Holiday Horror Hits
By Kristin Battestella
Looking for something to do with yourself after surviving the horrors of unending holiday dinners, hyperactive family drama, and the fruitcake that will not die? Take in these classic horror hits and worthy recent scarefests.
Antichrist – Director Lars von Trier’s 2009 disturbing and controversial family horror drama opens with a bizarre and unique sex scene/baby death montage and gets weirder from there. Only Willem Dafoe (Platoon) can make dead babies seem so casual- and I say that in a good way! Although von Trier’s distorted cutting, angled filming, and scribbled chapter plates may be jarring to some, these visual cues akin perfectly to the unreliable feelings of distortion and downward spiral that such grievous loss can bring. Cannes Best Actress winner Charlotte Gainesburg (I’m Not There) is a little annoying as well, but then again obviously understandable as a mother who was shebanging when she should have been looking after her child. The altered perception of time, responsibility, and indifference bounces between the leads nicely as we progress towards plenty of violent sex, mental scares, and kinky creepy. It’s all a little uppity considering the dirty subject matter, and certain audiences will definitely be alienated by the material-but the performances here win against the saucier distrubia. Put the kids to bed for this one.
Bride of Frankenstein – Despite its short length, over the top style, and bad science effects, this 1935 Universal sequel is a classic for a reason. Boris Karloff (The Mummy) returns with Elsa Lanchester (Witness for the Prosecution) for director James Whale’s (The Invisible Man, Showboat) stylized tale in the spirit of Mary Shelley’s infamous creation. The theatrics at hand add to the spooky atmosphere and morally ambiguous, hair raising drama and provide plenty of scary hijinks for both young and old. Even the score is wonderful as well, being tragic when needed and even spiritual and bittersweet. Love, tragedy, death, angry mobs, misunderstood monsters- there’s something for everyone here! Long time classic horror fans can always enjoy the great, campy classic quotes and old school iconography. Educate the family while taking in all the subtext, layers, and quality storytelling here.
Child’s Play – If you want to scare the kids out of wanting THE toy of this holiday season, then this is the film! Though dated, some of the 1988 scares may indeed be too much for the super youngins. However, nostalgic folks can chuckle with Chucky’s naughty wit courtesy of Brad Dourif (Lord of the Rings, Dune) and enjoy the more intelligent mystery and suspense aspects here. While the sequels certainly have their ups and downs, Chris Sarandon (Fright Night, Dog Day Afternoon), and Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven) have some fine moments here. Die hard marathoners can continue with Jenny Agutter (Logan’s Run) in Child’s Play 2 or go really crazy with Jennifer Tilly’s (Bound) send up in Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. Child’s Play 3 isn’t that bad, but Chucky run amok on a military base is a bit much, even for this zany franchise.
Trick ‘r Treat – This 2007 pseudo horror anthology is kind of comical- a diminutive pumpkin boy Sam (short for Samhain) pursues naughty Halloween rule breakers? Some segments here are pretty bad, even stupid and just preposterous beyond belief. Somehow, however, writer and director Michael Dougherty’s (X2, Superman Returns) quirky style and lighthearted irony keep these tales- among them twisted school principal Dylan Baker (Kings, Thirteen Days) and seemingly innocent and Red Riding Hood-esque Anna Paquin (True Blood, X-Men) – on the bemusing side. The ridiculousness is actually quite refreshing; especially against other recent horror pictures that try to be sardonic and miss or those copycat sequels and remakes that just take themselves too dang seriously.
The Watcher in the Woods – Although this 1980 Disney thriller might be a little too scary for the super young Santa set, older kids and the young at heart who grew up on this spooky charmer can delight all over again in young Lynn Holly Johnson (Ice Castles, For Your Eyes Only) and crotchety Bettie Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte) as they try to solve the haunting events and disappearances in the forest about their grand English manor. Yes, it’s a little marred by Disney’s influence and maybe some of the events here are a fairly typical now. However, some scenes are still as scary now as they were to me back then. When my mother wanted to frighten me indoors from the woods surrounding our own home or prevent me from staying up to watch an eclipse, she’d yell, “Do you want to end up like Karen in The Watcher in the Woods?!”