Friday 8 October 2010

The frightening part of my DVD shelf

Forgive me, dear readers, for not having blogged here in a while. Although some of the blame may be attributed to time constraints, there is yet another issue which I have been unable to rectify. I haven’t seen anything horrific in a very long while.
Back when I was a teenager, I used to watch horror movies frequently, and many times alone, which was either the best or worst way to do that, depending upon one’s point of view. These days, I would still be the only one partaking of these dark waters since my children are a bit young yet and my wife wants no part of anything scary. Yet, that's not all that holds me back. Perhaps another reason is the fact that many horror films appear to be worth the time by their trailers, only to hear later that the ending was terrible, far-fetched, contrived, whatever. In any event, although I have been meaning to choose something, anything, to watch and then hopefully blog about, I have yet to do so.
Therefore, I am going to drag you down through my DVD archives and see what might lurk there and why…

John Carpenter’s Halloween: This is a classic. I confess that I have yet to see Mr. Zombie’s remake. Feel free to convince me to sit down for this. If anyone could do it justice, I suppose it would be him. Many may say that the original looks low budget – and it is, certainly – but it is memorable in spite of the little money that the filmmakers had at their disposal and how far they got that money to go. If for nothing else, the first scene is worth your time. I believe the whole thing was done with only one edit. From the point of view of the killer’s eyes, the camera stalks the house from the outside, eventually enters the house, locates a murder weapon, commits a horrific crime, and then rushes outside again where the young Michael Myers is caught and revealed. Donald Pleasence is terrific as Doctor Loomis and Jamie Lee Curtis was good, although after so many horror films, sometimes it seemed like she was the same character in everything.

John Carpenter’s The Fog: I really like this film, but understand it has to do with my growing up with it rather than it being great. I don’t know how well it has aged. I did see the remake, but found it forgettable. I really love the suspense in the original. Once again, the budget wasn’t very big, and they squeezed what they could out of it. The film is about a small town that is visited by an old curse. The founding fathers used treachery and deceit to lure a leper colony to their town in order to steal their money. On the one hundred year anniversary they come back for it. If you haven’t seen it, but are familiar with Carpenter, than you should already know what you’ll get. It might be a bit campy to some after all of these years, but it was one of my favorites back in the day.

John Carpenter’s The Thing: I realize that this is starting to become a Carpenter love-fest, but I assure you this will be the last one. At least in horror. Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China round out my Carpenter favorites. The Thing once again brings that Carpenter suspense and direction that I love. I wish he would have backed off on doing the music himself. That was a nice talent that he had, but sometimes his music detracts rather than adds. In Antarctica, a group of scientists stumble upon the remains of an alien craft. Unbeknownst to them, the alien has come back with them to camp, and begins taking them one by one in a most horrific way. In my opinion, the Carpenter magic would soon run out, but this film is still very good with a great cast; many of whom one might least expect.

The Exorcist: Need I say more? This is the one film that stays with me. It is so powerful after all of these years and isn’t for the faint of heart. Inspired by true events, the film takes us on an adventure as young Regan McNeil is possessed by a demon that refuses to give her up, eventually matching up with an old adversary from the church. The effects haven’t been dated, nor has the direction or the acting.

Demon-possessed Regan: "I'm not Regan."
Father Karras: “Well, then let's introduce ourselves. I’m Damien Karras.”
Regan: “And I’m the devil. Now kindly undue these straps!”
Karras: “If you’re the devil, why don’t you make the straps disappear?”
Regan: “That’s much too vulgar a display of power, Karras.”

Dragonfly: Some may wonder why I have included this film amongst so many genuine horror films, and the reason that I did was the “creepy” factor. I love the ending of this film, and attempted to show it to my wife, but she could not sit through it because it was so creepy and suspenseful. Kevin Costner’s doctor wife and unborn child were killed accidentally while she was doing relief work in a foreign country. He was dealing with it fine until a series of signs begin to eat away at him that his beloved wife might yet be alive. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Perhaps you’re not a Costner fan; I say give it a chance.

The Omen: This is another one of those that has been remade that I have yet to see, but the original, I think, stands the test of time. With a great cast and the great Richard Donner behind the camera, this top-notch story about the devil’s offspring packs a mean punch. Other than the final scene when Gregory Peck has his chance to kill the boy, the scene that sticks in my head is when the boy’s nanny stands on a balcony with her head in a noose at his birthday party and announces, “Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!” And then jumps off.

The Silence of the Lambs: I remember not knowing what this film was when my sister-in-law recommended that we all go to the movies and see it. She was stunned when it was over, but I was ecstatic. Great writing, based on the Thomas Harris novel; A-list cast and director; it was no wonder that it essentially swept the Academy Awards that year.

Psycho: I can see my kids squirming already at the mention of a film that is in black & white. If you haven’t seen this classic Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, then something’s wrong. You must stop reading this and watch this film immediately. Everyone has undoubtedly seen the famous shower scene, but there are so many fantastic moments here to be savored: Norman Bates; the scene on the stairs with the detective; the tension as Vera Miles is hunting around the Bates home, searching for her sister while we expect Norman’s return at any moment; the discovery in the basement; and finally the interrogation room where we see Norman staring at the fly, but hear his mother’s voice as she swears that she would never hurt one.

Alien: This one was the trailblazer. Prior to this what we had were the flying saucer films of the fifties and sixties, with only a glimpse or tease of the alien creatures. In this one, we get to see the alien up close and personal. Featuring an all-star cast of stars or future stars, the great Ridley Scott directed this unforgettable masterpiece of space explorers that unexpectedly discover the alien life form and then bring it back with them.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: I don’t know whether this is one of the great Dracula versions or not; however, watching The Apocalypse Now director try his hand at horror is a treat. The film is very stylish, has some truly wonderful moments and is loaded with a great cast, including, Cary Elwes, Keanu Reeves, Sir Anthony Hopkins and the great Gary Oldman who is brilliant in nearly everything he does. Says Dracula, “Do you think you can destroy me with your idols? I who served the cross, I who commanded armies, hundreds of years before you were born?”

And finally, the one of only two movies to set so much in motion, Bela Lugosi’s, Dracula. “Listen to them,” he says at the sound of the crying wolves. “Children of the night. What music they make!” It may not be the most frightening thing that we have seen, but it has style, is very dramatic and is beautiful to watch as Lugosi weaves his hypnotizing performance, his signature role.

So there it is. This collection of films comprises my library of horror DVD’s. There are a few films that are missing here, such as Poltergeist. I’ve been holding out hope that there will be a better version in the future; something with two discs and a whole bunch of extras, perhaps. I almost purchased the original Friday the 13th and Hellraiser recently. It is the Halloween season, so there’s still time. In any event, the next time you hear from me on these pages, hopefully I will have something new to review, whether film of novel. We’ll see. But as I say over on my blog…

We’ll talk soon,



  1. Awesome choices that I would pick myself. Didn't know someone had remade Halloween. It'll probably suck as most remakes do.

    Regards, David.

  2. David, thank you so much for stopping by. The only films that I failed to add to the list was Jaws, The Others and my M. Night Shyamalan collection which at the moment is only three films.
    Since it is October I am thinking of picking up a couple, but have yet to decide. If anyone can think of something that I should give a shot to, I would love to hear it.
    Thanks again,

  3. You made me laugh at that Exorcist quote! Talk about the writers writing away an obvious flaw in the plot!
    And I hadn't even heard of Dragonfly, so I will have to go look it up.
    A great list of movies, James. Thanks!

  4. You are quite welcome, Marissa. I look forward to seeking out some horrific films this Halloween season for possible review on these pages. Have a great weekend.

  5. Hello, Billie. I've seen your profile photo before. I love the idea of it. Very, very cool!
    Thanks for commenting. I stopped for a moment while I was writing that post, thinking to myself that some of the horror folks might think I was barking up the wrogn tree with Dragonfly; however, I think it was done very well, and had enough spookiness and suspense to warrant its inclusion here. I love it, too. If I tell you that I cry like a baby at the end, would you promise to not reveal it? Thanks. ;)

  6. I'm an Alfred Hitchcock fan. I did like Psycho, but Birds is my favorite.

    My husband doesn't like scary movies, either (and he still hasn't forgiven me for "tricking" him to see Fatal Attraction!), so I have to usually go see them with my kids.

  7. Hey, Stacy. How are you? Thanks for stopping by. I neglected to add that film here, so thanks for bringing it up. I also have Rear Window, but it isn't one of my favs. The Birds is very good. I just watched it recently this past year. Oh, and North by Northwest. It must have been a Hitchcock marathon or something because I saw Vertigo, too. Apparently, we'll have to meet at some Hitchcock festival or something. What do you think? ;)

  8. I got the shivers just reading this post! Yes, I'm that much of a wimp.

  9. Hi, Julie. You know, it's interesting because I'm the one who feels like such a wimp. I want to watch something scary in order to post about it on this wonderful blog, but can't quite seem to bring myself to seek anything out. *sigh* I'll keep trying...
    Thanks for stopping by. It's always great talking to you.

  10. I high value this post. It's elusive the great from the terrible now and then, however I think you've nailed it! would you brain overhauling your web journal with more data? movies online