Genre: Fairy-Tale Horror
Director: Neil Jordan (Interview with the Vampire)
Starring: Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Graham Crowden, Stephen ReaIn Brief: Calling The Company of Wolves (1985) a horror movie does it a disservice. It's not inaccurate, but this magical, allegorical fairy tale — that catapulted its filmmaker to international fame — is considerably more than a horror picture. In fact, it's more art film than horror flick, and some aspects of it are just plain inexplicable and surreal. Whatever you call it, though, it's unique, and it established Jordan as a major fantasist.
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Director: William Cameron Menzies, Marcel Varnel
Starring: Edmund Lowe, Bela Lugosi, Irene Ware, Herbert Mundin, Henry B. WalthallIn Brief: Wildly entertaining and utterly preposterous serial-like film, Chandu the Magician (1932) was adapted from a popular radio show of the same name. Beautifully designed by co-director William Cameron Menzies, the film looks spectacular, but its plot ... well, it's arrant nonsense about a madman named Roxor (Bela Lugosi) trying to get the secret of a death ray with which he can (of course) conquer the world. Working to stop him is our hero Frank Chandler, aka Chandu the Magician. It's really Lugosi's show and he knows it. His mad speech at the end is absolutely essential Lugosiana!
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman Leonor Varela, Norman ReedusIn Brief: Guillermo del Toro's stylish Blade II (2002) looks better today than it did on its release. The plot is solid and the acting moreso. The story follows daywalking vampire and vampire hunter Blade (Wesley Snipes), who is recruited by the vampire nation to help fight a force that threatens both them and the human race. The hip-hop soundtrack gets old and the fights tend to go on too long, but it actually works more than it doesn't and is nice sanguinary fun.
Director: William Peter Blatty (The Ninth Configuration)
Starring: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Scott Wilson, Nicol WilliamsonIn Brief: Exorcist author William Peter Blatty brought his own Exorcist sequel novel Legion to the screen in 1990 as The Exorcist III. (Since its story follows an entirely different tangent, it doesn't have to consider Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) in its plotting.) For my money, the result is the scariest, best-acted and certainly most literate film in the series. There is scarcely a wrong move in the film — including the studio-mandated big exorcism ending — and Blatty's direction is phenomenal. (He may have, in fact, created the best shock-effect ever in this movie.) You might not buy into the story five minutes after the movie, but while it's onscreen — well, that's another matter.
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Benedict WongIn Brief: It can certainly be argued that Danny Boyle's Sunshine (2007) is more science-fiction than horror film. However, it's hard to deny that its last act — at least up to its mystically transcendent ending — owes a great deal to the horror genre. In fact, at the time of its release, this horror content was a source of some criticism — that the film turned into a mad killer movie. As such, it falls into both genres. However you classify it, this tale of a group of astronauts on a mission to "jump-start" our dying sun with a nuclear bomb is one of the filmmaker's best works.
Director: William Beaudine (The Ape Man), Phil Rosen (Charlie Chan in Black Magic)
Starring: Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, John CarradineIn Brief: Bela Lugosi's last two films for Monogram Pictures make for a heady double dose of Poverty Row insanity that makes for an existential cinematic experience. In Voodoo Man, the "Master of Horror" tries to bring his alarmingly ambulatory "dead" wife back to life with the aid of gas-station owner and part-time witch doctor George Zucco. In Return of the Ape Man, Lugosi must deal with a defrosted caveman run amok. It's all rather sublime — in its own way.
Director: George King (The Face at the Window)
Starring: Tod Slaughter, Sylvia Marriott, Hilary Eaves, Geoffrey Wardwell, Hay PetrieIn Brief: The great Tod Slaughter has a go at Wilkie Collins' novel The Woman in White, which is transformed here into one of the British horror star's typical blood-and-thunder "strong meat" melodramas. That means that no virgin is safe and no deed too dirty. Though Crimes at the Dark House (1940) is nothing new for Slaughter, and every expense has been spared, it remains one of his most outlandishly enjoyable films. How can you not love a villain who threatens to "feed your entrails to the pigs" should you double-cross him?
Director: Ti West (The House of the Devil)
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, Alison Bartlett, Jake Ryan, George RiddleIn Brief: With The Innkeepers, young horror-movie specialist Ti West largely fulfills the promise of The House of the Devil (2009). Like his earlier film, this latest — at bottom a haunted hotel yarn — is of the slow-burn variety, with the bulk of the film devoted to building an atmosphere of dread (wisely punctuated with occasional outbursts of shock) before going into full-on horror mode at the end. But this ending really lives up to — and maybe surpasses — all the buildup with a genuinely horrific payoff.
Director: Roy William Neill (Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Marian Marsh, Robert Allen, Thurston Hall, Katherine DeMilleIn Brief: At one time — owing to its inclusion in the "Son of Shock" TV package — Roy William Neill's The Black Room (1935) was a staple of classic horror. It had a good story, solid production values, slick direction and one (or two, since he plays two characters) of Boris Karloff's best performances. But somehow the film has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Why? Probably because its studio, Columbia (Sony), is plainly lousy at promoting its old movies. That's too bad. It may not quite attain the quality of the best of the Universal horrors, but neither is it that far from them.
Director: James Whale (Bride of Frankenstein)
Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor, Dudley DiggesIn Brief: James Whale's masterful film version of H.G. Wells' novel made a star out of Claude Rains — and this despite the fact that his face wasn't seen until the film's final shot. It also has stood the test of time as one of the greatest of all horror films — good enough, in fact, that it completely transcends its genre to simply become a great film. Brimming with delicious black comedy and nonstop cinematic creativity, it's a film like no other — and here it's being shown in a beautifully restored version.
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