Friday, October 29, 2010

What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?

The Scream reference notwithstanding, late October always finds me watching a marathon of Jason Voorhees hacking at camp counselors or Michael Myers dispatching babysitters.  Branching out this year, I put forth a few less overt examples of classic horror.

An oldie but a goodie, 1932's Freaks set the standard as far as plot and recurring characters for a number of monster movies and characters, from Frankenstein's monster to the Incredible Hulk.  Freaks stands out however, as having cast real life "monsters" as the titular freaks.  Notable circus performers, including a bearded lady, human skeleton, and Johnny Eck (better known as Johnny the Half-Man), were featured in the film, detailing the lives of circus performers and those among them.  As the plot goes on, the non-freaks are mischievous, scheming, and downright cruel, making what could have been exploitation of oddballs and the disabled into a deft commentary on our society.  Freaks was the original film to question who the real monsters are, a theme later done to self-referential perfection in later films such as Ruggero Deodato's mondo classic Cannibal Holocaust.  (Note: I debated directly embedding CH in this post, but decided against it due to its NC-17 nature.  It is available in full on Google Video, however.)  Linked below in its entirety (64 minutes), Freaks is still influential even 78 years later.

Of course the seasonal horror classics cannot go unmentioned.  Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, and April Fool's Day are all classic and archetypical examples of the holiday themed slasher.  It seems only Thanksgiving has been left out, but no longer, thanks to Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) and his trailer from Grindhouse for a would-be Thanksgiving themed horror film.  Unlike Machete and the aptly named Hobo with a Shotgun, no feature adaptation is in the works... yet.

The recent zombie infatuation, which reached it's zenith with the survival-horror/comedy Zombieland, essentially began in 2004 on the heels of a successful Dawn of the Dead remake and the zombie romantic-comedy (zom-rom-com) Shaun of the Dead.  In reality, there's been a zombie fixation since George Romero's 1968 debut Night of the Living Dead to this very day.

Romero's original film actually gave rise to two franchises, after a dispute with his co-writer, John Russo, over sequel plans.  Romero's story became a trilogy including Dawn and Day of the Dead respectively, the latter being a biting social commentary on the 80s, specifically Reaganites and the AIDS crisis.  Russo took a different tack, originating the zombie comedy formula put to good use in the later films.  His Return of the Living Dead, plagued by increasingly disparate, bizarre, and often poorly made sequels, still is a classic, featuring B-movie veteran Clu Gulager and scream queen Linnea Quigley in career defining roles.  The film moves along at a frenetic pace, with scares interspersed with laughs and spectacular visual effects, making a star out the films signature zombie "Tar Man" (shown above).  Return of the Living Dead is noteworthy for being the first zombie flick to have the walking dead moaning "BRAAAAINS", something that has been a staple of many films since.

Use the comments to tell us your favorite scary movie, or any honorable mentions that didn't make this post.  In any case, happy Friday and have a great Halloween.  We'll leave you with a cut from Tim's Burton's classic The Nightmare Before Christmas because, after all, this is Halloween.

Until next time,

1 comment:

  1. Way late commenting on this, but great stuff on the Romero flicks -- I've never seen the Russo stuff, but the Tar zombie looks amazing.

    My favorites: Dawn of the Dead & Suspiria. The Strangers and High Tension get honorable mention for freaking me out.