#5 : It (2017 and 2019)
Almost all the movies on my list are before 2000. Only 28 Days Later and It, break that mold. In chapter one, Andy Muschetti grabbed a bunch of child actors that as an ensemble work perfectly. Only Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) was a familiar face at the time, and yet these youth all demonstrate superior acting chops. You have seven children with physical/emotional/psychological challenges that along with the mundane difficulties of growing up in a New England nexus for disappearing children must contend with a monster that threatens them all. They are called Losers, but confront daunting fears that are crippling, if considered for any extended period. At the end of chapter one, they manage to overcome the challenge, but make a promise to return to Derry if the evil has not been thoroughly vanquished. In chapter two, the Losers have grown up and are no longer losers. They have largely overcome their challenges and have gained personal success. Mike stayed behind. He made himself responsible for informing the others when It returned. The monster returns with a vengeance and this movie completes the two-part narrative with effective jump scares, believable CGI, and acting without peer. The two movies work together to tell a cohesive story that is worthy of Stephen King. Chapter one was watched in Connecticut with my family, where we immediately podcasted our thoughts.
In retrospect it may not have been the smartest thing to do, but back then, I was sufficiently impressed to include it in my Top Ten. I really believed it to be worthy and was willing to argue the point, but if I’m to be honest, I worried that the second chapter would be weaker, just as in the TV miniseries, where the kid part was the strongest. Watching chapter two in Puerto Rico with my lifelong best friend in a crowded theater full of noisy Puerto Rican youth mesmerized and scared enough to sit dumbfounded until the end. When they erupted into applause, I knew this was a movie of substance and totally bought in that it deserved to be on my list.
#4 : Alien (1979)
My brother and I saw this movie in our neighborhood theater as part of a double bill. The theater would play second-run movies in the 80s that tended either to be exploitative or with a horror bent, and my brother and I were bent, all right. The movie is a slow burn. Directed by Ridley Scott, and performed by Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, and of course Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. The Nostromo is a commercial space vehicle that is returning home when it detects a distress signal coming from an unexplored planet. The crew who has been in hyper sleep is awoken. The crew is not thrilled because they feel that they have fulfilled their contract; they’re exhausted, but their contract becomes nullified if they fail to respond to a distress signal. When they investigate, they inadvertently allow an aggressive organism aboard. H. R Giger designed the alien, with all its overt sexual subtext. There is a lot of vaginal and phallic imagery which overtly pervade the movie. The changing nature of the monster, along with the lighting keep the viewer off-balance because you only get glimpses. The chest burst scene is iconic. ACID FOR BLOOD! It’s totally not fair that when you hurt the alien, its blood is a corrosive agent that destroys. Creepy, scary, oppressive, Alien is a master work of modern cinema.
#3 : The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
I saw this movie for the first time in a Drive-in Theater with my Mom, Dad and brother. Marc and I were extremely young for a Rated R movie, maybe 10 and 11. We were there to watch a Bigfoot documentary type movie and enjoyed ourselves so much that we stayed to watch the second movie. Dad hadn’t realized it was a horror movie because it starts off like a documentary. By the time the first kill happens, he was the only one that wanted to leave. John Larroquette’s narration of the first few minutes of this movie was so authentic that my Dad really believed this was going to be a tame family experience. It was not. The conceit (you could say balls if you are so inclined) that Tobe Hooper has to call this movie “based on true events” is still a common fallacy perpetuated by horror movies. Thankfully, Mom was not just terrified by the first kill, but enthralled. There are several Slasher conventions that are initiated by this movie: this was the first, I believe, Harbinger of Doom, Dumb Kids doing Dumb Things, and even the first Final Girl. The kids are traveling to the family homestead and don’t know that their grandparents lived next to a family of cannibals. They foolishly believe they are safe, so they separate, and some go exploring, some look for a watering hole to go for a swim. One by one they are picked off. It is not a bloody movie, but the brutality of Leatherface is appalling. The last fifteen minutes of that movie with Sally Hardesty exploring the interior of that house with its bone furniture and human skin lampshades, is chilling. My Mom was too scared by that point to want to leave without seeing the end. Creeped just thinking of it now.
#2 : Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The first time Marc and I went to a Comic Convention, we were both in High School. We arrived at the convention really early that Saturday. We spent the entire day buying collectibles and attending panel discussions with George Takei, Walter Koenig, Mark Lenard, John Byrne, Klaus Jansen, Walt Simonson, Dick Giordano, George Perez, Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman and Jim Shooter. There were more, but a stellar day for geek fanboy teens. At 10 pm, Marc and I decided to go to a hotel room where our programs told us they were screening Dawn of the Dead. We hadn’t seen it yet despite having hit theaters three years prior. So there, with about 40 people who saw Dawn of the Dead with us, we were visibly revolted, oohing and ughing, screaming, horrified, and frigging loving it. Afterwards, George Romero comes and sits at a table with a microphone, a white table cloth, and off to the side, a lump covered by another white table cloth and an easel behind it. Romero begins speaking into the microphone and everyone in that room is mesmerized. Marc and I are in the second row and punching each other, just knowing we were having an epiphanous moment. After a few minutes, out comes special effects wizard, Tom Savini, are you kidding me? We had just seen this guy get his guts torn apart. Savini removes the white sheet which was off to the side and reveals a bust of the helicopter pilot in the movie. He’s one of the main characters and Savini points his finger at the bust and makes a shooting motion when the bust explodes with a huge squib splattering what appears to be bone, blood, and brains. We whooped and clapped like crazy. Savini took a bow and we got home at about 230 in the morning, floating on air. As you can tell, I’ve told you almost NOTHING about the movie . It’s just ALL about the experience itself. However, the movie was great, the grossest thing we had ever seen, and we LOVED it.
#1 : Friday the 13th (1980)
As you can see, I’ve mentioned my younger brother, Marc, several times. He was a year and three months younger than me, but he was my first best friend, and my first horror buddy. People who watch horror movies don’t really have a huge social circle to whom they can share anecdotes and trivia with, so as we travel this journey called The Mustache and The Beard, you’ll learn stuff that maybe you’ll find interesting, maybe not. Marc passed away at the beginning of 2017 because of Diabetes, and he absolutely would have loved this blog. He probably would have been a part of it and in a way, he has and will continue to be as we go forward. Friday the 13th was the first rated R movie I saw with Marc alone. I was 14 and he was 13 the Friday it came out. Mom had gotten it in her head to kick us out of the house because she wanted to jump Dad’s bones. So she gave me money and told me to go to the movies which was nearby, but we had never been allowed to go by ourselves. This was a big deal. It was an even BIGGER deal when I saw the movie was rated R. I didn’t think they were going to let me in. I saw other kids getting in, so I decided to try it. I told Marc to walk taller, and even though my heart was pumping a million miles a minute, I asked for two tickets and got two tickets in return for my $20 bucks. There was even enough money for snacks. Friday the 13th is a gory movie with innovative and effective kills. Who can forget Kevin Bacon’s arrow to the throat? That was Tom Savini again. We saw boobs for the first time, and the whodunit aspect was also groundbreaking. The ending was cool, too; one of those shocking jump scares that are poop-your-pants scary-effective. By the time my brother and I were walking home, it was full dark, and we were scaring the crap out of each other with that refrain repeated over and over. “Kill, kill, kill, kill. . . Die, die, die, die.” Now before we get any comments about the picture above. This is a promotional picture with Annie about to get her throat slit. The hands you see are not the actual hands of the killer. I know this. I loved this picture and Annie had such a great personality. I thought this was the best image to use.
So there you have it, my Top Ten. Feel free to share your Top Ten in the Comments section. We’ll see if we can start a trend here on the Mustache and the Beard to post subscriber top ten lists on the site. Tomorrow, the Beard will post our First Continuing Feature called Off the Rack dealing with comic books. I think that you will find it has a great deal of insight and wisdom. Please, subscribe, and comment. Most important of all, don’t forget to hit that LIKE button, to show us you care.
See you, tomorrow – The Mustache