Movie Reviews: Horror

Kai Christiansen, Art and Entertainment Editor

Wow, look at the time! It’s only a few days after Halloween, so instead of talking about political thrillers and political classics, I’m going to talk about horror movies (If you want a political movie watch Dr. Strangelove, a great Kubrick film). Anyway, here are my top eight movies to give you a nice little spook (in no discernible order). P.S- if I omitted your favorite horror film, feel free to yell at me.

The Texas Chainsaw MassacreTexas Chainsaw is my favorite horror movie to date. The movie is so simple, yet so unique. The movie is the perfect length, running at 86 minutes, to set up the characters and story and to create such high levels of tension. If the movie were any longer, it would fall apart as the premise is 5 friends are killed off one by one by a cannibalistic backwoods family. The film starts off right away in its gritty and disgusting reality, and slowly the insanity grows and grows until the final act of the film. Texas Chainsaw truly is one of the only movies to scare me, something that few movies have done. A lot of this fear lies solely on Leatherface and the direction of Tobe Hooper. The longer production of the film went, the crazier the cast and crew became. Which resulted in actual physical harm and one of the most miserable 26 hour shoots in film history. Texas Chainsaw is terrifying, grotesque, and has one of the greatest horror movie villains.

Nightmare on Elm StreetNightmare on Elm Street, the movie that inspired the classic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air song “Nightmare on My Street.” In all seriousness, Nightmare is one of the most classic and famous of horror movies. Unlike its main competitor at the time, Friday the 13th, Nightmare takes time to establish relatable and real characters. It isn’t until the latter movies that Freddy Krueger becomes the crass and offensive jokester that he’s known as now. In the original, he’s dark and menacing and his crude remarks add to his character and aren’t just a punchline. It’s a movie that really focuses on the heroine and not the villain, which is far from the formula of the sequels. Another appeal of Nightmare is the originality of the kills. As sadistic as that may sound, it’s true. Wes Craven, the director, knows how to make on screen murders interesting and innovated, something that increases the rewatchability of his films and the longevity of Nightmare. Nightmare one Elm Street is a classic Craven flick and is worthy of a watch.

Evil Dead 2Evil Dead 2 is the epitome of cult classic horror. The first Evil Dead is a more straightforward horror movie, with an attempt at being scary. Evil Dead 2 relies on its dark humor and Bruce Campbell’s insanity to carry the goofy and wild ride. Despite the extremely tight budget, you never notice the lack of spending capabilities. The movie relies on cheaper and more effective practical effects and stop motion to portray the violence on screen, which adds to the charm of the film. Everything on screen is handled with care and delicacy, a trait that most horror movies nowadays do not have (hence most of the movies on this list are “classics”). Although the acting is subpar, it works well in this movie. Bruce Campbell is the king of cult horror and sci-fi, and this movie is a good reason why. He carries the weight of the absurdity and does it flawlessly. Definite must see for any cult movie fans.

ScreamScream is another classic Wes Craven film, but unlike his previous works, Scream takes a very different spin on the horror movies. The movie takes the very clichés that Craven made himself, and spins them on top of their head to creating a classic horror movie that will remembered for a long time. What I really like about Scream is how self-aware it is. The film never misses a chance to make fun of itself and the stereotypes of the genre, which is embodied by the horror movie fanatic Stuart, played by Matthew Lillard. One of the best parts of the film is Ghostface. Since the movie is all about making fun of its genre, why not have a villain who also enjoys doing that. Ghostface fits so well into the narrative of the story and is one of the main reasons the movie is so long lived. Scream is an original and self-aware horror movie that is worthy of being watched by any horror movie buffs out there.

horror-issue-4-2016-4The Shining is amazing. Everything about this movie is worthy of being marveled. From the framing of the shots to the genuine and horrific performances, The Shining is an all time classic film. The Shining isn’t scary in the traditional sense, as it relies more on psychological fears and excellent directing to scare the hell out of you. It’s one of the few movies that will scare you when Wednesday pops up on screen. Why this is scary is all the suspense built up throughout the film. A scene that excellently highlights this is the tracking shot of Danny on the tricycle. The camera follows him for multiple minutes as he rides through the Overlook Hotel, and nothing happens until the very end. It constantly builds suspense until the payoff which isn’t really scary at all. The movie keeps on building up and giving you tiny payoffs to add to the overall feeling of claustrophobia and insanity. See this!

The Cabin in the WoodsCabin in the Woods is the only movie on this list to be created in the 2000’s and it is well deserving of this. Like Scream, Cabin in the Woods plays on the cliches of the genre and uses them to create an original and entertaining film. The movie follows 5 friends who go up to a cabin in the woods, a cabin which is used every year to create a sacrifice to a god. The film sounds wacky, but the wackiness is what makes the movie so original and entertaining. The movie isn’t about stupid teenagers, it’s about a cult manipulating their environment in order to kill said teenagers. All the characters in the film represent a stereotype and are killed off one-by-one in the fashion of how that stereotype would die. It’s a movie with such a great twist that’s straight out of left field, but the twist works so well for this film. It’s like a revamped version of Scream and is a must see for the “holiday” season, season as in Halloween.

The ThingThe Thing isn’t as much of a horror movie as it is a science fiction thriller and like Evil Dead 2 it’s a cult classic. The reason it’s on here is because it has some of the bet practical effects I’ve seen and has a classic ending. One thing I have and always will praise is the use of practical effects in film. Everything feels so much realer and visceral, something that CGI can never quite capture. Having good practical effects is something very hard to truly have, so it’s great to see excellent effects. This movie is one of the best horror or sci-fi movies with practical effects and just because of that makes it worth a watch. Not to mention the final act of this film. The movie builds up to the finale so perfectly, establishing Kurt Russell’s and Keith David’s conflict from the very beginning. It’s an ending that has people arguing over what happened to this very day. It’s a worth a watch just for the ending and the effects.

AlienAlien, the best science fiction horror movie yet (I added horror movie because Star Trek and Star Wars were created). Unlike the other sci-fi film on this list, Alien is as much of a horror thriller as it is science fiction. Ridley Scott directed it in a way to feel very tight and claustrophobic, a trope which bodes very well for the film. As it takes place in space and in a ship that has lost communication to Earth, just showing tight areas wouldn’t just portray the seclusion. Ridley Scott used lighting and the framing of the shots to the best of his capability to really create the feel of isolation. Not to mention the ever present threat of the alien itself. As the film progresses, the alien grows stronger and stronger, adding on to the already extremely high anxiety. The film never lets up on the high string intensity until the very last second following an amazing twist ending. Alien is a fantastic movie to keep you on the edge of your seat.