Fright Club: Incest in Horror

Well there’s an uncomfortable topic! Of course, that’s what makes it so perfect for horror. Any idea that automatically induces a wince or a grimace, anything you want instinctively to turn away from, immediately creates the kind of discomfort that only horror can truly manipulate.

It’s been used for lurid ends in films like Flowers in the Attic, and has become the source of comedy in others – Tromeo and Juliet springs to mind. But often, it creates a particular kind of tension that drives a film in truly horrific directions: Jug Face, Crimson Peak, Pin, Angel Heart, The Crazies.

Here are the films we think handle the topic best. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

6. 100 Bloody Acres (2012)

A testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and the bonds of family, 100 Bloody Acres is Australia’s answer to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Same body count and more blood, but a far sweeter disposition and loads more laughs.

Brothers Reg (Damon Herriman) and Lindsay (Angus Sampson) sell organic fertilizer. Business is good. Too good. Demand is driving the brothers to more and more extreme measures to gather ingredients.

Interesting the way writing/directing brothers Cameron and Colin Cairnes explore sibling rivalry, but the film’s strength is in its humor: silly enough to make even the most repugnant bits enjoyable. (I’m looking at you, Aunt Nancy. Oh, no! Why did I look?!)

5. The Woman (2011)

There’s something not quite right about Chris Cleese (an unsettlingly cherubic Sean Bridgers), and his family’s uber-wholesomeness is clearly suspect. This becomes evident once Chris hunts down a feral woman (an awesome Pollyanna McIntosh), chains her, and invites the family to help him “civilize” her.

The film rethinks family – well, patriarchy, anyway. You know from the opening, sunshiny segment that nothing is as lovely as it seems, but what lurks underneath this wholesome facade begins with some obvious ugliness—abuse, incest—but where it leads is diabolical.

Nothing happens in this film by accident – not even the innocent seeming baking of cookies – nor does it ever happen solely to titillate. It’s a dark and disturbing adventure that finds something unsavory in our primal nature and even worse in our quest to civilize. Don’t even ask about what it finds in the dog pen.

4. Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

Writer/director Rolf de Heer’s astonishing film is horribly marred by the fact that a cat is, in fact, killed on camera, so buyer beware. For most people, that will be reason enough to miss this one. But that just makes the director’s choice that much more tragic, because this is a really good movie.

Nicholas Hope is astonishing as the titular Bubby, a 30-year-old manchild who’s never, ever left the room he keeps with his mum.

Remember the Oscar-winning indie film Room? Remember how tragedy is somehow skirted because of the courageous love of a mother for her son? Well, this was not Bubby’s mum. Bad things are happening in that room, and once Bubby is finally free to explore the world, his adventure is equal parts deranged and soul-crushing. Hope is so frustratingly empathetic in the lead that no matter what he does, you root for him. You root for friends who will love him, for someone who will care for him, but it’s the resigned cheerfulness with which he faces any kind of abuse that really just kills you.

This taboo-shattering film is so wrong in so many ways, and yet it’s also lovely, optimistic, sweet, and funny. And just so, so fucked up.

3. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Director John McNaughton’s picture offers a uniquely unemotional telling – no swelling strings to warn us danger is afoot and no hero to speak of to balance the ugliness. He confuses viewers because the characters you identify with are evil, and even when you think you might be seeing this to understand the origins of the ugliness, he pulls the rug out from under you again by creating an untrustworthy narrative voice. His film is so nonjudgmental, so flatly unemotional, that it’s honestly hard to watch.

What’s diabolically fascinating, though, is the workaday, white trash camaraderie of the psychopath relationship in this film, and the grey areas where one crazy killer feels the other has crossed some line of decency.

Rooker’s performance unsettles to the bone, flashing glimpses of an almost sympathetic beast now and again, but there’s never a question that he will do the worst things every time, more out of boredom than anything.

It’s a uniquely awful, absolutely compelling piece of filmmaking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcM5L-ZBmXk

2. The Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés and deftly maneuvers between gritty drama and glittery carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Inside Lola’s house, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

1.Oldboy (2003)

This is the one that’s utterly spoiled by the upfront knowledge of incest. It’s also easily the best example of the topic’s handling in a horror film, plus the movie is 17 years old, so we went ahead and included it. Sue us. You were warned.

A guy passes out after a hard night of drinking. It’s his daughter’s birthday, and that helps us see that this guy is a dick. He wakes up a prisoner in a weird, apartment-like cell. Here he stays for years and years.

The guy is Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi). The film is Oldboy, director Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece of subversive brutality and serious wrongdoing.

Choi is unforgettable as the film’s anti-hero, and his disheveled explosion of emotion is perfectly balanced by the elegantly evil Ji-tae Yu.

Choi takes you with him through a brutal, original, startling and difficult to watch mystery. You will want to look away, but don’t do it! What you witness will no doubt shake and disturb you, but missing it would be the bigger mistake.

Fright Club: Looking for Love

Love is in the air! God help us, especially those who are throwing themselves into the love game. It’s horrifying, right? Scary, vulnerable, awkward, and really bloody once the power tools come out.

Horror filmmakers know a good subject when they see one. Here are our five favorite films focused on the quest to find and secure love.

5. Berlin Syndrome

Aussie photographer Clare (Teresa Palmer, better than she’s ever been) is looking for some life experience. She backpacks across Europe, landing for a brief stay in Berlin where she hopes to make a human connection. Handsome Berliner Andi (Max Riemelt) offers exactly the kind of mysterious allure she wants and they fall into a night of passion.

What follows is an incredible combination of horror and emotional dysfunction, deftly maneuvered by both cast mates and director Cate Shortland. The mental and emotional olympics Palmer goes through from the beginning of the film to the end showcase her instincts for nuanced and unsentimental performance. Clare is smart, but emotionally open and free with her own vulnerability. The way Palmer inhabits these characteristics is as authentic as it is awkward.

Even more uncomfortable is the shifting relationship, the neediness and resilience, the dependency and independence. It’s honest in a way that is profoundly moving and endlessly uncomfortable. Riemelt matches Palmer’s vulnerability with his own insecurity and emotional about faces. The two together are an unnerving onscreen pairing.

4. The Love Witch

Wes Anderson with a Black Mass fetish and a feminist point of view, Anna Biller wrote/directed/produced/edited/set-designed/costume-designed/music-supervised this seductive sorcery headtrip.

Elaine (Samantha Robinson – demented perfection) needs a change of scenery. Driving her red convertible up the seacoast highway toward a new life in northern California, her troubles – and her mysteriously dead ex-husband – are behind her. Surely, with her smart eyeshades and magic potions, she’ll find true love.

Expect a loose confection of a plot, as Elaine molds herself into the ideal sex toy, winning and then tiring of her trophies. This allows Biller to simultaneously reaffirm and reverse gender roles with appropriately wicked humor.

3. Alleluia (2014)

In 2004, Belgian writer/director Fabrice Du Welz released the exquisite Calvaire, marking himself a unique artist worth watching. Ten years later he revisits the themes of that film – blind passion, bloody obsession, maddening loneliness – with Alleluia. Once again he enlists the help of an actor who clearly understands his vision.

Laurent Lucas plays Michel, a playboy conman who preys upon lonely women, seducing them and taking whatever cash he can get his hands on. That all changes once he makes a mark of Gloria (Lola Duenas).

Du Welz’s close camera and off angles exaggerate Lucas’s teeth, nose and height in ways that flirt with the grotesque. Likewise, the film dwells on Duenas’s bags and creases, heightening the sense of unseemliness surrounding the pair’s passion.

Duenas offers a performance of mad genius, always barely able to control the tantrum, elation, or desire in any situation. Her bursting passions often lead to carnage, but there’s a madcap love story beneath that blood spray that compels not just attention but, in a macabre way, affection. Alleluia is a film busting with desperation, jealousy, and the darkest kind of love.

2. The Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés and deftly maneuvers between angsty, gritty drama and neon colored, glittery carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Byrne quietly crafts an atmosphere of loss and depression in and around the school without painting the troubles cleanly. This slow reveal pulls the tale together and elevates it above a simple work of outrageous violence.

Inside Lola’s house, the mood is decidedly different. Here, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc

1. 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 Shina) have wrung the audience dry. She will not be the ideal stepmother.





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: Underestimated Women in Horror

Horror is built, in large part, on the concept of the underestimated woman. What else is a final girl? But the label doesn’t just fit the bloody survivor. There are other women you don’t want to sell short. Mrs. Voorhees, anyone? How about Carrie White? Overlook these chicks at your own peril.

Who are the women of horror you should absolutely not, for any reason, underestimate?

5. May (2002)

Lucky McKee’s 2002 breakout is a showcase for his own talent as both writer and director, as well as his gift for casting. The entire ensemble surprises with individualized, fully realized, flawed but lovable characters, and McKee’s pacing allows each of his talented performers the room to breathe, grow, get to know each other, and develop a rapport.

More than anything, though, May is a gift from Angela Bettis to you.

As the title character, Bettis inhabits this painfully gawky, socially awkward wallflower with utter perfection. McKee’s screenplay is as darkly funny as it is genuinely touching, and we’re given the opportunity to care about the characters: fragile May, laid back love interest Adam (a faultless Jeremy Sisto), hot and horny Polly (a wonderful Anna Faris).

McKee’s film pulls no punches, mining awkward moments until they’re almost unendurable and spilling plenty of blood when the time is right. He deftly leads us from the sunny “anything could happen” first act through a darker, edgier coming of age middle, and finally to a carnage laden climax that feels sad, satisfying, and somehow inevitable.

4. The Loved Ones (2009)

Aussie teen Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent (Xavier Samuel) to the school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Writer/director Sean Byrne quietly crafts an atmosphere of loss and depression in and around the school without painting the troubles cleanly. This slow reveal pulls the tale together and elevates it above a simple work of outrageous violence.

Inside Lola’s house, the mood is decidedly different. Here, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter. It’s a wild, violent, depraved way to spend 84 minutes. You should do so now.

3. Audition (1999)

Audition is a phenomenally creepy May/December romance gone very, very wrong.

A widower holds 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.

Midway through, Miike punctuates the film with one of the most effective startles in modern horror, and then picks up the pace, building grisly momentum toward a perversely uncomfortable climax.

By the time Audition hits its ghastly conclusion, Miike and his exquisitely terrifying antagonist (Eihi Shina) have wrung the audience dry. She will not be the ideal stepmother.

Keep an eye on the burlap sack.

2. You’re Next (2011)

We’ve put this movie down now and again – mainly because it didn’t quite live up to expectations on first viewing. But there is one thing you can absolutely say for You’re Next – no one saw Erin (Sharni Vinson) coming.

Adam Wingard’s film – written by frequent collaborator Simon Barrett – crashes the anniversary of a snipey, bitchy family, celebrating at their isolated, ostentatious country place.

When masked marauders start picking off family members, party plus-one Erin shows off some skills. Level headed, calm, savvy and badass to the bone, she always knows what to do, how to do it, where to nail it, and the most vulnerable spot to land a punch.

No one knew what she had in store for them.

1. The Woman (2011)

There’s something not quite right about Chris Cleek (an unsettlingly cherubic Sean Bridgers), and his family’s uber-wholesomeness is clearly suspect. This becomes evident once Chris hunts down a feral woman (an awesome Pollyanna McIntosh), chains her, and invites the family to help him “civilize” her.

The film rethinks family – well, patriarchy, anyway. Notorious horror novelist and co-scriptor Jack Ketchum may say things you don’t want to hear, but he says them well. And director Lucky McKee – in his most surefooted film to date – has no qualms about showing you things you don’t want to see.

McIntosh never veers from being intimidating, terrifying even when she’s chained. Though she speaks nary a word of dialog, she’s the most commanding presence on the screen. And though Chris Cleek may not yet realize it, the true Alpha is never really in doubt.





Shout at the Devil

The Devil’s Candy

by Hope Madden

Hard rock music makes for both an evocative soundtrack and theme for horror. It possesses a throbbing, angry darkness perfectly suited to imagery, behavior and pace. The hilariously wrong Kiwi flick Deathgasm and last year’s brilliant Green Room knew this.

Writer/director Sean Byrne recognizes this ripe musical landscape. He returns to the genre after too long an absence with his own head banging horror show – The Devil’s Candy.

In 2009 the Tasmanian filmmaker released one of my all-time favorite films, The Loved Ones. And while Candy can’t match the unhinged lunacy of Byrne’s previous classic, his skill with a story, a camera and a cast are still evident.

Ethan Embry plays Jesse Hellman, struggling metalhead painter who, with his wife and pre-teen daughter, just bought a bargain of a house out in the Texas sticks. Why so cheap? Amityville shit.

So, the demented son (Pruitt Taylor Vince) of the deceased former owners lurks about. Meanwhile Jesse’s art becomes more disturbing and consuming. But Byrne shifts expectations, setting the film up as a haunted house/possession terror that turns into more of a serial killer thriller.

Still, so much about this film smacks of redundancy. Too many movies follow a young family into the damned home of their dreams, generating tension with either the fear that one family member will turn on another, or that the parents cannot keep their child safe. Or both.

No, Byrne’s follow up film does not boast the same unbridled originality as Loved Ones. But he almost makes up for that flaw with well-crafted characters, excellent on-screen chemistry among his performers, and a genuine love of metal.

The crossroads between Satan and music – in imagery and lyric – have long influenced and been influenced by horror films. Black Sabbath and White Zombie took their names from scary movies, and the list of flicks that set Satan and rock music against the innocent is too long – and mostly too awful – to mention. (OK, a few: Trick or Treat, Phantom of the Paradise, The Gate, Suck, Liquid Sky, Queen of the Damned – remember that piece of garbage?)

Byrne does a better job of exploding the clichés associated with this line of thinking than perhaps any filmmaker who’s taken up Dio’s sign of the horns. No longer the hysterical outsider condemning that devil music, the film simply uses metal as its backdrop and vehicle, no judgment involved.

Byrne’s also blessed with a lead in Embry, whose caring and vulnerability shine through his tough- looking exterior. Vince is another reliable (if typecast) actor, easily generating sympathy and terror in equal measure.

Clocking in at under 90 minutes, Devil’s Candy is a tight little rocker. The lyrics are familiar, but the riffs still kick ass.

Verdict-3-0-Stars





Fright Club: Horror at the High School Dance

Love is in the air! And it smells a lot like prom. If you thought your own prom was a dud – crap DJ, your date was grounded, your date wore corduroy, unplanned pregnancy, what have you – well, here’s a list of five high school dances that made yours look like an absolute joy. You know what we’ve learned from looking into this topic? It’s always fun to see someone die on prom night.

Listen to our whole podcast HERE.

5. Prom Night (1980)

Saturday Night Fever meets Carrie in this high school slasher that’s utterly preoccupied with disco and Jamie Lee Curtis’s boobs. Who isn’t?!

You’ll find red herrings and Seventies cop drama in a plot that, as Scream later points out, became the framework for countless films to follow. But Prom Night did it first. It did it really sloppily, but man did it bring its boogie shoes.

Who’s the killer? Is it the pervy janitor? The disfigured escaped mental patient? The vindictive ex and her hoodlum new boyfriend? It all builds to a bloodbath on prom night, so boogie down!

See it for the super-colossal dance-off. Go Jamie Lee and Jamie Lee’s thumbs, go! Is that Leslie Nielsen? Who brought that glitter?

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Joss Whedon may have gotten more miles and more artistic satisfaction from the TV series, but what he did not have was Paul Reubens. Or Rutger Hauer, for that matter. How did he think that would work?

Back in ’92, Hauer and Reubens played vampires (thank you!) bent on draining a California town, but one superficial mean girl at the local high school happens to be the Chosen One, the Slayer, or so says Donald Sutherland, and it generally seems like a fine idea to listen to him. Kristy Swanson then flirts with Luke Perry while training to stake some bloodsuckers.

Swanson is joined by Ben Affleck and Hilary Swank as vacuous teens in a highly dated but no less fun horror comedy. The film may be too campy for Whedon’s taste, but anytime you crown Rutger Hauer prom king, you can count us in.

3. Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

“Do you know what’s cooler than cool? Scouting!”

OK, maybe not, but Boy Scouts are exactly the people you need on your zombie survival team. Who doesn’t know that? They know how to tie knots properly, they can forage, find their way around in the woods, and they’re handy. They’re prepared. Duh.

Director Christopher Landon, working with a team of writers, puts this wickedly logical premise into action with his bloody horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.

This is not a family film, though – make no mistake. This is definitely an R-rated movie, but for all its juvenile preoccupations and vulgar body horror, a childlike sweetness runs through it that keeps it forever fun to watch.

Cleverly written, directed with a keen eye toward detail and pacing, brimming with laughs, gore, friendship, and dismembered appendages – but utterly lacking in cynicism or irony – it’s a blast of a film with a lot to offer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5e7Mr7eVTk

2. Carrie (1976)

The seminal film about teen angst and high school carnage has to be Brian De Palma’s 1976 landmark adaptation of Stephen 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 at the prom 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 Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés and deftly maneuvers between angsty, gritty drama and neon pink carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Byrne quietly crafts an atmosphere of loss and depression in and around the school without painting the troubles cleanly. This slow reveal pulls the tale together and elevates it above a simple work of outrageous violence.

Inside Lola’s house, the mood is decidedly different. Here, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc





Day 2: The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones (2009)

Psycho may have asked us to look at the weird relationships possible with mothers and sons, but fathers and daughters can develop dangerously close bonds, as well. For proof, just gander at this Aussie freakshow.

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés and deftly maneuvers between angsty, gritty drama and neon-colored, glittery carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own tale.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Byrne quietly crafts an atmosphere of loss and depression in and around the school without painting the troubles cleanly. This slow reveal pulls the tale together and elevates it above a simple work of outrageous violence.

Inside Lola’s house, the mood is decidedly different. Here, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter. It’s a wild, violent, depraved way to spend 84 minutes. You should do so now.

Listen weekly to MaddWolf’s horror podcast FRIGHT CLUB. Do it!





Fright Club: Best Australian Horror

Thank you to Senior Aussie Correspondent Cory Metcalf for co-hosting our salute to Australian horror (and forgive our stupid jokes about Vegamite and Men at Work)! In the last decade his native land has become a powerhouse in the genre, boasting inspired, wicked, twisted efforts that range from unsettlingly authentic to weirdly, darkly comical. Here are our favorites.

5. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

It is hard to do something fresh and interesting with a zombie film, but director Kiah Roache-Turner has done it. Writing with brother Tristan, Roache-Turner takes pieces and parts of the basic zombie myth as it’s evolved over countless films, shows, comics and video games, and woven it together with an audaciously Aussie sensibility.

Barry (Jay Gallagher) gets a call in the middle of the night from his artist/badass sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey). The zombies are here.

Barry ends up on the road with an assortment of survivors and begins the search for his sister, who’s having one hell of an adventure on her own.

Like the best in the business, Roache-Turner follows Romero’s lead when it comes to trusting the government. Zombies are more principled. But Wyrmwood mixes interesting new ideas with some of the stronger genre tropes to create a novel, often funny, action-packed film that gets creepy as hell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mgo0ZWlK4pk

4. Snowtown (The Snowtown Murders) (2011)

John Bunting tortured and killed eleven people during his spree in South Australia in the Nineties. We only watch it happen once on film, but that’s more than enough.

Director Justin Kurzel seems less interested in the lurid details of Bunting’s brutal violence than he is in the complicated and alarming nature of complicity. Ironically, this less-is-more approach may be why the movie leaves you so shaken.

An unflinching examination of a predator swimming among prey, Snowtown succeeds where many true crime films fail because of its understatement, its casual observational style, and its unsettling authenticity. More than anything, though, the film excels due to one astounding performance.

Daniel Henshall (also in Babadook) cuts an unimpressive figure on screen – a round faced, smiling schlub. But he brings Bunting an amiability and confrontational fearlessness that provides insight into what draws people to a sadistic madman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcoCTA2IZ7c

3. Wolf Creek (2005)

There have long been filmmakers whose ultimate goal is not to entertain an audience; the idea being that art is meant to affect, not entertain. These filmmakers, from Sam Peckinpah to Lars von Trier, generally develop impenetrable indie credibility and a line of devoted, bawling fans. No one in recent memory has applied this ideology to horror cinema as effectively as writer/director Greg McLean with his Outback opus Wolf Creek.

Some of the best scares in film have come as the reaction to urbanites’ fear of losing our tentative grasp on our own link in the food chain once we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. With Wolf Creek, it’s as if McLean looked at American filmmakers’ preoccupation with backwoods thrillers and scoffed, in his best Mick Dundee, “That’s not the middle of nowhere. This is the middle of nowhere.”

Using only digital cameras to enhance an ultra-naturalistic style, McLean follows happy backpackers who find themselves immobile outside Wolf Creek National Park when their car stops running. As luck would have it, friendly bushman Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) drives up offering a tow back to his camp, where he promises to fix the vehicle.

A horror film this realistic is not only hard to watch, but a bit hard to justify. What makes an audience interested in observing human suffering so meticulously recreated? This is where, like a true artist, McLean finally succeeds. What is as unsettling as the film itself is that its content is somehow satisfying.

2. The Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés and deftly maneuvers between angsty, gritty drama and neon colored, glittery carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

Byrne quietly crafts an atmosphere of loss and depression in and around the school without painting the troubles cleanly. This slow reveal pulls the tale together and elevates it above a simple work of outrageous violence.

Inside Lola’s house, the mood is decidedly different. Here, we’re privy to the weirdest, darkest image of a spoiled princess and her daddy. The daddy/daughter bonding over power tool related tasks is – well – I’m not sure touching is the right word for it.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, unique piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc

1. The Babadook (2014)

Like a fairy tale or nursery rhyme, simplicity and a child’s logic can be all you need for terror.

You’re exhausted – just bone-deep tired – and for the umpteenth night in a row your son refuses to sleep. He’s terrified, inconsolable. You check under the bed, you check in the closet, you read a book together – no luck. You let him choose the next book to read, and he hands you a pop-up you don’t recognize: The Babadook. Pretty soon, your son isn’t the only one afraid of what’s in the shadows.

It’s a simple premise, and writer/director Jennifer Kent spins her tale with straightforward efficiency. There is no need for cheap theatrics, camera tricks or convoluted backstories, because Kent is drilling down into something deeply, frighteningly human.

Kent’s film is expertly written and beautifully acted, boasting unnerving performances from not only a stellar lead in Essie Davis, but also the alarmingly spot-on young Noah Wiseman. Davis’s lovely, loving Amelia is so recognizably wearied by her only child’s erratic, sometimes violent behavior that you cannot help but pity her, and sometimes fear for her, and other times fear her.

Listen to the whole conversation on the Fright Club Podcast.





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





Fright Club: Best Horror 2000 – 2009

We have a new winner! Prior to this time travel cataloging exercise, we embraced the misunderstanding that the 1970s offered the best in horror. Nope. Pruning our list of the horror films released between 2000 and 2009 to just five proved honestly impossible. It was so hard! Too hard, actually, so we cheated: we are going to give a quick nod to the top 5 that didn’t make the list, and then we’re going to make #5 a tie. It had to be done!

So, our apologies, love and respect to the five best films that did not make this list: Eden Lake (2008), Frailty (2001), The Orphanage (2007), Martyrs (2008), and Calvaire (The Ordeal) (2004).

No, onto the tie!

TIE! 5. Wolf Creek (2005)

Using only digital cameras to enhance an ultra-naturalistic style, writer/director Greg McLean’s happy backpackers find themselves immobile outside Wolf Creek National Park when their car stops running. As luck would have it, friendly bushman Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) drives up offering a tow back to his camp, where he promises to fix the vehicle.

If this sounds predictable and obvious to you, rest assured that McLean has plans to burst every cliché in the genre, and he succeeds on almost every level.

His first triumph is in the acting. Jarratt’s killer is an amiable sadist who is so real it’s jarring. You find yourself hoping he’s an actor.

A horror film this realistic is not only hard to watch, but a bit hard to justify. What makes an audience interested in observing human suffering so meticulously recreated? This is where, like a true artist, McLean finally succeeds. What is as unsettling as the film itself is that its content is somehow satisfying.

TIE! 5. 28 Days Later (2002)

Activists break into a research lab and free the wrong fucking monkeys.

28 days later, bike messenger Jim wakes up naked on an operating table. What follows is the eerie image of an abandoned, desolate London as Jim wanders hither and yon hollering for anybody. In the church, we get our first glimpse of what Jim is now up against, and dude, run!

Prior to 28 Days Later, the zombie genre seemed finally dead and gone. But Danny Boyle single handedly resurrected the genre with two new(ish) ideas: 1) they weren’t dead, 2) therefore, they could move really quickly. Like Romero, though, director Danny Boyle’s real worry is not just the infected, it’s the living.

Danny Boyle is one of cinema’s visionary directors, and he’s made visceral, fascinating, sometimes terrifying films his entire career – Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Millions, 127 Hours – but 28 Days Later is certainly his one true horror film. And it is inspired.

4. The Ring (2002)

The Ring – thanks in large part to the creepy clever premise created by Koji Suzuki, who wrote the novel Ringu – is superior to its source material principally due to the imagination and edge of fledgling director Gore Verbinski. His film is visually arresting, quietly atmospheric, and creepy as hell.

This is basically the story of bad mom/worse journalist Rachel (Naomi Watts) investigating the urban legend of a video tape that kills viewers exactly seven days after viewing.

The tape itself is the key. Had it held images less surreal, less Bunuel, the whole film would have collapsed. But the tape was freaky. And so were the blue-green grimaces on the dead! And that horse thing on the ferry!

And Samara – from plump-cheeked cherub to ghastly figure crawling from your TV…yikes.

Sure, it amounts to an immediately dated musing on technology. But still, there’s that last moment when wee Aidan (a weirdly perfect David Dorfman) asks his mom, “What about the people we show it to? What happens to them?”

At this point we realize he means us, the audience.

We watched the tape! We’re screwed!

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

3. The Loved Ones (2009)

Writer/director/Tasmanian Sean Byrne upends high school clichés, maneuvering between gritty drama and neon colored carnage in a story that borrows from other horror flicks but absolutely tells its own story.

Brent (Xavier Samuel) is dealing with guilt and tragedy in his own way, and his girlfriend Holly tries to be patient with him. Oblivious to all this, Lola (a gloriously wrong-minded Robin McLeavy) asks Brent to the end of school dance. He politely declines, which proves to be probably a poor decision.

The Loved Ones is a cleverly written, deeply disturbed piece of filmmaking that benefits from McLeavy’s inspired performance as much as it does its filmmaker’s sly handling of subject matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olB5Wrg8Sxc

2. The Descent (2005)

A caving expedition turns ugly for a group of girlfriends who will quickly realize that being trapped inside the earth is not the worst thing that could happen.

Writer/director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) must be commended for sidestepping the obvious trap of exploiting the characters for their sexuality – I’m not saying he avoids this entirely, but for a horror director he is fantastically restrained. He also manages to use the characters’ vulnerability without patronizing or stereotyping.

He makes even better use of the story’s structure. Between that and the way film and sound editing are employed, Marshall squeezes every available ounce of anxiety from the audience. 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, but Marshall’s second attempt is far scarier. For full-on horror, this is one hell of a monster movie.

1. 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 falls innocently for the odd new girl (an outstanding Lina Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. Reluctantly, she returns his admiration, and a sweet and bloody romance buds.

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.

Listen to the whole conversation on our FRIGHT CLUB PODCAST.