Tag Archives: Fright Club

Fright Club: Malls in Horror Movies

Once upon a time, there was nothing cooler than a mall. There was no place you would rather be. It was an oasis, a microcosm, and an excellent location for horror. In honor of the 45th anniversary of George Romero’s pinnacle of consumerist horror, we decided to pull together a list of the five most effective shopping mall horrors.

5. Chopping Mall (1986)

In 1984, Kelli Maroney found mall side horror in Night of the Comet. Like Halley’s Comet, shopping center disaster returned to Maroney just two years later.

She and some pals are planning a wild party inside Park Plaza Mall after closing. But their state-of-the-art security robots go all Robo Cop on them. Boasting a supremely 80s vibe, plus the great Barbara Crampton and a Mary Woronov/Paul Bartel sighting! Jim Wynorski’s time capsule of 80s horror might be more fun to watch now than when it was released.

4. Slaxx (2020)

Absurdism meets consumerism in co-writer/director Elza Kephart’s bloody comedy, Slaxx. CCC Clothing’s new line of denim adjusts to your body and makes you look even more glorious than you already do. And these jeans fit every single figure, from 5 pounds underweight to 5 pounds overweight. It’s a dream come true.

Sehar Bhojani steals every scene as the cynical Shruti, but the jeans are the real stars here. Kephart finds endlessly entertaining ways to sic them on unsuspecting wearers.

Where Romero mainly pointed fingers at the hordes mindlessly drawn to stores like CCC, Kephart sees the villains as those perpetuating clean corporate hypocrisy. Still, it’s their customers and workers she murders—by the pantload.

3. Fear Street: Part One – 1994 (2021)

The first episode in Leigh Janiak’s trilogy takes us to Shadyville, site of misery, trauma and unpleasantness nigh on 300 years. Not that Deena (Kiana Madeira) is buying all this “witch’s curse” BS.

Janiak’s 90s vibe is strong and her soundtrack is tight. Performances—Madeiera as well as Benjamin Flores Jr., Maya Hawke, Fred Hechinger and Gillian Jacobs—far exceed expectations for an R. L. Stine adaptation.

Part One is the best in the trilogy, but all three of Janiak’s Fear Street installments deliver fear and fun in equal portions.

2. Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Zack Snyder would go on to success with vastly overrated movies, but his one truly fine piece of filmmaking updated Romero’s Dead sequel with the high octane horror. The result may be less cerebral and political than Romero’s original, but it is a thrill ride through hell and it is not to be missed.

The flick begins strong with one of the best “things seem fine but then they don’t” openings in film. And finally! A strong female lead (Sarah Polley). Polley’s beleaguered nurse Ana leads us through the aftermath of the dawn of the dead, fleeing her rabid husband and neighbors and winding up with a rag tag team of survivors hunkered down inside a mall.

In Romero’s version, themes of capitalism, greed, and mindless consumerism run through the narrative. Snyder, though affectionate to the source material, focuses more on survival, humanity, and thrills. (He also has a wickedly clever soundtrack.) It’s more visceral and more fun. His feature is gripping, breathlessly paced, well developed and genuinely terrifying.

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Romero returned to the land of the undead in ’78 with a full-color sequel to Night. Set in Philadelphia, at a news broadcast gone crazy, the film follows a news producer, her chopper pilot boyfriend, and two Philly SWAT cops ready to abandon the organized zombie fight and find peace elsewhere. The four board a helicopter, eventually landing on the roof of a mall, which they turn into their private hideaway.

Romero, make-up legend Tom Savini, and Italian horror director Dario Argento teamed up for the sequel. You feel Argento’s presence in the score and the vivid red of the gore.

Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger as the buddies from SWAT create the most effective moments, whether character-driven tension or zombie-driven action. Romero’s politics are on his sleeve with this one, and he seems to be working to build on successes of his original. He uses the “z” word, digs at Eighties consumerism, shows full-color entrails, and reminds us again that the undead may not be our biggest enemy once the zombie-tastrophe falls.

Fright Club: Telephone Horror

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

In the meantime, here are our five favorites.

5. The Black Phone (2021)

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

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

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

4. Black Christmas (1974)

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

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

3. When a Stranger Calls (1979)

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

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

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

2. Scream (1996)

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

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

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

1.The Ring (2002)

“Seven days…”

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

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

Fright Club: Parasites in Horror Movies

Fear of infection, of contamination, of losing your personhood, of physical violation—all of it coalesces in often gooey fashion in the parasite movie. Metaphors abound and slugs take center stage as some of the greatest directors of the genre tell the tale of hosts and unwanted guests. Here are our favorites.

Shivers (1975)

In an upscale Montreal high rise, an epidemic is breaking out. A scientist has created an aphrodisiac in the form of a big, nasty slug. That slug, though, spreads wantonness throughout the high rise and threatens to overrun the city with its lusty ways.

Shivers takes a zombie concept and uses it to pervert expectations. (See what we did there?) Cronenberg’s his first feature length horror predicts so many of the films to come. The film obsesses over human sexuality, social mores, the physical form, physical violation and infestation, medical science, conspiracy, and free will.

Splinter (2008)

Road kill, a carjacking, an abandoned gas station, some quills – it doesn’t take much for first time feature filmmaker and longtime visual effects master Toby Wilkins to get under your skin. One cute couple just kind of wants to camp in Oklahoma’s ancient forest (which can never be a good idea, really). Too bad a couple of ne’er-do-wells needs their car. Then a flat (what was that – a porcupine? No!!) sends them to that creepy gas station, and all hell breaks loose.

Contamination gymnastics call to mind the great John Carpenter flick The Thing, but Splinter is its own animal. Characters have depth and arcs, the danger is palpable, the kills pretty amazing, and the overall aesthetic of that old highway gives everything a desperately lonesome quality where you believe anything could happen and no rescue is in sight.

Slither (2006)

Writer/director James Gunn took the best parts of B-movie Night of the Creeps and Cronenberg’s They Came from Within, mashing the pieces into the exquisitely funny, gross and terrifying Slither.

Cutie pie Starla (Elizabeth Banks) is having some marital problems. Her husband Grant (the great Michael Rooker) is at the epicenter of an alien invasion. Smalltown sheriff Bill Pardy (every nerd girl’s imaginary boyfriend Nathan Fillion) tries to set things straight as a giant mucous ball, a balloonlike womb-woman, a squid monster, projectile vomit, zombies, and loads and loads of slugs keep the action really hopping.

Consistently funny, cleverly written, well-paced, tense and scary and gross—Slither has it all. Watch it. Do it!

The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 SciFi flick The Thing from Another World is both reverent and barrier-breaking, limiting the original’s Cold War paranoia, and concocting a thoroughly spectacular tale of icy isolation, contamination, and mutation.

A beard-tastic cast portrays a team of scientists on expedition in the Arctic who take in a dog. The dog is not a dog, though. Not really. And soon, in an isolated wasteland with barely enough interior room to hold all the facial hair, folks are getting jumpy because there’s no knowing who’s not really himself anymore.

This is an amped up body snatcher movie benefitting from some of Carpenter’s most cinema-fluent and crafty direction: wide shots when we need to see the vastness of the unruly wilds; tight shots to remind us of the close quarters with parasitic death inside.

Alien (1979)

After a vagina-hand-sucker-monster attaches itself to your face, it gestates inside you, then tears through your innards. Then it grows exponentially, hides a second set of teeth, and bleeds acid. How much cooler could this possibly be?

Much ado has been made, rightfully so, of the John Hurt Chest Explosion (we loved their early work, before they went commercial). But Ridley Scott’s lingering camera leaves unsettling impressions in far simpler ways, starting with the shot of all those eggs.

Fright Club: Skeletons in the Closet, 2024 Oscar Nominees

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We get to celebrate the terrible decisions some of this year’s Oscar nominees have made in their careers. Why? Because we sincerely love them—the movies and their stars. Join us as we comb through this year’s Oscar nominees’ bad horror past.

5. In Dreams (1999): Annette Bening  and Robert Downey Jr.

It’s a twofer! Nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. joined director Neil Jordan (In the Company of Wolves, Interview with a Vampire, Byzantium) for this gender fluid serial killer/fairy tale mash up that just doesn’t work.

With Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, Margo Martindale (in a brief, thankless orderly role), it’s a convoluted mess of a movie that tosses together tropes from about six different styles of horror without ever trying to make sense of any of them.

This was Bening’s only real foray into horror, while Downey Jr. starred in Zodiac (great) and Gothica (poor).

4. Godsend (2004): Robert De Niro

Do not be surprised that De Niro starred in a lackluster horror flick in the early 2000s. He starred in several, not to mention the handful of bad actioners, bad thrillers, and bad comedies he peppers into his otherwise impressive filmography.

In this case, De Niro plays a geneticist with an ulterior motive, preying on the grief of a couple (Rebecca Romijn, Greg Kinnear) whose only child (Cameron Bright) has been killed. De Niro brings him back, but when has that ever been a good idea in a horror movie? Derivative and embarrassing, considering the cast.

Robert De Niro has starred in some great horror (Cape Fear, Angel Heart) and some bad horror (Hide and Seek, Frankenstein).

3. Case 39 (2009): Bradley Cooper

Like George Clooney, Bradley Cooper can write, direct, star, earn Oscar nominations, and be counted on to shine bright in a bunch of bad early career horror. In this case, he co-stars with now two-time Oscar winner Renee Zellweger.

It’s a blatant, lifeless The Ring ripoff with bad FX, bad acting and lame plotting. Cooper plays Doug (he’ll be your Doug). It’s a thankless role of boyfriend/buddy/bee sting sufferer.

We’ve talked about other Cooper horror before, but here’s his whole lineup: My Little Eye (pretty bad), Midnight Meat Train (not very good), and 10 Cloverfield Lane (voice acting, a really good movie).

2. The Wolfman (2010): Emily Blunt

We had such hopes for this one when it came out. That cast! Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, and 2024 Oscar nominee Emily Blunt.

Good God, was it awful. If you can look past the idea that Hopkins and Del Toro could be father and son, look past the insipid plot, look past Hopkins’s hamminess or del Toro’s disinterest, you cannot look past the heinous FX. But Blunt handles herself really, really well.

This was not the first, nor would it be the last horror film for Blunt: A Quiet Place (very good) A Quiet Place 2 (good) and Wind Chill (pretty good).

1. Frankenstein and Me (1996): Ryan Gosling

This one’s hard to track down, but worth the effort if you enjoy very badly made family-oriented “horror.” It’s a Disney TV movie starring Burt Reynolds (I swear to God). Burt’s married to a woman 1/3 his age (played by Myriam Cyr, who—God love her—is the worst actor on earth). The two have two young sons, who dream of bringing the dead to life.

Oscar winner Louise Fletcher takes abuse in a role that’s wildly beneath her, but there is one bright spot. This is Ryan Gosling’s first film, and he’s a spunky charmer, elevating every scene he’s in.

It wouldn’t be his last horror film, having also starred in Stay (mediocre, but co-starring 2024 Oscar nominee Sterling K. Brown) and Murder by Numbers (mediocre).

Fright Club: Towns that Won’t Let Go

Being trapped in a town–whether by supernatural forces or physical ones–is a nightmare scenario that horror movies use to their advantage. Maybe it’s bloodthirsty kids in a cornfield who keep you. Maybe it’s some kind of unnatural barrier, and every time you leave, you wind up where you started. Either way, spooky times! Here are our five favorite towns that won’t let you leave!

5. Hilsboro: The Brotherhood of Satan (1971)

One of those mid-afternoon TV watches one day home sick from school, this movie scared the shit out of me. Was it the kidnapping and possession of children? The Satanic cult? No–it was the idea that K.T. and Nicky could never leave the town. No matter what direction they drove or how they attempted it, they would never get out of the town.

That idea stuck with me for ages, but in restrospect, the movie has a lot of weird goodness going for it. It seems to have inspired Being John Malcovich to a degree, as well as Cemetery Man. It’s a B-movie, no question, but it is a lot of fun.

4. Camp Arcadia: The Endless (2017)

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead continue themes developed in the remarkable Resolution (which could also be on the list). And though it’s really a camp they need to leave, the dread the filmmakers develop is identical to that of the town that won’t let go.

As brothers return to the cult they’d escaped years earlier for a friendly visit, you spend every minute hoping, goading, yelling, begging them to fucking just leave! Get out! What are you still doing there?!

The tension is palpable and the fraternal familiarity between Justin and Moorhead is painfully, tenderly authentic. This works to ground the science fiction elements as they develop, creating an unnerving and memorable feature.

3. Hobbs End: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

John Carpenter combines King with Lovecraft to create an unforgettable journey into madness. Sam Neill is an insurance investigator out to prove that vanished author Sutter Cane is a phony. He just needs to get to Hobb’s End and prove it.

There’s a scene with a bicyclist on a country road that boasts of Carpenter’s genre magic, as madness and mayhem collude to keep Neill where he is, at least until he can serve a greater purpose.

2. Buffalora: Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore – [of death, of love], 1994)

Inarguably director Michele Soavi’s best work is confined mainly to the cemetery in Buffalora. Released the same year as In the Mouth of Madness, Cemetery Man explores a handful of the same themes. It just does it with more sex.

The film balances humor with horror, sneakily leading to meaner and more chaotic plot turns until there’s no going back.

Rupert Everett is perfection as Dellamorte, the cemetery keeper who has noticed that the dead come back about seven days after they’re interred. Things go from bad to worse to worse still, and finally he loads up his best friend Gnaghi and plans to put Buffalora behind him. Good luck.

1. The Yabba: Wake in Fright (1971)

First time in the Yabba?

Sweaty, drunken, debauched–Ted Kotcheff’s Aussie thriller wrings tension from every scene as John Grant, put-upon school teacher, explores his manliness with the very manliest in town.

A pressure cooker, the film is an absolute education in escalating tension, but it also boasts what may be the greatest performance of Donald Pleasance’s career.

The film is not for the faint of heart, and potential viewers beware: the kangaroo hunt is real.

Fright Club: Unexpected Guests in Horror

It’s one of the oldest tropes in horror: an unexpected knock at the door. Maybe the visitors are in danger: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Human Centipede, The Old Dark House and countless others. Or, maybe it’s the folks inside who should be afraid: Knock, Knock; Brimstone and Treacle. For our 10th anniversary special, we count down the best “unexpected guest” horror.

5. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

The Eyes of My Mother will remind you of many other films, and yet there truly is no film quite like this one.

First time feature writer/director Nicolas Pesce, with a hell of an assist from cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, casts an eerie spell of lonesome bucolic horror.

Shot in ideal-for-the-project black and white, an Act 1 event could come from any number of horror films. A mother looks out her window to see her young daughter, playing alone in the front lawn, talking with a stranger. There is something clearly wrong with the stranger, and things take a bad turn. But for Pesce, this simple, well-worn set-up offers endless unexplored possibilities. Because this bad man doesn’t realize that the isolated farm family he’s come to harm is very comfortable with dissection.

4. The Strangers (2008)

“Is Tamara home?”

Writer/director Bryan Bertino creates an awful lot of terror beginning with that line.

A couple heads to an isolated summer home after a wedding. It was meant to be the first stop on their life together, or so we gather, but not all worked out as James (Scott Speedman) had planned. As he and what he’d hoped would be his fiancé, Kristen (Liv Tyler), sit awkwardly and dance around the issue, their very late night is interrupted by a knock and that immediately suspicious question.

Bertino beautifully crafts his first act to ratchet up suspense, with lovely wide shots that allow so much to happen quietly in a frame. This is a home invasion film with an almost unbearable slow burn.

3. Funny Games (1997, 2007)

A family pulls into their vacation lake home, and are quickly bothered by two young men in white gloves. Things, to put it mildly, deteriorate.

Writer/director Michael Haneke begins this nerve wracking exercise by treading tensions created through etiquette, toying with subtle social mores and yet building dread so deftly, so authentically, that you begin to clench your teeth long before the first act of true violence.

But it is the villains who sell the premise. Whether German actors Arno Frisch and Frank Giering or Americans Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt for his 2007 English language remake, the bored sadism that wafts from these kids is seriously unsettling, as, in turn, is the film.

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.

Two young, ordinary, healthy kids left Denton that fateful evening on a night out. It was a night out they were going to remember for a very long time.

Brad Majors (asshole) and Janet Weiss (slut) get themselves in a bit of a pickle on a rainy night and need to seek a telephone at that castle they past a few miles back. I think you know the rest.

1. The Black Cat (1934)

Rocky Horror owes a tremendous debt to Edgar G. Ulmer’s bizarre horror show. The film – clearly precode – boasts torture, tales of cannibalism, and more than the hint of necromancy.

Plus Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff?! What is not to love?

Loosely based on Poe’s The Black Cat – so loose in fact that it bears not a single moment’s resemblance to the short – the film introduces Lugosi’s Dr. Vitus Werdegast. He’s come to seek vengeance on Karloff’s mysterious Hjalmar Poelzig, if only Werdegast can overcome his all-consuming terror of cats!

Fright Club: Best Drunks in Horror Movies

Whether they’re merrymakers (Grabbers), comic relief (Mrs. MacHenry, Black Christmas), tempted heroes (Dan Torrance, Doctor Sleep), or outright villains (Jane, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane), the drunk is a staple of horror. They can generate a laugh to help offset tension, or develop dread along with their temptation. They can add tragedy, comedy, lunacy and even terror. Here are our favorite horror movie alcoholics.

5. John Grant (Gary Bond), Wake in Fright (1971)

An unrelenting work of tension and sweat, Ted Kotcheff’s Outback thriller follows an aggrieved school teacher who stops over for a single night in the Yabba on his way from his consripted teaching post to Sydney for Christmas.

One bad decision later, and he (John Grant) and we are trapped, possibly forever, in drunken, mad, dangerous, almost sadistic debauchery. Donald Pleasence co stars as part of a merry band of utter lunatics whose sold purpose seems to be to trap this man in their depravity with them.

4. Sam (Larry Fessenden), 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. John Marshall (Jim Cummings), The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

Writer/director/star Jim Cummings is officer John Marshall of the Snow Hollow sheriff’s department. John’s father (Robert Forster, in his final role) is the longtime sheriff of the small ski resort town, but Dad’s reached the age and condition where John feels he’s really the one in charge.

John’s also a recovering alcoholic with a hot temper, a bitter ex-wife and a teen daughter who doesn’t like him much. But when a young ski bunny gets slaughtered near the hot tub under a full moon, suddenly John’s got a much bigger, much bloodier problem.

Cumming’s script, like his writing for Thunder Road, is full of life, and has hin again juggling random outbursts of absurd non-sequiturs and hilarious anger with real human issues of struggle and loss. John’s afraid of losing his father, women are being preyed upon, and a drink would sure hit the spot.

2. Wake (Willem Dafoe) & Winslow (Robert Pattinson), The Lighthouse (2019)

Robert Eggars has gone to sea. The Lighthouse strands you, along with two wickies, on the unforgiving island home of one lonely 1890s New England lighthouse.

Salty sea dog Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) keeps the light, mind ye. He also handles among the most impressive briny soliloquies delivered on screen in a lifetime. Joining him as second is one Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson)—aimless, prone to self-abuse, disinclined to appreciate a man’s cooking. Both enjoy a bit of drink.

This is thrilling cinema. Let it in, and it will consume you to the point of nearly missing the deft gothic storytelling at work. The film is other-worldly, surreal, meticulous and consistently creepy.

And we’ll tell you what The Lighthouse is not. It is not a film ye will soon forget.

1. Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson), The Shining (1980)

It’s isolated, it’s haunted, you’re trapped, but somehow nothing feels derivative and you’re never able to predict what happens next. It’s Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece rendition of Stephen King’s The Shining.

Jack Nicholson outdoes himself. His early, veiled contempt blossoms into pure homicidal mania, and there’s something so wonderful about watching Nicholson slowly lose his mind. Between writer’s block, isolation, ghosts, alcohol withdrawal, midlife crisis, and “a momentary loss of muscular coordination,” the playfully sadistic creature lurking inside this husband and father emerges.

Fright Club: 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.
ba-ba-ba-dook-dook-dook…
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.