Tag Archives: Se7en

Fright Club: Library Horror

Google has meant a lot of changes, perhaps the most tragic is the end of the old library scene in horror. While we find ourselves settling for the new cliche of the quick online search to uncover the hidden history behind a haunted home or town tragedy, this never used to be the case. Countless horror films led invariably to the Act 2 discovery in the old library. Either a helpful librarian carried large, impressive volumes to our hero at their tidy, green lamp lit library table, or a plucky sleuth scrolled their way through the old microfiche via the big microfilm machine.

How much do we miss those days? Enough to look into the very best in library horror.

Big thank you to Jennifer Snoek Brown of Reel Librarians for dropping loads of knowledge.

5. Se7en (1995)

Countless horror films begin Act 2 with a trip to the library. Act 1 has something creepy happening that puts our hero (or, more often than not, heroine) on edge and there’s nothing that can put them at ease except a little information search.

But David Fincher is not like other directors. While the beats are all here: big books stacked on an elegant desk, green lamps illuminating pen-and-ink drawings of the macabre and unsavory, a montage of pages being copied. But here, by flashing back and forth between Somerset (Morgan Freeman) doing the research and Mills (Brad Pitt) simultaneously studying case files, we learn a great deal more about what has happened and – don’t overlook all those decapitation images – what will happen.

The music gives the whole affair am appropriately religious fervor. This is how you make that cliche library scene work.

4. It (2017)

Poor Ben. It’s not enough that he pines in poetic silence for the lovely Beverly. It’s not enough that he’s the lonely new kid without even a posse of losers to hang out with (yet, anyway).

Nope, now he’s got intel and he doesn’t even have anyone to talk to about it.

This is the traditional “digging up big ol’ books about my spooky new hometown” scene, complete with a very creepy librarian. (Keep an eye on her in the background while Ben’s reading.)

But then comes the balloon. I have come to learn that a red balloon is never a welcome sight in a small town library.

3. It (1990)

Normally, we don’t include TV horror, but this scene is just so good! The Nineties TV miniseries is inferior to the later big screen adaptation (Part 1, anyway) in many ways, but not here.

Part of the credit goes to the fact that this film does not recreate that same, tired library scene. No microfiche, no big books on the history of Derry. Not in this scene. Just lunacy, Prince Albert in a Can jokes, and exploding, blood-filled balloons.

Plus Tim Curry, who improves any scene.


2. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Another film that takes what you know to expect and serves it up to you in the most delightful way, Behind the Mask is among the greatest of all horror comedies and satires.

This particular scene points out the inevitability of that library research scene in horror movies. That would be reason enough to appreciate it, but Zelda Rubenstein (of Poltergeist, obviously) is the icing on the cake. Ever the dramatic, weirdly helpful librarian that the genre relies on for all its historical towny gossip, Rubenstein shines as a woman who really wants to shine in the spotlight.

Just one more reason this film is such a treasure.

1. Ghostbusters (1984)

No, it’s not horror – but it is a scary scene! In fact, for most people it is the scariest scene in Ivan Reitman’s comedy classic.

What makes it perfect is the tension it generates before the jump scare because we know Pete Venkman (Bill Murray, perfection) is going to get in trouble. You just can’t keep talking like that in the library.

Get her? Heh heh heh.

Fright Club: The Law

The Law figures heavily in horror films. Most of them depict crimes. Bloody, bloody crimes. So, in many cases, the authorities must be brought in. And there are some outstanding genre films depicting a law enforcement officer as hero—Jaws and Slither spring to mind. They are also villains as often as bumbling side characters (we’re looking at you Inside and Last House on the Left).

Today we want to celebrate the films that dive into the police work, that focus squarely on The Law and its investigators. And, again, bloody, bloody crimes.

6. Baskin (2015)

Welcome to hell! Turkish filmmaker Can Evrenol invites you to follow a 5-man police squad into the netherworld, where eye patches are all the rage, pregnancy lasts well under the traditional 40 weeks, and you don’t want to displease Daddy.

The serpentine sequencing of events evokes a dream logic that gives the film an inescapable atmosphere of dread, creepily underscored by its urgent synth score. Evrenol’s imagery is morbidly amazing. Much of it only glimpsed, most of it left unarticulated, but all of it becomes that much more disturbing for its lack of clarity.

The further along the squad gets, the more often you’ll look in horror at something off in a corner, that sneaking WTF? query developing along with your upset stomach.

The central figures in this nightmare are one eye-patch wearing helper who enjoys tossing his or her hair over one shoulder, and the breathtaking father figure played by Mehmet Cerrahoglu. There is no one quite like him.

Cerrahoglu’s remarkable presence authenticates the hellscape. Evrenol’s imaginative set design and wise lighting choices envelope Cerrahoglu, his writhing followers, and his victims in a bloody horror like little else in cinema.

5. Se7en

Serpentine and dark as the sin it depicts, David Fincher’s Se7en marked him as a director willing to work your subconscious and take you to unseemly places. The film compares the strict and merciless justice of an old school God with the rotting corpse of NYC police work as two homicide detectives – one a grizzled veteran (Morgan Freeman), one a hot headed rookie (Brad Pitt) – try to keep up.

Fincher shrouds the mystery in some of the most memorably horrific images set to film. Who can forget that first victim, facedown in his spaghetti? How about Lust? “Get it off me! Get it off me!”

Let’s not even discuss Sloth. Still trying to recover from that, and the film came out in 1995.

Great performances and sleight of hand keep the story itself breathless as you work toward the now legendary climax.

What’s in the box?!!!

4. The Wailing

“Why are you troubled,” Jesus asked, “and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see — for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Though the true meaning of this quote won’t take hold until the final act, it presents many questions. Is this film supernatural? Demonic? Or, given the corporeal nature of the quote, is it rooted in the human flesh?


That’s what makes the quote so perfect. Writer/director Hong-jin Na meshes everything together in this bucolic horror where superstition and religion blend. The film echoes with misery, as the title suggests. The filmmaker throws every grisly thing at you – zombies, pustules, demonic possession, police procedural, multiple homicides – and yet keeps it all slippery with overt comedy.

3. I Saw the Devil (2010)

Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) plays a predator who picks on the wrong guy’s fiancé.

That grieving fiancé is a police investigator played by Byung-hun Lee (The Magnificent Seven), whose restrained emotion and elegant good looks perfectly offset Choi’s disheveled explosion of sadistic rage, and we spend 2+ hours witnessing their wildly gruesome game of cat and mouse.

Director Jee-woon Kim (A Tale of Two Sisters) breathes new life into the serial killer formula. With the help of two strong leads, he upends the old “if I want to catch evil, I must become evil” cliché. What they’ve created is a percussively violent horror show that transcends its gory content to tell a fascinating, if repellant, tale.

Beneath the grisly violence of this unwholesome bloodletting is an undercurrent of honest human pathos – not just sadism, but sadness, anger, and the most weirdly dark humor.

If you can see past the outrageously violent images onscreen, you might notice some really fine acting and nimble storytelling lurking inside this bloodbath.

2. Big Bad Wolves (2013)

A mixture of disturbing fairy tale and ugly reality, Israel’s Big Bad Wolves takes you places you really don’t want to go, but damn if it doesn’t keep you mesmerized every minute.

The particularly vulgar slaughter of several little girls sets events in motion. One teacher is suspected. One cop is driven. One father suffers from grief-stricken mania. It’s going to get really ugly.

Filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (Rabies) implicate everyone, audience included. They create intentional parallels among the three men, pointing to the hypocrisy of the chase and making accusations all around of a taste for the intoxicating bloodlust that comes from dominating a weaker person.

Their taut and twisty script keeps surprises coming, but it’s the humor that’s most unexpected. Handled with dark, dry grace by Lior Ashkenazi (the cop) and Tzahi Grad (the father) – not to mention Doval’e Glickman (the grandfather) – this script elicits shamefaced but magnetic interest. You cannot look away, even when the blowtorch comes out. And God help you, it’s hard not to laugh now and again.

1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

It’s to director Jonathan Demme’s credit that Silence made that leap from lurid exploitation to art. His masterful composition of muted colors and tense but understated score, his visual focus on the characters rather than their actions, and his subtle but powerful use of camera elevate this story above its exploitative trappings. Of course, the performances didn’t hurt.

Hannibal Lecter ranks as one of cinema’s scariest villains, and that accomplishment owes everything to Anthony Hopkins’s performance. It’s his eerie calm, his measured speaking, his superior grin that give Lecter power. Everything about his performance reminds the viewer that this man is smarter than you and he’ll use that for dangerous ends.

Demme makes sure it’s Lecter that gets under our skin in the way he creates a parallel between Lecter and FBI investigator Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). It’s Clarice we’re all meant to identify with, and yet Demme suggests that she and Lecter share some similarities, which means that maybe we share some, too.