Buckle in folks, this is going to be a long one! Instead of breaking down our final part of letter M into a four part horror extravaganza. It was felt that going all-in would be best so not to drag it out like the Hellraiser franchise. So we will finish this wonderful letter for the genre with 19 films! Shall we?
The Monster Squad (1987)
Quintessential comedy horror of the 80s, The Monster Squad is everything you would want it to be. We follow a group of kids who have to save the town from Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, Wolfman and the creature from the Black Lagoon. Though, it should be noted that it isn’t those exact characters due to copyright purposes wink. The special effects are top-notch as you would expect from a Stan Winston production. This is pure 80s fun it would be hard to think that you wouldn’t find something to enjoy within.
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
If you were ever curious as to where the origins of the look of the Joker came from. Then look no further than this 1928 classic (although this is an adaption of the 1869 novel). This is a film that is forgotten about and that is unforgivable. Conrad Veidt shines as bright as ever in the role of a boy (now a man) surgically mutilated to always have a smile on his face. While this is a horror in my eyes due to the story, it becomes a bonafide tearjerker. The Man Who Laughs is also visually stunning, especially with the makeup effects to have Veidt have the appearance that he does. This semi-silent film should be top of your lists to watch.
Mad Love (1935)
Adapted from Maurice Renard’s The Hands of Orlac and a remake of the 1924 silent version, we have a tale of a surgeon who is obsessed with an actress. Her pianist husband is in an accident that mutilates his fingers, so our surgeon successfully replaces them, with those of a knife-throwing murderer. Peter Lorre from “M” is in his American debut here and he knocks it out of the park as the mad surgeon. A fun body horror that further shows that horror was a genre that truly thrived in the early decades of cinema. Also, who doesn’t love a synopsis like that? Directed by the great Karl Freund (cinematographer for films such as Metropolis), you just knew that this was at worst going to look stunning.
The Mummy (1932)
There have been an incredible 26 films about The Mummy and I have tried my best to whittle down to what ones you should consider. In truth, most of The Mummy films from 1920 -1950 are worth a look, so if you can catch them all! Let’s get back to probably the best version of the creature in Boris Karloff’s 1932 version. This is a well-crafted horror and one of Karloff’s best, he can portray the character as a monster, yet make sure it hasn’t lost its human tendencies.
This is what makes for a good horror film sometimes. We do not need to always be in fear. To be conflicted with your emotions regarding such a monster allows for a more complex story to be told. It is why the original Frankenstein still strikes a chord. A subtle horror with longing romance threads throughout, this is a horror that may not scare you as much as it did with audiences back in the 30s, but it is still effective.
The Mummy (1959)
You had to guess that Hammer was going to get into the game at some point, and they dutifully did with their underrated 1959 version. Peter Cushing is again our hero (even if he is one of the archaeologists who release the awoken Kharis onto Victorian London. With most early Hammer productions, this is not about gore. But the atmosphere and psychological torment in which the filmmakers could put on the audiences, Christopher Lee plays a quicker, more mobile mummy in his portrayal of Kharis. Instead of the brooding Dracula that we are used to him playing, here he can show his range and allow for subtle emotions to come to the fore. It is a solid performance in a solid Hammer film.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
This synopsis will grab your attention and interest immediately. A hunter arranges for a random ship to be destroyed at sea, with the people on board fleeing it the sinking ship to his island, so he can begin hunting them down one by one in the ultimate game. I am struggling to remember if I have seen a film released with this plot in recent years. There have been skits of it on shows, but not a full film. It is a terrific idea that should be revisited. We have a great villain in Count Zaroff here and Leslie Banks’ positively eats up the scenery as the evil hunter.
Tom Savini’s special effects rise to the occasion in 1980s Maniac. Savini and his team held nothing back in their work here with the effects reeking of over the top 80s. It is brilliant and for any 80s horror fan, you will love it. Luckily for audiences, there is substance to this style in a horror that is parts slasher parts atmospheric thriller. The plot lacks a tad, but when there is so much going on visually, it is a forgivable offence. There are so many death scenes that you will have to pick your favourite, but we all know it will be the shotgun scene.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
I will forever defend this adaption as it is far better than people give it credit for. Yes, there is a tonne of melodrama in here, but it is a Kenneth Branagh film after all. Yet, some moments work beautifully, having the creation speak and learn is a masterstroke in my eyes. We feel even more for him as he tries to convey his emotions. He wants to hurt his creator for what he has done and we feel that. All the while Victor has gone down a road he cannot recover from, so when he takes drastic actions in the final act, you understand why. A very underrated film.
Memento Mori (1999)
Not your average Korean horror in that it focuses almost entirely on the psychological aspect and the usual brutal nature of K-horror is not present. We are left with a great mystery horror that also holds a decent amount of social connotations regarding homosexuality. A slow burner of a film Memento Mori reels you in with its story and the rare, but effective chilling moments get you all the more because of it. The score helps accentuate these points by roaming in and out of the film, continually building its atmosphere and tension. A very solid movie.
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Your enjoyment of My Bloody Valentine may differ on which version you have seen. There are multiple versions out there due to the severe cuts that slashed not moments but multiple minutes from the picture. An early 80s slasher that will take no prisoners for those who watch the uncut version. A horror that has stood the test of time and while its remake was okay, this is the version that should be explored. A slasher that expertly builds suspense is always going to be a hit.
Mother’s Day (2010)
A slight deviation from the Troma iteration 30 years prior, this 2010 remake takes some of the ideas from the original and enhances upon them. From the get-go we know we are in for a 2010s style horror of gruesome torture (unsurprisingly the director of Saws 2 – 4 is at the helm here). Where Mother’s Day improves on the original is that we have characters who we immediately care for. This could be just because we have a better cast here, but we connect far better and this connection helps drive us to want to see as many of them free as possible. A great horror that seems to have been forgotten about since its release.
Motel Hell (1980)
As daft as an 80s horror movie can be and that is saying something. Motel Hell brings as many laughs as it does horror moments. A film that isn’t afraid to poke fun of itself and other films in the genre thanks to its many references. A Farmer whom meat is so revered that people come far and wide for it, unknowing that it is humans captured from the nearby motel. A great little story and film are to be had here. The cast is having a whale of a time and this transmits through the screen to the audience.
My Name Is Bruce (2007)
You will love this film if you are a fan of Bruce Campbell, if you are not, then you may struggle, but there is still an awful lot to enjoy here. The jokes flow as Bruce believes he is filming a movie and in a bit, all the while what is happening to him is in fact real. A true treat for horror fans who are in on the jokes that come.
A film that left me cold throughout, but it has its fan. Aronofsky uses every religious analogy he can think of here and while it works, it just seems to lose itself far too often for my liking. This is not a subtle film when it gets going and it needed to stay that way as it did in the opening half. There is still a tonne to enjoy here, however, with great performances and some truly shocking moments.
The one sin that stops Mortuary from being as good as it could have been that we know who the killer is far too early and the filmmakers do not alter the film upon this reveal. Some horrors can show us the killer early and shift how the film feels. Yet here it never really does and that is a shame as this is a great little film. Bill Paxton is hamming it up for everyone and there are some notable jump scares in here. Worth a watch on a slow evening.
Messiah of Evil (1973)
Honestly, I am shocked and surprised for how long this one has gotten by me. If you have never heard or watched Messiah of Evil, then my friends you are in for one hell of a treat. A woman goes searching for her missing father at a Californian seaside town, only to find that something dark and horrible reached the town before her. There are obvious flaws for a low budget 70s horror flick, but when Messiah of Evil works, it works. This is a unique zombie horror that really does deserve your attention.
I liked Maggie, I will admit it. I see its faults and know that it isn’t the greatest film ever made. But it is a solid film and actually allows Schwarzenegger to flex his acting movies more than he has had to in decades. I feel for this father who simply cannot say goodbye to his daughter. It is a side of the zombie genre that we do not see too often and for that, it works. Could it scare us a bit more? Possibly, but it is here for our hearts and to pull emotion out of us and for me it very much succeeded in its task. A film that doesn’t get the level of love that it deserves. Maggie is a painful look at death, of seeing someone you love fade away before your eyes. Give it a chance.
A Vincent Price film is always going to have something good about it and Madhouse continues his turn to character-focused horror. We get to see Price play an actor known for horror films (cleverly using footage from previous films as clips) who tries to retire the character after copycat deaths follow each of his films. A smart concept that attempts to show the influence of movies on real life. The script fails us when we most need it to be as strong as the premise and the performances. However, there is still a lot here to enjoy for the Price fan.
My Little Eye (2002)
This is one of those horrors that worked for me when I was a teenager. I will unashamedly say that it is one of my favourites. A group of people are on a show where they must all stay on the premises for 6 months to share the spoil of $1 million. It is a simple plot, and with its slow-burn suspense built up by us arriving with them in their final week, we can tell they are mostly ready to bolt from each other.
My Little Eye works so well because it doesn’t give the game away too early. You would be under the impression in the first 30 or so minutes that this is a social drama about reality shows. It is only then when we are set in the rhythm of the film that it begins to turn on us. While the last 15 minutes is a tad rushed, this is still a great film for something set in one location and on a very modest budget.
That is our list for this week, come back next week for part two of three. Meanwhile have a gander down below for our previous editions.
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