Tag Archives: Carrie

Fright Club: Closets in Horror

There are few spots on earth that generate more terror than a closet. Maybe the woods, the darkness beneath your bed, but what else? And why? We look into our favorite scary moments in cinematic closets for the latest episode, joined by filmmaker Timothy Troy, who knows a little bit about this topic.

5. Poltergeist (1982)

There are so many moments in Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s Eighties gem to point to. But the clown alone, or the meat face alone, or any one of those memorable moments alone wouldn’t have made the film the classic it is. It needed that closet.

We’re used to seeing a closet as a small, dark, creepy space but at Cuesta Verde, it’s a gateway to another dimension. One that could suck your little pajama-clad daughter in. One that could belch out a giant beast that will eat your family whole.

4. Halloween (1978)

The scene has been done to death by now, but when John Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill first put Laurie Strode in that louver doored closet, audiences lost their shit.

Why would she do it? To buy time for the kids to escape because she’s smart and selfless. And then what? She’ll fashion a tool to take down the intruder. The scene cements Strode as the film’s true hero, but waiting in that tiny little space with slats of light and Michael’s breathing was a test of endurance for the audience. One that hundreds of horror movies have ripped off but none has recreated.

3. The Ring (2002)

Who saw that coming? No one, that’s who.

2. Carrie (1976)

Piper Laurie turns in one of the most gloriously villainous mother characters in cinematic history, terrifying and self-righteous. But this is a moment in Carrie White’s life (a luminous Sissy Spacek). Carrie is fighting back.

And you know what that means.

That means the closet.

1. The Conjuring (2013)

We are very rarely fans of the jump scare, but we give it to director James Wan. He is the master.

And yes, it’s technically a bureau rather than a walk-in closet, but man, we jumped.

Fright Club: Menstruation in Horror

Only Women Bleed? Sunday Bloody Sunday? Let It Bleed? What song would we have chosen to open the new podcast? There are more possibilities than we might have imagined—in song and in film—as we celebrate the monthly curse with a talk about the best horror movies concerning menstruation. Do you have the stones to listen?

5. It Stains the Sands Red (2016)

We open with some impressive aerial shots of the smoking, neon ruin of the Las Vegas strip. Cut to another gorgeous aerial of a sports car zipping up a desert highway. In it, a couple of coked-up strip club lowlifes, Molly (Brittany Allen) and Nick (Merwin Mondesir), are escaping to an airfield where they’ll meet with other lowlifes and head to an island off Mexico.

Naturally, this isn’t going to work out. But what co-writer/director Colin Minihan has in store will surprise you. He’s made a couple of fine choices with his film. The point of view character is not only an unlikely protagonist – an unpleasant thug with a drug habit – but she’s also female.

Soon the car goes off the road and one meathead catches her scent, and suddenly Molly’s stripper shoes are not her biggest problem as she faces a 30-mile trek across the desert to the airfield.

What develops is an often fascinating, slow moving but relentless chase as well as a character study. With a protagonist on a perilous journey toward redemption, It Stains the Sands Red takes a structure generally reserved for the man who needs to rediscover his inner manhood and tells a very female story.

Very female. Menstruation and everything.

4. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Writer/director Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil) spins a hypnotic tale of family and ghosts—both literal and metaphorical. Tale of Two Sisters is a deep, murky and intensely female horror.

A tight-lipped father returns home with his daughter after her prolonged hospital stay. Her sister has missed her; her stepmother has not. Or so it all would seem, although jealousy, dream sequences, ghosts, a nonlinear timeframe and confused identity keep you from ever fully articulating what is going on. The film takes on an unreliable point of view, subverting expectations and keeping the audience off balance. But that’s just one of the reasons it works.

No line of dialog, no visual is wasted. The seemingly simple moment of one daughter needing to borrow a feminine product from her stepmother works in a dozen ways: to introduce blended identities, to exacerbate the uncomfortable familiarity, to foreshadow future horror.

Tale masters the slow reveal in large and small ways. Whether you’ve begun to unravel the big mystery or not, Tale always has something else up its sleeve. Or, under its table.

3. Excision (2012)

Outcast Pauline (a very committed AnnaLynne McCord) is a budding surgeon. She’s not much of a student, actually, but she does have an affinity for anatomy. Especially blood. Pauline really, really likes blood.

A horror film focused on an adolescent girl as antihero is likely to involve 1) menstruation, 2) a mom. Excision is no different. Well, it is a little different.

The mom is Traci Lords, in what is certainly her most assured dramatic performance. Her arc is interesting: overbearing and cold and, eventually, probably correct in her unfavorable assessment of her eldest girl.

Writer/director Richard Bates, Jr. takes more of an unusual course when bringing in Pauline’s cycle, though. I’m not sure we’ve seen it handled quite like this before, although to be fair, it’s definitely in keeping with the peculiar and beautifully realized character he and McCord have created.

2. Ginger Snaps (2000)

Sisters Ginger and Bridget, outcasts in the wasteland of Canadian suburbia, cling to each other, and reject/loathe high school (a feeling that high school in general returns).

On the evening of Ginger’s first period, she’s bitten by a werewolf. Writer Karen Walton cares not for subtlety: the curse, get it? It turns out, lycanthropy makes for a pretty vivid metaphor for puberty. This turn of events proves especially provocative and appropriate for a film that upends many mainstay female cliches.

Walton’s wickedly humorous script stays in your face with the metaphors, successfully building an entire film on clever turns of phrase, puns and analogies, stirring up the kind of hysteria that surrounds puberty, sex, reputations, body hair and one’s own helplessness to these very elements. It’s as insightful a high school horror film as you’ll find, peppered equally with dark humor and gore.

1. Carrie (1976)

What else? Nobody did moms, the pain of adolescence, the horror of the onslaught of womanhood, or period quite like Brian De Palma’s 1976 original. Is there a more tragic scene? Is there a scene that better establishes a character, a context or horror?

De Palma films the scene in question, appropriately enough, like a tampon commercial, all cheese cloth and beautific music. And then Carrie White (Oscar nominated Sissy Spacek) desperately claws at her classmates, believing she is dying. It’s the most authentic image of vulnerability and terror you can imagine, matched in its horror by the reaction she receives from those she seeks: laughter, mockery and contempt.

Beyond the epitome of adolescent mortification that the scene represents, it also clarifies the unspoken relationship between Carrie and her as-of-yet unintroduced mother, who has never told her teenaged daughter that this was coming.

The result is the ultimate in mean girl cinema and an introduction to a nearly perfect horror film.





Fright Club: Best Horror Endings, Part 2

Thanks to S.A. Bradley of Hellbent for Horror for joining us to finish out our look at the best endings in horror movie history. A tough list to finalize, for sure, this one hits on some of the most brutal and memorable parting shots on film.

5. Kill List (2011)

Ben Wheatley’s diabolical 2011 indie slides from grim Brit crime thriller into something far more sinister.

Hitman Jay (a volcanic Neil Maskell) is wary to take another job after the botched Kiev assignment, but his bank account is empty and his wife Shel (an also eruptive MyAnna Buring) has become vocally impatient about carrying the financial load. But this new gig proves to be seriously weird.

The final act offers something simultaneously fitting and surprising. Wheatley’s climax recalls a couple of other horror films, but what he does with the elements is utterly and bewilderingly his own.

4. The Mist (2007)

If there’s one thing a successful Stephen King adaptation needs, it’s a writer/director who knows how to end a story. For all of King’s many strengths, ending his tale is no a strong suit.

Frank Darabont has certainly proven to have a knack for King’s source material, having helmed among the most successful and beloved films based on King’s books. But with The Mist, he outdid himself.

Thomas Jane plays a writer who, along with his young son, finds himself trapped in a grocery store when an opening in the space/time continuum allows giant, bloodthirsty creatures into New England. What begins as a wonderful creature feature turns into a terrifying Lord of the Flies before setting us up with a gut punch of utter, devastating perfection in a horror film ending.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktqNNsVJhUE

3. Carrie (1976)

Another excellent King adaptation, Brian De Palma’s Carrie streamlines King’s sprawling ending to focus our attention where it will do the most damage.

And yes, the entirety of Act 3 is magnificent, but De Palma started something with those final, lingering images. He goes back to the cheese-cloth fuzziness of the earliest moments of the film as Sue Snell (this is really all your fault, Sue Snell!) glows with goodness and self-sacrifice. Only she truly loved poor, misunderstood Carrie.

Sue carries white flowers to the unholy ground where Carrie White lies.

And BLAM! De Palma has invented a new and forever mimicked horror movie ending.

2. Martyrs (2008)

Holy shit. This film is a brilliant and brutal test of endurance.

Writer/director Pascal Laugier’s mystifying sense of misdirection shares the aching, dysfunctional love of two best friends as one descends into madness. But that is not the point.

A couple of abrupt story turns later and we learn the point of the film and the film’s title. That’s about the time we meet Mademoiselle (Cahterine Begin, perfect).

And after ninety minutes of dread and terror, the climax Pascal and Mademoiselle have in store for you may not be satisfying, but it is perfect.

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

From the brightly lit opening cemetery sequence to the paranoid power struggle in the house to the devastating closing montage, Night of the Living Dead teems with the racial, sexual and political tensions of its time. An unsettlingly relevant George A. Romero knew how to push societal panic buttons.

As the first film of its kind, the lasting impact of this picture on horror cinema is hard to overstate. His inventive imagination created the genre and the monster from the ground up.

Still, the shrill sense of confinement, the danger of one inmate turning on another, and the unthinkable transformation going on in the cellar build to a startling climax – one that utterly upends expectations – followed by the kind of absolutely genius ending that guarantees the film’s eternal position in the annals of horror cinema.





Fright Club: Mothers and Daughters in Horror

The relationship between mothers and daughters informs an awful lot of great horror films from The Exorcist to Black Swan. Frightmare suggests that becoming your mother is inescapable. The Woman tells us that if we can’t raise our daughters right, a more alpha mom might show up and do it for us. The Ring and Mom and Dad remind us that moms aren’t perfect. They have bad days. Sometimes they may want to drop you down a well.

We focus on five horror films where that relationship between mother and daughter informs and impacts the storyline in a substantial way.

5. The Bad Seed (1956)

The minute delicate Christine’s (Nancy Kelly) husband leaves for his 4-week assignment in DC, their way-too-perfect daughter begins to betray some scary behavior. The creepy handyman Leroy (Henry Jones) has her figured out – he knows she’s not as perfect as she pretends.

You may be tempted to abandon the film in its first reel, feeling as if you know where it’s going. You’ll be right, but there are two big reasons to stick it out. One is that Bad Seed did it first, and did it well, considering the conservative cinematic limitations of the Fifties.

Second, because director Mervyn LeRoy’s approach – not a single vile act appears onscreen – gives the picture an air of restraint and dignity while employing the perversity of individual imaginations to ramp up the creepiness.

Enough can’t be said about Patty McCormack. There’s surprising nuance in her manipulations, and the Oscar-nominated 9-year-old handles the role with both grace and menace.

4. Hounds of Love (2016)

It is the late 1980s in Perth, Australia, and at least one young girl has already gone missing when the grounded Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) sneaks out her bedroom window to attend a party. She doesn’t like staying with her mom, who left her dad and ruined the family and her life.

So she sneaks out, which isn’t nearly as dumb a move as is accepting a ride from Evie White (Emma Booth) and her husband, John (Stephen Curry).

Writer/director Ben Young’s amazing feature debut works on so many levels and showcases a master visual storyteller almost as brilliantly as it shines the light on three phenomenal performances.

What is it that may finally undo the evil the Whites have planned? One mother’s relentless devotion to her daughter and another mother’s sudden, stabbing empathy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNEurXzvHqE

3. Eyes of My Mother (2016)

Francisca’s mother had been an eye surgeon back in Portugal.

“We used to do dissections together. She always hoped I’d be a surgeon one day.”

Though Mom appears only in Act 1 of writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s modern horror masterpiece Eyes of My Mother, her presence echoes throughout the lonely farmhouse Francesca rarely leaves.

Yes, the skills her mother imparted coupled with the trauma Francesca faced bleeds together to create a character whose splintered psyche keeps her from seeing that she’s taking some extreme measures to cure her lonliness.

This is one of the most beautifully filmed horror movies ever made, and as impeccable as the cinematography, the sound is even more important and magnificent. Together with restrained performances and jarring images, Eyes of My Mother is a film that sticks around even after it’s gone. Like a mom.

2. The Witch (2015)

There is a lot going wrong for poor Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). But it all starts when the baby goes missing on her watch. Her mother (Kate Dickie) never forgives her for it and soon Mother is finding faults with Thomasin, making accusations that even Father, who knows better, won’t defend.

For The Witch to work, for us to tentatively hope that Black Philip talks back, Thomasin has to basically lose everything, and it all starts with her mother’s love and respect. Soon her mother’s bitterness turns to competition for the affection of the menfolk, accusations of all sorts of wrongoing, all of which spirals out of control until Thomasin has no one left, no one who will love her and look after her, except that goat.

Robert Egger’s unerringly authentic deep dive into radicalization, gender inequality and isolation is all sparked with one act that irrevocably ruptures one relationship.

1. Carrie (1976)

There is nobody quite like Margaret White. Oscar nominee Piper Laurie saw the zealot for all her potential and created the greatest overbearing mother film has ever seen. (We never did see Mrs. Bates, did we?)

Sissy Spacek (also Oscar nominated for her performance) is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance. Her simpleton characterization would have been overdone were it not for Laurie’s glorious, evil zeal. It’s easy to believe this particular mother could have successfully smothered a daughter into Carrie’s stupor.

De Palma and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen streamline King’s meandering finale. Wise, because once the dance drama is done, we just want to find out what happens at home, and Mrs. White doesn’t disappoint.





Fright Club: Coming of Age Horror

For many – perhaps most – coming of age is a horror in and of itself, full of confusion, embarrassment, personality change, even blood. Which is why it is ripe fodder for horror, a genre that has plumbed the depths of adolescent despair for any number of monster movies, slashers, camping horrors, and nasty prom dates. Today we celebrate the unmitigated horror of burgeoning adulthood with our list of the five best Coming of Age horror films, with the help of Get It Together podcasters Pete Stroup and David Huff.

 

5. Ginger Snaps

Sisters Ginger and Bridget, outcasts in the wasteland of Canadian suburbia, cling to each other, and reject/loathe high school (a feeling that high school in general returns).

On the evening of Ginger’s first period, she’s bitten by a werewolf. Writer Karen Walton cares not for subtlety: the curse, get it? It turns out, lycanthropy makes for a pretty vivid metaphor for puberty. This turn of events proves especially provocative and appropriate for a film that upends many mainstay female cliches.

Walton’s wickedly humorous script stays in your face with the metaphors, successfully building an entire film on clever turns of phrase, puns, and analogies, stirring up the kind of hysteria that surrounds puberty, sex, reputations, body hair, and one’s own helplessness to these very elements. It’s as insightful a high school horror film as you’ll find, peppered equally with dark humor and gore.

 

 

4. Let the Right One In

In 2008, Sweden’s Let the Right One In emerged as an original, stylish thriller – and the best vampire flicks in years. A spooky coming of age tale populated by outcasts in the bleakest, coldest imaginable environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure.

Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar with a blond Prince Valiant cut falls innocently for the odd new girl (an outstanding Lina Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. Reluctantly, she returns his admiration, and a sweet and bloody romance buds.

This is a coming of age film full of life lessons and adult choices, told with a tremendous atmosphere of melancholy, tainted innocence, and isolation. Plus the best swimming pool carnage scene ever.

The unsettling scene is so uniquely handled, not just for horrifying effect (which it certainly achieves), but to reinforce the two main characters, their bond, and their roles. It’s beautiful, like the strangely lovely film itself.

 

 

3. Carrie

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of Stephen King’s first full length novel, the tale of an unpopular teenager who marks the arrival of her period by suddenly embracing her psychic powers.

Sure the film opens like a ‘70s soft core porno, with images created by a director who has clearly never been in a girls’ locker room and therefore chose to depict the one in his dirty, dirty mind. But as soon as the bloody stream punctures the dreamlike shower sequence, we witness the definitive moment in Mean Girl Cinema. The “plug it up” refrain, coupled with Sissy Spacek’s authentic, even animalistic portrayal of panic, sets a tone for the film. Whatever Carrie may do, we (the voyeurs, no doubt more like the normal kids than like Carrie) are to blame.

This film exposes a panic about the onslaught of womanhood. The same panic informs <em>The Exorcist</em> and dozens of others, but De Palma’s version offers more sympathy than most. Spacek is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance.

 

 

2. It Follows

It Follows is a coming of age tale that mines a primal terror.  Yes, it’s the STD or horror movies, but don’t let that dissuade you. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell understands the anxiety of adolescence and he has not simply crafted yet another cautionary tale about premarital sex.

Mitchell has captured that fleeting yet dragging moment between childhood and adulthood and given the lurking dread of that time of life a powerful image. There is something that lies just beyond the innocence of youth. You feel it in every frame and begin to look out for it, walking toward you at a consistent pace, long before the characters have begun to check the periphery themselves.

Mitchell borrows from a number of coming of age horror shows, but his film is confident enough to pull it off without feeling derivative in any way. The writer/director takes familiar tropes and uses them with skill to lull you with familiarity, and then terrify you with it.

 

 

1. The Witch

Ideas of gender inequality, sexual awakening, slavish devotion to dogma, and isolationism roil beneath the surface of this film, yet the tale itself is deceptively simple. One family, fresh off the boat from England in 1630 and expelled from their puritanical village, sets up house and farm in a clearing near a wood.

There William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) will raise their five children: the infant Samuel, young twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), nearly adolescent Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and the eldest, Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), nearly a woman now.

As a series of grim catastrophes befalls the family, members turn on members with ever-heightening hysteria. The Witch creates an atmosphere of the most intimate and unpleasant tension, a sense of anxiety that builds relentlessly and traps you along with this helpless, miserable family.

As frenzy and paranoia feed on ignorance and helplessness, tensions balloon to bursting. You are trapped as they are trapped in this inescapable mess, where man’s overanxious attempt to purge himself absolutely of his capacity for sin only opens him up to the true evil lurking, as it always is, in the woods.

 





Fright Club: Horror at the High School Dance

Love is in the air! And it smells a lot like prom. If you thought your own prom was a dud – crap DJ, your date was grounded, your date wore corduroy, unplanned pregnancy, what have you – well, here’s a list of five high school dances that made yours look like an absolute joy. You know what we’ve learned from looking into this topic? It’s always fun to see someone die on prom night.

Listen to our whole podcast HERE.

5. Prom Night (1980)

Saturday Night Fever meets Carrie in this high school slasher that’s utterly preoccupied with disco and Jamie Lee Curtis’s boobs. Who isn’t?!

You’ll find red herrings and Seventies cop drama in a plot that, as Scream later points out, became the framework for countless films to follow. But Prom Night did it first. It did it really sloppily, but man did it bring its boogie shoes.

Who’s the killer? Is it the pervy janitor? The disfigured escaped mental patient? The vindictive ex and her hoodlum new boyfriend? It all builds to a bloodbath on prom night, so boogie down!

See it for the super-colossal dance-off. Go Jamie Lee and Jamie Lee’s thumbs, go! Is that Leslie Nielsen? Who brought that glitter?

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Joss Whedon may have gotten more miles and more artistic satisfaction from the TV series, but what he did not have was Paul Reubens. Or Rutger Hauer, for that matter. How did he think that would work?

Back in ’92, Hauer and Reubens played vampires (thank you!) bent on draining a California town, but one superficial mean girl at the local high school happens to be the Chosen One, the Slayer, or so says Donald Sutherland, and it generally seems like a fine idea to listen to him. Kristy Swanson then flirts with Luke Perry while training to stake some bloodsuckers.

Swanson is joined by Ben Affleck and Hilary Swank as vacuous teens in a highly dated but no less fun horror comedy. The film may be too campy for Whedon’s taste, but anytime you crown Rutger Hauer prom king, you can count us in.

3. Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

“Do you know what’s cooler than cool? Scouting!”

OK, maybe not, but Boy Scouts are exactly the people you need on your zombie survival team. Who doesn’t know that? They know how to tie knots properly, they can forage, find their way around in the woods, and they’re handy. They’re prepared. Duh.

Director Christopher Landon, working with a team of writers, puts this wickedly logical premise into action with his bloody horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.

This is not a family film, though – make no mistake. This is definitely an R-rated movie, but for all its juvenile preoccupations and vulgar body horror, a childlike sweetness runs through it that keeps it forever fun to watch.

Cleverly written, directed with a keen eye toward detail and pacing, brimming with laughs, gore, friendship, and dismembered appendages – but utterly lacking in cynicism or irony – it’s a blast of a film with a lot to offer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5e7Mr7eVTk

2. Carrie (1976)

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of Stephen King’s first full length novel, the tale of an unpopular teenager who marks the arrival of her period by suddenly embracing her psychic powers.

Sissy Spacek is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance. Her simpleton characterization would have been overdone were it not for Piper Laurie’s glorious evil zeal as her religious wacko mother. It’s easy to believe this particular mother could have successfully smothered a daughter into Carrie’s stupor.

One ugly trick at the prom involving a bucket of cow’s blood, and Carrie’s psycho switch is flipped. Spacek’s blood drenched Gloria Swanson on the stage conducting the carnage is perfectly over-the-top. And after all the mean kids get their comeuppance, Carrie returns home to the real horror show.

1. The Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés and deftly maneuvers between angsty, gritty drama and neon pink carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Byrne quietly crafts an atmosphere of loss and depression in and around the school without painting the troubles cleanly. This slow reveal pulls the tale together and elevates it above a simple work of outrageous violence.

Inside Lola’s house, the mood is decidedly different. Here, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc





Fright Club: Best Stephen King Movies

We greet an honest to god expert for this week’s podcast, as Dr. Neil McRobert (you may know him better as NakMak!) joins us to talk about Stephen King films. Neil’s doctoral thesis concerned itself in part with King’s writings, and yet, somehow Hope decided she was still the more appropriate choice to determine the rankings of King films. Listen in and let us know who does a better job with the list. The whole conversation goes on HERE.

5. Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Taylor Hackford helms this generational saga of women in a man’s world. Not truly a horror film, it follows the tale of stern Mainer Dolores (the magnificent –as-always Kathy Bates), who’s been accused of murdering her contemptible boss, Vera Donovan (an outstanding Judy Parfitt). Dolores’s estranged daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) returns to the Maine island of her birth to support her mom from being railroaded, as the entire town believes Dolores has already gotten away with murder once.

The film is an achievement in casting above all things. Bates is brilliant, and so is David Strathairn, playing against type as abusive white trash husband and father. Tony Gilroy’s screenplay is delicately faithful to King’s novel, a character-driven drama that boasts some excellent lines – most of them landing in Parfitt’s mouth. Luckily she’s up to the challenge and makes it look easier than it should to be a bitch.

4. Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates had been knocking around Hollywood for decades, but no one really knew who she was until she landed Misery. Her sadistic nurturer Annie Wilkes – rabid romance novel fan, part time nurse, full time wacko – ranks among the most memorable crazy ladies of modern cinema.

James Caan plays novelist Paul Sheldon, who kills off popular character Misery Chastain, then celebrates with a road trip that goes awry when he crashes his car, only to be saved by his brawniest and most fervent fan, Annie. Well, she’s more a fan of Misery Chastain’s than she is Paul Sheldon’s, and once she realizes what he’s done, she refuses to allow him out of her house until she brings Misery back to literary life.

Caan seethes, and you know there’s an ass kicking somewhere deep in his mangled body just waiting to get out. But it’s Bates we remember. She nails the bumpkin who oscillates between humble fan, terrifying master, and put-upon martyr. Indeed, both physically and emotionally, she so thoroughly animates this nutjob that she secured an Oscar.

3. The Mist (2007)

Frank Darabont really loves him some Stephen King, having adapted and directed the writer’s work almost exclusively for the duration of his career. While The Shawshank Redemption may be Darabont’s most fondly remembered effort, The Mist is an underappreciated creature feature.

David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son head to town for some groceries. Meanwhile, a tear in the space/time continuum opens a doorway to alien monsters. So he, his boy, and a dozen or so other shoppers are all trapped inside this glass-fronted store just waiting for rescue or death.

Marcia Gay Harden is characteristically brilliant as the religious zealot who turns survival inside the store into something less likely than survival out with the monsters, but the whole cast offers surprisingly restrained but emotional turns.

The FX look good, too, but it’s the provocative ending that guarantees this one will sear itself into your memory.

2. Carrie (1976)

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of King’s first full length novel, the tale of an unpopular teenager who marks the arrival of her period by suddenly embracing her psychic powers.

Sissy Spacek is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance. Her simpleton characterization would have been overdone were it not for Piper Laurie’s glorious evil zeal as her religious wacko mother. It’s easy to believe this particular mother could have successfully smothered a daughter into Carrie’s stupor.

One ugly trick involving a bucket of cow’s blood, and Carrie’s psycho switch is flipped. Spacek’s blood drenched Gloria Swanson on the stage conducting the carnage is perfectly over-the-top. And after all the mean kids get their comeuppance, Carrie returns home to the real horror show.

1. 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.

Though critics were mixed at the time of the film’s release, and both Kubrick and co-star Shelley Duvall were nominated for Razzies, much of the world’s negative response had to do with a needless affection for the source material, which Kubrick and co-scriptor Diane Johnson use as little more than an outline.

A study in atmospheric tension, Kubrick’s vision of the Torrance family collapse at the Overlook Hotel is both visually and aurally meticulous. It opens with that stunning helicopter shot, following Jack Torrence’s little yellow Beetle up the mountainside, the ominous score announcing a foreboding the film never shakes.

What image stays with you most? The two creepy little girls? The blood pouring out of the elevator? The impressive afro in the velvet painting above Scatman Crothers’s bed? That guy in the bear suit – what was going on there? Whatever the answer, thanks be to Kubrick’s deviant yet tidy imagination.

Next week we will look at the best Canada has to offer the genre.

The following week, we are thrilled to tackle our sophomore effort at live recording the Fright Club podcast! We will unspool The Orphanage (2007) at Gateway Film Center on November 11, counting down the best Spanish language horror at 7:30, just prior to the 8pm screening.

In the meantime, help us prep for upcoming podcasts. What filmmaker, actor or actress deserves an entire podcast? Let us know on Twitter @maddwolf, on facebook @maddwolfcolumbus, or leave us a comment here.





Fright Club: Best Horror of the Seventies

The Seventies is when horror really took off. Blockbuster masterpieces like Alien and Jaws affected countless viewers and at least as many future filmmakers. Maverick young directors like Brian De Palma, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg and Dario Argento developed into the cinematic voices of a generation. Major studio efforts with A-list casts like The Omen kept the genre on the front burner for all movie goers, and Blaxploitation reached into the genre with the Blacula series.

We had to leave a lot off this list. In what may be the most crowded field of any decade, here we boil down the five best horror films (strictly horror – sorry Jaws & Alien!) of the 1970s.

5. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
In 1922, F.W. Murnau directed maybe the best vampire film we’ll ever see: Nosferatu. In 1979, Werner Herzog lovingly remade it. Both films are obviously based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel, but where Stoker saw romance, these German filmmakers saw pestilence.

The effortlessly weird Klaus Kinski may play Dracula, but his look is 100% Orlock from Murnau’s film. Pasty and bald with hollowed eyes, pointy ears and rat teeth, this vampire relates far more to the vermin spreading the Black Plague across Europe than to the sultry beast luring women and men to an erotic end.

Herzog’s images are dreamy and wonderful, and the twists he gives the fairly tired storyline are genius. Isabel Adjani’s Lucy gets to be the hero, and the alteration to her beloved Jonathan Harker’s character is the work of dark genius.

4. Halloween (1978)

No film is more responsible for the explosion of teen slashers than John Carpenter’s babysitter butchering classic.

Sure, you’ve seen it, but from the creepy opening piano notes to the disappearing body ending, this low budget surprise changed everything. Carpenter impeccably develops anxiety, breaking tradition by planting it right in a wholesome Midwestern neighborhood. You don’t have to go camping or take a road trip or do anything at all – the boogeyman is right there at home.

Michael Myers – that hulking, unstoppable, blank menace – is terrifying. Pair that with the down-to-earth charm of lead Jamie Lee Curtis, who brought a little class and talent to the genre, and add the bellowing melodrama of horror veteran Donald Pleasance, and you’ve hit all the important notes. Just add John Carpenter’s spare score to ratchet up the terror. Nice.

3. Carrie (1976)

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of King’s first full length novel, the tale of an unpopular teenager who marks the arrival of her period by suddenly embracing her psychic powers.

Sissy Spacek is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance, but she may be overshadowed by Piper Laurie’s glorious evil zeal as her religious nutjob mother. (Both were Oscar nominated.) We feel proud and cautiously optimistic when Carrie finally stands up to her mother, but Senior Prom, or “Love Among the Stars,” doesn’t go as well as it might have for poor Carrie White or her classmates. One ugly trick involving a bucket of cow’s blood, and Carrie’s psycho switch is flipped. Spacek’s blood drenched Gloria Swanson on the stage conducting the carnage is perfectly over-the-top. And after all the mean kids get their comeuppance, Carrie returns home to the real horror show.

De Palma and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen wisely streamline King’s meandering finale. From the prom sequence onward, De Palma commits to the genre, giving us teen carnage followed by the profoundly upsetting family horror, finished with one of cinema’s best “gotcha” moments.

The prom scene inspired a Halloween costume for us a couple years ago – we won best costume and a free round!

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2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Not everyone considers The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a classic. Those people are wrong. Perhaps even stupid. It is classic because Hooper masterfully enlisted a low rent verite for this bizarre story to do something utterly new. The camera work, so home-movie like, worked with the “based on a true story” tag line like nothing before it, and the result seriously disturbed the folks of 1974. It has been ripped off and copied dozens of times since its release, but in the context of its time, it was so absolutely original it was terrifying.

Hooper sidestepped all the horror gimmicks audiences had grown accustomed to – a spooky score that let you know when to grow tense, shadowy interiors that predicted oncoming scares – and instead shot guerilla-style in broad daylight, outdoors, with no score at all. You just couldn’t predict what was coming.

Poor, doomed, unlikeable Franklin Hardesty, his pretty sister Sally, and a few other friends head out to Grampa Hardesty’s final resting place after hearing the news of some Texas cemeteries being grave robbed. They just want to make sure Grampy’s still resting in peace – an adventure which eventually leads to most of them making a second trip to a cemetery. Well, what’s left of them.

We got to meet Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) and Marilyn Burns (Sally) a couple years ago. We were pretty geeked!

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1. The Exorcist (1973)

Slow moving, richly textured, gorgeously and thoughtfully framed, The Exorcist follows a very black and white, good versus evil conflict: Father Merrin V Satan for the soul of an innocent child. But thanks to an intricate and nuanced screenplay adapted by William Peter Blatty from his own novel, the film boasts any number of flawed characters struggling to find faith and to do what’s right in this situation. And thanks to Friedkin’s immaculate filming, we are entranced by early wide shots of a golden Middle East, then brought in a little closer to watch people running here and there on the campus at Georgetown or on the streets of NYC.

Then we pull in a bit closer: interiors of Chris MacNeil’s (Ellen Burstyn) place on location, the hospital where Fr. Karras’s mother is surrounded by loons, the labs and conference rooms where an impotent medical community fails to cure poor Regan (Linda Blair).

Then closer, in the bedroom, where you can see Regan’s breath in the chilly air, examine the flesh rotting off her young face. Here, in the intimacy, there’s no escaping that voice, toying with everyone with such vulgarity.
The voice belongs to Mercedes McCambridge, and she may have been the casting director’s greatest triumph. Of course, Jason Miller as poor, wounded Fr. Damien Karras could not have been better. Indeed, he, Burstyn and young Linda Blair were all nominated for Oscars.

So was Friedkin, the director who balanced every scene to expose its divinity and warts, and to quietly build tension. When he was good and ready, he let that tension burst into explosions of terrifying mayhem that became a blueprint for dozens of films throughout the Seventies and marked a lasting icon for the genre.

So that’s it! We hope you agree, but let us know if you don’t, and be sure to listen to the entire podcast on Fright Club!





Halloween Countdown, Day 14

Carrie (1976)

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of Stephen King’s first full length novel, the tale of an unpopular teenager who marks the arrival of her period by suddenly embracing her psychic powers.

Sure, the film opens like a ‘70s soft core porno, with images created by a director who has clearly never been in a girls’ locker room and therefore chose to depict the one in his dirty, dirty mind. But as soon as the bloody stream punctures the dreamlike shower sequence, we witness the definitive moment in Mean Girl Cinema. The “plug it up” refrain, coupled with Sissy Spacek’s authentic, even animalistic portrayal of panic, sets a tone for the film. Whatever Carrie may do, we (the voyeurs, no doubt more like the normal kids than like Carrie) are to blame.

This film exposes a panic about the onslaught of womanhood. The same panic informs The Exorcist and dozens of others, but De Palma’s version offers more sympathy than most. King’s tale may link menstruation with female power and destruction, but De Palma mines the story for an underdog tale that more foreshadows Columbine than Jennifer’s Body.

Spacek is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance. Her simpleton characterization would have been overdone were it not for Piper Laurie’s glorious, evil zeal as her religious nutjob mother. It’s easy to believe this particular mother could have successfully smothered a daughter into Carrie’s stupor.

Senior prom doesn’t go as well as it might have for poor Carrie White or her classmates. Contrite Sue Snell (Amy Irving) – who’d given up her own prom so her boyfriend Tommy (William Katt and his awe inspiring ‘fro) could take Carrie – sneaks in to witness her own good deed. Unfortunately for Sue, the strict rules of horror cinema demand that outcasts remain outcasts. Sure, Sue shouldn’t have been mean to Carrie in the first place, but being nice was the big mistake. Only bad things would follow.

De Palma and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen wisely streamline King’s meandering finale. From the prom sequence onward, De Palma commits to the genre, giving us teen carnage followed by the profoundly upsetting family horror, finished with one of cinema’s best “gotcha” moments.

 





This Week’s Countdown is Off Like a Prom Dress

It’s  almost May…what’s that I smell? Lilacs? Goose poop? Fresh spring roadkill? Nope, it’s that similar fragrance mashup of boutonnieres, hair spray, and desperation that equals prom.

Let’s all relive our own prom anxieties while the kids struggle through their real-life horror, shall we?

 

Carrie (1976)

Yes! Best prom movie ever! Sure, it opens like a ‘70s soft core porno with images created by a director who has clearly never been in a girls’ locker room. But as soon as that bloody stream punctures the dreamlike shower sequence, we witness the definitive moment in mean girl cinema.

No, Senior Prom, or “Love Among the Stars,” doesn’t go as well as it might have for poor Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) and her classmates. Contrite Sue Snell (Amy Irving), who’d given up her own prom so boyfriend Tommy (William Katt, sporting an awe inspiring ‘fro) could accompany Carrie, sneaks in to witness her own good deed. Unfortunately for Sue, the strict rules of horror cinema demand that outcasts remain outcasts. Sure, Sue shouldn’t have been mean to Carrie in the first place, but being nice was the big mistake. Only bad things would follow.

Quote: They’re all going to laugh at you.

 

Prom Night (1980)

This bland Jamie Lee Curtis slasher crystalized a formula that would be mimicked (often more successfully) for decades. Open with a flashback, turn it into a secret kept among a handful of friends, flash forward to one big event these friends are planning, nightmare resurfaces and red herrings await.

But that’s not the reason to see Prom Night. See it for the super-colossal dance floor boogie. Go Jamie Lee and Jamie Lee’s thumbs, go! Is that Leslie Nielsen? Who brought that glitter? It’s always fun to see someone die on prom night.

Quote: It’s not who you go with, honey. It’s who takes you home.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cVcnApjsvk

 

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

No one rocks a brown corduroy suit at a formal dance like my husband, but Napoleon Dynamite comes in second. And what about Deb’s awesome sleeves? That’s a styling couple.

Kip may have found his soul mate, but poor Napoleon’s still swimming the tepid pool of young love, llama food, best friends, delusional uncles, ailing grandmas, and sweet moves. Thank God for it.

Quote: I like your sleeves.

 

Grease (1978)

Poodle skirt to hot pants, that’s the transformation at the heart of this generation-pleaser. Did Sandy (Olivia Newton John) have a yeast infection by the time she got those pants off? Well, of course she did, but it was worth it to call John Travolta a stud and do a frisky dance in the Shake Shack.

Let’s not forget the prom, though. Cha Cha DiGregorio (the best dancer at St. Bernadette’s…with the worst reputation!) might have planned to dump Kenickie and steal Danny (Travolta) away from the fair and timid Sandy, but she did not know the hygienically questionable lengths Sandy was willing to go to keep her man.

Quote: It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes.

 

Footloose (1984)

See this one now, not the ridiculous remake. (How do I know it’s ridiculous? Because it’s a remake of Footloose, for Lord’s sake.)

Kevin Bacon moves to a hyper-conservative town and has to dance his way out. John Lithgow scowls. Sarah Jessica Parker looks unfashionable. Chris Penn learns to disco. Tears are shed, families are mended.

Quote: If our Lord wasn’t testing us, how would you account for the proliferation, these days, of this obscene rock and roll music, with its gospel of easy sexuality and relaxed morality?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nSXtZPKms4

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Years before Sarah Michelle Gellar began her 145-episode vampire battle royale, and one year before writer Joss Whedon would pen the animated masterpiece Toy Story, Kristy Swanson joined that guy from 90210 (Luke Perry) to stake the undead at the big high school formal as the silver screen Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Bonus points for casting choices in Paul Reubens and Rutger Hauer as marauding, stinky vampires. Additional points for an early, non-Oscar nominated role for Hilary Swank.

Quote: All I want to do is graduate from high school, go to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die.

 

Pretty in Pink (1986)

Part 3 of the Molly Trilogy, Pretty in Pink mopes with a cool redhead (Ringwald) from the wrong side of the tracks as she stokes her anxiety about prom and its place in her existential dread.

Some claim you can learn all you need to know about a person by asking which is their favorite Beatle. I disagree. The real question: who did you root for, Blane or Duckie?

Quote:  His name is Blane?! That’s not a name, that’s a major appliance.