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50 FAVORITE FLIGHT FLICKS OF ALL TIME
  October 2014
pg.2

Excerpt: UNIVERSAL HORROR (1998) -
Ray Bradbury, Forrest J. Ackerman, and actor James Karen
recollect childhood memories of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925)
Narr. by Kenneth Branagh








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  POLTERGEIST (1982) motion picture score: "The Light" / "Carol Anne's Theme" - J. Goldsmith
 



#39 - POLTERGEIST (1982)

      One may have to be over 30 to appreciate why the PG rated POLTERGEIST rattled nerves the summer of 1982. To a generation of adults at the time - who felt they had life all figured out, yet still possessed vivid memories of childhood fears, co-writer / producer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper (the original THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE)'s high tech but old fashioned re-working of Richard Matheson's TWILIGHT ZONE story "Little Girl Lost", reminded them that the opposite was indeed true. And that those fears (creepy dolls, old dead trees, storm clouds, and a late night TV with nothing on it!) would follow them the rest of their lives, ... or at the very least home from the theater that weekend.


  










#38 - TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983)

      Critics were divided on (but we absolutely love) this four part anthology remake of Rod Serling's famous 60's era weekly TV sci fi / horror excursion. With segments directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller, the film also included participation by many who were a part of Serling's original series - including I AM LEGEND / THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN writer Richard Matheson (who scripted most of the new film, and who wrote 25 episodes of the original series), actors Burgess Meredith (who narrates this film), Bill Mumy, William Shallert and Kevin McCarthy, and composer Jerry Goldsmith, who's "A Nightmare At 20,000 Ft." score remains to this day one of the most relentlessly exciting pieces of film music of all time.


     
 








#37 - CANDYMAN (1992)

      By transferring the setting of Clive Barker's short story "The Forbidden" from a run down English estate to Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project (demolished in 2011), producer Barker, and director Bernard Rose (PAPERHOUSE, IMMORTAL BELOVED) made the already terrifyingly creepy (in that Poe / Lovecraft manner) story more spine chillingly realistic. A grad student (Virginia Madsen), completing a thesis on urban legends, stumbles across the vengeful spirit of "Candyman" (Tony Todd), a prosperous Civil War era artist who centuries ago was murdered (stung to death by thousands of bees) and had his hand severed and replaced with a hook by a lynch mob when it was discovered he'd impregnated the daughter of a white landowner. Accompanied by a macabre score by legendary New Age keyboardist / composer Phillip Glass, this top flight production managed to satisfy fans of "grindhouse" horror, followers of artistic cinema, and also turn Todd into one of the most memorable thriller character actors since Lon Chaney and Vincent Price.  Followed by the sequel CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) and the direct-to-DVD CANDYMAN: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999).




 



  






#36 - SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000)

      With all the vampire movies and TV series of the last few years (TRUE BLOOD, TWILIGHT, et al), the subject matter has become downright anemic (sorry, couldn't resist). But rewatching this 2000 gem from producer Nicholas Cage and dir. E. Elias Merhige (SUSPECT ZERO, BEGOTTEN) restores one's faith. Starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe (in an Oscar nominated performance), Eddie Izzard, Udo Kier and Catherine McCormack, SHADOW proceeds from the premise that Max Schreck, the star of dir. F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent classic NOSFERATU, was actually a real vampire hired to be in the film, and that he forged a Faustian pact with Murnau to feast upon the movie's dilettante lead actress upon completion, ... though he also feeds upon the screenwriter, cinematographer and other crew deemed unnecessary or adverse to the director's all encompassing cinematic vision.  Arguably the most clever (and terrifying) horror / comedy hybrid ever made, SHADOW is actually less flat out "comedy" and more dry and biting satire of the Paddy Chayefsky / NETWORK sort , ... especially to those familiar with the behind the scenes nature of the modern film industry.


 









#35 - WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000)

      Many forget Oscar winning director Robert Zemeckis (FORREST GUMP, ROMANCING THE STONE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT) was (and still is) a big fan of the horror genre.  In fact one of his first industry gigs was scripting an episode of TV's classic KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER series. He returned to the milieu in fine form with this hybrid supernatural shocker / Hitchcockian thriller starring Harrison Ford & Michelle Pfeiffer, and scripted by Clark Gregg. Yes, THAT Clark Gregg, ... y'know, Agent Phil Coulson from THE AVENGERS. On the surface, it's a tale of a marital indiscretion which (literally) comes back to haunt a successful middle aged businessman. But red herrings and numerous clever twists turn it into the "film school professor's worst nightmare" - as in something you can't do justice to by explaining in 25 words or less. See for yourself. We guarantee you'll never look at the dripping faucet of a tub in quite the same way again.

   









#34 - I, MADMAN (1989)

      Hey, don't let the "low budge"- looking trailer turn you off. This is really one of the more clever thriller outings of the 1980s. In this (sort of) horror version of THE NEVER ENDING STORY, Jenny Wright (ST. ELMO'S FIRE, NEAR DARK) plays a used book store employee who stumbles upon a period "novel" in which she seems to be the heroine pursued by a deranged madman, ... a killer who then steps into the real world. This was the second American film by Tibor Takacs (THE GATE), who would then go on to be one of the most stylish TV directors of the 1990s - 2000s on series such as RED SHOE DIARIES, THE OUTER LIMITS, EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT and SABRINA.


   










#33 - OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983)

      Long before RAMBO 2 or TOMBSTONE, director George Cosmatos gave us this damned creepy "homeowner's worst nightmare" about a New York yuppie (future ROBOCOP / BUCKAROO BANZAI Peter Weller) who renovates an expensive brownstone then, when his wife and child go away for a vacation, finds himself engaged in a battle of wits with a huge city rodent which has invaded his home. Nothing supernatural or radioactive or out of the ordinary here. And the rat isn't much larger than one you'd see in an urban subway (though I've seen some down there the size of small dogs). And for this reason (the reality of the scenario) this terrifying little gem will give you nightmares for days, ... especially when you hear those strange "scratchy" noises inside the walls.
 
  










#32 - THE THING (1982)

      One of the few times the argument "Which is better, the original or the remake?" never surfaced, as both the John Ford / Christian Nyby 1951 version and John Carpenter's 1982 redo (actually a bit closer to the concept of John W. Campbell's 1938 novella "Who Goes There?") both kick ass! Twelve men at an isolated Antarctic research station do battle with a parasitic extraterrestrial life form which attacks on the molecular level, assimilates, then imitates it's hosts, ... that it may kill again to continue living. Opening the same day as BLADE RUNNER (June 25, 1982), both films were critical and financial failures at the time which have since gone on to become two of the most respected science fiction films in cinematic history.


 









#31 - THE WOLFMAN (2010)

      Critics didn't much care for director Joe Johnston (THE ROCKETEER, CAPTAIN AMERICA)'s sumptuous "R" rated redo of Universal's 1941 classic.  And admittedly, it does kind of take a slightly looney turn in it's final 15 mins. But there's so much else to love here, from the performances of Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and especially Hugo Weaving, to Shelly Johnson's gorgeous cinematography, Rick Heinriichs stunning production design, Milena Canonero's costumes, Danny Elfman's best score since SLEEPY HOLLOW, and some of makeup maestro Rick Baker's greatest work (part old school prosthetics / part CGI ... but not overdone), that every time we view it we love it more and more.  A revolving door of directors were attached to THE WOLFMAN (among them Mark Romanek, Brett Ratner, James Mangold and even Frank Darabont) before the producers settled upon Johnston.  While using modern techniques Baker deliberately kept his wolfman design aesthetically faithful to the 1941 Jack Pierce / Lon Chaney Jr. original.  And the DVD / Blu-ray "director's cut" version of the film includes a wonderful scene with Max Von Sydow which was cut from the theatrical presentation. By the way, did you know del Toro (who also co-produced) is a life long fan and collector of Wolfman memoribilia?


 









#30 - TERROR IN THE AISLES (1984)

      A rarity of rarities, TERROR IN THE AISLES was a straight up documentary on the horror genre which actually received a major theatrical release from a major studio - Universal Pictures. Produced & dir. by Andrew J. Kuehn (the editing master who created the rapid fire visual art form we now know as the modern movie trailer), TERROR is a loving, entertaining and informative (though much of it's "insight" is cribbed from Stephen King's non-fiction book DANSE MACABRE) compendium of over 1,000 clips from over 80 of the most famous (and infamous) thrillers of all time - incl. PSYCHO, THE BIRDS, THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, JAWS, POLTERGEIST, SUSPIRIA, THE SHINING, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN and more; all of it hosted by HALLOWEEN's Donald Pleasence and DRESSED TO KILL's Nancy Allen. Fun stuff!


 










#29 - CREEPSHOW (1982)

     While many critics were unimpressed with Stephen King & George Romero's loving homage to 1950s era E.C.-like comics (TALES FROM THE CRYPT, VAULT OF HORROR), audiences loved it. Featuring five tales sprung to life from a child's comic book, and starring a game cast incl. Hal Holbrook, Fritz Weaver, Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, Stephen King himself, and E.G. Marshall in the final (and most memorable) episode - involving a bigoted germ-o-phobe and a horde of cockroaches, CREEPSHOW would inspire a "sorta" TV spin-off, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, from the same producers, and usher in a decade of anthology films and network series such as the revamped TWILIGHT ZONE, TALES FROM THE CRYPT and more.


   










#28 - "THREE BY HOLLAND " - PSYCHO II (1983)

     For a while in the 1980s writer / director Tom Holland almost became "the king of modern horror" with three very popular thrillers. One would have to genuinely BE psycho to entertain the notion of creating a sequel to Hitchcock's legendary masterpiece. Writer Holland and dir. Richard Franklin were. And guess what? They ended up creating what still ranks as one of the best thrillers of the last thirty years. By cleverly creating a different KIND of film from the original - this time a puzzle-box "whodunit", they allowed themselves the luxury of using the original film's DNA to create an entirely new entity: in this case a "shell game" narrative wherein Norman Bates (supposedly cured) returns home 20 years later, then starts "receiving messages" again from his long dead mother. The question - is Norman cracking up again, or is someone trying to frame and make him look like he is? PSYCHO originals Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles return. And the cast is rounded out by great work from Robert Loggia, Meg Tilley and Dennis Franz. Jerry Goldsmith's score is an effective (and moving) surprise, eschewing thriller conventions for a disturbingly delicate piano motif symbolizing Norman's "unhinged innocence?". A top flight production all around which was followed by numerous inferior (and needless) sequels and "spin-offs".




 










#27 - "THREE BY HOLLAND" -  FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)

     After writing films such as THE BEAST WITHIN, CLASS OF 1984 and PSYCHO II, Holland made his directorial debut with this nifty thriller / comedy about a contemporary teenager / classic horror movie buff who's convinced a rash of recent ripper murders are the work of his new suave next door neighbor (Chris Sarandon) - whom he believes to be the modern incarnation of an ancient vampire. The only person he can enlist to help (let alone believe) him, is washed up former Hammer-studios like star Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), now eking out a living as a late night genre movie host. One of the last of the great old school "analog" thrillers, the climactic duel is the product of Oscar winning STAR WARS / GHOSTBUSTERS / 2010 special effects maestro Richard Edlund.

    









#26 -"THREE BY HOLLAND" - CHILD'S PLAY (1988)

     A clever modern re-working of Richard Matheson's "Living Doll" and "Prey", this box office hit starred character actor fave Brad Dourif as "Lakeshore Strangler" serial killer Charles Lee Ray (named after Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray) or "Chucky", who, while dying in a department store after a shootout with police, uses voodoo to place his soul safely within a "Good Guys" doll he spots on a shelf until a suitable human vessel can be found later. When the doll is purchased by a single mother for her 6 yr. old son, Chucky believes the boy is the perfect body in which to roost; and, while still a doll, murders anyone interfering with his plan.


   









#25 - THE BROTHERS GRIMM (2005)

     Strangely, amongst the list of Terry Gilliam films (both loved and hated) this one is never mentioned. Mark Damon is quite good, and Heath Ledger fantastic as fictitious versions of the Brothers Grimm, here itinerant 19th Century "huckster exorcists" who con peasant villages into believing they've cleansed their region of evil. That is until they're coerced by authorities into investigating the macabre disappearances of ten children - who it seems have been abducted by an enchanted forest under the control of a centuries old witch (Monica Belluci) attempting to regain her youth. Gilliam clashed on set with producers Bob & Harvey Weinstein. And there's perhaps a bit too much CGI for our tastes. But it's a rollicking good time. Perhaps a little too dark and scary for very young children though.

    




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