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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Tuesday Top 10: Horror Movies That Catch a Bad Rap

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.

9. Nightbreed
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.

34 comments:

Andre said...

Nice! I completely agree on House of 1000 Corpses. After a 2nd viewing I found that I was so much more entertained than the Devil's Rejects. I just felt dirty and annoyed during The Devil's Rejects but House of 1000 Corpses left me feeling dirty, annoyed AND entertained so--win. Plus I don't particularly like any of Rob Zombie's films (and sometimes I feel like the only people that do are people that love his music) but if I had to pick one I will always pick House of 1000 Corpses. No question.

Matt-suzaka said...

Outside of The Mummy's Hand, which I have not seen and 30 Days, which I didn't like all that much after the second viewing, I enjoy all of these films. Especially your number 1 and 2.

I've always loved Freddy's Revenge and I would argue it has some of the coolest set pieces of all the films.

As for Cabin Fever, I like it very much, and it would definitely be on a top ten horror list of the last decade for me. I often find myself alone in that thought, but I find the rewatchability incredibly high, the humor spot on, and the eerie atmosphere all come together to make one of my favorite horror films in recent years.

Great list and thanks for showing some love for some very under-appreciated films.

James Bolen said...

I enjoyed reading your assessment, and I agree with you on the sensual aspects "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and the creativity of "Nightbreed." "Alien 3" suffered from being somewhat restrained (the dog alien just didn't live up to expectations) and very different from the action-oriented second film by Cameron. (The ending was also a downer, with Ripley's popular character being cremated.) "30 Days of Night" was indeed a solid vampire film, but I think folks were just getting burned out on "Blade," "Underworld" and other horror franchises (plus "I Am Legend" was released the same year). We differ on "Halloween: H20," which I thought was sadly routine given the enormous potential. I would suggest "The Black Cat" (1934), "Tales From the Crypt: Demon Night" (1995) and "John Carpenter's Vampires" (1998) as three more overlooked gems in the horror genre...

dylan said...

YEAHHHHH!!! House of 1000 Corpses! You're singing my song. I hate how much people who love the second one, can't stand the first one. Although I think Rejects is ok, I found it boring at times. It didn't really offer anything new. Even though House is just a blending of a handful of movies, it's put on film in such an interesting way. I'll take bizarre Rob Zombie over any other version.

Also, I second Carpenter's Vampires. James Woods is the man.

Pax Romano said...

Coppola's Dracula was almost "operatic". I must have seen it four or five times at the theaters, owned a VHS copy, and it was one of the first DVD's I ever bought.

H20 was a brilliant film. I was especially thrilled when Janet Leigh showed up in her Psycho suit and car ... also enjoyed how Laurie's character turned into control-freak with a drinking problem (as anyone who had suffered such trauma early on in life).

As for you other pics, I'll get back to ya! ;)

le0pard13 said...

Great list and you make some really valid points, B-Sol. I'm in complete agreement with your 10, 9, 7, 6, and 1 assessments.The 8 and 4 films I'll have to see before bringing judgement. I remain indifferent to 2 (Freddy's Revenge) and 3 (like Devi's Rejects) is something I'm not sure I wish to revisit, though.

Now, I'll give style points to Fincher (and extra credit for taking on the impossible job of following up on the work of Sir Ridley and Cameron in the two absolute best films in the Alien series). However, this film was doomed from the start by the altered and multiple-writer mishmash that was the final script. I will admit, there are a few interesting aspects there (actor and director-wise). But, not enough for me to be won over with the film. Not only was it a crime to kill off HIcks and Newt (as you stated), but to turn Ripley into a weak-sister of a character that begged for Dillon's help (in offing herself) was simply a travesty that can't be forgiven, IMO.

I'll get off my soapbox...

I really appreciate the lists you put together, B-Sol. Thanks for this.

B-Sol said...

Andre, those two films are actually the only Rob Zombie films I enjoy. I think he's much better when he's doing his own material.

Matt, you're not alone in your Cabin Fever love! That was one of those movies where I just stumbled out of the theater going, "Holy shit..."

James, I'm with you on Demon Knight and Vampires, but I wouldn't put The Black Cat in that category. That ones a definite classic--I'd say more underrated than "bad rap" in that case.

Pax, I thought I was the only one going back to see BSD again and again!

Geof said...

I just saw Nightbreed on Saturday night. Never thought of it as a mistake at all. Ending leaves it open for a much needed sequel that never came to be.

1,000 corpses is a film that hated when I first saw it, which I blame on the overhype and the accompanying extended time it took for me to see it. A month later, I watched it with my friends and did a 180. Rejects is good but Corpses is better. Way better, imho.

And Dracula? Oldman owned as the main vamp. The were-dog and Lucy scene...two thumbs up. haha

C.L. Hadden said...

Great list, as usual.
I'm with Pax - loved the Janet Leigh/Psycho car cameos in H20....

30 Days of Night gets a bad rap and I'm not sure why - I thought it was quite good...

Speaking of vamps, I saw BSD at the theater as well, albeit only once, but I've watched it loads of times since - and still can't get over Keanu's acting. But the film itself is beautiful.

Cabin Fever I've always loved -probably because of the gay squirrels...lol...great stuff!

And House of 1000 Corpses? The first time I saw that film I just sat back and said: "whaaaaat????" but then I had to watch it again, it's so damn bizarre - but oddly enough I bought it and watch it more than infrequently.

gord said...

NO ONE can judge Alien 3 till they've seen the far superior 'Director's Cut'. It is an entirely different, and far better film. Sure it's not an official directors cut, but whoever put it together did a hell of a job.

Also, I really love H20. It's far better than the piece of shit Halloween 2, and lets not even mention anything after this installment.

Also gotta jump on the Demon Knight bandwagon. I saw this film when it first hit VHS when I was at my grandmas for a night away from the folks. I guess she let me rent it for whatever reason, and thank god she was out of the room (and subsequently asleep afterwards) during the scene with the many topless women (I think a guy wished for it, it's been a while since I've seen the film).

Terra said...

What a great list! I don't know why these films have gotten a bad rap. I've seen 9 of the 10, and really enjoyed them.

I am a big Clive Barker fan(love me some Pinhead! lol), so it's awesome that you have Nightbreed on the list. I saw it when it first came out, and many MANY times since, but every time it's always beautiful and mesmerizing.

I'm sooo glad I'm not the only one who likes House of 1000 Corpses better than Devil's Rejects!

Thanks for this list! I now do not feel so alone in trying to defend these films as I receive shameful looks from some of my horror buds, haha!

The Mike said...

Fine list! I disagree with some, and definitely need to try ANOES2 again to see if I see anything there. But I dig the mentions of 30 Days of Night, Halloween H20, and Nightbreed greatly.

Also, I swear that the internet is responsible for Halloween Resurrection happening. I was a nerd that frequented many Halloween message boards in my teen years, and I'll be darned if we didn't spell out the EXACT scenario that would play out at the beginning of Resurrection within days of H20 opening. Quite sad, really.

stonerphonic said...

i must admit to being bewildered at the animosty out there from the horror community towards 30DON. i would def put 30DON up there as one of the best vampire films in the last 10 years list. easy.

i'm talking real vampire movies, ones that stay true for the most part to the original "undead" theory of vampirism, not the abhorent tripe being spewed out towards the tween & 30-something female market. 30DON was brutal, realistic, and had a reasonable storyline to carry the carnage through. and hey, the "good guy" dies at the end. way movies are supposed to be...

i will also admit to liking rob zombie's original movie material, but as far as a horror movie remake director goes...

he makes a really really great singer.

Theron said...

I've always loved Coppola's Dracula. I mean, Gary Oldman as the Count? Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing? Tom Waits as Renfield? Sign me up.

And I think the first two-thirds of House of 1000 Corpses is amazing work for a first-time director. Zombie displays a stunning visual aesthetic and a quirky ear for dialogue. When it turns into a standard "rats in a trap" flick near the end, it loses momentum and the seams begin to show. But it's still a lurid, garish ride. And that's what makes it great fun. Plus, it's made by a guy named Zombie.

J.D. said...

Fantastic list and I'm totally with you on Coppola's DRACULA and Barker's NIGHTBREED. Both films are balls-out horror films in their own right and were unfairly maligned back in the day but I think are starting to enjoy a reappraisal, esp. NIGHTBREED what with rumblings of Barker's longer cut of the film surfacing as of late.

I would also echo others sentiments about DEMON KNIGHT and Carpenter's VAMPIRES - two films that I thoroughly enjoy for what they are - unfiltered B-movies that deliver the goods.

B-Sol said...

Wow, I expected to do a lot more battling over this post! Seems like everyone agrees these are really good flicks that catch a bad rap--so the question is, where is the bad rap coming from?? I smell a conspiracy...

kindertrauma said...

What a great list! I was very disappointed with Cabin Fever myself but to be fair, I went in with some crazy expectations (like that it would be Evil Dead). I'll have to give it a second try on your recommendation. I know that when I first saw Nightbreed it didn't fully satisfy me but now I love it to death and can't wait for the uncut version! Same with House of a 1000, I wasn't blown away at first but now it's a go-to late night movie for me. Let's hear it for giving a movie, especially those that you are on the fence about, more than one try!

As for Bram Stroker's Dracula that one has ALWAYS blown me away. I saw it twice on the day it came out and I just didn't want to leave the theater! The acting is off but who cares? It's just gorgeous. In a way I sometimes think the hammy acting adds a nice layer to it, as if it was made in a previous era. (I think bad dubbing is a plus in a movie too though so don't listen to me!)-Unk

AndyDecker said...

I have come to despise Bram Stoker´s Dracula. It has everything. Gorgeous pictures, wonderful sets, a great cast. (Even if Hopkin´s van Helsing reimagined as a hippie professor is obnoxious.)

And they had to ruin it with this shitty and idiotic story of Dracula as a poor man´s Imhotep. From Conqueror and Monster to a whiny star-crossed lover. I´d rather believe in vampires than the unlikly coincidence that of all woman in the world Mina Harker is his reborn love. This movie deserves all the scorn it got :-))

Strange Kid said...

An excellent collection of under-appreciated films, B!

I had the opportunity to see House of 1,000 Corpse when it first dropped in theaters and as a fan of Rob Zombie I was stoked! Unfortunately, I simply wasn't ready for the bizarre parade of grit and flavor that Zombie employed and bitterly hated it.

However, when I decided to see it for a second time with a friend, I slowly began to appreciate the little nuances that Zombie employed and over time have come to regard it as one of my all-time favorite Halloween-themed films alongside Trick R Treat and Night of the Demons!

Ironically enough I now wish that Zombie had continued in the style of House of 1,000 Corpses instead of going more mainstream.

Mike Snoonian said...

Dracula was my first purchase on DVD (along w/Dangerous Liasons and Raging Bull)way way back in the day. It's one of the most visually striking films, and the foley effects make for an awesome home theater experience-I used to demo the carriage scene when I worked at Tweeter all the time.

I still can't get behind House of 1000 Corpses as a good movie, but it is entertaining. It's too much like Zombie's take on TCM viewed through funhouse goggles.

I had no idea people didn't enjoy Cabin Fever. The pancake loving mullet wearing kung fu pint sized kid was awesome.

Monster Scholar said...

I personally love Bram Stoker's Dracula despite Neo's lame British accent (my favorite line being "I was impotent with fear") and Cabin Fever gets props for making me swear off leg shaving for five months. Uggh.

Emily said...

Totally agreed on Nightmare 2 and 30 Days of Night. N2 is just so bizarre and loaded with subtext that makes it so much more re-watchable than some of the later sequels. And I totally don't get why people are so hard on 30 Days. Great action, winter setting, actual tension, and grim ending. What's the problem?

Atroxion said...

Couldn't agree more with you on these movies, especially "House of 1000 Corpses". I've seen loads of horror flicks, but very few are as special to me as Rob Zombie's crazy film is.

B-Sol said...

Unk and Andy, yes the acting is kind of "off" in BSD--I find even Hopkins' performance doesn't age well--but I still enjoy the movie very much. The added-on love story is definitely not as "faithful" to the novel as Coppola claimed his movie was, but it works for me. And Jeanette, I'm ALWAYS quoting the "impotent with fear" line when talking about how bad Keanu was in that.

Strange, totally agree about Zombie sticking to his own material. This remake thing is ruining him.

Emily, thanks for coming to my defense on Nightmare 2--there are very few of us out there who will defend it, but we are a vocal minority!

Missy Y. (formerly A Case of You) said...

Most of the people I know really dig Cabin Fever, and I myself remember being sort of taken by it, but I don't actually remember the film at all. And in the ensuing years I have grown to hate Eli Roth rather passionately, so I have avoided seeing it again. Maybe I should . . . and just pretend he had nothing to do with it.

Also, Corpses is awful, dude. I am just going to get down to brass tacks. it's just fucking stupid and awful and an exercise in style development but not in filmmaking. Having said that, I do like to watch it on occasion.

Alex "Pup" (pupsoid1) said...

Don't get why you find The Cabin Fever something out of the ordinary??? Really?

The Scream Queen said...

Great list. As a RZ fan, I find myself defending House of 1000 Corpses more than one would feel necessary. I love that movie so much and repeated viewings always leave me liking it.

I, too, liked 30 Days of Night and did not understand why it got so much shit. I'm a big fan of H20 as well.

B-Sol said...

Cabin Fever and House of 1,000 Corpses are just two of those types of movies that really divide people. Yeah, I do dig both. And Missy, I totally get how the Eli Roth douche factor might get in the way of the enjoyment...

Todd Miro said...

I much prefer House of 1,000 Corpses over Devil's Rejects. It just was a great over-the-top nod to Grand Guignol. I found Devil's Rejects kinda boring and grim.

I find myself watching Coppola's Dracula whenever it comes on. I'm always mesmerized by Oldman's performance and love the art direction and tone of the movie. To make it stomachable however, I always have to close my ears whenever Keanu destroys every scene he's in. Winona isn't much better.

B-Sol said...

To tell you the truth, I've even soured on Hopkins performance somewhat over the years. But Oldman still rules.

Stuart Conover said...

I have to admit I did enjoy all of the movies on this list - save one. Alien 3.

Even though I'm known for my love of zombies it's always been Alien that initially got me into horror films and the 3rd just left a sour taste in my mouth after how much I loved the first two.

Aside from that though (and probably just because of my bias) each of the films on this list was just a blast!

B-Sol said...

I just always felt it was nowhere near as terrible as everybody says. It just had the misfortune of following Alien & Aliens. If it had been a standalone movie on it's own, it would've fared better.

fallon said...

I remember my theatrical Cabin Fever experience. My friends and I still talk about it. It was a blast. Just like that entire movie. People who don't like Cabin Fever are a BUNCH OF FRAUDS.

B-Sol said...

I had a very similar experience. Went to see it with my wife and sister, and we had a ball! It's one of those weird experiences you get sometimes with movies, I feel like everyone loved it when it came out, then people turned on it, and now it's somehow "not cool" to like it. But I still do, very much.

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