For the uninitiated, finding the proper horror movie can be a difficult and daunting task. You’re feeling a dire need to get into a Halloween mood, but you don’t know which movie to get and your weird friend that watched too many horror movies and who talked about them way too much went crazy and is now in the local asylum.
Luckily I can be your weird friend this season. I’ll be cobbling together a couple of primers for those of you that don’t know any better and are thinking about renting the latest Saw movie as a way of getting your scare on. The first up in the series will be Monster Flicks.
Monsters were a lot more popular in the ’40s and ’50s, but they’ll still pop up now and then. With monster flicks, you’ve got your unnaturally giant giants (Them!, Beginning of the End, King Kong), you’ve got aliens (Alien, The Blob, The Crawling Eye), you’ve got your swarms (The Birds, Piranha, Bats) and you’ve got your werewolves (Wolfman, An American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps).
Monster movies are usually the more special effects intensive of the horror movies, which is problematical. For a movie to be scary, it really needs to avoid reminding the audience every five seconds that it’s a movie. And with monster movies, that’s sometimes unavoidable.
If you scare easy, you’re better off with the earlier monster movies. The ones from the 1950’s where a group of teenagers find a sinister menace and they try to alert the police but the sheriff doesn’t believe them because they’re just a bunch of kids.
Or you can start the old Universal Monster movies, like The Wolfman, Frankenstein and Dracula. These are movies that heavily informed pop culture about these monsters. When someone thinks of Dracula or Frankenstein, they’re thinking of the old Universal versions. Starting there is the best way to start your horror movie education.
The old 1950’s aliens are either incredibly goofy or classics or both. The Blob features a giant…blob that menaces a small town. There’s the slightly more disturbing aliens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, who imitate people perfectly. For that one, you might be better going with the 1970’s remake.
If you’re of sterner stuff, you’re going to want to move up a few decades. For your alien needs, you can do worse than watch Alien and Aliens. There’s also John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is a great, gory movie that’s filled to the brim with tense paranoia and awesome effects. If you want dark comedy served up with your aliens, you need to check out Slither.
The werewolf genre is one that is absolutely filled with complete shit. Start with The Wolfman or An American Werewolf in London. Then check out Ginger Snaps, an independent Canadian offering that’s a little grimmer and creepier than its predecessors. There’s also The Howling, an early 1980’s offering that’s creepy and effective.
And so ends a very basic introduction to the monster sub-genre. If you have any suggestions of your own, be sure to post them in the comments section. I’ll be doing more of these entries, especially as we get closer to Halloween. Because, damn it, you need to watch at least ONE horror movie during the Halloween season.