You’ll soon see that a number of the horror films on this list have, at one point in time, made a much anticipated return to the big screen. A few however, have never been afforded such treatment, despite the fact that they truly do deserve it.
Join us now as we examine 10 amazing classic horror films worthy of some modern day big screen love!
John Carpenter’s The Thing
John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing is loaded with everything a genre fanatic could ask for. Kurt Russell makes for a brilliant hero, and the second he straps those goggles on his face, he becomes a force of nature, whether he realizes it or not. The amazing special effects still leave fans in awe today, and there isn’t a single beat missed in regards to onscreen performances. When it comes to horror films, it doesn’t get much closer to perfect than John Carpenter’s The Thing. Now if only gents like myself, born a year prior to the film’s release, had the chance to see this one on the big screen, as it should be seen, there’d be a large number of horror fans feeling giddy inside.
The Werewolf (1956)
In 1956 director Fred F. Sears offered us one of the greatest werewolf films ever made. Sure, it looks a bit dated, but that holds no effect on the overall quality (this one could admittedly look amazing with a strong restoration) of the picture. The story is infectious, and Steven Ritch, who portrays Duncan Marsh, the titular werewolf, captures the sympathetic essence that made Lon Chaney Jr.’s portrayal of the (virtually identical) Wolf Man such a relatable, likable and – ultimately – deeply sad character. Whether Ritch studied Chaney’s performance or not, he hit a homerun as a werewolf. The pacing of the film is brilliant and the transformation scenes are great. A seriously overlooked treasure these days, The Werewolf is a great film that I’d imagine is much greater when viewed on the big screen. Unfortunately, chances of us ever seeing this in a theater again seem slim to none.
The Shining (1980)
The Shining has enjoyed a few brief returns to cinemas across the globe. And really, why wouldn’t it? It’s arguably the most terrifying “haunted house” picture (some consider the picture to be the most frightening piece history has afforded us), and it’s loaded with beautiful scenery, stunning performances and a masterful visual style executed by the late Stanley Kubrick. While Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance differs from Stephen King’s source novel, he still turns in an eye-opening performance that succeeds in being bone chilling. And it’s not just the snow storm in Colorado birthing that freezing feeling in the depths of the belly. That’s the work of an insane man. Still one of the most frightening films in history, I’d murder a squirrel to see this one back on the big screen. And I like squirrels.
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Stephen King has pissed and moaned the decades away, always citing Maximum Overdrive as some sort of utter failure that captured the attention of no one whatsoever. But here’s the problem, a lot of that critical chatter that comes from King (he directed the film, and later declared that the experience and the final project were so horrendous that he’d never again step behind the camera to direct; he hasn’t directed another film since) isn’t seen by genre fans. In fact, if you read enough articles about Stephen King films, you’ll find that many lists feature Maximum Overdrive as a favorite. I won’t call it a favorite, but I won’t call it a disaster either. There was genuine entertainment to be found in the film, and a few sequences – especially in the opening moments of the movie – are rather horrifying. What I wouldn’t give to see that bad ass Green Goblin big rig circle that gas station in a theater. Did I mention the flick features Emilio Estevez in an awesome lead role? The movie can’t be that bad with Emilio involved!
The Wolf Man (1941)
The greatest werewolf film ever made, George Waggner’s Universal picture is a mystifying slice of celluloid. This is one of the earliest genre additions to place a sympathetic monster on prominent display, and no one – I mean no one – could have done the character of Lawrence Talbot the justice that Lon Chaney Jr. did. Chaney was so far ahead of his time it borders on absurd. He knew that there are more than one or two emotions a fictional character must juggle, unlike many of the wooden performers of his day, and he brought that expansive emotional range to the screen in what can only be defined as a game changing maneuver. Lon Chaney Jr. opened doors for countless future performers and he did so with his ability to knock down all walls of inhibition and give as much of himself to the character as possible. To top it all off, this is one Universal’s best looking films of the 40s, loaded with stunning set pieces and beautiful gloom. The atmosphere is almost palpable.
The color schemes that Dario Argento utilized for his strange supernatural tale of a dance school with a deep, dark and powerful secret, was nothing short of mesmerizing. In his prime, Argento could do no wrong, whether dabbling in the giallo subgenre, or digging deep into supernatural territory, the man could do it all. Suspiria remains one the legendary filmmaker’s career high points, and fans tend to universally echo this sentiment. This is more than just a supernatural Italian flick, it’s a strange and engrossing piece of artwork, and I can only begin to wonder how much more engaging it could be on the big screen. Suspiria has enjoyed a return or two to cinemas, but I haven’t been fortunate enough to catch them (this is where my sad face goes).
The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg is an amazing filmmaker, and he’s got the distinction of being one of the extremely few filmmakers out there to remake a picture and provide a final product that totally and completely blows the original out of the water. Make no mistake, Kurt Neumann’s original 1958 piece left a lot to be desired (I confess, I still love the hokey old flick), so it isn’t as though Cronenberg faced an unclimbable mountain face in order to produce a flick superior to the original, but few truly expected the 1986 picture to be as terrifying, disgusting, alarming, revolting and realistic as it was. Still to this day, 30 years after the release of the remake, Cronenberg’s The Fly turns the stomach, and turns the idea of drinking a glass of milk a total nightmare in itself. To see this disgustingly gorgeous production on the big screen is a dream I’d hoped might come true this year, given the three decade anniversary. Thus far, I’ve hear not a peep of The Fly returning to theaters. Damn shame, if you ask me.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Vincent Price was once regarded as the king of horror fare. There was a good reason for that, as Price played a role in more than 200 productions, the vast majority being horror and science fiction pictures. One of those pieces was House on Haunted Hill, William Castle’s magnum opus. It’s anchored by hokey onscreen gags, but Price gives us a wonderfully over the top performance that resonates after viewing. There are a handful of good jump scares here, but it’s really the cast chemistry that empowers the flick. It’s old, it’s been rebooted, it’s been forgotten by some, but one fact remains the same: House on Haunted Hill would make for a damn joyful trek to the cinema!
Another Dario Argento film lands on the list, but unlike the supernatural chiller Suspiria, Deep Red is giallo all the way. In fact, many cite Deep Red as the greatest giallo film in existence. I’m one of those many. A masterfully engaging murder mystery with plenty of black gloves, sharp objects and first person POV shots all come together to make for an engrossing viewing experience. This is one of the very few films that stands a solid chance to genuinely frighten viewers, and a return to the big screen would likely amplify those chances exponentially. I’d happily pay to see this one unravel on the big screen… especially during a midnight showing.
The Godfather of horror, Alfred Hitchcock, shot a number of paralyzing pictures. Picking one that I’d love to see on the big screen wasn’t easy, but at the end of all self-debate, it really boiled down to The Birds and Psycho. A few years back I was fortunate enough to see The Birds during a small film festival in San Francisco and it was every bit as satisfying as I’d hoped for, completely reigniting my passion for Hitchcock’s work. If you haven’t seen The Birds in a theater, keep your eyes peeled, it gets a lot of TCM love every few years. Psycho, however, is a different story altogether. This is a picture that doesn’t hit the theatrical scene on any regular basis, and when it does make its way back to big screens it’s often limited to major cities like Los Angeles and New York. As much as I love the film, and as much as I’d love to see it in all its big screen glory, I can’t bring myself to drive (or fly) 500 miles just to check it out. I consider that a by-product of my extremely slender (nearly invisible) wallet. But, were this one to return to a screen that didn’t require an eight hour drive, I’d purchase my ticket in speedy fashion and smile through the entire ride. Psycho is one of the greatest pictures to see release, and I can’t die a happy man until I see Norman Bates completely snap on a massive 80-foot screen.
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