So, I was going to do a MNM post on Hammer/Amicus movies, but realized I need to look into some details first, so instead, I figured I’d offer a top five of slasher movies I like. My apologies for the schedule change; I hope you’ll enjoy this offering of MNM. Mostly I picked these because of their innovation for the time, their ideas, or the utterly chilling types of slashing, hacking, teen-killing boogeymen. If you have favorites, let me know.
1) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – I don’t think there is anyone quite as terrifying as Freddy Kreuger in terms of the ultimate boogeyman. Although I discussed this movie more at length in a previous MNM post, I’d like to reiterate that in the first movie in this series, the original Wes Craven idea, his monster was not the wise-cracking gore-and-giggles guy he later became. He was a monster, alive and dead, the worst nightmare (literally and figuratively) of parents and little kids alike. He was a loss of innocence, of security and safety, of control. He was the terrible, awkward, ugly side of sex and the razor-sharp pain, horror, and gore of violence. The scene in the school hallway with Tina in a body bag STILL gives me chills.
2) Halloween (1978) – Anyone who knows of my cinematic inclinations knows that I am a big Carpenter fan (JC/Jesus Christ and JC/John Carpenter – no coincidence there). To me, Halloween is one of his top five best films of all time, and also a top slasher of all time. Michael Myers as both a semi-supernatural kind of boogeyman and even worse, as a human so devoid of empathy or feeling of any kind, so driven by a single-minded, emotionless purpose of killing makes him somewhat terrifying. He kills because killing is. And to boot, Donald Pleasence’s performance as Myers’s doctor, Sam Loomis, with his Captain Ahab-like obsession with seeing his patient stopped for good, is absolutely essential in the terror of this film. I am afraid of Michael Myers because Dr. Loomis is. As he says himself in the movie:
“I met him 15 years ago. I was told there was nothing left — no reason, no conscience, no understanding of even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong….I met this 6-year-old child with this blind, pale emotionless face and the blackest eyes…the devil’s eyes. I spent 8 years trying to reach him and then another 7 trying to keep him locked up, because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”
3) Scream (1996) – Once again, the first in the series trumps the others, IMO. This movie was the first of its kind to be self-aware, to understand intimately the tropes that the slasher sub-genre used and to reinvent them. This film is both slick and scary, self-aware without degrading into parody. Also, I very much enjoyed the casting in that there was the right mix of celebrity nod and genuine devotion to making the characters real.
4) Friday the 13th (1980) – I understand that this was made on a ridiculously small budget, and in spite of that, or maybe because of it, the film has a kind of small town home movie
5) Child’s Play (1988) – Mostly, Brad Douriff is awesome, even as a wise-cracking ginger-headed killer doll. Also, there is something very disturbing in this first of an ongoing series, particularly in the helplessness-turned-determination of the struggling single mother and her naive, sweet, lonely little son, Andy. Chris Sarandon brings an extra level of class to the original as well. And unlike some of the sequels, we see in Chucky (much like we see in Freddy Kreuger), a cruel, vicious, manipulative person in Charles Lee Ray. Life means nothing to him, so that the torture-death of an old friend and the continual endangerment of a small, trusting child are no worse offenses than his vengeance against those he feels contributed to his death or those who simply annoyed him/got in his way.
Runners-up: Sleepaway Camp (1983), Toolbox Murders (2003), The Burning (1981), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Final Destination, The House on Sorrority Row (1983).
Next week…Hammer/Amicus films of note (Die, Die My Darling, The Devil Rides Out, Horror of Dracula, Torture Garden, Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood).
Two weeks…movies you may not have seen but should (Sinister, High Tension, The Descent, 30 Days of Night)