Here we are again with another special top ten list from a good friend. We are visited this time by someone who loves the horror genre for everything that it is. We have the one, the only, Darkwing Mantis. You may know him from a podcast called Don’t Look in the Podcast (http://dontlookinthepodcast.com). No matter how hard I try, I still have to look in the podcast anyway even though they tell you not too. I know, that is a lame joke, but I have to.
So, let’s see what the awesome one has to say. I cannot wait to check it out.
The great thing about living in the world of horror is; you can always count on a sequel. The industry lives by it. Take, for instance, New Line Cinema, or as it is known, The House That Freddy Built. If it hadn’t been for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, just think how many classics would never have seen the light of day. It’s also well known that as a franchise progresses, the films generally get worse and worse, with few exceptions (Nightmare 3, Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th 4). However there are a few sequels out there that enjoy a bad reputation as being awful that I frankly enjoy just as much as the classics they spawned from.
For this list I have limited my choices to one film per franchise as there are a few that have several installments that get derided for no reason, in my humble opinion.
10. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
Jason Goes to Hell is pretty widely hated by the horror world for being a Jason movie, sans Jason. However, the movie itself is pretty good. If you can look past the no Jason part, the kills are gruesome and intense, the camera work is well done and the acting, especially for a Jason flick, is top notch.
The movie revolves around the fact that Jason is simply a demon, jumping bodies attempting to be reborn through a Vorhees woman, and then kill the remaining Vorhees family, the only people living that can end his reign of death using a magical knife.
Goofy you say? Yes… but really, is it no goofier than any of the other Jason movies? At least they TRIED to give a reason, a plot device to Jason’s unstoppableness. For years fans bitched that the Friday movies were the same damn thing over and over, and when they tried something different, they continued to bitch. Sometimes there is no pleasing a horror fan.
9. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
The main complaint that Halloween 3 receives is, there’s no Michael Myers! Okay, that’s a valid bitch after two flicks, establishing that the franchise would revolve around Myers. But think of it, in the second film they effectively kill both Myers and Loomis, so where else would the franchise go? Should it have stopped? The producers didn’t think so.
The initial idea was to turn the franchise into a sort of anthology series, with movies revolving around Halloween. Obviously the idea flopped hard and Halloween 4 returned Myers and Loomis to the forefront.
Halloween 3, in its own right is a terrifying film. A group of power hungry druids are attempting to kill children on a massive scale using magically altered Halloween masks and a hypnotic signal sent using television commercials (sing with me… TWO MORE DAYS TILL HALLOWEEN…) at the same moment around the world, turning children’s heads into writhing masses of blood, bugs, snakes and goo, all in order to sacrifice enough lives to an ancient druidic god on the sacred night of All Hallows Eve.
That’s a ballsy premise, even going as far as killing a child during a test of the masks in one scene. Had this movie NOT been called Halloween, bringing with it the expectations of a Michael Myers film, this movie may have been hailed as a horror masterpiece, but instead it is the black sheep of a beloved franchise, but if you can go in to the film with an open mind and not expecting Myers, it’s a pretty horrific little movie with solid acting and effects, and a pretty dark plot line. I remember seeing this movie as a kid at my aunts and it scared the hell out of me then, and still creeps me out to this day.
8. Return of the Living Dead 3
Return of the Living Dead was a milestone in zombie cinema, delicately balancing comedy and gore on a phenomenal scale.
Return 2 went more into Three Stooges territory by playing the zombies for comedy (Not to mention the often Hysterical Doc Mandel, the drunken physician that joins the group.), leaving out the scares and a lot of the gore.
Return of the Living Dead 3 goes in its own direction with the series, leaving out the comedic aspects all together, taking a serious tone and really examining the “Lives” of the undead. That’s the problem most fans of the series had with it, that and the fact that are very few zombies in it, focusing instead on the gradual zombification of our Heroin.
In the movie, Colonel Reynolds leads a team of government scientist who are trying to weaponize the zombies into an unstoppable killing force, able to run rough-shot over the enemy, collect them again and pack away till needed. They have developed a projectile that, in essence, freezes the zombies, allowing the soldiers to collect them without danger.
Col. Glover’s son and his punk girlfriend Julie break into the facility (which, for housing zombies, has TERRIBLE security) and watch his father reanimate, and then freeze a cadaver.
The two decided to run away on his motorcycle, ending in a wreck that kills Julie. Curt decides to take Julie back and reanimate her, not knowing what we all know will happen. The rest of the movie is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story, with Julie fighting her urges for human brains anyway that she can, spreading the zombie plague as she goes, closely followed by Col. Glover and a group of marines cleaning up the messes left behind. I won’t spoil the ending, but man is it a heart breaker.
To me, Return 3 is the best in the series after the original because of the underlying heart that the movie has, one of the most fascinating characters (Riverman, a homeless man that helps the duo), and hell, It fucking features Sarah Douglas, Ursa from Superman 2 as a sleazy scientist who was just waiting for Glover to screw up.
7. Bride of Chucky
Really, people were mad that this was a comedy? How far did they think they could take Chucky and keep it serious? After 3 serious movies, all featuring the same basic premise, Don Mancini took his creation in the opposite direction with this film.
Bride introduces us to Tiffany (played by the most voluptuous Jennifer Tilley), Charles Lee Ray’s girlfriend before he transferred his soul. Tiffany has been looking for the remains of Chucky after the incidents in part 3, stitches him back together and brings him back, doing that voodoo that she do so well.
Angry that Chucky spurns her, she locks him in a baby crib and torments him until he breaks free, killing her by dropping a TV into her tub, which happens to be playing Bride of Frankenstein (a nice, not-so-subtle nod).
Chucky re-animates tiffany into a doll and the two set off across New Jersey to find the body of the man who taught Chucky to transfer his soul, to find the amulet “the Heart of Dambala” which is needed to transfer their souls back into human bodies.
The film really explores the relationship between the two and gives Chucky a decent character arch, not to mention the fact that John Ritter plays a sleazy cop that has custody of his niece, trying to control her life until she turns 18 and can get the shit out of his house.
Ronny Yu of Brokeback Mountain and Freddy Vs Jason fame directs with an eye for the gore and the comedy, bringing with it a touch of the Asian film style to boot. It’s a great mash up of styles that, in my opinion, just work well together. Sadly this movie was hated, and with the horrible-ness that was Seed of Chucky killed the Chucky franchise… That is until the rumored remake/reboot hits theaters.
6. Hellraiser: Inferno
Hellraiser: Inferno was the first in the line of mostly subpar direct to video sequels to the Hellraiser franchise; however I find this movie infinitely fascinating.
The story revolves around a corrupt cop, Det. Joseph Thorne, who is obsessed with puzzles. During an investigation of a grisly murder, he finds a child’s finger encased in a wax candle set atop the infamous Puzzle Box (or Lament configuration for you purists).
Upon opening the box, Thorne is wrapped up in a series of murders, all connected to him, and begins hunting down the man, known only as The Engineer, who seems to be the man framing him for the murders.
A simple plot, but a very complex character study of Det. Thorne and his descent into madness and obsession.
The main argument with this film, and the subsequent follow ups, is the lack of Pinhead, the series main villain. However, I would posit that it works better like this, as Pinhead is not the central character in the film. Inferno may suffer from the same problem that Halloween 3 suffers from, maybe if it wasn’t a “Hellraiser” movie, it would have been taken more seriously and looked on with a better understanding of what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish. As it stands, the film sits in obscurity as a small, sad footnote in the Hellraiser legacy.
5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
I really have no idea why this movie is hated. I mean, ya it was butchered by the MPAA for being far too gruesome, but really, what horror flick during that time wasn’t MPAA raped.
The story, as it were, is really the same as every other TCM. People terrorized by a cannibal clan, but with Vigo Mortensen’s GREAT performance, this flick creeps me out in ways that the others, with 1 being the exception, didn’t, and that little girl? *shudders*… Man does she give me the willies. The look on her face as she pulls the rope to kill William Butler with the sledge hammer, that’s pure evil.
Sure, Ken Foree gets a chainsaw to the head and lives, but really, to me that’s the only part that I can figure would really piss off the horror crowd. Maybe because it was so much like the original, or Tobe Hooper didn’t direct, or whatever, I don’t think I will ever find the reason for so much anger towards this film.
4. Survival of the Dead
Survival is Romero’s latest entry into his dead series and the second in his new continuity for the modern day, the first being Diary of the Dead. Romero has stated that he essentially rebooted the franchise with Diary, changing the continuity and some of the rules that the zombies follow.
Survival centers around a small Island populated by two feuding families, The Muldoons and O’Flynns. When Seamus Muldoon, Patriarch of the Muldoon clan, exiles Patrick O’Flynn from the island, O’Flynn and his followers begin sending refugees to the island just to irritate Muldoon, but when O’Flynn returns to the island with a group of soldiers seeking refuge, the old feud starts back up again and all hell ensues.
One of the biggest complaints that I’ve heard is that a zombie cannot ride a horse. To this I say, why the hell not? You might say, well zombies aren’t coordinated enough! Then I would say, who says, this is a new Romero series and he hasn’t set up their coordination levels. Then you would say, Huh, I didn’t think of it like that, and I would smile and enjoy being right.
The fact that this is the first quasi-direct sequel to any Romero Dead flick makes it interesting, even if the character of Sergeant Nicotine Crocker was only in Diary for the briefest of moments (He is the main soldier that robs the main cast inside of their Winnebago), it would still be a direct sequel.
Sure some of the scares are lame, and the blood is often CG, but damn, the characters are likeable or hateable, and the theme of allowing old grudges to interfere with what must be done is so timely at the moment, it screams political satire… Just like all the previous Romero zombie films. I think that we as a horror audience forget that is what Romero does with his Dead films, he speaks directly to the issues of the time, and with the recession and the Democrats and Republicans leading with grudges instead of taking care of things, this movie has a lot to say, and perhaps it goes over our heads because we just want to see the blood and guts.
As far as I know, I am one of the few ardent defenders of this movie, and I will remain so until the day that I die and reanimate as one of the new zombie overlords…
3. Leprechaun in Space
Many of the movies on this list I don’t get why people hate it, but this one, oh boy do I understand. The movie is terrible… very terrible, however the reason I can sit and watch this movie over and over again is simply the character of Dr. Mittenhand, the crazed German scientist that eventually gets turned into a whacked out German spider mutant by the Leprechaun. Guy Siner’s performance is so over the top and goofy that it is a pleasure to watch and takes a rather crappy movie and turns it into something unexpectedly special.
2. Gremlins 2
Gremlins 2: The New Batch isn’t a horror film, per se, but a frantic, kinetic parody of Nature-Runs-Amok type films.
Much like Ghostbusters 2, it is definitely an inferior sequel to a fantastic film, but I think that I have watched this film more than the original.
This film has everything. It centers around Billy, once again, who has moved from tiny Kingston Falls to the big city to be a graphic design artist for Clamp Towers, a huge sprawling business high-rise with tenants that spread from Soft Serve Ice Cream stands to Genetic Engineering firms, a Television station and offices.
The building itself is not simply a backdrop to the chaos that we all know would ensue, but simply a character of its own. It is filled to the brim with un-necessary technology like Revolving doors that revolve on their own, bathrooms that remind you to wash your hands and voice activated elevators.
Perhaps the best addition to Gremlins 2 is the character of Daniel Clamp, an odd but ultimately loveable character played to perfection by John Glover. Clamp is the head of Clamp Enterprises (the film never actually gives the name of his company, so I’m just guessing there) and is a man with a vision of a modern world, where the old is given way for technology. He is so far gone from the Old Man in the first film it gives a wonderful contrast to the original film.
Not only that, but the film features an Al Lewis wannabe horror host, a sex crazed, nicotine addicted secretary and even Dracula himself, Christopher Lee as the main geneticist that meets a grizzly end at the hands of the Gremlins.
The Gremlins…. Holy shit did they ramp up the creatures for this. We have shit tons of normal gremlins, but when a group gets into the genetic materials, we get MUTATED GREMLINS! A spider gremlin, and electric gremlin, a gremlin with wings that’s immune to sunlight, a vegetable medley gremlin, and the leader of the pack, The Brain Gremlin!
The film is fast and funny, even taking time to poke fun at itself over the absurd rules that the gremlins must follow, specifically the Don’t Feed Them After Midnight clause. Its self aware, the effects are terrific and it’s just a rocking good time.
One interesting piece of trivia, Daniel Clamp runs a video that was prepared for the end of the world in the film. This was inspired by a certain news network (which one, I don’t know) had a similar tape ready to go, and still, apparently, does.
1: Wes Cravens New Nightmare
New Nightmare is an odd little film, a movie that features Freddy Kruger, but in essence, is not Freddy Krueger at all. This film is a reaction by Wes Craven to the phenomenon that the Nightmare series eventually became, taking on a life of its own.
In the film, Heather Langenkamp, star of the original and the 3rd in the Nightmare franchise, returns playing herself. Miko Hughes plays her young son Dylan (You may remember Miko from his performance as the young boy in Pet Semetary, or his many guest appearances on Full House) who seems to be having some sort of mental breakdown surrounding the fictional character of Freddy Krueger. In reality, A demon that gets trapped by story tellers has become accustomed to the guise of Freddy, and since the Nightmare series had ended after Freddy’s Dead, he begins to weaken the walls between his world and reality, needing to kill Nancy, the first person to stop Freddy in order to fully enter our world.
This movie takes place in reality, which I think threw audiences for a loop and confused the shit out of them, however this is a very intelligent film, written with heart and pathos. Everytime I watch the scene with Dylan on top of the playground tower, falls and tells him mom that God didn’t want him, man that shit breaks my heart!
One nice touch that was added in and you may miss it if you don’t watch for it is the funeral scene for Heather’s husband. In the background you can see almost every major actor from the Nightmare series, with the exception of Johnny Depp. It’s been said by Craven that he was afraid to approach Depp, who had become a major Hollywood star at the time to do the funeral cameo. Depp eventually got word and was upset with Wes that he didn’t ask him, because he would have done it in a heartbeat, seeing as how he did a cameo in Freddy’s Dead.
These are just 10 of the most underrated horror films that I know of. This list could have gone on for a while, but I chose to only add one film per franchise, but I would have added F13 6, Nightmare 2, Hellraiser 3 and more, but you would have gotten tired of reading by that point. Give these films a second shot, shut your brain down on some of them and you may see that underrated may just not be the word for them.
Once again, that you for that awesome post. I will touch on a couple of these. First off, Jason Goes to Hell is a damned fine movie. I agree with everything already said. It was so fun when it came out. Being a complete Jason nerd, I can understand why people were upset, but (like mentioned), it tried to give you a reason as to why he keeps coming back. You have to love that they tried something. Besides, the franchise needed a breath of fresh air. It has grown stale and Jason Goes to Manhattan was downright horrible.
Then, there is New Nightmare. I have to tell you, this is my third favorite A Nightmare on Elm Street film. The original will always be my favorite. Dream Warriors will always be number two. New Nightmare (once again) was exactly what the series needed. It was growing stale. Craven came in and tidied things up a bit and came out with a wonderful film.
The sad thing about this list is that I love every single title here (yes even Leprechaun in Space). I guess that it shows my taste is quite different than most. This has been one of my favorite top ten lists yet, so I hope that everyone else gets a lot of fun out of it as well.
Have something to say? Bring it.