On Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 9:21 AM,
Since I still can't post blogs, I'll have to continue my lists in the comments section. Ugh. Oh well. Here's the next list:
Phillip's Horror Lists, Part Twelve: Psycho Killer, Qu'est Que C'est (Part One)
As we near the end of my annual horror movie lists, I now present you with Part One of my psycho killer recommendations. The first part deals with the 4-star films, while the 2nd part will detail the 5 star films. Without further ado:
Alone in the Dark (1982) – When a new psychiatrist takes over a quirky retiring doctor’s patient load at an asylum, it’s assumed that there will be a learning curve. Since the patients are all dangerously delusional psychopaths, however, some measure of caution must be exercised. When a power outage releases the psychos, however, all bets are off. Now, the doctor and his family must make a desperate last stand against the crazies, while trapped in their home. This is a cult classic for good reasons. Jack Palance’s performance, as the chief psycho, is worth the price of admission on its own and one of the crazies wears a hockey mask, predating Jason’s use of the same costume.
Deranged (1974) – Many films have been made that either implicitly or explicitly reference the life of notorious grave robber/cannibal/serial killer Ed Gein, including the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Without a doubt, “Deranged” is one of the most disturbing. Gritty, lo-fi and possessing an almost documentary-like realism, this is one seriously fucked-up film. Throw in some truly pitch-black humor and a mesmerizing lead performance by Roberts Blossom and you have the makings of a minor classic.
Donkey Punch (2008) – Several horny young couples go on a boat trip, with the intention of doing what comes naturally for horny young couples. When one of the girls is accidentally killed mid-coitus by the titular sexual activity (be careful Googling THAT one at work!), the guys decide to cover it up. Needless to say, the girls are not particularly happy with that decision, which leads to a battle of the sexes in every sense of the word. Sleazy, shocking and packed with some great, gory set-pieces, “Donkey Punch” is a nasty little piece of work.
Friday the 13th (1980) – First things first: this isn’t the one with Jason. Now that that’s out of the way, feel free to fully enjoy this timeless little slasher variation on Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians.” You know the story: camp counselors go to Crystal Lake to get it ready for summer camp, make nookie, die. Repeat. The actual film is surprisingly restrained (more the fault of censors than any notion of restraint on director Sean Cunningham’s behalf) but the gore effects are top-notch. Most importantly, however, the emphasis is firmly on suspense and mystery, with an almost “whodunit” quality to the resolution. The beginning of a long, mostly frustrating, franchise. Please: do yourself a favor and stay away from the rancid modern remake.
Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981) – Here he is: Mr. Voorhees. A long, hallowed tradition in slasher history begins here but you’ll have to wait for the follow-up to get the iconic hockey mask. In this one, Jason wears a potato sack with eyeholes and I’ll be honest: it’s ten times creepier. Like most sequels, the emphasis is one bigger and better: more kills, more splatter, bigger set-pieces. Nonetheless, this is full of the same suspense that drove the first film and is a more than worthy successor. This, my friends, is the epitome of a party film: crowd participation increases the enjoyment factor exponentially.
Hatchet (2006) – So splatterifically over-the-top as to approach the realm of a live-action comic book (imagine “Itchy and Scratchy” with real people or a Gwar-penned B-movie and you have the idea) or Monty Python skit, “Hatchet” is a truly unique crowd-pleaser. A group of extremely obnoxious character types head off into the bayou in pursuit of local legend Victor Crowley, a deformed, monstrous man-child with an attitude. They get a lot more than they bargained for. Heads roll, guts are yanked out, people are cut in half length-wise…you get the idea. Great, gory fun, perfect for a drunken crowd.
Peeping Tom (1960) – Had a little known filmed named “Psycho” not come out the same year, Michael Powell’s amazing film might have more notoriety. As it stands, the film is now most notorious as that ruined that ruined the British director’s promising career. A photographer murders young women with a specially designed camera, filming them at the exact moments of their deaths. He’s (obviously) a very disturbed man but flashbacks to his childhood show us that he never had a chance. When he falls in love with a naïve young woman, however, will it be the push he needs to heal or will history continue to repeat itself? Extremely disturbing, “Peeping Tom” may be the ultimate treatise on the public voyeurism we call “cinema.”
Psycho (1960) – One of only two forays into the horror genre for legendary baldie Hitchcock (“The Birds” being the other), “Psycho” is the spiritual forefather of over 50 years of stalk-and-slashers. By now, the story should be as familiar as an Aesop’s Fable: disturbed young man, Norman Bates, runs a motel with his shrewish mother. The bates Motel, however, is the original roach motel: guests check in but they never check out. The shower scene and musical score are iconic to the point of parody (stabling string sections will only ever mean one thing, now), Anthony Perkins is flawless as the troubled Norman and the final scene is still a corker. Hitchcock maintains a thick atmosphere of dread from the first frame to the last. Required viewing for anyone, regardless of your thoughts on horror films.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – This direct sequel to Rob Zombie’s gonzo “House of 1000 Corpses” doesn’t have a tenth of the original’s manic energy or geek show invention but it’s an all-together different kind o’ beast. Rather than making a trashy grindhouse horror film, Zombie has crafted a gritty, exploitational grindhouse action flick. Following the events of the first film, the Firefly clan are on the run from the law. They take hostages, torture and maim innocent people and, in turn, are tortured and maimed by law enforcement that isn’t too far removed from them. The ending is straight out of “Bonnie and Clyde” (or is it “Thelma and Louise”?) and the whole thing has a grainy, sepia-quality that fits its faux Times Square roots.
The Funhouse (1981) – One of my favorite Tobe Hooper films, “The Funhouse” deserves much more recognition than it gets. This one actually has a closer feel to “Halloween” than Hooper’s own “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” A group of teens decide to spend the night in a travelling carnival’s funhouse and grow to regret the decision. After witnessing the deformed son of one of the carnies brutally kill a female carnie, the group is trapped and pursued by the “monster” (clad in a dime-store Frankenstein mask) and his enraged father. Slickly made and uber-effective, with some too obvious make-up effects being the only real downside.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986) – “TCM 2” is to the original as “Aliens” is to “Alien”: a bigger budgeted, more action-oriented retelling of the original story that still manages to serve as a direct sequel. Whereas “Aliens” was just an action-packed re-imagining of Scott’s film, however, Hooper’s sequel to his own film is a garish, Technicolor, cartoon nightmare, a world in which Dennis Hopper can stomp around in a giant Yosemite Sam hat and STILL be considered the voice of reason. The Sawyer clan have become quite successful since the events of the first movie and now operate an award-winning road-side chili stand (guess the secret ingredient!). When a local radio DJ overhears evidence of them butchering their latest conquest and broadcasts it over the air, however, the Sawyers decide it’s time for a good old-fashioned cover-up. The underground finale has to be one of the most outrageous, insane things Dennis Hopper has ever been involved in…and that’s saying a lot!
Tony (2010) – A lonely British shut-in loves nothing more than ‘80s action flicks and avoiding uncomfortable social situations. Problem is, Tony is one weird dude and always finds himself in awkward social situations. When he is, Tony reacts in a most particular way: extreme violence. This nerve-wracking portrait of an average, ordinary, every-day serial killer is like a non-sexual, British “Henry.” Truly chilling and more than a little likely to make your skin crawl.
Wait Until Dark (1967) – In this classic chiller, Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman menaced by three thugs, including Alan Arkin in one monster of a performance. You see, they believe that she’s unwittingly in possession of a heroin-stuffed doll and they want it back. Tension is high, since the audience is automatically privy to everything that the blind woman is not. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, folks. Features a great Henry Mancini score, although not as cool as his iconic score for “Experiment in Terror.”
Wilderness (2006) – A group of young, male juvenile delinquents are sent to a wilderness retreat as part of their rehabilitation. Once there, they have the good fortune of running across a camp of female juvenile delinquents (fancy that!). They also have the bad fortune of running across a brutal para-military type who proceeds to pick them off, one by one, for reasons that are related to a past incident in their group home. Unceasingly nasty, brutal and violent, “Wilderness” is also adrenaline-pumping and brilliantly paced. This is one helluva thrill ride, boys and girls, with an intelligent plot and smart script. Bonus points for being a mostly serious affair, devoid of the stupidity that spoils most slasher pics.
On Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 6:29 PM,
It's definitely been a blast doing this! For some reason, I can't post blogs since about noon today, so if that continues, I'll just finish the lists off in this comments section.
Can't wait to see both of you at the fest!
On Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 8:21 PM,
Thank you for your time and effort with your "31 Days of Horror" project. I did enjoy the horror-thon, Phillip... and I won't forget to watch the big giveaway afterwards.
On Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 7:57 PM,
You are one of a kind, Phillip! Can't wait to tip our glasses during the Fest (see you Thursday at the Mohawk/Red 7, lemme know if my lady and I can jump in yr shuttle, HA!)