Hello and Happy Halloween! To all of whom I still owe tapes of outtakes from "The Horror Writer": please be patient! I am presently working on an SVHS master copy. For now, everyone send in your Top 10 horror films of all time!........................................Nolan B. Canova, editor and publisher of Nolan's Pop Culture Review.
Issue number 30. This special edition of Nolan's Pop Culure Review is for the week of October 16--22, 2000. Back to Index.....Letters and Commentary.....The World of Nolan homepage.
Terence's challenge: "Your Top 10 best horror movies
of all time!"
The "album wars" finally wound down,  so the defiant Terence Nuzum challenged the Pop Culture "staff" and its readers to a new showdown. His Top 10 best horror films of all time is up first. My list follows.---Nolan.
1. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)-This film is beyond words. It is pure madness captured on film. Most people make assumptions about this film before they even see it, more than any other film I know of. It is usually thought of to be a gory, b-grade, badly directed 70's exploitation flick. None of which it is. It actually contains less gore than INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. The direction is stellar. And by no means is it exploitive. It is a harrowing descent down madness and murder. I saw this one afternoon when I was about 12. My uncle showed it to me unbeknownced to my dad who would never have let me watch it. And from the first shots of flashing corpses, I was hooked. It contains the element of my worst fear: desolate farmland and redneck cannibals!!!! This  film is one out of two films that got into making films myself. and I wouldn't trade it for all the SCREAM films in the world. That being said it also started the whole slasher sub-genre.(Sorry, Psycho did not start the slasher genre as some assume. It was more of a thriller. But, it certaintly influenced them.)
2. NOSFERATU(1922)- By no means is this film groundbreaking in anyway; it used techniques that were dated even in its day. But its sheer greatness lies in the fact that its director, F.W. Marnau manages to create a mood of complete dread. Even in the most sublime of scenes. The whole mood gives you a feeling of death which is exactly what the movie is all about. Max shreck's vampire, Graf Orlock, is a sight in itself. Orlock in the film is a symbol for the plague as he brings disease and death to the town of Bremen searching for Hutter's wife, Nina. In the end, she sacrifices herself to destroy the vampire. Lets put it this way: it one-upped Stoker's novel.
3. THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)- By far, one of the weirdest studio-produced horror films ever made. 3 travellers get stuck in a rainstorm in the Welsh countryside and are forced to spend the night in a old remote house. The family of the house is a bizarre lot. One is a biblical fanatic, the butler is a mute giant (played by Karloff), there's a member locked in a room upstairs that no one dares speak of, and the head of the house, the bedridden,102 year-old, androygenous Roderick Femm. Directed by the great James Whale this movie is a forgotten gem. Watch it on a dark and stormy night.
4. CARNIVAL OF SOULS(1962)-What can I say? If you haven't seen it then you can't even imagine what it's like. On first viewing it gives the impression of being a b-grade shock fest. But on repeated viewings, it really starts to set in that this is a classic of cinema and still the most frightening film I have ever set eyes upon. With direction that matches up with the likes of Cocteau and Bunuel. I recommend this to every man, woman and child!!!!! And anyone who says that this didn't inspire Night of the Living Dead is full of it(of course, it could be argued that the Twilight Zone episode "The Hitchiker" inspired Carnival).
5. TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD(1971)-Still the best zombie movie ever and one of the few movies that scared me shitless when I saw it. If you have never seen it, I wont give anything away, but imagine zombie Templar Knights on horseback chasing you down and then drinking your blood!!!
6. CHILDREN SHOULDNT PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS(1972)-Another creepy-as-hell zombie flick in which an acting troup try to call up the dead in a cemetary with terrifying results. And it was filmed in Miami!!!!! Directed by Bob Clark of Porky's fame.
7. SUSPIRIA(1977)-Allright,allright I'll be the first to admit that it has no plot, but actually when you think about it it's mood is the plot. Argento hit the map with this epic piece (there are few of those in horror, only this and Kubrick's "Shining" comes to mind) of supernatural terror about a girl's school run by witches. The atmosphere just oozes out of this film and actually contains some genuine scares if you can get past Argento's trademark overblown death scenes. With music by Goblin!!! Their best soundtrack work. Sorry, but their music for Dawn of the Dead was attrocious.
8. HALLOWEEN(1978)- What a rip-off this film is. Not only did it rip off scenes from Black Christmas and Deep Red, but it also ripped off the soundtrack from Deep Red. But hell, it's great, isn't it!!! And the mask is actually William Shatner's face, or his death mask, your choice.
9.PHANTASM(1979)-Phantasm just goes to show you what you can do with a really low budget. It actually looks damn professional for a low-budget independant. If you're frightened by graveyards and morgues, this is the film. It's also the closest to a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft you will ever get.
10. VAMPYRE(1932)-Directed by the late great Carl Dryer (if you doubt his greatness, check out the "Passion of Joan of Arc"). This film was like a moving dream and has inspired everyone from Jean Cocteau to David Lynch. Actually, it's more like a nightmare. Definitely an experience.                            Special honorable mention: next page!
Nolan's list.
Here I go with special qualifications, like I did with the Top 10 albums. My definition of horror has some grey areas that extend to deserving monster movies, some thrillers and scary flicks from my youth that scared me originally.  I gratefully
wish to acknowledge Terence's help with release dates and other info that was foggy in my memory.
1.) The Exorcist.(1973) No surprise if this comes up a lot, especially for those old enough to remember it the first time. I had been removed from Catholic school only 3 years when I saw this. I spent weeks in sleepless agony over fear of being possessed. Billy Friedkin never rose to these heights again. Nor could sequels, rip-offs, spoofs, and pale imitators capture lightning in a bottle a second time. It so set the tone for a generation, that much of it seems cliché now.
2.) The Silence of the Lambs.(1991) "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti---thff thff thff thff thff".  Brrrr.......the rarest of the rare for me: a movie seen in adult life that could rate this high. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant as Hannibal Lecter. Ditto Jonathan Demme's direction. The Jodie Foster/Hopkins chemistry will be sorely missed.
3.) Alien. (1978) The sci-fi/horror/monster movie cross that defies exact categorization.  James Cameron's "Aliens", deserves mention as being that rare very worthy sequel.
4,) Psycho. (B&W, 1960) What can you say? Perfect cast, perfect sets, perfect director. Under-credited novelist Robert Bloch wrote the book, based on real-life psychopath Ed Gein.
5.) Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead. (B&W-1968/Dawn,color-1979) I say this is where the modern era of low-budget, 16-millimeter, (Actually it was filmed in 35mm!  Romero's on record as saying so.---Terence) zombie creep-fests all began. In the B&W original, a secret government project goes awry (a probe returning from Venus or something) infects the corpse population with an unknown virus, causing them to return to life. The sequel is a minor masterwork of carnage, with colorful, groundbreaking zombie-on-the-loose effects.
6.) John Carpenter's "The Thing". (1980) Rob Bottin's tour-de-force make-up and FX creations are unparalleled. Kurt Russel leads a believable cast in this cold-war paranoia allegory. To me, this and "Starman" are John Carpenter's finest films. Altho, I have to give his "Halloween" points for initiating the slasher genre for the '80s.
7.) Andy Warhol's Frankenstein. (The 1973, X-rated version) Alternately known as "Flesh for Frankenstein". Reputedly, Andy Warhol really had nothing to do with this, but that's a long story. The first non-stop, over-the-top gore-fest I ever saw. Unbelievably weird film. The Baron is married to his own sister for openers. Carlo Rambaldi of dubious "King Kong" distinction (1977) created the effects, I believe.
8.) The Evil Dead. (1982)(But filmed in 1979!---Terence) Zero-budget, action-packed and gory, made on 16mm film, this became a midnight classic in the '80s. Make-up/zombie effects galore, with some stop-motion. Also introduced Bruce Campbell to the world.
9.) The Brain That Wouldn't Die. (B&W, 1960) I remember TV Guide used to refer to this as a "melodrama" before the term seemed to slip out of usage. A scientist keeps his dead wife's head alive while scouring prostitute hang-outs for a suitable body replacement. The lab assistant having his arm ripped out of its socket (actually shown on TV in the '60s!) and the "conehead" monster-in-the-closet were ahead of their time.
10.) The Cyclops. (B&W,1959) Seems funny now, but until 1973 this was the scariest (monster) movie I had ever seen!!  Shown on TV repeatedly then, but rarely since, this concerned a pilot downed in Mexican uranium country. Two years later, his sister was looking for him and discovered he had grown into a 60-foot giant with a mangled face and one eye. TO THIS DAY, that make-up chills me to the bone. One of Bert I. Gordon's most effective films. Also starred Lon Chaney, Jr.
Honorable mentions--mostly groups: Most Hammer films (notably "The Horror of Dracula", 1958, which re-wrote the rules for Dracula), Most Dario Argento films (believe it or not, I have never seen "Suspira". At the time of its release, the trailers made it look like an Exorcist knock-off. I regret that now, of course). Lucio Fulci films, notably  "Zombie" (1979). I'm not sure where to put Peter Jackson in here (Brain Dead, Bad Taste, The Frighteners), he's so over-the-top, but fun. And finally--the scariest TV personality walking the earth: Jerry Falwell. Don't get me started.


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