10. The Beyond (1981)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar
In 1927 Louisiana, a group of angry villagers brutally assault and crucify a man named Sweick, a painter and alleged warlock living in the Seven Doors Hotel, the apparent guardian of a door to hell situated in the hotel’s basement. Fifty-four years later, a young woman purchases the old hotel and notices bizarre occurrences that are intensified after she meets a peculiar blind girl named Emily. Detailing that she must leave the establishment before the gate is opened, a plumber inadvertently locates a hidden room in the bowels of the hotel thereby allowing hell’s minions to walk the Earth.
The Beyond is a mixture of surrealism and straightforward horror, and this mixture naturally makes for a lot of happenings that don’t make much sense. For this reason, The Beyond can be difficult for people to “get,” often feeling like a linear narrative that is thrown together without any sense of “how” or “why,” but in reality the events’ lack of logic is exactly what makes them horrifying. Combine this purposeful lack of logic with deceptively adept pacing, and you have a true horror masterpiece.
9. Day Of The Dead (1985)
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Lori Cardille, Joseph Pilato, Terry Alexander, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard, Gary Howard Klar, Ralph Marrero
Day Of The Dead is the third in Romero’s classic “dead” trilogy and perhaps the last film he produced that has been universally accepted. While he has, to date, produced three more zombie films (including the aforementioned Land Of The Dead), Day Of The Dead is considered something of a closing note on Romero’s epic zombie apocalypse saga – perhaps the other three acting as appendices. Either way, it’s a strong little film which holds together relative well. It will never be as iconic as the two earlier films produced – The Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead – but it still feels like a fitting companion piece.
Set in a now completely overrun world of the dead, a small band of human scientists and soldiers hunker in an underground bunker and try to figure out how to live with the zombies rather than destroy them. Things don’t work out well. And the film’s climax, in which the zombies gain access into the bunker and get to finger-ripping, eye-gouging work, is a thing of visceral, and viscera-packed, beauty.
8. Braindead (1992)
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin, Stuart Devenie
Before Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, New Zealand’s Peter Jackson was a horror and splatter movie titan, giving us the low-budget gross-out-fest Bad Taste, the extremely tasteless Meet The Feebles, the demented and deranged Heavenly Creatures, and Braindead (aka Dead Alive) – one of the most over-the-top zombie movies of all time.
When 25-year-old virgin Lionel falls for the lovely Paquita, he provokes his domineering mother’s jealousy. Soon after, a toxic nip from a Sumatran rat-monkey at the local zoo transforms Lionel’s mother – through several putrescent stages – into a hideous, pustulant monster with a craving for human flesh. The finale, in which Lionel reduces a horde of flesh-eaters to a mulch of blood, flesh and offal with the aid of a running lawnmower, is probably the goriest scene ever. Still, Braindead is a very funny, clever, and upbeat movie. It’s horror, but more in the Sam Raimi, Evil Dead style. It has rapid takes and quick witticisms with comic gore and slapstick action galore. A genre gem for sure.
7. Re-Animator (1985)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson
There will be some people that will read this and scoff at Re-Animator being called a zombie movie, but the film – a HP Lovecraft adaptation about two med students who discover a way to re-animate dead things, but not how to make anything more then mindless and bloodthirsty brutes – is pure zombie fodder by any other name.
For gore-hounds, Stuart Gordon’s cult favorite truly has it all: blood, guts, boobies, cunnilingus with severed heads, and the darkest of comedy. And, surprisingly, critics such as Roger Ebert and old New York Times writer Janet Maslin loved Gordon’s flick back when it premiered in 1982, the latter going so far as to call Re-Animator “ingenious.” Filled to the brim with black humor, to call Re-Animator campy and leave it at that seems like a knee-jerk reaction to discredit, or disregard, the clear skill behind a truly excellent horror movie. Even at its most outrageous, it’s controlled by a steady, confident hand with a plan.
6. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Director: Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton
Edgar Wright’s introductory entry into the Cornetto trilogy kick-started a glut of British horror comedies that would come flushing down the pike in subsequent years, though none could quite live up to the brilliant wit, smart in-jokes and creative gore of Shaun Of The Dead.
To whip the film into shape, Wright and the film’s co-writer/star Simon Pegg, pooled their shared affinities for the classic Romero zombie movies of old together; more importantly, though, they saw the spot-on correlation that can be made with lifeless corpses shuffling around aimlessly and uninspired adults drifting through life in dreary jobs and mundane surroundings. That’s where the nonstop comedy derives from. Wright utilizes every trick in the book to launch meta joke after joke at the audience (who can forget the “We’re coming to get you Barbra” line?). It’s a love letter to past horror movies, but thankfully perfectly capable of standing on it’s own two feet if all the references go over your head.