This is the one you’ve all been waiting for! The number one film on Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies…Ever! And could there be any other film in the top spot besides the absolute nightmare that is The Exorcist? No way.
Demon: What an excellent day for an exorcism.
Father Damien Karras: You would like that?
Karras: But wouldn’t that drive you out of Regan?
Demon: It would bring us together.
Karras: You and Regan?
Demon: You and us.
There can be only one. And in compiling Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies…Ever!, this was the easiest selection of the bunch. At times it was tough to decide which films would make the list and where their rightful spots were, but there was never a doubt of which film would be number one. And it’s number one with a bullet. You can get a second opinion, but for this doctor, The Exorcist is simply head and shoulders above the rest on being just plain scary.
When you’re growing up, plenty of movies scare the bejesus out of you. I remember being practically crippled with fear as a kid watching The Evil Dead. But once you’re older and more jaded, very few films can really get to you. You notice the warts and the shortcomings you didn’t see as a kid. For some reason, The Exorcist is the one that still gets to me. In the article for the number two film on the list, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I mentioned that Chain Saw was indeed my favorite horror film. But I couldn’t put it at number one because The Exorcist is exponentially more frightening to me. It’s a pleasure for me to sit down and watch Texas Chain Saw, it’s uncomfortable for me to watch The Exorcist (although I try to go back and give it a gander at least once a year).
A horrific Christmas gift to us in the winter of 1973, The Exorcist was released to an unsuspecting world on December 26 and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards (winning for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay). It enjoyed incredible success at the box office. In fact, until Jaws surpassed it in 1975, The Exorcist had a brief run as the highest grossing film of all time.
Not only is it incredibly tense and suspenseful while viewing, The Exorcist sticks with you long after the show. And I’m talking years afterward. I literally still get chills when I see a picture of young Linda Blair in her full Regan MacNeil plumage…and the theme song, Tubular Bells, is simply haunting (and it makes a great ringtone). For me, this is the sign of a truly horrific film, one that stays with you, haunts you after you watch it…those movies you can’t shake after leaving the theater or turning off your television. The best, the most effective horror movies, are the ones that creep into your psyche and plant roots there. The ones that stay with you, and lay dormant, until you are alone, in a quiet, dark space with just your mind to entertain you. That’s when they tend to come back and remind you that they’re still there. The possessed Regan is in here with me just like the demon was in there with her, and she makes her presence felt every once in a while…and she still scares the shit out of me.
Director William Friedkin builds the story masterfully. And what an amazing story it is. Aside from the obvious focal point of the possessed girl, Father Damien Karras’ painful personal struggles add an additional level to the film and his loss of faith is woven into the main tale brilliantly. The demon cuts deep into Father Karras’ psyche, using every possible angle to weaken the faltering priest. Max Von Sydow’s experienced exorcist, Father Lankester Merrin, and his familiarity with the situation enlightens us to the power of the creature, making the climax of the film even creepier.
But what is it that really sticks with you after viewing the film? Everything behind that goddamn bedroom door is what sticks with you. The imagery of Regan as her body is ravaged by the demon is disturbing enough on its own. Add to this the incredible vocal work done by Mercedes McCambridge (the voice of the demon) and the intense content of the scenes and you have the perfect storm of horror. Fear, despair, sadness, loss of faith, loss of loved ones, denial, possession…it’s all there in The Exorcist. Incredible.
I must take one second to again mention Mercedes McCambridge because I do believe it’s the voice of the demon that truly puts this film over the top. Regan would not been nearly as frightening without the right voice, and this brilliant actress delivered the performance of a lifetime. Demons are scary, yes…but demons with just the right demonic presence are cripplingly scary.
For me, The Exorcist appears unapproachable as the scariest film of all time. It is Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Even the great movies gracing Doctor Gash’s Top 10 list come up short in comparison to the lasting impact this film has on this viewer. It’s a masterpiece of horror. Simply put,this is how it’s done.
But we’ve always got our eyes peeled for the next great film to make this list…
And with that, Dreaddies, I close this feature. I cannot thank you enough for your open-mindedness and participation in reading Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Greatest Horror Movies…Ever! It’s a list that I’ve been wanting to share with you for a long time and thanks to Uncle Creepy and The Woman in Black I was able to do so. This is my Graceland. I know we didn’t all agree on every entry, but I appreciate you taking the time to read the articles to get an understanding of just what the hell I was thinking with each film on here. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it and again, thanks so much for your attention and comments. You guys rule! –Gash
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Fearsome Facts: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Fright Night (1985)
Fright Night (1985) is to All Hallows’ Eve what A Christmas Story (1983) is to X-Mas: an opus which is worthy of its own 24-hour marathon and an ensuing all-night bacchanalia where blood is the life rather than alcohol. Filmmaker Tom Holland’s love letter to vampire films revitalized a subgenre of horror that was sadly rotting away not unlike an undead creature of the night.
Holland found inspirations in the scary movies that he idolized as a youth which included Hammer Film’s visionary retellings of the Universal Monsters. In fact, Holland based Fright Night’s sage Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) on his heroes: Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, House of Wax) and Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy).
Fright Night made the vampire fashionable again in the 1980s, as it paved the way for other blood-sucking projects of that nostalgic-ridden era like The Lost Boys (1987), Near Dark (1987) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Most horror cognoscentes and critics alike know every frightening behind-the-scenes macabre morsel of Fright Night’s history. But there always those tiny tidbits that slip through the cracks.
With that in mind, here are 8 Things You May Not Know About Fright Night.
8. The Great Vampire Killer
Tom Holland and Roddy McDowall became friends after working together on Fright Night, but the esteemed actor was not Holland’s first choice to play the Cowardly Lion-like character of Peter Vincent. Rather, Holland tried to hire macabre movie maestro Vincent Price to take on the role. Sadly, Price’s declining health prevented him from participating in the project.
As wonderful a casting move as that might have been, Fright Night purist are likely to argue that everything worked out for the best. McDowall delivered one of his most enduring performances in what was an A-List career, as he also endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans.
7. Charley and Amy
Actors William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse might have been playing teenagers in Fright Night, but they were much older than their characters of Charley Brewster and Amy Peterson. Ragsdale was 24-years-old at the time and Bearse was 27-years-old!
6. 1966 Ford Mustang
Charley Brewster’s 1966 Ford Mustang had one of the worst paint jobs possible, as it appeared to have been haphazardly executed with an offbeat mixture of red and grey coloring. The muscle car actually belonged to writer/director Tom Holland. Sadly, the classic Mustang was totaled 10 years later during an accident. The paint job couldn’t have been any worse, right?
5. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Holland’s cinematic masterpiece was obviously inspired by many vampire films of the past, particularly Hammer horror, but there is a thoughtful nod and a wink to the Golden Days of the Universal Monsters. During their final battle with Jerry Dandrige, Charley and Peter think they have the upper hand. Jerry flees after Peter shoots Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but soon the zombie-like Renfield creeps up the staircase after our heroes. Holland admitted that Billy sneaking up on Charley and Peter, as he climbed the stairs, was an homage to Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) sneaking up on Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
4. Evil Ed
Amy (Amanda Bearse) and Evil Ed go to Charley’s house to see how the tormented teen is holding up. Once they enter Charley’s room, Amy and Ed find Brewster sharpening a stake and preparing for all-out war with Jerry Dandrige. Candles flutter in the darkness, despite the sun being out, as Charley has also utilized crosses to defend against Dandridge.
During the filming of that scene, actor Stephen Geoffreys was incredibly sick due to food poisoning. You’d never know it by his performance though, because the young thespian pulled it together to complete the day’s shoot. It’s a memorable moment, as that scene sparked Amy and Ed into action. Immediately after, they recruit Peter Vincent to aid their troubled friend.
3. Box Office Boffo
According to Holland, Fright Night wasn’t expected to do much at the box office in the minds of studio executives. But to the pleasant surprise of all involved, Fright Night scared up over $6.1 million on its opening weekend alone. In fact, the movie went and won the Silver Medal at the box office for all horror films in 1985. Fright Night took home over $24 million domestically, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge took the top spot with almost $30 million.
2. Peter Vincent
Peter Vincent’s Hollywood apartment was cluttered with all manner of motion picture memorabilia, including a noticeable nod to former Dracula (1931) icon Bela Lugosi. But look closely and you’ll see another hidden gem hiding among the furniture and antiquities. Indeed, one of Roddy McDowall’s own life-masks from the Planet of the Apes film series can be seen adorning Vincent’s home.
1. Fright Night Sequel
During an interview in 2015, Holland discussed his vision for a follow-up he’d liked to have pursued for Fright Night. His concept revolved around Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) being a single father with a couple of teenage children.
Charlie inherits his mother’s home and soon discovers something “evil” is squatting in the abandoned house where Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) used to cloak his coffin. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) has taken up residence and he is trying to resurrect Jerry. According to Holland, this Fright Night sequel would have included most of the original cast members unlike the much maligned 1988 Fright Night Part 2.
For those fanatics of Fright Night who also enjoy documentaries about horror movies, check out Dead Mouse Productions three-disc tribute titled You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (2016). Disc one is a Blu-ray of the exhaustive 3 ½ hour documentary that examines the making of both Fright Night and Fright Night Part 2. There is a second DVD disc included alongside the third disc which is hours of bonus features. This is a must-own for any Fright Night aficionado. You’re So Cool, Brewster is an Eerie Essential all on its own.
In conclusion, Fright Night is one of those rare films that stands the test of time from generation to generation. It is a must-see for all horror enthusiasts and an Eerie Essential to be enjoyed by all who dare take up the cross with Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent against the duplicitous Jerry Dandrige.
SEE or sNuB recommendation: Must-See!
Which Fright Night facts were your favorites? Are there any other obscure tidbits you’d like to have seen make the list? Sound off on social media.
Horror Movies to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving
After you’ve gorged on your Thanksgiving feast and the L-tryptophan is kicking in, you’re probably thinking about parking your carcass on the couch and watching movie after movie. But not just any movie – this is a holiday, so naturally you want to celebrate on-topic and gobble some gore.
We’ve got you covered with this curated list of choices from a 25-item menu of Native American-themed thrillers and chillers.
Death Curse of Tartu (1966)
A group of students on an archaeology assignment in the Everglades decide to throw a dance party one night. The spot they choose happens to be the burial site of an ancient Seminole shaman named Tartu. He returns from the dead to take his revenge on those who desecrated his grave site.
A Seminole Vietnam vet (Chris Robinson) goes on the warpath when a leather goods merchant (Alex Rocco) tries to grab his pet snake Stanley to turn him into a belt. A William Grefe cult classic!
Set on the Nebraska prairie in the immediate aftermath of World War I, the story follows the spiritual clash between the daughters of a recently deceased shaman and a gang of ex-aviators. Christina Raines, Scott Glenn and Keith Carradine star in this largely unknown, bizarre body-count thriller.
Shadow of the Hawk (1976)
A Canadian Indian (Jan-Michael Vincent) and a newswoman (Marilyn Hassett) join his grandfather (Chief Dan George) on a tribal walk among evil spirits.
The Manitou (1978)
A psychic (Tony Curtis) recruits a witch doctor (Michael Ansara) to get a 400-year-old Indian medicine man off his girlfriend’s (Susan Strasberg) back…. literally. The demonic Native American spirit is a tumor trying to reincarnate.
When a dispute occurs between a logging operation and a nearby Native American tribe, Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) and his wife, Maggie (Talia Shire), are sent in to mediate. Chief John Hawks (Armand Assante) becomes enraged when Robert captures a bear cub for testing, but he’s not as angry as the mutant grizzly mom! George Clutesi plays an Original Person who believes the monster is the personification of the god Katahdin and is there to protect the land.
A policeman (Nick Mancuso), his girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) and a scientist (David Warner) track vampire bats on a Maski tribe reservation. Abner Tasupi (George Clutesi) is the shaman who helps them.
A New York cop (Albert Finney) investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks. His hunt leads him to Native American high worker Eddie Holt (Edward James Olmos) to see if there’s any connection between the killings and old myths and legends from the area. Finney’s character refers to as “the Crazy Horse of the Seventies… the only one of our local militants left alive who’s not making money off of Levi’s commercials.”
Hapless college science students go on a dig around a sacred burial ground for artifacts. Unfortunately, one of them becomes possessed by the evil spirit of Black Claw… and that means only one thing: Now he must slaughter all of his friends.
Eyes of Fire (1983)
Almost lynched in 1750, a preacher (Dennis Lipscomb) leads his followers (Guy Boyd, Rebecca Stanley) west to a valley whose dirt holds a devil of Indian origin.
Pyrokinetic protagonist Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) is in trouble when an evil Native American named Rainbird (George C. Scott) wants to kill her because he is convinced her death would give him special power to take to the mystical other world of his ancestors.
Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)
The Freeling family have a new house, but their troubles with supernatural forces are not over. Whoops, looks like it’s another haunted Native American resting place!
Creepshow 2 (1987)
In the anthology film’s first vignette, “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” thugs who terrorize small-store grocers played by Dorothy Lamour and George Kennedy are attacked in kind by the general store’s wooden Indian.
Pet Sematary (1989)
After moving to an idyllic home in the countryside, life seems perfect for the Creed family…but not for long. Louis and Rachel Creed and their two young children settle into a house that sits next door to a pet cemetery – built on an ancient Indian burial ground.
Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is sent to investigate reports of missing persons at Fort Spencer, a remote Army outpost on the Western frontier. After arriving at his new post, Boyd and his regiment aid a wounded frontiersman, F.W. Colghoun (Robert Carlyle), who recounts a horrifying tale of a wagon train murdered by its supposed guide — a vicious U.S. Army colonel gone rogue… and who’s developed a taste for human flesh.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
In 18th century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend Mani (Mark Dascosos) of the Micmac tribe are sent by the King to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.
The Wendigo (2001)
Director Larry Fessenden movie uses the Native American Wendigo legend to tell an eerie and hallucinogenic tale about a family trapped in the woods with a dark force.
“Masters of Horror: Deer Woman” (2005)
A burned-out cop believes that a recent string of murders prove that the killer might be a deer-like creature in the form of a beautiful woman (Cinthia Moura) come to life from a local Native American folklore legend.
A 12-year-old boy and his mother become the targets of two warring werewolf packs, each with different intentions and motives. Based on the folk legend from Utah about the spirits of murdered Indians returning to seek revenge upon those who disrespect the land.
The Burrowers (2008)
A search party – played by Clancy Brown, William Mapother and Doug Hutchison – sets out to find and recover a family of settlers that has mysteriously vanished from their home. Expecting the offenders to be a band of fierce natives, the group prepares for a routine battle. But they soon discover that the real enemy stalks them from below.
The Dead Can’t Dance (2010)
Three Native Americans discover they are immune to a zombie virus in this whacky indie comedy.
After thugs brutalize a deaf-mute woman (Amanda Adrienne), the spirit of an Apache warrior takes over her lifeless body and sets out on a bloodthirsty quest for revenge.
Volcano Zombies (2014)
Danny Trejo as a Native American who warns campers about the legendary and very angry lava-laden “volcano zombies.”
The Darkness (2016)
Peter Taylor (Kevin Bacon), his wife and their two children return to Los Angeles after a fun-filled vacation to the Grand Canyon. Strange events soon start to plague the family, and the Taylors learn that Michael brought back some mysterious rocks that he discovered inside an ancient Native American cave.
After one of her tribe sets an American soldiers’ camp ablaze, a young female Mohawk finds herself pursued by a ruthless band of renegades bent on revenge. Fleeing deep into the woods, Mohawk youths Oak and Calvin confront the bloodthirsty Colonel Holt and his soldiers. As the Americans seem to close in from all sides, the trio must summon every resource both real and supernatural as the brutal attack escalates. Mohawk is a dark, political drama with horror undertones. “While set 203 years ago, Mohawk is unfortunately a timeless story,” says director Ted Geoghegan. “It’s about marginalized people being decimated simply because they exist and scared white men who fail to realize that their racism and bigotry will place them on the wrong side of history.“
Three 1970’s Horrors That Remind Us Why We Enjoy Getting Mental at the Movies
Crazy is always creepy in horror movies, and it usually comes in two forms: insane escapees or the sane among the crazies.
It’s one storytelling technique when a mental patient escapes and enters our own ordered, peaceful world. It’s quite another when a film drops us in the middle of an asylum to cope with crazy people who, in those movies, always seem to want to stab us.
First off, let me say the mentally ill are one of the most misunderstood and scapegoated minorities in movie history. Other stereotypes have disappeared from the silver screen over the years, but it’s still convenient to blame a killing rampage on an escaped mental patient. We’ll just chalk this up to lazy writing and move on.
Yes, “mentally ill” has become shorthand for “bloodthirsty and lacking in social etiquette.” Kudos to “American Horror Story’s” second season, subtitled “Asylum,” for adding some subtlety to that convention. Seventies horror movies, though, were riddled with stereotypes, enough so that when we travel back to that groovy and dangerous time, we can merrily ignore them and enjoy the scare.
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) is a fairly standard who-is-the-killer flick that turns terrifying in the last 20 minutes, when all hell breaks loose and the inmates, quite literally, take over the asylum. There is a nice, icy buildup throughout.
The populace of a small town are suspiciously nervous when a local mansion that had once been a mental institution goes up for sale. Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul) plays it numbingly cool throughout, until the climax, adding punch to the big reveals.
Also known by Night of the Dark Full Moon and Death House, this film is directed by Theodore Gershuny and written by Gershuny, Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller. It’s always a good sign for consistency of vision when the director is also a writer.
I don’t know a lot of people raving about this film. It’s certainly not perfect, but a solid effort in that ’70s B-movie category, seriously creepy, and worth watching. Recommended.
Asylum (1972) has everything I enjoy about well-done, early ’70s horror: a fairly simple premise, creepy sets, and solid acting. The anthology setup works well here, stringing four Robert Bloch stories together. Peter Cushing and Herbert Lom show up along with Britt Ekland and Barbara Parkins.
The effects are not at all bad. Hope you view a cut of this movie that shows a stagehand rather obviously moving a prop in the “Frozen Fear” segment because those kinds of mistakes are fun to see.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker, Asylum delivers like any of the Amicus horror movies: similar to Hammer in that you know you will be entertained. Recommended for classic pre-slasher horror movie fans.
Then there’s Don’t Look in the Basement (1973). I was smart enough to see this in a theater when it came out… but dumb enough to bring a date. What a terrible first date movie!
On the other hand, Don’t Look in the Basement is a very creepy horror film due to several elements that come together beautifully:
– First, it has that grainy, cheap look to it like many early ’70s B-movies that, for me, adds to the mood. That look tells me positively this is not a big studio production. “Oh, this is one of THOSE movies,” says my head. “Anything can happen!” Tension builds.
– Second, it has an obviousness to it that can be unnerving when filmed correctly. Hitchcock used to do this well: We in the audience know the danger, but the hero on screen is completely clueless. We know from the minute the blonde nurse accepts her new job she shouldn’t be there — heck, we knew she shouldn’t even have come into the house!
– Third, most all of the characters may be insane, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own distinct stories, personalities and phobias. Crazy is not random. As Grant Morrison wrote in Batman: Arkham Asylum, the thoughts of the insane are not unpatterned. Each person has his or her own complex view of reality, no matter how wrong that perception might be.
There’s also a good deal of blood. And a surprise reveal. Don’t Look in the Basement has been recognized as a B-movie classic, and I enthusiastically recommend it here.
Three 1972 to 1973 horror movies and all three recommended! You may or may not disagree, and if so, I want to hear why! What are your favorite asylum flicks? Comment below or on social media.
Gary Scott Beatty’s graphic novel Wounds is available on Amazon and Comixology. Is madness a way to survive the zombie apocalypse? The strangest zombie story ever written, Wounds throws us into a world where nothing is beyond doubt, except a father’s concern for his wife and daughter. If you enjoy that “What th-?” factor in graphic novels, you’ll enjoy Wounds. For more from Gary Scott Beatty, visit him on Twitter and Facebook.
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