Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Ten Cult Movie Favorites: Horror

Do Not Touch Chain.
There is no question that this was the hardest list of the three.  It took me a while to figure out why, since I've seen plenty of horror movies.  But it turns out that horror movies don't often become movies I want to watch over and over, unless they have something to offer other than just scares.

You'll note my list is completely devoid of the standard pulp horror fare like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Saw, Chucky, and so forth.  Movies like that are good at producing shock and scream-surprises, but once you know what's coming they lose their appeal.  I've never been fond of gore for gore's sake or cheap frights you get from just being startled.  Humor-horror, or psychological-surreal horror are more my style.

As before, my reasons for picking movies as "cult" is in my first Top Ten Cult Movie List: Science Fiction.

And as before, I had to define "horror" for myself in order to decide which movies I would consider.  That ended up being broken down into two factors:  (a) movies that contained ample horror tropes such as haunted castles, zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc. OR (b) movies that had moments where I was actually really scared, regardless of genre or tropes.

10.  Ghostbusters - 1984 - Really campy beyond words.  Plenty of laughs even when you already know the jokes.  A few scenes are even mildly scary, and I can say I hope I do not find a Zool in my refrigerator.

9.  Trilogy of Terror - 1975 - There really weren't any horror buffs around me growing up, and so I was alone for a long time thinking that I, only I, knew the true terror of the trilogy.  The first two were scary enough, but I was frightened out of my mind when I saw the third.  The Zuni doll was the scariest thing ever.  Now I know others also worship this 25 min long bit of horror movie gold. 

8.  Night of the Living Dead - 1968 - Old, hokey, and really pretty darn scary.  Except for the scenes where they show the zombies eating, and then it's funny.  The ending is a shock, too, which isn't the case for most zombie style horror films.  Good, wholesome cult horror entertainment.
 
7.  The Dead Zone - 1983 - There was a time when I'd say "Dead Zone" and no one would know what movie I was talking about.  Then there was a TV version, I think (I don't watch TV).  But I was making cult movie madness of this flick back before all that TV nonsense.  Nice, quietly creepy stuff, with a really despicable presidential candidate who gets what's coming to him.

6.  The Lost Boys - 1987 - Yeah, I know, "how many times can you say 'Michael?'"  This is mostly so stupid, but I love it for how bad it is - and the great soundtrack.  It is so corny and so overdone you just can't look away.

5.  Heavy Metal - 1981 - Okay, you are wondering why this is in my horror category.  First of all, my fantasy category had four times as many movies in it.  But mostly, this movie is here because it scared the crap out of me.  The only common element between the stories is an evil green ball that mutates people or just obliterates them completely.  The funny bits did not make the flick less scary.  Oh, and of course the animation and soundtrack are righteous.

4.  Little Shop of Horrors - 1986 - At this point you have probably lost all faith, but I can't help it.  This is definitely one of my cult favorites, and I adore the soundtrack.  The movie is just creepy and gross enough that it is still definitely horror, even though it is much more campy than previous versions.  The dentist is such a wonderfully greasy egomaniac.

3.  Fright Night - 1985 - Truly a cult wonder.  Even though it was remade, this older version remains on my list.  It was my definition of a vampire film that remained entertaining and watchable even after you knew what was coming.  The makeup effects on the protagonist's girlfriend kept me up at night.  Reminded me of the Zuni doll, actually.  Brrrr.

2.  Young Frankenstein - 1974 - This is camp horror movie perfection.  It lampoons all the tropes while delivering great laughs and some very unsettling moments with the monster.  Filmed in black and white, it retains an edge that color might have washed away.  Igor eating the fur stole is a brilliant moment.

1.  Alien/Aliens - 1979, 1986 - This is where I hope to regain your faith.  Alien is the number one scariest movie I've ever seen.  Nothing has kept me up nights like Alien.  Aliens, while a very different movie with it's high action, brighter lighting, and constant explosions, is still really amazingly frightening.  In spite of the terror they inspire, I'd watch these over and over.  The style, sets, and the ambiance are so compelling.  You'll note Alien 3 is not on here.  I saw it, wasn't impressed, and then I lost interest in the franchise.  But Alien and Aliens will always be there for me.

Alright, I know this list simply must cause some scratching of heads in bafflement.  What are your horror cult movie favorites?  Leave a comment here, or link up to your blog with a relevant post and I'll go read it for myself.

Pax, all.

Image Credit - Zuni Fetish Doll.  Promotional image.  Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black

6 comments:

Amy Fredericks said...

Ha! Aliens is my favorite movie of all time. Period. :)

J.A. Grier said...

Aliens has such a great balance between horror, action, suspense, and character development. It never gives you a moment to rest.

Andy said...

Good call on Heavy Metal. You may laugh, but the last minute or so of this Bugs Bunny cartoon absolutely freaked me out as a kid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQk190gwjt8

Andy said...

Also, would the Harry Potter series count as horror by your definition (even if it also counted in other categories)?

J.A. Grier said...

Hey Andy - I watched the BB cartoon, and yeah, I can see why that would be disturbing. I agree, I remember being a little freaked by it, too. I'm definitely not laughing, those BB cartoons could be totally bizarre. I never liked the ones, like the Gremlins one, where Bugs is not in control. He is the trickster, and messing with that always made me feel like there was a problem with the universe.

J.A. Grier said...

Andy - Harry Potter does have some elements of horror, but given how definitions work these days people would call that 'dark fantasy'. The purpose of the story is not to make the reader feel fear, revulsion, unease, or such. It is foremost a fantasy adventure, with increasingly dark overtones that come in as the series progresses.