Welcome back to our horror list! We have moved onto the first part of the letter P, we have some great ones in here and maybe a surprise or two as well. Enjoy.
The film where everyone has an open suspicion that Spielberg wanted to direct a horror film but got his friend Tobe Hopper to take the credit. Poltergeist is a film that didn’t want to play the long game and keep us waiting. The family is convinced early on; after that, it just chugs along at a nice pace. For its time, it was sensational, and happily, it still holds up (proof in the pudding is that the remake didn’t light the world on fire); even if some of the effects are dated, the premise is what terrifies you. A nightmare of a film for parents and a significant reason why a family doesn’t leave the house during a haunting. The one main thing that sticks with you after watching Poltergeist is THAT line, which has stayed with the genre for decades, “They’re here.”
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Not Paranormal Activity instead? Nope, for one main reason, the lead male character of Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) is one thousand times a better character than Micah. Here we have an entire family of sympathetic characters that you can stand behind. Add in the fact that although it sticks to the same formula the previous PA films do, it does it on such a better; we have the fan cam, which was infuriating as it was effective. The oscillating away right when we are expecting the scare have you. You want to throw something at the screen. This may be a pointless hill to die on, but goodness, is this the best film of the series? Best of all, it’s a prequel, so you can watch this first if you haven’t seen any of the others.
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The first and, if we are honest, the only one from the series (somehow reaching four films over a span of 19 years), Pumpkinhead is a film that lives and dies by its practical effects. Luckily for them, Stan Winston was at hand to deliver an astounding demon design. Grieving father Ed (Lance Henriksen) brings the emotion to an unexpectedly sad horror. A fairy tale that is as gorgeous as it is effective. A tragic story that subverts your idea of the use of a deranged monster. This will be a treat for those who have yet to encounter it.
As stylish and important a horror film as you will find in this list, Hitchcock worked his magic, building mystery and suspense in such a masterful way. An unforgettable shocker of a film, Anthony Perkins, is just unbelievable as Norman Bates. What stands out most in Psycho, though, is the little touches that make this such a great viewing. The unconventional camera angles and the little touches from the actors in their mannerisms as us continually think Marion is going to get caught long before she makes it to the Motel. As close to a perfect horror film as you will find, there is an abundance of documentaries that you can traverse through as well as a post-film treat. Don’t watch the shot-for-shot remake from 1998—bloody hell, what a shambles that was.
Psycho II (1983)
Recently Psycho II has been getting its much-deserved flowers as viewers returned to the film. All of the character study work in Psycho continues here as we follow Bates; as broken as he is, he tries to live a life that no one is willing to let him have. Is it as good as the first instalment? No, but it is also a completely different film, sure, there is a bucket full of suspense, but the cat is firmly out of the bag when it comes to Norman. Instead, we expand on the person that is Norman Bates, and Perkins is throwing all of his talents into the performance. Gone is the suspense and in its place is a very solid slasher. It should work better than it eventually did.
What are you after in an early 80s slasher? An abundance of mindless gore? Check. Nonsense story? Check. Terrible acting? Double check. Overdubbing until your mind melts? Yep. The B-moviest of B-movies? Check it! Pieces, as a film from a critical standpoint, is a disaster. Yet, you can’t help but love it. There is no restraint in this film, and thank goodness for it. There is a bit too much female nudity here, to the point that you assume the director just wanted many naked women around. However, it’s a mindless sleazy blast with some unexpectedly great gore moments. What else would you expect from a film about a son butchering his mother because she told him off for making a naked lady jigsaw?
The Purge (2013)
There is one massive gapping issue in a film about how all law is legal in one country one day a year. If you can afford it, why in the good f**k are you still in that country for the said day and not hanging out in Canada for 24 hours? There is no reason on this planet why the Sandin family are at home. Regardless, some horror films have stupid characters. The Purge was one of those ideas you cannot help but love. A home invasion flick with a twist; there is more than enough tension to get us through the proceedings. Is it as smart as it wants to be? Nah, but you have fun trying to see the family get to the morning. The scariest thing about The Purge? How you could actually see the lunatics who are trying to run the asylum having it happen, especially after the past few years.
A pregnant widow goes on a murder rampage thanks to what she thinks are the thoughts of her unborn baby. That is all you need to know about Prevenge, and if you are reading this list, you will have already clicked below and tried to find it. This horror comedy hits all the right notes despite it playing straight down the middle. Alice Lowe is carrying out all of the tasks while also being seven months pregnant. We have a film that, if it had a bigger budget, could have been something unforgettable. However, when the film becomes more poignant and thoughtful, it still hooks you—an underrated gem.
Phantom of The Opera (1925)
Almost 100 years later, it still works. In one of the best horror films of all time, Lon Chaney gives the standout performance and with that scene, how you wish you could have been in the audience the first time it was seen. Unlike a lot of silent horrors, Phantom of the Opera is all about the acting. Everyone is working to the best of their ability to emote for the audience physically. How Chaney was able to do what he does here with the make-up will forever be a mystery to me. Like most of its time, there is an abundance of melodrama, but do not be fooled; this is a film beautiful, haunting film that is as gorgeous as it is effective.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Like Phantom of the Opera and Psycho, Peeping Tom is an essential and integral film for the genre (1960 was clearly a good year for horrors); there is a lot to unpack in this psychological horror. A film where the murderer has you feeling something towards him. We realise none of this is his own fault, a broken doll of a man who has been made to be this way by his father; Mark can’t help his urges. The use of a person being involved yet distant from the murders is another interesting facet of the film; Mark feels the need to document everything he is doing, even the most horrific moments. Seeing how the world is some 60 years later, how ahead of its time was Peeping Tom?! Karlheinz Bölm is fantastic here, but credit must go to the entire cast. There isn’t a fault among them as they all bring something unique to their characters. Peeping Tom, as a story and technical feat, was decades ahead of its time that you can only sit there and applaud it.
To check out our previous letters have a click below! Come back for Part Two, we have some crackers left to go over.
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