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My Top 10 Horror Movies

30 Oct

Halloween is upon us, which means it is the best time to completely numb your senses with fear with your favorite horror movies. The horror genre isn’t the genre that is the most respected or taken seriously, but part of that is what makes it so great. Film makers don’t always have to worry about the dramatic presentation or the production values of their horror movies, because it’s all about the scare. I love me a good horror movie, so in light of this wonderful holiday, I’d like to share my 10 favorite horror movies of all time.

10. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)

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I remember watching the trailer for this movie when it first came out and thinking how insane it looked, but I really had no idea until I actually sat down and watched it. Antichrist is the story of a Man (Willem Dafoe) and a Woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who retreat to their home in the woods after the sudden death of their young child. What happens next can only be seen to be believed. Demonic talking animals, the brutalization of the most sensitive of body parts, and a twisted and depraved sexual escapade into the most primal and dark parts of the human psyche. Lars von Trier is an amazing film maker and his work on Antichrist is incredible, and while it’s one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen, it is also one of the most visually beautiful and haunting.

9. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)

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I firmly believe that some of the most frightening movies are from the silent era of film. The fact that there is no sound is odd enough, but the soundtrack and eerily grainy visuals is enough to make me squirm. One of the finest examples of this is Nosferatu, a movie about “Dracula” that came way before the Universal classic. While the vampire is known as Count Orlok (played by Max Schreck, in one of the most mesmerizing performances ever put onscreen), the story is still based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. There are images in this movie that will stick with me until the day I die. One being Orlok’s shadow as he’s walking up the stairs, and the other being his rise from the coffin. Sure, there’s no sound or dialogue in this film, but Schreck’s performance and the nightmarish visuals are out of this world.

8. Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)

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Here we have another silent film (sort of) that was actually released in the beginning of the sound era of film. That being said there are some sounds in this film, but it is still all about the visuals. Not only the visuals, but the amazing special effects that still have me baffled. Shadows dance along the walls and a man’s spirit leaves his body for a haunting walk through a field. Like the previous film, Vampyr is also the story of a vampire. In this film we follow Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg), a traveling student of the occult who becomes mixed up with a family who has been attacked by a vampire. When I say this movie feels like a nightmare, it really feels like a nightmare, one that I’d be excited to wake up from. The story plays out at a slow pace and the camerawork plays tricks on the viewer in ways that was surprising for the year 1932. Not only is this an outstanding horror film, it’s also, in my opinion, one of the most important movies in film history.

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

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Now we’re really getting into the gritty stuff. Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains one of the most brutal and no holds bars horror movies ever, even though it had its 40th birthday this year. This is the story of a group of friends on a road trip to a graveyard when they come across a sadistic and murderous family of cannibals who begins killing them in gruesome ways. This film introduced the now iconic character Leatherface (played by Gunnar Hansen in this film), and spawned a series of sequels and remakes that never came close to Hooper’s original vision. The actors and film makers were put through hell making this movie with uncomfortable and cramped sets and heat that made many of them sick. While it was shot on an unreasonably low budget and starred a group of unheard of actors, this film has still become a landmark in the history of horror, not because of how beautifully shot it is nor how well acted it is, but simply because of the terror that it evokes.

6. Dead Alive/Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)

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Before making the record breaking Academy Award winning Lord of the Rings series, Peter Jackson and the rest of his crew were making much more different films, one of them being the cult class Dead Alive. Originally released in its home country of New Zealand under the title Braindead, it was soon released in the United States under the title Dead Alive. Not only does this movie combine horror and comedy almost seamlessly, it has also been crowned the goriest movie ever made, and that’s just awesome. In this film, the timid Lionel (Timothy Balme) has to fight an endless horde of zombies caused by a mutated rat-monkey, while taking care of his mother (Elizabeth Moody) and winning the heart of the girl of his dreams (Diana Peñalver). Probably the most notorious scene of the movie features Lionel face to face with a room full of zombies armed only with his trusty lawnmower. The result is what can only be described as geysers of blood, which confirms the hundreds of gallons that Jackson went through making this movie. Not everyone could probably stomach the gore in this movie, but you just have to remember how much fun you’re actually having watching this ridiculous film.

5. Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987)

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In the same vein as Peter Jackson’s gorefest, I bring you the only other horror comedy that could possibly top it: Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II. In 1981, Raimi and his friends made the first Evil Dead on a shoestring budget that had some pretty impressive effects and scares, but was ultimately still viewed as a horror comedy. After the surprising success of his first film, he released the sequel in 1987, but this time upping the gore and the humor, as well as turning Ash (Bruce Campbell) into one of the best heroes you’ll ever see. This film pits Ash against the demonic forces in the forest that possess household objects, kills his girlfriend, and even takes over Ash’s hand forcing him to cut it off which results in his trademark arm chainsaw. This movie isn’t necessarily scary, but it still does have horror tropes like the undead and demons, but you’ll be laughing too hard at this movie to be scared. I absolutely love this movie.

4. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)

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Here’s a movie that is widely considered the best horror movie ever made, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. This is the movie that is known for making grown men cry like babies, and for good reason. The idea of the devil and demons is scary enough, but the idea of them taking over your mind, body, and soul is probably one of the worst things ever, which is exactly what happens to the poor little girl, Regan (Linda Blair). The best parts of the movie, however, are the scenes where the two priests (played by Max von Sydow and Jason Miller) face off against the demonic forces that are harming the child. The effects are unbelievable and the sound design is probably the most horrifying part of the story. What is really frightening about The Exorcist is the understanding of what’s happening to the characters in the movie, and anyone who has seen it will testify just to how jarringly disturbing Friedkin’s masterpiece is.

3. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

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What’s different about this movie is that it can be argued that John Carpenter’s The Thing is actually a science fiction film more than it is a horror, but I believe it is exactly the opposite. Sure, the story is about a microscopic alien that invades the workers on an Antarctic base, but the horror is what really makes this film memorable. First of all, let me just say that this movie is my pick for best special effects ever. There’s no tricks with computers or digital effects, but instead all of the effects are achieved by practical effects and concrete creature designs and puppeteering. Still, what is just as terrifying as the creature effects and the gore that results from the different transformations is the paranoia and isolation that the characters experience throughout the movie, and how the close knit bonds between them are completely shattered by something that can’t even be seen. I couldn’t recommend this movie more, and I would even say choose this one over the 1951 original, The Thing from Another World. Carpenter’s version is far superior.

2. Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987)

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Clive Barker is a name that goes hand in hand with paranormal and surreal horror. His masterpiece, in my opinion is the 1987 film Hellraiser. While Barker is mostly known as an author, penning the books that inspired Candyman and Midnight Meat Train, he still has the credit of directing Hellraiser, while also being responsible for writing the book and the screenplay. This is one of the most demented horror films I have ever seen, and much like Antichrist, succeeds at turning sex into something repulsive. The story is almost too strange to give a one sentence description, but all you need to know is that it revolves around a box that summons beings from another dimension that will take you back to their world and torture you for all eternity. Death is not the end with the beings called the Cenobites, the pain lasts forever, but their goal is to give the taken what they describe as the ultimate in pleasure and pain, which is where the bizarre sexual themes come into play. The make up and effects are great, but so is the story and the suspense, making this one of my absolute favorite horror films ever. But there is still one more…

1. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my favorite horror film of all time has to be John Carpenter’s Halloween. I chose this film for multiple reasons. First of all because of the character of Michael Myers, but also because of the soundtrack, the suspense, and the nostalgia. This is the one that started it all for me. I wouldn’t love horror movies as much as I do if it weren’t for the “night he came home.” Michael Myers is a horrifying icon of horror, with the expressionless mask (which is a Captain Kirk mask spray painted white), the black eyes, and the slow way he chases after his prey. Much of the movie is actually pretty slow, mostly with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) babysitting the neighborhood brat, but also of Michael just watching everyone. Some of the most terrifying horror movies are the ones that could actually happen, and someone stalking and murdering people is one of those things. The fear really comes on strong when Myers’ theme begins and the chase between him and Laurie begins. Nothing gets me ready for Halloween like Halloween.

 

Horror movies are a special kind of movie that make being scared into something to enjoy. So turn off the lights, grab a beer, and check out some of these movies if you haven’t already. Happy Halloween, fellow cinephiles!

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Hellraiser Series – Review Part 2

30 Oct

Now that we’ve gone through all of the theatrical releases of the Hellraiser series, be it good or bad, now we have the direct to video and DVD. To most people, that is the sign that these movies should be avoided. Well, that’s why I’m here. Some of these definitely should, but others are worth a chance…for cheap. Let’s start this with Hellraiser: Inferno.

Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) is a good cop with bad morals. His shady dealings soon leads him to finding the Lament Configuration and he begins being stalked by faceless cenobites who begin to psychologically torture him. Thorne believe that a mysterious criminal that goes by the name the “Engineer” is behind all of this. As his investigation progresses, Thorne begins to realize that the forces at work are more powerful and evil than he could have possibly imagined.

It may be worth noting that all of the Hellraiser movies at this point in time were being held by Miramax as completely different scripts. They would later add in the plot concerning the Lament Configuration and Pinhead so it would save them money. For any Hellraiser or self respecting movie buff, that’s a load of shit, and in turn this movie is a load of shit. Don’t get me wrong, the performances are just fine, but I rarely felt like I was watching a Hellraiser movie, and Pinhead did jack shit until the last couple minutes.

 

Hellraiser: Inferno is a major disappointment and one of the worst of the series. It’s long, boring, and hardly can call itself a member of this series. The make up and acting were fine, but everything else was pointless. This is not a good introduction to the video and DVD releases, so I was definitely hoping that Hellraiser: Hellseeker would pick up the mess of its predecessor.

 

Kirsty Cotton (Ahsley Laurance) seems to finally be living a normal life with her husband, Trevor (Dean Winters). Everything is twist turned when a fatal car accident kills Kirsty and leaves Trevor with a head injury that prevents him from remembering what happened. He is also in possession of our favorite puzzle box. He is also the prime suspect in what is now a murder mystery, and also begins having the worst hallucinations and pains of his life.

This is a weird movie to explain because it really is a head trip. It seems like Pinhead went back to school at the Freddy Krueger School of Horror with all of the psychological head play going on. At this point, the viewer has to understand that the chains are only seen at the very end and very briefly. Wasn’t the point of this series all about pain and pleasure? What happened to that?

 

To be honest, I did like this movie. It was a huge step up from Inferno and it was a pretty entertaining movie on its own. Sure, it’s definitely not what the series was intended to be and there weren’t too many cenobites or hardly any Pinhead, but it was still an ok movie and I was legitimately creeped out in some scenes. I would recommend this one on the grounds that Ashley Laurance is back and the story has some pretty cool twists.

The next movie to look at is Hellraiser: Deader.

 

Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a journalist sent to Bucharest to investigate a group of cultists called Deaders. While she is there, she finds the Lament Configuration in the hands of a dead member. Out of her strong journalistic curiosity, she opens the box and releases the cenobites and their evil leader, Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Confusion and visions begin to haunt her mind as she descends deeper into this dark underworld of the paranormal only to discover that Pinhead and the cult leader Winter (Paul Rhys) have a long standing feud that has to be ended.

Out of all the direct to DVD sequels, Deader is my favorite. This one, despite being written as something totally different, actually felt like a Hellraiser movie. There were cults, rituals, and lots of deathly images that worked very well. Pinhead isn’t in it too much once again, but when he is I definitely enjoyed it. Kari Wuhrer is a great leading lady and one of the best heroes of the entire series.

 

Hellraiser: Deader was another pretty good entry in the series. It improved on all the problems of the previous two films to make one that was pretty solid. Like I said, it actually felt like I was watching a Hellraiser movie when it was originally written as something totally different.

Now we’re really going down the drain with the final two movies in the series. Let’s begin our trip into the depths of terrible horror movies with Hellraiser: Hellworld.

 

Hellworld is a popular MMORPG based on the Hellraiser series where players explore different mythology. A group of players with a dark past are selected to go to a massive party at a mansion to celebrate the game. While they are there, they get to live their passion when cenobites led by Pinhead (Doug Bradley) begin to pick them off one at a time.

This entire movie is a load of garbage. Since when is Pinhead and his cenobite minions average slasher villains? I’m pretty sure that they are masters of pain and suffering, so seeing them decapitate someone in a matter of seconds is just unbelievable. Think of this movie as the Hellraiser equivalent to Friday the 13th Part 5. You go in expecting classic horror that is promised by the series, and leave with an ending that makes you scratch your head and say, “Why did I even watch this?”

 

 

I thought that this would be the bottom of the barrel for this series. It has every ingredient to make it the worst, but I had no idea that I would be subjected to a movie that is so bad, I didn’t want to believe it actually existed. This is Hellraiser: Revelations.

 

When two best friends go on a trip to Mexico, they come across the Lament Configuration and once again release Pinhead (Stephen Smith Collins) upon the earth. The only proof of their deaths are in a video camera that was used to record their trip, and soon Pinhead is back to haunt the rest of the family.

This is one of THE WORST movies that I have ever seen, and I almost considered not reviewing it. For one, where is Doug Bradley? The Pinhead in this movie is not Pinhead. I refuse to believe it. Second of all, the entire look of the movie looks like something that was made as a student project. The acting, the sets, and the entire story are all annoying and forced. Bottom line, this movie is unwatchable and was a waste of a movie. Don’t just skip this, destroy any copy you come across.

 

If you want my advice, stop after the fourth film. There isn’t much of a need to see Inferno through Revelations. If you feel the need to see all of them, Hellseeker and Deader are the only ones that are somewhat enjoyable. This just goes to show how a company can ruin an excellent series. Happy Halloween, everyone! Hope you enjoyed.

Hellraiser Series – Review Part 1

29 Oct

The next two reviews of mine are going to be on the longer side since I’m going to be reviewing the Hellraiser series in bulk, you could say. There are nine films in this series with four of them getting theatrical releases, and the rest being direct to video and DVD releases. This is also a perfect example of the studio system making a mess of a story with so much potential and relevance and turning it into a load of derivative drivel. What better place to start than with the original 1987 film, Hellraiser.

When an antique puzzle box is stumbled upon by a scumbag, Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman), a portal to hell is opened releasing the masters of pain and pleasure, the Cenobites, to bring you into a world of torture and suffering that has never been experienced before. When Frank’s extended family move into the house that was used as the portal, Frank is brought back to life. Now relying on his former lover and wife to his brother, Julia (Clare Higgens) to bring back humans for feast on an regenerate, his niece Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) once agains opens the puzzle box. The Cenobites want her, but after learning her uncle’s secret, Kirsty is prepared to make a deal with the Lead Cenobite (Doug Bradley).

This is a unique horror movie that blends psychosexuality, gore, and pure terror into a narrative filled with its own interesting mythology. The first time we see the Cenobites pulls us into the story in one of the best prologues to a film I have ever seen and when we hear more and more about them, the interest grows and gets the viewer excited for the sequel, but we’re not there yet.

I really don’t have any complaints about this movie other than the acting at times. Doug Bradley and Clare Higgens knock their roles out of the park, but the rest of the cast is less than stellar. One other noteworthy performance is Oliver Smith, who plays Frank when he comes back to life and is nothing but muscle and bone. Everything else is excellent and has marked Clive Barker as one of the masters of the horror genre whose name should be synonymous with Wes Craven and John Carpenter.

In 1988, a sequel was released. This was Hellbound: Hellraiser II.

 

Soon after the events of the first film, Kirsty wakes up in the Channard Mental Institute led by the mysterious Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham). Unbeknownst to everyone, Channard has a strange obsession with the puzzle box called the Lament Configuration, which was used to summon the Cenobites before. He soon opens the portal to hell allowing himself, a resurrected Julia, Kirsty, and patient Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) to enter the twisted underworld of ultimate pain and ultimate pleasure.

While Clive Barker still acts as a producer for this film, it is a lot different than its predecessor. First off, one can’t help but notice the implementation of a bigger budget. Stepping into hell does cost money after all, but I can’t help but miss the impressive simplicity  of the original Hellraiser. The audience is still treated to more pools of blood and gallons of gore, which is always great.

 

In many sense, Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a step up from the first, but in other ways it isn’t quite the same experience as the first. It gets bogged down in special effects and I don’t really get the feeling of a strong cohesive story, rather it seems more episodic. Still this is a worthy entry into this series, and certainly better than the train wreck of a movie that is Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.

 

After the events of the second film, “Pinhead” (Doug Bradley) finds himself trapped in the Pillar of Souls with his only escape being to absorb the souls of others. Enter reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell), who is tracking the activities of the Lament Configuration. Once enough souls have been collected, Pinhead is released and begins to wreak havoc on earth, recruiting other cenobites in the process.

This is the worst movie of the series. It is truly a disaster in every respect. First of all, the acting is beyond awful, causing me to laugh at the most inappropriate of times. Second of all, Pinhead acts like Carrie when he gets out, just killing everyone in the room. This is very out of character, and doesn’t work at all. Finally, the movie turns into a joke in the third act. The cenobites are a bunch of wise cracking assholes with what seem like super powers. What happened to the chains? I guess it just wasn’t cool enough. This is the movie where Pinhead gets his name, and Clive Barker has come out and said he hates the nickname.

 

This is an immature excuse for a horror movie that doesn’t hold a candle to the previous films, or even most of the other films in the series. It’s a chore to watch, and it’s unfortunate that to understand everything in the next installment, you need to see this one. Luckily, redemption can be found in Hellraiser: Bloodline.

 

Past, present, and future blend in Hellraiser: Bloodline. The history of the Lament Configuration is explained with its creator being a toymaker in the 18th century, and then follows this lineage to the year 1996. John Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) is the descendent of the toymaker and is targeted by the demon Angelique (Valentina Vargas) and Pinhead (Doug Bradley). Finally, in 2127 on the Space Station Minos, the final descendent has a one on one battle with Pinhead while the rest of the crew have to deal with the hellish cenobites.

This was a very enjoyable entry for me. I had a great time seeing the progression of the Lament Configuration from its beginnings to humanity’s last stand against the cenobites. This felt like a pleasant return to the Hellraiser series. Pinhead gets a much larger role, and arguably has some of the best lines (“I AM PAIN!”). The cenobites also look a lot better and certainly not the joke they were in the third.

 

After the first film, I think Hellraiser: Bloodline is my favorite. There’s a lot going on forcing the plot to keep moving, and the whole story in space doesn’t feel cheesy or forced. This is what the Hellraiser series is about and I strongly recommend it.

This is all of the Hellraiser films that were released in theaters. My next review will be for the direct to video and DVD films in the series, and trust me, I have a lot to say about them. Keep a look out for it.