Tag Archives: Fright Club podcast

Fright Club: Frightful Forests

We’re thrilled to welcome filmmaker George Popov back to Fright Club. His Sideworld docuseries explores different supernatural whatnot the world over, beginning with the Haunted Forests of England. So, we thought we’d comb through our favorite haunted forests together. Here’s what we came up with!

5. The Hallow (2015)

Visual showman Corin Hardy has a bit of trickery up his sleeve. His directorial debut The Hallow, for all its superficiality and its recycled horror tropes, offers a tightly wound bit of terror in the ancient Irish wood.

Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare Hitchens (Bojana Novakovic) move, infant Finn in tow, from London to the isolated woods of Ireland so Adam can study a tract of forest the government hopes to sell off to privatization. But the woods don’t take kindly to the encroachment and the interloper Hitchens will pay dearly.

Hardy has a real knack for visual storytelling. His inky forests are both suffocating and isolating, with a darkness that seeps into every space. He’s created an atmosphere of malevolence, but the film does not rely on atmosphere alone.

Though all the cliché elements are there – a young couple relocates to an isolated wood to be warned off by angry locals with tales of boogeymen – the curve balls Hardy throws will keep you unnerved and guessing.

4. Without Name (2016)

Haunting and hallucinatory, this Irish gem develops a menacing presence you cannot shake. Director Lorcan Finnegan (Vivarium) leads surveyor Eric (AlanMcKenna) into the Irish woods with no real hope of finding his way back.

Like The Hallow, this film braids ecological horror with the supernatural, all of it rooted in Irish folklore. The’s an understanding that not everything was pushed out once Catholicism took over, the two sides just kept their distance. But now that it’s big companies making the decisions, a lack of reverence in the presence of the past is more than one man can survive.

3. Antichrist (2009)

A meditation on grief and sexual politics, it’s not until Antichrist moves into its second act that you know the kind of film Lars von Trier has actually made. It’s a cabin in the woods horror show, and one of the very best.

Grief becomes something supernatural, a hellish nightmare perfectly suited to the type of woods Shakespeare wrote of. The forest is a lurking, magical place where danger and enchantment frolic.

In this case, they frolic perhaps too close to the tool shed.

2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Blair Witch may not date especially well, but it scared the hell out of a lot of people back in the day. This is the kind of forest adventure that I assume happens all the time: you go in, but no matter how you try to get out – follow a stream, use a map, follow the stars – you just keep crossing the same goddamn log.

One of several truly genius ideas behind Blair Witch is that filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez made the audience believe that the film they were watching was nothing more than the unearthed footage left behind by three disappeared young people. Between that and the wise use of online marketing (then in its infancy) buoyed this minimalistic, naturalistic home movie about three bickering buddies who venture into the Maryland woods to document the urban legend of The Blair Witch. Twig dolls, late night noises, jumpy cameras, unknown actors and not much else blended into an honestly frightening flick that played upon primal fears.

1. The Witch (2015)

Ideas of gender inequality, sexual awakening, slavish devotion to dogma, and isolationism roil beneath the surface of the 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.

Every opportunity writer/director Roger Eggers has to make an obvious choice he discards, though not a single move feels inauthentic. Rather, every detail – whether lurid or mundane – feels peculiarly at home here. Even the most supernatural elements in the film feel appallingly true because of the reality of this world, much of which is owed to journals and documents of the time, from which Eggers pulled complete sections of dialog.

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: They Had Sex with What?!?

Horror flirts with taboo, teases decency, and sometimes comes right out and has sex with a monster. Most often this is a violation of the flesh, but we’re most interested in films and characters that are pretty OK with it. Most of those movies are gloriously bonkers. We count down our favs in episode 225:

5. The Shape of Water (2017)

An unforgettable Sally Hawkins—an actor who has never hit a false note in her long and underappreciated career—gets her chance to lead a big, big show. She plays Elisa, a mute woman on the janitorial team for a research institute in Cold War-era Baltimore.

Enter one night a malevolent man (Michael Shannon), and a mysterious container. Color Elisa intrigued.

In its own way, The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a tragic romance. But what if it weren’t? Tragic, I mean. What if beauty loved the beast?

Writer/director Guillermo del Toro is an overt romantic. So many of his films—CronosThe Devil’s BackboneCrimson Peak—swim in romance, but he’s never made as dreamily romantic or hypnotically sensual a film as The Shape of Water.

4. 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.

3. The Untamed (2016)

Sexual frustration leads to a lot of bad choices, but sexual satisfaction may be the real monster in Amat Escalante’s wild scifi/horror flick.

Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) is one of the sexually frustrated. Veronica (Simone Bucio) is not. Angel (Jesus Meza) is making bad choices. But there was this meteor, and it landed out by this isolated farm. What if the answer to all their problems is there?

Taking direct inspiration from Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, Escalante reframes the taboo-defying frenzy of unbridled sexuality. Where Zulawski’s surreal, antiseptic environment suggested absurdism, Escalante grounds the fantasy in profoundly ordinary and relatable human drama. The result is horrifying.

2. Possession (1981)

Andrzej Zulawski – writer/director/Czech – created this wild ride with doppelgangers, private investigators, ominous government (or are they?) agencies, and curious sexual appetites. 

Sam Neill plays Mark. Mark has just left his job – a mysterious position with some kind of lab.

Back at home, he greets his genuinely adorable son Bob (Michael Hogben). Mark’s wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) is also at home with Bob.

Anna, it seems, is in love with someone else. Is it the sexually open – really, really open – Heinrich? Is it a bloody, mollusk-like monster? Is Mark boning Anna’s mean friend with a cast on her leg? Does Bob’s kindergarten teacher bear an unreasonable resemblance to Anna? Is anyone caring properly for Bob?

These questions and more go basically unanswered in a deviant, summary-defying bit of filmmaking that mocks the idiocy, even insanity of obsession and boasts a handful of weirdly excellent performances. And sex with a bloody mollusk-like monster.

1. Titane (2021)

Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or-winning Titane is alive with alternating color palettes, pulsating sounds and endless shocks of body horrific visuals. The sudden bursts of violence are downright pedestrian alongside the parade of boldly squirm-inducing clashes of flesh, bone and other.

But as she did with her first feature, Raw, Ducournau finds humanity clawing out from the inhumane. Truly unforgettable performances from Vincent Lindon and Agathe Russell provide intimate examples of the extremes that even the most damaged souls are capable of in the search to care and be cared for.

It may not be shy about homages and influences, but Titane is indeed its own ferocious animal. Open the cage look the F out.

Fright Club: Friend Groups in Horror

Spooky buddies! What’s what we’re talking about, that’s who we’re talking to.

5. The Ritual (2017)

David Bruckner has entertained us with some of the best shorts in horror today, including work from V/H/S, Southbound, and one of our favorites, The Signal. Directing his feature debut in The Ritual, Bruckner takes what feels familiar, roots it in genuine human emotion, takes a wild left turn and delivers the scares.

Five friends decide to mourn a tragedy with a trip together into the woods. Grief is a tricky, personal, often ugly process and as they work through their feelings, their frustration quickly turns to fear as they lose themselves in a foreign forest where danger lurks.

The film works for a number of reasons, but its greatest triumph is in making the woods scary again. That environment has become such a profound cliché in horror that it is almost impossible to make it feel fresh, but there is an authenticity to the performances, the interaction among the characters, and the frustration and fear that grounds the horror. And then there is horror—intriguing, startling, genuinely frightening horror. Yay!

4. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

You know the drill: 5 college kids head into the woods for a wild weekend of doobage, cocktails and hookups but find, instead, dismemberment, terror and pain. You can probably already picture the kids, too: a couple of hottie Alphas, the nice girl, the guy she may or may not be into, and the comic relief tag along. In fact, if you tried, you could almost predict who gets picked off when.

But that’s just the point, of course. Making his directorial debut, Drew Goddard uses that preexisting knowledge to entertain holy hell out of you.

Cabin is not a spoof. It’s not a satire. It’s sort of a celebratory homage, but not entirely. What you get with this film is a very different kind of horror-comedy.

3. Tigers Are Not Afraid ( 2017)

Issa Lopez’s fable of children and war brandishes the same themes as Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, but grounds the magic with a rugged street style. One pack of feral children have only each other and their imaginations to keep them safe.

Tigers follows Estrella, a child studying fairy tales—or, she was until her school is temporarily closed due to the stray bullets that make it unsafe for students. As Estrella and her classmates hide beneath desks to avoid gunfire, her teacher hands her three broken pieces of chalk and tells her these are her three wishes.

But wishes never turn out the way you want them to.

2. The Descent (2005)

Adventuring buddies get together for a bit of spelunking. Writer/director Neil Marshall begins his film with an emotionally jolting shock, quickly followed by some awfully unsettling cave crawling and squeezing and generally hyperventilating, before turning dizzyingly panicky before snapping a bone right in two.

And then we find out there are monsters.

The grislier the film gets, the more primal the tone becomes, eventually taking on a tenor as much like a war movie as a horror film. This is not surprising from the director that unleashed Dog Soldiers – a gory, fun werewolf adventure. But Marshall’s second attempt is far scarier.
For full-on horror, this is one hell of a monster movie.

1. It Follows (2014)

It Follows is a coming-of-age tale that mines a primal terror. Moments after a sexual encounter with a new boyfriend, Jay discovers that she is cursed. 

As Jay’s close-knit crew does what they can to help her evade the shapeshifting horror that follows her, Mitchell captures that fleeting yet dragging moment between childhood and adulthood and gives 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.

Fright Club: Best Horror Movies of the 1930s

We dig deep into the history of horror to pay tribute to some of the true cinematic breakthroughs – films that defined horror and are still imitated and adored today.

5. Dracula (1931)

Oh, Bela. When Lugosi took the screen in 1931, no one was yet tired of Dracula. It was still a literary property only made once into a film, albeit illegally and under a different title by F.W. Murnau. (If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that is Nosferatu, please do.)

Bela, alongside director Tod Browning, got to create the image that would forever define the most mimicked, reworked, revamped – if you will – monster in cinema.

4. 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? It looks great, as does Karloff, whose lisp is put to the most glorious use. What a weird, weird movie. So good!

3. Vampyr (1932)

The well-groomed if aimless dreamer wanders with what appears to be a fishnet to a secluded little inn. But trouble’s afoot.

And dig those crazy shadows!

The great Carl Theodor Dreyer co-wrote and directed this gorgeous black and white fantasy. The painterly quality of Dreyer’s frames and the bizarre character behavior give the film a surreal atmosphere you can’t shake. His decision to limit dialog to a minimum and craft the movie with traditional silent film gimmicks benefitted the dreamscape atmosphere.

2. Freaks (1932)

Short and sweet, like most of its performers, Tod Browning’s controversial film Freaks is one of those movies you will never forget. Populated almost entirely by unusual actors – midgets, amputees, the physically deformed, and an honest to god set of conjoined twins (Daisy and Violet Hilton) – Freaks makes you wonder whether you should be watching it at all. This, of course, is an underlying tension in most horror films, but with Freaks, it’s right up front. Is what Browning does with the film empathetic or exploitative, or both? And, of course, am I a bad person for watching this film?

Well, that’s not for us to say. We suspect you may be a bad person, perhaps even a serial killer. Or maybe that’s Hope. What we can tell you for sure is that this film is unsettling, and the final, rainy act of vengeance is truly creepy to watch.

1. Frankenstein (1931)/Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

James Whale’s brilliant take on Mary Shelley’s novel looked at Frankenstein’s monster and saw the cruelty humanity was capable of committing. For him, the monster was the central and most interesting figure. Unlike Shelley’s antihero, Whale’s creature was utterly sympathetic, an oversized child unable to control himself, making him simultaneously innocent and dangerous.

Barons and aristocracy, the European setting – the film distrusts scientists and public officials as fools unable to reign in their own ambitions no matter the dire consequences.

Four years later, James Whale and Boris Karloff – with tag along make-up man Jack Pierce – returned to Castle Frankenstein for another tale of horror. What makes this one a stronger picture is the dark humor and subversive attitude, mostly animated by Frankenstein’s colleague Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger).

The sequel casts off the earnestness of the original, presenting a darker film that’s far funnier, often outrageous for its time, with a fuller story. Karloff again combines tenderness and menace, and Elsa Lanchester becomes the greatest goth goddess of all film history as his Bride.

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: Best Foreign Language Folk Horror

We were so inspired by Kier-La Janisse’s documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched that we decided to dive into some of the best films her 3+ hour documentary couldn’t spend much time on. In particular, we wanted to highlight some of the greatest folk horror films not in the English language.

We highly recommend Roh (2019, Malaysia), La Llorona (2019, Guatemala), and Luz, The Flower of Evil (2019, Colombia). But here are our five favorites:

5. Viy (Russia) (1967)

Drunken seminarians, farmhouses, witches – Viy sets you up from its opening moments for a classic folk tale. Three seminarians turned out for break get lost in the woods. They ask an old lady to let them sleep in her barn for the night. She’s not an ordinary old lady.

Konstantin Ershov and Georgiy Kropachyov’s silly, spooky yarn tells of class struggle and superstition. Poor Khoma, our bumbling, drunk hero, is screwed no matter what he does. State/religious authority will beat him, the wealthy will beat him, or supernatural evil will harm him in ways he can’t quite picture.

Even though there’s a clear element of silliness in this film, the core image of a man in over his head gives this Russian folk horror a punch.

4. November (Poland) (2017)

Imagine a world in which Bergman’s Seventh Seal made it with Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and you kinda get a sense of Rainer Sarnet’s November.

At the center of the film lies the unrequited love of two peasants. Liina (Rea Lest) is hopelessly in love with Hans (Jörgen Liik). Hans has the hots for the daughter of the local German baron. Lina and Hans each try to capture the attention of their beloved while communing with ghosts, employing the services of kratts and witches, managing lycanthropy, evading the plague, circumventing arranged marriages, and avoiding starvation during the impending long winter.

The movie is a mishmash of comedy, romance, fantasy, political theory, and philosophy all shot in exquisite black and white. Somehow it comes together, like the kratts, in a way that seems fresh, bizarre, and interesting.

3. Hagazussa (Germany) (2017)

Making a remarkably assured feature debut as director, Lukas Feigelfeld mesmerizes with his German Gothic poetry, Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse.

Settled somewhere in the 15th Century Alps, the film shadows lonely, ostracized women struggling against a period where plague, paranoia and superstition reigned.

It would be easy to mistake the story Feigelfeld (who also writes) develops as a take on horror’s common “is she crazy or is there malevolence afoot?” theme. But the filmmaker’s hallucinatory tone and Aleksandra Cwen’s grounded performance allow Hagazussa to straddle that line and perhaps introduce a third option—maybe both are true.

The film lends itself to a reading more lyrical than literal. Feigelfeld’s influences from Murnau to Lynch show themselves in his deliberate pacing and the sheer beauty of his delusional segments. He’s captured this moment in time, this draining and ugly paranoia that caused women such misery, with imagery that is perplexingly beautiful.

2. The Wailing (South Korea) (2016)

“Why are you troubled?” Jesus asked, “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see — for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Though the true meaning of this quote won’t take hold until the final act, it presents many questions. Is this film supernatural? Demonic? Or, given the corporeal nature of the quote, is it rooted in the human flesh?

Yes.

That’s what makes the quote so perfect. Writer/director Hong-jin Na meshes everything together in this bucolic horror where superstition and religion blend. The film echoes with misery, as the title suggests. The filmmaker throws every grisly thing at you – zombies, pustules, demonic possession, police procedural, multiple homicides – and yet keeps it all slippery with overt comedy.

1. Lamb (Iceland) (2021)

Among the many remarkable elements buoying the horror fable Lamb is filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson’s ability to tell a complete and riveting tale without a single word of exposition. Rather than devoting dialog to explaining to us what it is we are seeing, Jóhannsson relies on impressive visual storytelling instincts.

His cast of three – well, four, I guess — sells the fairy tale. A childless couple working a sheep farm in Iceland find an unusual newborn lamb and take her in as their own child. As is always the way in old school fables, though, there is much magical happiness but a dire recompense soon to come. It is an absolutely gorgeous, entirely unusual and expertly crafted gem of a film. You should see it.

Fright Club: Nazi Zombies

One of our favorite offshoots of the zombie genre revolves around the worst creatures there ever were: Nazis. Here we dip a toe in Zombie Lake (actually, that one doesn’t make the final list) and talk through our favorite undead SS.

5. Blood Creek (2009)

What would be more compelling viewing than Superman Meets Batman? Henry Cavill’s run-in with a Nazi zombie played by Michael Fassbender. Clearly.

In Joel Schumacher’s Blood Creek, a Nazi scientist finds a Viking runestone on a West Virginia farm, where blood sacrifice turns him into an ageless monster, and a weird, runestoney ritual keeps him bound in the farmer’s basement. That guy – that Nazi zombie – is played by Michael Fassbender. Whose mind is blown?

Cavill comes into the picture when his character Evan comes looking for a long-lost brother. He offers a fine turn full of longing and regret, and Fassbender is mesmerizing. The guy cannot turn in a bad performance. He’s completely feral, totally unhinged. It’s like he has no idea that the movie he’s in is just not good.

4. Outpost (2008)

By 2008, the idea that the Nazis fiddled with occult ideologies in order to create a perfect killing machine was pretty played out in this subgenre. Steve Barker’s Outpost goes one further by embracing both that cliche and a tried-and-true action formula.

Is the result cookie shaped? It is, and yet the film benefits from an ensemble unafraid to exceed expectations and a cinematographer (Gavin Struthers, The Witcher series) who knows how to amplify claustrophobic tensions.

Ray Stevenson (Thor) stars as leaders of a group of mercs hired by a mysterious man to venture into the woods toward an old bunker. No reason to worry! Excellent support from Michael Smiley, Richard Brake and Julian Wadham round out a cast that works the hell out of this script.

3. Shock Waves (1977)

Wait, Peter Cushing AND John Carradine? Plus Nazi zombies? What kind of gift is this?!

Cushing is the SS Commander holed up on a deserted island since the war. He’s not in hiding, necessarily. He’s moored himself there on purpose to save us all from…something worse than Nazis.

Maybe the first Nazi zombie film on record, Shock Waves deserves credit for not only pioneering the idea but also sidestepping what would eventually become cliche. The makeup effects are simultaneously terrible and awesome. And as dumb as much of the script is, director ken Wiederhorn (Return of the Living Dead) lenses some genuinely creepy segments of the troops.

2. Overlord (2018)

Overlord drops us into enemy territory on D-Day. One rag-tag group of American soldiers needs to disable the radio tower the Nazis have set up on top of a rural French church, disabling Nazi communications and allowing our guys to land safely.

What’s on the church tower is not so much the problem. It’s what’s in the basement.

A satisfying Good V Evil film that benefits from layers, Overlord reminds us repeatedly that it is possible to retain your humanity, even in the face of inhuman evil.

Plus, Nazi zombies, which is never not awesome!

1. Dead Snow (2009)

Like its character Erlend, Dead Snow loves horror movies. A self-referential “cabin in the woods” flick, Dead Snow follows a handsome, mixed-gender group of college students as they head to a remote cabin for Spring Break. A creepy old dude warns them off with a tale of local evil. They mock and ignore him at their peril.

But co-writer/director/Scandinavian Tommy Wirkola doesn’t just obey these time-honored horror film rules, he draws your attention to them. His film embraces our prior knowledge of the path we’re taking to mine for comedy, but doesn’t give up on the scares. Wirkola’s artful imagination generates plenty of startles, and gore by the gallon.

Spectacular location shooting, exquisite cinematography, effective sound editing and a killer soundtrack combine to elevate the film above its clever script and solid acting. Take, for example, the gorgeous image of Norwegian peace – a tent, lit from within, sits like a jewel nestled in the quiet of a snowy mountainside. The image glistens with pristine outdoorsy beauty – until it … doesn’t.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGg_HeCB0vM

Fright Club: Best Meat Loaf Horror

Music lost a big voice recently with the passing of Marvin Michael Meat Loaf Aday. That big voice and fascinating physical presence made itself known in a lot of movies, too. Most impressive was his performance in Fight Club, but he left a mark on horror as well.

Here we remember our favorite Meat Loaf roles in horror movies.

5. Stage Fright (2014)

Think Glee meets Wet Hot American Summer meets Phantom of the Opera meets a grisly end. Throw in some Kabuki and you have writer/director Jerome Sable’s weird wooded horror.

It doesn’t always work, the tonal shifts, in particular, leaving you dizzy. But it’s a fun watch and Meat Loaf delivers an unseemly turn as the sinister entrepreneur at the center of the misrun camp.

It’s a fun, weird one.

4. Burning Bright (2010)

He’s only in it for a minute, but Meat Loaf leaves a lasting impression in this one.

Stepdad Johnny (Garret Dillahunt channeling pure Florida white trash) wants to go Tiger King before Tiger King was cool. He buys a tiger from Mr. Loaf, whose warning to the budding zookeeper sets the stage for what’s to come.

What comes is a somewhat problematic story about a young woman’s choices. You’ll see a little bit of Aja’s Crawl, too. For its B movie trappings, though, the film boasts a number of incredibly tense scenes with this tiger – not a CGI tiger, either. This is the real, toothy deal.

3. Masters of Horror: Pelts (2006)

Dario Argento directed two shorts for the excellent Masters of Horror series. Pelts concerns itself with a fur trader with a weakness for strippers. Mr. Loaf excels in this one.

Argento rarely tapped social issues in his work, but one of the reasons this film is so unnerving is the way the kill sequences are choreographed. This is smart, jarring, horrific stuff.

But in the end, it’s Meat Loaf’s lumbering, creepy central performance that makes the whole thing work.

2. Tales from the Crypt: What’s Cookin’ (1992)

Gilberg Adler mainly wrote and produced this HBO series, but he directed a couple of episodes, including this cannibalism gem.

The cast is great: Christopher Reeve, Bess Armstrong, Judd Nelson, Art LaFleur (and, of course, that perfect voice of John Kassir as Crypt Keeper). But Meat Loaf steals the show as creepy landlord Mr. Chumley.

The performance also has a little nod to another one of the big, beefy actor’s roles…

1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Meat Loaf started played multiple roles for the LA-based Rocky Horror stage play, but for Richard O’Brien’s screen adaptation, he left a big impression in just the one role of Eddie.

He has a big song and dance number, and he gives the legendary Tim Curry so much to react to. It’s a pivotal scene and an unforgettable (if brief) performance. But like doomed Eddie, Meat Loaf’s voice haunts the entire soundtrack – one of the reasons those songs live on.

What a guy. Makes you cry. Unt I did.

Fright Club: Scary Santas

This season has inspired so much horror. You have classics like Black Christmas, foreign masterpieces like Inside, Calvaire and Sheitan, and tons upon tons of guilty pleasures. Today we narrow the focus to the best of the Santas – those fur coated, black booted terrors that can really ruin a festive noel. Here are our favorites.

5. Christmas Evil (1980)

Lewis Jackson’s yarn about a damaged boy growing up to be a murderous Santa may sound like every third holiday horror to come out in the 80s, but because it was one of the first to do it, it doesn’t fit the predictable pattern. More importantly, Brandon Maggart’s sympathetic performance elevates this film above schlock horror like Silent Night, Deadly Night (and its sequels) to something considerably better.

Yes, childhood memories of Dad and Mom getting cozy under the mistletoe while Dad’s dressed as Father Christmas have had an ill effect on Harry. His zealotry concerning the season, the ribbing he takes from people he knows, and the naughtiness he sees all around him finally push him over the edge. Predictable enough, and with a low budget that allows for very few jingle bells and whistles. Still, Jackson’s script goes unexpected places and Maggart delivers more than standard fare as the marauding Claus.

4. A Christmas Horror Stor ( 2015)

A trio of Canadian directors – Steve Hoban, Brett Sullivan, and Grant Harvey – pull together a series of holiday shorts with this one. Held together by Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), the small-town radio announcer who’s pulling a double shift this Christmas Eve, the tales vary wickedly from three teens trapped in their own wrong-headed Nativity, to a family who accidentally brought home a violent changeling with their pilfered Christmas tree, to a dysfunctional family stalked by Krampus, to Santa himself, besieged by zombie elves.

Yes, there is a second film out this holiday season with Krampus in it. You know what? This one’s better – in fact, it’s almost patterned after Krampus director John Dougherty’s cult favorite Trick r’ Treat and it offers more laughs and more scares.

Plus Shatner! He’s adorably jolly in the broadcast booth, particularly as the evening progresses and his nog to liquor ratio slowly changes. This is a cleverly written film, well-acted and sometimes creepy as hell. Merry f’ing Christmas!

3. Deadly Games (1989)

That mullet! That house! Rene Manzor’s 1989 holiday horror predates Home Alone by one year, but both films have the same idea in mind. What if an incredibly rich family leaves a kid to defend himself against home invaders on Christmas Eve?

Except in this case, rich doesn’t begin to cover it and the home invader isn’t a couple of suburban thugs, it’s a psychotic dressed as Santa. Patrick Floersheim brings layers of tragic man-chid mental instability to the role, and that gives the film a lot of depth. Alain Lalanne is adorable as the mulleted boy who believes in Santa, and Louis Decreux – as his go-along-with-anything grandpa – is equally precious.

The editing leaves a lot to be desired, so the action sequences and montages lack propulsion. But the set decoration is amazing. This is a fun one.

2. Saint (Sint) (2010)

What is every child’s immediate reaction upon first meeting Santa? Terror. Now imagine a mash-up between Santa, a pirate, and an old-school Catholic bishop. How scary is that?

Well, that’s basically what the Dutch have to live with, as their Sinterklaas, along with his helper Black Peter, sails in yearly to deliver toys and bag naughty children to kidnap to Spain. I’m not making this up. This truly is their Christmas fairy tale. So, really, how hard was it for writer/director Dick Maas to mine his native holiday traditions for a horror flick?

Allegorical of the generations-old abuse against children quieted by the Catholic Church, Saint manages to hit a few nerves without losing its focus on simple, gory storytelling.

1.Rare Exports (2010)

It’s not just the Dutch with a sketchy relationship with Santa. That same year Saint was released, the Fins put out an even better Christmas treat, one that sees Santa as a bloodthirsty giant imprisoned in Korvatunturi mountains centuries ago.

Some quick-thinking reindeer farmers living in the land of the original Santa Claus are able to separate naughty from nice and make good use of Santa’s helpers. There are outstanding shots of wonderment, brilliantly subverted by director Jalmari Helander, with much aid from his chubby-cheeked lead, a wonderful Onni Tommila.

Rare Exports is an incredibly well-put-together film. Yes, the story is original and the acting truly is wonderful, but the cinematography, sound design, art direction and editing are top-notch.

Fright Club: Best of Charles Band

Legendary indie horror filmmaker Charles Band joins Fright Club this week to talk about his new book Confessions of a Puppet Master, Marilyn Monroe, spotting talent, and VHS art. He even gives us some advice on our first feature film.

5. Trancers (1984)

Directed by Charles Band, the film follows a hard-boiled Blade Runner style mercenary into the past. Jack Death (Tim Thomerson) must stop a villain from killing off the ancestors of those who keep him from ruling the world. If they’re never born, he will be unstoppable, thanks to his army of zombielike Trancers.

The point is, Helen Hunt. To say that she makes the most of this material is an understatement. She’s adorable, charming, and she carves a memorable character out of less-than-stellar written material. The rest is fun, cheesy scifi.

4. Troll (1986)

The 1986 original Troll boasts a surprising hodgepodge of names in the ensemble: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Moriarty, June Lockhart (the mom from the Lost in Space TV show), Sonny Bono, as well as a who’s who of “Hey, I got to get out of here in time to be on that Love Boat episode” stardom. It’s a grab at the burgeoning genre Joe Dante created in 1984 with Gremlins, comic stuff about a troll king turning San Francisco apartment dwellers into plants.

The other thing that stands out in this 1986 flick is that the protagonist (and his father, come to think) is named Harry Potter. There’s a witch, too. Coincidence?

A good mash-up of humor and gore highlighted by the young Louis-Dreyfus in a small but funny role, it’s the kind of movie that epitomizes what producer Charles Band (who has a cameo) did best.

3. Rawhead Rex (1986)

Clive Barker penned this one. No, he did not like the film it turned out to be, but you might. Band produced this Irish horror that sees a wildly unhappy couple, their doomed children, and a small town on the Emerald Isle accosted by a reincarnated demon with a face that looks like raw meat.

Another memorable VHS cover made this one of those movies you immediately associate with video stores, and though the acting is hardly top quality, the creature design is hideous and fun.

2. Puppet Master (1989)

If any movie capitalized on the VHS box, it was Puppet Master. The tag Evil comes in all sizes looms large above a theatrical trunk, wedged open to show a group of hideous little puppets. And the film didn’t disappoint, because those little evildoers get themselves into all manner of bloody, slug-spewing trouble.

The point-of-view camerawork, fun cameos and inspired creature designs make up for a lot of script and acting weaknesses and the film easily carries that Charles Brand stamp: low budget, funny, campy, gory fun.

1. Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator boasts a good mix of comedy and horror, some highly subversive ideas, and one really outstanding villain. Band knew a movie worthy of distribution when he saw one, and this film became a surprising theatrical hit for him.

Jeffrey Combs, with his intense gaze and pout, his ability to mix comic timing with epic self-righteousness without turning to caricature, carries the film beginning to end. His Dr. Herbert West has developed a day-glo serum that reanimates dead tissue, but a minor foul-up with his experimentations – some might call it murder – sees him taking his studies to the New England medical school Miskatonic University. There he rents a room and basement laboratory from handsome med student Dan Caine (Bruce Abbott).

They’re not just evil scientists. They’re also really bad doctors.