Fright Club: OH-IO Horror

We haven’t been able to leave home in months, which means that home has kind of turned into its own horror show. For us, that’s Ohio, so we figured, why not celebrate?! In honor of our own home grown horror show, we dug into the best horror movies set right here in OH-IO!

5. Scream 2 (1997): Windsor College, OH

Updating his celebratory meta-analysis of genre clichés, Craven checked back in on Sydney Prescott (Neve Campell) and crew a couple years later, as the surviving members of the Woodsboro murders settled into a new semester in the little Ohio liberal arts school of Windsor College. The movie Stab, based on the horrors Sydney and posse survived (well, some didn’t survive) just two years ago is already out and screening on campus, but has it inspired copycat killers?

Craven, working again from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson, goes even more meta, using the film-within-a-film technique while simultaneously poking fun at horror sequel clichés in his own horror sequel.

And in the same way Scream subverted horror tropes while employing them to joyous results, the sequel – funny, tense, scary, smart, and fun – manages to find freshness by digging through what should be stale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG0oUO4mK4A&t=29s

4. Tragedy Girls (2017): Rosedale, OH

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

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. The Faculty (1998): Herrington, OH

The film exaggerates (one hopes) the social order of a typical Ohio high school to propose that it wouldn’t be so terrible if all the teachers and most of the students died violently, or at least underwent such a horrific trauma that a revision of the social order became appealing. 

Indeed, in this film, conformity equals a communicable disease. Adults aren’t to be trusted; high school is a sadistic machine grinding us into sausage; outcasts are the only true individuals and, therefore, the only people worth saving. Director Robert Rodriguez pulls the thing off with panache, all the while exploring the terrifying truth that we subject our children to a very real and reinforced helplessness every school day.

Interestingly, the infected teachers and students don’t turn into superficial, Stepford-style versions of themselves. For the most part, they indeed become better, stronger, more self-actualized (ironically enough) versions, which is interestingly creepy. It’s as if humanity – at least the version of it we find in a typical American high school – really isn’t worth saving.

2. Trick ‘r Treat (2007): Warren Valley, OH

Columbus, Ohio native Michael Dougherty outdid himself as writer/director of this anthology of interconnected Halloween shorts. Every brief tale set in sleepy Warren Valley, Ohio compels attention with sinister storytelling, the occasional wicked bit of humor and great performances, but it’s the look of the film that sets it far above the others of its ilk.

Dougherty takes the “scary” comic approach to the film—the kind you find in Creepshow and other Tales from the Crypt types—but nothing looks as macabrely gorgeous as this movie. The lighting, the color, the costumes and the way live action bleeds into the perfectly placed and articulated moments of graphic artwork—all of it creates a giddy holiday mood that benefits the film immeasurably.

Dylan Baker (returning to the uptight and evil bastard he perfected for his fearless performance in Happiness) leads a whip-smart cast that includes impressive turns from Brian Cox, Anna Pacquin, Leslie Bibb and Brett Kelly (Thurman Merman, everybody!).

And it’s all connected with that adorable menace, Sam. Perfect.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Springwood, OH

Teens in suburban Ohio share nightmares, and one by one, these teens are not waking up. Not that their disbelieving parents care. When Tina woke one night, her nightgown shredded by Freddie’s razor fingers, her super-classy mother admonished, “Tina, hon, you gotta cut your fingernails or you gotta stop that kind of dreamin’. One or the other.”

Depositing a boogieman in your dreams to create nightmares that will truly kill you was a genius concept by writer/director/Clevelander Craven because you can only stay awake for so long. It took everyone’s fear of nightmares to a more concrete level.

The film was sequeled to death, it suffers slightly from a low budget and even more from weak FX that date it, but it’s still an effective shocker. That face that stretches through the wall is cool, the stretched out arms behind Tina are still scary. The nightmare images are apt, and the hopscotch chant and the vision of Freddie himself were not only refreshingly original but wildly creepy.

Fright Club: Died on the Toilet

Before you worry: no, we have not run out of real topics. It’s just that, every so often we need to indulge a weird little voice that says things like, “Ever noticed how many people die on toilets in horror movies? Wonder what kind of deep-seated fears that explores.”

And there are a LOT of people who die on toilets in horror movies. Michael Myers really likes to freak people out in public restrooms. We know Norman Bates likes to dispatch folks while they’re in the shower, but he is not above preying on someone while they’re just trying to pee. Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger have also done it. (The poor guy falls asleep on the toilet. Don’t judge—we’ve all been there.)

Here, however, are the best instances of nature calling you to your death.

5. Scream 2 (1997)

Phil (Omar Epps) just wants to take his girl to a scary movie. Still, he does get up in the middle of it to pee. I’m not saying that’s cause for murder. I’m not saying it’s not, either.

The whole Scream franchise does an excellent job of taking the mundane moments in life and drawing your attention to all the ways in which you are actually vulnerable. This scene plays not only on the vulnerability involved in our social contract to allow others to urinate in peace, but also touches on the ways in which anonymity (by way of the costumes everyone is wearing at the theater) emboldens people. Usually the wrong people. The kind that whisper weirdly from the next stall.

4. Zombieland (2009)

Mike White makes such a great doofus victim, doesn’t he? Here he is, minding his own beeswax, taking a leisurely in a filthy public toilet during the zombiepocalypse…No part of this really sounds wise, does it?

It’s all in keeping with one of Zombieland‘s great gimmicks: the rules. The reason the rules work so well for the film is that each one is actually an excellent piece of advice. Get some cardio, people, because zombies don’t tire out.

And for the love of God, beware of bathrooms.

3. Ghoulies II 1988

Everybody hated Philip Hardin (J. Downing) anyway, didn’t we? He knew. Sure, he claimed that his little monster gravy train, the only reason his dying carnival attracted any customers at all, had nothing to do with all those dead bodies. But, come on.

The nasty little muppety creatures from Luca Bercovici’s surprise 1984 hit (and Gremlins ripoff) have left town. They’ve found a hunting ground better suited to them alongside the carnies at the Satan’s Den attraction.

The film is not good—sequels to sloppy derivatives rarely are. It’s a mixed bag of kills and puppet hijinx. But there is something about a monster in the toilet, man, and it ain’t good.

2. Street Trash (1987)

This iconic Troma film sees the homeless population of a town turn from cheap liquor to cheaper god-knows-what, Tenafly Viper. It’s old, but this is not the kind of wine that ages well. Those who drink it, well, it’s like looking directly at the Ark of the Covenant.

The hobo-melting is honestly the least interesting and least offensive thing happening in this envelope pusher. But there is this one poor bastard who just takes a seat, just wants to rest a bit and enjoy a lovely beverage. The FX are laughable, and yet sort of genius.

1. ABCs of Death: T is for Toilet (2012)

Yes! Every single thing the previous films were trying to capture, all handled here with inspired (and brilliantly hideous) claymation. It’s perfect. It’s sadistic, funny, tender, mean, goofy and pretty clearly Australian.

It was not a dingo that ate the baby.





Fright Club: Best Wes Craven Movies

It’s time again to celebrate the work of a great horror filmmaker. Today it’s Wes Craven, a man who reimagined the genre again and again over his career. Sometimes with graphic violence, sometimes with satirical humor, always with a vivid imagination, Craven could make the viewer feel unsafe – a great place to start if you’re making a scary movie. Do you like scary movies?

Listen to the full podcast HERE.

5. Last House on the Left (1972)

Wes Craven made his dubious feature directorial debut with this 1972 revenge fantasy. Watch the film at your own risk, and follow the tale of a trusting family whose beloved and wholesome daughter falls into the hands of evildoers. Her fate is unknown to her family until her attackers are unknowingly taken in for the night by her family in an act of kindness. Once their crime is discovered, the family abandons decency and wreaks bloody vengeance.

Craven’s interest is the brutality – of the killers, and then the family. He wallows so mercilessly in both that this picture carries a measure of notoriety missing from anything else Craven’s directed – even The Hills Have Eyes. It’s been banned in countries the world over.

His film is not a good one, and what psychological merit it has – the idea of decent people abandoning decency in favor of blood soaked revenge – isn’t Craven’s own. (Last House on the Left is, in fact, a remake of Ingmar Bertman’s Oscar winner The Virgin Spring.) Still, for all its cartoonish sadism and contempt, for its artless disgust, Last House is an interesting genre entity, particularly as the first step in Craven’s career. It’s a horror film, plain and simple. No tidy idea that violence can be resolved through violence, or that any act of brutality is justifiable. It’s an ugly film that leaves you feeling ugly, but horror is not meant to brighten your day, eh?

4. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Wes Craven’s original Hills – cheaply made and poorly acted – is a surprisingly memorable, and even more surprisingly alarming flick. Craven’s early career is marked by a contempt for both characters and audience, and his first two horror films ignored taboos, mistreating everyone on screen and in the theater. In the style of Deliverance meets Mad Max, Hills was an exercise in pushing the envelope, and it owes what lasting popularity it has to its shocking violence and Michael Berryman’s nightmarish mug.

The Hills Have Eyes is not for the squeamish. People are raped, burned alive, eaten alive, eaten dead, and generally ill-treated.

In fact, Craven’s greatest triumph is in creating tension via a plot device so unreasonably gruesome no audience would believe a film could go through with it. The freaks kidnap a baby with plans to eat her. But by systematically crushing taboo after taboo, the unthinkable becomes plausible, and the audience grows to fear that the baby will actually be eaten. It’s not the kind of accomplishment you’d want to share with your mom, but in terms of genre control, it is pretty good.

3. Scream 2 (1997)

Updating his celebratory meta-analysis of genre clichés, Craven checked back in on Sydney Prescott (Neve Campell) and crew a couple years later, as the surviving members of the Woodsboro murders settled into a new semester at Windsor College. The movie Stab, based on the horrors Sydney and posse survived (well, some didn’t survive) just two years ago is already out and screening on campus, but has it inspired copycat killers?

Craven, working again from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson, goes even more meta, using the film-within-a-film technique while simultaneously poking fun at horror sequel clichés in his own horror sequel.

And in the same way Scream subverted horror tropes while employing them to joyous results, the sequel – funny, tense, scary, smart, and fun – manages to find freshness by digging through what should be stale.

2. Nightmare on Elm St. (1984)

Teens on suburban Elm St. share nightmares, and one by one, these teens are not waking up. Not that their disbelieving parents care. When Tina woke one night, her nightgown shredded by Freddie’s razor fingers, her super-classy mother admonished, “Tina, hon, you gotta cut your fingernails or you gotta stop that kind of dreamin’. One or the other.”

Depositing a boogieman in your dreams to create nightmares that will truly kill you was a genius concept by writer/director Craven because you can only stay awake for so long. It took everyone’s fear of nightmares to a more concrete level.

The film was sequeled to death, it suffers slightly from a low budget and even more from a synth-heavy score and weak FX that date it, but it’s still an effective shocker. That face that stretches through the wall is cool, the stretched out arms behind Tina are still scary. The nightmare images are apt, and the hopscotch chant and the vision of Freddie himself were not only refreshingly original but wildly creepy.

1. Scream (1996)

In his career, Wes Craven has reinvented horror any number of times. When Scream hit screens in 1996, we were still three years from the onslaught of the shakey cam, six years from the deluge of Asian remakes, and nearly ten years from the first foul waft of horror porn. In its time, Scream resurrected a basically dying genre, using clever meta-analysis and black humor.

What you have is a traditional high school slasher – someone dons a likeness of Edvard Munch’s most famous painting and plants a butcher knife in a local teen, leading to red herrings, mystery, bloodletting and whatnot. But Craven’s on the inside looking out and he wants you to know it.

What makes Scream stand apart is the way it critiques horror clichés as it employs them, subverting expectation just when we most rely on it. As the film opens, Casey (Drew Barrymore) could have survived entirely (we presume) had she only remembered that it was not, in fact, Jason Voorhees who killed all those campers in Friday the 13th; it was his mother. A twisted reverence for the intricacies of slashers is introduced in the film’s opening sequence, then glibly revisited in one form or another in nearly every scene after.

We spent the next five years or more watching talented TV teens and sitcom stars make the big screen leap to slashers, mostly with weak results, but Scream stands the test of time. It could be the wryly clever writing or the solid performances, but we think it’s the joyous fondness for a genre and its fans that keeps this one fresh.