Thursday, April 22, 2010

At Least You're Not in a Horror Movie

Nick is in the agonizing throws of sickness this week.
His head aches, his nose is full of slime, and we won’t even get into what’s going on in his privy.
Yet, a smile should be on his face. You see, at least he isn’t in a horror movie.

Illness has postponed this week’s Rich-Dimick Horror Project viewing. So while Nick gargles saltwater and rubs Vicks on his jungle-like chest, I’d like to use this movie break to discuss just what it is about horror movies that keeps folks like Nick and I so enthralled.

There are many reasons I just can’t stop watching scream-flicks. But here are three:

Reason #1: Better Them Than You

They may be violent, terrifying, disgusting, and at times so depressing you need to hide the razorblades. But regardless of a horror movie’s content, when those credits roll you have to admit you feel better.
What goes down in a horror movie is so bizarre, outlandish, and horrifying that it makes whatever problems you have going on in life seem small in comparison.

Sure, you might have just lost your company $20,000, stubbed your toe on the front porch steps, forgot your spouse’s birthday, and caught the Swine Flu. But at least you are not chained to a dirty bathtub with your only escape the inevitable dismembering of your foot! At least your RV didn’t just break down in the middle of the cannibal infested desert! At least you didn’t just recite a passage from the Necronomicon that summoned evil demons now on a mission to swallow your soul!

Horror movies provide a profound escape into a world that is always much worse than real life. No matter how bad of a day I have, I can pop in Evil Dead 2 and know Bruce Campbell is having a worse one. That is a comforting feeling that cannot be consistently delivered by drama, action, comedy or sci-fi movies.

Horror is the ultimate mood booster. Even if the movie is utterly depressing, at least you know the situation is worse than you’ll probably ever have it. And unlike life, the situation is resolved one way or another in a tidy few hours. Even unhappy endings at least have some resolve!

Reason #2: Like Crack, Minus the Wack

My name is Chris Dimick, and I’m addicted to horror movies.
Seriously, I just can’t get enough of them. For example, the beautiful Music Box Theatre in Chicago hosts a 24-hour horror movie marathon each October. Nick and I attended this fest last year, and after 24 sleepless hours of watching heart-pounding, puke-inducing, side-splitting, mind-freaking movies, we came back to my house and watched, you guessed it, ANOTHER HORROR MOVIE.

Great horror is like a drug to movie fans. Once you get a taste of that sweet sensation, nothing else compares to the buzz. It starts innocently… staying up late with your friends to catch premium channel scary movies after their parents go to bed. Next thing you know your entire paycheck is being spent on William Castle flicks. Rock bottom comes in a dark alley, offering Chinese piracy artists sexual favors in exchange for a copy of the latest "Saw" bootleg. Luckily, though my addiction is strong, I’ve avoided the latter seedy scenario by using Netflix (government controlled and delicious!).

The euphoric feeling at the end of a horror movie is comparable to runner’s high. After miles of frantic sprinting a person can slow to a walk, and feel relaxation wash over the mind. Exhaustion mixes with proud feelings of accomplishment. The journey was taxing and difficult, but it’s over now, and one can revel in the feat – both physical and mental.
The horror movie journey is similar. You have been scared, grossed out, thrilled, joked, and sometimes emotionally touched. As those credit rolls, and you look back at the preceding ride, you can be proud to have hung on for the duration.

Like any powerful drug, these euphoric feelings fade in potency as use increases. But every once in awhile a new stash of film is injected through my eyes that brings back that familiar feeling of ecstasy.
Ingesting a hundred weak “Phantasms” is worth just one “Let the Right One In” or “Inside.”
Horror is just so… far out, man.

Reason #3: Best of all Worlds

When you walk into a horror movie, you never know what genre you are going to see. Will it be mixed with zany goof-ball antics, or will the plot revolve around dramatic personal relationships? Will it be set in the vast reaches of space, or take place in 1700s France.

One thing I have always loved about horror movies is they are not bound to a single genre. They can be comedies, dramas, sci-fi epics, period pieces, war movies, westerns and everything in-between – as long as the situation or plot contains some element of fear, terror, darkness, or horror.

This freeness is refreshing to a movie-watcher. You never truly know what kind of horror movie you are going to get. Also, you never know just what emotions you are going to feel in a horror movie. Sentiment, love, anger, terror, empathy, warm-fuzzy, you name the emotion, you can feel it in a horror movie. Granted, not all movies strive to break new ground. There are definitely piles and piles of rehashed, run of the mill, crap horror movies out there that are just blatant rip-offs of older films.

But even horrible, mind-numbingly stupid horror movies are a blast to watch. If a movie is too bad to respect, one can enjoy it for its awfulness. Expletives and funny comments can be shouted at the screen. You can marvel in its wretchedness, thinking "what in the hell was this writer thinking," and feel good about yourself that you’d never make such a mistake (except for that $20,000 down the drain, but who noticed that anyway).

Bad horror movies are just as fun to watch as great ones. Some quick suggestions, Troll 2 and Feeders are about as awfully good as it gets.
Whether good or bad, a horror movie will in some way always entertain. You just can’t loose with this genre!

Chris’ Top Ten Favorite Horror Movies:

There are dozens of reasons why an individual loves horror films. Above were just three of many personal reasons why I enjoy the genre. Over the years, many great movies and wonderful viewing experiences have built my passion for horror. The following are ten such movies I can never get tired of watching.

A “favorite movies list” should always be evolving. That said, the following list is not meant to be any sort of official endorsement either of my own views on horror or the RDHP. My favorites list is day-to-day, changing with my mood, life situation, and personal experiences.

I’m not saying the following movies should be considered great by others, either. But to me they are perfect. They have affected me in various ways: freaked me, made me laugh, provided an escape from life’s troubles, and represented great times gone by. With that disclaimer, I can say that if you have never seen any of the films on this list, take a chance and give them a watch. They are worth a couple hours of your time.

Top Ten Favorite Horror Movies (in random order):

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Superb writing, quirky directing and unforgettable characters. To this day, no villain has scared me more than Buffalo Bill. This flick gives me chills every time. So tense! It puts the lotion on its skin!

Halloween (1978)
The best slasher movie of all time. Though copied a thousand times over it still feels fresh with each viewing. Carpenter’s music is perfect, and Curtis shows she truely is the queen of scream.

Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (1986)
The best installment of the Friday series. This one relies more on humor and creative “kills” than scares, which makes it endlessly fun to watch over and over. Jason finally becomes undead in Part 6, a nice move.

The Shining (1980)
The most interesting ghost story ever put on screen. Leave it to Stanley Kubrick to produce one of the few horror movie masterpieces. Excellent scary setting and stunning performances. I get chills every time little Danny rounds that corner on his tricycle.

The Mist (2007)
This is a monster movie with a brain. Not only are the creatures freaky, but this movie shows that when disaster strikes it is not the fifth dimension bugs we need to fear, but each other! Great social commentary mixed into a fast and fun movie about killer monsters from beyond our world.

Grindhouse (2007)
Two master filmmakers lending their personal style to the bygone grind house horror genre. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is bloody, trashy campiness at its finest, while Tarantino’s Death Proof offers the viewer a smooth talking, visually beautiful carmageddon. Throw in some fake trailers from horror’s greatest, and this double feature is perfect modern horror.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The film that started the zombie genre. And it is still its best. The zombies are the right mix of intriguing, gross, slow and scary. A great message mixed into the horror. This one packs a deadly bite, and can even still give me goosebumps if watched in the right setting.

Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The whiplash pace of this over-the-top comedy-horror never lets up. What a ride it provides. Regardless of my mood, I can watch Evil Dead 2 and end the movie smiling.

The Wolf Man (1941)
My favorite of the classic, golden age of Universal Studios horror movies. The Wolf Man is just good, clean fun. It has a nice romantic understory, and a great villain/protagonist in the Wolf Man. Yeah, Frankenstein and Dracula are interesting, but they just never seemed as primal and cool as a man who turns into a wolf.

Scream (1996)
The horror movie that defined my generation. It was hip, stylistic, gory, original and fun. Watching it takes me back to my formative years. And that is always a great trip.

Honorable mentions:

Final Destination (2000)
A great turn-of-the-millenium horror flick with creative “kills” and interesting storyline pitting the Grim Reaper as the rare main killer.

Let the Right One In (2008)
The most unique vampire movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve only watched this once, but with a few more viewings I think this one is headed for the Top Ten.


  1. Thursday post WHA WHA WHAT!? Although I have not been commenting every week I have been faithfully following/reading. Good Show!

    Also, LOVED The Mist! The Marcia Gay Harden character is definitely scary. The ending is perfect, I had and havn't seen a movie with an ending like that since -- so realistic.

  2. Definetly, that Marcia Gay Harden character is so scary because there are people in the world really like her!
    Oh man, that ending too... I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks after watching.

    Thanks for reading!