Update: Due to the length of this post, I’ve broken it into two parts. Part 1 covers the first 7 movies on the list and Part 2, which I’ll publish on Monday, will cover movies 8 – 13.
After the great response to my first “13 Horror Movies for Halloween” post, I thought I’d put up at least one more list before that wonderfully sinister day arrives. This time, however, I thought I’d narrow my focus a bit (pretty hard for me, actually) and hone in on a specific horror-movie theme. This time around I’m sticking with “Creature Features”.
Now, my first list featured a couple of great vampire flicks, so I’ll leave the bloodsuckers off this one. And zombies too. I love a good brain buffet as much as the next guy, but for this list we’re sticking to more traditional (and in the case of Barker’s films, not-so-traditional) monsters.
1. Silver Bullet (1985): Based on Stephen Kings’ novella Cycle of the Werewolf, this flick has it all: creepy preacher, Corey Haim in a wheelchair, and Gary Busey as Haim’s Uncle Red! When folks in the small town of Tarker’s Mill, Maine start getting torn apart, the locals try to hunt down the beast and enact their own justice. Everett McGill, who played the big bad, Man, in The People Under the Stairs, also stars as a preacher struggling to keep his parishioners from exacting vigilante justice.
2. Nightbreed (1990): This movie flopped BIG TIME at the box office, but when I first saw it on video, I was impressed with the world Clive Barker had created (based on his novella Cabal, this was his second feature film as a director). It’s the story of Boone who dreams of a fantastical city called Midian, whose inhabitants consist of otherworldly, and in some cases depraved, creatures. Boone’s psychiatrist (played by directing legend David Cronenberg!) moonlights as a serial killer, who pins his murders on Boone. I won’t give away what happens, but despite heavy editing that leaves certain plot points spinning in the land of “WTF!?!” (Barker’s always been frustrated about the removal of key scenes), the movie is worth checking out just for the creativity on display and a taste of what might have been.
3. Hellraiser (1987): Clive Barker’s feature-length directorial debut (he directed a couple short films, “The Forbidden” (1978) and “Salome” (1973), which also featured Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley! I have a copy of them on VHS around here somewhere…). The Cenobites are incredible and Doug Bradley’s Pinhead has remained creepy despite turning up in sequel after sequel. There really isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about this horror classic: Lament Configuration. Hooks on chains. Cenobites, chattering and otherwise creepy. Jesus wept. The end.
4. The Fly (1986): David Cronenberg directs this remake, which is a biological nightmare of a movie. Jeff Goldblum’s Brundlefly is iconic. It also stars Geena Davis. I guess after Transylvania 6-5000 these two were a package deal. The effects by Chris Walas (Gremlins) are incredible and despite the gruesomeness of Brundle’s condition, you really feel for the guy and get the full impact of how hubris and blind obsession can lead to tragic outcomes. It’s also interesting to note that Cronenberg has been tapped to do a remake of this film, which may make him the only director to make a remake of a remake that he himself directed (follow that one? Good, then maybe you can explain it to me…)
5. The Howling (1981): Joe Dante’s follow up to Piranha (1978) and Rock n’ Roll High School (1979). This movie boasts not only incredible special effects by Rob “John Carpenter’s The Thing” Bottin, but also Dee Wallace Stone (warning SPOILER ALERT!) looking less like a Lycanthrope and more like a Pekingese. The Howling also has the distinction of some of the worst sequels in horror movie history. Well, except for Howling 6: The Freaks, which takes place in a carnival. I have a soft spot for cheeseball flicks that take place in carnivals. (Ghoulies 2 anyone? Will of Silver Emulsion knows what I’m sayin’!)
6. An American Werewolf in London (1981): Next to the original The Wolfman, this bad boy is the ultimate in cinematic werewolfyiness (yes, I totally just made that up). Director John Landis brilliantly blends horror and comedy. And Rick Baker’s special effects, specifically the werewolf transformation, are amazing. You have to consider this is back when real, live people actually used their hands (not just for typing on a keyboard) to make special effects and couldn’t rely on a computer to do it for them. I think it’s essential to consider the time and context of a film. When AWIL came out, Baker’s effects were groundbreaking, resulting in him winning an Academy Award for his efforts.
7. Critters (1986): One of several Gremlins (1984) knock-offs and this was the best of the bunch (although I do have a soft spot for the ultra-cheesy, Roger Corman-produced Munchies (1987)). Scott Grimes is the farm kid no one will believe when he tells everyone that there are quill-firing, mutant porcupine aliens with huge teeth stalking the countryside; Billy Zane is the hornball boyfriend who you just know will be one of the first to take a quill to the jugular; and Terrence Mann is the Alien bounty hunter who I swear was separated from Mick Jagger at birth.
Be sure to check back on Monday when I’ll be posting movies 8-13 on the “13 Horror Movies for Halloween: Creature Features” list!
Until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!