Wednesday, October 26, 2011
It's so hard to find good horror movies these days if you’re not skilled or don’t have the time to look. I'm not talking about movies that make you jump or cringe. I mean movies that are scary, but at the same time deeply satisfying. There is a feeling you get when you leave the theater after watching a really good horror film. It's a little bit of a high.
After being tense and horrified for the last 90 minutes you can now relax and ponder the exhilarating experience of being transported into this terrifying situation. You were able to identify with the characters and because of that, you can walk away safely and remember this the same way you might remember actually being lost in the woods, or whispering "Bloody Mary" into a mirror at a sleepover, or pulling the covers over your head to hide from whatever was tapping on your bedroom window. You feel like you narrowly escaped death and because of that you feel much more alive.
Horror film fans: I write this for people who like scary movies, but aren’t engrossed in horror film culture. If you’ve seen all these movies, then this isn’t for you. This is for regular people. This is for the people that you like to watch get scared because this kind of stuff barely scares you anymore. This is for the people who grip the armrest of the chair, cover their eyes and sometimes have to leave the room.
Regular People: If you’re looking for that “lost in the woods” feeling and need something new to give it to you, then I hope this helps.
Here are 5 films. They go in order from “scary” to “I need to leave the room”.
1. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Say you lived in a world where Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees and Michael Meyers were all real. Everyone accepts that they existed and were responsible for numerous murders. In this world, with enough training and preparation, you could be the next horror icon. You might also be the journalist who makes a documentary about it.
Leslie is a totally cool, funny and clever guy. He makes you feel special. You admire him for this, but mostly you admire him for his dedication. His life's work is to become the next big legend to hit small town America. Taylor, an aspiring journalist has managed to find Leslie and convince him to allow her and her camera crew to film the preparation leading to his masterpiece; the slaughter of several innocent teenage victims and his eventual defeat by his glorified “survivor girl”.
First and foremost, this movie is funny and it knows its horror films. It dissects all the little tricks which seem so obvious to Leslie. For example, to keep his victims from escaping his supposedly haunted house, he simply nails the windows shut. He has the fuses rigged up to a remote control to turn the lights out on them. He covers his face in Preparation H and fire retardant gel to keep from bleeding or burning should the worst happen.
The first half is a laugh-out-loud mockumentary. The second half is a legitimately scary slasher film where all of the preparation that Leslie has done finally comes together to reveal the truth about our affable protagonist. He is evil.
2. Trick R Treat
Virally Yours has already done a great review on this movie, but it’s worth going over again. It’s Halloween night in a small town in Ohio. This is the night when the barrier between the living and the dead is thinnest. This is also the night where following traditions can save your life.
4 stories overlap and intersect detailing gruesome campfire-type tales. These are the stories that make you feel disappointed that no one actually does sit around a camp fire telling good scary stories.
Each story presents a short fable with the ultimate lesson being, “Don’t break this Halloween rule or you will die!” First, a school principal teaches a young student the dangers of not checking your candy before you eat it. Next, a group of preteens learn to respect the dead…and not to fuck with the girl who knows everything about Halloween. A murderous vampire stalks a virginal red riding hood through the woods. Finally, Brian Cox as an old grump who refuses to give candy to children realizes that there’s a Halloween enforcer in town. And his name is Sam.
This movie really flew under the radar despite its star power and flawless story telling. By the end, you and your friends are going to be hoarse from screaming. But trust me. The last thing you scream will be “YEEEEAHHHH! WHOOOOHOOOO!”
May is awkward. She’s grown up with basically no real friends because she was made fun of for having a lazy eye. So she made her own friends…rag dolls to be more precise. She’s all grown up now and thanks to some corrective contact lenses, she no longer has to wear ridiculous glasses. This gives her the confidence she’s always needed to go out and make new friends…literally.
This one is tense. The last two movies I hope everyone would be able to enjoy or at least sit through. I expect the more squeamish viewers may not be able to handle this one. May is so naïve and her awkwardness is heart-breaking. Watching her slowly reveal her madness is like watching a guitarist tightening his strings tighter and tighter…and tighter… and tighter.
By the end, you will either be relishing in that high we talked about earlier and feeling a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart for this girl, or you will be out of the room, possibly reexamining your relationships with your friends who feel a warm fuzzy feeling in their heart for this girl.
4. The Devil’s Backbone
Describing this film as the best ghost story of our generation is an understatement. Did you ever see Pan’s Labyrinth? The guy who made that, Guillermo Del Toro, made this movie first. And he made this movie with the sole intention of scaring the most deeply impacted-in-your-bowels shit out of you. By the end of this movie you will discover which candies you ate as a child are not digestible because you will be able to see them while you’re cleaning your pants. This guy should have really gone into Gastroenterology because he will fix your constipation problem better than X-Lax.
Del Toro has sort of a thing for the Spanish Civil War. This film takes place at an orphanage during that time where the son of a fallen soldier must test his courage in the face of sadistic bullies and a mysterious ghost who puts the creep into “Jesus! This movie is creepy as hell”.
This is not a gory movie by any means, but it will make it hard to close your eyes at night without hearing something that’s not there. If you’re a Del Toro fan and you’ve already checked this movie out, look up “The Orphanage”. There’s a lot of similarities between the two, but the latter has its own set of chills that rival the former.
Virally also did a great review on this one, but again, it’s so good it needs a second mentioning.
If you’ve seen this movie before and you’re still sane, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why is he telling supposedly ‘regular’ people to watch this? That’s cruel.” And you’re right. It would be cruel to try to show this to some of my friends who aren’t accustomed to buckets of blood and some of the most intensely painful scenes I’ve ever watched. But having said that, I hope that those of you who are ready to graduate to the rank of “horror buff” will give this one a shot.
Inside is French. There are subtitles. But if you’re not able to read them through your tears and fingers, then don’t worry. I’ll break down the plot for you. A woman, Sarah, is 9 months pregnant and home alone. She has an appointment to go into the hospital the next day, Christmas Day, and have her labor induced. She settles in for a lonely Christmas Eve until she realizes that she’s not alone. There’s a woman in her house. She’s armed with a pair of long steel scissors and a fierce determination to make Sarah’s baby her own.
The rest is too graphic to describe justly. Let’s just say that if you can watch the final scene without making a sound, I will personally give you one million dollars.
I don’t expect everyone to make it all the way through this one. And for those of you who do, you might look back and realize you shouldn’t have.