By G. Martin
Halloween rules. Not because of the candy or the parties or the fact that it allows full-grown men to act like preschoolers or women to dress like brazen sluts. No, Halloween rules because of the movies. This is the only time of year when Hollywood calls attention to all the bloodiest, grisliest, nastiest things in life and makes them... fun. This is also the time of year when all of the so-called experts trot out their tired, predictable lists of the films that allegedly make them wet the bed. You know them before you read them: Night Of The Living Dead, Psycho (original flavor), Jaws, Rosemary’s Baby, The Birds, blah, blah, fucking blah. Each entry is about as spine-chilling as a rerun of Full House. This year, the problem has been addressed. Strap on your Depends and get your read on.
13. The Exorcist III: No Time For Anesthetic
Director/screenwriter William Peter Blatty took complete control of what he viewed as his masterwork and came up with something only slightly more redeemable than the execrable Exorcist II: The Heretic, but there is a diamond in this pile of coal during a seemingly innocuous sequence that takes place in a hospital hallway. Nurses and various staffers move in an out of an uncomfortably long shot until out of nowhere, an avenging knight in white satin comes in to perform some unnecessary surgery. This kind of cinematic “surprise” or “Gotcha!” is often dismissed as a cheap way of getting an easy visceral reaction from people, but fear is a physical response, so what’s the fucking problem?
12. Eyes Without A Face: Plastic Surgery Gone Very, Very Wrong
The word “haunting” is abused a lot this time of year, sort of how assholes like to throw around words like “genius” or “brilliant” at pretentious parties. The imagery of this French flick stays with you like bad shrimp, but the excruciatingly hard to watch facial surgery is the section that will leave the deepest psychic scars. Weird, trippy and featuring a visage mask that makes Michael Myers’ Shatner gear seem cute in comparison, this graphic classic will haunt you, for real.
11. Saw: Here Piggy, Piggy
Although the constant flow of sequels has generated a product stream of ever-diminishing quality, the first film is a tidy morality tale with just the right blend of successful influences (Se7en, The Twilight Zone) to make it work. The best part of the original is the fact that its sick events could actually take place in “real” life. The strongest example of this idea is embodied when Jigsaw (dressed in a cloak and pig mask… WTF?) jumps out of the closet to kidnap Cary Elwes’ future cellmate, answering the perennial question of whether we're alone when we come home to an empty apartment with a resounding no.
10. Twilight Zone: The Movie: "Wanna See Something Really Scary?"
In a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind, we open on Albert Brooks and Dan Akroyd driving along a quiet highway playing TV theme song trivia as they make their way into a wondrous land of imagination. Could there be anything safer or more non-threatening? So when everyone’s second-favorite Ghostbuster asks the guy with the best white-man’s afro ever if he wants to see something scary, no one actually expects the subsequently horrifying results. The false sense of security that’s established is precisely what makes the payoff so ridiculously effective. Unfortunately, it would be another 13 years before Akroyd returned to the horror genre with his 1996 masterpiece, Celtic Pride.
9. Don’t Look Now: Little Red Riding Midget
From Freaks to Twin Peaks to the Austin Powers oeuvre, evil midgets (dwarves, if you’re nasty) have been terrorizing audiences for eons. But the most terrifying member of the Lollipop Guild has to be the deformed “Little Red Riding Hood” from this unforgiving tale of a missing child, starring a young(er) Donald Sutherland. This is a twist ending so intense, the only real-life comparison (spoiler alert!) would be if Natalee Holloway’s mom thought she spotted her daughter in a crowd, tracked her down and just when they were about to hug, “Natalee” pulled a knife on her. The ending also happens to be the midget’s shining moment, so once you’re done the with first viewing, wash the Mini-Me out of your underwear and give it another whirl to see how they put it all together.
8. It: John Wayne Gacy’s A Pussy
One of the strongest adaptations of Stephen King's work features the most frightening character to ever spring from his cesspool of evil, the ultimate killer clown, Pennywise. Forgetting for a second that most people now associate his name with that crappy pop-punk band, Pennywise the character was not one to laugh at. Combining every violent, child-killing, “tears of a clown” stereotype known to man, this is the harlequin of hate that John Wayne Gacy could have been if he tried a little harder (and had superpowers). Picking a particular stand-out scene is difficult in this case because every second that Tim Curry is onscreen is disturbing to the bowels, but his first emergence in the mouth of a sewer is probably the most chilling. Good thing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were there to reclaim the drainage underground and save the day.
7. The Shining: Bath Time With Grandma
It’s happened to the best of us. You start making out with a total piece of ass and just as you’re rounding second, she up and morphs into a monstrous sea hag. Like going home with Julianne Hough but waking up with Cloris Leachman, poor Jack Nicholson gets the undead switcheroo pulled on him in the greatest of the Stephen King adaptations (naturally, King supposedly hates it).
6. 28 Days Later: When Monkeys Attack
Right up there with upside-down crucifixion and being mortally incinerated, death by chimp attack has got to be one of the worst ways to kick the bucket. Now, death by rabid, infected chimp? That's like a trillion times worse, so one can imagine how deeply these "ape bites man" images affected maimouphobics around the world. Then again, some would consider this scene to err on the side of comedy, since watching lefty hippies getting slaughtered by the very animals they're trying to save is hilarious on several levels.
5. 1408: "We've Only Just Begun..."
Horror legend Lon Chaney once said, “There is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.” The same can be said about shitty pop songs blaring inappropriately in the dead of night. After seeing this film, binging and purging won't be the only things that cross your mind the next time you hear The Carpenters' warbling "We've Only Just Begun" (this fan-made trailer will have to suffice for now in lieu of the specific scene in question).
4. Friday The 13th Part 2: Make Your Fucking Bed
Just because the title has a number in it doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie will suck (Superman II, anyone?). Providing one of the best scares in the series outside of Kevin Bacon getting an arrow in the neck, a witless teenage girl (as if there were any other kind) walks into her friends’ bedroom and finds nothing but a messy bed. Wearing a sack over his head (that's way way creepier than any goalie mask) with only one eyehole cut out, Jason pops out from under the sheets and eviscerates her (natch). Lesson? Follow your mother’s advice and make your bed everyday, or a knife-wielding maniac will graphically punish you… and then she'll tell your father.
3. The Strangers: Come And Knock On My Door
In The Strangers, like in the Rocky Dennis biopic of yore, it’s all about the masks. The head villain’s eerily random intro (or rather, the introduction of his mask) as he silently sidles up behind Liv Tyler and then just stands there is easily one of the most unsettling sequences in recent memory. Guess pillow cases aren’t just for Klan rallies or to cry on anymore.
2. Se7en: Turn Your Head And Cough
Although most would consider this one to be a thriller rather than a straight-up horror movie, David Fincher’s pre-Fight Club opus contains one the best shock moments of all time. When Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman get to the “Sloth” entry on Kevin Spacey’s list, they discover what looks like a rotting corpse strapped to a mattress in a correspondingly smelly room. Then the “corpse” coughs and proves that the rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated. Turns out this is what happens when you spend an entire year in bed. Now that’s fucking lazy.
1. Audition: Coming Home In A Body Bag
The Japanese horror industry has taken a beating lately due to the slew of reputation-tarnishing American remakes that pollute the cinema like so much bad sushi. Thankfully, this savage little torture flick’s legacy remains perfectly pristine… like a surgical tool. A twisted bait-and-switch story involving an innocent-looking manga pixie and her would-be seducer delivers its finest moment as the camera lingers on a random bag of laundry lying on the floor of our “heroine’s” modest apartment. Then the bag suddenly starts to move… and scream. The ensuing shenanigans will make you think twice the next time the cute chick at the massage parlor decides to go off the menu. Make the wrong move and you might get a decidedly unhappy ending.
Make sure to check in Friday for a special Halloween-and-beyond-themed version of Films From The Cable Afterlife.