Call me a romantic, but maybe Mina Harker should have taken Dracula up on his proposal for eternal life as his bride. I would. Y’all already know I have a soft spot in my heart for monsters, so it should come as no surprise that I like my horror movies with a little dash of romance. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy these five movies that feature Monster Love:
Vivian, a young werewolf, meets the human Aiden in Bucharest and falls in love. When Vivian’s pack finds out about their relationship, it sets off a maelstrom that consumes the whole city.
I both love and loathe this movie. Loathe because it fails as an adaptation of one of my favorite books (by Annette Curtis Klause), but love because it’s actually a pretty good werewolf movie on its own.
After a zombie apocalypse leaves humanity devastated, life becomes an endless, lonely drudge for the zombie R. One day, he meets Julie and everything changes. He saves her from his fellow zombies. The more time they spend together, the more human he becomes, giving hope that maybe there’s a cure.
Hear me out: Zombie Romeo and Juliet. It’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. I’m not a big fan of zombie movies, but this one warmed even my cold heart.
Arish, a hardworking Iranian man, meets a young woman while lost on the street one night. The two share a strange comradery and become close. But the woman harbors a dark secret, killing in the night to quench her thirst for blood.
This black and white Persian film was the darling of the 2014 indie film festivals. It manages to portray a stereotypical vampire with surprising nuance and creates a unique love story.
Sam, a banker, is murdered by a mugger and continues to haunt is girlfriend Molly as a ghost. When Sam discovers that his death was really a setup and that Molly is still in danger, he enlists the help of a psychic to save her.
This film is so 90’s it hurts. Patrick Swayze? Demi Moore? Whoopie Goldberg? Amazing. From the explanation of how ghosts move objects to the iconic clay molding scene, there is so much to love in this iconic movie.
Elisa, a mute janitor at a government facility, discovers that the agency she works for is holding a mysterious aquatic creature captive. Brought together by their otherness, they forge a deep bond. Elisa and her friends risk their lives to save him from captivity.
I saved the best for last. The Shape of Water won FOUR Academy Awards in 2017, including Best Picture. Part spy movie, part supernatural love story, the film takes itself seriously, and manages to pull of a seemingly ridiculous concept with style.
Whether it’s werewolves, vampires, or strange fishmen, humans will always find a way to romanticize a monster. What are your favorite monster romances? Let us know in the comments!
I’m pretty much positive that the first film adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles that I ever saw was the 1959 Hammer version starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. According to the database, I assembled several years ago from the television schedules in the Nashville newspaper for those years during which I developed my love of all things horrifying, I must have seen it on September 25, 1965, at 4:00 P.M. That was when the afternoon movie aired by our local CBS station, The Big Show, was on the air. I was in second grade at the time, attending a school close enough to have gotten home from by then, so it fits. None of the other showings I found were possible candidates. I would have either been on my way home from school during a period when it was a much longer trip, or the movie was shown much too late at night for me to have stayed up for at the tender age I was when it was broadcast. Ergo, not only did I see it when I was seven years old, I didn’t watch it again until I was much older. And yet, that viewing is firmly etched into my brain. I remember every detail clearly as if I saw it for the first time just a few years ago. We had only recently gotten our first color TV set, and I recall being fascinated by the vibrant hues of the process Hammer used in their productions.
Funny, isn’t it, how something we experience so young can have such a profound effect on our lives in later years? I had no idea who Sherlock Holmes was in 1965. I didn’t have a clue what a baronet was. I’m not entirely certain I was clear on what a hound was, and yet…
A baronet, by the way, is what Sir Henry Baskerville was. It’s a sort of hereditary knighthood, passed from father to son, or to the eldest male heir, with an attending estate thrown in. Baskerville Hall, in this situation. Baronets are not nobles. They are landed gentry, the highest level of commoner, just below a baron in the English social hierarchy. In case you were wondering.
Anyhow. It wasn’t long before I began exercising my newly gained literacy by tracking down the novel on which the film was based. I was a precocious child, given to reading beyond my years. By the end of the decade, I’d read all the Holmes tales, along with most of the major classics of horror and a great deal of world literature. It was not unusual for me to blaze through one long or two short books a day, and still have time to play with my friends and accumulate a host of scraped knees and bunged up elbows riding my Spyder-style bicycle recklessly and with wild abandon down the hill in front of our house to the wooden ramp waiting at the bottom, launching myself into the Venrick’s front yard to fetch up in a tangle of limbs and metal tubing, then back up the hill to do it all again.
God, to have a fraction of that energy back now! And the resilience to withstand the gallons of Bactine my mother was obliged to apply to my myriad minor injuries.
So, the Hound. The book is nominally a mystery, but I’ve never seen a movie version that couldn’t be properly classified as a horror film. The Hound itself is a monster if there ever was one, a gigantic beast that kills either through fear or by the vigorous application of its fangs upon fragile and succulent body parts. Inspired by centuries of English folklore, it is a primal, supernatural force, despite being nothing more than a dressed-up mastiff.
Well, let me tell you about mastiffs. I had a friend some years ago who raised that particular breed of dog. I once saw one pull a tree it had been tied to out of the ground. A smallish tree, true, but not a sapling. Maybe six inches in diameter at the base of the trunk. A tree. Out of the ground. This is not a puny animal. It was a terrifying beast, even with its owner nearby to keep it calm.
That’s one of several reasons why I prefer cats. I never want to own a pet that I cannot beat in a fair fight.
I count a dozen film versions of the story in my collection, including at least one silent, three German adaptations, and one in Russian. That is by no means an exhaustive list. My sources list over thirty film and television adaptations, parodies, pastiches, and reimaginings in several languages including Bengali, Ukrainian and Italian, since 1914. It might be the most filmed mystery novel of all time. Ergo, I hope the populace is at least somewhat familiar with the plot.
If not, here it is, in a nutshell: Holmes is charged with the protection of Sir Henry Baskerville, newly arrived from overseas. Sir Henry has inherited the family estate upon the death of his Uncle Charles, who was frightened to death, apparently by the family curse. Sooner or later, the Hound always gets the baronet, and the line passes on to the next heir. Holmes sends Dr. Watson down to Devonshire with Sir Henry while he finishes up some business in London. As it turns out, there is another heir envious of the title who has arranged to have his big, mean dog kill Sir Charles and try to kill Sir Henry. Holmes arrives in time to stop the plot, and the bad guy is swallowed up in the Great Grimpen Mire that surrounds the Baskerville estate. The End.
The book was written in 1901, during the Great Hiatus, that period when the world thought that the Great Detective’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed him off forever. Originally serialized in The StrandMagazine before its 1902 hardback publication, The Hound of the Baskervilles was a sort of nostalgic look back at the period before Holmes and Professor Moriarty threw each other off the rocky ledge into the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland in “The Final Problem”, published in 1893. The novel’s success convinced Doyle to bring Holmes back in 1903 in the short story, “The Adventure of the Empty House”, and things continued on as before until Doyle’s passing in 1930. The stories themselves were firmly set in the Victorian Era, however, with Holmes retiring not long after Her Little Majesty’s death in 1901 to raise bees in Sussex.
The film versions are consistently set within the canonical time period. The best one is probably the 1939 version, starring Basil Rathbone in the first of his fourteen movies as Holmes. This one and the first sequel, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, were made at 20th Century Fox. Rathbone took the series to Universal, and a contemporary wartime setting, for twelve more pictures with varying degrees of success. Still, he is firmly entrenched as the definitive Holmes for many fans of the character.
Cushing himself reprised his performance for a BBC Holmes series in 1968. The deerstalker cap has been worn on the Devonshire moor by Stewart Granger, Ian Richardson, Jeremy Brett, Matt Frewer and Richard Roxburgh, and even comedian Peter Cook and the former Fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker. The tale has been adapted to the stage and numerous radio broadcasts, including one 1941 American performance with Rathbone in the lead role, as well as a 1977 episode of that last great hurrah of old-time radio horrors, The CBS Radio Mystery Theatre. There was a Classics Illustrated comic book edition, and Marvel Comics adapted the tale in the black-and-white magazine Marvel Preview #5 in 1975, among many other comic versions. Variations have been done on both the BBC’s Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and CBS’s Elementary with Johnny Lee Miller. It’s a tale no one inspired by the Great Detective can leave alone, and that suits me fine. Of all the canonical Holmes tales, it is the one closest to my heart, for it has within its telling a true monster, even if the solution is a bit Scooby-Dooish. I’m looking forward to seeing what form the next adaptation of the grand old story takes. And the one after that. They’re bound to be interesting and should be appropriately terrifying. One hopes.
And so, until next time, my dear epicures of eeriness…
There are some bad horror movies out there. Like, bad bad. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy them. Whether it’s the acting, special effects, writing, or themes, some movies go hard in the wrong direction. But just because it’s bad doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
A sentient tire (yes, a tire) with telekinetic powers terrorizes a small town with its homicidal intentions. This movie is exactly as absurd as it sounds. The premise is ridiculous enough to warrant watching, but he acting is what really puts it over the top.
Loosely based on the video game series, Doom is a sci-fi horror mashup featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. If you like aliens, guns, and questionable moral decisions, you’ll enjoy this. It’s about as well written as any video game movie (so… not well written at all) and correspondingly well acted. There are some jump scares for good measure and plenty of bloody death scenes.
Based on the original Death Race movie (a Very Serious Action Film), Death Race 2050 takes the concept of a murder spree car race to its logical and absurd conclusion. Filled with ridiculously gory deaths, over the top acting, and social satire, Death Race 2050 is just plain fun.
You know I love monster movies. So, I was bound to enjoy this giant animal extravaganza. This is another video game based movie starring Dwayne Johnson. Rampage has little regard for logic and even less for science, but you get to watch a giant ape, wolf, and alligator duke it out on the Chicago skyline, so who cares?
Genetic engineers splice animal and human DNA to create a creature unlike anything the world has ever seen. But feelings get in the way and things take a turn for the horrific. The concept alone is pretty bizarre, but somewhere around the middle of the movie, things turn from weird to downright f*cked up.
What’s your favorite bad horror movie? Do you like the B-list or did a blockbuster fall short? Let us know in the comments!
Plotline: A same-sex couple moves to a small town to enjoy a better quality of life and raise their daughter with strong social values. But when neighbors throw a very strange party, nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood.
Who would like it: Fans of cults, secret societies, diversity, nail bitters, and religious horror
High Points: How the director used the current social climate to tell this movie and how he centered the only black character in the movie
Complaints: Absolutely nothing!
Overall: I LOVED this movie
Where I watched it: Shudder
Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains. Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.
When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net
She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.
I’m not a huge fan of gore. Blood and guts don’t do much for me. I’m looking for more psychological scares: atmosphere, tension, and things that go bump in the night. These horror movies prove that you don’t need that R rating to bring the terror.
The Ring (2002) – A woman discovers a cursed videotape that promises to kill the watcher in 7 days. I was shocked (shocked!) to find out The Ring was PG-13. With some of the best jump scares of the genre, The Ring is not your kids’ horror movie.
Insidious (2010) – After moving into a new home, a family’s son falls into a coma, leaving him vulnerable to malevolent spirits. Insidious leans heavily into the supernatural spookiness, to great success. It’s a nice, atmospheric ghost film.
Lights Out (2016) – Based on a terrifying short film (seriously, I couldn’t sleep when I saw it), this movie follows a woman haunted by a creature that can only come out in the dark. I can barely watch the trailer to this film. It promises to be a scary, but not violent, movie.
Mama (2013) – Two girls go to live with their uncle after being found abandoned in the woods, but they seem to have brought something sinister back with them. If you like creepy feral children and unexplained hauntings, this is the film for you.
The Grudge (2003) – In this American remake of the Japanese film Ju-On, a caretaker is infected with a supernatural curse leftover from the violent deaths of a house’s former residents. It’s filled with early 00’s charm, but is equally terrifying with its tense moments and jump scares.
What are your favorite PG-13 horror movies? What makes a horror movie horror for you? Let us know in the comments!
Horror is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s an escape into fantasy. For others, a way to explore their own fears. After a year like 2020, you may want to shy away from pandemic-themed movies altogether, or maybe a plague movie is just the thing you crave. Check out my list below for horror movies featuring disease as the main monster.
Quarantine (2008) – An apartment building is put under quarantine after rescuers are attacked by an elderly woman who has succumbed to a mysterious, rabies-like virus. Soon the residents are in a race to escape as they fall victim to the disease and each other.
Contracted (2013) – a woman contracts what she thinks is a sexually transmitted disease, but turns out to be much worse. She begins to question her sanity as her body rots away while she’s still alive. If you’re into body horror, this movie is for you (even the trailer made me queasy!). Content warning – this movie contains sexual assault.
Pontypool (2008) – A crew is trapped inside a radio station as the world around them descends into chaos. Violence is spreading, seemingly through the use of the English language. Certain words become triggers for violence. The crew must warn the world before it spreads, without spreading it themselves.
Cabin Fever (2002) – This list wouldn’t be COMPLETE without Cabin Fever. The 2003 original is considered a classic for bringing disease-horror to a new generation. Cabin Fever follows five college students as they succumb to a flesh-eating virus and crazed locals. (There is also a 2016 remake if you’re into that sort of thing)
Blindness (2008) – A mysterious disease transmits from person to person, causing the victims to go blind. The government puts those afflicted into a derelict asylum, which quickly becomes an abandoned concentration camp. Desperation causes the prisoners to turn against one another.
What are your favorite movies involving infections or disease? Do you prefer zombies? Leave your favorites in the comments!
In most cases, someone has to have had a significant or even seminal impact on some aspect of their field of endeavor to have an award named after them. Hugo Gernsback essentially created science-fiction as its own genre, so the main fan-based award for that branch of literature is known as the Hugo. It looks like the rocket ship from the 1950 film, Destination Moon. Edgar Allan Poe invented the detective story, so the commemorative statuette given out for mysteries is the Edgar. It’s a bust of the author. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has had an enormous effect on the popularity of horror, so the trophy for spooky writing is the Bram Stoker Award, which is in the shape of a haunted house. And so on. And so on.
You would think that a significant award for classic horror might be named for a major figure in the history of our genre. H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps. Until 2016, the World Fantasy Award was a bust of him. Boris Karloff might be another likely candidate. Or Bela Lugosi. Maybe Rod Serling. Surely someone of the stature of any of these gentlemen deserves to have a statuette modeled in their likeness to be given out for meritorious achievement.
So, why is the classic horror award not named for one of them? Why name it for a character actor who appeared in a barely noticeable bit part in one of the great horror films of that great horror film year of 1939, and a short series of performances as essentially the same character in a handful of extremely minor horror entries?
Why the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award?
Because Rondo Hatton was ugly, that’s why. Really, truly, a physically deformed human being. The Man Who Didn’t Need Makeup to Play a Monster! Who better to exemplify the monstrous and horrific?
He didn’t start out that way. He was actually voted the most handsome boy of his high school senior class in 1913, but around the end of the First World War, he began to manifest symptoms of acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland that causes accelerated growth in the bones of the head, face, hands and feet, and in some of the internal organs. Including the heart. Hatton did serve in the United States Army in France, but despite some reports, did not develop the disease as a result of a German mustard gas attack. It was a natural but extremely unpleasant occurrence.
It did, however, take him to Hollywood. He began picking up bit parts, including as one of the ‘Ugly Man Contest’ participants in the Charles Laughton version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton’s Quasimodo won, of course, and Rondo went on to pile up a modest list of very small and rarely credited parts.
Going to backtrack here, a little bit. By the time you see this, you’ll possibly have been able to listen to Episode #195 of the Horror Addicts podcast for this season. In my little section, I stated that it was my intention to take a look in this space at the horror output beyond the main line of the Universal horrors, both at that studio and the others. Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man get the bulk of the press, so I thought I’d explore some of the lesser and less well-known efforts. Like the Inner Sanctum movies starring Lon Chaney, Jr., or the Captive Wild Woman trilogy.
Or The Creeper.
Which brings us back around to Rondo Hatton.
In the last two years of his brief life, Rondo wound up at Universal, where he played an inarticulate brute known variously as the Hoxton Creeper, Mario the Man Monster, or simply The Creeper. Basically the same character, a hideous murderer who crushes his victims in an iron grasp. Apart from the first one, an entry in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes series, the series was so minor a run it barely registered at the box office. And yet, there’s that pesky award to bestow upon The Creeper a cachet he never enjoyed in his lifetime.
Good for him, I say. Not sure what he would say, though.
His first outing, as the Hoxton Creeper, was in The Pearl of Death, based on the Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”. It was the ninth film of the fourteen in which Rathbone played the great detective, the seventh at Universal. The first two were made by Twentieth-Century Fox, and one of those will be examined when that studio comes under the monstrous microscope in due time.
A pearl of great value has been hidden inside one of six busts of Napoleon sold to six different residents of London. The main villain sends out his henchman, the Hoxton Creeper, to smash each one until he finds the pearl. Of course, the owners of the busts object. Rondo reacts to their remonstrances by crushing their spines. Holmes is called in and figures things out in the requisite sixty-nine minutes allotted to b-movies at the studio in those days.
Evelyn Ankers, the studio’s resident “Queen of the Bs”, co-starred as another of the villain’s accomplices in her second appearance in the Holmes series. She had a long career in Universal horrors, barely escaping dismemberment at the hands of Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man in 1941, strangulation by his Frankenstein Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942, and exsanguination by his Count Alucard in Son of Dracula in 1943. One wonders if Chaney had something against her.
Spoiler alert – she didn’t always get away from him.
Rondo’s second turn, this time as Mario the Man Monster, came in what is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a sequel to another of the Rathbone Holmes pictures. The deliciously menacing Gale Sondergaard, who deserves a thorough examination in a future entry, played the title character in the 1943 Holmes picture, The Spider Woman. In 1946, she starred in The Spider Woman Strikes Back, which has absolutely no connection to the Holmes movie or her character in that film. Rondo is her lurking henchman as she slowly drains the blood from Brenda Joyce, who survived well enough to continue playing Jane in what was eventually a total of five Tarzan pictures. Mario neglects to crush anyone’s spine this time out, but he adds just a soupçon of that frisson the movie could have really used a lot more of.
Rondo made two more pictures, both as The Creeper, before passing away from a series of acromegaly related heart attacks on February 2, 1946. House of Horrors and The Brute Man were released posthumously, to barely noticeable acclaim. Rondo’s body was flown back east for interment in the American Legion Cemetery in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. He was fifty-one years old.
1945’s House of Horrors starred Martin Kosleck as a sculptor who is The Creeper’s only friend and protector until Rondo turns on him over the affections of the lovely Virginia Grey. Kosleck went on to forge something of a career playing Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He died in obscurity in 1994.
Grey played in a number of prominent mainstream pictures before and after being menaced by The Creeper, including Another Thin Man in 1939, The Big Store with the Marx Brothers in 1941, and in support of star Lana Turner in 1966’s Madame X., Her last horror film role was Black Zoo in 1963, starring future Batman butler Michael Gough as the naughty zookeeper. Grey kept company for some years with King of Hollywood Clark Gable until he got distracted by and married a British noblewoman in 1949. She passed away in 2004.
Speaking of Batman’s butler, Alan Napier from the 1960s television series and 1966 feature film also appeared in House of Horrors. And the hero is played by Robert Lowery, who portrayed none other than Bruce Wayne himself, as well as his cowled alter ego, in the 1949 Columbia serial, Batman and Robin.
Everything leads back to the Caped Crusader eventually, it seems.
Finally, the least of the entries, The Brute Man, removed the last vestiges of the mild sympathy one might have felt for the poor Creeper and turned him into exactly what the title suggested, a brute hunted relentlessly by the police for going around breaking other human beings. Rondo blames hero Tom Neal for his disfigurement, leading to his antisocial behavior. Not much more plot than that, I’m afraid. In 1945, Neal played the lead in the film noir classic, Detour, directed by legendary horror director, Edgar G. Ulmer. He was convicted of manslaughter in the accidental death by gunshot of his wife in 1965. He served six years in prison and died in 1972.
So. There it is. The entire horror career of the man for whom a respected award is named. Of course, his grim visage has been resurrected often in comic books on both sides of the Big Pond, and as one of the villains in the 1991 film, The Rocketeer. And he has been referenced here and there in novels and television shows since the 1970s. And there’s the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award, which is modeled on the bust of The Creeper created by the Martin Kosleck character in House of Horrors.
I like to think he’d approve of all this attention. I’d like to, but I have to wonder how he would feel about his unfortunate situation being exploited so. Would he be grateful to be remembered so long after his death, or embarrassed by the context of that remembrance?
Plotline: A case of food poisoning derails a family’s holiday and forever alters the course of their lives. Years later, the couple go camping again, looking for one last chance to go back to the way things used to be. But what once was is lost, and they instead find themselves having to relive the same nightmarish events, as that day and the horrors it brings repeat themselves infinitely. Together, they must overcome their trauma, reconcile with the past and fight for their lives — over and over again.
Who would like it: Fans of camping horror, cosmic horror, WTF, international films, myths and fairytales
High Points: I really love how told in two different media’s
Overall: I really enjoyed this super creepy little movie!
Big city undead sexy for the adults and hip horror for the whole family face off in this bemusing vampire showdown! Which do you choose?
Vampire in Brooklyn – Lonely vampire Eddie Murphy wants Angela Bassett (Black Panther) as his willing bride in director Wes Craven’s 1995 horror-comedy opening with talk of ancient Nosferatu out of Egypt feasting on those lost in the Bermuda Triangle until vampire hunters bro movie must rely on Murphy’s retreads from Coming to America. Excellent “I would love to have you for dinner” winks, sexy bites, and a simmering score betterught the undead to extinction. Now that’s a backstory I’d like to have seen! Foggy harbors, bloody bodies, and a scary wolf invoke Dracula while black and white televisions, hard language, and R attitudes provide refreshing throwback humor. Leaps in the air, breaking through the windows stunts, an unnecessarily elaborate ship crash set piece, and poor visual effects cement the nineties tone, but the Blacula references, monster transformations, no reflections, and itchy gunshots add tongue in cheek to the vampire fangs, pointy nails, and eerie eyes. That wig, though, wolf! The full moon, day servant ghouls a la Renfield, and a heart ripped out of the chest bring the vampy to the street as horoscope warnings, chases, and gore set off the urban creepy afoot. Viewers expect a camp aside or pithy comeback in every scene, but the witty matches the serious horror thanks to little things like, oh say, an ear found at the crime scene that serves both laughter and atmosphere. Increasing ghoul mishaps, “RIP” license plates on the smooth ride, and “Whatta Man” montages set off the dangerous coffin retrievals, but faith versus snakes and vampire lore in a murder investigation are too unbelievable for our tough cops to consider. Unfortunately, the apparently obligatory Murphy disguises are totally out of place. Awkward preacher fakery ruins the vampire build up before another offensive Italian stunt, and the makeup for both is terrible. The evil is good allure could have been better presented with vampire suave rather than dragging the film down with overlong laugh out loud send ups that make viewers wonder where all this is supposed to be going. Why torment this strong woman via stupid delays when you can just charm her instead? The blood pulsing temptations, supernatural flirtations, nightmare paintings, love triangles, and saucy roommates come to a complete stop as if the accent character dilemmas over eternal life, predatory pursuits, and rough seductions. Horror attacks, candles, and juicy vamp outs lead to serious character decisions and tense one on one revelations before a wild finale with a fitting chuckle. I’d have loved a sequel with ghoul turned cool Julius Jones! This is oddly similar to Craven’s Dracula 2000 in several ways, and there are many flawed elements here – pointless narration, meandering focus between the humor and scares, datedness, and uneven try hard that wants to be both niche for Black audiences yet mainstream hit acceptable. Fortunately, overall the late night fun here is still entertaining; a great re-watch with mature, modern vampire chemistry.
Vampires vs. the Bronx – Sirens, flickering neon signs, new construction buyouts by Murnau Properties, and paperwork sealed with fangs and screams open this PG-13 2020 Netflix original. Suave tunes, multiple languages, and cultural blends set off the summer heat, bicycles, and friendly neighborhood bodega, but missing persons fliers, Vlad the Impaler logos, and Polidori references provide ominous. Adult gravitas anchors the youthful ensemble, but the realistic kids aren’t trying hard for the camera. These boys just want to impress the older girls but end up embarrassed by mom wanting to get a babysitter. Narrations and video angles a la Tik Tok balance church bells and scripture quotes, developing the locales and characters well as the youths face local gang pressure to do things they don’t want to do. The new white woman in town insists she isn’t one of those types who will call the cops, and the genre mirror to nature commentary is superb. It’s not the hood the kids fear, but the nasty white folks who’ve come
to suck the life out of town. Vampire vows to wipe them out like vermin are all the more chilling because we recognize the gentrification and racist mentalities. What would the authorities care if vampires are pecking bad guys off the street in the Bronx? A wealthy white man writes a check so no one notices those made to disappear, and such a forgotten, downtrodden place is perfect for vampires who want to stay under cover. Friendships are tested when some want to do good for their community and others are right to be wary. Neighbors disbelieve the hear tell vamps dressed like Hamilton taking out the local thugs while humor alleviates suspenseful close calls – the vampire was just coming in to buy…sanitizer of course. Daytime nest explorations and homages to The Lost Boys accent the self aware genre winks while a bemusing montage establishes the lore herein complete with that cookie they hand out at church that doesn’t taste very good aka the “eucharist” and watching Blade. Single mothers try to keep their kids on the up, but the boys are trespassing for vampire proof and stealing holy water in a Sprite bottle. Skeleton keys, coffins, ringtones rousing the dead – what’s worse then being chased by vampires and caught in the backseat of the cop car? When their mothers come to get them but the vampire didn’t show up on your camera. Fun zooms for youthful actions and watchful eyes match creepy red lights, growls, and hypnotic kills as Haitian history preparations and shootouts don’t stop the undead. The kids take the crucifix off the wall and hope tia doesn’t notice, but the powdered garlic comes in handy and calling the Bronx a shithole is the last straw. Although a little short at under eighty-five minutes with credits, the swift solidarity doesn’t stray from its goal. Rather than underestimate the audience with stereotypical obnoxiousness, this refreshing contemporary take is great for young audiences as well as fans of wise and wise-cracking horror.
Plotline: A psychological thriller rippling with suspense, Kindred follows vulnerable mother-to-be Charlotte as she is taken in by her recently deceased boyfriend’s mother and her stepson, who seem increasingly obsessed with her every move Charlotte’s suspicions grow about Margaret and Thomas’ intentions for her unborn child.
Who would like it: People who love demented families, cults, cat and mouse and psychological horror
High Points: I like the way this movie was shot because it highlights the isolation of our heroine
Complaints: There is the suggestion of a cult and lots of symbolism of the occult but the movie doesn’t explain it, it’s just left as unanswered questions
Overall: This was pretty stressful to watching and the ending feels like an uppercut to the jaw.
Nox: Emz, the new podcast season is about to begin. On April 24th we can all tune in and hear the show. I imagine this is an exciting time for you?
Emz: Exciting and busy. The staff and I are all working hard to collect information and create new content for the listeners.
Nox: And how many seasons have you been doing this?
Emz: This will be our 16th season.
Nox: Share with us the theme for this season and some of the reasons it was chosen
Emz: We wanted to really highlight POC voices this year, so we made a call to share with us horror in cultures from around the world. We’ve got some really great authors involved and we’ll be covering horror from all different countries. We made it a goal to populate our bookings with 50-75% POC voices and we ended up surpassing that with over 79%.
Nox: Can you let us in on any of the exciting items the season holds for our listeners?
Emz: We have three anthologies to highlight. SLAY from Mocha Memoirs Press, Haunts and Hellions coming out in May from HorrorAddicts.net Press, and ON TIME from Transmundane Press. We’ll have readings from the authors of those books. We’ll also be hosting a Wicked Women Writer’s All-Star competition for our 200th episode, so the listeners will get to hear from the winners of our contests over the years.
Nox: I’ve heard rumors you have new theme music this year?
Emz: Yes! Our favorite band, Valentine Wolfe, has returned to theme our show with their song, “I Felt a Funeral”
Nox: What will the audio drama be this year?
Emz: The Deadbringer, an audio dramatization of E.M. Markoff’s novel. It’s sure to be exciting!
Nox: Remind our listeners when they’ll be able to tune in for the first episode.
Emz: The first episode premieres April 24th and we’ll start with the black vampire theme. Authors from Mocha Memoirs’ SLAY will be reading their work for us. A full list of themes and guests can be found at: HorrorAddicts.net and you can also listen on all the podcasty things including iTunes, I❤Radio, Stitcher, and more. I can’t wait to talk to my addicts again!
I am so very excited about this post guys! I’ve teamed up with Lady Shasha, the host of What Did I Just Watch? to bring you a three-part mini series to celebrate Black History Month, WiHM, and all things horror.
The Daughters of the Dark, Lady Shasha host of What Did I Just Watch and Crystal Connor, A Trusted Name in Terror joined forces to bring you a 3 part mini-series to celebrate Black History and Women in Horror month!
Upscale housewife with history Elizabeth Taylor thinks she witnesses a murder in the creepy abandoned house next door in the 1973 British thriller Night Watch. Unfortunately, her broker husband John Wheeler (Laurence Harvey) nor her carefree best friend Sarah (Billie Whitelaw) believe her. The police are tired of the increasing phone calls and neighborhood hysteria, but the terror escalates thanks to stormy nights, pills, alcohol, and slit throats.
Director Brian G. Hutton (Where Eagles Dare) and writers Evan Jones (The Damned) and Tony Williamson (The Avengers) adapt the Lucille Fletcher (Sorry, Wrong Number) play with flowers, quaint English gardens, and smiling rapport. The swanky drinks before dinner and lingering sixties style, however, contrast the looming gothic manor next door. The grounds are said to be poison where nothing will grow, but someone is digging in the backyard on stormy nights, and vivid dreams of speeding cars, accidents, and morgue terror distract from the snobbish talk of avoiding lesser neighbors. Late night waxing on the fatal past invokes a wee small hours limbo – traumatic memories and two characters who’ve lost touch make for fine drama before raging storms and screams reveal something horrible across the way. Dead men and cutthroats disturb the classical music, but inspectors find nothing in the congested, maze-like condemned as Night Watch relies on performances and mood rather than sensationalism for its taut, through the shutters peering. Pills or brandy are suggested to keep calm, but flashlights, clutter, and foreground objects layer the visual frame. Viewers are looking for something – questioning what we see or didn’t see. Could it all be an honest mistake? The police think it’s nothing but “money and menopause” on top of brief nudity, shower saucy, and hotel room trysts. Newly planted trees aren’t enough evidence, but nuggets of information trickle out from the ensemble. Suspicious neighbors find it exciting that there’s hear tell of a dead body nearby yet refuse to have their bushes dug up as part of the official search. Red herrings add to the creepy commentary about disliking neighbors who were there before you just as much as the friends you choose living even closer. Who’s watching whom and from which house questions layer the voyeurism alongside debates on hallucinations, eidetic images, and convincing oneself that what you see is real. Old mementos thought lost suddenly reappear, leading to arguments about gaslighting and being deliberately terrorized as more police calls, chases, and curiosity create a ‘burbs mind your own business across the hedge. Despite lights next door, the case is closed – inspectors and doctors both strongly suggest everything go back to normal amid awkward dinners, screams, and more off-screen witnessing. Revelations about what had really happened in previous accidents and shock over-identifying bodies found in flagrante delicto provoke more tension in the increasingly crowded quarter. Eventually, the police laugh and roll their eyes, proposing our housewife contact the building owners herself or hire a private detective. All the paperwork is ready for a trip to “rest” in Switzerland, too – accounts, legalese, and power of attorney but that’s all just routine. Confrontations, secrets, and lies will out thanks to hide and seek twists inside the derelict. Night Watch gets its horror on in a spooky multi-layered finale of blood, violence, crazed attacks, and frenetic turnabouts. Who exactly was really planning what and when? Seemingly early and obvious giveaways make room for more surprises, and Night Watch ensures the shocking schemes are ultimately completed with skill and gravitas.
Flowing gowns, glam necklaces, rock rings, and coiffed hair assure Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) looks classy as well to do housewife Ellen Wheeler. She dresses for dinner, drinks, and does jigsaw puzzles, for she needs patience to give her something to do when she’s so often alone. Her ritzy life should be nothing but grand, however, the insomniac Mrs. is up all night fascinated by storms and thinking about her father’s bad poetry. She’s been spoiled yet feels restrained and bored. The watch during the night is for all the things you can’t make sense of during the day, says Ellen, and she’s increasingly returning to memories of her late first husband Carl. Dreaming of his accident keeps her awake – she vividly recalls the fatal scenes and blood the viewer never sees but doesn’t remember previously dealing with the police and feels nervous about talking to them. However, Ellen also doesn’t want to be coddled or hear this witness is all in her mind, and she’s angry when no one believes her, even more hysterical over the disbelief than upset by the crime she apparently saw. Without support, Ellen is increasingly frazzled, pathetic, and paranoid. Will she voluntarily go to the doctor so he can tell her the dead body is all in her mind? What happens when she thinks she sees another one? Mrs. Wheeler’s wheels turn as she suspects her pills, beverages, and if someone is deliberately making her recall Carl’s demise. Despite her full house with husband, friend, and maid, Ellen fears someone else is watching her. She repeatedly calls the police and eventually agrees to see the psychiatrist, and though desperate, she is not stupid. Ellen is quite intelligent and recognizes when she’s being lied to or signing the wrong papers. She’s damn shrewd in seeing what’s what, and Night Watch’s madness begins to make sense as only Dame Elizabeth could make the clicking of the retractable pen so sassy and defiant before refusing to take the last tranquilizer in the bottle. Long drags on the cigarettes and strategic pauses emphasis the deliciously dark camp, and I’m surprised Night Watch feels so obscure when Taylor’s performance is so chill.
Laurence Harvey’s (The Manchurian Candidate) stocks and bonds big wig John Wheeler wants to know why his wife can’t sleep. He works long hours, but wonders what he’s done to upset her even if she says it’s not him. John takes care of Ellen, babying her with warm milk the way a daughter goes from father to husband to protect her. However, John does not believe she’s seen anything. He won’t call the police over a false alarm and insists the inspector not upset his already not well wife. John won’t stick up for her claims, yet he warns the police to not dismiss Ellen. Although he’s worried over the dangerous mix of alcohol and sleeping pills, John’s more concerned about possibly being sued by an angry neighbor. He dislikes when the police want him to control his wife and encourages her to see their doctor friend once he’s tired of her bringing up her late husband. John agrees she is right when Ellen suggests they take a holiday – but she says we and he only wants her to take a vacation. He has all that “spa” paperwork ready! Swanky best friend Billie Whitelaw (The Omen) on the other hand, is the houseguest who won’t leave. She keeps saying she’s moving on to Scotland and debates running away with her latest on and off conquest Barry but may have other tête-à-têtes, too. Sarah stays to look after Ellen, providing tranquilizers and hot chocolate while waxing on all the adventures she could be having and the excuses she can make up to get away with them. Although she tries to avoid topics that will upset Ellen – like Carl – they always creep back into the conversation. Sarah insists Ellen can’t go on like this, but as the third wheel in the marital house, her companionship is automatically suspect. She lies to spare Ellen but also apologizes for her tall tales. Doctor Tony Britton (The People That Time Forgot) must also tread lightly with Mrs. Wheeler. He doesn’t want her to be committed but needs her to voluntarily trust his help. Above all, he insists that she must get out of this house before it’s too late.
Spooky black branches, dark blue skies, boarded windows, banging shutters, and overgrown vines contrast the mirrors, red leather couch, white staircase, and swanky record players next door in Night Watch. Creepy statues and artwork, blue lighting, ticking clocks, and swirling cigarette smoke add ominous to the hip turtlenecks, lux lamps, decanters, and manicured gardens. Knives in the kitchen, rain splatter on the windows, and vintage blue sirens create pulsing tension while gates, flashlights, and condemned interiors set off the congested mood. Horseshoe phones, switchboard operators, and retro trench coats should be cozy nostalgia, but the colorful outdoors disappear as the peering through the blinds and drawn shades invoke agoraphobia. Distorted dreams and intense flashes of past car accidents lead to dead bodies and hospital Disturbia thanks to low camera angles and spotlights. Night Watch has subtle, choice visuals with reflections of the scary house on the fine townhouse window overlaying all action inside and out. Well done cinematography provides dark scares as well as focuses on Taylor’s face as zooms hone in on critical images and objects. Thunder punctuates arguments as the rhythms escalate, and through the gate, chases move the action to our spooky neighbors amid barren beams, peeling plaster, creaking stairs, and exposed woodwork. Violent struggles in the dark and shocking silhouettes allow for what we don’t see suspicion and final revelations. Wise viewers may pick up on the mystery here for there are too many similar stories to Night Watch before and since. Audiences looking for full-on horror a la Hammer of the day will be disappointed, too. Fortunately, the psychological chills, spooky twists, and superbly unraveled cast do get their scary on in an entertaining end. Night Watch is a fun late night tease worth seeing more than once to catch all the whodunit winks.
This month we are celebrating Women in Horror Month here at HorrorAddicts.net. This month we will bring you contemporary women writers, women writers of old, women movie directors, actresses, characters, and even artists who have brought to life some of those scary monsters we have nightmares about.
You’ll meet women who look like demure housewives but pen horrible, frightening beings who suck your blood! You will read some newly written material and some treasures from the vault.
You’ll hear some of the joys and the challenges of being a woman trying to make her way into the genre, let alone getting to the top of the gravestone.
Join us daily as we celebrate Women in Horror during February.
At the end of the silent movie period, French film director René Clair went on the record as being very skeptical of sound, feeling that it was “an unnatural creation” Cinema as its own art form was a purely visual one, he thought, and the introduction of sound would make films nothing more than recorded stage plays. He relented, and made some truly great sound films, but watching what is, as far as I’ve been able to determine the earliest surviving Japanese horror film, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Kurutta Ippeji (A Page of Madness), one might wonder if he wasn’t on to something.
Not that Kinugasa was aware of Clair’s opinion in 1926, or even of his work; there’s no indication that he saw any western films at the beginning of his career. He started in the industry as a female impersonator in 1917, then switched to directing once Japanese studios began using female actors in the early 1920s. It wasn’t until 1929 that he had the opportunity to travel abroad and encounter European films, which makes Kurutta Ippeji all the more remarkable. Stylistically, it would fit very nicely into any one of several European traditions, particularly German expressionism. There is in Kinugasa’s picture more than a trace of what the French called Caligarisme, that most extreme variety of expressionism exemplified by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, to be sure. However, it’s purely a parallel development, as Kinugasa wouldn’t have known Caligarisme in 1926 if he tripped over it. He was talented enough to discover it on his own.
A more impressive achievement is that it truly is a silent film, even more so than any that Clair had directed in France up until that time. There are no intertitles, those cards that pop up periodically in almost all silents with bits of dialogue or expository material. Kinugasa was able to tell a coherent story with no dialogue, no expository material. The images are the story, and they need nothing else.
The story is, to be sure, a simple one. A man hires on as a janitor at the insane asylum where his wife is an inpatient. He loses contact with reality himself while attempting to extricate her from the asylum against her will, plus deal with his daughter’s disintegrating marriage. His own mental state comes to mirror that of several of the other inmates, and it is in the presentation of their madness and his that Kinugasa creates some truly horrific imagery. It possesses a poetic subtlety that possibly doesn’t translate well into our time for most modern horror fans, which is a damn shame.
Like almost all early Japanese films, it was thought lost until Kinugasa came across a copy in his garden shed in the 1970s, a few years after his long and very productive career had come to an end. He died in 1982, at the age of eighty-six.
Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday was yesterday as I write this, an anniversary that should be near and dear to the hearts of all horror fans. Poe is also revered by the mystery buffs, who named their most prestigious award the Edgar in his honor. And in his honor, the second part of this celebration of Asian horrors is herewith presented unto the populace.
Japanese mystery writer Tirō Hirai adopted the pseudonym Edogawa Ranpo (sometimes written as Rampo) in 1923. If you say that new name fast, it sort of sounds like Poe’s full name, which was the point, I do believe. Regardless, he had a long and distinguished career as a mystery author, penning numerous novels and short stories.
Which has what to do with horror, Asian or otherwise? you may well ask. Well, like many writers, Ranpo had difficulty playing in his own sandbox. On occasion, he would tinker with other genres. One such time, he came up with what might well be the creepiest tale I’ve ever read.
A prominent lady writer receives a manuscript from an aspiring author. In it, he tells of his life as a hideously ugly and poverty-stricken chair-maker, a man whose carpentry skills are as great as his social skills are poor. Having received a commission for a large chair to be installed in a fancy hotel, he decides to build one that he can hide in so that he can sneak out and steal from the wealthy clientele. He spends months living in this chair, emerging from it at night to pilfer valuables. He waxes rhapsodic on how various people sit on him during the day, how he could differentiate one type of person from another by how their bodies press down onto his.
After a long time, the carpenter writes, the hotel decided to redecorate, and the chair was sold. And guess what! You’re sitting on me now! The lady author freaks and flees, only to receive a second letter telling her that the manuscript is pure fiction, ha-ha, just kidding. Did you like it and would you help me get it published? It shall be called, “The Human Chair”. This seems like a cheat on a par with The Wizard of Oz having all been a dream. If the second letter is true.
See? Creepy, right?
Ranpo published his story, also called “The Human Chair”, in 1925, in the October issue of the literary magazine, Kuraku. I first read it in David Alexander’s 1962 paperback anthology, Tales for a Rainy Night.
It can also be found in Peter Haining’s 1972 anthology Beyond the Curtain of Dark and in Ranpo’s own collection, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination. And no doubt in others. I encourage all and sundry among the populace to seek it out, in order to see for yourself if it delivers the same frisson to you it did to me the first time I read it.
At 1:15 am pst on Dec. 13th 2020, Crystal Connor, finally settled into her sleeping bag on the couch with snacks within reach and dog in lap picked up her remote. The footage you are about to see chronicles the harrowing experience that her neighbors endured for hours as she screamed, cried, and shouted expletive obscenities at her television as she watched: Viewer discretion is advised.
Plotline: A collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself.
Who would like it: Fans of anthologies, short films, collections, international films, horror lovers, gorehounds, tech geeks, sci-fi fans, indie horror movies, and people who love jump scares
High Points: This was a super strong anthology, loved about 80% of the films
Welcome to 2021 and our first theme month of the New Year! Because we here at HorrorAddicts.net strive to recognize and highlight as many different voices in horror as possible, we are excited to welcome you to Asian and Pacific Islander Horror Month. This month we will be featuring Asian authors, their books, movies, and experiences.
From Japan’s Kaiju (Godzilla) in 1954 to the gothic manga worldwide craze of the 90s and 00s, the world has been in love with Asian Horror and its monsters for decades. Yurei haunt us from every corner, shinigami invade our nightmares of the afterlife, and the recent unique fad of zombies in film terrifies us. Whether you’re a fan of more popular media such as Ringu, Train to Basan, and Death Note, or looking to expand your knowledge through more obscure and little-known stories of the culture, this month we’ll bring you all sorts of Asian-infused delights.
We hope you will enjoy the thrills, chills, and insight this month will bring you!
Top 5 Winter Horror Movies, as voted on by the Addicts!
30 Days of Night
A Christmas Horror Story
Let the Right One In
Some other winter horror flix we enjoy: Misery, Ginger Snaps Back, Storm of the Century, Frozen (2010), The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Gremlins, Black Christmas, Anna and the Apocalypse, Dead Snow, Candyman, Krampus, Prophecy, Nightmare Before Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Crimson Peak, The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas.
Mexican and Spanish Vampires, Oh My! By Kristin Battestella
The Bloody Vampire– The English version of this black and white 1962 Mexican import El Vampire Sangriento opens with eerie slow motion, silent carriages, tolling bells, howling wolves, and creepy forests to set the macabre mood. The candles, Old World Feeling, secret crypts, great architecture, and period costumes counter the almost comically out of place and unmatched dubbing, but there are some eerie good effects, thankfully. Fun Bats, zooms, and coffins mask the fact that once again, there isn’t much of the titular blood. However, the religious arias are a bit out of place and too reverent for the subject. Likewise, some of the sound effects are more fifties UFOs than scary. Fortunately, a few corsets and kinky bedroom threats accent the household violence, vampy bitch slaps, and whips. Although, I’ve never heard a vampire tell his victim/bride to put some clothes on before! It might have been neat to see a South American set tale rather than the standard Eastern European mold, but the English translations add to the gothic horror homage. Count Frankenhausen has a maid named Hildegard “The servants must call me Frau” and a daughter Bronehilda at his cave the “Haunted Hacienda.” Yes, and did I mention that “Vampirina” is the blood of a vampire? The English track is tough to hear, and it’s all back and forth wooden exposition on deadly flower roots, grave robbings, early autopsies, science versus death, vampire mythos, and secret vampire hunting family histories. It might be a dry translation or stilted from the innate Espanol, but at least this isn’t in the over the top telenovela styling we expect today. The pace does pick up for the last half hour, and once you’re past the niche logistics and morbid humor, then this is a good little hour and a half.
Crypt of the Living Dead – There’s isn’t a lot of information available on this black and white 1973 tale also known by the wonderfully bad title Hannah, Queen of the Vampires. Andrew Prine (V) looks so young and the architecture and medieval religious designs are well done, yes. But sadly, the drab, colorless photography hampers the fun, gothic atmosphere. Was this later day black and white filming done by production plan or necessity? The editing is also either very poor or there has been some unfortunate film damage, and the plot is a little slow and silent to start, with too many setups and tough to hear dialogue when we do have it. The nighttime action is almost impossible to see as well, and the frantic camerawork and extreme close ups make what should be straightforward scares somewhat confusing. All this production doom and gloom and yet the script and cast actually aren’t that bad. The music and eerie effects are sinister enough, and there’s a historical spin on the then-contemporary skepticism and ethical debates. Die-hard vamp fans looking to have a fun nighttime viewing will enjoy this. However, the finale is a bit overlong and repetitive for horror lay folk, and those low budget values will hinder the natural fears and good scares for today’s more visually treated audiences.
The Vampire – With such a confusingly plain title, I had to look up this 1957 Mexican horror El Vampiro starring Abel Salazar and German Rubles to make sure I hadn’t already seen it. Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the foggy villa courtyards, Gothic Victorian interiors, hypnotic eyes, and fangs afoot here. This original tale gets right to the screams and neck nibbles, and the black and white patina perfectly matches the don’t go out after sunset warnings. Even the fake bat doesn’t feel hokey amid the fifties train and ingenue in white visiting her sick spinster aunt. The boxes of soil from Hungary, suspicious cape-wearing count, and carriage at the crossroads may seem Stoker-esque to start, however there are some undead surprises – and an older aunt who remains young and reflection-less but thinks all this vampire talk is ridiculous. Torches and tolling bells invoke some medieval funerary alongside crypts, superstitions, and fearful folk crossing themselves. The recently late are buried with crucifix in hand while creepy crescendos accent the phantom ladies in black about the cemetery. Ghostly effects, well-framed shadows, and spooky lighting schemes heighten the ruinous haciendas as well as the suspenseful count and his then-shocking vampire bites – sudden falling books or slamming doors also help build the dangerous mood unlike today’s fake out jump scares. Rather than detract from the horror, just the right amount of humor and a whiff of romance accent the fine dialogue – although despite DVD commentaries and a variety of caption or audio options, the English subtitles don’t exactly match the español. Secret passages, dusty books, and otherworldly singing provide more flavor for a wild finale combining stakes, sunlight, and fire. To be sure, this toothy little number wins with heaps of atmosphere.
The Vampire’s Coffin – Salazar and company returned for this 1958 sequel aka El Ataud del Vampiro, and the two pictures can be found together on the generically named The Vampire Collection set for more howling cemeteries, grave robbers, and disturbed vampire tombs. Of course, it’s amazingly easy for two men to remove such heavy headstones and take a giant coffin to the local hospital for a scientific study, but hey, me want that sweet fifties Hearst! Skeletal reflections, giant wooden stakes – the Gothic creepy moves into unexplained science territory but the old-fashioned hospital retains a gray, mod feeling with scared kids and a cross above the bed. What can modern medicine do compared to a determined monster? Sharp shadows and dark angles add Expressionism accents while staircases and noir pursuits akin a Val Lewton aesthetic. Although a missing vampire about the ward could be laughable, spooky effects, a dark cape, and hypnotized victims add macabre. There is, however, a lacking finesse here thanks to a busy narrative crowded with swanky theater glamour and gruesome wax museum hideouts. Disbelieving medical directors, ritzy routines, and torture devices are all well and good on their own, but one moody, fully embraced locale would have been better. Convenience and poorly choreographed fights aside, the fun finale packs in plenty of rituals, chases, and guillotines, as you do. Ironically, it feels like pieces of this film are borrowed in more recent cliché horror, and despite a general bloodlessness and try hard approach, bared fangs and la Sangre talk keep up the theme.
The Vampire’s Night Orgy – Spanish director Leon Klimovsky (The Dracula Saga) uses an unusual widescreen format for this hour and twenty minutes from 1974. The color is very washed out, too, and unfortunately, the picture is often too dark or tough to see. Like most of the foreign or obscure horror of this era, there are edited versions and lost prints, and some scenes are regrettably dated and look the likes of seventies porn. Thankfully, those are about the only problems here. Crazy funerals, wild music, and a nutty countess add to the demented ambiance of ticking clocks, creaking doors, and spooky sound effects. The dubbing is actually in sync and performed well, too, with a few words of un-translated Spanish adding to the Euro flavor. From the interesting premise – an en-route house staff’s bus breaks down in a seemingly abandoned town that really has an all too generous blood drinking population – to a bit of kink, nudity, and cannibalism, the screams and foreboding build up are solid. Sure, most of the men look the same with huge mustaches and I’ll be damn, there isn’t a lot of blood to be seen. However, the child actors aren’t annoying, and the vampire violence is well played. One by one, victims are taken down in fast, almost gang rape terror, and the chase finale and twist ending earn top marks. Though in serious need of a restoration and some may have trouble getting past the dated look, this is a nice little scary movie.
The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman – Never ever do an autopsy on a supposed werewolf on a moonlit night! Just one of the many warnings from this 1971 Spanish treat, the fifth in the loose Waldemar Daninsky series from writer and star Paul Naschy. Director Leon Klimovsky tackles then-contemporary disbelieving science versus superstition with good screams, fun growls and fangs, zoom attacks, and slow motion eerie. There’s a good quality of blood, too, and a twisted medieval flashback establishes the satanic ritual roots. Of course, the nighttime photography is almost impossible to see, and the handheld forest camera action is poor. The werewolf makeup and effects may be a bit hokey but considering the low budget foreign production, they suffice. The flowing fashions and happy vamps running thru the glen can seem more like Frodo Lives hippie, I know. However, it is nonetheless very unnerving and effective. Actually, the pop references in the dialogue – such as man walking on the moon, James Bond, and the obligatory “Dracula! Ha ha.” – feels more dated amid the fine gothic history and Euro-style. A touch of lingerie, bloody shackles, and crazy girl on girl suggestion keep the run of the mill acting and yell at the TV moments bemusing. Cap this eighty plus minutes with unusual monster relationships and cool mod clothes and you have a picture that’s a cut above the standard dollar bin foreign horror. Naturally, multiple video releases, unavailable uncut editions, international reissues, and title changes can make pursuing Naschy’s horror repertoire extremely frustrating. For fans of retro Euro-horror, however, this is worth the hunt.
I would encourage the populace, if possible, to at least take a look at the recent Netflix series, Ratched. It will help if you’re familiar with the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the one that took home a slew of Oscars for that year, the one in which the television series’ title character was the villain, but that’s not essential. Ratched is a beautifully mounted, albeit severely flawed work, and worth seeing if only for the sumptuous set design. Indeed, every frame looks like a photograph from a 1947 issue of Architectural Digest or some similar slick magazine of its type. The costumes could be out of Vanity Fair, the automobiles from Road & Track. It is gorgeous in its every visual element and blessed with a slightly languid pace that allows the eye to gorge itself at leisure on all that gorgeosity.
While I have several issues with the writing (cardboard and occasionally inconsistent characters, cliched situations, predictable plot points), I cannot fault the technical prowess of those who designed the visuals, or, indeed, the audio. The incidental music is eerily reminiscent of Bernard Hermann’s score from the 1962 film, Cape Fear, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score for the 1991 remake. One day, I will discuss both film versions of that story in this space, and the music from each, but today I want to talk about the title music from Ratched, for it touches upon one of my passions.
Yes, I am a Baby Boomer, a member of that much maligned, fairly or unfairly, generation that for all its flaws did indeed spawn the best popular music of the past century. And, yes, I grew up a fan of, among others, the Beatles, the band whose massive output of incredible music in the space of less than a decade was not only the ne plus ultra of its time but the sine qua non of all popular music since. But they and the rest of the 1960s artists were not my first musical love.
That would be classical music. Before the Fab Four showed up on the Ed Sullivan Show on that momentous night in February of 1964, I had already begun to sample my father’s record collection. The first piece of music I remember being enraptured by was Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges. I had no idea at the time what that title meant, for although I was able to operate a turntable at that early age, I had not yet learned to read beyond a very superficial level. In fact, I suspect that it was to decipher the tiny print on the back of all those record sleeves that I set about becoming literate so assiduously at such a tender age.
I still love classical music. It occupies a significant portion of my listening time. I don’t know squat about music theory, but I know what I like. And in the years since I discovered the wonders on those ancient LPs, most of which are now in my possession, new discoveries of what I like have regularly occurred with delightful frequency.
I think I must have been about thirteen or fourteen when I first encountered the work of Camille Saint-Saëns, or, rather, a portion of one of his works. A radio station in or near Nashville began to broadcast episodes of the Shadow radio show from the late 1930s, the ones starring Orson Welles. The theme music was eerie and compelling, drawing the listener into the outré adventures of He Who Had the Power to Cloud Men’s Minds. No one I knew could tell me what that strange tune was. Fortunately, this was in the early years of a new cultural phenomenon, nostalgia, and every trip to the bookstore revealed a new volume on some aspect of the cultural ephemera of past decades, including radio. I knew of radio solely as a delivery system for current music, but as my dad told me at the time, it was in his youth the primary source of free entertainment in the home – musical, comedic, dramatic. Frightening.
More on that later. I think it was in a paperback edition of Jim Harmon’s 1967 book, The Great Radio Heroes, that I learned the provenance of that snippet of strange music. It turned out to be the middle section of a symphonic poem by Saint-Saëns, Omphale’s Spinning Wheel. Once I knew that, I began to search for more music by this new composer I’d discovered.
Skip years, indeed, decades ahead, and I’d just settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch to watch the first episode of Ratched. At that moment, my wife of nearly forty years came in, and I surrendered that spot, because when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s okay. The seat I gave up is slightly off-center to the TV mounted on the wall opposite, and the spot I almost always wind up in has a more straight-on view. Yeah. That’s the ticket.
For some reason, the subtitle function was turned on, which was fine. I watch a lot of films in languages I don’t understand, and I heartily despise dubbing. Nothing ruins the rhythm of a film than the dialogue being out of sync with the actors’ expressions and mouth movements. Give me subtitles, every time. So, I’m used to them, and made no particular effort to turn them off.
No issues with the first episode, although my lovely bride thought it moved a tad slowly. There was no title sequence that time out, the credits rolling at the end. And for just over five minutes, there was no such thing in the second episode.
And then, there was. I immediately recognized the music playing, although the first bit of it had been lopped off. It was Saint-Saëns’ 1874 tone poem Danse Macabre, a piece I play heavily around Halloween, for it is spooky and creepy and laden with dire forebodings.
And then, I noticed the subtitle that popped up as soon as the discordant violin screeched out its first few notes.[haunting classical music playing]
Say, what? Haunting classical music? Haunting classical music?!?!?!? Does no one at Netflix have access to a decent music library? This piece has a name, a title that has been well-known for one hundred and forty-six years. That’s as bad as people calling the tango Al Pacino danced with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman ‘the tango from Scent of a Woman’, as if that’s its title. It’s not. It’s called Por Una Cabeza, and it’s by Carlos Gardel, a significant composer of Latin music in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s not quite as bad as pronouncing Porsche as a one-syllable name, but still, come on! Is it all that much trouble to identify a major piece of music by its actual name?
Ahem. Sorry ‘bout that.
Danse Macabre was based on a Late Medieval allegorical theme of death as the one truly universal reality, and its application in a variety of artistic expressions. Paintings, frescoes and woodcuts depicting souls of all financial stations and every societal stratum dancing their ways along to the grave accompanied by decomposing corpses and animated skeletons were all the rage in the waning decades of the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance.
I know most folks think of the term ‘classical music’ as encompassing all that stuff you had to sit through during school field trips to the local symphony hall, but for the cognoscenti, classical refers to the music of roughly the 18th Century, composed by folks like Mozart and Haydn in an organically structured and sometimes excessively ornamental style that reflected the artistic sensibilities of the concurrent Rococo period in art and architecture. During the preceding century, more-or-less, both art and architecture on one hand and music on the other were done in what was known as Baroque style, which was also overly ornamented but with a somewhat more constrained, almost geometrical structure. Kind of. That’s very much a Reader’s Digest Condensed version of things, but not, I hope, totally off the mark.
The 19th Century in music was dominated by the Romantic period, and Saint-Saëns was very much a Romantic composer. That word does not mean, as applied to the music of its time, what you think it does, just as an opera comique is not necessarily funny. Romantic in relation to the music of composers from Schubert and Beethoven in the early 19th Century to Dvorak and Verdi near the end of the century, and even beyond with Rachmaninoff and Ravel, was intended to produce within the listener a sort of naturalistic evocation of emotions, so that the music inspired more than merely an aesthetic response. It is no accident that the Romantic period in music coincided in its later decades with Impressionism in painting. The intended reaction from the consumer was the same in both areas, an empathic connection with the artist through the medium.
And Danse Macabre did produce an emotional reaction from early critics, indeed. It was not received well at first, as it was considered to be a source of anxiety for those who heard it. As I stated before, I know little about music theory, but I have been given to understand that there are certain key signatures that lend themselves particularly well to certain types of music, and even the emotions those pieces are meant to convey. According to what I have read on the subject, G Minor is one of those keys that tends to invoke dread and angst, and Danse Macabre is in that key. I’m going to go ahead and assume my informant was correct, for it does put the nerves on edge.
Listen to it throughout that title sequence in Ratched, when and if you’re able to watch it, and see if it doesn’t augment the show’s overall feeling of fearful expectation, even more so perhaps than the story warrants. Then, listen to it in its entirety.
Then, please don’t tell me you felt nothing from that – no frisson, as it were. I hope you do. I might just worry about you if not, just a little.
Also, rest assured I won’t leave you hanging regarding all the possibly unfamiliar references above. I will, one of these days, wax poetic on horror as it was used in old time radio programs and operas, comique and otherwise, as well as by other composers, artists, and even architects. I might even explain just what is meant by a ‘slick magazine’, translate the Latin phrases I love tossing around like confetti, and reveal from what major genre work I lifted the neologism ‘gorgeosity’. Stay tuned.
Where Are All the Mid-Century Mexican Horror Films by Kristin Battestella
From The Witch’s Mirrorto The Curse of the Crying Woman and more, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the mid-century Mexican horror productions I’ve seen from the forties, fifties, and sixties. I would wholeheartedly like to see more, but where did all these Mexican horror movies go? Read on for my rant about the frustrating difficulty in finding these quality classic scares.
Why so inaccessible?
Thanks to directors such as Rafael Baledón or the likes of Abel Salazar’s filmography, one can filter, search, and find dozens of Mexican horror films on IMDb, Wikipedia, and more. We know they exist, so where are they and why aren’t they readily available? Ten or fifteen years ago, a budget DVD set with twenty or fifty so-called horror classics was a get what you pay for way to find a few old horror gems amid the so bad it’s good obscure, public domain scares, and cheap VHS quality rips. This was how I first found some Spanish horror delectables. Today, however, those sets aren’t really viable compared to affordable streaming options. Unfortunately, be it the free horror channels, discount streaming tiers, or the big mainstream options, none of them have any of these films. Back when we had Xfinity and could browse all the thousand channels on the guide including the Spanish cable package, I used to see some great horror films listed on the Peliculas de clasicos channels. I’d write down great titles like Museo de Horror, El Beso de Ultratrumbo, La Cabeza Viviente, and more but can’t find any of them anywhere. How with today’s instant access to everything are these films still so inaccessible?
Cultural Drift is No Excuse!
It takes a lot of digging and research to find these titles, and although it’s easy to search with Spanish language filters, that creates its own set of problems. Sure I’ve been able to find a few Salazar sixties horrors or Mexican movies, but those searches also yield a lot of Paul Naschy pictures from Spain (and searching for his Waldermar werewolf films is another aggravating not all available pursuit). Soon, these lists skew to Spain, European productions, Jesus Franco, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava. Seventies Italian Giallo pictures are not what we’re looking for, and finding the right version of a film with different releases, run times, and different titles per country only adds more fuel to the frustrating fuego. Sometimes you think you are getting the right movie and it turns out to be something else, or worse a film you’ve already seen under a different name. I myself am guilty of putting all my Spanish horror viewing lists and recommendations together because it’s so tough to find just the Mexican scares. Of course, Spain and Mexico are different cultures with different español and different identities, and it’s problematic to presume they are interchangeable. Many years ago I had a vehement argument on an online film forum when a commenter said he wanted a role to be cast with Penélope Cruz or Salma Hayek or “one of those types.” This person could not see why I objected to these actresses being lumped together as one and the same. On a non-horror note, I highly suggest the Maya Exploration Center’s Professor Edwin Barnhart’s Great Course lectures including Ancient Civilizations of North America, Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed, Lost Worlds of South America, and Exploring the Mayan World to educate oneself on the history of Southwest, Central, and South American communities.
The Classics are Better.
What irritates me most is the perception that because Hollywood or mainstream horror is more prevalent, that means it must be better. In my recent viewings, however, that’s been far from the truth. I’ve enjoyed the majority of independent Australian, New Zealand, Irish, UK horror, and European productions, sure. Canadian pictures, on the other hand, have been more mixed bag. When the festival finds are true to themselves, they’ve been good – but you can tell the difference when a north of the border production is compromising itself in hopes of an American sale and wide distribution, catering to the formulaic and cliché. I had such high hopes for The Curse of La Llorona. It starts well with colonial Mexican scares so viewers think we’re in for some period piece Hammer flair, but sadly the film – written and directed by white men, because of course – degrades into the typical kids in peril with whooshing entities and trite jump scares. Cultural fears are dismissed and protective warnings are treated like Mysticism 101, and the entire time I was waiting for it to end, I had one thought, which was that The Curse of the Crying Woman was better. There’s an entire Wikipedia page called “Golden Age of Mexican Cinema” but where are all the films? Netflix if you’re lucky has one DVD copy, and when that breaks, it’s just saves and unavailables.
It’s Frustrating and Offensive.
For viewer looking for quality horror of any kind, it’s disturbing how unique storytelling, different cultural scares, and the many horror stories to be told must be bent to serve white mainstream horror. The fact that these films are not widely available almost feels like an intentional burying – the way a great Asian horror film won’t see the light of day stateside because the rights were bought up and it is being deliberately suppressed until the rich white blonde jump scare cliché remake is released first. Why aren’t these classic, quality films being celebrated? Why are they not freely available to watch at any time? A black and white picture? So what! Spanish subtitles or a bad English dub? Big deal! Is it because they are not in English that white America suspects releasing these films properly won’t be profitable enough for them? Well that’s just too damn bad because I want to see these films. Do you have an inside source on where to find some classic mid-century Mexican horror movies? ¡Damelo!
Deliciously Dark Death Becomes Her gets Better with Age
by Kristin Battestella
Writer Helen Sharp’s (Goldie Hawn) plastic surgeon fiance Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis) thinks Helen’s childhood friend Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) is an amazing starlet. Madeline has stolen Helen’s beaus previously and does so again, but fourteen years later, Helen achieves her revenge by looking stunning and wooing Ernest into her killer plans. Madeline will do whatever she can to compete – including visiting the mysterious Lisle von Rhoman (Isabella Rosselini) for a youthful elixir. Unfortunately, the costly potion leads to bodily disasters if you don’t take care of your beauty, and unlike these desperate ladies trying to stay forever young, the 1992 dark comedy Death Becomes Heronly gets better with age.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and writers Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero) and David Koepp (War of the Worlds) open the surprisingly PG-13 Death Becomes Her with 1978 not so well received ritzy as Playbills are tossed aside and stage glory turns sour thanks to show within in a show awkward performances, bad choreography, caricatures on youth, and phony songs about you. Flirtatious winks, polite shade, through the teeth comebacks, and backhanded compliments are played straight as your frienemy steals your man, and Death Becomes Her wastes no time with backstabbing wedding bells and revenge decades in the planning leading to book party invitations and who’s looking swell versus who’s looking worse for the wear changes. The man looming above the frame is reflected in the mirror behind the woman – reverse revealing the personal disconnect as each says things they don’t mean alongside more symbolism and aggressive gestures. Hellish characters and murderous plans are both deliberate and measured yet flippant and off the cuff, as our plastic surgeon is dismissed as a ghoul for not healing but indulging vanity even in death. More quirky visuals layer the Hollywood commentary – what’s with that guy upside on the wheel at the spa? – and reflective camera shots create viewer double take. What if we did look twice and really paid attention beyond face value then what would we see? Death Becomes Her winks at the secret opportunities available to the elite behind closed doors amid insular they know that we know that they know that we know flattery. Confidence only comes with beauty, and the camera’s distorted angles and askew perceptions reiterate this frame of mind as wide shots have the face in the center but the subject at hand in the background. With such in camera staging, one need not resort to fast-paced editing later to compensate and piece together wit or tension because the bags full of makeup, screams overseeing oneself in the mirror without said makeup, and fake tears sprayed in the eyes while practicing crocodile speeches – in the mirror framed by defaced pictures of her obsession – speak for themselves. One woman equals sex while another demeans flaccid, and cuckold phrases reiterate the servile men and obedient dogs as demented one liners, frantic questions, and disturbing calm lead to top of the stairs teetering and the not so dead rising behind one’s back. Formaldehyde is bought in bulk on top of jokes on doing something “funny” with a dead wife and “It’s alive” homages. Eternal youth potions await in a scary, humbling castle where newcomers tiptoe so their heels don’t echo on the floor before sampling this hush-hush, ageless elixir to prove its price. Snake charmers admit the forever young will look suspicious if they don’t disappear, and Death Becomes Her is likewise self-aware of how lacking in self-awareness its desperate characters are when not heeding knives or warnings to preserve the facade. Women who for decades purposely inflict pain without actually harming each other let all the violence out and apologize – tag teaming the man they were fighting over because they need him to maintain their seemingly miraculous vitality forever. Twisted dream sequences, wide lenses, and zooms accentuate the preposterously clever scheme of tranquilizers on the wine glass and finishing dinner before planting the body in a car going off Mulholland Drive as quips about divorce in California, never seeing a neighbor in Los Angeles, and those with no talent for poverty orchestrating murder escalate the satire with handy hardware, bloody bodies in the lily pond, and a hole in the stomach big enough to right see through you.
Everything has to be taut and perfect for Madeline Ashton, and only Meryl Streep (She-Devil) can play a bad actress obsessed with wrinkles without winking and scene chewing for the camera. Madeline strikes the right pose, plumps the bosom, and remains pampered even if she hasn’t worked in some time and is no longer the breadwinner. In order to hide her impoverished past, she must show up Helen at all times and mere makeup won’t do. Despite her fame and wealth, Madeline’s ugliness shows in her mistreatment of the maid or any pretty supple ingenue. When rejected by her younger lover for not considering how he feels, she blames him for making her feel cheap. Even if the spa refuses to do a traumatic plasma treatment, Madeline demands the procedure money is no object because she fears younger women must be laughing at her. She’s shocked at Helen’s transformation and makes excuses about feeling terrible at having happiness at Helen’s expense, but Madeline doesn’t feel that terrible and she’s not really happy. Fortunately, her shady zingers return with her beauty, but Madeline says what she shouldn’t, leading to scary body bags and uncomfortable realizations – although she enjoys having no pulse because nobody can play dead better than she can. Goldie Hawn’s (Overboard) Helen is initially a shy and quiet writer compared to her old school rival Madeline, dowdy and twisting her handkerchief rather than expressing her anger. She warns Ernest that Madeline only wants him because she has him. Madeline has stolen men from Helen before and she wants Ernest to pass her Madeline Ashton test, but when he does not, Helen becomes a gluttonous cat lady obsessed with rewinding Madeline’s onscreen strangulation. Upon eviction, she ruins her therapy group by talking about Madeline before overcoming her outlook by vowing revenge and looking dynamite while doing it. Literary success follows, and Helen lies to Madeline’s face about never blaming her, kissing her cheek as she pits Madeline and Ernest against each other. Now a vivacious vixen, Helen claims sisterhood while plotting with her man – embodying the shade, deception, and fierce competition of the woman scorned even if she doesn’t really want Ernest anymore. She just wants to take him from Madeline and use him for her fatal revenge, and both ladies willingly become a Hollywood type of vampire, consuming the essence of a man for their own youthful survival. What does their undead beauty contest get them? Each other, stuck forever in an “I paint your ass, you paint mine” begrudging.
Ernest Menville was once a famous plastic surgeon, but now Bruce Willis’ (Color of Night) doctor is a postmortem fixer for the Hollywood dead between breakfast bloody marys. Life with Madeline hasn’t worked out, and she’s reviled by his bottom feeder, drinking himself to death existence. When complimented for his mortuary work, Ernest admits the secret weapon for coloring dead skin is spray paint, but he knows it isn’t real work and would sell his soul to really operate again. He argues with Madeline about who ruined whom and won’t take jokes about his clients being stiffer. Though unhappy, wishing to divorce, and easily swept up when Helen comes on to him with sexy words, Ernest is reluctant to go along with her plans, for he takes the change in Madeline’s temperature, pulse, and hair – because that’s what men notice – as a miracle. Ernest gains confidence despite his fear over what he has done, wanting to make Madeline his masterpiece, painting her and carefully mixing the turpentine. He won’t be rushed when her eyes must have artistic balance! Ernest will fix them and then go, but when the ladies need touch-ups, his sudden backbone becomes a problem. Death Becomes Her’s few daylight scenes are about Ernest realizing what took him so long to leave. He was willing to keep his marital promise in spite of the suffering and humiliation, but his obligations are fulfilled in her death do us part. The camera at the not all that it seems spa has to be switched off before Isabella Rosellini’s (Merlin) Lisle von Rhoman can be mentioned, but the million dollar price tag for her mysterious potion is relative to such elite clientele. Her stunning beauty and barely there clothes make it easy to soft sell her elixir – Lisle is sweet when charming a guest, telling them to follow spring and summer but avoid autumn and winters however she’s sassy when ordering her Tom, Dick, and Harry henchmen and intimating with her deceptions. She knows why her clients come to see her, for they are scared of themselves, their bodies, the lengths they go to in maintaining their secrets, and their inevitable failure. Life is cruel, taking away vitality only to replace it with decay, so we want to believe her sweet talking promise to defy natural and endorse the check despite her dominance. The camera heightens Lisle’s look fair and feei foul with carefully orchestrated poses and frames. She’s centered perfectly in each shot with daggers, Dobermans, and amulets. Lisle crosses her legs in her throne chair and says “thank you” when someone exclaims about God, but her seductive wraps and high collared, witchy robes suggest an underlying evil. After imploring our plastic surgeon to now take the youth and beauty he gave to others for himself, Lisle’s full menace is revealed when he questions her on the nightmarish consequences of immortality. Of course, there’s a wink to Rosellini’s casting because she looks so much like her mother, and bemusing not so dead cameos include James Dean, Jim Morrison, Elvis, and Marilyn alongside appearances by Mrs. Zemeckis Mary Ellen Trainor (Tales from the Crypt) and poor doctor with a heart condition Sydney Pollock (Three Days of the Condor).
The naughty but sinister, frenetic strings of Alan Silvestri’s (Predator) theme set the mood for Death Becomes Her amid a dash of jazz, disco beats, and campy cues. Boas and colorful stage backdrops in the opening sequence establish an over the top, garish, tacky and lamé atmosphere before static on the old television, retro patterns, and poor clutter contrast the massive Beverly Hill mansion with gated entries, a grand staircase, hefty doors, and heaps of marble. The made to look ugly, old, and desperate makeup and bodily transformations are well done amid tears and soggy rain making a woman look worse before bemusing good skin versus bad skin comparisons and boob lifts. That pretty left hand with the giant rock ring is always prominently displayed! Subtle nudity is also reflected through windows and doors as supple butt shots provide curves to the sagging and wrinkles. The square nineties blazers and low buttons add masculine angles for the women, however low cut cleavage, deep blouses, and lace invoke feminine symbolism along with thigh-high slits, Egyptian life giving motifs, and our glowing pink potion. Death Becomes Her abounds with mirrors everywhere – frames within frames via television screens, snapshots, and gold portraits pepper every scene. Clever reflections, shadows, and silhouettes do double duty while red stands for passion, black for suspicion, and white for innocence as dramatic overhead drops, balcony dangles, thunder, and shotgun blasts apply terror in the killing scenes. Neck snaps, stairway rolls, holes in the gut, and backwards results are as disturbing as the decision to kill. Sure, some of the bumbling bodies and squashed heads may look poor now, but that also keeps them funny, and there are more intriguing or random visual gags to catch our eye – the doctor throwing away his stethoscope when he can’t get a heartbeat, the yuppie tennis couple with the bruised elbows, those weird ass gliding nuns. The pink pastels and green palm trees in the eighties upscale buildings are perfectly gaudy now, but the blue lighting, black marble, and arrows pointing to the morgue mirror how the characters are inevitably walking towards death. Michelangelo motifs and pools of water could be symbolic life renewals as one tries to escape the locked doors, gilded elevators, grand arches, maze like spires, and those ever present mirrors but Death Becomes Her’s beauty goes from svelte to garish with vampire pale, white out eyes, pasty skin, and gross peeling.
One may love or hate Death Becomes Her but there is no in between and it takes multiple viewings to study the dual nuances, comedic layers, and dark subtleties. Questions on immortality – or at least looking immortal – deepen the commentary on beauty and why women compete to look so enchanting even if it kills them. Today’s dark comedies often feel crass or too disturbing, but the great cast keeps Death Becomes Her mature with a tongue in cheek that doesn’t have to berate the obvious. While not in your face horror, the choice macabre moments and increasingly bleak palette illume our dread and fear of old age. We can laugh at the sardonic winks even as Death Becomes Her calls out Hollywood then and hello look at us on the ‘gram now, remaining delicious because its satire is unfortunately more applicable than ever.
Fear is part of our everyday experience. It keeps us alive. But sometimes fears border on the irrational, which is when they become phobias. Indulge in these phobia-tastic horror movies!
Acrophobia – fear of heights
Vertigo (1958) – This Hitchcock classic contains scenes of dizzying heights from the point of view of the character, drawing you into the fear.
Man on Wire (2008) – Okay, so technically it’s a documentary, not a horror movie, but doesn’t that make it all the more terrifying?
Nyctophobia – fear of the dark
Don’t Breathe (2016) – A trio of robbers get more than they bargain for when they break into the house of a blind man.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – This Oscar winning film features a heart pounding chase through the pitch-dark basement of Buffalo Bill.
Cynophobia – fear of dogs
Cujo (1983) – The absolute classic dog horror movie, based on the novel by Stephen King.
Green Room (2015) – A band becomes trapped inside a bar by a gang of neo-Nazis. The vicious attack by pit bulls will make anyone squeamish.
Astraphobia – fear of storms
Twister (1996) – If you missed this classic 90’s film about tornado chasers, make sure to check it out.
Take Shelter (2011) – A man has apocalyptic visions of a storm and begins building a tornado shelter, causing the family to question his sanity.
Aerophobia – fear of flying
Flight 7500 (2014) – A supernatural force attacks passengers on a transpacific flight to Tokyo. Passengers are stuck thousands of feet in the air with nowhere to run.
Altitude (2010) – A group of friends on a personal plane is thrown into chaos when the plane becomes stuck in ascent.
Mysophobia – fear of germs/uncleanliness
Cabin Fever (2002) – A group of young adults succumbs to a flesh-eating virus in a remote cabin.
Contagion (2011) – Considered one of the most realistic movies about a pandemic, you may find Contagion a little hard to watch right now.
Agoraphobia – fear of going out
Intruders (2015) – Robbers find themselves in danger when they realize their shut-in victim isn’t as helpless as they thought.
Big Sky (2015) – A girl with agoraphobia must face the great open desert to save herself and her companions. This movie gets extra points for giving life to the real fear of the outside world instead of just showing someone stuck inside.
Claustrophobia – fear of enclosed spaces
Buried (2010) – Ryan Reynolds lives everyone’s worst fear of waking up to find you’re buried alive in a coffin.
The Descent (2005) – Cavers become trapped on an expedition and must fight for their lives against something sinister that lives in the caverns.
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
Itsy Bitsy (2019) – A family moves into a new home only to be tormented by a giant spider.
Spiders (2013) – A piece of an abandoned space station crashes into New York City and monstrous spiders take over the subway.
Trypanophobia – fear of needles
Requiem for a Dream (2000) – The real horror of this movie is watching everyone slowly destroy their own lives, but the copious intravenous drug use is definitely frightening all on its own.
Awake (2007) – While not specifically about needles, Awake will tap your darkest fears about medicine. The main character is aware of everything that happens to him during open-heart surgery, but unable to communicate because of anesthesia.
What are you afraid of? What movies creep you out the most?
The question posed by this article’s title, by default, raises many questions. The film, When A Stranger Calls has passed into horror legend, had a sequel and then been remade in the classic 21st century tradition, and seems to be put in with the canon of horror greats, like so many others. And yet what people remember it for occurs in the opening act, and the rest of the film bares such a lack of resemblance to the actual phone calls that one would be mistaken for thinking that there had been a mix-up in the editing room. So why is it, that when we think of When A Stranger Calls, all we think about is the babysitter being asked if she’s checked the children?
The first point I’d raise is the obvious one; the title of the film. It’s like hearing a Harry Potter title and not thinking of Harry Potter. This immediate drawing of our attention to the singular opening means that our entire connection to the film is dominated by this link of the title to the opening scene. We associate the whole film with the title, and the title with the opening act, so we’re essentially being taught to summarise the film by its relation to the first twenty minutes.
We also have the obvious call-back to Black Christmas (dir Bob Clarke, 1974), with the phone call coming from inside the house. The film wasn’t as well known then, but the influence is undeniable. Additionally, there is the fact that it’s obviously based off the fairly standard urban legend; the legend had already been worked into the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. When you also factor in that the opening is essentially a larger-budget version of a short film based off the legend that director/writer duo Fred Walton and Steve Feke made, called The Sitter, you realise that the basic premise is well known and already recognisable before the feature film. This means that the repetition of the basic storyline makes its way into our memories through an already-established pattern.
After the first twenty minutes go by, the film becomes a strange, police-procedural-cum-Giallo-cum-slasher, the kind of film you’d eventually see with films like Maniac (1980), and some of Fulci’s American films, such as The New York Ripper (1982). That the rest of the film is fairly slow and nowhere near as thrilling as its opener shows how a brilliant start doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole film can hold up. Having to find a route onwards, the filmmakers choosing to follow both the killer (as a fully reasoning and functional – to a certain extent – adult) and the police, is a bold move, but works only if the cat-and-mouse can be sustained. Even if it can (and it’s questionable as to how effective it is in the final cut), it’s so different from the opening act as to only be, from a certain point of view, tangentially linked.
This also doesn’t even mention that the first twenty minutes are, by comparison, a superbly directed piece of suspenseful filmmaking. The direction is taut, the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia wonderful, and the nihilistic ending caps it all off to create one of the most tense openers in film. That our prior knowledge (or most people’s prior knowledge) of the outcome, thanks to our knowledge of the urban legend, doesn’t change the fact that we’re looking for every shadow to move and growing more and more fearful with each frame that passes. With cinematography from an Oscar-nominated cinematographer to boot, it rightly deserves its place in the great halls of horror film canon. It’s just one of those oddities that we can turn off at the 20/21 minute mark and be perfectly happy with walking away from.
We here at the Horror Seeker would like to take some time to remember the life and career of legendary actor/martial artist, John Saxon who passed away July 25, 2020. It came as a shock, not only to the horror community but to the film industry in general, as Saxon was indeed one of the all-time greats in the business.
On his twitter account, Robert Englund is quoted as saying, “John was my link to Hollywood’s Golden age.” True story. And, speaking of which, when I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Englund about five years ago, the one thing we gushed over was John Saxon! I had mentioned how I’d love to meet him, sadly never got the chance. However, Robert had nothing but nice things to say, and we discussed the amazing accolades of Saxon’s career. From his involvement on the first Nightmare film, as well as Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, to his working with some of Hollywood’s biggest names. These include, but are not limited to, Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood, and Bruce Lee! Just saying that alone, puts Saxon on a whole other level.
Yes, Saxon was a decorated Martial Artist, having been trained in Judo, Shotokan, and studied Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee himself! I can imagine he was not the sort of man you’d want to cross. By all accounts, however, Saxon was reported to be the nicest man to be around. As I’ve mentioned discussing his career with Englund, so too did I share a few good memories with Heather Langenkamp during a similar time of meeting her. See below one of my prized pieces.
It was a gift from a friend some years ago, that Heather Langenkamp had signed, as well!
Watching his films (Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street, TV’s Falcon Crest, and Black Christmas) it is clear to see the warm, but rough edges of such a performer who has amassed a near 200 credits throughout his career. HIs career had begun by the time he was twenty (1954), switching in and out of small roles in both TV and film. Those familiar with his work may notice a pattern in his characters, as Saxon was often depicted as a hard-edged cop. Such was his character in Nightmare 1 & 3 as Lt. Thompson. Many modern fans will remember Saxon for his part in A Nightmare on Elm Street, or even Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and rightly so. Like all the upcoming slasher films of the early eighties, they were all working on shoestring budgets, and with what cast they could pull together.
While the three titans of 80’s slasher (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street) had numerous stars such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Lawrence Fishburn, Johnny Depp, etc. they all seemed to have one thing in common. Each franchise started with a single heavy-hitting actor that each series respectfully was lucky to acquire. Halloween; Donald Pleasance – Friday the 13th; Betsy Palmer – and Nightmare got John Saxon. Each actor carried with them the class and strength of old-time Hollywood into an otherwise unproven genre.
Hey! Perhaps this is what slasher horror is missing today. I’ve always asked myself why the genre seems to have died out or at least lost the magic touch it once had. Hmm… food for thought. But, I digress.
While I have not seen all of Saxon’s work, for the films I have watched, Saxon definitely brings a boldness, and confidence to every performance that never comes off as artificial. I don’t see someone portraying a role, I see these characters as they would be. Saxon has been nominated, and won several independent awards, with his crowning achievement being a Golden Globe win in 1958 for This Happy Feeling as Most Promising Newcomer. And yes, he is noted as a “teen heartthrob”. I don’t know ladies, what do you think? Does his rugged persona hold up today?
In any event, John Saxon was an icon of his day, and his loss has been felt by everyone. As if this year wasn’t bad enough; we must say goodbye to a great actor, and a great man. From all of us with The Horror Seeker, we say thank you, John Saxon. Our hearts go out to the Saxon family, and all friends who have felt the impact of his loss. Rest in Peace, 1935 – 2020.
This is a topic I’ve mused upon for many years, and when the remake of Pet Sematary came out last year, featuring a ghost girl of sorts, the thoughts returned to me. Why is it that I disliked Samara in The Ring, but loved Sadako inRingu? It couldn’t just be that one was the original whilst one was a remake. It couldn’t be that they changed the name for a western audience. It couldn’t just be the different actress. So here I’ve decided to break down the two presentations of the character from the two most well known adaptations, 1998’s Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata, and Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake, Ring, to try and place my discomfort.
We first have to acknowledge a difference in how we are first exposed to Sadako and Samara, which is deeply cultural in origin. Sadako’s story is given to us by having one of our protagonists experience visions of Shizuka’s psychic performances which led to her slander, suicide, and the unfolding of events around Sadako. With Samara, however, the equivalent information is revealed through a series of tapes, including some interviewing Samara about her powers. Here we see that there are some things that have been changed in the cultural translation; that the spiritual, psychic reveal has been altered for a technological one. We can reason that this is because the supernatural version would be more plausibly received in Japan than the US, where a scientific, technological explanation has been given (this is a slightly stereotypical explanation, but it seems to fit). This doesn’t change anything to do with the character, but does highlight that the changes are more than just the name.
Now we get to what we are shown in these reveals, our antagonist, and it is here that I begin to feel the difference. In Ringu, Sadako flashes, never utters a word. The journalist who calls out Shizuka for fraud keels over with a heart attack, and we have a ringing in our ears. Then, when Shizuka calls out Sadako, and we have the memory of the word ‘Sada’ on the tape, things fall into place. We still haven’t seen her. But when little Sadako runs into Asakawa, transplanted into the dream, and we see her ripped fingernails clench around her wrist, we know that something is seriously wrong, and violent.
At the well, we have another flash of a young woman (Sadako) with long hair peering into a well, before being bludgeoned and tossed inside. All without seeing her face; without hearing a word. A few minutes later we get the reveal of her skeleton, rotted away from decades in the dark, alone, having tried to claw her way out of the well. In all of this we have never heard her voice, seen her face; nothing that makes her an individual. She is a figure repressed, pent up, who has murdered four people already, and has a curse on several more. She is disembodied, silent, vengeful wrath, inhabiting a mere shell.
And this is what we see in the final, climactic scene of the film with Sadako crawling out of the television. It is slow and laborious, her kabuki-theatre-styled movements like someone unused to using their limbs, like a force possessing a body. She slowly stands, arms creaking, shuffling across the floor. You get the feeling that it doesn’t matter that she’s moving so slowly, because she’s just come out of a damn videotape. You’re dead anyway. And when her hair finally lifts, all we get is a swollen, veined, wrathful eye. No mouth, no nose, not even both eyes. Just the one, expressing all the rage and malice that has built like a brewing storm.
When we look at Samara’s presentation, what we get is a much more personal, humanised take on the character. Verbinski and writer Ehren Kruger give Samara a personality, and by giving her a voice and letting us see her face, try to create a distinct individual behind the long hair. They present us with a wronged child, instead of the repressed (and wronged by default) woman.
The trouble with this is that, in my opinion (and this is an opinion piece, let’s be fair), when you give a child a voice in a film, and especially an antagonistic child, you need to make sure that the child actually comes across as malevolent. For me, she comes across as a little annoying, and too much like a young child to feel particularly threatening.
We have the same issue seen with the original, silent Michael Myers in Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), as opposed to the remake by Rob Zombie (2007). By giving Myers a voice in his past, it strips some of the mystery away from the character, and his place, as a surrogate for evil has been replaced by a clichéd journey of a troubled child into psychopathy. For me, the same thing is present here in The Ring. These interview scenes don’t seem much different to Charlie’s incarceration in Stephen King’s Firestarter, and at least there we had Charlie as a main character for hundreds of pages beforehand, and were hoping for her escape. It’s a different take, a different look at the same character, but for me, much of the malice is taken out of Samara by attempting to present her as a person.
And in the final scene, a number of changes in how the TV-crawl is handled have been implemented. Instead of just using the television as a medium to record herself and emerge into the real world, Samara is part of the television itself, glitching and glowing as the image renders. She’s not fully part of this world anymore, but still connected to it, more of a ghost than a real, sinister presence. A downside to this is that you have to believe the CGI on Samara as well. She’s much quicker than Sadako here, out of the television in seconds, on her feet almost instantly, and teleporting across the room for a jump scare. She wants to be there and in your face, as opposed to Sadako’s wrathful judgement. It’s far more personal, as if there’s a specific grudge to bear against individuals inside Samara, whereas Sadako didn’t care because there was no humanity left; it had been hollowed out and filled back up with sheer hatred. Samara is specified revenge; Sadako is revenge personified.
The Ring also includes a Hollywood-style cross-cutting, with Rachel rushing across town to try and save Noah. I’m all for cross-cutting for tension building; it’s one of those techniques which works 80% of the time. But here it dilutes what made the original scene’s sense of inevitability. By not leaving that room whilst Sadako emerged, you were trapped in there along with Ryuji, and the slow, laborious way in which the scene played out kept you transfixed. You forgot the rest of the world existed, and focused only on the threat that had emerged before you.
Another aspect of the vocal/silent change is that we feel in the final scene that we might have a chance to reason with Samara, because we’ve seen her asking about her mother, and interacting verbally with the doctors. With Sadako, when she emerges from that TV set, you know that there’s no chance of getting out alive.
I’m of the opinion (in general), that Ringu is the superior film over The Ring, but then I’m of the opinion that Suzuki’s novel is even better than the film (seriously one of the best horror thrillers I’ve ever read). In both films we have fairly different interpretations of Sadako; a silent embodiment of sheer wrath and female repression in Japan, and a personal, paranormal grudge spilling out of control in America. With Sadako, her interpretation plays into the overall doom-laden, dark and dour atmosphere of inevitability which the film creates. In Samara, a more humanised manifestation leads to a stylised paranormal revenge story to suit a mainstream western audience.
I don’t disagree with trying what the remake attempted in Samara, because sometimes humanising a villain makes them scarier, that we know they’re human (or nearly) and can still do what they do. Here, however, was not the right time to do it. That doomy dread becomes a stylised shocker which never hits the same nerve, and Samara’s ‘can I see my mommy?’ removes all of the terror from my antagonist. The Ring isn’t an awful movie in itself, and there are certainly worse adaptations the US has done of paranormal films from Asia in the last few decades, but I’ll go back to Ringu and Sadako Yamamura over Samara Morgan all seven days of the week.
I love monsters (I know, I say that every time). While there are an endless number of man-made, supernatural, and space-dwelling varieties to choose from, nature has supplied plenty of her own. Whether you’re looking for something that crawls, swims, slithers, or climbs, I’ve got the movies for you.
When it comes to the original movie mega monster, you can’t argue with the King. 1933 brought us King Kong and the start of the longest dynasty in monster movie history. King Kong has the impressive distinction of having few imitators. Unlike other massive monsters (and we’ll get to those in a minute), King Kong was given a distinctive personality that made it difficult for generic remakes to get a foothold. There have been King Kong movies made every decade since the original.
Rampage (2018) – If you’re looking for something off-brand, this video game adventure movie has monster fights galore
Considering we live in a world that has given us multiple Sharknado films, it’s hard to believe that sharks weren’t always popular horror fodder. Until 1975, sharks didn’t get much play time on the screen (outside of pirate films). Now, of course, there’s no shortage of the toothy monsters.
Jaws (1975) – If you haven’t seen this classic, now’s the time
By far the smallest creature on this list, spiders are still a top phobia the world over. Horror snakes come in two varieties: overgrown monstrosities or a pack of a million tiny crawlies. Pick your poison, but I’d rather stay away.
Why did it take so long for snakes to make their way into the horror lexicon? For so long, they stayed a tool of cults and villains rather than the central antagonist. Regardless, once they slithered into the genre, snakes made themselves at home as B-Movie stars.
The 1972 Christmas adaptation of the classic M. R. James ghost story, A Warning to the Curious, perfectly captured the unique terror of the story, a terror that was at the heart of most of James’ classics. In the tale, an amateur archaeologist finds himself on the trail of an ancient Anglian crown said to protect the ancient kingdom from invasion, but is pursued by its ghostly protector intent on keeping it hidden. What drives the story is that the past should remain in the past, admired from a distance but never defiled for personal gain, lest destruction be wrought on more than just the individual.
For note, I’m going to discuss the story in detail, so, spoilers ahead. Just a little warning to the curious.
The idea of a ghostly companion isn’t something new; for one such example, Sheridan Le Fanu used a disturbing rendition of a demonic presence in Green Tea, about a man who had his third eye opened to a demon, which takes the shape of a monkey with glowing red eyes that haunts his every waking moment. As James was a great admirer of Le Fanu’s work, and helped compile several volumes of his stories, he would have obviously been aware of this story, and the ghostly companion idea.
For James, however, he uses this device for more than just scaring people. James in his personal life was most at home in the old libraries of Cambridge and Eton, as a medievalist and scholar. He was, for all intents and purposes, very much afraid of radical changes of life, especially through technology and social upheaval. The First World War is said to have affected him tremendously, to hear and know of his students, and friends, dying in the trenches abroad. All of this helps us understand where James comes from when his story puts so much emphasis on maintenance of a status quo, of letting the past lie.
It’s interesting to me that in both the original short story and the BBC adaptation, the main character, Paxton, is going through a period of personal lifestyle change. In the short story he is in the process of moving to Sweden, and spending a last few weeks in England before he follows his belongings abroad. In the BBC version, Paxton has been a clerk for twelve years before his company folded the week before, and he decided to follow up on the story of the Anglian crown as a result of nothing else to do, and nothing left to lose; a chance of making a name for himself. The curiosity in finding an ancient relic, and using it to begin a new life (economically and socially on the screen, as a metaphorical omen of good luck for a new beginning in the original), morphs into Paxton’s eventual undoing.
Even the title spells out the intended meaning of the text; don’t let your curiosity get the better of you. And that in both versions of the text, the re-burial of the crown doesn’t deter the spirit from pursuing Paxton, is further proof that the uncovering of the artifact is not simply a physical defiling of the past, but an endangerment on a larger scale. By removing the crown, there is danger of the shores being invaded, bringing about that social upheaval and radical change that James feared so much. To deter others from doing likewise, and having knock-on effects which negatively influences the wider world, the guardian of the crown must end Paxton’s life. This punishment for curiosity is famously central to H. P. Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft would have had the protagonist end up insane, or gods breaking through into our dimension in some way. Lovecraft himself wrote of M R James in many letters and articles, praising him as a master of weird fiction, so the connection between the two writers is certainly there.
In our own days of great social change, with the world going through unprecedented times, the antiquated verse of James’ ghost stories might seem a little stilted. Yet he seemed to express that fear in all of us with the best, that the change overcoming the world might contain some ghosts to be feared. How we choose to take his warning for the world, is up to us, but it seems chilling nonetheless that James was putting into fiction exactly what many people fear will happen if one kicks the hornet’s nest of the past. For an old-fashioned Victorian like James, he wanted the comfort of his history. For any change to happen, we must be prepared to face whatever consequences we unleash.
When people think of Wes Craven and supernatural slasher films, they think of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Perfectly justified, of course, as Freddy is one of the biggest icons of horror cinema. However, often overlooked however is his 1989 film Shocker, for some justifiable reasons including awful 80s CGI and an incredibly messy second half with little regard for laws of its own unreality. But at its core, and especially for the first third of the film, the gothic elements of the story are undeniable, and it’s a genuinely interesting case of a modern ghost story in the urban gothic vein.
There are gothic influences all over the film, but what tipped me off was the police invasion of Pinker’s TV shop. We head past the initial lobby of televisions playing visions of war and death and enter a dimly lit series of dusty hallways, hardware packed into the shelves on either side. We’ve dispensed with the creaky castle library and entered a modern equivalent of television sets. Noises in the dark. Turn around. Nobody there. We feel a presence nearby but can’t see them. This is classic haunted house stuff going on here.
And then we get the big tip-off as to the influence. We get a POV shot, very Hitchcockian (thinking especially of Norman Bates peering through the peephole into Marion’s room in Psycho), of Pinker’s eye up to a gap in the shelf, peering into the shop. The monster’s hiding in the walls. A policeman stands guard nearby. Nothing. And then hands shoot through the shelves, catches him. He’s pulled back against the shelves, and the whole thing pivots in on a hinge. The cop is dragged inside and the shelf snaps back in line, never to be considered again.
A few minutes later Jonathan (the MC) and his father appear, none the wiser save for a smoking cigarette on the floor. And then they discover the horrible truth when they see blood pooling out from underneath the shelf, like those ghostly legends of old mansions where the walls drip red. Breaking their way in they find cats flayed and dead-on hooks, red lighting from the cinematography department reinforcing the demonic aspect. And then there’s the body in the middle of the room, throat cut, blood on the floor.
This is classic gothic stuff. The secret passageway in the walls is complete Scooby-Doo, Agatha Christie, even some Sherlock Holmes (I’m thinking here of The Musgrave Ritual in particular). The Cat and the Canary did it as well. We’re in the middle of a slasher movie, and we’ve got secret panels and hiding places? We might even claim that these secret passages go even further back, to the origins of the gothic, in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the story we take the term ‘gothic’ from in its now traditional literary application.
And yet somehow it doesn’t feel out of place, doesn’t feel corny, because we can understand that Craven is deliberately drawing upon these influences to create a gothic atmosphere. This is important, as it subtly clues us into the paranormal parts of the film that come into play when he is electrocuted in the chair, turned into a horror version of the Phantom Virus from Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (those movies were great, Cyber Chase an underappreciated meta gem of Scooby-Doo lore for the final third act). If the ghost aspect had come out of nowhere, we might have complained that it was too much of a shift from straight serial killer to paranormal horror, but here these elements help to ease the transition over. Not much, because it’s still a jolt switching subgenres, but it helps nonetheless. I’m not sure how the blood pooled all the way from the chair to spread under the shelf because it’s a hell of a long way. Perhaps this is faintly paranormal in origin, the cop’s spirit doing what it needs to do to alert the living to its final resting place in a bid to stop his killer? Most likely it’s a goof and I’m reading way too much into it, but it’s certainly a possible reading if you wanted to go that far.
Let’s also remember that, even after the electrocution, the film is in essence a ghost story. Whereas in centuries before a spirit might have inhabited a suit of armor, or roamed the walls of the courtyard in which they were executed, here we have a modern updating, inhabiting the electricity that we have harnessed for our own ends. This criticism of our device-ridden society which wasn’t as prevalent when the film came out, but certainly on the rise, was inherent in genre storytelling of the time. Cyberpunk arose as a subgenre a few years before to question our reliance on technology.
And a few years after Shocker, we see the influx of films from Asia that combined a malevolent spirit and technology to demonstrate new fears of a society rapidly flying into the future. Films like Ringu, One Missed Call, Shutter, Noroi, even The Eye to a certain extent (the elevator scene is my example here, with the apparition not appearing on the security camera), would be films that take this concept and run with it, infusing into their tales a very gender-based morality tale of using a stereotypically male industry (technology) and using it as a vehicle for the classic avenging female spirit of folklore.
Could one orient Shocker as a modern gothic gateway to these tales? I suspect most would argue against it, but as has been critiqued in countless essays, articles, and books, there is not one film history, but multiple readings of film histories. As it stands, the genre itself is also fluid and a very pliable concept in itself. I’m not using any of these arguments to state that Shocker is a great film, because although fun, it’s most certainly hovering just in the ‘mediocre’ range of horror films. However, that these more traditional elements find their way into divisive and forgotten films might go some way to showing that it’s not just the revered masterpieces of regarded canon that have interesting literary facets to their makeup.
I love monsters. Demons, vampires, werewolves, giant atom-bomb lizards, scientific monstrosities, supernatural entities… you name it, I love it (except zombies, but we won’t get into that here). I’ll gleefully watch every Hammer Horror movie and sit through a thousand Universal monster marathons.
But, given the deep wealth of urban legends and cultural mythologies from around the world, is this really the best we can do? Endless remakes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy?
It’s time to branch out.
See below for five monsters that deserve their own block buster franchise:
Jorogumo is a Japanese spider creature that can shapeshift into a beautiful woman. Japanese folklore is filled to the brim with fascinating monsters of all shapes and sizes and Japanese filmmakers have made films that scared the pants off us for decades (The Ring and The Grudge, anyone?). I’m imagining a tense thriller about young newlyweds, one with a dark secret… but it’s best to leave this to the professionals.
The Cuca is a Brazilian mythological being taking the form of an old witch with an alligator face and hawk-like claws. She is known to steal children (especially naughty ones). Given the fantastic history of Brazilian cinema, I would love to see a tense, artsy film that brings home another Oscar for horror fans.
Say it with me now: were-hyenas. That moniker really doesn’t do this African creature justice. The Bouda legend takes different forms depending on where exactly it comes from (it’s common in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Near East). Regardless, humans turning into animals is rich fodder for all kinds of horror and we could all do with a break from the clichés of yet another werewolf movie.
Dzoavits is an ogre from Native American (specifically Shoshonean) folklore. He is known for stealing and eating children. While this legend doesn’t have a wealth of stories to draw from, the premise alone is spooky enough for me to greenlight it.
5. Drop Bear
The drop bear is a larger, carnivorous cousin to the koala. Luckily, it’s not real, but is actually an Australian hoax designed to scare tourists. Australia is a nightmare country. Scientists are always discovering new and exciting ways for the wildlife to kill you. So, who’s to say this tourist-scaring cryptid isn’t waiting in the branches above. Just waiting… to drop.
That’s my top five list for new monster movies! What would you like to see?
Dark Roads 79 – Selling Your Soul Gives Mixed Results
Dark Roads 79 takes rock ‘n’ roll mythology and applies it to a southern rock band at the end of a decade that saw the loss of many musical greats. Bobby Gray and his band Dark Roads are at the end of a good ride and are given one more chance to infuse their sound with life. A cabin in the woods could be the perfect setting to create a masterpiece, or it may well be their final resting place. Written and directed by Chase Smith, co-written by Richard Krevolin and produced by Jason Anderson, Dark Roads 79 is effective at suspense and the creation of mood and atmosphere, but somewhat weak with character development and motivation. As a total package, the film kept me engaged and entertained, but could have been so much more.
Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are plentiful and the music hits the mark in this film, but the story in Dark Roads 79, which has so much potential, misses some chances to go deeper. I found myself wishing for more backstory on the relationships between the characters. One of the things we love about rock ‘n’ roll band mythos is the drama behind the music. Probably the best example was the hint at some history between Tyler and Eddie and Eddie’s girlfriend. A few dropped lines here and there to let us know more about each character’s motivation could have built a much tighter plot. As it was, we saw the bad sides of a bunch of hedonistic young folks and waited to learn their fate while being entertained by good tunes, some cool old-timey camera work, and split-screen psychedelic tricks that added to the eerie and menacing vibe of the film. You know it’s all going to end up badly for the competent and entertaining cast, and you are caught up in the ride to see just how bad it’s going to get.
The most interesting character was Ian Cash, roadie and security for the band, who seems to have quite a past and a talent for singing, but we never learn any more than that. A seemingly flawed character, his interactions came the closest to revealing real character growth and I was cheering every time for just a little more. The driver cracked me up with his version of rock lore. And Grace gave me the creeps from the beginning. The film kept me guessing to the end, which makes it a success, and these bits of great characterization certainly helped.
The backstory of the cabin was intriguing, and the caretaker provided an excellent foil to the band. I would have loved to know what the connection was with the history there and what was about to happen to the band. Instead, we got misogynistic rapey vibes, which were not necessary and detracted from my enjoyment of the film. Most of the sexual activity in the film, however, was used for the important purpose of moving the plot forward and establishing mistrust between the characters.
Overall, Dark Roads 79 is an enjoyable film and I would recommend it to fans of Crossroads, American Satan, and Eddie and the Cruisers, which are all excellent flicks warning of the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, they can warn us all they want, we still want to rock, and that’s what makes a movie like Dark Roads 79 a delight for music and horror fans alike.
Thank you to Spirit World Productions for providing the screener. I look forward to checking out more of their films.
Dead Ringer is a Juicy Twofer from the One Bette Davis
by Kristin Battestella
Bette Davis stars in the 1964 thriller Dead Ringer as twins one high and one low – leading to an intricate scheme of scandals, affairs, secrets, blackmail, and murder…
Based on an earlier Mexican picture, actor turned director Paul Henried (Casablanca) and writer Oscar Millard (Angel Face) open Dead Ringer with frenetic, mood-setting credits, cemeteries, Latin, funerals, and veils. The servants are surprised to see the reunited sisters are twins, and the catching up dialogue is laden with history – heather to remember wartime trysts in Scotland, one man between two women, and a shotgun marriage twenty years ago. Large rooms allow for a stage-like two-hander space while the camera can cut away to different angles mirroring each sister’s facade as the sordid shade and one on one conversations escalate. Looming portraits of the deceased man provide sadness over what could have been and our jilted twin can’t let go – leading to angry phone calls, threats, and purse revolvers. A change of clothes and the right haircut make our disparate twins look quite alike until choice zooms and tense up-close shots reveal the difference. In spite of some camp – Bette is getting rough with herself, after all, and we know it – viewers are already invested in Dead Ringer by the time the checkbooks are slapped from one’s hand and sisters are shoving each other into action. Both performances are so good, and ambient music from the bar below covers the back and forth shouting. Drumbeats countdown as the note is shown while the gun is drawn, using shrewd editing to not show shocking shots and familial violence even though we are appalled all the same by the sibling twists. The desperate, eponymous ruse takes up the first half-hour of the film with suicide notes and weapons wiped clean. Today’s audience, however, will notice slip-ups, smoking mistakes, and flaws in the not so thought-through plan. Can she pull this off or will the family dog and awkward moments with the servants give away the difference? What’s her usual drink or the combination to the safe? Violent revelations and hocking jewels lead to arsenic, heart attacks, and maulings. Who exactly did what and when, who will face justice or get away with it, and what was it all for anyway? Police questioning creates tense moments amid covering tracks, entertaining the elite, and estate papers needing signatures that may not match the handwriting documented on that all-important passport.
Who’s a better match for Bette Davis (All About Eve) than Bette Davis (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte)? Wealthy Margaret DeLorca hates climbing her grand stairs and doesn’t like the way she looks in black, but her late husband was rich and she offers her frumpy, chain-smoking sister Edith Phillips her cast off couture – it will be out of style by time she’s officially out of mourning. Margaret is sleek, getting massages while on the phone and unbothered by Mr. DeLorca’s passing, which Edith resents since she loved him first, accusing her sister of never caring about him before refusing Margaret’s proposed money and trips. Margaret claims to love her sister and insists the man between them was no big deal while Edith still regrets her snobby need to take whatever was hers and how Margaret ruined both their lives. She kept up with The DeLorcas over the decades via the social columns, but Margaret didn’t know they lived in the same city until Edith arrived on a bus for the funeral. Their lavish life, however, wasn’t all it seemed, and eventually, Margaret tries to bribe Edith but she can’t forgive her sister for any amount despite being behind on the rent and facing eviction from the meager one-room apartment above her cocktail lounge. However, Edith likes the way she looks in her sister’s stole and smiles at her own reflection more when she coifs her hair just like her sister’s. Knowing how she was tricked out of the charmed life on top of losing what little she has now is apparently too much for Edith, and although she momentarily feels bad about switching tender mementos, she goes through with it anyway. Blunders at society receptions, apologizing, or forgetting the rosary can be dismissed as distraught – Edith didn’t get to be the wife but finds a certain solace in living with the bittersweet memory of what she wanted. The audience almost feels sorry for her pathetic state. We want Edith to get away with it and worry over every slip up even as she gains confidence in the role, speaking frankly about marriage and all the things that made her unhappy. She’s ready to forget who her sister was despite ironic codicils in her lost love’s will. Sadly, the deaths and bodies exhumed get out of hand, and ultimately, Edith plays her part too well.
Honest policeman Karl Malden (I Confess) brings Edith a humble watch for her birthday, and Jim Hobbson is ready to retire, buy a farm, and give her the best. It could be a nice little relationship, but she’s hung up on the past and he can tell something’s wrong. Jim’s angry at Edith’s death and blames himself, intruding on “Margaret” with investigations and memories she’s trying to forget. Unfortunately, Margaret’s jealous playboy lover and would be golf pro, Peter Lawford (Little Women) also throws a wrench into all Edith’s plans. Upon returning from an island holiday, Tony Collins puts two and two together now that “Margaret” doesn’t like his pillow talk – leading to some campy surprises, threats, and blackmail. Glamorous brooches, jewels, and pearls fill the void in his $700 a month love nest, and hey, $3,000 a month allowance in 1964 would be over $24,000 today! Vintage L.A. views and classic cars set the ritzy mood alongside furs, hats, gloves, and tea sets. The cocktail lounge is dark with low ceilings compared to the lavish estate with mirrors and giant bedrooms bigger than the poorer relation’s entire apartment. Classy accents, nibs, and silver add sophistication even as Dead Ringer scandalously shows the ladies in their slips – stripping down the deceased and removing the stockings after the unseen shot to the temple is confirmed with two drops of blood. Crescendos punctuate tense scenes or sadness as needed while the black and white gray-scale creates shadows and ambiguity. Double stand-ins and split screens are probably obvious to today’s special effects savvy audiences, however, the dual conversations are well done. Rearview mirrors and camera angles also placing others in the ensemble in visual trickery likewise play up the duality as cigarette form and lingering smoke punctuate up close shots. On the 4K television Dead Ringer looks quite crisp, and the DVD includes a retrospective with Hollywood author Boze Hadleigh in addition to commentaries and vintage behind the scenes tours.
There are similar stories to Dead Ringer – including an Ann Jillian remake and the recent series Ringer – that may make the twin twists common for modern audiences. This isn’t horror per se, either, yet there are certainly disturbing moments thanks to the sibling violence and dead doppelgangers. Despite a few plot holes, obvious crimes, and an unclear passage of time, the turnabout drama in Dead Ringer is juicy to the end. Every scene is packed with layers and discourse thanks to another tour de force Davis performance worth seeing at least twice, naturally.
Along with the pandemic film, which for obvious reasons seems to be especially prevalent in these trying times, its close cousin, the zombie movie, is also emerging from the graves. Several years ago, J Malcolm Stewart briefly discussed the zombie film in a guest article for HorrorAddicts.net (link below) and discussed White Zombie in passing. However, considering the fundamental importance of the film to horror history, a more in-depth look at the film seems to be needed.
Inspired by The Magic Island by William Seabrook, the film stars Bela Lugosi as the powerful Murder, practitioner of potions and religions. The film follows Madeleine and fiancé Neil, who upon meeting by chance in Haiti, are to be married at the plantation of their wealthy friend, Charles Beaumont. However, madly in love with the young lady, Charles, visits Lugosi’s mesmeric Murder, who convinces Charles to transform her into a zombie. Once returned to somnambulistic life, Charles can do away with her at his will. It’s a simple script, all in all, and very much a product of the time, where even supernatural films were often dominated by romantic love-stories.
Some context is definitely needed to explain quite a few decisions with the film. Especially prominent in the final twenty minutes or so, is the prevalent absence of dialogue, where much of it plays out in prolonged silent sequences. This is partially explained when we remember that the film was released in 1932, only five years after synchronised sound was first applied to a feature film with The Jazz Singer in 1927. Britain only got its first talkie with Hitchcock’s Blackmail in 1929, an intriguing film with both silent and talkie versions. Anyone in the mainstream film industry at this time, unless they’d just started working there, wouldn’t be too familiar with talkies, and the conventions that synchronised sound would bring. You can still see these longer, quieter sections of film even in Dracula the year before. The world is still partially in the silent mindset.
This may also explain some of the over-acting in the film. If you’re used to working in a medium where facial expression is the primary way of getting information about a character across, it lingers like an accent. You can also see this in early television when theatre actors made the crossover into television for small parts. Even the framing, without a fourth wall, would replicate the theatre. This isn’t an excuse for the overacting, but a reason nonetheless.
One of the main reasons for the film’s enduring grip on the public consciousness must undoubtedly be Bela Lugosi. An incredibly accomplished screen actor by this time, and with the name of Dracula forever attached to him even a year later, managing to grab Lugosi for a starring role would have been a big step for the film. It might possibly have secured them a great portion of the very small budget, if they attached him before going into full production (that part I don’t know, admittedly, and is pure speculation on my part). We should never forget that, as well as being a classic horror movie, this could easily be regarded as a ‘Bela Lugosi’ movie; the star power of the man helping to shape our understanding of this film for years to come, as it fits into more than just one categorisation of film history outside the standard, mainstream concept. Lugosi is the great redemption of the movie, in all its $50,000 budget, eleven-day shoot, all-shot-at-night production glory. Sets were used from other Universal productions, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc, because of the restricted budget as an independent film. Because of this, it’s very easy to see the film as a Lugosi film first and foremost in terms of academic interest, but don’t be fooled.
The world is at the beginnings of mass globalisation at this time, with technology rapidly advancing throughout the globe. Interest in other cultures comes in fits and starts, such as the Egyptology craze that Stoker tapped into in The Jewel of Seven Stars (a link for the interested to my article on Queen Tera from this novel is found at the end). This, combined with a need to tap into new and fresh fears from writers and creators, probably all helped to kick off a new interest in Voodoo. The topic had been all the rage the few years prior, with playwright Kenneth Webb attempted to sue for stealing the name from his play, Zombie, though nothing came of it. Thankfully for us, because otherwise, we might not have the word ‘zombie’ bandied about in titles so readily nowadays, if the same man could sue over and over again for use of the word and be fairly sure of cashing in.
Haitian Voodoo (which is the branch of Voodoo associated within the film, to my brief knowledge) is a real set of beliefs, though not as much in the realms of mesmerism and evil as Hollywood blockbusters (and, probably most notably, Wes Craven’s film The Serpent and The Rainbow) would have you believe. This has never stopped filmmakers taking something seemingly ‘other’ and turning into something horrific, however. This has, of course, been the trend in global storytelling since the beginning of time, that what we do not understand is inherently frightening. Here, multiple strands associated with various parts of the world compose factions of the same belief in an all-powerful being who communicates with the world through spirits, and that by communicating with these spirits (loa), one can communicate with the presence of the all-powerful Bondeye. To this end, only a very small fraction of the religion concerns itself with the creation of zombies, though this is in principle part of the belief system.
This zombie creation is used metaphorically to highlight the racial inequality present in society at the time (though perhaps it is still pertinent even today). Note that the film takes place largely around a plantation and that the shambling zombies of the locals are used by Murder to work the mills. In one scene that tracks through the men, used as little more than cattle to work for the light-skinned Lugosi, the grinding wheels and machinery could be almost taken to sound like the groans of the trapped souls. The very idea of a white man using practices brought about by a largely black community (even more apt as Voodoo has its early origins in Africa, especially the French colonies, hundreds of years ago), for his own gain at the cost of those of a different skin complexion, could be read to have serious racial undertones. Even the name of the film, White Zombie, brings these two worlds together in an explicit binary. You can enjoy the film perfectly without recognising all of this, but the fact that it is there should be borne in mind.
White Zombie, can be seen as the beginning point for two branches of horror tradition; that of zombies, and of Voodoo. Most zombies would continue to exist in this mesmeric guise until George A. Romero came along in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead and re-crafted the concept into the shambling hoards of the undead after our flesh which we are familiar with. And it’s safe to say that the Voodoo strains in folk horror and beyond wouldn’t be nearly as strong without this film to prove that it can, just about, work. White Zombie is a fun, surreal 70 minutes that I’d encourage any fan of classic horror, or scholar of generic traditions in cinema, to seek out, if only to know what the hell Rob Zombie’s old band was named after.
Any Horror Addicts out there raising baby bats? It can be hard to find some middle ground between the horror you love and what’s going to keep the little monsters up at night, but I’m here to help! Below, you’ll find my curated selection of frightful fun for the whole family (all ready to stream).
You’re probably already familiar with the Hotel Transylvania movies, but if you want MORE, check out the animated show. Dracula goes away for a year, leaving the hotel in the hands of his sister and his teenage daughter, Mavis.
Gozer, for all its wonder, seems to be a Deity without any definitive form or essence of its own, coming to our plain in a predetermined form given to it by its followers, then surrendering its essence to a champion of its worshipers to choose the form by which it will destroy the earth. As we have come to know it, Gozer came to us in 1984 in the form of a Serbian actress Slavitza Jovan, where it was to be chosen by the Ghostbusters to destroy the earth in the form of the Stay Puff marshmallow man. Wait, what?
Yeah, it no doubt got our attention then, but when compared to the ancient tellings of Gozer, as it was by Egon in the film, Gozer has had many other, more intimidating figures it has brought upon humanity in the past.
Gozer came into pop culture as the main antagonist in 1984’s Ghostbusters. An ancient, but obscure God worshiped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and the Hittites somewhere around 6000 B.C.
Gozer was banished by the followers of an opposing force in Gozer’s sibling, Tiamat where it was exiled and left to roam the universe and its many dimensions, hence one of its many names as “The Traveller” Gozer spent many eons exploring and conquering world upon world until finally being summoned back to Earth more or less by a then strengthening group of followers headed by Dr. Ivo Shandor who went on to erect a building in NYC as an antenna to focus the spiritual energies of the plain and bring forth Gozer to take over the earth.
I thought it’d be an interesting look into an underappreciated antagonist, what with the 2020 Ghostbusters film on the way this summer. It has been rumored that Gozer will be making a comeback of sorts, and it will be very curious to see in what respect it will return; what form will it take now?
I have always thought Gozer to be something of an interesting character, not just for the sake of the film, but for inspiration. It is very clear that the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man is pure, uncontested fiction, obviously, however, a deity of Gozer’s like is nothing too obscure in history. As long as there has been man, there have been those man has worshiped. Regardless of a God/Deity’s intent, it almost seemed necessary for man’s survival, and I found myself wondering which God or Gods come closest to that of Gozer. Upon much digging, I have found it quite difficult to find anything close, until I uncovered an obscure Mesopotamian Deity known as Enlil. His roll in Mesopotamian mythology is power and authority, as such he has the ability to create and “destroy” – Gozer the Destructor.
An interesting passage I found here: Enlil was a provider, and as such he was declared the “Lord of abundance” in a hymn for Šu-Suen (2037-2029 BCE) (ETCSL 2.4.4.a: 20-21). However, Enlil could also take such plenty away and devastate the land, e.g., in The Lament for Urim, he is said to have “brought the storm of abundance away”, to have “annihilated the land, silenced the city” (ETCSL 2.2.2), and destroyed their houses and demolished their walls Enki and the World Order (ETCSL 1.1.3: 245).
There was nothing significant, however, about the timing of Enlil’s reign when compared to what we know, thanks to Egon. Nor was there anything relevant to a pairing of demi-gods in order to bring Gozer forward. However, further reading on Enlil will see he is also known as the “decreer of fates” and the holder of the “Tablet of destinies” to which the possessor would command the worlds. It becomes apparent why there would be such a devout following, and why Ivo Shandor would want to worship such a deity.
It has become a very interesting read though and I’d love to get some more of your thoughts on what you think of Gozer, as well as any further reading or discoveries you may find on anything closer resembling Gozer. Tell me what you hope to see in the upcoming film; if Gozer should return, and in what form?
From the Horror Seeker, we ask you to choose the form of the destructor—and perish!
Aaron Jay Rome left his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado shortly after high school to pursue acting. His career is currently on the rise with supporting roles in big films such as The Campaign, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Get on Up, and TV Shows like The Vampire Diaries and Bonnie & Clyde.
He recently starred in the film, End Trip, which he also wrote and directed.
1.) Which is more challenging? Acting, directing, or writing?
I’d say the writing process is the most challenging. People say to me, “I wish I could write” all the time. Lately, I’ve been wondering do they mean “I wish I could force myself to sit down andwrite?” or do they just think they’d be bad writers? Both seem to be true for most people. Acting and directing give you an opportunity to bring something that already exists to life. The hunk of clay is already there, you just have to shape it. Writing is like trying to dig the clay out of the ground with your fingernails or create it from nothing.
2.) As a writer, do you have complete control over your characters? Or do you allow them to have free will?
I can definitely see where most writers and often times myself, would like to write a character so specific that every breath and blink is written into the script. Thankfully coming from an acting background, I know full-well that giving the actor room to play within the character is what will really bring it to life. When Dean J. West came to me with a British accent for his role in the film, I loved it. Never wrote it that way, but it definitely added a layer I didn’t even consider in the writing process.
3.) What inspired you to write End Trip?
I actually drove for Uber and Lyft for about 2 years. When a friend of mine told me about a camera that could “shoot in pitched black” (the Sony a7s ii) I started putting the bones of the idea together: a rideshare movie that happens at night. Cause what’s scarier than strangers and darkness? Not much. There’s a lot more that inspired me, but I’d risk spoiling a lot of the film, so I won’t risk it here.
4.) What is your favorite horror film?
My favorite horror films lately are those that take social issues and explore them using horror elements or themes. Get Out and It Follows as well as anything Mike Flanagan are all super inspiring at this point in my career.
Yours Truly Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz discusses Category Romance versus Gothic Literature, Slashers versus Hammer, Penny Dreadful, Mario Bava, Crimson Peak, Tom Hiddleson, and Only Lovers Left Alive as well as Victorian and Gothic Romance Themes and the upcoming HorrorAddicts.net anthology Dark Divinations.
Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our video, podcast, and media coverage!
The world’s first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, took their name from Mario Bava’s classic 1963 horror film. In the years since, horror and metal have continued to have an ongoing conversation, from horror-themed metal bands (such as Cradle of Filth, The Great Old Ones, or Carach Angren) to metal-themed horror films.
My short story Requiem in Frostcontinues this tradition, telling the story of a Norwegian girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a black metal musician.
To coincide with its release, I’ve decided to make a list of movies that, to me, feel “metal.” However, I’m not going to limit this list to horror, and I’m going to avoid films that are specifically about metal. This is because every other list of “Most Metal films of all time” take it literally, all of them focusing exclusively on the same 10 or so movies to have explicit references to the genre. The internet can only withstand so many posts containing Deathgasm, The Gate, The Devil’s Candy, and Lords of Chaos. So instead, I’m going to focus on movies that feel like they capture the essence of metal.
Here’s my criteria: do the images in the movie feel like they could be metal album covers? Could you put metal on the soundtrack and have it feel right? Does the story feel like it could also be that of a metal concept album? Does it feel powerful and meticulously constructed in the way that good metal does?
Obviously, everyone will have their own view on what does and doesn’t belong on this list. These are my choices, and I’m sure that your own are perfectly valid. That’s why these are 25 of the most metal films that aren’t about metal—not the 25 most.
Here we go. Organized by year:
BLACK SABBATH (1963): Let’s just get this shoo-in out of the way. It honestly doesn’t feel that metal to me, but the fact that it inspired what many consider to be the first metal band ever makes it retroactively metal.
WIZARDS (1977): Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature establishes a world in which, following a nuclear apocalypse, humans have all died or become mutants, and fantasy races have taken over in the meantime. An evil wizard uses Nazi propaganda footage to inspire his troops; a robot finds redemption, and fairy tits jiggle. It’s a strange, over-ambitious film, but the subject matter and imagery would feel right at home in a strange, over-ambitious metal concept album. Bakshi’s Fire and Ice might also be a suitable pick, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t put it here.
HEAVY METAL (1981): A token inclusion, this adult animated anthology feature contains aliens on drugs, women with big swords, and copious amounts of sex and violence. It’s rather dated, particularly in the treatment of its female characters, but there’s no denying it is as metal as its name.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982): Look, the poster for Conan the Barbarian looks just like a Manowar album. It opens with the forging of a sword. It’s full of Vikings. It has to be on this list.
LEGEND (1985): When you get down to it, a lot of metal is quite geeky, full of fantasy tropes and looming apocalypses—much like Legend. Plus, Tim Curry’s Darkness is such a perfectly iconic heavy metal demon that it would be sinful not to include it.
HELLRAISER (1987): Clive Barker’s squirmfest is undeniably metal, if only for the aesthetic of the cenobites and for the film’s obsession with pain, pleasure, and Hell. Hellraiser was also a huge influence on the band Cradle of Filth, with Pinhead’s actor Doug Bradley making regular appearances on their albums.
EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): The Necronomicon. Ash’s chainsaw hand. The bleeding walls. The soul-swallowing, flesh-possessing demons. Evil Dead 2 is as metal as it gets.
THE CROW (1994): While it’s arguably more of a goth film than a metal film, The Crow is nonetheless filled with such metal-appropriate themes as coming back from the dead to avenge your frigid lover. It’s also one of the rare movies where both the protagonist and antagonist have longer-than-average hair. Kaw, kaw.
DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994): Also known as Cemetery Man, this underrated dark comedy stars Rupert Everett as the keeper of a cemetery where the dead come back to life after burial. It features a romance with a severed head, a zombie on a motorbike, and Death himself, as well as amusingly cynical quotes like “I’d give my life to be dead” and “At a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.”
VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000): One of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and also one of the darkest. There’s vampires, giant flying manta rays, strange monsters, dark magic, zombies, and more. The first Vampire Hunter D film is good, but Bloodlust just gives the audience one incredibly metal scene after another, and it’s filled with shots that look like they could be metal album covers.
LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003): Just look at this meme. I think that demonstrates pretty clearly just how metal these films are.
HELLBOY (2004) & HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008): Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic Hellboy films follow a demon who fights Nazis, tentacled Eldritch abominations, faeries, and more. The fact that we have a demon as the hero of the story is pretty significant, but the films’ hellishly lush imagery also demand their inclusion. Particularly metal is the Angel of Death we meet in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
300 (2006): I’m including Zach Snyder’s divisive “300” here because the whole movie just feels like a mosh pit to me, with its fetishization of big men with big swords fighting in big groups. It has stunning, brutal, beautiful violence, and plenty of images that feel like metal album covers. Lest you think metal can only be from Scandinavia, check out the amazing Greek metal bands Rotting Christ or Septicflesh, and the Mesopotamian metal band Melecesh. All three bands would feel right at home on the 300 soundtrack.
PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Another beautiful Guillermo del Toro picture, Pan’s Labyrinth is both a grisly fairy tale and a story of rebellion. The Faun and the Pale Man, both played by the incomparable Doug Jones, are stunningly dark creations, and this list would be incomplete without them.
SILENT HILL (2006): Pyramid Head’s scenes. ‘Nuff said.
MARTYRS (2008): Extreme metal is like extreme horror: enjoyment often requires a process of conditioning and desensitization. Just as you can recommend some extreme metal only to people with the ear for it, you can only really recommend Martyrs to people with the stomach for it. Somewhere out there, a goregrind band is writing lyrics about a woman’s skin being removed in honor of this grueling film.
VALHALLA RISING (2009): Nicolas Refn’s surreal Viking picture stars Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, a man who resembles Odin and goes on a transcendent journey. It’s bloody, somber, drenched in pagan spirituality and black metal as Hell.
HELLDRIVER (2010): This bonkers Japanese splatterfest contains a car made out of body parts, an eight-armed zombie holding eight assault rifles, a plane made out of zombies, and…look, it’s just nuts, okay? I might have also included similar Japanese bonkers films like Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, or Robogeisha, but I feel like Helldriver belongs here the most.
DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011): Nicholas Cage escapes from Hell to take revenge on some evil cultists by driving…angrily…in 3D. While being pursued by a demon accountant…who is also, yes, in 3D. There’s also a sex scene gunfight…which is, you guessed it, also in 3D.
BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012 – 2013): While it isn’t nearly as good as the manga it’s based on, this anime film trilogy is nonetheless quite metal. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Berserk has big swords, big battles, and big demons, culminating with the infamously hellish “Eclipse” sequence. But really, read the manga instead.
KUNG FURY (2015): This 30-minute long Swedish crowd-funded film manages to pack more metal stuff in it than most films can manage in a feature-length. In Kung Fury, a Kung-Fu Cop must fight Hitler, but accidentally goes too far back in time and ends up in the Viking Age, where Viking women ride dinosaurs and fight laser raptors. In other words, it’s amazing. You can watch it for free on YouTube.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): This movie contains a man playing a fire-spewing guitar on top of a stage that’s on a moving big rig, and if that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is.
THE WITCH (2015): The Witch kicks off with the ritualistic sacrifice of an infant, and from there only continues to bombard us with Satanic imagery. Of particular note is Black Philip, the sinister goat who apparently terrorized the actors as much as he does the characters in the film.
MANDY (2018): Nicolas Cage makes a bat’leth and fights a shitty cult in this surreal film that’s destined to be a cult favorite. Like some great metal albums, I can think of, Mandy starts off slow and atmospheric, lulling you with hypnotic beauty before exploding into an orgy of batshit violence. Also, like many great metal albums I can think of, it feels like it was conceived while on drugs.
AQUAMAN (2018): Okay, hear me out. James Wan’s Aquaman makes Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman look as metal as possible, and he makes the rest of the film as metal as possible too. The scene where Aquaman bursts from the ground while riding a giant crab? Metal. The Lovecraft references? Metal. The Trench sequence with its creepy fishmen? Metal. Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress? Metal. The fact that Aquaman fights a giant tentacle monster that’s voiced by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? Oh, so metal. There’s even a cute scene with the cuddly metalheads at a bar. This movie is a treasure.
Jonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him online at www.jonathanfortin.com or on Twitter @Jonathan_Fortin.
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining, is my favourite horror film of all time. For those that (somehow) aren’t familiar with the film, it is the story of the new caretaker (Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson) and his family at the remote Overlook Hotel over the winter, where ghostly apparitions send him spiraling into madness. Based on the novel by Stephen King, a major feature of the movie which wasn’t in the book is the hedge maze on the hotel grounds. In this article, I’m going to look at this maze, and how it acts as a kind of middle-ground representation of Jack’s ever-twisted mind, as it is changed by the hotel.
Please bear in mind that, as with everything I write for HorrorAddicts.net, in a short article such as this, there’s no way I’m able to cover the wealth of interpretations and analysis and ideas on this film. This is a starting point, where hopefully you can springboard yourself into your own thoughts.
It has been well documented that the layout of the Overlook Hotel is deliberately impossible. Doors lead to nowhere, rooms move, furniture shifts position; everything possible is done to very subtly disorient the viewer. For example, in the first scene of Danny on his tricycle, we pass an exit stairwell leading down, and doors that would appear to go through the thin wall and open up onto the stairwell itself. It is, in fact, a maze of dead ends and double-backs.
Even furniture subtly moves between shots. Rob Ager has documented all this extensively, and his articles and analysis on the subject can be found at his site, which I’ll put a link to at the end of this article. One example is the appearing and disappearing chair behind Jack when Wendy interrupts his writing. Needless to say, with someone like Kubrick, this kind of mismatching wasn’t just sloppy but done deliberately. It is a visual representation of the chaos and insanity that it will try to bring Jack into.
The hotel slowly ratchets up its presence and ghostly manifestations in order to slowly drive Jack mad. This is helped by subtly-suggested alcohol issues (a carry-over from the novel which isn’t nearly as prevalent but still present), and flares of temper. Aided by the claustrophobia of the hotel (‘“what the old-timers used to call ‘cabin fever’”’), and the irritations at being unable to write (‘“Lots of ideas, no good ones though,”’) it all provides the perfect platform for the Overlook Hotel to begin to exert its influence on Jack. The reasons for the Overlook’s attempt to drive Jack to madness are as heavily disputed and debated as almost anything else in the history of fan-theories, and they won’t be discussed here, purely for length reasons.
With the Overlook trying to get a hold on its caretaker, Kubrick wants to give us a middle-ground, to understand that the links between Jack and the hotel go beyond the surface level. Here he presents us with the iconic hedge maze. As I’ve already said, the hotel is a maze in itself, full of twists and turns, and what’s interesting is that almost no two shots of the maze are the same. The map outside the entrance doesn’t match the way Wendy and Danny walk, and the model Jack looks down on doesn’t correspond with either of these. Even the entrance Ullman takes them to in the film’s beginning is on a completely different side of the maze to when Danny runs into at the finale.
There seem to be strong indicators, then, that just like the hotel, the maze changes shape and form. Wendy even says in the kitchen with Halloran that ‘“This place is such an enormous maze I feel like I’ll have to leave a trail of breadcrumbs every time I come in,”’ so if you’re wanting verbal confirmation of this connection, then there it is. But how do we link the maze to Jack?
Firstly, the exterior shots of the Overlook at the beginning of the film don’t show a maze at all. It isn’t present until the whole family are exploring the grounds; when Jack has arrived. Additionally, when Wendy and Danny are exploring it on their own, Jack walks over to the model version in the foyer. We then switch to a top-down view showing a miniature Danny and Wendy walking around the central section. Because, as discussed before, the model and the actual maze don’t add up, we have to assume that this isn’t actually a top-down view of the real maze, but a subjective view of Jack imagining his wife and son in the maze.
By switching to a subjective viewpoint, Kubrick suggests a linking between Jack’s mind (his imagination), and the hedge maze. This doesn’t mean very much throughout the film as, for a large portion of the film, the maze fades into the background. However, right at the very end, it makes a reappearance as Jack chases Danny inside. Surely, as the maze is intrinsically linked with Jack’s mind, this makes sense for the finale to play out there. This is the point where everything combines, hallucination and reality, the Overlook and Jack. In a way, this is almost a proving ground, an arena that the Overlook has provided for their caretaker to show that he can follow out their wishes; that he ‘has the belly for it.’
Ironically, Jack eventually ends up following Danny’s footsteps, just like the trail of breadcrumbs Wendy mentioned at the beginning of the film. He follows Danny in the same way as he followed them through the model before. He has descended into a manifestation of his chaotic mind, distressed by all the factors that enabled the Overlook to push him into pliable madness.
In the end, however, Jack is eventually outsmarted by Danny and stumbles around blindly inside. Whether you believe the ghosts are real or all just a hallucination is irrelevant, because everyone can see that Jack has slipped into madness at this point. Jack is unable to find his way out of the maze, out of his mind. He never recovers, even for a moment as King’s original character does in the novel, and so he freezes to death unredeemed and forever trapped inside the Overlook’s testing ground.
In the end, there really is a simple formula to understand this discussion: Jack Torrance + Overlook Hotel = Hedge Maze. It’s a simple concept, but one probably overlooked by many people watching for the first time, especially by those who aren’t accustomed to looking out for these kinds of interpretations in popular cinema. The Shining is a deeply layered text, and the idea presented is very much a theory, which probably disagrees with 50% of fan theories and analysis of the film, but that’s the way it works with The Shining; everyone has their own idea. In any case, I hope it piques your interest in re-examining the film, and re-watching it, of course. You could do worse things than re-watching one of the greatest films the genre has ever produced; just don’t let it get into your head too much.
Horror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. Roulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the fantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us tonight!
French director Jean Rollin’s horror films have any and all manner of vampires, witches, subtitles, boobs, and saucy. What’s not to love?
Fascination– Writer and director Jean Rollin uses eerie zooms and haunting camera speeds to provide wonderful turn of the century style and Old World feelings for this 1979 French saucy. Phonographs and period music, ominous sounds, flowing white frocks, frilly lace, feathered hats, graceful mannerisms, candles, decorated interiors, natural visuals, and a great castle locale contrast the morbid slaughterhouse, vivid red colors, blood, rogue, symbolic lips, scythes, black robes, and blonde/brunette or good girl/bad girl expectations. Talk about a sexy grim reaper! It does help to know your français, sure, but the fine performances and talk of death taking the form of seduction add extra panache and gothic allure even amid any translation discrepancies on the available English subtitles.
The laid back mood may be tough for modern American audiences, but the curious characters and simmering atmosphere is soon set with crimes, betrayal, and a siege situation – not to mention how the boobs are out early and often. We’re immediately intrigued in how one man is going to survive being locked in a house with blonde Brigitte Lahaie (I as in Icarus) and brunette Franca Mai (Zig Zag Story), let alone five more cultish women and a blindfold! Though there’s a lot of skin and tender kissing, the saucy scenes may also be a whole lot of nothing for those who are expecting more full-on porn. This pretty Victorian via seventies French lesbianism won’t be for everyone but the kinky sucks the viewer in for the disturbingly delightful fashions, sinister switch, and sophisticated chic.
Lips of Blood – French Director Jean Rollin gets right to the mausoleums, Winnebagoes, shrouded bodies, coffins, and rituals in this more upscale than his usual 1975 tale. A somber score, beautiful but spooky memories, and a mysterious woman in white are immediately eerie while a colorful, swanky party and retro fashions create drama and a sophisticated foundation. Blocked childhoods, an overprotective mother, and castle ruins may be real or imagined add to the secret cemetery passages, hidden tunnels, and questions regarding perfume, scent, and memory. Naturally, there’s nudity both male and female complete with a bonus photography session, seventies bush, and masturbation. However, the saucy isn’t as rampant here, and this has a more put together story compared to Rollin’s usually thin plotlines. Although there is a bit of walking around filler, blue street lights and a moonlight ambiance anchor the after hours aquarium pursuits with an abandoned about the city feeling – there’s a dead body in the water fountain and The Shiver of the Vampires is playing at the late night movies, too. Mysterious men follow on the subway while bells, alarms, abductions, and straight jackets intensify the bats, toothy vampire nurses, and undead who help one and hinder or kill another. Phone the mayor the hungry, naked, vampire chicks are loose so gather the staking posse! Though rushed in the end, the unique finale is well edited with an interesting mix of doubt, mystery, character drama, and a sexy creepy. Who’s the worse villain – entombed vamp ladies or the village torch mob? And who knew coffins would float so well? Did we know this?
The Nude Vampire – Hooded rituals in science labs make for some unique disrobings, blood vials, and colorful beakers to start this 1970 French saucy from writer and director Jean Rollin. Although I could do without some of the now tame but up close, lingering nipple shots and overlong gyrating and dancing – continental seventies staples though they are – the black and white noir mood is well lit with candles and torchlight alongside striking red, purple, orange, and pretty people treating the eye. The interracial nudity is also surprising for the time, and the seemingly suave, exclusive clubs veil more kinky, sinister, creepy animal masks, and dangerous gunplay. There isn’t a lot of gore or blood, however, a simmering string score, evening streetlights, and cobblestone streets invoke an Old World mood to anchor the rare blood disorders, cult rites, and disturbing deaths. Unfortunately, the production is somewhat small scale and not as lavish as viewers might expect with minimal locales and poor editing. This picture is quiet, slow at times, even boring when precious minutes are wasted on meaningless walking here and there or out there plot exposition that feels tossed in after the fact. Thankfully, there are some great stairs, columns, and marble to up the decadent atmosphere, and the overall sense of bizarre helps the undercooked statements regarding immortality, blood possibilities, man’s stupidity, and the superstition versus science comeuppance. The story could have been better, but this is a fun viewing and we’re not really meant to notice the thin plot over all the titular shapely now are we?
Requiem for a Vampire– Clown costumes, shootouts, daring car chases, and dangerous roads lead this 1971 Jean Rollin juicy before two chicks on a motorcycle roam the countryside leaving dead bodies and torched cars in their wake. The spoken English track and Anglo subtitles don’t match, however, there is hardly any dialogue until the latter half of the picture when we finally find out what’s afoot. Some may dislike this silent style, but grave diggers and thunder create an intriguing, off-kilter spooky atmosphere. Scares, screaming ladies – we don’t know the details but we’re on their side as rituals and titular bloodlines escalate. Of course, colorful castles and seemingly hospitable cults providing purple furs on the bed for some lesbian touchy feelys add to the bushy babes and bemusing euro shtick. Granted, the first half-hour could be tighter, and the bare-bones plot should have gotten to the naughty sooner rather than all that running here and there. The sexual statements are iffy as well, even erroneous, for one wants to be a vampire/lesbian while the other doesn’t want to be and gets a man instead – having sex with a woman still means you are a virgin and can still claim to a man that you haven’t made real love yet! Some saucy scenes are also more graphic than others are, with uncomfortable to watch slaves in chains and more violence against women. I’m not sure about the oral sex bat (um, yeah) but the good old toothy bites mixing supernatural pain and pleasure are nicer than the rough stuff. Bright outdoor photography, pleasant landscapes, sad but eerie abandoned buildings, silhouettes, and well lit candlelight patina with gruesome green and creepy crimsons accent the dark graveyards and frightening dungeon traps, too. Once you get passed some pacing flaws and the uneven smexy, this is a fine looking and bizarrely entertaining vampire ode.
The Shiver of the Vampires– Pallbearers and a black and white graveside set the 1971 Jean Rollin mood before colorful castle ruins, overgrown greenery, and edgy music both embrace the heady and keep the medieval flair with torches, goblets, and candelabras. Howling winds, red lighting, and askew camera angles accent torture chambers and sacrifices, creating a surreal dreamscape with saucy vamps in ye olde but tie-dye dresses. The bride in white contrasts those mourning in black while gruesome skulls belie the cathedral architecture, canopy beds, and rustic yet cozy fireplaces. She’s too distraught for the marital bed – but our bride strips downs when a hippie woman humorously pops out of the grandfather clock and they lez be friends no questions asked. Sheer clothing doesn’t cover the perky naughty bits, so they need all those furs to keep those caressing ladies warm. That poor lonely groom gets left out in the cold! More camera panning, vampire opportunists stepping in and out of the frame, and overhead shots parallel the us versus them debates and whirlwind talk of undead religions and vampire persecutions. Although flashbacks add to the dreamy tone, they also confuse the wild library scene and talk of past crusades, former vampire slayers, and predestined deadly fates. But hey, killer nipple spikes! Yes, the premise is thin with strung together coming to and going fro or looking cool, meandering scenes. Rather than one vampire perspective or the young couple viewpoint, the focus constantly resets. Who’s dead? Who’s alive? Who’s undead? Rival vampire hierarchies at first seem tempting, but twists and true colors ultimately show. Granted, you can say that if you’ve seen one Rolling vampire movie, you’ve seen them all. However, had there been seriously proper writing, The Nude Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, and Requiem for a Vampire could have been a fine trilogy. Fortunately, the nicer production values keep this bizarre romp brimming with an Avante Garde but no less creepy atmosphere.
Horror Addicts, in honor of her new book release, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, H.E. Roulo would like to invite you to her Twitter Watch Party! She’ll be watching the fantastic 2002 zombie film, 28 Days Later starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Christopher Eccleston. HorrorAddicts.net will be tweeting along with H.E. beginning at 8 pm PST, so get your popcorn, put the movie on, and join us Thursday, September 5.
We all love a good monster. Be it Godzilla or King Kong, werewolves or cenobites, we can’t get enough of them. Guillermo Del Toro has made a living out of them, and nobody in their right mind would begrudge him that. But when we think of being scared, perhaps what touches the nerves more than anything else are not the big, lumbering beasts towering above us. It’s those fiends that come close to being human, just one step away from actually being us.
This concept is known in the field of robotics as the ‘uncanny valley’. Coined initially by Masahiro Mori, the basic idea of it is that there is a distinct, graph-able curve in people’s emotional responses to the verisimilitude of a robot to people. Essentially, when you start to make a robot look like a person, people view it more favourably. Then, suddenly, as you keep going, there’s a point where it’s not completely robotic, but not completely human, and it’s in this stage when we have a strong feeling of revulsion or disgust. When it gets close to being indistinguishable from us, it becomes so lifelike that we view it favourably again. This dip into disgust is the uncanny valley.
The theory of the uncanny itself was used by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay The Uncanny as a way to explain why we’re so creeped out by dolls and waxwork figures and the likes. He goes back to the original German for uncanny, unheimlich, and its roots in the word heimlich which roughly means to conceal or hide. He proposes that we find something uncanny because it is a revealing of social taboos and ideas which we try to hide in everyday life. This eventually gets linked on to concepts of the id and the subconscious, which is really the subject for another article altogether.
But what does all of this mean for our monsters? How can we link these concepts together in a way that impacts our understanding of our favourite horror villains?
Well perhaps this doesn’t apply for the big Kaiju as such, but maybe it helps explain why we’re still chilled by vampires, ghosts, and ghouls. The brain sees their general shape and recognises them as human, or at least, very human-like. Yet there’s always something just a little bit off, be it the pallor of their skin, or the sharp claws or teeth, which sets them apart and makes them disturbing to us. Going back to Del Toro, think of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s got a recognisably human shape (based off Saturn in the painting Saturn Devouring His Sun by Francisco Goya), but with the skin stretched over the frame, the nostrils flared with no bridge, claw-like talons, and eyes in his hands. He’s started off human but been warped.
Even cursed or possessed dolls have something off about them; the animation of a human avatar is almost the very concept of the uncanny valley, with the robot being substituted for a doll, but the basic principle remaining. Toys are essentially us, preserved in miniature, and when they rise up against us, the human part of their design strikes a chord with us.
This is perhaps why we find masked killers a distressing concept. The shape is human, and the mask is human-like, but it doesn’t change, and as humans learn to see the face as the main projector of emotion when it doesn’t alter during extreme acts of violence, we slip down the slope of the valley. Masks such as those belonging to Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers, fairly blank and devoid of emotion, would, therefore, represent something uncanny. Also very often the mask represents a demon or spirit (thinking of films such as Onibaba or Scream) which conjures up concepts of possession by an unseen force. This might explain why we’re so focused on the killer’s mask in these films, because they are themselves imbued with that uncanny quality which makes them memorable beyond the killer behind them.
Think of the Scream franchise, where the mask comes to represent something much deeper, a force of evil in itself. When you see someone without the mask, they’re normal, but as soon as the face is obscured, they become terrifying, a body for the murderous will of the mask. And the mask and the murderous intent has the power to transfer its ownership from one person to another, like a spirit darting in and out of its possessed victims. Even think of the numerous killers that take on Jigsaw’s role in the Saw films. As soon as you come into possession of Billy, leading the charge of the traps, you become Jigsaw, the embodiment of John Kramer and his will to put people to the test of their drive to survive. We dip from being too human to being something slightly removed.
The idea of the uncanny valley even feeds into ghosts. Think of Kayako and Toshio from the Ju-on films. Though it sounds funny, how many of us were deeply disturbed when Toshio, a pale little boy, opened his mouth and meowed? When Kayako came crawling down the stairs, her throat croaking like a door very slowly opening? This concept of uncanniness transfers over to the sounds we make, affecting us when someone’s voice is not what it should be. This is something obviously well known to anyone who has watched The Exorcist in their time.
And so whilst the big monsters from The Ritual and Cloverfield might scare us, they don’t get anywhere close to instilling that distinct feeling of unease which those humanoid villains which nestle in the uncanny valley have the ability to do. When vampires flash their fangs, with blood in their eyes, we see something hiding inside the human form. When we see Schwarzenegger doing his own repairs in The Terminator, we find lines between humanity and inhumanity blurred. From now on, he looks just like us, but we know he isn’t.
And when we transfer over to imitation narratives such as The Thing or The Body Snatchers, suddenly we’re even more scared, because any one of us could be them. Now the uncanny transfers into paranoia, and we have to rely on looking out for the uncanny to alert us to danger. We have to fall back on something terrifying to keep us calm. In a way, we hope for something uncanny to confirm our fears. And that, more than anything, is scary.
-Article by Kieran Judge
Cloverfield. 2007. [Film] Directed by Matt Reeves. USA: Bad Robot.
Finney, J., 2010. The Body Snatchers. Great Britain: Orion Publishing.
Freud, S., McLintock, D. & Haughton, H., 2003. The Uncanny. New York: Penguin Books.
Friday the 13th. 1980. [Film] Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. Unites States of America: Georgetown Productions Inc.
Godzilla. 1954. [Film] Directed by Ishiro Honda. Japan: Toho.
Goya, F., 1819 – 1823. Saturn Devouring His Son. [Art] (Museo del Prado).
Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.
John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.
Ju-On: The Grudge. 2002. [Film] Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Japan: Pioneer LDC.
King Kong. 1933. [Film] Directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack. USA: RKO Pictures Inc..
Onibaba. 1964. [Film] Directed by Kaneto Shindo. Japan: Kindai Eiga Kyokai.
Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. [Film] Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Spain: Telecinco Cinema.
Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.
Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.
The Exorcist. 1973. [Film] Directed by William Friedkin. USA: Hoya Productions.
The Ritual. 2017. [Film] Directed by David Bruckner. UK: The Imaginarium.
The Terminator. 1984. [Film] Directed by James Cameron. United States of America: Hemdale.
Most people have a fair understanding of the classic slasher flick. Made popular by Halloweenin 1978, with predecessors including The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Black Christmas, Psycho etc, the idea of killing people off one by one has been immortalised by the formulae refined by films of this type. However, the slasher film is very closely linked to the Giallo (roughly pronounced jea-low), a type of Italian film which was very popular in the sixties and seventies, and bred a slew of filmmakers still admired and imitated today. This article won’t be a comprehensive discussion of the Giallo, as I’m a fan of the genre and not a scholar of it, but it will hopefully provide an introduction to those not aware of it, and give you a couple of movies to add to the ‘to-be-watched’ list.
Originally, gialli were cheap crime paperbacks, a bit like pulp novels, that were printed by Mondadori and trademarked with an instantly recognisable yellow cover. Hence this gave birth to the term Giallo, meaning ‘yellow’. These were mostly translations of Agatha Christie, Edgar Lee Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other similar authors. It’s important to make a distinction between the types of crime fiction, however. Gialli focused more on the graphic violence and the sleuths, rather than gun-toting noir police work. As Gary Needham says:
The publication of gialli increased throughout the 1930s and 40s, however, the importation and translation of the 1940s “hard-boiled” detective fictions from the US were prohibited from publication outright by Mussolini on the grounds that their corrupting influence and glamorisation of crime would negatively influence “weak-minded” Italians. (Needham, 2002)
Despite some of the restrictions, the Italians began writing their own gialli, and the literature boomed in the ’30s and ’40s. By the late ’50s, it had started to make its way across to film. The main mastermind behind its initial translation to the screen was Mario Bava, a film legend in his own right. After all, it was his film, Black Sabbath, which gave the band their name, who helped invent and pioneer the Heavy Metal genre of music.
Though he made a splash in ’63 with his film The girl who knew too much, it was his 1964 film, Blood and Black Lace, which really kicked things off. Dispensing with the police-procedural elements of previous films, Bava upped the sex and violence, turning the stalking sequences into major set pieces in their own right. Despite being a financial failure at the time, it has gone on to be critically appreciated and influenced dozens of filmmakers after. It set the template of what was to come after. It also introduced the killer in a black coat with black gloves, very much like Jack the Ripper, which would be the usual getup for Giallo killers as time went on.
A few years later, the most influential Giallo filmmaker would take up the mantle. Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage incorporated a twisted, convoluted plotline with stunning visuals that earned him the nickname ‘the Italian Hitchcock.’ The film was an international success, and still has one of my personal favourite twists of all time. He followed this up with Four Flies on Grey Velvet a few years later, and then release one of his masterpieces in 1975, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).
Around the early seventies, Sergio Martino also released films such as Torso, All the colours of the dark, and the incredibly titled, Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key. Lucio Fulci also breaks onto the scene here, directing films such as A lizard in a woman’s skin and Don’t torture a duckling in the early seventies. I’ve already written an article on Fulci here on HorrorAddicts.net, and I’ll include a link to that at the article’s end.
Because of their frequency of production and release at this time, gialli ended up like the Saw films did, with each film trying to out-do the previous in terms of twists and turns. I recall hearing Luigi Cozzi talk about this in relation to when he and Argento were batting around ideas for a film in which someone foresaw their death, then had to try and explain how it happened without psychic powers. The film, Profondo Rosso, was eventually made without Cozzi’s involvement, but he does own a horror memorabilia shop in Italy named after the film.
The gory death sequences continued throughout the seventies, continuing into Argento’s most famous film, Suspiria, which had a remake released last year. The brutal opening death scene with a body crashing through a stain glass window is as in horror history as Johnny Depp’s demise in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and Goblin’s score for the film is something you find yourself humming walking down the street. Filled with vibrant colours and haunting imagery, it’s still shocking even today.
By the time the eighties came around, however, the Giallo was beginning to fade. Fulci’s return to the genre after doing his Gates of Hell trilogy were fairly laughable (Murder Rock is just funny, and there’s not a person in existence that can’t think of The New York Ripper without saying ‘quack’. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it and you’ll understand what I mean), and Argento has been making movies to this day, but nothing of any real note after the mid-eighties with Phenomena and Opera. The American slasher had taken the spotlight, and even that was, by the late eighties, beginning to run down its original formula.
These films are still influential, however. The film Abrakadabra, released last year by the Onetti Brothers, is a wonderful homage to the giallo, nailing everything from the groove-rock soundtrack to the quick zooms and grainy footage. Gialli are a wonderful time, those made around the late sixties/early seventies especially, as they have their own unique vibe, shooting style, and soundtracks. Unlike the slasher or the ghost story, it’s something that I highly doubt will ever make a proper return, but will stay immortalised as the brilliant pieces of cinema that they are. Sleazy, shocking, suspenseful; the Giallo is one of a kind.
I love a good monster movie. And when it was announced years ago that Universal Studios were reviving their classic monster movies, I, like the rest of the horror world, had a small heart attack. Then Tom Cruise got attached to The Mummyand we realised that they were going all in. It was going to be mind-blowing.
Until it wasn’t.
I’m going to outline my thoughts as to why the rebooting of the iconic collection failed, and I’m going to split it into the following three categories:
1) The film itself.
2) The heritage and genre.
3) The Marvel effect.
THE FILM ITSELF
That the other two categories feed into this general discussion of the movie as a whole is not to be ignored, but this first category ignores that the film is part of a larger narrative and just focuses on the filmmaking and storytelling itself.
The first glaring issue is the over-reliance on CGI set pieces used to try and carry the film. From large green screen sandstorms to a plethora of unrealistic zombie mummies, the film might as well have been completed animated. The worst part of it all is that these set pieces come thick and fast, with no rhyme or reason, or sense of proper narrative timing. You look at a Marvel movie (such as the new Spider-Man: Far From Home), and you notice that they normally break it up into three main parts. A fight early on, one in the middle, then the big wind up for the third act. It’s your basic three act structure with a large action sequence in each, and it allows the movie to have the downtime to build on its characters. Even movies such as those in the James Bond or Mission Impossible franchises will do the same sort of thing, with a sprinkling of smaller sequences here and there, but it’s still just the three big moments. The Mummy has so many that the rhythm is off. It just doesn’t feel right.
And it also means that parts, such as the desert sandstorm near the beginning of the film, are irrelevant. We saw the crows take off after the sarcophagus when it is airlifted away, and it is these birds that will bring the plane down. Why is the sandstorm needed? To add a little hint of ‘danger’? To make sure the audience doesn’t forget we’re in the desert? It makes no sense. When the sandstorm blows through London in the final act, it was a wonderfully gothic image, capitalising on the fear of outsiders and things that shouldn’t happen. But having this be a singular, major event that cut out communication lines, throwing all the heroes into confusion, would have been wonderful, and saving the sandstorm for this moment would have made it seem much more threatening. As it is, we’ve already seen a sandstorm do nothing. Why should we be scared of this one? Short answer: we aren’t.
One of my other issues was the lack of subtlety in the film in any department. The scares were ham-fisted attempts at CGI skeletons that didn’t take the time to allow the tension to build. And the amount of exposition is ridiculous. Jekyll’s opening speech gives most of the plot away, and leaves no mystery as to what is to come. It’s bad filmmaking and bad storytelling at the best of times, leading to a picture that rushes from one big scene to another, and has to have things spelled out quickly in between each blockbuster moment to make sure we’re following along. It’s nowhere near efficient craftsmanship.
THE HERITAGE AND TONE
When Universal said they were reviving the monster movies, audiences wanted horror. They wanted to be scared, brought back to being a kid. Universal, wanting to compete with summer blockbusters, changed their classic horror into an all-out action thriller with a few horror elements scattered around. There’s even some funny moments scattered around, such as when Jenny yells ‘Get her, Nick!’ to Tom Cruise’s character as the newly revived Princess Amanet heads towards them in the forest. Really? ‘Ger her, Nick!’? It’s not the movie audiences wanted, or were promised.
Because the movie goes for a grander scale, the horror, when it is there, never really hits. Sure, give your plagues and your zombies an apocalypse to try and bring about, but even these focus on a small group of survivors. Think Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later. Horror is deeply personal, and you have to make sure it feels personal to a protagonist we connect with, in order to make us truly feel it.
This is something Bram Stoker did wonderfully in his novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, a personal favourite novel of mine, and one I’ve already discussed on HorrorAddicts.net ( I’ll put a link to my analysis of the character of Queen Hera from the novel at the end of the article). Stoker’s tale presents an ancient Egyptian threat rising from the dead, like The Mummy, but for two-thirds of the narrative, everything is confined to one house and plays out like a murder mystery. It’s closed and confined, and because of this we empathise with the characters because we know them intimately. When the terror comes, we feel the fear because we’ve put ourselves in their shoes. As a result, the possible apocalypse after the book is finished feels much more worrying.
THE MARVEL EFFECT
The Dark Universe is Universal’s attempt to replicate the success Marvel Studios have had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The trouble is that Marvel seems to be the only ones that have really cracked the format. Disney tried it out into Star Wars, but the bad reception to Solo halted their plans for possible Obi Wan and Boba Fett films. The DC Universe has its fans, but has never really caught the approval like Marvel has, and only recently has Aquaman and Wonder Woman really hit the box office hard. One can only wait to see how the Godzilla monster-verse goes on, but if the reviews I’ve seen of Godzilla: King of the Monsters are anything to go by, it doesn’t look good.
The Mummy’s primary problem is that Universal threw all their chips in too early.
The film isn’t just about the eponymous mummy, but the introduction to the whole world. But rather than sneak in suggestions and nods, and build the whole thing up slowly, whilst still allowing each film to be its own unique piece, they’re already interconnecting everything at the very heart. The beating heart of this connection is the Dr Jekyll, head of the Prodigium organisation. However, instead of letting Jekyll just be an incidental part of the storyline, or his true identity being a big reveal at the end of the film, they made him integral to the movie.
This has multiple risks. It risks sidelining the main focus of the movie, the mummy herself, and it risks, if you’ll excuse the vulgar phrasing, Universal blowing their load too early. Universal didn’t keep their powder dry. Hold Jekyll and Hyde back and you’ve got a whole other movie in store to unleash. If The Mummy goes down, you’ve got another shot. Notice how Marvel, in the first Iron Man film, only announced Nick Fury in the post credit scene. They could easily have cut it had the test screenings been bad, and simply kept it as a one-off movie that made a decent splash, whilst also jettisoning the movie from a wider connected universe if they needed to. They can even bring Iron Man back into the storyline in 10 movies time if it takes them that long to get into their rhythm.
The Dark Universe, complete with logo at the beginning of the movie, announces very plainly that everything goes together. You’ve got obvious nods to Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the jars Prodigum has in its stores, clearly showing Universal’s intention to use them at a later phase. In one, opening movie, we’ve got four of the classic monsters together. All we needed was someone to be invisible, and Jekyll to have a daughter marrying a doctor called Victor Frankenstein, and Universal would have taken down almost every monster they had in their arsenal in one go.
In a bid to outdo Marvel with their interconnected universe, the producers relied on the fan base of the monsters of the past to carry the movie with references and nods all by themselves. In the end, when these fans didn’t get what they wanted, Universal were left canning the other projects they had set up. Their interconnected world had crashed at the first hurdle, and because the rest of their plans were integral to the first film being a hit, it set up a chain of dominos that knocked the other films down.
One can only hope that Leigh Whannell (and Blumhouse, I believe) will have the sense to work slowly, building up a series of films that are tense, scary, and operate by themselves, which have the potential, but not the necessity, to interlink later on. Whannell has already established himself (along with James Wan, ironically directing movies in another connected universe, having released Aquaman last year), at being able to bring about an interlinked horror franchise with The Conjuring universe. Let’s hope that he can learn from the mistakes that Universal made with The Mummy, and slowly bring us the spectacle we all wanted, and still want, to see.
Production Set to Begin on Next Installment of Hit Found-footage Franchise
Los Angeles, CA — Pack your bags for another terrifying stay at the infernal Abaddon Hotel. HELL HOUSE LLC III: LAKE OF FIRE, the third installment in the hit found-footage horror franchise, has started production as of May 1 and will premiere exclusively on Shudder later this year.
Writer/director Stephen Cognetti and producer Joe Bandelli have returned for the new installment, along with many of the original Hell House LLC cast. The following castmates will reprise their roles: Ryan Jennifer Jones (Sara), Danny Bellini (Alex), Gore Abrams (Paul), Adam Schneider (Mac), Theodore Bouloukos (Robert) and Jared Hacker (Tony). They are joined by returning Hell House LLC II cast members Joy Shatz (Molly), Jillian Geurts (Jessica) and Brian David Tracy as the demonic former Abaddon Hotel owner Andrew Tully.
Shudder manager Craig Engler has talked about the franchise, recently. Engler said of the films: “the Hell House LLC franchise on Shudder has been hugely popular, and our worldwide premiere of Hell House LLC 2 last year was one of our most watched films ever.” Engler also said of the film’s debut: “we couldn’t be more thrilled to premiere the final chapter of this epically terrifying series exclusively on Shudder!”
West Hollywood, CA – Shed of the Dead is a zombie thriller, from director Drew Cullingham (Umbrage). One part Shaun of the Dead and one part 28 Days Later, the film follows two slackers, who whittle their days away playing Dungeons & Dragons and painting figurines. As life pressures build up for Trevor (Spencer Brown) and Graham (Ewen MacIntosh), events take an unexpected turn, when the undead turn up in their little gardening spot. Now, it is a fight for survival, in a real zombie apocalypse – this May!
Shed of the Dead is bringing some of the most fearsome horror icons to the screen. Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame, along with Bill Moseley (3 From Hell) and Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977) will be part of the action – some in undead form. As well, all three actors will be at: Shriekfest and Monsterpalooza to talk about this re-animated film.
This zombierific title will began a theatrical launch this May, through Indican Pictures. The first showing of the film will take place in North Hollywood, at the Laemmle Theatre, this May 17th. Another showing, across the pond, will begin this May 18th, in London (Sci-fi London). After a theatrical release, which will take place in at least four countries, Shed of the Dead will be available on DVD and Digital platforms this June 6th! There will be lots of opportunities for film fans to see this horror comedy shamble on both big and little screens, this Spring and Summer.
West Hollywood, CA – The Drag Queen horror film Killer Unicorn has just been acquired by distribution house Indican Pictures, at the Cannes Film Festival. Part comedy and all party, Killer Unicorn is the latest film from long time director Drew Bolton and writer Jose D. Alvarez. Set in the underground dance scene of Brooklyn, New York, this film brings a serial killer into the mix. As the local Drag Queens are targeted, survivors must use their special, very unique skills to save themselves and track down this stalker. Killer Unicorn will be in theatres this month, across the United States.
Writer Alvarez has talked about the film at several major magazines. At Billboard, Alvarez described the film as: “like John Waters topping John Carpenter, so equal parts scary, campy and queer.” This are two filmmaking icons that are hard to best. The writer also mentions that there are hidden references in the film: “so you will get some I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream and Halloween.” All of these films will combine with a colourful Brooklyn nightlife, this June 14th.
On this date, Indican Pictures will show the film from coast-to-coast. The initial theatrical release will take place in: New York City, Houston and Los Angeles. This first showing will be followed by other cities, with Killer Unicorn to show on DVD and Digital platforms July 9th. For now, horror fans can view some of many over-the-top characters from the film, including Lady Havok, Isis Vermouth and Latrice Royale, before the film’s wide release, next week!
Los Angeles, CATERROR FILMS has acquired worldwide rights to the chilling ride-share feature film END TRIP.
Aaron Jay Rome wears multiple hats in his critically acclaimed horror-thriller. Rome not only wrote, directed and produced the film, he also stars in the film as Brandon, a ride-share driver working for URYDE. On an otherwise quiet night, Brandon picks up Judd (Dean West). But unlike the usual pick-up and drop-off scenario, Judd explains that he recently went through a messy breakup and asks Brandon if he’d mind just driving around the city while they talk. Brandon agrees, offering an empathetic ear to Judd. As they continue to drive into the night Brandon and Judd appear to be forging a new found friendship. However beneath it all there is more to this ride-share than meets the eye and for one of them – this ride will be their last.
END TRIP has a large cast. The co-stars include: Ashley Lenz, Jaren Mitchell and Michelle West. Dean, who also produced the film with Rome, will next be seen co-starring in the Blumhouse & Universal horror film The Hunt.
TERROR FILMS has set the release date for Friday, June 21st, 2019. The film will roll out in North America on Prime Video and Vudu, initially. This release will be followed by another in the coming months, across multiple platforms such as Google Play, Vudu, TUBI TV, Roku and many more. International platforms iFlix and Horrify will also show the release, at a future date. A DVD release will take place later this year. For now, film fans can check out the official poster and trailer, courtesy of TERROR FILMS and be sure to watch END TRIP when it hits platforms on June 21st. It may change your mind about using a ride share service.
Want a nice, high-quality magazine, full-gloss with no advertisements? Then the Encyclopedia of Horror is for you.
The art is beautiful and the style is just what any horror addict would want to see with shots of their favorite actors, bloody handprints, and blood seeping from the corners.
There is tons of stuff to love in this magazine, but a few of my favorites are:
“Long in the Tooth: A brief history of Dracula and a host of other vampires.” This article does talk about Dracula but then explores how the myth came about. It touches on Byron, Polidori, and Sheridan LeFanu, the author of Carmilla. They also mention The Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, and cover all the vampire film adaptations from Dracula and Dark Shadows to Twilight and True Blood. With ten full-color pages of my favorite monster, it was hard not to love it out of the gate.
There are also in-depth articles on Frankenstein’s monster, The Exorcist, and great authors who bring our monsters to life. Like any self-respecting horror expose they have a top-10 Scream Queen list as well as a top 13 list of terror movies. One of the most interesting articles with something I haven’t seen before in print was about new horror creators highlighting Blumhouse, Jordan Peele, and the new IT.
Covering everything from aliens and psycho killers to vampires, werewolves, and zombies, this is a magazine you have to own. In fact, the only area of horror I saw missing was music. Perhaps they can add that in next time. The “Timeline of Terror” was especially visually stimulating, putting all of our movies in perspective from the 1920s to today.
Now, where can you get this awesome magazine full of our favorite subject? Well, you can’t order it online, but it is supposed to be in stores until December 31st, so run out and get one while they still last. If you aren’t near a store that stocks it, I’ve seen a few on eBay, but you got to act fast.
This was an exciting experience to review the Encyclopedia of Horror and I look forward to seeing what this creative team does in the future.
The International Horror Festival of Wales
13 – 18 November 2018
Coming into its thirteenth year, Abertoir goes from strength to strength. Located on the Aberystwyth University campus on the Welsh coast, the team have broken out the tents and the log cabins this year for the slasher/camping theme. Complete with the offsite screening of Friday the 13th: Part 3, in old-school 3D, the unlucky number 13 is the (un)lucky number in Wales as the year draws to a close.
Running from Nov. 13-18, and starting with a drinks reception and the classic 1984 film Sleepaway Camp, the bloody celebrations will be going off with a proper bang, or flash of the knife at the very least. No doubt the festival-goers will be partaking heavily of this year’s Abertoir ales, aptly named Black Christmas and Crystal Lake, as they plough on through a slew of slasher classics such as Slumber Party Massacre and Prom Night, along with new films such as Summer of ‘84, and Blumhouse’s new thriller, Cam, throughout the six-day run.
There are three UK premieres at this year’s festival, with Occult Bolshevism, The Black Forest, and Party Hard, Die Young, all getting their first outings on the isle in the Abertoir cinema. The short film competition (with previous years seeing modern classics like The Birch being shown) promises to be top-notch once again, showing off the new blood heading towards the horror stage.
It’s not just the films, however, that makes Abertoir unique, because there’s a whole slew of other events lined up for this year’s festival. From the traditional Bad Film Club, always a crowd favourite and chance to heckle your heart out, to the fascinating presentations and live performances, Abertoir always makes sure to make it an all-rounder of a week, not simply about the films. This is the festival that hosted the European premiere of Fabio Frizzi’s live composer’s cut for Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond a few years ago, and this year’s musical masterpiece looks to be the culminating event in The Elvis Dead, a one-man retelling of The Evil Dead, through Elvis Presley songs.
But what would a festival be without a special guest? Don’t think that just because it’s tucked away on the west coast of a little, mostly rural, country, that they don’t pull in some heavy hitters. Previous guests have included Doug Bradley, Victoria Price, Luigi Cozzi, Robin Hardy, Lamberto Bava, and a booked-but-unable-to-attend-on-the-day Sir James Herbert, so this year’s guest has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, they meet the criteria. Including a Q+A, a special screening of a new project, and a three-hour filmmaking masterclass… the one and only Sean S Cunningham will be venturing out to the windy coast. As if the festival needed another prestigious name on the list.
So if you’re in the UK and happen to have a few days free next week, Abertoir Festival 2018 promises to be a week stacked with cult classics, great premieres, lots of laughter and barrels of ale. And if you can’t make it this year, well, you know where to come next year.