By Will Thompson
Remember the end of “Ghostbusters II” when the streets of New York City filled with white people who sang “Okie from Muskogee” to save the day and help the Ghostbusters drive back the ghost of the diabolical Vigo the Carpathian from inhabiting a baby and thus being reborn?
What really happened, of course, is that a massive throng of New Yorkers of all stripes sang “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” by Jackie Wilson to keep our boys in gray jumpsuits with the proton packs fighting. Not exactly a portrait of rugged American individualism, the likes of which can be seen throughout movies of all kinds: One man, against the odds, finds a way to defeat an adversary and becomes revered by society.
Sure, we could watch “John Wick,” “Die Hard,” or (insert John Wayne movie here), but that’s not what the times are calling for. It is beyond obvious that we need each other and need to work together to literally survive right now.
While we’re all on empathy fatigue, it’s important to take some time out to relax. Maybe a mindless comedy does the trick for you, but, as you may have guessed, that just doesn’t cut the mustard with me. I like my figurative mustard dark, terrifying and cult-y. If horror is your bag, here are some flicks to reinforce your soul with what it needs to keep bringing unity into our world, to keep you brave when fear sets in. Above all, don’t give up. You matter. Your actions matter.
Stone Cold Classics
George Romero’s “Dead” Trilogy
George Romero makes no bones about the social and political subtext of his movies, which is why his initial trilogy of zombie films is all the more remarkable — they’re damned good on their own without the commentary. “Night of the Living Dead,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead” essentially created the modern zombie mythos and are complete canon for anyone interested in horror; so much so that I hesitated to include them here. They’re some of the least cult-y cult films around.
Why include them? None of these films skimp on their portrayal of human brutality, selfishness, and mindlessness while leaving the viewer emboldened at the power of human ingenuity, drive, and spirit. They’re as relevant today as when they were made and just as powerful. And don’t skimp out on “Day of the Dead” for years, which is the mistake I made; it’s just as essential as the first two.
When the World Crumbles
Six women go spelunking in the Appalachian Mountains and I’m not going to tell you how many come out the other side. The 2000’s were even more devoid of good horror than the ‘90s were and “The Descent” stands so far out in front of most offerings from the decade, it’s not even funny. “Harrowing” is how some might describe this film, but we need a word that’s a step above that to describe how intense this gets.
In a life-or-death situation, keeping a group together can be difficult, and that, of course, is an understatement. While this film may not give you the feel-goods of some of the other films mentioned here, it depicts some of the deepest, most awe-inspiring fearlessness in recent memory. When the chips are down and your support system is crumbling, let’s hope we can all double down and stare death in the face like Sarah, the film’s heroine.
This One Has It All
“Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors”
Regularly ranked as the second-best film in the “Elm Street” series, this one is a fantastic place to start, even if you know nothing of Freddy Krueger. It kicks off what becomes the series’ main arc and features a fantastic cast lead by Patricia Arquette. A group of teens in a mental ward can’t sleep. They all keep dreaming of the same creeping figure with the burn-scarred face. Only one person can help, and that’s psychology grad student Nancy Thompson, who tangled with Krueger and survived in the first film in the series. Filled with Krueger’s goofy side, some hilariously memorable kills, and relatable characters, this one has it all and is emblematic of the series and much of ‘80’s horror at its best: funny, gross and a cast you root for.
This week’s extra credit: any party-based role playing game. Whether it’s tabletop, like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, or in a video game, such as any entry in the Final Fantasy series, work together with a group and do some questing.
Thompson enjoys putting somewhat carefully chosen words in relatively meaningful order. He has been to college. He lives in Lewiston and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.