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James Halcomb: Making list of my favorite ‘classic’ horror films means delving into past

Bruce Campbell in  Evil Dead II (Photo from Wikimedia)

Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II (Photo from Wikimedia)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of columns in which James Halcomb counts down his 10 favorite horror movies – just in time for Halloween.
We love the thrills horror movies bring us.
Of course, some of us aren’t really adrenaline junkies and avoid them. Some of us dislike the “yuck” and the gore often associated with contemporary horror films (myself included), but still love the classics. Interestingly enough, what constitutes a “classic” film is so relative to the person talking about it that it becomes hard to even define. In this list of my first three favorite horror classics, I’ll try.
The list encompasses films from most of the last century and barely into this one with the most contemporary film on my list being from 2001 – Mulholland Drive. I’m aware I’m showing my age a bit, but I genuinely feel that this list represents my favorite scary movies. They have stuck with me the most, whether scaring me or scarring me to be determined. Above all else, these 10 represent the horror genre for me. Beginning with the list’s last film and working up, we have:
10. Evil Dead II – This flick is grungy, twisted and satirical. It’s a wicked “snark” before there was such a thing as being “snarky.” The second in the series added a touch of class, obviously brought on by a bigger budget. I just can never get enough of this perennial favorite.
The film’s hero, Ash, is played in all the physical comedic glory that he can muster by Bruce Campbell. The movie is the middle of the trilogy, but is more of a bridge than anything else. It has some of the weirdness and horror of the original mixed with the trilogy’s gleefully absurd conclusion, Army of Darkness. The mix creates the perfect blend of scares and laughs. Sam Rami is a great director and his style of filmmaking is original and unforgettable.
9. Dracula – This 1921 original starring the incomparable Bela Lugosi is far from perfect, but its flaws make it wonderful. The sound is rough and sometimes hard to hear, and the camera work is at times static, meaning that when it does move it is jarring. However, Bela Lugosi is terrifying and magnificent, with a lot fewer lines than you probably remember.
Lugosi does a great deal and delivers an unforgettable performance with little more than a look. Tod Browning does a serviceable directing job, but I’ve never felt it was his best work. That designation I reserve for Freaks.
This is Lugosi’s show, his finest role and the one for which he will always be remembered. It is the kickoff for Universal Studios and their cycle of horror films in the 1930s and ’40s.
8. Suspiria – This is a 1977 girl-in-creepy-school film from Italian maestro Dario Argento. It is fairly well-known to horror aficionados and director Argento is a master of the horror film genre in any language.
This movie is fairly light on plot, but is wild in its atmosphere and in the moments of shocking violence. I don’t think I have ever watched it and not jumped in my chair at least once.
It can feel a bit heavy-handed for those whose tastes run to something a bit more domestic, but if you only watch one of Argento’s films, this should be it.
These are the bottom three on my favorites list. I will be counting down as the month goes along, leading up to my big No. 1!

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James Halcomb

James Halcomb is a self-described “desk jockey” at the University of Kentucky Hospital. The Lexington resident has spent much of his 40 years of life with his nose in a book, his eyes staring at a screen, ears covered by earphones or his mouth stuffed with food. As a result, he is an avid film nerd, TV geek, food snob and book buff. He writes for two blogs: “Boys’ Nite” (a review of not-so-classic films) and “When No One is Looking, I Write” (a personal blog). He somehow lucked into meeting the love of his life, Tammy, and married her. They also have a 4-year-old-son, Quinn.
To read more of James Halcomb’s fall show reviews, click here.

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