Black Christmas (1974) still stands up

There is a lot to love about about this movie (and it’s even on Shudder), let’s dig in.

Clare (Lynne Griffin) and Phyl (Andrea Martin) with the most 70s hair ever.

1. 70s Toronto is great. And, since it’s the 70s and it’s Toronto, Andrea Martin is in it. Women in slacks. Men with big hair and big fur coats. Real snow. What’s not to love?

2. The killer is scary. No, really. We don’t see him too much and it’s just so consistently upsetting to know he’s in the house at all times when the whole cast is oblivious. The slasher’s manic speech is especially creepy. You get a sense of the killer’s origins, but it’s never really resolved and that’s in the movie’s favour.

3. The funny parts are funny. There is some fantastic dialogue. Barb (Margot Kidder) is cracking wise just constantly and with real gusto. Competent Toronto cops are ragging on the incompetent cop. It’s fabulous. And the sad parts are also sad, it’s a whole range of emotions.

4. The movie looks and sounds great. Everything is competently lit, sound is good, effects are good. It might not sound like much, but it makes a difference. There are even some really stylish compositions throughout, like one shot through the crack in an open door that lights up the killer’s eye (used in poster images).

5. The women are like… actual people. (Except Mrs. Mac, ugh) Sure, the

Jess (Olivia Hussey) in not at all ominous lighting conditions.

y fit into some pretty basic categories like the “slut” Barb (Margot Kidder), and the nerd, Phyl (Andrea Martin). But they also have personalities beyond the labels with their own voices and quirks. The protagonist, Jess (Olivia Hussey), is harder to categorise. She seems like a typical “good girl”, but that’s compromised when (SPOILER) we find out she’s planning to have an abortion. This even figures into her interactions with the killer. This all means that there are real stakes, they’re not just a bunch of pretty “bimbos” lined up for the slaughter. There is enough to each character that you care what happens to them.

It’s crazy to see a movie at the heart of the slasher era that is still trying to be a real movie. Dialogue. Sets. Characters. It’s easy to forget that the origin of clichéd 80s slashers was creepy little films like this. Enjoy.

Barb (Margot Kidder) the wise-cracking bad girl

What is Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)?

What is this movie? Is it post-apocalyptic? Yes. Is it a sex comedy? Yes. Seriously… with nudity? Yes. Does it star a Canadian wrestler? Yes. Are there frog monsters? Yes… with varying degrees of “special” in the effects.

It is a bizarre fever dream. It’s the future. A hilariously deadpan intro explains that nuclear war has decimated the earth’s population and left many infertile. The army is now replaced by the female-led, pink-blazoned MedTech, who seek out fertile men and women to repopulate the country. Our female lead from MedTech, Spangle (Sandahl Bergman, no relation to Ingmar), is on a mission to get fertile Sam Hellman (Roddy Piper, looking like a glazed ham) out of jail for a possible rape to rescue and impregnate some fertile women held captive by frog monsters, because… nuclear mutations? Were they people who became frogs or frogs who became people, who knows. Is Hellman a rapist? Charges withdrawn. There are gunfights, there is a frog saloon, there is a crusty uranium prospector, there are scantily clad women and a love story. It’s hilarious and truly strange. There’s even a weirdly feminist element to the plot, as the MedTech women are fighting war-mongering with… sex?

Reviews for this film sit around 50% on IMDB, with most reviews sitting around the middle, and this honestly surprised me because I thought people would definitely have strong feelings on such a mad creation. Putting it on a horror/genre streaming service like Shudder even seemed like an odd fit, but the film defies categorisation. I loved it. It was all over the map in the best possible way, I genuinely never knew what was coming next and I did not care. There are explosives strapped to a guy’s junk controlled by earrings. There is a frog stripper. There is a frog king with three penises. But, above all, it is competently shot. The camera work and lighting looks good. Some of the frog effects are great, except the background toadies (see what I did there?). There was love put into it. You should see it if you can.

 

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) is overall, pretty good. Or maybe I was biased after watching Sleepaway Camp II and III (which have many more problems than just transphobia). The plot is basically that high school girls are having a sleepover and there is an escaped, insane killer on the loose. Obviously, these two worlds must meet. Rather than a traditional knife-wielding slasher, this killer favours a drill (which he still somehow uses to slash people). The effects are pretty shaky, but about what to expect for the era. I liked the drill as a killing gimmick, but it wasn’t used in very inventive ways. It’s a bit weird for the genre that the killer is revealed in full daylight early in the film. No build-up, just “hey look at that guy with a big drill”. There’s another red herring guy introduced… except we know it’s not him, as we’ve already seen the killer. Similarly, one girl, Trish, is introduced as the lead, but we follow another girl parallel to the main story, Valerie, who winds up as more of a protagonist. Weird stuff, structure-wise.

It’s interesting to see a horror film written and directed by women, and there are little moments that stand out for portraying the relationships of women in a more nuanced way than expected; like Valerie and her sister, Courtney, who bicker realistically. I noticed that (other than one big meathead) the male protagonists were thin, weedy-looking dudes; smaller and less athletic than the heroines, seen playing basketball in the beginning.  Legend has it, the script was originally written as a parody, only to be picked up and produced as another generic slasher. The final showdown even sees our lead girl, Valerie, castrate the killer’s phallic drill! It would have been intriguing to see a full parody, but I guess you can’t have everything. Maybe someone will reboot the franchise?

The female leads all give fairly natural performances and portray friendship in an interesting way for the era. Okay, yeah… there are some nice, gratuitous boob shots, but at least they spoke like actual people and didn’t fall into the very generic bad girl/bob

good girl/dumb girl categories. As in Carrie, there is a sympathetic woman gym coach… wonder what might happen to her.

Also, and it’s probably because of the jean jacket and grey hair, but I just couldn’t get over how much the killer looked like Bob from Twin Peaks. If anything, that added to the creepiness. Altogether, though, this film was pretty watchable and definitely better than some of my recent choices. I’m looking at you, Angela Baker… but that’s a tale for another time.

Colonialism, Cannibal Holocaust (1980), and Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is a legend in shocking schlock. When describing it on Red Letter Media, the summary was that no one should see it. So, naturally, when I got a subscription to Shudder… I had to see it.

The frame narrative is that an new expedition has been sent to rescue a failed expedition, recovering their film canisters. It’s kind of cool as uncut footage from the first expedition is watched by the second, as it is cut for a TV special. The effects for human corpses are not terribly convincing, with animal organs and meat draped on plastic skeletons. Then there is the ritual abuse of women, designed to titillate the audience with female nudity but only in the context of violence, which is uncomfortable to watch but not unexpected. The portrayal of indigenous tribes is about what you’d expect: tree people (Yanumamo) are painted white, the swamp people (Shamitari) black, both are cannibals and rapists. The other tribe we meet, the “Yacumo” are wordless and impressed by simple technology, like flick knives and lighters. But the film pretends to turn expectations on its head as the first expedition is shown abusing the seemingly simple Yacumo, justifying it by saying its the rule of the jungle, “the daily struggle of the strong overcoming the weak”, as the protagonist puts it.

I get it, the white people are monsters, but the portrayal replicates historic abuses with a new generation and the indigenous tribes are made to respond by inflicting the same violence received (sort of a revenge motif). Making indigenous people chow down on raw meat and simulate rape is degrading abuse by any measure. But what is, oddly, really shocking is the abuse of animals. Early on, there is a leering sequence where a small rodent is stabbed, screaming on knife for several minutes, another where they hack at a turtle for what feels like an eternity. It’s genuinely awful, as you know it’s not fake and their lives are taken slowly, and clumsily to maximise screen time. After watching such horrific animal abuse, I was already okay with the idea the expedition would all die before knowing how they treated humans. I guess the justification for seeing this is man’s inhumanity to man etc. but others have done it in a more clever, less exploitative way. It’s crazy to see how many other films this director made. So, why do people defend the right to see it? Because the revenge angle makes all the preceding violence okay? Because it’s an early example of found footage film? I honestly can’t agree.

Fitzcarraldo (1982), is at the other end of the spectrum, with lovely natives ready to work for white men. It is the story of a wild-eyed eccentric, Fitzcarraldo (real-life horror show Klaus Kinski), who is charmingly obsessed with opera and decides to drag a boat over a mountain to expand a rubber empire. To do so, he conscripts a tribe identified as the Jívaro. In this story, the supposedly dangerous cannibalistic tribe is instead curious and childlike. They make a pact to help Fitzcarraldo for no apparent reason, even though they are consistently physically abused and some die. It is a hard watch because, in the end, the film just repeats the pattern of abuse that indigenous people suffered under in colonial times by forcing tribal members to repeat the same kind of hard labour in 1980. But at least there’s an opera-loving pig who sits on a red upholstered chair, I guess. It is interesting to consider the film in the larger context of Werner Herzog’s work, as he moved exclusively into documentaries after this earlier narrative work, filming indigenous groups more on their own terms and telling their stories with less interference.

At the end of the day, both films are about exploitation and replicate colonial structures of power over indigenous groups, and this can’t be ignored when talking about them.

Canucksploitation Special: Cannibal Girls (1973)

Welcome to the king of all Canucksploitation films: Cannibal Girls (1973). Unlike other films classified under this genre, this is both true Grindhouse and truly Canadian, so it’s weird that this film was totally unknown to me until a Victoria Day streaming party with friends. Filmed in Richmond Hill (North of Toronto), in genuine Canadian winter, starring Canadian superstars Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin, directed by Ghostbusters’ Canadian producer Ivan Reitman, this film is as Canadian as a Mountie drinking maple syrup. Do you need to see a 1970s Eugene Levy with a huge fro, handlebar mustache, and a crocheted rainbow tie? The answer is, obviously, yes. Is Richmond Hill actually full of crazed cannibal killers? Of course.

This film tells the story of Cliff (Levy) repeatedly striking out with Gloria (Martin) until he takes her to a fictitious small town to get laid. Only then, they are waylaid by a trio of temptresses (conveniently blonde, brunette, and redhead) with a spooky reverend in tophat and tails.

Are there scenes that go nowhere? Yes. Does a man get marinated while cuffed to a bed? Yes. Does Eugene Levy wear a full-length fur coat? Yes.

The tone of this movie is all over the place, the script is mostly improvised, and you honestly can’t say where the plot is going at various points… so, classic Grindhouse, right? It’s perfect.

Any other suggestions for Canadian horror? Let me know in the comments.

Horror Ideology: They Live (1988) and Society (1989)

No one can doubt that 80s nostalgia is on the rise these days, especially this year; in new ways like Stranger Things 3 and Glow, or in re-vamps like Child’s Play and period pieces like It. The weird thing about it to me is the extent to which the era is glorified, unselfconsciously and without criticism. This was an era that spawned legitimate fears, like the repression of the AIDS crisis and art censorship in the USA under Reagan and the fear of fascism in the recession-era Thatcher regime in the UK. Instead, we get loving imagery of malls and carefully-curated costumes (with oh so many scrunchies). Much like the recent zombie craze, these feel increasingly like empty exercises in visual fetishism.

If we return back to the era itself, we can see savage social criticism in horror movies and now, when we reduce things down to heavy-handed 80s visuals for laughs, we lose the sense of the times. Heck, even Chopping Mall (1986) has more of a critique. As it happens, my favourite local theatre was showing Society (1989), presented by Rue Morgue, which I had never seen and had a lot of buzz as an openly anti-capitalist piece. I first became interested when it was mentioned in passing on Red Letter Media, which basically said to go see it without any preparation.

Many squishy noises ensue.

Of course, having to convince my partner to go, I needed supporting evidence (if you want to follow RLM’s advice, however, I see no problem with that). Noted critic Mark Kermode provided this, describing it as “A cult favourite amongst the horror cognoscenti, Yuzna’s directorial debut boasted eye popping rubbery mutations courtesy of an eccentric Japanese FX whizz who went by the somewhat self-explanatory name of ‘Screaming Mad George'” (p. 92, The Good The Bad and The Multiplex). Society is, essentially an FX masterpiece which still holds up to modern scrutiny. The social commentary is obvious, the subtext Freudian, and the acting horrible. Upper classes are bad, sexy, and gross. Right out of the gate, we know that the grotesquerie of the film is real. It’s disappointing, really, because if this idea were developed slowly as a mental breakdown in the protagonist it might have been an interesting film. Nope. Instead, we see a quivering mass of copulating flesh in the opening credits. Also, it’s framed up as a comedy, with flat comedy music cues, odd editing, and bizarre performances. As a result, this is a disgusting, sometimes unintentionally funny, film that encapsulates a society ill at ease with sexuality and a culture of excess. Still, it has some memorable imagery.

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A piece of subtle symbolism in this film.

Along the same lines, we have They Live (1988), a middle-period John Carpenter film, before the 90s seemed to burn him out creatively. This film is arguably lesser-known, as compared to more-beloved blockbuster/cult features like Escape From New York (1981) or The Thing (1982). I was first exposed to this film in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012), in the form of over-explained clips. It is a testament to the film’s own charms that I sought it out to watch in full. Carpenter take a basic, paranoid we-are-secretly-being-invaded-by-aliens plot, and jazzes it up with the idea that they are intentionally poisoning our culture, and the dominant 80s culture is really theirs. There is, of course, a valiant underclass fighting them in secret. Through the rather obvious gimmick of special sunglasses, the hero sees the truth. We see gross skull monsters in high 80s fashion, selling out the Earth to invaders bent on destruction. Again, the social commentary is very much on-the-nose, but the protagonist remains iconic.

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In closing, I want you to think about how 80s nostalgia can be harmful. It de-fangs a complicated era that prized ostentatious wealth and suppressed anyone who disagreed with those in power. It was an era of fear, when the nuclear threat remained palpable and increasing censorship was repressing sexuality and dissenting voices. Both of these films imagine an external threat, and draw on the horror of inhuman bodies living off of our culture like parasites to examine the increasing divisions of class. In all of its silly 80s trappings, what does Stranger Things have to say about 80s culture OR about our culture today? I would argue that it speaks to a culture artistically bankrupt, desperate to mine the resources another time period and capitalize on nostalgia. When not making direct remakes, our most popular media is still all about an imaginary past which is reduced to visual cues and easy to laugh at. Scrunchies for everybody; we’re doomed.

Midsummer: The season of the witch!

Midsummer (summer solstice) is kind of a big deal in the North and it involves all manner of pagan trappings, like bonfires and night vigils. Really, it’s a much witchier time than Hallowe’en in many ways, but most summer horror films are of the popcorn, slasher, drive-in variety rather than spooky. Some summer blockbuster horrors, like the new “Chucky” (2019), don’t even take place in summer.

In honour of “Midsommar” (2019), which I’m super excited to see, I decided to do a quick rundown of some of my favourite witch movies for solstice. It’s interesting to me that, as you will see, we have vacillated between early depictions of a demonic witchcraft in 1922, to a more pagan, mystical image, and back around again to literal demons in 2015 and paganism in 2019. What does it say about our culture how the witch is portrayed, and how her story ends?

HÄXAN (1922)

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This is basically a history of witchcraft, very well-researched. Sources from the Middle Ages are taken at apparent face-value, as potions are brewed and spirits rise from the body in flight. The witches are either gross hags, or entrancing maidens, doing their rites with demons in the woods in a very real and literal sense, fought by the religious orders. In the contemporary era, though, real wichcraft is dismissed as hysteria, “The witch no longer flies away on her broom over the rooftops”. The version I saw was presented sometimes in a crisp sepia-tone, lending a red glow to the proceedings, and at other points in a cool blue. The demons are well-crafted, with flicking tongues and strange, distorted proportions. Smoke and steam are ever-present, and figures appear and disappear.  The costuming and effects in this film are very memorable, and it is interesting to imagine its reception at a time of changing morals. No witch comes to a good end, here. Burn the witch!

I Married a Witch (1942)

https://www.chicagofilmsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/img13.jpgOkay, so this is a weird one. Pre-dating Bewitched by a long-shot, this movie sets up Veronica Lake as a reincarnated witch sent to wreak vengeance on the family of a witch-finder, only to fall in love… seem familiar? It’s just another twist on a classic trope, but it’s charming in its camp simplicity. Hail to the (safe, married) witch!

The Wicker Man (1973)

Christopher Lee in Robin Hardy’s THE WICKER MAN (1973). Courtesy: Rialto Pictures/ Studiocanal

This is a personal favourite. It completely goes against all of your expectations for a horror film. For one thing, the setting is idyllic, filled with green pastures, bright colours, and wholesome, happy people. Here, witchcraft is in the open, and pagan rather than demonic, with charming songs and dances. For another,  the protagonist, an up-tight, strictly religious policeman is not particularly likeable and he is also, ultimately, unsuccessful in his quest. Evil is not gross here as it was in Haxan, but charming. Hail to the witches!

Phenomena (1985)

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While not exactly a witch movie per se, I’m including this one for its summer setting and mystical girl protagonist. Here, her magical powers over insects solve wicked crimes! While this is not one of Dario Argento’s most prominent works, it remains my favourite for reasons I cannot fully articulate. Like many other Argento films, there is a lack of logic to the plot, but great visuals. Magic here is at once dreamy, and in-tune with the natural world. Hail to the witch!

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Image result for hocus pocusA staple of my childhood. Even if the witches were evil, they were clearly the stars of this film, with the best outfits and musical numbers. I will fight you if you don’t like this movie. It also caused some strange feelings surrounding the human cat, further muddied by sassy Salem the cat on Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996). Hail to the (campy) witch!

The Witch (2015)

Related imageThis movie was clearly influenced by Haxan. It mimics its traditional imagery of demonic witchcraft, while at the same time exploring the psychology of the witch-trial era in all its religious fervour, paranoia, and sexual repression. Here, magic comes from the devil himself through worldly representatives, but its benefits seem so pitiable to a modern viewer; an apple, a bit of butter, all in exchange for your soul. At the same time, the witch is the only survivor in this context. Hail to the witch, maybe?

Suspiria (1977, 2018)

Image result for suspiriaThis film was a surprise for me. Having seen the 1977 original, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The 1977 version is fairly nonsensical, with a skimpy plot upon which to hang a bunch of interesting visuals (especially lighting effects). This 2018 re-telling is really a return to folk-horror, wherein magic is performed through dance and ritual. The setting in 70s Berlin is a big part of the story too. Here, the true witch triumphs over wicked pretenders. Hail to the witch!

To conclude, the witch is a complicated figure in film, running the gamut from a full camp Hocus Pocus (1993) to a sinister Suspiria (2018). Whether the witch is treated with compassion or denounced as a threat to society doesn’t just boil down to the era; each decade seems to portray multiple versions of the witch, and always with a certain degree of ambivalence. Right now, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) is blending straight horror, Satanism, and cannibalism with quippy teens and cutesy love stories in a confusing mix. Basically, witches are whatever you want them to be. Hail to the witch!

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Deadly malls: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Chopping Mall (1986), Elves (1989)

The shopping mall is an obvious and long-standing embodiment of commercialism, subject to critique. As such, it’s hardly surprising that the mall is also a popular site for horror films. Although… this may also come down to its appeal as a cheap nighttime location to shoot a film. I have recently watched a few flicks set in malls, but each has its own reason to be set there.

Dawn of the Dead (1978), more happy shoppers

First up, Dawn of the Dead (1978): This horror classic sets zombies up as the ideal consumer; to paraphrase: they don’t know why they have come here, they just know that this is where they want to be. A clear indictment of mall-culture, this film mixes horror with humour. This movie stands up quite well.

Chopping Mall (1986), glossy 80s tech

Second, Chopping Mall (1986): This B-grade horror follows all of the clichés of the 80s horror pastiche. Starting with a bizarre opening montage exploring the mall in all of its glory, including a beauty pageant, this film doesn’t really seem to have anything to say. The mall is a place for young people to work and play. Cute killer robots stalk attractive young people. Only the virgins shall survive! This movie is bland and uninspired.

Elves (1989), the war on Christmas

Finally, Elves (1989): This tasteless monstrosity of a movie clearly uses the mall as nothing more than a cheap setting for a grotesque plot involving Nazis, incest, and one elf (no other elves in sight) as well as a homeless mall Santa. Imagining that there is some relevance to Christmas and the mall setting is giving this film too much credit; the mall is just an empty vacuum for characters to be lined up and killed, Christmastime a gimmick that never really makes sense. The tone of this movie is all over the map, but taken altogether it’s just unpleasant to watch. It was a real dud that I had hoped would go well with our gingerbread house making.

This selection of films, by chance, also seems to reflect shifting attitudes towards the mall itself. It has gone back and forth from a dangerous opiate to the people, as seen in early films like Dawn of the Dead (1978) and later films like They Live (1988), to nothing more than a regular blight on the landscape of modern life; another empty space. With e-commerce and boutique shopping now the norm, the mall languishes as a monument to another era, populated by discount shopping and bad food.

As we have largely moved on from the mall as a culture, these films become less relatable to audiences, but they remain an interesting time-capsule for our fears.

Apostle (2018)

Are you ready for some weird, gory, environmentalist horror? Well you should be. The Apostle (2018) delivers the horror movie you didn’t know that you wanted. Gareth Evans, director of The Raid (2011), seems like an unlikely contender in the period-piece-horror genre, but this film was delightful in just about every way.

While it starts out like a late-Victorian adventure story, with the simple premise of an opium-addled investigator, Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens), looking for his kidnapped sister, Elaine (Catrin Aaron), the movie goes to places you probably aren’t expecting. Reminiscent of the original folk horror classic The Wicker Man (1973), the viewer explores an unsettling island environment alongside the investigating lead-character as the plot unfolds.

With Elaine taken by a cult on an isolated island for ransom, Thomas is forced to feign conversion to penetrate the secretive commune, run by Prophet Malcolm and his fanatical cronies with an apparent revolutionary-communist flair. Thomas immediately sets to finding his sister and planning his escape, but finds the cult’s basis to be more complex and frightening than expected.

The movie feels fresh and simple, because the cast is quite small, and there isn’t too much exposition to get through (except a bit of a flashback at the end which feels unnecessary). The characters are all set up simply, their motivations are clear, and the dialogue is limited.

The visual style is incredibly good, with bright, sere, cool-toned daytime scenes and dark, earthy interiors by night. Some of the later scenes will even evoke Guillermo Del Toro’s iconic look in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).

“But wait, what was that you said about environmentalism?” Well, this film deals with the theme of environmental depletion and overpopulation. That is, in itself, quite a feat, but the fact that the tone is never sententious is really impressive.

I would definitely recommend this movie, but be prepared for some real gore in the end stretch. Heck, it’s even on Netflix! Enjoy.

Hallowe’en Viewing Suggestions

Okay, so Hallowe’en is on its way. Maybe you’re planning a party, maybe you’re thinking about what horror movies you should watch leading up to the big day in general.

Sure, you could watch 3 flicks from the same property like Evil Dead, or Halloween, George A. Romero’s zombies… but horror movies spawn a lot of sequels of varying quality (I’m talking to you, Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)).

Instead, I’ve created a list of possible movie-combos based on themes. I hope you like them, and maybe they will give you some new ideas.

1. FUNNY (but not for kids)

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Night of the Demons

These are some (sometimes unintentional) comedy-horrors that make for good popcorn-eating, drinking-game-playing, party movies, but still have moments that might creep people out.

Night of the Demons (1988) The weird kid decides to have a Hallowe’en party at the local haunted house. Things get really scary. Lipstick, ladies?

The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987) Evil deadites possess the living (and the woods themselves) in an isolated cabin. These are the films that made Sam Raimi’s career and his eccentric camera work, paired with Bruce Campbell’s off-the-wall performance make these a mainstay of Hallowe’en programming everywhere.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) An homage to the George A. Romero films, this is a new take on his zombies that pits a bunch of no-good-punks against government-produced zombies.

Re-Animator (1985) A sort-of H.P. Lovecraft story, with the best mad scientist I’ve seen on film.

Dead Alive AKA Braindead (1992) Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) was clearly inspired by Raimi. He made a low-budget horror film with some great props and crazed ideas. You may never look at a lawnmower the same way again.

There are many more self-aware horror-comedies now. I will list some, but they wink at the audience pretty broadly: Lake Placid (1999), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Slither (2006), Drag me to Hell (2009), Zombieland (2009), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Get Out (2017).

 

2. BODY HORROR

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Dead Ringers

This is the opposite end of the spectrum from above, while there are some funny elements, there are genuine gross-out points here. I have given almost no information so you can get the full experience.

Dead Ringers (1988) Jeremy Irons is twin gynecologists.

Scanners (1981) One of the most iconic explosions, ever.

The Thing (1982) Kurt Russel is part of a team in an Antarctic scientific outpost and they are under attack.

The Fly (1986) Jeff Goldblum is a scientist working on teleportation.

From Beyond (1986) Barbara Crampton is a psychologist trying to understand one patient’s madness.

 

3. REALLY CREEPY

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Martin

Martin (1978) This movie is ambivalent about whether Martin is or is not a vampire. It makes for an interesting watch.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) A classic for a reason, this movie is all about paranoia.

28 Days Later (2002) Kind of a big deal when it came out, this movie brought us the “fast zombie” and really got into living through the zombie apocalypse.

It Follows (2014) Gets by more on creep-factor than content, per se, but really stuck with me.

It Comes at Night (2017) More upsetting emotionally than anything else. Not a creature feature.

 

4. EVIL, MAGICAL GIRLS

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Phenomena

As I’ve discussed in other posts, this is really its own category of horror films. Girls are often used as the site of societal fears.

Phenomena (1985) An often-overlooked Argento film, in which a girl has an unusual bond with insects.

The Exorcist (1973) An obvious choice, but it still holds up pretty well, blurring the lines between psychopathy and evil.

Carrie (1976) Another obvious choice, but it remains a chilling portrait of teenage cruelty.

Let the Right One In (2008) A new take on young vampires.

The Witch (2015) A new take on the psychology of witchcraft.

Hereditary (2018) Although my husband maintains that this was “a dark comedy”, I found it really got under my skin. It works both as a metaphor and a literal story, so it’s pretty neat.

 

5. STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE

Image result for Mandy 2018 filmMandy (2018) This movie is all about looks, and I’m fine with that; it’s visual storytelling.

White Zombie (1932) I would be remiss not to include a Lugosi film, and this one is more interesting to look at than some of his other ventures, while not noteworthy for its plot.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) If you can get over Keanu’s attempt at a British accent… well, you can’t, but this movie is sexy and super cool to look at.

Sleepy Hollow (1999) A re-telling of the horror classic with sets to die for (ah, puns).

Crimson Peak (2015) A Gothic-with-a-capital-G film all about ambiance and colour.

 

6. THE OBVIOUS CHOICES

These are all classics for a reason. You can’t mess with Psycho (1960), The Omen (1976), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Halloween (1978), The Shining (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1982), Silence of the Lambs (1991), or Candyman (1992) but even I get burnt-out on the classics after a while.

 

7. JUST SKIP IT

These are some of the supposed classics and game-changers that left me unmoved or felt too much “of an era” to remain relevant: Suspiria (1977), Poltergeist (1982), The Hunger (1983), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Hellraiser (1987), Tremors (1990), Scream (1996), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Saw (2004), The Descent (2005), Paranormal Activity (2007), Sinister (2012), The Conjuring (2013), Antibirth (2016), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016), It (2017), A Quiet Place (2018).

 

8. HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Image result for Pet Sematary 1989

Pet Sematary

These don’t quite fit the categories that I defined, but are worth watching in general:

Pet Sematary (1989) Great film, sequel not wanted.

The Others (2001) Ghosts!

Shadow of the Vampire (2000) A fictitious look at filming on the set of Nosferatu (1922)

Mama (2013) Sort of creepy kids and ghosts.

The Babadook (2014) Worth the hype.

Bone Tomahawk (2015) Sort of a Western, but also horror.

The Ritual (2017) A creature feature, but cooler than it sounds.

Annihilation (2018) Although the ending left me a bit dissatisfied, this sci-fi horror is inventive visually.

 

9. KID STUFF

Young Frankenstein (1974) I mean… I saw it as a kid despite adult situations.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Gremlins (1984)

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Beetlejuice (1988) I mean… I saw it as a kid despite adult situations.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Corpse Bride (2005)

Coraline (2009)

Paranorman (2012)

Krampus (2015)

 

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