Ezy Reading: And now for something really scary
Twelve of the best horror movies of all time
Evan Kanarakis

This past week I overheard a conversation between two guys at a Newtown café about what their favourite horror movies were. They also discussed (at length) the ongoing plot lines of the World Wrestling Federation with an enthusiasm that suggested they actually believed what was happening on the television as real. I think it was after the following exchange that I vigorously motioned my waiter for the bill so that I might avoid strangling myself:

Fat Guy #1- If the Rock weren't off showboating in the movies he'd surely be here kicking the Undertaker's behind for what he did to Stacey Dynamite.

Fat Guy #2- Well I just can't believe the Commissioner hasn't stepped in yet. It's ludicrous.

Fat Guy # 1- But you know the Undertaker and T'Rex have the Commissioner in their back pocket.

Fat Guy # 2- That's such a sad indictment on the WWF. That a Commissioner can be bought off like that.

Fat Guy # 1- (now plowing into a giant bowl of nachos, and wearing most of it on his shirt)
I know... A sad indictment.

But I digress...

After trying to forget most of what I'd just learned about scandal in the wrestling world, I took a stroll down King Street and wondered what my favourite horror films of all time were. I've loved horror films since I was kid, and always enjoyed putting a flick to the challenge of scaring me silly. I still recall a stern lecture from my mother in Year 9 when she was disgusted to find I'd spent my hard earned pocket money on renting Psycho III and Silent Night, Deadly Night from the local video store in Bathurst. I think the rant was grounded somewhere in me learning a little of higher culture instead of wasting my time with this rubbish, and I guess she was right. They were both rotten movies.

The thing is, in an era where blood and gore has been piled high on the screen so often at the expense of good storylines, it's an increasingly hard task to get really scared at the movies. We've been witness to too many films like Friday the 13th Part LXXVII' Jason Is So Old He Gets A Colostomy Bag, and today most of the horror genre that's produced seems to be largely camp fare for teenagers that is aiming for quick cash at the box office. Still, mindful that there are likely hundreds of different flicks I could have chosen from (and mindful of coming off like a horror geek that eats nachos by the bucket-load and believes what happens in the WWF is real) here at least are ten horror movies I think you should view sooner than later if you haven't already. If there's any chance you could rig up your television and VCR in the middle of a haunted cemetery on the night of a full moon and not far from an insane asylum with poor perimeter security, you may find it somewhat heightens your 'fear factor' enjoyment of the films. Happy horror viewing!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
A paranoia classic about a small'town doctor who begins to suspect alien duplicates are taking over his town. Heavy on the allegory in the middle of McCarthyism and the Cold War, this black and white potboiler is certainly eerie. Check out the 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland for an alternate 'and creepy' ending.

Psycho (1960)
Okay, so by today's standards it is a little 'talk heavy', but this is easily the most influential horror film of all time, and Hitchcock was masterful at drawing in and manipulating his audience. If anything, it's worth seeing alone for the famous shower sequence, and for serial killer Norman Bates' ability to make you want to get back in that shower and clean off just based upon his seamy delivery of the line 'A boy's best friend is his mother.' Brrr!...

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
George Romero's classic low-budget zombie feature was another influential spine'tingler. The recently dead return to life and set about on a mass killing spree, however our focus is on a group of people boarded up in a farmhouse and surrounded by advancing zombies. The movie was given plenty of credit for the wider symbolism Romero was trying to convey about society, but I was too busy hiding under my couch when the zombies started eating human flesh to take any notice. You kill the brain, you kill the ghoul. Rare sirloin, anyone?

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski's demonic take on a young, naïve 'and pregnant' housewife convinced that all is not as it seems in her new apartment building, her new neighbors, and even her new husband. Not only is it shot beautifully, but Mia Farrow's transformation during the movie as she increasingly becomes alarmed and suspicious is also excellent. Hang out for the kicker climax at the end. Not recommended for folks with a fear of hairy babies...

The Exorcist (1973)
I won't hear a bad thing said about a movie where you get to see a young girl spin her head 180 degrees and then projectile-vomit pea soup eight feet across a room. Enough said.

The Omen (1976)
Look at me Damien... It's all for you!
Leans a little closer to a 'slasher' horror than what I've mentioned so far, but there's enough chills to be had in watching this film as a married couple played by Gregory Peck and Lee Remick start to suspect their cute-as-a-button son Damien may in fact be the antichrist. Sound like fun? Well if you have a penchant for Rottweilers sent by Satan and murderous nannies, then this is the film for you.

Halloween (1978)
Okay, this has always been one of my all-time favourites, and it still gives me the heebie-jeebies today (and yes, I just said 'heebie-jeebies'... Ahem). Fruit loop psychopath Michael Myers, institutionalized since the age of six for murdering his sister on Halloween night, escapes fifteen years later and returns to the site of the original murder to wreak havoc on a group of teens. For a while there, this movie was one of the highest earning films in history based upon budget'to'profit turnover, and though it spawned far too many sequels, it still stands as the best slasher movie of a flooded era. Possibly the slowest moving murderer in pursuit of a victim ever seen on film, and, hidden behind his blank, white mask, Michael Myers probably has one of the worst cases of asthma seen on film as well (perhaps second only to Darth Vader). The movie that started Jamie Lee Curtis' reign as horror scream queen.

Alien (1979)
Some would argue this should be placed solely in a science-fiction category, but after watching this for the first time -and then promptly seeing the doctor to get a pacemaker installed- I figured it could work just as well to call it a horror movie. Contractors on a deep'space mining ship follow a homing beacon to a planet where they uncover an alien ship laden with strange eggs. When one of their crew is attacked by an alien life-form, it sets off a chain of events which lead to much bursting'open of chests, drooling aliens, and Sigourney Weaver risking life and limb to save a ginger cat. Top notch stuff from director Ridley Scott.

The Evil Dead (1982)
I know now that my wife has become host to a Candarian demon. I fear that the only way to stop those possessed by the spirits of the book is through the act of... bodily dismemberment.
Sam Raimi's first feature was always intended to be a low-budget, tongue-in-cheek horror, and this film certainly does have some hilarious moments, however there's enough genuine terror (and plenty of gore) involved to keep most fans diving under the covers. Five friends visit an old cabin in the woods and unknowingly awaken evil demons and spirits. The special effects don't necessarily hold up so well, but the chills (and the gags) do.

The Thing (1982)
I've heard plenty of people pan John Carpenter's tale about a shape'shifting alien that terrorizes a group of scientists in Antarctica, but I always thought this was an especially strong, suspenseful horror flick. Don't let your dog watch this movie, as he'll likely get very, very upset. You'll thank me later.

Scream (1996)
Killer: Do you like scary movies?
Sidney Prescott: What's the point they're all the same, some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act and is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door, it's insulting.
Not to be written off as 'just another teen slasher flick', rather this is a clever Wes Craven'directed movie that works as humorous spoof of the genre with some genuine thrills as well, in particular in the opening sequence. The movie really revived the horror genre. Oh, and Neve Campbell is in it. She's cute when she gets conflicted.

Ringu/The Ring (1998/2002)
Whether you're a fan of the Japanese original or the American remake a few years later, this is definitely one of the spookier horror flicks to emerge in the past few years. There are a few differences between both films, but the same core premise 'of a curse of death within seven days that is passed on to anyone who watches a videotape of strange images' is the same. I watched this movie in the cinema with three other mates and we were all reduced to a pitiful mess of skittish nerves. Of course the real joy came in noticing the especially strong effect the movie had on my buddy Marty, not someone to ever manage a horror movie experience with the greatest of ease. I rang him for a week after we saw the movie and left numerous rasping messages of 'Seven Days' on his answering machine. Ah, now ain't that what solid friendship is all about, scaring the crap out of your pals? I think so.

Have a great week.

Drop by every Monday for another edition of Ezy Reading.