Brandon's Top 5 Horror Films for Halloween


The horror genre is one which is quite special to me as it takes me back to treasured movie-going experiences with loved ones. Therefore seeing that today is Halloween and also the fact that horror films are synonymous with the holiday, I figured I'd go down the list of my Top 5 films to watch for your viewing pleasure today. Now, I will say that this list was incredibly hard for me as there are awesome classics out there, so there were instances in which some films received ties in some of the spots.

First, however, I will start with my 5 Honorable Mentions. Now, the reason for this list is due to the fact that I love all the films listed here, but - for one reason of another - have dropped out of my Top 5 in the genre (especially as a watch recommendation for Halloween).

HONORABLE MENTIONS

5. WISHMASTER

Premise: A demonic djinn attempts to grant its owner three wishes, which will allow him to summon his brethren to Earth.

In a world where the genie (to many) came in the form of a jolly entity voiced by Robin Williams, it was refreshing to come across this film which turned that idea on its head by making the entity more malevolent and sinister. Played terrifically by the frequently underrated Andrew Divoff, the sinister "spins" that his djinn character enacted on wishes were a sight to behold. With that said, this film is full of gory moments if you are a gore hound. Don't believe me? See "the casino scene" that acts as the film's climax!

4. EVENT HORIZON

Premise: A rescue crew investigates a spaceship that disappeared into a black hole and has now returned...with someone or something new on-board.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (who would go on to direct the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise), the film for all intensive purposes is a haunted house story; however, instead of being in a house, it instead takes place on a space ship. Starring an all star cast that includes the likes of Laurence Fishbourne, Sam Neil (who will reappear on my list later), and Jason Isaacs, the film starts off as a slow burn horror story that makes great use of the isolation that could come with being on a large abandoned space ship. However, once it becomes clear to the crew - and us, the audience - what has happened to the ship in question (which I won't spoil), all bets are off as the gory & horrific moments are racheted up a great deal and never truly let up until the credits roll!

3. THE MIST

Premise: A freak storm unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.

I'll be honest, this film nearly made my Top 5 if it wasn't for the long-standing effect each of the other place holders (both in Honorables & in Top 5) have had on me in terms of their respective timelessness as a single entry or its body of work as a franchise. With that said, I can't say enough great things about this film. Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, writer/director Frank Darabont crafted a film that pulls no punches and is full of nightmarish imagery (see spider creatures). Another fantastic element of this film that I've failed to mention is the acting, which is not something you hear as a highlight in horror films. Thanks to a ridiculously talented cast that includes Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones, and tons more, the horror is much effective as many of the characters are easily relatable and realistic - making it that much harder when s&%t starts to hit the fan. Lastly, in commenting further on Darabont's "pull no punches" approach to the film adaptation, the ending to the film will remain unforgettable to me as I remember being in the theater with my jaw-dropped watching its final moments.

Fun Fact - Since writer/director Frank Darabont was the original showrunner for AMC's The Walking Dead, many of the series alums (Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride)were cast in their roles on the show after Frank had worked with them in this film! In fact, Darabont originally sought to have actor Thomas Jane to be Frank Grimes.

2. SCREAM Franchise

Premise: A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

Another great film that has created a solid franchise overall (minus perhaps the fourth installment) is the SCREAM Franchise. It's dissection of common horror tropes was something not really seen when it came on the scene. Add to this, the opening scene of its first installment (in which a well known actress got killed in the film's opening), and you get a franchise that frequently and enjoyably broke what you came to expect from horror films.

1. HOCUS POCUS

Premise: A curious youngster moves to Salem, where he struggles to fit in before awakening a trio of diabolical witches that were executed in the 17th century.

Ok. I understand (for many) this would be in your Top 5, but thanks to the selections featured further down, it JUST got knocked out. Alright, so with that now out the way, this film is a childhood favorite of mine (and still fun) as it's full of memorable characters (Sanderson witches, the zombie Billy, the cat Thackery) and moments (see "I Put A Spell on You" song). Though it touches on some matures concepts (that upon further inspection are quite dark), it is Disney'ed down in such a way so that younger audiences are able to it. In other words, if you're trying to steer clear of super violent or gory material, this film is the way to go.

Alright, without further adieu, my Top 5.....Enjoy!

5. FINAL DESTINATION Franchise

(1st FINAL DESTINATION) Premise: After a teenager has a terrifying vision of him and his friends dying in a plane crash, he prevents the accident only to have Death hunt them down, one by one..

What do you get when you bring in the concept of fate into the horror genre? Well, undoubtedly you get the horror franchise known as FINAL DESTINATION. Unlike other films where "the boogeyman" was someone or something that one could run away from, this franchise changed this sense of comfort - typically found in other horror films - by introducing to us to its omnipresent character of Death that could strike at any time. As a result, something as commonplace as cooking in your kitchen or walking on the sidewalk, could become a death trap in the world of this franchise. Also did I mention that Candyman himself, actor Tony Todd, appears in this franchise as the enigmatic Bludworth?

For me, this selection would have landed higher on this list, if it were not for a few weak installments in the overall franchise. Still, with all of that in mind, this franchise still boasts some of the most creative character deaths in any horror franchise that I know; thereby securing its spot on this list.

4. XTRO/THE FLY (80's remake)

(XTRO) Premise: A man who was abducted by aliens returns to his family three years later, but his presence affects them negatively.

(THE FLY remake) Premise: A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

One sub-genre that I feel often gets overlooked for its effectiveness in generating scares in the horror genre is body horror. So you might be asking yourselves, what exactly is this sub-genre? Well, this sub-genre could be classified as any horror film in which horror comes from graphic degeneration or destruction of the body. If those types of horror films are up your alley, then XTRO and THE FLY, respectfully, are some good go-to's.

Perhaps, the lesser known amongst the two, XTRO, is one of the strangest films I have ever seen. For instance, this is one of the few films where a woman can give birth to a fully grown adult man and a giant G.I. Joe action figure can go on a rampage in the same film! Full of many other random moments; particularly, in regards to body horror, this film is one which is hard to forget.

THE FLY, similarly, is hard to leave out hear, thanks not only to its masterful direction from David Cronenberg, but also due to the performance provided by actor Jeff Goldblum - who you absolutely buy as someone transforming into a fly. Like EVENT HORIZON (mentioned earlier), Cronenberg seemingly uses a slow burn approach to his film, slowly showing Seth's (Goldblum's) degenerative transformation into a bug. This approach is quite effective, because each time Seth is seen post-DNA splice (with the fly) you - as the audience - are anticipating how awful the character will look before he eventually become a full-on fly.

3. HELLRAISER/FRIGHT NIGHT (Original)

(HELLRAISER) Premise: An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; the demonic cenobites are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.

(FRIGHT NIGHT) Premise: A teenager discovers that the newcomer in his neighborhood is a vampire, so he turns to an actor in a television horror show for help dealing with the undead.

Where to start with these two? Both are equally entertaining films - one dealing with demons, the other dealing with vampires. The question becomes: Do you prefer some black comedy peppered in your horror film or something deftly serious? If the former hold true, then FRIGHT NIGHT is definitely the pick for you. However, if you can do without a great deal of humor, then I would say that HELLRAISER is more your bag. Though both films make good use of practical effects, the respective inferior sequels in their respective franchises knock them out of the top two slots.

2. CREEPSHOW/THE OMEN Franchise

(CREEPSHOW) Premise: An anthology which tells five terrifying tales based on the E.C. horror comic books of the 1950s.

(THE OMEN) Premise: Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil's own son?

I'm a sucker for horror anthologies when done well. Such is the case with the film known as CREEPSHOW. Taking inspiration from classic horror comics in the 50s, the film is stylistically done as if you're entering the world of a comic book. Additionally, unlike other properties that since copied its formula, nearly all of the stories are equally as good as the others.

Now, THE OMEN Franchise gets the tie in this spot because of how effective it is as a trilogy: The first film introducing us to the character of a young Damien unaware consciously (but somehow knowing instinctually) who he is, the second film showing teenage Damien coming to consciously accept his destiny, and the third providing us with an adult Damien who has fully come into his own. Though many would credit the first two films as the best in the franchise, the third is perfectly serviceable thanks to the entertaining performance of Sam Neil (remember him?) as the now adult Damien. Additionally, the franchise as a whole - like FINAL DESTINATION mentioned before - featured a great deal of creative characters deaths without the use of elaborate visual effects.

1. John Carpenter's THE THING

Premise: A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Finally, we make it to my #1! John Carpenter's THE THING. There are not enough great things I can say about this film! Where to start?!

Terrific premise? Check. Taking place in Antartica, the cast of characters featured in the film have nowhere to escape from the creature that is preying upon them. Additionally, as an entity that absorb and replicate its victims, it adds another layer of dread as close friends can quickly become deadly enemies.

Great Performances? Yup. The film features Kurt Russell, along with a who-who of character actors.

Terrific Effects? Absolutely. This film revolutionized the way practical effects were done in film. Those who enter the visual effects field (of the film industry) as a profession typically study this film as reference on how to produce effective, realistic practical effects.

Great Moments? You damn skippy. See "blood test" scene, "head spider" scene (yes, not a typo), and many more that I won't spoil for you here!

All in all, THE THING (as demonstrated above) is #1 to me for because it absorbs (pun intended) many of the facets that I enjoy about horror films into one awesome horrific cocktail. Additionally, thanks to the many things that it does well, such as the performances provided by its ensemble and the film's setting, it works outside of the horror genre also. For instance, take away the "monster element" in the film, and it still works as an effective mystery or psychological thriller.

So does your list match mine? Or do you have different films in those spots? Let me know in the comments!

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