Revenge is a disk best served rented, or streamed. At least that’s the way I look at it. I mean, let’s face it – about 90% of the movies that feature ghosts, slashers or other monsters, human or supernatural, are always based at their core on some kind of vengeance…even upon those who may have inherited “the sins of the fathers” – or mothers, as it were. In no real particular order, let me run down for you 10 of my favorite revenge thrillers. Some of them are definitely horror films, some more on the action-thriller end. Hope it jibes with your list, or maybe you’ll discover a couple of things here that you’ve never seen before.
BLUE RUIN from Jeremy Saulnier, the director of GREEN ROOM. His first effort, this is probably one of the best present-day noirs to come out since The Coen Brothers’ NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. As the Everyman who decides to handle his business himself, Macon Blair (also in GREEN ROOM) is amazing in the lead role.
BLUE RUIN Trailer:
THE CHANGELING – Classic ghost stories are almost always fueled by some kind of payback that’s due, and this is no exception. George C. Scott’s enraged, grieving composer may have been connected to the other side by the accidental death of his family, but the spirit that contacts him wants payback for being done wrong by HIS family. A five-star film.
THE CHANGELING Trailer:
SUGAR HILL – You can’t do better for revenge stories than blaxploitation films, and this one is more creative than most about how it goes about it. The luscious Marki Bey is “Sugar”, whose man is murdered by a local gangster (ROBERT QUARRY), when he refuses to be shaken down. Too bad for the bad guys that Sugar has an operator with a direct line to Hell, named Mama Maitresse (ZARA CULLY, aka “Mama Jefferson” of THE JEFFERSONS) who places a call to the Lord of the Dead himself, Baron Zamedi (a bravura turn by DON PEDRO COLLEY). Parts of the movie are admittedly draggy, but the kills and the ending are worth it!
SUGAR HILL Trailer:
FRIDAY THE 13TH – I don’t want to hear that I’m dropping spoilers here – as a horror fan, you MUST know the plot to this one by now in your sleep. In fact, not knowing the twist to this movie is what got Drew Barrymore’s character gutted in SCREAM. But yes, the whole movie hinges on the revenge that camp chef (and BUTCHER) Pamela Voorhees (the great BETSY PALMER) takes upon the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake, when her ‘special needs’ son Jason drowns due to their negligence. Which we also know is only HALF-true (for evidence, see the rest of the franchise.)
FRIDAY THE 13th Trailer:
THE BURNING – And speaking of creepy camps, this one took a well-known legend – ‘Cropsy’ – and turned it into a slasher film for the ages. When campers take revenge upon chronic creeper and snitch Cropsy with a prank that goes horribly wrong (hence the title), things go from bad to an extremely bloody brand of worse, when the hideously burned freak comes back to his old stomping grounds, to get more than just a pound of flesh from the troublemaking teens who torched him. The film that made people sit up and take notice of Tom Savini, with a dynamite prog-rock score from YES man Rick Wakeman.
THE BURNING Trailer:
GHOST STORY – There are several on this list, but don’t let the generic title of this one fool you. Based in part on Peter Straub’s bestseller, four esteemed gentleman of a small New England town are continuously haunted by the most evil thing they ever did, until the day arrives they feared most, when their victim shows up for her due. ALICE KRIGE stunned the moviegoing world with her unforgettable performance, supported by four of the Grandest Old Men of Cinema ever: FRED ASTAIRE, DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR., MELVYN DOUGLAS (who is also in THE CHANGELING) and JOHN HOUSEMAN.
GHOST STORY Trailer:
TERROR TRAIN – Jamie Lee Curtis cemented her rep as a scream queen after HALLOWEEN, with several highly entertaining – and gory – slasher flicks, including this one. Once again, a stupid prank pulled by college-age fratbros goes way wrong, and instead of getting their prank victim killed, it gets a lot of OTHER people iced when said victim goes mental. This was for me (and probably a lot of other people) the first movie I ever saw David Copperfield in.
TERROR TRAIN Trailer:
DON’T BREATHE – This lower rung version of a heist that goes south is, at its core, a revenge story that goes with this movie’s shocking (and somewhat disgusting) twist, so I WON’T say much about it here. But these would-be home invaders make their first fucked-up assumption, by thinking that the old guy they’ve targeted to rob (a buff and terrifying STEPHEN LANG) would be easy pickings. And there’s so much more to this grizzled war vet that meets the eye (well, maybe not his, since he’s blind, too). But Fede Alvarez, director of the EVIL DEAD remake, really steps it up here, as does his two-time leading lady, JANE LEVY.
DON’T BREATHE Trailer:
THE FOG – Again, ghost story. But now we have John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis as part of an all-star ensemble that includes HAL HOLBROOK, TOM ATKINS, ADRIENNE BARBEAU, NANCY LOOMIS, CHARLES CYPHERS, and Jamie’s mom, JANET LEIGH! Extra perk: THESE ghosts are pissed-off pirates, whom due to some “sins of the founding fathers” action, are out to wreak their wrath on the modern-day descendants of Antonio Bay. NOT as gory as some of the others on this list, it’s all about atmosphere and that deft Carpenter touch!
THE FOG Trailer:
DEAD MAN’S SHOES – My first encounter with director Shane Meadows, and because of it, I want to see everything he’s done! A young man returns home to be with his brother again, with whom he has a very close relationship. I will shut up and say no more than that, because the less you know about this one going in, the more you’ll appreciate its shocks and surprises…AND the twist, which isn’t new, but Meadows comes up with a great way to give it a fresh ‘reveal.’
DEAD MAN’S SHOES Trailer: