Give Him Your Willie! Errr ... Willies

(The annotations were added November 2, after the results were announced.)

Ballots for Ed Hardy Jr.’s 31 Flicks That Give You the Willies are due by the end of October 28. Remember: Your movies can’t win if you don’t play.

Here’s my ballot, sent without consulting my nominations:

1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The only movie that’s made me sleep with the light on.

2. The Mothman Prophecies (2002).

3. The Brood (1979).

4. The Fly (1986). Cronenberg’s most conventional horror movie, it finds a fascinating balance between earnestness and parody. It works as both a love story and a deconstruction of horror.

5. The Devil’s Backbone (2001). The lesson for other filmmakers is that context — a specific, meaningful time, place, and situation — matters. Contrast Guillermo del Toro’s movie with virtually any Japanese ghost movie/remake that’s made a splash in the U.S. in recent years.

6. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975).

7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Well, they were trespassing ... .

8. The Birds (1963). In announcing the results, Ed Hardy Jr. wrote: “This one I just don’t get. They’re frickin’ birds, man! What’s the big deal?” He has unwittingly tapped into why the movie works so well: What happens when something so ubiquitous (and seemingly harmless) as the bird turns on us for no reason?

9. The Descent (2005). I’m typically empathetic about matters of taste — I accept that you and I won’t always like the same things — but I honestly cannot fathom how anybody could not love this movie.

10. Jacob’s Ladder (1990). Elizabeth Pena mostly naked, Tim Robbins mostly naked, Macaulay Culkin getting killed ... . Even if it weren’t extraordinarily skilled at the texture of nightmares, it deserves our thanks.

11. Ginger Snaps (2000). It succeeds where An American Werewolf in London fails, and has much to say about sex, puberty, and sisterly bonds.

12. The Shining (1980). Striking, discordant images — two little girls, a flood of blood — do much of the heavy lifting. The core domestic drama/horror might be its least interesting (and least frightening) element.

13. 28 Days Later (2002). For such a blatant rip-off of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, it is amazingly effective, mostly because of a few genuinely heartbreaking human moments that Romero could never pull off.

14. Cronos (1993). One of the few horror movies I’d call lovely, Guillermo del Toro’s movie is an elegant exploration of aging and addiction, and it invokes vampirism in a fresh way.

15. Hour of the Wolf (1968).

16. The Exorcist (1973). At heart, a screed against single motherhood, Hollywood liberals, and science. Seriously.

17. The Haunting (1963). The template for the haunted-house movie.

18. The Vanishing (1988). No, really, you don’t want him to show you exactly what happened to her.

19. Carnival of Souls (1962). You know exactly where it’s headed, but it works. Methinks there’s much to be learned about the mechanics of horror from this low-budget gem.

20. Carrie (1976). Given how female-centric its story and themes are, I wonder how women feel about this movie, given that men directed it, adapted it, and wrote the original novel.

21. Dead Ringers (1988). It’s probably 10 times worse if you’re a woman.

22. Suspiria (1977). Every time I watch it, I’m surprised it works at all; it should feel unbearably silly.

23. Eyes Without a Face (1960).

24. The Blair Witch Project (1999). The unfair backlash obscured its formal rigor and its focus on fear rather than the cause of fear. Inspired the “Blair Witch check” in our household: an up-the-nose glance to make sure there are no embarrassing boogers.

25. Halloween (1978).

26. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).

27. Day of the Dead (1985).

28. Funny Games (1997). The horror is drawn from its senselessness, from details such as white gloves to the lack of any rational motive.

29. Audition (1999). Two words: “piano wire.” Say them to anybody who’s seen the movie in the context of the movie and watch them squirm.

30. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). Particularly effective because it’s as plain and ordinary as a serial-killer movie can be. Its lack of witty, brilliant murderers and baroque killings means that we see our world reflected in it.

31. Candyman (1992). Comes perilously close to racism but is stronger because of it. It taps into urban and racial fear using the supernatural, and speaks more resonantly about race than the vast majority of well-meaning dramas on the subject.

The choices were made hastily — make that “intuitively” — with one eye on my cinematic tastes, my other eye on memories of what genuinely creeped me out, and a third eye on boosting the fortunes of lesser-known films. Mock in the comments section, please; I want your abuse.

Some additional notes on nominated movies that didn’t make my ballot:

Not Willie-Inducing

Freaks (1932). In “humanizing” the “freaks” and making the “normal” villains, it’s mostly a morality tale about the Golden Rule.

Don’t Look Now (1973). Fascinating and finally absurd, but it’s primarily a study of grief and obsession.

The Innocents (1961). A serious disappointment when I finally saw it. There are a few chills inherent in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but this well-regarded adaptation didn’t do much for me beyond those.

Martin (1977). This might be my favorite George A. Romero movie, but its sympathy for and empathy with its monster undercuts its horror.

Ravenous (1999). It’s an easy-to-swallow movie about cannibalism, and that pretty much disqualifies it as horror.

Not Horror

American Psycho (2000).

Jaws (1976). Suspense mostly, and some terror, but no horror.

Psycho (1960). I find it neither frightening nor horrific. (That’s not to say I don’t like it ... .) Mummified mama comes close to horror, but the movie is so iconic that there’s an inevitability that robs it of shock.

Les Diaboliques (1955).

No Fucking Way

An American Werewolf in London (1981). Comedy overwhelms the horror.

Creepshow (1982). I know it’s Creepshow 2, but one of my favorite lines from a movie as a teenager was “Thanks for the ride, lady!”

Cube (1997). Cool concept, wretchedly executed.

Friday the 13th (1980). I’m sure those who nominated it drew from childhood memories, but they should watch it as adults. I did, and it’s moronic.

Haute Tension (2003). Even if all that came before were scintillating and smart (which it’s not), the twist and its reveal are irredeemable.

Ju-On: The Grudge (2003). A skeletal ghost story. See the above note on The Devil’s Backbone.

Pet Semetary (1989). The book — one of the few Stephen King novels I’ve read — did nothing for me. The movie did less.

Phantasm (1979). There are things that are disconcerting because they make no sense, and then there are things that are dumb because they make no sense.

Saw (2004). I blame you, motherfucker.

Signs (2002). I have ideas on how this could have been a good movie.

Slither (2006). Self-satisfied, smug, and tedious.

The Village (2004).

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