40) Event Horizon
There are two kinds of horror movies: Those that scare you, and those that fuck with your head. Event Horizon is an extremely unappreciated member of this second category. It starts out simply enough, with a spaceship that disappeared into space for seven years turning up once more, only now the entire crew is dead. It's up to a team of scientists and astronauts, led by Lawrence Fishburne as the crew captain and Sam Neill as the mysterious scientist, to figure out what went wrong. Event Horizon is extremely gory, and there are certain parts of the movie that are quite formulaic in the sci-fi/horror genre, but the real strength of the movie lies in its use of the implied and the unseen to get you scared. This is most definitely the type of movie that will leave you lying awake at night trying to tell yourself that it was just a movie. Not a lot of people have seen Event Horizon, but those who have will tell you it's one of the scariest movies they've ever seen. (Zach Kolkin/BOP)
39) Jacob's Ladder
What makes a horror film great to me is (1) Does it scare the crap out of you; and (2) Did you see it coming? To be honest, there's enough to lead you to the end of this film as presented, but...
The quickest way to describe this film is that a Vietnam vet who lost his child, his buddies and his wife is trying to put his life together again. Once an academic, he now works in a New York City post office and lives with his new girlfriend. But he faces, more and more, a waking
nightmare; weird hallucinations, demons chasing him, and old friends being killed off or dissapearing. He seems to be flitting back and forth between madness and reason, and he can't understand what is going on, and the harder he tries to make sense of it all, or to seek answers, the more violent the swings become.
Tim Robbins is perfectly cast as the vet, Jacob, and the supporting cast (especially Danny Aiello, who gives his best performance ever here) do an excellent job with trying to alternate back and forth between Jacob's nightmares and what reality is.
The truly scary part of this movie is once you realize, with Jacob, that there's something *to* all of these weird fantasies and phantasms, once there, you're in for a very wild ride as the plot twists and turns its way to home. (Jim Rittenhouse/BOP)
38) Masque of the Red Death
In the early '60s, Roger Corman and Vincent Price teamed up for a series of stylish film interpretations of short stories by master horror author Edgar Allen Poe. Corman, long known as the King of the Bs and famous to this day for making the most of a miniscule budget, got Sam Arkoff and American International Pictures to pony up a bit more dough for his Poe films, and the seven movies in the series are marvelous examples of how to scare folks with class and panache.
Masque of the Red Death is perhaps the most well-known of Corman's Poe series, and one could argue it was the apex in terms of mixing design and atmosphere to create a screen universe of which Poe would have approved. None of the Corman Poe films hews very closely to the original text - in fact, Masque incorporates the basic plot of another of Poe's tales into its storyline - and Masque of the Red Death is certainly no exception. However, the way in which Masque takes its source material and creates a corrupt and malevolent universe is what sets it apart, both from horror films in general and Corman's Poe series in particular. From the horrors of the plague-ridden countryside to the opulence of Prince Prospero's disease-free fortress, Masque exudes a subtle atmosphere of evil, and while most of its terrors evoke little shock value for today's jaded audiences, the manner in which the grim doings are displayed makes them far more unsettling than the act itself might ordinarily warrant.
Simply put, Masque of the Red Death is Corman's Poe masterpiece, a not-to-be-missed film for even the most casual fan of the genre. (Stephanie Star Smith/BOP)
37) Braindead (AKA Dead Alive)
Before Peter Jackson became the Oscar-nominated director behind the Lord of the Rings series, he was a legendary shockmeister from New Zealand. On next-to-no budget, Jackson created the appropriately titled Bad Taste and the NC-17-worthy puppet film Meet the Feebles. With his first real budget, he decided to tackle the world of zombie pictures. Like with two previous features, there was no half-measure to his effort as he created perhaps the goriest zombie picture ever made.
Lionel Cosgrove is a world-class mama's boy, but somehow he manages to meet the beautiful Paquita and takes her to a date to the zoo...with Mother chaperoning, of course. At the zoo, Mother is bitten by a diseased "rat monkey" which kills her and turns her into a zombie. A son's love doesn't stop there, though, and Lionel must balance his burgeoning relationship with Paquita with keeping his Mother's new insatiable thirst for human flesh under control.
The showcase of this movie is the questionable decision by Lionel's uncle to hold a party at their house while Mother still isn't feeling quite well. Since everyone she bites turns into a zombie and a party brings plenty of potential victims... well, you do the math. Add in an arse-kicking priest, zombie sex and the most creative use of a lawnmower in cinematic history and it all adds up to something that you won't quite believe you're seeing. Like the Evil Dead series, it manages to combine gore and comedy in unexpected ways. The IMDb trivia section for this film states that, "During the lawnmower scene, blood was pumped at five gallons per second", which really tells you all you need to know. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
36) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Adapted from the brilliant horror novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, this 1956 version of the film is the quintessential evocation of Cold War paranoia. Of course, whether it portrays the dangers of communism or McCarthyism - or perhaps both - is open to debate. In any case, this alien invasion story as directed by tough-guy B-movie icon Don Siegel (the man who also helmed Riot in Cell Block 11, The Killers and Dirty Harry) creates a tense, creepy atmosphere as thinking, feeling people are surreptitiosly replaced with mindless automatons dedicated only to perpetuating the hive mind. Marred somewhat by the lame epilogue forced on the director by the studio, this classic nonetheless remains one of the greatest artifacts of American genre cinema of the 1950s, and has had enough impact to have already spawned two remakes. Given the timeless universality of the theme and the way in which today's Hollywood continues to eat its own tail, chances are that there's another one coming eventually. Let's just hope the Marketing Department keeps the original's great tagline: There Was Nothing to Hold Onto. Except Each Other. (Chris Hyde/BOP)
Even if it did not go on to be remembered as the launching pad for Sissy Spacek, Stephen King and Brian DePalma, Carrie would still stand as a remarkably engaging thriller. Carrie is the shy, awkward, withdrawn whipping girl for just about everyone in her high school, students and teachers alike. There is no relief to be found at her darkly dysfunctional home, either, dominated as it is by her religious-fanatic mother. Carrie seems to be getting it from just about every end, but she does have an ace up her sleeve: Telekinetic powers that let her move things by sheer force of will. All of this is established fairly early in the movie; what follows is a skillful, deliberate mounting of a seemingly endless torrent of psychological tensions pressing against Carrie until they literally explode into a cathartic climax, one that actually leaves a viewer feeling shelled by the end of it all. One image from that climax, featuring Spacek bathed in blood, is an instantly recognizable icon of modern film, even for those who have never seen the movie. Sissy Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her mother richly deserved the Oscar nominations they received for their performances, which are actually more subtle than one screening of this film might reveal. (Tad Roebuck/BOP)
34) Rosemary's Baby
A horror film is as horrifying as its core premise. Birthing the spawn of Satan about takes the cake. What's worse, our vulnerable heroine, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), has been sold out by her husband. Her seemingly doting beau has sold his soul - literally - to Lucifer. Marriage, religion, community are all exposed as being corruptible institutions.
Roman Polanski's cryptic-to-unfold American film debut operates under the less-is-more philosophy to great effect. A young newlywed couple, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, move into a huge, Gothic apartment building called the Bramford. The film builds subtly and slowly, grounding the film in a believable reality centering around the couple's acclimatization into the building, replete with introductions of quirky but apparently caring neighbors.
Underneath it all is an ominous backdrop of wrongness, with Rosemary (and the audience) desperately grasping to put the pieces together. Is Rosemary losing her mind, or are horrible, horrible happenings going on here? Only until it is frighteningly too late do we learn of the scope of the evil at play. (Alex Hudson/BOP)
While this wasn't the first horror movie David Cronenberg ever directed, it was probably the first that caught a good deal of public attention, and it was (to my mind) the first that dealt realistically with the SF question of if you're a telepath, how do you keep all of those voices
out of your head?
The answer: it's pretty hard, and it can turn you into a pretzel mentally. Meet the human wreckage of a great experiment.
The movie opens and closes on two of the most scary and gory scenes I can remember; short of literally chopping someone into hamburger before your eyes, there's not much to top 'em. The plot, in general, is seen through the eyes of a derelict who is pulled from the gutter and introduced to a new world (to him and us) of two rival groups fighting over the secrets
behind a new breed of human who have extreme mental powers that range from simple telepathy to complex destruction of all kinds. The deeper he goes in, the more he discovers that there's no simple bad-versus-good in this fight, and that the secrets could mean his life and the lives of everyone he knows.
The acting varies from over to under; the bad guys tend to smirk a lot to themselves, and the good guys tend to be bland, helpless puppies. But the story keeps you guessing, and the bam-bam-bam of the twists and violence and creepiness are relentless. (Jim Rittenhouse/BOP)
The Blade franchise seems destined to be the only R-rated set of comic-book films to ever see success at the box office. This Wesley Snipes martial-arts film contains more vampires than a collection of Anne Rice's novels, and it offers more kick-ass action than your average James Bond movie. The opening scene at the vampire nightclub was a great kick-in-the-pants for anybody that thought that Blade was going to be your average, run-of-the-mill vampire film. Not only does the film revel in new and clever ways to kick vampire butt, it also relishes every minute of its over-the-top violence. While the scares are scarce, the action is too much fun to not include this film on our top 50 Horror Movie list. (Walid Habboub/BOP)
A film that manages to achieve that perfect blend of gallows humor, sinister story and gratuitous gore, Re-Animator stands out as a defining horror film; unfortunately, it's not particularly well-known outside of fans of the genre. Based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, prolific writer of the macabre, director Stuart Gordon was able to create this gruesome tale on a slight budget for an independent production company. The movie is over-the-top, grotesque and clever, qualities which have surely contributed to its growing following on video over the years.
Though the effects were quite well-done for the time period (the film shared studios and crew with James Cameron as he worked on The Terminator), the true reason Re-Animator works is the boisterous performance by a cast of relative unknowns. Horror film veteran Jeffrey Combs (most recently of fear dot com) imbues mad scientist Herbert West with a manic and obsessive intensity, and his nemesis, the deliciously evil Dr. Carl Hill, is played by the late character actor David Gale. Bruce Abbott and short-time scream queen Barbara Crampton round out the main group as a couple sort of caught in the middle of the whole terrifying mess. The dialogue is fresh and sharp and the action is outrageous and disturbing, with plenty of blood, guts and zombies. What's more, the plot is not at all formulaic; there are twists and swerves galore. It all makes for a memorable experience that still stands out even 17 years after the film's initial release. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
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