Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dollar Bin Horror's 30 Days of Horror Challenge

Can it be true that I let more than a week escape me without checking in with Dollar Bin Horror? It must be so, because they are already up to Day 8 of their 30 Day Horror Challenge, and I haven’t yet jumped on board.  The challenge is simple: they have selected 30 categories of horror movies, and will be writing about their favorites in each category. In a show of horror community outreach, they have invited any and everybody to participate.  So here’s me playing catch-up:

Day One: A horror film that no one would expect you to love, but you do
Not that I really know what people expect from me, but I’m going to go with The Craft here.  I know The Craft gets a lot of love, but generally not so much from grown men or fans of Rob Zombie.  I am both of these, but still find The Craft irresistible.  Let’s just start with the obvious: all four girls are insanely cute and brimming with attitude. Fairuza Balk gives a genuinely menacing performance as the coven leader who has the proverbial balls to demand limitless power from an ancient deity, and in the process changes from an abrasive-but-sympathetic outcast to a power-mad psycho. Sure it’s a juvenile power fantasy and I’m way outside of its demographic target, but I somehow relate.

Day 02 - The horror film that you relate most to
This was a tough one. For the most part, I watch horror movies specifically because I can't relate.  That is, the terror and violence that goes on in horror movies is entirely outside the realm of my personal experience, which is part of the attraction.  A big part of me wants to list The Invisible Man here, because of how I've long sought anonymity.  In high school, I got by mainly by not being noticed, which saved me from a lot of potential bullying.  I still like to maintain a low profile, but seriously, people don't start blog in order not to be noticed.  The main problem with this pick is that (embarrassingly) I've never seen The Invisible Man.  So instead I'm going with Triangle, mainly because Melissa George's character (Jess) is struggling with raising an autistic son. Both of my boys have varying degrees of autism, though not nearly as pronounced as the boy in Triangle. (Caution: spoilers ahoy) When it is revealed that Jess has become an abusive mother, it is heart-breaking, and all too close to home.  Though I'm by no means an abuser, I feel awful whenever I go off and have a yelling fit, precisely because I know the boys don't understand that they can be exasperating.  You start to feel like you're watching this awful person berate the ones you love most in the world, and to your horror, it is you.

Day 03 - Your favorite slasher
Hands down the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. The miraculous thing about this film is that no matter how ridiculous and over-exposed Freddy got, you could still go back to the original and be genuinely frightened. I’ll admit that it hasn’t aged gracefully (and to be honest, some of those special effects looked hokey even in 1984), but the scenes that work are as effective as ever. My favorite part of the film is still the opening scene where we see Freddy’s un-burnt hands constructing his bladed glove, which segues into Tina’s nightmare. Freddy is shown only in silhouette against a backdrop of steaming pipes. Who could forget the image of Freddy’s finger-knives sparking along the metal boiler room pipes? This was the first slasher I ever saw, and it took several years for me to build up the courage to watch it.  Disappointingly, I can no longer remember how I felt at that first viewing. Exhilarated, I would guess.  Triumphant for overcoming my fear. At any rate, after I watched it, I was hooked. I quickly purchased used copies of the first 3 Elm Street flicks (the 4th had yet to come out) and watched them over and over again for months.

Day 04 - Your favorite werewolf film
Werewolves have been a favorite of mine since childhood. I loved werewolves long before I was brave enough to actually watch a werewolf movie. And now you want me to pick just one?  You’re asking me to diss Lon Chaney Jr., Oliver Reed, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Katherine Isabelle all at the same time? If I must. And I must, because I am totally in love with Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves. For me, it is the film that best recreates the atmosphere of a dream. I love how the toys and knick knacks from Rosaleen’s bedroom make surreal appearances between stories. Basically, the whole film is about the difficult transition into adulthood, and the conflicting emotions that arise from sexual awakening.  In her dream, Rosaleen exerts power over each of the boys and men that vie for her attention, but her sleep is troubled and she wakes from it as from a nightmare. Even though the cover art freaked me out for years, it is not a scary film by any means. Many people feel it is pretentious, boring, cheesy, or some combination of the three. So it’s not for everyone, but it has managed to cast its enchantment on me.

Day 05 - Your favorite monster movie
My sincerest apologies to Creature From the Black Lagoon, but you are but one monster.  When it comes to monsters, I aim to get the most fang for my buck.  Therefore, I must choose Clive Barker’s monsterfest Nightbreed as my favorite. I have always loved monsters, and scary movies are my favorite, but I’ve never found monster movies to be particularly scary. With Nightbreed, I get more monsters than I can shake a stake at, as well as the true horror that is David Cronenberg’s serial-killing psychiatrist. Plus, anything that came out of Clive Barker’s brain is automatically awesome in my book. While Mr. Barker may have his limitations as a director, the sheer exuberance of this film won me over from the first viewing. Is it blasphemy to say this is his best film? I mean, have you actually watched Hellraiser lately? Time has not been kind to it. A Pascal Laugier remake would have been a thing of beauty, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Day 06 - Your favorite vampire movie
Okay, I’ve got two other vampire movies set aside for different categories, so this is actually my #3 pick, but is still easily one of the genre’s best. Katheryn Bigelow’s classic Near Dark has got it all: wicked-scary vamps, blood and gore galore, a sweet little love story, and a happy ending. Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright make one of the cutest on-screen couples ever, and you immediately want them to be together, whatever it takes. I also like the idea of a family of Nomadic vampires living in a van with blacked-out windows rather than finding some secluded manor home to hole up in.  The malevolent glee with which Bill Paxton slaughters people disturbs me to no end.  Near Dark used to be fairly obscure, but its cult following has grown substantially over the years.  You’ve probably seen it yourself, yes?

Day 07 - Your favorite supernatural horror film
Alright, I passed on [REC] for this category, because I’m still not sure if the zombie-like outbreak was supernatural in nature (I haven’t seen part 2 yet, so I’m not sure what answers it will provide). But I thought I’d give it my hundredth shout out anyway (Yay [REC]! I totally heart you!).  Instead I’ll go with the first movie since The Exorcist to make me avoid the dark parts of my own home: The Ring. It’s probably because I spent so much of my childhood deathly afraid of horror movies, but I am completely fascinated with movies about the ultimate scary movie (see also Cigarette Burns, The Hills Run Red).  The Ring is about a movie that literally kills anyone who sees it. You can’t get much more ultimate than that. (Uh-oh, spoilers)  The fake-out happy ending where Samara’s soul is at peace totally suckered me, and I was preparing to be hugely disappointed by such a clichéd ending.  Then came one of the all-time classic lines: “You weren’t supposed to help her… Don’t you understand, Rachel?  She never sleeps.” Never has a line of dialogue been so scary.
Day 08 - Your favorite horror anthology
Up until about two years ago, the hands down winner would have been Creepshow, which I've loved since I was a tween.  But then came Trick 'r Treat.  I've never seen the segments of an anthology film fit so seamlessly together, and it is infinitely rewatchable because of all the touches of foreshadowing that you miss the first time around.  This is the movie that made horror fun again, and is the perfect Halloween film to check out with friends.  Even the ones who don't generally like horror will have a blast with this one.


  1. Near Dark is a great pick, but my vote goes to Let The Right One In as best vampire movie.

  2. Thumbs up for The Craft. It's a movie I forget about all the time but love none the less. I like that Neve Campbell is actually trying to act in it.


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