Tag Archives: Fright Club

Fright Club: Addiction Horror

Addiction is its own horror story, which may explain why so many filmmakers use monstrous imagery as metaphor for addiction. We count down the best horror films that use addiction to freak you out.

5. Enter the Void (2009)

Gaspar Noe films from the point of view of Oscar, an American who deals drugs in Tokyo.  When Oscar is shot in a police raid, the camera follows his subconscious as Noe tries to illustrate a nightmarish link between drugs and death.

Noe’s trademarks – jarring opening credits, roller coaster camerawork, extended takes – are all here, and the result is a nearly two-and-a-half hour barrage of extreme violence, graphic sex, drug-fueled hallucinations and an often hypnotizing gloom that may leave you feeling physically beaten. It’s an experience. But like most of Noe’s work, it’s also hard to turn away from, even if you want to.

4. Habit (1995)

Writer/director/star Larry Fessenden explores alcoholism via vampire symbolism in this NY indie. Fessenden plays Sam, a longtime drunk bohemian type in the city. He’s recently lost his father, his longtime girlfriend finally cut bait, and he runs into a woman who is undoubtedly out of his league at a party.

And then he wakes up naked and bleeding in a park.

The whole film works beautifully as an analogy for alcoholism without crumbling under the weight of metaphor. Fessenden crafts a wise, sad vampiric tale here and also shines as its lead.

3. The Addiction (1995)

Like most of director Abel Ferrara’s work, the film is an overtly stylish, rhythmically urban tale of brutal violence, sin and redemption (maybe). Expect drug use, weighty speeches and blood in this tale of a doctoral candidate in philosophy (Lili Taylor) over-thinking her transformation from student to predator.

Taylor cuts an interesting figure as Kathleen, a very grunge-era vampire in her jeans, Doc Martens and oversized, thrift store blazer. She’s joined by an altogether awesome cast—Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco and Christopher Walken among them.

Ferrara parallels Kathleen’s need for blood to drug addiction, but uses her philosophy jibberish to plumb humanity’s historical bloodlust.

2. Evil Dead (2013)

With the helpful pen of Oscar winner Diablo Cody (uncredited), Fede Alvarez turns all the particulars of the Evil Dead franchise on end. You can tick off so many familiar characters, moments and bits of dialog, but you can’t predict what will happen.

One of the best revisions is the character of Mia: the first to go and yet the sole survivor. An addict secluded in this cabin in the woods with her brother and friend specifically to detox, she’s the damaged one, and the female who’s there without a male counterpart, which means (by horror standards), she’s the one most likely to be a number in the body count, but because of what she has endured in her life she’s able to make seriously tough decisions to survive – like tearing off her own damn arm. Nice!

Plus, it rains blood! How awesome is that?!

1. Resolution (2012)

Michael (Chris Cilella) is lured to a remote cabin, hoping to save his friend Chris (Vinny Curan) from himself. Chris will detox whether he wants to or not, then Michael will wash his hands of this situation and start again with his wife and unborn baby.

But Michael is in for more than he bargained, and not only because Chris has no interest in detoxing. Directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (working from Benson’s screenplay) begin with a fascinating and bizarre group of characters and a solid story, layering on bizarre notions of time, horror and storytelling in ways that are simultaneously familiar and wildly unique. The result is funny, tense, and terrifying.

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: Best Friends in Horror

Friends to the end – that’s the whole idea when horror filmmakers tackle friendship, isn’t it? Can they be trusted? Who will sacrifice what, and will it be worth it? Or are they both evil? Horror cinema has an excellent run of best friends in movies, but we’re looking at movies specifically about that friendship. Movies like Shaun of the Dead and Jennifer’s Body. (Both brilliant, but not on the list. We know! There are a lot of great ones!) So let’s get to it!

5. Bedevilled (2010)

Cheol-soo Jang’s first feature film bears witnesses not only to some horrific deeds, but to an amazingly confident new filmmaker who knows how to sidestep expectations, turn the screw, and offer surprising insight in a genre that doesn’t always generate that kind of thoughtfulness.

The film opens as beautiful if cold Hae-won (Sung-won Ji) witnesses a crime and chooses not to involve herself. She takes a (somewhat involuntary) vacation on the remote island where she grew up, to find her childhood friend Bok-nam (Young-hee Seo). On the isolated, backward island – though Hae-won is treated to rest and nurturing by her adoring friend – Bok-nam’s life is about as far from ideal as possible.

Jang captures the rugged, isolated beauty of the island and offsets both ideas with his leads – one, an elegant and pristine beauty, the other a rough-hewn image – and sees two sides of the same humanity. This is a morality tale, but it’s also a brutal but sympathetic (and seriously bloody) comeuppance. Jang does not leave off where you think he might, instead crafting a compelling and satisfying whole that will stick with you.

4. Tragedy Girls (2017)

Heathers meets Scream in the savvy horror-comedy that mines social media culture to truly entertaining effect.

Besties Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) are looking for more followers to improve their brand, and they have been doing a lot of research to make their content more compelling. The Tragedy Girls plumb their small Ohio town’s surprising death toll with more insight than the local police seem to have. Where do they get their knowledge?

Provocative.

Hildebrand and Shipp (both X-Men; Hildebrand was the moody Negasonic in Deadpool while Shipp plays young Storm in the franchise proper) nail their characters’ natural narcissism. Is it just the expectedly shallow, self-centeredness of the teenage years, or are they sociopaths? Who can tell these days?

3. Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)

Horror cinema’s most common and terrifying villain may not be the vampire or even the zombie, but the hillbilly. The generous, giddy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil lampoons that dread with good-natured humor and a couple of rubes you can root for.

In the tradition of Shaun of the DeadT&DVE lovingly sends up a familiar subgenre with insightful, self-referential humor, upending expectations by taking the point of view of the presumably villainous hicks. And it happens to be hilarious.

Two backwoods best buds (an endearing Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) head to their mountain cabin for a weekend of fishing. En route, they meet some college kids on their own camping adventure. A comedy of errors, misunderstandings and subsequent, escalating violence follows as the kids misinterpret every move Tucker and Dale make.

T&DVE offers enough spirit and charm to overcome most weaknesses. Inspired performances and sharp writing make it certainly the most fun participant in the You Got a Purty Mouth class of 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 flicks in years. A spooky coming-of-age tale populated by outcasts in the bleakest, coldest imaginable environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure.

Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar with a blond Prince Valiant cut needs a friend. he finds one in the odd new girl (an outstanding Lina Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. She, as it turns out, needs him even more.

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

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

1.  They Look Like People (2015)

Christian (Evan Dumouchel) is killing it. He’s benching 250 now, looks mussed but handsome as he excels at work, and he’s even gotten up the nerve to ask out his smokin’ hot boss. On his way home from work to change for that date he runs into his best friend from childhood, Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), who’s looking a little worse for wear. Christian doesn’t care. With just a second’s reluctance, Christian invites him in – to his apartment, his date, and his life.

But there is something seriously wrong with Wyatt.

Writer/director Perry Blackshear’s film nimbly treads the same ground as the wonderful Frailty and the damn near perfect Take Shelter in that he uses sympathetic characters and realistic situations to blur the line between mental illness and the supernatural.

Wyatt believes there is a coming demonic war and he’s gone to rescue his one true friend. Andrews is sweetly convincing as the shell shocked young man unsure as to whether his head is full of bad wiring, or whether his ex-fiance has demon fever.

The real star here, though, is Dumouchel, whose character arc shames you for your immediate assessment. Blackshear examines love – true, lifelong friendship – in a way that has maybe never been explored as authentically in a horror film before. It’s this genuineness, this abiding tenderness Christian and Wyatt have for each other, that makes the film so moving and, simultaneously, so deeply scary.

Fright Club: Fathers and Daughters in Horror

Familial relationships can be a killer – especially in the hands of horror filmmakers. This week we look at the fraught relationships between fathers and daughters in horror movies.

5. We Are What We Are (2013, American)

As in Jorge Michel Grau’s original, one family’s religious custom is thrown into havoc when the family leader dies unexpectedly, leaving the ritual unfinished and the children left to determine who will take over. Both films look at a particularly religious family as a sort of tribe that evolved separately but within the larger population. Grau has better instincts for mining this paradigm to expose the flaws of the larger population, but Mickel takes an American Gothic tone to create an eerily familiar darkness that treads on common urbanite fears.

The always exceptional Michael Parks plays a gentle, rural doctor heartbroken over the years-old disappearance of his daughter and intrigued by some grisly bits unearthed by the recent flood. Meanwhile, the devout and desperate Parker family prepares for Lamb’s Day.

The film sets a tone that sneaks up and settles over you, like the damp from a flood. Mickel proves adept with traditional horror storytelling, casting aside any flash in favor of smothering atmosphere and a structure that slowly builds tension, and the impressive climax is worth the wait.

4. Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

Dad himself isn’t even in this film, but what Dracula’s Daughter does well is to depict the hold parents can have on us – if taken to beautifully melodramatic and metaphorical extremes.

Gloria Holden is the hypnotic and almost despondent daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska. After Von Helsing (spelled with an “o” in this movie for some reason) kills the Count, the Countess travels to London to steal the body, hoping to perform a ritual that would cure her of her own awful thirst.

Holden is wonderful, as is Nan Grey as the Countess’s first victim. Lambert Hillyer’s film suggests lesbianism as the shameful curse that can’t be cured – as many a Dracula film has pointed toward homoeroticism as the true curse of vampirism. Thanks to Holden’s melancholy performance, though, instead of feeling like some unwholesome threat, Marya’s desire for women feels more like something her father and now society has made her believe is shameful.

3. Train to Busan (2016)

We are always, always interested when a filmmaker can take the zombie genre in a new direction. Very often, that direction is fun, funny, political—but not necessarily scary. Co-writer/director Sang-ho Yeon combines the claustrophobia of Snakes on a Plane with the family drama of Host, then trusts young Su-An Kim to shoulder the responsibility of keeping us breathlessly involved. It works.

Kim plays Soo-an, a wee girl on a train with her overworked, under-attentive father (Gong Yoo). They are headed to her mother’s. The filmmaker will teach Dad what’s important in this life.

Sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, always exciting and at least once a heartbreaker, Train to Busan succeeds on every front.

2. Oldboy (2003)

A guy passes out after a hard night of drinking. It’s his daughter’s birthday, and that helps us see that this guy is a dick. He’s definitely not much of a father. He wakes up a prisoner in a weird, apartment-like cell. Here he stays for years and years.

The guy is Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi). The film is Oldboy, director Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece of subversive brutality and serious wrongdoing.

Choi is unforgettable as the film’s anti-hero, and his disheveled explosion of emotion is perfectly balanced by the elegantly evil Ji-tae Yu.

Choi takes you with him through a brutal, original, startling and difficult to watch mystery. You will want to look away, but don’t do it! What you witness will no doubt shake and disturb you, but missing it would be the bigger mistake.

1. The Host (2006)

Visionary director Bong Joon Ho’s film opens in a military lab hospital in 2000. A clearly insane American doctor, repulsed by the dust coating formaldehyde bottles, orders a Korean subordinate to empty it all into the sink. Soon the contents of hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde find its way through the Korean sewer system and into the Han River. This event – allegedly based on fact – eventually leads, not surprisingly, to some pretty gamey drinking water. And also a 25 foot cross between Alien and a giant squid.

Said monster – let’s call him Steve Buscemi (the beast’s actual on-set nickname) – exits the river one bright afternoon in 2006 to run amuck in a very impressive outdoor-chaos-and-bloodshed scene. A dimwitted food stand clerk (Joon Ho regular Kang-ho Song) witnesses his daughter’s abduction by the beast, and the stage is set.

What follows, rather than a military attack on a marauding Steve Buscemi, is actually one small, unhappy, bickering family’s quest to find and save the little girl. Their journey takes them to poorly organized quarantines, botched security checkpoints, misguided military/Red Cross posts, and through Seoul’s sewer system, all leading to a climactic battle even more impressive than the earlier scene of afternoon chaos.

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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!

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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.

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Obstacle Corpse – A Horror Comedy

You know how sometimes in an obstacle race everyone starts trying to kill you? Sunny sure does.

Hope Needs Your Help to Make Her Feature Debut!

We all want more good horror comedies. And we want more women-led films. Here’s your chance to have both. Join us in bringing Hope Madden’s debut feature film, the hilarious dasher-slasher Obstacle Corpse, to the big screen. Contribute, and you’ll help Hope make her dreams a reality, be part of a close-knit team making a difference in genre film, and get a smart horror comedy with laughs and kills all the way to the finish line.

A Story to Die For … 

Obstacle Corpse is the tale of lovably cranky teen Sunny and her quest to prove her mettle to her dad (and, ultimately, herself) in an obstacle course race that goes totally f*cking insane. Like, The Warriors meets Saw insane. It’s muddy. It’s bloody. It puts the laugh in slaughter. And it’s surprisingly  sweet and uplifting … in an off-kilter way.

… and a Creator Worth Supporting 

Hope Madden is a celebrated writer, director,  film critic, indie film champion and half of the film brand Maddwolf (along with George Wolf). She’s been preparing all her life to write and direct her debut feature film. Now, she’s ready to take all she’s learned writing optioned screenplays, directing award-winning short films and dissecting horror movies on the critically-acclaimed Fright Club podcast, and create a gut-busting horror comedy with heart (and plenty of other organs). All she needs to do it is … you! 

The Synopsis

Raised in a rah-rah survivalist family, Sunny was always more into books than backpacking as a clan. But she’s tired of disappointing her old man and getting his beard trimmings for Christmas every year (don’t ask). So she sets out to prove herself once and for all in the invite-only Guts and Glory obstacle course race, where she and her goofball friend Ezra will run alongside some past winners and hopefully show Whitey his daughter can take care of herself. 

But all is not as it seems, and soon Sunny realizes she and Ezra are in waaay over their heads, having stumbled into a Most Dangerous Game situation put on by some rich Illuminati wanna-bes. As murderous maniacs begin slaughtering the other “plus-ones” on the course’s twisted obstacles, Sunny must finally spark her survival instinct, or she, Ezra and all the other prey will be coming in — you guessed it — dead last. 

With Your Help, We’re Ready to Run 

We’ve already been working tirelessly for a year to make sure Obstacle Corpse will be made and that you’ll be proud of it. We’ve invested our own money to seed the production. The script is written, revised and locked. We’ve identified and secured locations. We have a talented above-the-line team with feature-producing experience already in place. We’ve lined up in-kind trades for essentials to reduce cost. We’ve even had initial discussions with distributors. 

Now, to make Obstacle Corpse a reality, we need your help. We’re seeking participation from the genre film family totaling $30,000 to directly support production and post-production:

  • Cast, including a face familiar to horror fans
  • Crew, including investing in Columbus-based positions
  • Special effects 
  • Obstacle construction
  • Editing, sound design and color correction
  • Deliverables for distributor

No film production is risk-free, but we’ve done everything we can to give ourselves the very best shot of finishing, delivering and distributing Obstacle Corpse. Our intent is to make this film, whether fully funded or not. The level of scale we can achieve, and the degree to which we can bring Hope’s full vision to life? That’s what you get to control!

Rewards Movie Fans Will Love

Because we’re filmmakers and crowdfunding supporters too, we took a different tack on perks. Our goal is to engage and reward the community we love while ensuring most contributions pass through directly to the cost of the film — instead of getting diverted to pay for expensive tchotchke. So we’ve designed the perks for Obstacle Corpse to create memories, insider experiences, a sense of membership and ownership, and even the chance to kick-start your own filmmaking career with the help of our expert team. 

On Your Mark. Get Set. Give!

Ready to join the race team and help make Obstacle Corpse? Here’s how to run your leg of the course. First, give what you can and enjoy the sweet perks of being part of the OC family. Next, follow us on social to hear about every development. And finally, share this campaign and brag about your good taste on every channel. 

ttps://www.indiegogo.com/projects/obstacle-corpse-a-horror-comedy#/

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.