I love movies. I love movies more than I love most things. I love movies more than I love grilled cheese sandwiches. I love movies more than I love Valium. I love movies more than I love stray cats and late night people watching at Walmart. I probably don't love movies more than I love girls with tiny feet and unshaved armpits unless, that is, they're movies about girls with tiny feet and unshaved armpits (paging Tinto Brass). Either way, odds are, I love movies more than you. You see, dearest motherfuckers, I'm a token member of that pretentious little clique of insomniac geeks known as cinephiles which is really just a more literate way of saying I love movies more than you. I love all kinds of movies; Neo-noir, spaghetti western, French new wave, Wuxia, documentary, avante garde. But, unlike most self-respecting cinephiles, I probably love horror movies the best. Which pretty much puts me at the bottom of the cinephile totem poll and is made doubly ironic considering my well established antiwar tendencies.
But horror movies get a shit wrap, largely because most of them suck. But when thy're done right I think they can tell us more about ourselves, as human beings, than most genres. They can often tell us more about ourselves than even we want to know. After all, the only certainty in life is death. So exploring our fragile mortality in gruesome detail can actually be quite cathartic, particularly if you're someone who's life comprises largely of suffering. I know, I'm kind of a bummer but that's just who I am and who I've always been. I've spent much of my short dreary existence drawn to the darker fringes of the human experience. It's the only place a genderfucked head-case like me can feel halfway normal without feeling like an impostor. Which is probably why I love Halloween. The one time of the year that my own quirky brand of macabre antisocial behavior is embraced with open arms and fun-size candy bars. The one time of the year when everyone's a horror movie buff. Which is why last year I compiled a list of ten of my favorite horror movies. I enjoyed it so much I decided to pick another ten this year. I give you fair warning dearest motherfuckers, none of this shit is for beginners. You won't find Freddy or Jason on this list. But if you're STILL craving something truly sinister I've got your fix right here for ya.
* Ichi The Killer (2001) by Takashi Miike
The few regulars to this blog are probably painfully aware that I'm among the blogosphere's foremost Takashi Miike evangelists. At least one of his movies shows up on nearly every list I right. Ichi the Killer is the mad maestro of J-horror at his most aggressively unhinged. Audition may be his scariest and Visitor Q may be his best But Ichi is by far his most gruesome. The savage saga of one sadomasochistic Yakuza enforcer's hunt for his missing beloved boss/top only to find himself on the shitlist of a brainwashed teenage killing machine with razor blades in his boots known simply as Ichi. It's a complicated mindfuck of a bloodbath that ends in what has to be one cinemas strangest roof top showdowns high above the sticky neon streets of a Tokyo that could only exist inside the mind of a madman. Ichi will rip your fucking guts out and leave you begging for more before you ask yourself why. I still haven't found an answer to that existential question but I keep asking.
* The Tenant (1976) by Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski directs and stars in one of the most psychologically unpleasant films ever made. After moving into an apartment previously occupied by a disturbed woman who attempted suicide by jumping from her room to the courtyard below, Polanski's tenant quickly finds himself surrounded by menacing neighbors who slowly drive him to lose all sense of identity in his claustrophobic bourgeois prison cell. The tenant's struggle with madness is our own in a world haunted by isolation and random acts of human cruelty. Say what you will about Mr. Polanski but few men have spent more time staring into the abyss of human darkness and even fewer have found a way to harness this horror into the kind of fearlessly empathetic art that Polanski achieves with the Tenant. With the Tenant, the abyss stares back.
* Wolf Creek (2005) by Greg McLean
Not since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a film captured the raw nihilism of mass murder with more unglamorous and unrepentant honesty. Wolf Creek is a slasher film stripped down to the bone. There are no sex scenes. There is no comic relief. There are no final girls. There are no happy endings. Just three young tourists caught between the savagery of the untamed wilderness and a barely human creature who could only exist in such a void of inhumanity. John Jarrat's portrayal of the deceptively charming Mick Taylor is both mesmerizing and revolting. Like looking the devil himself in the eye just before he kills you, you know your damned but you can't turn away to save your life. Wolf Creek is the anti-slasher film.
* Dawn Of The Dead (1978) by George Romero
Dawn of the Dead isn't a zombie movie, it's THE zombie movie. Every conversation about the genre begins and ends with this post-apocalyptic masterpiece which could only be made by the late great master of gore, George Romero. George had a hell of a mountain to climb trying to outdo his 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead, which nearly singlehandedly reinvented the horror genre. It took him a solid decade but Romero climbed that Mount Everest of blood and guts with this brilliant tale of four castaways who take refuge in a rural shopping mall while the world descends into the hell around them. Aside from being a gory thrill ride, Dawn is also a jet black satire on male chauvinism and American greed that remains as relevant today as it was during the Carter administration. Don't even think about wasting your time on that half-baked remake. The original is a peerless masterpiece that can't be beat.
* Inside (2007) by Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
Please believe me when I tell you with the authority of a lifelong horror geek that Inside (À l'intérieur in France) is the most violent movie ever made. But that's not what put it on this list. The story is fairly simple, a recently widowed pregnant woman plans to spend a solemn Christmas Eve alone with her unborn child only to have her tranquility violently interrupted by a strange unnamed femme fatale hell bent on removing and retrieving the widows baby by any means necessary. What ensues is a night long, white knuckle, battle royale between two women biologically driven to survival, not their own, but that of the fetus that floats between them. They punch, gouge, stab, burn and tear each other apart and obliterate anyone else who stands in their way, all to lay claim to it. And that is what makes Inside truly unique. It's a story about motherhood and motherhood is one messy, knife swinging bitch. You've been warned. This ain't no baby shower. Unless that shower is a fountain of blood. Inside cuts deep.
* Get Out (2017) by Jordan Peele
The only movie made this year on this list is the only movie made this year that belongs on this fucking list. The terrifying story of a young black man who travels with his white girlfriend to meet her wealthy suburban parents only to find himself the latest victim of a cabal of rich liberal roaders seeking to literally appropriate black culture by surgically hijacking their bodies. Everything about this movie makes me think of the Clintons. Hard to believe that motherfucker from Key & Peele hit this grand fucking slam. Color this honky bitch impressed. Keep it coming Peele.
* Funny Games (1997) by Michael Haneke
The most savagely brutal film on this list doesn't include a single drop of blood. Only a cinematic auteur like the great Michael Haneke could achieve such a feet. A chipper family of three take a lovely vacation in the picturesque Austrian countryside only to find themselves the victims of the cruel games of a pair of handsome young psychopaths who joyfully make the audience complicit in the torment by routinely breaking the third wall and inviting us to do the one thing we can't do, look away. Haneke's cruel experiment in sadistic cinema holds the odd distinction of being both one of the greatest horror movies ever made and being one of the most convincing critiques of the very genre. Funny Games belongs in a fucking museum.
* Jacob's Ladder (1990) by Adrian Lyne
One of the most terrifying movies ever made is made all the more terrifying by the fact that it's based on the real life crimes of our own government. A Vietnam veteran, haunted by nightmarish flashbacks and hallucinations, discovers that he and is platoon may have been the unwitting victims of a top secret government experiment in mind control using a dangerously powerful hallucinogen. There is no way of properly explaining the horror of the imagery used in this film. It's as if Francis Bacon and David Cronenberg had a baby and raised it on bad acid and war documentaries. The events of the film are fictional and largely symbolic of Biblical themes of guilt, Purgatory and redemption but the government experiments portrayed are based on the all to real CIA operation MKUltra which used American GI's as guinea pigs for drug fueled mind control experiments. Fact really is more terrifying than fiction and the state is one hell of a twisted fucking storyteller.
* The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) by Jonathan Demme
Not only one of the best movies on this list but one of best movies ever made and the only movie to do Thomas Harris' brilliant Hannibal novels the justice they so richly deserve. The direction and cinematography are Kubrick grade spotless but the three things that truly make Silence of the Lambs a cut above are Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Ted Levine. Three incredible actors all giving the finest performances of their careers. Jodie Foster exudes strength through fearless vulnerability as the tough but sincere FBI agent in training, Clarice Starling, sent like a canary in a coal mine to coax the infamous cannibal psychologist, Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins in a mesmerizing powerhouse performance, into giving desperately needed insight into the mind of a serial killer who may have been involved with one Dr. Lecter's former patients. Foster and Hopkins get most of the praise and their back and forth is undeniably captivating but in my mind it was the little known Ted Levine who really stole the show as the gender bending skinner, Jame Gumb aka Buffalo Bill. Most people in my community took great offense to what they considered to be a derogatory stereotype but I've always thought of Billy as a kind of genderfuck anti-hero. He may have made trans people appear somewhat monstrous but he also made us look like a force to be reckoned with. A kind of queer boogeyman to scare the straight folks for a change. When he hollers at the top of his lungs to one of his victims, "You don't know what pain is!", I can't help but feel like he speaks for all of us or at least some deep dark hidden piece of us who wishes the uncaring world could taste a spoonful of our misery for once. To this day, whenever I find myself feeling intimidated in a public men's room, I whistle a few bars of 'Goodbye Horses' to myself and stand just a little bit taller. Maybe it's just me, but I'll take queer panic over being a panicked (and assimilated) queer any day of the week. RIP Jame Gumb. At least one sister mourns you.
* High Tension (2003) by Alexandre Aja
Why not end this years list with a high octane gorefest that nearly single-handedly exported the revolution in French shock cinema that those Atlanticist pussies in the Amerikan and English film press have derisively labeled the New French Extremity. High Tension was hardly the first (that honor goes to Catherine Breillat's explicit coming of age tale A Real Young Girl, made in 1976 but banned until 2000) but much like the Beatles, High Tension was the first to really hit the States and it hit like a fucking Mack truck. A fast paced slasher film with a neck snapping twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan shit a fucking brick, High Tension is a gruesome cat and mouse game between a young coed and the brutish psychopath who kidnapped her bestie and secret crush after slaughtering her entire family. I wont give away the ending but lets just say it gives the term Last Girl a whole new meaning. It's a bloody stick of cinema dynamite but High Tension blew down a lot of doors for the horror genre that allowed filmmakers the ability to push the medium to the extremes it needs to remain valid in a world that has evolved from a Shakespearean stage to an Artaudian Theatre of Cruelty populated by armed drones and jihad Frankensteins. It has become all to easy for the Western World that birthed these creatures to hide from them in the cool darkness of their local megaplex. Thanks to sadistic frogs like Alexandre Aja those privileged safe spaces are just a little less safe. Some people need to be shocked. Thank god that the French are still up to the task. It's messy thankless job but somebodies gotta do it.
Happy Halloween dearest motherfuckers. Look out for that bookshelf....
Soundtrack: Songs for a season of cruelty.
* Wave Of Mutilation By The Pixies
* Paint It Black By The Rolling Stones
* The Cutter By Echo & The Bunnymen
* Losing My Religion By REM
* I Think That I Would Die By Hole
* Run Rabbit Run By Flanagan & Allen
* Bonehead By Naked City
* White Rabbit By Jefferson Airplane
* Goodbye Horses By Q Lazzarus
* If You're Feeling Sinister By Belle & Sebastian