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Movies: My Top 25 Horror Films Part 5

Welcome back to the final edition of my horror film countdown. For the top 5, we encounter a lot of zombies, a mother hell-bent on revenge, the devil himself and property defending ghosts. Lets dig in!

 

5. World War Z

I loved the book but was nervous how the film adaptation would go. Then news of delays and script rewrites surfaced and I feared the worst. I went into the theater with lower expectations and was blown away by the heart pounding action.

Gerry (Brad Pitt) is a former UN operative who is enjoying his retirement with his wife Karin (Mirelle Enos) and two daughters. With the news on in the background during breakfast, the broadcast warns of civil unrest and martial law, but like so many of us do when getting ready in the morning, the assumption is that they are describing a third world country. Later, the family is driving through downtown Philadelphia chaos erupts. A herd of zombies begin attacking the commuters, and these aren’t your normal slow as molasses dead, these zombies move as fast as cheetahs and turn their prey within 12 seconds. Gerry and his family commandeer a RV and escape to New Jersey where they find provisions and asthma medicine for his daughter. A looter attacks Karin but Gerry shoots the vandal, giving the audience the sense that he can handle himself in a crisis. With the streets filling with looters and the undead, the family seeks refuge in an apartment complex. They hunker down with a Latino family that speaks little English, except for one of their children, Tomas. Gerry receives a call from his former co-worker at the UN, Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), who promises a helicopter evacuation the next morning. Gerry is unable to convince the apartment occupants to flee with him and his family but they do find Tomas on their way out. They are rescued at the last possible moment before a swarm of zombies attack. Safely aboard an aircraft carrier, Gerry is commissioned to accompany Dr. Fassbach (Elyes Gabel) to South Korea, where the Dr. believes is ground zero of the outbreak. All hell breaks loose upon their arrival and Fassbach is killed by an accidental self inflicted gun shot wound. Gerry learns from a captured Ex-CIA operative that Jerusalem has been fortified for sometime. Arriving in Jerusalem, Gerry meets with Mossad leader Jurgen Warmbrunn (Ludi Boeken), who explains that through intercepted communications, the zombie outbreak was discovered and prepared for. It soon becomes apparent that even the well planned barriers are no match for the infected. Gerry barely escapes with Israeli soldier, Segen (Daniella Kertesz), who gets bitten but is saved by Gerry who amputates her bitten arm. Unfortunately there is a stowaway zombie on board who attacked the flight attendant who in turn attacks passengers. Gerry detonates a grenade, killing the zombies but causing the plane to crash. Segen and Gerry appear to be the only survivors and make their way to a World Health Organization facility. Through observation Gerry surmises that the zombies will not attack terminally ill humans. He successfully tests this theory using himself as the guinea pig. As Gerry is reunited with his family it is clear that even though a protective measure has been found, the war is just beginning

World War Z is chock full of action, tense moments and gore. It is a thrill ride that gets your heart rate up and keeps it there until the final credits.

World War Z

World War Z

4. Friday The 13th

Sex, drugs and irresponsible camp counselors. Jason Vorhees is the machete wielding psycho of Camp Crystal Lake, but before he was on the scene impaling missionary position love birds, Mommy Dearest was taking her revenge!

The film opens with a flashback to 1958 where we find two camp counselors sneaking away from a camp fire sing-along to have intimate relations. They are getting their motors running when suddenly; a shadowy intruder spoils their sexcapades and murders both. Fast forwarding to June 13, 1980, Annie (Robbi Morgan) stops in to a diner for directions to the newly reopened Camp Crystal Lake. An old coot exclaims that they are all doomed but a local truck driver offers to take her half way. While on the drive, he tells her the tale of a young boy who drowned there in 1957 and the corresponding double homicide the following year, resulting in the shutdown of the camp. Annie gets dropped off and quickly gets another ride from another motorist who says nothing. Annie freaks out when the driver speeds past the Camp entrance and jumps out of the moving vehicle and fleeing into the woods. The driver soon catches up to her though and slits her throat. At the camp, the other counselors, Ned (Mark Nelson), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill (Harry Crosby), Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Alice (Adrienne King), and Brenda (Laurie Bartram) are refurbishing the cabins and facilities along with the camp’s demanding owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer). The old diner coot shows up again to proclaim doom to all but he is ignored by the camp workers. As a storm approaches, Steve goes into town for supplies. While the teen counselors find the storm the perfect time to have sex, the still unidentified killer begins killing them one by one. The sex and killings continue until Alice is confronted by a middle aged woman who claims to be friends with Steve. Soon it becomes clear that she is the killer. Her son, Jason Vorhees, was the boy that drowned in 1957. The children were swimming unattended because the counselors on duty had sneaked off to have sex. She was responsible for the murders in 1958 and is not continuing her rampage of revenge on the sex crazed teens. A back and forth struggle ensues and after a chase through the woods, Alice is able to stop Mrs. Vorhees by decapitating her with a machete. In shock, she lies down in a canoe and passes out as it floats to the middle of the lake. She is awoken the next morning by the police calling out her name. As she sits up, the decomposed body of Jason pulls her under the water. She wakes once more to find herself in the hospital and we are left with the scenic sight of Crystal Lake, beckoning us back for a million sequels.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th

3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Zombies. They terrify us on a number of levels. The obvious is that they pose an imminent danger to our well being but hey also prey on the human fear of death, the horror that we could reanimate into a monster and that those we love most not only die, but rise to try to eat us. Night of the Living Dead is the first zombie film I remember seeing and while make-up, set design and FX have come a long way since 1968, this is still the one that sticks in my mind not only for the horror of the undead but that it was also the first movie that I saw that had no semblance of a happy ending for any of the characters.

Siblings Johnny (Russell Streiner) and Barbra (Judith O’Dea) are visiting their father’s grave site when Barbra is attacked by a pale faced stranger. Johnny fights off the attacker but slips and hits his head on a tombstone. Barbra flees but is pursued to a seemingly abandoned farm house. The attacker is joining by others that seem to be in a trance-like state. To her horror, she discovers a body that appears to have been partially eaten. In shock, Barbra tries to flee the house but is rescued by Ben (Duane Jones), who violently attacks the zombies with a tire iron. Returning to the farm house; they board up the doors and windows and trade stories on how they ended up in this mess. Barbra becomes hysterical, exclaiming how she needs to go rescue her brother. Ben strikes her and she passes out. While Barbra lies unconscious, Ben finds a rifle and radio upstairs. He listens to the emergency broadcasts that tell of mass violence by the people that seem to be in a trance. Suddenly, Barbra screams out as two unidentified men emerge from the house’s cellar. They identify themselves as Harry (Karl Hardman) and Tom (Keith Wayne), who have taken refuge like them in the house along with Harry’s wife Helen (Marilyn Eastman) and daughter Karen (Kyra Schon) along with Tom’s girlfriend Judy (Judith Ridley). The group begins fighting immediately with Ben enraged that these men did not come up earlier to assist in barricading the home and Harry insistent that hiding in the basement is what is best. Harry is overruled by his wife and all come up to join the group. Ben finds a television set and they watch as the news reports reveal that this epidemic is a result of radiation from a space probe that brings the dead back to life. They are instructed that the best way to kill these creatures for good is a gunshot or damaging blow to the head. The reporter also instructs the public to find a rescue station until this crisis has been resolved. Ben recognizes one of the rescue locations but needs fuel for his truck. There is a pump in the rear of the house, so Ben, Tom and Judy attempt to make a break for, but Tom ends up blowing himself and Judy up. Ben returns to the house to find it locked. He goes into a fit of rage, kicks down the door and beats the hell out of Harry while the other look in horror as the dead feast on Tom and Judy’s remains. The power goes out at the same time the horde of zombies attack the house. Harry takes advantage of Ben’s fallen rifle but in the struggle, Harry is shot dead. Chaos ensues with the group being killed and turned by the swarm. Barbra sees her reanimated brother Johnny in the crowd and tries to go to him, only to be swept away by the zombie mob. Ben retreats to the basement, locking the door and disposing of the now zombie Harry and Helen. The next morning, Ben hears and investigates sounds from the house. As he emerges from the cellar, he is shot in the head by a zombie hunting posse and is disposed and burned with the other slain zombies. No happy endings for anyone!

Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead

 

2. The Exorcist

Ice cold bedroom, levitation, projectile vomiting, head spinning and inappropriate use of a crucifix? Is it the result of a chemically imbalanced child or could it be…..Satan????

As a prelude, we see Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) on an archaeological dig in Iraq, where a number of demonic symbols and statues are unearthed, which sets the tone for the film. Shifting to the primary story, Well known actress Chris McNeill (Ellen Burstyn) is living in the upscale Washington D.C. suburb of Georgetown with her daughter Regan (Linda Blair), her personal assistant Sharon (Kitty Wynn) and housekeepers while shooting a new film. Soon she begins to notice strange noises in the home that she attributes to pests. Regan also begins to exhibit signs of anxiety and depression and one night Regan flees to Chris’s bed stating that her own bed was shaking. We are introduced to FatherKarras (Jason Miller), who is seen watching Chris on set. He is conflicted, a man losing his faith and racked with guilt over his elderly mother living alone in New York City. Meanwhile, the strange occurances in the McNeill household continue and Regan begins playing with a Ouija board to contact spirits. A local Catholic Church is vandalized with clay pieces added to a statue of Mary that resemble breasts and a penis. At the same time, Father Karras travels to New York to be with his ill mother. She has been placed into a home, of which she seems to blame him for. She soon dies in these conditions which drives the Father into a deep state of sorrow. Back in Georgetown, Chris throws a party with a number of important guests. Regan, while happy and bright during the party, interrupts the celebration later by urinating on the carpet and predicting the demise of one of the guests. Chris takes care of her daughter, putting her back to bed, but soon rushes back in after a loud bang alerts her to danger. Regan is in her bed, which is levitating. Chris jumps on to the bed but it continues to rise. Regan is subjected to numerous tests but the Doctors can find nothing. Doctors are called to the house after Regan has a seizure. She begins to rise and fall in her bed, attacks the Doctors with superhuman strength and speaks in a ghastly demonic voice. Tragedy strikes when Burke (Jack MacGowran), the director of Chris’s film, dies outside of the home mysteriously. Detective Kinderman (Lee Cobb) investigates and questions Chris but as soon as he leaves, Regan goes insane. She begins masturbating with a crucifix, furniture starts flying around the room and Regan’s head completely twists backwards. Chris meets with Father Karras about setting up an exorcism. He rejects this idea as exorcisms are virtually unheard of in the modern church. He agrees to see Regan and is shocked at her appearance. Regan taunts him, even claiming that his mother is in hell. She then projectile vomits on him. While unconvinced, Karras eventually agrees to the exorcism and calls in the previously seen Father Merrin. They begin the ceremony together but Karras becomes distraught when Regan begins to taunt him in the voice of his deceased mother. Merrin throws him out of the room, but he returns shortly to find Father Merrin dead and Regan laughing. Karras grabs her and demands that the demon leave her and enter his body, which the demon complies with immediately. Father Karras then jumps out of the bedroom window to his death before the evil takes fully over. The film ends with Regan unaware of anything that occurred during her possession and her mother taking her away from the Georgetown home.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

 

1. The Shining

Full disclosure: I am a complete Stephen King geek. I have read and reread every novel the man has written, both under his own name and his pen name, Richard Bachman. The Shining is one of his definitive books, a full on ghost story that circles back to the real life horrors of substance abuse. Mr. King was not happy with the changes that Stanley Kubrick made to the narrative and refuses to see the film to this day. While I have the utmost respect for King and his work, and even though he is correct that his novel is greatly altered, this film is my favorite horror movie of all time.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is attempting to rebuild his life. He is a recovering alcoholic who lost his teaching position after a violent incident involving a student. He is applying for a caretaker position at a seasonal hotel in Colorado. The hotel manager offers him the job but warns that the hotel will become snow bound and that he and his family will be completely isolated for months. He tells him that the solitude can be maddening, recounting when a former caretaker went insane and killed his wife, two daughters and then himself. Jack takes note, but agrees to the position thinking that the isolation will be good for him to be away from the temptation of drinking and for him to pursue his true passion of writing a novel. At the same time, Jack’s son Danny (Danny Lloyd) has a vision of a river of blood running out of an elevator after speaking with his imaginary friend Tony. The image is seen by Danny numerous times throughout the film. The Torrerences arrive at the Overlook Hotel and are greeted by the head chef Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers). He immediately realizes that he and Danny share a special telepathic gift that Dick’s grandmother called shining. When Danny asks about the evil he senses in the hotel, he explains that while bad things did happen here, it is more of an echo than anything and that he should be fine. Danny presses him though about Room 237 but Dick admonishes Danny, telling him to never enter that room. The family settles in, with Jack’s wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) doing most of the actual caretaking duties while Jack tries to begin his novel. Danny continues to wonder about Room 237 and begins having visions of the two murdered daughters of the former caretaker. Jack becomes more and more irritable from writer’s block and lack of sleep. To alleviate the boredom, Wendy and Danny spend a lot of time in the hedge maze on the hotel; grounds. One day, Danny is playing with his toys when a ball rolls out of Room 237, which he enters. At that moment Wendy rushes to their living quarters, alarmed by Jack’s screams. He is having a nightmare which he tells Wendy was of him chopping Wendy and Danny to pieces with an axe. Danny appears in the doorway with a torn sweater and sucking his thumb. There are finger marks on his rapidly bruising throat. Wendy accuses Jack of harming the boy (which has happened before during fits of alcohol rage) and leaves the room. Furious about Wendy’s accusation, Jack rambles through the hotel, ending up in the shut down ballroom. He sits at the bar and exclaims that he would sell his soul for a drink. He looks up to find the bartender gladly serving him a beverage. Wendy rushes into the room, which is once again deserted. In a panic she says that Danny told her a crazy woman attacked him in Room 237. Jack investigates and finds a beautiful woman in the bathroom who seduces him. As he is passionately kissing her, he catches their reflection in the mirror to reveal that the woman is in fact a rotting corpse of an old woman who laughs as Jack retreats from the room. While Jack is away, Danny calls out using his shining to Dick, who hears him all the way in Florida. Jack returns to the living quarters and tells Wendy that he found nothing. Wendy suggests that they take Danny to a Doctor which causes Jack to fly off in a fit of rage, blaming Wendy for his life’s woes and that she is trying to sabotage his job as caretaker. He returns to the ballroom to find a full party underway. He takes a drink and mingles with the crowd. A butler accidentally spills a drink on him and accompanies Jack to the men’s room to clean it off. The butler is revealed to be the former caretaker who murdered his family. He tells Jack that it is his responsibility to protect the hotel from Danny and from the outsider he called, meaning Dick and that if it comes to it, Jack will need to discipline his wife and son the way he disciplined his family. Meanwhile in Florida, Dick is unsuccessful in contacting the hotel and books the next flight out to Colorado. Wendy looks for Jack, armed with a baseball bat, set to defend herself from her husband if needed. She enters the room where Jack has been working on his novel and looks at the manuscript for a clue into his state of mind. But there are only hundreds of pages that only say over and over “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” Jack startles her from behind, inquiring on how she likes his writings. Wendy backs away begging Jack not to harm her. He acts wounded and states that he would never harm her. He then declares as his face changes maniacally that he won’t hurt her but is about to kill her. She connects the bat to Jack’s head, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs. Wendy drags the unconscious Jack into a storage freezer. As she locks him in, Jack wakes up to taunt her with the fact that he has destroyed the radio and damaged the snow cat, which is the only means of escape. He is awoken later by the butler, who expresses disappointment in Jack. He is given one more chance to do the job right and the door becomes Wendy is asleep in the living quarters but is awoken by Danny, who appears to be in a trance and is repeatedly muttering redrum. And writes redrum on the mirror in lipstick. Wendy sees the reflection that reads “Murder” just as Jack begins to chop down the door with an axe. He reaches in to unlock the door but Wendy slashes his hand with a straight razor. Suddenly the sound of an approaching snow cat is heard. Jack lumbers out and hides as Dick enters the hotel. He is attacked by Jack who buries the axe deep into Dick’s chest. Danny, who had escaped through the living quarters bathroom window, runs into the snow covered hedge maze, hiding his footprints as he goes along. Wendy runs for the exit and is confronted with all sorts of ghostly specters but doesn’t allow them to slow her down. Jack chases Danny into the maze but not being familiar with the path, becomes easily lost and dies of hypothermia, allowing Wendy and Danny to escape in the snow cat that Dick had brought. Our final scene is that of an old photo hanging in the hotel of a party with Jack in the center that says, ‘Overlook Hotel, July 4th Ball, 1921”

The Shining

The Shining

We have come to the end of our perilous journey my friends. I hope that you have enjoyed my listing of my favorite horror films as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you. I wish you all a spooktacular Halloween and rest up since the holiday season descends upon us first thing Sunday morning.

About Pauly D (681 Articles)
Paul hails from Central Connecticut where he was a child of the 80’s. A lifelong lover of all things Sci-Fi, Paul is particularly fond of anything to do with Star Wars and Star Trek. He is also a huge Stephen King Fan. When he is not writing for PCU he is spending time with his wife and two geeky daughters.
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