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Boo, I Tellsya: The Absolute Toppest Horror Movies Ever

The chilling climax of Assisted Living Dracula, which did not make the list.

Since I wrote a book about a horror punk band maybe people care to know my favorite horror movies. Emphasis on “maybe.” It’s understandable if you’re only here killing time until the next dumb cat video.

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

So close to perfection you can barely talk about it. Seems like the most accurate portrayal of what lycanthropy might be like (see: uncontrollable gore, psychological fraying, corpse humor). David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are genius together, the Hope and Crosby of onscreen bloodshed.

THE BAT (1926)

Bob Kane copped much of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego from this story, and it’s not hard to see why. Such striking imagery, thick atmosphere (particularly for a movie that takes place almost entirely in one house). The Bat is the best pre-Burton Dark Knight, though this flying rodent has no heroic intent.

THE BLACK CAT (1934)

Lugosi. Karloff. A torturous secret. Great suspense. Delicious turns from two spook masters. Should be up there with Dracula, Frankenstein, et al.

EVIL DEAD 2 (1987)

Gonzo horror at its finest. Could you breathe the first time you watched this one? Bruce Campbell delivers a career-defining performance. Makes Elm Street look like “Sesame Street,” Friday The 13th look like Nancy Drew.

FREAKED (1993)

Bonkers carnival movie that also succeeds at skewering our country’s sick tabloid culture. Funny, sardonic, but I can’t stand to even glance at Alex Winter in that mutant bat makeup. Also, those giant sentient eyeballs with arms and legs (that are also Jamaican for some reason) wig me out.

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

The ultimate power trip: harnessing the fury of the atom to capture evil spirits for profit. Only bureaucracy stands in our heroes’ way. Even when it does, they still have that boss car and an endless stream of wisecracks.

HALLOWEEN (1978)

The first time we realized William Shatner’s pasty visage could be an instrument of evil. What’s more horrifying, though: the anonymous killer hunting teenagers or the fact these teens have no grasp of local history?

JAWS (1975)

Frightening beyond belief because there is no supernatural element. Sharks are real, and there’s nothing fantastical about them nibbling on a human.

NOSFERATU (1922)

Max Schreck’s makeup is amazing and his movements are hypnotizing. On top of that, Murnau’s direction is wonderfully feverish. None of it seems real. Sticks in your craw like the best kind of haunting.

PSYCHO (1960)

It’s a testament to this film’s genius that so many decades and parodies later you can still watch it and hope against hope that Anthony Perkins is innocent. The score might be the greatest in horror history. The entire score, that is, not just the “ei ei ei ei!” part.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)

Everything is sort of romantic and intriguing until Lon Chaney’s mask comes off. Then the fur starts flying. Unlike most modern horror movies where the titular evil is allowed to escape in case of sequel, here we get to watch a zealous crowd beat their ghoulish tormenter to death. Cathartic.

POLTERGEIST (1982)

“The Simpsons” made a joke out of “can’t sleep, clown will eat me,” but in Poltergeist that terror is all too real. Ground zero for the movement against all grease-painted jesters. Not that I’m downplaying the movie’s bigger theme: manufactured communities are evil, as are those who develop them.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

Not traditionally in this genre but sneaks in thanks to its bleakness. Two robots fighting over the seed of the only woman who has foreseen the apocalypse. Of course no one believes her, so they have her committed. Also, one robot is comprised of an indestructible liquid. Any way we can downgrade to evil clowns?

Please feel free to bombard me with angry comments and angrier e-mails concerning the lack of Leprechaun movies on this list.

Unsolicited Thoughts/Notes On Grease 2: Pfeiffer Boogaloo

- I have no affinity for the first Grease but my house mates were watching this last night and I have an iron clad rule about always stopping to view anything with Eddie Deezen

- Michelle Pfeiffer often resembles Deborah Harry in her role as Stephanie, which is probably no accident; according to Grease 2 lore (now there’s a phrase) the filmmakers approached Harry for the female lead but Deb felt she was too old to be playing a high schooler (never mind that everyone in Grease 2 is too old to be playing a high schooler save Pamela Adlon)

- if we’re to believe this movie, the sport of bowling is an alien concept to the British and they need guidebooks just to have conversations about it

- if we’re to believe this movie, Adrian Zmed is a fucking great singer

- Eddie Deezen is only in Grease 2 for about three minutes and does not seem to be present at the final graduation scene (spoiler alert); this must mean Deezen’s character flunked out or died…we’ll never know for sure, though, because plans for Greases 3 & 4 were scrapped after this one imploded at the box office

- can you imagine the suffocating reheated hell of a Grease 4?

- it’s incredible how absolutely bland the music is in this high profile major studio musical; Michelle Pfeiffer’s big number is called “Cool Rider,” about how she wants to date a cool rider (of motorcycles), making “Greased Lightning” from the first movie look like Chaucer

- Tab Hunter is in this; yes, they make him sing, but he emerges unscathed

- of course the action climaxes in a motorcycle melée/pie fight that breaks out in the middle of a homecoming luau, but since this is Grease 2 the entire set piece is less exciting than a trip to Big Lots

- if you’re in the market to make ninety minutes feel like five hours, run don’t walk to the nearest copy of Grease 2

- if you’re in the market for gratuitous Deezen, take your ass to War Games

Q: Whattya Reading Lately?

A: Thirty-Nine Years Of Short-Term Memory Loss by Tom Davis; yes, he jumps all over the place and spends too much time talking about the Grateful Dead, but it’s still an entertaining read that offers many a colorful Al Franken story (if you can’t handle Al Franken at his worst you don’t deserve him at his best). All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross; she mines gold out of Albert Brooks and Grandmaster Flash, manages to handle the entitled jackassery of Gene Simmons with grace. Flipped through Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams; apparently he had great difficulty straightening his hair as a youth. Flipped through Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank? by Robin Gardiner; reads like incomplete text book translated from a few different languages.

Just started Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking; so far so candid and engaging.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

Have you ever noticed how United States Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell looks like Jack McBrayer in old age makeup? Have you also ever noticed how Arnold Schwarzenegger is melting into a Tommy Lee Jones doppelgänger? And what of Smokey Bear’s “no eye contact” policy as of late? What’s that guy hiding?

Give Me Delta Or Give Me Death

Orlando Weekly let me go last week. They said it was a budget thing, but to be honest with you I think they were sick of me pitching Delta Burke stories every day. Hey, it’s not my fault the world’s most beautiful and talented actress hails from this corner of the universe. It’s like Plato said: you can either get on the Delta Burke train or you can get flattened by it.

Stay tuned for the soft launch of my new periodical, Burke Beat, where you’ll finally learn “the real deal” about Delta’s experiences overseas filming Where The Hell’s That Gold?

The Luxury Of My Name

I can close my eyes and pretend they’re talking to me.

“…And All Of A Sudden, You’re Kurt Loder!”

“Norm Macdonald Live” can be pretty hit or miss; this episode with David Koechner is total hit, possibly the best they’ve done. Discussion of / jokes about the Replacements, “SNL” lore you haven’t heard a squillion times, and Norm’s frighteningly accurate Nixon impression. As always there are some NSFW moments, but the toilet humor seems to be developing a deft hand. Is Norm starting to care, slightly?

Whatever the case, I give it five stars, Jim Bob says check it out.

Kal-El’s Consolation Prizes

“I know it must feel pretty crummy to be crowded you out of your own sequel. It’s really not your fault. No one could have predicted audiences wouldn’t connect with an underwear-on-the-inside Superman. At least you got this sweet chair and the t-shirt. What’s on it again? Bunch of logos from companies no one’s heard of? Ah, it’ll be a knock around the house shirt!”

The 50 Million Dollar Question

If you’ve got two hours to spare, allow me to recommend this amateur documentary that pieces together the rocky saga of Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan from pre-existing interviews. I’ve always been a voracious fan but this doc still learned me a thing or two about how it all (allegedly) went down. It’s also a great reminder of “Chappelle’s Show’s” absolute brilliance. I literally spit up all over my computer screen laughing at some of the bits, which is incredible considering how many times we’ve all seen them.

Commence au Festival

Today marks twenty-five years since the release of Tim Burton’s Batman, a.k.a. Batman ’89. The arrival of that property seemed like the most important event of its decade (please note: I was only a decade old in 1989). It was definitely the most important Batman movie—the first outing since Adam West’s goofy tenure. Could they reclaim Bats from the campy mire of his 1960s tv series? Imagine if they’d messed it up. Twenty more years might have passed sans Batman. On the other hand, a chasm like that would have left the floor open for something totally wild, like a Wonder Woman movie.

There are, of course, folks out there who think they did mess up Batman ’89 and that the one true Bat-film is Batman Returns or The Dark Knight or one of the animated features. I am not one of those people. I dig Batman Returns, Dark Knight is probably my favorite film of the current era, but Batman ’89 is pure intoxication. The perfect meld of 1940s gothic and ’80s decay, a grime-streaked world where inky blackness acts like some kind of bizarre security blanket. They had trouble replicating that atmosphere even in the sequel where Burton was directly involved. And how can you top the disturbed, punchy combo of Keaton and Nicholson?

Sure, they cut a few corners. The Joker as the guy who murdered Batman’s parents is too convenient and in the end pointless when all they do is have Bats and J argue about it like sixth graders. They posit Vicki Vale as some big shot journalist but the solution to the Batman mystery is just served up to her on a plate. What do you want? No movie is perfect. Nothing’s perfect. Methinks the dialogue is crackling enough to cover these stumbles in plot.

This is the part where I remind you my parents did not let me see Batman ’89 at the cinema; a friend’s mother told my mother it was too violent. I must have complained all summer and fall because my dad brought it home on VHS that Christmas. He wouldn’t let me watch it straight up, though: first I had to sit through The Bells of St. Mary’s, which is one of those Bing Crosby movies where he breaks up fights between altar boys and croons for nuns. I appreciate this torturous move now but at the time I was pretty outraged. Still, I endured, and then Daddy-o let me watch Batman in peace.

To celebrate today’s auspicious occasion I will of course engage in some binge listening of Prince’s Batman ’89 soundtrack. I think a few Pat Hingle impressions are also in order. By the way, I’ve never understood those who gripe about the Prince music in Batman. The sexual undercurrent of pop funk accents the blackness and grit so nicely. Also, like the Joker, Prince is a garish weirdo outfitted in purple who is constantly on the verge of either kissing or slapping someone. Would you have preferred Michael Jackson? MJ was originally approached to write for the movie but couldn’t commit.

It could have been worse. They could have asked some hair metal band to write a power ballad about the Batmobile. One of the greatest joys Batman ’89 brings me is that I can watch it and not think about Vince Neil.

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