Top 10 of the Decade:
Aliens We can squabble over whether this is properly a horror film (as opposed to an action, or even war, movie). It certainly it fits less squarely into that category then its predecessor, which is basically an Old Dark House gothic writ large. Still, there are enough moments of monster horror here to qualify, I think. The scene of Ridley and Newt trapped in the infirmary with the facehugger alone is a classic horror sequence. In any case, this is probably Cameron’s highpoint as a filmmaker, where his increasing penchant for size most perfectly complimented a generally spot-on, intuitive grasp for sci-fi that few of his peers have ever matched—although I still can’t figure out for the life of me why he thinks the Terminator is a cyborg. In any case, this is a masterwork.
Top 10 of the Decade: The Fly This is the gold standard for what has become one of Hollywood’s newest clichés, the ‘reimaging.’ (Indeed, it’s amazing that two films that are arguably the decade’s best monster movies came out the same year and consisted of a sequel and a, of sorts, remake.) Cronenberg took a cheesy ‘50s monster movie—and anyone who knows this site will realize I mean nothing snide by that—and turned into perhaps the best, and certainly the most mainstream, of his neurotic meditations on the way our bodies can betray us. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum remain one of cinema’s oddest power couples, but they were perfect here. Favorite moment: Goldblum grotesquely snaps a guy’s wrist during a round of arm wrestling, and as his victim stands screaming in agony, raises his hand in a little “I won” gesture.
April Fool’s Day A slasher film, modeled on Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, with a ‘twist’ ending that was essentially telegraphed by the film’s title. Oh…I don’t know what to think about that. Were people really surprised? I think they remade this a few years back, but I don’t know if that went in a different direction.
Critters Ah, the days when stuff like this (and its sequels!) got onto theater screens. Basically a less ambitious version of Gremlins, with a farm family besieged by the titular furry aliens. Not bad, not great, it was what it was. And with all that, it’s better than about 90% of the few monster movies that make it to theaters today.
The Hitcher: (Remade? Yes.) Stephen King once opined that horror movies were “as conservative as a three piece suit,” and this is an example of that. Of course, they would be, because the people in them generally face horrible, horrible fates and often for little reason. In this case, a guy picks up a hitchhiker (Rutgar Hauer in a seminal role) and really, really learns to regret it. The film is generally remembered for one shock, and would make a good double bill with Road Games.
House: William Katt is an author suffering from writer’s block, caused by horrible dreams about the his time as a soldier. (As Chicago horror host Svengoolie summed it up to the tune of the song ‘Our House’: He’s divorced from his son’s mom / ‘cause he still has flashbacks from his days in Viet Nam.) He movies into an old house, and hey, it’s haunted. When his young son disappears, he has to confront his fears to reclaim him. You know, horror movies were just more fun back then. The sequel was inevitiably titled, House: The Second Story.
Invaders from Mars: Truly pointless remake of the ‘50s sci-fi fable. Another of Tobe Hooper’s failed attempts to regain the relevance of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Manhunter: Directed by Michael “Miami Vice” Mann, this is a very ‘80s tale of an overly emphatic profiler (CSI’s William Petersen) after scary, well-etched serial killer Tom Noonan. Adapted from a novel by Thomas Harris, this film is generally remembered as the first to feature supporting character Hannibal Lektor
Jabootu’s Favorite: Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf The fact that you can make a valid argument that this is Reb Brown’s worst movie—and he starred in Space Mutiny—indicates how luscious this flick is. Bonus cringe points for co-starring Christopher Lee, who once turned down the Dr. Loomis part in John Carpenter’s Halloween. Sybil Danning signed to do only one nude scene, so the producers grabbed the seconds where she ripped her shirt open and played it like fifty times over the end credits. Ms. Danning was reportedly not amused. Best part: The five dollar recreation of the (then) high-tech, top-dollar climax of the first film.
Night of the Creeps Fun, campy zombie flick that really kind of is emblematic of ‘80s horror.
Nomads Pierce Brosnan Interesting if not entirely successful attempt to create a folklore-ish tale revolving around a group of demonic nomads living in modern cities. This was Brosnan’s first starring movie role in the wake of Remington Steele. The first film by director John McTiernan, who followed it up with Predator and Die Hard.
Maximum Overdrive Spectacularly dumb, but not one of my favorites. Remembered mostly for a killer soda dispenser and for being the first Steven King adaptation actually directed by King himself.
Haven’t seen it, but it’s supposed to really suck:
Cassandra (hell, never heard of it), Crawlspace (I remember this one though, Klaus Kinski was a murderous nut hiding in, well, crawlspaces, or something like that), Deadly Friends (Wes Craven
fick most famous for its death by basketball), Demons 2, Dream Lover, The Fantasist (wow, lots of obscurities this year), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, From Beyond (Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator follow-up), Gothic (flick based on the vacation with Lord Byron during which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein), The Kindred (mad scientist flick starring the lovely Amanda Pays, then of TV’s Max Headroom TV show), Link, Poltergeis t II: The Other Side , Psycho 3, Silent Night Deadly Night 2, Slaughter High, The Supernaturals, Terror at Tenkiller, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Trick or Treat, Vamp, Witchboard.