Guest Post: Halloween In July – The Fear Merchant’s Top 10 Horror Films
During our #HalloweenInJuly event this month on The Monster Guys Podcast, we had the distinct privilege of having Richard Martin, a.k.a. @TheFearMerchant and host of The Bazaar Cast, on the show chatting up all things Halloween.
Because he is an avid viewer and expert of the horror film genre, we asked Richard to provide us a list of his Top 10 Horror Films that we should be watching to get us in the mood for this year’s Halloween festivities.
Below is The Fear Merchant’s Top 10 Horror Films!
Do you agree with his list? Are there any films you would add to or subtract from the list? Let us know on Twitter: @TheMonsterGuys.
From The Bazaar from Afar …
The Fear Merchant’s Musings: Top 10 Horror Films
Below is a list of my top 10 horror films as of this time. Some are outright classics, others are more recent. This list may change over time, but for now, in this moment in time, here are my favourites. Make sure to get in touch on Twitter (links at the end) if you agree or disagree. Enjoy!
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Although the original is no doubt a classic, the sequel to the cult hit narrowly makes the cut in this Top 10. With a self awareness, knowing it could not trump the suspense and horror of the original. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 goes for an off the wall black comedy and absolutely nails it.
With returning characters like the iconic Leatherface, this movie is like a bonkers, hyper-reality spin off and not the official sequel.
Set in an abandoned fun park sort of place, the madness and tension builds, leading to chainsaw dueling (yes chainsaw dueling) built around a whole host of colourful and memorable characters. If you’ve never seen this, now is always a good time!
9. Train to Busan (2016)
One of the more recently released films on this list. Maybe it hasn’t had time to set in yet but my goodness does Train to Busan breath some life into a dead genre (pun intended).
The set up is simple; a father needs to bring his daughter across the country in the midst of a zombie outbreak.
A Korean film that has some of the best characters that you can get behind in this epic fight for survival. It’s exciting, tense and an emotional roller coaster. This is one you could possibly have overlooked but it is a must watch for any horror fan.
8. Halloween (1978)
This classic could be considered as John Carpenter’s break out hit. Some would also consider this film as the birth of the slasher subgenre, but maybe you didn’t know Black Christmas (1974) laid the groundwork for what we have here with Halloween.
This film introduced us to Michael Myers (long before the comedian of the same name brought us spy spoofs).
Starting with what might seem like the most cliché plot ever; an escaped lunatic is on the loose and begins to stalk a teenage girl. The tension builds with the unseen and flashing glimpses of the stalker. Doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael’s old psychiatrist, attempts to track him down before he claims more victims. The music is chilling also and used extremely appropriately throughout. If you played a sample for anybody, they should know where it is from.
With a familiar suburban setting that could be anyone’s neighbourhood adding to the immersion (if you live in American suburbia, that is. I think this aspect is lost to an extent on foreign audiences). All around a must see and should be part of any self respecting horror fan’s collection.
7. Se7en (1995)
Rolling in at number 7 on this list at no coincidence is Se7en. One might argue this film is more along the lines of a thriller/crime drama rather than a horror, but there are plenty grizzly elements to sink our teeth into.
For those unfamiliar with this David Fincher classic, it follows retiring police Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) with newly transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt). They begin to discover a string of murders all tied together through the Seven Deadly Sins. The tension builds as they try and hunt down the killer leading to a climax that in my opinion is one of the best in cinema, not just in horror.
With a fantastic cast and great storytelling, it brought horror back into the mainstream.
6. The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook, in my eyes, shook up the haunted house subgenre in all the right ways.
It follows the story of a widow and how she is dealing with raising her son. The son begins talking about a creature in a book Mr. Babadook. As the story progresses, reality and delusion become intertwined.
A chilling tale blurring the lines between outright horror and intelligent insight into dealing with PTSD and grief. A match made in heaven, highly recommended.
5. The Hitcher (1986)
I’d make the case that this is Rutger Hauer’s finest performance next to Blade Runner (1982).
The story is of a young man who picks up a hitchhiker. This stranger ends up trying to kill him. The young man escapes but is pursued relentlessly by the hitchhiker and is framed for his crimes.
This film had me at the edge of my seat, just as you think the suspense can’t get any higher it ramps it up again. A chase film at its core, it’s absolutely fantastic.
Hauer’s performance captures mania in a bottle. You can almost feel the heat of psychosis coming through the screen. If you watch this you can positively skip the lacklustre 2007 remake starring Sean Bean as the hitchhiker. The remake went for the gore factor rather than tantalizing suspense, which was a poor substitute.
This is one of my all time favourite films, not just from the world of horror.
4. Saw (2004)
Saw is one of those films that redefined a genre when it was released. It opened the floodgates and reintroduced the world to torture-porn, or really it popularised it and brought it into the mainstream a year before Hostel (2005) was released.
I wouldn’t ever put the whole franchise on this list as they really became derivative and couldn’t recapture that lightning in a bottle. The sense of intrigue and the ghastly contractions that maim and kill the antagonist, Jigsaw’s victims.
But it wasn’t just the gore that drew me to love this film, it was the great writing and storytelling. There was no good and evil, everyone was cast in shades of grey. The final act and conclusion is really where Saw came into it’s own. If you haven’t seen any of these films where have you been the last thirteen years?
With a reboot/prequel/reimagine out this Halloween, now would be a good time to check this out.
3. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s breakout sci-fi hit Alien, soon coming up on it’s 40th year, still holds up today. H. R. Giger’s alien was, and is, so exotic and terrifying you really can’t separate the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise.
This film achieved so much for the time. The world was also introduced in a big way to Sigourney Weaver, bucking the trend as strong female lead using wit and cunning rather than brute physical strength to overcome the menacing threat of the Xenomorph roaming the ship in the shadows.
The ship itself, The Nostromo was practically its own character too, given the phenomenal set design which many sci-fi shows and films have borrowed from since. It’s a film essentially about space truckers who unknowingly bring a murderous alien on board after responding to a distress call. The claustrophobia and tension as the crew get picked off one by one and the sneaky subplot involving a dodgy corporation make for a great watch.
This film spawned a bit of a franchise that yields diminishing returns after the first sequel Aliens (1986), but the original is still a great sci-fi horror that won’t let you down.
2. 28 Days Later (2002)
This film was something special for me. The opening scene of an empty London just blew my young mind at the time it came out. The sense of utter devastation of society resonated from the start. As we the audience are scrambling to put the clues together, we are greeted with fast paced ravenous “infected”.
Before 28 Days Later, zombies were slow and shambling and usually it was other humans who were the primary threat as groups of survivors struggle to survive (look at AMC’s The Walking Dead as a prime example).
This film brought zombies back as a greater threat with a much higher risk and it was absolutely breathtaking. The tension provided by this movie and the distant hope of a safe haven made for compelling viewing. Alas, as much of a threat as these lean, mean and jacked up zombies gave us, the third and final act brings the dark side of humanity back to the forefront, taking us off guard, just as we thought things couldn’t possibly get worse.
The film also brought Cillian Murphy into the mainstream, a man also from my beloved city, Cork, Ireland. How can I not be a fan?!
Since 28 Days Later, its game changing alteration to zombie lore has been exhausted but I’d say the original is best. A great film.
1. The Thing (1982)
It really is no secret that John Carpenter’s The Thing is my all time favourite horror film. I’ve mentioned it numerous times on The Bazaar Cast. The second Carpenter entry on this list, the thing with The Thing is that it is near perfect in my opinion.
The first time I watched this, in full, I was blown away and that was only as recent as 2010. The idea that a shape shifting, adaptive mimic of an alien infiltrates an isolated Antarctic outpost is terrifying as you really can’t trust anybody, with no sign of rescue on the horizon. The sense of paranoia and dread increased by the minute. The blood test scene, as I’ll dub, is one of the best scenes in cinema history.
The Thing was the first in Carpenter’s thematic “Apocalypse Trilogy” but for me I think he reached his peak with this one.
The art design of the alien being is fantastic and the effects work still looks amazing even to this day. The bursting tendrils and body horror really sell the creature as an extra terrestrial.
The film is a retelling of The Thing from Another World (1951), but the two are miles apart in tone. This is a lot darker and visceral. The film is well-paced with a satisfying ambiguous conclusion with fantastic performances from the likes of Kurt Russell and Keith David. If you haven’t seen this, skip the terrible 2011 re-remake/prequel and stick with this all-time classic.
If you’d like more from me follow the links below. Check out my podcast The Bazaar Cast, where I interview all types of cool people discussing their work and what makes them tick. Think Tim Ferriss, but for horror.
The Bazaar Cast:
And you can catch all the #HalloweenInJuly series podcasts from @TheMonsterGuys below: