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November 15, 2010

Midnight Top Five - Horror Movies I Take For Granted

Sometimes a fine movie seems less than fine, and there's no good reason for it.  This seems to be one of the great struggles I have as a film fan, because sometimes I realize that I have - for whatever reason - been completely ignorant of just how much I enjoy a movie.  I never said I wasn't dense.

For example, I recently rewatched Deliverance with some friends who hadn't seen it yet.  I was in "Oh yeah, this is an awesome movie mode", but I hadn't seen the film in at least five years, and I'd simply lost my grip on just how much that film impresses me.  I didn't remember the intense moral dilemma, I remembered the shock scenes and Burt Reynolds' ridiculous wet suit and lack of mustache.  And that's just not right.

And now, here's five horror picks for things I occasionally take for granted.  It's not them, it's me.
The Lost Boys (1987, Dir. by Joel Schumacher.) - I was recently checking out a commentary on the film and its far-too-late sequels over at the fine young blog Malice of Horrorland, and was again reminded of how I devalue The Lost Boys among both horror films and the pop films of the 1980s.  I often think of it alongside films like Gremlins or Fright Night in the horror realm, or films like The Breakfast Club or The 'Burbs in '80s land, but The Lost Boys is really a totally different animal than any of those films that reside in my favorite lists. 

Whenever I actually decide to watch The Lost Boys, I always love it.  It's quick paced and funny, yet darker than most of those popular '80s films I love.  The cast meshes established talent and young talent well, and Barnard Hughes' Grandpa is one of my favorite side characters in horror.  (That final line he delivers is so freakin' money, and it doesn't even know it.)  But when I'm not thinking about it, I seem to just toss it aside with '80s horrors like Pumpkinhead or Hellraiser - films that I love in parts, but don't fully love - and The Lost Boys really doesn't belong in that category.

(On a side note, I also maintain that Lost Boys director Joel Schumacher, the whipping boy of 99% of cinephiles, might be the most unfairly criticized filmmaker of our times.  He ain't Orson Welles, but anyone who can make the likes of this, Falling Down, Tigerland, and A Time to Kill can't possibly be the worst director of all-time.  Yes, he screwed up Batman, but it's not like Tim Burton was doing great with the character either, despite what nostalgia tells you.  And I kind of liked The Number 23, too.)
Rosemary's Baby (1968, Dir. by Roman Polanski.) - "The 1970s were the golden age of horror."  That's what I say sometimes, thinking of the trend of mentally and visually revolting films that came out of that decade.  But when I get caught up in the likes of The Exorcist, The Omen, and The Sentinel - I tend to forget that the trend that brought me to this belief can be traced to the release of Rosemary's Baby in 1968. 

Polanski's film certainly has a more restrained pace than those films, but brings more than adequate amounts of chills and thrills.  Most of those moments come without considering the twists in the script, which turn likeable faces like John Cassavetes and Ralph Bellamy into instruments of fear.  Yet I seem to leave it off of my recommendations to others, and the only good reason I can think of is that it came out two years before the '70s started and I thus forget it.  (Needless to say, I work in mysterious ways.)
Stir of Echoes (1999, Dir. by David Koepp.) - I strongly considered listing The Sixth Sense here, because I remember loving the experience that was that film when it happened.  I remember being stoked about it being the first horror movie I ever remembered being nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.  However, I also remember becoming completely sick of the movie afterward, when everyone and their mother was spoiling it for everyone else. (I helped do that for some, too.)  It's no secret that everything M. Night Shyamalan has done since (with the exception of Unbreakable, which I dearly love) has helped me block it from my memory, either.  I haven't watched the film since its video debut, in fact.

However, the fact that I'm thinking about The Sixth Sense first when thinking about creepy ghost stories of 1999 proves that the movie from that year that I completely loved - David Koepp's adaptation of Richard Matheson's Stir of Echoes - is the film I need to be thinking about.  Most lost it in the shadows of that Bruce Willis flick, and even I - who loved the creepy visuals and fascinating story that was Stir - have at times forgotten it entirely.  Should I forget a film I loved because a film whose reputation frustrated me overshadows it?  Of course not.  Sorry, Kevin Bacon!
The Child's Play Series (1988-2004) - I'm not sure that I can defend these films from a cinematic standpoint, though Tom Holland's original film is an extremely effective chiller.  But that's not where my mind's at here.  I mean, I've watched all of the Friday the 13th films multiple times.  I don't like the Friday the 13th films.  And these movies, which range from good to ridiculous but fun, are ones I completely ignore.

I've seen the original three or four times, which is probably half as many times as I've seen other series-starting horrors of the era like A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13thwatch all the F13s repeatedly, I should give Chucky some attention, right?
Scream (1996, Dir. by Wes Craven.) - One of the character flaws I have that I'm well aware of is that I am occasionally intentionally ignorant to things that are extremely popular.  I'm not sure if my goal is to be "cool" by being different, but the times when I proclaim how much I love Scream 2 over its predecessor are about as rebellious as The Mike gets. 

Fact of the matter is, Scream is a technically proficient horror film with fine characters, good action, and an intelligent script.  It is every bit the game changer people say it is. (And also, Rose McGowan is ridiculously cute in it.  Like, ubercute.)  The sequel is a ton of fun, and Liev Schreiber and Timothy Olyphant (two of my favorite actors) are fantastic in it.  But if I were able to stop myself an think about both films, I'd probably admit that the original is a far more effective and relevant piece of horror. 

I still have the capacity to change, don't I?


the jaded viewer said...

Scream and Childs PLay have serious replay value.

And I agree Rose McGowan is quite perky in it :-P

The Mike said...

Yeah, I can pop in Scream often, I don't know why I still give it crud. I'm definitely giving Child's Play another whirl soon, too.

MPK said...

This is a great list, I love each of those and i can totally see how one can take them for granted. The Lost Boys is hated by a lot of people, but those people really need to wake up and smell it's '80s goodness.

Jinx said...

Brilliant! I'm off to rewatch Child's Play now, don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

Unknown said...

People hate the Lost Boys? I don't want to know those people.

Still love the first Scream film, and even the 2nd has more than its share of moments. It spawned some terrible imatators in its wake, but you can't blame the original for being so good that inferior hacks would pillage it.

Jack Veasey said...

I love every film on your list. Great idea for a post.

Enbrethiliel said...


My list would include The Exorcist, The Shining, and all of the Friday the 13th movies--which I now feel ashamed to admit I take for granted. Especially the first two movies . . . and at least the first Friday the 13th. (Hey, does Fido count as a Horror movie? Or is it just a Black Comedy with zombies?)

Anyway, The Mike, you know I never take Scream for granted--although I do agree with you about the sequel being better than the original. I didn't appreciate that when it first came out, because I wasn't really looking for clever commentary. But coming to the trilogy again with a critical eye, I'd say the second is probably my favourite!

As for The Lost Boys . . . For the record, I do like it for the acting and the story, but I'm not crazy about its take on vampires. And after letting it coast on its infusion of pure 80s coolness for almost two decades . . . I finally admitted to myself that I'm just not wowed by vampirism as a symbol of drug abuse and peer pressure. For me, that's like making werewolves a symbol of PMS. I mean, I see that it works--and it's definitely the coolest thing ever while the movie is playing--but I don't think it really stands up.

Okay, lynch me now! ;-)

Emily said...

Awesome list!! I love Stir of Echoes so much, but you're right, it's one of those that is often forgotten. I like it a lot better than The Sixth Sense in fact. I lent it to one of my brothers forever ago, and to my knowledge he still has not watched it even though I think I've told him a bazillion times how awesome it is. This post reminded me that I need to get that back ASAP as I now am a craving a watch!

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

I shall NEVER take Child's Play for granted! I had so many nightmares about Chucky when I was younger that I KNOW just how effective and great that first film is, and I can not ignore it no matter how much I try.

And Stir of Echoes is like my homey. Seriously, we're tight.

Word verification is "maters." Sorry, I just had a giggle at that.

The Mike said...

Thanks everyone!

Myra - I used to roll with the Lost Boys haters, because it wasn't my brand of '80s goodness, but now I just soak it in.

Jinx - Many thanks, and enjoy! I'm planning to rewatch several of the Chucky flicks soon myself!

Mike S. - Right on to point out the crap imitators of Scream. It was definitely the Halloween of the late '90s slasher trend.

Jack - Many thanks! And thanks for reading!

E - I almost included The Exorcist here, even though I list it among my very favorite movies of any genre. In my eyes, most people - including myself at times - take it for granted. It's so revered and so different in pace and execution from most horror films that it gets lost in the shuffle for some.

I get your take on Lost Boys, too, though it's interesting you mention werewolves as PMS, which reminds me of former Midnight Movie of the Week Ginger Snaps, which I love.

Emily C - Stir of Echoes is currently sitting in my "on-deck" pile, and I'm looking forward to revisiting it soon. Hopefully your copy finds its way home soon!

Malice said...

Ah, you have succeeded in reminding me of some fantastic little nuggets I have underestimated as well.

Stir of Echos...I really need to add that to my collection. What is wrong with me?

And Deliverance. Squeeeee!

Much thanks!!