Jacksonville filmmaker Damian K. Lahey can be a bit of a recluse at times, so — being the annoyingly prodding journalist friend that I am — I attempted to crack open his oyster shell and, in the spirit of All Hallows' Eve, ask him to give me a list of his favorite horror films. For those not familiar with Lahey from his award-winning Indie film work, his feature-length movies include Cocaine Angel and The Heroes Of Arvine Place, both shot here in picturesque Cowford. Arvine Place, a Christmas holiday-themed movie, is currently finishing up its festival run after winning several awards, and will be released this December on Blu-ray and all major digital platforms. The tireless Lahey has also just completed post-production on a lil' horror/comedy short that he shot in L.A. in July called Soccer Moms In Peril, and is in pre-production on his next feature, which will be shooting in Jacksonville at the beginning of 2015.
Anyway, Lahey agreed to churn out the list at my behest. Curiously (and I would say criminally) missing from his compilation is Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood, featuring a post-relevancy Corey Feldman and pre-right wing Dennis Miller. I'll now step aside and let Mr. Lahey take over the scene from here:
Lahey: When RDS3 asked me to shoot him a list of my favorite horror movies, I was already tired from a long day of work and writing. Nonetheless, I threw back a can of HyperFizzics (a potent locally produced energy drink) and marched forth. Suddenly, it was 4 in the morning and I had not only finished this list, but had also nearly completed the construction of a fully operational time machine in the basement of my apartment building AND finished reading all of Dave Sim's Cerebus tomes.
Now, this is a purely subjective list. This is not what I believe are the best horror movies or the most influential horror movies. This is a list of MY favorite horror films — the ones I’ve watched the most and the ones I’ve talked about the most throughout the years and recommend to people.
1. Suspiria (1977)
dir: Dario Argento
Cinema is a magical combination of luck and design, and there are few better examples than Suspiria. To me, this is pure movie alchemy. An absolutely horrific and mesmerizing tale of witchcraft and nonsense. A driving score and glorious technicolor photography highlight this story of an American ballet student studying abroad at a macabre dance academy.
2. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
dir: George Romero
In my opinion, the fully restored Director's Cut is an American masterpiece on par with The Godfather and possibly the only horror film to achieve such an epic scope in regards to what makes up our culture and our country. It is complex and multi-layered, and the scores of copycats and the best episodes of The Walking Dead only hint at the truths contained in this film.
3. The Shining (1980)
dir: Stanley Kubrick
This oft-referenced film is everything about a man having a midlife crisis and nothing about a haunted hotel, and is psychologically menacing in ways no horror film has been before or since — and the more you watch it, the more you'll notice.
4. Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) (2008)
dir: Tomas Alfredson
The vulnerable and dangerous nature of adolescent love has rarely been so beautifully photographed as in this tender love story between a young outcast boy and the neighborhood vampire girl. Like all true love in life, this film is as tender as it is vicious.
5. The Thing (1982)
dir: John Carpenter
This claustrophobic gore-ridden chiller about a bunch of ugly dudes at the North Pole battling a shape-shifting alien is the best example of something that would never get made today for all the wrong reasons and something that has become a classic for all the right ones.
6. Demons (Demoni) (1985)
dir: Lamberto Bavo
THE horror movie to watch with a group of people. This imaginative and nonstop splatterfest opens crazy and ends crazy. A bunch of patrons show up to a movie theater and immediately all hell breaks loose! As many before me have pointed out, this is a wild rollercoaster ride of horror if there ever was one. This movie is a blast.
7. Halloween II (1981)
dir: Rick Rosenthal
I am more than aware of the historical context the original film is placed in. I've watched it three times. I've watched this action-packed sequel about 25 times. It is possibly the best textbook example of what the modern slasher movie would become with every possible convention crammed into one pulse-pounding thriller. The body count is just as high as the tension.
8. Opera (1987)
dir: Dario Argento
On the other side of the coin, this is like no slasher movie you've ever seen. You won't roll your eyes at the inane plot till the credits roll, as this film is utterly relentless, brutal, gorgeous, inventive, erotic and, as the title would suggest, operatic.
9. The Company Of Wolves (1984)
dir: Neil Jordan
This gruesome and surreal fairy tale about sexual awakenings and the betrayal of adulthood combines the modern werewolf film with Little Red Riding Hood. This is arthouse horror at its best.
10. The Ring (2002)
dir: Gore Verbinksi
This is scarier and smarter than you remember it being. Never before in a horror movie has such a shallow gimmick (a cursed videotape) been used to illuminate so much more: the inherent corruption of human nature and the decay of family. Also one of the few remakes to surpass the original, in my opinion.
11. Beyond The Darkness (1979)
dir: Aristide Massaccesi
This is one of the sickest and most heinous flicks out there. Believe me. This movie has no respect for you or your family. It is delirious, disgusting, perverted and yet strangely captivating throughout.
12. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
dir: Takashi Shimizu
Th Asian J-Horror phenomenon, responsible for the ghostly chick with the stringy black hair and the nightgown and the countless forgettable series of films she appears in — has spawned at least one absolute classic: Ju-On. Forget the truncated remake and its lousy sequels. Ju-On is legitimately incredible, and if you haven't found yourself scared by a horror film in a while, turn the lights out and watch this.
14. Road Games (1981)
dir: Richard Franklin
You may not find a more uniquely enjoyable terror flick than this one. Stacey Keach is an existential trucker, who, along with his dog and hitchhiker Jamie Lee Curtis, discovers that they may be driving down the same stretch of highway as a ruthless serial killer. The plotting is ingeniously tight, the acting top-notch, and the balance between eccentric levity and scares is dead on.
15. Evil Dead II (1987)
dir: Sam Raimi
A bazillion remastered special editions with a bazillion different audio commentaries and featurettes and documentaries and action figures and video games and comic books still haven't dulled the edge of this hyper-creative and bloody horror/comedy masterpiece.
Follow RDS3 on twitter @RDS3Z