Last time out it was decided that H was just too much of a monster of a letter in horror to have one post. So we split it into three! This week we present part two of this bumper letter. Let’s have a look at what we have today.
Hellraiser 2: Hellbound (1988)
We ended with Hellraiser last time out, so it makes sense to start with its sequel. Lets set the record straight. Hellbound is not a repeat of the brilliant Hellraiser. It is much faster-paced than its predecessor. The smartest thing that the filmmakers did with Hellbound was that it followed characters from the first film. Audiences were hoping to see that Kirsty had gotten away from those haunting events. To see her thrown back in and to see her in the state she was in Hellbound is gut-wrenching. Hellbound amps up the gore and the scares, like an angry little brother trying to get out from its older siblings shadow. The best sequel from the franchise is not one to miss.
The Hitcher (1986)
A cruel, dirty, grim film, but a great one. When you think the film has run its course in how dark it decides to go, it keeps on hitting you. Like Rutger Hauer’s John Ryder the film is relentless. The script is just a hitchhiker experience going drastically wrong, yet with Robert Harmon’s direction causes the audience to be at the edge of their seat experience. Instead of going for the gore route, we see the horror from C. Thomas Howells Jim’s face. Sometimes the worst horror is what we think we see.
Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer (1986)
At first glance Henry: Portrait of a Serial killer would be a straight-up slasher gorefest, yet we are presented with a film that is so much smarter than that. We see a disturbingly realistic commentary of medias relationship with violence. Loosely based on a real-life serial killer, Henry takes a semi-documentary approach with Michael Rooker giving a career-defining performance. Henry is an uncomfortable viewing experience but an important one.
The least dark and violent horror films on the list, but still nonetheless a horror. Everything in the film is perfect for its genre, Perlman is on another level and born to play Hellboy, a strong cast that all have immense chemistry together. While the horror elements are present and Del Toro masters it for his audience, the film works best when Hellboy has to deal with those close to him. Fantastical and fresh, no remake sadly) will ever be able to touch it.
High Life (2019)
Clare Denis’ English language debut very much echoes Tarkovsky’s Solaris but is able to enhance on this with devastating themes. A truly great science fiction horror. Very much an underappreciated film of 2019 that really deserves to be seen. High Life is a complex film, yet it is able to totally engross you with the broken characters. What makes High Life stand out from other films is that it enables the viewer to take from it what they bring into it emotionally.
This will be one of the few horror films I put on the list that I will admit never fully connected with me. I didn’t hate it, it just didn’t work for me as a story. But, it is a very much loved film and not having it on the list seemed a tad too controversial… Without a doubt, Toni Collette gives a powerhouse of a performance and it is perhaps the performances that kept me with the film. They are a step above films that would be churned out of a similar ilk.
Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Wes Craven followed up Last House on the Left with another non-stop ultra-violent. It is another hard to watch 1970 horror films and is the perfect symbol of how angry filmmakers were during this era. The downside, of course, is that those cast in the film are in fact the Hills Have Eyes weakest link. If, say the film was cast as Hereditary was, it would have been able to lift the entire picture up to a legendary status level.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Perhaps an opinion that will raise a few eyebrows, but I have always felt that Alexandre Aja’s remake is the better of the two and one of the reasons for that is that the cast is able to make all of this horrific events feel real. Where Craven lacked the chances to create intense and heart-stopping moments, Aja is able to bring this successfully to the audience. Unlike the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, here we have a film that is able to follow the anger and frustration that was very much alive in its original incarnation.
Horror Express (1970)
A murder mystery zombie caveman film set on a train in 1907? Sold. Add in Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing then you have a film that is a perfectly entertaining time. A film that profits greatly from having a strong script and is able to utilise its setting perfectly. On the train, you feel claustrophobic. What always brings a surprise to me is that this isn’t a Hammer film despite its two leads and plot. A wonderful adaptation of Who Goes There?.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
We return to Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in their comfortable roles as Count Dracula and Van Helsing in a classic Hammer picture. While there are rightful and obvious fans of Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula, Christopher Lee and Horror of Dracula perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Bram Stoker’s novel. An utter joy to watch and to witness Lee smoothly go through the motions of a character he would later be most known for (well to certain non Lord of the Rings audiences at least). This is Hammer Studios at its best and if not one of its very best films to be made from the long-running studio.
The Howling (1981)
A classic for the werewolf genre that is able to have some fun at the same time. In a world of serious horrors (especially after getting through the 1970s) it feels like The Howling is the perfect palette cleanser. Without a doubt though the standout is the makeup and visual effects for the transformations. An American Werewolf in London set the marker for what could be achieved in these scenes and The Howling does not disappoint in that regard. While not as traumatic as An American Werewolf in London it is still an unbelievable accomplishment, though the continuous pulsing does stay with you…
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Ingmar Bergman’s only horror film feels far more personal than it should. Telling the tale of a painter who draws the demons he sees around him until they start to warp into his own reality. While the film seems to be about a man losing his mind as demons come to get him, it is also about relationships and the fear of birth. Wanting to escape to either something easier such as Johan Borgs (Max von Sydow’s) ex-partner or to immerse oneself into the fear of future as he could do with the demons he has created. A compelling story is one of Bergman’s least-known films.
The Host (2007)
Bong Joon Ho’s monster epic has all of his directorial traits, thrills, horror, satire and a dysfunctional family. You will most likely never see a creature feature such as this one. The fast pace is occasionally the films weakest link, but the exhilarating fun does not stop. Without a doubt one of the best monster films of the 2000s and one that should be on your planned watchlist if it wasn’t already.
That’s all for this week, come back next week where we get to finish off our H trilogy!