Rise up from your day-to-day grave, your slumber of work, eat, sleep, and monotony by joining me with this brazen look of cinema that forces you to look the Reaper in his eyes (like a good horror movie should) and make you thankful for the routine, the beaten path/rat race. Or do you dare venture into the dark twisted forest with me? I’ll protect you. Scouts honor.
So, I’m thrilled to share this first film recommendation with you. All hail M. Night Shyamalan! Finally a perfect horror tale out of Hollywood! The Visit just made it to my top ten all-time favorite scary movies. I normally hate ‘mockumentaries’, but this is one for which I’ll make an exception. The audience gasped, jumped, chuckled, and at the end applauded. It’s next to impossible to find a writer/director who understands the genre enough to capture all the things a horror film should be: fear, believability, and a sense of playfulness, yet Shyamalan nails it this time. You know how run-of-the-mill fright shows usually have some inane violent/spooky scene forced into the first five minutes to mark its genre? Well, this doesn’t need it because the dialogue and interaction between the brother and sister, doomed to visit their grandparents’ house with a shocking revelation, steal the show, especially the boy. Every time something disturbing happens, which should alert the kids to run for their lives, it’s explained, diffusing the situation and making the trip oh so fun until…
While we’re at it, Shyamalan’s Devil and Signs are way up there as well. No nudity and low on violence, these were attractions I was glad to share with junior years ago.
The next thumbs up goes to The Countess starring Julie Delpy. Written and directed by this Oscar nominated, multi-talented actor (she also has composer credits!), the film is shelved as a biography/drama. Nonetheless, it’s about Erzabet Bathory and anyone who relishes an eerie story knows that Liz insanely bathed—oh the irony—in servants’ blood to prolong her youth. She made Vlad the Impaler look like the lovable Tom Hanks. At least Vlad was torturing enemies to win a war! Because Bathory’s murders were so unspeakable, there doesn’t need to be any creepy tone added. Delpy masterfully shows us a sympathetic character who, due to misogyny, descends into madness. The costumes, sets, and cast are outstanding. It also stars William Hurt and Daniel Bruhl. In spite of the countess’s sanguine rituals, little blood drips on the screen. This is a film I offer to friends who aren’t necessarily horror buffs, but enjoy a well-done, out-of-the-comfort-zone tragedy. In fact, if you love scary flicks, this may disappoint you, but considering the season, I’m compelled to praise it right here right now.
This next one may surprise you as it’s a literary classic never categorized as horror, but Lord of the Flies the 1990 adaptation will positively raise the hairs and damn near burn them off your neck. Stephen King even cites the novel as one of his influences. A pack of kids left to their own devices in the wild, regressing into barbarism, oh yeah, this is truly a petrifying premise.
With the passing of Wes Craven, I’d be remiss not to mention what I thought was his masterpiece. Yeah, Freddie found his way into our household lingo due to the character’s originality and wit, but The Serpent and the Rainbow is about the only zombie film I know of that stays true to the Voodoo mythology and makes you jump a couple of times. Craven goes right for the fear of being buried alive.
Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, if by some chance you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t seen it already, is a must. Not only is the beauty and the beast pragma compelling, but the giant insects in the canyon scene—ick, it makes me shudder as I scribe—defines this blockbuster as quintessential horror.
For good reads, I’m delving into The Amulet by Michael McDowell who penned the screenplays for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Although I’m not finished with it, the characterization and first eerie demise excites me to go ahead and plug it.
(Spoken in my deep, crackly voice)