Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My 6 Favorite Horror Films

I Zombie do not die

Metal and horror movies have such obvious, longstanding connections to each other that it hardly needs explained. So I won't. Instead, I'll share with you my 6 favorite horror movies, and suggest metal songs to go with each of them. And just in time for you to pick them up for Halloween.

6. Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (which is based on the excellent novella The Hellbound Heart) "explores themes of sadomasochism and morality under duress and fear" (per Wikipedia). Angels to some, demons to others, as the poster says. A mysterious puzzle box is used by a hedonist, because it promises pleasures yet unseen. But pain goes with that, and soon the protagonists end up in a place that's kind of like hell, but with pleasure. All senses are stimulated.

For the music selection, I thought the puzzle box deserved a Chaosphere, from Meshuggah of course. "Corridor of Chameleons" is just as bewilderingly insane as the place portrayed by the movie.

5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project was a pioneer of the "found footage" style of horror film. Usually, I hate that style of movie, because it tends to be contrived, and too many of the camera tricks are unbelievable. But this one is much more real, due to the fact it was done in such a real way, with actors actually hand-holding cameras. The emotions presented are real. Many people complain that the movie doesn't show you what you're supposed to be scared of. But what's really scary is the unknown.

For the music selection, Mercyful Fate's "The Bell Witch" is perfect. The story of the Blair Witch is partially based on the Bell Witch legend, after all.

4. The Terminator (1984)

While the later films in the series fall more into the action or thriller categories, the original Terminator movie was clearly a horror flick. A helpless, attractive, and less-than-perfectly-moral female protagonist tries to escape the danger, which slowly but inexorably moves toward its goal of blood. That's tried-and-true horror, right there.

No Austrian Death Machine here. Instead, I've chosen Death's "Altering the Future", as that's the goal.

3. Halloween (1978)

Halloween, by master director John Carpenter, is the original slasher movie. Every one that's come after, from Jason to Freddy to Ghost Face, is just a poor imitation of Michael Myers. His lumbering, slow, but unstoppable approach presaged even the Terminator's style. The movie also played a part in establishing many genre cliches that still exist today, like the fact that teenagers who misbehave will end up dead.

They're not exactly in style right now, but The Haunted's "Moronic Colossus" seems to describe Michael perfectly.

2. Alien (1979)

Before Ridley Scott decided to make crappy Robin Hood movies, he made awesome sci-fi. Alien is frightening for so many reasons. The creature could get inside you and kill you, or it could sneak up on you and kill you. The only thing that was for sure was that it would kill you. The ship is huge, dark, lonely, and has no shortage of nooks and crannies for the creature to hide. Not only that, but it's the creepiest-looking movie monster ever, thanks to the brilliant H.R. Giger. What elevates this even further is that the protagonists don't do stupid things that get them killed. That always ruins horror movies for me. Instead, they are perfectly capable human beings. The terror they're facing is just so horrifying that even smart people can't escape it.

And Giger brings us of course to fellow Swiss freaks Celtic Frost. In space, no on can hear your "Necromantical Screams". This Triptykon version is excellent.

1. The Thing (1982)

I said it recently, but I meant it. John Carpenter's The Thing is my all-time favorite movie, and horror isn't even really my favorite genre. The film has the most important elements that made Alien great: total isolation, a completely alien creature that can strike unexpectedly, and characters that aren't stupid. Plus, it stars the awesome Kurt Russell. It also has other important added features, because it takes place on contemporary Earth, and the Thing has the potential to wipe out all humankind. But more importantly, there's the element of paranoia. You don't know who's infected and who's not, so you can't trust anyone. And the fear is for more than just your life, but also your individuality, your will, your soul, and that, ultimately, is more frightening. And then it ends with the best possible, spine-tingling ending a movie has ever had.

There are no shortage of winter-themed metal songs out there, but ultimately I have to go with Nargaroth's "Winter" (from Jahreszeiten). It's cold and frightening.


  1. Glad to see the mighty John Carpenter so well represented! But, no Fulci?! No Argento?!

  2. I've always loved John Carpenter's classic movies, although some of his newer, bigger-budget films (like Ghosts of Mars) are not always great. In fact, I think if I were to pick a 7th movie for this list, it would be John Carpenter's Vampires, the most badass vampire movie ever made.

    In response to your suggestions, I don't really watch many foreign films. That is, other than Chinese and Japanese cinema.* If you throw out Chinese/Japanese, I could probably count the non-English movies I've seen on one hand. Let's see . . . City of Lost Children, Black Book, and . . . that's it, I think. I don't really consider myself a film buff, although I don't have the kind of taste that allows Hollywood to shove garbage like the Transformers movies down my throat.

    * I started watching some anime late in high school, and still like a little of it even though the vast majority is utter garbage. I've also watched a number of martial arts movies, especially starring Jet Li, or some of the more recent, highly visual ones--the 2002 Hero fits both categories.

  3. Oh yeah, Pan's Labyrinth. In case you can't tell from the titles I've mentioned, I tend to gravitate toward highly visual movies, preferably of the mind-bending variety. (After The Thing my next favorite is Dark City--the director's cut is far superior). If it's not really visual, it might as well be a book.

  4. I want so badly to like Dark City. It's stunning to look at, but Kiefer Sutherland ruins the whole movie for me.

  5. Really? That's too bad, because it really is excellent. Roger Ebert calls it the best movie of 1998.

  6. Dark City is a great movie.

    Did you like Pan's Labyrinth? I enjoyed it overall - despite a few very harsh moments - although it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

    I love good sci-fi and movies with fantastical/supernatural elements but I find myself increasingly less interested in pure horror as there is often little point beyond the gore and violence for their own sake. Death porn essentially. I'm perfectly fine with violence/gore in service of a great story though.

    Alien and Terminator though, stone cold classics. Why do we so rarely make such quality blockbusters any more?

  7. I don't know why blockbuster movies have fallen in quality so much. Or maybe they haven't, and the perception is just because we only remember the good ones? The Lord of the Rings movies were blockbusters, but they were great.

    I did quite like Pan's Labyrinth. I saw it when Netflix first started offering streaming, and it had just won a handful of Oscars. Plenty of weird, freaky visuals are what I remember about it. That creature with the eyes on its hands is one of the scariest movie monsters ever. On the other hand, I hated City of Lost Children. It was visually interesting, but the story was garbage and the main characters' relationship was unsettling.

    I should do a list of my favorite movies without being genre-specific. Because, really, what genre is Dark City? (That was the problem when they were promoting it in the first place.)

  8. So uh, what do you have against non-Asian foreign films? Cuz you're depriving yourself of a bunch of great horror like Suspiria, The Beyond, the Blind Dead films, all the Coffin Joe stuff, etc. Just curious.

  9. I don't have anything against them. I just don't hear about them. It's kind of like how most people just listen to whatever's on the radio--for the most part I only see the movies I hear about. Like I said, not a big-time movie buff. The (relatively) obscure stuff I have looked into has been because either it got Oscar attention, or it was recommended by a person or by Netflix based on what I had already seen. (Netflix actually brought the fact that I like visually stunning and mind-bending movies to my attention.)

    So in other words I just haven't looked into it. And lately I haven't had much time to watch movies at all. I think I've seen one movie since my twins were born 4 months ago, unless you count my oldest son's animated movies.

  10. Yeah, LOTR were pretty good but that's three movies in that past 10 years! We definitely remember the good ones but I genuinely believe that Terminator/Alien/Blade Runner et al were really quite sophisticated yet also pure popcorn. I'm not sure we get that balance so often any more.

    I know what you mean about no time for movie with kids. I have seen a handful of movies in the past 3 years since I became a dad for the first time. It's frustrating.

    I would definitely seek out more foreign movies in the same way you do your atlas of metal. Some of my favourite movies are non-anglo. I personally love French stuff and not just art-house but action, sci-fi and comedy. Given how easy it is now with netflix + the internet in general, there's no excuse!