TED’S TOP 10 GENRE-BENDERS! UPDATED!

Having just seen Hellboy 2 and witnessing how effortlessly Guillermo del Toro mixed multiple film genres, I felt obligated to stylize my latest “Ten Films” list after that concept. I mean, if del Toro can make a science fiction/action/horror/fantasy film – and do it effortlessly – why can’t most people figure out how to capture the magic of genre-benders?

Most readers probably have a clue which film genre I cherish most, and with that in mind, I’ve decided to compile my list of the best horror specific genre-benders for all to appreciate.

So, without further ado… I submit to you:

ALIENS, MY FAVORITE ACTION/HORROR FILM.

Aliens is always incorrectly categorized as a science fiction film, but just because a film has creatures from outer space in it, doesn’t make it sci-fi. Aliens is a terrifying horror spectacle with some of the best action setpieces ever captured on film. From the first harrowing drop to the infested planet to the final battle between Ripley and the queen (“Get away from her, you bitch!”), movies rarely get scarier or more action-packed.

SCREAM, MY FAVORITE HORROR/COMEDY FILM.

I originally had Peter Jackson’s Dead/Alive listed as my favorite horror/comedy hybrid, but the more I thought about it, I realized that there is virtually nothing scary about it. Scream, on the other hand, is both terrifying and hilarious from its opening scene until the end credits roll. Ridiculed by some as the birth of “trendy horror”, Scream deserves all the acclaim it can get. It never fails to pull any punches while remaining a hilarious commentary on the then-tired slasher genre.

TENEBRE, MY FAVORITE HORROR/MYSTERY FILM.

Italians do horror/mystery films so well; they gave them their own genre – the giallo. And the film that reigns supreme on the top of my giallo pile is Dario Argento’s Tenebre, a perfect amateur detective story, juxtaposed against grotesque murders falling straight out of a splatter film. Just when you think you can’t handle another twist or scare, the film spins you 180 degrees and covers you in gore. When all is revealed by the film’s end, you’re left with a terrifying, head-scratching reveal unlike before or since.

THE SHINING, MY FAVORITE HORROR/DRAMA FILM.

My short attention span keeps me from enjoying far too many talky dramas, yet there is something inherently brilliant about The Shining’s slow-burn portrayal of a family descending into unimaginable madness. Nicholson gives the performance of his career, building both the drama and horror in every warped expression. When the walls of reality come crashing down in the film’s final act, its all the more terrifying in that its happening to people that you now have a deep emotional attachment to. Plus, it has furries in it.

ARMY OF DARKNESS, MY FAVORITE FANTASY/HORROR FILM.

Very few filmmakers have tried tackling the fantasy/horror hybrid. All those duds that Lucio Fulci churned out must have left a very sour taste in the collective Hollywood mouths. Sam Raimi, however, was able to craft a brilliant third chapter to his Evil Dead series by literally tossing it’s hero into the realm of high fantasy. Bruce Campbell tackles his memorable Connecticut Yankee role with charm and finesse, but it’s the stop-motion skeletons, evil doppelgangers, and fantastical creatures that truly steal the show.

JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING, MY FAVORITE SCI-FI/HORROR FILM.

The Thing is one of those films that defies logic, in that there is no reason why its simplistic plot and cookie-cutter characters should be so engrossing. Yet somehow, under the direction of the once-awesome John Carpenter, the alien life form that infects this remote Antarctic research station ends up becoming one of the cinema’s greatest scream machines. From the moment we first realize just how big its spaceship really is, to the movie’s chilling final image, the film achieves its goals on every level, provoking logical questions and scaring the holy crap out of you.

DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE, MY FAVORITE ROMANTIC HORROR FILM.

Dellamorte Dellamore (released as Cemetery Man in the US) is a movie that, for a short time, was my absolute favorite film. When I first saw Michele Soavi’s gothic masterpiece, I was so caught up in its tale of love and redemption from beyond the grave, that I couldn’t shake it from my head. Years later, it’s still hard to forget – not only because of the beautiful performances by Rupert Everett and Ana Falchi, but because of the horrors that dwell below its surface. The spectre of Death in that film still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

RAVENOUS, MY FAVORITE HORROR/WESTERN FILM.

Once I was able to get past Ravenous’ screeching original score, I was completely riveted to its fast-paced tale of feral flesh-eaters in the Wild West. The fact that it was set in 1847 wasn’t just an afterthought, but an integral part of the storytelling process… and a necessity for any good genre-bender. When Ravenous’ credits roll, you have to mentally step out of the film’s Sierra Nevada fort and back into the 21st century – and you’ll be watching your back for days.

FACES OF DEATH, MY FAVORITE DOCU-HORROR FILM

John Schwartz’s Faces of Death has, over time, lost a lot of its infamy, as nearly all of the footage from it has been proven fake. What tends to be forgotten, however, is how powerful the film still manages to be, even once its outed. The acting is sub-par, but the scenarios themselves are horrifying. Having death presented in a documentary style only furthers its creepiness. Plus, those 70s hairdos are just mind-boggling.

DEATHDREAM, MY FAVORITE WAR/HORROR FILM

All right, so Deathdream isn’t actually about war, itself, but rather the long-lasting effects of war. The image of Richard Backus wandering aimlessly around his home, a member of the living dead, after returning from Vietnam is truly bone-chilling. It manages to be both terrifying and political without every being too heavy-handed. Bob Clark, we miss you. – Ted Geoghegan



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  • http://www.myspace.com/b2hfanzine Morgan

    Bravo on this list, some of my favorite films of all time.

  • Bryan

    I’m an asshole, I know…. Your comments on THE SHINING made me giggle. You mentioned everything the film is not!

  • Vivian Kubrick

    anyone dissing on the non-1997 SHINING must immediately step up and direct a feature film. And it has to be fucking frightening.

  • Bryan

    Vivian….I know you are but what am I? I’m saying this as I stick out my tounge like a 9 year old..like the mentality of your comment!
    The “well make a better film yourself then” defense is the biggest co-out answer. So much for any critical theory. My opinion of SHINING just never changed, as many others did after it became famous. It wasn’t misunderstood when it was savaged by bad reviews and got Razzie Noms in 1980…it’s just that people have become mass -hypnotized into completely ignoring it’s many flaws. A perfect horror film for people who hate horror, I think it’s what happens when you get a director making a movie in a genre he has utter contempt for.
    Why does everyone spit out and recite “back of the box” praise on this one? Grow some independent thought, will ya?

  • http://www.iconsoffright.com Robg

    My independent thought is I like THE SHINING and I could give two shits about what anyone else thinks about it! Reviewers or otherwise!
    That’s my 2 cents! (And believe it or not, that last comment was NOT me. I don’t need to hide behind an alias.) ;-D

  • Bryan

    How boring would this message board be without a little food-for-though conflict?
    I just find people’s recent re-action to THE SHINING much more interesting than the movie itself. Hey, I like it too.I’ve seen it a million times. I just don’t think it’s a movie worth 1/4 of the praise that’s been forced on to it over the last 10 years. Sure, it’s impressive: shot for a whole year, huge sets, fancy shots, A-list director, popular movie star and a budget that would probably be over 100 million in adjusted dollars. It’s got everything money can buy…with a few accessible “art film” pretentions for those on a steady diet of mainstream popcorn. I’m just not surprised when it was discovered they were shooting it with an unfinished script.
    I’ve learned that most people root for Jack in this movie for some reason. You’re not supposed to. A drunk guy with a limp….walk past him! Not much of a threat in the worlds largest hotel. Do you really think he’s scary? Surely I’m not the first person you’ve heard this all from.
    And… I’ll admit, Mick Garris’ version makes this argument fall on deaf ears because it’s a terrible TV movie. But that is Apples and Oranges! It kills even Stephen King’s opinion that The 1980 original is terrible. Thanks, Mick.
    But your kidding yourselves if you don’t think people are ever swayed into liking something they hear they’re supposed to. Maybe this isnt that movie for you, but it happens a lot.
    I do think it’s funny, though, that everyone who hates horror movies says this one doesn’t count.
    The nadir of this whole concept comes from the trivia section on IMDB, where someone writes that the brief glimse of helicopter shadow during the opening titles isn’t a goof…instead it’s “Kubrick SIGNING his film”. WTF?

  • Mike C

    I’ll agree with Bryan in that THE SHINING isn’t a good horror film. It’s never scared me. It’s also a very poor adaptation of the Stephen King book, but I’ve always liked watching it.
    There are a few things I really like about it, namely Shelley Duvall.
    Shelley Duvall is a bizarre creature to watch act. She’s all twiggy twitches with a voice that sounds like a cross between a accordion and a goose honking. Wouldn’t it have been funny if another famously difficult director cast her in a musical shortly after this? Oh wait…
    I do have to call you out on Jack Nicholson’s “slow burn”. Who in this movie is performing a slow burn? If it took place during the prior 45 days, maybe, but these people are all a neurotic jackpot the moment we meet them.
    Ted, you know Nicholson’s Jack Torrance is nuts the second you see him. He is fun to watch though, he’s certainly not unengaging when onscreen. Still you enjoy Nicholson’s performance in this movie for the same reason you enjoy him in “BATMAN”: It’s campy.
    (As for Vivian Kubrick…She should make a feature film herself, instead of showing off old batches of home movies and passing them off as DVD special features.)

  • Ted

    I’m glad that this post provoked a bit of conversation and debate. The point of this piece wasn’t for everyone to agree with me, but to simply present my opinions on what I, a rather rabid horror fan, enjoy. I knew that The Shining would be a controversial pick, but I went with it anyway. I love it, and I stand by what I said.
    Also, I’ve never had any formal film school, but I challenge anyone to a test of knowledge in the horror genre. I might not understand why Kubrick shot the film the way he did, but I know enough to say that I like it – and that it has great performances.
    Does anyone have any thoughts on the other films in the list?

  • http://www.iconsoffright.com Robg

    Ted… I’ll be honest. I only recently discovered CEMETARY MAN and… I didn’t know what to make of it! I honestly would like to give it another chance, because there were things I really liked about it, I just didn’t get what the movie was supposed to be. I’ll re-watch it as a romantic horror movie then. ;-D

  • Bryan

    I don’t think THE SHINING is a controversial choice at all, but rather an unfortunately obvious one…since it seems to be on everyone’s list. I’ll agree about Shelly giving and interesting performance. She’s unusual and totally believable…but people who like this movie seem to hate her. Kinda feels and looks like Stanely Kubrick did. Since Jack mugs and indicates his way through the whole thing, I’m forced to agree with he legions of well written critics who panned his performance (before caving and denying it later).
    “Heeeere’s Johnny” to me is an emabarrassing and misplaced moment in the movie, no matter how cool it looks in montage excerpts.
    I do get nervous when reading interviews with directors who have a new horror movie coming out. It always leads to the question “what are your favorites.” When The Shining is the only answer, you are usually in for a bumpy night (the fav horror film of the Amityville, Boogeyman and Prom Night remake). It’s usually the only one they’ve seen!

  • ShaKha

    Wait a minute, you make a list of genre-benders and you completely snub David Cronenberg’s the Fly? That movie is a horror-drama-romance! I would even say it is one of the best romantic views EVER!

  • http://www.myspace.com/tedge1979 Ted

    Of course I didn’t forget Cronenberg’s masterful remake of The Fly. It just didn’t fit into any one specific cross-genre, as you so eloquently put.
    This whole blog was inspired by Hellboy II, which managed to be an action/fantasy/comedy/romance/horror film without ever feeling convoluted.

  • http://www.steelbathgraphix.com charles

    One movie that stands out in my mind as a crazy genre bender is “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn” especially because I watched it not knowing it was a vampire horror at ALL. I thought it was a Pulp Fiction kinda action flick, and then BAM it hits you. WTF is with the vampires?!
    And I would definately classify Army of Darkness as a slapstick/horror not fantasy/horror. Taking your rationale that Aliens isn’t really a sci-fi because it has outerspace creatures in it…Army of Darkness isn’t really a fantasy because it has monsters and men on horseback with swords. That movie was like Naked Gun with gore hahaha.