I love researching things. It’s not a joke. There is no punchline. I take great joy in finding something I don’t know and learning everything I can about it.
This really applies to the horror genre. I love checking out other people’s lists of the best horror, in general or by some sub-genre or time frame. Sometimes, it’s entirely predictable. Other times, I learn about something brand new and that excites me. I mean, I sat through a 90 minute or two hour panel (can’t remember which) at ConnectiCon all about foreign horror films and had to talk to the panelists because they introduced me to two films I never heard of before; we traded notes on their existing country focuses and I even gave them some hot tips for making South Korea its own stand alone category in future presentations.
Season 4 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race and all around fantastic entertainer Sharon Needles put together her Top 13 horror films for the Chiller channel in time for Halloween and it’s a riot. Sharon’s character is beautiful, spooky, and stupid, so her in character reasoning for liking some of these films is pretty shocking (from its intentional stupidity). For example, she lists the US remake of Funny Games (a solid film in its own rights, though I prefer the acting in the original) because “[she doesn't] like other countries.” It’s a joke, people. Sharon knows her horror and it’s worth digging through her list because of its fantastic focus on some of the most under-appreciated modern horror films.
I’m pretty sure the list isn’t actually ranked, but organized for maximum impact. Sharon’s gone on the record for a long time that Return of the Living Dead is her favorite horror picture, yet it’s at number two on this list. We’ll stick with their numbering just to make it easier to play along at home.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side
Call me a weirdo, but I really like the Poltergeist sequels. Then again, I’ll defend for well over 1000 words Tobe Hooper’s obvious role as the director no matter how many actors say Steven Speilberg controlled the shoot. Poltergeist II is a much more visceral horror film with a lot more of those flesh ripped off in the mirror moments that make it far more disturbing to me. A solid viewing if you haven’t seen it (in its uncensored cut that can’t air on SyFy at 3:15 in the morning every other month).
- Return of the Living Dead
A zombie classic everyone should see. The idea of the zombies actually being able to communicate is novel enough to make this a must see. Couple that with a really honest look into 1980s punk culture and the othering of counter-culture movements in America and you have horror satire as sharp as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead without a real budget.
- Brain Damage
Sharon nails this one. It’s another wonderful satire of American culture in the Voltaire school of satire: throw as much violence and degradation of mankind as you can at the audience and let them sort the message out. It’s not encouraging young people to experiment with drugs, but rather discouraging the vilification of drug addicts who need support, not animosity bred from a black and white look at addiction problems.
- Seed of Chucky
It’s no Bride of Chucky, that’s for sure. This one is very heavy on the intentional camp value–Jennifer Tilly shooting opposite Jennifer Tilly (in doll form as Tiffany), John Waters as a pervy photographer, a film about making a Chucky film within a Chucky film–and tries a little too hard for my own tastes. Tilly’s performance alone is worth watching it for a horror fan. An actress that talented left to voiceover work and B-movies is a boon for animation and horror fans.
- Night of the Demons
A 1980s classic. Very few 80s-specific lists from horror aficionados get published without a write up of Night of the Demons. The less you know going in, the better. And yes, the dance number is a riot.
Watch either or both versions. They have the same beats but feel radically different because of the sets and the presence of A-list actors in the remake. Why yes, Michael Haneke is commenting on the commercialization of foreign film rights through the creation of remakes to target an English-speaking audience with an English language film. That’s why the American version works as well as it does.
Not many modern directors can handle the splatter/comedy genre as well as James Gunn. I’m terrified of what Marvel is going to do with his vision of Guardians of the Galaxy. He likes big, broad performances and lots of tension created through awkward humor. Slither is his magnum opus.
- Sleepaway Camp II
One of the rare slasher films that actually is so bad it swings around to good again. The big twist is so out of touch with the film that you’ll be howling at the screen.
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space
When I finally do make my Best Horror Films of All Time list, Killer Klowns from Outer Space will be on it. It’s sensational. It’s the most perfect horror comedy since A Bucket of Blood, which itself was the most perfect horror comedy since The Invisible Man. Too many people forget that horror comedies are supposed to be scary and funny; the Killer Klowns are terrifying.
- Fire in the Sky
This is why I knew I had to comment on this list. I’ve never seen Fire in the Sky. I never even heard of it. Sharon’s description has me salivating for a copy. It’s on my must-see list just because it was a strong recommendation from a passionate horror fan.
Okay. It’s actually a really bad film. I love it all the same. The send-up of the religious horror genre is really strong and you can tell everyone had a good time. Linda Blair really committed and that alone makes it worth at least one watch.
- Dead Alive
The only terrible Peter Jackson film, as far as I’m concerned, is The Lovely Bones (and that has its moments in the visual effects). Dead Alive is one of the all time great splatter films. Jackson knows how to shoot color and absurdity (think Heavenly Creatures doused in blood instead of pastels and unicorns) and Dead Alive has some of the most stylish gore scenes this side of Dario Argento.
- Piranha 3D
11/12 isn’t that bad, is it? I was turned off this film when I saw the 2.5 (almost three) hour early preview cut and even did focus testing for the film; they took none of my suggestions. If I had it my way, you’d have 80 minutes of Elizabeth Shue investigating the deaths (some partying scenes with her idiot son thrown in to build the tension and stakes, naturally) and 15 minutes of mayhem at the end; my peers went “Elizabeth who?” Philistines, all of them. I’d suggest Piranha Part Two: The Spawning for your stupid bloody fishy mayhem slot on the list. How can you say no to flying piranha fish? No, really. They fly.
So those are my thoughts on Sharon Needles’ very entertaining Top 13 Horror list. What do you think? Share your thoughts on her picks below. Here’s her video, which showcases the beautiful, spooky, stupid character in the best way possible. NSFW language and gore.