Film going is a very subjective experience. You have your favorites, I have mine, everyone has theirs, and very often one man's crap sandwich is someone else's filet mignon. That said, there are many horror films I've seen over the years which I've genuinely liked, only to find that my opinion was most certainly the minority one. I'm sure this experience has happened to most everyone.
So indulge me as I share with you some of the horror movies which I feel unfairly get a bad rap. By that I'm not talking about underrated movies--that's an entirely different list. Underrated implies that a movie is of high quality but isn't getting the attention it deserves. I'm talking about movies that are considered by many to not be very good at all, but which I think are far better than the general consensus would have you believe. Allow me to illustrate...
10. Bram Stoker's Dracula
This one has its fierce supporters, no doubt about it. And yet as the years go by, the reputation of Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker adaptation seems to diminish. I remember being completely bowled over by it when I first saw it in the theater--in fact, I went to see it on six different occasions! Gary Oldman gives one of the great horror performances as the Count, and the entire production is lush and epic--a rich cinematic tapestry. Far from perfect, to be sure (I'm looking at you, Keanu), but overall one of my favorite movie-going experiences ever.
For my money, this remains the greatest of all Clive Barker films, and is another flick that held me completely spellbound in the darkened theater when I first saw it in 1990. Such imagination on display, and a vision so wonderfully realized on the screen--not to mention David Cronenberg in one hell of a cameo. I'll take this over Hellraiser any day of the week, and yet for some reason, this film is often talked about as if it were a Barker misstep.
8. The Mummy's Hand
I've discussed this before, but I'm a much greater fan of the 1940s series of Universal mummy movies--the Kharis series--than I am of the 1932 Boris Karloff original. Yes, they're hokier films of a decidedly B-movie variety, unlike the more elegant and expertly made Karl Freund picture. And yet I can't help but find a movie like The Mummy's Hand, the first of the series, to be so much more fun. For one thing, you have a mummy who actually looks like a mummy for more than just the opening scene--featuring one of the most underrated Jack Pierce makeups ever. An early influence on the zombie subgenre, as well.
7. 30 Days of Night
I'm trying to stay away from very recent films since I find that judging films in this way very often takes a little distance of time, but I have to make an exception here. David Slade's 2007 adaptation of the magnificent Steve Niles comic is one hell of a fine vampire film, and I'm baffled by the apathy, or downright negativity, it attracted from much of the general public, as well as hardcore horror fans. It may be a case of lowered expectations on my part, I'm not sure, but amidst so much garbage that has been put out in recent years by mainstream studios, this stylish and intense movie is a standout in my book.
6. Halloween: 20 Years Later
Talk about a great way to end a slasher franchise! H20 is one of my favorite horror movies of the 1990s, and represented a strong, concerted effort to lift the Halloween series out of the mediocrity in which it had been wallowing--thus rescuing the series in a way that neither Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street was ever rescued (although an argument could be made for Freddy vs. Jason). It was great seeing Jamie Lee Curtis make her return in this, the best-made Halloween movie since the original. Let's just pretend this was the end and Halloween: Resurrection never happened.
5. Alien 3
It's tough to follow Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's Aliens, no doubt about it. But folks, Alien 3 is a very enjoyable horror-action film. Not the classic the first two installments are, but also not the abortion many make it out to be. The young David Fincher was already formulating the style we'd later see in films like Seven, and puts it to great effect creating this claustrophobic and narratively daring film, with some fine supporting performances by the likes of Charles S. Dutton and Pete Postlethwaite. I can go off for an hour about what a crime it was to kill off Hicks and Newt before the opening credits, but I'll play nice this time.
4. House of Frankenstein
There are lots of classic horror fans who bemoan what happened to the Universal films in the '40s. Granted, the B-movie output that comprised much of the '40s Universals were not the sublime cinematic experiences of early era '30s Universals like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. The later Universals were different--aimed at a juvenile audience, and yes, with much of the impact taken away from the monsters over the years. But a movie like House of Frankenstein shouldn't be compared to the work of Tod Browning and James Whale. Drac, Frank and the Wolf Man all in the same picture? Plus, a hunchback and Karloff as a mad scientist? Where I come from, that's called great entertainment.
3. House of 1,000 Corpses
I had the benefit of seeing House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects for the first time back-to-back, and I stand by my opinion that the first one is superior. Yet the second one gets all the attention and love, and the first is viewed as an overindulgent mess. I think this is because Devil's Rejects is a much more conventional and straightforward horror/exploitation flick, whereas House of 1,000 Corpses is completely bizarre and eccentric. I just can't help but be impressed by how one movie could be so depraved and so much fun at the same time. Plus, it has Dwight from The Office in it.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
I have vocally defended this film in the past, and I will continue to do so until other Freddy fans can appreciate this tragically maligned sequel. I love it because it actually tries to take the series in a totally different direction, while at the same time sticking with the dark, genuinely frightening tone that would slowly be abandoned starting with the admittedly superior next chapter, The Dream Warriors. Freddy's Revenge is an odd, quirky entry that doesn't fit in with the rest at all. Maybe that's why i like it so much.
1. Cabin Fever
I adored this movie when it first came out in 2002, and although my enthusiasm has waned a bit in the intervening years, this is in no way the awful picture many make it out to be. It seems like it's the cool thing to do to bash it, maybe because Eli Roth is just so damn unlikeable and obnoxious, I don't know. But I found this viral variation on the tried-and-true house in the woods formula to be a completely fresh, inventive and original movie with both laughs and scares in equal measure. It's smart horror, of which there's simply not enough. Plus, the ending kills me every time.
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