The Best Movie Critic + the wicker man

5 Favorite Horror Movies: Ben Martin

I went as him for Halloween two years ago, true story.

Ben here. More than any other genre, it can be difficult defending exactly why I like horror movies. Can I really say I actually enjoy watching helpless victims be maimed, mutilated, taunted, and tortured? Maybe that’s not the right way to look at it. Though morbid and often gruesome, horror movies contain some of the greatest feats of creativity and imagination in the history of the medium. They often make for enjoyable viewing on a purely aesthetic level. Digging a little deeper, all of us grapple with mortality, whether we admit it or not. We're fascinated and drawn to the subject of death like moths to light. Horror movies offer us a window through which we might confront our worst fears about pain and dying, or even more existential fears concerning what might happen after, without having to actually, you know, die. What value that has is debatable. At the very least horror movies reveal so much about moviemakers and audiences. What we value, what we fear to lose, and what we fear we may become.

My 5 favorites:

SUSPERIA I have to admit that the first time I saw SUSPERIA, I didn’t find it particularly scary, or good for that matter. It wasn’t until much later, after I attended a 35mm screening, that I realized just how well made – and yes, scary – Argento’s masterpiece really is. Though the movie features plenty of fun, imaginative death scenes, SUSPERIA doesn’t have much in the way of scary monsters, and its plot is often less than sensical. But with the Technicolor wash of monochromatic neon light bathing me in hot pinks and putrid greens, and Goblin’s screams-and-whispers infused, drum-heavy soundtrack turned up about 5 clicks too loud, the movie began to effect me on a physical level. Keeping in mind that you have to watch it on as big of a screen as possible with the volume turned up as loud as possible, SUSPERIA transforms into an uneasy dream. You run from something you don’t understand as malevolent voices whisper unknowable horrors from the dark just beyond the purple neon glow.

THE THINGI had the pleasure of viewing John Carpenter’s crowning achievement again on the big screen last week, and yes, it is indeed one of the best horror movies ever made. Combining my fears of isolation and body snatchers with what I’m pretty sure is the single greatest achievement in practical special effects history, THE THING is like the best ever episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, dialed up to 11. I can look forward to debating the ending with my friends over beers for the rest of my life.

THE WICKER MANIf there are other movies in the "horror-musical" genre, I'm having trouble recalling them. THE WICKER MAN is a totally unique experience. Much of the movie is essentially a police procedural. Sure, there are some strange pagan rituals that are cause for some unease, but that seems innocent enough, more bizarre and fascinating than terrifying. It's a trick, though. We walk into THE WICKER MAN's third act trap just as unassumingly as the movie's protagonist. And when it's revealed that the dominos have fallen exactly as planned, there's nothing more to do than see the movie through to its terrible, inevitable outcome. The pagan folk tunes, which read as quaint and silly only minutes earlier, are now alien and melancholy. The other thing that's great about THE WICKER MAN is that as a clash between two irreconcilable cultures, it's only a tragedy from one point of view, and perhaps a comedy from the other.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEINWho is the monster in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN? The physical abomination, the so-called “Monster?” Dr. Frankenstein, the father who won’t take responsibility for his creation? Perhaps the “queer” Dr. Pretorius, who flaunts sacrilege and encourages it in others? Or maybe even society itself, that ostracizes and attacks those who are different, dooming Dr. Frankenstein to self-loathing masochism, Pretorius to wicked sadism, and the Monster to suicide. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is beautiful parable of queer experience and a visual treasure.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRETEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is the most singularly terrifying cinematic experience ever produced. Leatherface and his family brutally slice and dice a group of wayward twenty-somethings with nihilistic glee, and for no good reason. Sure there is some talk about astrological star alignments, a meat packing plant being shut down and putting all the local yokels out of work, and sun flares, but none of that ever adds up. There is no REASON for anything that happens in this movie other than rarified lust for inflicting pain and death. Madness, plain and simple. If that’s not the most terrifying thing a human can experience in this life, I don’t want to know what is.

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