Top 10 Horror Movies

Yes, Halloween is upon us and what better to celebrate than to release my favorite horror movies – countdown style.

I didn’t do this last year because I was in my self-important writer phase and blogging about such lists would’ve been ludicrous. Times have changed and I want to weigh in on what’s a good scare.

(Click on the links to learn more about each movie)

10. The Descent: A nice horror movie that gets it right as far as what’s scary. It’s not over the top gory, campy, or ridiculous. What it is, is well-acted, solid plot, and characters you can invest in. I believe it was released as an independent movie and grew at a grass roots level. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and that’s hard for me to get worked up like that these days (the scariest thing to me is looking at my check book)!

Quick hit: A group of chicks go spelunking in rural Tennessee only to get lost in a cavern and wind up defending themselves against bunch of albino half human monsters.

9. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things: This is a solid zombie movie complete with creepy settings, strange music, and an old cemetery. It was made in 1972 on a shoestring budget, but that’s what adds to the scare factor. The acting is OK, but the movie as a whole delivers.

Quick hit: A small film crew (I think they’re actually hippies but whatever) lands on a deserted island to film a movie and raise the dead (spoiler: this does not end well for them).

 8. My Bloody Valentine: It’s not the best horror movie ever. It’s actually your standard slasher flick, but does have some redeeming qualities. The antagonist was a miner and uses a pick ax to kill his victims…righteous! This is on the list because my best friend and I used to watch this movie on a TV with poor UHF reception. We were probably too young to watch a movie like this but the title just draws you to the movie.

Quick hit: A horrible mining accident some years ago stops a town from celebrating V-day. A bunch of horny high school kids decide to celebrate after 20 years and guess what happens…

7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: I might be in the minority on this movie, but it’s not that scary. It’s disturbing and unsettling. It’s chaotic, loud, and manic. I think there’s a scene in the movie where there’s no dialogue just screaming and the sound of chainsaws. Actually, the protagonist is a real scream queen, and you actually feel that she’s genuinely scared.

Quick hit: A bunch of kids (sound familiar?) are driving in somewhere Texas when their van breaks down (oh no). They’re soon terrorized by a chainsaw wielding cannibal and his family.

6. Zombieland: This isn’t just a zombie film – it’s a smart zombie film (possibly an oxymoron). For maybe the first time in history of zombie films, the characters are not idiots. They live by rules of survival and don’t leave much to a chance of danger. So why is it a good movie? Because it’s fun! Woody Harrelson is awesome and so is the rest of the cast. I enjoyed this movie for its take on zombies and for the humor.

Quick hit: The after shock of a zombie apocalypse leaves four survivalists in search of a safe haven that happens to be a rollercoaster-theme park.

5. Sleepy Hollow: Doesn’t follow the short story by Washington Irving, but nonetheless entertaining. Tim Burton is at his best with this movie as he crafts mystery and horror. I love watching this film because of the imagery. Most of the movie is gray so when anything of color comes into the screen it really pops. Also, I’m a sucker for 18th century American time pieces; making it a horror themed one is a bonus.

Quick hit: Headless horseman is in search of…heads! Ichabod Crane is sent to investigate but finds the horseman is more than just evil.

4. The Shining: This movie might be known more as a Jack Nicholson movie than a Stephen King novel. I’ve never read the novel, but the movie alone spooked me pretty good the first time I saw it. It’s the kind of movie that haunts you well after it’s over.

Quick hit: A family of three occupies a ski lodge for the winter, but it’s haunted and all hell pretty much breaks loose.

3. 28 Days Later: This movie created a lot of controversy because the zombies were super charged and ran like hell after their prey. I didn’t mind it actually added to the tension. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), 28 Days Later has a fresh take on the zombie genre. The first half of this movie is breath-taking; both for the tension and for the world that is left behind. However, the second half is predictable and could have been handled differently. Still a solid horror flick either way. The sequel is pretty good too (28 Weeks Later).

Quick Hit: A man wakes up from a coma and tries to survive the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse (second time I’ve used the phrase).

2. Halloween: No it’s not the Rob Zombie (puh-lease!). This is the John Carpenter original and still stands the test of time. Halloween is the gold standard for slasher flicks and for horror movies. The movie is straightforward and doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. The characters are dealing with the pure evil that is Michael Myers. Today’s horror movies have lost that approach, they want you to understand why the antagonist is evil. Come on! Don’t waste your time on the remake – stick with the original.

Quick hit: Psychopath has unfinished business with his sister and needs to kill her…on Halloween!

1. Night of the Living Dead: This is probably a number one on a lot of lists and it should be. It’s ground breaking and introduced a genre that’s still going strong some 40 years later. The scares aren’t much by today’s standard, but you can enjoy it for the storytelling. Or if you want to go deeper, analyse it for the social commentary. I have watched this movie countless times and still enjoy it. If that house still exists outside of Pittsburgh, I’m adding it to my bucket list of places to visit.

Quick hit: A group of people are trapped in a farm-house by zombies. They find out what is more terrifying – fighting zombies or each other.

Just a couple of honorable mentions: Shaun of the Dead, From Dusk till Dawn, and  Evil Dead.

There you have it, my top ten horror movies. I welcome comments and arguments. Or better yet send me your top ten and we’ll debate!

Happy Halloween!

I changed my tagline

I ‘ve made some changes to my blog to create better traffic but also to streamline my message of why I have this blog. My most recent update was the tagline. I had tagged this blog as a way to document my path to becoming published. An earnest idea at best, but the reality is that getting published is hard. It’s a long road with lots of detours. I was pretty naive to think this blog would unfold the path of becoming published. The reality is that getting published takes time. Every post (in the beginning) focused on what I was doing to reach my goal. Then, there were gaps. Query letters went out without responses. I revised my novel for the fourth time. But the blog really wasn’t moving forward.

My blog then evolved to include thoughts about writing and reflections about the horror and science fiction genres. I went further to include tips and resources I found about writing. What I have now as a blog is a diversified outlet of information and things I like to discuss. Yes, traffic is picking up (mostly because of my Armageddon Week post), and while I’m not published the focus is still there.

I’ve matured as a writing since I started this blog a year ago. I was certain that it would only take time for my novel to find an agent and then a publisher (try not to laugh too hard!). Now I’ve realized that my goal of becoming published might not look like I thought it did a year. I’m actually OK with this realization. I feel my writing has improved (and will continue to), but more importantly I know patience and persistence are just as important as a good idea.

Reading as a Writer – Part I

I started reading Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers last week. I’m critically looking at how Heinlein shows the world he has built. There’s no info dump. There isn’t a bunch of telling or overwhelming detail. Heinlein’s feeding me details he thinks is necessary.  

I also took notice of the opening of the book. It didn’t start with dialogue, or in the middle of an action scene. Instead, it began with the main character explaining his first mission. I wasn’t sure exactly where he was in time and space because it didn’t matter. I’m sixty pages in and I still don’t know what year it is or the main character’s hometown. Again, I’m on a need to know basis and have to be patient and focus on the details given.

More to come on this reading process…

PubIt!

I’m unsure of when the technology was actually launched but PubIt! looks like its making a splash onto the scene this week. It’s a free site that allows authors to publish pretty much anything. Primarily targeted for e-books, authors can also upload essays, short stories, etc. The site is run by Barnes and Noble and looks pretty slick. I believe this is not the first site to do this but certainly the first big book seller to embrace the era of self-publishing.

I’ve toyed with the idea of self-publishing, but I can’t pull the trigger on that one. I still like the idea of an agent accepting my work and then trying to sell it to a publishing house. However, I do believe in e-books; they are the future for publishing. I have to think the overhead on an e-book is next to nothing compared to traditional print. The catch is how many Nooks or iPads can be sold to support this platform? I haven’t purchased one and it’s not that I’m resisting – I can’t afford one right now! It’s on my wish list for sure.

As an emerging writer I’m excited about this digital platform. I believe this will open up the publishing world for folks like me. Today’s print platform is so hard to break into because of the contraction of the market. There are so few players that they have the option to be stingy on what gets printed. I give this digital revolution another eighteen months to really ramp up. The price of e-readers will come down as competition heats up and prices come down.

It’s an exciting time to be a writer! Platforms like PubIt! will only further the change going on in the publishing industry and making it more promising for writers to emerge.

Armageddon It! (or my way of getting attention)

I recently noticed a spike in the number of hits I received on my blog. Great, right? Well, kind of. For awhile I enjoyed watching my stats increase week after week for the last couple months. I figured I blogged some really good content other writers were checking out. Turns out that’s not quite the case. I checked out my blog stats and a post from January has been doing most of the heavy lifting.

Seems people love Armageddon more than I do. I guess in the world of Google, Armageddon must be a sought after topic. Cool for me but not for my writing. The post reviewed Armageddon week on the History channel. I like to indulge in occasional apocalyptic entertainment and felt the History channel presenting some decent programming.

This blogs primarily tracks my effort as a writer striving to get published, but I also want to share what interests me. Folks should also get to know my tastes for fiction and what inspires me to write.

As my wife has learned, I like post-apocalyptic fiction (tv, movies, books, music). In most stories I write I try to integrate that setting in some fashion. While it’s fun to imagine a Mad Max type world of survival, it’s far removed from reality. Maybe that’s why I like it – it’s far from my what my real life is like that it’s a true escape.

Lately, I’ve been piecing ideas of what my next novel will be about. I want to jump into a world where the modern life is no more and survival is paramount. Anarchy rules the country, and people set off to fight for land and resources. Yet I’m drifting from that. The world  I’m building is actually alive and kicking. Fully functioning and moving forward, if you will. What I’m exciting about is taking my characters away from their go forward world and placing them in a setting where progress stopped. Imagine if life as we know in 2010 stopped? Progress came to a halt yet the rest of the world moved on. If I had to go back to that world that stopped. what would that be like? That’s the type of Armageddon I’m imagining at this point. I like what I’m flushing out. Wish me luck.