Brawn and Bite: The Top 5 Action-Horror Movies
So as part of Horror Month, I'm hoping to have a few of these Top 5 lists highlighting some of horror's best sub-genres. Like our recent list of The Best Horror Films of the 21st Century, I want to be able to highlight a lot of the wide ranging types of horror which make up this genre we love so much and celebrate this month. For this time out, I'm bringing my focus in on the most adrenaline-fueled, exhilarating, and terrifying films of all time.
There's almost a magic trick that happens on screen when genres like action and horror come together. While each type of movie may not necessarily attract the same fans, the best of these films help bring those fanbases together allowing them both to appreciate these exemplary crossovers. The two most cinematic of all genres, action and horror are so often able to tell their stories with little dialogue or setup and the two go hand in hand being able to exhilarate you in so many ways you didn't even realize. These movies are special hybrids, elevating each category into something new and truly special, rather than lessen the effect of one another.
So without further ado,
It's Clobberin' Time...
5. Tremors (1990)
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire
Directed by Ron Underwood
You'd have to be really cold-hearted to not have a soft spot for Tremors. Ron Underwood's B-movie romp is the type of fright flick you'd want to anchor a long horror movie marathon in order to really bring the fun home in the final stretch of your lineup. Kevin Bacon and Burt Ward seem like they're in a terrific buddy comedy that veers off course as giant, man-eating, tentacled sandworms invade their backwater desert town. With the creatures swallowing up their victims from underground, a small group of survivors lead by the duo have to find a way to stay on top of buildings and structures in order to survive the beasts' onslaught. Especially fun are Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire as two survivalists with an underground bunker ready to do battle with monsters at a moment's notice, but the whole experience is exactly what you want it to be.
4. Dog Soldiers (2002)
Starring: Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Emma Cleasby, and Liam Cunningham
Directed by Neil Marshall
Neil Marshall's directorial debut is like Night of the Living Dead with werewolves, and thankfully lives up to that premise with intense "werewolf-on-soldier" fight scenes and gory delights. Marshall keeps his monsters mostly in shadow, as these huge lycanthropes invade a country house where they've cornered a small squad of commandos while out doing maneuvers with almost no ammo. Kevin McKidd and Sean Pertwee are standouts among our scrappy band of soliders, with half the fun coming from watching our heroes make do with what little weapons and kitchen supplies they can find. Marshall manages to keep the ferocity way up for the film's brisk 105 minutes, making great use of movie's claustrophobic location and really fun monster makeup/costumes.
3. Predator (1987)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, and Shane Black
Directed by John McTiernan
I experienced Predator for the first time the way every red-blooded pre-teen who grew up in the 1980s should have; in the middle of the night on HBO, after my parents had already gone to sleep. Growing up on a steady diet of 80s action such as The Terminator and Commando, I was more than excited to take in another Arnold Schwarzenegger epic with all the machine guns and fist-fights a movie like this promised. While Predator certainly lived up to my adrenaline-fueled expectations in it's opening moments, what I ended up with was a film that scared the crap out of me, as John McTiernan's blockbuster shifts gears from explosion-fueled actioner to something more akin to a monster/slasher flick. Sam Winston's Predator is one of the all-time great cinema creatures and the movie surrounding him is just as fantastic, ending up as one of the Austrian Oak's best offerings.
2. Blade II (2002)
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, and Norman Reedus
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
For the movie fan that loves martial arts, gunfights, vampires, ninjas, ninja-vampires, monsters, body horror, superheroes, and professional wrestling, Blade II has everything you need. While 1998's original Blade outing was a huge jolt to comic book films, the second film is a full-on throat-ripping standard-bearer for R-rated superhero movies. Infused with Guillermo del Toro's penchant for gory excess and beautifully choreographed violence, the movie is ceaselessly entertaining, making the best use of Wesley Snipes' cinematic posing ability. Del Toro even pulls off the minor miracle of making vampires scary again, which is a feat that had not been pulled off in quite some time, and has only been done a handful of times since.
1. Aliens (1986)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein, and Al Matthews
Directed by James Cameron
Though he's directed some of the most iconic and financially successful films of all time, for my money James Cameron has never directed a better film than Aliens. Taking on the unenviable task of filming a followup to Ridley Scott's masterpiece, Cameron decided against giving into the tendency with sequels of simply producing "more of the same". Instead, the director simply went with "more"; more aliens, more victims, more tech, more excitement, and more action.
Whereas Scott's Alien was a "haunted house in space", Cameron's film in a full-on war movie, with space marines doing battle against a horde of xenomorphs, and Sigourney Weaver's Ripley along for the ride and solidifying herself as the best big screen heroine of all time. Scott's film is so good that it's bewildering to think any sequel could try to match it, while Cameron's film is a flat out wonder when you realize it manages to do just that. The Terminator showed us who James Cameron was as a director, but it was Aliens that really showed us he was here to stay.