It’s Halloween!

Standard

Finally the big day has arrived!

Yes, it’s time to reveal the #1 horror film in my countdown of my 11 favourite horror films. And the winner is…

#1 “The Thing” (1982)

The-Thing-Poster

I’ve already stated on this blog that 1982 was a banner year for horror films. But no horror film of that year, or any other year in my opinion, comes close to holding a candle to John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’.

When ‘The Thing’ was released in 1982 it found itself in direct competition to a schmaltzy, sickly sweet, toe curling film called ‘E.T’ (nope, I’ve never heard of it either). Speilberg’s juggernault decimated all the other films released in 1982 and the film most trampled in it’s wake was Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’. Personally I was too young (being but a twelve year old in the Summer of ’82) to see it at the cinema. I did read all about it in Fangoria and of course I read Alan Dean Foster’s novelisation.

thing novelUK

But that book was no match for the sights that actually were revealed in the movie. Let me just say now, for the record, if you were one of the people who was old enough in ’82 to see ‘The Thing’ and you didn’t, then fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Thankfully, despite bombing at the box office, ‘The Thing’ found a whole new life, and audience, on VHS. This is where I first encountered it ( in pan and scan) and it became a firm favourite. It seems that every time I sit down and watch the movie I find something else to love about it, so let’s briefly discuss some of the qualities that make ‘The Thing’ not only the greatest horror movie ever made but the greatest movie ever made full stop. And anyone that disagrees can see me outside in the car park afterwards.

Carpenter’s direction here is assured and skillful. The beauty and splendour of the snowscapes are captured perfectly immediately indicating isolation. Once again, as in the case of ‘The Fog’ and countless others films, Dean Cundey does a sterling job as DP.

The score by Ennio Morricone is as understated and as accomplished as anything he has done before and he does a magnificent job of channeling Carpenter’s style.

The script. It’s funny, it’s human, but more importantly it’s true. Characters behave as you are I would behave. There are no heroics here just people living, working, and ultimately fighting for their lives and their humanity.

The cast. Wow! What a cast. Everyone performs superbly. Kurt Russell is outstanding as the anti hero MacReady and yet even he doesn’t steal the show. The film is truly an ensemble piece with equal merit going to the likes of Moffat, Brimley, Carter et al.

Finally there are those special effects from Rob Bottin. Remember, no CGI was hurt during the making of this movie. These are physical effects folks and they work perfectly. I swear, at times, I could almost smell this movie (rotting cabbage and sweaty socks, if you’re asking).

Listen to the commentary by Carpenter and Russell (it’s available on most DVD’s and Blu Rays) and it sounds like everyone had fun making this movie and that comes across in the final cut. Damn it, it’s one fun film!

So there you have it. ‘The Thing’ wins out and I make no apologies for that. There were plenty of films I had to overlook in this list, many I love dearly. So for that reason I present my list of honourable mentions;

‘Psycho’ (1960)

Halloween’ (1978)

‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (1982)

The Shining’ (1980)

‘The Haunting’ (1963)

‘An American Werewolf In London’ (1981)

‘Carrie’ (1976)

‘Cat People’ (1982)

‘Videodrome’ (1982 – See, I told you 1982 was great!)

‘Dead of Night’ (1945)

‘Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors’ (1965)

To be honest I could go on all day listing horror films on my ‘love’ list so I have to draw the line here, but I guess you get the idea.

I hope you have enjoyed these last few days with me, counting down my favourite 11 horror films of all time and I hope you all have a scary, safe and fun Halloween.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

JACK O LANTERN 2014 003

2 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films.

#2 “Creepshow” (1982)

creepshow_poster_01

I was a geeky 13 year old boy in 1982. I had plenty of passions but up at the top of the list were the following three things; Films of George A. Romero (having been delighted by ‘Dawn of the Dead’), EC Horror comics (which I had just discovered a year or two earlier through the Ballantine paperback’s of ‘Tales From The Crypt’ and ‘Vault of Horror’), and the novels and short stories of Stephen King. So when ‘Creepshow’ was announced it was like all my Christmases had come at once. When ‘Creepshow’ finally did hit the shores here in the UK it was classified as a AA certificate, which meant that no one under 14 could see the film. I was just under that age limited but went anyway. And I was not disappointed. What followed was three or four more trips to the cinema to see the film plus a trip to London’s Forbidden Planet where I picked up (at the cost of 3 weeks pocket money) Bernie Wrightson’s wonderful graphic novel/album of the film.

I don’t know whether I view the film today through rose tinted glasses but I think it’s superb. The ensemble cast is first rate (especially Leslie Nielson, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, E.G Marshall and Ed Harris, just for that dance.) I adore the score. It matches the comic book feel so well. The direction is fantastic and King’s script is perfect. The film does not have a mean bone in it’s body and it’s just such great fun.

Second Sight in the UK have released a superb blu ray of the film bursting with fantastic extras including a making of documentary that is nearly as long as the film itself.

So that’s my #2 pick. It was a hard choice between this and the eventual winner. Come back tomorrow and see what just edged ‘Creepshow’ from the top slot.

3 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films.

#3 “The Fog” (1980)

THE FOG - UK Poster (1)

John Carpenter has made some wonderful films. “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Halloween”, “Prince of Darkness” and “Escape From New York” to name but four. But there is something about “The Fog” that trumps them all for me. I’ve always loved ghost stories far more than I’ve liked monster movies and “The Fog” does the ghost story wonderfully. The cast is absolutely stellar. Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook are all superb. The script is fantastic with hardly a word wasted and  Carpenter’s direction is at his best but I’ll save the last word for the cinematography. Dean Cundey, the director of photography, the man who went on to work on the ‘Back To The Future’ films, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Apollo 13’, is outstanding on ‘The Fog’. It’s a beautiful picture with it’s wonderful seascapes and lighthouse tower. Basically it’s a film that, I think, should be hanging in an art gallery. Not only that but it’s scary too! What more could you ask for. This is a film that screams ‘halloween’ to me and it’s one I reach for when I fancy some good old fashion scares.

4 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films

#4 “Profondo Rosso” (1975) (aka ‘Deep Red’, ‘The Hatchet Murders)

deep-red-2

I first saw ‘Profondo Rosso’ via an imported NTSC VHS tape under the title ‘The Hatchet Murders’ in the mid 1980’s. The tape was a blurry pan and scan edition which completely obliterated Argento’s careful composition. A few years later I bought the Anchor Bay region 1 DVD of the film and it was like watching it for the first time.

Unlike many of Argento’s films ‘Profondo Rosso’ is probably his most linear film. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The script is witty and clever and the cast are superb. The chemistry between Hemmings and Nicolodi is wonderful. What I love about the film most (and what was completely lost on the VHS tape I watched) is that the answer to who the murderer is is there all along…As long as you were paying attention. And I’ve never come across anyone who has noticed it in their first viewing.

The Goblin score, although borrowing quite heavily from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells in places, is their best in my opinion and works extremely well with the film. Everything about the film is polished and Argento has never been better than ‘Profondo Rosso’.

If you wish to watch the film today there are two options. For the best presentation of the film I recommend the Blue Underground blu ray disc which includes the director’s cut and the shorter export cut with many Italian only scenes exorcised. Personally I prefer the director’s cut. The Blue Underground disc is region free. The other option is Arrow Video’s presentation. The presentation of the film has some issues, which if you are interested can be found out easily enough with a google search. The extras on the Arrow discs are far superior than the Blue Underground disc and for that reason, and the fact that it’s a superb film, I recommend double dipping and getting both. Those of you reading this from outside the UK be aware that the Arrow package is region B locked.

Argento was on top form when he made ‘Profondo Rosso’. It’s a shame to see how far he has fallen from his pedestal with films like ‘Argento’s Dracula’ but don’t let that take anything away from his work here. It truly is a work of art.

4 and a half More Days to Halloween.

Standard

Not long now folks, although you wouldn’t know it if you lived in the UK (unless you shopped at one of the big supermarkets where they are desperately trying to sell you skeleton shaped tat).

So I have four more films to count down to. I can reveal that there are two John Carpenter films in the list plus one from Romero and one from Argento.

Can you guess what these films may be? I’m sure you will have all seen them but perhaps they are not what you are expecting. Tune in tomorrow for the fourth entry.

Hope to see you all there!

5 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films.

#5 “Jaws” (1975)

jaws_xlg

My Mother and Father went to see ‘Jaws’ at the cinema on it’s initial release in 1975. I was a big movie buff, even at the age of 7, and every time that they would go to the cinema I would ask them to buy me a programme or if there were no programmes of the film they were seeing then a copy of (and I might be mis-remembering the name) ‘Film Review’ magazine. Upon their return from watching ‘Jaws’, which my parents raved about, I was presented with a copy of the programme.

Steven-Spielberg-Jaws-561674

I still have it (it’s quite tatty now) but with the rave reviews from my parents, the fascination I had (and still have) in sharks, along with the great pictures inside the programme I knew it was a film I just had to see. My parents had other ideas though. I was too young, they said, and in retrospect they were right.

However, this did not stop me from badgering them at every opportunity and when the film was re-released about two years later my Mother agreed to take me to see it. Suffice to say I made it up to the part where Ben Gardner’s head pops out the bottom of the boat and no further. From that point on I sat myself on the floor and refused to look at the screen. My Mother, who had paid good money to take me, allowed me to sit there for the next ninety minutes, terrified by the sounds coming from the screen, whilst she finished watching the film. I don’t blame her. I would have done the same.

Several years later and with a brand new blu ray copy of the film in hand I decided to screen it for my eight year old Son. We closed the curtains, turned down the lights, pumped up the amplifier and settled down. He was engrossed. Sure, he jumped when Ben’s head floated out of the hole in the boat, but he still had the guts to carry on. Perhaps I was just more sensitive as a kid. He thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it’s a film that will never get old.

6 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films.

#6 “The Exorcist” (1973)

The-Exorcist_poster (1)

It’s a fact, this is the scariest film I have ever seen. And the books pretty darn scary too.

When I was 12, and into horror books and films in a big way, I was banned from reading William Peter Blatty’s novel ‘The Exorcist’ by my Mother. When I asked why my Mother told me because it was filled with bad language…And that it was far too scary for someone so young as me. Of course I took this as a challenge. I surreptitiously bought a copy from my local bookshop with my saved up pocket money and read the book during break times at school never taking the novel home in case my Mother found it and confiscated it. I read that bad boy in three fright filled days, often sitting on the school’s playing field in bright sunshine. My Mother was right. It scared the shit out of me. When I was done I took the book and buried it in a graveyard thinking that if I interred it on consecrated ground then it couldn’t hurt me. I was wrong. It haunted me for years.

A few years later and my home film collection was large. I had over 300 VHS tapes, mainly copies that I had made myself by hooking up two VCRs. The lady who ran our local video shop would often allow me to borrow the covers of the tapes and I would take these a short distance to the library where I would photocopy the covers (in black and white) so I had a decent reproduction for my own video library. I rented ‘The Exorcist’ and overnight made myself a copy of the pre certificated Warner Brothers tape. The next morning I took the completed tape, put it in the box with the photocopied cover, and never, ever watched it. The only tape I ever did that with, such was the power of the book.

Years later, when I had my first DVD player (this would be around 1997) I bought a region 1 copy of ‘The Exorcist’. I thought I was finally ready to watch it but just to be on the safe side I invited six other people round to watch it with me. And it still scared the shit out of me.

These days I have a blu ray of the film but I still won’t watch it alone. Even watching the documentaries on the disc freak me out and if I’m reading a book about horror films and I come across a still of Reagan in her possessed state then I turn that page over damn quickly, believe me. Strange behaviour for a 46 year old married man with a Son? Nah, just sensible precaution. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I think we all have things that freak us out, it’s only natural, and especially if those fears were ingrained during our early, informative years. I’m not scared of snakes, spiders, flying or even dying but I am scared of Friedkin and Blatty’s ‘The Exorcist’ and that’s why it’s on the list.

7 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films

#7 “Re-Animator” (1985)

re_animator_poster_01

I was sixteen when ‘Re-Animator’ was first released. Living in the UK (as I still do) my first encounter with this outrageous film was via the Vestron (I think) VHS tape which was cut quite severely. Even so, there was still enough left in (just) that the film had an immediate impression on me. Down the years I have bought this film on VHS, Laserdisc, several different DVD editions (my favourite being the one with the hypodermic needle/pen included) and now on Blu Ray via Second Sight in the UK (in steel book no less).

This edition from Second Sight (completely uncut) no only contains great picture and sound but also includes the ‘integral’ version of the film with scenes filmed for the TV version spliced back into the main film making it quite different from the version we know and love.

Of course, being a horny teenager, the film appealed to me via the delightful Barbara Crampton who spends a good portion of the film in the buff. What’s not to like! (She’s also great in ‘From Beyond’ for mostly the same reasons.).

Of course the film is mostly remembered for the severed head of Dr Hill giving, well, head to Crampton’s character but the superb gore effects, most notably the bone saw through the chest, are show stoppers.

I’ll always have massive affection for this film. Not only did it step over the boundary of what we had ever seen before in a horror film but it did it with style and wit to boot!

8 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite horror films.

#8 Dawn of the Dead

dawn_of_dead_poster_04

I first saw this on a pre-certificate VHS tape from Intervision. Of course in those days the tape was cut but there was still enough gore to keep me satisfied. This was not my first interaction with the film however. A year or two before i got to see it I had read the novelisation of the film by George A Romero and Susanna Sparrow. Below is a picture of the novel I owned (and still do own in fact).

Samsung

The late seventies and early eighties was a great time to be a horror fan and 1978 was a particularly good year with films such as ‘Halloween’, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’, ‘Blue Sunshine’, ‘Piranha’, ‘Damien: Omen II’, and of course ‘Dawn of the Dead’ all making their bow.

Nowadays I am too over familiar with the film having watched it at least twenty times. It’s power to shock has dissipated and that’s a real shame because I still remember reeling from the movie after the first time I watched it. The last time I truly felt like I was experiencing something new from the film was when watching Arrow Video’s superb blu ray release of the film.

Dawn of the Dead Blu-Ray2d1000

Sadly this version is now out of print but I think it’s worth paying for it on the second hand market. I’ve seen this edition going for £50 and that’s a decent price to pay for such a great film and a great package. It’s still a great film and by far the best of all the Romero zombie films in my opinion and whilst the 2004 re-make is a good effort nothing surpasses the Romero original.

So Romero finally makes the list but not for the last time. He will make one more appearance here before the 31st of October and it’s probably not the film you’re thinking of.

Stay tuned in for future blogs in the coming days to find out which one it is.

9 More Days To Halloween

Standard

Continuing the countdown of my favourite 11 horror films.

#9 ‘Suspiria’ (1977)

suspiria_poster_03

I first saw the poster for ‘Suspiria’ (the one pictured above) whilst in Central London with my parents. I was but a wee slip of a lad (around 9 or 10) but the horror bug had already bitten me with viewings of the classic Universal horror series on BBC 2 and in print through The Pan Book of Horror Stories. The tagline on the poster, ‘The most frightening thing you will ever see!’, was as good as a dare to a young whippersnapper like me but, alas, it would be several years until I got the chance.

When the chance finally did come it was in the early 1980’s and on VHS. The Thorn EMI tape was certainly not the best way to see, and possibly more importantly hear, the film but even so I was entranced. I can’t say that it was the most frightening thing I had ever seen but it was certainly one of the most stylish. It’s this film that began my love affair with the films of Dario Argento, a love affair that continues still to this very day. Hey! I even liked ‘Gaillo’! (although the same cannot be said for ‘Mother of Tears’ and the awful ‘Argento’s Dracula’).

To me ‘Suspiria’ has always been like a fairy tale. I suppose it helped that I first saw the movie at a young age when such things as fairy tales still had a faint resonance in my young mind. The swirling colours of the film still hypnotise me, the pounding Goblin score still excites me, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Jessica Harper (although I prefer her in De Palma’s ‘Phantom of the Paradise’.)

Whilst Nouveaux Pictures region B blu ray release is not perfect it’s the best I’ve ever seen it and the sound on the disc is superb. Whilst I love ‘Suspiria’ deeply it’s not my favourite Argento film. That film will be listed on this site in the coming days. Can you guess which one it might be?