Horror 365, Movie(s) 82: Top 100 Movies That Aren’t Horror

I’m an unabashedly enthusiastic genre guy. Ain’t no apologies for that although it does give rise to its own strange crop of questions and assumptions. For instance, “How can you watch stuff like Hostel?” I dunno–how can anyone watch stuff like I’m Thinking Of Ending Things?

A very close friend of mine will on occasion say something like, “Hey, did you see…nevermind. You don’t watch good movies.” In his defense, he’s neither a cinema snob nor completely wrong. I do love a bad horror flick, and most “cinema” (in elitist, Scorsese terms) strikes me, more often than not, as pretentious, bloated, and self-indulgent. In my defense, “good” and “bad” are slippery terms. Of course I can see what’s good about Citizen Kane. I’ve seen it, and once was enough thanks. Bored the hell out of me, and that, I think, is bad.

Still, in the interest of showing that I’m not a narrow-minded genre exlcusivist, here’s my Top 100 Movies That Aren’t Horror. I’m excluding documentaries (which I love)–that’s a whole other post. Also these are not ranked. The very thought of ranking them was hellish. Instead, they are alphabetized for your dining and dancing pleasure.

    1. All About Eve
    2. All About My Mother
    3. Amadeus
    4. Animal House
    5. Anniversary, The
    6. Barfly
    7. Beautiful Mind, A
    8. Best In Show
    9. Big Chill, The
    10. Big Lebowski, The
    11. Billy Jack
    12. Blast Of Silence
    13. Blood Simple
    14. Breakfast At Tiffany’s
    15. Breakfast Club, The
    16. Bull Durham
    17. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
    18. Christmas Story, A
    19. Dark Knight, The
    20. Dead Ringer
    21. Death Of A Salesman (1985)
    22. Detour
    23. Dirty Harry
    24. Double Indemnity
    25. El Mariachi
    26. El Topo
    27. Enter The Dragon
    28. Excalibur
    29. Face In The Crowd, A
    30. Fargo
    31. Fast Times At Ridgemont High
    32. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
    33. Fistful Of Dollars, A
    34. Fritz The Cat
    35. Godfather, The
    36. Hair
    37. Hamlet (2009 David Tennant)
    38. High Plains Drifter
    39. Hobbit, The (1977 Rankin/Bass)
    40. Holy Mountain, The
    41. Home Alone
    42. Hoosiers
    43. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
    44. Jason And The Argonauts
    45. Kiki’s Delivery Service
    46. Kill Bill Vol. 1
    47. Kiss Before Dying, A (1956)
    48. Kiss Me Deadly
    49. Kiss Of The Spider Woman
    50. Knightriders
    51. L.A. Confidential
    52. La Dolce Vita
    53. Leave Her To Heaven
    54. Lethal Weapon
    55. Little Women (2019)
    56. Locket, The
    57. Longest Yard, The (1974)
    58. Magnificent Seven, The (1960)
    59. Maltese Falcon, The
    60. Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The
    61. Matrix, The
    62. Midnight In Paris
    63. Mighty Wind, A
    64. Mildred Pierce
    65. Monty Python And The Holy Grail
    66. Mosquito Coast
    67. Murder My Sweet
    68. My Fair Lady
    69. Nightmare Alley
    70. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
    71. Outlaw Josey Wales, The
    72. Pale Rider
    73. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
    74. Princess Bride, The
    75. Pulp Fiction
    76. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
    77. Reservoir Dogs
    78. Richard III (1955)
    79. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
    80. Rounders
    81. Scent Of A Woman
    82. Sense And Sensibility (1995)
    83. Seven Samurai
    84. Silverado
    85. Six-String Samurai
    86. Smokey And The Bandit
    87. Snatch
    88. Sunset Boulevard
    89. Sword Of Doom, The
    90. Tombstone
    91. Touch Of Evil
    92. Trumbo
    93. Waiting For Godot
    94. Watchmen, The
    95. When Harry Met Sally
    96. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
    97. Wild At Heart
    98. Wilde
    99. Yellow Submarine
    100. Yojimbo

And there’s my list (which is, of course, subject to change at any moment). If you question my taste, logic, ore sanity for anything I included or didn’t, let me know in the comments!

Horror 365, Movie 81: The Watcher In The Woods

Disney and Buena Vista–not things one typically associates with horror, so yeah I was fully aware of the risks going in. But I’d been meaning to get to The Watcher In The Woods for a long time. Then I saw Lucy McPhee (super early spoilers comin’) mention it on Top 5 Horror Movies With Almost No Deaths. I really like Ms. McPhee and her aesthetics in terms of horror movies. I generally trust her recommendations, and she’s never let me down so…why not?

Plus there’s Bette Davis! How bad could it be?

Well, let’s start there with the fact that it’s certainly not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Really, not even close. Cuz again, Bette Davis. The best description I can give you is part Nancy Drew mystery, part feel-good cosmic horror. If you can imagine H.P. Lovecraft with a happy ending, you’re on the right track, plus the plot itself is actually pretty interesting.

A teenager, Karen Aylwood, disappears. Many years later Karen’s mother, Mrs. Aylwood (hey,  is that Bette Davis??) is in need of money, so she rents out her estate and lives in the cottage on the grounds (a cottage that’s nicer than any place I’ve ever lived but whatever). A family moves in with their two daughters, Jan and her younger sister Ellie. Jan looks very much like Karen which arouses Mrs. Aylwood’s curiosity.

The two girls are then haunted by the spirit of someone or something that wants their help with this ill-defined Karen situation. Lots of creepy little incidents start to befall the girls literally the minute they move in. Windows and mirrors crack, Ellie keeps hearing voices and going into paranormal trances, Jan nearly drowns. Good times.

For the most part the acting is decent, and the script is more or less okay. Jan gets a bit shrill here and there, but I’ve made it through worse. Also tricky casting Bette Davis in a character acting role. Cuz she’s Bette Goddamn Davis. Aside from her, the movie, “boasts” figure skater turned actress Lynn-Holly Johnson who would go on to The Spy Who Loved Me and something else I’ve seen her in but can’t for the life of me pin down (shit…this is gonna bug me all night). There’s also a very young Escape From Witch Mountain Kyle Richards and an incidental at best David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., NCIS).

And yet, the movie still works on a number of levels. There’s a respectable amount of genuine tension in the race to save/find/help the missing Karen. Mrs. Aylwood is just creepy and secretive enough to keep you guessing. There’s a little bit of a ritualistic, culty, Lovecraftian cosmic weirdness vibe about what actually happened to Karen. Jan’s disappearance when the original ritual is repeated comes as a legit shock. The otherworldly special effects are a little lacking, but the practical effects of The Big Bad work surprisingly well. It’s somewhat Cthulhu-like, just minus, y’know, the despair and madness the goes along with the Elder Gods.

All in all, if you find yourself needing a wee break from death, gore, and dread, give this one a watch.

Oh, and Bette Davis.


SKULLS
8
BODIES
Not. A single. One.
Available on YouTube
Wait wait I got it! Lynn-Holly Johnson was in the “Enemy Within” episode of MacGyver! You know, the one where he makes a defibrillator out of two candlesticks and a power cord from a lamp. Whew…I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

Horror 365, Movie 80: The Tingler

Ah, William Castle, king of the late late night horror fest. Between Bill Cardille’s Chiller Theater on WIIC, Ghost Host on WPTT, Thing Theater on WPGH, and the film series they used to have at Pittsburgh Playhouse, I saw more than my fair share of William Castle flicks.

I’m not, however, extolling the virtues of Mr. Castle’s prodigious directorial career just now. Another time perhaps. I want to focus on just one of his countless visionary creations that spawned many upon many a slimy, parasitic creepy crawly to come.

tinglerBack before Night Of The Creeps ripped off Shivers, then Slither ripped off Night Of The Creeps, William Castle trotted out The Tingler. Yep, The Tingler, so named for the initial spine-tingling sensation fear has on us. Hey I didn’t say the writing was spectacular. Still, better than, I dunno, The Hidden.

Lemme be up front here. I love me some Hitchcock as a director, but he was also an A+ showman. Check out his tour of the house to promote Psycho, or just about any opening to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But  William Castle just piles it on with gimmickry and hucksterism up his sleeve to give P.T. Barnum a substantial run for his money.

Look at Castle’s monologues before The Tingler, Homicidal, or 13 Ghosts. Tell me he wasn’t ripping whole pages out of ol’ Phineas Taylor’s playbook.

Castle was no slouch as a director either, but to give you a sense of that, I’ll let John Waters do the talking, first because he’s yet another of my all time favorite directors, second because he himself talks about Castle’s influence on him, and third, because he sums things up better than I ever could.

“The Tingler is an organism that grows in your body and gets larger and larger when you’re frightened, and the only way you can kill it is to scream. Well, naturally there’s a mute in the film.” Not hard to see where that’s gonna go. More importantly, this may well be the original Slurpie Movie.

If you’re not familiar, you can read a Slurpie Movie overview here. The point is, the Slurpie “subgenre” slime trail leads back to The Tingler where all the hallmarks of The Slurpie Movie were arguably established. A slug, worm, mollusk, or slug/worm/mollusk-like creature, often alien, usually parasitic, infects a human body.

It then wreaks havoc as only a parasitic slug/worm/mollusk thing can.

tingler2
How is this not a Slurpie?

The Tingler is a kind of centipede/earwig/rubberized lobster tail hybrid.

It’s better than it sounds. Trust me.

The nasty little sucker itself is not the issue. According to Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price, so what’s not to love?) everyone has one of these things. It’s activated by fear but subdued by screaming.

Of course.

This is where it gets, uh, interesting. There’s a noirish subplot involving Dr. Chapin, his wife, her sister, and an inheritance. Also, full marks for possibly the first onscreen depiction of LSD use (nice & legal back in good ol’ 1959).

But to return to Martha, the mute woman. Obviously she can’t scream. If you can’t scream, The Tingler crushes your spine. Martha’s husband, Ollie, learns this from Dr. Chapin and uses that knowledge to scare her literally to death.

Ollie calls the good doctor who then removes The Tingler. See, since she couldn’t scream, nothing shrank the thing back to its microscopic size. Trouble is, now it can’t be destroyed either. Well, Ollie and his now late wife live above the theater that they run.

Of course.

It all culminates near the end of the film. Dr. Chapin turns out the theater lights (at this point the screen goes black) and says “Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic, but scream! Scream for your lives!”

tingler3It’s better than it sounds. Trust me. Why?

It’s all thanks to Percepto.

Here’s John Waters again.

“These little buzzers went off under the seat and gave you a little electric shock. It was so good. Y’know. When it finally came to the theater in my neighborhood, they only bothered to wire about two or three of the seats, so I’d go early and look under every seat until I found the Percepto buzzer and then just sit there and get my ass buzzed all day long.”

What could possibly be better?

And now, dear readers–

egress


SKULLS
12
BODIES
1 onscreen
2 offscreen
Available on Plex, Shudder, Tubi. For rent on Apple TV+, Google Play, Prime, Vudu, YouTube