Tag Archives: Fright Club podcast

Fright Club: True Love in Horror Movies

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

5. Spring (2014)

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

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

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

4. Bones and All (2022)

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

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

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

3. Border (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

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

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

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

We found ours.

Fright Club: Hats in Horror

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

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

5. The Grabber, The Black Phone (2021)

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

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

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

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

That’s all part of his charm.

3. Alex, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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

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

2. The Babadook, The Babadook (2014)

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

1. Rose the Hat, Doctor Sleep (2018)

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

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

Fright Club: Backwoods Messiahs in Horror Movies

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

5. The Sacrament (2014)

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

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

4. Jug Face (2013)

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

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

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

3. Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019)

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

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

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

2. The Other Lamb (2019)

The first step toward freedom is telling your own story.

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

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

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

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

1. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

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

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

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

Fright Club: Horror at the Dinner Table

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

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

5. Freaks (1932)

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

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

4. Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992)


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

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

Bravo, Peter Jackson!

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Master! Dinner is prepared!

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

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

2. Eraserhead (1977)

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

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

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

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

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

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

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

Fright Club: The Baby Made Me Do It

Pregnancy changes you. Your body betrays you, your personality takes of fin wild directions, and it can feel like there’s a little monster growing inside you. And maybe there is!

Quick shout out to the trashy options that we never seem to be able to fit in: Baby Blood and Inseminoid.

5. Antibirth (2016)

This one is nuts. Chaos reigns some blighted wasteland where Lou (Natasha Lyonne) squats in an abandoned trailer, picks up shifts as necessary cleaning a motel, and abuses her body so relentlessly that it becomes the perfect breeding ground for…something.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, most of it unrelated to the plot but aesthetically in line. Writer/director Danny Perez basically creates a fairly realistic town just this side of Street Trash.

Lyonne is unhinged, unperturbable genius in this piece of insanity.

4. Honeymoon (2014)

How well do you really know the person you marry? Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon taps into that anxiety and blends it a bit with pregnancy horror to basically make everything about that new, conjoined life feel alien and weird and murdery.

Rose Leslie is particularly effective as a woman in transition. Her performance is simultaneously tender and sinister.

Janiak nails the smalltown horror, conjuring a kind of sci-fi Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.

3. Huesera: The Bone Woman (2022)

Michelle Garza Cervera’s maternal nightmare is bright and decisive, pulling in common genre tropes only long enough to grant entrance to the territory of a central metaphor before casting them aside for something sinister, honest and honestly terrifying.

While it toes certain familiar ground – the gaslighting of Rosemary’s Baby, for instance – what sets Huesera apart from other maternal horror is its deliberate untidiness. Cervera refuses to embrace the good mother/bad mother dichotomy and disregards the common cinematic journey of convincing a woman that all she really wants is to be a mom. 

Huesera’s metaphor is brave and timely. Brave not only because of its LGBTQ themes but because of its motherhood themes. It’s a melancholy and necessary look at what you give up, what you kill.

2. Prevenge (2016)

Anybody with any sense at all is afraid of pregnant women. With unassuming mastery, Alice Lowe pushes that concept to its breaking point with her wickedly funny directorial debut, Prevenge.

Lowe plays Ruth. Grieving, single and pregnant, Ruth believes her unborn daughter rather insists that she kill a bunch of people.

Why such bloodlust from Ruth’s baby? Lowe, who also wrote the script, divulges just as much as you need to know when the opportunity arises. At first, there’s just the macabre fun of watching the seemingly ordinary mum pick off an unsuspecting exotic pet salesman.

1. Swallow

Putting a relevant twist on the classic “horrific mother” trope, writer/director Carlo Mirabella-Davis uses the rare eating disorder pica to anchor his exploration of gender dynamics and, in particular, control.

Where Mirabella-Davis’s talent for building tension and framing scenes drive the narrative, it’s Bennett’s performance that elevates the film. Serving as executive producer as well as star, Haley Bennett transforms over the course of the film.

When things finally burst, director and star shake off the traditional storytelling, the Yellow Wallpaper or Awakening or even Safe. The filmmaker’s vision and imagery come full circle with a bold conclusion worthy of Bennett’s performance.


Fright Club: Best Swedish Horror

Sweden has been making freaky, introspective, gorgeous, nightmarish horror for fully 100 years. Why has it taken us so long to celebrate that? Here are our favorite Swedish horror movies.

5. Haxan (1922)

Part power point presentation, part reenactment, Benjamin Christensen’s semi-documentary about the hysteria of witchcraft from early times through 1922 is a remarkable piece of cinema.

His thoroughness and fascinating point of view – particularly logical and liberal for 1922 – help the film keep your attention. But what makes this 100+ year old effort remain a fixture for movie buffs is its gorgeous filming. Yes, the use of camera tricks are impressive for the time, but dramatic segments often take on the look of a Renaissance painting.

Christensen’s use of light and framing sometimes surpass even contemporaries Murnau and Dreyer, and his playful depictions of Satanic orgies – That butter churn! That tongue! – never lose their charm.

4. Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

What about Groundhog Day, but with unrelenting psychological dread? That’s the premise of Johannes Nyholm’s horror fable Koko-di, Koko-da, and it’s a testament to writer/director Nyholm that the film’s excruciating time loop manages to go from torturous to therapeutic.

One grieving couple’s unresolved trauma starts to literally stalk them in the shape of three carnivalesque figures, with each nightmare encounter ending the same way: some gruesome death, and then Tobias wakes up to repeat the loop all over again.

Koko-di Koko-da is not a pleasant film to watch, but it is often a beautiful one. And it lays bare the truth that there’s no escaping misery in life—that the only way to break the cycle is to confront it, pain and all.

3. Border (2018)

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

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

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

2. Let the Right One In (2008)

In 2008, Sweden’s Let the Right One In emerged as an original, stylish thriller – and the best vampire flick in years. A spooky coming of age tale populated by outcasts in the bleakest environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure. Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar, with his blond Prince Valiant haircut, 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.

As sudden acts of violence mar the snowy landscape, Oskar and Ali grow closer, providing each other a comfort no one else can. The film offers an ominous sense of dread, bleak isolation and brazen androgyny – as well as the best swimming pool scene perhaps ever. Intriguingly, though both children tend toward violence – murder, even – you never feel anything but empathy for them. The film is moving, bloody, lovely and terrifying in equal measure.

1. Hour of the Wolf (1968)

An atmospheric masterpiece, Ingmar Bergman’s meditation on artistic conflict and regret is a haunting experience.

Bergman favorites Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman are a married couple spending time on an isolated, windswept island. Ullman’s Alma is pregnant, and her relationship with her husband becomes strained as his time and attention become more and more consumed by visions, or demons – or maybe they’re just party people.

Von Sydow’s character is tempted with the decadence missing from the wholesome life that may be dissatisfying to him. But it’s Ullman, whose performance spills over with longing, that amplifies the heartbreak and mourning that color the entire film.

Shot in incandescent black and white, with Bergman’s characteristic eye for light and shadow, Hour of the Wolf is a glorious, hypnotic nightmare.

Fright Club: Sieges in Horror Movies

Who had the genius idea of counting down the best siege movies in horror? Why, it was our friend Dustin Meadows – filmmaker, actor, composer, comic and all around awesome dude. So awesome that he brought filmmaker Alison Locke (The Apology) to the club and we ranked the best bloody sieges in horror.

5. 30 Days of Night (2007)

A horde of very nasty vampires descend upon an arctic town cut off from civilization and facing 30 solid days of night. A pod of survivors hides in an attic, careful not to make any noise or draw any attention to themselves. One old man has dementia, which generates a lot of tension in the group, since he’s hard to contain and keep quiet.

There’s no knowing whether the town has any other survivors, and some of these guys are getting itchy. Then they hear a small voice outside.

Walking and sobbing down the main drag is a little girl, crying for help. It’s as pathetic a scene as any in such a film, and it may be the first moment in the picture where you identify with the trapped, who must do the unthinkable. Because, what would you do?

As the would-be heroes in the attic begin to understand this ploy, the camera on the street pulls back to show Danny Huston and crew perched atop the nearby buildings. The sobbing tot amounts to the worm on their reel.

Creepy business!

4. From Dusk till Dawn (1996)

This one represents a kind of backwards siege. Our heroes (though most of them are hardly heroic) are trapped inside the villain’s lair already and have to fight them off from there. But they only have to keep these vampires at bay until dawn.

You have everything you need for a good siege movie. A horde of baddies, a trapped group of characters whose true character will be revealed, scrappy weapons making, traitors in the midst, and the desperate hope to make it til morning.

Robert Rodiguez impresses with Tarantino’s south of the border tale with an outrageous and thoroughly entertaining mixture of sex, blood and bad intentions.

3. Dog Soldiers (2002)

Wry humor, impenetrable accents, a true sense of isolation and blood by the gallon help separate Neil Marshall’s (The DescentDog Soldiers from legions of other wolfmen tales.

Marshall creates a familiarly tense feeling, brilliantly straddling monster movie and war movie. A platoon is dropped into an enormous forest for a military exercise. There’s a surprise attack. The remaining soldiers hunker down in an isolated cabin to mend, figure out WTF, and strategize for survival.

This is like any good genre pic where a battalion is trapped behind enemy lines – just as vivid, bloody and intense. Who’s gone soft? Who will risk what to save a buddy? How to outsmart the enemy?

But the enemies this time are giant, hairy, hungry monsters. Woo hoo!

2. Green Room (2015)

Young punk band the Ain’t Rights is in desperate need of a paying gig, even if it is at a rough private club for the “boots and braces” crowd (i.e. white power skinheads). Bass guitarist Pat (Anton Yelchin) eschews social media promotion for the “time and aggression” of live shows, and when he accidentally witnesses a murder in the club’s makeshift green room, Pat and his band find plenty of both.

As he did with Blue Ruin, Saulnier plunges unprepared characters into a world of casual savagery, finding out just what they have to offer in a nasty backwoods standoff.  It’s a path worn by Straw Dogs, Deliverance, and plenty more, but Saulnier again shows a knack for establishing his own thoughtful thumbprint. 

1. Aliens (1986)

“Game over, man! Game over!”

That was the moment. The Marines believed they were in for a bug hunt. Ripley knew better. And now they were trapped. Surrounded.

The scene where the Marines and company see that they are outnumbered and out maneuvered by their xenomorph opponents is a jumping off moment for James Cameron. More action film than horror, Aliens still terrifies with sound design, production design, and the realization that these beasties are organized.

Fright Club: Best Argento Movies

How can it be that we’re more than 250 episodes in and we’ve never done a podcast on Dario Argento? Well, we’d like to thank the Wexner Center for the Arts for inspiring this episode. We will introduce one of the films in their upcoming Dario Argento series, as will our podcast guest Scott Woods. But first, we’ll get together and hash out our personal favorites.

5. Inferno (1980)

The second of Argento’s Mother Trilogy, Inferno orbits Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness. She lives in a foul smelling but phantasmagorically constructed building in New York City, where Rose Elliott believes something diabolical is afoot.

A sequel to the filmmaker’s most lauded work, Suspiria, Inferno mirrors the stagey quality of the first in the trilogy. The architecture, the color scheme, the dizzying nature of the building itself give the film the surreal quality of a spell. This one takes on a neon soaked nighttime aesthetic that’s hypnotic. The opening underwater sequence is among Argento’s best set pieces.

Per usual, the Argento’s plot takes a backseat to the experience. A couple of these murders are especially grisly – appropriate, given that Mater Tenebrarum is the cruelest of the sisters.

4. Cat o’Nine Tails (1971)

Argento’s second feature delivers perhaps the most strictly giallo of his films, in that (before Argento reinvented the genre) a giallo is a mystery thriller. In this one, a blind former newspaperman (Carl Malden) teams up with a sighted but far less savvy newspaperman to figure out why so many murders are connected to the Terzi Institute.

Items that will become standards for the filmmaker: don’t trust what you see, science is a fun underpinning to a mystery no matter how ludicrous that science is, Hitchcock is cool – plus, the extreme close up eye balls and murderer POV that would become trademarks.

Surprises that he drops after this movie? Not only does one character deliver an insightful piece of feminism – “Whore equals liar equals murderer, perfect Italian logic!” – but the film actually murders more men than women.

Its color palette is a bit of a let down and it drags in parts, but it delivers a number of excellent set pieces and it’s really fun to see Carl Malden in an Italian horror movie.

3. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Argento’s first and arguably one of his best opens with a bang. Frustrated writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is killing time before he finally returns home to the States from Italy. But he witnesses an attack through the massive glass storefront of an art gallery.

It’s such a gorgeous frame for violence, and a perfect introduction to the maestro of sumptuous slaughter. There’s childhood trauma (the sort that turns a person toward mania), which will go on to become a go-to in the filmmaker’s arsenal. But what an introduction to his style!

2. Suspiria (1977)

American ballerina Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) moves to Germany to join a dance academy, but the other dancers are catty and the school staff are freaks. Plus, women keep disappearing and dying.

As Suzy undertakes an investigation of sorts, she discovers that the school is a front for a coven of witches. Suspiria is a twisted fairy tale of sorts, Argento saturating every image with detail and deep colors, oversized arches and doorways that dwarf the actors. Even the bizarre dubbing Argento favored in his earlier films works beautifully to feed the film’s effectively surreal quality.

It’s a gorgeous nightmare, bloody and grotesque but disturbingly appealing both visually and aurally (thanks to the second scoring effort by Goblin).

1. Deep Red (1975)

Maybe not the most traditional choice for Argento’s best, but it’s such a powerful step in his overall collection. He made three straight up gialli – The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Cat o’Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet – before taking a break from the genre with a dark historical comedy.

And then, Deep Red – a giallo, to be sure, but one that predicts the entirely surreal, aesthetic-over-plot supernatural thrillers he’d make next. Deep Red is gorgeous and bizarre, full of red herrings, childhood trauma, traumatizing children, tormented lizards as well as a number of themes he’s hit on since his first film.

David Hemmings (Marcus Daly) saw a murder, but he can’t be sure what exactly he saw. He’s sure if he can just remember it clearly, it’ll all make sense. This is a preoccupation of most of Argento’s films, but he’s never more curious than he is here. And the bloody, almost exquisite murders are more excessive and interesting here than in anything else he made.

Fright Club: Housewives in Horror

When a human being just doesn’t have enough meaningful ways to invest their time, they can go a little nuts. Here’s to the horror of life as the underappreciated, boxed-in, cast off and/or misused housewife. May they all draw blood.

5. Jakob’s Wife (2021)

Director/co-writer Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor) wraps this bloodlusty tale of the pastor’s wife (Barbara Crampton) and the vampire in a fun, retro vibe of ’80s low-budget, practical, blood-spurting gore.

To see a female character of this age experiencing a spiritual, philosophical and sexual awakening is alone refreshing, and Crampton (looking fantastic, by the way) makes the character’s cautious embrace of her new ageless wonder an empowering – and even touching – journey.

With Crampton so completely in her element, Jakob’s Wife is an irresistibly fun take on the bite of eternity. Here, it’s not about taking souls, it’s about empowering them. And once this lady is a vamp, we’re the lucky ones.

4. The Stepford Wives (1975)

Ira Levin’s novel left a scar and filmmaker Bryan Forbes and star Katherine Ross pick that scab to deliver a satirical thriller that is still surprisingly unsettling. What both the novel and the film understand is a genuine fear that the person you love, whose faults you accept and who you plan to age and die with, has no interest in what’s inside you at all. You – the actual you – mean nothing at all.

It’s the idea of trophy wife taken to a diabolical extreme (as even the outright trophy wife isn’t long to last, what with the inevitability of aging and all). The term Stepford Wife worked its way into the lexicon, and there’s a clear pot boiler, B-movie feel to this film, but it still leaves a mark.

3. Dumplings (2004)

Fruit Chan’s Dumplings satirizes the global obsession with youth and beauty in taboo-shattering ways.

Gorgeous if off-putting Aunt Mei (Bai Ling) balances her time between performing black market medical functions and selling youth-rejuvenating dumplings. She’s found a customer for the dumplings in Mrs. Li (Miriam Yeung ChinWah), the discarded wife of a wealthy man.

With darkest humor and sharp insight, Chan situates the horror in a specifically Chinese history but skewers a youth-obsessed culture that circles the globe.

The secret ingredient is Bai Ling, whose performance is a sly work of genius. There are layers to this character that are only slowly revealed, but Ling clearly knows them inside and out, hinting at them all the while and flatly surprised at everything Mrs. Li (and you and everyone else) hasn’t guessed.

Gross and intimate, uncomfortable and wise, mean, well-acted and really nicely photographed, Dumplings will likely not be for everyone. But it’s certainly a change of pace from your day-to-day horror diet.

2. Swallow (2019)

Putting a relevant twist on the classic “horrific mother” trope, writer/director Carlo Mirabella-Davis uses the rare eating disorder pica to anchor his exploration of gender dynamics and, in particular, control.

Where Mirabella-Davis’s talent for building tension and framing scenes drive the narrative, it’s Bennett’s performance that elevates the film. Serving as executive producer as well as star, Haley Bennett transforms over the course of the film.

When things finally burst, director and star shake off the traditional storytelling, the Yellow Wallpaper or Awakening or even Safe. The filmmaker’s vision and imagery come full circle with a bold conclusion worthy of Bennett’s performance.

1. Watcher (2022)

If you’re a fan at all of genre films, chances are good Watcher will look plenty familiar. But in her feature debut, writer/director Chloe Okuno wields that familiarity with a cunning that leaves you feeling unnerved in urgent and important ways.

Maika Monroe is sensational as Julia, an actress who has left New York behind to follow husband Francis (Karl Glusman) and begin a new life in Bucharest.

Monroe emits an effectively fragile resolve. The absence of subtitles helps us relate to Julia immediately, and Monroe never squanders that sympathy, grounding the film at even the most questionably formulaic moments.

Mounting indignities create a subtle yet unmistakable nod to a culture that expects women to ignore their better judgment for the sake of being polite. Okuno envelopes Julia in male gazes that carry threats of varying degrees, all building to a bloody and damn satisfying crescendo.

Fright Club: Brothers in Horror Movies

Big thanks to filmmaker Jeremiah Kipp, whose exceptional horror Slapface inspired our topic. We look into the best brothers (or sometimes worst brothers!) in horror. Be sure to listen in because Jeremiah has some thoughts and recs you won’t want to miss.

5) The Lost Boys (1987)

Joel Schumacher spins a yarn of Santa Carla, a town with a perpetual coastal carnival and the nation’s highest murder rate. A roving band of cycle-riding vampires haunts the carnival and accounts for the carnage, until Diane Weist moves her family to town. While hottie Michael (Jason Patric) is being seduced into the demon brethren, younger brother Sam (Corey Haim) teams up with local goofballs the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) to stake all bloodsuckers.

There are two obvious sets of brothers, one that’s falling apart and one that acts exclusively as a team, the band of vampires also represents a brother hood. This becomes clearest when Max (Edward Herrmann) makes it clear that his intention is to have Weist’s character play mother to all the boys.

4) Basket Case (1982) 

This film is fed by a particularly twin-linked anxiety. Can anyone really be the love of one twin’s life, and if so, where does that leave the other twin? More than that, though, the idea of separating conjoined twins is just irresistible to dark fantasy. Rock bottom production values and ridiculous FX combine with the absurdist concept and poor acting to result in an entertaining splatter comedy a bit like Peter Jackson’s early work.

When super-wholesome teenage Duane moves into a cheap and dangerous New York flophouse, it’s easy to become anxious for him. But that’s not laundry in his basket, Belial is in the basket -Duane’s deformed, angry, bloodthirsty, jealous twin brother – but not just a twin, a formerly conjoined twin. What he really is, of course, is Duane’s id – his Hyde, his Hulk, his Danny DeVito. And together the brothers tear a bloody, vengeful rip in the fabric of family life.

3) Goodnight Mommy (2014)

There is something eerily beautiful about Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s rural Austrian horror Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh).

During one languid summer, twin brothers Lukas and Elias await their mother’s return from the hospital. But when their mom comes home, bandaged from the cosmetic surgery she underwent, the brothers fear more has changed than just her face.

Inside this elegantly filmed environment, where sun dappled fields lead to leafy forests, the filmmakers mine a kind of primal childhood fear. There’s a subtle lack of compassion that works the nerves beautifully, because it’s hard to feel too badly for the boys or for their mother. You don’t wish harm on any of them, but at the same time, their flaws make all three a bit terrifying.

Performances by young brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz compel interest, while Susanne Wuest’s cagey turn as the boys’ mother propels the mystery. It’s a hypnotic, bucolic adventure as visually arresting as it is utterly creepy.

2) Frailty (2001) 

“He can make me dig this stupid hole, but he can’t make me pray.”

Aah, adolescence. We all bristle against our dads’ sense of morality and discipline, right? Well, some have a tougher time of it than others. 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.

Paxton, who directs, leans on excellent performances from young Jeremy Sumpter as the obedient younger son and Matt O’Leary as our point of view character, the brother whose adolescent rebellion will pit him against the father he loves and the brother he’d like to protect.

1) Dead Ringers (1988) 

The film is about separation anxiety, with the effortlessly melancholy Jeremy Irons playing a set of gynecologist twins on a downward spiral. Cronenberg doesn’t consider this a horror film at all. Truth is, because the twin brothers facing emotional and mental collapse are gynecologists, Cronenberg is wrong.

Irons is brilliant as Elliot and Beverly Mantle, bringing such flair and, eventually, childlike charm to the performance you feel almost grateful. Like some of the greats, he manages to create two very distinct yet appropriately linked personalities, and Cronenberg’s interest is the deeply painful power shift as they try and fail to find independence from the other. The film’s pace is slow and its horror subtle, but the uncomfortable moments are peculiarly, artfully Cronenberg.