I've talked about a multitude of media here, including films, music and books. I don't know if it's noticeable, but I really enjoy doing stuff like that.
However, I've recently run out of media to talk about… UNTIL NOW!! Cue the dramatic music! I decided to have some fun with the blog today. Let's get specific!
I want to talk about horror films today.
I am a HUGE fan of horror. I mean, I hate it, but at the same time, it's so good, and I love it. The first scary movie I ever watched was "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl."
Well, it wasn't a scary movie, but when you get hyper-realistic skeleton pirates and a five-year-old kid whose previous "scary" experience was "Monster's, Inc.," it was absolutely TERRIFYING.
Of course, watching it back, it looks kinda goofy. Freaky, but also kind of goofy.
The first REAL horror film I ever saw was when I was in sixth grade at 12 years old. My dad showed me the single most influential horror film to me personally, and one of the franchises that you'll hear more about soon. That movie was Ridley Scott's 1979 game changer, "Alien."
These are the films that have oddly inspired me in my own filmmaking. I am a digital filmmaking major here at Eastern and was ecstatic when I discovered that the theater and DFM programs host what's called ENMU Fear Fest each fall semester.
It's a friendly contest that occurs in October between students to make a short horror under ten minutes to celebrate Halloween. It isn't limited to DFM and theater, either—anyone can make one, as long as it remains within the time limit and you meet the criteria for the rules of that year. Stay on the lookout for details in the 2019 fall semester!
The first film I've personally made was "The Emerald Eyes"—inspired by the likes of "Alien" and a few others. I mean, it sounds far more ambitious than it actually was, but they're small references. The movies I talk about are also mostly ones that inspired "The Emerald Eyes."
My short is on YouTube, so see if you can find the nods I give to these franchises! Don't feel limited to just that, either—I reference many films that have influenced me before in multiple videos I've made.
Anyway, let's talk about horror films. I'm excited about this one. Horror has made a greater influence on me personally so let's get into my favorites that you should DEFINITELY watch if you haven't before! Be warned, watch these movies at your own risk. As horrors, they typically contain some heavy stuff that can be hard to watch for various reasons. All these films are rated R for substantial gore (mainly), so watch at your own risk.
I've also placed them in order of least favorite to top favorite. I tried to pick a top five but then realized I had a top six, so here we go.
DILLON'S SIXTH FAVORITE HORROR: George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," 1968.
If you're a fan of zombie films and you haven't watched this one, you should. It's like THE iconic zombie film that inspired most others. Its sequels include "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), "Day of the Dead" (1985) and a small variety of other films.
It's even available to watch online since it's been public domain since it was made (due to it being an independent film).
It's a really good movie with a depressing ending (spoilers for a movie that's been out for 50 years) and one of my favorites. It deals with elements of racism in survival situations.
I don't have much else to say about the film. It's a pretty clear-cut zombie film with some interesting plot points. That being said, it was Romero's first ever feature film, and it's painfully obviously with occasional bad pacing and some weird dialogue.
It's a cool and iconic movie. That's all you really gotta know.
DILLON'S FIFTH FAVORITE HORROR: Jordan Peele's "Get Out," 2017.
This wonderfully crafted film came out more recently than the other films I'm talking about.
There's so much to talk about this one, so I don't even know where to begin. "Get Out" is a wonderful psychological horror movie as well as a perfectly delivered political statement by a man who traditionally makes comedy shorts. Honestly, when it first came out, I was not expecting it to be any good. After all, it's Jordan Peele! Dude does comedy skits.
Then I watched it.
"Get Out" is a very freaky movie. I wouldn't actually classify it as traditional horror, but I feel it sits in a very specific genre of horror that, in my opinion, it cultivated.
Basically, I think it created its own subgenre and is all the better for it.
Jordan Peele created a compelling and frankly strangely terrifying story that is 100 percent (Jordan Peele has stated it himself) about racism. Who knew that comedy and horror both hinged on such similar concepts? Slow build ups, reveals—it's kind of incredible, actually.
And now Peele's doing stuff like 2019's "Us" (ALSO an amazing film) and the reboot of "The Twilight Zone" on CBS. If that doesn't speak for you on Peele's talent, I don't know what will. If you haven't seen "Get Out," you're truly missing out.
DILLON'S FOURTH FAVORITE HORROR: Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead," 1981.
If the name sounds familiar, it should—Sam Raimi was the guy who directed "Spider-Man" in 2002 and its subsequent sequels. It was made as a college film, surprisingly enough. It's pretty low budget, but the practical effects stun me to this day.
That isn't to say it's great, but it's really good. I will say there's one scene that even Sam Raimi regrets making. I'm not even going to describe it because it's pretty graphic, gross and just weird. It's the one scene that disconnects me from the movie. If you wanted to avoid watching the film because of it, I wouldn't blame you.
It's okay though because when a studio bought out the rights to the film to make sequels, they did this intro sequence that sort of retcons the first movie in this flashback type of thing. The sequels that were spawned from the first film became more comedic in tone as well. It's a stark contrast to the first film, which maybe takes its story a little too seriously.
The series is about a guy named Ash Williams, played by Bruce Campbell, who frequently encounters ancient demons and must fight for survival against them. There was even a remake in 2013 (that's FAR more graphic and disturbing than any other media in the series) that fits into the original continuity and includes a post-credits cameo featuring Bruce Campbell in his iconic role.
It's a pretty awesome film series that continues in the form of a television show of three seasons—"Ash vs. The Evil Dead." I've watched most of it but got too freaked out to continue watching it past season one. I'm a weenie.
I won't say much more about it since I want to keep moving. "The Evil Dead" is an iconic film series. If it seems familiar, maybe you've seen a reference to Ash. He's the guy who says "groovy" a lot and has a chainsaw for a hand. It's a long story—one you'll have to watch the films to understand!
DILLON'S THIRD FAVORITE HORROR: Alex Garland's "Annihilation," 2018.
Starring Natalie Portman (alright, fine, I like Natalie Portman. No shame.), Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac in a supporting role, "Annihilation" is an awesome cosmic horror.
You might recognize Tessa Thompson from "Thor: Ragnarok" (2017) as Valkyrie and Oscar Isaac from the newer "Star Wars" trilogy as Poe Dameron. I've talked about Natalie Portman before, so I'm not going to talk too much about her anymore. Have I mentioned she was my first celebrity crush?
Anyway, "Annihilation." It's a pretty crazy movie with some striking visuals. It's about the effects of a meteor on the environment, creating a "shimmer." Man, it's so good. I saw it on my Hulu recommended page and always wanted to watch it, so when I finally did, I was blown away. It's kinda gross, kinda gory and really, really weird in the best way possible.
I mean, there's no limit to how much I appreciate this movie. It's so cool!!! There is so much to think about and so much that I don't even completely understand. I've watched it a couple of times at this point, and it's very interesting.
Seriously, watch "Annihilation." It's a wonderful movie with a curious ending that leaves a lot of questions that I will NEVER need to be answered, as curious as I am about it.
I think that that's the beauty of cosmic horror. You don't need to explain everything—it just is. I mean, when you get these extraterrestrial creatures, monsters, beings or whatever, you don't need to actually fully explain them, and that's where the horror enters. Especially cliff hanger endings—what's next? We don't need to know.
Regardless, "Annihilation" is what I would call an existential cosmic horror. You'd have to watch it to understand that sentence, but it's totally worth it.
DILLON'S SECOND FAVORITE HORROR: Ridley Scott's "Alien," 1979.
Ridley Scott is a master of neo-noir, cosmic horror, drama, action… there's nothing he can't do. Aside from "Alien," the man made "Gladiator" (2000), "The Martian" (2015), "Blade Runner" (1982) and so many others.
"Alien" centers on the crew of a galactic mining crew as they pick up a distress signal on an unknown planet, resulting in an alien sneaking aboard the ship in the most disturbing place possible. As you can imagine, chaos ensues. Crew expendable, folks.
I mean, the movie is a cinematic masterpiece. It's so interesting and terrifying. It's so culturally influential that it's even been preserved in the Library of Congress. I mentioned it is the first horror movie I'd ever seen earlier, and also the singular most terrifying movie I've watched to this day.
Really, that's just because I had NEVER seen anything like it before. Even the cast had no idea how the alien was going to appear in the film. If you watch that scene, you'll notice how shocked and terrified the actors are when the alien bursts out of that guy's chest.
That's because that's real blood.
The filmmakers loaded the fake body with real pigs' blood and viscera from a small variety of animals and did not tell the actors what the alien looked like or exactly how it would emerge, so their reactions are FULLY real.
It's so mean. I love it.
So yeah. "Alien." It's an iconic movie that has lately been gaining a resurgence in the past few years, thanks to the sequels that are actually prequels having come out since 2012 ("Prometheus," 2012; "Alien: Covenant," 2017).
"Alien" also has a sequel that's actually…. Well, okay, it's just a sequel that occurs after the events of the first film. It's creatively titled… um… "Aliens." Directed by James Cameron and released in 1986, it was more of an action horror than a thriller/horror. Still really good.
Its other sequels are disgraceful. I refuse to speak about them. They're terrible. Just watch "Alien" and "Aliens" and leave it at that. I'd recommend "Prometheus" and "Alien: Covenant" as well, but not many people liked those (which I don't personally understand, but that's a story for a different day). I'll leave the final call for those two movies up to you guys.
That all being said, there's some pretty heavy symbolism in the film and is a movie that has a very gross subtheme. I'm not going to talk too much about it because it's really disturbing, but if you watch the movie, keep an eye out for the imagery of the alien things.
The design of the eggs and the aliens themselves are visually similar to something specific, and that is very intentional.
If there's one thing to remember from this massive rant, it's this: "Alien" is awesome. PLEASE watch it.
DILLON'S ALL-TIME NUMBER ONE SUPER BESTEST FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME EVER FOREVER: John Carpenter's "The Thing," 1982.
I can write an article about this film in and of itself. "The Thing" is cosmic horror as well, but in the worst way possible. It's more closely related to the horror style of "Alien" than "Annihilation" and is easily the most gory, gross, disgusting film on the list. Gotta love me some body horror.
It's about American researchers who encounter a shapeshifting alien whose ultimate goal is to assimilate all other lifeforms it encounters. I love this movie above all others because where "Alien," for example, has an antagonist that while hidden is clear, "The Thing" has an antagonist that could be anyone or anything.
It's hardly as much a film about a shapeshifting alien as it is a film about dreadful paranoia. The entirety of the film leaves you wondering who to trust and how the movie might end. Bonus, they're not idiots like most characters are in horror films. They're actually smart people who make wonderfully logical decisions with the information they have. It's fantastic.
Plus, The Man himself plays the leading actor—that's right, folks, we're talking about Kurt Russell, who is one of my absolute favorite actors.
What's also GREAT about "The Thing" is all the practical effects. Normally old practical stuff is choppy and gross (you know, it's the 80's. Can't get it all right.), but the freaky looking alien tentacles and gore and stuff still hold up today.
And the sounds! Music, sound effects… it's all awesome. The music is used to the same effect that the "Jaws" theme is played. The theme of "The Thing" is slow and menacing, perfectly emanating the theme of the movie.
Fun bit, there are two characters named Mac and Windows. You know, like the computers? Except here's the thing: Windows computers weren't made until 1985 and Macs weren't made until 1984. Basically, "The Thing" was ahead of its time.
It's just such a good movie with so many wonderful moments. There's a lot of deliberate ambiguity in the film that makes you question who's human and who isn't, sowing the seeds of doubt throughout the story. I mean, wow… That movie is just SO GOOD. They made a sequel that's actually a prequel in 2011, and it's (in my honest opinion) not worth watching.
It wasn't made by John Carpenter (who also made "Halloween" in 1978, which is where we get Mike Myers) like the original was, which is partially why I think it's bad. Plus, the characters aren't as interesting as they were in the original. And finally… the stupid CGI. It was made in that era when people thought that computer-generated effects were the future of movies and… man. Not good. It looks really cheap and gross. I would not recommend it.
Clearly, I could talk about this movie for an article in and of itself, so I'll stop there. "The Thing" is one great movie. If you end up being my friend, by the way, there's a 900 billion percent chance that you will watch this movie within 24 hours of meeting me.
That was written like a joke, but it's a recurring event in my life, straight up. I really, really, REALLY love this movie.
Horror continues to terrify us to this day. Why's that?
I don't know. It's fun, I guess. You thought I'd try to pull something deep there, didn't you? Nah, that's all I got for horror. It's fun, and I like it, and I am unabashedly unashamed of that fact.
I hope you guys enjoyed more insane ranting from me about things I like! I certainly enjoy talking about these things (if it wasn't obvious to begin with), and I hope that I've whet your appetite for Eastern New Mexico University's Fear Fest 2019 event. If you end up going, keep an eye out for my film I'm making right now—and see what cues I take from these movies!