October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best comic book horror movies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Heh. Heh. Another day, another list. Glad to see you! Come in! Come into the crypt of terror! This is your host, Brad “Ghoulish” Gullickson, spooking! We’ve chosen a real meaty list of terror from some of my favorite, horrific comic book adaptations. I’m sure these titles will make your blood freeze in your veins and the hair on the back of your neck crawl!
We FSR creeps are not your usual breed of movie maniac. We’ve assembled a collection of films, and in an order that you might find puzzling or dreadful. Good! We are here to stir a little ghastly shock into your system. You look a little piqued, and some fiery debate might jump-start that gorgeous heart of yours.
Beware of what evils lurk in the hearts of film freaks, and keep reading for a look at the 10 best comic book horror movies as voted on by “Cadaverous” Chris Coffel, “Killer” Kieran Fisher, “Ruthless” Rob Hunter, “Murderous” Meg Shields, “Jacksaw” Jacob Trussell, and myself.
10. Return of the Swamp Thing (1989)
I enjoy Wes Craven’s 1982 original and recall it being a staple of my younger years thanks to HBO, but at the risk of being labeled a heathen and an asshole, I’d argue that Jim Wynorski‘s belated follow-up is the one to beat. I’m serious! The creature work is creative and plentiful, the action is fun, Heather Locklear has never been better (sorry TJ Hooker fans), and the damn thing is just hilarious. It’s a ridiculously funny comedy that also happens to feature bipedal hybrids and French screen legend Louis Jourdan fighting in a swamp, and while its comic origins are the focus its witty and fast-moving script is the main ingredient. –Rob Hunter
9. Tales From The Crypt (1972)
“You were cruel and mean right from the start; now you can truly say you have no…heart.” When Amicus Pictures finally convinced William Gains to sell them the rights to his ghoulish comic series, the publisher demanded final approval of the script. The result is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the anthology series that slightly alters classic tales of revolting terror. Broken into five chapters and featuring a Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) wraparound, Tales from the Crypt is a delightful taste of everything morally reprehensible and dangerous that made the comic a must-have addition to every kid’s secret goodie box – and skating under the radar with a PG pass from the MPAA. We’ve got a killer Santa, skeleton bikers, zombie Peter Cushing, and a doomed Joan Collins. The HBO series would eventually take the concept to gloriously grisly heights launching two of its own spin-off films (Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood), but this 1972 original was the first to capture the peril of the comic book. – Brad Gullickson
8. Blade (1998)
With the possible exception of The Crow, before Blade, we didn’t really have an “action-horror” genre of the likes we see today. Sci-fi action has long been considered mainstream, but it would take a badass Wesley Snipes with the world-building of David S. Goyer for the two genres to finally coalesce. The style of Blade became the instant gold standard for future blockbuster action-horror with its moody score, enigmatic brash villain, and that blue hue we’ve seen now in everything from the Underworld franchise to Priest and Constantine. But none of this would have been possible without an incredible performance by Snipes at the top of his game, supported by the epic scenery-chewing from Stephen Dorff. – Jacob Trussell
7. 30 Days of Night (2007)
Most vampire movies leave me cold, so color me surprised to find one of my favorites set in the freezing wasteland of Alaska’s eternal night. In addition to a brilliant premise — a tribe of vamps arriving in Barrow, AK just as the town settles into month-long seasonal darkness — the film delivers with some truly brutal and terrifically designed creatures and kills, engaging characters, and memorable cinematography. It’s a tight, visceral horror film that breathes life into the undead the same way 28 Days Later did with “zombies,” and it ends with a legitimately touching emotional beat. Now where’s my goddamn sequel?! (he said, knowing full well a lesser follow-up came and went in 2010). – Rob Hunter
6. Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)
Faust: Love of the Damned was directed by Brian Yuzna, which means three things: it’s goopy, it’s depraved, and it’s completely absurd. And, in all fairness, the comic on which the film is based is just as if not more dirty: a veritable odyssey of sleaze and satanism. Faust tells of an artist, John Jaspers, who sells his soul to the shadowy M (read: Mephistopheles) in exchange for the power to avenge the death of his girlfriend. But, per the legend on which the film and its graphic novel source material derive, there is an unforeseen price. Naturally, for Faust: Love of the Damned, this price is turning periodically into a gross horned demon with a penchant for murder. Cue guitar riffs. Speaking of guitar riffs, Yuzna’s Faust is chockablock full of 90s nu-metal, because what else are you going to score your faux Wolverine claw carnage with? As an adaptation, Yuzna stays true to the tasteless demonic gore while making it slightly more palatable via the delicate art of cheeeeese. And as far as story goes, Faust: Love of the Damned gets the bare minimum on the table to tick the gory romp box. All told, the final product is far from a masterpiece, but it’s trash with charm, and if you’re a fan of low-budget inventive, practical FX, it’s totally worth seeking out. – Meg Shields
5. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2001)
Neveldine/Taylor and Nicolas Cage are both love ’em or hate ’em artists which makes this film a match made in bonkers heaven. The trio compliments each other well because they both share a no holds barred artistic ferocity that begs to be, ahem, marveled at. And that energy is exactly what the Ghost Rider series needed for its crazy high octane sequel, Spirit Of Vengeance. Cage as Johnny Blaze doesn’t have the nuance of future Rider Gabriel Luna, but what he does do beautifully creates a crass tone we rarely see in comic book films today. While flaming dick jokes may not be high brow, prolonged shots of screaming skulls certainly capture an uninhibited aesthetic that the glossy MCU films could use a dose of. – Jacob Trussell
4. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy is one of the most gorgeous, punchy adaptations this side of a comic book shop. Like the Mike Mignola comics on which it takes inspiration, The Golden Army is flush with requisite action showstoppers, imbued with an unshakable sense of character and aesthetic. I say “takes inspiration” because the film is not strictly based on any specific comic. As always, Mignola and del Toro worked on the story together and wound up creating something completely original that appealed to each party’s love of creature feature fantasy. It’s everything a comic book adaptation should be, even if purely spiritual: bringing kinetic life to the two-dimensionally spectacular. – Meg Shields
3. The Crow (1994)
From page to screen, the legacy of The Crow is synonymous with tragedy. The original graphic novel was created as a form of catharsis for writer James O’Barr after his girlfriend was taken too soon because of a drunk driver. Of course, most of you will know the story of Brandon Lee’s freak death while filming a shootout scene cpurtesy of a real bullet among the blanks. As a result, there’s an air of melancholy to The Crow that few other movies have captured. At the same time, it’s also a highly stylish and entertaining actioner with a rocking soundtrack befitting of the dark gods. The sequels all suck, but the first movie is a bona fide masterpiece of supernatural vigilante storytelling. – Kieran Fisher
2. Dellamorte Dellamore a.k.a Cemetery Man (1994)
Francesco Dellamorte is the caretaker at a cemetery in Italy. Some people think this makes him an engineer, but Francesco disagrees. He’s just the guy that watches over the cemetery, and he desperately wants to find love. He also has to kill the dead again because they come back to life more frequently than you’d expect. This puts a bit of a hamper on the whole finding love thing. Michele Soavi’s dark horror comedy is one of the most bizarre films you’ll ever see. It consists of so much casual insanity. The undead rise, Death appears, and heads are constantly exploding (when they’re not flying that is). It doesn’t really make sense. Or maybe it makes perfect sense. I’m honestly not sure, but I know I can always count on it to deliver a good time. – Chris Coffel
1. Blade II (2002)
I love Wesley Snipes, and I adore the joyful bravado that he injects into his Daywalker. He may pretend he’s brooding, but that’s a cat who (internally) whistles while he works. Slaying vampires has never been more satisfying. But – look. This is not just a Blade film. Guillermo del Toro came off Mimic and The Devil’s Backbone and threw his entire geeky consciousness into Blade II. Each frame is packed with references to Hellboy, Watchmen, The Searchers, Vampire Hunter D, Predator, Nosferatu, etc. For as suave and cool as the vampires were in the original film, del Toro comes at his Reapers with a Richard Matheson “I Am Legend” mentality. These are not pretty creatures that sip blood to the tunes of the children of the night. These are savage animals that threaten to devour the world, and force night and day walkers to unite in a Dirty Dozen team-up. The climax amounts to a vicious series of showdowns between hero and monster: the traitor, the goon, the count, and finally, the beast. After all is said and done, you may even find yourself getting misty over the tragedy of it all. – Brad Gullickson
Heh, heh! Yep, kiddies! That’s the list! Hope we didn’t make mince-meat out of your personal favorites!
Related Topics: 31 Days of Horror Lists