Hello and greetings fellow Blahgavites… welcome to the first annual Mr. Blahg Halloween Special!! If you know me, you probably know that I am a big fan of horror films in general… if you don’t know me, now you at least know that much! I love a good scare… a good sense of creepiness and unease… a wee bit of gore but a whole lot of “oh fuck, no”!! I am generally not a big fan of the torture porn (aka splatter) genre (ie. Hostel, Saw, etc. [although the first Saw was great… more psychological than gore based]), but more of the variety I’m going to outline below. Of course, variety is the spice of life and there is no accounting for taste… so feel free to tell me my selections are crap… I will probably feel the same about yours. Everyone has their own flavor they prefer…. so without further ado, my top 5 horror DVDs to watch leading up to (and including) this Halloween…
5. The Descent (2005)
After a woman loses her husband and young daughter in a horrible automobile accident, she and six of her friends decide to go on a great spelunking adventure in the Appalachians (that should have been a clue something bad would happen… didn’t they see Deliverance?). After a bit of a slow build where we get to know the young women and get a taste of the dynamics between them, we are given a host of foreshadowing events that something may go wrong. As they descend into this cave, one mistake follows another… until they realize they are not alone in this “unexplored” cave.
The cast is made up with a veritable potluck of European unknown (to me at least) actresses, which I feel lends to some of the credibility I feel towards the very real feeling of being trapped underground. It feels claustrophobic, cramped, very atmospheric and cold. Watching this film in the dark, with an awesome surround sound system and nice TV with good true blacks is a great experience. I dare you to not get goose bumps as Sarah (the protagonist of this story) gropes around blindly in the dark… very creepy.
This film does have it’s detractors…. although I honestly am not sure why. It does unfortunately have two different endings. The original British ending, and the American “hey everything is going to be alright” ending. Guess which one I prefer….
4. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I know that selecting 2004’s remake of George Romero’s 1978 cllllll-lassic zombie flick of the same name is virtual sacrilege to many, I happen to find it a superior film. Yes, the decision to make the zombies move fast as opposed to the slow lumbering zombies of yore is contentious, but it’s fucking fun! It’s a great movie with a nice amount of gore, some great laughs, perhaps a bit light on social commentary…. but a fantastically paced and riveting take on a modern classic.
The characters in this film are remarkably well developed for a horror film… Anna (Sarah Polley); the nurse, Kenneth (Ving Rhames); the cop, Michael (Jake Weber); the lovable loser, and my favorite…. Steve (Ty Burrell of Modern Family fame)…. the complete and total asshole with some of the best lines. Even some of the more minor characters feel fully fleshed out. Well written, well directed and for the most part very well acted. If you are a fan of the genre and have not seen this movie due to some hangup regarding either Zach Snyder or remaking a classic… all I can say is, your loss…. get over it. You know you would love to be in a mall when the zombie infestation happens!!
3. An American Werewolf in London (19810
Yeah, bet you didn’t see this one coming! Third on my list is another clllll-lassic from John Landis starring David Naughton, Griffin Dunne and the very sexy Jenny Agutter. When this movie was released I was but a wee boy of nine, very into both the magazine Fangoria and the special effects work of Rick Baker…. and this movie had it all! Around the same time I recall other movie coming out in a similar genre, Wolfen, The Howling… but none stacked up the the story of two young Americans backpacking through Scotland and being given the warning to “stay off o’ the moor-r-r-r-rs” at the Sheep’s Head Tavern.
An amazing soundtrack of every moon based song imaginable… awesome effects of both the transformation from man to werewolf and a decomposing best friend over time (poor Griffin Dunne… some of his best work and throughout the movie his face is rotting more and more)…. and a climax in an adult movie theater (pun fully intended). With all due respect to Team Jacob, this is how a werewolf movie is made. Some humor, some scares, some dead homeless guys, random hot nurse who takes a patient home with her and truly one of the best pre-CGI transformations in film history. If you have not yet seen this film than you owe it to yourself to see it… like, now. Really… go… get it. You will love it. I would imagine this is the horror film that people who don’t like horror films may like.
2. 28 Days Later (2002)
Admittedly, I had a hard time deciding this one. I had a couple of other movies in mind for this slot, however, I realized many of them are more zombie movies…. and although many people incorrectly classify this movie as a zombie flick, I will argue until I am blue in the face about this NOT being a zombie movie in any way shape or form. For starters, the baddies in this film, who for all intents and purposes act like zombies of a sort, are not dead (or undead for that matter), they are infected with a “rage” virus. This is implicitly clear and laid out.
This is horror brought to you by the great Danny Boyle. This is Danny Boyle introducing us to Cillian Murphy… and I could not be more grateful. From the moment Murphy opens his eyes (yes, those piercing eyes) in a hospital room in London and realizes that he is a) completely naked and b) completely alone, we know we are in for a special sort of creepiness. As he wanders the ruins streets and eventually meets up with Selena we are nervous at every corner. The paranoia and fear these two (and eventual others) feel are palpable. This is definitely a movie that benefits from a great TV, great sound and a good dark room. Both social and political commentary to boot!!
Another point of contention for many is the fact that this movie is credited with introducing the world to fast moving zombies… but once you realize that they aren’t freaking zombies than I don’t see what the hubbub is all about. Also, another movie with two (or three rather) endings… the bleak Birtish original, the more uplifting American and the hybrid DVD special. Again.. I go for the bleak.
The idea of a rage infected person going from mild mannered to crazed blood vomiting murderous psychopath within seconds is terrifying… and seeing it happen to a character you come to love and care about is simply heart breaking. And eventually the film veers into the scariest territory of all…. the realm of the most frightening thing in any horror film…. the human being as monster. Not the infected… but those not infected with rage, but with fear. Monsters are rarely sadistic and creul…. but humans certainly can be.
And finally…. Mr. Blahg’s #1 Halloween horror film of all time:
1. The Exorcist (1973)
I don’t imagine I could say anything more about this masterpiece than what has already been said a billion and one times in the last 37 years…. but I will say this…
Most. Frightening. Movie. Ever.
I know many adults who still have not seen this movie out of fear. I know some who won’t see it again out of fear. I know others who won’t see it for religious reasons (snicker….). But I don’t know a soul who doesn’t admit this as being one of, if not the greatest horror film of all time. What is more frightening than a sweet little girl becoming possessed by, not the devil… oh no no no… that would be silly… instead, possessed by Pazuzu. And hearing this little girl say things that no little girl has said since (excluding Kick-Ass… that a whole other ball of bad)…. seeing her vomit the pea soup… the head spinning…. the spider walk (this is in the director’s cut)…. Father Karras’s freaky flashes of his eventual demonic possession…. all culminates in what is simply one of the greatest film of all time.
See this movie with a loved one… I don’t recommend seeing this alone.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, I must say thank you. I hope you have a great Halloween and perhaps decide to spend it ignoring those kids coming at your door and hiding in the dark curled up on the couch possibly watching one of the previously mentioned films. I have a whole host of other horror suggestions and had a hard time deciding on these five. Maybe you have some others you would prefer…. let’s discuss.
In conclusion…. 5 great films…. Buy them, rent them, stream them… just see them!
Yours most bloody,
Cornelius J. Blahg