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.

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