No, I haven't bought into the bend-over-for-the-empire practice of Americanising my October but I am a fool for any opportunity to make a list of horror films. This time, though, I'm going to do two, one for the horror-curious and another for those who just want the genre for the occasion.
While I as an Australian born and raised didn't experience Halloween as part of the calendar I knew about it from American shows and kind of envied the costumes and rituals. Most of all I liked the mood and always considered horror fiction nourishment for the imagination and I loved how even though I've never believed in ghosts I would be haunted awake in the pre dawn by the stories of M.R. James or Sheridan LeFanu. The Christmas tales from UK television added location and atmosphere. In the end I had to admit that I lived in the tropics which see neither snow nor fog and when there were human atrocities in the air they had the weight of close reality. Otherwise there were the movies and I never tire of the best of them nor discovering new avenues into the self-confrontation that genuine horror demands.
As you'll read, I'm biased toward originality and genre-warping but these qualities are by no means prerequisite for a good horror fiction experience. There's a lot of real cinema to be had with movies that just behave themselves in their margins and deliver what they say. There is, of course, a spectrum of how well this is done.
Hey, there's more than thirteen here! It rhymes with Halloween .. and count the genres in the second section
For non-horror fans...
is the kind of dialogue I hear when I see
something like this.
There is a notion afoot that these are generationally restrictive so if you're too old you'll gurmpily reject them and if you're young enough you'll dig them. If that worked I'd prefer the 1982 Thing over the 1956 one and Friday the 13th over The Exorcist (wrong in both cases). Sorry, it's not me being old, it's these movies being mediocre.
But quite seriously, if you aren't into horror but want to use the occasion, these will work.
Remakes of 70s and 80s genre. It's often observed that it's only bad movies that should get remakes to correct the errors of the past. Instead, we get the errors of the present whose makers have learned nothing from the originals. You can count the as-good or better remakes on one hand. Like the contemporary Hollywood fare mentioned above, these are not taxing and have been declawed so that only the serviceable gore gets through and none of that disturbing concept work to bring things down.
Remakes of films originally in languages other than American. If you can't read subtitles you shouldn't be reading this. Seriously, if getting close to a good arresting idea is blocked for you by a series of titles in the most basic of English (as they have to be for speed alone) then all you can experience is a series of someone else's ideas at a cultural remove. Not it's not Let Me In but Let the Right One In. Not The Ring but Ringu (seriously, this one involves a major failure of interpretation when in English). Not Quarantine but .REC. The American version of Pulse has a line about the use of gaffer tape common to both films: "It just seems to work somehow." Why didn't anyone in Kyoshi Kurosawa's original have to say that? Because they wanted YOU to work it out. I have known no exceptions to this rule that didn't take a lot of indulgence and apology.
Would you really rather hear a note perfect cover band play your favourite songs or the original band? If the latter aren't available wouldn't you at least want some interpretation to be part of it rather than a re-enactment? You wouldn't? Fine, the remakes are over there. Let's just never talk about music.
|All the scares of the Ghost Train ride|
|This is a good one. It's almost the only one.|
Well, that should do you. Or ....
For horror fans and the curious of heart...
See also Lake Mungo: local and vocal masterpiece. You will NOT expect the climactic scene. Did you see it? What did you see?
See also Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) had two remakes on a par but this original still feels like the best with its American dream gone wrong or horribly right.
Also, the only available dvd and blu-ray of the Exorcist are of the long and plodding "version you've never seen" which is the only one anyone after 2000 has seen. You can get the original in a deluxe package from overseas sources so, if you're interested, hold off until you can see the shorter, tighter and scarier one.
The Brotherhood of Satan. Low-budget big concepts as the children of a small town vanish and toys come horrifically to life. Youth and age clash in a kind of Lewis Carrol verite.
See also Halloween (if it doesn't say 1978 somewhere in the details you are watching the wrong one).
See also Martyrs which starts like any Euro revenge piece but takes a terrifying turn halfway through. The violence dissipates into control and the control has a disturbing force. I'll sing with Mark Kermode on this one, though: CAUTION! This is a VERY rough ride.
See also Lips of Blood:Jean Rollin's mix of perve and unnerve with a genuinely poignant ending to surprise.
See also The Wolf Man: uses pathos rather than threat to suggest the pity of heredity but also the anger in response to it. Lon Chaney Jr might have had a few things on his mind about that issue playing this role.
See also Black Sunday, Bava bravura in black and white with a mad eyed Barbara on the roam.
So, happy happy Halloween.