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October 31, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #1 - Halloween

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night  Number 28 - Carnival of Souls  Number 27 - Nosferatu  Number 26 - Candyman  Number 25 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre  Number 24 - Horror of Dracula  Number 23 - The Wicker Man  Number 22 - Suspiria  Number 21 - The Omen  Number 20 - Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told  Number 19 - Rosemary's Baby  Number 18 - The Devil Rides Out  Number 17 - The Blob  Number 16 - Gremlins  Number 15 - Targets  Number 14 - Fright Night   Number 13 - Frankenstein  Number 12 - Alien  Number 11 - The Shining  Number 10 - An American Werewolf in London  Number 9 - The Thing  Number 8 - Dawn of the Dead  Number 7 - The Evil Dead  Number 6 - Night of the Living Dead  Number 5 - The Innocents  Number 4 - The Wolf Man  Number 3 - Psycho  Number 2 - The Exorcist
(1978, Dir. by John Carpenter.)
 Why It's Here:
Horror, as a genre, is about the existence of evil.  I believe that idea as much as I believe anything.  And, for my money, there is not a representation of evil that is as simple and effective as Michael Myers.  People bring up that revelation from the sequel that retroactively changed the plot of this film, and people bring up Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees as killers with more of a "personality", and PEOPLE ARE MISSING THE DAMN POINT.  This is not a movie about a man killing for a reason, it is a movie about a force of evil being unleashed upon a normal world in a completely random way. It's not just scary - and it is scary - it's a completely fascinating concept that reinvented the genre (for better or worse) and it's a movie that still draws out my imagination every time I watch it.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
Another thing about Halloween, for me, is that it builds its tension while showing an extraordinary bit of restraint.  I often feel like about 80 of the movie's 95 minutes go by before it really hits the gas and takes off. But there are so many little things in those 80 minutes that just make you ready for the explosion. Most effective might be an early scene where Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode walks down the sidewalk...and the camera sits behind the shoulder of Michael and picks up his breathing.  Every time I see this scene, I'm reminded that the film wasn't trying to shock us repeatedly - it wanted to get under our skin and stay there. And it achieves that goal.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
There is a relatively endless debate about whether or not Halloween is a "ripoff" of Black Christmas. I always get a little defensive when it comes up, which is probably why I've historically shunned Bob Clark's slasher.  I still think the film lacks tension and can't match the perfect pacing of Carpenter's film, but they are probably the two most effective slasher films in existence. If you ever needed a slasher film for another holiday, here you go.

What It Means To Me:
 There was never any question that John Carpenter's seminal slasher was going to end this list - but I have to admit the timing of this finish is a happy accident.  After coming up with this list at the beginning of March(!), I flip-flopped the list a bunch of times as I wrote these posts.  There were changes as recently as #4 on the list, but I haven't wavered in my belief that Halloween is the best horror movie ever made since I first saw it.  Now that I'm at this point in the list, I kind of can't figure out what to say without getting all dramatic and cheesy. I just - I just really like Halloween a lot.  Go back and read some of the other posts in this list. The ones where I use outlandish terms like "best" and "of all time" and "perfect". And then realize that I like Halloween more than all the rest of those movies. Hell, I like it more than anything not made by Hitchcock. It's my own personal perfect horror movie.

And that's the list! Come back later, whence I will post a wrap-up, one-stop-shop, kind of post about the list that took me seven freaking months to finish, in which I will break the list down a bit and share some random thoughts.  Oh, and, in case I don't see you.....


1 comment:

Tom said...

Totally with you on the whole Black Christmas thing. I like the 74' film but Halloween stands taller by a lot. Simple and pure...t