So, it’s 10:15pm on a Wednesday and my wife has been gone for the past 4 days on a team-building camping trip with her students. 72 hours ago I officially finished moving into our new house and although I love the space, I’ve had a somewhat difficult time acclimating to the nights here where it’s been just me and my 11 pound dog. Excuse me, let me rephrase that; the evenings at this place have been nothing short of pure terror as I lay in bed listening to the symphony of horror disguised as a series of the most awful house settling creaks and moans to have ever existed. Fun!
Anyway, number 3 on the list below just popped up on Cinemax, which means I can look forward to a night chock full of waiting for some human-spider-hybrid to cozy up next to me for a goodnight kiss. In the meanwhile, you’re more than welcome to dissect, ridicule and be confused by my list of the ten greatest horror movies ever made. Also, be sure to check out the ‘Diaper Moments’ below, depicting the scariest bits in each individual movie.
10. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Many fellow horror aficionados (and 30 year old pony-tailed obese men whose ‘roommates’ are their parents) would argue that ‘An American Werewolf…’ belongs nowhere near a list of horror films since much of its dialogue is both comedic in tone and delivery, thus rendering it a comedy. To those individuals who question the films’ genre, I direct you to the picture located on the right. This image is a screenshot of the film during one of its many nightmare sequences. It is also the reason for the plastic bed sheets forced upon me when I first saw the movie in 1991. Or at least that’s what I tell my wife. Any levity found in ‘Werewolf’ should be considered as a wildly effective tool used by its’ director, John Landis. The movie relaxes you with comedy then shocks with scenes featuring some of the most terrifying images I’ve ever encountered. This is a movie guaranteed to ruin your grandmother’s pacemaker.
Diaper Moment: The aforementioned nightmare sequence that ends with the cutie pie above.
9. The Wicker Man (1973)
To answer your question, no; this film has no connection to the ‘Burning Man’ parties held in late August across the country. First of all, ‘The Wicker Man’ isn’t about a bunch of smelly hippies dancing to 22 minute versions of awful Perpetual Groove songs around an enormous burning wooden structure. It’s about a bunch of Celtic pagan psychopaths ritualistically dancing around an enormous burning wooden structure, which just so happens to house the films’ protagonist. And to answer your second question, yes; I do secretly own Perpetual Groove’s entire catalogue. The films’ most frightening scenes are more cerebral than your average jump-scares, but are just as effective, if not more so. Hot on the heels of a string of successful, albeit corny, Dracula flicks, Christopher Lee turns in one of the greatest religious zealot nut bag performances of all time; only second to Billy Graham and that Christ guy.
Diaper Moment: Sergeant Neil Howie screaming as he’s forced inside The Wicker Man.
8. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Half a study of the effects of war on the human psyche / half validation for the handful of Ambien I took to get me to fall asleep the first night I saw it, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is the Holy Grail of disturbing film going experiences. ‘Ladder’ also marks two important events in my life; 1) The first time I took Tim Robbins seriously since ‘Howard the Duck’ and 2) The first time I ever cried from being too scared. I’m dead serious. Try getting through the scene mentioned in the ‘Diaper Moment’ below without being affected on a profoundly deep level. It’s actually too much.
The supporting cast is a bit lacking (which is why it isn’t higher on the list), but I cannot stress enough just how much sleep you will lose after seeing this film. Clear your calendar.
Diaper Moment: Tim Robbins’ girlfriend, Elizabeth Pena, dances with a friend who slowly becomes a winged-demon-beast-thing and somehow causes a horn to erupt from Pena’s mouth. A special thanks goes out to Mom & Dad for getting HBO in my bedroom when I was a kid! Expect an invoice from my psychiatrist.
7. The Shining (1980)
For a while, I was under the impression that the only thing Jack Nicholson was good at was getting Roman Polanski to leave the country. It turns out that he’s also great at acting like a murderous mental patient with a penchant for quoting Ed McMahon. If you’ve yet to see the ghost house epic that is ‘The Shining’, please forget the iconic quotes and images you’ve been fed by mass marketing since 80’. Instead, prepare yourself for the most frightening bathroom scene in movie history, three powerhouse performances and the single least attractive female lead of all time. No offense, but Shelley Duvall’s face is half the reason why ‘The Shining’ is as terrifying as it is.
Diaper Moment: As Jack Torrance’s grip on reality slips away, he hallucinates a beautiful woman in one of the rooms of the vacant resort he’s been commissioned to manage during the off season. Things take a turn for the worse after pulling away from kissing her; he’s been kissing the rapidly decomposing body of an elderly dead woman.
6. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The follow up to Romero’s seminal zombie masterpiece, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (which we’ll get to later), ‘Dawn…’ picks up with a new group of survivors several weeks after the initial zombie outbreak. As the government tries to handle the exponentially growing threat of undead, bad-a** Ken Foree & three others fortify a shopping mall in hopes of outlasting the zombie crisis. The ‘Citizen Kane’ of gore classics, ‘Dawn’ is 100% horror fun in its purest form. A must see for any fan of the genre.
Diaper Moment: SWAT operative, Ken Foree, stumbles upon a holding pen packed with frenzied zombies feeding on their own relatives.
5. [REC] (2007)
Ever since its’ mainstream introduction with ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in 99’, the “found footage” tactic in horror has become as stale as Joan Rivers’ breast milk. Recent “found footage” entries, like ‘Cloverfield’, have abused the format as more of a gimmick than a legitimate plot point. ‘[REC]’, on the other hand, nurtures and reinvents the shaky-cam subgenre (if you can even call it that while keeping a straight face) by treating the camera as a character. Spanish filmmakers, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, are on a mission to abuse the audience on a purely visceral level with their shocking take on the increasingly tired zombie genre. Spicing things up a bit by adding in elements of ‘The Exorcist’, ‘[REC]’ makes the most of its surprisingly modest budget. It’s a film that may turn off some viewers with its slow start, but once it picks up you can expect to find yourself numb after the credits roll. Do yourself a favor and take a pass on the American remake, ‘Quarantine’.
Diaper Moment: The final 4 minutes. I defy you to experience a good night’s sleep after watching it.
4. The Fly (1986)
Featuring the single most depressing ending since ‘Old Yeller’, Cronenberg’s adaptation of ‘The Fly’, utilizes Shakespearean themes and state of the art makeup and creature effects to tell the tale of a brilliant scientist who becomes a man-fly, then a fly-man and ultimately…Jeff Goldblum. Actually it’s the other way around. It’s a one-man show as Goldblum’s Dr. Seth Brundle bounces off walls, chews scenery and vomits digestive enzymes on fellow cast members. As with all of Cronenberg’s films, there’s more than meets the eye here. Or should I say…meets…THE FLY!!!!!
Diaper Moment: In an attempt to impress a girl, Brundle challenges her enormous boyfriend to an arm wrestling contest. Still not fully in control of his new found strength, Brundle gives the boyfriend’s arm a compound fracture.
3. The Thing (1982)
Although it’s technically a remake of ‘The Thing from Another World’, Carpenter’s vision is entirely different and far more brutal than its origins. Tremendous in scope and post-apocalyptic in tone, ‘The Thing’ is the ultimate who-dun-it of horror. Its creature effects are still shockingly impressive and Kurt Russell’s performance is extraordinary.
Diaper Moment: Dr. Cooper tries to revive Norris after he appears to have a heart attack. When Cooper attempts defibrillation both his hands and the paddles break through Norris’ chest revealing a giant mouth lined with jagged teeth.
2. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Criminally underappreciated, ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ documents the end of days through a ‘what if’ scenario involving a Stephen King-esque writer and his growing legion of fans whose rabid allegiance give the stories the power to become reality. I don’t even want to tell you more than that because going into this film blindly is the best way to experience it. People turning into monsters, literary agents going axe happy in midtown Manhattan and Sam Neill running away from something that isn’t from the Cretaceous period; all I can say is, “Do you read Sutter Cane?”
Diaper Moment: Sam Neill’s character, John Trent, investigates an odd sound coming from his hotel’s basement. He finds the hotel’s owner, the elderly Mrs. Pickman, in the midst of changing into a squid-like beast and hacking her husband up with an axe.
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
It’s really impossible for me to say anything that hasn’t already been said about this film. It’s not only my favorite horror movie, but it is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time. Hands down.
Diaper Moment: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”