You know, I realize I tend to skew towards negativity when I make lists. For a good example of this, look no further than the 5 Horror Movies You Should Avoid. Rarely are my lists positive, which I think gives the perception that I hate everything that isn’t Are You Afraid of the Dark? That’s only somewhat true, I assure you. So in an attempt to be more positive, I present to you, 5 Horror Movies You Should Absolutely Watch, preferably this Halloween.
1. Friday The 13th, Part 6: Jason Lives
For me, this is the go to Friday the 13th sequel. You don’t really need to know anything about the franchise to enjoy this film, as it served as a re-launch for the Jason Voorhees character, after a misguided attempt to continue the series without him. When that failed, Jason was brought back to life and turned into an even more unstoppable zombified killing machine.
It’s got all the makings of a great slasher flick with stupid, oversexed teens being killed in inventive and sometimes hilarious fashion. Jason Lives’ murder scenes are very tongue in cheek, but it was a great way of handling what was becoming a stale formula. I’d also it’s got one of the better stories in the franchise, with Tommy Jarvis, the boy who killed Jason, still haunted by his memories. In an attempt to make sure Jason is really dead, Tommy digs up his body, only to wind up resurrecting Jason and making him more powerful than ever before. Tommy’s quest to put a stop to the monster he’s created is a great little storyline and thanks to it, you’re not disappointed when Tommy inevitably survives.
So if you’re going to watch one Friday the 13th film this year, besides the original, make it Part 6. Unless of course you want to see Jason killed by a bald Corey Feldman, then you’ll want to watch Part 4.
2. Near Dark
If you think of 1980’s vampire movies, you probably think of The Lost Boys. That’s a good thing, because that is a wonderful film and I highly recommend it. The Lost Boys’ success however, overshadowed another classic vampire film released the same year, Near Dark. Both films portray vampires as gangs of outlaws, but the group in Near Dark are desperate outcasts, constantly on the run.
It’s a great mash up of western and vampire genres, with outstanding performances from Lance Henricksen as the group’s leader Jesse Hooker, a vampire since The Civil War and Bill Paxton as Severen, the loose cannon who delights in every aspect of being a vampire. If you’re looking for a reprieve from dreamy teenage vampires who sparkle, check out Near Dark…which actually avoided being remade because the plans they had for it were too similar to Twilight. So thank you Edward Cullen, for that.
Coulrophobics need to apply for this one. Take an idea so clichéd that it’s hard to believe it’s even being used, add in clowns and you’ve got yourself Clownhouse. The idea? Homicidal maniacs escaped from a mental institution. These maniacs make a brief stop a circus, and soon enough we’ve got murderous clowns. Their primary targets are three brothers, home alone for a weekend.
Yes, it’s an incredibly clichéd concept, but somehow, it all works. There’s a surprisingly effective sense of dread, which is impressive considering the antagonists are clowns that we really never see kill anyone. The director took a less is more approach, teasing encounters with the clowns until the films finale. If its balls to the wall gore you’re looking for, you won’t find it here.
Now, I’m by no means calling Clownhouse an excellent film, but it’s a fun little time waster. You’ll probably get more laughs than scares out of it nowadays, but I’d say it’s still worth a look. It’s also Sam Rockwell’s first film role and he’s absolutely brilliant as the asshole oldest brother, Randy. If you’re going to remember anything about the film, it will probably be Randy’s incredible lines like “Be quiet or I’ll bash your face.”
4. Cabin Fever
If you’re looking for balls to the wall gore, here’s a film for you. Probably the most popular film on my list, Eli Roth’s first feature film is one of my personal favorites. It’s a twist on the classic teenagers stranded in the woods idea, with the killer not being a mask wearing psychopath, but instead a deadly flesh eating disease. Paranoia runs rampant as everyone tries to hold it together as they’re being slaughtered from the inside out.
This is, in my opinion, Eli Roth’s best film by far. It’s not gore for the sake of gore like Hostel was. Roth effortlessly creates characters you care about, or at least don’t dismiss immediately, and quickly tosses them into a terrible situation that just keeps getting worse. It’s one of the more visually disturbing films I’ve ever seen, especially once the virus really takes hold. It then reaches a wonderful climax of over the top violence and gore to close things out.
My favorite part of the movie however, is that it stars Rider Strong, fresh off the end of Boy Meets World. Even better, his character isn’t that much different than Shawn Hunter was when BMW ended. This creates some incredibly surreal films when Strong’s character starts getting violent. You could almost imagine that the character is Shawn Hunter and being separated from Corey Matthews for an extended period of time causes him to go completely insane and viciously murder several people. It’ll take more than a Mr. Feeney lecture to repair the damage this time.
5. Trick ‘R Treat
Yes, the film I’ve mentioned so many times this month that you all probably think I’m getting paid by Warner Brothers. But that’s not the case, and it’s just a film I happen to love. Halloween is a time to celebrate horror movies of all shapes and sizes, but the holiday itself never seems to get the great cinematic treatment it deserves. For the longest time, the best Halloween film was John Carpenter’s Halloween, but that’s just a great slasher film that happens to be set on Halloween and has no real connection to the holiday beyond that. Trick ‘R Treat is a film that isn’t just set on Halloween; it’s a film that is a celebration of Halloween.
Trick ‘R Treat is an anthology, featuring 3 interlocking stories of mayhem and mischief, all dripping with Halloween spirit. We learn why you should never eat candy from strangers, why you should always leave your Jack O’Lantern lit and why you should never be scrooge on All Hallow’s Eve. Yes, that final one is well told story that I’ve already covered twice this year, but Trick ‘R Treat’s version is absolutely perfect.
This is one of the best horror movies you’ve never heard of, I assure you of that. Warner Brothers got scared off by the Saw franchise’s popularity and never released Trick ‘R Treat in theaters, which is an absolute shame. That decision very likely killed the chance of Trick ‘R Treat developing into a franchise and kept Sam, the mischievous trick or treater who weaves in and out of all three tales, from becoming the horror icon he deserves to be.
Luckily, the film did get released on DVD and now you can enjoy it. If you want to get in the Halloween spirit, watch this film. It’s deserves to be connected to the holiday the same way A Christmas Story is connected to Christmas. Thankfully, the horror channel Fearnet feels the same way, and will be giving it a similar treatment, airing it for 24 hours straight on October 31st.