There are a lot of remakes coming out of Hollywood right now. If you need a break from familiar Stephen King novels and the fortieth reboot of “Frankenstein”, we have the cure. Here’s a look back into the hellish history of horror cinema for some truly original gems that will leave you shivering like the first time you watched an “R” rated movie.
7) Bubba Ho-Tep (2002):
Bruce Campbell is most famous for his role as Ash from the “Evil Dead” series, but his greatest work will always be Bubba Ho-Tep. Campbell plays Elvis, in a nursing home, fighting monsters. Yes this movie exists, you’re welcome. Over the course of the story he befriends a man name Jack, who is President John F. Kennedy, with his brain switched into a marginally senile old black man. (Think Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, with a mad scientist/political twist.) There are so many one liner gems that you’d think the movie was made specifically for their existence. Watch this movie, then watch it again, and you’ll die knowing you’ve experienced the best that human culture has to offer, twice.
6) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Everyone’s seen “the Exorcist”, but have you seen the Oscar winning movie that inspired it? Rosemary’s baby was way, way ahead of it’s time. The movie follows the horrifying journey of ingénue-esque Rosemary Woodhouse as she slowly realizes that her child is the son of the devil. That may sound derivative, but when Rosemary’s baby came out it was a brand new concept, and nobody has done it better since. The advantage of being a totally original work is that you never really know what is going to happen next. If you want to lose sleep but don’t like dealing with a constant barrage of jump scares, this movie is definitely for you.
5) Cabin in the woods (2012)
Cabin in the woods has spawned a host of iconic horror gifs, but people sharing memes rarely know the source material. The movie is a visual treat and very self-aware, it comes off as a love letter to fans of the horror genre. In a very meta move, the movie not only acknowledges the well-trodden horror tropes, it embraces them. The final scenes look like a “Who framed Roger Rabbit” of horror; bringing together monsters that nobody ever thought they would see on screen at the same time. Tie the whole thing together with a not so subtle nod towards the Lovecraftian mythos, and you have a guilty pleasure that will cling to you after watching like a murderous merman you never saw coming.
4) Eden Lake (2008)
What would happen if “Lord of the flies” invaded a romantic comedy? Eden Lake. Rather than have a voracious monster or middle aged maniac Eden Lake makes crazy kids the bad guy. What starts as a romantic getaway for two lovers, (one of which is about to propose… awwww.) Turns into a psychological thriller that will make you drive past schools a little faster. If you’re tired of kids running from “It”, and you want to see kids BE “It”, watch Eden Lake.
3) Freaks (1932)
Chanting “One of us, One of us,” was not originally a joke. It was originally a terrifying moment in the 1932 classic, Freaks. The crazy thing about “Freaks” is it actually has gotten creepier with the passage of time. The classic black and white aesthetic makes you forgive the fact that the movie utilizes actual physical deformity to create an aberrant tone. The thing that really makes the movie resonate is the fact that most of what is going on is actually real. Knowing that there is minimal use of costumes and make-up gives the film a punch that couldn’t be duplicated today.
2) A tale of two sisters (2003)
Sometimes, remaking a horror movie poorly can overshadow the amazing original that inspired the knockoff. “A tale of two sisters” is one such example. The South Korean dramatic thriller spawned the 2009 film “The Univited”, and unfortunately the poorly executed spin off drew attention away from the incredible source material. The film follows the story of two sisters, one of which has recently left a mental hospital, and places them in a country home with their “really not grieving about the death of his wife” father and their new mysterious “I wonder if she has anything to do with this weird haunting” step-mother. The twists and turns of this thriller make it worth reading subtitles, and in many ways the foreign language adds to the bizarre horror flick, by making it even more mysterious and unpredictable. If you think you know where the movie is going and are already guessing the ending, then you REALLY need to watch this, because whatever you’re thinking… you are way wrong.
1) Roar (1981):
If you’re tired of cgi monsters tearing apart cgi humans, watch Roar. This notorious and fascinating movie used real life lions, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, jaguars, and tigers. They took deadly untrained animals, and put them with untrained people. Actors, production assistants, cinematographers, and even the assistant director were literally mauled several times during production. Members of the cast and crew needed treatment for gangrene, plastic surgery, and lots and lots of stitches over the course of filming. 70 people were seriously hurt, and several almost died. The film was so dangerous that Actress/producer Tippi Hedren announced publicly, during filming, that there would never be a “Roar” sequel. When the producer passes on the opportunity to generate hype for a sequel, you know things are serious. This is probably the only movie where Peta was as concerned about the human cast as the animal one. Because of the actual violence and nearly deadly production, the movie wasn’t originally released in the United States, but you can watch the re-release now for educational purposes. Fair warning, humans and animals were both harmed, and three lions were shot during a flood that caused the animals to panic. Thankfully, the movie inspired sweeping changes in animal handling and serves as an example of what not to do. Principle photography alone was originally supposed to take six months to make, but ended up taking four years. Roar’s horrific 11 total years of production serves as a reminder of how important proper animal handling is. Tippi Hedren was quoted saying, “This was probably one of the most dangerous films that Hollywood has ever seen. It’s amazing that no one was killed.” We officially condemn all forms of animal abuse, but this horror movie tops the list because it is a reminder why we have to. Roar is important not just because of the changes it caused in animal handling, but also because it’s the only horror movie where the monsters, and the terror on the actor’s faces, are both very real.