Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Great Horror Movie Poll

Okay, guys, here’s the deal: I think that I should include at least one more horror movie, preferably in the teens-in-danger genre. The problem, of course, is that very few horror movies are universally well-regarded, so the danger is that I wind up exalting a movie that isn’t widely respected.

But never fear, I just had to wait for an acclaimed horror movie to come along, and, lo and behold, it did: It Follows! I happily popped in the disk and took notes, only to discover an unfortunate fact: I haaaaaaaaaaaaated it. Hated it. Loathed it. Don’t even get me started.

So this brings me to the other problem with horror movies: I don’t tend to watch a lot of them, and when I do I frequently dislike them. So I’m throwing the question open to you guys: Which horror movie should I do? I’ll list some I’ve seen and some I haven’t, to see if you guys want to talk me into seeing them. Let’s start with ones I’ve seen and liked:

  • Pros: Widely acknowledged classic. Respected writer/director and actress. Spawned a genre. Classically structured. A “real” horror movie.
  • Cons: I’d really prefer something more recent. I find it too cheesy to take very seriously, and therefore not very scary.
Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Pros: Spawned a franchise. Respected writer/director. Classic villain. A “real” horror movie, I found it very scary (when I last saw it as a kid)
  • Cons: Not recent. Not a movie people really revere anymore. Later movies turned Freddy into a joke. Too campy? Too tacky? 
  • Pros: Huge crossover-appeal hit. Launched franchise. Respected writer / respected director. Very scary in parts. I like it a lot.
  • Cons: Doesn’t feel like a “real” horror movie, slides into parody.
The Blair Witch Project
  • Pros: Huge hit. Launched a hit genre. Extremely scary. I like it a lot.
  • Cons: Didn’t really have a script (actor improvised the movie). Didn’t launch any careers (to put it mildly). Sort of forgotten today. Remembered more as a gimmick than a great movie, though I think that’s unfair.
28 Days Later
  • Pros: Big hit. Very scary, in a way that exemplifies new gross-out / emotionally disturbing horror.
  • Cons: The happy ending feels very non-horror.
  • Pros: Huge hit. Launched a franchise. Also scary in a way that exemplifies new gross-out / emotionally disturbing horror.
  • Cons: Bizarre structure that’s not widely applicable (splitting the time between the cops and the victims, who never meet up). Not very respected.
And that leaves movies I haven’t actually seen yet, but I will if you say so:

Paranormal Activity
  • Pros: Huge hit. Launched a franchise. I hear it’s very scary.
  • Cons: Extreme gimmick makes it less than universally applicable.
You’re Next
  • Pros: Not a big hit, but fairly well respected.
  • Cons: I hear that it’s a little campy. I hear that in some ways it feels more like an action film than a horror movie.
The Babadook
  • Pros: Not a big hit, but very well respected. I hear it’s very scary.
  • Cons: Not American. Does it feel like a “real” horror movie? Is the subject matter too atypical to be widely applicable as an example of a horror movie? 
So what do you say?


Paul Clarke said...

My Vote:

Jaws - The Thing - Alien - Terminator

Laura said...

What about The Cabin in the Woods?

Sean said...

I'd be curious to see how Blair Witch does against the Checklist. It may not have had a classic script, but the filmmakers did write a ~35 page outline, the equivalent of a draft treatment. The narrative intent is there.

Any possibility of Ginger Snaps or The Others?

James Kennedy said...

These might be too old too, but we can't let this conversation go on without at least mentioning the obvious "The Shining" and "The Exorcist."

I also loved "The Descent."

James Kennedy said...

I saw Paul mentioned "Alien" above, but for some folks "Aliens" is even scarier.

James Kennedy said...

Oh and how could we forget "Rosemary's Baby"?

Also "Let the Right One In" was plenty creepy.

"Poltergeist" (the original, natch) might be old but it's still good.

You could consider "The Conjuring" but it left me lukewarm.

I thought the American remake of "The Ring" was just as good as the Japanese original.

And I haven't seen it, but "Drag Me to Hell" and "Oculus" are pretty recent and people seemed to like them.

Matt Bird said...

I should point out that I've already done "Alien" and "The Shining", so this would be a third, less-arty one.

Fred Salmon said...

Not You're Next. Unless you want to review a boring horror movie about people you want to watch die.

My vote is Scream as it's a really fantastic film, and that really comes down to the brilliant script. Be curious to know how you feel about the opening (which I believe is around 20 minutes long).

Anonymous said...

Starry Eyes. It's on Netflix. Here's the blurb: "A hopeful young starlet uncovers the ominous origins of the Hollywood elite and enters into a deadly agreement in exchange for fame and fortune."

Mark said...

Of the ones you've listed here, I'd go with Halloween. It's got the best combo of being "real" horror, and being really good. I wouldn't worry about it being too old, not scary anymore. I don't find Blazing Saddles particularly funny anymore (I know, my film-love card is revoked) but still found your analysis right on point.

Also, unfortunately, I think the very best horror movies aren't recent. Either very very old like Nosferatu, or in that really great period of mid-60s to mid-70s. Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Living Dead, Exorcist, etc.

Maybe Carrie? Haven't seen it in a while but I recall it as being very creepy if not outright scary.

Jonathan Auxier said...

I hate horror movies, but JOY RIDE would probably be worth examining

Nick said...

It may be too arch for your purposes, but I second the vote for Cabin in the Woods.

Devin McKay said...

Yeah, I second Let The Right One In. But I like A Nightmare on Elm Street or Poltergeist as well. They are structured in a pretty typical horror way.

Brian Malbon said...

The original Nightmare is still a terrific movie and manages to terrify me even add a cynical adult. That said, the Babadook was amazing on more kernels than just being absolutely the scariest movie I've seen in years.

Can I also throw in Shaun of the Dead as am option? From a script standpoint I think it's a great candidate for the checklist.

James Kennedy said...

The AV Club did the work for you! "25 Best Horror Movies since 2000." Dig it! http://www.avclub.com/article/25-best-horror-movies-2000-227068

Matt Bird said...

It's an interesting list. Clearly, I should watch "The Babadook" and see how I feel about it.

Paul Clarke said...

I have a slightly OT question -
What defines a movie as being a Horror?

I only ask as I am writing my own, but it begins more like an adventure, then descends into horror. But with enough little snippets of impending doom to illustrate the nature of the story.

But then the feedback is always about not enough blood and guts, and people dying.

So it seems to be all about the tone. If it were the situation and nature of the story then Jurassic Park would be a horror. I guess it comes down to fulfilling 2 genre expectations for every one defied.

Brian Malbon said...

Jurassic Park was horror to me when I first watched it. I still get nightmares of the velociraptors every now and then and is been twenty years.

I've heard it put that horror is the intrusion odd the inexplicable into the banal and humdrum - ie here's a Boeing old video tape... THAT KILLS YOU.
Incidentally, The Ring only had two deaths in the whole film, and no radio gore to speak of and it terrified me beyond all reason. The Babadook has even fewer deaths and no gore at all and is the scariest thing I've seen in years, so lack of blood n guts shouldn't really be a factor.

Brian Malbon said...

Please excuse my horrible typos. Smartphone keyboards. Whataya gonna do?

Unknown said...

I really liked It Follows, I liked The Babadook less. The dynamic between the mother and child and the voice on the phone was captivating, but other elements like the Babadook book (too Tim Burtony for me to take seriously) and the creature effects (the cliche xtreme speed trembling and the stock dinosaur sounds) pulled me out quite a bit.

As long as you're not turned off by it being Swedish I honestly think you should consider Let The Right One In. It does complex and subversive things with its two lead characters that rewards analysis. One scene with cats might throw you off, but otherwise it's an excellent film.

Recent American Plan B? My favorite that hasn't been mentioned above or in the AC Club article is probably The Mist. It's not universally acclaimed, but it's the best 70s/80s style monster movie I've seen this decade that isn't trying too hard to be retro. In other words, it shares many elements of those movies you listed that were too old, but isn't. The character dynamics and microcosm of society in the grocery store warrants examination, and the ending is truly horror.