Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Top 10 Horror Films of All Time

So, I've decided to start doing some Top Ten Lists now and then.

Let me be VERY clear about a few things:
1. I am NOT a journalist. I'm just entertaining myself, my friends and fans with these lists.
2. My lists reflect MY OPINIONS only. My opinion is by no means the end-all, be-all of anything whatsoever. So if you disagree with me....well, tough shit. I don't care.
3. You probably will disagree with me.

So, without further ado...

Roxy Vandiver's
Top 10 Best/Scariest Horror Films of All Time

(These are in no particular order except for #1. #1 is sacred.)

(That goes for all of these films. Fair warning.)

10. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

I already know what you're thinking. "Halloween 4? Why, Roxy ? Why part 4, of all the Halloween films?"
Let's face it the original Halloween is amazing. Everybody knows that. Halloween started it all. Michael Myers is a trailblazer. He kicked off the late 70's/ early 80's slasher film craze. Without Michael, there would be no Jason and no Freddy. So tip your hats gentlemen, or hockey masks, respectively.

I chose Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers to put on my list of all time favorites for a very simple reason....Danielle Harris in the role of "Jamie Lloyd". You have to understand something very important which is, Danielle Harris and I are in the same age range. I wasn't even born when Halloween came out, but by the time this installment hit VHS, I was just old enough to have started becoming aware of the world around me. Gone was the innocent cocoon of youth and I was beginning to understand that there are very bad people in this world who are capable of atrocious things. Michael Myers was the symbol that embodied all of that frightening truth for me.

Michael was MY "boogeyman" and to see a film where a masked man was stalking a child whom he was hell-bent on slicing into little pieces was absolutely the most horrific thing I'd ever seen. A child, for fuck's sake. None of the other big names in horror had gone there. Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, even Norman Bates were always shown slaughtering adults and idiot teenagers. Not Michael. Nope. He didn't give a fuuuuck. He was going to gleefully rip out the entrails of an innocent little girl. That's scary.

#9 Signs

Okay, okay, okay. I realize that M. Night Shyamalan's Signs may not really qualify as a "horror" film to many of you, but this isn't your list, is it? It's mine, and I've included this film for the most important reason anyone could possibly include a film in their Top 10 Scariest movies.......it scared the FUCK out of me.

It is a little known fact amongst my friends and fans that I have a problem with aliens. Particularly aliens who park their ships over my planet with the intention of destroying it. This freaks me out to the nth degree. This film had me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing for 106 minutes. I'm sure many of you are either scratching your head or laughing your ass off at me, but don't fucking lie....you KNOW there are at least 3 moments in this movie that almost made you piss your pants:

1. When you see the alien on the home video of the birthday party.
2. When the alien is locked in the pantry and sticks it's hand underneath the door.
3. When they are trapped in the basement, the lights go out and then come back on to reveal the alien's claws groping at the kid through the furnace.

Don't lie. You jumped. We all did. Now take those moments of "gotcha!" terror and make them last for 106 minutes. I bawled my eyes out in fear for almost the entire duration of that film. I have a friend who thinks it's fucking hilarious to make mimic the odd alien language the kid picks up through the baby monitor. He does it because he knows it freaks me out and I WILL resort to violence to get him to stop. I am terrified of alien invasion. And Signs was a kick in the chest for someone like me.

I know you're probably thinking, "Well, if she's so scared of aliens, why didn't she include a kickass movie like, well, Aliens." Good question. But I've thought of that. I don't like aliens who come knocking on my front goddamn door. A lot of scary alien films (like Aliens) take place in space, and I have no plans to go into space any time soon. Problem solved.

#8 Resident Evil (part 1)

Nerdgasm. When I went into the theater to see 2002's Resident Evil, I had no idea what to expect. I had never played the games and knew virtually nothing about the film except that it starred that really beautiful L'Oreal model and that chick from The Fast and the Furious. I was surprised and delighted by what I saw.

Resident Evil
proved that a film based on a video game could actually be great. The story is engrossing, the characters are interesting and likeable and the zombies are....well...disgusting.
Resident Evil wasn't the first console-to-big-screen film, and it certainly wasn't the first zombie film, but it gave both ideas a much needed kick in the face. A slew of copycat films and sequels followed, but none of them could seem to top the gem that was Milla Jovovich kicking ass in a designer gown and butt-shorts.

I chose Resident Evil for my list because not only did it open my eyes to a whole wide world that I was previously oblivious to, but it totally empowered women. The most badass soldier in the bunch is also a knockout beauty who has no problem kicking the shit out of some pretty savage beasts....human and inhuman alike.

#7 Jeepers Creepers

Everyone who's ever been on a road trip has joked about being caught by a psycho killer and never heard from again. Dozens of films have been made using that very plot. But I think Jeepers Creepers was the first film I ever saw where the psycho killer was actually a fucked-up looking slimy, bat-winged, cthulu-esque, creature-thing that liked to sniff underwear and wouldn't die no matter how many times you shot it OR ran over it with your car.

This movie scared the hell out of me for a couple of reasons:
1. Let's face it, nobody likes the idea of being stalked.
2. When I saw this, I was living on a farm in the middle of east-jesus nowhere. (Much like the film's setting.)
3. I think all of our hearts were in our throats during the scene where "The Creeper" is seen tossing a human body down a drain pipe. Nobody wants to witness that crime. I don't care if it's a creature committing it or the goddamn Prince of Wales. I'm outta there.

For me, and I think many of you will agree, the scariest parts of the film happen before "The Creeper" is actually revealed. Up to that point you think you're just dealing with a really scary, fucked up dude. (Not that that's fun, or makes it better.) But once you see that the killer is actually a monster of some sort, the movie shifts from terrifying to interesting.
I also like this movie because, in the end, the dumbass kid who just haaaaaad to go back and investigate ends up getting slaughtered. Which is exactly what he deserved. Never go back and look down the drain where the body was dumped. You just signed your own death certificate, buddy.

#6 The Silence of the Lambs

Alrighty. I've felt compelled to explain and defend all of my choices up to this point, but here stands The Silence of the Lambs. I have heard it said by some that this isn't really a "horror" movie. Some say it's more of a drama. Ok. I can totally see where those people are coming from.....sort of. Ish. Not really. Actually, shut the fuck up. This is a horror film.

Any movie where a serial killer is holding women captive so he can skin them and sew himself a "lady-suit" is horror. And let us not forget the lovely scene where Hannibal Lector disembowels a police officer, cuts off his face to wear over his own and then leaves the man's body strung up from the ceiling like some bloody disgusting Angel of Death. Yeah, that's called horror. And I love it.

The witty exchanges between Dr. Lector and Clarice Starling make this possibly the most well written horror film of all time. That's why I think people have a hard time calling it horror. They just can't wrap their minds around the fact that horror isn't always just hockey masks and kitchen knives. Horror is smart, it's interesting and it strikes a chord in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Maybe the chord it strikes is the primitive id, and that's why we'd rather sweep it under the rug. But nonetheless, thank you Dr. Lector. And thank you The Silence of the Lambs.

#5 Demon Knight (Presented by Tales From The Crypt)

Weren't expecting this, were ya? What can I say? I'm eccentric, eclectic and downright weird. Forget the fact that I have had a huge crush on Billy Zane since 1989's Dead Calm. This is a really good movie! Before this film Tales From the Crypt was mostly known as an HBO Original series of shorts films that usually included some sort of zany twist at the end. Who would have thought they could put together a well-written story that does more than just gross you out? It's actually scary, interesting, and even makes you laugh out loud at times.

I chose it mostly because of the incredible performances turned in by an ensemble cast lead by the vastly underrated Zane, the always great William Sadler and Thomas Haden Church and a young, gorgeous Jada Pinkett (who at the time was relatively unknown outside of a couple of 'hood movies.)

These actors and the rest of the cast are what make this film work. Demon Knight walks a very thin line between total cheesefest and ultra-cool horror flick. Any weak link in the cast could have easily sent the film over the line into Lameville. But these actors deliver every line with sincerity and commitment, which I appreciate as an actor.
*Cool points for playing Filter's "Hey Man Nice Shot" during the opening credits.

#4 Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder's 2004 version)

As stated earlier in this list, I was never a big fan of zombie films until I saw 2002's Resident Evil, which opened my eyes to that world. Zack Snyder's 2004 version of the classic Romero film Dawn of the Dead came in on the tide of the reboot of the entire genre, which I feel is owed to Resident Evil. Nearly 10 years later, zombies are still alive and kickin' (so to speak) and raking in the cash at the box office and on TV. (Hello, The Walking Dead).

I chose Dawn of the Dead because unlike Resident Evil, this wasn't a bunch of gearheads and badass soldiers dealing with a virus that got out of control. This was real life. Dawn of the Dead is what was happening to the civilians outside of "The Hive". You wake up one morning and OH FUCK! Your boyfriend is trying to eat you, and not in that good way.

A rag-tag group of people are thrown together in an attempt to survive the unsurvive-able. One of the characters in the film reminds you of you, or someone you know. They each grow on you in ways you never expected. I found myself rooting for the pretty girl and the handsome nice guy to get together. The team screw up was good for some laughs. And he may only have a few lines of dialogue in the entire film, and they were spoken over a walkie-talkie, but I was devastated when the badass marksman across the street on the other roof top got killed. Even the total dick security guard proved himself to be a man of valor in the end.

Dawn of the Dead is great because these people feel real. We all like to think we know what we'd do in such circumstances, but we probably wouldn't live one day. Which is what makes it hit so hard when all of the characters in this film end up dead.

#3 Interview with the Vampire

Here we encounter another film that some people argue is more of a Drama than a Horror film. I know two things for certain:
1. The video store keeps it in the Horror section.
2. The dead body count is higher than Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th COMBINED.

I think that earns it a place in horror, don't you?
Interview with the Vampire changed my life. The novel was published in 1976 (before I was born. Hell, my parents hadn't even graduated High School yet) and it took nearly 20 years for the film to finally come out. I was a very young girl in 1994 when I walked into the theater with my mother so see what I thought was going to be a boring movie about a vampire with Tom Cruise and some guy named Brad or something.

I walked out...different. A vampire story told from the point of view of the Vampire! The hero was a vampire! The villain was a vampire! There was even a child vampire (major taboo when the story was written) and I could relate to her because I was a child too! And these weren't just any vampires! They didn't live in dark, scary castles and turn into bats. They were beautiful! They walked among us! Their gift was their curse and they didn't just "vant to suck your bloooood!" They wanted to dance, attend parties, dress in fine fashions....and THEN suck your blood. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

I went home and dug out every piece of black clothing I could find. I identified most with Brad Pitt's character Louis. He was sad and brooding. I made no secret of my newfound love of all things dark. I wore a Lestat t-shirt that read "Drink from Me and Live Forever". I did not anticipate the backlash. When you're in grade school, standing out does not go over well. Especially when you live in a small town in the country. I was teased relentlessly. Rumors were spread that I killed cats and drank their blood. I was dubbed "Vampire Girl", a nickname I would not escape until graduating high school.

And now....nearly 20 years later...being a grade-schooler in love with vampires is totally normal and trendy. Thanks Twilight. Fuck. It doesn't matter now. I am cooler now than any of my grade-school chums ever dreamed of. (The last laugh is always the best one.)

And I still have my original Interview with the Vampire poster framed above my bed.

#2 American Psycho

The first time I saw American Psycho I had a massive anxiety attack. I felt like there was a car parked on my chest and I couldn't breathe. It was terrifying. Pretty effective for a horror film, eh?

I've read that when The Exorcist was released in theaters more people fainted and/or left the theater during the spinal tap scene than any other moment in film history. I've had 4 spinal taps in real life. A walk in the park. So, you can imagine how many years it took before I gave American Psycho a second viewing.

For some reason the first time I saw it, every shred of humor and irony was completely lost on me. All I saw was a man going insane and committing one atrocity after another. After the scene with the homeless man in the alleyway, I couldn't watch anymore. I had to be sedated.

I don't think I need to explain further why American Psycho made my list. Having seen it a few times since, I get the humor now, but I still get a little nervous because I'll never forget the way I felt that very first time, which is when films are always at their most effective. The first time you see it, you have no idea what's going to happen. You can never get that magic back.

Which brings me to my #1 pick for Best Horror Film of All Time....

#1 Scream

When I decided to make this list there was absolutely no doubt, no question in my mind as to which film should receive the title Best Horror Film of All Time. Scream was my first and last choice. I realize many of you are probably gasping or slack-jawed.

"But Roxy, it's not one of the old-school original classics!"

Shut up. Just because something has been around for a long time doesn't automatically make it better. It just makes it older.
So now, I am going to plead my case for why I made Scream #1, and the great thing is...I am the judge, jury and executioner. This whole list is my opinion. You can love my list or hate my list. It doesn't matter. Because it's mine.

Let's face it, horror was going through a bit of a slump. The Golden Age of slasher flicks was over and all we had were bad sequels, bad ripoffs and just plain bad (I'm talking to you Leprechaun).

And then out comes Scream. A movie with the balls to kill off it's biggest movie star within the first 15 minutes. Whoa. I remember the first time I saw it. Everything I thought I knew went out the window in those 15 minutes. ANYTHING could happen and ANYONE was fair game.

What happened next was magical. A movie with a cast of young, mostly unknown actors turns the tables on itself and on the audience.

Was the premise super duper original? No. Jamie Kennedy even says in the film "There's always some stupid bullshit reason to kill your girlfriend."
Get teenagers all together in one place. Kill all teenagers. Simple enough, right?

What we weren't counting on was the sharp dialogue, the self-aware characters, the new red herrings every 5 minutes and the perfectly timed humor.

Scream pays tribute to every slasher movie that it has to thank for it's existence with references to Prom Night, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and countless others. There are moments, as the film Halloween plays in the background that Scream doesn't even need a score because it simply borrows Halloween's. Savvy move!

And then we get The Rules. Jamie Kennedy as 'Randy', ever the voice of reason in the film, presents us with "Certain Rules One Must Abide By In Order to Survive a Horror Movie". He's talking to his party goers, but we all know he's really speaking to us, the audience. And it's a genius move in the script. No film had ever done that before.

And then the truth comes out. There's not one, but TWO killers. And they almost get away with it. They were very smart. "Watch a few movies, take a few notes." One of them kinda makes sense (the boyfriend) but even Neve Campbell's character 'Sidney' asks Matthew Lillard's 'Stu' "What's your motive?" He keeps the comedy coming even in these intense final moments when he answers, "Peer pressure."

As it should be, both killers end up dead by the hand of our heroine. D-E-A-D. Because this is real life. You don't get shot 6 (or 7) times and walk away.

In the end, I chose Scream because of what it gave not just to me, but to horror fans everywhere: Hope. Yes, it scared the crap out of me, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and I was completely shocked by the "double-killers" twist ending.

But more than anything it did something that the world needed...it breathed new life into the slasher genre and changed the possibilities for future horror films.

It's been 15 years and while Scream has had varying success with it's sequels....I'm waiting again. Waiting for the new future of horror.

Hell. Maybe it's me. *wink*