Blogger Q&A: What’s Your Favorite Lesser-Known Horror Film?
In the Blogger Q&A series, we ask all of our bloggers here at Flickchart to share their opinions on a movie-related question. Got something you want to ask the bloggers? Submit a question of your own for the series by posting on our official Flickchart Facebook page, and it could be featured in a future post!
This week, fans are remembering the work of the late Wes Craven, who brought us the Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream franchises, as well as other things that go bump in the night. As we think back on this Master of Horror’s legacy, we’ve been given the opportunity to look at some of our more obscure favorite movies that will send a chill down your spine. Looking for some recommendations? Here are some movies that give us the goosebumps.
Jandy: The Cat and the Canary (1927)
Okay, sure, there’s plenty of comedy to go along with the scares in this prototypical “old dark house” flick, but that makes it a grinning good time throughout. A rich old man dies, leaving peculiar last wishes – his will isn’t to be read for 20 years, quite a disappointment to the throng of greedy relatives waiting to pounce on his fortune like a cat on a canary. When they reconvene 20 years later, more surprises are in store: his fortune goes to the sweet ingenue, but only if she’s sane. So everyone else spends the rest of the movie trying to prove she’s insane. Meanwhile, people are disappearing in the voluminous mansion, and a guard from a nearby insane asylum soon arrives saying he’s lost an inmate. What’s connected, and what’s a red herring? There are plenty of over-the-top laughs to be had, but also some creeps, thanks to some genuinely frightening German Expressionist-style lighting and some terrifyingly dour performances from some of the avaricious relatives. It’s also a really great intro to silent film. – Jandy Hardesty
David: The Haunting (1963)
A lot of supernatural horror films – your Poltergeists, your Paranormal Activities – feature an unsuspecting family suddenly and inexplicably besieged by demonic forces. These stories follow a well-known pattern: the hauntings escalate, disbelief gives way to terror, and an explanation (Indian burial ground, say) comes to light. 1963‘s The Haunting, based on a novel by Shirley Jackson, is different. Its ensemble consists of a group of oddball loners in search of a haunting. There’s no mystery for them to solve; they know who died in the creepy old house on the hill and when, and they want to make contact. Claire Bloom‘s character, Theodora, is here because she’s a spiritualist. Richard Johnson‘s Dr. Markway because he’s a Ph.D-holding paranormal researcher. Theodora also happens to be a lesbian, and it is notable that this Code-era film seems nearly tolerant of her sexuality. Theodora is a friend to Julie Harris‘s shy character, Nell, who is at Hill House because she exhibited sensitivity to the spirit world as a child. Nell is the most normal of the bunch, but that’s not saying a lot: she opens the film by explaining that she sleeps on her left side because “it wears her heart out faster.” A wall-pounding, door-bending sequence centering on Nell and Theodora creates a breathless tension that the versatile director Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, Star Trek: The Motion Picture) sustains for the remainder of this psychological tale’s 2-hour runtime. That’s long for a classic ghost movie, but I was riveted when I saw it as a kid, and it’s been a favorite ever since. – David Conrad
Charles: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
A police detective investigating a series of recent violent murders in a quiet town suspects two newcomers of the crimes. Unknown to him, the real culprits are the living dead, brought to life by radiation from agricultural experiments. A Spanish/Italian production set in England, the astounding Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is possibly the most underrated zombie flick ever made, which no fan of the genre should miss. Predating films like George Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead and Lucio Fulci‘s Zombie, director Jorge Grau delivers an amazingly atmospheric film that helped lay the groundwork for future living dead flicks. The social context of the film is even reminiscent of what became popular in horror later in the ’70s. While not a wall-to-wall zombie gore fest, it is one of the best post-Night of the Living Dead films to be made, an intelligent zombie film that should be respected for what it helped accomplish. Released under 15 different titles, it can currently be found on Blu-Ray for about $10 under the name Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. If you don’t own it or have never seen it, then make your way to Google and pick up a copy. – Charles Does
Jeff: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
There isn’t a lot of horror going on at Lombardi Manor, aside from the occasional blueberry-fueled diaper (from Senator Beanbag*, not me). And when I do watch a horror movie, it’s typically going to be something that’s so ridiculous and godawful that it’s more of a hoot than a scare (see my Depths of Obscurity post on Nazi Zombie flicks). So when I come across a horror movie that gives me a laugh that’s not because of its poor quality, it’s a rare breed to me. That’s why my pick has to be the vastly underseen Bubba Ho-Tep. Written and directed by Don Coscarelli, whose horror credits also extend to the Phantasm series, and starring Bruce Campbell as an Elvis impersonator who just might actually be the man himself, Bubba Ho-Tep provides some excellent suspense, laughs and emotional depth. Ossie Davis supports in one of his last roles as a man who is convinced he is President John F. Kennedy, and that his skin was dyed black to escape his inevitable assassination. Elvis and JFK fight off a recently awakened mummy who trolls the hall of the heroes’ nursing home at night, feasting on the souls of the residents. What else do you need to know? As a special fun bonus, one of the film commentaries on the DVD features Bruce Campbell as an elderly Elvis Presley discussing the making of this film. – Jeff Lombardi
* One of the hundreds of nicknames for the toddler that currently runs our home.
Nigel: Dark Water (2005)
I’m going to be another among us to admit that horror just really isn’t my thing. I’m turned off by excessive blood and guts, and usually take my horror with a heaping helping of another genre on the side, like science fiction (Alien, The Cabin in the Woods) or comedy (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland). So when asked to describe a “pure” horror film that I like, let alone one that I think is underseen, I find kind of a tricky question. Yet I realized that Dark Water would fit the bill. This 2005 film is a remake of the 2002 Japanese film by the same name, which in turn is based on the novel by Koji Suzuki, author of the novel that inspired Ringu and its American remake, The Ring. In other words, Dark Water was intended to capitalize on the same formula that made The Ring a smash hit. Yet this film suffered at the box office because it was mismarketed to the thrill-a-minute horror crowd; it is much more an old-fashioned ghost story, that touches on all the tropes David mentioned above. Jennifer Connelly stars as Dahlia, a young mother embroiled in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband (Dougray Scott) over their young daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade). An ugly black water stain in the ceiling of their rundown new apartment leads Dahlia to investigate the strange goings-on in the dilapidated building, and the specter of a young girl that craves her attention. The supporting cast includes the likes of John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, and the always-entertaining Pete Postlethwaite, but this is Connelly’s movie to make or break, and she’s great in it. This is not the typical horror movie going for jumps and cheap scares; where director Walter Salles excels is in creating a sense of unease, dark and foreboding. The violence is minimal, the shocks subtle, but the creepy atmosphere is palpable. Worth a look. – Nigel Druitt
Hannah: Bug (2006)
Horror isn’t exactly my genre either, so I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to add to this week’s Q&A. But when I went to look at my chart, lo and behold, there was Bug at the very top. I love this psychological horror flick. It was directed by William Friedkin, of The Exorcist fame, and based on a play by Tracy Letts about a lonely woman and a man obsessed with conspiracy theories. It’s hard to talk about plot details without giving away some of the core surprises of the movie, but rest assured that its theatrical origins serve the story, even when transferred to the screen. It’s intimate and claustrophobic in a way that brings out the tension of the characters. The acting is pitch perfect, with a sympathetic, down-to-earth performance from Ashley Judd and the manic energy Michael Shannon brings to his role (which he originated on stage in Chicago, New York, and London). No matter how often I see it and know what’s coming next, it always leave me profoundly unsettled by the time the credits roll. – Hannah Keefer