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: Bad Date Horror

I can see where you might believe that these are films in which bad dates occur. While that might be a fine, future podcast and list, the fact is that today we explore the worst horror movies to watch while you are on a date.

While horror movies can sometimes make for excellent date night choices, these, we predict, will turn the date sour. They are also highly likely to douse any romantic sparks. (And if they don’t, your date is a sociopath. Be warned.)

5. Audition (1999)

The prolific director Takashi Miike made more than 70 movies in his first 20 or so years in film. Among the best is Audition, a phenomenally creepy May/December romance gone very, very wrong.

Audition tells the story of a widower convinced by his TV producer friend to hold mock television auditions as a way of finding a suitable new mate. He is repaid for his deception.

Nearly unwatchable and yet too compelling to turn away from, Audition is a remarkable piece of genre filmmaking. The slow moving picture builds anticipation, then dread, then full-on horror.

By the time Audition hits its ghastly conclusion, Miike and his exquisitely terrifying antagonist (Eihi


4. 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 and Climax, spread the misery out for its full running time, but for Irreversible, he gave it to us in two horrifying scenes.

Filmed in reverse chronological order and featuring those two famously brutal sequences, Noe succeeds in both punishing his viewers and reminding them of life’s simple beauty. 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 Dogs, I Spit on Your Grave, The Last House on the Left, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – but none is harder to stomach than this.

There’s no denying the intelligence of the script, the aptitude of the director, or the absolute brilliance of Monica Bellucci in an incredibly demanding role.

3. Teeth (2007)

Of all the films built on the hysteria of impending womanhood, few are as specific as Teeth, a film in which a pubescent discovers a sharp set where teeth ought not be. This is a dark comedy and social satire that is uncomfortable to watch no matter your gender, although I imagine it may be a bit rougher on men.

Treading on the dread of coming-of-age and turning male-oriented horror clichés on ear, Teeth uses the metaphor implicit in vagina dentata—a myth originated to bespeak the fear of castration—to craft a parable about the dangers as well as the power of sexual awakening.

Written and directed by artist (and Ohioan!) Roy Lichtenstein’s son Mitchell, Teeth boasts an irreverent if symbol-heavy script with a strong and believable lead performance (Jess Weixler).

Weixler’s evolution from naïveté to shock to guilt to empowerment never ceases to captivate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-qd-k0Vg7s

2. Antichrist (2009)

Lars von Trier’s foray into horror follows a couple down a deep and dark rabbit hole of grief. Von Trier’s films have often fixated on punishing viewers and female protagonists alike, but in this film the nameless woman (played fearlessly by Charlotte Gainsbourg) wields most of the punishment – whether upon her mate (Willem Dafoe) or herself.

Consumed by grief, a mother allows her husband—also grieving—to become her psychotherapist as they retreat to their isolated cabin deep in the woods where they will try to overcome the horror of losing their only child.

They won’t succeed.

Like dental scenes, gynecological horror draws a particular reaction. Whether it’s the abuse scene at the beginning of Proxy, nearly any scene in the brilliant French film Inside, or the final feast in Trouble Every Day, scenes of this ilk can be tough to watch. But to watch as Gainsbourg – who’s already inflicted some serious pain on Dafoe’s character – takes the scissors to herself is next to impossible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4U5rdi9w-U


1. 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 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 title is no coincidence – the film is meant to reflect the reality of a nation so recently involved in among the most horrific, unimaginable acts of war. It’s as if Spasojevic is saying, after all that, what could still shock us?

Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) was a porn star before the war. He’s lured back for one lucrative “acting” effort, but there’s a reason it pays so well.

The entire film is an assault, but there is one scene in this one that catapults it to the top of this list, and you probably already know what that is. Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) finally realizes the depths of his new director’s evil when he sees his latest effort: newborn porn. There is no unseeing this.


Fright Club: Most Horrifying Moments

This is an odd one for us. Generally, our countdowns are meant specifically to draw attention to films we think you should see. The films covered today are not recommended for the squeamish, and one of them is not recommended for anyone. When the hobbling scene from Misery is not tough enough to make your list – indeed, did not even make the top 10 – you know you’ve chosen some pretty miserable content. (We’ve decided to include trailers here rather than the actual scenes.) After much help from listeners and a lot of soul crushing time spent watching movies and scenes we’d rather forget, here is our list of the 5 most difficult scenes in horror movies to watch.

5. Oldboy (2003)

Like most every film on this list, Chan-wook Park’s 2003 original Oldboy boasts many scenes that are tough to watch. It’s a magnificent if punishing film, full of unseemly twists and bloody turns that ratchet up tension and keep you utterly bewildered for 120 minutes. But there are two scenes in particular that really hit a nerve as only a root canal can.

Dentistry horror is tough for a lot of people to take, and Park explores his oral fixation several times in this film. For us, the hardest one to watch happens toward the bitter end, when the smitten Dae-su Oh attempts to prove that he will never tell the secret. To give away either the secret or the proof may be to spoil too much, but he is guaranteed to do no tongue wagging after this scene.

4. Antichrist (2009)

Lars von Trier’s foray into horror follows a couple down a deep and dark rabbit hole of grief. Von Trier’s films have often fixated on punishing viewers and female protagonists alike, but in this film the nameless woman (played fearlessly by Charlotte Gainsbourg) wields most of the punishment – whether upon her mate (Willem Dafoe) or herself.

Like dental scenes, gynecological horror draws a particular reaction. Whether it’s the abuse scene at the beginning of Proxy, nearly any scene in the brilliant French film Inside, or the final feast in Trouble Every Day, scenes of this ilk can be tough to watch. But to watch as Gainsbourg – who’s already inflicted some serious pain on Dafoe’s character – takes the scissors to herself is next to impossible.

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

3. 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 Dogs, I Spit on Your Grave, The Last House on the Left, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – but none is harder to stomach than this.

2. Martyrs (2009)

Martyrs is an incredibly difficult film to watch, but it pays you for your perseverance. It’s a brilliantly conceived and thoughtfully executed film about innocence, zealotry, and misery that opens with a child surviving torture. Not an easy image to overcome, and yet Martyrs only gets tougher.

Writer/director Pascal Laugier plays on the same visceral reaction to torture that drove Hostel, Audition, and The Strangers. Indeed, mainstream directors understand the “look away” reflex that informs Martyrs – just watch the slow knife death in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, or American History X’s curb stomp scene. But Martyrs builds and builds, pulling you in, asking you to love poor Anna so that it is that much tougher to watch her when she’s skinned alive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7Qx2dT-lUw

1. 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. Indeed, between Salo and A Serbian Film, you’ll find just about every single scene we’ve mentioned in this list. But there is one scene that has to top the list, and you probably already know what that is. Milos (Srdjan Todorovic) finally realizes the depths of his new director’s evil when he sees his latest effort: newborn porn. There is no unseeing this.

Whew. Now, on to some comedies!

Listen to the whole conversation on our FRIGHT CLUB podcast.





Fright Club: Best in French Horror

French horror films are not for the squeamish. In particular, the French languge output in the first decade of this century boasted some of the most extreme and well-crafted horror available anywhere. Films like Sheitan, Trouble Every Day, Frontiers, High Tension and many others mark an era that may never be bettered. In celebration of this week’s live Fright Club, we walk through some of the best in best French language horror films.

Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Sarah lost her husband in a car crash some months back, and now, on the eve of Christmas, she sits, enormous, uncomfortable, and melancholy about the whole business. Were this an American film, the tale may end shortly after Sarah’s Christmas Eve  peril makes the expectant mom realize just how much she loves, wants, and seeks to protect her unborn baby. But French horror films are different. This is study in tension wherein one woman (the incomparable Beatrice Dalle) will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.

Them (Ils) (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit. Writers/directors/Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up. Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Djvi1-k0s

Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe is perhaps the most notorious French filmmaker working in the genre, and Irreversible is his most notorious effort. Filmed in reverse chronological order and featuring two famously brutal sequences, Noe succeeds in both punishing his viewers and reminding them of life’s simple beauty. There’s no denying the intelligence of the script, the aptitude of the director, or the absolute brilliance of Monica Bellucci in an incredibly demanding role.

Martyrs (2008)

This import plays like three separate films: orphanage ghost story, suburban revenge fantasy, and medical experimentation horror. The first 2 fit together better than the last, but the whole is a brutal tale that is hard to watch, hard to turn away from, and worth the effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbct9qWBSME

Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004)

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down. With the darkest imaginable humor, the film looks like what might have happened had David Lynch directed Deliverence in French. As Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse. The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive. This film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgB9JTdrXhg

FC 02-Best in French Horror Films

Join us the 4th Saturday of every month for Fright Club Live, as we unspool a horror gem at Drexel Theater. Join the club!





Countdown: Best French Language Horror Movies

French horror films are not for the squeamish. Hell, even Belgian and Canadian horror seems affected by the French flair for bloodshed and discomfort – the Grand Guignol, as they might say. And those crazy frogs may be making the very best in the genre right now. In celebration of this week’s live Fright Club, the brilliant and horrifying Calvaire (in 35 mm!), we count down the other 5 best French language horror films.

5. Sheitan (2006)

The fantastic Vincent Cassel stars as the weirdest handyman ever, spending a decadent Christmas weekend with a rag tag assortment of nightclub refugees. After Bart (Olivier Barthelemy) is tossed from the club, his mates and the girls they’re flirting with head out to spend the weekend at Eve’s (a not shy Rosane Mesquida). Way out in rural France, they meet Eve’s handyman, his very pregnant wife, and a village full of borderline freaks. The film is savagely uncomfortable and refreshingly unusual. Cassel’s performance is a work of lunatic genius, and his film is never less than memorable.  

4. Martyrs (2008)

This import plays like three separate films: orphanage ghost story, suburban revenge fantasy, and medical experimentation horror. The first 2 fit together better than the last, but the whole is a brutal tale that is hard to watch, hard to turn away from, and worth the effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbct9qWBSME

3. Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe is perhaps the most notorious French filmmaker working in the genre, and Irreversible is his most notorious effort. Filmed in reverse chronological order and featuring two famously brutal sequences, Noe succeeds in both punishing his viewers, and reminding them of life’s simple beauty. There’s no denying the intelligence of the script, the aptitude of the director, or the absolute brilliance of Monica Bellucci in an incredibly demanding role.

2. Them (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit. Writers/directors/Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up. Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Djvi1-k0s

1. Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Sarah lost her husband in a car crash some months back, and now, on the eve of Christmas, she sits, enormous, uncomfortable, and melancholy about the whole business. Were this an American film, the tale may end shortly after Sarah’s Christmas Eve  peril makes the expectant mom realize just how much she loves, wants, and seeks to protect her unborn baby. But French horror films are different. This is study in tension wherein one woman will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.