Thrills & Chills
Horror Film Recommendations Available for Check Out in O'Neill Media Center
By Wes Hazard
Night of the Creeps (Dir. Fred Dekker, 1986, 88 Minutes)
PN1997 .N544864 2009
"The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is... they're dead." Such is the famous tagline (and actual line of dialogue) from the mid 80s genre-bending cult classic Night of the Creeps. This movie has it all: rubber suited aliens, axe murderers, zombie frat boys, completely unsubtle anatomical symbolism, a weaponized lawnmower--I mean seriously, you'll want for nothing. Funny, self-aware and with some 80s period flourishes that you'll forever appreciate, Night of the Creeps is one of those movies that you can laugh both at and with every step of the way. And it's got heart too; try not to tear up a little when you listen to the cassette tape farewell message. With one of the best first dates that I can remember in the movies (boy and girl teaming up with a shotgun and a flamethrower while in formal wear) this pic has a little something for everyone.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1992, 128 Minutes)
PR6037.T617 D73 1997
Granted, two hours of listening to Keanu Reeves do his best British accent might not sound like the greatest of movie experiences, but if you can get over it you'll find one of the most sensual and audacious of mainstream vampire movies ever made. Forget The Godfather, this is hands down my favorite Francis Ford Coppola movie. As he's the 2nd most filmed fictional character of all time (after Sherlock Holmes) most people think they've already "been there" when it comes to Count D. But by sticking closely to the original novel and playing up the Victorian era repression and emergence into modernity this movie really manages to be something singular. Absolutely fantastic special effects, a riveting score, and ridiculous performances by rocker Tom Waits as the madman Renfield and Gary Oldman as the count make this a minor masterpiece of early 90s horror. You won't soon forget images like a severely decrepit Oldman licking a bloody razor blade or a hulking bat-demon morphing into a mound of rats before your eyes. Great stuff.
An American Werewolf in London (Dir. John Landis, 1981, 97 Minutes)
PN1997 .A44 2001
So you know the Thriller video? This is its awesome and multi-talented director (John Landis) let loose on a script he wrote for a feature length black comedy werewolf classic. Morbid and witty humor, an authentic moral dilemma, and perhaps the best man to wolf transformation scene in all of cinema. This only gets better each year. N.B. There was a prodigiously inferior quasi-sequel made sixteen years later with the dude from Dead Man on Campus and That Thing You Do and set in Paris--it's probably best you don't watch it.
Zombieland (Dir. Ruben Fleischer, 2009, 88 Minutes)
PN1997.2 .Z663 2010
Before he was Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, Jesse Eisenberg played Columbus, a paranoid neurotic survivor of the zombie apocalypse who gets by because he sticks to his own basic rules. You know, simple things, like maintain good cardio and always give a zombie two taps with the shotgun. With strong supporting performances by Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine all grown up) this movie manages to spice up the well-worn zombie genre by not taking itself too seriously and focusing on the relationships of necessity and co-dependence that naturally form when 95% of the country starts craving brains. It's also damn funny. Bill Murray, playing himself, gets my vote for cameo of the decade.
Calvaire (Dir. Fabrice Du Welz, 2004, 88 Minutes)
PN1993.5 .B4 C35 2004
Psycho meets Deliverance meets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre... in French. Calvaire (The Ordeal) follows a few days in the life of Marc, a likeable and considerate but not particularly talented or lucky Belgian lounge singer. He does his annual holiday gig at a country retirement home, deflects the super awkward and direct advances of a woman old enough to be his grandmother, has his van break down on a desolate road and then gets taken in by an extremely unstable inn-keeper pining for his deceased wife. Things then get worse, a whole lot worse. This movie pretty much answers the question "What are the most horrible things that can happen to you if you're stuck in the remote Belgian wilderness with insane farmhands who know their way around an axe, have an abundance of old dresses lying around, and really, really enjoy the company of pigs?" It's bad news all around. A bloody and depraved European treat.
Dead Again (Dir. Kenneth Branagh, 1991, 107 Minutes)
PN1997 .D423 2006
OK, so this isn't so much of a horror movie as it is a supernatural thriller/romance, but it has murder, mystery, reincarnation and that awesome title going for it so why not? Kenneth Branagh, known mainly as the best Shakespeare interpreter of the last two decades and as Prof. Gilderoy Lockhart from the second Harry Potter movie, directs and stars in this offbeat pic about an LA private eye trying to sort out the identity of a mute woman who shows up one night at the orphanage he grew up in. One thing leads to another and soon enough they're not only in love but also suspecting that they share a spiritual link with a famous composer and his murdered wife from forty years before. Think of it as a more expressionistic and heartfelt version of The Thirteenth Floor... but with a creepy hypnotist thrown in. Guest spots include a touching monologue from Wayne Knight (Newman of Seinfeld) and a fantastic turn by Robin Williams as a disgraced psychiatrist working as a supermarket stock boy. A one of a kind overlooked gem.
Vampire Hunter D. Bloodlust (Dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 2000, 103 Minutes)
PN1993.5.J3 V36 2001
For all you anime fans. Back in 1985 Vampire Hunter D managed to become one of the first pieces of feature length Japanese animation to break through in America. While I appreciate that film I just don't think it can compare to this sequel from 2000. Adapting a later book from Hideyuki Kikuchi's series of vampire novels, this movie benefits from superior animation and music as well as more interesting and well-drawn characters. Thousands of years in the future, where androids and mutants are just part of life, vampires rule the night. They terrorize the village-folk, wilt the vegetation, kidnap young maidens and basically kick up ruckus on a regular basis. Enter D, a half human half vampire bounty hunter with a six-foot sword and a sarcastic yet cowardly talking left hand. Need I go on? Crazy visuals and an interesting examination of the nature and limits of love make this a thoroughly solid and rewarding film.
Trick 'r Treat (Dir. Michael Dougherty, 2007, 82 Minutes)
PN1997.2 .T75 2009
It's a crime that movie studio politics kept this film out of theaters, but even with a straight to DVD release it's managed to find a bit of a cult following, and rightfully so. At times scary, funny, political and just plain weird, the story follows intersecting groups of people (some of them predators... some of them prey... some both) during a Halloween night in small-town America. We're introduced to a school principal pursuing some super-felonious extracurricular activities, a pack of fun-loving sorority girls who are more than they appear to be, naive teenagers who take a local legend way too far, and this little troll-like character with a burlap sack on his head who shows up whenever trouble's afoot. You'll like it for its inventive screenplay, you'll love it because a dude gets dispatched with a jagged lollipop. Enough said.
*for more horror film reviews see "Be Afraid---Horror Film Recommendations from O'Neill Media Center" ugrads, Fall 2009.
Wes Hazard, Media Services Assistant, O'Neill Library