Category Archives: Fright Club

A celebration of horror movies with updates on our monthly Fright Club film series at the Gateway Film Center.

Fright Club: Towns that Won’t Let Go

Being trapped in a town–whether by supernatural forces or physical ones–is a nightmare scenario that horror movies use to their advantage. Maybe it’s bloodthirsty kids in a cornfield who keep you. Maybe it’s some kind of unnatural barrier, and every time you leave, you wind up where you started. Either way, spooky times! Here are our five favorite towns that won’t let you leave!

5. Hilsboro: The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

One of those mid-afternoon TV watches one day home sick from school, this movie scared the shit out of me. Was it the kidnapping and possession of children? The Satanic cult? No–it was the idea that K.T. and Nicky could never leave the town. No matter what direction they drove or how they attempted it, they would never get out of the town.

That idea stuck with me for ages, but in restrospect, the movie has a lot of weird goodness going for it. It seems to have inspired Being John Malcovich to a degree, as well as Cemetery Man. It’s a B-movie, no question, but it is a lot of fun.

4. Camp Arcadia: The Endless (2017)

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead continue themes developed in the remarkable Resolution (which could also be on the list). And though it’s really a camp they need to leave, the dread the filmmakers develop is identical to that of the town that won’t let go.

As brothers return to the cult they’d escaped years earlier for a friendly visit, you spend every minute hoping, goading, yelling, begging them to fucking just leave! Get out! What are you still doing there?!

The tension is palpable and the fraternal familiarity between Justin and Moorhead is painfully, tenderly authentic. This works to ground the science fiction elements as they develop, creating an unnerving and memorable feature.

3. Hobbs End: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

John Carpenter combines King with Lovecraft to create an unforgettable journey into madness. Sam Neill is an insurance investigator out to prove that vanished author Sutter Cane is a phony. He just needs to get to Hobb’s End and prove it.

There’s a scene with a bicyclist on a country road that boasts of Carpenter’s genre magic, as madness and mayhem collude to keep Neill where he is, at least until he can serve a greater purpose.

2. Buffalora: Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore – [of death, of love], 1994)

Inarguably director Michele Soavi’s best work is confined mainly to the cemetery in Buffalora. Released the same year as In the Mouth of Madness, Cemetery Man explores a handful of the same themes. It just does it with more sex.

The film balances humor with horror, sneakily leading to meaner and more chaotic plot turns until there’s no going back.

Rupert Everett is perfection as Dellamorte, the cemetery keeper who has noticed that the dead come back about seven days after they’re interred. Things go from bad to worse to worse still, and finally he loads up his best friend Gnaghi and plans to put Buffalora behind him. Good luck.

1. The Yabba: Wake in Fright (1971)

First time in the Yabba?

Sweaty, drunken, debauched–Ted Kotcheff’s Aussie thriller wrings tension from every scene as John Grant, put-upon school teacher, explores his manliness with the very manliest in town.

A pressure cooker, the film is an absolute education in escalating tension, but it also boasts what may be the greatest performance of Donald Pleasance’s career.

The film is not for the faint of heart, and potential viewers beware: the kangaroo hunt is real.

Fright Club: Best Evening Gowns in Horror

We are thrilled to welcome Melissa LaMartina – actress, producer, director, and alter ego to Aurora Gorealis, macabre mistress of ceremonies for Shocktail Hour! Fashion icon that she is, Melissa recommended the topic Evening Gowns in Horror Movies.

We run through the best dressed, most fashionable to murder or be murdered in horror films. Listen in, won’t you?

5. Jesse (Elle Fanning) – blue dress in The Neon Demon (2016)

Nicolas Winding Refn’s first full-blown horror movie looks glorious from frame one. Elle Fanning and her co-stars carry off dozens of amazing gowns throughout the film, but it’s that shiny blue number Refn pairs with almost giallo-red blood and those lovely gemstones that left us breathless.

4. Elizabeth Medina (Barbara Steele) – red gown in The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Roger Corman may have skimped on a lot of things, but his costuming was top notch. And when doesn’t Barbara Steele pull off a look? Her character in The Pit and the Pendulum has something to hide, and the wardrobe changes with her mood. Our favorite mood is this red swashbuckling number, as it to announce that she was done pretending.

3. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) – white gown in Crimson Peak (2015)

Guillermo del Toro’s ghost story is his most fashionable film to date. Jessica Chastain’s Lucille Sharpe is defined by the stiffly dated frocks – gorgeous though they are–while Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is a vision of the future in this buttery satin gown.

2. Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) – silver gown in Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Every garment in this film is a stunner, and each gown worn by the divine Delphine Seyrig deserves its own spot on this list. But the silver number is truly to die for. The way the candle light bounces off the sequins gives Seyrig an otherworldly look that matches her magnificent performance.

1. Juliana (Hazel Court) – the red gown in The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Another Corman classic, The Masque of the Red Death swims in decadence, something captured magnificently by the wardrobe. Everyone looks stunning, but Hazel Court commands attention in two different ensembles. And though the green gown deserves its own spot, it’s the red dress – and how she wears it – that tops our list.

Fright Club: Unexpected Guests in Horror

It’s one of the oldest tropes in horror: an unexpected knock at the door. Maybe the visitors are in danger: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Human Centipede, The Old Dark House and countless others. Or, maybe it’s the folks inside who should be afraid: Knock, Knock; Brimstone and Treacle. For our 10th anniversary special, we count down the best “unexpected guest” horror.

5. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

The Eyes of My Mother will remind you of many other films, and yet there truly is no film quite like this one.

First time feature writer/director Nicolas Pesce, with a hell of an assist from cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, casts an eerie spell of lonesome bucolic horror.

Shot in ideal-for-the-project black and white, an Act 1 event could come from any number of horror films. A mother looks out her window to see her young daughter, playing alone in the front lawn, talking with a stranger. There is something clearly wrong with the stranger, and things take a bad turn. But for Pesce, this simple, well-worn set-up offers endless unexplored possibilities. Because this bad man doesn’t realize that the isolated farm family he’s come to harm is very comfortable with dissection.

4. The Strangers (2008)

“Is Tamara home?”

Writer/director Bryan Bertino creates an awful lot of terror beginning with that line.

A couple heads to an isolated summer home after a wedding. It was meant to be the first stop on their life together, or so we gather, but not all worked out as James (Scott Speedman) had planned. As he and what he’d hoped would be his fiancé, Kristen (Liv Tyler), sit awkwardly and dance around the issue, their very late night is interrupted by a knock and that immediately suspicious question.

Bertino beautifully crafts his first act to ratchet up suspense, with lovely wide shots that allow so much to happen quietly in a frame. This is a home invasion film with an almost unbearable slow burn.

3. Funny Games (1997, 2007)

A family pulls into their vacation lake home, and are quickly bothered by two young men in white gloves. Things, to put it mildly, deteriorate.

Writer/director Michael Haneke begins this nerve wracking exercise by treading tensions created through etiquette, toying with subtle social mores and yet building dread so deftly, so authentically, that you begin to clench your teeth long before the first act of true violence.

But it is the villains who sell the premise. Whether German actors Arno Frisch and Frank Giering or Americans Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt for his 2007 English language remake, the bored sadism that wafts from these kids is seriously unsettling, as, in turn, is the film.

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.

Two young, ordinary, healthy kids left Denton that fateful evening on a night out. It was a night out they were going to remember for a very long time.

Brad Majors (asshole) and Janet Weiss (slut) get themselves in a bit of a pickle on a rainy night and need to seek a telephone at that castle they past a few miles back. I think you know the rest.

1. The Black Cat (1934)

Rocky Horror owes a tremendous debt to Edgar G. Ulmer’s bizarre horror show. The film – clearly precode – boasts torture, tales of cannibalism, and more than the hint of necromancy.

Plus Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff?! What is not to love?

Loosely based on Poe’s The Black Cat – so loose in fact that it bears not a single moment’s resemblance to the short – the film introduces Lugosi’s Dr. Vitus Werdegast. He’s come to seek vengeance on Karloff’s mysterious Hjalmar Poelzig, if only Werdegast can overcome his all-consuming terror of cats!

Fright Club: Best Drunks in Horror Movies

Whether they’re merrymakers (Grabbers), comic relief (Mrs. MacHenry, Black Christmas), tempted heroes (Dan Torrance, Doctor Sleep), or outright villains (Jane, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane), the drunk is a staple of horror. They can generate a laugh to help offset tension, or develop dread along with their temptation. They can add tragedy, comedy, lunacy and even terror. Here are our favorite horror movie alcoholics.

5. John Grant (Gary Bond), Wake in Fright (1971)

An unrelenting work of tension and sweat, Ted Kotcheff’s Outback thriller follows an aggrieved school teacher who stops over for a single night in the Yabba on his way from his consripted teaching post to Sydney for Christmas.

One bad decision later, and he (John Grant) and we are trapped, possibly forever, in drunken, mad, dangerous, almost sadistic debauchery. Donald Pleasence co stars as part of a merry band of utter lunatics whose sold purpose seems to be to trap this man in their depravity with them.

4. Sam (Larry Fessenden), Habit (1995)

Writer/director/star Larry Fessenden explores alcoholism via vampire symbolism in this NY indie. Fessenden plays Sam, a longtime drunk bohemian type in the city. He’s recently lost his father, his longtime girlfriend finally cut bait, and he runs into a woman who is undoubtedly out of his league at a party.

And then he wakes up naked and bleeding in a park.

The whole film works beautifully as an analogy for alcoholism without crumbling under the weight of metaphor. Fessenden crafts a wise, sad vampiric tale here and also shines as its lead.

3. John Marshall (Jim Cummings), The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

Writer/director/star Jim Cummings is officer John Marshall of the Snow Hollow sheriff’s department. John’s father (Robert Forster, in his final role) is the longtime sheriff of the small ski resort town, but Dad’s reached the age and condition where John feels he’s really the one in charge.

John’s also a recovering alcoholic with a hot temper, a bitter ex-wife and a teen daughter who doesn’t like him much. But when a young ski bunny gets slaughtered near the hot tub under a full moon, suddenly John’s got a much bigger, much bloodier problem.

Cumming’s script, like his writing for Thunder Road, is full of life, and has hin again juggling random outbursts of absurd non-sequiturs and hilarious anger with real human issues of struggle and loss. John’s afraid of losing his father, women are being preyed upon, and a drink would sure hit the spot.

2. Wake (Willem Dafoe) & Winslow (Robert Pattinson), The Lighthouse (2019)

Robert Eggars has gone to sea. The Lighthouse strands you, along with two wickies, on the unforgiving island home of one lonely 1890s New England lighthouse.

Salty sea dog Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) keeps the light, mind ye. He also handles among the most impressive briny soliloquies delivered on screen in a lifetime. Joining him as second is one Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson)—aimless, prone to self-abuse, disinclined to appreciate a man’s cooking. Both enjoy a bit of drink.

This is thrilling cinema. Let it in, and it will consume you to the point of nearly missing the deft gothic storytelling at work. The film is other-worldly, surreal, meticulous and consistently creepy.

And we’ll tell you what The Lighthouse is not. It is not a film ye will soon forget.

1. Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson), The Shining (1980)

It’s isolated, it’s haunted, you’re trapped, but somehow nothing feels derivative and you’re never able to predict what happens next. It’s Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece rendition of Stephen King’s The Shining.

Jack Nicholson outdoes himself. His early, veiled contempt blossoms into pure homicidal mania, and there’s something so wonderful about watching Nicholson slowly lose his mind. Between writer’s block, isolation, ghosts, alcohol withdrawal, midlife crisis, and “a momentary loss of muscular coordination,” the playfully sadistic creature lurking inside this husband and father emerges.

Fright Club: True Love in Horror Movies

Love, exciting and new! Or, ancient and blood soaked. We’re not judging. There tends to be something wrong – lonesome, desperate, twisted, star crossed – about true love in horror. Maybe that’s what makes it so much more memorable. Here are our five favorite love stories in horror.

5. Spring (2014)

Evan (a spot-on Lou Taylor Pucci) has hit a rough patch. After nursing his ailing mother for two years, Evan finds himself in a bar fight just hours after her funeral. With grief dogging him and the cops looking to bring him in, he grabs his passport and heads to the first international location available: Italy.

It’s a wise setup, and an earnest Pucci delivers the tender, open performance the film requires. He’s matched by the mysterious Nadia Hilker as Louise, the beautiful stranger who captivates Evan.

At its core, Spring is a love story that animates the fear of commitment in a way few others do. The film’s entire aesthetic animates the idea of the natural world’s overwhelming beauty and danger. It’s a vision that’s equally suited to a sweeping romance or a monster movie, and since you’ll have a hard time determining which of those labels best fits Spring, it’s a good look.

4. Bones and All (2022)

The film follows Maren (an absorbing Taylor Russell, Waves), coming of age on the fringes of Reagan-era America. She meets and slowly falls for another outcast with similar tastes, Lee (Timothée Chalamet), and the two take to the road.

Given what the handsome young lovers have in common, you might expect a sort of meat lovers’ Badlands to follow. But Bones and All is less concerned with the carnage left in a wake than in what’s awakening in these characters themselves. 

Bones and All is a tough one to categorize. I suppose it’s a horror film, a romance, and a road picture – not three labels you often find on the same movie. In Guadagnino’s hands, it’s more than that, though. He embraces the strength of the solid YA theme that you have to be who you are, no matter how ugly the world may tell you that is. You have to be you, bones and all. Finding Maren’s way to that epiphany is heartbreaking and bloody but heroic, too.

3. Border (2018)

Sometimes knowing yourself means embracing the beast within. Sometimes it means making peace with the beast without. For Tina—well, let’s just say Tina’s got a lot going on right now.

Border director/co-writer Ali Abbasi (Holy Spider) has more in mind than your typical Ugly Duckling tale, though. He mines John Ajvide Lindqvist’s (Let the Right One In) short story of outsider love and Nordic folklore for ideas of radicalization, empowerment, gender fluidity and feminine rage.

The result is a film quite unlike anything else, one offering layer upon provocative, messy layer and Abbasi feels no compulsion to tidy up. Instead, he leaves you with a lot to think through thanks to one unyieldingly original film.

2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Ana Lily Amirpour has made the world’s first Iranian vampire movie, and though she borrows liberally and lovingly from a wide array of inspirations, the film she’s crafted is undeniably, peculiarly her own.

Set in Bad Town, a city depleted of life – tidy yet nearly vacant – Girl (Sheila Vand) haunts the shadowy, lonesome fringes of civilization. One by one we get to know a pimp, a prostitute, an addict, a street urchin, and handsome Arash (Arash Mirandi).

Watching their love story play out in the gorgeously stylized, hypnotic backdrop of Amirpour’s creation is among the most lonesome and lovely ways to enjoy a good bloodletting.

1. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Visionary writer/director Jim Jarmusch enlists Tom Hilddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve (perfect!), a vampire couple rekindling their centuries-old romance against the picturesque backdrop of…Detroit.

Not since the David Bowie/Catherine Deneuve pairing in The Hunger has there been such perfectly vampiric casting. Swinton and Hiddleston, already two of the most consistently excellent actors around, deliver cooly detached, underplayed performances, wearing the world- weariness of their characters in uniquely contrasting ways.

Jarmusch, as he often does, creates a setting that is totally engrossing, full of fluid beauty and wicked humor. The film moseys toward its perfect finale, casually waxing Goth philosophic about soul mates and finding your joy.

We found ours.

Fright Club: Nightmares Film Festival New Distribution Panel

In this bonus episode recorded live at Nightmares Film Festival from Gateway Film Center, the fest’s panel on what distribution looks like in 2023 for independent horror filmmakers.

This year Hope got to join a panel with Justin Seaman of Nevermore Production Film (and filmmaker behind The Barn & The Barn 2), Cicely Enriquez of The Owens Group, and Scott Donley of Good Deed/Cranked Up Films. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Fright Club: Hats in Horror

Hats! They tell you a lot about a villain. Norma’s lightning bolt hat in Carrie tells us that she lacks fashion sense. Leprechaun’s golden buckled hat tell us that he’s sassy. Art the Clown’s tiny little hat lets us know that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The Wicked Witch of the West wore the greatest, most iconic villain hat of all time, but The Wizard of Oz is not horror, so she didn’t make this list.

Who did make our list of best use of hats in a horror movie? Let us share with you.

5. The Grabber, The Black Phone (2021)

Ethan Hawke’s look for Scott Derrickson’s adaptation of the Joe Hill short story is epic. The constantly evolving, endlessly sinister mask is the push over the cliff, but it all starts with that hat. A black top hat not unlike the one that brought Frosty to life, this hat means magic.

He is a part time magician, after all! And in 1973, I guess people did not se magicians or clowns as scary. But they should have.

4. Mr. Dark, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Another dark top hat, Mr. Dark’s headwear of choice also conjures the image of magic. But somehow, even in Green Town, Illinois, Mr. Dark doesn’t look out of place with so formal a look. Sure, every other Joe wears something less fancy, but on Mr. Dark, the hat seems perfectly in place.

That’s all part of his charm.

3. Alex, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The bowler – headwear of choice for Alex and his Droogies. You have to look sharp when on the prowl for a bit of the old in and out.

The iconic costuming in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece adaptation of Anthony Burgress’s novel creates the mood for the piece. Somehow retro and futuristic, elegant and brutal, punk rock and Ludwig Van all come together in this one ensemble: white trousers, white shirt, white cod piece, and suspenders, black boots, one set of black lashes and that spiffy bowler. Welly, welly, welly, welly well.

2. The Babadook, The Babadook (2014)

If it’s in a word, or if it’s in a book
you can’t get rid of the Babadook.
He wears a hat
he’s tall and black
but that’s how they describe him in his book.
A rumbling sound, than three sharp knocks
you better run, or he’ll hold you in his locks.
Your closet opens
and your honestly hopin’
that he won’t hear a sound
but that’s when you know that he’s around.
The book close
you have an itch under your nose
and that’s just how the story goes.
So close your eyes and count to ten
better hope you don’t wake up again.
‘Cause if it’s in a word, or if it’s in a book
you can’t get rid of the Babadook
…. you’ll see him if you look

1. Rose the Hat, Doctor Sleep (2018)

Possibly the hottest villain since Salma Hayak wrapped a yellow python around her neck, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) will swallow your soul.

Ferguson’s performance is eerily, hauntingly believable in Mike Flanagan’s courageous take on Stephen King’s The Shining sequel. Of his many successes with this film, his villain ranks highest. Rose the Hat is savvy, strong, and more than anything, merciless.

Fright Club: Backwoods Messiahs in Horror Movies

What is it about one charismatic leader that can cause so much devastation? Horror filmmakers have long dug into the narcissism, vanity, and downright evil that lurks within these figures. Here are our five favorite films about a backwods Messiah.

5. The Sacrament (2014)

Ti West dives into Jim Jones territory in probably his most assured film prior to X. A cast of West regulars Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen join the great Gene Jones for a tense news event.

West mines tensions, upends ideas of safety and power, but never dismisses the vulnerability that draws people toward charismatic figures like Father (Jones). It’s this openness that creates room for the real frights in the film.

4. Jug Face (2013)

Writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle brings together a fine cast including The Woman’s Sean Bridgers and Lauren Ashley Carter, as well as genre favorite Larry Fessenden and late-life scream queen Sean Young to spin a backwoods yarn about incest, premonitions, kiln work, and a monster in a pit.

As a change of pace, Bridgers plays a wholly sympathetic character as Dawai, village simpleton and jug artist. On occasion, a spell comes over Dawai, and when he wakes, there’s a new jug on the kiln that bears the likeness of someone else in the village. That lucky soul must be fed to the monster in the pit so life can be as blessed and peaceful as before.

Kinkle mines for more than urban prejudice in his horror show about religious isolationists out in them woods. Young is particularly effective as an embittered wife, while Carter, playing a pregnant little sister trying to hide her bump, a jug, and an assortment of other secrets, steals the show.

3. Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019)

As colorful as a dream, Juan Diego Escobar Alzate’s feature film debut Luz: The Flower of Evil looks like magic and brims with the casual brutality of faith.

Set inside a religious community in the mountains of Colombia, the film drops us into ongoing struggles with the group’s religious leader, El Señor (Conrad Osorio). No one knows the devil as he does, he reminds his daughter Laila (Andrea Esquivel).

She lives contentedly, devoutly, along with her two adopted sisters. El Señor and the villagers consider the trio angels—just as they believe the little boy chained up out back is the Messiah who will deliver the community from its recent calamities.

2. The Other Lamb (2019)

The first step toward freedom is telling your own story.

Writer C.S. McMullen and director Malgorzata Szumowska tell this one really well. Between McMullen’s outrage and the macabre lyricism of Szumowska’s camera, The Other Lamb offers a dark, angry and satisfying coming-of-age tale.

Selah (Raffey Cassidy, Killing of a Sacred DeerVox Lux) has never known any life except that of Eden, the commune where she lives with the sisters, the wives, and the Sheperd (Michiel Huisman, The Invitation).

Szumowska doesn’t tell as much as she unveils: Selah’s defiant streak, Sheperd’s unspoken rules, what puberty can mean if you’re a good follower. She strings together a dreamlike series of visions that horrify on a primal level, the imagery giving the film the feel of gruesome poetry more than narrative.

The Other Lamb does not simply suggest you question authority. It demands that you do far more than that, and do it for your own good.

1. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Writer/director Sean Durkin took essentially the Charles Manson story, set it within modern privilege, and swapped the point of view to create an unnervingly realistic look at the reasons people find themselves drawn to cults.

And then, once we relate to Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), he sets the true terror in motion.

This film – through brilliantly written and beautifully directed – benefits from perhaps the best ensemble of 2011: Sarah Paulson, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Julia Garner, Hugh Dancy. But Olsen’s fearless, vulnerable turn as the woman who just doesn’t fit is only exceeded by the great John Hawes in the most mesmerizing, blistering turn of his magnificent career.

Fright Club: Horror at the Dinner Table

The dinner scene is a staple in all of film. It’s a way to get to know the family, tweak tensions, display power struggles, uncover secrets, get sentimental, get gross.

And horror filmmakers have mined the anxiety of the dinner table brilliantly for decades. Hereditary‘s “I am your mother!” to The Invitation‘s big reveal, Invisible Man‘s public, damning murder to Beetlejuice‘s singing possession to every amazing scene in The Menu. There are dozens of worthy scenes and films to discuss, but since we must limit ourselves, here are our five favorite dinner scenes in horror.

5. Freaks (1932)

It’s the turning point in Tod Browning’s controversial film. It’s the moment when all the circus freaks embrace Cleopatra, accept her as family.

Gooble gobble gooble gobble, one of us! One of us! The proud call of the outcast, a phrase adopted and beloved but horror fans and weirdos the world over. Could Browning have known when he filmed this boisterous celebration that he’d instantly created a classic?

4. Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992)


Peter Jackson knows gross out splatter gore. If he didn’t prove that with his first films, he owns it with Dead Alive. Power tools and priests, zombie babies and Sumatran Rat Monkeys, and one delicious custard.

That custard bit wins. The dinner scene in this film – a movie spilling over with viscera – is among the most disgusting things ever set to film.

Bravo, Peter Jackson!

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Master! Dinner is prepared!

Poor Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, perfection). These party crashers have ruined his big event AND Rocky’s birthday party! And now that repugnant old scientist is here looking for Eddie – a rather tender subject.

An exceptional cast, a clever dance of allegiances, a showy reveal and my favorite “Happy Birthday” meme all roll into one delicious dish!

2. Eraserhead (1977)

Henry (Jack Nance) is so uncomfortable in this scene, and it’s the first scene where the audience really associates with him. He’s a hard character to get behind until he goes to his girlfriend Mary’s parents’ house for dinner.

Her dad tells this weird story and asks him to do the honors of cutting the meat. He’s nervous, wants to vanish, is afraid to say no but has no idea what to do.

Which is probably everybody’s fear in such a situation. Although, this being a David Lynch film, none of us will ever have exactly this experience. Man, Mom seems to be really invested.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

It is around the dinner table that a guest gets to see the true family dynamics. Sally’s getting a good look. Like a really close up, veiny eyed look.

This is the scene that grounds Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece. Suddenly it’s a family with a lived-in vibe and a backstory. And another person’s face. And a metal basin and a nearly mummified old man.

Edwin Neal’s already had his chance to nab the spotlight in the van, and of course Gunnar Hansen’s the star of the show. It’s in this scene that Jim Siedow gets to dig in and create an unforgettable character. And Sally (Marilyn Burns – god bless her) – goes through a lot and comes out the other side.