Back before cable and streaming online videos, local tv channels showed syndicated movie collections, often presented by a host who introduced the features, shared tidbits of trivia with the audience, and made terrible puns so that the k**s at home wouldn't be too frightened. It was all a part of making movies, especially scary movies, fun to watch. Now, if I was in charge of my own horror programming, the feature may look something like this....
In honor of the Halloween season, I present a collection of Top 10 lists to guide you to the scariest, creepiest, eeriest movies the horror genre has to offer!
The Top 10 Vampire Movies (Dracula Division)
1) Dracula (1931) Bela Lugosi stars as the definitive version of the famous Transylvanian count in the first sound horror movie ever made. And Dwight Frye almost steals the movie as the creepiest Renfield ever. "Listen to them' the c***dren of the Night! What music they make!"
2) Nosferatu - This silent classic has the ugliest, creepiest, most nightmarish version of Dracula ever presented in the rat-like Count Orlock. Max Schreck may have well been an actual vampire....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJIS4c3pwsA
3) The Horror of Dracula - The British studio Hammer set a new standard in Gothic Horror in the 50s, 60s, and 70s with technicolor remakes of the classic Universal horror cycle. Directed by horror visionary Terrance Fisher and starring Sir Chirstopher Lee as an a****listic, violent and sexual Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as am athletic and fealessly heroic version of Doctor Van Helsing, this is the standard of all British horror movies to follow....
4) Dracula (1931-Spanish version) Universal filmed a Spanish language version of Dracula on the same sets and based on the same scripts as the famous Bela Lugosi version, and many cinephiles regard it as the superior version because of its ambitious camera work.
5) Bram Stoker's Dracula - For everything this movie does right, it does something wrong (Keanu Reeves trying to do a British accent anyone?). A glorious mess of a movie.
6) Dracula, Prince of Darkness - Terrance Fisher and Christopher Lee return with this follow up on their first movie. The gruesome human sacrifice scene that ressurect Dracula told audiences that true evil never dies. Lee would play the Count 5 more times with Hammer.
7) Dracula's Daughter - The direct sequel to Univeral's classic, the Count's daughter seeks to lift her vampire curse. Worth it for the lesbian subtext as she seduces a young woman into removing her top before feeding on her.
8) The Monster Squad - Count Dracula is back, along with Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolfman, The Mummy, and the Gillman!
9) Van Helsing - Campiest Dracula ever. And that is saying something.
10) Dracula AD 1971 - Hammer brings Lee's Dracula to the swinging 70s. Luckily, Van Helsing's identical grandson, also played by Peter Cushing, is on hand to confront him.
The Top 10 Vampire Movies (Non-Dracula Division)
1) Martin - zombie master George Romero brings us this tale of a disturbed young man who believes himself to be a vampire, who roofies women and then drains and drinks their bl**d. A brilliant modern deconstruction of the vampire myth.
2) Let the Right One In - This unsetteling Swedish flick centers on a bullied 12 year old boy who falls in love with the new girl next door...who has been 12 for a long time.
3) Brides of Dracula - Dracula himself is notably absent, but Terrence Fisher returns, as does Peter Cushing's Van Helsing, who has some of his finest moments here.
4) Fright Night - a fun and funny tribute to the Universal and Hammer classics that showcases some awesome 80s gore and transformation effects.
5) Near Dark - The vampire movie goes West. A young man falls in with a vampire clan roving the backroads of the South West, slitting throats and drinking bl**d.
6) The Vampire Lovers - This Hammer adaptation of Sheridan La Fanu's 'Carmilla' features the stunning Ingrid Pitt as a ravenous lesbian vampire.
7) Isle of the Dead - Master of understated horror Val Lewton teams up with Boris Karloff to tell the story of a small group of people on an isolated Balkan island struck by plague. Another brilliant deconstruction of the vampire myth.
8) Mark of the Vampire - Bela Lugosi dons the black cape again in this spooky gem.
9) Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter - Hammer combines its signature vampire pictures with swashbuckling adventure.
10) Blade 2 - easily the best of the Blade movies.
The Top 10 Frankenstein Movies
1) Bride of Frankenstein - Might just be the best horror movie ever made.
2) Frankenstein - James Whale, Boris Karloff, and Colin Clive team up for this immortal Universal classic. "It's alive! It's alive!"
3) The Curse of Frankenstein - Hammer's first foray into Gothic Horror. Terrance Fisher directs as Peter Cushing plays the arrogant, amoral Frankenstein and Christopher Lee plays his shambling, pathetic creation.
4) Son of Frankenstin - Basil Rathbone plays the titular son of Frankenstein who resumes his father's experiments. Also features Karloff as the Monster and Bela Lugosi as the demented Ygor. "He vas....hunting...."
5) Young Frankenstien - Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder's love letter to the classic Frankenstien movies (using the same lab props as the originals) is one of the funniest movies ever made. "Puttin on tha Riiiiiiitz!"
6) Re-Animator - Jeffery Coombs gives the performance of a lifetime as the deranged Herbert West, who's formula can bring the dead back to life....as insane, violent zombies....
7) Frankenstien Must Be Destroyed! - Fisher and Cushing return in the best-named Hammer sequel, where the mad doctor outdoes himself in depravity and evil.
8) Mary Shelly's Frankenstein - Kenneth Brannaugh's faithful adaption of the original novel is still a bug nuts cluster of a movie.
9) House of Frankenstein - the first movie to bring Frankenstien's Monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman together - the original Monster Mash!
10) Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein - the first horror comedy ever made.
The Top 10 Werewolf Movies
1) An American Werewolf in London - John Landis' horror comedy has easily the best transformation scene ever. Amazing that a film made in 1981 has yet to be surpassed.
2) The Howling - Again, a horror comedy from 1981, this features the *second* best werewolf transformation ever.
3) The Wolfman - Lon Chaney Jr.'s sympathetic performance as a cursed man is the highlight of this atmospheric classic from Universal.
4) Cat People - okay, no wolves here, but it is a great examination of the myth. This Val Lewton classic centers around a superstitious and repressed woman who believes that intense feelings of anger, jealousy, and sexual arousal will turn her into a killer panther.
5) Curse of the Werewolf - Terrance Fisher brings his signature touch to Hammer's lone werewolf-based movie.
6) Dog Soldiers - A British Army unit on war games in the woods are besieged by a clan of werewolves. A fun action thriller.
7) Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman - Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!"
8) KIND OF A SPOILER HERE SO SORRY IF I'M RUINING IT Trick 'r Treat - wherein Red Riding Hood is the Big Bad Wolf....
9) Werewolf of London - The first werewolf movie ever made and the basis of a killer Warren Zevon song. "His hair was perfect. Bip!"
10) The b**st Must Die - An Agatha Christie style version of "And Then There Were None" featuring a werewolf vs. a blaxploitation badass. Unfortunately, the 'wolf' is played by a very friendly looking dog.
The Top 10 Zombie Movies
1) Night of the Living Dead - George Romero's groundbreaking classic wherein a small group of people find themselves trapped in a farmhouse, besieged by the cannibalistic living dead. Still as disturbing as it has ever been.
2) Dawn of the Dead - A true zombie epic, Romero returns to follow four people who hole up in a mall as the world falls to the living dead. Even in death, people still shop....
3) Return of the Living Dead - The first true punk rock horror movie, and the first to give us running zombies who demand "BRAAAINSSSS!!!"
4) White Zombie - Bela Lugosi dominates the screen as a vodoo lord who will have his master's young wife....dead or alive....A dreamlike fuge of a movie.
5) Shaun of the Dead - Edgar Wright's romantic comedy with zombies is one of those endlessly re-watchable movies. Each viewing reveals references, background gags, and foreshdowing you didn't notice before.
6) I Walked With the Zombie - so RKO gave producer Val Lewton this lurid title, and he decieded that he would make an Haitian-set retelling of 'Jane Eyre' instead. A wonderfully lyrical and eerie picture.
7) Re-Animator - So nice, I'm listing it twice!
8) 28 Days Later - Danny Boyle's very modern, very British take on the zombie movie gave us running zombies. Running zombies!
9) Day of the Dead - Romero's third living dead picture, this pitted scientists against military men as the zombies wait outside the gates....
10) Night of the Comet - Valley girls vs. zombies vs. mad scientists! A big influence when Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The Top 10 Slasher Movies
1) Halloween - John Carpenter boiled the horror genre down to its bare bones, low budget essentials and brought an urban legend to life (did you hear about the babysitter on Halloween?). A deceptively simple plot, unforgettable music, deep shadows, and strong performances make this essential October viewing.
2) Psycho - Alfred Hitchcock's most iconic film, I can't imagine what it must have been like seeing it without knowing what was going to happen. Shocking, unsettling, and expertly crafted.
3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - A low budget, 70s grindhouse staple, watching this feels ike you found a snuff film in a dusty attic. Just an absolute nightmare come to life.
4) Black Christmas - Another very basic story. An unseen, obscene caller stalks sorority s****rs leaving for Christmas break. However, the execution is grim, chilling, and truly scary. It pioneered many horror movie elements, and oddly enough, the director went on to make the f****y classic A Christmas Story.
5) A Nightmare of Elm Street - Before Freddy became a clown, he was a figure in the dark, laughing and brandishing knives. Wes Craven's iconic classic let's the unbound imagination of a dreamer run wild as reality warps and twists to nightmarish effect. When are we more vulnerable than when we are asl**p?
6) Scream - Wes Craven returns with a very savvy, hip, and funny movie that acknowledges that the people in horror movies would have seen horror movies and would recognize the cliches. Unlike many horror comedies, it is still a tense, scary movie. Just very entertaining overall. And I admit it has a special place in my heart as it was one of the first R rated movies my mom let me watch.
7) Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
9) The Abominable Doctor Phibes
10) Friday the 13th Part 2
More to come soon....