Tag Archives: Fave Five from Fans

Fright Club: Telephone Horror

We welcome our Fave Five From Fans podcast buddy Jamie Ray back to the Club to talk about horror movies that make the best use of phones. This was Jamie’s topic suggestion and he brings five titles of his own, so please be sure to listen to the full podcast!

In the meantime, here are our five favorites.

5. The Black Phone (2021)

Ethan Hawke plays the Grabber in Scott Derrikson’s take on the Joe Hill short story. With his top hat, black balloons and big black van, Grabber’s managed to lure and snatch a number of young boys from a small Colorado town. Finney (Mason Thames) is his latest victim, and for most of the film, Finney waits for his punishment down a locked cement basement with a cot and an unplugged black rotary dial phone.

Time period detail sets a spooky mood and Derrickson has fun with soundtrack choices. But the film’s success—its creepy, affecting success—is Hawke. The actor weaves in and out of different postures, tones of voice, movements. He’s about eight different kinds of creepy, every one of them aided immeasurably by its variation on that mask.

Derrickson hasn’t reinvented the genre. But, with solid source material and one inspired performance, he’s crafted a gem of a horror movie.

4. Black Christmas (1974)

Sure, it’s another case of mysterious phone calls leading to grisly murders; sure it’s another one-by-one pick off of sorority stereotypes; sure, there’s a damaged child backstory; naturally John Saxon co-stars. Wait, what was different? Oh yeah, it did it first.

Released in 1974, the film predates most slashers by at least a half dozen years. It created the architecture. More importantly, the phone calls are actually quite unsettling. Director Bob Clark was onto something with the phone calls, as evidenced by the number of films that ripped off this original convention.

3. When a Stranger Calls (1979)

With a very simple premise, director/co-writer Fred Walton delivered genuine shocks and dread.

Carol Kane is Jill, garden variety high school babysitter type. The kids are already in bed, Jill just needs to be there in the house until Dr. and Mrs. Mandrakis get back. She does homework, talks on the phone, watches TV. What she does not do—however often the rando phone caller asks—is check the children.

The first and third acts are the killers, while Act 2 is a lot of police procedural thriller, but there’s a reason people still bristle when they hear, “Have you checked the children?”

2. Scream (1996)

Wes Craven’s return to horror—aided immeasurably by a sly and daring script from Kevin Williamson—revived the genre. And you knew it would be an incredible movie from the opening moments.

Drew Barrymore—easily the most recognizable name in the cast (also a producer)—answers the phone. She’s home alone, making popcorn, readying to watch a horror film. She gets roped into a flirty anonymous game of “what’s your favorite scary movie?”

The voice (Roger Jackson) became iconic, as did his line.

1.The Ring (2002)

“Seven days…”

Gore Verbinski’s take on Chisui Takigawa’s 1995 film embraces the already-retro tech—VHS tapes and landlines—to ground a supernatural tale of curses, horses and bad parenting.

Nowadays when you see “PG13” attached to horror, you may roll your eyes. But The Ring brings plenty of terror and tension, and it all starts when that phone rings.

Fright Club: Best (Worst?) Hotels in Horror Movies

You check in. You assume the best. You’d never think, as you doze off in total helplessness, that maybe the last guest is still lingering in spirit, or was fed to gators, or that the hotel itself may be the doorway to hell.

In all likelihood the worst thing you’ll bring home with you is bedbugs, but I’ll take the gators.

For this episode we’re joined by our dear friend Jamie Ray from the Fave Five from Fans podcast and, at his behest, we will run through horror cinema’s best – or worst? – hotels.

Listed below are our five favorites, but honorable mentions go to Eaten Alive‘s Starlite Hotel, Basket Case‘s Hotel Broslin, Hotel Quickie from Killer Condoms and Slausen’s Oasis from Tourist Trap.

5. Motel Hello (Motel Hell, 1980)

It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters, so swingers looking for a cheap motel in which to swing – be warned! Fifties heartthrob Rory Calhoun plays Farmer Vincent, who, along with his sister Ida (a super creepy Nancy Parsons) rid the world of human filth while serving the righteous some tasty viddles. Just don’t look under those wiggling, gurgling sacks out behind the butcherin’ barn!

Motel Hell is a deeply disturbed, inspired little low budget jewel. A dark comedy, the film nonetheless offers some unsettling images, not to mention sounds. Sure, less admiring eyes may see only that super-cheese director Kevin Connor teamed up with Parsons and Calhoun – as well as Elaine Joyce and John Ratzenberger – for a quick buck. But in reality, they teamed up to create one of the best bad horror films ever made.

4. White Lovers’ Inn (The Happiness of the Katakuris, 2001)

Guests rarely come and a strange fate awaits them.

Takashi Miike is an extremely prolific director. He makes a lot of musical films, a lot of kids’ movies, a lot of horror movies, and then this – a mashup of all of those things. Like Sound of Music with a tremendous body count.

The Katakuris just want to run a rustic mountain inn. They’re not murderers. They’re lovely – well, they’re losers, but they’re not bad people. Buying this piece of property did nothing to correct their luck, either because, my God, their guests do die.

You might call this a dark comedy if it weren’t so very brightly lit. It’s absurd, farcical, gruesome but sweet. There’s a lot of singing, some animation, a volcano, a bit of mystery, more singing, one death by sumo smothering, and love.

3. Hotel Ostend (Daughters of Darkness, 1971)

Seduction, homoeroticism, drowsy lustfulness – this one has it all.

Countess Bathory – history’s female version of Dracula – checks into an all-but-abandoned seaside hotel. The only other guests, besides the Countess’s lover, Ilona, is a honeymooning couple.

Effortlessly aristocratic, Delphine Seyrig brings a tender coyness, a sadness to the infamous role of Bathory. Seyrig’s performance lends the villain a tragic loveliness that makes her the most endearing figure in the film. Everybody else feels mildly unpleasant, a sinister bunch who seem to be hiding things. The husband, in particular, is a suspicious figure, and a bit peculiar. Kind of a dick, really – and Bathory, for one, has no time for dicks.

Caring less for the victims than for the predator – not because she’s innocent or good, but because her weary elegance makes her seem vulnerable – gives the film a nice added dimension.

The accents are absurd. The outfits are glorious. The performances are compellingly, perversely good, and the shots are gorgeous. Indulge yourself.

2. Bates Motel (Psycho, 1960)

It doesn’t look like much, but the old Bates place used to be something before the new highway. Now it’s really just Norman, some dusty bungalows, that ice machine, swamp out back, some stuffed birds and, of course, Mother.

Anthony Perkins was the picture of vulnerability in Hitchcock’s horror classic, but the motel itself is also about as benign as a spot can be. Hardly the downcast, shadowy, menacing lodging you think of today when you think of low-rent motels. It’s bright, clean and empty. Lonesome, but hardly frightening. Just like Norman.

1. The Overlook Hotel (The Shining, 1980)

You know who you probably shouldn’t hire to look after your hotel?
Jack Nicholson.

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 Torrance’s little yellow Beetle up the mountainside, the ominous score announcing a foreboding that the film never shakes.

The hypnotic, innocent sound of Danny Torrance’s Big Wheel against the weirdly phallic patterns of the hotel carpet tells so much – about the size of the place, about the monotony of the existence, about hidden perversity. The sound is so lulling that its abrupt ceasing becomes a signal of spookiness afoot.

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: Motorcycle Mayhem

Is it ever too cold to ride? My God, yes – it is way too cold to ride. So instead, we invited our friend Jamie Ray from the Fave Five from Fans podcast to join us as we talk through our favorite chopper-themed horror flicks. Some of these are pretty bad – but so fun! – so prepare for a bumpy ride!

5. Deathmaster (1972)

Oh, there were so many terrible films that could have taken this final slot. Would it be Blood Freak? Chopper Chicks in Zombietown? Werewolves on Wheels?

So many choices!

Deathmaster gets the nod because it combines all the required elements – Satanism, hippies, and motorcycles – but it cranks it up a notch. This subgenre owes its very existence to Charles Manson, who braided those three elements together in the minds of Americans. But Deathmaster takes that one step further by creating a specifically Manson-like character—the charismatic guru Khorda – and making him a vampire.

Why is he a vampire? Maybe because they cast Robert Quarry (Count Yorga), who already had the teeth. Who knows, it comes off as utter nonsense, but it makes for a little fun variety.

4. These Are the Damned (1963)

Black leather, black leather, smash smash smash

Black leather, black leather, crash crash crash

Black leather, black leather, kill kill kill

I got that feelin’ – black leather rock

That, in a nutshell, is how dumb this movie is. And yet, like the ludicrous theme song, it’s just weird enough to stay in your head.

Oliver Reed is at his youngest, sultriest, Oliver Reediest as the street tough who chases his sister and her older American boyfriend right into some kind of underground lair where radioactive children are kept.

Suddenly you’re in what appears to be an entirely different movie. It’s like somebody sewed A Clockwork Orange and Village of the Damned together, buried them under rock, and them lobotomized the final version.

Which is kind of appealing, isn’t it?

3. Psychomania (The Death Wheelers) (1973)

More adorably sketchy Brit motorbikers in this one. Some mods wreak havoc on their bikes (because apparently drivers in England have no idea how much more vulnerable a bike is than a truck). But they crave more!

More danger! More excitement!

So they decide that if they kill themselves they can will themselves back to life and become hip zombie bikers.

The film’s appeal has a strange longevity. It’s never scary for even a moment, and it’s often outright ludicrous – if not adorable – but it does have a style and a couple of performances you can admire.

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Yes, Janet. Life’s pretty cheap to that type.

Whether it’s the Transylvanians traveling dto Time Warp with the doctor and his domestics, or the arrival (and quick removal) of Eddie, motorcycles play a significant role in this treasure of a film.

It was 1975, after all, and no self-respecting edgy, dangerous film could possibly convince the world of its anti-establishment bonafides if no one rode a motorcycle. It turns out, it’s the ones who aren’t riders you need to watch out for.

1. Race with the Devil (1975)

At some point somebody decided they were tired of seeing the motorcycle riders always turning out to be Satanic hippies. Nope, not this time.

The film re-teams Peter Fonda and Warren Oates – so great together in 1971’s The Hired Hand. They’re buddies taking a top-of-the-line RV out for a spin across Texas, along with their lovely wives. They stop to camp in the middle of nowhere, the guys take their bikes out for a stretch, and next thing you know, they’re being followed by Satanists and who knows which of these backwoods locals can be trusted?

The film generates real tension in much the same way Spielberg had done four years earlier with Duel. That tension, supported by solid, gritty performances, give this one surprising punch.