I get asked a lot- "What are your favorite movies from the 'Masters of Horror'? When I say 'Masters of Horror' I mean the true masters from the late 1970's and 1980's; George A. Romero, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. A lot of people may really get angry when I say this, but I truly feel (with an exception of Cronenberg) that all of these directors are well past their prime and really have not done anything worthwhile since the late 1980's (and with Craven the mid 1990's).
However, if I would have to pick two of my favorite movies from each of the aforementioned directors I'd pick these:
George A. Romero:
#1) Day Of The Dead (1985): I absolutely love this movie and think it's far superior to Dawn Of The Dead in may ways. The story not only has a very desperate, claustrophobic feel to it, but it's pretty much everyone's nightmare come true. Imagine being trapped underground with a bunch of evil fucks with machine guns and the alternative is combating the undead and probably being eaten alive. I also feel that this is Tom Savini's best movie special effects wise and has some of the best gore from the 1980's.
#2) Dawn Of The Dead (1978): It's very hard to look past Romero's masterpiece Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and go with this, but where Night Of The Living Dead lacked, Dawn of The Dead flourished. Night Of The Living dead had a lot of impact, but it also lacked gore and violence that comes from a human being ripped apart and eaten by a zombie. This can only be blamed with the time this movie was made, but at the same time Hershell Gordon Lewis was making excessively bloody movies in the 1960's. However, Dawn Of The Dead gave us another very confine, claustrophobic movie- this time trapped in a mall with the ever-present zombies trying to break in. The movie had a lot of humor, great pacing and of course some raunchy gore!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): First off, I just wanted to say that Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the best slasher movie ever made- yes, even better than Halloween (1978). The thing that sets this movie apart for me is the cinematography. The way Daniel Pearl used the sky as a part of shots, sometimes overwhelmingly taking the shot where the talent was just a small part really gave the movie a feel of intense heat and lonesomeness- it made you feel like you were in the middle of Texas. This aspect aside, the rest of the movie was nothing short of revolutionary-- from the whole "documentary" feel of the movie to the utilization of a masked killer with a signature weapon. This pretty much became an archetype of 1980's slasher villians from that point on. This movie may lack in blood, but it delivers more impact than any 'Chainsaw' movie that came after it.
#2 The Funhouse (1981): Let's face it- this movie gets shit on a lot by genre fans I I can't understand why. It's a neat and creative little slasher movie, following all of the slasher archetypes and stereotypes and still it's one of the least referenced slashers out there. The movie is set inside of a funhouse where a masked maniacs stalks and kills a bunch of hopeless teens- how can you go wrong with that formula? Sadly, other than 2 or 3, this was one of Tobe's last good movies. Tobe basically nose dived and plummeted to his death when it comes to films.
#1) Halloween (1978): Okay, this is a no-brainer as far as the best Carpenter flick is concerned. When it comes to the genre, this movie is pretty much the the movie that started the slasher craze of the very-late 70's that ran through the mid-eighties. Not only was this movie beautifully shot, but it was driven by a very strong cast with a very strong script. We have a masked stalking killer that sets his own tone just by his mere presence in the scenes where he was watching Laurie. As a kid those scenes bothered me the most and always had me looking over my shoulder and being afraid to look out of the classroom window. As if that wasn't chilling enough, the now iconic score made those scenes work. As far as I am concerned this movie is a masterpiece as much as Romero's Night Of The Living Dead (1968) and Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
#2) The Fog (1980): It was really hard to pick between this, Christine (1983) and They Live (1988). I really have to go with The Fog for many reasons; the atmosphere is just unforgettable. One thing that Carpenter can do is create an atmosphere that drives a movie. Every time I watch this movie I feel wet- sounds crazy, but it just has that vibe. In my opinion, this movie was his most visionary and atmospheric and it's not even a movie that I consider 'great'. It's a good horror movie and all, but it's not on my top 10.
#1) A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984): Another title that should just go without saying- A Nightmare On Elm Street is by far the best of the entire franchise. Being one of the most unforgettable movies of my youth, it's most definitely close to the top of my all-time top 10. I think this movie is one of the most unique and definitely the most clever to be released in the 1980's along with Clive Barker's Hellraiser. Most slasher movies are very straight forward- killer, signature weapon, mask, teens and kill-- this may have all of that, but it's most definitely the best film that Craven has (and will) ever write and direct.
#2) The People Under The Stairs (1991): So, I am sure people will disagree with my second entry for Craven- I'm sure a lot of people would have picked Scream (1996), Last House On The Left (1972), or The Hills Have Eyes (1977). I agree that all of those films would have rightfully been a great choice, but I love The People Under The Stairs. Again, as Wes Craven does best we have a clever, creepy and funny movie that is just a fun, fun flick all together. To this day I am clueless as to why this movie has not become a classic, because it really is just that.
#1) Rabid (1977): When it comes to David Cronenberg, where do we start? So many great movies to choose from and all of them deliver equally. I do have to go with Rabid first just because of the age when I saw it I just thought it was the sickest, creepiest movie ever. The movie has this sloppy, sweaty, exploitation feel to it that makes me want a shower after viewing this. As far as zombies go (well, it's more of an infected person movie) this movie is pretty unique and has that Cronenberg 'touch' to it and porn star Marilyn Chambers does such a great job in this that it's just an all around great and memorable film!
#2) The Dead Zone (1983): Again, picking a number 2 was really hard. With Cronenberg so many could have been chosen; Scanners (1981), Shivers (1975), The Brood (1979) and The Fly (1986) could have easily been in this slot, but I chose The Dead Zone. Most people who have seen The Dead Zone TV series knows what this movie is about-- Johnny Smith (one of Christopher Walken's best performances) is in a car accident where he is put in a coma and awakens with psychic abilities that aids in criminal investigations. He later has visions that a presidential nominee will be responsible of destruction of mankind.