Monday, October 31, 2016

Let's Talk Horror: A Top Thirteen

It's Halloween! (In case you hadn't noticed.) I've had a busy, stressful, yet also wonderful month, and I haven't gotten to really dive into my favorite time of the year. I thought I should at LEAST talk horror on THE day of all horror days, so here I am.

I was a panelist at MileHiCon in Denver this weekend. It was a blast, though I was insanely nervous about a couple of my panels going in. My comfort level is horror and short stories, but I read [and write] all over the place, so when I was put on a couple panels that didn't directly relate to what I write, I dove in and did some research and a lot of reading (thank you, Pikes Peak Library District, for having so many great books available on your e-shelf!)

I'm not going to talk about the whole weekend now. That will either occur Wednesday or next Monday. But one of my panels was on different flavors of horror, and at the beginning, we were asked what our favorite type of horror was. My answer was two-fold: psychological and horror-comedy. Here's the kicker. Everyone on the panel preferred psychological in some way, shape, or form. No one said, "Gee, I I really dig torture porn." (Yet it sells...) No one said paranormal, either, which I feel is the type of horror we most often cut our teeth on as kids. (Ghost stories with your friends, folks?) Then again, this can cross streams with psychological horror. "The Others," with Nicole Kidman, is an example.

It was also generally agreed upon that people are scarier than monsters. Monsters aren't realistic, but it's acknowledged that people are frightening. Yet favorite books and movies don't always agree with what we consciously feel is the best element. I thought I'd break some favorite movie elements down into bite sized pieces, much like those mini candy bars we give out.

1. Favorite Scene (TIE):

Opening scene from "Ghost Ship." A calm, peaceful evening is interrupted in a shocking and brutal fashion. Mouth = agape.

The elevator scene in "Cabin in the Woods." A single sound ("Ding!") never before foretold such gleeful carnage. I applauded enthusiastically. There may have been joyful giggles involved.

2. Favorite Monologue:

Samuel L. Jackson in "Deep Blue Sea." Monologues should always be cut short by the shocking death of a character you're certain will make it to the end because of who they are.

3. Favorite Halloween-based movie (TIE):

"Halloween" and "Trick r' Treat," of course. One is the original Halloween slasher film; the other is a series of short films revolving around the holiday.

4. Favorite use of a game in a movie:

"The Conjuring." Hide and clap. A harmless children's game used to great effect. "Clap, clap."

5. Favorite Cast:

"Aliens" was ahead of its time, with strong (yet flawed) female characters and a good mix of people of color in the cast. Ripley, our beleaguered survivor; Newt, the bright young girl who survived where the adults couldn't; Corporal Hicks, a soldier, a powerful man, yet willing to hear Ripley out and throw his support behind her; Vasquez, kicking ass and taking names; Apone, a solid leader in a bad, unknown situation.

6. Favorite Final Girl: 

Ripley from the "Alien" series. She was a well written female character, both strong and willing to ask for help. Her story didn't revolve around getting the guy (though I was all for her and Corporal Hicks hooking up). She was flawed, but smart, and calm under pressure.

7. Favorite Fool:

Marty in "Cabin in the Woods." If he'd been the sole survivor, I would have been happy with that. He was the only one who realized something was wrong. Plus, he was comic relief. Without him, there would be no survivor. The stoner with a heart of gold.

8. Favorite Movie Monster:

The xenomorph. When you attack her, her blood sees that you pay. Bug-like, drooling, and creepy, these creatures can skitter along the ceiling as easily as under the floor. The monster that taught me you always look up when you sense something near.

9. Favorite Moment of Lost Hope:

Drew Barrymore's scene in "Scream." The horror of seeing her fight like hell and get so near her parents, only to be gutted as they listen in on the line. This was her return to the movies, and another example of a character I thought was sure to survive, because of who the actor was. The film that taught me that was no longer a solid truth.

10. Favorite Bad Guy You Can't Hate (TIE):

Ginger, of "Gingersnaps." Packed with attitude and snark, pissed off at the excess hair growth, and just wanting to have a little fun, she's impossible to hate as she goes through a whole different kind of puberty.

Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs." His mind is sick and twisted, but he fascinates and titillates too much to want him gone.

11. Favorite Movie Quotes:

I have too many to list (believe me, I started), so here's a montage of best movie quotes.

12. Favorite Twist (TIE):

Brad Pitt in "Se7en" finding out he's one of the sinners being punished, and that he's been played the entire time.

"Sixth Sense." Sure, you might have seen it coming, and the little guy tells us right in the beginning that he sees dead people, but there's no way to be sure until we get that confirmation, and suddenly everything makes sense. This was the twist that killed future twists.

13. Favorite Duo:

Val and Earl in "Tremors." Without these two, the movie would just be about giant, killer worms eating people. They are the heart and the comic relief. And also, ultimately, the heroes.

I could have kept listing various favorites, but thirteen seemed like a good stopping point. If none of these catches your fancy, check out "The Exorcist," "Poltergeist," "Hush," "The Shining," "Night of the Living Dead," "Jaws," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Psycho," "The Fly," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Detention," "A Stranger Calls," "Krampus," or "Re-Animator," depending upon what you're looking for.

Still not good enough? Here's a list of 100 Best Horror Films.

Happy Halloween!

What are some of your favorites? Any favorite categories I should have addressed? Did you disagree on any of them? What type of horror do you prefer?

May you find your Muse.

*Pumpkin from, Pumpkin2, OCAL


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great choices! Aliens is still my favorite movie. It took the creeping horror of Alien and put it on a roller coaster.
And the elevator ding. Perfect.

Bish Denham said...

I'm not much into horror, but Aliens was an especially good movie. Ripley was so believable.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I definitely enjoy the more psychological aspects of horror, although paranormal is good, too. Recently watched The Babadook, which is a great creepy combination of the two.

H. R. Sinclair said...

Those are fantastic picks! Alien was great for so many reasons. I haven't seen Gingersnaps.

shelly said...

My favorites are The Others, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Werewolf and What Lies Beneath. And of course The Shining. Love Jack Nicholson.

Andrew Leon said...

I can go along with Alien, but not Aliens. Aliens doesn't make the cut as horror to me.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Aliens is horror as Hitchcock would have done it I believe. I love Halloween. Great choices. Today on my blog, Mark Twain spins a tale his harrowing night spent in a haunted plantation in Hawaii! Cue the spooky music! :-)

mshatch said...

Loved this, esp. Cabin in the Woods (definitely among my horror faves), Alien/Aliens (love Ripley, and Hicks was nice to look at, too ;)), and yes! Scream! I didn't think Drew was going to die either, which totally sets you up for the rest of the movie.

Awesome list :)

Susan Kane said...

What a list! I would never have thought of those, or really, many at all.
I still can't watch "the Shining"? Jack Nichols--watched it once, and that was enough.

John Wiswell said...

I love how that Jackson monologue ends! Man, this whole post was a joy to read.

And I agree, the game in The Conjuring is using a trope but it's using so freaking well. That movie has masterful execution.

I'm going to have to ponder a while on my favorite fool, though. I'm a Slasher fan and there've been so many lovable ones...

Shannon Lawrence said...

I love that ding. So well done.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Ripley is an amazing character! Just a real person in a bad position.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I enjoyed Babadook. It's rough to watch as a mom.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Oh, Gingersnaps is so good! I recommend a viewing.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Those are all good movies! The Others had such a lovely twist, and What Lies Beneath was underappreciated.

Shannon Lawrence said...

It's typically considered more of a sci-fi thriller, but I figure it's in the family.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Interesting point about Aliens and Hitchcock. I need to think about that.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I was never sad to have to look at Hicks. It didn't hurt that I already had a minor crush from his time in Terminator. And, seriously, I was blown away by what they did with Drew in Scream. Shocked.

Shannon Lawrence said...

He sure embraced the sad insanity of that character.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I'd love to hear who you end up deciding is your favorite fool. My husband and I refer to that Jackson monologue all the time when watching other movies. "Oh, here comes the Jackson monologue. Let's see how far he/she gets."