Roman Polanski kicked the story up a notch and delivered a masterpiece that rocks, no matter what year it is.

Despite the absence of a lot of blood of gore, Rosemary’s Baby is atmospheric, unsettling, and expertly cast—and absolutely one of the best classic horror films. I can’t recommend that you see it highly enough.

Wolf Creek

31 Horror Movies I Own #25: Wolf Creek

One of my greatest fears is being stuck out in the middle of nowhere being tormented by a sadistic mad man, with no possible hope of escape or finding help. So, uh, needless to say, Wolf Creek succeeded in scaring the pants off of me.

This is also exactly why you’ll never find me doing something crazy like hiking in unfamiliar country and then agreeing to accept the help of a total stranger when my car breaks down—and you ESPECIALLY won’t find me drinking anything said stranger happens to hand me. (more…)

Scream

31 Horror Movies I Own #24: Scream

Outside of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s 80s track record wasn’t really so great. Deadly Friend, Shocker, The People Under the Stairs—sure, these are all kind of hilarious, but not even a little bit scary. So in 1996 when all the hype surrounding Scream started, I wasn’t really buying it.

BUT. When I was actually in the theater watching I was pleasantly surprised! It was the first horror film in a long time that made me second-guess myself, caused me to jump more than a few times, entertained me, and did an excellent job making it appear that anyone could be the killer.

I still love Scream as much as I did the first time I saw it. The opening sequence with Drew Barrymore as Casey is FLAWLESS, and yeah, even a little bit scary. With the exception of Tatum’s garage door squishing, all the deaths were great, and of course, there’s a TON of blood.

Also, I love (as I think everyone else does) extreme movie nerd Randy (Jamie Kennedy), and the irony of Sydney (Neve Campbell) proclaiming that horror films are stupid because the heroine always does the wrong thing—which is shortly followed by her doing exactly what she was complaining about.

Just in case there’s anyone who hasn’t seen this, I won’t give away the ending, but it’s a good one. If you by chance haven’t watched Scream, I highly recommend.

As for the sequels, they each have their moments. The opening theater scene of Scream 2 with Jada Pinkett Smith is pretty brilliant, with my major complaint being that it’s WAY too easy to figure out who the killer is. Scream 3 isn’t scary at all, but it gets props for making fun of itself (especially with the casting of each character for the Hollywood version of their story). The Scream 4 trailer is kind of lackluster, but I’m not willing to give up on the series yet, so I’ll definitely be heading out to see it.

Audition

31 Horror Movies I Own #23: Audition (Odishon)

True story: when I went to rent Audition from my local video store, the guy took one look at me and said, “Are you sure you want this one? I mean it’s really violent. REALLY REALLY horrible stuff happens. Like, I almost threw up while I was watching it…” Little did the guy know that by saying that, he totally sold it to me.

Anyway, yes. It’s true. Really really horrible stuff happens (Takashi Miike knows torture porn, that’s for sure!). And as with most films , it’s all super gross, “I-can’t-believe-someone-actually-thought-of-this” stuff. But the reason this one stands out (at least to me) as one of his best is because the lead, Eihi Shiina, delivers a chilling balls-out insane teeth-gritting performance as a woman who has some major “issues” with men. Drugging, torturing, and dismembering kind of issues. (more…)

Phantasm

31 Horror Movies I Own #22: Phantasm

Okay, okay, I know. Phantasm is not really that scary…it’s just completely bizarre, but I love it because of all its hilarious glory.

This 1979 low-budget gore-fest was the brainchild of Don Coscarelli, who managed to put together something that would become a cult classic, mainly due to an impressively creep-tastic performance by Angus Scrimm as “The Tall Man” and super-fast flying silver death balls that bore into your face and drain the blood out of your body.

So it goes like this: two orphans named Jody and Mike stumble upon a terrible secret—the local mausoleum is stealing bodies and killing townspeople to gain power and you know, eventually conquer the world. With the help of their friend ( ? – his role is never clearly explained), they decide to take on The Tall Man and stop the murdering. (more…)