Contagion – ‘Disease-ter’ Movies
Contagion is a different type of disease-disaster movie than we’re used to seeing: Simple germs more or less comprise the boogeyman, and the concept is actually steeped in plausibility. But the Steven Soderbergh thriller follows a long line of movies in which a disease or all-out epidemic wreaks havoc on the human race. Here are some of the most notable “disease-ter” flicks, not to be confused with the zombie genre or tearjerkers about one man’s losing battle with, say, AIDS. Thus no Night of the Living Dead. Or Philadelphia.
50 Least Scary Horror Movies
The 50 Least Scary Movies. A list by Complex magazine, check it and be ready to agree/argue.
Top 5 Eyeball Mutilations in Movies
Excellent article at ‘fearnet‘ featuring clips of the top 5 eyeball mutilations in movies.
There are a slew of new young actresses who are carving out careers in the horror genre. But are any of them capable of carrying off the title of ‘Scream Queen’… probably not but it’s worth a look… even just as an excuse to post a few hot images.
If we go back further and look to include the likes of Fay Wray from ‘King Kong’, Hitchcock leading ladies Janet Leigh and Tippi Hedren, and the Hammer girls then this article will meander. So for the sake of sanity I’ll stick to the period from the late 70’s to present day. Oh, rules: they have to be primarily well known for their work in the horror genre, so that excludes actresses such as Naomi Watts (The Ring 1 & 2) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Wolf and What LiesBeneath) as they are more well known for other fare. It was difficult to exclude Sissy Spacek from ‘Carrie’ (she also appeared in The Ring 2 and An American Haunting) but is an Oscar winner for more serious movies. It was also a difficult decision to leave out Mia Farrow as her turn in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was exceptional and although she is creepy in the remake of ‘The Omen’ she’s not as good as Billie Whitelaw in the original… so she’s out.
I also left out actresses known only for one series of movies like Sigourney Weaver in the ‘Alien’ series, especially as only the first movie in that series could classify as horror. I used the same rationale for excluding Courtney Cox and Neve Campbell, as in horror they’re basically only known for the ‘Scream’ series. Does anyone really remember Campbell for ‘The Craft’..? Awful.
Nancy Allen featured in ‘Carrie’, ‘Dressed To Kill’, ‘Blow Out’ and ‘Robocop’. P.J. Soles also in ‘Carrie’, ‘Halloween 2’ and recently a cameo in ‘The Devils Rejects’. Adrienne King and Heather Langenkamp set the standard for scream queens taking a stand and fighting back in ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’; however they’re only really known for their roles in those movies.
According to Lloyd Kaufman, shameless self-promoting head of Troma Studios, a scream queen “is more than just crying and having ketchup thrown on you”.
So who should be on the list? Obviously Jamie Lee Curtis, if you have to ask then you really haven’t been watching any of the late 70’s/early 80’s classic slasher flicks. Even if she’d only ever appeared in the original ‘Halloween’ (1978), that movie alone would have been enough to secure her place on the list. Add to that classic the likes of ‘The Fog’, ‘Prom Night’ and the Halloween sequels ‘Halloween 2’, ‘Halloween H20’ and ‘Resurrection’, and it’s obvious that Jamie Lee Curtis deserves her place on the list… at the top.
Linnea Quiqley is an obvious choice; she is best known for her role in ‘Return of the Living Dead’ (1985) which featured her fantastic nude romp on a gravestone. She has been in so many horror flicks, too numerous to mention; most notably ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’, ‘Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master’ and both the original and remake of ‘Night of the Demons’.
Dee Wallace featured in ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ (1977), ‘The Howling’ (1981), ‘Cujo’ (1983), ‘Critters’ (1986), and numerous others, as well as the re-imagining of ‘Halloween’ and the forthcoming ‘Lords of Salem’. Debbie Rochon starred in dozens of Troma horror films throughout the 90’s and was even voted by Draculina magazine as “Scream Queen of the Decade”, she has to be on the list.
The current crop is headed by Danielle Harris who has featured in four ‘Halloween’ movies, ‘Hatchet 2’, ‘Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet’, ‘Stakeland’ and unfortunately ‘Left for Dead’. Then there’s Sarah Michelle Gellar from ‘Buffy’, ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, ‘Scream 2’, ‘The Grudge’ and sequel. Shawnee Smith of the ‘Saw’ series, ‘Grudge 3’ and the ’30 Days of Night’ TV series. MelissaGeorge from the remake of ‘The Amityville Horror’, ’30 Days of Night’ and ‘Triangle’. Amber Heard, excellent as the lead in‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’, ‘The Ward’ and ‘And Soon The Darkness’. Odette Yustman from ‘The Unborn’ and ‘And Soon The Darkness’. Sheri Moon Zombie of ‘House of 1000 Corpses’, ‘The Devils Rejects’, ‘Toolbox Murders’ and the remakes of ‘Halloween’ and the sequel. Danielle Panabaker for ‘The Ward’ and remakes of ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘The Crazies’ and ‘Pirahna 3D’. Scout Taylor-Compton for the ‘Halloween’ remakes, however she made the awful ‘April fool’s Day’. Christina Ricci for ‘Sleepy Hollow’, ‘The Gathering’, ‘Cursed’ and ‘After.Life’ (I know those last two are awful but at least they’re in the genre). Ali Larter from ‘House on Haunted Hill’ and the ‘Final Destination’ and ‘Resident Evil’ series.
Of the current crop who I haven’t considered, Jennifer Love Hewitt, as the ‘I know What You Did Last Summer’ movies are it as far as horror is concerned, she’s known more for the execrable Ghost Whisperer, and the woeful Paris Hilton, because, well, she’s rubbish at everything.
So, who makes the top 10 list…? 1. Jamie Lee Curtis. 2. Linnea Quiqley. 3. Debbie Rochon. 4. Dee Wallace. 5. Shawnee Smith. 6. Amber Heard. 7. Sheri Moon Zombie. 8. Danielle Harris. 9. Melissa George. 10. Sarah Michelle Gellar. And Kate Beckinsale… because it’s my list and I think she’s hot!
Werewolf Movies – A List…
So after trashing ‘Skin Walkers’ last week I was asked for a good example of a werewolf movie… so here’s another list of the Good, Okay and Avoid… Starting with six Good ones:
An American Werewolf in London (1981). Written and Directed by John Landis, this is the best werewolf movie by some distance. Frightening, funny and featuring the best transformation scene ever filmed. The film follows two American backpackers, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) who are holidaying in rural England. Following an awkward visit to a village pub called ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ they wander over the moors and are attacked by a wolf. Jack is killed but David survives and is troubled by disturbing dreams and visits from his dead friend Jack. I love this movie; it’s an all-time favourite of mine and generally considered a classic of the genre. There’ll be a more extensive review soon. Unsurpassed.
The Company of Wolves (1984). Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury and a host of British thespians. This fantastical gothic-horror film looks at the underbelly of the Red Riding Hood fable. Jordan has always maintained that it is not a horror film and to call it so would be misleading the audience. It’s a stylish, bizarre, dark and beautiful fairytale teeming with symbolism and imagery. It also features one of the more original and unusual transformation scenes. I love this film and you can read a full review on this site posted 3/05/11.
Dog Soldiers (2002). Writer/Director Neil Marshall’s first feature, Dog Soldiers follows a squad of British soldiers led by Sergeant Harris (Sean Pertwee) on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands. They are being stalked by a Special Ops Squad and something far more dangerous. As they make their escape from the unseen foe they stumble across a zoologist called Megan (Emma Cleasby) who seems to know a little too much about what is hunting them. This is a really great fun, the action is brutal and the werewolves are exceptional considering the tiny budget.
The Howling (1981). Directed by Joe Dante and famous for the effects work by Rob Bottin who got the job after Rick Baker left to work on ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (A very good decision). The movie follows journalist Karen White (Dee Wallace) as she is attacked by a serial killer, she suffers amnesia and is sent to ‘The Colony’ by her therapist Dr. Waggner (Patrick MacNee) to recover. However all is not what it seems there… The lack of budget in certain scenes is glaringly obvious (Animated sex-silhouette.!?!) but overall the film is great fun and worth a viewing.
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). Hammer classic starring Oliver Reed as Leon Corledo, the werewolf. Set in 18th Century Spain for a change, this is a different take on the werewolf myth and is a lot of fun. A beggar is teased and imprisoned by a cruel nobleman; the nobleman’s wife is thrown into the same cell 15 years later and raped by the beggar… she gives birth to a cursed child who is raised by a local family. Soon enough town animals are found dead and the townsfolk go on the hunt for a wolf… Great fun and Reed really sinks his teeth into the role.
The Wolfman (1941). The Universal classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the cursed Wolfman of the title. Revisiting his ancestral home, Talbot is bitten by a wolf while visiting a local Gypsy camp where his bleak future was foretold by an old Gypsy fortune teller. This is classic Universal style fun with exceptional Wolfman make-up. Chaney reappeared in several sequels, some with other classic Universal monsters but this is his best.
Four okay werewolf movies:
Wolfen (1981). Based on Whitley Strieber’s novel and directed by Michael Wadleigh. The movie follows New York Cop Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) who is investigating a series of murders in his district, he slowly comes to realise that they have been committed by an inhumanly strong animal of some sort. The movie takes a slightly different look at the wolf folklore; here they are Wolfen, not wolves. It features a good cast, particularly Finney and Edward James Olmos and some quite bloody kill scenes. Overall a pretty decent effort.
The Wolfman (2010). Upon returning to his ancestral home for his brother’s funeral, actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is bitten and cursed by a werewolf. He subsequently falls for his brothers fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) and realises that his father (Anthony Hopkins) is stricken by the same curse and is responsible for his brother and mothers deaths. Not as bad as the reaction to it on initial release, Del Toro’s vanity project hence his miscasting features some of the best make-up ever by Rick Baker. The transformation scene alone is worth watching the movie for, utilising a terrific blend of traditional make-up and CGI for the best scene. Overlong but fun.
Wolf (1994). Directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicolson and Michelle Pfeiffer, Wolf is the Hollywood heavyweight entry on the list. It follows mild mannered editor-in-chief Will Randall (Jack) who is bitten by a wolf while driving home in Vermont. Shortly afterwards he is demoted by his new boss Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer) and replaced by Stewart Swinton (James Spader) who is also having an affair with Will’s wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). Will starts to become more aggressive, taking on the characteristics of a wolf. He enters an affair with Aldens daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer) and changes his life. Wolf treats the werewolf mythology seriously and quite cleverly; good fun.
Ginger Snaps (2000). A good movie by director John Fawcett, focussing on Ginger (Katherine Isabelle), a 16 year old obsessed with photographing scenes of death. Together with her younger sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) she makes a pact to kill herself when she has her first period, however that night she is bitten by a werewolf. Over the next month she goes through some body changes and her craving for blood intensifies. This is a really good, fun movie and was moderately successful which unfortunately meant a sequel and prequel followed.
…and four werewolf movies to avoid:
Skin walkers (2007). Reviewed yesterday. It’s an action film with werewolves and it’s rubbish. Avoid.
Twilight: New Moon (2009). Longer review coming soon. Directed by Chris Weitz this is a woeful follow up to Twilight. The werewolves are terrible CGI, their design and animation is cheap and immediately removes you from the movie when they feature on screen. Avoid.
Cursed (2005). Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson who should both know better, this is awful. Siblings Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and Ellie (Christina Ricci) are scratched by an animal while trying to rescue the passenger of a car they hit. They start to develop wolfish traits and blah, blah, blah… avoid.
Van Helsing (2004). The worst movie on the list for so many reasons… A big budget and good cast wasted by a stupid script and awful CGI effects… avoid at all costs.
Asian Horror and the Remakes…
I thought I’d run through another top 10ish list with a difference, Asian horror and their cash-in remakes… I say ‘ish’ because I couldn’t finish it as it was making me angry.
Ringu (1998) Japan. The most successful horror film in Japanese history. Directed by Hideo Nakata’ who is responsible for a few more entries on this list. Ringu is unnerving and creepy, especially over the last half hour or so, a classic of the genre. Stylistically, Ringu would have to be one of the most influential horror movies of the last few decades. Spawned three additional movies: Rasen, Ring 2 and Ring 0: Birthday; all of which are diluted versions of the original. It’s easy to see why it was incredibly popular as there was nothing like it before… unfortunately we can’t say the same about movies since its release.
The Ring (2002) US. Naomi Watts. Big budget US remake starring Naomi Watts and directed by Gore Verbinski. Unexpectedly for a huge Hollywood remake, this was actually a pretty good teenage horror film. Helped by a good performance from Naomi Watts, it made a huge amount of money at the box-office and paved the way for the countless remakes of other Asian horror… so it has a lot to answer for…
Ju-on: The Grudge (2003) Japan. A volunteer social worker is cursed and haunted by the vengeful spirits that live in the house of an elderly woman. Creepy blue kid with black eyes and his seriously screwed up mother. It has some genuinely creepy moments.
The Grudge (2004) US. More of the same, remade with Sarah Michelle Geller. As with the US remake of the Ring this has higher production values but adds little to the original.
Dark Water (2002) Japan. More similar Japanese ghost themes. A divorcee and her daughter move into a rundown apartment block… there’s a leak in the ceiling. She discovers that the water is coming from an upstairs apartment that was previously occupied by a girl of similar age to her daughter, the girl went missing.
Dark Water (2005) US. Rubbish and pointless remake that has nothing really going for it apart from Jennifer Connolly who I’ll watch in anything.
The Eye (2002) Hong Kong. Apparently the original is really good. I haven’t seen it as I can’t be bothered since I saw the woeful ‘Bangkok Dangerous’ remake the directors did of their own better original.
The Eye (2008) US. Bigger budget remake by French co-directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud who made the far superior ‘Them’ in 2006. An eye transplant allows the recipient to see dead people. Jessica Alba is always good to look at, pity she didn’t look elsewhere for another role.
Shutter (2004) Thailand. – Tartan Asia Extreme. I’ve not seen the original but can only imagine that it is so much better than the remake.
Shutter (2008) Poland/US. I use the term loosely, ‘starring’ Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor as a newlywed couple who move to Japan for the husbands’ new job as a fashion photographer. There’s a car accident and a young girl dies… strange blurs appear on his photographs. His wife thinks they may be the spirit of the girl from the accident… Rubbish.
One Missed Call (2004) Japan. Directed by Takashi Mike who’s more famously known for the brutal and disturbing ‘Ichi The killer’ and ‘Audition’, of which both are worth checking out. A Japanese ghost story with possession themes revolving around people receiving calls from their future selves as they succumb to violent deaths. Another ghost with long black hair…
One Missed Call (2008) US. Unintentionally hilarious remake. Woeful…
Into The Mirror (2003) South Korea. Haven’t seen it, but I saw the US remake on the strength of Alexandre Aja as the director….
Mirrors (2008) US. And I wish I hadn’t. Aja’s worst movie. He did good things with the ‘Hills Have Eyes’ remake… he should have quit while he was ahead.
I can’t be bothered to do any more. There are sequels aplenty to Ringu and The Grudge… When I first saw Ringu at the now defunct Valhalla Cinema in Glebe, it was a new kind of creepy horror film with a look and feel which I’d never seen before. That initial feeling has been dissipated by all the remakes that have followed.
Japan especially needs to come up with something other than long-black-haired-big-eyed ghosts. We’ve seen it too often now and it’s lost whatever shock value it once had. More importantly though, Hollywood needs to come up with something original for a change. The countless remakes are making the big studios some easy money so it’s highly unlikely that they will stop the by-numbers remakes any time soon. They’ve trawled through Asia and Europe for movies to remake and now appear to have turned their sites on remaking American horror… eating their own. Maybe I’ll rant about that soon.
Top 10 Zombie Movies
I’ve just finished watching the excellent AMC television series: ‘The Walking Dead’ and it got me thinking about which zombie flicks I should watch again (and again for one or two selections). Then I thought I should list the ones I’m going to watch and why they’re the best of their kind, no cheap schlock… haven’t seen ‘The Video Dead’ for ages. Firstly though, what constitutes a ‘Zombie Movie’..? Well, for this list zombies are strictly categorized as the dead returning to life. So that means no possessed bodies which unfortunately means no ‘Evil Dead’, work of genius that it is. This also negates the amazing ‘REC’ which is a dubious omission due to its religious iconography (there will be a full review of this modern classic soon). No scientific experiments gone wrong, unfortunately that means no ‘Re-Animator’ another fantastic movie… and also no rubbish CG dead from “I Am Legend’, a movie I had high hopes for when reading an Empire set visit report a few months before the release date.
Anyway, into the list. 10 to 1…
Zombieland (2009). They are having a blast and it’s obvious that this was made by big zombie flick fans. Great fun, excellent zombie action and the best cameo of any movie EVER..!
Day of the Dead (1985). George Romero’s excellent follow up to ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Not as fully appreciated on its release, it has since become regarded as a classic in the genre.
Dawn of the Dead (2004). Now I was prepared to HATE this movie as I love the original so much. I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. Apart from the shopping mall setting it bears little resemblance to the original and has one of the best opening sequences that I can recall.
Zombie flesh Eaters (1979). Also known simply as ‘Zombi 2’ This is from Lucio Fulci, the Italian schlock master. Best remembered, and rightly so, for the splinter in the eye shot and a zombie vs. shark encounter. Classic.
Braindead (1992). Also known as ‘Dead Alive’ Before he became respectable and slim, Peter Jackson made a couple of fun, blood-splattered movies in the late 80’s and early 90’s. On this evidence he should do a ‘Sam Raimi’ and knock out another one for old times’ sake.
Shaun of the Dead (2004). Great zombie action, loads of gore and bloody hilarious. The film also has more in common with Romero’s early zombie work than any other with its smart look at modern city life before and after the arrival of the dead.
Return of the living Dead (1985). Featuring the first fast moving zombies, plenty of gore, nudity and some hilarious interaction between the humans make this a perfect beer and pizza night-in movie… “Braaaaiinnsss”
Night of the living Dead (1968). George Romero’s original zombie classic. Don’t watch the updated extended version as the new bits are crap. Also stay clear of the remakes and colourised versions. Why would you watch them when you can put this on..?
28 Days Later (2002). Well I kinda have but haven’t really broken my aforementioned rules with this one. I know the dead have been infected by the ‘Rage virus’ but come on, it’s so fucking fantastic that to not have it on the list would render the list pointless. The sequel is okay but is never going to make it onto a top 10 list… unless it’s a sequels list… maybe.
Dawn of the Dead (1978). An all time classic. The only film on the list that would be in my greatest movies of all time list. A group of survivors hold out against the zombie hordes in a suburban shopping mall. Greatest zombie movie of all time.
So there you have it, it’s up for discussion. There are rabid fans out there who would fill the list with cheap Italian zombie knock-offs like ‘City of the living Dead’, ‘Burial Ground’ and ‘The Beyond’… and they’re fun. Some swear by classic chillers like ‘I Walked with A Zombie’ but this list is for those who want to have a good night in, quality zombie action with a pizza nad beers.
I’ll be posting a huge review of the series soon, complete with comparisons between the amazing graphic novel by Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont’s take on it… I just want to watch it again first.