October 27, 2012
I love movies. My love for movies has always been there, and for a while I was seriously thinking of going into movie making. The first movie that I have a strong memory of is the color remake of “Night of the Living Dead”. I was probably only nine at the time I first saw it. I also remember the VHS tape wearing out because I watched it too much! I continued my steady diet of horror films, and so when a friend tasked me with picking out a scary movie for Halloween I felt up to the challenge. However, she posed the problem that it cannot be too scary. This is always a challenge. People want to jump a bit, but not be unable to sleep for days. (Too scary would be the time when I had friends over in my dorm room to watch “The Descent”, and my RA had to ask why there was so much screaming.)
I started combing IMDB, Wikipedia, and Amazon for scary but not so scary movies as well as funny horror flicks. This has been very frustrating, and I have decided that I must play it safe and pick something that I have already seen. Why? Because of lists like this that pair “Shaun of the Dead”, a hilarious send-up of the zombie genre, with “Man Bites Dog”, a brutal mockumentary featuring realistic murders of an old woman, a child, and then a gang rape of a man’s wife as the husband looks on. “It didn’t say anything about this,” I would say as everyone turned to glare at me. I always take it personally when my movie pick is reviled.
Before hitting the list, know that none of these films fall into the “so bad it’s good” or “so incredibly campy it’s good” categories. I’m also pandering to an audience with a very weak constitution, so you might not find these scary at all. If you want, I’ve got lists for you too.
So, without further ado I will give you my picks.
Scary but Humorous
- Ginger Snaps—A very smart film that uses lycanthropy as a metaphor for a woman’s coming of age. An awkward, milquetoast teen tries to help her sister resist the werewolf’s bloodlust with the aid of a local pot dealer. A very smart movie with a scary ending, but all the rest of the scary moments are more suspenseful than jump. There is a fair amount of blood though. I love this movie so much I wrote the Wikipedia entry for it (which was subsequently ruined.) Bonus: It takes place during Halloween.
- An American Werewolf in London—This has surprisingly good special effects for its time. A young American man tries to avoid becoming a werewolf with the aid of the nurse who loves him. There are some hilarious conversations between the protagonist and his deceased friend. There is some gore, but not much.
- The Cabin in the Woods—A little campy, but still a very witty genre-bender of the whole horror genre. It is a bit meta, but this provides relief anytime the horror starts to get too intense. This could almost be in the other category, but for a couple of moments.
- Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon—Similar to “The Cabin in the Woods”, yet focused on the evil man slasher subgenre carved out by such films as “Halloween” and the Friday the 13th series. It is a very funny mockumentary in the first two acts, but the third morphs into a legitimately scary film.
- Delicatessen—A hilarious French film set after the apocalypse when food is scarce enough to resort to cannibalism. An ex-clown become the “handyman” for the local butcher, but there are complications when the butcher’s daughter falls for him. More of a dark comedy than a horror film.
- Drag Me to Hell—Sam Raimi returns to his genre to tell the tale of a banker afflicted with a gypsy curse. More disgusting than scary as there is a fair amount of gross things (nose bleeds, vomit, hair pulling, etc).
- Tremors—A nice creature feature set in a desert town. This movie is an extended version of the childhood game “The Floor is Made of Lava”.
- Shaun of the Dead—A great send-up of the zombie genre that mocks the typical survival horror group of friends. Features a fight for survival soundtracked to Queen.
- Zombieland—Again, a funny take on zombie flicks featuring Jesse Eisenberg and a man in perpetual pursuit of a twinkie. Plus, it has a Bill Murray cameo.
- Army of Darkness—Extremely campy, but still rather funny. I don’t know how scary it actually is as it has been a while.
- Young Frankenstein—One of the best horror comedies ever made. Igor’s hump keeps shifting sides, and there is fantastically sly sexual innuendo.
- Gremlins—Cute little creatures that become evil when sprayed with water. They remind me of evil Furbees, which are probably more scary than this.
- Beetle Juice—An old Tim Burton film, but still well done. In fact, better than some of his current attempts (sigh, Frankenweenie).
- The Abbot and Costello series—There are many of these movies where the comedic duo meet various creatures. They’re all funny.
- Scary Movie—The sequels sucked, but the first one did a good job mocking “Scream.” It is a bit crude though.
- Fido—A very quirky movie set in the suburbs where zombies are domestic servants.
- Ghostbusters—A classic movie about four guys cleaning up New York City and battling an evil Marshmallow Man.
I’ve also got lists of suspenseful yet spooky and just downright horrifying if you would be interested in me posting those too. If you know of any good films that fall into either category above, please please let me know!