THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Will the Thrill's 50 Favorite Horror Films

Artwork by Aaron Farmer
Just in time for Halloween (2014), here is my very subjective list of all-time favorite horror films. Naturally with useless distractions of this nature, it is subject to complete change without notice. Meantime, this provides a pretty comprehensive overview of my tastes in this genre. Generally I prefer the lurid, the lush, the sordid, and the stylish. 

You'll also notice most of my selections are of a certain vintage. My retro tastes aside, choosing "favorites" (as opposed to bests, which is never completely objective, despite one's expert qualifications) has as much to do with nostalgia as quality. Both need to withstand the crucial test of time before making the grade. Anyway, dig, or don't. In any case, Welcome to Chillville....

1.  I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) - my sentimental favorite since I first discovered it on Dr. Shock's Mad Theater in the 1970s while growing up in New Jersey. I especially love the moody score by Paul Dunlap.

2. Dawn of the Dead (1978) - George Romero's masterpiece, my vote for greatest zombie movie of all time, and Goblin's score is the definitive "zombie music."

3. Re-Animator (1985) - Stuart Gordon's pulpy, satirical masterpiece, with gore and nudity galore. The infamous "head" sequence with beautiful Barbara Crampton may be my single favorite scene in horror movie history.

4. The Howling (1981) - Joe Dante's tribute to lycanthropic cinema is the greatest werewolf movie ever made, with outstanding effects, plus the hottest campfire copulation scene in history.

5. The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) - the iconic Gill Man is my favorite movie monster.

6. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - Bud and Lou's funniest film features Universal's top three monsters, with Bela Lugosi reprising his signature Dracula role for the only time.

7. Horror of Dracula (1958) - Hammer's quintessential horror masterpiece, featuring my favorite screen Dracula (sorry, Bela): Christopher Lee epitomizes the Count's sinister blend of suave sex appeal and vicious violence.

8. The Awful Dr. Orlof (1961) - Jess Franco's first big horror hit is also his best, an atmospheric, sensuous, Gothic re-telling of Eyes Without a Face.

9. Daughter of Horror (AKA Dementia, 1955) - this hour-long horror-noir hybrid is a fever dream caught on film, with one version featuring voiceover by Ed McMahon!

10. Cat People (1982) - I know purists prefer Val Lewton's 1942 film noirish original, but the graphic eroticism and Giorgio Moroder's evocativescore make this one irresistible to my lowbrow sensibilities.

11. Day of the Dead (1985) - I actually like this one a little more than Dawn, because it's just so damn funny, as well as more intense and claustrophobic. The makeup and gore (by Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and company) are superior, too. Dawn is just more iconic, plus it came first and broke all the ground, so I give it the slight edge. Still, I love this. Bub rules.

12. Zombie (1979) - Lucio Fulci's masterpiece - distributed as Zombi 2 overseas - is a prime example of Italian horror, with a sensational synth-score by Fabio Frizzi. The notorious underwater shark-zombie fight is probably my second favorite scene in horror history.

13. The Fog (1980) - John Carpenter's followup to Halloween wasn't as successful, but it remains one of the creepiest films I've ever seen, with another great electronic score.

14. Frankenstein's Army (2013) - an audacious and original modern pulp-horror masterpiece. Trust me.

15. Fade to Black (1980) - I have a lot of personal history with this one. A perfect time capsule of L.A. during the early punk rock era.

16. Fido (2006) - an ingenious and gorgeous mashup of George Romero and Douglas Sirk!

17. Rabid (1977) - David Cronenberg directs porn star Marilyn Chambers as one of the sexiest and scariest vampires ever.

18. Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (1970) - epic masked wrestler-monster rally, Mexican style, served hot 'n' spicy, dripping with cheese. Gotta love it!

19. Grindhouse (2007) - both Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof are extremely entertaining, but the faux-trailers really make this one an essential and epic example of the genre.

20. Island of Lost Souls (1932) - this atmospheric adaptation of H.G. Well's novel remains the best and most daring so far, especially for its time.

21. House of Frankenstein (1944) - Universal's first monster rally, the Ocean's 11 or Avengers of classic horror!

22. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) - another racy pre-code classic and easily the best screen version of the Robert Louis Stevenson's immortal tale to date.

23. Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968) - sure, Eddie Romero's infamous Filipino exploitation flicks are low-budget and lurid, but look at that poster! This sick flick totally lives up to it!

24. Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman (1971) - Spanish horror movie legend Paul Naschy's quintessential Euro-trash werewolf flick.

25. Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (AKA The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, 1974) - Hammer, Shaw Brothers, kung-fu vampires, naked sacrificial virgins: this has it all.

26. Night of the Living Dead (1968) - George Romero's classic reinvented both the zombie and the modern horror film (while riffing off Richard Matheson's I Am Legend as well as Carnival of Souls), so it has to make any list of this nature.

27. The Werewolf (1956) - I just really dig the atmosphere of this noirish little tale, especially the wintery setting, with a particularly sympathetic protagonist.

28. The Hunger (1983) - Bauhuas, Bowie, lesbian sex, stylish direction by Tony Scott.

29. An American Werewolf in London (1981) - John Landis's classic came out the same year as The Howling and while I prefer that one as a werewolf flick, this is still the best horror comedy since Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (well, besides Young Frankenstein, of course).

30. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957) - gotta love that iconic makeup! Plus dialogue like this: "Speak! You have a civil tongue in your head, I know you have, because I sewed it back myself!"

31. Cemetery Man (1994) - sex and zombies, Italian style.

32. The Vampire Lovers (1973) - my favorite lesbian vampire flick - which is one of my favorite genres - mainly because of two things: Ingrid Pitt.

33. Blood of Dracula (1957) - AIP's female flip side to Teenage Werewolf and Teenage Frankenstein is a moody little classic in its own right.

34. How To Make a Monster (1958) - Teenage Werewolf meets Teenage Frankenstein! Well, sort of. Paul Dunlap's scores for all four of AIP's teenage monster quintet make them all memorable.

35. The Wolf Man (1941) - Lon Chaney Jr. played them all (I especially love his three Mummy movies), but this remains his signature monster role. I actually really like Benicio Del Toro's reverent 2010 remake, too.

36. Revenge of the Creature (1955) - Gill the Thrill does South Florida!

36. The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) - Gill the Thrill does the Bay Area!

37. Curse of Frankenstein (1957) - Hammer's first "monster" hit remains one of their best, introducing Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as one of the greatest pairing of actors in horror history. That makeup rocks, too.

38. Son of Frankenstein (1939) - my favorite of Universal's three Frankenstein movies starring Boris Karloff (though Bride is a very close second). I just love the surrealistic sets. Cool wooly vest, too.

39. Lady Frankenstein (1971) - yes, because of all the sleazy sex. That's it.

40. The Mummy (1959) - I actually love all the Universal Mummy movies, from Karloff's 1932 role as "Im-Ho-Tep" through the four "Kharis" movies of the '40s. Hammer chose to "remake" that particular series, but it retains its own uniquely Euro-trashy yet classy flavor, with Lee and Cushing reunited for another classic.

41. Evil Dead 2 (1987) - Sam Raimi's popular sequel/remake starring Bruce Campbell remains one of the funniest movies ever made. Not just funniest horror movie, but of any genre.

42. From Dusk Till Dawn (1997) - Salma Hayek. 'Nuff said.

43. Shivers (AKA They Came From Within, 1975) - David Cronenberg's first major film immediately showcased his special signature blend of horror, sex, politics and disturbing imagery.

44. Angel Heart (1987) - my favorite of my old friend Mickey Rourke's films is also a stylish combination of film noir and supernatural horror. I remember when he was telling me about the plot. "So it's a fantasy," I said. "No," he responded quite seriously. "It's not."

45. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) - another eerie Spanish/Euro-trash horror classic, with ancient zombies, ritualistic sex, and subtitles.

46. Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) - Al Adamson's "masterpiece" was the last major film of J. Carroll Naish and Lon Chaney Jr. - a cheesy but sincere tribute to classic horror, filtered through a sleazy, dirty grindhouse lens.

47. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1963) - my dear, departed friend Ray Dennis Steckler's low-budget classic, which I showed several times in Thrillville, with Ray appearing in person, live from Las Vegas! I donated the faded 35mm print of this film as well as his print of The Thrill Killers - both of which he left in my care - to the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley after he passed away on January 7, 2009 (the same day as the late, great Bob Wilkins). I miss them both.

48. The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) - it's sleazy, it's cheap, it's shameless, it's public domain. What's not to love?

49. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - not generally a big slasher flick fan, but Tobe Hooper's seminal masterpiece is undeniably brilliant in its gritty, chillingly realistic documentary approach to the grisly subject matter.

50. Dead Alive (1992) - forget The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and all that jazz. Peter Jackson is one sick monkey, and this absolutely outrageous "zomedy" proves it.

Artwork by Aaron Farmer


Check out my PULP FICTION!
Gutter Books reissue, 2013 (cover art: Matt Brown)
Giving a copy to Marky Ramone at Mad Monster Seattle, October 4, 2014
With Eerie Lee Shivers (front) and Vincent Drambuie (middle), Mad Monster Seattle
My grad student wife Monica (pursuing her PhD in Theater) and me (high school dropout who married well), now new members of the University of Washington Club!


Radio play based on my unpublished novella SHADOW MUSIC (1996)

#29 featuring my regular movie column,
this one on Classic Kaiju Cinema (Japanese Monster Movies) 

My story SHORT AND CHOPPY and editor Craig T. McNeely's article WILL VIHARO: UNSUNG HERO OF THE PULPS featured in the premiere issue of the new pulp magazine

My short story ESCAPE FROM THRILLVILLE as well as my Tribute To Ingrid Bergman

My Vic Valentine vignette BRAIN MISTRUST is included in this anthology:

My short story BEHIND THE BAR is included in this anthology:

Screening of the Director's Cut of Jeff M. Giordano's documentary The Thrill Is Gone,
Monday, November 17, 2014, 5:30pm at the Alameda Free Library