FILM Picks--Movies worth
a reel look

Horror & Science Fiction Films

I am a real movie buff and there are some movies that I will watch over and over again and other movies that I only need to see once. I'll start with horror and Sci-Fi films. As time goes on, I will cover my preferences in Comedy, Action/Adventure, Drama/Suspense, Westerns and musicals.

Also, recently in 1998, the American Film Institute (AFI) picked it's 100 favorite movies of all time (all categories). I will go down the list and discuss my take on their picks while in each category. AFI also released the 400 movies pick from which they narrowed down to 100. In my opinion, some of the 400 should have made the 100 listing. For the most part I agreed with many of their movie picks in the top 100.

Back to horror/Sci-Fi (often lumped in together as one movie category). Recently on the Internet, a poll was taken for the scariest (or the best) horror movies of all time. Listed below is the result showing the percent of poll takers voting for a particular movie, at the time I viewed it in July 1999, of the top 13:

USA Today's picks for the 10 most frightening films of all time were (in alphabetical order): Alien (1979), The Exorcist (1973), The Haunting (1963), The Innocents (1961), Jaws (1975), The Omen (1976), Psycho (1960), Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Shining (1980), and Suspiria (1977).

I have not seen The Innocents, so I can't comment on it, but I have seen all of the movies on the poll list, not necessarily when they were originally released. My own pick for the best when I participated in this poll was The Shining.

There has never been a horror movie with the master's touch quite like the original 1980 The Shining. Jack Nicholson is at his absolute best in this movie of the study of a man who slowly goes mad from isolationism and the evil supernatural influences of a summer resort which he and his wife and son maintain during the winter months. A great evil act was committed there years ago and all the elements are still there to work on this man.

I would have no problem endorsing the number 1 pick of the polls with the movie Halloween. Anything done by director John Carpenter is sure to entertain. The edge of your seat suspense in Halloween is far superior to the out and out bloodfests, which many horror movies engage in. In Halloween, you buy the story line that something evil is on the loose in a small town. The music score also helps make this a top pick.

The Exorcist is also a good pick to be at the top. At the time of it's release (1973), it was considered the scariest movie ever made. I had to read the book first, before I got up the nerve to rent it. (Since then I have become so desensitized that reading a book first would not be necessary, but that's another story!). The author, William Peter Blatty, also wrote directed Exorcist III: Legion, which was the true sequel to The Exorcist, and a very good movie in it's own right, Exorcist II: The Heretic was a weak effort that did not include the original author, but did include Linda Blair--the lead actress of The Exorcist.

Psycho (1960) still delivers the punch as far as suspense and a cracked mind go. It was a pioneer movie in the horror genre at the time of it's release. Audiences are so desensitized today that they would sit down in the living room with a bowl of cereal today and watch it together with their pre-teen children. Anthony Perkins was excellent as Norman Bates. As I remember, the first two sequels were pretty scary as well. Showers were scary experiences for the weak hearted for some time after seeing Psycho.

Alien (1979) is a great piece of suspenseful horror and Sci-fi. At the time it came out in the theaters, I remember hearing a friend say that it was pretty scary and I knew I did not want to see it. It is now considered a classic. Alien was modeled after a movie It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). The critics were hard on this old 69 minutes black and white film. I found the suspense in it as intense, at the time, to the suspense in my first viewing of Alien. The ending does however reveal that it is a man dressed in a bad fitting rubber suit. Up until that time, you only catch glimpes of the creature and it is truly scary.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Academy Award movie which measures up to it's billing. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins are top-notch in this suspense/thriller film.

Seven (1995) was a little too much for me, especially the ending. As desensitized as I am today, this movie was too gross in showing evil getting away with "everything". Not for the faint of heart is what one movie rating book says about this butcher film. I agree!

Suspuria (1977) was okay and watchable, but I do not consider it in the same league as some of the others listed on this page.

Jaws (1975) was pretty terrifying when I first saw it in the theaters. The opening scene with the woman going skinny dipping off the beach was one of the most eye-closing scenes I had ever seen on the theater screen at the time. (Note: I did not want to close my eyes until the shark appeared, but I will not belabor that point.) Today the movie is pretty tame by comparison with where such horror/sci-fi entries have taken us.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is now considered a cult classic. I saw this movie only recently as all the play-up over time had me keeping this untouched on the rental shelves. My take on it is similar to Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th (part II) (I've now seen all of the 13ths in the series and they pretty much all use the same stab and slash script) of a killer that is very sub-human and merciless. The most uneasy thing about this Chainsaw movie is the extremely low-budget production on it which gives it the look of a real thing documentary. I would not at all advise anyone to watch this movie if you are prone to nightmares. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is almost surreal like the rest of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels.

Speaking of Nightmares, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1985 original) is okay. At the time, it was very impressive, but over the years the last time or two I viewed it, it didn't seem real. The humor which almost took over following sequels took some of the terror out of it, but almost pushed it into black comedy.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a movie I view every so many years. I still haven't figured out what made this Black & White flick such a cult classic? The opening scene in the cemetery with the zombie chasing, actually walking after, the running woman and actually catching her is very on the edge of your seat material. It definitely has to be the "Time of the Season" to watch this zombie classic!

Rosemary's Baby (1968) came out same year as Night of the Living Dead, but it is one of my favorite horror movies. It has the feel of something that is really happening as you watch. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes are convincing. Ruth Gordon, in her Oscar-winning supporting roll, becomes very annoying, which is exactly the idea. This is one of the top "conspiracy" movies ever made. After watching this movie, there is no doubt in your mind that conspiracies can be pulled off and you also understand what holds the conspirators together.

The Thing (1982 Remake) directed by John Carpenter is another hit by him. This one stars Kurt Russell, who is one of my favorite actors, and like The Shining takes place in an isolated snow covered cold area where the men of an Antarctic station are totally isolated from the rest of the world dealing with an alien creature who can take on the image of it's victims. The special effects are good. This is a must see movie if you haven't seen it and you agree with my take on some of the other movies above. The original black & white The Thing is considered the true classic by the critics, but I fail to see the superiority over the Carpenter remake. You compare the two!

On the USA Today top 10 list, The Haunting (1963) is a very good movie and The Omen (1976) was good at the time. I've seen it once since and I did not enjoy it as well as first viewing.

Not on any of these lists are a few movies that gave me nightmares at the time and are out of circulation today. Thomas Tryon's The Other was a movie I saw once on TV and it bothered me, especially the ending which I don't want to go into detail here. Tryon's other movie which was pretty scary was Dark Secret of Harvest Home, also shown on TV only, to the best of my knowledge. I read the book years after watching the movie and it is pretty disturbing as well. Another nightmare movie for me was Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. It took years for me to get this movie out of my mind. Last House has been rereleased on VHS into circulation and upon watching it again, I see that they have cut some scenes and used some alternate film footage to take off some of the intensity and "humiliation", but it is still a disturbing movie; especially for it's 1972 release date.  The 2002 DVD release has the cut scenes restored and returns it to the status that it had as an uncomfortable film to watch.  Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange ruined my love for the song Singing in the Rain, from the movie by the same name, but I got over that impulse with a couple more viewings and further desensitizing.

My favorite SF movies are Blade runner, starring a young Harrison Ford. I like it more and more each time I see it. Vangelis' music score makes it a classic. Big Trouble in Little China-Kurt Russell with Kim Cattrall are a perfect mixture, but then I like either with anyone else! Big Trouble would fall into the Sci-fi category, but it is just a very fun movie to watch. Conan the Barbarian is one of my all time favorites. The soundtrack is as good as the movie, if not better. These three would make a very enjoyable triple feature for me.

Predator (the original)--I never tire of watching this movie. Terminator & Terminator II are both excellent movies. Arnold is good on either side of the good/evil roles. Alien (mentioned above) and Aliens (the first sequel) are great one-two punches. I favor Aliens over the original. I like the idea of seeing one of the creatures being able to be killed. The plot is very good and intense. More characters in Aliens. The little girl adds something to the second one.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original & Sutherland/Nimoy remake) along with Body Snatchers (recent new technology re-remake was also very well done) are three great movies. A couple of other old classic B/W movies in this genre are The Day the Earth Stood Still and Curse of the Demon. Forbidden Planet (1956) with a serious Leslie Nielsen and lovely Anne Francis is a movie that is so far ahead of it's time, it still looks good. Forbidden Planet is a must see for anyone who slept through it all these years. I would highly recommend all of these movies, especially Curse of the Demon.

I saw the movie Re-Animator (1985) only once, but it was very scary and had very good special effects. Brazil (1985) is a good movie. I've seen it at least four times. I'm not sure I'll watch it again, but it has a beautiful soundtrack with the song Brazil popping up in all it's variations. When I first created this review page, I said that Hitchcock's The birds (1963) was good for it's time, but I find it very dated now.  I have watched it again since my initial comments, along with many other Hitchcock movies and appreciate it much more than I did years ago.  The Adventures of buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a very fascinating movie. It has be rereleased recently. There is something about it that keeps my attention--maybe because it is so tongue-in-cheek. Carrie is okay, but I haven't had the desire to watch it again in years. Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn are both scary and funny at the same time. I like these two movies and just discovered them recently with the help of a friend.

The Howling is a movie that was out of circulation for years, but is now available again (all the sequels seem to be available as well), but I found it one of the scariest movies ever made about werewolves. American Werewolf in London and American Werewolf in Paris pick up where The Howling left off. The later Paris feature is very well done and convincing. But the Howling is a one of a kind. Watch it if you can find it to rent. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the only Star Trek movie I would watch again. It is great to see William Shatner match wits with his arch rival Ricardo Montalban. This one has some neat surprises. I have not watched Poltergeist in years, but I am going to look for a copy to rent soon. I remember it as a very enjoyable movie. The sequels were also good entertainment. Tremors (1990) with Kevin Bacon is better each time you see it again.

I will close out this discussion of horror/SF movies by going down the list of movies of this category chosen in the AFI's top 100 movies of all time and make my brief comments on each: #15 Star Wars-still a very entertaining movie that I view every once in a while, #18 Psycho-discussed above, #22 2001: A Space Odyssey-great movie in parts, beautiful sound score, but it doesn't excite me on further viewings, #25 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial-good at the time, not as good with extra viewings, #43 King Kong (1933 original)-possibly the greatest horror/SF movie of all time. This is one of the few movies I enjoy more each time I see it again. It was a great accomplishment in 1933 and still looks fresh and real today, even in old glorious black & white. If your children have not seen this movie or if you haven't seen it, rent a copy and watch it as soon as possible. I'm serious!, #46 A Clockwork Orange-commented on it above, #48 Jaws-discussed above, #64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind-I haven't watched this movie for quite some time, but I always enjoy it when I do watch it, #65 Silence of the Lambs-discussed above.

In going over the American Film Institutes top 400 movies of all time to make sure I haven't left out any horror/sf entries I should comment on, I run across Planet of the Apes (1968). I enjoyed this movie more when I was younger. I think I have watched it one too many times. It is a great movie to see the first time or two. Charleton Heston is a great actor! The War of the Worlds (1953) is a good SF entry. It also stands the test of time. Back to the Future (1985) and the two sequels were very entertaining and just plain fun.

Almost forgotten Also mentions: Strange Invaders (1983) good along the lines of Invaders from Mars (the original Invaders from Mars was my favorite Sci-fi as a youngin'). Invaders from Mars (remake in color) is also very entertaining (similar to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies). Lifeforce (1985) enjoyable space vampire movie. Brainstorm (1983)-I like this movie very much. Altered States (1980) is an interesting look at isolation tanks and sensory deprivation. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) could be mentioned here, it could be mentioned as a comedy and it could be mentioned as a musical. It is all of these, but it is probably best categorized as Sci-Fi. The humor is under the surface most of the time. The musical tunes are very catchy. It is a disturbing movie, if you are a sane person, but there is something about it that keeps you returning for a viewing. It would fall under the exploitative label as far a it's sexual message. I suspect it is the music and the bizarre plot that keeps one mesmerized. This is not a Sci-Fi to show the young ones.

Barbarella, with a young Jane Fonda, is one of the oddest Sci-fi movies one could ever watch, but it is very entertaining as well as very musical. The musical score is excellent in my opinion. Of course, I've outgrown the opening striptease scene by Jane in her space capsule. After watching it so many times, it loses it's power to keep more than 102% of your attention.

The erotic/suspense/mystery/action thriller Body Double is a movie that only true horror aficionados and some people who stumble onto it, have seen. Again, this one is not for the children or even some adults, but it is quite a ride! Two of my favorites, which are hard to find to rent, are Prince of Darkness (directed by who else...John Carpenter) and The Unholy. Both movies build slowly, but you know in each that something big is building up and you are not disappointed in the end with either movie. See both of them if you get the chance.

The latest horror films Scream, Scream2, Scream3, I Saw What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legend are all well made and interesting movies. I saw them all on video and was less than enthusiastic when I first heard about Scream and Scream2 showing at the theater. I'm not a big fan of slasher films, but after watching all five movies, I found that the plots of all five movies keep you guessing and the characters are very interesting to watch as they are developed, unlike the characters in the Friday the 13th series which I just got around to watching the first two recently. X-Files: the Movie is also very good if you are an X-Files fan.

I'm adding these three Sci-Fi movies out in 1999 which were very well done. The Matrix was a special effects feast. Years ago while a high-schooler, I had thought about and read about the famous "brains in vats" theory (so-called).  The fantastic speculation that we might all just be brains in vats of chemicals, while attached to our bodies somehow. The Matrix touches on that very theme and is a real good action packed movie. It might be a little too violent for the taste of some folks, but I give it 5 stars out of 5. We will begin to see more and more of Keanu Reeves. And Lawrence Fishburne is an exellent actor.

 The second movie, following pretty close to The Matrix in the theaters, was The Thirteenth Floor. Similar to The Matrix, 13th was a better mystery and had a beautiful ending. Less action, but the story line was pulled off well.  In some ways, I liked The Thirteenth Floor more than The Matrix. This movie seemed a little more believable than The Matrix.

The third movie I'll mention here is The Faculty. I enjoyed this movie very much. It fits right in with the Invasion of the Body Snatchers triology. The screenplay was written by the writer of Scream and Scream 2.  He is very good at character development. There are a number of surprises in The Faculty. It is also, simply a lot of fun!

    THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE!

In October of 2002, I finally got around to watching the Highlander movies.  Highlander (1986) introduces Christopher Lambert (with a heavy French accent) as the scottish clansman from the 16th Century who along with Sean Connery and other "immortals" are in a game to become the only remaining immortal alive on earth.  They challenge each other with swords and upon killing the other, take on the "quickening" or the absorbing of the other warriors spirit.  Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991) Again has Lambert with Connery on more adventures in modern times, while the movies are filled with flashbacks of their lives in other centuries. Highlander:  The Final Dimension (1994) is the third movie installment (without Connery).  Highlander:  The Endgame brings the greatest warrior challenger against Highlander (with Andrian Paul combining skills to match the skills of the arch villian to see who will live on as an immortal--there can only be one!).  The critics are pretty hard on the Highlander movies, but if you just want to enjoy some old sword play along with beautiful Scottish music, they are enjoyable flicks to watch.

On September 11, 2001, filming began for a movie named Signs (2002).  Screenwriter/director M. Night Shyamalan (who also did The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis), put together a great flick about crop circles, a search for an explanation, the loss of religious faith, and a Pennsylvania farming family headed by Mel Gibson (once a priest in the Roman Catholic Church) and his brother Joaquin Phoenix--did I mention aliens?.  Suspense builds as Shyamalan gathers elements of three of his favorite Sci-Fi/horror movies: The Birds, Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and reflects these tense elements in his movie Signs.  One of the better Science Fiction movies to come out of Hollywood in some time.  I highly recommend it!

Another Stephen King novel makes the big screen in Dreamcatcher (2003).  This movie is very engaging and has elements of "Signs" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; with a very real command unit leadership character played by Morgan Freeman, in charge of a government unit dispatched to contain and destroy any alien invasions of the planet.  You'll want to latch the extra locks on your doors if you watch this movie before retiring to a "peaceful" night of sleep.

Recently, the SCI FI Channel presented a script written by Leslie Bohem and produced by Steven Speilberg into a 15 hours mini-series entitled Taken.  Thomas Cook has created a novel based on the series and it does a good job of presenting the story in novel form.  The story line revolves around three families in the United States and four generations of these families and their relationships with the events that pretty much started with Roswell, New Mexixo in 1947 and a "flying saucer" crash, aliens and alien abductions of selected human beings.  Some critics believed the series was just too long.  I personally enjoyed it and thought the extra length made it even more interesting than if it had been done in half the time or "crammed" into a two or three hours movie.  Get a copy of this mini-series, sit back relaxed and enjoy being taken; or I should say enjoy "watching" others being taken.  Good old fashioned SCI FI in the 21st Century!

I Married A Monster From Outer Space.  It had been years since I had watched this 1958 film.  But sitting back, kicking my legs up and getting adjusted to glorious black & white; I recently gave this movie another viewing.  It is a very enjoyable flick with Thomas Tryon playing the groom with the monster inside who is married to a stunningly attractive bride Gloria Talbott.  Similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but full of dialog concerning relationships between men and women.  This is a fun movie in which to let yourself get absorbed.  Of course it is a little dated with the special effects and dialog, but taken in context of the times, it is a delight!
 
 
 


HELLRAISER & Clive Barker
Last, but not least in horror are the movies from the mind of Clive Barker--the horror novelist.  I first discovered Clive Barker when I read his novel "The Great and Secret Show".  He is author of the short story novels collected in his "Books of the Blood."  Barker's sense of horror always has to do with the blood, the flesh and demonic invasion into our world.  If you dare to take "the time to play", his HELLRAISER movies display all of these themes.

I prefer Hellraiser II:  Hellbound and the forth Hellraiser:  Bloodline.  The first one, Hellraiser, is a little too slow for me and the third one, Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, does not seem to go anywhere.  If you enjoy any one of them, you will likely enjoy soaking them all up!

WARNING:

These movies are full of gore and death.  Definitely not for all tastes.  But if you chance to watch any of them, be sure to watch Hellraiser:  Bloodline, so you can see Pinhead and his demons get theirs.  It couldn't happen to a finer bunch of weirdoes.

THE FILMS
Hellraiser  (1987)
Hellraiser II:  Hellbound (1988)
Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

This is my effort at covering horror and Science Fiction movies. I'm sure I have left out a few, but I tried to cover the ones that have interested me over the years. I'll be honest, if one of your favorites is not listed here, I've either seen it and not cared that much for it or I've never seen it. Either way, drop me an E-mail and let me hear your comments. If there is something I should see or see again, I'll go look for it to rent. There are many other horror/Sci-Fi movies that I have enjoyed over the years, but this page would be too bulky if I commented on every single one of them.

I'll keep adding to this movie review section by covering other categories of film in the future: COMEDY, ACTION/ADVENTURE, MUSICALS, WESTERNS and DRAMA/SUSPENSE. It takes a little time to pour your thoughts into a page like this, so give me some time to write another page of my FILM Picks--the Greatest MOVIES.

Horror & Science Fiction Films listed on this page



2001: A Space Odyssey
Adventures of buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The
Alien (1979)
Aliens
Altered States (1980)
American Werewolf in London
American Werewolf in Paris
Back to the Future (1985)
Barbarella
Big Trouble in Little China
Birds, The (1963)
Blade runner
Body Double
Body Snatchers
Brainstorm (1983)
Brazil (1985)
Carrie
Clockwork Orange, A
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Conan the Barbarian
Curse of the Demon
Dark Secret of Harvest Home
Day the Earth Stood Still, The
Dreamcatcher (2003)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Exorcist II: The Heretic
Exorcist III: Legion
Exorcist, The (1973)
Faculty, The
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th (part II)
Halloween
Haunting, The (1963)
Hellraiser  (1987)
Hellraiser II:  Hellbound (1988)
Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
Highlander (1986)
Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991)
Highlander:  The Endgame
Highlander:  The Final Dimension (1994)
Howling, The
I Saw What You Did Last Summer
Innocents, The (1961)
Invaders from Mars (remake in color)
Invaders from Mars (the original)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Sutherland/Nimoy remake)
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)
Jaws
Jaws (1975)
King Kong (1933 original)
Last House on the Left
Lifeforce
Matrix, The
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1985 original)
Omen, The (1976)
Other, The
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Poltergeist
Predator
Prince of Darkness
Psycho (1960)
Re-Animator (1985)
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Scream
Scream2
Scream3
Seven (1995)
Shining, The (1980)
Signs (2002)
Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)
Sixth Sense, The
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars
Strange Invaders (1983)
Suspiria (1977)
Taken
I Married A Monster From Outer Space
Terminator
Terminator II
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)
Thing, The (original)
Thing, The (1982 Remake)
Thirteenth Floor, The
Tremors (1990)
Unholy, The
Urban Legend
War of the Worlds, The
X-Files: the Movie

Go directly to Action Drama Suspense Film Reviews

Go directly to Musical Film Reviews

Go directly to Western Film Reviews

Go directly to Comedy Film Reviews . . .

 Note:  I've watched 100's of movies since I wrote
these movie review pages, but I have not kept
up with listing movies I've seen and liked in the last few years.
So, just because an old or recent movie is not listed
doesn't mean I haven't seen it or liked it.
Return to
kennywolf.accs.net
Home Page of Kenny Wolf

What's on this Website...so far
* Political Poem * Captured Thoughts * Theology * Hall of Influence * Only One Person * blues *
* Music Pyramid * Hank Williams * Oldies, but Goodies!!! * Classical & Opera * Jazz *
* Musical Film Reviews * Western Film Reviews * Comedy Film Reviews *
* Action Drama Suspense Film Reviews * E-mail *