Last Friday, Matt Drinneberg's (of "Matt's Rail") mother Margorie passed away at the age of 87. Mike Smith ("Mike's Rant"), Matt, and his brother Mark flew down to Tampa from Missouri, Maine, and Illinois respectively to attend her funeral, which was today (Wednesday as I write this). Corey Castellano ("Film Biz 101") and I decided to attend at least the viewing and wound up staying for the full service (there was family present we hadn't seen in years and may never see again). I'm grateful for the opportunity to hook up with these fine people, Margorie was a great and kind lady.
The Enlightenment Returns
We welcome back Terence Nuzum's all-too-rarely seen special feature column which is devoted to all things Halloween this month. Check out Part 1, this issue.
Readers' Comments Glitches
I apologize for any inconvenience caused by the severe glitching the Readers' Comments section was experiencing last week. First the comments would be there, then they wouldn't, then they'd be back again. I still don't know what the problem was, it seems to be better now, but I am monitoring it for any further misbehavior. No need to worry about lost posts, back-up copies are made even if the comments aren't showing up right away. I may have to insert them manually in those cases.
My Top 10 Horror Movie List
I'm taken aback, maybe even flattered that so many readers noticed I hadn't posted my Top 10 Horror Movies of All Time list by the end of last week's issue. Not to worry, they're here now, below. I spent so much time getting the PCR writers' sections stabilized, I neglected to work on my own list. Plus, I thought the others would take more time with theirs than they did. Oops, haha.
The Top Ten Best Horror Movies of All Time by Nolan B. Canova
Waaaaay back in PCR #30, October 2000, we had our first Top 10 Best Horror Movies challenge, initiated by one Terence Nuzum, much like this year's. At that time my listed faves, in order, were: The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, Alien, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter's The Thing, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, The Evil Dead, The Brain That Wouldn't Die, and The Cyclops. Although I knew I had something in the Archives I deliberately avoided looking until after I composed this year's list. I was surprised at how relatively intact my list remained. I did notice some subtle changes over the years, however. KEEP IN MIND, my definition of "Best/Favorites" are what actually horrified me at the time and age I was when I first saw them! So without further ado, drumroll please, starting with Number 10...
10. Alien (1979). I'm a little softer than Terence when it comes to specific catagorization. Ridley Scott's sci-fi/horror/monster movie that defies exact categorization virtually re-invented the space thriller. Based loosely on "It: The Terror From Beyond Space" (admiited later by collaborator Dan O'Bannon). James Cameron's "Aliens", deserves mention as being that rare very worthy sequel. 9. Night of the Living Dead (1968)/Dawn of the Dead (1978). I'm going to get monstrous guff from Terence for the two-in-one title, but I really feel like these two are forever tied together in post-apocalyptic horror history. Re-defined the Zombie movie with a dystopian scenario and a downbeat ending. Explored the way we see things through the media, then later our mass consciousness on consumerism. Social commentary like that is what I'm all about. 8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Like so many original ideas that have been so heavily spoofed, it's hard to remember when this was a truly mind-bending horrifying experience. But I do remember. Introduced the character of child-killer Freddy Krueger, himself killed by an angry mob, who came back to kill again through the dreams of neighborhood teenagers 7. Friday the 13th (1980). Like Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees has been spoofed so many times, the original horror can get lost in the comedy. But I was there was this was pretty ground-breaking stuff in terms of violence. Jason, like Freddy, enjoyed several sequels that milked the franchise for all it was worth. The idea of the unkillable killing machine, and the message that "sex equals death" to partying teenagers went as far as it could here. 6. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). After one of the most impressive horror debuts of all time with Halloween (the film that usually gets the credit for being the first to feature an "unkillable slasher/killer" type), John Carpenter absolutely blew me away with this remake (or re-imagining, depending on you you talk to) of John Campbell's "Who Goes There?" and the '50s Howard Hawks film adaptation, starring James Arness as The Thing. Make-up maestro extraordinaire Rob Bottin created an incredible show-stopping series of special effects for Carpenter's version, demonstrating the alien's possession and re-creation of the human host bodies. The Antarctic locale, like the original, emphasized the lonely despair of the men, cut off from worldly contact. For many horror fans, this was the shit for many years. Still is. 5. The Evil Dead (1981). I figured I'd seen everything by 1981. Then I visited a midnight show at the South Tampa Twin Bays dollar theater and took in The Evil Dead on a casual recommendation. Holy Christ Jeezis, I wasn't prepared for this as director Sam Raimi's violent paranormal vision of ghosts and zombies-in-the-woods completely shook my world and demonstrated what could be accomplished on a low budget. I can remember thinking "This isn't going to let up! If anything, the pace is accelerating!". Introduced Bruce Campbell as "Ash", a character he's trademarked since. 4. The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1960). Alternately titled The Head That Wouldn't Die, this was a childhood nightmare-producer that exposed its low-budget roots on another look in adulthood. BUT.... you have a mad doctor who saves the head of his finacé after its decapitation in a car accident. You see the head talking from a laboratory plate. You have the creepy, humpbacked assistant. You have the doctor visting whorehouses to find a suitable replacement body for his finacé (I love this guy). And the best...the best.....the mutant horror-in-the-closet, the result of expermental mistakes and accidents, not only rips an arm off "Ygor" (graphically shown!), but breaks out at the end with some coaxing from The Head! This kept me coming back to Terminus! 3. The Cyclops (B&W, 1959). The very first horror movie that literally gave me nightmares as a child, but I was compelled to watch whenever it repeated on Shock Theater or Terminus. To me, director Bert I. Gordon absolutely nailed the horror of post-nuke mutation frenzy (a popular theme at the time, although I think the Cyclops was created from Uranium radiation). Of course, any repeated viewings in adulthood (which are rare) resulted in the realization that it was a very low-budget, cheezy affair, but hey, it had Lon Chaney and giant lizards! A better-remembered Gordon effort, The Amazing Colossal Man came out around the same time and explored similar themes. The giant's deep, heavily-echoed grunting still gives my chills. 2. The Silence of The Lambs (1991). I figured I couldn't be captivated by horror-thrillers much anymore after the amazing '60s, '70s, and '80s. it had all been done, or so I thought, until this "crime drama" based on the book by Thomas Harris played with your head more than exhibit violence (although it did do that, too). The most notable appearance of serial-killer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lector (I say "most notable" because the character's actual first appearance was in "Manhunter", played by Brian Cox). Anthony Hopkins created an indelible impression that could not help but stick with you after you left the theater. His obsession with FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) played on the Beauty and the Beast theme, sure, but created a crazy onscreen chemistry that was as mesmerizing as it was bizarre. 1. The Exorcist (1973). This film, like so many other horror originals, has been spoofed so many times that it's hard to remember a time when its release created a scalper's market for movie tickets (I'm not kidding). I was out of Catholic school only a short time when this came out. The reality of the duel between God, man, and the devil was a very real thing to me back then. Based on the book by William Peter Blatty, director Billy Friedkin provides an ultra-realistic and modern portayal of a mother (Ellen Burstyn) coming to grips with the paranormal. After exhaustive examinations by doctors and scientists fail to find a cause for her daughter, Regan's, strange behavior and illnesses (Linda Blair in her landmark role), it is suggested demonic possession may be the culprit. Incredulous, Mrs. MacNeil can only respond with, "Are you suggesting that I take my daughter...to a witch doctor?" No, but exorcist Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) is summoned to perform the rites. Attending Jesuit priest, Damien Karras (Jason Miller), already tormented by his own crisis of faith, witnesses a duel between good and evil he never imagined. The foul language, sexual situations and violence were quite ground-breaking for its day as 12-year-old Linda Blair was required to say lines that would've gotten us expelled from Catholic school! This film cost me many nght's sleep at the time and, despite my conversion to Atheism since then, the "what if?" questions it raises makes it, to me, the most disturbing and personal horror movie of all time.
Honorable Mentions: Psycho (1960. The classic--and first--modern-day serial killer "slasher" movie), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974. Like Psycho it was based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein's exploits and created the "crazy hill family" horror category on the spot), Halloween (Carpenter's classic slasher movie that re-wrote the rules for those that followed), Frankenstein (original 1931 -- along with "Dracula" set the tone for the sound era's monster movie), Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (saw it in 3-D and uncut in 1973. The first movie I was carded to enter), Aliens (James Cameron's very worthy sequel), Fright Night (perfect combination of horror and comedy that makes for a the best kind of fun horror movie without being ridiculous, and Jaws (saw it before I went swimming -- and I didn't enter the ocean again for 15 years!
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