Fright Club: Dogs in Horror

Whether used to terrorize us or to break our hearts, dogs add something powerful to a horror movie. Unless it’s Zoltan: Dog of Dracula, because nothing, not even the most gorgeous dog, could save that piece of poo. But these dogs, these dogs are keepers.

6. The Woman (2011)

Maybe you haven’t seen Lucky McKee’s amazing, disturbing 2011 feminist horror The Woman? Get on it! But just in case, we’re going to avoid any spoilers, which means leaving you kind of wondering why this film made the list of best dogs in horror. Suffice it to say, the dogs are mentioned throughout but meeting them … well, please see this movie.

5. Cujo (1983)

A New England couple, struggling to stay afloat as a family, has some car trouble. This naturally leads to a rabid St. Bernard adventure.

Though the film contains many faults, once Donna (Dee Wallace) and her asthmatic son (pre-Who’s the Boss Danny Pintauro) find themselves trapped in their broken down Pinto (What? Those seem like such reliable cars!) with a rabid dog (bigger than the car) attacking, the film ratchets up the tensions and rewards you for your patience.

Profoundly claustrophobic and surprisingly tense, benefitting immeasurably by Wallace’s full commitment to the role, the film traps us in the heat inside that Pinto and quickly makes up for the entire rest of the picture.

4. The Omen (1976)

Billie F. Whitelaw, ladies and gentlemen. Her performance as little Damien’s new nanny really took things up a notch, didn’t they? Instantly, not only was Mummy (Lee Remick) unnecessary, but Daddy (Gregory Peck) found himself in a battle for Alpha—a battle that begins over a dog.

There are actually quite a number of great, terrifying dogs in The Omen, Richard Donner’s iconic Seventies horror. The dogs in the cemetery, the bones in the casket—what, exactly, was Damien’s mother, anyway? But Mrs. Baylock’s Hound of Hell—that’s when the unflappable Robert Thorn realized there may be things to fear inside his home.

3. I Am Legend (2007)

Yes, there are scary dogs in horror movies, but more often than not horror filmmakers use dogs to break our hearts. Oh, sure, kill all the people you want, but once we hear that off-screen whimper, we’re bawling.

Tell us Sam’s death in I Am Legend didn’t gut you. No? Well, stay away from us you sociopath.

Horror has done us some damage in the way they treat dogs: Jaws, Raw, Snowtown, The Babadook, It Comes at Night, Greta, Audition, The Hills H ave Eyes, The Wailing, Hounds of Love. But we not only loved Sam, we recognized Robert Neville’s (Will Smith) aloneness, his vulnerability to grief and madness, because of Sam. That dog is the only reason this movie works.

2. The Voices (2014)

Director Marjane Satrapi’s follow up to her brilliant animated Persepolis is a sweet, moving, very black comedy about why medicine is not always the best medicine.

Ryan Reynolds is Jerry. As Jerry sees it, his house is a cool pad above a nifty bowling alley, his job is the best, his co-workers really like him, and his positive disposition makes it easy for him to get along. Jerry’s kindly dog Bosco (also Ryan Reynolds) agrees.

But Mr. Whiskers (evil cat, also Reynolds) thinks Jerry is a cold blooded killer. And though Mr. Whiskers is OK with that, Jerry doesn’t want to believe it. So he should definitely not take his pills.

1. The Thing (1982)

Who’s a good boy?!

OK, not the new rescue dog on MacReady’s team. What a gorgeous boy he is, though. A perfect specimen, adaptable to Antarctica’s hostile climate, bred to survive. He makes those beard-tastic humans look positively vulnerable.

Fright Club: Most Overrated Horror Movies

Are these the worst movies ever? Hell no – most of the are actually quite good. This is a list of films that can’t live up to the accolades and high expectations that come with them. When we think of films that people just love too much, usually they are impressive on some level – just not impressive enough to merit all the commotion. Here’s our list of the films that best fit that bill. (And when I say “ours,” take that with a grain of salt. George highly disagrees with one choice, in particular.)

5. Saw (2004)

Did you see Saw? Because if you saw Saw, there’s really no need to see Saw 2 (or 3, 4, 5, or 6).

Saw is the gruesome tale of a madman bent on forcing those unworthy of their own lives to acknowledge their internal ugliness. He carries this out in a most unpleasant way. Body parts are usually lost.

Saw would have been an altogether decent piece of grisly filmmaking were it not for the climax – a piece of cinema that was fantastic for the three seconds it took to realize it could never have happened. Coupled with Cary Elwes’s laughable whining and director James Wan’s dreadful grasp of pacing, the film turned out to be much less than it should have been.

My favorite thing about Saw is that, right off the bat, in the opening investigation, cops claim that Jigsaw is no murderer. How’s that? Well, it’s because his victims are given a test that they could, given the masochism and tenacity, survive. This is like saying the guy who pushed someone into the shark tank isn’t a murderer, the shark is.

4. Drag Me to Hell (2009)

An inspired Lorna Raver plays Mrs. Ganush, an old gypsy woman (here and almost everywhere else in the film, Raimi will never be accused of cultural sensitivity) who curses a meek bank loan officer (an uncharacteristically bland Alison Lohman). She will spend the rest of the film trying to break the curse. It’s a pretty slight and predictable premise, but the point is simply to allow director Sam Raimi an opportunity to string together as many body fluid sight gags and creepy set pieces as possible.

His film is gleefully over-the-top, and I wonder whether Lohman’s stiff performance resulted from the nausea she must have suffered. Never have we seen one actor subjected to so many instances of projectile fluids and/or insects in the mouth. Ever.

The film is broadly comical, utterly repulsive, often clever viewing. It won’t scare you in any lingering way – don’t look for any slow-developing dread or quiet creepiness here. From the word Ganush this film is giddy with bile and mucous and blood and worms and nastiness – all that stupid fun of the Evil Dead series, but with a budget. But the storyline itself – leading to the twisty climax – is far too predictable to be effective.

3. Don’t Look Now (1973)

Did we need to see quite so much of Donald Sutherland?

That’s not really our complaint. Nicolas Roeg’s visually stunning rumination on parental grief follows Laura and John Baxter (Julie Christie and Sutherland) to Venice where they’ll try to recover from the accidental death of their daughter. But grief doesn’t work like that.

Roeg’s film takes on the dreamlike logic and color motifs of an Italian film – not gaillo outright, Don’t Look Now is far too subdued and elegant to fit into that category. But there’s no denying the stylistic similarities between this and Mario Bava, some Argento, even maybe a touch of Fulci. Just a touch!

The director uses dreamy visions to enhance the mystery facing John Baxter. In its best moments, the film articulates the necessarily selfish nature of grief. Otherwise, it’s a slow and graceful mystery often punctured by garish flashes and a twist ending is so ill-fitting it leaves you dumbfounded – and not in a good way.

2. Suspiria (1977)

Italian director Dario Argento is in the business of colorfully dispatching nubile young women. In Suspiria, his strongest film, American ballerina Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) moves to Germany to join a dance academy, but the other dancers are catty and the school is staffed with freaks. Plus, women keep disappearing and dying.

As Suzy undertakes an investigation of sorts, she discovers that the school is a front for a coven of witches. But Argento’s best film isn’t known for its plot, it’s become famous because of the visually disturbing and weirdly gorgeous imagery. Suspiria is a twisted fairy tale of sorts, saturating every image with detail and deep colors, oversized arches and doorways that dwarf the actors. Even the bizarre dubbing Argento favored in his earlier films works to feed the film’s effectively surreal quality.

But it is tough to surrender the need for decent acting or coherent story in favor of the garish style.

1. Omen (1976)

Gregory Peck brought impenetrable gravitas to this film, making everything seem very serious and worthwhile. This could be no ordinary horror flick – not with Atticus Finch in the lead.

Peck plays Robert Thorn, a rising politician and best friend to the President of the United States. He agrees to a delivery room switcheroo when he’s told his own son perished during childbirth, but another baby born simultaneously was orphaned. He brings home the tot, his loving wife (Lee Remick) none the wiser.

This mid-Seventies Oscar winner is a bit over-the-top with its self-serious approach to the coming of the antichrist. Richard Donner – who would go on to direct a couple Superman movies, a bunch of Lethal Weapons, as well as the Goonies – made a name for himself as a director with this bloated and deadly serious bible thumper.

The film’s sinister elements – Mrs. Baylock, that dog, and Jerry Goldsmith’s intensely creepy score – combine with Peck’s elegant heroism to keep the film fascinating, but all would have been for naught except for Harvey Stephens’s impish perfection as Damien.

Disagree? Keep it to yourselves. NO! What we mean is, share that enthusiasm and any suggestions with us on Twitter @maddwolf, on Facebook @maddwolfcolumbus, or comment right here.

Stay frightful, my friends!





Fright Club: Evil Children

If horror films reflect the hysteria and fear of the moviegoing public, then we, as a planet, are definitely afraid of our children – or of children in general. There are countless examples of murdering, mutant, bloodthirsty, demonic youngsters. Whether they are born monsters or have been claimed by the Dark One, whether they belong to roving bands of toughs or happen to be your own evil offspring, children seem to play upon our deepest fears. So let’s celebrate that today with a count down of the scariest children ever!

6. 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 environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure. Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar, with his blond Prince Valiant haircut, falls innocently for the odd new girl (an outstanding Linda Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. Reluctantly, she returns his admiration, and a sweet and bloody romance buds.

As sudden acts of violence mar the snowy landscape, Oskar and Ali grow closer, providing each other a comfort no one else can. The film offers an ominous sense of dread, bleak isolation and brazen androgyny – as well as the best swimming pool scene perhaps ever. Intriguingly, though both children tend toward violence – murder, even – you never feel anything but empathy for them. The film is moving, bloody, lovely and terrifying in equal measure.

5. The Bad Seed (1956)

The minute delicate Christine’s (Nancy Kelly) husband leaves for his 4-week assignment in DC, their way-too-perfect daughter begins to betray some scary behavior. The creepy handyman Leroy (Henry Jones) has her figured out – he knows she’s not as perfect as she pretends.

You may be tempted to abandon the film in its first reel, feeling as if you know where the it’s going. You’ll be right, but there are two big reasons to stick it out. One is that Bad Seed did it first, and did it well, considering the conservative cinematic limitations of the Fifties.

Second, because director Mervyn LeRoy’s approach – not a single vile act appears onscreen – gives the picture an air of restraint and dignity while employing the perversity of individual imaginations to ramp up the creepiness.

Enough can’t be said about Patty McCormack. There’s surprising nuance in her manipulations, and the Oscar-nominated 9-year-old handles the role with both grace and menace.

4. Them (2006)

Brisk, effective and terrifying, Them is among the most impressive horror flicks to rely on the savagery of adolescent boredom as its central conceit.

Writers/directors/Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud offer a lean, unapologetic, tightly conceived thriller that never lets up.

A French film set in Romania, Them follows Lucas and Clementine, a young couple still moving into the big rattling old house where they’ll stay while they’re working abroad. It will be a shorter trip than they’d originally planned.

What the film offers in 77 minutes is relentless suspense. I’m not sure what else you want.

Creepy noises, hooded figures, sadistic children and the chaos that entails – Them sets up a fresh and mean cat and mouse game that pulls you in immediately and leaves you unsettled.

3. The Brood (1979)

Dr. Hal Ragland – the unsettlingly sultry Oliver Reed – is a psychiatrist leading the frontier in psychoplasmics. His patients work through their pent-up rage by turning it into physical manifestations. Some folks’ rage turns into ugly little pustules, for example. Or, for wide-eyed Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), rage might turn into bloodthirsty, puffy coated spawn. This is Cronenberg’s reimagining of procreation, and it is characteristically foul.

Cronenberg is the king of corporeal horror, and The Brood is among the best of the filmmaker’s early, strictly genre work. Reed and Eggar both are unseemly perfection in their respective roles. Eggar uses her huge eyes to emphasize both her former loveliness and her current dangerous insanity, while Reed is just weird in that patented Oliver Reed way.

But it’s the climactic image of procreation – of motherhood and childbirth – and the way the filmmaker and his leading lady subvert that life-giving moment, turning it into something beastly, that will stick with you.

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

2. The Omen (1976)

Gregory Peck brought impenetrable gravitas to this film, making everything seem very serious and worthwhile. This could be no ordinary horror flick – not with Atticus Finch in the lead.

Peck plays Robert Thorn, a rising politician and best friend to the President of the United States. He agrees to a delivery room switcheroo when he’s told his own son perished during childbirth, but another baby born simultaneously was orphaned. He brings home the tot, his loving wife (Lee Remick) none the wiser.

Eventually she does develop a sixth sense about the cherubic little Damien, though.
This mid-Seventies gem is gloriously over-the-top with its self-serious approach to the coming of the antichrist. Richard Donner – who would go on to direct a couple Superman movies, a bunch of Lethal Weapons, as well as the Goonies – made a name for himself as a director with this bloated and deadly serious bible thumper.

The film’s sinister elements – Mrs. Baylock, that dog, and Jerry Goldsmith’s intensely creepy (and Oscar winning) score – combine with Peck’s elegant heroism to keep the film fascinating, but all would have been for naught except for Harvey Stephens’s impish perfection as Damien.

1. The Ring (2002)

Gore Verbinski’s film achieves one of those rare feats, ranking among the scarce few Hollywood remakes that surpasses the foreign born original, Japan’s unique paranormal nightmare Ringu.

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 the fledgling director. Verbinski’s 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 cherubic image of plump cheeked innocence to a mess of ghastly flesh and disjointed bones climbing out of the well and into your life, the character is brilliantly created. (It’s actually a full grown man who climbs herky-jerky out of the TV.)