5) Friday the 13th (1980)
Looking at Friday the 13th, it’s easy to see why the film was so controversial. Many feminist groups were so angered by these types of movies in the 1980’s. After all, aren’t these films merely an excuse to show a topless girl running through the woods waiting to get impaled on a killer’s “long blade”? The references to death and sex aren’t exactly subtle. As Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film states, many feminists were downright disgusted by Friday the 13th finding it repulsive and borderline offensive that every female in the film, with the exception of the “final girl” (which I will go into detail on later), is killed because of her sexual experience and independence. What kind of message does this send to the female youth of America? Stay subservient to your male partner and everything will end up being okay for you?
The feminist critics that attack these films don’t seem to see the power these films contain. Here, in Friday the 13th, is a young woman who must put all the pieces of the mystery everything together and save her friends in order to survive the night. And survive she does, something that not a single other male does in the course of the film. In fact, looking at the series as a whole, it takes the franchise until Part 4 before it even allows a male to survive in the end. It should come as no surprise that this male is survived with a female who, once again, was forced to save the day on her own. Whereas in other film genres, such as romantic comedies and dramas, where females are pushed aside to “girlfriend support” roles, Friday the 13th tries to do something different with gender roles by making the males the “supportive partner” and forcing the young female teenager to go take charge and same the day. In essence, the female in this film, as in many other horror films, is the hero.
4) Scream (1996)
Growing up in a small town with not a lot of friends, you have to do what you can to make the time pass. For me, my friend past-time was horror movies. I devoured them as a kid. I remember going to the local video store with my mom and running to the horror aisle to see what new releases might be in stock. But even more than the new releases, it was the 80′s style horror movies that really caught my eye. The box art was normally quite grotesque with a naked girl here and a body part here. I always thought to myself, “This is awesome!” Hell, the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors back box art (Kristen in the “Freddy snake”) scared me so much that it would take me years to watch it. Of course, I would always check out the back cover art just to freak myself out.
My view of horror as an art form all changed on one cold winter day in 1996. December 20th, 1996 to be exact (and no, dear viewers, I didn’t need to look that date up). A little movie called “Scream” opened and terrified moviegoers everywhere. It was the first film of its kind. A horror movie in which the characters in the movie had seen other horror movies. It could have been confusing and overly meta but it was all part of the fun.
“Scream” made horror movies scary again with a brilliantly constructed plot. One year after the death of Sidney Prescott’s (Campbell) mother, two students turn up gutted. When a serial killer appears, Sidney begins to suspect whether her mother’s death and the two new deaths are related. No one is safe, as the killer begins to pick everyone off one by one. Finally, something the horror genre was missing: a good old fashioned murder mystery. The performances all around are first rate from Neve Campbell as the vulnerable to Courteney Cox as the bitchy journalist willing to do whatever it takes to get a story Gale Weathers to David Arquette as the sweet, slightly dimwitted Deputy Dewey to Drew Barrymore’s doomed Casey Becker.
3) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today.
Nancy is having nightmares about a frightening, badly-scarred figure who wears a glove with razor-sharp “finger knives”. She soon discovers that her friends are having similar dreams. When the kids begin to die, Nancy realizes that she must stay awake to survive. Uncovering the secret identity of the dream killer and his connection with the children of Elm Street, the girl plots to draw him out into the real world.
The film goes for suspense, drama, and gore and delivers for the most part. Heather Langenkamp gives a very solid performance as Nancy Thompson, the young woman is the “leader” among her friends and the only one who may get out alive. Forget about Jamie Lee Curtis’ whimpering performance in “Halloween”. Here Langenkamp is the real deal and she kicks ass. A great horror film that still delivers today. Look for a young Johnny Depp who, arguably, has the best death scene in the flick.
2) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
After the dismal “Freddy’s Dead”, Freddy seemed to be dead and buried for at least a few years. It, however, was in 1994 that Wes Craven came up with the radical idea of bringing Freddy back for another nightmare…a “New Nightmare”. Gone was funny Freddy and the fresh looking 80′s MTV teenagers and in was a concept so unique and groundbreaking that it just couldn’t work? Or could it…
But..let us start back at the beginning. In 1984, horror director Wes Craven created “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It was acclaimed as one of the scariest movies ever made and made unknowns like Robert Englund, Johnny Depp, and Heather Langenkamp huge stars. Ten years later, Heather is living happily with her husband, Chase, and her son, Dylan. But her life has now been turned upside down because she is being stalked by a person who sounds like Nightmare villain Freddy Krueger. Chase has just been killed in a car accident after he accidentally fell asleep behind the wheel. Dylan refuses to sleep any more, and New Line Cinema has just offered her a part in “the ultimate Nightmare.” But some other strange things have been happening, including earthquakes and Craven being tight-lipped about the script. The ultimate truth is that Freddy Krueger is actually an ancient demon breaking out into our world, but in order to do that, he must go through Heather. And he knows he can get out by harming those near her.
Sound convoluted? Pretentious? Overly meta? Shockingly, no. “New Nightmare” is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, lead by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp. The script is full of twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series. What starts out as a maze of mirrors becomes something much more than your typical nightmare. The film examines the role film plays on those who watch it. Something that Wes Craven’s “Scream” would play out to great effect two years later. I really can’t say enough about this film and homages to the original are expertly placed. It is one of my all time favorite horror films and a modern classic.
1) Black Christmas (1974)
Forget about the 2006 version, THIS movie is where the terror really started. It’s time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don’t express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?
“Black Christmas” is that rare horror movie that gets everything right. This is a movie that just oozes atmosphere. Every frame is dripping with dread and setting the film on the Christmas just adds to the excitement of it all. Not only this but the film is also scary as hell with some excellent performances and an ending that is sure to give every horror fan chills. What is the most incredible aspect of this groundbreaking slasher film? Throughout the entire film, we see various sorority girls getting hacked to death and receiving strange telephone calls. What we don’t see is our psycho, Billy. No motive, no reason, no face, no man..Billy could be anyone of us. If that doesn’t make a true psycho, I really don’t know what does.
“Black Christmas” is quite simply the best horror movie I’ve ever seen. Some give the credit to “Halloween” to being the first real American slasher film but that simply is not fair. “Black Christmas” did it first and did it better. It is the grandmother of the slasher film, four years before “Halloween”. “Black Christmas’” power is impossible to deny; its characters are compelling, the imagery poignant, and the acting top-notch. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are in for one scary “Christmas” treat.