The Kenblog: Older Horror Movies That Still Hold Up Today!

First let’s go back to the early 1970’s and start with what many believe to be the scariest movie of all time. This is “The Exorcist” from 1973 from William Friedkin with a screenplay by the author of the bestselling novel, William Peter Blatty. What makes this movie timeless has very little to do with the pea soup vomit or the 360-degree turning of the head: it has everything to do with the adult themes and the uncomfortable notion of a demon possessing a 12-year-old girl just for the hell (pardon the unintentional pun) of it. Great performances, horrifying but relatable themes, and an every increasing sense of dread make “The Exorcist” a film that sticks with you long after the end credits have played. (Also check out the incredibly underrated “Exorcist III” featuring George C. Scott in 1990. It’s terrific!)

Warning: Explicit Language
Warning: Explicit Language!
The Exorcist III – Scary Nurse Scene

The next one on the list is another classic from the late 70s by a certified master of the genre. This is John Carpenter’s “Halloween” from 1978! Although Bob Clark’s “Black Christmas” hit a few years earlier, this is the film that put the slasher genre on the map. The funny thing is that it’s not particularly bloody or violent. There are only three kills in the film, but the sense of dread and horror Carpenter injects into the proceedings make the movie a creepfest for the ages. Carpenter eschews the idiotic idea of the victims going to where the killer is (hello “Friday The Thirteenth”) in favor of having Michael Myers come home (in broad daylight, disguised on Halloween, no less). Also having Jamie Lee Curtis as a great final girl doesn’t hurt either. Still spooky after over forty years!

It’s amazing to me that in almost forty years, filmmakers have yet to top two of the best werewolf films ever made. The year was 1981 and two of the best makeup artists of all time went head to head with to classic lycanthrope films that still impress today. On one hand you had Joe Dante’s “The Howling” featuring the genius of a young Rob Bottin and on the other you had John Landis’ “An American Werewolf In London” featuring the incredible talents of Rick Baker. Whatever your preference, each film is a certifiable classic with wonderful performances, tight scripts and the aforementioned practical effects that still blow any of the current CGI stuff right off the map. Each film is a masterpiece and a worthy addition to your Halloween viewing list.

Speaking of Rob Bottin, his next project featured a collaboration with legendary director John Carpenter in his update of “The Thing.” This 1982 film is perhaps my favorite horror film of all time and is still a cinematic masterpiece of suspense of body horror. There are only four or five set pieces featuring Bottin’s (with some help from the great Stan Winston) magic, but boy are they doozies. The rest of the film is a riveting exercise in paranoia buoyed by an excellent cast that includes Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Wilford Brimley (sans mustache). Everything about this film is damn near perfect, from the lighting to the music to the ambiguous ending, “The Thing” is one terrific artic frightfest!

Warning: Explicit Language!
Warning: Explicit Language!

Next we come to one of my favorite vampire movies of all time. This is “Fright Night” from Tom Holland. This 1985 film does wear its 80s influences on its sleeve, but that’s part of what makes this film so much fun. The premise is very simple: a high school boy find out that a vampire is living next door to him. Unfortunately said vampire knows the boy knows and is out to silence the kid once and for all. Since no one will believe the kid, he goes to a the host of “Fright Night” a local network horror movie show (think Peter Cushing in Hammer Horror Films, only gone to seed), to help him take out the nasty vampire once and for all. This film is a great combination of comedy and horror. The first half is filled with laughs and the script really has fun playing with the accepted tropes of vampire mythology. The second half of the film focuses more on the horror (and it does get pretty bloody) but never completely abandons the humor makes this movie so damn good. The cast is great with Chris Sarandon making a terrific vampire, William Ragsdale as the increasingly desperate teen fighting for his life, and Roddy McDowell as the formerly irrelevant TV host who finds a new meaning in life. Also points to Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, Ragsdale’s best friend who finds himself on the wrong side of the vampire’s teeth. At first used for comic relief, Ed’s arc becomes tragically horrific by film’s end. A vampire tale both timeless and a product of its time (weird but true, trust me) “Fright Night” is one hell of a film!

Finally we have an underrated John Carpenter film from 1987 titled “The Prince Of Darkness.” Featuring an eclectic cast including Jameson Parker, Donald Pleasance, Lisa Blount, Victor Wong and Dennis Dun, this film details the story of a strange cylinder filled with green liquid found in the basement of a church in Los Angeles. Victor Wong’s professor assembles a team of students to investigate the phenomena at the insistence of Donald Pleasance’s priest. Things quickly point to the liquid being not only sentient, but and evil harbinger of the apocalypse. This is a movie that is mired in creepy atmosphere. Carpenter’s talent for lighting, music, and setting up suspenseful settings in on full display here. A deeply unsettling film in the best possible way and a new take on the traditional religious good versus evil scenario. Another plus is having Alice Cooper as a homicidal homeless dude! Enjoy this one with friends. So Sayeth The Kendog!

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