Ah, yes. 3-D film. The third dimension. This film technique has been around for decades and has been incorporated into countless films over the years. Some hits, some misses. It has the ability to enhance a film by adding emphasis to what is occurring on-screen and excite the audience into feeling like they are a part of the show. It also has a tendency to be done poorly and cause headaches for the audience and directors both figurative and literal.
Either way you look at it, some iconic films over the years have attempted to use the technology in all sorts of ways. For fans of horror, when done correctly, 3-D can and has generated some truly great moments in the genre. From those cheap, tacky red & blue cardboard glasses to the top of the line RealD 3-D pairs circulating cinemas today it’s a constantly improving experience.
So without further adieu, good and bad alike, I give you my top 10 3-D horror films! Now would be a good time to bust out the Tylenol…just in case.
10. Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Kicking off the 3-D list is Andy Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein and this one is just plain weird. First off, Andy Warhol had nothing to do with the film’s development or production, just lending his name for the American release. Not a completely uncommon occurrence for Hollywood. Second, it was actually released with an X rating due to the intense sex and violence in the film. Although probably tame by today’s standards it was definitely a controversial film at the time and although not the best, it deserves to be on the list if not just for the uniqueness and its artistic quality. Also….disemboweling, disemboweling, disemboweling. All made better in glorious 3-D.
In Flesh for Frankenstein, von Frankenstein is obsessed with creating the perfect race and sets out to create two creatures who will “produce” this superior species. Piecing these two beings together from various corpses spins the classic Frankenstein tale from author Mary Shelley into something decidedly odd but new. For those with a trained eye you’ll spot an impossibly young Udo Kier (Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich) in the starring role of Baron von Frankenstein. He’s pretty much horror royalty at this point.
9. Parasite (1982)
Hey it’s Demi Moore! Parasite, the first futuristic monster movie in 3-D, is set in a dystopian United States where an experiment is unleashed on the populace. Parasite features Demi Moore (Ghost) in only her second big screen role and is pretty much the only recognizable “talent” in the movie. Although it does feature punk rock icon Cherie Currie, singer for the iconic Runaways. So there’s that.
Exploding heads and body-bursting parasites. The director makes good use of the technology at hand despite an assumedly small budget.
Probably one of the gorier films on this list, Parasite may not have won an Oscar, but is a good embodiment of all that was great (or awful) from this heyday of horror. Terrible acting, an overabundance of blood…It’s a B-Movie parasitic slugfest complete with a 3-D gloss. The VHS cover art alone is unique enough to force you to remove that round tag off the hook and bring it home for a day or two based solely on that first look. That is, if you can find a video store somewhere.
8. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
By the time Freddy had hit his sixth installment in his reputable franchise, he had become a far cry from the terrifying “son of 100 maniacs” from Springwood that he once was. The films had turned into dark comedy more than anything else but in 1991 New Line Cinema decided to try something a little different for The Final Nightmare.They even upped the star-power for this one with cameos from Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), Tom Arnold (True Lies) and in an unrelated role, Elm Street alum Johnny Depp (From Hell, Sleepy Hollow)
Calling this movie a 3-D film is stretching quite a bit as only the final 10 minutes are filmed in the third dimension. But it’s a pretty decent 10 minutes if I do say so myself. The hero, Freddy Krueger‘s daughter, attempts to pull him out of the dream realm and into the waking world. To kill him once and for all. A short trip through Freddy‘s brain and some of his most pivotal childhood memories ends in an in your face battle royale. Krueger‘s severed head flying towards the screen is a sight to behold.
It was to be the last proper Nightmare on Elm Street film with the next one, New Nightmare (1994), being a refreshing departure from the previous run. So even though it skimped on the amount of 3-D effects featured it definitely deserves to be on the list.
7. Amityville 3-D (1983)
Warning: In this movie, you are the victim. Or so the tag line goes. The third film in the Amityville franchise got the 3-D treatment and is actually not considered a sequel of the previous two films. All thanks to lawyers and lawsuits between Dino De Laurentiis and the Lutz family. Thanks legal system.
Amityville 3-D is slightly different than the previous two and doesn’t focus on the DeFeo family. Instead the plot follows journalist John Baxter (Tony Roberts) and his partner Melanie (Candy Clark) who purchase the haunted house after they expose con artists residing there and exploiting the past tragedy. The typical horror that defines this franchise ensues.
But not even 3-D effects and that iconic name could save this movie. Negatively panned by critics and audiences alike, Amityville 3-D is listed as one of the worst films of that year. And even now only holds a 5% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Siskel and Ebert didn’t like it either.
6. Jaws 3-D (1983)
The Third Dimension is Terror. Sharks and 3-D is a no-brainer so it’s no wonder that during its 80’s revival the Jaws franchise decided to jump on the bandwagon. Starring Dennis Quaid (Cold Creek Manor), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) and Louis Gossett Jr. (Enemy Mine) the film takes place in the popular amusement park SeaWorld. A pair of Great White Sharks infiltrates the park and begins the wholesale slaughter of the employees.
Similar to Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) 3-D adds a realistic and surreal effect to the underwater shots. Floating severed body parts and an exploding Great White are some of the highlights of this one. But like most of the films on this list 3-D is an addition to an already low-budget, schlocky horror film. It adds value only in highlighting how campy and silly these movies can be. That’s not a bad thing by any means just as long as the viewer takes it for what it is.
5. The Final Destination (2009)
The fourth movie in this franchise, The Final Destination was shot in HD 3-D after the success of the third film which was originally planned to be filmed in 3-D. This one follows a new group of future victims as a fight at a car race leads them all to exit the stadium before a tragic accident brings the stadium down. As with these movies, luck is actually just the postponing of fate and one by one Death comes for them all.
As with the Saw franchise, the nature of the Final Destination films seems to lend itself to the 3-D gimmick pretty well. So well in fact that its sequel, Final Destination 5 (2011), capitalized and also released in 3-D. This one although receiving the worst critical reception of the franchise is also the highest grossing. Hence the sequel. And although the fifth one is arguably better without The Final Destination there would ultimately be no….final Final Destination. So here it is.
4. Saw 3-D (2010)
It is hard to imagine a franchise better suited for the 3-D treatment than Saw. Since its inception this franchise has been defined by some gruesome and wild torture scenes and deadly traps that rack up a serious body count. After six films it was finally time to really bring the shock to the audience in this seventh (and supposedly final) chapter.
Bringing back talent from previous Saw films such as Tobin Bell as Jigsaw himself and Carey Elwes as Dr. Gordon from the 2004 original alongside series new comer Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints). This film ups the ante with traps like the opening death with the three chained up to a literal saw blade device in a very public place. Or the one titled “The Horsepower Trap”. Yeesh.
Adding to the quality and success of this film is that instead of being shot on traditional cameras and converted in post production it was actually shot in RealD format. The end result is a superior product that is far and away better quality than the conversion method. The only shame here is that out of eight total films so far in the franchise this is their only jaunt into 3-D
3. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
One of the original classic “Universal Monsters”, Creature from the Black Lagoon debuted in 1954 from Universal-International Pictures. The film originally released in black-and-white 3-D and projected by the polarized light method. This meant viewers wore gray polarizing glasses similar to the glasses used today.
Shot for around $500,000 the film was a success and a solid addition to the 3-D horror genre. The medium made the underwater setting that much more believable and stunning. And all those shots of Gill-Man lumbering towards the camera, arms outstretched and ready to kill…..chills!
But by the time of its release the 50’s 3-D fad was already petering out so it was typically only seen in boring ‘ol 2-D. It spawned two sequels, Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) but only Revenge was shot in 3-D.
A re-release of the original in 1975 brought the 3-D element back but this time with the lower quality, schlocky red-and-blue technique. Proving once again that it’s hard to beat the original.
2. House of Wax (1953)
No, not the Paris Hilton one.
On top of being a Vincent Price masterpiece all on its own, House of Wax makes the list as the first color 3-D picture from a major American studio. Also on the resume is it’s the first 3-D film with Stereophonic sound to release in a standard movie theater. Alongside Price, was relative newcomer Carolyn Jones, who years later would go on to play Morticia Addams in the cult television fav The Addams Family (1964-1966).
Some of the finer 3-D effects in the film include a blazing wax museum fire, can-can girls and a shadowy figure that appears to be an audience member running into the silver screen. Another reason that this film deserves to be on the list is due to the fact that the director, Andre DeToth was blind in one eye! Therefore he could not actually see his own film in the way it was shot. That’s some talent right there.
1. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
A new dimension in terror. Well of course one of the entries of the most popular slasher franchise around was going to have a 3-D installment. This just so happens to be one of my personal favorites as well. Call me biased but I’m putting it at number one on this list! Arguably one of the most iconic of the bunch, Part III is host to quite a few of the memorable victims to visit Crystal Lake over the years. And it would be irresponsible to forget that this is THE one where Jason Voorhees dons the now infamous hockey mask. No more burlap sack. He’s movin’ on up. Really going places.
The 3-D effects in this one are really something special. Yo-Yo’s, pitchforks, and one hell of a harpoon scene. The gruesome death scenes have rarely looked so good as the 3-D enhanced stunners in this one. It’s a shame that Jason and the third dimension only teamed up for this one go but it made it one for the books.