A horrifyingly good time

Halloween is upon us again, and with that in mind, my compatriot in reviewing, Justin Souther, and I thought we’d offer up our picks for an unlucky 13 of the best. Since I’m more schooled in “classic” horror than Justin, I took that era (up through 1960), and he tackled the newer stuff. (My list would have included at least six of the same titles.) Feel free to provide lists of your own.

Classics of Horror

1. Night (Curse) of the Demon (1957). In reality this isn’t the best film on this list, but as a horror film and nothing but a horror film, you just can’t beat it. Made in Britain (but with a bankable America star, Dana Andrews) by Jacques Tourneur, the film has a troublesome history. Though released in Britain as Night of the Demon and running 95 minutes, the movie was rechristened Curse of the Demon and shorn of 12 minutes. It’s long since been restored to its 95 minute glory, though. It’s the perfect scare show — all about the evil Julian Karswell (a splendid Niall McGinnis), head of a devil-worship cult, who keeps order and protects the cult by summoning a demon from hell whenever the need arises. This is accomplished by passing a piece of parchment with the appropriate runic symbols on it, which will draw the demon to its victim. When nosy paranormal debunker Dana Andrews sets out to expose Karswell as a fake, he becomes the next recipient of the parchment. (Hence the lyrics in Rocky Horror‘s “Science Fiction Double Feature” — “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes, and passing them used lots of skill”). A perfect blend of horror, suggestion, atmosphere, performances and one of the greatest scores of all time (by Clifton Parker).

2. The Black Cat (1934). The whole idea as far as Universal Pictures was concerned was a movie featuring their top stars, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, that could be marketed as a horror flick. Oh, and if it could somehow be connected to Edgar Allan Poe — he had a name and his works were in the public domain — so much the better. Director Edgar G. Ulmer gave them something more — a completely strange tale of revenge, dead souls, Satanism, necrophilia, a remarkable sense of dread and some pretty extreme horror (including the villain being skinned alive) — all of it wrapped in a brilliant musical tapestry comprised of classical works by Liszt, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Bach. The studio was appalled (even more so when it turned out Ulmer was sleeping with the wife of a relative of Universal president Carl Laemmle). The censor was none too pleased, either. Horror fans have been delighted for 70-plus years by Ulmer’s explosively cinematic horror film. Lugosi gives his finest performance, Karloff gives his most sinister. What does any of it have to do with the Edgar Allan Poe short story that “suggested” it? Not much, but there is a black cat — more than one, in fact.

3. Bride of Frankenstein (1935). James Whale’s sequel to his own Frankenstein (1931) actually places in my top ten movies of all time, but for reasons having little to do with horror per se. It was a movie Whale hadn’t even wanted to make. After three genre pictures, he was wanting to move on. As a result, he only agreed to it if he could reimagine the concept as pitch-black comedy. Typically, Universal didn’t care, since it gave them a Frankenstein picture starring Karloff by James Whale, and that’s what they wanted to market. Whale didn’t stint on the horror (in fact, in its original cut there were so many killings that it had to be reworked to pass the censor), but he was obviously bored by the scare stuff. Instead he focused on weird humor and perhaps the largest dose of gay subtext of the era. (A good second feature would be Bill Condon’s 1999 release, Gods and Monsters, about the last days of Whale’s life.) He also piled on the cinematic style and had it topped off with a soaring musical score by Franz Waxman. Plus there’s Ernest Thesiger (known to his friends as “the stitchin’ bitch” for his needlework) as the campy, but sinister Dr. Pretorius.

4. Doctor X (1932). This was an attempt by Warner Bros. to outdo Universal, the then reigning studio for horror. In some ways they did. Not only did they shoot the film in two-strip Technicolor (a crude red and green based format that looks a little like a hand-painted postcard), but they upped the horror ante (“This is cannibalism!” proclaims Lionel Atwill on examining a fresh corpse). They also added something new to the genre — the wisecracking reporter hero (Lee Tracy), which would soon become a staple — and made the first truly modern-setting horror film in the bargain. It mayn’t be as scary as it was in 1932, but it’s still marvelously creepy. And there’s even a pre-King Kong Fay Wray proving she knew how to scream just swell without being pawed by a big monkey. Director Michael Curtiz went on to direct lesser fare like Casablanca (1942).

5. The Ghoul (1933). Long believed lost until a choppy, censored and very dark print turned up in the Czechoslovakian film archives in the 1970s, T. Hayes Hunter’s British picture The Ghoul got a new lease on life when an almost pristine print was later found in England. Seen in a print that looks like it was shot yesterday, The Ghoul goes from creepy curio to full-blown classic. Boris Karloff (in England because of a salary dispute with Universal) plays a dying (and, boy, does he look it) Egyptologist who believes an ancient jewel will bring him back from the dead and open the gates of immortality — a concept soon put to the test. Terrific atmosphere, surprising shock scenes, grim horror and a rational explanation that feels like it was insisted on by the censors and can be ignored. One of the earliest horror films with a musical score (attributed to Louis Levy, which, in one instance, would come as a great shock to Herr Wagner). A terrific cast that includes not just Karloff, but Ernest Thesiger, Cedric Hardwicke and a very young Ralph Richardson. The less said about leading man Anthony Bushell, the better, since he played every role he ever had as if someone had shoved a large stick up his bum (he later turned to directing with similar results).

6. The Old Dark House (1932). Old dark houses are a sub-genre in themselves, but James Whale’s The Old Dark House is the ne plus ultra, the bee’s knees, the lobster’s dinner shirt of the lot. Whale chose J.B. Priestley’s novel Benighted (called The Old Dark House in the States) as the basis for his horrific follow-up to Frankenstein, and actually went the book one better by giving it a third act it never had on the page. It’s essentially travelers — Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton, Lillian Bond — stuck in the creepiest of creepy old houses due to a rainstorm. (The set was so good, Universal reused it several times and even rented it out to independent producers.) Weirder than the house are its inhabitants — morose Ernest Thesiger (“Now we shall be miserable all the evening”), religious loon Eva Moore (“No beds! They can’t have beds!”), lumbering mute brute Boris Karloff, wheezy ancient John (really Elspeth in drag) Dudgeon (“When you’re as old as I am, you might at any minute just die”), whiny little Brember Wills (“Morgan is a brute, he beats me”). Mayhem ensues. Rob Zombie liked it so much that he put clips from in his House of 1000 Corpses. And Turner Classic Movies is showing it late Halloween night.

7. Dracula (1931). Yes, Tod Browning’s Dracula creaks a little. Well, alright, it creaks a lot, but it’s the granddaddy of horror movies — the one that really started it all. At its best, it has a misty poetry that has rarely been equaled. At its worst, it still has Bela Lugosi in his signature role as Count Dracula, and it remains the definitive performance of the character. The first 20 minutes are among the eeriest in film history — and it comes complete with geographically challenged Transylvanian armadillos. That’s something you don’t see every day.

8. Island of Lost Souls (1932). The early 1930s were notable as the grimmest years of classic horror, and no film is grimmer than Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls — Paramount’s boldest bid for horror supremacy. Based on H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, the movie was banned outright in Great Britain (to the delight of Wells, who hated it) and generally considered altogether tasteless. Charles Laughton — in perhaps the gayest performance of all time — is Dr. Moreau, a mad doctor experimenting in evolution, turning animals into something like human beings. These grotesques are held in check by werewolfish Bela Lugosi as The Sayer of the Law. (His “What is the Law?” chant inspired the Oingo Boingo song, “No Spill Blood.”) The horrors are all surprisingly in-your-face and the ending still packs a wallop. There have been remakes, but accept no substitutes. Unfortunately, you’ll have to track this down on VHS or laserdisc, because no DVD has yet been released.

9. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932). Unavailable for years owing to MGM buying the rights so it couldn’t be compared with their inferior 1941 remake, and then showing up in the late 1960s in a severely censored reissue print, Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the cinematic version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale. Unabashed in its sexuality and often incredibly brutal, the film is pure horror — and with the coolest Mr. Hyde you’ll ever see. Fredric March (who won an Oscar for the role) is a little stodgy as Jekyll, but mesmerizing and terrifying as Hyde. Miriam Hopkins is at her sexy best as Champagne Ivy, the object of his lust. And the innovative Mamoulian is at the height of his creative powers, pouring on all the cinematic bravura he can muster — and he can muster a lot.

10. Werewolf of London (1935). Sure, everybody thinks of Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941) when they think of classic lycanthropes, but Henry Hull got there first in Stuart Walker’s vastly superior Werewolf of London. To start with, Hull’s make-up is a lot scarier than Chaney’s teddy bear monster. When Warner Oland (yes, Charlie Chan himself) tells Hull, “The werewolf is neither man, nor wolf, but a Satanic creature with the worst qualities of both,” he’s describing exactly what the make-up suggests. It’s no wonder that near-miss victim (and comic relief) Spring Byington tells her rescuers, “The devil’s been in here! He had green eyes!” Better still, the film is wonderfully well made with a large dose of effective symbolism and a literate screenplay.

11. Night Monster (1942). One of the few 1940s horrors on this list — and the only film other than Island of Lost Souls not available on DVD — Ford Beebe’s Night Monster rarely gets its due, mostly because it’s said to waste top-billed Bela Lugosi in the thankless role of a butler. (Ironically, this is Lugosi’s only Universal film other than Dracula that gave him top-billing.) That’s even more of an insult because Nils Asther plays a role that ought to have gone to Lugosi. All that to one side, this is a singularly unsettling exercise in old dark house melodrama with enjoyably ripe performances (“Blood! The whole house reeks of it!”) and a genuine sense of claustrophobic horror creeping in. Yeah, it woulda been better with that casting shift, but it’s pretty darn neat as it stands.

12. The Devil Commands (1941). The end of Boris Karloff’s “Mad Doctor” cycle at Columbia was still one film away, but that film, The Boogie Man Will Get You, was wholly comedic in nature, so as a serious franchise things really conclude with Edward Dmytryk’s The Devil Commands. I’ve no idea what the devil commands, since this adaptation of William Sloane’s novel The Edge of Running Water (a more evocative, but less sensational, title) is all about an increasingly deranged (but perhaps not mad) doctor (Karloff) trying to communicate with his dead wife. That may not sound like much, but this is a pretty grim stuff. Just wait till you see Boris wire up some freshly exhumed corpses to use kind of like tubes in a radio set.

13. The Devil Bat (1940). You can’t be a real horror fan unless you love some cheese, and while there is cheesier cheese than Jean Yarborough’s The Devil Bat, it’s probably the best example for novices. Made (for what looks like $1.95) by PRC studios as a vehicle for Bela Lugosi (having a fine time) as a not only mad scientist, but a pissed-off one. He works for a cosmetics company that made a fortune off his cold cream “formoola,” and since he doesn’t have a piece of the pie he wants revenge. How? Well, he has this glandularly “stimoolated” bats (rubber in long shot, stock footage in closeshot) that will seek out an attack anyone wearing his latest after-shave. (Surely, there are easier methods, but no matter.) One by one, his enemies fall for his offer that they should “rub a little on the tender part of your neck,” sealing their dooms. But as hero Dave O’Brien (of Reefer Madness fame) tells him later, “It’s not so funny when it’s your own jugular vein.”

Modern Classics

Since Ken has the historical aspect down (i.e. he’s seen a lot more movies than I have [What a nice way of saying I’m a lot older. — KH]) I’ve just put together a list of favorites, some based on the completely unscientific and ever changing (I’m sure I’ll want to rearrange this list tomorrow) criteria of personal preference and overall importance, at least as I see fit.

1. 28 Days Later… (2002). No, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… is not a perfect film, but that doesn’t keep it from being easily the best horror movie to come out this decade. The term “instant classic” gets thrown around too often, but in this case, it’s true. It’s quintessential Boyle, taking genre standards and reworking them into something all his own. This is one of those movies that’ll remain influential for decades to come. If you want to see how prominent this movie already is, go on the Internet and see how many people can’t shut up about zombies (and yes, I’ve heard the argument that they’re technically not zombies, but they’re sure close enough), or how there’s about three trailers floating around out there that right now use composer John Murphy’s theme.

2. Videodrome (1983). Probably (along with Naked Lunch (1991)) the most purely Cronenberg-ian of all of Cronenberg’s film’s, Videodrome is only partially a horror movie. The other part is, well, I’m not sure what the other part is, but it’s damn weird. No other director would dare team Deborah Harry as a sadomasochist with James Woods, who grows a … well, I don’t want to tell you what James Woods grows in his stomach, since it’ll ruin the surprise. Violent, odd and obtuse in all the right ways, it’s an art film for people who hate art films.

3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I’m talking about the original, not that abomination Michael Bay carted out a few years ago (and I’m not one who usually complains about remakes or adaptations missing the point, so the fact that I hate that film should denote how bad of a remake it really is). Some guy I know once called Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre “One of the key movies of modern horror,” and it’s hard to argue that point. Sure, it set in motion a million cheap knock-offs — and it’s still is — but there’s a reason all those movies ripped it off.

4. Carrie (1976). Brian De Palma’s Carrie is one of those movies I wish I had been able to see when it originally came out, simply because I doubt I’ll ever truly realize how groundbreaking and original this film was when it was originally released. Two things are certain, however: Carrie gives you a look at De Palma at the top of his game (heck, he even makes John Travolta tolerable), and, second, no film, before or after, has used a potato peeler better.

5. Re-Animator (1985). The fact that Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon and star Jeffrey Combs aren’t household names is a travesty. Gorier than just about every horror movie and funnier than most comedies (in the most gloriously twisted ways imaginable), Gordon’s Re-Animator remains essential simply due to its constant need to revel in excess. Plus, it has a zombie cat and the most ridiculously absurd use of a re-animated severed head ever committed to film. What’s not to like?

6. The Tenant. Roman Polanski’s The Tenant — or Le Locataire for those of you who want to be snooty — is one of the most genuinely creepy films ever made, which is astonishing when you realize this is all accomplished with mood as opposed to gore or frights. It’s not a horror movie in the traditional sense of the term, since it lacks scares or any real violence for the most part, but Polanski’s examination of the nature of identity still remains a foreboding little work, with a performance by Polanski himself that most actors wouldn’t dare take on.

7. The Exorcist III (1990). Sure, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1974) gets all the attention, but it’s William Peter Blatty’s Exorcist III that’s easily the better film. Blatty (who wrote the original Exorcist novel and Legion, the book on which Exorcist III is based) manages to mix the religious concerns that had been absent from The Exorcist with some genuinely surprising shock effects — not to mention a final exorcism that is more horrific than anything in Friedkin’s film — and clever, top notch dialogue to create what amounts to the thinking man’s Exorcist. Not only does it feature a top flight performance by George C. Scott (who seems to have been made for this role), but it also establishes Brad Dourif as the creepiest man in Hollywood. Don’t be fooled by the Roman numerals, if you happen to find this movie in the $5.50 Wal-Mart dump bin (where it’s unfortunately — and criminally — been relegated) do not pass it up. You’ll never think of carp the same way again.

8. The Fly (1986). While I really, really, really want to put Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) on this list — partly since its one of my personal favorites and partly because of the scene where that guy’s head explodes — I’ve decided Cronenberg’s The Fly should make the cut instead, for a few reasons. First off, it took Cronenberg’s body horror to new heights, as it’s pretty much just a buffet of gross outs (seriously, it has an exploded baboon). Second, it’s one of the reasons I will forever be a Jeff Goldblum fan (his “Cheeseburger!” line is my personal favorite of all time). Third, it shows that you can actually make a good remake of a horror film if your director actually knows what he’s doing (you hear that Michael Bay?). And lastly, I like the story my friend once told me about the time he cleared out his college’s entire dining hall during breakfast simply by turning on this movie.

9. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). How do you follow up one of the most popular and influential horror film’s of all-time? Well, if you’re Tobe Hooper, you make a movie the exact opposite of the original, and that’s exactly what you get with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Gorier, funnier and more over the top than the original ever even thought of being, Hooper’s film is a ridiculous attack on wholesome ‘80s values. Dennis Hopper gives a great blood and thunder performance as the maniacal Texas Ranger attempting to hunt down Leatherface, not to mention how it cemented Bill Moseley’s spot in horror cult-dom. But the real gem here is Jim Siedow as the homily-spouting eldest brother. If you go into this film expecting the original, you will be disappointed. If you go into this film looking for one of the most outlandish films in horror, then you’ve come to the right place.

10. The Shining (1980). Maybe the most deliberately deliberate film ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is an exercise in pure atmosphere. A beautifully shot and expertly crafted film, it reminds you that there’s a reason that Kubrick has the reputation he does. Everyone always talks about the axe scene and, of course, the blood pouring out of the elevator, and rightfully so, but for me, it’s always been the small touches. Like the idea that someone had to type up page upon page of “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

11. Altered States (1980). Probably the best, and easily the most widely known, of Ken Russell’s American films, Altered States remains a horror film only Russell could make. The hallucination sequences are both stunning and amazingly horrific (think of the end to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but actually interesting), and William Hurt’s role — as Professor (and occasional primate) Eddie Jessup — makes you wish the man would get more leading roles. Come for the hallucinations, stay for the simian value.

12. Dead Alive (1992). Before Peter Jackson was “Academy Award Winning Director Peter Jackson,” he was in New Zealand making low budget splatter flicks, which brings us to Braindead, or Dead Alive as it’s known here in the States. Rumored to have used an ungodly amount of fake blood — 5,000 gallons to be precise — the film is a nice little look at what Jackson was as a director, especially when you take into account the direction his career has taken. If only the Academy had awards for “Best Use of Clergy in a Fight Sequence,” or “Best Lawnmower Versus Zombie Hoard Scene in a Feature.”

13. Planet Terror (2007). OK, even though it’s only, technically half of Grindhouse (along with Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof), I’m using the loophole of the two separate DVD releases of each part of Grindhouse in order to sneak Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror onto this list. Sure, it’s only been in existence for the past six months, but it’s a film that is already getting better with age. Rodriguez had made horror films before with From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and The Faculty (1998), which were good, but uneven. But it wasn’t until Planet Terror that he brought it all together, in one gloriously over-the-top, violent, splattery, insanely clever tribute to grindhouse cinema (that can also be seen as a compendium of Rodriguez’s filmography up to this point). It shows what a singular talent Rodriguez is, and it’s a film only he could — or would dare — make.

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68 thoughts on “A horrifyingly good time

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    I would make the following alterations. From Ken’s list drop NIGHT MONSTER, DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE (1941), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (he already has OLD DARK HOUSE) and DEVIL BAT and add…

    1)THE LODGER (1944): Jack The Ripper tale with a possessed performance from Laird Cregar and great camerawork/editing.
    2)NOSFERATU (1922): The greatest horror film from the silent era which is still disturbing today. A new ultimate edition will be released next month.
    3)STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (1945): The ultimate PRC cheapie which has visuals to burn and Blake Edwards as a romantic lead!
    4)DR. JEKYLL & MR HYDE (1920): Slightly less than the March version but leagues ahead of the Tracy with John Barrymore as a truly lurid Mr. Hyde.

    From Justin’s list drop 28 DAYS, TEXAS CHAINSAW 2, VIDEODROME, DEAD ALIVE and add…

    1)NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968): The ultimate low budget horror show (talk about zombies) whose downbeat ending still retains its power.
    2)THE CHANGELING (1979): There should be at least one good ghost story film and this is it. Great performances from George C. Scott and Melvyn Douglas.
    3)PSYCHIC KILLER (1976): Low budget creepie you’ve never heard of with Jim Hutton as a disturbed loner who kills through astral projection. Brutal in it’s murders with Neville Brand’s hand being ground up especially memorable.
    4)THE SIXTH SENSE (1989). M. Night Shayamalan before he took himself seriously. Everybody’s seen it but it’s still a pretty scary outing and that says something right there.

    All of these titles are available on DVD and can be obtained at your local discerning video store and if you must have them there’s always the internet.

  2. Jake Bible

    You have no idea how great it is to see a critic give Exorcist III the dues it deserves. I was in high school when this movie came out and my best friend worked at the theatre it was showing. We watched it at least 10 times. It is a great movie, the symbolism alone actually allowed me to use it in junior advanced english for my final report of the year. There are a couple scenes that are terrifying and one in particular that WILL make you jump out of your seat. Awesome performances and some of the most memorable lines in all horror films. Great choice to the list. Thanks.-Jake

  3. All these flicks, yet no love for “Jason X” or “Razor Blade Smile”?

    Seriously though, most of these picks would be on my list. I’d like to add “The Ring” (one of the better creepy kid tales of recent), “The Omen” (the original), “Evil Dead 2” (still my favorite Raimi film, if only for the laughing stuffed animal heads) and “Cemetary Man” (the thinking person’s “Brain Dead”).

  4. Justin Souther

    “You have no idea how great it is to see a critic give Exorcist III the dues it deserves.”

    It’s such an easy movie to overlook, not just because it’s a sequel but a third installment at that. And it’s especially noteworthy when you take into account the mess which is EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC.

    When I was writing the blurb for EXORCIST III, I remember thinking that I had forgotten how absolutely great it really is.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I kind of deliberately left NOSFERATU (1922) out of my list, because it would have been the odd silent film in the mix. It’s certainly better than a lot of the movies on the list — and it’s the only horror film that ever gave me nightmares as an adult. (Now, as a child, that’s another matter.) I’ve never warmed to THE LODGER or the Barrymore JEKYLL & HYDE. (By the bye, my JEKYLL & HYDE wasn’t the 1941 version.) STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP is another matter. Apart from the fact that I’d almost bet that Chip and I are the only folks on here who ever heard of it, it isn’t a viable alternative to me for THE DEVIL BAT for the simple reason that I was looking for tantalizing trash. STRANGLER is just too good. I’d swap BAT for VOODOO MAN (1944) maybe or SCARED TO DEATH (1947), but the latter is for very rare tastes indeed.

    THE CHANGELING, by the way, was a contender for my list of modern horror. As for THE SIXTH SENSE, I never understood the fuss about it when it was new and time hasn’t altered that.

    Glad to see Steve weighing in on THE RING, which was another contender on my list. The less said by my about THE OMEN (either version) the better perhaps.

    I’m really delighted to see support for THE EXORCIST III, a movie I’ve been championing for years. I originally reviewed it for FILMS IN REVIEW magazine when it was first released. It’s one of the most frightening movies I’ve ever seen and has possibly the best shock effect of all time in it. It’s a pity that Blatty has only made two films — this and THE NINTH CONFIGURATION. Even though the latter is not a horror film, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes EXORCIST III. It has many of the same thematic concerns, a lot of the same cast, and is a truly unique work.

    It might be worth noting that EXORCIST III may be one of the few instances where a movie was likely improved by studio interference. The final exorcism in the film was insisted on by the studio, who thought Blatty’s ending was too weak, and in this instance, they may have been right, assuming he used the ending of his book, LEGION. It’s one of those endings that’s okay on the printed page, but would be flat in a movie. The scene as it stands is definitely dynamic horror movie stuff.

    Trivia aside: viewers of EXORCIST III may assume that Brad Dourif’s line that a murder had been “child’s play” was an in-joke reference to Dourif’s participation in the CHILD’S PLAY movies as the voice of Chucky. In fact, it’s merely a happy coincidence — the line is in Blatty’s novel.

  6. Chip Kaufmann

    Oops. I knew it was the ’32 version of J&H;which is the superior film (of both) but Nita Naldi’s near naked dance and when Barrymore kills Brandon Hurst give the 1920 version moments that the March version doesn’t have.
    SCARED TO DEATH wins in the tantalizing trash dep’t and it’s even in color! DEAD MEN WALK would also be a good alternative.
    Add my name to the list of praise for EXORCIST 3 which I still feel is the best of all EXORCIST films past and present although I have a soft spot for EXORCIST 2 which remains a mindboggling mess.

  7. Justin Souther

    I think part — and only part — of the reason that I personally was never blown away by THE SIXTH SENSE was the fact that someone told me the twist before I ever saw the film. I have no idea if that would change my opinion of the movie, which, right now, is a big fat OK. But at the same time, a lot of the attention that it got was due to this so-called shocking ending that was being touted at the time. So to me it never stood up to scrutiny regardless of its big twist. And I’m sure that SIGNS and THE VILLAGE wouldn’t exactly give me any reason to be sympathetic towards THE SIXTH SENSE at this point.

    As for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I understand it’s importance and it’s standing as a classic, and while I have nothing against it as a film, it’s just never did that much for me. I guess what it really boils down to is that I haven’t ever really cared for Romero that much as a filmmaker, though I respect what he’s done, no matter how uneven his filmography is. When you make a movie about an evil helper monkey, and you manage to make it not good, then I guess you kind of lose points in my book.

    And I liked THE RING a good bit, I’m just not familiar enough with it to really have that high of an opinion of it. Regardless, it is a film that I need to re-watch sometime.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I’ll say this about THE RING — every time I see it (and I do put it in the player a good bit, even if it’s only on off to the side while I’m doing something else), I’m impressed anew by how very good it is. It’s also the film that proves that, yes, it is possible to make a good horror picture without an R rating.

  9. Chall: I’ve always had mixed feelings on “Audition.” It takes forever for anything disturbing to happen, and it’s not really all that compelling until the end. That said, once you get to the man-in-a-bag and piano wire bits it’s not too bad.

    I was way more disturbed by Miike’s “The Happiness of the Katakuris,” although for non-horror reasons. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s almost a horror movie in its own right. There’s plenty of death (even if most of it is amusing and ironic), criminal behavior (although done without malice) and zombies (even if they are part of a dance number). That film is a work of surreal genius.

    Speaking of, are there any thoughts on Asian horror showcase “3 Extremes”? I thought Miike’s contribution was a bit stiff, but I liked the other two.

    I’m also a little surprised that “Alien” hasn’t shown up here. I guess it’s more sci-fi than horror, but it’d still make my list.

  10. chall gray

    I haven’t seen “The Happiness…”, but I’ll check it out. “3 Extremes” is also nearing the top of my queue.

    Yes, it does take a long time for anything to happen, but I felt like the movie accomplished the goal of a subtle trepidation that more or less permeated the first part of the movie. Since we know the end is going to be bad, it makes the tame level of the rest of the movie seem somewhat discomfiting… And the end is a pretty mesmerizing 20 minutes…

    In terms of a more straight set “horror movie” I really thought “Stir of Echoes” was superb. It would definitely make my list. How did you feel about it?

  11. Ken Hanke

    “SCARED TO DEATH wins in the tantalizing trash dep’t and it’s even in color! DEAD MEN WALK would also be a good alternative.”

    SCARED TO DEATH is certainly the oddest of the 1940s poverty row oddities. Bela Lugosi and his similarly garbed dwarf sidekick (Angelo Rossitto), George Zucco, Joyce Compton, Douglas Fowley — what more could you ask? Well, you could ask for Molly Lamont as a dead woman who narrates the story of how she got that way from the autopsy table. The scary thing is — that’s exactly what you get. For alternatives, I’d probably edge DEAD MEN WALK out in favor of THE BLACK RAVEN (as opposed to the chartreuse raven?). Among its plusses is the fact that it has the old Abe Meyer canned music score rather than that abominable Leo Erdody mess.

    “Add my name to the list of praise for EXORCIST 3 which I still feel is the best of all EXORCIST films past and present although I have a soft spot for EXORCIST 2 which remains a mindboggling mess.”

    Mess though it is, I actually like Boorman’s EXORCIST II — though perhaps more as an anti-horror film than as a horror film. It’s certainly nice to look at. I saw it and STAR WARS on the same day (the weekend they opened), and I may be the only person who has EXORCIST II and doesn’t have STAR WARS.

    I’m staying out of the whole Miike discussion ‘cuz I simply don’t get his popularity.

    While STIR OF ECHOES would never make my top 13 or even top 50, I do think it’s a very underrated movie — and vastly superior to THE SIXTH SENSE.

  12. Orbit DVD

    I think it was a brilliant trick by Miike to lull the viewer for 90 minutes until the weirdness hits.

    Miike’s contribution to the MASTERS OF HORROR series, “Imprint” is the best and the best he’s done in years. Definitely worth a look.

    We love the horror and especially the classic horror (and stock it). However, people want their scares modern and in color. So if you don’t want to watch THE LODGER (which we have), here’s a few more from recent years…

    SESSION 9 – Brad Anderson’s film set in an old insane asylum is the best ghost movie since THE HAUNTING. Like the house THE HAUNTING, the asylum is a character in the film. No cheap scares, all implied, but this will creep the hell out of you.

    DOG SOLDIERS – The British military vs. werewolves! Has shades of Walter Hill’s SOUTHERN COMFORT and is a blast. The director went on to the much ballyhooed DESCENT, but this one is better.

    GINGER SNAPS – A great feminine twist on the werewolf legend. Instead of the full moon, there’s, uh, that “time of the month.”

    CLOSE YOUR EYES – Great little occult/thriller based in London.

    DEAD BIRDS – Interesting horror film set on a plantation during the Civil War.


  13. Ken Hanke

    Update: it appears that NIGHT MONSTER has indeed finally made it to DVD — as part of a box set called “Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive.” Actually, with the exception of NIGHT MONSTER and MAN-MADE MONSTER, I’d be hard-pressed to call these films classics. THE BLACK CAT (a 1941 horror comedy, not to be confused with the 1934 film on my list) is so-so. HORROR ISLAND is a lot of fun in the old dark house mode, but nothing more. And CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN — the first in a dismal series of three movies focused on Paula Dupre the Ape Woman — is not only pretty dreadful, but is given over to scads of footage from lifted Universal’s THE BIG CAGE (1934) featuring Clyde Beatty performing circus acts.

  14. Clocky

    There are lots of good flicks up here already. I’ll add a few.

    1) Jacob’s Ladder. Somebody had a brain-dead moment when writing the ending, but this movie has some truly chilling moments.

    2) The Devils. You might complain that it’s not horror. It’s historical (melo)drama. Not horror. But the imagery! There is plenty of horrific imagery. Gads, it scared me. I still think it’s Ken Russell’s best film.

    3) The Lady in White. I think this is another example of a PG (or PG-13) movie which is effectively scary.

    4) Les Diaboliques. I suppose this is mostly a suspense flick, but still, it’s great. I’d recommend it to any suspense or horror buff.

    5) Phantasm. This movie is a hell of a good time. I realize I have a soft spot for it because I was a teenager when it came out, R-rated, and on HBO and all that, but it still really kicks butt.

    6) I loved 28 Days Later. I know someone already listed it, but what the heck. I will happily mention this to anyone who professes a love for scary flicks.

    AND– This is a whole new thread, but what about the worst horror movie? My vote goes to The Manitou. Demon possession in a hospital, lights flickering, power outage, Native American spirit, et cetera. It’s a bad, bad joke.

  15. Worst? I’d have to say the original “Halloween” (lame in a dull way) is up there for me, as is the original “Friday the 13th” (dull in a lame way). “Saw”s 2 & 3 (and probably 4, although I haven’t seen it) would be up there as well.

    There’s also a film I saw on late-night USA in the ’80s that I always wanted to see again because I remember thinking it was too awful to be real. Sadly, I can’t remember the name of. It was about these little roaches from deep inside the Earth that, because they were evolved to deal with the heat of magma, were able to set things (such as people) on fire.

    We’ll also have to set aside an entire section of this discussion for the work of Rob Zombie.

    Hanke: Miike is kind of a horrible director in most of the traditional senses — awful editing, bland casting, uneven visuals — but he often has really interesting ideas. “The Happiness of the Katakuris” is the only film of his that I’ve really liked, and it was a remake of a Korean film.

  16. Justin Souther

    If were going to get into worst horror movies, we could go on for days. Though what first comes to mind is any sequel where they try and reinvigorate a franchise by sending everybody into space.

    But the movie I have the most general disdain for right now, and probably only because I saw it this year, is HOSTEL: PART II, simply because I couldn’t get the image of Eli Roth high-fiving his buddies and patting himself on the back at how clever he thought he was being. It’s not often that I am genuinely angered by a movie, but this was one of them. I even think I shot Ken an email about how much I hated this movie as soon as I got home from watching it.

    SAW III gets in there too, just because there’s never even an attempt at being scary, though I get the feeling SAW IV will trump it in the lameness department whenever I get around to seeing it. Which, unfortunately, I know I will do at some point.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I wouldn’t say that THE DEVILS is a horror film, but then I couldn’t say that it isn’t (in fact, I did write a chapter on it ages ago for a book called CLASSICS OF THE MODERN HORROR FILM, so…).

    Hate to tell you, Marc, but all SESSION NINE did was bore the hell out of me.

    And, hey, I actually saw THE MANITOU in a theater its opening weekend — right after I’d seen DAMIEN: OMEN II. Yeah, it’s indefensibly bad — a slimy three foot high medicine man? — but I have to say I had a lot of fun with it. Not sure I’d want to see it again.

    The movie you’re thinking of, Steve, is almost certainly Wm. Castle’s BUG — a cheesy tale involving Bradford Dillman and incendiary cockroaches. These are no mere incendiary roaches, either, because they can join together with the precison of dancers in a Busby Berkeley number to spell out words and phrases. If memory serves, they spell out “WE LIVE” on one occasion.

  18. Ken Hanke

    The problem with determining a “worst” horror film is that they put out at least two worthy contenders every year. The field is so crowded.

  19. brebro

    You guys hit all the greats in your lists, so I can’t disagree with them.

    As for the worst, Just from personal experience with blind buys of DVD movies that were sequels to movies I liked, but was extremely disappointed by, I would say the three worst horror movie sequels in the category of ruining a franchise are all the sequels to The Return of the Living Dead, From Dusk til Dawn and the third Creepshow movie.

  20. Ken Hanke

    “All the greats?” How can that be when no one has even mentioned BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA in passing? Okay, so the movie is pretty bad, but I just appreciate the fact that we live in a world where someone came up with that title. It gives me hope for mankind.

  21. Hanke: You’re right, a quick look at IMDB confirms that it was “Bug.” Knowing that it was Castle’s last film, I’m going to have to track it down now.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Well, according to Amazon, it can be yours for a paltry $12.99 — but there are only four left in stock “(more on the way).” It’s that parenthetical that’s scary. Then again, if you don’t want a BUG of your own (just imagine that with two g’s…), some purveyor of fine cinema on might have it for rent locally.

  23. Dionysis

    Wow, it appears that people have very different views of what constitutes a good Halloween horror film. There are some really good selections identified here, and some not so good.
    How about these: Demons, by Italian director Lamberto Bava (son of Mario). Freaky stuff.

    Hellraiser, the original.

    Horror of Dracula, Hammer Films first take on the Universal monsters.

    The Haunting, the 1963 original with Claire Bloome.

    Witchfinder General, the darkest of Vincent Price’s films, just out on DVD.

    Blood on Satan’s Claw. Really well-done period piece about devil worship. Not released on DVD in this country (but it has been released in Europe).

  24. Ken Hanke

    As you say, there are very different notions on what maks a good horror film. Personally, I don’t care for the work of Bava — father or son — but I know at least dad is highly-regarded in some quarters. I could get behind HELLRAISER and HORROR OF DRACULA (actually, the second Hammer Universal flick, being preceded by CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), though were I to pick a Hammer, I’d go with BRIDES OF DRACULA, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE or THE GORGON most likely. I’d kind of eschewed ghost stories, as I think I said earlier. THE HAUNTING’s a good one, but I think I’d plop for THE CHANGELING, THE UNINVITED or even THE OTHERS before it.

  25. Dionysis

    Hi Ken,

    You are correct in that Curse of Frankenstein was the first Hammer take on the classic creatures (my error). I agree that Brides of Dracula belongs on the list. I also quite like Plague of the Zombies by Hammer (a lot different than the Romero zombies).
    All of the ghost story flicks you list I have in my collection (just picked up The Other on sale for $8 yesterday). It just seems that ghost stories and Halloween go together. I still think the British ghost movie The Woman in Black makes The Haunting seem like a Disney movie in comparison. Too bad it’s relatively unknown in this country.

  26. Orbit DVD

    Also released last week is the scariest movie of all time… THE GIANT CLAW!!!!!!


  27. Ken Hanke

    “I still think the British ghost movie The Woman in Black makes The Haunting seem like a Disney movie in comparison. Too bad it’s relatively unknown in this country.”

    Hell, it’s unknown to me — and you’re talking to someone who has all but one of Tod Slaughter’s starring vehicles, meaning that obscurity is no boundary.

    “Diaboligue (the original)
    Shaun of the Dead (ok, more of a comedy, but it has zombies!)”

    Actually, someone did mention the former. Now, if we’re going to go with zombies as a yardstick, then we need to add in the Halperin Bros. WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) with Bela Lugosi (it was on my list at one point), which is the original zombie movie. And for largely comedic zombies, there’s KING OF THE ZOMBIES (1941), which is intentionally funny when dealing with Mantan Moreland and unintentionally funny when dealing with the rest of the movie. And though I’m personally kind of “over” the much-praised Val Lewton films, there’s I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943). Zombification abounds.

  28. Ken Hanke

    “Also released last week is the scariest movie of all time… THE GIANT CLAW!!!!!!”

    The bird alone makes that one a true classic. And that same set has ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU.

    Not horror, but Lisi Russell (Ken Russell’s wife) mentioned the other day that when she was a kid she was terrified by Wm. Cameron Menzies’ INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) with its lumbering Martians (okay, so you can see the zippers) and people being sucked down into their lair through the sand to have control devices implanted in their necks. I doubt it would scare today’s youngsters, but it’s still kind of unsettling.

  29. It’s kind of brilliant that no one has mentioned “The Blair Witch Project” yet. For a film that had such a huge impact on the indie film world, no one seems to recall it all that fondly these days.

    Remember the hype machine around that film? I remember seeing people visibly upset upon leaving the theater, and my then-girlfriend was so shaken up by the thing that she wasn’t able to sleep that night. I thought it was badly made (if intelligently promoted) drek even then, but I’m still a little surprised that has failed to become a “classic” horror film.

  30. Justin Souther

    Heck, not even that, but I can’t even remember the last time mentioning THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, let alone in a flattering fashion.

    I only saw it once when it came out on video (I remember my sister bought it and thought it was all actually real, until I pointed out the “All characters are fictional…” disclaimer on the end of the credits), but whatever I got out of it then — which was little — when I was a teenager, I’m sure wouldn’t have held up to subsequent viewings, especially now. Plus, the movie was so over-hyped, over-exposed and over-parodied that everyone just got tired of it.

  31. asdf

    Scariest of all time — “The Shaft.” Of all the horror movies about killer elevators in office buildings (no lie), this one in particular stands out.

  32. Speaking of horror films no one likes, I caught “Children of the Corn” on cable yesterday. It’s a classic of the “badly adapted Stephen King story” genre.

    Half-hearted acting: Check (granted, one can only expect so much from Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton)

    Murky, obtuse plot: Check (So … it’s a Corn Demon? I guess that’s kind of scary.)

    Uninspired action scenes: Check

    Remarkably stilted dialogue: Check. (“Outlander! We have your woman!”)

    Obviously expensive special effects still put to shame by the Pertwee-era Dr. Who (not a good thing): Check

    Almost completely unrelated to the source material: Check

    Yet, there’s SIX CotC sequels out there! To me, this fact alone is more horrifying than anything on the screen,

  33. Dionysis

    Re: The Woman in Black, Ken writes “Hell, it’s unknown to me—and you’re talking to someone who has all but one of Tod Slaughter’s starring vehicles, meaning that obscurity is no boundary.”

    The film came out in 1989, a BBC movie. It is extremely rare but did surface in DVD format for a brief period (in an all-region code). I was fortunate enough to procure a copy a couple of years ago. It’s tough to find at any price now. Here are some typical comments on the film from someone writing at IMDB:

    “”The Woman in Black” is easily one of the creepiest British ghost stories ever made.A young solicitor,after arriving in a small town to handle a dead client’s estate,is haunted by a mysterious woman dressed all in black.The film is loaded with extremely eerie atmosphere and the frights are calculated for and deliver the maximum effect possible.The action keeps the viewer deeply involved and the finale is quite disturbing.The acting is excellent and the tension is almost unbearable at times.So if you want to see a truly creepy horror film give this one a look.I dare anyone to watch “The Woman in Black” alone at night with the lights off.Highly recommended.10 out of 10.”


  34. Orbit DVD

    Speaking of horror films no one likes, I caught “Children of the Corn” on cable yesterday. It’s a classic of the “badly adapted Stephen King story” genre.

    I recently saw a 70s Spanish horror/thriller film that I wonder if King ripped off. It’s called WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? and is genuinely creepy.

    People always want Stephen King, and personally I think that 90% of those are bad. Oh well…


  35. Chip Kaufmann

    I am probably the only other person on here who has heard of THE WOMAN IN BLACK. I even have a VHS copy of it. I concur with what Dionysus says about it. Also in the same vein is the adult ghost story THE GREEN MAN with Albert Finney. Ken’s suggestion of the vintage ghost film THE UNINVITED (1944) is also a good one.
    I have long been a fan of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and the new DVD version is superb but I wouldn’t call it a horror film although it opened the gates for MARK OF THE DEVIL and today’s torture porn movies like SAW I-XXII or whatever (that’s what you call a HOSTEL remark).
    BLAIR WITCH really did freak some people out which goes the show the power of pre-hype and suggestion. Let’s not forget all the low budget shot on video horrors that it released.
    However they just don’t make movies like THE GIANT CLAW. Too bad the actors didn’t see the f/x until after the movie opened. CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN from “Fast Eddie” Cahn on the same set does have it’s moments like the death of the gangster in the opening.

  36. Ken Hanke

    Only 90% of Stephen King movies are bad? I’d think it’s higher than that. Once you dispense with CARRIE and THE SHINING, what are you left with that’s really outstanding? Some will say MISERY, but I’m not one of them. A lot of them are mildly diverting, but actually good?

    Apart from the dubious invention of the “snot-cam,” I have never gotten the fuss over BLAIR WITCH. Terrific marketing ploy, lousy movie. (I actually prefered its sequel, but that’s not saying a whole lot.) If I wanted to see a lot of shaky camcorder footage of people I don’t like swear at each other for 80 minutes, I could probably just borrow some home videos.

  37. Ken Hanke

    “I have long been a fan of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and the new DVD version is superb but I wouldn’t call it a horror film although it opened the gates for MARK OF THE DEVIL and today’s torture porn movies like SAW I-XXII or whatever (that’s what you call a HOSTEL remark).”

    I am going to go ahead and confess that I have never much cared for WITCHFINDER GENERAL, and I know I’m supposed to. Part of the problem is that while I like Vincent Price, I can never take him seriously. Give me Vinnie in COMEDY OF TERRORS or as Dr. Phibes and I’m happy. Expect me to be scared by him and it runs aground.

    “However they just don’t make movies like THE GIANT CLAW. Too bad the actors didn’t see the f/x until after the movie opened.”

    Too bad for the actors maybe, but it pays golden dividends for viewers watching a pretty good B cast take that bird seriously.

  38. Justin Souther

    “Once you dispense with CARRIE and THE SHINING, what are you left with that’s really outstanding?”

    What about DEAD ZONE?

  39. Ken Hanke

    You know, I’d forgotten THE DEAD ZONE — not sure if that says more about me or the movie. I’d concede it qualifies as at least a good King to screen work, but it’s probably my least favorite Cronenberg with the possible exception of CRASH.

    So now that it’s the day before Halloween, what’s everyone planning on watching on the day itself? I’m sure there are those of us with parties various and sundry in the offing, but for the more sedentary among us what’s slated? Theatrically, of course, there are THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, TIM BURTON’S NIGHTMARE BEFORE XMAS, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and (for whatever reason) SAW IV. But assuming you don’t opt for one of these, what seems likely?

  40. Dionysis

    “So now that it’s the day before Halloween, what’s everyone planning on watching on the day itself?”

    I’m thinking a double-feature, perhaps including Hammer’s ‘X-The Unknown’ and either a good zombie movie or the rare BBC production of ‘Count Dracula’ with Louise Jourdan (the most faithful to Bram Stoker’s book).

  41. Orbit DVD

    I brought home MYSTICS OF BALI, released by my favorite dvd company, Mondo Macabro. I’ve read about it for years and want to see if it lives up to the hype.


  42. Dionysis

    I brought home MYSTICS OF BALI, released by my favorite dvd company, Mondo Macabro. I’ve read about it for years and want to see if it lives up to the hype.


    Let us know if a movie about a fetus-eating flying head (with trailing entrails) is worth buying.

  43. Anna

    Has anyone else ever seen Spider Baby? It came out in 1968. A movie theater in Durham showed it recently and it was surprisingly good.

  44. Ken Hanke

    “Let us know if a movie about a fetus-eating flying head (with trailing entrails) is worth buying.”

    My fear is that nothing could possibly live up to that description.

  45. Orbit DVD

    “Let us know if a movie about a fetus-eating flying head (with trailing entrails) is worth buying.”

    What a coincendence, that’s my Halloween costume!


  46. Ken Hanke

    By the way, my own inclination at the moment is to subject Mr. Souther (he doesn’t know this yet) to a dose of Hammer — assuming I can convince him of the rightness of this. I’m leaning toward KISS OF THE VAMPIRE — in large part to see if he can tell me what it’s a reworking of. (And you keep quiet, Chip, ‘cuz I know you’ll know.)

  47. Chip Kaufmann

    Mum’s the word, Ken. For vintage I plan on watching 1944’s THE UNDYING MONSTER (from the new Fox Horror Classics set), Amicus’ FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE (an old personal favorite that’s just made it to DVD), and MALPERTUIS an obscure 1973 film from the director of DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Harvey Kumel)that features Orson Welles. It’s based on a story from one of my favorite old school fantasy writers, the Belgian Jean Ray. I just finished THE OMEGA MAN as part of an upcoming article on the new release of I AM LEGEND.

  48. Dionysis

    “Has anyone else ever seen Spider Baby?”


    Yep, I have a copy of the now out-of-print DVD of the film. Personally, I didn’t think it lived up to the hype, but I did enjoy both Lon Cheney, Jr. and a young Sid Haig’s performances. It just wasn’t much scarier to me than a litter of kittens.

  49. Ken Hanke

    Somehow Chip popped up in between Justin’s post and mine. That “Well, I figured you might as well learn it here” was addressed to him.

    As for SPIDER BABY, I think I’m with Dionysis. I liked it and I was surprised by how good Chaney was in it, but I think I was too primed for thinking Mantan Moreland might be given something funny to do (and he wasn’t) and was envisioning Sid Haig in a role more like HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (which should tell you how late I came to SPIDER BABY).

  50. Orbit DVD

    I love SPIDER BABY. I showed a 35 mm print of that movie along with MEET THE FEEBLES about 10 years ago at Asheville Pizza. One the nuttiest and most fulfilling moments of my life.

    The old dvd is out of print but a better transfer came out a few weeks ago, I think by Subversive or Dark Sky Films.

    It’s nice seeing Sig Haig back in vogue thanks to Rob Zombies films. I ALMOST want to pop in those JASON OF STAR COMMAND discs that we have.


  51. Ken Hanke

    Glad to see that “ALMOST” in there. But the real question — now that it’s Halloween — is whether or not you’re wearing your fetus-eating flying head (with trailing entrails)costume?

  52. Orbit DVD

    “Glad to see that “ALMOST” in there. But the real question—now that it’s Halloween—is whether or not you’re wearing your fetus-eating flying head (with trailing entrails)costume?”

    Ok, you have me. I didn’t make this costume, but maybe next year…


  53. I’m proud to report that I spent Halloween watching the edited-for-TV version of “Poltergeist,” perhaps the least frightening “horror” film of all time. (I still have chills.)

    Anyone else want to weigh in with a post-Halloween wrap-up?

  54. Ken Hanke

    “I’m proud to report that I spent Halloween watching the edited-for-TV version of “Poltergeist,””

    Well, you can’t say that Mr. Shanafelt doesn’t know how to have a good time. I’m afraid I can’t say much more, however, though I did catch part of Ed Wood’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER on TCM and later part of Michael Curtiz’ THE WALKING DEAD on TCM (I’m detecting a pattern here). Actually, I did see (again) part of KISS OF THE VAMPIRE as planned, but a screening of AMERICAN GANGSTER (not a horror film) intervened at about the 45 minute mark. In all instances, I should note that Mr. Souther was nowhere to be seen. The boy just lacks stamina, I tell you.

    Surely, somebody’s Halloween or even Halloween viewing was more impressive than that of Mr. Shanafelt and myself!

  55. Dionysis

    Well, I caught most of Val Lewton’s ‘Bedlam’ on TCM, part of ‘The Invisible Ray’ (also on TCM) and then closed out the evening fast-forwarding to the ‘good parts’ (heh, heh) of ‘Re-Animator’.

  56. Ken Hanke

    “Good parts?” These wouldn’t involve a severed head and a naked Barbara Crampton, would they?

  57. Dionysis

    “Good parts?” These wouldn’t involve a severed head and a naked Barbara Crampton, would they?

    But of course!!! Now, I’m anxious to receive my copy of ‘From Beyond’, as it also features the saucy Ms. Crampton in full S&M;regalia.

  58. Ken Hanke

    Just watched that one last week. What a treat to finally have FROM BEYOND available on DVD. It might not be RE-ANIMATOR, but it’s a worthy addition to Gordon’s filmography. Now if they’d bring out his PIT & THE PENDULUM…

  59. Orbit DVD

    Gordon had a winning streak in the 80s. I liked DOLLS a lot too. What happened? Charles Band, perhaps?

    I watched a few things on Halloween. MYSTICS OF BALI didn’t disappoint. I love horror compilation shows dating back to that 70s one with Vincent Price, so I caught some of Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Pretty fun, with JAWS being number one. I also watched some Coffin Joe. The old freak is making a new one… he’s got to be in his 70s!


  60. Dionysis

    Ken writes (re: Stuart Gordon) “Now if they’d bring out his PIT & THE PENDULUM…”

    Well, in fact this title is available on DVD; the problem is that it is a European edition, region 2 and is PAL (not NTSC) output. It also is somewhat pricey (around 30 bucks or so). There are numerous titles available on region 2 PAL discs that have yet to be released on a region 1 NTSC disc, including such titles as Hammer’s ‘Twins of Evil’, ‘Quatermass Xperiment’ and ‘Vampire Circus’ (and many others).
    For those with DVD players that will read PAL and output NTSC (such as the superb and affordable OPPO players, which also upconvert standard def discs to near HD quality), then choices are greater.

  61. Ken Hanke

    “I also watched some Coffin Joe. The old freak is making a new one… ”

    That’s probably the most depressing thing I ever heard. But then the fondness for Coffin Joe is a source of great mystery for me.

    “Well, in fact this title is available on DVD; the problem is that it is a European edition, region 2 and is PAL (not NTSC) output.”

    Seems to me that even the Region 2 disc was not terribly desirable — I think it was pan and scan. I do have multi-region ability (so to speak) and have often taken advantage of things not available in the US — HOW I WON THE WAR, DIR HENRY AT RAWLINSON END, even a lot of Laurel and Hardy shorts — but I know there was some reason I haven’t opted for the Region 2 PIT & THE PENDULUM.

    As for what happened with Gordon after that brief period in the 80s, I’m not sure. I know that at one point he was slated to direct the version of THE BODY SNATCHERS (he did work on the script) that went to Abel Ferrara. The sad thing there was that he was offered more money to make FORTRESS II (like one wasn’t enough?). He did make one of the MASTERS OF HORROR entries, DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE I think, and it wasn’t bad — if you can discount the guy in the rat mask. And I know there’s been talk afoot about a new RE-ANIMATOR film from him, but I don’t know what happened to it.

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