Tag Archives: horror movie podcast

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: Aging in Horror Movies

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

Obstacle Corpse

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

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

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

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

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

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

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

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

     

4. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

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

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

Seyrig’s performance lends the villain a tragic loveliness that makes her the most endearing figure in the film. Everybody else feels mildly unpleasant, a sinister bunch who seem to be hiding things. The husband, in particular, is a suspicious figure, and a bit peculiar. Kind of a dick, really – and Bathory, for one, has no time for dicks.

3. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

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

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

2. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

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

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

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

1. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

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

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

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

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

Fright Club: Workout Horror

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

5. Final Destination 3 (2006)

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

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

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

4. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

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

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

3. Tragedy Girls (2017)

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

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

2. The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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

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

1. Final Destination 5

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

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

But we’re here to watch Candace die.

Fright Club: Best One-Watch Horror

With this episode we hit the big 200, so we wanted to celebrate in the most masochistic way possible. No! We wanted a really great topic (George’s choice) and a really great guest – filmmaker and co-founder/programmer of Nightmares Film Festival, Jason Tostevin.

Together we talk through the very best horror movies we could not watch a second time no matter what.

5. A Serbian Film (2010)

This is not a movie we would recommend to basically anyone. That’s not to say it’s a bad film – it’s pretty well directed, acted, and written. It’s just that the co-writer/director Srdjan Spasojevic is trying to articulate the soul-deadening effects of surviving the depravity of war. The film title is no coincidence – the film is meant to reflect the reality of a nation so recently involved in among the most depraved, horrific, unimaginable acts of war. It’s as if he’s saying, after all that, what could still shock us?

Like Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious 1975 effort Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom – also a depiction of the depravity left behind after war – A Serbian Film overwhelms you with horrifying imagery.

4. An American Crime (2007)

In 1966, Gertrude Baniszewski, along with three of her children and two neighbor boys, was convicted of what’s commonly considered to be the most heinous crime ever committed in the state of Indiana. The senior investigator described the prolonged abuse and murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens as the most sadistic case he’d investigated in his 35 years on the force.

In 2007, two films were released depicting the horror. The Jack Ketchum-penned The Girl Next Door found a larger audience, but co-writer/director Tommy O’Haver’s An American Crime is the far superior film.

Elliot Page offers a full, layered performance, making Sylvia a realistic character – someone you might have known in high school. Of course, that makes it even harder to stomach what becomes of her. The entire cast—an impressive ensemble—does stunning work, but the dark magic here is Catherine Keener. Giving one of the best performances of her already stellar career, Keener guarantees that it will be a long time before you recover from this movie.

3. The Painted Bird (2019)

If you paint the wings of a sparrow (or stitch a star to his jacket) the rest of the flock will no longer recognize him. The other birds will swarm and peck him until he plummets back to the earth. This is just one of the horrific lessons a young boy learns as he desperately searches for anywhere or anyone safe in war-torn Eastern Europe.

What follows is a brutal parade of the worst humanity has to offer. Domestic abuse, graphic violence, multiple instances of animal abuse and death, rape, child abuse and rape, and more. Then the war crimes start around hour three.

The Painted Bird is a test of endurance. It’s also a beautifully shot, well-performed, and incredibly moving piece of cinema. You simply have to be willing to go where it wants to take you. And all of those places are dark and darker.

2. Irreversible (2002)

French filmmaker/provocateur Gaspar Noe does not play well with his audience. Every film, no matter how brilliantly put together or gloriously filmed, is a feat in masochism to watch. Later efforts, like Enter the Void, spread the misery out for its full running time, but for Irreversible, he gave it to us in two horrifying scenes. While the head-bashing is tough viewing, the film centers on a rape scene that is all but impossible to watch.

Noe’s general MO is to punish you through sheer duration. The scenes last so long you feel like you cannot endure another minute, and this scene certainly does that. Not shot even momentarily for titillation, and boasting a devastatingly excellent performance from Monica Bellucci, it justifies its own horrific presence. There are other films with necessary and difficult rape scenes – Straw DogsI Spit on Your GraveThe Last House on the LeftHenry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – but none is harder to stomach than this.

1. Nothing Bad Can Happen (2013)

This film is tough to watch, and the fact that it is based on a true story only makes the feat of endurance that much harder. But writer-director Katrin Gebbe mines this horrific tale for a peculiar point of view that suits it brilliantly and ensures that it is never simply a gratuitous wallowing in someone else’s suffering.

Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is an awkward teen in Germany. His best friend is Jesus. He means it. In fact, he’s so genuine and pure that when he lays his hands on stranded motorist Benno’s (Sascha Alexander Gersak) car, the engine starts.

Thus begins a relationship that devolves into a sociological exploration of button-pushing evil and submission to your own beliefs. Feldmeier is wondrous—so tender and vulnerable you will ache for him. Gersak is his equal in a role of burgeoning cruelty. The whole film has a, “you’re making me do this,” mentality that is hard to shake. It examines one particular nature of evil and does it so authentically as to leave you truly shaken.

Fright Club: Best Cosmic Horror

Author Hailey Piper joins the club this week to tear through about 25 different cosmic horror movies, eventually landing on some fuzzy math favorites. Join us, won’t you?

6. Hellraiser

“The box…you opened it. We came.”

Man, those cenobites were scary cool, weren’t they?

Hellraiser, Clive Barker’s feature directing debut, worked not only as a grisly splatterfest suited to the Eighties horror landscape. It’s easy to see the film as an occult or supernatural horror, but it’s just as likely a cosmic tale of a dimension you could open without even trying, another reality on the other side of an afternoon’s puzzle past time.

5. Spiral (Uzumaki) (2000)

Higuchinsky’s mind bending 2000 Japanese horror went underappreciated upon release – likely because of the interest in ghosts and digital horror during that period. That’s too bad, because his adaptation of the not-yet-released Manga Uzumaki is a delight.

It starts with a snail shell. It ends with a town in chaos. If you missed it, you should remedy that now.

4. In the Mouth of Madness

Sutter Cane may be awfully close to Stephen King, but John Carpenter’s cosmic horror is even more preoccupied by Lovecraft. The great Sam Neill leads a fun cast in a tale of madness as created by the written world.

What if those horror novels you read became reality? What if that sketchy writer with the maybe-too-vivid imagination was not just got to his own page, but god for real? This movie tackles that ripe premise while ladling love for both of the horror novelists who made New England the creepiest section of America.

3. The Endless

There is something very clever about the way Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s movies sneak up on you. Always creepy, still they defy genre expectations even as they play with them.

Camp Arcadia offers the rustic backdrop for their latest, The Endless. A clever bit of SciFi misdirection, the film follows two brothers as they return to the cult they’d escaped a decade earlier.

It is this story and the pair’s storytelling skill that continues to impress. Their looping timelines provide fertile ground for clever turns that fans of the filmmakers will find delightful, but the uninitiated will appreciate as well.

2. Annihilation

Alex Garland’s work as both a writer (28 Days Later…, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go) and a writer/director (Ex Machina) has shown a visionary talent for molding the other-worldly and the familiar. Annihilation unveils Garland at his most existential, becoming an utterly absorbing sci-fi thriller where each answer begs more questions.

Taking root as a strange mystery, it offers satisfying surprises amid an ambitious narrative flow full of intermittent tension, scares, and blood—and a constant sense of wonder.

Just his second feature as a director, Annihilation proves Ex Machina was no fluke. Garland is pondering similar themes—creation, self-destruction, extinction—on an even deeper level, streamlining the source material into an Earthbound cousin to 2001.

1. The Mist

David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son head to town for some groceries. Meanwhile, a tear in the space/time continuum opens a doorway to alien monsters. So he, his boy, and a dozen or so other shoppers are all trapped inside this glass-fronted store just waiting for rescue or death.

Marcia Gay Harden is characteristically brilliant as the religious zealot who turns survival inside the store into something less likely than survival out with the monsters, but the whole cast offers surprisingly restrained but emotional turns.

The FX look amazing, too, but it’s the provocative ending that guarantees this one will sear itself into your memory.

Fright Club: Best Animated Horror

Cartoons can be scary. Scooby Doo knew it. You can paint a nightmare in a way that no amount of CGI or practical effects can really execute. Animation frees a filmmaker from the constraints of the concrete world, allowing for more imaginative storytelling. Here are our favorite animated horror gems.

5. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

Feature length, R-rated anime is so often a simple excuse for fantasy fulfillment aimed at stunted adolescents of all ages. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s 1987 film Wicked City certainly is that.

But in 2000, working from a story based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel, Kawajiri executed the near-impossible. He made a sequel that was better than its much beloved predecessor (1985’s Vampire Hunter D).

Gothic and futuristic, beautifully drawn and nicely paced without losing the energy of the genre, Bloodlust delivers a gorgeous, bloody time.

4. Perfect Blue (1997)

This psychosexual thriller might feel garden variety if it had been made into a live action film. A young woman trades in her innocent image to take on more suggestive roles as an actress, only to find her fans turning on her in violent ways. Or is it an internal conflict over the way men and the media need to sexualize her that’s fragmenting her own mind?

In director Satoshi Kon’s anime vision, those familiar thriller tropes take on an unseemly dreamy quality. The animation style suggests more about the way mass media consumes a sexualized idea of innocence than any live action film could muster, and the hallucinatory quality achieved in the film would never have played this well in any other style.

3. Seoul Station (2016)

An animated side story to writer/director Sang-ho Yeon’s blistering zombie flick Train to Busan, Seoul Station gives us a chance to see what’s happening in other parts of Korea while Soo-an and her dad try to make it off the train alive.

A gripping story of people on the fringe, Seoul Station also boasts some incredibly imaginative animation. Scenes teem with slaughter, salvation, and social anxiety in a film that takes anime into reaches unsought before.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton penned and produced, directed by Henry Selick (Coraline), this tale of the Halloweentown/Christmastown mash up became an instant and unbreakable Goth favorite. Jack Skellington (“What’s happenin’, bone daddy?”) just doesn’t feel the same kind of love for Halloween that’s kept him motivated lo these many years. A little melancholy, he heads into the woods, only to take a wrong turn and find himself in the land of Christmas. Naturally, he and his fellow ghouls – meaning no real harm, you see – decide to kidnap Santa and run Christmas themselves… just this once.

The story, the music (by Danny Elfman, natch), the inspired stop-action style animation, and that sweetly macabre sensibility that Burton brings to every project spoke to the Nineties generation and continues to speak to outsiders, monsters, and lovers of animation everywhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3xTgBED5cQ

1. Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)

A French import perfectly suited to a dark and stormy Halloween night, the film brings together some of the top graphic artists in Europe and America to present six animated vignettes that showcase some of the mind’s deepest fears.

The human mind is always more capable of true horror than any teenage slasher movie, and that is what this film is interested in exploring. shorts delve into social anxiety, sexual insecurity, sociopathic tendencies, needles, dismemberment and the good old fashioned fear of the dark to achieve an overall feel of impending doom. You’ll get goosebumps without really knowing why.