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Old 10-23-2012, 01:30 AM   #1
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Paff's Halloween Top Ten 2012

In the first few years of the new millennium, I was a regular reviewer on this website, and submitted a list of top ten horrors every October. It can be somewhat difficult to come up with a different list each year. After all, what was wrong with the 10 films I selected the previous year? So it was nice to take a break for the last few years, but recently Rhett invited me to make a new list. I was only too happy to oblige.

In the first few years of the new millennium, I was a regular reviewer on this website, and submitted a list of top ten horrors every October. It can be somewhat difficult to come up with a different list each year. After all, what was wrong with the 10 films I selected the previous year? So it was nice to take a break for the last few years, but recently Rhett invited me to make a new list. I was only too happy to oblige.

I won't go with any kind of “theme”, like ten slashers, or ten new releases, or anything like that. I'll just pick ten good things to watch in October. The only difference is that I'll be sure to add a few things that have come out in the last few years, because I've never subscribed to the theory that the horror genre died sometime in the late 80s. I think there's good horror coming out all the time, you just have to look for it. And sometimes, you have to sift through some pretty crummy movies to get to the good ones, but I feel that accurately describes the horror genre at any time (yes, even in the vaunted 80s). So here's some old favorites, some new favorites, and a few movies I've revisited and found new love for in the last few years.

10. American Horror Story: Season One (2011)

Horror hasn't fared well on the small screen. The few times it's worked (and these are the exceptions rather than the rule) is in the anthology format. A different story each week, with new actors. After all, if the main characters are going to be there week after week, where's the sense of dread? Well, right now there's not one but TWO prime-time television shows with running characters that may or may not live to see the end of the episode (the other show being The Walking Dead, which should also be on everyone's DVR recording list). Now, American Horror Story has a little bit of the anthology nature, as the second season that just began does not feature the same characters or setting as season one. The show still needs more than just one hour to tell its story, so it's certainly different from classic TV horror like The Twilight Zone, Thriller, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. More importantly, it stretches the limits of sex and violence, especially for a basic cable show (I'd expect to see something like this on HBO or Showtime). Television series are rapidly becoming the place to turn to for good storylines, good acting, and with the rise of HDTV, a much more cinematic look than we've ever seen before. Hopefully, the horror genre will thrive as well and we'll see more series like American Horror Story. And that red-headed maid...

9. I Saw the Devil (2010)

This is a bit of a cheat, actually, as it's more of a Korean revenge film (ala Oldboy) than a straight-up horror movie. But I'm a big fan of director Kim Ji-Woon, who's dabbled in multiple genres. He followed his critically acclaimed ghost story A Tale of Two Sisters with a violent gangster film (A Bittersweet Life), a fast-paced epic Western (The Good, The Bad, and The Weird), and his next film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, so this might be as close as he gets back to horror for a while. And oh, what a revenge film this is. Simply brutal and brilliant, this is one damn disturbing film.

8. Horror Hotel (1960)

Screw Michael Myers. Halloween just isn't Halloween till Christopher Lee's commanding presence is felt in your living room. I think I'd prefer the guy in the Shatner mask lurking outside my house to a run-in with most of Lee's characters anyway. That said, I'm gonna pick a great film that Lee has a smaller role in. Doesn't really matter. Horror Hotel is a great movie, and Christopher Lee just makes it even better. The setting is one we've seen a million times, the town that doesn't appear on any map, but if done right, it can be really unsettling. And the finale in the foggy graveyard, is just fantastic. It's kind of an obscure movie, but I think everyone should have it in his/her horror collection.

7. Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Anthology films can be awkward. The quality and style often deviates from story to story, and there's that annoyance of a framing device, some lame attempt at tying everything together (see recent efforts like V/H/S or The Theatre Bizarre). Trick 'r Treat manages to avoid these traps by sewing together a handful of events in a small town on Halloween night. Too bad this one didn't see a wider theatrical release, in fact it sat on the shelf for a couple of years before getting a video release. I guess it does break some taboos about violence against children, but I still think this deserved a better audience than what it's gotten.

6. Uzumaki (2000)

Hard to write about this movie, because I'm just not sure what the hell is happening half the time. After watching it, I read the manga (Japanese comic book) that it's based on, and that didn't make it any clearer. Despite not being based on any particular H.P. Lovecraft stories, it's one of the best attempts at creating a Lovecraft-style atmosphere on screen. There's no masked maniacs, no threatening creatures of the night, living or dead, there's just some damn weird things happening in this small Japanese town. All involving spirals. How the hell can a spiral be scary? Watch Uzumaki and find out.

5. Hell Night (1981)

Recently, I watched the movie Madman, which has a mostly positive reputation amongst horror fans, especially those into 80s horror. I did not enjoy it as much. Some of the aspects mentioned that people liked were the campfire story that begins the film, along with the reveal of the dilapidated house. To that I say “Malarkey!”. You want a REAL scary campfire story, culminating on a fantastic reveal of a terrifying location, you won't find one better than the story of Garth Manor early on in this 80s classic. The rest of the movie is pretty damn good too. Check out some of the lighting, in a setting where the only on-screen illumination comes from candles. This has always been one of my all-time Halloween favorites.

4. Friday the 13th (1980)

I've never been a huge fan of this series, but I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a 35mm screening of this movie in 2008 (on Friday, June 13 to be exact. Same date as the events in the movie!). At first, there was a lot of giggling at the porn-style mustaches, the poor acting, and the super short-shorts (on the men!). The girls a few rows from me swooned at the sight of a young Kevin Bacon. But an interesting thing happened as the movie went on and the summer camp hijinks (how the hell do you play strip Monopoly?) ended and the stalking and killing began. The snarks and giggles slowly faded away, replaced by shrieks and eventually screams of real terror. It was amazing watching this old, dated movie have such an effect on a new audience. I developed a new appreciation for the film. I only wish more could see this on 35mm at midnight like I did, but in a pinch, the recently released Blu-Ray will do just fine.

3. The House of the Devil (2009)

It's very popular nowadays to make “grindhouse” style flicks, that re-create the feel of the 70s drive-in. They'll even use digital effects to simulate the look of a worn 35mm print. But it's another thing entirely to make a film look like one from another era by using costumes, settings, and lighting. Ti West makes an 80s style film here, and he knocks it out of the park. If you didn't know any better, you'd think this came in one of those huge VHS boxes that many of us rented back in the Reagan era (in fact, House of the Devil was released in a limited edition with that very style of packaging). But looks are one thing, what really counts is that Ti West has made a great horror film. It's a film that relies on what MIGHT be outside that house, and as someone famous once said, the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown.

2. Black Sunday (1960)

OK, a small confession here. I haven't seen this movie in years, so it's hard for me to comment on it. I just plan on making it part of my annual Halloween horrorthon (and the new Blu-Ray is getting rave reviews!), so I thought I'd include it. I like Mario Bava when he gets all Gothic (my favorite film of his is Baron Blood), and this film is as Gothic as it gets. The tone is similar to all the Hammer films that would follow in the next few years, but with an emphasis on the grotesque. Or in other words, not quite as stuffy as Hammer can get sometimes. I guess it's the difference between Italy and Great Britain.

1. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The “found footage” genre is in full swing right now, but it's odd when you realize that it's been 13 years since The Blair Witch Project became the first film to reach a large audience using the style. When you consider how often copycat films spring up after a movie hits it big (possession films in the 70s after The Exorcist, slasher films after Halloween, and snarky self-aware films starring popular teen actors after Scream), one has to wonder why it took so long for this genre to finally take. Especially considering how cheap and easy it is to make a shot on video movie. The answer is that I think The Blair Witch Project was just ahead of its time, and the “found footage” movies we see today are more reflective of the rise of reality TV and less an effort to cash in on Sanchez and Myrick's $60K wonder.

So if you're one of the ones who disliked this movie so much back in 1999, give it a rewatch and see how it compares to the dozen or so recent movies with a similar style. I think you'll see that The Blair Witch Project is a little more than just three people running around the woods swearing at each other. It's a finely crafted film that uses the first person filming technique to make the viewer believe that he/she is part of the on-screen action. It's an effect that few films in the genre manage to achieve. In other words, the oft-heard complaint that “anyone can make that” has proven to be flatly untrue. The Blair Witch Project is a real horror classic.

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Old 10-23-2012, 02:50 AM   #2
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Great list, thanks for the effort! Got to try Hell Night, never saw it.
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:13 AM   #3
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Really, no Hell Night? Oh yes guy, that is indeed a must see.

Good list for a Jets fan
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:34 AM   #4
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Great list with some great titles. Haven't seen American Horror Story yet, or Horror Hotel, or Uzumaki, so will have to check those out at some point.
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Old 10-23-2012, 03:57 AM   #5
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Gonna add Hell Night and Horror Hotel to my list, Paff. Great collection this year, man!
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Well as the video explains, I do not think it is a great film, nor do I think.
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Old 10-23-2012, 04:10 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Mutilated Prey View Post
Good list for a Jets fan
Just means I know true horror....
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Old 10-23-2012, 05:07 PM   #7
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I've watched the top 5 there in the last month. I'm definitely checking out Uzumaki.
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Old 10-24-2012, 03:16 AM   #8
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Great list! And kudos for putting Blair Witch #1 - it still creeps me out watching it alone with the lights out. Love all these movies except for the 3 I havent seen - #s 10, 9 and 6
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Old 10-24-2012, 04:56 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MorallySound View Post
Great list with some great titles. Haven't seen American Horror Story yet, or Horror Hotel, or Uzumaki, so will have to check those out at some point.
These are the ones I need to check out as well. The rest are really great picks though Paff! Trick r Treat is a new classic (Even though that term makes no sense), and Ti West is a Director who from now on I will check out everything he touches.

Speaking of Ti, have you seen The Innkeepers yet? I watched it the first time a few days ago and really liked it, up there with House of the Devil for me.

Another movie I have been trying to throw down everyones throats that has a great October/ Halloween feel is Murder Party. It sits up there with Trick r Treat, Halloween 3 and Hell Night as movies that truly celebrate the Halloween traditions for me, ie. costumes, decorations, pumpkins, ect.
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Old 10-24-2012, 05:40 PM   #10
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my little brother told me about horror hotel, and this list reminded me of it. amazon.ca has VCI's SE dvd for about $6 (under the original City of the Dead title), so i ordered it. looking forward to it. i saw Uzumaki maybe 10 years ago and it was just....weird.

Last edited by dave13; 10-31-2012 at 01:58 AM.
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Old 10-24-2012, 07:54 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Paff View Post
Just means I know true horror....


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Old 10-25-2012, 09:11 PM   #12
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Hell Night is a great film and one that I never tire of watching.
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:58 PM   #13
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Great to see the first season of American Horror Story on someone's watch list. I watched all episodes last year, and purchased it on Blu-Ray, and I love the first season, and the 2nd season, is looking great. I saw Blair Witch Project over 3 times when it was in the movie theater in 1999, and I have it on Blu-Ray, and watched it last month. I think that Blair Witch is SO MUCH BETTER than Paranormal Activity any day. I saw the first PA, and I thought it was okay, but not good enough to sees the Parts 2, 3, and 4.
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