Yes, folks, Stephen King makes the list not one, but three times (and
don’t be surprised if you see him multiple times on future lists,
too! He da MANNN!!!) In most respects, PET SEMATARY managed to capture
the gloom and ominous feel of the book, as Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff)
moves his family out to a nice house in the Maine countryside, with just
two ‘little’ things wrong with it…a busy link to the
freeway that runs out front, and a motley pet cemetery in the back. Oh,
and did I happen to mention that the Creeds have a rambunctious toddler
named Gage (Miko Hughes)?
Hey, it’s King…do the math. Now, here’s the thing.
Everything about the movie works, especially the performances from Midkiff,
STAR TREK’S Denise Crosby as his wife and the late, great Fred Gwynne
(THE MUNSTERS) as Jud Crandall, the kindly neighbor who gets the film’s
tagline (“Sometimes…dead is better.”) Unfortunately,
when poor, dead Gage returns as a snarling demon from Hell-or-Wherever,
it’s a moment the audience has to be sold on or else the whole movie
falls apart. And Hughes at the time was just too gosh-darn cute to be
evil, even when he slaughters two of the main characters.
And as much as CGI can do today for horror movies when used properly,
I think it still would’ve looked pretty fake back then if the technology
had been available. Nevertheless, we are still talking about a possessed
toddler here, which is STILL a spooktacular idea, and though the film
stumbles with Weaver playing Gage, it still gets back on its feet just
in time to deliver a horrific ending, extremely faithful to the book.
9) CHILDREN OF THE CORN
Okay, so ‘corniness’ gets literal in yet another big-screen
treatment of a King short story, made so long ago that its stars, Peter
Horton and Linda Hamilton, weren’t even “names” yet.
(‘thirtysomething’ and THE TERMINATOR lie waiting for them
in the not-too-distant future). The story of kids gone wild and religion
gone rancid was hardly anything new (for similar tales, once again go
back to Tom Tryon’s “Harvest Home”, or go back even
further to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”).
But what certainly made the low-budget doings a lot scarier were the
full-out performances of two members of the supporting cast: John Franklin
and Courtney Gains. Gains, (playing Malachi) with his stop-sign red hair
and perpetual scowl looks like he could’ve played the movie’s
main boogeyman, “He-Who-Walks-Behind-The-Rows”, but Franklin,
born with a disease that makes you look much younger than you are, was
Isaac, the nightmare-worthy ‘prophet’ and ringleader of the
creepy kids, and the one actor from the movie that everybody remembered,
even if they didn’t recall who the stars were.
I don’t think I’d seen a movie where an actor had used his
affliction to his advantage so well, since Michael Berryman appeared in
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (that’s the original, kidz, not the remake).
8) THE RING
We Americans have been “borrowing” a lot of our plots from
foreign films for some time now, but if one film could be cited for starting
the wave of Americanized “J-Horror” movies, this is it. As
good as the original version was, there’s a lot to be said for the
remake, and not just because of the ramped-up special effects. Pre-teen
terror comes of age here, as the archetypal evil little kid – in
this case, Samara – can concentrate her dark powers so well, that
they’re transferred to video tape…and anyone who sees the
tape will die in seven days.
It probably sounds a lot cornier than how it comes across when you see
it, and I know some people who saw this and said they laughed through
most of it. But anyone who says they didn’t get goosebumps from
the scene where Samara climbs through the TV set as she goes after a victim,
is the same person who probably says they never masturbate. LIAR!!!
7) THE GOOD SON
If you always suspected, after the number he did on Joe Pesci and Daniel
Stern in HOME ALONE, that Macaulay Culkin could convincingly play an evil
little shit, give yourself a big pat on the back…your suspicions
are confirmed with this movie. Elijah Wood, too short and still too young
to be a Hobbit at this point, plays Mark, whose mother has just died from
cancer, and he’s come to stay with his relatives, including his
cousin Henry (MC). At first glance, Henry doesn’t seem like a bad
kid, but Mark gradually becomes more and more aware of his cousin’s
bid to become “Rhoda-Penmark-with-a-penis.”
Not only has Henry possibly done some really bad shit before Mark’s
arrival (like killing his younger brother), but besides having some terrifying
plans for the rest of his family, the little fucker is determined to take
Mark out of the picture in order to keep his secret, when he’s not
blaming his innocent cousin for the vile pranks he’s been pulling.
And even worse, where the original “Bad Seed” used murder
as a means to an end to get what she wanted, Culkin’s Henry is doing
bad things just because…he LIKES it. BRRRRRR!!!!
6) ALICE SWEET ALICE
Gee whiz! People suspect you of killing your little sister and trying
to burn her body in a church during mass, and suddenly everybody wants
to blame shit on you for EVERYTHING! Paula Sheppard (a cult figure later
on thanks to the punk sci-fi hit LIQUID SKY) plays Alice, a troubled little
girl born into a devoutly Catholic Italian family that was maybe a little
TOO devoutly Catholic.
Alfred Sole plays on some of the creepiness associated with churches
and religious iconography and ramps it up, as family members start to
turn up slashed or slaughtered, and Alice gets to take the rap. But does
she deserve it? You guessed it - I’m not gonna tell you! Also notable
for the fact that Brooke Shields makes her debut as the baby sister in
the shocking opening. (I think Drew Barrymore lasted longer in SCREAM!)
5) THE OTHER
And speaking of twins, if you never saw this one, watch for it on cable,
or just grab it on DVD. Based on yet another great novel, this time by
Thomas Tryon, it’s the story of identical twins, their bond with
their grandmother, (played by acting giant Uta Hagen), and the “game”
that the twins sometimes play both with her and each other; a game that’s
going to cost some people their lives.
Directed with a subtle touch by Robert Mulligan from Tryon’s script,
it was released during a time when a good “twist ending” could
still provide a couple of unexpected shocks, and there’s a great
supporting cast that includes Diana Muldaur, Victor French and a very
young John Ritter.
4) THE SHINING
Not all of Terror’s Tykes had to be inherently evil; they just
had to attract it for one reason or another, and it’s the psychic
abilities of little Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) that awakens the dark
energy of a malevolent hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s controversial
version of the Stephen King classic.
Kubrick and writer Diane Johnson were less concerned with the supernatural
aspects of the tale than the story of a family’s slow dissolution
into madness and murder, thanks to a balls-to-the-wall performance by
Jack Nicholson as Danny’s deranged daddy, Jack Torrance. Shelley
Duvall was unfortunately miscast, but having the late, great Scatman Crothers
as equally psychically gifted caretaker Dick Halloran kind of evened things
Not to mention an assload of atmosphere captured within the Elstree
and Pinewood Studios sets in England, and a pair of ghostly twins that
gave everyone nightmares for weeks. “Come and play with us…forever…and
3) THE OMEN
The Devil makes for big box-office receipts, and with the ‘one-two
punch’ success of ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE EXORCIST, suddenly
every studio wanted Beelzebub to be their “babydaddy.” Well,
Fox got pregnant next, with director Richard Donner and writer David Seltzer
as the midwives of this marvelous little monster.
Gregory Peck and Lee Remick weren’t cracking smile-one at the
plotline; they took this shit seriously, and therefore, so did the audience.
Harvey Stephens was the perfect choice to play the Anti-Christ as a toddler,
and David Warner and Leo McKern are among the unfortunate people who learn
about him and wish they hadn’t. As for memorable scenes, this one’s
chockful of ‘em, but the kitchen battle between Peck and Billie
Whitelaw’s deranged Mrs. Blaylock stayed with me for a very long
time. Saw the remake, hated it, and if you go back to the original, you’ll
see why it was totally unnecessary.
2) ROSEMARY'S BABY
Without this one, there would’ve been no Regan McNeil or Damien
Thorn. I mean, how bad do you have to be to raise this much literal Hell
in your parents’ lives, and you’re not even born yet? This
Roman Polanski masterpiece about big-city paranoia, nosy neighbors and
strange green milkshakes starred Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, as nervous
newlyweds who move into a big ole brownstone apartment in Manhattan (actually
Oh! And did I happen to mention after the milkshakes, that there’s
a touch of Satanism thrown in? The Ira Levin novel was prime material
for the times, and if I recall correctly, this was the last movie that
Polanski made before Mrs. Polanski, a.k.a. Sharon Tate, went to an informal
party in L.A. on Cielo Drive…and never came back.
1) THE BAD SEED
If we’re gonna talk killer kiddies in the horror genre, we’d
better start with the ‘OG’ of them all. Patty McCormack as
Rhoda Penmark was sunshine and pigtails, but this ‘mutha’
of all daughters was one badass little bitch. You didn’t EVER want
to get on her bad side, and the best way to do that was not giving her
whatever she wanted, when she wanted it. Just ask that little classmate
of hers who won that penmanship medal…oh, that’s right, you
He’s DEAD. Well, what about Leroy, the family handyman? Uggghh,
let’s skip that subject, too. Anyway, the movie, adapted from the
Sherwood Anderson play by John Lee Mahin, was pretty radical and controversial
for its time, and if you know anything about it, you know that the censors
didn’t allow producer/director Mervyn LeRoy or Warner’s to
go with the play’s chilling original ending.
Still, even if it is a cop-out, the movie’s ending is a doozy,
too, on its own merits. (And no – if you haven’t seen it,
I’m not gonna tell you what it is! Find out on your own…or
I’ll tell Rhoda on you, and THEN you’ll be sorry!) And you
gotta love that outstanding score by Alex North.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE CHILDREN, LORD OF THE FLIES, THE DEVIL’S
BACKBONE, WICKED LITTLE THINGS, THE OTHERS, THE INNOCENTS.
DELUXE 3-DISC SET
Release Date: August 14, 2012 COMPLETE
MOVIES REVIEWED The Innkeepers, Monster Brawl, Attack the Block,
The Woman, Grave Encounters, Paranormal Activity 3, Red State, A Serbian
Film, More Brains Documentary, The Incredible Melting Man, War of the
Worlds (1953), Ghoulies, Troll Hunter, and more!