Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, October 29, 2012

10 Favorite Horror Actors

This is another horror list that is completely up to personal opinion. You have yours and I have mine. You can guess whose opinion I am posting, eh? Now the qualifications for each actor is a little difficult to describe. You see, some actors may only be in one horror movie in their entire career, but the movie is so great that it becomes a classic. Gregory Peck in The Omen is a good example. (Of course, us movie snobs could probably list Cape Fear and The Boys from Brazil as the next closest example of horror he was in, but those movies aren't true horror movies as we think of them now.) But one horror movie does not make a horror actor.

The debate begins with "have they been in a lot of horror movies?" vs. "are they known for their horror movies?" vs. "are they really good actors or just good horror actors?"

Well, I don't care how many mainstream flops anyone of these guys have had. I'm ranking them by their horror movie cred and by their ability to make bad movies that much more watchable. These guys may have been in other movies, but they are the ones I think of when I think of horror.

10. Basil Rathbone - Okay, it's pretty hard for many of us to not picture him as Sherlock Holmes. And for my money, he always will be Holmes or at least how I will always picture Holmes. But his contributions to movies like Son of Frankenstein, Tower of London, Tales of Terror, and The Black Cat warrant him a mention on this list. He's undoubtedly a fantastic actor and he's not a horror actor per se, but when he was in a horror movie he put forth a great performance. Few actors can pull off being multi-genre, but Rathbone did it in style. I would have liked to have seen him in more horror movies because it would undoubtedly have put him much higher on my list. Instead, he's tenth. 
09. Dwight Frye - Frye is peculiar in that he was only really ever a supporting actor, but he seems to be popular enough that even Alice Cooper named a song after him. Indeed, his roles are quite good and the great shame is that there isn't more of them. Unfortunately, he was typecast as being the supporting crazy lunatic in too many movies and grew frustrated with Hollywood. And his untimely death at the age of 44 in 1943 makes one think about what he could have done. 
08. Lon Chaney Jr. - He is the son of probably the greatest actor in silent cinema and the constant comparison to his father made him look like the lesser of the two during his time. Now most people probably couldn't tell you who his father was or who he was. Or maybe I'm just being a cynical prick. Lon Chaney Jr. played the Wolf Man/Lawrence Talbot a total of five times. He also played Frankenstein's monster once in The Ghost of Frankenstein, the mummy in three films, and even a vampire in The Son of Dracula.
07. Donald Pleasence - The Eagle Has LandedThe Great Escape, and You Only Live Twice... Those are some pretty good movies. But what do we think of when we think of Mr. Pleasence? Dr. Samuel Loomis, of course. Some of us even think of Prince of DarknessAlone in the Dark, and a version of Dracula that starred Frank Langella as the Count. But he is the face of Halloween next to Michael Myers (who is really the face of William Shatner... go figure).
06. Bela Lugosi - With his peculiar and often times distracting accent, Lugosi proved that it was possible to be a star. Yes, for a time he was ranked as one of the greats even though he's now fallen into obscurity with the exception of his one landmark film Dracula. Perhaps his relation with the likes of Ed Wood near the end of his career and his involvement in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (the second and final time Lugosi ever played the legendary Count) serve to reinforce the idea that Lugosi was just a one hit wonder. But that isn't quite correct. Sure, in the forties and fifties his good movies were few and far between. And the ones that were bad were really bad. But it's his tremendous role as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein and his roles in The Raven and Murders in the Rue Morgue that show you that the man was capable of more than just flapping a cape. But Lugosi is a peculiar actor when it comes to horror because people do think of him when it comes to horror, but they can't or don't necessarily think of his movies.
05. Peter Cushing - His two best known roles are as the mad scientist Baron Frankenstein and the eccentric Professor Van Helsing and that should be all I have to say.
04. Christopher Lee - He is probably the most well-known Count and the one who put on the cape the most. And he is also the only one on this list still alive as of this writing. But the strange thing is that he has sort of managed the best career of any actor that could associate themselves with the horror genre. Roles in the The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies as well as the love-it-or-hate-it Star Wars prequel films sort of have a way of making people forget that this guy used to be a Hammer horror icon. He was Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy as well as being the Count. But it was always a treat to watch Cushing and Lee duel each other on screen. I wish they could have been in Star Wars together (in the same movie, wouldn't that have been something?) and done a few more Sherlock Holmes films... but I suppose we can only treasure the films there are and thank Hammer for them.
03. Boris Karloff - Whether he was starring alongside Bela Lugosi or asking for his creator to make him a bride, Karloff was always a treat to watch. His best movies were made in the 30's, but gems like The Body Snatcher and House of Frankenstein could be found later in his career. Of course, he's undoubtedly best known for his first two outings as Frankenstein's monster.
02. Lon Chaney - Silence has to be the hardest way to convey horror. In this age of uber-gore and grotesquely uncomfortable scenes... it seems truly impossible to imagine what it would be like to make a silent horror movie. But Lon Chaney did it all the time and he did it extremely well. The ever classic The Phantom of the Opera was released only six years before Universal's Dracula, but the former is completely silent while the latter is of course not. I often wonder what The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Unknown would be like if they had sound. Undoubtedly, they would find a much bigger audience today, but then that would take away some of the mystique or Lon Chaney. The man only made one talkie in his life and that was the final film he ever made. It's interesting to hear him talk, but it's even more interesting to see him perform.
01. Vincent Price - You saw this coming, yes? No one made bad films watchable quite like Price and he managed to become an icon without ever being the Wolf Man or Frankenstein's monster. He was only the Invisible Man once in The Invisible Man Returns (unless you count his "cameo" in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), but all the same Vincent Price has become a household name. It's pretty amazing, really. Can you imagine Price playing opposite Lon Chaney Jr. in a Wolf Man sequel? That would have been interesting. But Price didn't need to stand by anybody or under anybody's shadow. His frequent Edgar Allan Poe semi-adaptations and his always classy portrayals of mad men have given him a bit of cinema immortality. But what really sets him apart from the rest of the pack is his voice. He's just got the voice of horror. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

I like movies that have an visceral edge and an in-your-face quality that most Hollywood films either steer clear of or pour it on in such a brainless fashion that it becomes a parody. But when Hollywood doesn't fuck things up and a director with an intense vision manages to capture it perfectly... that's what wins me over.

Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant is far from being subtle film. It is very much a gritty and grotesque work. As uncomfortable a movie as I have seen in quite a while (perhaps rivaled by The Passion of the Christ or The Girl Next Door), this movie is essentially what embodies my rather peculiar taste. 

Harvey Keitel gives what is probably his best performance as a drug-addled and perverted cop who stumbles upon a case that has him questioning his lifestyle. Or at the very least realizing his lifestyle is wrong. But what will he do about it?

This movie is not really a cop drama or a drug movie (though there are enough drugs in the movie to rival Oliver Stone's Scarface in terms of usage), but more of a human tragedy and a spiritual drama.

Don't get me wrong, though. There are disturbing scenes abound in this movie. Keitel's character eyes the boobs of dead corpses, masterbates on the car of two scared young women he's pulled over, and then does a shitload of drugs and treats his family like shit. Perhaps the most disturbing scene next to the semi-subtle masterbation scene is the not-so-subtle full-frontal scene Keitel treats us to only about ten minutes into the film. 

Did I also mention that a nun gets brutally raped in this movie and a church gets desecrated in the process? 

And it is that crime that eats away at Keitel's character. 

There isn't much action in this movie. It is mostly all situational and emotional drama. And a whole bunch of sick shit thrown in. 

This movie might not be your cup of tea. It probably isn't. 

But I believe that the movie is perfect for me. If not for the nudity, the drugs, the rape, the masterbation, and the frequent gambling... this movie would look great sandwiched in between Ben Hur and A Christmas Carol

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10 (11?) Favorite Horror Performances

Okay, this is a list of performances and not necessarily movies.

10. Sid Haig in The Devil's Rejects - Okay, this is probably a bit of a stretch to say it is one of the best horror performances ever. But it's one of my favorites. Hence the title of this blog. I just think that Haig makes a great homicidal clown. This movie is ridiculously suspenseful and grotesque and remains Zombie's and Haig's best effort to date. And yes, I'll go ahead and plug Zombie's latest film The Lords of Salem. I believe Sid Haig makes a cameo. I can't wait to see it.
09. Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist - For the longest time I thought that Sydow had really been as old as he was portrayed in this movie and I racked my brain trying to wonder just how old the guy was. Make-up did wonders, but his performance sealed the deal for me.
08.  Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II - Comedy/horror is probably the toughest genre to pull off, but Campbell seems to be able to do it in his sleep. The first movie was more straight-up horror and the third movie was goofy comedy, but this one contains the perfect mixture and Campbell shines.
07. Donald Pleasance in Halloween - It's a legendary role and Pleasance's performance always sends chills up my spine even though the movie as a whole doesn't quite do it for me as time goes on. He even makes the sequels worth watching at least once. Despite the terrible performances around him, Pleasance brings his A-game. Of course, the first movie is where it all started so this is the one that gets the nod.
06. Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist - Seems like every King novel features a crazy religious/political zealot, right? Not all of them have made it to film, but I'm sure they will eventually. Some folks might choose Piper Laurie for her portrayal of Carrie's mom, but I honestly hated Harden's character even more than I hated the written version from The Mist or Carrie's mom. And if I can hate a character that much then you know that someone did her job right.
05. Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs - You'll have a tough time trying to convince me that this is a horror movie, but there is no doubt that Hannibal Lecter is a horror villain. Hopkins did more in 16 minutes than most actors do in a lifetime.
04. Boris Karloff in Frankenstein - Okay, I want you to go through hours of make-up and grunt and groan for an hour. Scary, right? Well, maybe not. It only works if you are Boris Karloff, I guess. Karloff played the legendary creature three times (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Son of Frankenstein) and each time the role varied slightly. You could argue which movie or performance was better, but there's no denying that when people think of Frankenstein... they think of Karloff. They don't remember Colin Clive who actually played Henry Frankenstein in the first two films or the author of the book Mary Shelley. It's all Karloff.
03. Anthony Perkins in Psycho - Subtlety is the key. Think about it. Even though you know how the movie ends and you know that Norman Bates is really his mom... it never really enters your mind that the guy you are watching perform so brilliantly probably had to take a dump between takes, does it? The sequels aren't that great and remake is by far worse, but everyone remembers this movie even if they have never seen it. And everybody remembers poor Norman and his mother. That last scene at the end of the movie where Norman *ahem* Perkins is staring right at us through the screen... Classic.
02. Kathy Bates in Misery - It's not number one? Really? Yep. Kathy Bates gives an amazing performance as the insane Anne Wilkes, but I'm not making her number one. I'm not trying to earn her as a "number one" fan and for damn good reason.
01. Jack Nicholson in The Shining - Here's Johnny! I could watch Nicholson in just about anything with the exception of maybe gay fetish porn, but Nicholson playing an SK-inspired character? Man, I love this movie and his performance especially. If you like the mini-series version more Kubrick's than good for you. Personally, I think Mick Garris is about as entertaining as watching paint dry and for the life of me I can't tell you who played Torrance in that mini-series. But everyone knows Nicholson's Torrance and his incredible descent into insanity.

Oh, shit. There's no Vincent Price on this list. Okay, well, just this once I'll add a number...

00. Vincent Price in The Masque of Red Death - It's the first one to pop into my head, but Price in anything is pretty darn good. He makes bad movies watchable.

Damn it. There's no Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing on this list. No Lon Chaney Jr. or Sr. There's no Robert Englund. No Linda Blair. No Al Pacino (remember that he played Satan in Devil's Advocate) and you know what a huge fan of Pacino's I am. Hell, I watched Gigli because he had a cameo. No Sissy Spacek or Jamie Lee Curtis. No Piper Laurie (well, I more or less stated my reasoning why above, but still...).

Well, I'll just deal with it and so will you. The list is final.

As of now...

Just wait a few minutes...

Okay, it's definitely final.

Monday, October 1, 2012

10 Favorite Horror Movies That Begin With "The"

Is it really October already? Well, shoot. I guess it's time for some horror movie talk. So how about an absurd movie list? 

The following are my favorite horror movies that begin with "The." So there are a lot of classics that won't make the cut because they don't begin with "The." So you won't see Evil Dead II even though I really love it (probably more than the original) because it doesn't have "The" at the beginning.

You also won't see The Bride of Frankenstein because it was originally titled just plain Bride of Frankenstein

10. The Birds (1963) - I love this movie, but it is not my favorite Hitchcock movie. But try thinking of how many Hitchcock horror movies begin with "The." It's a pretty short list. 
09. The Evil Dead (1981) - The only movie that features a scene where a woman gets raped by a tree. 
08. The Mummy (1932, 1959) - Okay, this is cheating. The original is superior, but the Hammer remake featuring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee is great, too. 
07. The Mist (2007) - A modern classic. And yes, the ending is beyond freaking awesome. 
06. The Wolf Man (1941) - Claude Rains, Lon Chaney Jr., and Bela Legosi all in one movie. How could I possibly leave this movie off my list? Plus, I dare you to name a werewolf movie that came out before this one. Aren't too many, huh? 
05. The Omen (1976) - A horror movie with Gregory Peck? Hell yes! 
04. The Masque of Red Death (1964) - I've said it before but any horror list not including Vincent Price is not one worth making. 
03. The Exorcist (1973) - Yeah, it's an obvious choice, but you are probably surprised this is not No. 1, right? 
02. The Thing (1982) - John Carpenter remakes a classic and makes an even better classic. 
01. The Shining (1980) - Kubrick was a genius and he certainly flexed his muscles with this movie. Jack Nicholson stole the show with his classic performance and even Shelley Duvall's atrocious miscasting becomes gets buoyed by the ridiculous talent around her. 

Okay, I missed quite a few. The Phantom of the Opera, The Invisible Man, The Girl Next Door, The Fly (the remake that I really do love), and (perhaps most egregiously omitted) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all missed the mark. That's not on purpose, I swear. But what movie would I cut? Yeah, I could extend this list to fit fifteen, but then where would I put The Amityville Horror? See, it never ends. I'll end up just adding movies one after the other. 

So this is my list and it is final.