Watch These Movies

I’m going to borrow a prompt from Plinky because I have absolutely no clue what to write.

Make a list of movies you believe everyone should see at least once.

I’m not a huge movie person. I haven’t seen a lot of the most popular movies out there, and I don’t enjoy watching anything longer than a 21-minute episode of The Simpsons… but here are my most recommended movies.

1. Inception (2010) – This movie brings logic to the madness of dreams. It’s got drama, great special effects, and a premise that will really make you think: the notion of a dream within a dream.

2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) – Successfully blending both animation and live action, this movie reminds us of the power of laughter. It also replenished interest in animation and helped usher in the Disney Renaissance.

3. Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Basically anything directed/written by Quentin Tarantino is going to be awesome, and this movie was no exception. Maybe it was the odd quirks in the production or the fact that history was changed to make the plot of the movie more dramatic or perhaps it was the mixing of quite a few genres, but everything blended together to make a great movie.

4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Hannibal Lecter is one of the creepiest and most well-rounded villains in all of fiction, but he’s not all that makes this movie great. Jodie Foster does an excellent job as the tough, yet vulnerable Clarice Starling.

5. 12 Angry Men (1957) – You’d think this movie is boring, since it’s required viewing for a variety of college and high school classes, the majority of it takes place in one setting, and it’s in black and white… but you’ll be sucked in by the passion of the group’s argument and the decision they make at the end.

There’s nothing especially profound on this list… but I do believe all these movies are valuable for the reasons listed above.

What is Horrifying?

I sometimes enjoy horror movies, but it’s similar to my “enjoyment” of spicy food. Both make me a bit uncomfortable. Horror movies that rely on psychological terror are much more interesting than horror movies like the Saw series, which rely on gore and “shock” effects to “scare” you. Often, movies like that aren’t even scary at all; they’re just plain stupid. When I was watching Saw IV I was tempted to either burst out laughing at how ludicrous it all was or get up and leave because I couldn’t take all the gore. I did not enjoy that movie at all.

Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween was a pretty neat horror film, mostly because it was interesting to think about how a child (Michael Myers) can get so screwed up and turn into a vicious killer. The movie did have blood, gore, and nudity, but it was far better than Saw IV in that it was vaguely plausible.

There are a multitude of other horror movies that also feature a “creepy” child – The Omen, The Changeling, The Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Last Exorcism, Let the Right One In, The Ring, Insidious, and many more. This technique is so common that it’s practically become a cliche.

But what really irks me about horror movies (besides the “creepy” child factor and the amount of blood, gore, and nudity in a lot of them) is that they rely on moments that make you jump to scare you. The scary aspect of a movie should have more to do with the characters, setting, lighting, and psychological motivations and backstory than the amount of blood or “shock” moments that make you jump. Some horror movies pull this off really well – The Silence of the Lambs was one of those, although I’d argue that it’s more of a thriller than a horror film.

Older horror movies like Night of the Living Dead and a few of the Hammer films (The Curse of Frankenstein and Taste the Blood of Dracula) are good because they don’t rely on “shock” moments as much. They’ve got blood and gore, but it’s definitely not as much as what’s portrayed onscreen today. The only reason these movies don’t seem as frightening is because they’re about zombies, monsters, and vampires that don’t exist. Night of the Living Dead seems almost comical when you watch it, then compare it to horror movies that come out today.

Do you enjoy horror movies? What makes a good horror movie?

Top 7 Fictional Villains

If villains are written right, they are often more fascinating (at least to me) than the protagonist. Strangely enough, I find myself sympathizing with the villain in most stories. Usually, something horrible happens to the villain at the end and I feel somewhat disappointed. There’s nothing more irritating than a villain who is evil “just because.” So here are my top 7 favorite villains.

1. Leland Gaunt (from Needful Things by Stephen King) – Posing as a harmless old shopkeeper, Gaunt slowly reveals his dark side to the citizens of Castle Rock, Maine. He seduces the ladies, charms the children, and befriends the men, only to turn them all against each other, as a good villain should.

2. Jafar (from Disney’s Aladdin) – I had an odd obsession with Jafar when I was a little kid. I had a small action figure of him that I carried around all the time. I preferred Jafar to all other Disney characters. Why? I’m not sure. I was only four years old. Maybe I liked his hat. Or his cobra staff. Or his wisecracking parrot.

3. Judge Doom (from Who Framed Roger Rabbit) – Hands down, one of the creepiest “cartoon” villains out there. Doom’s cry of “Stop that laughing!” has never ceased to haunt me – the guy’s totally devoid of any sense of humor. No wonder he’s such a tool.

4. Aohila (from Knight of the Demon Queen by Barbara Hambly) – Aohila’s the typical “I’m-gonna-steal-your-man-with-my-magical-powers” female villain. She’s infuriatingly beautiful, seductive, and powerful. She’s queen of the demons, too, so she’s got minions.

5. Hannibal Lecter (from The Silence of the Lambs [and others] by Thomas Harris) – I don’t know if it’s the character himself or just Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of him, but this guy freaks me out. He eats people, for heaven’s sake. But even though he’s a class-A creep, he’s still sympathetic. That’s the mark of a great villain.

6. Sideshow Bob (from The Simpsons) – He’s obsessed with killing Bart (my least favorite Simpsons character), so that makes him awesome in my book. And Kelsey Grammer’s voice is music to my ears.

7. Randall Flagg (from The Stand and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King) – Might as well end with a Stephen King character since I started with one. Flagg’s scary because he’s the mastermind behind the destruction of the world. And he goes by the moniker “Ageless Stranger.” Anyone with that title would be freaky.

So who are your favorite villains?