25 May 2011

Dual 2008 - REVIEW

Ask yourself this... what makes a film good? Is it the story? The characters? The actors? The director's attention to detail? All of the above? Can a film be successful with a great cast and a so so story, or vice versa? What is it that really sets one film apart from another? I'm a firm believer that good direction and a great cast can carry a "meh" storyline pretty well. But, such is not the case here... I'll elaborate a little further in a bit.

DUAL follows drifter Luke Twain (Michael Worth) in the late 1800's when he discovers a town where all the inhabitants have been brutally murdered. Making a choice to remain and uncover what took place there, he finds himself in a strange game of cat and mouse with a mysterious man that still has one final mission.

After seeing Worth in several different roles, I can honestly say that he breathes a life into each character that is rarely seen on the indie film circuit. Whether he's playing a bank robber, a werewolf, an autistic boxer (my favorite) or a "here I come to save the day" cowboy, you can bet he's gonna bring his A game. I can't quite put my finger on it but there's something about him. Maybe it's a naivety... or maybe it's honesty... or maybe it's just damn good acting. I don't know but I like it. Karen Kim costars as Ember, a prostitute smitten with Twain. I haven't seen all of Kim's work but I do know that 90% of the time, she's kicking someones ass so it was hard for me to imagine her the way her character was described. It was pleasantly surprising to see a much softer, more endearing character. The two of them played well off each other. And what would a western be without a mysterious stranger? I'll answer that... Nothing. That's where the magnificent Tim Thomerson comes into play. You won't see much of him until the last hour or so of the film but as usual, when he's on, he's on.

Steven R. Monroe steps into the director's chair and cranks out another visually stunning showpiece. Even after seeing several of his films, his camera work still amazes me. He's got an eye for detail and a passion for film making that is evident throughout his resume. Just watch one and you'll see what I mean. Corey A. Jackson contributes quite the haunting score that helps build a lot of tension throughout the film. I remember Corey saying to me "As a composer I don't want the music getting in the way of the story. Then I haven't done my job. I'm supposed to support it or kind of give it an emotion." Can I just say... NAILED IT!

Now, back to my earlier statement. Not quite a horror but definitely a thriller, Dual has A LOT of major components to it. Miss a couple of minutes and it's likely that you'll have a hard time figuring out what's happening. I'm not going to go into great detail here because I don't want to ruin it for viewers the way someone ruined it for me (asshat!). Worth has weaved quite a puzzling tale with this one. Just when you think you've figured it out, something happens to throw you off. The story alone, gets the job done. The direction and the actors are just the icing on the cake. I found Dual very intriguing and was pulled in the second Luke Twain made his grizzly discovery. I'm sure there will be those that dislike it (the asshat). It does take a while for the action to get going but in my opinion the end result is worth the wait.

Be sure and check out the trailer here!

17 May 2011

Raymond Did It Gets Distribution

Plastic Age Productions is pleased to announce that indie slasher film Raymond Did It has been acquired for international distribution by R Squared Films!

The plot crunch: “When Bryce Rourke is accidentally killed in a playground scuffle, his friends blame his developmentally delayed older brother, Raymond, for the murder. Six years later, Raymond escapes from the state mental hospital to exact bloody revenge.”

Filmed in June of 2010 and released in limited theaters in 2011, Raymond Did It is an 80’s style slasher film. Starring Lindsay Felton (VH1 Scream Queens, Caitlin’s Way), Jessica Palette (Vh1 Scream Queens, Under the Raven’s Wing), Elissa Dowling (Dahmer vs. Gacy, Dread), and introducing Kyle Hoskins as Raymond, Raymond Did It has received critical acclaim and overwhelmingly positive response from fans.
Raymond Did It was written and directed by Travis Legge, shot by Director of Photography Tim Stotz and edited by Robert J. Williams. Raymond Did It also stars Steven Edwards, Jake Skiba and Ty Yaeger.

More information on Independent Film Distributor R Squared Films can be found online at rsquaredfilms.com

Raymond Did It is scheduled to play theatrically in New York City's Anthology Film Archives on June 28th at 7:30 PM for details and advanced tickets, visit brownpapertickets.com

16 May 2011

INTERVIEW - Director/Actor Michael Worth

Last week, I had the opportunity of rounding out the interviews with "my guys" when Michael Worth called in. After a run in with the "ticket lady" and couple of recording errors, we ended up having a really great conversation and I even managed to get in a few questions (surprise surprise).

Not only that but I found out that he has a pet crow... and it talks! Toward the end of the interview, I could hear the crow, Moki, yelling "Wow" in the background. Hysterically funny and very cute. (Sorry Mike, had to steal the Moki pic) Come to find out, Michael is an animal lover who has rescued everything from mules to squirrels to little Moki which just goes to show that not only is he a great filmmaker but he's also a very caring person with a kind heart (I already knew that though).

TC: You got your start in 1992 with a few martial arts films. What was that like?
MW: It’s funny because I’m kind of addressing this a little bit in [stupid recording cut out] and now Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen and that is… that I’ve been doing martial arts since I was a little kid and it’s completely separate from my film career. It’s like a lot of actors out there play football their entire life or they play soccer all their life but they don’t become soccer actors or football actors. What happened with me was that I was lucky enough to sort of move out of it. My introduction to leading roles were in these sort of low budget martial arts films. As soon as you do one and somebody sees you have a talent for something they hire you to do a bunch more and as a starving actor you gotta take these roles as they come. The first group of films I did when I got here were like three or four back to back for the same company. I was able to use the martial arts to get me into making films but then I just didn’t wanna go that route, it wasn’t really interesting to me. I started doing guest spots on tv shows and playing different characters so all of a sudden I wasn’t gonna be the next martial arts action hero because that was never of interest for me to do. And right now in Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen I’m adding a character that I’m playing myself who’s dealing with that issue.

TC: I’ve seen you tweet a lot about Bruce Lee. Is he kind of a mentor or iconic figure for you?
MW: For a lot of kids, especially when they get involved in martial arts, he was such a… my own father, who I loved very much and he’s not here anymore, my parents were separated at a very young age and you tend to find that missing father figure at times and for me it was Bruce Lee. He motivated me to, not just do martial arts but to go after my goals. There was just so much to him philosophically that, as a kid, it was what I needed.

TC: Jabberwocky is a new film that you’re doing with Steven R. Monroe. Can you tell me a little about that?
MW: I’m not sure exactly when it takes place. It’s a medieval period film and takes place in sort of a mythical land. It’s got a great group of characters that all live in this village and they’re dealing with this creature that even for them is kind of mythical. It’s not like they have Jabberwockies walking through town every day.

TC: Is that gonna be a SyFy movie?
MW: Yeah that was made in conjunction with the SyFy channel. When I came on board… I got called in like 2 days before filming began. Steven called me on a Friday and said “Hey we’re shooting in Bulgaria do you wanna come be in this movie?” Steven is one of those directors that’ll call me up and say “Hey I got a movie for ya”. I didn’t know what it was I would just say yes anyway because he’s someone I trust and he’s got a real integrity to him in terms of making films. I know he’s not there to just try and make a buck and walk his way through a film. He’s actually trying to make something good out of it. So I just said “Yeah, I love Bulgaria, I love you so I’m on my way.” I actually read the script for the first time somewhere over the ocean on my way to Bulgaria. I didn’t even know what I was playing. I could’ve been a frog for all I knew.

TC: When I talked to Steven last he was telling me about Left in Darkness and how you were kinda apprehensive about spending three hours in makeup.
MW: Oh yeah because I’d done Buffy the Vampire Slayer a few times and I remember that… it’s one thing if you’re going to play the lead in this film, it’s this great intense character, I’ll wade through some intense makeup for four or five hours but our guy was like come on out and it was more of like a co-star coming out and playing Monica Keena’s dead step-dad and I had to put that makeup on and I was like “Oh God, but once again, for you Steven, alright let’s go.” And Corey is another one. The first time I worked with him directly was when we did Dual, a little independent western that Steven and I did, he was just… the music in that movie just blew me away. He really put himself into it. Both Steven and I, whenever we do projects, he’s always the first guy that jumps in our heads to try and get involved. All of us kind of come from this idea that if we’re gonna do something… I mean the truth is that it’s gonna be around forever so why just half ass it? The second I start half assing anything in this business I’m gonna become a construction worker or something. Why bother doing it? Stop and you think about when you were a kid… for me it was like I would’ve worked for the rest of my life for free to be able to make movies. Now that I’m doing it, I don’t ever wanna lose that. The second I find myself being like [whines] "nah, nah, nah" I’m gonna slap myself.

TC: Aside from the SyFy films that you’ve done, do you do a lot of work in the horror genre?
MW: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve seen Dual yet but if you get a chance you should take a look at it. So far, that has been my only entry into anything close to being horror. But the reason I did it was because I wanted to take a western and make it a thriller/horror at the same time. I don’t mean that in a sort of convoluted sense though. I certain films coming out and I think there’s this sort of convoluted idea of “let’s put this together because it’s gonna sell” rather than “let’s find an interesting way to tell a genre.” David Mamet was once saying to me about telling a story… he said “The greatest thing is [stupid recording cut out AGAIN] find new ways of telling a genre.” I thought, there’s something to truthful to that because why remake The Good, The Bad and The Ugly over and over and over again. We all love that movie but what’s interesting about trying to repeat something? For me, when I did Dual I was trying to blend the two elements together. Truthfully I’ve been waiting to be inspired to make a really, really good one. It just hasn’t hit me yet. Dual is a little Indie film, like God’s Ears, they were made for roughly the same amount of money and those are the two films out of everything I’ve done in this business that I’m most proud of and aside from Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen, they’re probably the least expensive movies I’ve made which is an example to me of how one can make important movies without having to have millions and millions of dollars.

TC: Would you agree that most of the more unique ideas are coming from Indie Films these days?
MW: Yeah I think that’s true. Today there’s this thing where the cameras used to shoot are getting less and less expensive and there’s a lot of filmmakers that think… "ahh, now I can make my movie because the camera is cheaper to rent." The camera is such a small micro element of making a film that a lot of people lose sight of what it really takes to make a good film. It’s not like a painting where you have one artist and a canvas. It’s a collaborative art form. You have writers and directors and set designers and score and actors and all these different people that have to be on the top of their game. So, for me, when I watch a movie and it doesn’t really appeal to me, I’m not one of these people that will say “Oh God, I can’t believe that made this piece of crap.” Because I know for the most part and sometimes this isn’t gonna be true but, for the most part, most people are trying to make a good film. I’ve made some films where I was trying to make a good film and it didn’t quite work. But I really was trying. There are a lot of films out there where people were trying to make something good and it just didn’t work out. But, there are a lot of Indie’s that are successful because they take more risks. Not stupid risks but risks that they believe is gonna benefit the audience. You might fail but people will say “that didn’t really work but I can kinda see what he was trying to do.” With Indie films there is this balance that you need to find because you have the Indie films that make very little money and then you’ve got these gigantic hundred million dollar studio films. It’s really hard to find something in between. When you make these hundred million dollar movies you’re now in a spot where you can’t take any risks because if you do then you might lose your money. Some people can take more risks if they’re making a film for a hundred thousand dollars or so then they can in the larger productions.

TC: Now you do a lot of work with the same actors…
MW: For me, I can’t really speak for Steven but for me, when I do films you do develop a chemistry with some people in real life. The reason I’m using these people isn’t because I have some distributor coming up and saying “We want these people in there.” I’m using them because I love them and I think they’re great. We get on set and we like a shorthand of sorts. I just mumble something and they go “Oh I know what he wants.” It’s the same with Steven. I know Monroe and when I come as an actor on one of his films he just has to throw out one sentence and I get exactly what he wants me to do.

TC: God’s Ears kind of shows your passion for film and that film really blew me away. How hard is that, writing, directing and acting in a film?
MW: I learned a lot making that movie because I had just come off of writing all of these SyFy, genre specific movies, which I love and it’s great but I was ghost writing. There’s a good half dozen films that were for SyFy for Lifetime that I was ghost writing on. I was so used to having people come and say “here’s step number one, here’s what’s happening in step number two, here’s formula number three” and it was like… what about the old days? People use to write projects because they had some idea that grew out from inside them that affected them because it was part of their lives not because it was part of the formula. So when I wrote God’s Ears it was completely, 100% going against any formula. I didn’t wanna think about the first act, the set up, the foreshadowing, nothing. I just wanted to make a movie that I felt really strongly about. It has been, in terms of the audience anyway, the most satisfying project I’ve ever been involved with. I’ve watched it affect and touch people in a way nothing I’ve ever done has before. I’m not saying it was me, I’m just saying that I think by sticking to that methodology of doing something from the heart rather than from the playbook.

TC: Is Autism something that has affected your personal life in any way?
MW: Not in my personal life but because I knew people… when I started writing the script I had already, not in my family, but I had already known people with Autism and people in the industry and stuff. And I’d watched it and sometimes we get involved in our own lives and we’re like “ah damn, I didn’t make as much money as I wanted to on this job” and we’re whining. Then sometimes you look at someone else and you go “look what they have to deal with every moment”. I don’t know how much I should be complaining in life when I look at certain people and see what they have to go through every day. Making that movie was, in a sense, self reflective of that. I wanted to make a movie that reminds people… what are we complaining about? Here’s a character that has way more than we ever have to deal with and he’s going through life just fine and he’s finding his way. So yeah, it did touch me personally but not necessarily in my family or anything like that.

TC: What role did Kerry Connelly have in God’s Ears as far as how your character acted or reacted in certain situations?
MW: Kerry’s family had been investors in Dual, the film I did with Steven Monroe, Tim Thomerson and Karen Kim in 2007 so I met her through that. My experience with Autism was through her and her work so I brought her on to the project so I could keep it authentic. One thing I didn’t wanna do is play a character. I didn’t want to go in and my acting was based on like ticks or things that I perceived watching people have. I really wanted to get her very intimate knowledge of how these people actually think, the best that we know this, and proceed in life. She actually stayed involved in the project from beginning to end to sort of keep me in that truth.

TC: I have a friend who has a high functioning Autistic son and every time I’ve seen God’s Ears, he’s the one person that always comes to mind.
MW: It’s really great to hear that because one of my goals was not to make the character, Noah Connelly, as being too unreachable for people. Sometimes you see films where they portray someone that’s, let’s say Autistic, and it’s so extreme that you can only sit back from a distance and watch them AS a character in a sense. So that’s something that I wanted to get across with the character is that he goes through the same things that we all go through. I’m really glad that you had that reaction.

TC: I’m a huge fan of Henriksen and Thomerson so I’m really excited for Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen.
MW: I don’t know how the film is gonna turn out but one thing that I can say with certainty is you’ve never seen either of them like they are in this movie. The two of them together are just hilarious. Lance is one of the funniest people you’ve ever seen. He’s use to playing the intense brooding characters but this time he’s breaking that mold. He’s actually out goofing Tim. It’s really funny. We might shoot a little bit tomorrow night over in Burbank for Lance’s signing because there’s a scene in the movie where… what I’m trying to do… the reason I even made this movie in the first place is that I’m trying to weave reality into this fictional film. Where almost everything that happens in the film, even though there’s sort of a fictional line in the movie, it takes place during real events. In other words there are real things happening in the course of this so it’s all blended together.

TC: What gave you the idea to do this film?
MW: I’m one of these guys that don’t like the idea of just walking through my career or life trying to repeat myself or trying to do what’s marketed at me. That’s not why I became a filmmaker. I wanted to use it as a means like a painter would. A painter doesn’t say “today the market wants a painting of the Mona Lisa so I’m gonna paint the Mona Lisa”. They go out and they get inspired by a tree or a rock and they paint it. For me, that’s why I make films. Granted, you gotta make money sometimes but Bring me the Head of Lance Henriksen came about because I was inspired by what I saw around me with people like Tim and Lance. Particularly it was a lot of the things that these actors go through in their careers. I thought it was a great way to focus on a movie about a character who has had a career then all of a sudden finds… wait a minute, what is going on with this career? Is it changing? Is it me changing? Are the people changing? Is it just getting old?... and utilizing that. All of the stories that weave in and out of this movie are mostly real stories. There’s a lot of things that the characters, everyone from Cerina Vincent, Tim Thomerson and Adrienne Barbeau, it’s all including, bring to this sort of fictional narrative, real life things that actually happen to them. It’s really fun.

TC: Do you remember one specific story from either Lance or Tim that had you rolling or touched you in a way?
MW: Those two have a lot of stories! I’m trying to get them to tell as many of them as possible on camera. Some of them they have to be careful because they’re talking about other people. As long as they’re positive it’s ok. Tim has a lot of great stories and I always pick on him… the funniest thing is getting them to tell stories about each other. Tim always tell this story about being on the set of Near Dark and Lance and Bill Paxton were like wrapped up in their vampire rolls and he was scared of them all the time because they were so weird on the set.

TC: How much longer do you guys have to shoot on that?
MW: Well I’m cutting a version of it now and it’s gonna give me an idea of what I have left to shoot. I know I have a couple of scenes left to shoot, I’ve got this scene with Tim crashing a casting session because of a movie that’s a sequel to a movie he made a long time ago and he finds out he’s not in is so he’s trying to figure out how to get into the project. I’ve also got a scene where there’s a party being thrown at someone’s house, kind of a reunion for everyone that was in Sasquatch Mountain. Other than that, that’s all I know that I’ve got left to shoot. As I cut the film it gives me a better idea of what I’m missing.

TC: Do you have an approximate release date for it?
MW: No, I don’t know that yet but I’ll probably have everything shot by the end of this month and then my guess is, with editing, it’s possible I could have it done and going into festivals as early as August or September. Maybe even July.

TC: I also heard that you had a little brush with being Robin in Batman Forever?
MW: I went in to read for… well I didn’t even know what I was reading for because they were just sort of secretive about it. They were cruising video game places and boxing gyms to look for somebody to play Robin. And I happened to get in through a boxing instructor, a guy named Jerry Poteet. Before I knew it I was meeting with Joel Schumacher to screen test for the film and signing contracts. It was me, Chris O’Donnell and one other guy that were up for the lead. Of course they went for Chris and he did a great job. It was funny because after I didn’t get the part, they called me up later and asked me if I’d play his brother. I was in Hawaii at the time shooting an episode of Marker so I couldn’t come back. When I got back they asked if I wanted to at least fight Robin so I said yes. An old friend of mine, Don “The Dragon” Wilson was in the scene so we got to hang out for a week. It was a lot of fun.

TC: What influence did your Mom have on the career path that you took?
MW: When I was a kid, I wanted to make movies so badly so my Mom took me to a camera store and they had these old cameras and I went up the owner and started bargaining with him. I think that he was so taken by this 11 year old kid trying to haggle with the prices that he ended up selling to me for like $25 instead of $40 or something like that. That started my passion for making movies.

TC: And the first film you shot with this camera was ‘The Tire’?
MW: Oh yes! The Tire which was recently stolen and made into a movie called Rubber. [laughs] That was my movie as a kid. It was about a killer tire. I thought for sure nobody will ever write this. Who’s gonna make a movie about a killer tire?? I remember watching tv and seeing the trailer for Rubber and I was like… What the hell? No, but it is really funny. Let that be a lesson to all the young filmmakers out there… if you’ve got an idea, make it quick!

TC: Other than your Mom getting the camera for you when you were younger, has she been really supportive in the path that you chose?
MW: My mother has been by far the biggest supporter of my career. That woman has never once said to me “are you sure you don’t want to try something else?” She saw from the get go what I wanted to do and she has always… I mean… not only that but she’s always been an investor. She’s put money in my movies. She put money in God’s Ears. She put money in Dual and Ghost Rock. She’s always been someone there for me that I knew I could rely on to talk me back into it if I was starting to slip. She’s been like that since I was a little kid. I mean, she’s in my movies. She makes a cameo in God’s Ears and then my Grandmother actually plays my Grandmother in the movie as well. So I always keep my family close. Not only did they act in the film but they were also the caterers. My Grandmother would work on camera and then as soon as we’d cut she’d go start cooking lunch for the crew.

TC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the business?
MW: One of the things is, if it’s something that you really wanna do and something that you’re really passionate about... it’s sort of equateable to what I’d say about marriage... which is tenacity. That’s what’s gonna have the most success is sticking with it. There’s gonna be times when you feel defeated and let down. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known since being in LA that have come out and then just disappeared. I’ve seen them come and leave. There are people in this business that are not very talented but they’re doing very well and there are people who are very talented that just get frustrated and leave. So, the best advice I can give is to just have a tenacious nature. Just stick with it because it’s the people that stick with it who are gonna have the most success. Besides that, do you really wanna do something else? You’ve got one life and if this is what you wanna do how happy are you gonna be if you just give up? I don’t ever wanna say “I wish I’d tried to give this career a go.” I’m giving it a go and I’ll always give it a go until I’m old like Tim Thomerson. [laughs]

TC: [laughing] Should I leave that comment out or can I put it in?
MW: You can put that in just make sure to put that I laughed after. He doesn’t read the internet anyway so I can pretty much say what I want about him. [laughs] Tim Thomerson, if he saw a computer, he would not know what to do with it. This is a true story… There was this one time that he called me up and he said “Mike, how do I send a text?” He did not know how to send a text on his cell phone and he still doesn’t. So if that’s any indication… you can say whatever you want about Tim Thomerson online and he’ll never know. He’s a really great guy though. There’s a lot of people in the business that you cross paths with and you see them acting together and you think they must be best friends. But a lot of them don’t have lives with each other outside of the business. Tim is one of those few people in my life that… we’re just really good friends and we always have been. It’s rare to meet people like that. Lance is another one. Lance and Tim and John Saxon we’ve stayed really close with each other and we actually go to each others houses and have BBQ’s and that kind of thing. [laughing] For some reason every time I’m with Tim, Lance will call. I’ll usually put Tim on the phone and Lance will be like “Who the hell is this?” As a matter of fact when we were shooting Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen one time Lance called right before I started a take and I handed the phone to Tim and he talked to him for like two minutes and then he handed the phone to me and Lance said “Who was that?”

Thanks so much to Michael for calling in and giving an awesome interview! I look forward to Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen and future projects. Much love and appreciation!!

06 May 2011

Sony Pictures Hosts God's Ears Screening to Raise Money for Operation Autism

May 01, 2011 – Michael Worth screened his award winning film “God’s Ears” and debuted the stunning new "Autism Support Group" video/PSA that he also directed for www.rethinkingautism.com.

Michael Worth also wrote “God’s Ears” and gives an outstanding performance as an Autistic young man in this poignant character study.

This event was co hosted by high powered ad exec and "super mom", Dana Commandatore and her husband, Actor Michael Broderick to help raise money for "Operation Autism” which helps military families with Autistic children. Thankfully, enough money was raised to help support several hundred military families.

Some of the supporters who attended were: Dolph Lundgren, John Saxon, Adrienne Barbeau, Cerina Vincent, Margot Farley, Karen Kim, Tim Thomerson, Dominc Daniel, Kassi Crews, Alex Ballar, Steve Mason, Alley & Orson Bean, Frank Cassavetes, Kaitlin Cullum, Tim Abell, Lyndie Denier, Leeann Tweeden, Tammy Klein, Bibi Amos, David & Max Tadmin, NCIS Executive Producer Chas Floyd Johnson, Producer David Foster, Director Dennis Smith, Stan Carlson from Actors West, Sony’s Kimberly Cullum, Yoni Liebling (CAA), Ellie Wen (CAA), etc…

Please check out this great article from the Examiner about the film and event by Liz Kelly from Sunrise Road Media.

03 May 2011

10 Horror Movies That Changed the Genre

10 Horror Movies That Changed the Genre

I was contacted by Katrina Solomon over at www.collegedegree.com contacted me to see if I'd ben interested in an article that was published on their site. I'm always open to publishing good articles and this one is definitely worth a read. ENJOY!!

As long as movies have existed, filmmakers have been telling horror stories. George Melies' Le Manoir du diable, a silent, three-minute French film from 1896, is generally recognized as the first horror film ever made, coming just a few years after the medium was invented. Since then, horror films have undergone constant changes, growing in tandem with mainstream entertainment and doing their own part to advance filmmaking technology, push the envelope for what's appropriate in film, and get people talking about movies. It's probably fair to say that there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of horror films that have changed the genre in one way or another, but of all these, a few stand out as especially powerful, or gripping, or revolutionary. These are the films that didn't just make a cultural impact or earn decent revenue; they redefined what horror films looked like, period.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: "Even if one of them survives, what will be left?" Tobe Hooper's 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (it wasn't spelled Chainsaw until the sequels) was a pioneer in the slasher genre and instantly influenced the entire horror field. It's credited with popularizing a number of now-standard tropes for slasher flicks, including the plight of the "final girl," who is left to fight the killer or flee for her life after her friends have been picked off one by one. More than that, though, the film championed a new aesthetic that's still in use today: industrial grunge. The iconic Leatherface wasn't hunting his prey in a sleek city environment, a well-groomed suburb, or even a nicely tended piece of country land. He's chasing his victims through a grimy, run-down house and barn, one that's cluttered with old junk and the rotting remnants of previous kills. The Saw franchise and the whole vibe of Nine Inch Nails wouldn't exist without Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It's down and dirty, and it also took horror in new directions by having a killer motivated not by revenge or psychological trauma but by sheer creepy insanity. Leatherface's family is just plain weird, which is often scarier than anything.

2. Night of the Living Dead: The first entry in George Romero's Living Dead series is still, in many ways, the best. Appearing in 1968 and made for a ridiculously cheap $114,000, the film revolutionized horror and specifically zombie movies for decades to come. Shot in stark black and white, the film is a departure from the often cheesy thrillers that had filled movie theaters in earlier years. Psychological terror wasn't new, but the idea of taking zombies and other monsters so seriously certainly was. There's no way to laugh off the undead killers in Night of the Living Dead; this isn't a low-stakes, wacky frightfest. This is a full-on horror film, designed to be shocking, and it definitely achieves its goals. The movie made it safe to believe in monsters, and it pulled supernatural horror that much closer to the mainstream. If you've never seen it, you're missing a classic.

3. Halloween: Slasher films were a growing trend for horror filmmakers by the late 1970s -- in addition to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there was 1974's Black Christmas -- but it was 1978's Halloween that really took the sub-genre to new heights. John Carpenter's terrifying film about a psychotic killer stalking bored teens on Halloween was made on a shoestring budget but went on to achieve major box-office success, launching the career of Jamie Lee Curtis in the process. It's a brilliantly structured scary story that makes the most of its atmopshere, too. After a shocking opening sequence in which the childhood Michael Myers slaughters his sister, the film dials back the blood and focuses on the paranoia and terror of being followed by a threat you can never quite see. The success of the film popularized slasher flicks, which flooded the market in the 1980s, but it also demonstrated that the best way to make a horror movie is to minimize the actual blood and gore and emphasize the mental effects of the story.

4. Dracula: There have been dozens of film and TV adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi has stood the test of time and proven to be one of the most influential ever made. Produced and directed by Tod Browning (who directed Freaks a year later), the film came out just a few years after talkies were introduced, but its place in movie history owes as much to its story and style as it does its use of new technologies. The success of the film obviously paved the way for the legions of adaptations to come, but more importantly, it injected a vital strain of bleak realism into the horror field's dependence on the supernatural. (F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu can make a similar claim.) There's nothing remotely jokey about Dracula, and perfectly innocent people are killed or, worse, turned into vampires by his actions. The film made it clear that, though horror films often took place in fantastical versions of our own world, their consequences could be every bit as dire as those we'd see in a typical drama.

5. Saw: Saw did a lot of things right, but it also caused a lot of problems. Yet that's often the nature of those films that change their genres the most: that change can be profound, but not always positive. In 2004, Saw blew the doors off with its grimy, gory approach to morality plays. It can be tough to remember now just how much the film stood out from the pack at the time: it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and earned positive reviews, especially for its script, which reworked classic locked-room puzzles with a decidedly more gruesome bent. It amped up the industrial vibe of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to 11 while introducing its characters to a series of deadly games that would come to dominate horror for several years with the rise of the "torture porn" sub-genre. The first film is, comparatively, light on the torture, focusing instead on the terror of captivity and helplessness, and it remains a visceral and chilling film. Unfortunately, its power was retroactively watered down by a series of increasingly convoluted sequels (there are now seven films in the franchise) and a host of odious films inspired by the notion of captors torturing their victims. (The worst of these was Captivity, which was so hard to stomach that even the billboards were censored.) Influence is double-edged like that. Flash Animation

6. Scream: Say what you will about its lackluster sequels; the original Scream, from 1996, remains a fun and inviting light-horror slasher flick. The 1980s and early 1990s saw a glut of bad horror ruin the market, but screenwriter Kevin Williamson (whose success here let him launch Dawson's Creek) had the right idea to go meta with a slasher movie in which the characters name-check the very conventions by which they'll live and die. Self-awareness was pretty much the only way to win Generation Y, and it worked. Despite some weird moments and absurd twists (did no one notice the killer running around the convenience store in the middle of the afternoon?), the film was a fresh take on the genre and helped revitalize the field. It also allowed for the use of smarter humor in thrillers, though that's a target that's aimed for more than it's hit. In addition, Scream opened up the doors for a wave of similar thrillers stocked with stars from teen dramas, like I Know What You Did Last Summer. So, yeah, blame director Wes Craven for indirectly making Jennifer Love Hewitt more popular. Nobody's perfect.

7. Psycho: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, from 1960, might be the best known of all his films, which is really saying something, since Hitch dominated Hollywood thrillers for close to 30 years. It's almost universally praised, and rightly so. Anthony Perkins' performance as Norman Bates is creepy, low-key, and instantly classic, and the film also contains some of Hitchcock's most famous sequences, notably the dreaded shower scene. But Psycho's effects on horror films go beyond its stylistic flourishes. This was the movie that raised the stakes for horror stories by making no one safe, even -- or especially -- the beautiful female lead. Just about the entire first act is a diversion that lets Hitchcock lull the viewer into complacency, getting them interested in the story of Marion Crane before she's brutally killed. Marion was played by Janet Leigh, who was a major star at the time and still married to Tony Curtis. For a film to kill off the beautiful blonde at its center -- and more than that, to do it less than halfway through the movie -- was a daring way for Hitchcock to break the rules. Psycho was explicitly dangerous like that, and it allowed later movies to be similarly daring. Decades later, Wes Craven's Scream paid homage to Psycho by having its own major blonde star, Drew Barrymore, killed in the opening minutes.

8. The Exorcist: The 1980s were all about crazed killers, but the 1970s were all about demonic possession. Rosemary's Baby kicked things off in 1968, and the decade went on to offer films like 1976's The Omen and 1979's The Amityville Horror. But 1973's The Exorcist takes the prize for being so completely scary and disturbing that even the edited-for-TV version is tough to watch. Based on William Peter Blatty's novel and with a screenplay by Blatty, William Friedkin's supernatural horror film relies on shocking imagery and the troubling images of a possessed young girl who says and does things that are truly disturbing. To say it changed the horror genre is a bit of an understatement; years later, no one's really talking about Amityville, but the impact of Exorcist lives on. It pushed the envelope of what horror films could show and what kinds of subjects they could tackle, especially in terms of religious iconography. (Roger Ebert, though he gave the film four stars, was so taken aback by its graphic imagery that he said it was "stupefying" that the film was rated R and not X.) This is the movie that took horror to new heights. Flash Animation

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street: It's true that there are some effects in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street that look, well, tame by today's CGI standards. But what the film lacks in polish it makes up for in invention, style, and real terror. Written and directed by Wes Craven, the film created a monster-movie icon with Freddy Krueger, who started out as a genuinely frightening figure before countless sequels turned him into a more quip-based murderous prankster. The film is full of standard 1980s horror devices, right down to the kids who get punished by the killer for having sex, but it proved influential in the horror field for the ingenious way it blurred the line between reality and fantasy. Most horror films, though far-fetched, exist in their own world that follows specific rules; it may not look like ours, but it's close enough, and more importantly, it's consistent. A Nightmare on Elm Street, though, constantly breaks those rules, sliding between a "real" world and a dream one so quickly and irregularly that it's impossible to know what's really happening. The film even ends in a state of limbo, with the heroine, formerly victorious, back in a dream and fighting the seemingly unstoppable Freddy Krueger. Sequels aside, that's pretty chilling.

10. The Shining: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is so gorgeous that it's hard to believe it's a horror film; scary movies do not look this good today. Adapted from Stephen King's equally terrifying novel, Kubrick's film takes a more lyrical approach, emphasizing the psychological warfare happening within the head of tormented hotel caretaker Jack Torrance as much as the ghost story of the haunted mansion that's trying to draw him in. Jack Nicholson goes memorably crazy as Torrance, driven mad by isolation, confinement, and the growing restlessness of a very weird hotel. The film also features some now classic images, including those creepy little girls and the elevator of blood. But on a broader level, it changed horror films by demonstrating that it was possible to be scary and smart at the same time, and that artistry didn't have to be sacrificed to earn chills. In fact, it proved that a well-made film, one that placed a premium on things like acting, writing, lighting, and other technical details, could be more effective at getting under the viewer's skin than some quick-hit B-movie. It's also consciously brighter than most horror movies, finding terror in the wide open spaces of the Overlook Hotel's brightly lit corridors and other areas that turn out to be far more frightening than the overused graveyards of thrillers past. The Shining changed horror movies by redefining what it meant to actually be a horror movie. That's no easy feat.