One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.
I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion. I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed. There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated. There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.
Thus far, the list includes:
#20) The Fly (1986)
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979)
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
#15) Suspiria (1977)
#14) Phantasm (1979)
#13) Evil Dead 2 (1985)
#12) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
#11) The Descent (2005)
#10) Fright Night (1985)
#9) Halloween (1978)
It's time to add some more zombies to the list, and their second appearance here comes via my favorite zombie flick. Having said that, there will be a third zombie movie in this Top 20, and that one made it into the Top 5. If you're confused, don't worry, I'll sort things out for you in just a second.
Top 20 Horror Movies - #8) Return of the Living Dead (1985)
So, this is one of these weird situations where I'm comparing things and I come to the realization that one of them is my favorite while I recognize another as being superior. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. That makes sense to me, so hopefully it makes sense to you too. Anyway, there is another zombie movie featured on this list that I find to be a better motion picture, but Return of the Living Dead makes up for any flaws it has with a major dose of entertainment value. It is the definitive take on the subject? No. Is it the most enjoyable take on the subject? Absolutely. This movie has it all: laughs, scares, a soundtrack for the ages, and a fabulous cast. There isn't a true star in the mix, but everyone involved makes the most of their part, and the stellar script by director Dan O'Bannon gives every character some quality material to work with. The effects are great and there is an abundance of gore. Most importantly, as I've stated on numerous occasions, I do not believe that there is a movie out there with better dialogue. As shit gets real, the characters verbally spar with one another, and their exchanges are charged with energy and fear. O'Bannon's direction is fabulous, and I give him an abundance of credit for putting together this invigorating and fresh take on a beloved sub-genre that produces a lot of really solid movies that seldom deviate from the formula. Dan did his own thing with Return of the Living Dead, and the end result is a real asskicker of a movie that is equal parts hilarious and horrifying.
For more on Return of the Living Dead, be sure to check out this Cult Classics from Dimension X piece I wrote about it that contains a more detailed examination of the picture and some really cool trivia. You can also check out this blog I wrote about the movie's totally gnarly punk rock soundtrack while you're at it.
|ROTLD features Tarman, one of the most memorable zombies of all time.|
|It also boasts a terrific cast. Clu Galager (far left) may be the biggest name, but everyone involved does an excellent job. The movie doesn't really anoint anyone as the hero or heroine, so everyone involved gets lots of cool things to say and do.|