Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: 10 Most Nostalgic Horror Movies

March 30, 2018 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday A Bloody Good Time

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Since I’ve spent half of the month getting nostalgic for my childhood, I thought I’d take it full circle this week. So we’re going to look at the ten films that are most nostalgic for me. So obviously this is a more personal and subjective list. No one’s gonna have the same movies that make them fond of a certain time in their lives, even if they grew up at the same time.

As for why each movie makes the list, it could be something I saw early in my life, something I saw a lot or just a very specific reason that makes sense only to me. That’s the point of a personal list like this. The movie might not even be good to be on here, although most of them are. If you’ve got your own picks, leave them in the comments and let me know!

#10: Monkey Shines (1988)

Before I was technically allowed to watch horror films, I would sneak off in video stores to the horror section and just look at the box covers. Yes, even then I was into it, I just couldn’t watch them without some heavy sneaking. One box cover that always caught my attention was Monkey Shines, because well, look at it. That little monkey is sinister-looking and even if a kid is brave enough to peruse the horror aisle at a young age, it doesn’t mean they’re ready for that.

I didn’t have a clue about what this movie was. Was it like Chucky, but with a toy monkey? Chucky already freaked me out back then because we had the My Buddy doll and it looked just like him. I remember being so entranced by this box cover that I’d written about it for a school paper on things that scared me. The teacher and my grandmother had no idea what it was or why I’d mention it. But I was a little kid and that thing had evil eyes.

As it turned out, the movie wasn’t scary at all when I finally watched it. Or maybe it was just that George A. Romero was no match for years of a child’s imagination over what it could be.

#9: Slashers (2001)

This little-seen, straight-to-video slasher movie always has a special place in my heart. It’s flawed but has a great concept: a reality TV show where contestants have to survive against psychopaths. It’s like The Running Man, but if the people were innocent, normal and not a catchphrase-spewing money-making machine. The reason it sticks out so much and gives me nostalgic is because it was part of my quest to watch anything and everything horror in my teens.

Specifically, I had a self-made website devoted to horror reviews. Who didn’t have their own website in the early days of the internet? I did, and I figured in order to attract viewers, I had to watch as much horror as possible and give my thoughts. This exposed me to a lot of great films, including some that even today I might not give a second look. The one that had the biggest impression on me, at least from the less-than-mainstream fare, was this. I’d recommend checking it out, if you haven’t.

#8: Tremors (1990)

I don’t need to explain to you why Tremors is a great movie. If you’re a horror fan you already know that and that’s not the point of this list. Tremors came on a LOT when I was growing up. I believe I first saw it on NBC, and then later when we got cable it played on USA frequently. I was exposed to this movie before I really started watching horror full time. I think it was okay because it was giant monsters. The same was true for Arachnophobia, which could have easily taken this spot.

Since then I’ve seen all the other films and while they vary in quality (I happen to enjoy the second one quite a bit), none of them give me the feeling that the first does. Sure, it’s a very entertaining movie, but it brings back memories of coming home, flipping through the channels and seeing a Graboid explode. In this case, it makes the list because of how often I saw at least parts of it, if not the whole thing at the time.

#7: Phantasm II

A lot of these movies are the result of late-night TV watching when I was a teen, or various horror blocks that channels would air. I have fond memories for films I haven’t watched in decades simply because I watched them during this time period. Phantasm II was one I got to see on TNT and I’m glad I did, because this is the movie that introduced me to Monstervision.

There has been no shortage of love for MonsterVision or host Joe Bob Briggs in this column. Joe Bob helped me cultivate my horror fandom a little more, gave me facts about the movie I was watching and helped me see positives even in total stinkers like Ghoulies. In a way, it was this show that eventually led me towards wanting to review movies, because Joe Bob’s everyman character had that effect. Oh and of course, seeing this movie as my first was a plus because the chainsaw fight blew my mind. For bonus points, this also introduced me to the Phantasm series.

#6: Army of Darkness (1992)

Most of the films on this list represent a first of sorts. The first horror movie I watched regularly, the first one in a series, etc. With Army of Darkness, you have the first horror film I’ve ever owned. That may not sound like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but as I said, I wasn’t allowed to watch horror for some time. Even when I started watching it regularly, I couldn’t afford to buy any and my family refused to.

This movie was gifted to me for Christmas one year, on VHS no less, and that opened the floodgates. It was sort of the acceptance of my grandmother that yes, I enjoyed movies with body counts. Since I wasn’t drinking at an early age or hanging with a bad crowd, she decided to indulge me. She still doesn’t get it to this day, but when you’re growing up it’s nice to have your fandoms acknowledged.

#5: The Ring (2002)

The Ring doesn’t represent any kind of a first for me. It’s not the first horror film I saw in theaters and it’s obviously not the first I’ve seen. This is more just associated with a really good memory more anything else. I had no idea what this was about when I went to see it, just that it was supposed to be scary. In this time period, “supposed to be scary” was all I needed.

I went to see it at our local theater in one of the final years it was in business. A good friend of mine was actually working there at the time, and popped in once or twice to say hi. That in itself was odd, and I found out that he knew the twist. So I’m pretty sure he wanted to see me jump when Samara came out of the TV. Spoiler alert: I did jump. I wasn’t expect that bit at all and it really got me. We laughed about it and I went home to tell everyone else how scary the movie was. As I said, all of the entries on this list are personal. Even a simple memory like this is a way for us to connect to our love of the genre.

#4: IT (1990)

There were a few movies that kids at school would talk about in the 90s even if they never actually watched it. Sure there were the Child’s Play movies and Freddy Krueger, but what really got the kids talking in my school was IT. Clowns are inherently creepy for some people, sure, but this ties back into the “killer clown” sightings. No, not the 2016 sightings. Those involved actual people dressed as clowns terrorizing people.

When I was a kid, people were still very aware of John Wayne Gacy, and he still made the news. In fact, a report about a failed appeal came on after the airing of IT at the time. This resulted in a hysteria of sorts about killer clown sightings (usually in a white van) in the Midwest. As we were told to be on the lookout for strangers, naturally that made us aware that clowns were bad. The fact that there was a movie playing on TV about a killer clown regularly made it worse.

So not all of these movies are positive, even if we were never in any actual danger at the time. I can only imagine how kids felt during the 2016 edition when there actually WERE clowns.

#3: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

When someone is given misinformation, it allows them to form an opinion in their head before they have all the facts. All you need for proof is to look at our current political climate. But the same thing to happen to teenagers, particularly when they’re told a movie is based on a true story. A friend of mine at the time had a copy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and would go on and on about how scary it was, mostly because it “really happened.” When you’re naive like I was (painfully so), you believe it. After all, why would they label a movie with that if it wasn’t a true story.

Of course at the time I had no idea who Ed Gein was or how little of his story was included in this film. All I had was the “true story” line and a gritty, music-less, dark picture that made me feel really bad. This movie scared me in a way not many films have scared me since. While it doesn’t have the same effect anymore due to knowing the facts, it still has a special memory due to just how much it messed me up when I saw it. And there was barely a drop of blood in sight!

#2: Scream (1996)

Scream was not the first horror film I ever watched, but it was the first R-rated horror film I was allowed to watch. It also kickstarted my obsession with the genre once I had permission to watch anything and everything in the genre. So when this was rented by my grandfather, I watched it later on during my own time. In that same weekend alone I watched this again, then two Halloween movies. I was like an addict at the time, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Before this, all I had to watch were the Universal movies, old monster B-movies, things like that. Sure, they were great, but I knew the really good bloody stuff (which is all adolescents care about if they’re into this genre) was elsewhere. I had friends who would tell me stories of movies I couldn’t watch yet. So Scream really began a lifelong love of a genre that still gets an unfair reputation. The fact that it’s a great movie helps too.

#1: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

You never forget your first. I’m about to reveal my age here, but I was seven years old when this came out. If you’re a long time reader then I’ve already went into the story about how I saw it. Here’s the gist: I told my family I was seeing a family-friendly film, a friend’s uncle took us to this instead. I was so terrified to go to sleep my family knew something was up and I was grounded for months. In retrospect, I should not have been at this movie.

But it was my first horror film and even though I was scared, obviously something in it resonated with me. Horror was dangerous. It made me frightened, sure, but once that wore off I realized I was safe. And if horror movies were safe, then hell yes I wanted to see more of them. Even then, part of me realized that the rush of being scared was a great feeling once the anxiety wore off. That’s what attracts a lot of people to the genre, and that’s what got me.

Also, that would be the first time I saw a woman nude in a movie. Again, I should not have seen this at age seven.

Ending Notes:

That’s it for me. Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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