Just next month I start shooting my 3rd horror feature film, a bloody backwoods creature horror titled "THE BARGE PEOPLE" and in preparation for the shoot it’s always a treat to look back over my all time favourite horror movies and remind myself why I love them, why they work and what elements I need to keep fresh in my creative mind when it comes to directing my next horror.
In the process, I’ve geekishly created a list of my top 20 favourite horror movies, they’re not the 20 best (there's no Exorcist, Halloween, Psycho, Omen), or 20 scariest, they’re simply the ones I enjoy the most, guilty pleasures and all, ranked in order. I tried not to get overexcited and write too much about why I love each of them, its not meant to be an essay, and I’ve done OK… but still, this blog post will be split into four parts. Let’s begin with numbers 20-16!
20. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN.
Back in 1996, Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were two breakout indie filmmakers at the height of their fame. Tarantino’s last movie was the beloved classic Pulp Fiction, and his next script just happened to be an action-packed gory vampire B-movie. Rodriguez does a wonderful job of creating violent, slimy vampire monster chaos within the stylish ‘Titty Twister’ adult club, one of my favourite combinations of action and horror come together perfectly here. And the cast is incredible, for a horror flick, Harvey Kietel, Juliette Lewis, George Clooney, and two of my favourite actors Michael Parks (playing a role he’d play again in other Tarantino movies, including Kill Bill) and the legendary cigar chomping badass Fred Williamson.
19. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3: DREAM WARRIORS.
Of course, A Nightmare On Elm Street had to make my list, I love the whole franchise (2 and Freddy’s Dead are admittedly weak)! I’ve seen the first so many times, its such a classic, that it has kind of lost its effect on me, but the one that really sums up the franchise for me is part 3 Dream Warriors. The kills are the most imaginative, utilising the fact that Freddy exists within a dream realm, which is what makes the Elm Street films that much more enjoyable than the more basic Friday 13th movies. The Freddy snake, the human puppet and all of Freddy’s witty one-liners make this the most entertaining of the franchise, plus the songs by Dokken are just gloriously 80s.
18. PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS.
Wes Craven made some really interesting horror flicks between A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, always a
more intelligent brand of horror and often with a strong social commentary (The Serpent And The Rainbow is also a favourite of mine) and The People Under The Stairs is, for me, his very best. The film follows ‘Fool’ a youngster whose family is about to be evicted from their Los Angeles ghetto, as he breaks into their creepy, rich landlord’s house to steal a priceless coin collection, only to find a house of perverse horrors (and some scary people under some stairs).
The characters are lovable, far from the cardboard middle class suburban white kids of many horror flicks, the villains are both scary and funny, and the film presents an unexpected house of gruesome delights that delivers the suspense and violent scares.
John Carpenter adapting Stephen King, what’s not to love!? I’m a long time admirer of this soundtrack, as with most of John Carpenter’s film scores, and can’t wait to get the vinyl reissue that’s finally being released (its on pre-order!) When Carpenter played it during the encore of his live show last year it was the highlight of the concert. With King, you’re guaranteed a killer horror tale, shot in masterful John Carpenter signature widescreen in the 80s, I think this film is really quite underrated in how great it truly is, it was after all made at the height of Carpenter’s directing career, following The Fog and The Thing. I was initially disappointed with the lack of violence/gore, but like Carpenter did with The Fog, this is a more traditional tale of supernatural obsession that is rightly built upon characters and atmosphere.
Even from my days in primary school, the Candyman was a well known horror story; say his name in the mirror and he comes for you! Not only is this really a dark, clever story, without the usual dumb group of kids characters, but its also shot and scored to present a very cold, bleak atmosphere that makes it perfectly chilling. The epic haunting choral music by Philip Glass is beautiful, accompanied by sweeping helicopter shots (the opening shot alone is gorgeous, and was achieved by dangerously flying a helicopter on its side…) and the stars Virginia Madsen and -the Candyman himself- Tony Todd (with his terrifying deep voice, which made his presence genuinely scare me) do an excellent, intense job.
Continued in PART TWO...