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.

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