There is a thread on Twitter where the whole point is to try and list 10 horror movies that sort of describe your Halloween tastes. I’m not taking it as strictly a Best Of or a Favorites list, but more of the movies which helped fashion some of my own horror tastes. These are things/themes which carry some level of importance because of the movie itself or because of some story around it.
The joke in my Bio says it as plain and accurate as it could possibly be “John McGuire claims he would have been a marine biologist if it weren’t for Jaws.” When a movie scars you from walking down a career path, I’d say it somehow helped to shape your being.
Until I’d seen Scream all the slasher movies (save for Nightmare on Elm Street and we’ll get to that in a second) kind of ran together for me. Yes, Halloween is amazing, but the follow-ups to it and Friday the 13th plus an untold number of other 80s Horror had kind of killed the genre for me.
Then came Scream. It turned things completely upside down and showed us that there was still something unique to say about the genre. It was a breath of fresh air that I wasn’t expecting but found myself returning to repeatedly.
In the Mouth of Madness
Sometimes a movie rocks you to the core, makes you think about the world in a different way, and exposes you to thoughts you might have never reached yourself. That’s what In the Mouth of Madness is for me. My first real exposure to Cosmic Horror. A reminder that the universe is a big and scary place. It is something that we try to define and really, we have no fucking idea.
The Thing (1982)
A movie that only gets better with age. I am constantly amazed on rewatches how much the story not only holds up but that I find little bits and pieces every time. I just simply love everything about the movie.
Nightmare on Elm Street
This might have been the first horror movie I ever watched. I remember going over to a friend’s house for a sleepover around 10 years old and somehow we watched this (with his parent’s knowledge). It was my gateway horror movie.
I have always been more of a werewolf guy than a vampire guy. Something about the internal struggle of someone not feeding into their base natures. That struggle had always been at the forefront of the creature. It was a curse… until this movie. These werewolves were enjoying what they were. In addition to having some of the greatest transformations ever, it really showed me that you can always look at the classics in a slightly different way.
The Lost Boys
However, I do love a well-done vampire story. This movie hit around the time I was getting into comic books, so to see the main characters in a comic store, understanding the lore around the creatures, hell, hunting the creatures. If you ever wanted to be in a horror movie when you were a kid, this was the one I’d choose.
Cabin in the Woods
Many years after Scream we got another movie that decided to look at the horror genre and turn it on its head. And maybe that’s what I really enjoy when you can subvert the tropes or use them in a way we’ve not seen before. Due to all the Easter eggs, this one has a ton of rewatch value.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I love Night of the Living Dead, and I like the original Dawn of the Dead a lot, but something about this version really struck me as a great way to do a remake without losing the spirit of the original. In many ways, it and 28 Days Later (see below) ushered in this new age of the Zombie, a genre that was due for some spotlight (an odd thing to say all these years later given you can’t turn on a streaming service without seeing a dozen such movies.
28 Days Later
The loneliness of this movie. The whole purpose of showing us that it is the family we choose who we have to remain true to. The imagery… him walking the deserted London streets… him hunting in the rain, turning more and more like the infected around him… the tunnel. This one is just so well done, I could watch it any and every time it comes on.
While not every story in anthology has to work, I think it is important to figure out why or why not they might have worked within the framework we’ve been given. It’s something that I’m thinking about for my own work.
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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