There’s a video for this list here.
10. Rabid Grannies
A group of relatives meet to celebrate their elderly relations’ birthday (but have disclosed that they are only there so that they may be left something in the old duck’s inheritances when they pop their clogs). A black-sheep nephew of the octogenarians who practices the black arts has been excluded from proceedings but sends a supernatural gift that turns the lovable grandmas into evil, homicidal maniacs. Fun ensues.
This film is from Troma (of course). Within this Belgian horror film, the gore and blood flow and there is also a delectable sick strain of humour at play that make the film feel like no other movie I think I’ve ever seen.
Demented, wickedly funny and one of a kind.
9. The Blob
A remake of the Steve McQueen classic. A meteorite emits a strange pink goo-type substance that is in fact alive, harmful to humans and intent on wreaking havoc. It seems to be completely sentient. This 80’s version determines the slime as in fact, a biological weapon that was sent into space after being concocted by scientists on Earth rather than being an alien entity.
By 1988 when this remake was made, special effects had progressed at such a dizzying pace that it was felt that anything was possible. Director Chuck Russell takes full advantage of this with not only The Blob doing things onscreen that could only have been dreamt of in the original film. Also, the blob itself looks aesthetically beautiful, akin to a huge oozing mass of pink bubble gum.
Kevin Dillon is certainly no Steve McQueen (but, to be fair, no one is) and this remake doesn’t have the amazing theme song that the original had, but as a special effects-laden 1980s remake this film more than accomplishes (and with real panache) what it aims to do.
8. Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
This film is basically Jason vs Carrie as one of the latest crop of teens has telekinesis. What’s more, she’s accidentally awakened Jason who was chained beneath Crystal Lake thanks to Tommy Jarvis in the previous film.
This was the first film with Kane Hodder as Jason. He seems completely at home right off the bat with his first inhabitation of the role displaying a real flare and strutting confidence.
We get some great kills, some great moments of sly humour (but not the amount of meta-humour synonymous with Part 6) and a fantastic final confrontation. We also get some of the finest helmet hair ever captured on film, with ‘do’s’ so severe that they very possibly could be just as bad (if not worse) than any of the atrocities committed by Jason.
There are also some great character archetypes that the film hams up too- the bitch, the evil doctor, the ugly duckling. There’s a shrewdness to proceedings that is really enjoyable and helps pull this entry out of being just a generic late 80s slasher movie.
But there were also other, more radical ideas being pushed forward when this film was being mooted. Barbara Sachs, a Paramount producer wanted this movie to be the one Friday that was seen as being ‘arty’ and wanted it to even be in the running when the Academy Awards came around. Seriously! At one point there were even mutterings of trying to attach a director of (previous) high standing to the film with one possible nominee being Fellini. Yes, seriously!!!
This all came to nothing though as John Carl Buechler who had directed Troll was employed instead. He does a great job but the mind still boggles at the idea of Fellini directing proceedings and Jason going up to collect the Palme d’Or.
7. Child’s Play
Another movie that kickstarted a brand new and very profitable horror franchise was Child’s Play.
Catherine Hicks plays a single mother who gives her young son Andy a new toy (named Chucky) akin to the old ‘My Buddy’, the awkwardly large doll for boys (!) from the ’80s.
Very early on this movie steers into dark waters. When Chucky starts killing people beginning with Maggie, Andy’s babysitter, the police make Andy the key suspect. The issue of killer kids is still a taboo and ironically one of the entries in this franchise would be linked to the real-life case of the two killer kids who murdered James Bulger in 1993.
The doll scampering around to kill people looks and feels very sinister and uncomfortable as it looks like a child is actually committing all of these atrocities (a child was actually used to act as the killer doll). Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky is amazing as he shows that even when he isn’t on screen he can still light up a role.
A very good start to an inventive, funny and intelligent franchise.
6. Killer Klowns From Outer Space
A film for everyone who finds clowns really sinister and scary (or sexy because of that).
A young couple are busy making out at Make Out Point when they see what looks likes like a falling star and so go to investigate. It’s there that they find, of all things, a circus tent. The alien beings in said tent all look like clowns but they aren’t here to fall over and entertain us. They hate humans and want to harvest us in bright pink cocoons. They also kill humans as witnessed by Deputy Sheriff Mooney who arrests one of them. It slaughters everyone else in the cell along with the deputy.
Fortunately, the Sheriff proper realises that the Klowns are a serious threat to the entire town and sets out to stop them. Will he succeed or will they?
This film is by the Chiodo Brothers and is like a really brightly coloured acid trip with this startling vision having darker undertones beneath the surface. This is also one of those movies that has its own reality and an amazing vision that is fully and brilliantly conceived and realised by the filmmakers.
This film is now seen as a cult classic and I can fully see why. A sequel has been mooted for years. I hope it comes to fruition.
5. Maniac Cop
A cop has supposedly gone psycho on the streets of New York which causes citywide panic and retribution with cops being shot or steered clear of by scared civilians. The main suspect is a policeman called Jack with another cop called McCrae diving deep into the case and trying to stop the killer as he doesn’t think Jack is responsible.
This is another film by William Lustig who made Maniac and Vigilante. With this movie, he again comes up with the goods. Not only is this a cult film fan’s dream cast with Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree (not to mention cameos by Sam Raimi and Jake LaMotta who is Lustig’s uncle) but this is a great concept for a movie. It has plenty of tense night-time scenes on grimy, terrifying New York streets (a Lustig speciality). There’s also the genuine shock scene when Maniac Cop is revealed with the legend Robert Z’Dar and his awesome jaw coming to the fore.
Maniac Cop was cut by 5 secs by the BBFC when it was first released in the UK. This involved the shower scene that involved a stabbing and facial mutilation.
This film was followed by two more Maniac Cop movies.
4. Phantasm 2
It was because of Phantasm 2 that I learnt of the first film. Barry Norman on his regular film review programme reviewed the movie and voiced the opinion that he didn’t even know there was a first Phantasm film. At that point, I had to agree.
I rented Phantasm 2 before I got to see the first film and loved it. It was (like the first movie) unlike any other film I had ever seen, with bags of imagination and nothing over-explained. The film had a mysterious aura about it.
This film continued its exploration of the sinister and malevolent Tall Man with Mike from the original film (but played by a different actor) leaving the mental institution he was resident in after the events of the first film and returning to Morningside Cemetery where he starts exhuming graves. Just as he suspected, they are empty. This convinces Reggie (also from the original) to help Mike investigate further and try to stop The Tall Man.
A bigger budget, more ambitious visuals and more complex plotlines (there seems to be more of an emphasis on the psychic element that was just hinted at in the original film with the seer and her granddaughter) permeate this sequel. There are also more guns, action and gore with the spheres being given a redux and more murderous implements to kill with.
But there’s still mystery, intelligence and innovation. And what’s more, it’s still ingrained in this second film as it was in the first. The viewer is free to interpret events in this film and try to decide if they are actual or imagined.
Phantasm 2 is a very worthy sequel to a masterpiece.
Ever since I read about Scarecrows in an old issue of Gorezone I knew I had to see it. When I did finally see it, of course, it was cut by the BBFC. But even in this cut form it still made for a great film.
A plane full of mercenaries have stolen millions of dollars and are flying away to Mexico with their bounty. However, one of them swipes the loot and parachutes from the plane into a cornfield. Two others parachute after him to be joined by the others upon landing the plane. They all meet in a house adjoining to the field. They spot the loot which is in the field but what they don’t know is that they will have major problems retrieving it as the cornfield is home to three paranormal scarecrows who are actually alive and hate those who trespass onto their terrain.
This is a brooding, dark-hued film that is perfect for such a dark and gory movie. The horror of the scarecrows is intensified by the way they have been lit with all of the action taking place at night. This lends a very sinister air to proceedings, especially with the haunting locale of the nocturnal cornfield.
There’s also great characterisation with the backstory warranting its own prequel. The sense of mistrust and paranoia permeates the action and prepares the audience to expect the unexpected. This is no generic 80’s horror movie.
I finally saw the uncut version and it was well worth the wait as was seeing the film on Blu-ray after I first saw it on VHS all those years ago.
2. Dead Ringers
More double-crossing now with twins being perfectly suited for this.
This David Cronenberg movie stars Jeremy Irons as twin gynaecologists with one twin, the narcissistic Elliot, seducing and then discarding some of the women who come to their practice with his more submissive and introverted twin Beverly taking over from Elliot in the relationship but without the woman being aware of the substitution.
The twins carry out this abusive practice with actress Claire (Genevieve Bujold). But Beverly seriously falls for her and after beginning a relationship together, refuses to ‘share’ her with Elliot (which causes a serious rift in their relationship) and starts to share her addiction to prescription medication.
After she has lunch with one of her friends she learns that Beverly has a twin brother. This triggers earlier doubts she had had regarding Beverly and how differently he acted after their first dalliance together. She confronts Beverly about this and tells him that she knows what he and his twin have done.
After a reconciliation between Beverly and Claire, there is more drug use between the two before she leaves town to work on another film. With her gone, Beverly becomes depressed, starts taking more drugs and becomes obsessed with mutant women with abnormal genitalia.
Yes, there’s lots going on here! This couldn’t be more different from the plot to Friday the 13th Part 7 if it tried. This film was another example of Cronenberg going from strength to strength. Just as The Fly had been a huge hit without any sign of selling out or compromise (in other words it was just as gross as his earlier films!), Dead Ringers was Cronenberg’s most accomplished film to date. The plot had plenty of scope for his breed of body horror (check out the horrific women’s examination implements that are made for Beverly as he becomes more deranged and drug-addled), but this time it was his most polished film with a stellar and VERY well-respected cast. Cronenberg aimed high with this project and asked Robert De Niro to play the twins but was turned down. He also asked William Hurt but he wasn’t comfortable playing twins. Jeremy Irons has a formidable reputation, rises to this challenge and does an amazing job. His mix of equal parts refinement and derangement was perfect for this role. Genevieve Bujold was another actor of undeniable class who was perfectly cast as Claire.
The critics almost universally threw bouquets at Cronenberg’s feet with this film. It was intelligent, perfectly realised and gorgeous to boot with the subject matter being pure Cronenberg. Many critics and fans think this is his best film. They may be right.
1 Monkey Shines
When an athlete (Allan) is hit by a truck and left a quadriplegic, a scientist friend recruits a monkey that has been trained to help assist disabled people to fully carry out their lives. Ella the monkey starts to bond well with Allan but soon this bond becomes a lot darker as he thinks that there might be some kind of telepathic bond with his new companion which then transforms into Ella enacting revenge on anyone who Allen displays anger towards. This escalates quickly.
This was Romero’s first film since Day of the Dead three years before and was further proof, if it were needed, that Romero continued to make intelligent horror films and that, just like Cronenberg, his directing career continued to flourish and evolve into unexpected avenues.
A film about a psychotic, telepathic monkey wreaking havoc in a disabled man’s life was new territory for Romero and (yet again) he knocks it out of the park with deft direction, all-round amazing performances and a tension that becomes palpable with every passing scene.
The film still has the ability to shock. I could say more but I’m not going to ruin this film for anyone. This is a noteworthy entry in Romero’s stellar body of work and one of his best films.