My friend Dominique and I were chatting about movies on Saturday and I decided that for today I would present some alternatives to the usual lists of scary movies. These are films I really enjoyed and are not usually present on such lists.
Whilst I love horror movies, I am actually very picky and will read reviews and synopses carefully before watching a movie. Movies with torture are out of the question (so no ‘Saw’, ‘Hostel’, ‘Wolf Creek’ etc). I am a big fan of ‘creature-features’ and horror-comedy however. The serial-killer genre largely does not appeal at all, though ‘Psycho’, ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Hitcher’ are great movies in their own right. Ghost movies too are not my scene.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
The first feature film directed by English director Neil Marshall. This is basically ‘Aliens’ with werewolves and follows a unit of soldiers investigating the disappearance of an elite unit in the Scottish highlands. Though low-budget this is a very effective movie and the creatures are well realised. After decades of watching horror movies it is rare I don’t see a jump-scare coming but the first one in this caught me out…
Marshall was actually disappointed that this was not an ’18’ certificate in the UK so deliberately went all-out with the gore in his next movie ‘The Descent’, which is also well worth a watch unless you are claustrophobic…
It Follows (2014)
This is the best John Carpenter movie that John Carpenter never made. It does very much resemble his style, even down to the excellent music.
The plot is basically that a mysterious entity relentlessly pursues its target and the only way a person can escape is by passing the buck to another person through sex. The entity can only be seen by its target and can resemble anyone it has come into contact with.
This is actually very low on gore but very high on tension and a feeling of dread.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
An old favourite from my twenties. Loosely based on a story by John Russo (who co-wrote the 1968 ‘Night of the Living Dead’ with George Romero) it is unrelated to the Romero movies. Very much pitched as a black comedy this actually boasts far better effects and (I think) scarier zombies than the Romero movies. It works both as a comedy and as a horror movie, which is not an easy thing to balance.
An early starring role for Kevin Bacon, who subsequently left the franchise before the sequel as his career took off. This is a very well cast movie, with Fred Ward and Bacon as the leads. The real star, for me, is the hilarious Michael Gross as survivalist Burt Gummer. And indeed – his character became the lead in subsequent sequels (which are still being made and which I keep buying..) and a short lived TV series.
Very much a throwback to the giant-creature movies of the 1950s this features giant prehistoric carnivorous underground worms menacing the tiny town of Perfection, Nevada. The engaging characters make this an enjoyable movie to watch, however corny.
Near Dark (1987)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this reunites three stars of her friend (and future husband) James Cameron’s movie ‘Aliens’ from the previous year: Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen.
This film sprung out of an 80s trend for vampire movies but compared with the recent ‘Lost Boys’ and ‘Fright Night’ this one took a very dark and brutal turn and the chemistry between the three is very much to the fore, though they are the villains of the piece this time.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Perhaps the most classic movie here, and much parodied (not least by Mel Brooks with ‘Young Frankenstein’).
A direct sequel to Universal’s ‘Frankenstein’ of 1931. This surpasses the original and is visually stunning, with effects that still stand up today.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
The 80s saw a lot of utterly bonkers horror movies and this one is actually great fun. Even the title makes me smile! The plot is fairly routine but the creature design and sense of fun are terrific.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Another werewolf movie but told in a very different way. A few years back I went through a phase of watching werewolf movies and found this one after seeing a review. Both leads are superb in this.
The cello theme for the opening montage is a lovely piece of music by the way.
The Fog (1980)
Very rare that I like ghost movies. (I did, however, recently watch ‘The Ring’ and enjoyed it greatly.)
This ghost movie was one of the less well received of John Carpenter’s films during his 70s/80s peak. I have always loved it however, and it is genuinely scary. A superb cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau and Janet Leigh. The music, by director John Carpenter, is as good as always.
Troll Hunter (2011)
This is a lot of fun. A ‘found footage’ movie, which I am not usually very keen on, that is actually great. The synopsis is that trolls really exist but have been kept secret by the Norwegian government and fenced in far north of civilisation, with occasional encounters ‘managed’ by poorly paid and demoralised rangers. A group of students making a film follows one of these rangers, suspecting he is a bear poacher…
In Norwegian, it was up for a Hollywood remake directed by Neil Marshall (see Dog Soldiers) but thankfully this never happened. More of a dark fantasy that a true horror movie, but has its scary moments for sure!
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Because no vampire, werewolf, zombie or ghost is anything like as terrifying as small children are….