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Even before the age of eight years old, I can remember being in love with the dark and macabre side of entertainment. I soon found out there was a name for this genre: “horror”. The earliest memory I have of being fascinated with horror would be a toss-up between many events. Whether it was my mother reading R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books to me as a child, watching Hocus Pocus or The Nightmare Before Christmas, or becoming obessesed with Edgar Allan Poe before I was even a pre-teen, horror has always fascinated me and intrigued me for many reasons. One of which is that there is no other genre (with the exception of comedy or action) that can range so widely. Horror expresses an emotion that one feels when scared, but one that varies from completely serious to off-the-wall insane.
One could suspect that I love and care for the classics such as The Exorcist, Hellraiser, Evil Dead, Silence Of The Lambs, Poltergeist, The Shining, Halloween, The Thing, etc. However, as fantastic, excellent, and perfect as these classic fright flicks may be, they are not my top five favorite horror films. They would definitely rank in my top 13 or 25, but not my top five. That spot is reserved for movies that simply blew me away and had a profound effect on my life. That’s right: my top 5 horror films have shaped my life and made me into who I am today.
5. Deep Red (1975, Directed by Dario Argento)
Synopsis: A man investigates the mysterious, brutal murder of a psychic. But as he is investigating, it appears the killer is still on the loose and he may be the next intended victim.
Giallo is an obscure sub-genre of horror films. To make a giallo film you have some pretty specific ingredients including crime-thriller/mystery elements, an Italian director, artistic flair, atmospheric whodunit attitude, and lots of blood. Deep Red is one of the finest examples of this sub-genre and manages to scare the crap out of you while also keeping you guessing about who the killer is. Loaded with some particularly nasty kills, plenty of what-the-hell scares, and some really brilliant writing. Deep Red easily makes it’s way into my top five horror films and is Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s masterpiece.
4. Dead-Alive (1992, Directed by Peter Jackson)
Synopsis: Lionel lives with his overbearing mother. When it appears he has found true love at last in a beautiful young woman, his mother is bitten by a rare species of rat-monkey and becomes a member of the undead. Lionel now must keep this secret under wraps, but the body count (and zombie count) are increasing.
The most violent movie ever made; how many films claim to be that? Lots of cheesy exploitation flicks and some modern action films claim to have accomplished this seemingly impossible feat; none of them have really accomplished it. No film can possibly be more violent, more gory, more disgusting, and more ridiculous than Peter Jackson’s (you read that right) Dead-Alive. Also known as “Braindead” around the world, Dead-Alive is simply Jackson’s best film. Screw Lord Of The Rings and King Kong; this is his masterpiece. Equally balancing laughs with gore, Dead-Alive is a crowd-pleaser that will have any film fan laughing, nearly puking and cheering once the last 30 minutes (in which most of the true mayhem lies) hits. I had an opportunity to see this with a midnight audience at a special theatrical screening last October and it stands the test of time perfectly. See this movie!
3. Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008, Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman)
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, organ disease has become an epidemic. A company (named GeneCo) rises to sell organs at a hefty price. If you don’t pay up then GeneCo will send out a Repo Man to reclaim the organ and your life. This film follows a group of oddball characters who each have their own bizarre tales which wil all be resolved GeneCo’s annual Genetic Opera.
Not to be confused with the oddly similar film Repo Men, this movie is a rock opera told entirely through songs, with the exception of maybe three lines of spoken dialogue. Beautifully shot, skillfully sung, and cleverly written, this is my personal favorite film of the last decade. It is mind-blowing and original with one of the most diverse and unique casts in movie history, ranging from Paul Sorvino to Paris Hilton (who is actually good in it). Shunned and ridiculed by most mainstream critics, this film has picked up a cult following and has become this generation’s Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I mean that with the utmost respect. A brilliant and one-of-a-kind experience. If you get an opportunity to see this in a movie theater, then take it. Sure it’s awesome at home, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it with a crowd.
2. Cannibal Holocaust (1980, Directed by Ruggero Deodato)
Synopsis: Three documentary filmmakers venture deep into the jungle (which is known to have cannibals residing in it) to never be found again. A college professor then journeys into the same jungle and recovers the film reels that document the last few days in the lives of the film crew. When he emerges, he and a group of people watch the footage only to be asked the question: “who are the real savages? The cannibals or us?”
This is a notorious film that earns its reputation as one of the most controversial horror films of all time (ranking next to the upcoming A Serbian Film, which hits limited theatrical release May 13). It is truly a depraved movie that will effect you in some response, whether it be emotional, sickening, or critical. Some call this trash, others call it treasure. In the end it’s really up to each viewer to decide how they see it. Be warned though, it truly is one of the most disturbing movies of all time and you will want to take a shower once it is over. It still remains one of the scariest movies I have ever witnessed.
1. Night Of The Living Dead (1968, Directed by George A. Romero)
Synopsis: The unburied dead have come back to life and are seeking human flesh as their new food. A group of strangers board themselves up in an isolated farmhouse only to be beseiged by the flesh-eating ghouls.
This is the film that started my fascination with true horror. I saw this movie on a VHS cassette when I was eight years old. It truly is one of the most terrifying movies ever made and also inspired most of the zombie films, video games, and books you see today. George A. Romero invented these rules: shoot the zombies in the head; they eat human flesh; they are slow-moving; etc. These ground rules still apply to most zombie films. This was the first movie of its kind. It’s unrelenting, bleak, and downright scary; the kind of horror film that a lot of the modern ones try to be. Turn off the lights, turn up the sound and prepare to be scared!