Fright Club: Toolbox Horror

Who’s idea was this? Because this was super fun. Horror filmmaker can get positively inspired by what they find in a tool box or garden shed.

But where to even start? Every Friday the 13th movie, every Sleepaway Camp – basically, every camping movie.

Plus, some films really give it away with their title: Driller Killer, Toolbox Murders (both), Saw (all of them), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (all of them).

It’s a good beginning. To narrow down the list of best horror scenes using tools, we started by categorizing. Here’s what we came up with.

5. Saws: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Saws are big in horror. Lots to choose from:

  • Pieces (1982) – a lot of chainsaw action here, but the girl in the bathroom is the best/worst
  • Tucker & Dale Versus Evil (2010) – bees and chainsaws! Hooray!
  • Evil Dead reboot (2013) – after Mia tears her own hand off, she tears into Evil Mia’s head with a chainsaw
  • Evil Dead 2 (1987) – Ash puts Linda’s head in a vice, then accidentally knocks a chainsaw into her re-animated body

Winner: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
– You hated Franklin, admit it. You should probably feel bad about that, but the point is that he is the only one who actually takes the chainsaw in TCM.

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

4. Drill: The Loved Ones (2009)

Again, a power drill is an excellent go-to for onscreen carnage. It’s like being at the dentist, only far bloodier. Several films made great use of it.

    • Driller Killer (1979) – basically every death scene
    • Body Double (1984) – our favorite scene here: Jake runs across to save the woman he’s been peeping on, and gets there in time to see the drill come through the ceiling above him, then all the blood

Winner: The Loved Ones (2009)

Bonus – also nails!

Lola (Robin McLeavy) and her dad make some effective use of several household items, but it’s the moving father/daughter bonding over the power drill that really makes an impression.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hakZ4o5FPA

3. Hammer and Nail Family: Misery (1990)

A lot to work with here! Crucifixions, genetical spiking, Home Alone style shenanigans.

  • Evil Dead (2013) – nail gun to the face!
  • Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – a serious nightmare scenario
  • You’re Next (2011) – underestimated Erin knows how to make use of all kinds of household wares, including that jug of nails she finds in the basement

Winner: Misery (1990)
Yes, it’s a mallet, but that’s in the hammer family, and no scene made 1990 movie audiences more uncomfortable than this. Poor James Caan. You know he’ll badass his way out of this situation at some point – but homey ol’ Annie (the BRILLIANT Kathy Bates) will have her way for a while.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Zzg3UP-x8k

2. Lawnmowers: Dead Alive (1992)

Fewer options here, and most of them goofy.

  • Dr. Shock’s Tales of Terror (2003) – Here’s an obscure one, and not a great film. But, in one of the shorts (Garden Tool Murders), someone’s buried to their neck has their head’s run over with a lawnmower.
  • Friday the 13th VII: The New Blood (1988) – Yes, it’s a weed whacker. Close enough.

Winner: Dead Alive (1992)
This is the scene that made us realize we needed this countdown. Not just because it is an utterly inspired piece of splatter gore, but because it’s really the turning point for poor, sweet, milquetoast-y Lional Cosgrove.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC1d7dw24Gg

1. Scissors/Shears: Antichrist (2009)

Toughest choices here. So many outstanding possibilities!

  • The Burning (1981) & Friday 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) use gardening shears, but it’s your ordinary house scissors that do the most inspired damage.
  • May (2002) – sweet May’s first kill is an impressive piece of action with her sewing scissors
  • Felt (2014) – that puppet making is all leading somewhere…
  • Oldboy (2003) – if you haven’t seen this, we don’t want to ruin it. Suffice it to say, Dae-su wants to make sure he never says.
  • Inside (2007) – Oh, what Beatrice Dalle can do with a pair of scissors. They’re used repeatedly and really well.

Winner: Antichrist (2009)
If you haven’t seen Lars von Trier’s one all out horror show or the scene in question, we’re not going to tell. We’re not going to show you, either. We want you to be as effected by the act as MaddWolf writer Christie Robb was. We lent her the screener and she watched it while she was on a treadmill. She fell off and did herself an injury.

Not as bad as the injury in the film though, thank God.

Fright Club: Disabilities in Horror

From the earliest horror films, physical disabilities have plagued characters. It’s the inherent vulnerability that makes the topic such a draw for the genre, but some films – like these five – defy your expectations.

5. Planet Terror

Losing a leg – in most horror movies, this would spell doom for a character. Not in Robert Rodriguez’s half of Grindhouse, though. Indeed, for Rose McGowan’s Cherry Baby, an amputated limb turns her to the film’s most daring badass.

A machine gun for a leg! How awesome is that?! McGowan strikes the right blend of hard knock and vulnerability to keep the character interesting – beyond the whole leg of death thing. I mean, you’d hardly call her boring.

The entire film is a whole lot of throw-back fun – gory, fun, lewd, funny, gross (so, so gross). It’s so much fun that even a lengthy Tarantino cameo doesn’t spoil things. And it makes the point that people who’ve been struck by physical disabilities can still be total badasses – not to mention hot as F.

4. Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates had been knocking around Hollywood for decades, but no one really knew who she was until she landed Misery. Her sadistic nurturer Annie Wilkes – rabid romance novel fan, part time nurse, full time wacko – ranks among the most memorable crazy ladies of modern cinema.

James Caan plays novelist Paul Sheldon, who kills off popular character Misery Chastain, then celebrates with a road trip that goes awry when he crashes his car, only to be saved by his brawniest and most fervent fan, Annie. Well, she’s more a fan of Misery Chastain’s than she is Paul Sheldon’s, and once she realizes what he’s done, she refuses to allow him out of her house until she brings Misery back to literary life.

Caan seethes, and you know there’s an ass kicking somewhere deep in his mangled body just waiting to get out. The film’s tension is generated by way of his utter helplessness as he’s trapped in that bed – on the road to recovery until…. Well, we assume you know the scene.

There is so much to be said for the sharp writing, the outstanding performances, and the way the film subverts your expectations of villains, women, men, and disability.

And mallets.

3. Don’t Breathe (2016)

Young thugs systematically robbing the few remaining upscale Detroit homeowners follow their alpha into a surefire hit: a blind man (Stephen Lang) sitting on $300k.

Unfortunately for our trio – Rocky (Evil Dead’s Jane Levy), Money (Daniel Zovatto) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) – this blind man is not the easy mark they’d predicted.

The always effective Lang cuts an impressive figure as the blind veteran with mad skills and crazy secrets. Wisely, director Fede Alvarez sidesteps easy categories. Though you may think you recognize each character as they first appear, no one is as easy to pigeonhole as you may think.

There are surprises enough to confound and amaze. You may think you have the old man’s secret figured out, but so do our hapless felons. Things get a little nuts as the tale rolls on, but thanks to the film’s breakneck pace and relentless tension, you’ll barely have time to breathe, let alone think.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

With this horror masterpiece, director Tobe Hooper sidestepped all the horror gimmicks audiences had grown accustomed to – a spooky score that let you know when to grow tense, shadowy interiors that predicted oncoming scares – and instead shot guerilla-style in broad daylight, outdoors, with no score at all. You just couldn’t predict what was coming.

Hooper also cast aside any concerns for dignity or fair play, a theme best personified by wheelchair-bound Franklin. Franklin is supremely unlikeable – whiney and selfish – ending horror’s long history of using personal vulnerability to make a character more sympathetic. Films such as Wait Until Dark and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Rear Window – excellent films, all – ratcheted up tension through the sympathy they could generate toward the helpless character. These films’ anxiety and payoff both owe everything to watching the vulnerable protagonist in danger, and waiting for them to overcome the odds.

But Hooper is after an entirely different kind of tension. He dashes your expectations, making you uncomfortable, as if you have no idea what you could be in for. As if, in watching this film, you yourself are in more danger than you’d predicted.

But not more danger than Franklin is in, because Franklin is not in for a good time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY4ldz615FA

1. Freaks (1932)

Short and sweet, like most of its performers, Tod Browning’s controversial film Freaks is one of those movies you will never forget. Populated almost entirely by unusual actors – midgets, amputees, the physically deformed, and an honest to god set of conjoined twins (Daisy and Violet Hilton) – Freaks makes you wonder whether you should be watching it at all.

This, of course, is an underlying tension in most horror films, but with Freaks, it’s right up front. Is what Browning does with the film empathetic or exploitative, or both? And, of course, am I a bad person for watching this film?

Well, that’s not for us to say. We suspect you may be a bad person, perhaps even a serial killer. Or maybe that’s us. What we can tell you for sure is that the film is unsettling, and the final, rainy act of vengeance is truly creepy to watch.

Fright Club: Best Stephen King Movies

We greet an honest to god expert for this week’s podcast, as Dr. Neil McRobert (you may know him better as NakMak!) joins us to talk about Stephen King films. Neil’s doctoral thesis concerned itself in part with King’s writings, and yet, somehow Hope decided she was still the more appropriate choice to determine the rankings of King films. Listen in and let us know who does a better job with the list. The whole conversation goes on HERE.

5. Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Taylor Hackford helms this generational saga of women in a man’s world. Not truly a horror film, it follows the tale of stern Mainer Dolores (the magnificent –as-always Kathy Bates), who’s been accused of murdering her contemptible boss, Vera Donovan (an outstanding Judy Parfitt). Dolores’s estranged daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) returns to the Maine island of her birth to support her mom from being railroaded, as the entire town believes Dolores has already gotten away with murder once.

The film is an achievement in casting above all things. Bates is brilliant, and so is David Strathairn, playing against type as abusive white trash husband and father. Tony Gilroy’s screenplay is delicately faithful to King’s novel, a character-driven drama that boasts some excellent lines – most of them landing in Parfitt’s mouth. Luckily she’s up to the challenge and makes it look easier than it should to be a bitch.

4. Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates had been knocking around Hollywood for decades, but no one really knew who she was until she landed Misery. Her sadistic nurturer Annie Wilkes – rabid romance novel fan, part time nurse, full time wacko – ranks among the most memorable crazy ladies of modern cinema.

James Caan plays novelist Paul Sheldon, who kills off popular character Misery Chastain, then celebrates with a road trip that goes awry when he crashes his car, only to be saved by his brawniest and most fervent fan, Annie. Well, she’s more a fan of Misery Chastain’s than she is Paul Sheldon’s, and once she realizes what he’s done, she refuses to allow him out of her house until she brings Misery back to literary life.

Caan seethes, and you know there’s an ass kicking somewhere deep in his mangled body just waiting to get out. But it’s Bates we remember. She nails the bumpkin who oscillates between humble fan, terrifying master, and put-upon martyr. Indeed, both physically and emotionally, she so thoroughly animates this nutjob that she secured an Oscar.

3. The Mist (2007)

Frank Darabont really loves him some Stephen King, having adapted and directed the writer’s work almost exclusively for the duration of his career. While The Shawshank Redemption may be Darabont’s most fondly remembered effort, The Mist is an underappreciated creature feature.

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

2. Carrie (1976)

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of King’s first full length novel, the tale of an unpopular teenager who marks the arrival of her period by suddenly embracing her psychic powers.

Sissy Spacek is the perfect balance of freckle-faced vulnerability and awed vengeance. Her simpleton characterization would have been overdone were it not for Piper Laurie’s glorious evil zeal as her religious wacko mother. It’s easy to believe this particular mother could have successfully smothered a daughter into Carrie’s stupor.

One ugly trick involving a bucket of cow’s blood, and Carrie’s psycho switch is flipped. Spacek’s blood drenched Gloria Swanson on the stage conducting the carnage is perfectly over-the-top. And after all the mean kids get their comeuppance, Carrie returns home to the real horror show.

1. 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.

Though critics were mixed at the time of the film’s release, and both Kubrick and co-star Shelley Duvall were nominated for Razzies, much of the world’s negative response had to do with a needless affection for the source material, which Kubrick and co-scriptor Diane Johnson use as little more than an outline.

A study in atmospheric tension, Kubrick’s vision of the Torrance family collapse at the Overlook Hotel is both visually and aurally meticulous. It opens with that stunning helicopter shot, following Jack Torrence’s little yellow Beetle up the mountainside, the ominous score announcing a foreboding the film never shakes.

What image stays with you most? The two creepy little girls? The blood pouring out of the elevator? The impressive afro in the velvet painting above Scatman Crothers’s bed? That guy in the bear suit – what was going on there? Whatever the answer, thanks be to Kubrick’s deviant yet tidy imagination.

Next week we will look at the best Canada has to offer the genre.

The following week, we are thrilled to tackle our sophomore effort at live recording the Fright Club podcast! We will unspool The Orphanage (2007) at Gateway Film Center on November 11, counting down the best Spanish language horror at 7:30, just prior to the 8pm screening.

In the meantime, help us prep for upcoming podcasts. What filmmaker, actor or actress deserves an entire podcast? Let us know on Twitter @maddwolf, on facebook @maddwolfcolumbus, or leave us a comment here.

Fright Club: Best Female Villains

Today we celebrate the ladies – the really, super scary ones. We are counting down our favorite female villains from horror. Now, we’re not talking about the great supporting villains – the ones who had villainy help – like Julia (Claire Higgins) from Hellraiser or Mrs. White (Piper Laurie) from Carrie. They are outstanding and terrifying, but they’re not the main antagonist in the film. Nor are we including the terrifying protagonists – not Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) or Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) from Ginger Snaps, or May (Angela Bettis). No, our goal is to find the Freddy Krueger, the Hannibal Lecter—or maybe even better.

Listen to the full podcast HERE.

Here are our contenders:

5. Samara (Daveigh Chase) The Ring (2002)

That sweet little face, those plump cheeks, those dark locks, those shadowy circles under her eyes, that disappointed frown, that penetrating stare…young Daveigh Chase commanded attention as the vulnerable/terrifying girl in the well. Her ability to be both the lost child you want to save and the horror that must not be unleashed unnerves. Yes, that bewigged man who crawls out of the TV wearing her waterlogged dress helps with the overall effect, but the wee Chase is haunting.

4. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) Misery (1990)

An Oscar winning turn from the magnificent Kathy Bates brings this character to life in the most terrifyingly realistic way. Her sadistic nurturer Annie Wilkes – rabid romance novel fan, part time nurse, full time wacko – ranks among the most memorable crazy ladies of modern cinema. She nails the bumpkin who oscillates between humble fan, terrifying master, and put-upon martyr. Plus she’s handy with a mallot.

3. Lola (Robin McLeavy) The Loved Ones (2009)

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. What an absolutely bizarre character and what a brilliantly wrong-headed performance by McLeavy as Daddy’s little prom princess. She’s funny, malicious, utterly insane with some daddy issues we just don’t need to get into here. Just keep her away from the power tools.

2. Asami (Eihi Shiina) Audition (1999)

Eihi Shiina’s elegant beauty is such a perfect match for the brittle psychology of Asami, a delicate sociopath with real betrayal issues. Director Takashi Miike is no stranger to dismemberment and disemboweling (Ichi the Killer, anyone?), but because of Audition‘s serious tone and Shiina’s meticulous approach to the insanity, she leaves you shaken.

1. La Femme (Beatrice Dalle) Inside (2007)

Beatrice Dalle’s predatory performances, colored by sadistic humor and an explosive temper, is astonishing. Relentless, pitiless, and inventive, she stalks the enormously pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) like a tiger – one who really knows how to do damage with a pair of scissors. This woman can take punishment, but what she can dish out is positively inspired. Her unpredictable mastery of bloody havoc wreaking puts her at the top of our list of female villans we seriously, truly hope never to run into ourselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOk5tiAkEdA