Tyler decided to take a tour of the Holy Lands this weekend, leaving Nathan and Travis to pick out their favorite horror films on this most evil of calendar days.
There are plenty of reasons not to like Hostel, and for the most part, they are all the reasons I like Hostel. It’s excessively violent wish-fulfillment for anyone who hates douchebag Ameribros drinking their way across Europe; it’s a boobs and gore delivery device; and it’s one of the movies people use as an example when they rail against “torture porn.” It also has a sense of humor about itself, has some genuinely shocking moments, and is quite well-made. Hostel II, on the other hand, is turrible.
Nathan: The Brood
There’s nothing quite like 80s Cronenberg, and The Brood is the absolute best of his early work. So damn entertaining and yet so intelligent at the same time. It gives me shivers to think of those tiny mutant children running around.
Travis: Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
My favorite of the Freddy Krueger flicks is the first one where Robert Englund really started to go overboard into camp, and it is also the most psychedelic of the bunch. It’s not really as “good” as the original, but it is in my mind the most fun.
Nathan: Altered States
IMDB description of Ken Russell’s Altered States: “A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.”
This simple premise makes for one of the most insane horror movies you’ll ever see.
Travis: Seeding of a Ghost
This Hong-Kong Category III (equivalent to our old X rating) flick is a sexploitation horror film full of otherworldly chaos and cheap yet effective gross-out effects. To see how pre-1997 Hong Kong did the violent zombie thing, this one’s worth checking out. It is also worth checking out if you want to see how pre-1997 Hong Kong did the ridiculously long, ogling shower scenes thing.
Psycho is the horror movie from which all other modern horror movies spring. Don’t believe me? Take a look at just about any horror classic from any year before 1960 (excluding the work of Henri George-Clouzout). As much as I love The Thing from Another Planet and The Bride of Frankenstein, they look nothing like Psycho and its progeny. Psycho marks the moment that the horror genre got serious. Hitchcock, who had taken us through all sorts of psychosis in his suspense movies, finally dragged us into the heart of dementia.
Seeing Psycho on a giant screen in Chicago’s Grant Park remains one of the great filmgoing experiences of my life.
Travis: Near Dark
Kathryn Bigelow’s white trash vampire flick is perhaps the complete antithesis of the sparkly, beautiful, magically abstinent vampires of the Twilight series. Low budget, well-written, and unique, it’s both well-loved (by a small cult) and criminally underrated (by just about everyone else).
Nathan: Rosemary’s Baby
Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, released one year before Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson, doesn’t have much blood and guts, vampires, or violent killings. Its utter lack of gruesomeness makes way for a terror of normalcy gone upside down. It perfectly foreshadows Polanski’s charmed life gone awry.
When the film is over, you will hear that haunting lullaby as you try to sleep at night.
Travis: Tromeo & Juliet
Low-budget haven Troma’s version of the Shakespeare classic features blood, gore, narration by Lemmy from Motorhead, and more. I’d like to think the Shakespeare who liked to appeal to the groundlings as much as the rich theatre patrons would have approved of the addition of a penis monster to his tale of star cross’d lovers.
Nathan: The Exorcist
I first saw The Exorcist in its 30th anniversary year when a revamped edition of the film was released to theatres. At the time, I was in the thick of my second year at a remote New Brunswick Bible College. Canadian schools have a Fall break. Not wanting to spend my week at a nearly deserted college, I decided to volunteer myself out to a homeless shelter in Boston in exchange for a bed. I worked each day from 8am to 4pm and was given the nights to wander about as I pleased. Having explored the city on foot over the first few days of my visit, I found myself in the mood for a movie. I got directions to a theatre and arrived at the ticket counter. Scanning their offerings I found that I didn’t recognize a single title (Almost Famous was playing, proof that I was way out of the movie loop) except for The Exorcist. I chose it on that basis alone. I figured that it would at least be educational.
Well, it was educational, and it set the course of my life in an entirely different direction. Up until The Exorcist, and for a couple years afterwards, I was on track to become a pastor. The movie, which scared the shit right out of me, opened my eyes to what movies could do and derailed my ambitions. Here was a schlocky horror film that the audience laughed at while I found myself completely absorbed (and terrified) by the fact that it was actually dealing with issues of faith, doubt, and the presence of a spiritual world beyond our own sight. I knew it was called “The Exorcist”, but I had been expecting something more abrasive and perhaps blasphemous. The Exorcist was…thoughful?
Over the past ten years, The Exorcist has held up well for me. It doesn’t have the power to shock me any more, because I’ve seen it so many times, but it still stirs my soul. I imagine that it always will.