Jeremy's Halloween Top Ten 2014

Discussion in 'Site News' started by Jeremy, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. Jeremy

    Jeremy Closet SCREAM fan

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    Sometimes you run out of masterpieces. That’s what I felt like when I began to contemplate the theme of this year’s top ten list, for I don’t like to repeat titles between years and I have been doing this long enough now that I have begun to run out of classics to compile, for the remaining masterworks of the horror genre that I have not catalogued here are by and large movies that I lack a personal attachment to, and that is what makes these lists so much fun to write.

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    Sometimes you run out of masterpieces. That’s what I felt like when I began to contemplate the theme of this year’s top ten list, for I don’t like to repeat titles between years and I have been doing this long enough now that I have begun to run out of classics to compile, for the remaining masterworks of the horror genre that I have not catalogued here are by and large movies that I lack a personal attachment to, and that is what makes these lists so much fun to write. Thus was born the theme of this year’s lust: guilty pleasures. None of the movies on this list are classics. Some of them are cult classics, but none of them can be counted as an all-time masterpiece. And yet, each and every one of these is a favorite of mine in some way, and in each and every one of them I still find something to admire, no matter how many times I watch it.



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    10. Monstroid (1980)

    A staple of public domain “50 movie” box sets and any streaming website where people can post full-length features, this one is substantially better than its reputation suggests. Allegedly based on a true event that took place in 1973 (although nobody has ever seemed to produce any documentation to that effect), the story involves an American-owned cement plant in a small Colombian village whose pollution arouses a serpentine monster from a nearby lake. The monster often looks like a puppet and, for reasons that remain mysterious to this day, the model designers gave the creature a ridiculous-looking moustache appendage. Nonetheless, the film features a great cast of washed-up names (John Carradine, Jim Mitchum and Anthony Eisley) and manages to hold interest throughout most of its running time, which is more than can be said for many other films of its ilk. Not surprisingly, Monster became a late night TV staple for years before slipping into a faux PD status that has allowed every two-bit DVD company to sell their own poorly compressed copy.






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    9. The Mummy’s Curse (1945)

    The last entry in Universal’s “Kharis” series, this one takes place in the bayous of Louisiana after the unstoppable mummy is unearthed by a public works project aimed at draining the swamps (no doubt another argument in favor of wetlands conservation). Like the previous two sequels in the series, this one does an excellent job of throwing continuity out the window, with the fact that Kharis sunk into a New England swamp, not a southern swamp, at the end of the last movie being only the most egregious. Nonetheless, its ultra-brief running time allows the film to move along at a brisk pace, and it features perhaps the most memorable human badguy of the Kharis series in the form of Martin Kosleck, who projects a very real sense of menace as an Arab henchman with an inexplicable French/German accent.





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    8. Dawn of the Mummy (1981)

    And while we are talking about mummy movies, a special shout-out has to go to this longtime VHS favorite, a rarity of the mummy genre for the fact that it was actually filmed on location in Egypt. While slow moving at first, this one is worth sticking with in order to catch the final act, one that adds the unexpected twist of flesh eating mummified zombies into the mix. The brutal, bloody climax in which the resurrected mummy and his undead hordes attack a Cairo bazaar will long stick in my memory and make this one enjoyable fodder when I’m in the mood for something crazy to watch.







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    7. Indestructible Man (1956)

    As a child I loved creature features so much that I tended to shun movies that lacked monsters, which meant that only as an adult have I been able to catch up on other worthwhile genres. A fairly newfound interest of mine is film noir, which I have developed a strangely passionate love for after making repeated pilgrimages to the American Cinematheque’s annual noir festival in Hollywood. Thus fro me, Indestructible Man represents something of a bridge between my early love and my new one, for despite the nominal presence of a monster (Lon Chaney Jr., playing a brutal criminal named Butcher Benton) and the trappings of a 50’s sci-fi/horror film (Benton is brought back to life following his execution and proves to be mostly indestructible), this one is really a noir at heart, with lots of great location shooting in the seedier neighborhoods of Los Angeles. As a kid watching moves on VHS I enjoyed Indestructible Man quite a bit, and despite its flaws I find plenty to enjoy about it as an adult.






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    6. Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975)

    Bill Rebane is an admittedly problematic director (how could the man behind Monster a Go-Go not be?), something that probably stems from the fact that he, like fellow regional guerilla filmmaker Larry Buchanan, never particularly wanted to make genre films in the first place, but found himself in a position where that was what the market wanted/demanded. Nonetheless, with Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake he is at least starting to hit his stride after the previous fiascoes of Invasion from Inner Earth and The Giant Spider Invasion. The story concerns a remote island with a potentially bottomless lake, one which is guarded by Rana, a bipedal aquatic monster (apparently half man and half frog) with a penchant for killing intruders. This one is overly talk in places, yet it features some surprisingly effective – and sometimes very overdone – death scenes that stuck with me for a long time as a kid.






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    5. Frogs (1972)

    One of the wackiest of the 70’s ecological horror thrillers (but hardly the worst), this one takes place on a private island in Florida as a wealthy family discovers itself under attack by all manner of swamp life. While most of the casualties are actually caused by snakes and other reptiles, it is the frogs who seem to be in command, as seemingly thousands of them descend upon the grounds of the house. Frogs manages to evince a very real “ick” feeling from viewers who are sensitive to creepy, crawly things, and despite the implausibility of the whole story it remains firmly anchored in place thanks to the credible performance of relative newcomer Sam Elliott in the lead, and the colorful, hammy performance of Ray Milland as the wheelchair-bound family patriarch who finds himself alone in his empty house at the end as the amphibians close in upon him.







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    4. The Being (1983)

    Tacky, icky, slimy and sometimes very funny, this Idaho-lensed monster movie is surprisingly well made, and features a number of veteran Hollywood actors (Martin landau, Jose Ferrer, Ruth Buzzi) picking up a quickie paycheck for what was probably no more than a few days work of work on a drive-in movie (what, no John Carradine, though?). The plot is about as generic as it gets for one of these things, but the movie remains enjoyable nonetheless. This was (along with #10’s Monstroid and, of all things, Edward Zwick’s Glory) one of the very first R-rated movies that I ever saw in my life, and it still remains a staple of my DVD collection to this day.







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    3. The Crawling Eye (1958)

    Known as The Trollenberg Terror in its native country, and primarily famous in America as the first movie shown on the Mystery Science Theater upon that show being picked up for cable, this British shocker is actually an extremely effective sci-fi/horror mystery that only falls apart in its closing act when the titular eye monsters are revealed in all their non-glory. American actor Forrest Tucker plays a United Nations representative visiting a resort in the Swiss Alps, a resort plagued by the mysterious decapitation deaths of several climbers. Could the fatalities have something to do with the mysterious radioactive cloud that always hovers in the same spot on the slopes of the nearby mountain? Based on a (believed lost) British TV teleplay, The Crawling Eye features some surprisingly grisly moments for 1958 and remains enjoyable to this day.







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    2. Stigmata (1999)

    This one came out around the same time as Arnold Schwarzanegger’s End of Daysp/b], and is occasionally confused with it even (I managed to somehow see both in the theaters). Neither film exactly lit up the box office or became a critical darling, although on the whole Stigmata has aged much better. Patricia Arquette plays a woman who is suddenly stricken by the stigmata, and Gabriel Byrne plays a Catholic priest (and investigator of religious miracles) who tries to understand what is happening to her, and that’s about all that I can say, for the plot itself is muddled to the point where, even after having seen this a dozen times, I still have an easier time describing the characters than the story, which is possibly a result of studio tampering either during pre or post-production. Without director Rupert Wainright’s assured visual sense this would be a much less watchable movie, but without Byrne and Arquette it would hardly be watchable at all.







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    1. The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

    Before he managed to produce Rosemary’s Baby, this deceptive haunted house thriller was probably the greatest horror story William Castle ever sold. While he had already been in The Fly the previous year, and House of Wax five years before that, it was really this film and the other horror thrillers that he made along with it in 1959 that put Vincent Price on the path of no return towards being a horror star. Here Price stars as Frederick Loren, an eccentric millionaire with a hidden agenda who invites (well, “bribes” would be the better word) a handful of strangers to spend the night with him and his wife in a haunted mansion. Castle sexed up the marketing for this one with the now-infamous flying skeleton gimmick, but even without a cheap plastic ghoul hovering over the audience The House on Haunted Hill remains a true guilty pleasure and fan favorite on home video, and to me, out of all of the films on this list, it sums up the true spirit of Halloween.

     
  2. Workshed

    Workshed a.k.a. Villyan Shit

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    Jeremy! Fine list--great to see titles that you do NOT see anywhere else. While most of these are not my cup o' joe, I do want to check out Monstroid and The Crawling Eye (if I can find the MST3K edition!). Thanks for sharing!
     
  3. Undeadcow

    Undeadcow New Member

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    Stigmata is a personal favorite of mine, I remember seeing it in the theater twice. It was playing at the same time as Sixth Sense and within 15 minutes of that crap I walked out of 6th Sense with it's obvious ending and too slow pacing to check out Stigmata the first time. Those were the days.
     
  4. Angelman

    Angelman OCD Blu Ray Collector

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    I like the "less obvious" lists. Great job. I want to do one of these for Christmas.
     
  5. booper71

    booper71 Lord of the Thighs.

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    I like this list a lot also.
     
  6. indrid13

    indrid13 Well-Known Member

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    Great list. Any list that has Rana and The Being on it is a winner. Two great guilty pleasures.
     
  7. Hellbilly

    Hellbilly Active Member

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    Monstroid was a first time viewing and part of my October/Halloween list last year. It was the only movie I rated 1/5. I thought it was painfully dull. The rest of your list I can dig :)
     
  8. Erick H.

    Erick H. Well-Known Member

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    Nice list ! HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is essential Halloween viewing, with some great dialogue ("Remember the fun we had when you poisoned me ?").I've always had a weakness for STIGMATA's Patricia Arquette as well. FROGS was a childhood favorite (it showed up repeatedly on out local late night horror show, DR. MADBLOOD's MOVIE) and THE CRAWLING EYE is a little gem (not credited to but actually produced by Hammer I think).I own four of these on disc.
     
  9. indiephantom

    indiephantom Horny Spirit

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    Thanks for the recommendations. I've only seen a few of these and others are destined for a repeat viewing. First on the list: Stigmata. I mostly recall it for being one of the first movies that I rocked my new 5.1 surround system with back in the day. It was a rental DVD and sounded absolutely amazing.
     
  10. Zillamon51

    Zillamon51 Member

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    Some overlooked gems here, and some crap. Monstroid is available on one of Shout!'s Elvira sets. It took me several tries to get through, it is so painfully dull. I've only seen The Indestructible Man once, on MST3K. Rana is one of a handful of titles I blind-bought out of VHS bargain bins long ago, that I actually ended up returning because they were so bad (Plutonium Baby and Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid were two others).

    As for the gems, I'd like to see Dawn of the Mummy again. Frogs has always been a favorite, and The Crawling Eye is genuinely creepy and atmospheric. That title does it no favors; The Trollenberg Terror fits better. House on Haunted Hill is another one that doesn't deserve its cheesy reputation. From Elvira to Rifftrax, everyone has taken their shots at it. I think it's a well-done old-school Halloween creeper.
     
  11. Mok

    Mok Family is Forever

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    Nice eclectic mix there. I recently revisited Stigmata and enjoyed it more than I had previously.
     

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