The season-o-scare may have passed, but there’s no time like the present to bring you a collection of chill pills that may have gone under your scare-radar.
Child’s Play (1989): The original is still by far the best of the series—it’s funny in all the right places and legitimately scary…unlike parts 2 and 3, which are mostly worthless. The rest of them are fun, but too self-aware for their own good. I heard this year’s straight-to-Redbox offering, “Curse of Chucky,” is actually good, though…may have to make that a double-feature.
The Gate (1987): Pint-sized claymation demons are unleashed from hell and hell-bent on destroying suburbia…what could be better? How about a pint-sized Stephen Dorff, too? Best. Role. Ever. Yes, even better than his performance in those Blu cigarette commercials. Er. E-vapor commercials. Er. whatever those fake e-cigarette things that people are sticking in their mouths these days. Personally, I prefer the original fake cigarette: candy cigarettes. Round Up…that’s my brand. Been fake-smoking them for 35 years now and I feel great…and still have most of my original teeth.
Phantasm II (1989): Sure, the original is ghoul-ish fun too, but the sequel has one of the best taglines of all time: The Ball is Back! Plus, Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man is arguably the most frightening baddie in the history of baddie-dom. If you like this, writer/director Don Coscarelli is still making insanely fun horror flicks to this day. Check out “Bubba Ho-Tep” with Bruce Campbell, and most recently, “John Dies at the End.”
Puppetmaster (1989): If you’ve never seen a Full Moon Studios production from Charles Band (A fellow Roger Corman could appreciate)…this is the one to dive in with. These puppets…are alive! If you like it, skip the sequel and go right to “Puppetmaster III,” which deals with WWII and Nazis and did I mention killer puppets…doesn’t get any scarier than that. Also check out “Dollman” and “Evil Bong,” I mean, how can you go wrong?
Communion (1989): Alien abduction is always a superb subject if you want a flick that completely freaks you out. And while “Fire in the Sky” and “The Fourth Kind” are great in their own right…there is something downright chilling about Whitley Strieber’s bend on the psychological aspects of being abducted that you won’t be able to shake. It’s haunting in a very real sense. Plus, Christopher Walken is in this.
Critters (1986): After Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” took theaters by storm, scary little monster movies were the hottest thing going in Hollywood. This one is actually pretty great, mostly because they assembled a pretty unbelievable cast including Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh and Billy Zane. Hey, even Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up. You’ll have to find “Critters 3” though, to see Leonardo DiCaprio make his film debut.
House (1986): Ding Dong. You’re Dead. If you love the zany horror aspects of “Army of Darkness” and “Evil Dead 2,” this gonzo haunted house tale is a must. Probably my favorite horror flick as a kid, and it still holds up. Didn’t hurt that my personal hero, The Greatest American Hero, William Katt, was the star. Too bad he never did an Art Garfunkel biopic in his prime…might have won an Oscar. If you dig this, also check out Anthony Hickox’s “Waxwork.”
Fright Night (1985): The original with Roddy McDowall, not the abomination with Colin Farrell. This one is freaky good and really funny, too. Come to think of it, I seem to like a large helping of comedy with all my horror…guess I like to counteract all that suspense with a relief valve.
High Tension (Haute Tension) (2003): This French film from Alexandre Aja is the most intense slasher film I’ve ever seen. If you’ve never known what it’s like to have a panic attack…start here. Anxiety Du jour. And that ending, oh man, that one will stay with you for a while…
The Descent (2005): Caves are claustrophobic and scary. Chicks are hot. What if a group of hot chicks went spelunking and monsters were chasing them around. Boom.
Ravenous (1999): A horror film unlike any other. Director Antonia Bird, who recently passed away, made a shockingly disturbing period piece about cannibalism set in California during the 1840s. The fact that this was ever greenlighted is amazing. The film completely bombed in theaters, but is now growing in favor as a cult film. The score by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn is as good as it gets, and the cast featuring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeffrey Jones and David Arquette is about the best one you’ll ever run across in a horror flick. If you only see one flick on this list, make it this one.
Candyman (1992): Pure urban horror from the mind of Clive Barker. Virginia Madsen lends credibility to this, but it’s Tony Todd as Candyman that really delivers the goods. He’s right up there with Freddy and Jason in my book with his utterly disturbing performance.
Night Breed (1990): Clive Barker may be famous in filmdom for “Hellraiser,” but this is definitely his most engaging work, based on his novel ‘Cabal.’ When the studio tried to market this film, they focused on the serial killer elements, even changing the final cut, which completely overshadowed the true nature of this fantasy film. I don’t necessarily approve of horror remakes, but this is one that could be pretty fantastic were someone to dust it off and update since it never really got a fair shake.
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