Sunday, 24 February 2013

5 Oscar Caliber Horror Films

The Oscars, film's most prestigious honor and a time for the Hollywood elite to strut their stuff down the red carpet.  Throughout the years, I've never been a big fan of the Oscar's, outside of the gambling aspect, because I don't think that it recognizes all the genre of films out there.  Over the years how many times have we seen a good comedy, sci-fi, or action film being passed over for a film that you've trying to avoid watching with your significant other?  Well, I guess it's nice to be nominated,  Anyway, there are some films from the horror genre that have beaten the odds and taken home the gold.

Here are 5 Oscar Caliber Horror Films: 

5. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) - Dr. Jekyll is the nicest guy on the planet, he teaches, gives free medical assistance to the poor and only turns his nose up to the bourgeois class system that he finds himself a part of.  He also desperately wishes to marry his one true love, Muriel Carew but her uncle, Brigadier-General Sir Danvers Carew, try saying that 5 times fast, will not have it and is making the lovebirds wait a few months to make sure their love is honest and true.  Feeling totally cock blocked by Danvers, Jekyll and his buddy, Dr. Lanyon head for home but on the way, they see a pretty young strumpet named Ivy Pearson being manhandled.  Feeling more chivalrous than ever, Jekyll runs in and save the poor girl, then carries her back to her bedroom.  There she thanks Jekyll with a kiss only to be interrupted by the impatience of Lanyon. Dammit!  Blueballs in hand, Jekyll and Lanyon stroll home and Jekyll talks to Lanyon about his theory of split personalities and how there must be someway to keep them separated.  The next day, Jekyll gets a letter that informs him that Muriel and Danvers are leaving the country for a month, heart broken Jekyll buries himself with his work and comes up with a personality splitting serum.  He tries it out and it turns him from into the violent, angry man named Hyde.  Right away, he goes to the bar to meet Ivy Pearson and with the worst pick up line ever, she agrees to leave with him.  The month goes by and Ivy endures the abuses of Hyde, even though her friends are telling her to drop him but she won't because she is scared of him.  Jekyll learns that Muriel is home and runs to visit her.  They fall in love with each other all again and the old softy, Danvers says that they can marry in a month.  Jekyll decides never to take the potion again and floats Ivy some cash for being his punching bag this last month.  Unfortunately on the way to the party to celebrate their engagement, Jekyll turns into Hyde without the potion and is in the mood for violence.  He runs over to Ivy's pad and murders her with a vicious beating !  Now Jekyll is in trouble with the police after him and he doesn't know how to change back.  How will Dr. Jekyll ever get out of this one?  First horror picture to win an Academy Award for not only Best Cinematography, Best Adaptation of a Story but Best Actor in a Leading Role as well for Frederic March's portrayal of Jekyll/Hyde.  The picture is still very good and the special effects by Wally Westmore, which go uncredited, are fantastic considering the time and remind me of the work done by Jack P. Pierce ten years later for The Wolfman.  It's old school horror with not a lot of blood and a big chase seen at the end.  Great fun and well deserving of the award.

4. The Virgin Spring (1960) - Set in medieval Sweden on a small farm,  a young pregnant maid servant, Ingeri secretly prays to her fallen Norse gods, but she is interrupted and told to come help serve breakfast.  Once breakfast is served the land owner, Tore and his wife, Mareta give thanks and praise to their Christian god but the Tore wants to know where their daughter, Karin is?  Mareta says she is still sleeping, so the Tore tells the her that Karin should be up and ready because she needs to bring some special candles to the church.  Mareta leaves and wakes Karin up, dresses her in her Sunday best and gets her ready to go.  They give Karin the candles, wish her luck and send her on her way with Ingeri, who is secretly jealous of Karin.  On the way, they run into a one eyed man who freaks Ingeri out and she refuses to go any further to the church with Karin.  Whatever, Karin keeps going and unbeknownst to Karin, Ingeri follows behind spying on her.  Along the river, she meets up with three herdsman and offers them some lunch.  After lunch, the 2 older herdsmen rape and kill Karin, while Ingeri watches from the bushes.  They collect Karin's clothes and leave her on the riverbank.  Night falls and Karin's parents start to worry about her and Ingeri because they have not come back home yet.  Then a knock on the door, Mareta answers it hoping that it's them but unfortunately and ironically it is the three herdsmen.  They are invited in and fed, then when they are about to go to bed, they offer Karin's clothing to Mareta as payment for their stay.  They claim that the clothes are from their sister, who passed away.  They mother recognizes the clothes instantly and leaves with the garments.  She locks the door behind her and brings the clothes to Tore.  Tore is heart broken and decides that he will have to hand out a 13th century ass whippin but will his Christian god understand? Even though it was banned in Texas, Ingmar Bergman still won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film for this in 1960. It is considered a drama but the resemblance to Wes Craven's The Last House on The Left is uncanny and therefore fits into my horror realm.  The only element, that I noticed, that Craven removed were the religious aspects of the film but I haven't seen LHOTL for so long, I probably should watch it again.  Anyhoo, the casting is excellent with Max von Sydow (Strange Brew) as the heart broken father, out for revenge and Brigitta Pettersson (The Magician) as his daughter Karin.  It's a great revenge film and well deserved of the Oscar.  I can't find a trailer, so here's a scene with Max von Sydow's character attacking a tree. Oh the horror!

 3. The Fly (1986) - At a swanky party for science folks, reporter Veronica Quafie is cornered by an unusual man named Seth Brundle, who charms her back to his apartment to show her something that will change the world as she knows it.  I've used that line.  Once they get back there, she is less than impressed with the new wave telephone booths that he's created but he assures her that these Telepods will blow her mind.  He asks her for a piece of clothing and she hands him a sexy stocking; he then places the sexy stocking in one of the telepods turns a dial on his computer and flash, it's now in the other telepod.  Dumbfounded, she says that she has to get this story to print right away but he begs her not to and to come on board with him to document the whole process, which she rejects and gets the fuck out of dodge.  Unfortunately, her editor, ex boyfriend and maybe a character in Game of Thrones, Stathis Borans tells her she's been duped and they are not running her story.  However, Seth shows up at her office, creepy, and over a cheeseburger, offers her the same deal to document everything for fame and fortune.  He explains how he can't teleport people yet and once he can then they can tell the world of his work.  So, they set up some camera's in his loft and put a baboon through the telepods, but it doesn't go so well and the baboon comes out inside out. Eeeew!  After killing the baboon like any good scientist, Seth and Veronica have sex, which opens up an idea for Seth to teach the computer about flesh.  After some changes here and there, Seth stuffs another baboon (where is he getting these baboons?) into the telepod and this time..................(ding) success!  Excited Seth tells Veronica that they should celebrate, but Stathis sent a package to Veronica threatening to expose their project, so she ducks out leaving Seth alone to enjoy his victory.  Pissed off and drunk, Seth decides that baboon looks ok and jumps into the telepod. It flashes himself through to the other telepod and when he comes out the other side, he feels like a new man and has incredible strength, agility and energy.  However, he didn't know that a fly was hitchiing a ride with him and the computer merged their DNA.  Veronica returns later to apologize and reassures Seth that she loves him. Seth tells her about his telepodding and tries to force her into the machine.  No means no, so frustrated she leaves.  Fed up, Seth hits the town and wins a lady in an arm wrestling match. Classy.  After some awkward sex, Seth tries pushing his new lady friend into the telepod but Veronica shows up just in time. Busted!  She breaks up with him and vows to never see him again, but then she gets a call and Seth tells her that he's really sick.  She visits and Seth's body lots like it's deteriorating quickly, he tells her that he checked the computer and now it looks like his DNA was merged with a fly.  Shocked, confused and pregnant, Veronica doesn't know where her future lies?  Can a simple reporter girl and crazy fly guy make in this upside town world?  Maybe?  Chris Walas and Stephen Dupuis won the Academy Award for Best Make Up for their outstanding and grotesque job in this film.  The transformation of Seth Brundle to Brundlefly is quite amazing and a definite must see for any horror geek.  This is one of Jeff Goldblum's (Jurassic Park) and Geena Davis (Beetlejuice) best roles and the two play very well off each other.  Director David Cronenberg puts a nice spin on this version of The Fly and turns a good, but hookey story from the 50's, into a nightmarish tale which some critics saw as a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic.  There are some killer scenes in this film that any movie maniac will enjoy.  It has a good script and a fun watch on any night.

2. Misery (1990) - Famous author Paul Sheldon has just finished his new novel and heads into to the snowy conditions of Colorado back to L.A.  This is his first novel that he's written in years that isn't part of his romance series starring the character Misery Chastain, which he killed off in his last novel, that is being published soon. The snowy conditions quickly become blizzard conditions on the road and Paul loses control of his car, which sends him careening off a turn and into the woods.  Luckily,  a passerby saves Paul and his novel and brings him home out of the frozen woods.  Two days later, Paul wakes up in a bed with his shoulder and both his legs bandaged up.  Shortly after, he meets his savior, Annie Wilkes, who happens to be a former nurse and his number one fan.  She tells him that both his legs are broken and she had to pop his shoulder back into place.  She also lets him know that the roads have been closed since the blizzard and her phone is down but has soon as there up, she'll have an ambulance bring him to the hospital.  She mentions that she noticed that Paul has his new novel in his bag and asks if she could have chance to read it.  Paul tells her that she is welcome to read it, but warns that it is not a Misery Chastain book.  Annie doesn't care because she thinks Paul is brilliant and anything he writes will be great.  However, after reading the new novel, her demeanor changes and she tells Paul that she doesn't like the swearing in the book.  Paul tries to explains that this is the way the people that he is writing about talk and Annie starts losing her shit but calms herself down when she notices that Paul is getting uncomfortable.  The next day, Annie comes home and announces to Paul that she has the new Misery Chastain novel!  Paul asks if the roads are open and if he'll be able to leave soon.  She tells Paul that she has called his agent to let her know where he is and that she has spoken to the hospital but the roads aren't open in that neck of the woods yet.  She is so excited about the book and over the next few days, she swoops in to his room to sings his praises about how wonderful the it is.  That is until she finishes the book and realizes that Misery, her favourite character in the whole cockamamie world, is dead!  She storms into the room and threatens him, telling him that there is no way Misery could be dead.  Dirty birdie!  She leaves the room and tells Paul that she is going to have to think about what to do.  The next morning, she walks into Paul's room with his new book and a barbeque; then forces him to burn the novel.  Once he finishes burning his new book, she tells him that he is going to write a new Misery Chastain novel.  Paul tries to explain that he can't because the character is dead and Annie explains to Paul that she never told anyone where he was, so he's going to write the book or die there.  Paul realizing his situation, agrees to write the book and begins to plot his escape from his number one fan.  Kathy Bates won the Best Actress Award for her spot on portrayal of Annie Wilkes.  Even a simple smile from this character will send chills down your back and raise some hairs.  The cast although small is pretty fantastic, James Caan is brilliant as Paul Sheldon, Lauren Becall has a small but great role as Sheldon's agent and my favourite characters the old sheriff and wife, played by Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen are quirky but realistic.  Rob Reiner, usually known for his comedies, pulls together a chilling film about isolation from one of Stephen King's best novels.  More of a psychological horror, there isn't a lot of blood but I still wince at the hobbling scene.  Man, that is some fucked up shit, check it out if you get a chance.

1. Silence of the Lambs (1991) - F.B.I trainee, Clarice Starling is called in by her boss, Jack Crawford and he asks her to do an interview with psychiatrist/cannibal/serial killer Hannibal Lecter at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  The F.B.I want to see if Lecter has any insight on a new serial killer, who skins his female victims corpses, called Buffalo Bill. Totally jazzed, she heads to Baltimore and chats with Dr. Chilton, Lecter's psychiatrist and head admin guy there.  He gives her the run down about the do and don'ts of talking to Hannibal Lecter.  Do be polite and don't go anywhere near the glass, hand him anything and let him get into your mind.  She walks down the hall of cells and has an interesting but fruitless conversation with Lecter.  On her way out, she gets hit in the face with seamen from one of the other inmates, which outrages Lecter, so he calls Clarice back and gives her a tidbit of information.  It ends up being an anagram for a warehouse owned by a former patient of Lecter's.  Once she unscrambles the code, she goes to the warehouse and finds a head in a jar.  In the meantime, Buffalo Bill has kidnapped a new victim, and she is the daughter of a State Senator, so the press is all over it.  Clarice goes back to Lecter and offers him a deal.  If he helps the F.B.I find Buffalo Bill before he murders the girl, he will be moved to a kinder gentler prison, on beach.  Lecter accepts the deal under one condition, in exchange for information on Buffalo Bill, Clarice must give him personal information about herself.  Clarice agrees and Lecter feeds more information to her.  Unfortunately, Dr. Chilton is pissed and has a sit down with the Senator.  He goes back to Lecter and tells him that the F.B.I has lied to him but he has a new deal in place.  Lecter takes Chilton's deal and is whisked away to Memphis Tennessee, where he gives the name and other personal information of Buffalo Bill.  Clarice, realizes the name is another anagram and Lecter is playing with Chilton and the Senator.  With time running out, she sneaks in to the high security hotel prison to find out the real name of the killer.  After answering more of Lecter's questions, he reassures her that she has all the information in the dossier.  Then she gets busted and thrown out of the building but just as she is getting bounced, Lecture gives her one more hint.  Can Clarice find Bufffalo Bill in time? The Academy gave Silence of the Lambs, 5 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Writing (Ted Tally), Best Male Lead Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Female Lead Actress (Jodie Foster).  Such a fantastic film, I remember seeing this in the theatre and being blown away.  Wonderful script, great dialogue and another thinking horror film that doesn't disappoint.  Must see for anybody.

So if you catch any of the red carpet nonsense or hear yourself groaning that the same people are up to win the same award for another year in a row, think of these films and know that sometimes the bad guys do win.

1 comment:

  1. Great picks! I love all of these films but I have yet to see The Virgin Spring though. I liked your write up on Silence of the Lambs! Good job.