THE OMEN – Richard Donner Much like it’s 70s genre stablemate The Exorcist, The Omen’s horror has been somewhat diluted through the years, due to endless parodies, lacklustre sequels and a characterless reboot. That’s unfortunate as it’s a deeply chilling film and Donner – like Friedkin before him – treats his subject matter with the kind of seriousness that wasn’t usually associated with that type of film back then. If you can watch the Omen in appreciation of the context and time it was first released, it will undoubtedly get under your skin. Beyond the satanic flourishes, the film also dips its toe into the deeply taboo and decidedly un-popcorn theme of filicide, something which also raises it above the typical Hollywood shocker of that era. Donner would follow this hit with the altogether family-friendly romp, Superman: The Movie, but The Omen remains a fascinating title from his eclectic CV.
Watch it on CHILI: The Omen
NEAR DARK – Kathryn Bigelow Cast your mind back to that glorious time before Bigelow began working solely on material within a real-world, geopolitical setting. Near Dark represents her purest example of cross-genre experimentation, resulting in a western-tinged vampire yarn, which doesn’t shy away from the blood-letting. The inspiration behind many of the subsequent revisionist genre works (we may have the director and her co-writer Eric Red to thank for inadvertently helping to plant the creative seed for Twilight’s Bella and Edward) Near Dark remains an atmospheric pulpy treat. While her 1989 offering Blue Steel certainly toyed around with elements found in the horror genre, it’s a shame Bigelow hasn’t fully revisited the film which really defined her pre-Hurt Locker style.
WHAT LIES BENEATH – Robert Zemeckis It seems at times there’s the tendency to underrate some of Zemeckis’ efforts outside of Gump and his adventures in that modified DeLorean because he’s an overtly populist filmmaker. More often than not he’s delivered the good in the many genres he’s explored, and What Lies Beneath is no exception. Written by one Clark Gregg (aka beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson) it’s a cracking Hitchcockian exercise in suspense and tension, which sees Harrison Ford in rare villainous mode, and enjoying every damn minute of it.
Watch it on CHILI: What Lies Beneath
MISERY – Rob Reiner Reiner has excelled in the many diverse genres he’s chosen to work within, be it coming-of-age, (Stand By Me) the mockumentary (This Is Spinal Tap) or broad fantasy (The Princess Bride). His sole foray into horror was met with similar praise, and rightly so. Featuring an incredible, performance-of-a-lifetime turn from Kathy Bates, who lurches into bursts of pure unbridled insanity yet somehow remains grounded and unbelievable. This has be also attributed in part to Reiner’s assured handling of the material. Bates has gone on to forge a success career as a respected character actor, yet seeing her in any subsequent part, it’s sometimes difficult to erase that maniacal pressure cooker Annie Wilkes persona.
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THE SHINING – Stanley Kubrick An obvious pick perhaps, but how could Kubrick’s terrifying portrayal of the manifestations of psychosis and schizophrenia go unmentioned when compiling such a list? Author Stephen King has been very vocal in his disapproval of this adaptation of his work (so much so, that he sanctioned a TV miniseries almost twenty years later) but it still stands as a crowning achievement in the genre. To see how much of a cultural impact The Shining still holds, you only need to watch this year’s Ready Player One where Steven Spielberg pays vigorous homage to his pal Stanley’s work in an electrifying fantasy sequence, which is arguably the film’s most memorable scene.
Watch it on CHILI: The Shining