Commentary: Knocking on death's door: Horror movies for homebodies
It's scary how quickly summer has ended--and even scarier we only have a few months left to shop for Christmas gifts for sometimes-oh-so-hard-to-please friends and family.
It's scary how quickly summer has ended-and even scarier we only have a few months left to shop for Christmas gifts for sometimes-oh-so-hard-to-please friends and family.
Have no fear, as I am here to recommend horror movies that would take anyone's mind off of the stress of holiday gatherings associated with, for example, Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve.
Most of us are familiar with Jason Voorhees from the "Friday the 13th" film series and Freddy Krueger from the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movie franchise, so they're too obvious.
No, I'm talking about feature films available now that can give a viewer the same heebie-jeebies but with the thrill of discovering little-known gems to frighten other horror film aficionados.
I'm a movie buff at heart and even like-gasp!-foreign movies with subtitles, but the reason I enjoy horror films is the same reason amusement park enthusiasts like roller coaster rides: the adrenaline rush associated with a terrifying event that's experienced while safely seated.
Or as a friend of mine put it-a fan of the "Saw" franchise, no less-no horror movie to her is as frightening as real life, so scary films are her escape from reality, even if it's just for an hour or two.
But give Michael Myers the Halloween off or bench Jigsaw this year by skipping their sequels, which often follow the law of diminishing returns and come across as a cash grab by Hollywood.
So without further ado, here are my movie recommendations that will include horror subgenres such as comedy horror, science fiction horror, supernatural horror, Gothic horror and more.
The one caveat I have is I am not a fan of slasher or splasher films. To me, that is the cinematic equivalent of using obscenity to converse rather than expressing oneself without cuss words.
Also a condition of my short and subjective list of recommendations, in no particular order, is they stand up to repeated viewings and are not ones that immediately come to mind, I think.
Underrated, ahead of its time, too weird for its own good, bad marketing-who knows why these unnerving or cult classics aren't the first ones that come to mind during Halloween?
But if the umpteenth installment of a hockey mask-wearing serial killer, or watching a scarred, fedora-wearing demon dispatch oversexed teens without prejudice, is yawn-inducing, read on.
• Ravenous (1999)-With a tagline of "You are who you eat," you will get your fill of black humor, gore and foreboding in this survival-of-the-fittest, cannibalism-themed period piece set in a 19th-century remote military outpost after the Mexican-American war.
• Let Me In (2010)-My wife scoffs at me describing this American remake of a 2008 Swedish film as a tender love story, but the tale of a bullied preteen who seeks acceptance from an estranged child vampire is puppy love, albeit with a bloody bite.
• Frailty (2001)-Bill Paxton stars and directs this surprising thriller about a single father of two boys who experiences "visions"-or is it delusions? The dad's religious fanaticism and what he says God compels him to do-kill-is the real horror here.
• The Mist (2007)-With the exception of "Misery," I'm not a fan of Stephen King movie adaptations, but this one-about the supernatural or aliens-fires on all cylinders as the people taking shelter in a supermarket turn on each other or take on a mob mentality.
• Event Horizon (1997)-Sci-fi horror is one of my favorite subgenres, with "Aliens" being a revered example, but this film about a rescued crew that may have opened a portal to hell while attempting to travel faster than thought possible comes pretty close to great.
• The Descent (2005)-Girl power is put to the test when a cave-exploring group of women venture off the beaten path and encounter blind but predatory creatures that may have been human once. (The sequel, "The Descent: Part 2," is equally gory and plucky.)
• 28 Days Later... (2002)-Years before "The Walking Dead" entered the zeitgeist of Americans, this British film about a zombie apocalypse stole (but luckily didn't eat) my heart with its gritty portrayal of survivors trying to stay one step ahead of the undead.
• The Thing (1982)-Considered a cult classic and remade in 2011 with the same title but better special effects, the sci-fi horror original's chills came from the rampant paranoia of residents of an Antarctic base fending off a deadly alien that can resemble humans.
• Drag Me to Hell (2009)-A loan officer who chooses not to extend an old woman's mortgage in a bid to impress her boss pays a price in this supernatural horror film in which she must deal with the ramifications of her hasty decision or be eternally damned.
• The Fly (1986)-Here is a creature feature from the '80s-a remake of the Vincent Price classic from 1958-featuring a mad scientist who becomes conjoined with a common household fly. The hybrid tries to hold onto his humanity and the love of his life.
• 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)-The mystery or thriller of an end-of-days scenario that may have resulted from a possible alien invasion has the viewer guessing for the most part whether the self-proclaimed savior rescued a woman or just made her his captive.
• The Others (2001)-The spooky story is set at the end of World War II in a mansion where a mother of two light-sensitive children spend their days forlornly waiting for the patriarch of the family to return, all the while feeling that they are not alone in their home.
• Dawn of the Dead (2004)-Social commentary about consumerism or zany zombie movie, this remake of the George Romero classic of the same name set in a shopping mall where a bunch of survivors hole up is gory and great fun at the same time.
• The Cabin the Woods (2012)-The usual horror movie tropes are given a postmodern polish with black humor and sly homages to other slasher pics. But this feature film still feels fresh or new much in the same way "Scream" breathed new life in the horror genre.
• [Rec] (2007)-The Spanish film was remade as "Quarantine" in 2008 for English-speaking audiences. The plot centers on a camera crew covering firefighters in a Barcelona apartment building when a virus causes pandemonium in the confined space.
• Devil (2010)-"Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" is a cautionary phrase but applies in this case in which strangers trapped in an elevator are condemned for past indiscretions known to the fallen angel who is disguised as one of them in the elevator.
• You're Next (2011)-Violent and gory, this slasher picture's redemptive feature is a heroine that rivals the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis in "Halloween." Bonus points for the plot twist about the twisted motivations of those behind the killing spree.
• The Loved Ones (2009)-From Australia comes this love-gone-bad flick about a doting father who would do anything for his spoiled daughter, including kidnapping several boys or would-be suitors to be her one-and-only, but gruesome complications arise.
• Splinter (2008)-A young couple and an escaped convict join forces in an isolated gas station to fend off an unexplained but seemingly unstoppable parasite that takes over anyone it encounters by transforming them into prickly, deadly versions of themselves.
• The Orphanage (2007)-An orphan returns to her former orphanage as an adult with her adopted son in tow when the child mysteriously disappears. A former employee of the orphanage, who harbors a secret, shows up and is key to unraveling the tragedy.