Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Top 13 horrors for Halloween
Okay, as this is an occasion for my favourite film genre I'm doing two unusual things in my tops lists: there are more titles and Eraserhead isn't one of them.
What's the same is that this is not an attempt at a definitive list. Horror is my favourite genre and I like far more than thirteen. I left the inclusion entirely up to what I could think of at the time. This would almost certainly change if I thought about it again this time next week. So, sorry if your favourites aren't here, a lot of my own aren't either.
Dark Water: Shivery ghost tale remembers that the best of them include a tragedy at their centre. The convergence of this and the haunting results in a powerful and heartrending climax. Wash this down with a creepy and crushing coda and you have the logical end to the J-horror genre.
The Blair Witch Project: Campfire tale as cinema verite. Three students try and make a film about a witch in the woods and either fall under her control or get literally scared out of their wits. Not the first found footage film but still the most effective.
Ringu: The man who ended J-horror also began it with this tale of a curse and race against time. Like Dark Water this is also the story of a mother's bond with her child and the rediscovery of mutual respect between a woman and her estranged husband. Climax still freezes me and it's still better than the exponentially higher budgeted American re-bloat.
Suspiria: Giallo maestro Dario Argento's apex drives to the heart of why our nightmares scare us (we have no control over them) and serves one up with frozen blues and thick blood reds. Some of the most tightening murder scenes you'll see and a music score on a par with Halloween.
Martyrs: Outside of Asia contemporary horror has fallen to cliche and uninterestingly slick digital effects but this French/Canadian entry not only gives us gore that is painful to the eye but concepts that make us feel ashamed to be alive. The really nasty stuff has less gore but the ideas behind it are petrifying.
The Haunting: Citizen Kane alumnus Robert Wise made one of the finest haunted house movies of all time with this adaptation of a popular novel. Some still impressive special effects, almost three dimensional lighting design support a very very sad central story. Could watch this on a weekly basis.
The Exorcist: A story of doubt, faith and mother and daughter. You don't need to be religious to get into this one anymore than you need to believe in ghosts to dig The Haunting. As a girl goes through severe changes in mind and body her famous and inevitably neglectful mother is drawn to attention. The father who is only suggested by the gaps in an international phone call has been absent for years. As the tumult within the girl explodes into freakish violence the priests are called in. One is a skeptic, grieving for his recently deceased mother and the other is an old stager who has met this demon before. A mix of tough seventies drama and supernatural pyrotechnics, The Ex remains a wonder of the medium. Try to find the original cut as the "version you've never seen" aka the director's cut just adds bloat and removes power.
Kairo: Would you like to meet a ghost? So asks the website visited by most of the characters in this apocalyptic tale. No you wouldn't, is the correct answer, not if they're anything like the ones here. A chaos of mass loneliness, Kairo (or Pulse or Circuit as it's variously known in English) was once beautifully described as The Omega Man as directed by Tarkovsky. Yup!
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari: Silent wonder as sleepwalker terrorises town at the same time as sinister bullish carny seems also to run the local asylum. Crazy expressionistic backdrops suggest a constantly unsettled state of mind which might be as easily fallen into as a gutter. Like a nightmare that has sneaked out from an Edvard Munch woodcut.