Top 10 Horror Films of Producer P.J. Starks

P.J. StarksScaretissue is proud to present another guest contributor, P.J. Starks.  P.J. is writer, director & producer of horror anthology Volumes of Blood and will serve as producer on the upcoming The Confession of Fred Krueger.

We asked P.J. what movies he’d put on his Top 10 Horror Films list and here’s what he had to say:

When I was first asked to create a Top 10 List I thought to myself, “easy!” I was wrong in every way. Especially when the genre that you’re creating said list for is so near and dear. I have so many favorites that it was damn near impossible for me to narrow these puppies down. For Christ sakes I own nearly a thousand horror dvd’s and those still don’t have all the ones that I enjoy. I have an addiction to buying movies, so sue me! How do I do this? Where do I even start!? That’s when I decided to try to come up with at least two from each subgenre. I still don’t feel that I’m doing my list justice because there’s no way I could only have ten on my list of favorites. I’m gonna pop in the score from Planet Terror and do my very best. Let’s turn out the lights and turn on the frights…

Insidious – How do you go wrong with the team that brought us Saw and Death Sentence? I mean these guys are a force to be reckoned with. I’ve been looking for the mother of all ghost movies since I was little and while I grew up on a steady diet of Ghostbusters and Poltergeist, neither of those films really terrified me. I’ve seen a ton of supernatural thrillers from Ghost Story to The Changeling to The Haunting and they all rely on the same basic story of someone wronged in life or a mystery needing to be solved. So eventually they play less like a haunted house movie and take a left turn into just a basic murder mystery. While the stories might be interesting, the scares fall to the way side. Then Insidious came along and changed all that. It was an original story that involved a whole new realm, but relied more on solid performances reacting to the terror unraveling around the characters while maintaining enough story to stay intriguing. The film was chocked full of all the jump scares, build up scares and unexpected fright that I’d been looking for in a “haunted house” flick. It even inspired my segment Ghastly for the horror anthology I recently produced called Volumes of Blood.

House – No not the doctor procedural, the 80’s haunted house film from Sean Cunningham and Steve Miner. You might remember those guys they helped bring us the Friday the 13th franchise. While this film does fall in tow with the overused “mystery” plot device, it does so with a lot of heart, laughs, scares and originality. Plus we get Norm from Cheers to round things out, so it’s the perfect popcorn fright feature. The film is about a divorced author who returns to his deceased grandmothers home where his son disappeared years earlier to write his latest novel, a biography about his experiences in Vietnam. Things soon go horribly wrong when he plagued by ghostly visions and happenings that may or may not be his son. A snoopy neighbor comes to the rescue when he discovers something might be living in a closet upstairs and the film is so chocked full or monsters, ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night that it’ll give any horror fan a run for their money. A true gem from my childhood and the DVD I purchased came with a surprise copy of House 2. Yeah, I came a little when that happened.

Dawn Of The Dead (2004)Dawn of the Dead (2004) – This film gets very little love for some reason. I know that it’s a reimagining of a classic, but that doesn’t detract from its brilliance. Created by another unstoppable team Zack Snyder, who is a true visionary, and James Gunn, who is a true fan of all things horror. The gore and effects work is solid and they manage to create characters that you give a shit about so when the time comes for the red stuff to splatter you worry about the safety of the cast. I like a good rambling zombie, but I find running zombies more terrifying because they don’t need to stop to take a breath. An enemy that wants your flesh and doesn’t tire out is pretty formidable, so that’s a scary combination. Ving Rhames and Ty Burrell finally get some roles that allow them to truly shine. The cinematography is amazing, the film is just beautiful to look at. I’m still praying for a direct sequel because I want to know what the hell happened on that island.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie – If you thought zombie films were saturating the market in the 70’s and 80’s then you obviously had no idea what was in store for the future. However, not ALL the European zombie films of yesteryear were total pieces of garbage. Some of them were shining achievements in my opinion and tried to stand from mass of cookie cutter gorefests. The aforementioned film definitely one of those. While the pacing is probably going to put some to sleep, it boasts a likable main duo that oddly enough can actually act. Throw in the unique twist for why the dead are returning from the grave while boasting some great splatter fx and you have a fun way to spend eighty minutes. What really made this film stand out for me, from a production stand point, was someone knew that making a scary zombie meant to dehumanize them in every way. With the use of something as simple as contact lenses to make them more animalistic did the trick. Check it out if you’re a fan of the genre, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)From Dusk Till Dawn – Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino… need I say more? Awesome script, awesome story, awesome fx, awesome film! Starts out like a sadistic buddy crime flick and ends with an onslaught of vampire carnage candy. I could watch this film over and over. I typically don’t like vampire movies, but this one does the myth justice. I even got to see this in the theater with my grandmother, who is also a huge horror fan and is the one who got me into the genre. So I hold this theater outing as a special one, even if I was forced to watch Cheech Marin scream about “pussy” in front of my Gi-Gi… yeah that’s what I call her, don’t judge me!

30 Days of Night – I could name ones that everyone loves like The Lost Boys, Near Dark or Once Bitten, but for me this marked the return of the truly scary vampire. Filled with bloodshed and tons of vamp action as well as a solid cast of characters; you just can’t go wrong. Josh Harnett plays a strong leading man dead set on saving as many of his townsfolk as he can from the bloodsucking scourge with Melissa George as his deputy and back. Ben Foster makes another memorable appearance as the Rensfield-esque vampire human slave, his character also involves an oddly emotional moment. Based off a graphic novel and splattered onto the silver screen, this film gave me hope in seeing more awesomesauce from the fanged foes. Then Twilight hit…

An American Werewolf in London – I am a werefantaic… if that’s even a thing. Probably the most well- known and beloved of the werewolf films; you just can’t love this movie! It cleverly uses humor to mask the true terror that waits around the corner and renders you helpless when the beast begins his reign of terror in the streets of London. David Naughton gives an uber memorable performance as a fish outta water American across the pond trying to make sense of the senseless bloodbath that he appears to be creating. Round out the rest of the cast with Jenny Agutter as the damsel in distress and Griffin Dunne, his best friend turned rotting corpse counterpart; mix in tons of suspense and werewolf horror and you have a recipe for success. Directed by legendary filmmaker John Landis (who I’ve had a personal run in with & he’s part of the reason why I do what I do) with special fx work from Rick Baker of which he won an Academy Award for. An all-around great time.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)The Hills Have Eyes (2006) – Continuing my love for remakes that are actually worth a damn, we have the redo of Wes Craven’s desert cannibal suspense thriller. When I saw this film in the theater I was a new husband and a father of a 19 month old boy, so when the mutant antagonists started their supremacy of fear I truly sympathized for the young father. SPOILER ALERT (besides there is a statue of limitations on films over 10 years old!) Once the wife is shot in the face and killed and the baby was stolen I suddenly put myself in the shoes of that young father and thought, “what the hell would I do!?” From this point it becomes one of the most epic revenge flicks and I was nearly cheering as the father began slaughtering the cannibals. They got what they deserved and then some. It was truly an emotional ride for me and one that I’ll never forget.

John Carpenter’s The Thing – A monster movie of the finest caliber. Some might argue that this is a sci-fi film, but the amount of gore, eviscerated flesh and beasties is enough to keep it grounded in the good ole fashioned realm of horror, so suck it! Carpenter at his very best with incredible special fx work from Rob Bottin of The Howling fame. Next to Snake Pliskin this is one of Kurt Russell’s best performances and the film is so awesome it gave Wilford Brimley diabetes. Only part of that last sentence is true. A small band of men trapped in a frozen hell with an alien creature that wants to take over their molecules. No trust, no escape and no way you wanna miss this masterpiece of horror cinema.

The Monster Squad – I tried to choose films that embodied my love for the genre and this film was a staple in my horror consumption. I’ve watched this film a trillion times. How can you pass up what is essentially the Universal Monsters versus The Goonies? I’ve already watched this film with both my boys Logan and Connor, they too loved it as much as I did. You get all the goofy comedy of a more mature Little Rascals mixed with adult sized monster goodness. This film comes complete with good scares, good humor and just the right dose of popcorn fright flick fun. It’s the kick in the werewolf nards that we all need from time to time.

Special Mentions

  • Stakeland
  • Day of the Dead
  • The Return of the Living Dead

(We’d like to once again thank P.J. for being a guest contributor to ScareTissue.com.  We love getting a view into the minds of these incredible directors & producers.  We realize that every horror fan has a top 10 list and we love bringing them to you! If you are interested in contributing your list please contact us.)  

About P.J. Starks

P.J. Starks
P.J. Starks is the writer / director / producer of the horror anthology Volumes of Blood.

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