Fellow monster fans, there’s a disturbing fact we must face around the same time each year: Few gift buyers immediately associate the post-Halloween holidays with horror movies! The everyday shopper can therefore be forgiven for not realizing that you’d be especially thrilled to receive one of your favorite chiller classics (past or present) in your stocking, or that mega-size gift set under the tree.
So, in the spirit of the holidays, I’m here to help you out and provide a service to relatives, longtime companions, and any other colleagues, best pals, or associates eager to please their beast fiends. If you don’t already own at least one of the following 10 fright-acular films, you may feel free to forward this post to all those concerned.
I’m going to endeavor to avoid some of most obvious of gift items. We all know that the Alien Quadrilogy has been re-issued in grand style on Blu-ray; what self-respecting fan of gut-wrenching fright hasn’t got the high-def release of The Exorcist high on his or her wish list?
We won’t get into any long or involved critiques here. Just a quick run-down of the 10 titles I believe you’ll find more than worthy additions to your shriek cinema shelf. Here are your Shocking Stuffers for 2010:
Lars von Trier is one of our boldest and most uncompromising filmmakers, and this latest excursion only adds to his reputation for fearlessness. Would it be blasphemous to place this excruciatingly intense picture about an intellectually gifted couple grieving the tragic loss of their young child into brightly-colored gift wrapping? Not if the recipient is a connoisseur of unremittingly dark and daring psychodrama. Be forewarned, however, and know your audience. This movie isn’t for everyone. It was for me (check here for a more detailed appraisal), and that’s why I place it on the list.
Perhaps the most thrilling cinematic discovery of the decade, huge (and previously thought forever lost) chunks of the narrative for Fritz Lang’s timeless, silent sci-fi masterwork have been restored to the film, rewarding fans old and new with an even more sweeping saga that taught us “the mediator between the head and hands must be the heart.” Breathlessly anticipating a remake? That’s what I thought—me neither. This re-release of a revered picture, with so many new visual wonders and the fantastic backstory of its discovery, is far better than any re-imagining.
I gave you fair warning about Antichrist while recommending it all the same. The same goes, well, triple for Tom Six’s already infamous exercise in body horror. In my earlier review of the film, I asserted its power rivaled Pasolini’s Salo. I will go a step further and predict it will have an even more visible longevity. The picture is positively diabolical, taking the most nerve-shattering of high concepts and stirring it into a boiling cauldron of wicked humor and grueling imagery.
I’m interested down the road in discussing this Criterion Collection discovery at greater length. For now, just know that for most viewers who say they’ve “seen it all”…if they haven’t seen this Japanese cult classic of goofy humor and baroque chills, they’re mistaken. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi may actually be better known, if you can believe it, for a series of hilariously strange cologne commercials he did with Charles Bronson in the 1970s. The release of this immensely strange haunted house movie should serve to enlarge his cult reputation considerably in the U.S. More later, but do your discerning self a favor and make sure you see this movie.
Still—still—the best horror musical ever. Fun no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
I added this silent-era treat to my own library recently, and took pains to encourage those only familiar with star Paul Wegener’s legendary turn as The Golem to seek out this early gem of the “mad scientist” genre. See it to experience the old-fashioned style you’ve come to know and love from much better-known fare. See it because it has a terrific new musical score that’ll please you big-time as a knowledgeable fan of classic fright film music. See it to let the studios know you support the release of this unique back catalog product. But really, just see it because it’ll give you the “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” thrill.
Santa Claus and Merlin team up to battle the Devil. This Mexican-made oddity from 1959 must be seen to be believed. And then, it must be passed on to friends who will thank you for exposing them to its giddy strangeness. You’re welcome, in advance.
You need it because you love KARLOFF. You need it because it’s one of the most eagerly awaited releases for horror fans in ages. You need it because it’s classy, literate, stylish, and spooky good fun. Yes, yes, we all love The Twilight Zone, but as sure as I’m writing these words for this column, your acquisition of this beloved anthology series is bound to be…a thriller!
It’s time for a confession. I love Hammer Films…and I’ve never seen it. I know of its reputation, but it somehow escaped me. So I make this suggestion solely on the assumption that if one Hammer fan has missed it, there may well be others. Deliver this Blu-ray release to the monster kid of your choosing and they will no doubt sink their teeth in right away.
Last seen from MGM on Laserdisc, the talkie remake of this quirky Lon Chaney melodrama is available as part of the Warner Archive series. I own that great old laserdisc, which was placed on a double-bill with the excellent jungle thriller West of Zanzibar, but, like the previous recommendation, I’ve not seen the original silent version. Chaney completists will want to add this exciting release to their libraries, as well as another terrific Chaney outing (and the first-ever film to feature the famous Leo the Lion), He Who Gets Slapped. I’m indeed curious how effectively one can dramatize the story of a ventriloquist in a silent picture.
We are, however, talking about the team of Chaney and director Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks). “What, me worry?” I can’t wait to enjoy it.
Here’s hoping your holidays are filled with good cheer and only the coziest of chills!
Looking for a few more Christmas movie titles? If so, check out our Christmas Movie Mashup!