Horror
noun
1. an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust.
“The children screamed in horror”

As with any creative medium, certain elements are not going to withstand the test of time. One of the greatest shortcomings of revisiting classic horror films is that the shock value has no doubt dissipated over the decades since their initial release. Throughout our exposure to modern television and film, our threshold for shock has risen significantly. What makes a film a classic are techniques that a directer employs that transcend time. With that in mind, a majority of the horror classics I chose turned out to be campy, nonsensical, and marred by a poor script. Alas, this doesn’t mean that the films were without merit or worthy of praise. I struggled with where to start, as my list ran the gambit of favorite, new, and vintage horror films. With the recent passing of iconic horror legend Wes Craven, I figured what better place to start than the horror classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Enjoy.

Note: Clicking on the titles will link you to a trailer of each film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

“This movie made me thank god for my insomnia. ✮✮✮✮ “

A Nightmare on Elm St.

We’ve all woken abruptly in the night, wiped the cold sweat from our forehead and looked around our room to reassure ourselves that we’re awake. That the nightmare’s over, but what if we couldn’t wake up? What if our dreams consumed and devoured us whole?  It’s hard to be a fan of movies and to not at least be familiar with the premise of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Admittedly, until this week, the only Nightmare on Elm street film I’d seen previously was the 2010 remake, that certainly didn’t live up to the praise this franchise receives. Thankfully, the original is masterful in it’s conceptualization of an antagonist who stalks his victims when they are most vulnerable. What makes A Nightmare on Elm Street such a timeless classic isn’t it’s blood or gore, but the film’s core foundation of fear, and the fear of never waking from a nightmare is one that every viewer can relate to.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

“Zombie Kangaroos was a missed opportunity. ✮✮☆☆”

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Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead ain’t a great film. The pacing is sluggish at times and the dialogue is laughably bad. That being said, you should watch it because, for better or worse, it’s arguably the most original zombie movie of the last ten years. The synopsis of the film is pretty standard: a grieving husband must battle through hordes of the undead to rescue his sister from a deranged scientist. Pretty straightforward, right? Wrong. For reasons that are never explained, gasoline has become useless, but somehow the undead hordes have inherited flammable blood. Problem? No, opportunity. Without spoiling the rest of the film, just know that vehicles powered by zombies are a thing. Australian director Kiah Roache-Turner, has taken Mad Max, Dawn of the Dead and mind control, thrown them into a gorey blender that spit out a cult status zombie film. Sure, it’s slow at times and the black comedy vibe is hit or miss, but the above par cinematography and fresh take on the zombie genre make this a somewhat enjoyable variant of the standard horror film.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

“The only Nazi endeavor I’ll ever co-sign. ✮✮✮☆”

Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead

Ze undead Nazis are back. The concept of the original Dead Snow was so mundane and seemingly paint by the numbers, that Red vs. Dead surprised with it’s high entertainment value. It’s willingness to accept traditional zombie movie tropes, while still making fun of them, made it a hilariously enjoyable movie. You’ll know if Dead Snow 2 is for you, based on your enjoyment of the original. The story does pick up immediately where the first one ends, but then again, no one is interested in Dead Snow for its story. The cash injection Dead Snow 2 received allowed director Tommy Wirkola, to expand upon the core concept. More Nazi Zombies. A LOT more Nazi Zombies. 

It’s also a pretty funny movie. Do the jokes always work? No, but I found myself laughing more than I would have expected. Wait, no, I laughed the right amount for a movie that’s premise revolves around Nazi Zombies. If you’ve seen the original Dead Snow and are still on the fence about checking out Dead Snow 2, here’s all I can say: the protagonist has a zombie arm that gives him super strength and the ability to raise his own zombie army, and Nazi zombies driving a tank. If that’s something that might interest you, check out Dead Snow 2.

Children of the Corn

“Maybe teaching 2nd grade isn’t for me. ✮✮☆☆”

Children of the Corn

As someone who works with small children, this film figured in my decision to look for a new line of work. The opening ten minutes of this film present about as horrifying a scenario as any adult could possibly endure. A town of children have become indoctrinated into a cult that worships a god monster that lives in the cornfields and wants them to kill all the adults in town. Now, if you ask me, our adult protagonists deserve what they endure as they thought it’d be a good idea to drive through a fly-over state. Though the end of the film is laughable and marred by atrociously aged special effects, it isn’t possible to look at kids the same way after watching Children of the Corn. 

Open Grave

“A grave that should have been…CLOSED. ✮☆☆☆ “

Open Grave

Open Grave should have been excellent. The opening scene engaged me more than any other movie on this list, as it’s instantly dripping with mystery and intrigue. Plus, I’m a big Sharlto Copley fan. That said, boy does this film lose it’s initial momentum quickly. The “big reveal” at the end is not worth enduring an hour and forty minutes of meager dialogue hampered by even duller characters. Given such highs and lows, Open Grave fails to disguise itself as a compelling horror film shrouded in mystery.  More disappointingly, it fails to execute a satisfying, or even remotely interesting climax.

It Follows

“Abstinence ain’t so bad after all. ✮✮✮☆”

It FollowsWe don’t think about the ramifications in the moment. What’s the worst that could happen? It couldn’t happen to me, right? Wrong. It Follows begins simply enough. A man and woman find themselves in the backseat of a car in a deserted parking lot. What begins as a night of adolescent lust ends with the man telling her that he passed it to her. He claims that It’s been following him and that the only way that he can escape It is to pass It on to someone else. It takes the shape of people you know or may not know, and It doesn’t run, It doesn’t think, It just follows you. So far, It Follows is the freshest horror concept I’ve come across in years. It doesn’t scare so much with shock or gore, but in its effective cinematography and music. I’d compare director, David Robert Mitchell’s style, to that of John Carpenter’s, in his ability to make simple actions such as characters walking down a dark street, or looking out a window at night, into a tense and white-knuckle experience. Unlike the other films here, I found myself thinking about It Follows, long after the credits had rolled.I found myself incredibly impressed with the films underlying thematics & statements about coming of age,  that are applicable to everyones lives.

Hellraiser

“When there’s no more room in hell, hot street trash will walk the earth. ✮☆☆☆”

Hellraiser

The internet has once again lied to me. It isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. I fail to understand the renowned praise for this series. Sure, for the 80’s, I can understand being awed and disgusted by the special effects and gore in the movie, but that doesn’t excuse the boring, garbage story, or the fact that the antagonists are just not interesting. Hellraiser is hot street trash attempting to masquerade as innovative horror, that has spawned more failed sequels than Clive Barker has had successful novels.

The Visit

“I went straight from the theatre to drop Nana & Pop Pop off at a home. ✮✮✮☆”

This movie should have been yet another disaster in M. Night Shymalanalanalan’s career of cinematic catastrophes – I will never forgive him for The Happening. Pairing one of my least favorite directors with my least favorite cinematography style: found footage, and you have a formula that should not have produced anything of worth. And then, it did just that. I found The Visit, to be incredibly fresh and to present a genuinely frightening premise, one whose twist resembles that of M. Night’s early work. My dislike of found footage stems from directors who employ it’s fondness for having the character holding the camera run a mini-marathon, resulting in lots of shaky, incoherent footage. Thankfully, The Visit’s use of found footage cinematography is competently utilized. The Visit is a must see, and hopefully an indication that M. Night Shymalan is returning to his intrinsic horror roots.

Shocktober update #2

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