Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reader Top Ten Greatest Horror Films Circa 1960 - 2000: Cannon

The incomparable Cannon provides our next top ten greatest horror film circa 1960 – 2000 list of Wednesday.

He writes:

“10. The Company of Wolves

Bursting at the seams with metaphors on all things female puberty, Neil Jordan’s surrealist fantasy-horror makes for a narrative trip through one girl’s dream that branches off into numerous mini-fables; werewolves amidst gothic, Grimm forests ensues.

9. Poltergeist
A family adventure into the realm of the supernatural that doubles as a pop-commentary on early 80s Americana suburbia. It’s fun, mischievous but also emotionally sincere, and remains a high point spectacle of ILM’s foray into phantasmagoria.

8. In the Mouth of Madness
Carpenter’s final installment of his 'apocalypse trilogy' is borderline satire or, at the very least, unleashes unto mankind cosmic horrors from the bowels of nether-where-the-fuck-ever with an almost gleeful indifference. In the closing scene Sam Neil devours the last remnants of his own sanity in the form of popcorn, sitting alone in a movie theater, watching his own nightmare onscreen and laughing himself into a state of, well, madness. It’s hilariously horrific.

7. Perfect Blue
Elements of Hitchcock, De Palma and Argento reimagined anime style as the ultimate psychodrama on voyeuristic stardom that leads to paranoia, murder and double identities. Incredible use of visuals suggest unreality from the very get-go and scenes of suspense are masterfully staged, leading up to a chilling climax and uncharacteristically positive denouement.

6. The Exorcist
William Friedkin has repeatedly dismissed this as a horror film, instead calling it a human drama. Fair enough. Of course, it is a horror film, but the director’s sentiment goes a long way to indicate why it has remained so compelling after 40 years, because there is indeed a focus on familial issues and the internal conflict of characters, with demonic possession almost serving as a heightened mask for what are very real psychological issues.

5. The Shining
As opposed to a black comedy, perhaps this film is a "white comedy" – the bleak emptiness of white; the snowed-in seclusion; the open interior spaces; the sterile white light that bathes every other scene; the very coldness of apathy itself, where, in place of a father’s humanity, there is only a waking homicidal rage that beams through Nicholson’s manic grin. The Overlook is so obviously wrong, so ridiculously possessed, it’s almost an absurdist joke.

4. Hausu
88 minutes of batshit lunacy. Pop-Japanese commercialism of the 1970s blossoms with weirdly beautiful, psychedelic Technicolor as our Scooby-Doo gang of teenage girls find themselves at the center of haunted house happenings. This is cinema, or at least the horror genre, at the level of quantum mechanics, running counterintuitive to every conventional standard and proper etiquette. It is possibly the happiest, most jubilant horror film in existence.

3. The Ghost and the Darkness
An underrated, if not forgotten, gem that came and went in the theaters. Few filmgoers cared. I was one of them. This is a dime novel-style, African adventure, campfire ghost story about vengeful acts of nature and nativism against modern, imperial Man; that is, Man from the turn of the 19th century. It’s about the old world tearing back into the new, literally, with tooth and claw. It’s about an old evil that must be vanquished by the wits of a bridge builder and the wisdom of his game-hunting mentor. It’s about the trials of Man against the darkness, against the incalculable unknown.

2. Alien
I’ve since described this film as an organism, a projection of the titular creature itself that is singular and objective -- cinematically primeval -- with the narrative consuming one little Indian after another ...I admire it’s purity. I’m also absorbed by the authenticity of a very plausible space-life, inhabited by very real, blue-collar people. Sig Weaver’s Ripley, in particular, is never less than 100% emotionally credible in her survival against aforesaid organism (both creature and film).

1. The Thing
Essentially perfect. By that I only mean that every aspect of this film is as it should be, in service to the story, and that every single component is in harmony with the rest. Simpatico with Dean Cundey’s textured cinematography, Carpenter’s careful visual report of the narrative is moody but always measured, never giving way to excessive style that blankets the characters/performances, while deliberate pacing and creeping tension is paid off with monster spectacle, but never hampered by it. The film puts one foot in front of the other so assuredly, it’s ducks in perpetual row. And from this perfect order comes a tale of intimate, elemental horror predicated on two extremes: the vast, Antarctic remoteness from any-and-all civilization coupled with the lingering suspicion that the person standing right next to you might not be human; a suspicion that turns inward with the closing scene.

Is it just me, or does Carpenter know how to end a movie like no other? “

It isn’t just you, Cannon.  Carpenter’s got the goods. And I’ve deployed I don’t know how many thousands of words over the years attempting to equal your two-word summation of The Thing: “essentially perfect.”

Indeed. I couldn’t agree more.

Great list, my friend!


  1. Not sure it will be making my list, but glad to see someone talking about Hausu! Definitely has to stake a claim at being the most visually and procedurally creative horror film of all time. To think Obayashi was instructed to make a Jaws knockoff...

  2. P.S. - The only reason I excluded Jaws from my list is because it drifts a tad too far into other genres for me to rank it primarily as a horror film. My criteria requires the involvement of science fiction, the supernatural or the homicidal, none of which really apply to Spielberg's shark movie. I always saw it as a suspense thriller wrapped inside a high-seas adventure (or vice versa).

    There, that's my official lame excuse.

  3. Great to see Hausu and Perfect Blue on your list. I just caught Hausu last year and loved it. Became an instant favorite, so wonderfully creative and funny and over the top fun. While you could call it a horror film, it really is so silly at times that it feels more like a comedy to me. But it really can go either way.

    Perfect Blue is one of my favorite anime films and the way Kon plays with the viewer and Mima is a joy to behold. Great stuff.

  4. Love that the undervalued 'The Ghost and the Darkness' made Cannon's list.


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