Tag Archives: Fright Club podcast

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.

Fright Club: Claustrophobic Horror

Claustrophobia is a common terror, which makes it a common theme in horror films. Whether the entire film generates a sense of entrapment (The Thing, Rec, Pontypool, Misery) or the filmmaker inserts moments of claustrophobic terror (Shadow in the Cloud, The Pit and the Pendulum), these movies hit a nerve. Today we spend some time in tight quarters counting down the most claustrophobic horror movies.


5. The Hole (2001)

Nick Hamm’s 2001 thriller finds a handful of spoiled boarding school teens sneaking away while the school’s on holiday. They want to see what kind of trouble they can get into with a couple of undetected days in the underground bomb shelter they discovered well behind the school.

It’s all fun and games until they can’t get out.

Thora Birch delivers a brilliant turn as the lead — vulnerable and yet entirely conniving and psychotic, her Liz is mesmerizing. Kiera Knightly shines as well, as does Embeth Davidtz as a detective who won’t be fooled by Liz’s psychosis.

Or will she?

4. Cube (1997)

Making his feature directing debut in 1997, Vincenzo Natali, working from a screenplay he co-wrote, shadows 7 involuntary inmates of a seemingly inescapable, booby-trapped mazelike structure. Those crazy Canucks!

Cube is the film Saw wanted to be. These people were chosen, and they must own up to their own weaknesses and work together as a team to survive and escape. It is a visually awe-inspiring, perversely fascinating tale of claustrophobic menace. It owes Kafka a nod, but honestly, stealing from the likes of Kafka is a crime we can get behind.

There is a level of nerdiness to the trap that makes it scary, in that you know you wouldn’t make it. You would die. We would certainly die. In fact, the minute they started talking about Prime Numbers, we knew we were screwed.

3. Buried (2010)

Almost did not make it past the trailer for this one. A tour de force meant to unveil Ryan Reynolds’s skill as an actor, Buried spends a breathless 95 minutes inside a coffin with the lanky Canadian, who’s left his quips on the surface.

A truck driver working in Iraq who wakes up after being hit on the head, Paul Conroy finds himself inside a coffin. He has a cell phone and a lighter, but not the skill of Uma Thurman, so he is pretty screwed.

The simple story and Reynolds’s raw delivery make this a gut-wrenching experience.

2. The Descent (2005)

A bunch of buddies get together for a spelunking adventure. One is still grieving a loss – actually, maybe more than one – but everybody’s ready for one of their outdoorsy group trip.
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.

Long before the first drop of blood is drawn by the monsters – which are surprisingly well-conceived and tremendously creepy – the audience has already been wrung out emotionally.
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. The Vanishing (Spoorloos) (1988)

Back in ’88, filmmaker George Sluizer and novelist Tim Krabbe adapted his novel about curiosity killing a cat. The result is a spare, grim mystery that works the nerves.

An unnervingly convincing Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu takes us through the steps, the embarrassing trial and error, of executing his plan. His Raymond is a simple person, really, and one fully aware of who he is: a psychopath and a claustrophobe.

Three years ago, Raymond abducted Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) and her boyfriend Rex (Gene Bervoets) has gone a bit mad with the mystery of what happened to her. So mad, in fact, that when Raymond offers to clue him in as long as he’s willing to suffer the same fate, Rex bites. Do not make the mistake of watching Sluizer’s neutered 1993 American remake.

Fright Club: Aging in Horror Movies

Horror filmmakers have long focused their preoccupations with mortality o the act of death itself, perhaps what happens afterward. But there are those whose real worry is quite the opposite – rather than leaving a beautiful young corpse, it’s the idea of the long, slow death of aging. Here are our favorite movies on the horrors of aging – but first, a little PSA on a movie of our own!

Obstacle Corpse

We also used our latest episode to announce our own movie!

After she gets an invite to a mysterious pro-am obstacle course race, unprepared teen Sunny enters with her goofy best friend, Ezra, in a last-chance shot at proving herself to her survivalist dad. But when bloody bedlam breaks out and the pros start murdering their “plus-ones,” Sunny must finally find her killer instinct before she and Ezra end up coming in dead last.

Please help us reach the finish line and support a woman-led, smart horror comedy!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/obstacle-corpse-a-horror-comedy/x/27088906#/

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

A fear of aging hangs over this film and story, but not simply of impending death but of the ravages of sin, guilt and shame. Due to some magical mystery, the beautiful young man never ages, although a painting of him not only shows his true age, it shows every ugly thing he’s ever done. As Gray stalks London indulging in debauchery, treachery and all things foul, his painting grows more and more grotesque.

We knew there would be a Dorian Gray somewhere in this list, but we’d originally planned to go with Oliver Parker’s 2009 film Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall, mainly because it’s far more of a horror film than the 1945 film from Albert Lewin.

But upon rewatch, there was something so gorgeously unsettling in the way this film avoids specificity. That, and George Sanders, who was better at playing a cad than any actor of his time. Clearly the onscreen personification of source writer Oscar Wilde, Sanders gets all the best lines and delivers the film’s unnerving themes perfectly.

     

4. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

It was also pretty clear that we’d have to choose a vampire film for the list, as those tales are so very often about the lengths a body will go to fend off aging. It could have been Fright Night, it almost was The Hunger, but in the end we are lured by our favorite Countess Bathory tale, Harry Kümel’s languid classic Daughters of Darkness.

It’s a film about indulgence and drowsy lustfulness, and Delphine Seyrig is perfection as the Countess who drains others to keep her youth.

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.

3. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Even though we just talked about this one when we covered librarians in horror, we couldn’t leave it off this list. The Ray Bradbury classic, penned for the screen by the author and directed by Jack Clayton (The Innocents), the movie uses notalgia to its benefit because its very purpose is to seduce those longing for their lost youth.

The movie’s greatest strength, though, is the casting of its true hero, Jason Robards as librarian Charles Halloway, and its villain, Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark. (The entire adult cast is amazing, actually.) These two veterans go toe to toe in one scene, where Mr. Dark’s evil and Halloway’s goodness are on full display. It’s the kind of scene talented actors must crave, and these to make the most of it.

2. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Horror filmmakers look at aging in a very specific way. Brilliant movies like Natalie Erika James’s Relic and Bryan Bertino’s The Dark and the Wicked saw it through the eyes of those who are watching their own ugly future.

Adam Robitel’s Alzheimer’s horror does the same. Its horror is less muted, though, and it works as well as it does because of a fantastic performance from Jill Larson as the aging, vulnerable, terrifying Deborah.

Anne Ramsay is nearly her equal, playing Deborah’s daughter who allows a student documentary crew in to make a movie aimed at raising awareness around the disease. What they find is a sometimes clunky but never ineffective metaphor for watching the person who has loved you more than anyone on earth turn into a demon.

1. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Who wants to see Bruce Campbell play Elvis Presley?! We do.

Director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) brings Joe R. Lansdale’s short story to the screen to depict the horror and sadness of aging, although its done with such humor that the film is impossible not to love.

Elvis never died, he swapped places with an impersonator who died and ever since then he’s been stuck living someone else’s life. And now he’s been stuck in this low-rent old folks home where his only real friend is a guy who believes he’s JFK (Ossie Davis). Obviously, when they realize that the recent spate of patient deaths is due to a mummy sucking the life from people through their assholes, who’d believe these knuckleheads?

The script is great and Coscarelli knows exactly how to make the most of budgetary limitations. The entire cast soars, but Campbell and Davis have such incredible chemistry that the film delivers not just laughs, message, and some scares but genuine tenderness.

Fright Club: Librarians in Horror

It’s back to school time, which makes it the perfect time to check back in with the Reel Librarian, Jennifer Snoek-Brown. With her help and deep reserves of information, we count down the very best librarians horror has in store.

5) The Monks  (Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, 1993)

Not a great movie, which is especially disappointing considering its pedigree. Segments in the Lovecraft anthology are directed by Christoph Ganz (Brotherhood of the Wolf), Brian Yuzna (Society) and Shûsuke Kaneko (Death Note).

Still, the wraparound story The Library – directed by Yuzna and starring that filmmaker’s favorite and ours, Jeffrey Combs – is much fun. Combs plays Lovecraft himself, visiting a very private library run by peculiar monks. He’s doing research. Or is he stealing the librarian’s key with hopes of finding the Necronomicon?

That is totally what he’s doing, and it’s a blast. Combs is great, but Tony Azito as the bemused/annoyed librarian is the real star here.

4) Edgar – Laurence Payne (The Tell-Tale Heart, 1960)

Are you a Poe fan? Well, it won’t matter because Ernest Morris’s period thriller bears little resemblance to Edgar’s classic.

So why include it? Because the murderer is a librarian! Laurence Payne plays brittle Edgar, a reference librarian who’s taken with his new neighbor, Betty (Adrienne Corri). He doesn’t know how to talk to women, but his best friend Carl (Dermot Walsh) sure does! And my, how Carl’s heart does beat loudly.

Corri’s exceptional in this film, but Payne is unlikable, entitled, perverted gold. This is an incel movie before we even knew what incel was.

3) Evan – Tomas Arana (The Church, 1989)

Michele Soavi’s dreamy gothic Giallo, co-penned by Dario Argento and co-starring a very young Asia Argento – is no masterpiece. It is endlessly watchable nonsense, though.

Evan (Tomas Arana) shows up late for his first day as cathedral librarian, stopping to flirt with fresco restorer Lisa (Barbara Cupisti) before heading into the library where he will be brazenly lazy and more than a little creepy.

The film takes on the dreamlike logic of a Fulci without losing the more pristine visuals that mark Argento’s earlier films. Its underlying themes are kind of appalling (wait, we’re good with the inquisitors who murdered that village?), but it looks great.

2) Evie – Rachel Weisz (The Mummy, 1999)

Is it a horror movie? Well, it is a monster movie, so close enough. Stephen Sommers’s 1999 swashbuckler boasted fun FX, an excellent villain, the newly beloved Brendan Fraser, and one kick-ass librarian.

Rachel Weisz, more attractive than ought to be allowable, plays Evie Carnahan. Her opening segment of destruction in the library itself is sheer visual poetry, but she’s more than brains and clumsiness. Evie stands up for herself, outsmarts bad guys, accidentally reanimates ancient evil, and really loves her job.

1) Halloway – Jason Robards (Something Wicked This Way Comes, 1983)

There’s a reason Evie Carnahan and Charles Halloway top our list of librarians in horror. Because they are heroes, as are all librarians.

Jack Clayton’s take on Ray Bradbury wields nostalgia with melancholy precision, recognizes time as the enemy, and boasts exceptional performances from its villain Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark, and its hero, Jason Robards as town librarian and all-around good guy, Charles Halloway. The fact that the final showdown takes place right in the library is the icing on the cake.

Fright Club: Angels in Horror

They’re powerful, beautiful, but not necessarily benevolent. Horror filmmakers have made great use of the heavenly hosts. Sometimes they arrive to protect us. Sometimes they don’t. Here are our five favorite horror films to bring heaven to earth.

5. The Exorcist III (1990)

Yes, this movie made the list based on a single scene. But that scene is so good! Fabio is an angel, wings and all. Patrick Ewing is the angel of death! There’s a quick glimpse of a young Samuel L. Jackson, and George C. Scott chooses a strangely upbeat delivery for the line, “I’m so sorry you were murdered, Thomas. I miss you.”

It’s a dream sequence, a foreboding scene in which Kinderman (Scott) meanders through a holding station between life and afterlife. The piece is weird, a bit gruesome and gorgeous. Its tone and look differ wildly from the rest of the film, but incredible nonetheless.

4. He Never Died (2015)

With a funny shuffle step and a blank stare, Henry Rollins announces Jack, anti-hero of the noir/horror mash-up He Never Died, as an odd sort.

Jack, you see, has kind of always been here. The “here” in question at the moment is a dodgy one-bedroom, walking distance from the diner where he eats and the church where he plays bingo. An exciting existence, no doubt, but this mindlessness is disturbed by a series of events: an unexpected visit, a needed ally with an unfortunate bookie run-in, and a possible love connection with a waitress.

From the word go, He Never Died teems with deadpan humor and unexpected irony. Casting Rollins in the lead, for instance, suggests something the film actively avoids: energy. The star never seethes, and even his rare hollers are muted, less full of anger than primal necessity.

3. The Prophecy (1995)

Writer/director Gregory Widen’s fascinating story about a war in heaven over God’s spoiled little meat puppets was a wild, innovative concept with a breathtaking cast: Christopher Walken, Virginia Madsen, Viggo Mortensen, Eric Stoltz, Elias Koteas, Adam Goldberg, Amanda Plummer.

So, is it on Widen that the movie is kind of terrible?

Terrible in an incredibly fun and watchable way, though. Somehow the unusually talent-stacked cast doesn’t feel wasted as much as it does weirdly placed.

There is no question this film belongs to Christopher Walken as the angel Gabriel. (Why are filmmakers so willing to believe Gabe will turn evil?) His natural weirdness and uncanny comic timing make the film more memorable than it deserves to be, but when it comes to sinister, Viggo Mortensen cuts quite a figure as Lucifer. Don’t forget, he was an angel, too.

2. Frailty (2001)

Back in 1980, Bill “We’re toast! Game over!” Paxton directed the short music video Fish Heads. Triumph enough, you say? Correct. But in 2001 he took a stab at directing the quietly disturbing supernatural thriller Frailty, with equally excellent results.

Paxton stars as a widowed, bucolic country dad awakened one night by an angel – or a bright light shining off the angel on top of a trophy on his ramshackle bedroom bookcase. Whichever – he understands now that he and his sons have been called by God to kill demons.

Dread mounts as Paxton drags out the ambiguity over whether this man is insane, and his therefore good-hearted but wrong-headed behavior profoundly damaging his boys. Or could he really be chosen, and his sons likewise marked by God?

Brent Hanley’s sly screenplay evokes such nostalgic familiarity – down to a Dukes of Hazzard reference – and Paxton’s direction makes you feel entirely comfortable in these common surroundings. Then the two of them upend everything – repeatedly – until it’s as if they’ve challenged your expectations, biases, and your own childhood to boot.

1. A Dark Song (2016)

Writer/director Liam Gavin also begins his story by dropping us breathless and drowning in a mother’s grief. Sophia (Catherine Walker) will do anything at all just to hear her 6-year-old son’s voice again. She will readily commit to whatever pain, discomfort or horror required of her by the occultist (Steve Oram) who will perform the ritual to make it happen.

Anything except the forgiveness ritual.

What Gavin and his small but committed cast create is a shattering but wonderful character study. Walker never stoops to sentimentality, which is likely what makes the climax of the film so heartbreaking and wonderful.

Fright Club: Workout Horror

An ode to cautionary tales, this episode points out all the great reasons to just skip the gym. Those muscles aren’t going to do you any good if you are dead—seriously, hideously broken, bloody and dead. We enlist the aid of Rewatch Podcast’s Cory Metcalfe to help us work through the best in workout horror.

5. Final Destination 3 (2006)

Director James Wong returned after missing Episode 2 and picked up right where he left off: fun and horrifying Rube Goldbergs of Death.

A young Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars ad Wendy Christensen, she of the premonition about shoddy workmanship on that roller coaster. Naturally, those she saves are on Death’s list now. These films are not rocket science. A group of people cheats death. One by one, Death comes a callin’.

The fun is seeing how each demise works itself out. And Lewis (played by Texas Battle – that is a name!) gets it good.

4. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Director J. Lee Thompson had seen better days (Cape Fear, Guns of Navarone), but this switcheroo slasher boasts a weird vibe that makes it compelling.

It also contains a very early workout death scene. We all knew Greg had to go, and how fitting that this vane elitist got his on a workout bench. If he’d thought for one second just to drop the weights on the ground over his head…but Greg wasn’t exactly known for smarts.

3. Tragedy Girls (2017)

DirectorTyler MacIntyre’s whole approach in this film is pitch-perfect. Stars Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp bring these bestie characters to vibrant life and the story around them is whip-smart and funny.

Speaking of funny, Craig Robinson has little more than a cameo, but he brings that Craig Robinson vibe, making this particular workout scene an uncomfortable comedic gem.

2. The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Melvin Junko’s whole life was a workout horror. Put upon and picked on, this little janitor only wanted to get his work done.

The Troma classic—awaiting an unbelievably well cast reboot from director Macon Blair—clearly had to be part of this list. Seeing Toxie finally get revenge on those Tromaville health club bullies.

1. Final Destination 5

Director Steven Quale’s prequel may be the best of the Final Destination bunch. The 3D horror takes full advantage of the intricate death sequences—especially the opening bridge set piece. Nice!

It helps that writer Eric Heisserer (Arrival, Birdbox, Lights Out, The Thing remake) knows how to write. The 5th installment feels less like a return to the well and more like an interesting riff on destiny. It also has some great support work from Tony Todd, Courtney B. Vance and David Koechner.

But we’re here to watch Candace die.

Fright Club: Nice Guys in Horror

The best horror movies balance the darkness with light, the evil with goodness. Often enough they only do that so it can hurt you all the more when the nice guys finish dead last. Here are our favorite nice guys in horror. Be warned, a couple of these include spoilers that will break your heart.

5. Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), The Shining (1980)

Thank god for Dick Hallorann, the one person poor little Danny could trust to make sense of a senseless situation and do the right thing in a pinch. Scatman Crothers played such an amiable character, the kind of grown man who’s good to children. He was a good dude.

Kubrick was not as good to Scatman, though. The director famously put the then-70-year-old actor through 60 takes of his wordless death scene. He knew it was the one death that would break our hearts, though, so it had to be perfect.

4. Finn (Sam Richardson), Werewolves Within (2021)

The brand new video game adaptation opens with, of all things, a quote from Mr. Fred Rogers.

I am in.

Sam Richardson plays Finn, the new park ranger in an isolated mountain town divided along political lines. All he wants, especially as it becomes increasingly clear that there is a werewolf afoot, is for everyone just to try to be a good neighbor.

One of the reasons this film is as fun and satisfying as it is (no, not because the cute AT&T girl Lily [Milana Vayntrub] is in it) is because this film doesn’t punish Finn for being a good guy. It celebrates it. Finally!

3. Lee (Jon Krasinski), A Quiet Place (2019) SPOILER

Don’t watch the clip if you haven’t seen the movie. Or if you weep easily. Or if you weep less easily. What a gut punch this one is!

Sure, Lee’s fathering is marred by anger and frustration, but his tenderness – especially at the end – and his consistent desire to protect, encourage and support his family earns him a spot here.

2. Michael (Jake Weber), Dawn of the Dead (2004)

You just want to hug him. A cooler head, a humble voice, a supportive voice of reason, Mark is perhaps the most important person in that mall hunkered down away from the fast-moving zombie horde.

No matter what happens, Mark never loses his humanity. Hell, he never even loses his temper.

We bet he was a great dad.

1. Frank (Brendan Gleeson), 28 Days Later 

This movie – a genre masterpiece – finally gave us a break, a breather, a respite from the rage and fear and terror when it introduced us to Frank.

Brendan Gleeson, a masterpiece himself, is ever chuckling, good-natured, protective but kind dad. He wants to keep his daughter safe. He wants to ensure her safety. But he also wants to carve out some kind of normalcy, happiness, even.

He is huggable, dependable, and exactly what Jim and Selena need, too.

Fright Club: Involuntary Surgery in Horror Movies

Medical horror never lacks for really bad doctors: mad scientists, evil geniuses, or just people with more ambition than skill. What these particular folks can do with a scalpel, some thread, and a little imagination impresses. That is to say that it leaves an impression, often on unwilling patients. Here is our list of the best horror films about involuntary surgery.

6. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)

After a handful of middling Dutch comedies, Tom Six stumbled upon inspiration – 100% medically accurate inspiration. Yes, we mean the Human Centipede. Just the First Sequence makes the list, though.

For a lot of viewers, the Human Centipede films are needlessly gory and over-the-top with no real merit. But for some, Six is onto something. His first effort uses a very traditional horror storyline – two pretty American girls have a vehicular breakdown and find peril – and takes that plot in an unusual direction. But where most horror filmmakers would finish their work as the victims wake up and find themselves sewn together, mouth to anus, this is actually where Six almost begins.

Although the film mines something primal about being helpless in the hands of surgeons and doctors, it’s Dieter Laser and his committed, insane performance that elevates the work. That and your own unholy desire to see what happens to the newly conjoined tourists.

5. Tusk (2014)

The basic idea for this film came from one of writer/director Kevin Smith’s actual podcasts. He found online a letter from a man seeking a lodger, and read it aloud and mocked the man. But somewhere in all that, Smith found the story of a man losing his humanity.

Tusk is a comic riff on The Human Centipede. It’s also an insightful kind of stress dream, so close to home for Smith that, even with all its utter ludicrousness, it feels almost confessional.

The film’s greatest strength is a hypnotic performance by Michael Parks as the old seafarer with nefarious motives. He’s magnificent, and co-star Justin Long’s work is strongest when the two share the screen.

There is no film quite like Tusk, certainly not in Smith’s arsenal, which, I suppose, means this is not a traditional Kevin Smith Movie. And yet, there’s more Smith in this film than in anything else he’s made.

4. American Mary (2012)

Jen and Sylvia Soska have written and directed a smart, twisted tale of cosmetic surgery – both elective and involuntary.

Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) stars as med student Mary Mason, a bright and eerily dedicated future surgeon who’s having some trouble paying the bills. She falls in with an unusual crowd, develops some skills, and becomes a person you don’t want to piss off.

The Soskas’ screenplay is as savvy as they come, clean and unpretentious but informed by gender politics and changing paradigms. They also prove skilled at drawing strong performances across the board. Isabelle is masterful, performing without judgment and creating a multi-dimensional central figure. Antonio Cupo also impresses as the unexpectedly layered yet certainly creepy strip club owner.

Were it not for all those amputations and mutilations, this wouldn’t be a horror film at all. It’s a bit like a noir turned inside out, where we share the point of view of the raven-haired dame who’s nothin’ but trouble. It’s a unique and refreshing approach that pays off.

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.

Her sister – the favorite, for good reasons, truth be told – is slowly dying. And somewhere in Pauline’s odyssey to lose her virginity, inspire her mother’s love and do the right thing, she always seems to do the wrongest possible thing.

Writer/director Richard Bates, Jr. takes an unusual course with this coming-of-age horror. 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. Eyes Without a Face (1960)

The formula behind this film has been stolen and reformulated for dozens of lurid, low-brow exploitation films since 1960. In each, there is a mad doctor who sees his experiments as being of a higher order than the lowly lives they ruin; the doctor is assisted by a loyal, often non-traditionally attractive (some might say handsome) nurse; there are nubile young women who will soon be victimized, as well as a cellar full of the already victimized. But somehow, in this originator of that particular line of horror, the plot works seamlessly.

An awful lot of that success lies in the remarkable performances. Pierre Brasseur, as the stoic surgeon torn by guilt and weighed down by insecurities about his particular genius, brings a believable, subtle egomania to the part seldom seen in a mad scientist role.

Still, the power in the film is in the striking visuals that are the trademark of giant French filmmaker Georges Franju. His particular genius in this film gave us the elegantly haunting image of Dr. Genessier’s daughter Christiane (Edith Scob). Her graceful, waiflike presence haunts the entire film and elevates those final scenes to something wickedly sublime.

1. The Skin I Live In (2011)

In 2011, the great Pedro Almodovar created something like a cross between Eyes Without a Face and Lucky McGee’s The Woman, with all the breathtaking visual imagery and homosexual overtones you can expect from an Almodovar project.

The film begs for the least amount of summarization because every slow reveal is placed so perfectly within the film, and to share it in advance is to rob you of the joy of watching. Antonio Banderas gives a lovely, restrained performance as Dr. Robert Ledgard, and Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes are spectacular.

Not a frame is wasted, not a single visual is placed unconsciously. Dripping with symbolism, the film takes a pulpy and ridiculous storyline and twists it into something marvelous to behold. Don’t dismiss this as a medical horror film. Pay attention – not just to catch the clues as the story unfolds, but more importantly, to catch the bigger picture Almodovar is creating.