The Last Three – Including the Scariest Movie Ever Made

Thank you for indulging me kiddies as I bring my countdown of my 100 favorite horror movies comes to a close. I hope you have enjoyed the countdown and maybe have been inspired to give a few of these flicks a try.

3. Alien – 1979

Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, and of course John Hurt, star in this sci-fi horror film. This is the first horror film that got my attention with it’s marketing campaign. “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.” Ridley Scott’s claustrophobic sets aboard the Nostromo and in the derelict alien ship on LV-426 really add to the film. The story, the acting, all superb. It spawned an entire universal and led to a mash-up with the Predator franchise. Although there are a few good follow-ups, especially Aliens (more action adventure than horror), this is the film that started it all and it still plays today.

2. Halloween – 1978

I don’t like slasher films but I like this one. This is the quintessential Halloween scary movie. Jamie Lee Curtis carries on her mother’s scream queen legacy and Donald Pleasence continues his run as a horror movie veteran. P.J. Soles is also in this one. Six-year-old Michael Myers murders his sister and comes back 15 years later on Halloween after escaping from the mental asylum that has kept him. You never know what drives his murderous rage. There are some fascinating tidbits. Myers iconic mask is actually a William Shatner mask with the eye holes enlarged. If you watch one slasher movie…watch this one.

Drum roll please…

  1. The Exorcist – 1973

Ellen Burnstyn, Max von Sydow and of course, Linda Blair, star in what I believe is the scariest movie ever made. I know what’s coming, I’ve seen this film numerous times, I know what’s coming and I still jump. It gets me every time…every freaking time. This is the movie that define demonic possession movies for all time. Nothing comes close. I grew up sort of Catholic and this movie speaks to me on so many levels. Watch the extended version with the “crab walk” scene if you can.  Watching The Exorcist is my Halloween tradition and I will be watching the Director’s Cut tonight.

Happy Halloween everyone.

And remember…

It’s only a movie.

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Evil Dead and the Birth of Several Horror Icons

Getting down to it folks, after tonight, one more entry in the countdown of my 100 favorite horror movies.

Screen shot 2015-10-30 at 8.22.15 PM

  1. Creepshow – 1982

George Romero directed this fantastic anthology featuring an all-star cast including Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, and E.G. Marshall. Several tales inspired by a vagabond horror comic book are depicted. Ted Danson also stars. The Crate may just be the best horror short ever filmed. I do like anthologies and I think the is the best one ever made.

  1. Jaws – 1975

Steven Spielberg directed this tale of an extra large, rogue, great white shark that feasts on the summer crowd in the friendly island town of Amity. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw star. Shaw’s performance as Quint is wonderful and there are so many quotable lines. The mechanical shark didn’t work half the time during filming, which made for a more suspenseful film, aided of course by John Williams’ fantastic score. I struggled with labeling this a horror film until I watched it again recently. Yup, horror film. I first saw it at the drive-in movies (remember those?).

  1. Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein – 1931/1935

Colin Clive and Boris Karloff headline the film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s epic tale of science gone wrong. The monster is brought to life and Karloff brings it to LIFE in the role Bela Lugosi turned down. Elsa Lanchester plays the bride brilliantly in The Bride of Frankenstein, the long-awaited sequel. Interestingly enough, the “Bride” is the only Universal monster that does not commit a murder. I think The Bride of Frankenstein is the better of the two films. I combine them here because I do think they should be watched together.

  1. Dracula – 1931

Bela Lugosi defined the screen vampire for decades to come as he took his stage performance to the movie house. Parodied, lampooned, copied, imitated, and above all, revered, Lugosi’s performance is iconic and defined the genre. Hell, it created the genre. This is one of my favorite films of all time, not just horror. Most people today wouldn’t find it scary or frightening, but I’m sure moviegoers of 1931 sure did.

  1. The Evil Dead/Evil Dead – 1981/2013

Funny, I am watching this movie as I write this as part of the Starz Evil Dead marathon. Bruce Campbell is introduced as Ash, who is largely ineffective as a demon killer in this. His buddy Scott seems to be the one to fight the possessed and take action. Ash eventually redeems himself. Five college friends try to relax at ye olde cabin in the woods. They find a book and a recording. Once playback of the recording begins, a translation of the book, all hell breaks loose. Written and directed by Sam Raimi, this is supposed to be a straight-up horror film. It spawned three more films and a new TV series that premieres tomorrow night. It also launched Campbell’s groovy career. Jane Levy takes up the mantle in the 2013 reboot, which is very effective as both a reimagining and a horror film in the Evil Dead universe.

  1. Evil Dead II – 1987

I’m not sure if this is a sequel to or a remake of the 1981 film. Ash (Bruce Campbell) is at the cabin with his girlfriend, the book and the recording. The book has been renamed the Necronomicon and Ash becomes a demon fighting hero. He cuts off his own hand and fashions a chainsaw attachment for his stump. After the obligatory “arm the hero” scene, Ash deadpans, “Groovy.” Ash is given every cheeseball line you can think of and it just works. Campbell’s self-flagellation as he fights the demon that has possessed his hand is horror/comedy legend.

  1. Army of Darkness – 1992

Our man Ash is transported to the medieval past as the savior from the sky who will save the populace from the “deadites.” Embeth Davitz joins the cast as Ash’s peasant love interest. If the lines were delivered in Evil Dead II, they flowed in Army of Darkness. So many quotable lines in this movie make it one of my all-time favorites. And Bruce Campbell solidified himself as the king of schlock horror/comedy. “Hail to the King, baby.”

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty with the Horror Movie Countdown

We’re down in it now. The Top 20. My countdown of my favorite 100 horror films continues as we approach All Hallow’s Eve.

  1. Lord of Illusions – 1995

More gore and terror from Clive Barker as Famke Janssen, Scott Bakula and Kevin J. O’Connor (The Mummy, Deep Rising (also with Janssen)) star in this delightfully different horror film. O’Connor plays a top magic showman, Janssen his wife and Bakula plays the PI hired to investigate the magician’s mysterious, untimely death. The late Daniel von Bargen plays Nix, the true evil in the film as he returns from the “other side” as his disciples await their chance to serve him and carry out his devilish plans.

  1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 1992

Francis Ford Coppola helmed this ambitious picture that tries to stay very true to the novel with a few major differences. I do not know why so many screenwriters and directors want to inject a love story into Dracula. There is no love story in the book. There is no reincarnated princess from Dracula’s days as the Prince of Wallachia. However, an all-star cast featuring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes and Tom Waits bring Stoker’s story to life in ways never seen before. Too bad Reeves is not far enough removed from Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan. Hopkins seems to be in a different movie from everyone else. I love the film for it’s music, costumes, effects and most of the acting. It is the truest adaptation of the book and that’s probably why I like it so much.

  1. House of Dracula – 1945

As I mentioned in the prologue for the countdown, no much horror was done in the 1940s because of World War II, however, there were horror comedies with Abbott and Costello, and a few mash-ups. I love the mash-ups. These, again, were shown on Saturday afternoons or late Friday night and they featured all of your favorite Universal monsters. This one includes Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster. Noted cowboy and western star Glenn Strange takes a turn as the monster. John Carradine plays Dracula and of course Lon Chaney, Jr., is the Wolf Man.

  1. House of Frankenstein – 1944

An earlier mash-up of the classic monsters with Boris Karloff as a mad scientist who gets the band back together to do his bidding. Carradine plays Dracula, and Lon Chaney, Jr., the Wolf Man. Lionel Atwill also stars.

  1. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man – 1943

The mash-ups begin with this one as Bela Lugosi takes a turn as the monster, the role he turned down for the original Frankenstein. A choice Lugosi would later regret as Karloff claimed it and created an icon. Lugosi’s career never panned out as he was typecast as a cape-wearing vampire. Lon Chaney, Jr., reprises the Wolf Man role as he tries to find a cure for his lycanthropy. Lionel Atwill appears in this one as well. Lugosi and Chaney fight it out until the bitter end.

  1. The Lost Boys – 1987

Let’s see…Jason Patric (son of Jason Miller, The Exorcist’s Father Damien Karras), Keifer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, the two Coreys, an awesome soundtrack, vampires the Frog brothers…what’s not to like? Set in Santa Carla, Calif., (actually Santa Cruz, along the beach boardwalk), vampires take up residence and they are recruiting. Well done in a manner that doesn’t take itself too seriously, its heavy with lighthearted moments. This film explores the seduction of the life of a vampire offers and the struggle to maintain humanity. Soundtrack spoiler, this is a bit of a pet peeve – it’s Echo and the Bunnymen’s version of People are Strange over the closing credits, not The Doors.

  1. Night of the Living Dead – 1968

George Romero’s zombie epic that started it all – this is the film that gave us the zombie as we know it today. Black and white, low budget, skin-crawling audio effects, and a wonderful performance by Duane Jones all add up to the granddaddy of all zombie films. The crush of the weight of the mob of zombies, the desperate people holed up in the farm house boarding up doors and windows, the coward who falters at the wrong moment, Night of the Living Dead set the standard and the formula for the modern-day zombie film.

  1. The Omen – 1976

Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star as the cursed couple who bring home the antichrist in the form of little Damien. Born under auspicious circumstances and switched at birth, Damien makes life hell for everyone around him as minions before to flock to him to support and aid him. Peck’s character, the U.S. ambassador to England, finally starts to believe the clues and evidence and finally decides to do something about it. The remake with Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles was okay. The original is a classic.

  1. Psycho – 1960

Hitchcock’s best if you ask me. Anthony Perkins is brilliant as Norman Bates. Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mom, stars and meets her end in one of the most iconic scenes ever filmed in any genre. Hitchcock would have you believe that Bates’ mother is running amok at the Bates Motel. Wonderful acting, fabulous sound, atmospheric sets and one helluva twist make for one of of the greatest movies ever made.

Urban Legends, Folklore, Stephen King and Hammer Horror

Playing catch-up again, plenty of fun in this blog entry as my countdown of my 100 favorite horror movies continues.

  1. Sleepy Hollow – 1999

An all-star cast featuring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lee, Michael Gambon, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gough, and Ian McDiarmid tell the classic tale of the Headless Horseman – with a few Tim Burton twists of course. Ichabod Crane, a New York City policeman, goes to the burg of Sleepy Hollow to solve the mystery of the Headless Horseman (Walken). Stylized and stylish, this is an interesting take on Washington Irving’s original story. Murder, mayhem, witchery and a subdued Johnny Depp make for a fun movie.

  1. Candyman – 1992

I like pretty much anything from the mind of Clive Barker. Tony Todd gives his signature performance as the urban legend – the Candyman. Don’t say his name five times or the murderer with the hook-hand will appear. Virginia Madsen is her usual reliable self in this tale of folklore and legend. The sequels didn’t do much for me, they rarely do, but the original here is pretty good.

  1. The Exorcist III – 1990

If you like George C. Scott, you’ll like this film. Set some 15 years after young Regan McNeill was possessed by a demon, Scott’s William Kinderman takes up the fight against the devil and his servant. You’ll remember the Kinderman police detective character from the first film. Ed Flanders and Brad Dourif also star. This film features one of this best jump-scares I’ve ever seen in a horror film. You know it’s coming and it still gets you. That’s how good it is. Former basketball star Patrick Ewing and Fabio makes cameo appearances. Avoid Exorcist II – the Heretic. It’s awful.

  1. Angel Heart – 1987

Ah, Mickey Rourke before he got his face smashed in, Lisa Bonet before she went off the deep end and Robert de Niro star in this gritty take on Faust. Rourke plays a private detective hired by a mysterious man to track down a crooner named Johnny Favorite, who sold his soul to devil in exchange for fortune and fame. Favorite tried to outsmart the devil and extend his time on earth. Carnage leads to the truth and the devil gets his due. But I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

  1. Carrie – 1976

For my money, this is the best Stephen King adaptation of them all. Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, William Katt (Greatest American Hero), Amy Irving, Nancy Allen and P.J. Soles all star in this tale of the supernatural and kinetic rage. Shy, oppressed Carrie White is asked to the prom and a horrible prank leads to Carrie unleashing her telekinetic abilities on her fellow promgoers. The recent remake with Chloe Grace Moretz was passable but it didn’t have the believability of the characters of the original. Moretz didn’t fly as the bullied, repressed, tortured soul that Spacek pulled off wonderfully.

  1. The Shining – 1980

Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duval and the incomparable Scatman Crothers (Hong Kong Phooey) star in another Stephen King vehicle. If Carrie is the best adaptation, this is a close second. Nicholson goes cuckoo with cabin fever and terrorizes his family as they care for a snowbound hotel during the offseason. As a writer of some variety, I find the concept of writer’s block scary and fascinating at the same time. Jack spends a lot of time talking to folks who aren’t there as he decides to take their advice and murder his wife and young son.

  1. Taste the Blood of Dracula – 1970

This is another Hammer Studios Christopher Lee Dracula treat and it features buxom Linda Hayden and Ralph Bates. Three respectable business men decide to eschew their normally scheduled debauchery for something, new and different – resurrecting Dracula using his dried blood – kind of like freeze dried Taster’s Choice – only with deadly consequences. Of course the ceremony goes bad, Dracula goes on a bloody rampage, much cleavage is visible and the audience is highly entertained.

  1. Horror of Dracula – 1958

This is the Hammer Studios film that launched Hammer Horror and created a new icon as Dracula – Christopher Lee. Story adjustments aside (it’s not true to the book at all), Hammer launched it’s reboot of the Universal Gothic monsters with this and a new film legend was born. Michael Gough plays Arthur Holmwood and Peter Cushing begins his run as Van Helsing.

Vampires, Crazy Birds, Witches, Weird Neighbors and Giant Bugs in Tonight’s Entry

Again, life gets in the way and I am playing catch up. We really are starting to get to the meat of my favorite horror films as the countdown continues.

  1. Screen shot 2015-10-24 at 11.07.45 PM Nosferatu – 1922

You know…we almost didn’t have this one. I first saw this in elementary school on an old 16mm projector. I don’t remember which teacher showed it or what grade, but I am eternally grateful. I am also grateful to whomever did not destroy every copy after Bram Stoker’s family successfully sued to have that happen. Max Schreck stars as Count Orlock and he is truly rat-like and frightening. This is atmospheric and suspenseful. My love of horror films began with this one.

  1. Shadow of the Vampire – 2000

Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich star in this interesting film that posits what if Max Schreck really was a vampire? Set during the filming of Nosferatu, Malkovich plays filmmaker F.W. Murnau and Dafoe portrays Schreck who basically eats his wasy through the film crew. Murnau grants Schreck way too many concessions in order to get his epic vampire opus made.

  1. Tarantula – 1955

John Agar stars in this giant bug movie. Remember what wrote in the prologue for this countdown? We were afraid of nuclear power in the 1950s and this movie is at the apex of the genre. An accident creates and absolutely enormous spider that terrorizes the countryside. I have found memories of watching this on a random Saturday afternoon when I was a kid.

  1. Them! – 1954

Before Tarantula there was Them! James Whitmore and The Thing veteran James Arness star in the this sci-fi horror classic as giant ants created by nuclear bomb testing make their way west to Los Angeles terrorizing the populace as they go. The Army is called in and the guys in green save the day.

  1. Damien: Omen II – 1978

The anti-christ is now ensconced in military school and is starting to figure out just who he is. William Holden and Lee Grant star in this fairly well done sequel. Jonathan Scott-Taylor is excellent as the now 13-year-old Damien, who starts to come into his own as the son of Satan under the guidance of some unlikely helpers. The Final Conflict with Sam Neill didn’t really do much for me. It’s okay, bit not worthy of the list.

  1. Suspiria – 1977

If you watch one Dario Argento film, watch this one. Murder and mayhem at a ballet school all orchestrated by, well, not what you’d expect. Oh, sure, read the IMDB synopsis for spoilers if you like. Or, just watch the movie. Jessica Harper stars as the unwitting American ballerina who travels to this school and is thrust into a world of the macabre. Horror veteran Udo Kier also stars.

  1. The People Under the Stairs – 1991

Wes Craven crafted a really good dark film with this one. Weirdos in the neighborhood kidnap and collect children. If a child doesn’t behave, he/she ends up mutilated and sent to the basement. Urban legend says the creeps are loaded and Ving Rhames plays the neighborhood crook who is going to get that money. A young boy saves the young girl destined to be the next to be sent to the basement. There is some great dark humor in this film and it is thoroughly enjoyable.

  1. The Birds – 1963

Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright (Alien) and Tippi Hedren star in this Alfred Hitchcock classic as flocks of birds inexplicably start attacking the townsfolk on the west coast of California. No explanation for the birds’ strange behavior is ever offered. The panic seems real throughout the movie. The sense of forboding is palpable and the anxiety builds as the main characters try to escape the vicious bird attacks.

  1. Dracula: Prince of Darkness – 1966

Christopher Lee reprises his role as the Count, Barbara Shelley also stars as two vacationing couples encounter the vampire to end all vampires. Dracula’s minion Klove resurrects him with the blood of one of the unwitting vacationers. This is another I like because I fondly remember watching it whenever it would come on TV by happenstance. I own it now and can watch it whenever I like.

  1. Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter – 1974

This film is one that I had largely forgotten about and found it again recently and remembered how much I liked it. This is one I often saw on USA Networks with Commander USA. Horst Janson is wonderful as Kronos, who travels from village to village eradicating vampires as he goes along. He picks up Caroline Munro as a traveling companion and the rest is Hammer Studios film history.

Vampires, Satan and His Minions in Tonight’s Blog Entry

Sorry for the lack of a blog last night. I actually settled in and watched Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. Six films tonight and they are a bit all over the place as my countdown of my 100 favorite horror films continues.

  1. 30 Days of Night – 2007

Josh Hartnett and Melissa George star in this vampire shocker set in Alaska. Based on graphic novels, a clan of vampires figures out that Alaska just might be a good place to prey on hapless victims without having to worry about that pesky sun. Hartnett plays the small town sheriff who tries to rally the townsfolk to fight the scourge. I like this one because the vampires are not sympathetic characters. They are ruthless predators who show no mercy. Avoid the straight to video sequel. George is replaced by Kiele Sanchez and the movie is awful.

  1. Prince of Darkness – 1987

Horror movie veteran Donald Pleasence stars (nobody listens to this poor guy, ever), as the priest who realizes that a group of scientists and paranormal investigators basically have Satan in a Can. You’ve heard of Prince Albert in a Can? This is worse. This very different film is a cliffhanger and John Carpenter never produced a sequel. But, evil concentrate does enough damage and is scary enough without Satan ever bursting forth.

  1. Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 10.01.47 PMLet Me In/Let the Right One In – 2010/2008

A young bullied boy befriends the female vampire who moves in next door. The original Swedish version is phenomenal and the American remake is excellent. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz star in the American version. The relationship between the bullied Oskar and Eli/Abby (U.S. version) begins as friendship and slowly becomes co-dependence and maybe even love as the two learn to protect each other, and even desire to do so. Although a bit slow paced, these films are unusual and different and very well acted.

  1. Hellraiser – 1987

“We’ll tear your soul apart!” Clive Barker at his best with this film that centers around a puzzle box that can summon all kinds of hell. We were introduced to Pinhead and the cenobites. Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and Sean Chapman star in this gory thriller. Chapman plays Frank, a macabre adrenaline junkie who wants to test the limits of pleasure and pain. He finds his solution in the form of the puzzle box. He finds a way back from the other side and embroils his brother’s family in his evil. Doug Bradley stars as the iconic Pinhead. Skip the sequels.

  1. Rosemary’s Baby – 1968

Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes star as a young couple on the verge of creating the miracle of life. Only problem is, Rosemary’s husband has a stand-in the night of conception. As noted in numerous films where Satan tries to bring his son, the anti-christ, into the world, the devil likes to get his freak on. Rosemary lives the nightmare of discovering that her husband isn’t quite what he seems, the neighbors are up to something, and the baby’s not quite right. This is true horror classic from director Roman Polanski.

  1. Fallen – 1998

Oh, what a treat this is. Denzel Washington plays a man who goes from cop to demon hunter as he is terrorized by the singing Azazel, a demon who travels from person to person and comes to enjoy tormenting Washington’s character. This film has a delicious twist. John Goodman, Donald Sutherland and Embeth Davitz star in this pleasant surprise. Don’t let the title scare you off on this one. Washington’s character comes up with a plan to rid the world of Azazel once and for all, but as always, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Unique Werewolf and Zombie Films Grace the Countdown

My countdown of my 100 favorite horror films continues with a couple of unexpected werewolf treats from the same franchise, and the first in a unique zombie apocalypse series.

  1. Ginger Snaps Back to the Beginning – 2004

The third installment of the cult favorite werewolf franchise is a bit of a prequel/backstory. I enjoyed this one much more than the sequel. You’ll note the second isn’t even on the list. Set in the 19th century, it attempts to tell a bit of the legend of the curse that infects modern-day Ginger. Once again, Katharine Isabelle is a treat as Ginger.

  1. Ginger Snaps – 2000

Sometimes the horror genre puts forth an unexpected offering that becomes a cult favorite or, dare I say, a cult classic. This one may not be destined for that status, but it was definitely unexpected. Katharine Isabelle is wonderful as Ginger who is bitten by and becomes a werewolf. Her transformation from a shy outcast to oversexed predator is fun to watch. Emily Perkins plays Ginger’s sister Brigitte. Their bond is unbreakable even as Ginger “snaps.” Mimi Rogers stars as their mom.

  1. 28 Days Later – 2002

This is a very entertaining and different take on a zombie apocalypse. Cillian Murphy stars as a man who wakes up 28 days after London is pretty much wiped out except for small pockets of survivors. Naomie Harris (the most recent Moneypenny in the James Bond film series) also stars as one of the survivors. These zombies aren’t plodding or methodical, they are fast and full of “rage.” And of course, the few soldiers left have the wrong idea about how to get through the crisis. I didn’t care much for the sequel, 28 Weeks Later. Now I am hearing a third film is in the works.

Back to the 1980s for 6 of 9; Haunts, Parallel Universes, Bloody Revenge and One Helluva Twist

Okay, party people. Nine films tonight. I’ve been working and watching football. I actually watched one of the films from the list this weekend – the original Fright Night. It’s funny watching Amanda Bearse in a role where she has to kiss a guy. I found her character to be more frightening at the end than master vampire Jerry Dandridge. I’m not sure why they had to try to “age” Roddy McDowell with bad hair and make-up. Anywho, I digress. Back to the countdown…maybe it’s because Back to the Future predicted the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series this year (and they actually made the playoffs), but for some reason, with a couple of exceptions, it’s back to the 1980s tonight. This is the part of the list where the order starts to get really difficult.

  1. 1408 – 2007

John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson star in this haunted hotel room thriller. Again, I find haunted anything movies difficult to do well and this one is done well. This is one of those films that I only saw once and it is time to see it again. Stylish and stylized, Cusack is fantastic in this movie and the ending is, well, chilling.

  1. House of Wax – 1953

I swear, if you prefer the remake with Paris Hilton there is no hope for you. This is vintage Vincent Price. I wonder how many of the films on my list involve someone who was wronged and comes back for bloody revenge. Price certainly comes back for his revenge in this and instead of cold, it’s served hot – hot wax. Price is his usual fantastic self in this and House of Wax is my favorite Price vehicle.

  1. The Fly – 1958/1986

I am going to group the two films into one here. I very much enjoyed the original 1958 version with David Hedison as the doomed scientist whose transporter machine splices his with a housefly. Vincent Price stars as well. The scene when the fly with the human head trapped in the spider web is the stuff of horror movie legend. David Cronenberg’s direction and Jeff Goldblum’s performance turned the 1986 version into a horror masterpiece. Goldblum’s “Brundlefly” transformation is disgusting and tragic all at the same time. Geena Davis also stars.

  1. Poltergeist – 1982

How Tobe Hooper could direct The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and then this is beyond me. Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams star in this haunted house film. Heather O’Rourke made the Carol Anne role an iconic one before her untimely death after the filming of the third installment. We’ve all quoted Carol Anne’s, “They’re here.” This is the movie that made me hate clowns…forever. There are plenty of movies and TV clowns that followed to reinforce that, but this movie’s clown toy scene is what did it. A word to those in charge of such things, if you’re going to move a cemetery, move the coffins and bodies too.

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974

Tobe Hooper’s finest horror work involves grave-robbing cannibals and a chainsaw wielding character that has also become iconic in the genre – Leatherface. His first appearance is horror movie jump factor gold. This film is gritty and nasty, and you almost feel like you need to take a shower after watching it. There’s a remake and sequels and prequels. Never mind them, watch this, it’s all you need in the Texas chainsaw horror realm.

  1. Phantasm II – 1988

I didn’t see the original Phantasm. I’ve never seen the sequels. Angus Scrimm as the Tall Man is another one of those perfect actor/role deals. The real victim here is the Hemi ‘Cuda they flip and wreck. Gorgeous car and meets a tragic end. The Tall Man, the flying, murderous silver tennis balls, possession, shadowy parallel universe. A bit of an underrated 1980s horror film that gets lost in the malaise of slasher films of its time.

  1. Spellbinder – 1988

Tim Daly from Wings, Rick Rossovich from Top Gun and a very young Kelly Preston headline this very unexpected treat. Witches, Satanic cult, human sacrifice and one helluva twist at the end. I remember watching this for this first time and my jaw dropped when the twist happened. I never cared much for Daly as an actor. He’s one of the things I don’t like about Storm of the Century. But his naïve everyman act is perfect for this film.

  1. Re-Animator – 1985

Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator, Jeffrey Combs cements himself as an 80s Lovecraft adaptation regular. Dr. Herbert West works to perfect a serum that will re-animate the dead. As usual, this isn’t the best idea and predictably has disastrous results. Several unwatchable sequels followed. Another Lovecraft adaptation veteran, scream queen Barbara Crampton, also stars.

  1. From Beyond – 1986

As much as I love my H.P. Lovecraft, I love many of the film adaptations and this is my favorite. It’s horrifying and ridiculous at the same time. And I learned what the brain’s pineal gland is in the process. Combs and Crampton star in this as well. Crampton in a dominatrix outfit is almost worth the watch alone. A machine called the “resonator” enables people to see another dimension or universe. It wouldn’t be a horror film if murderous creatures didn’t exist in the void.

We’ve Now Entered the Torture Porn Portion of the Countdown

My countdown of my 100 favorite horror films continues. Three torture porn films, a remake of a Japanese fright fest and a couple of classics are featured in tonight’s entry.

  1. Saw – 2004

Carey Elwes, Danny Glover, Tobin Bell, Dina Meyer and Shawnee Smith star in this shocker that is considered the opus of a sub-genre of horror film. James Wan directed this very original movie that kicked off a series of seven. Bell stars as Jigsaw, an engineering genius who designs and builds deadly traps. The folks imprisoned in these traps are chosen for some moral reason and have specific opportunities to escape. However, if the victims don’t figure it out in time…well…yeesh. The first two films are very good, but the series lost me after that.

  1. The Ring – 2002

After a slew of films in which a person who develops medium-like abilities is enlisted to help a spirit find its way in the afterlife after a horrific crime, you’d think this film was in the same vein. However, the creepy little girl from beyond really is evil and should be left in the well. The premise of the deadly videotape and the evil spirit reaching out with murderous intent makes for a good horror flick. This is another borrowed from a Japanese original and it is very well done. I like Naomi Watts and she is excellent in this. She was very much in demand after this.

  1. Hostel – 2005

To me this is the movie that put Eli Roth on the map. Young tourists stay at a hostel in Europe on the cheap, get lured into an underground human chop shop where they can be tortured and murdered for a handsome fee. One by one a group of friends falls prey to the murder traffickers. Featuring a cast of nobodies, Roth serves up a smorgasbord of torture porn. I found main actor Jay Hernandez’s performance to be over the top and you kind of hope he gets it. But…I guess you’ll have to watch to find out.

  1. Hostel: Part II – 2007

Similar premise to the first one, this is told from the female perspective. That’s what makes it interesting and better than the first. Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips star. Vera Jordanova stars as the lure. There is an Elizabeth Bathory type scene with a suspended victim and scythe that is absolutely exhilarating to watch as a horror fan. Lauren German’s character goes to great lengths to buy her freedom and purchases a helluva lot more than she bargained for.

  1. Brides of Dracula – 1960

The sequel to Hammer Studios reboot of Dracula starring Christopher Lee, Dracula isn’t even in the film. This is one film in the franchise I had not seen until recently. I had a hard time finding it for some reason. I very much enjoyed it despite its leaps of faith for our unwitting heroine. David Peel is highly entertaining as Baron Meinster, our vampire antagonist. Of course Peter Cushing is along as vampire hunter Van Helsing. I’m still not sure how this is a sequel to 1958’s Horror of Dracula, but who cares? It’s an entertaining entry from Hammer Studios’ reboot of the Gothic horror classics.

  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – 1920

I am not overly fond of silent films, however, there are a few horror classics that have my made my list, Phantom of the Opera earlier, and Nosferatu which comes later, and this one. German expressionism at its best, this film taught me the word “somnambulist.” The sleepwalking Cesare makes macabre predictions that seemingly come true with alarming frequency. Even at the end of the film you really aren’t sure what was real and what was a dream. This film set the groundwork for Universal’s torch-wielding mob o villagers tracking down the “monster” scenes of which we’ve become oh so familiar.

Demonic Attachment, Twin Vampires, Cutest Werewolf Ever, Ingrid Pitt’s Signature Role, Naked Space Vampires, and the Ultimate Haunted House

This section of the countdown features a couple of new films. One is a classic for which I have my Hammer Lovers group on Facebook to thank, and a relatively new movie about an unwanted demon terrorizing a family.

  1. The Conjuring – 2013

I gave this a chance and I am glad I did. I was very skeptical at first because I am not a Lily Taylor fan. She was awful in The Haunting and doesn’t add much to the Netflix original series Hemlock Grove. However, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are fantastic as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sound editing is phenomenal and there are some legitimate jump factor moments. A demonic spirit of a witch attaches itself to the matriarch (Taylor) of a large family and the Warrens come to the rescue.

  1. Twins of Evil – 1971

The Collinson twins – Mary and Madelaine. A Hammer Studios classic I only recently discovered. This is a very different take on vampirism and fighting evil. This tale is part of Hammer’s Carmilla storytelling efforts. Count Karnstein corrupts one of the twins as Peter Cushing, their uncle, leads vampire hunting vigilantes. I don’t want to give away too much on this rare treat.

  1. The Howling – 1981

Dee Wallace (Cujo, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, The Hills Have Eyes), and Patrick Macnee star in this werewolf tale. TV journalist Wallace becomes embroiled in a werewolf community and conspiracy. John Carradine and Slim Pickens also star. In the end, Wallace turns into a an adult size Pomeranian on live television.

  1. Countess Dracula – 1971

The one and only Ingrid Pitt stars as Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy – pretty much Elizabeth Bathory. She bathes in the blood of young girls to maintain her youth and beauty and has done so for decades. When she spurns the man who has been loyal and patient for so many years, things go sideways for Elisabeth. I believe this is scream queen Ingrid Pitt’s signature role.

  1. Lifeforce – 1985

Naked space vampires. What’s not to love? Astronaut Steve Railsback brings a trio of space vampires back from the void. Mathilda May plays the seductive leader of this triumvirate from space hell. Patrick Stewart also stars. Different, atmospheric and did I mention Mathilda is naked in the entire film?

  1. The Amityville Horror – 1979

James Brolin and Margot Kidder star as the newlywed Lutzs in this shocking haunted house story. Written about, talked about, visited by tourists, parodied, discussed by stand-up comics, The Amityville Horror involves the most vicious haunted house story ever filmed. Based on a “true” story, the DeFeos were brutally murdered in the house and the Lutzs moved in anyway. The house telling them to get out is the least of their worried. Avoid the remake with Ryan Reynolds. Watch the original.