Halloween is just over a month away which means all the horror movies are about to flood the airwaves. I’m not nuts for horror movies, but I’m not anti-horror movies. I don’t see genres, man. I thought I would get in the spirit and talk about a few of my favorites and maybe steer you towards some lesser appreciated ones. These are in no order and I use the term “horror movie” loosely here.
Night Of The Living Dead
There have been many zombie movies before and after Night of the Living Dead, but this was the first film from George A. Romero who would ultimately define the zombie movie. What I love about this film is its subtlety. It’s not really about the monsters, but rather the human condition and how we react to the unknown and disasters.
Much of the appeal of this movie, at least for me, comes from the era it was made it. There is a quietness that exists which adds to the trapped isolated setting. As much as I want to say that was Romero’s intent, I think it just happened to be a by-product of film production at the time. This can also been seen and felt in the original Twilight Zone series.
I hope I’m not about to spoil anything from a 47-year-old movie, but one other thing I really enjoy about this movie comes at the end. The main character, Ben, steps up and takes charge. He spends the whole movie with a level head and does everything he can to keep the house of strangers safe from the zombies. Then as morning arrives and the rescue crews are sweeping through we think, “excellent, this man has saved all these people.” Then he begins pulling down the barriers and is shot dead by the rescue crew. Just like that our protagonist is killed. You don’t see it coming and it’s a bit jarring, but it works. I think it’s just a refreshing change from what we are used to in movies. We think there’s this great happy ending, but nope.
I watched this movie in college just randomly one night as it played on TBS or some such station. But it made an impact on me, apparently, as I talked about to my roommate to the point she felt it necessary to buy it for me for Christmas.
I fully realize just how ridiculous this movie is, and even more so how each sequel had to one up that ridiculousness. I mean how are you going to top that shower death in the first one? But this movie makes me think deeply about the role of fate and how much of our lives are predetermined. Devon Sawa and Ali Larter: provoking philosophical debate since 2000. I like when movies make me think about something I don’t normally think about. So while I wouldn’t say the onscreen antics in this movie are particularly scary, it does make it hard to fall asleep.
One of my best friends in elementary school would have a Halloween party every year. At this party there were always two movies that were played: the original Lon Chaney The Wolf Man and 1987’s The Monster Squad. The Wolf Man is good but only has the one monster. The Monster Squad not only had Wolf Man (and his nards) but also Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, a mummy, and a Creature from the Black Lagoon rip off. All being fought off by a rag tag group of teenagers and a scary German guy. If that didn’t convince you to see The Monster Squad then you are someone I don’t want to know because you are probably dead inside.
This is another one I know is not good but I love it. Partially for the nostalgia and partially for its goofiness. It’s got all the monsters teaming up and that’s awesome. It’s self-aware of just how not scary the classic mummy idea was. And you learn that wolf man does in fact have nards. This movie is totally not bogus and I will continue to watch it every Halloween.
Gremlins 2 The New Batch
I would hardly call this movie “horror,” but the original was and it does have small semi-frightening creatures. I taped this off some movie channel back in the day and as such have seen in more times than I’ve seen the original.
Key & Peele recently did a sketch set in the writing room of Gremlins 2 and basically pointed out how ridiculous the movie is and specifically why having all the different gremlins was totally preposterous. I liked all the different gremlins, but I have always liked seeing expanded characters like that. I remember being really excited when the X-Men cartoon would have the expanded stories with other mutants. It’s like if I could make a gremlin what would I make? It encourages imagination.
This movie gets shit on a bunch, but I feel like no matter how they made a sequel to Gremlins it would have gotten shit on. It was either going to be too much like the original or too far removed from the original. I’m happy they went with too far removed.
The movie feels like a quick cash grab, and sometimes that’s ok. It’s some fun and goofy creatures running amok of a large office building. It’s a chance to just have unbridled fun. I know it’s stupid but who cares? If I’m watching it, I’m having a good time.
Shaun of the Dead
Obviously this was going to be on here. Aside from it being funny it also feels real. We all want to pretend that if a zombie outbreak happens we’re all going to be knocking in zombie heads like badasses, when in reality we’re going to throw whatever we can at them and attempt to seek shelter with our loved ones in a bar.
Edgar Wright makes movies that reward you for re-watching. The first time through you get the great story, but watch it again you start to see other layers that add a little something. And the duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is always delightful. I’ll watch this movie any time of the year, not just around Halloween.
What you may have noticed is my favorite horror movies are pretty light on the scary factor, but heavy on the humor and ridiculousness. While I don’t mind a good scare now and then, I prefer to be entertained by movies and that usually happens with comedy or super heroes. But these are the movies I’ll be watching while I ignore the knocks of trick or treaters this Halloween.