#1 Alien (1979, dir. Ridley Scott)
What is there to say about Alien that hasn’t been said before? Seeing the iconic 1979 sci-fi horror on a big screen really drives home the stifling claustrophobia of the ship’s endless, hazy bowel-like corridors. Practical effects hold up well, special effects… not quite. However, even for a modern-day audience, it is a masterclass of building up and sustaining tension and suspense.
#2 The Greasy Strangler (2016, dir. Jim Hosking)
This was the film I was looking forward to the most for a number of reasons: I knew very little about it, it was the only one I had not seen before and the reviews were very mixed, to say the least. So it turned out to be; some people in the audience were laughing like hyenas, while others sat stony-faced, some fell asleep and some even walked out. The film is about a grease-obsessed man who lives with his son and at night goes out covered in grease to strangle people (film does what it says on the tin). I felt that the film would have worked better as a short – once the initial shock passed, there was very little to admire and plenty to be frustrated about; film lumbered from set piece to set piece, each trying to out-gross the previous, musical score sounds like it came from a Gameboy Advance and the jokes became predictable and repetitive. It did make me laugh a couple of times, but most of the laughs come in the first 15 minutes. Overall, an interesting experience but not one I would particularly like to relive.
#3 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir. Wes Craven)
The film which gave the world one of the most iconic horror villains (and 7 sequels, Michael Bay-produced remake, novels, comic books, and a TV series). It is a very satisfying and inventive slasher, with an engaging story, likable protagonists, enough violence and gore to shock but not repulse, excellent score and menacing villain. I enjoyed it much more the second time around, perhaps because relating to characters desperate not to fall asleep is a lot easier at 3am when you’ve not slept in nearly 20 hours.
#4 Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Dracula is one of the most told stories in the history of cinema. There have been several takes on the story, such as FW Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) starring Max Schreck, Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi, Terence Fisher’s Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee. This version is the most faithful to the source material, which has its problems – much of the novel consists of entries from the characters’ diaries, ship logs, etc. which doesn’t quite work in a film, for me at least. The performances in this film are a mixed bag; Gary Oldman is very good as Count Dracula who, in this film, is much more of a tragic figure than the straight-up evil villain from other adaptations. Other members of the cast are solid, if unremarkable – apart from Keanu Reeves. Much was said about his performance as Jonathan Harker, but he is stiff and his attempts at an English accent don’t come off. I liked the cinematography and the score, but I didn’t feel hugely invested in the story, which I have seen told before and much better.