When I was young, I used to watch horror movies with my father. I have memories of seeing Night of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th, Fire in the Sky, and other movies with him. Since then, I’ve always loved horror movies, specifically ones from the 1960s-1980s that offer at least some character development, interesting plot, and at times social/political commentary. As a writer, I also know how difficult it is to suspend reality and make the setting and situation work, no matter how outlandish the story may seem on paper.
Here’s an overview/commentary on some of my favorite horror movies.
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead
Zombies have been popular over the last few years. The high ratings of AMC’s show “The Walking Dead” prove that. But Romero’s brilliant zombie films started the trend and how we think of zombies on the big screen or TV. What separates Romero’s films from the rest, though, is his social commentary. You can view Dawn of the Dead as a statement against consumerism. The zombies do flock to the mall, after all, and wander around aimlessly. Day of the Dead warns against militarization, and one of his more recent films, Land of the Dead, highlights the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor in the U.S. My favorite, though, is still Night of the Living Dead. I love the 1968 black and white version, especially the beginning of the film where the young woman and her friend are in the graveyard and encounter a stumbling, groaning zombie. I still love the line, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”
John Carpenter’s Halloween
This is the film I re-watch every October, and it still holds up. I love the scenes shot from Michael Myer’s point of view, as he stalks Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends. I love the fact there is no rational for why Michael does what he does, other than pure evil. None of the sequels or remakes hold up to the original.
John Carpenter’s The Thing
I just re-watched this the other day for the first time in a few years. The setting and effects are still spectacular and eerie, especially as the paranoia overtakes each of the characters in the film as they question who or who isn’t the shape-shifting alien.
I also re-watched this recently. The scene where Carol Anne speaks through the TV and the white noise gives me chills. What’s especially effective about this movie is the character development. We want the family to survive, and we grow fond of them as the movie progresses.
This is the only horror movie that generally scared me. A lot of the scenes stick with you after you watch it, even the notion that a 12-year-old girl can suddenly become possessed by a demon. There’s also a lot of good points about faith and doubt raised in this film. In the extended version, the scene where a possessed Linda Blair walks up and down the stairs like a spider makes my skin crawl.
These are just some of my favorite horror films. There aren’t too many recent ones I’ve enjoyed, as it seems many of them rely on high body counts and flat characters, as opposed to rich character development, an intriguing plot, and effects that aren’t overdone.
My girlfriend and I plan to watch a few of these and some other favorites during these days leading up to Halloween.