5) The Last House on the Left (1972)
wes Craven’s original masterpiece “Last House on the Left” is probably one of the hardest movies that I have ever had to review. Let me warn you first and foremost, those expecting a teenybopper horror flick like “Scream” are going to be in for a surprise. The plot? Two teenage girls go into the big city for a concert when they are kidnapped, rapped, taken out to the woods, and murdered.
Extremely graphic and brutally raw would still be downplaying how disturbing this is. Well, after these two girls are murdered, under strange circumstances, the gang that did it are forced to spend the night at one of the young girl’s parents home. All of this is shot and filmed with a dark, dreary look that perfectly fits the sick tone of the movie. It’s raw and powerful but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s just say, they don’t make movies like this anymore.
4) The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Some movies are a little bit out there. Some movies are a little on the strange side. Some movies can be a put off putting to others. And some movies are “The People Under the Stairs.” I can honestly say that I have never seen another movie like it. It is weird, over-the-top, and quite frequently crazy. You have a husband and wife (or mother and son or brother and sister, the movie really doesn’t make it very clear) that kidnap children to raise as their perfect offspring. However, when the child in question “hears, speaks, or sees evil” they are banished to the basement with the other neglected children. Sound fucked up?
Well, that’s only the start of it. The movie begins with a thirteen year old boy nicknamed Fool. Fools lives in the ghetto and has just found out his family is going to get evicted from their run down apartment. Fool is persuaded by family friend, Leroy, to sneak into the landlords’ home (the husband/wife, etc) to steal a prized coin collection rumored to be in their home. Desperate to help save his Mother’s life and the family from being thrown into the streets, Fool goes with Leroy and Leroy’s friend, Spenser, to the house.
Once they force their way into the house, they realize they got a lot more than they were looking for. After Spenser and Leroy are tragically killed, Fool tries to escape. Running for his life, he bumps into the landlords’ daughter, Alice, a young abused girl full of nothing but scars and fear. Fool feels sympathy towards Alice and persuades her to escape with him.
The movie works as a social parable about the rich and the poor but works even better as a balls-to-the-wall action/horror comedy that is just about as weird and crazy as you would imagine. I can’t recommend this movie to everyone but for those looking for a little leather gimp action, a crazy incest plot, and lots of hillbilly kids. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
3) 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.
2) 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.
1) 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.