Paul Gannon is the man behind the 13th Hour Horror Festival show Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost and here he talks about his top ten horror films which unsurprisingly includes Ghostbusters!
Paul Gannon’s Top 10 Horror Movies
Paul Gannon – Writing a top 10 list of anything is hard… What am I forgetting? How do I rank my choices? Does “Step Up2: The Streets” count as a horror movie?
I will do my best to list 10 of my favourite horror film, in no particular order, just as they come to me… But I may get desperate as we get to the bottom of the list!
The Haunting (1963)
Without a doubt, my favourite horror film. THE classic haunted house movie. It’s beautifully shot, has an eerie dream like atmosphere and has genuine unnerving moments of visceral and psychological horror. The ‘bulging door’ scene is a horror classic moment. It’s also brilliant in that, even when the final credits roll, you can’t be 100% sure there was anything supernatural occurring at all!
Yes, it’s scary and especially when I was young! Remember the shocking scene in the library where they say, “Get her!” or the scene when Sigourney Weaver is attacked by her armchair? Both are well directed and terrifying scenes. It also helps that it’s the best Lovecraft movie ever made with some of the best and most quotable dialogue of the 80s. It also helps that this is my favourite film of all time, ever!
Although strictly speaking it’s not a ‘movie’ – as it is a 90 minute long BBC Halloween special – it IS still scary as hell and has not been improved upon by any number of Paranormal Activities or other found footage horrors.
Stephen Volk’s script is a masterpiece of horror writing, mixing classic scares with domestic tragedy.
Theatre of Blood (1973)
I love a good gimmick and the ‘supposed dead hammy actor kills theatre critics in the style of Shakespearian deaths’ is a winner. It’s like ‘Se7en’ but with more gags and Vincent Price being bloody marvellous. It’s a glorious piece of 70’s hammy horror and although dated, its charming in its attempt to amuse and shock, often at the same time.
1973 was a good year for British horror… You cannot be a living, breathing Englishman and NOT love The Wicker Man. For most of its running time, you would be hard pressed to call this film “horror” (in fact, it’s more like a Pagan musical with tits at times) but once the pieces all begin to fall into place and the big reveal happens, you’ll be just as horrified as its main protagonist. It’s fantastic.
The Monster Sqaud (1987)
This film is just pure fun. The Goonies meets Ghostbusters meets classic monster movie and directed by Fred Dekker who did the fantastic Night of the Creeps. Oh and the film was also scripted by Shane Black, who went on to create Lethal Weapon and make a tonne of money. The film is a thrilling romp with some decent scares and even a few choice gore moments. If nothing else, it has the immortal line “Wolfman’s got nards!” which settled that argument once and for all.
The Mist (2007)
There are more well known and universally loved Stephen King adaptations (Maximum Overdrive, I am talking about you, obviously) but The Mist is just a gut punch after gut punch until its ending, which practically kicks you to the ground, spits on you and threatens you to “stand up and see what happens”. Despite a wonderful collection of monsters and creepy slimy creatures, the true horror comes from how the human characters break down and turn savage. It’s an emotionally draining film and one that, I think, will be a true classic years from now.
I largely don’t care for slasher films, as they are very much a ‘rinse and repeat’ part of the horror world, but with Scream I’d found a film that both mocks and yet celebrates the genre. It also made me appreciate a good slasher film too. I’m a huge fan of things that get a little ‘meta’, often to the point of distraction, but with Scream, you get a solid slasher film with a great ‘whodunnit’ element as well as a funny deconstruction of the films that swamped theatres of the late 70s and 80s. The impact of Scream has only really been lessened by the its own sequels and cheap knock off wannabes.
I’ve lumped these two films together because it was either both or neither for this list. Basically, I am cheating.
Both films, like Scream, take a 4th wall breaking approach to Horror and yet manage to successfully use that device to same something about the horror genre without deflating it. Behind the Mask is a film that is best described as Spinal Tap meets Scream, where a documentary crew follow the preparations of a Jason/Myers style killer as he sets up his night of mayhem. When the movie moves from grainy documentary footage to full on classy cinematics, you have this wonderful pull back and reveal that is pure genius.
Cabin in the Woods is a film that is hard to categorise. It is primarily a horror, but it’s also a damned fine comedy, sci-fi opus and utterly crazy funhouse movie that the less you know about it going in, the better. It may not be the scariest movie ever made, but it is definitely one of the most fun and mind boggling. Drew Goddard Joss Whedon and have crafted a perfect slice of movie magic and it deserves your attention.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Yes, really! Before all the hype kicked in, the boon to the ‘found footage’ style became stale and its own messy sequel, The Blair Witch Project was a true breath of fresh air to horror. I saw it at a film fest in LA and, for a short while, was seduced by the ‘this is real’ angle it was selling. It probably still is the only of the found footage films to really shine and understand its own logic so that, by the time the crew find themselves at that small house in the woods, you are at the very edge of your seat and know this isn’t going to end well.
It remains a sharp little shocker that knows how to tighten the screws.
So there you go, that’s my list. Ask me next week, it may be different, but for me, these are the films that spark my imagination or give me the creeps…
Damn, I forgot to add Evil Dead 2…
You can find Paul Gannon on Twitter here @paulgannonshow. His show ‘Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost’ plays on Friday 2nd November 2012. Tickets Here