Tag Archives: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Fright Club: Unexpected Guests in Horror

It’s one of the oldest tropes in horror: an unexpected knock at the door. Maybe the visitors are in danger: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Human Centipede, The Old Dark House and countless others. Or, maybe it’s the folks inside who should be afraid: Knock, Knock; Brimstone and Treacle. For our 10th anniversary special, we count down the best “unexpected guest” horror.

5. The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

The Eyes of My Mother will remind you of many other films, and yet there truly is no film quite like this one.

First time feature writer/director Nicolas Pesce, with a hell of an assist from cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, casts an eerie spell of lonesome bucolic horror.

Shot in ideal-for-the-project black and white, an Act 1 event could come from any number of horror films. A mother looks out her window to see her young daughter, playing alone in the front lawn, talking with a stranger. There is something clearly wrong with the stranger, and things take a bad turn. But for Pesce, this simple, well-worn set-up offers endless unexplored possibilities. Because this bad man doesn’t realize that the isolated farm family he’s come to harm is very comfortable with dissection.

4. The Strangers (2008)

“Is Tamara home?”

Writer/director Bryan Bertino creates an awful lot of terror beginning with that line.

A couple heads to an isolated summer home after a wedding. It was meant to be the first stop on their life together, or so we gather, but not all worked out as James (Scott Speedman) had planned. As he and what he’d hoped would be his fiancé, Kristen (Liv Tyler), sit awkwardly and dance around the issue, their very late night is interrupted by a knock and that immediately suspicious question.

Bertino beautifully crafts his first act to ratchet up suspense, with lovely wide shots that allow so much to happen quietly in a frame. This is a home invasion film with an almost unbearable slow burn.

3. Funny Games (1997, 2007)

A family pulls into their vacation lake home, and are quickly bothered by two young men in white gloves. Things, to put it mildly, deteriorate.

Writer/director Michael Haneke begins this nerve wracking exercise by treading tensions created through etiquette, toying with subtle social mores and yet building dread so deftly, so authentically, that you begin to clench your teeth long before the first act of true violence.

But it is the villains who sell the premise. Whether German actors Arno Frisch and Frank Giering or Americans Brady Corbet and Michael Pitt for his 2007 English language remake, the bored sadism that wafts from these kids is seriously unsettling, as, in turn, is the film.

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.

Two young, ordinary, healthy kids left Denton that fateful evening on a night out. It was a night out they were going to remember for a very long time.

Brad Majors (asshole) and Janet Weiss (slut) get themselves in a bit of a pickle on a rainy night and need to seek a telephone at that castle they past a few miles back. I think you know the rest.

1. The Black Cat (1934)

Rocky Horror owes a tremendous debt to Edgar G. Ulmer’s bizarre horror show. The film – clearly precode – boasts torture, tales of cannibalism, and more than the hint of necromancy.

Plus Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff?! What is not to love?

Loosely based on Poe’s The Black Cat – so loose in fact that it bears not a single moment’s resemblance to the short – the film introduces Lugosi’s Dr. Vitus Werdegast. He’s come to seek vengeance on Karloff’s mysterious Hjalmar Poelzig, if only Werdegast can overcome his all-consuming terror of cats!

Fright Club: Horror at the Dinner Table

The dinner scene is a staple in all of film. It’s a way to get to know the family, tweak tensions, display power struggles, uncover secrets, get sentimental, get gross.

And horror filmmakers have mined the anxiety of the dinner table brilliantly for decades. Hereditary‘s “I am your mother!” to The Invitation‘s big reveal, Invisible Man‘s public, damning murder to Beetlejuice‘s singing possession to every amazing scene in The Menu. There are dozens of worthy scenes and films to discuss, but since we must limit ourselves, here are our five favorite dinner scenes in horror.

5. Freaks (1932)

It’s the turning point in Tod Browning’s controversial film. It’s the moment when all the circus freaks embrace Cleopatra, accept her as family.

Gooble gobble gooble gobble, one of us! One of us! The proud call of the outcast, a phrase adopted and beloved but horror fans and weirdos the world over. Could Browning have known when he filmed this boisterous celebration that he’d instantly created a classic?

4. Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992)


Peter Jackson knows gross out splatter gore. If he didn’t prove that with his first films, he owns it with Dead Alive. Power tools and priests, zombie babies and Sumatran Rat Monkeys, and one delicious custard.

That custard bit wins. The dinner scene in this film – a movie spilling over with viscera – is among the most disgusting things ever set to film.

Bravo, Peter Jackson!

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Master! Dinner is prepared!

Poor Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, perfection). These party crashers have ruined his big event AND Rocky’s birthday party! And now that repugnant old scientist is here looking for Eddie – a rather tender subject.

An exceptional cast, a clever dance of allegiances, a showy reveal and my favorite “Happy Birthday” meme all roll into one delicious dish!

2. Eraserhead (1977)

Henry (Jack Nance) is so uncomfortable in this scene, and it’s the first scene where the audience really associates with him. He’s a hard character to get behind until he goes to his girlfriend Mary’s parents’ house for dinner.

Her dad tells this weird story and asks him to do the honors of cutting the meat. He’s nervous, wants to vanish, is afraid to say no but has no idea what to do.

Which is probably everybody’s fear in such a situation. Although, this being a David Lynch film, none of us will ever have exactly this experience. Man, Mom seems to be really invested.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

It is around the dinner table that a guest gets to see the true family dynamics. Sally’s getting a good look. Like a really close up, veiny eyed look.

This is the scene that grounds Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece. Suddenly it’s a family with a lived-in vibe and a backstory. And another person’s face. And a metal basin and a nearly mummified old man.

Edwin Neal’s already had his chance to nab the spotlight in the van, and of course Gunnar Hansen’s the star of the show. It’s in this scene that Jim Siedow gets to dig in and create an unforgettable character. And Sally (Marilyn Burns – god bless her) – goes through a lot and comes out the other side.

Fright Club: Motorcycle Mayhem

Is it ever too cold to ride? My God, yes – it is way too cold to ride. So instead, we invited our friend Jamie Ray from the Fave Five from Fans podcast to join us as we talk through our favorite chopper-themed horror flicks. Some of these are pretty bad – but so fun! – so prepare for a bumpy ride!

5. Deathmaster (1972)

Oh, there were so many terrible films that could have taken this final slot. Would it be Blood Freak? Chopper Chicks in Zombietown? Werewolves on Wheels?

So many choices!

Deathmaster gets the nod because it combines all the required elements – Satanism, hippies, and motorcycles – but it cranks it up a notch. This subgenre owes its very existence to Charles Manson, who braided those three elements together in the minds of Americans. But Deathmaster takes that one step further by creating a specifically Manson-like character—the charismatic guru Khorda – and making him a vampire.

Why is he a vampire? Maybe because they cast Robert Quarry (Count Yorga), who already had the teeth. Who knows, it comes off as utter nonsense, but it makes for a little fun variety.

4. These Are the Damned (1963)

Black leather, black leather, smash smash smash

Black leather, black leather, crash crash crash

Black leather, black leather, kill kill kill

I got that feelin’ – black leather rock

That, in a nutshell, is how dumb this movie is. And yet, like the ludicrous theme song, it’s just weird enough to stay in your head.

Oliver Reed is at his youngest, sultriest, Oliver Reediest as the street tough who chases his sister and her older American boyfriend right into some kind of underground lair where radioactive children are kept.

Suddenly you’re in what appears to be an entirely different movie. It’s like somebody sewed A Clockwork Orange and Village of the Damned together, buried them under rock, and them lobotomized the final version.

Which is kind of appealing, isn’t it?

3. Psychomania (The Death Wheelers) (1973)

More adorably sketchy Brit motorbikers in this one. Some mods wreak havoc on their bikes (because apparently drivers in England have no idea how much more vulnerable a bike is than a truck). But they crave more!

More danger! More excitement!

So they decide that if they kill themselves they can will themselves back to life and become hip zombie bikers.

The film’s appeal has a strange longevity. It’s never scary for even a moment, and it’s often outright ludicrous – if not adorable – but it does have a style and a couple of performances you can admire.

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Yes, Janet. Life’s pretty cheap to that type.

Whether it’s the Transylvanians traveling dto Time Warp with the doctor and his domestics, or the arrival (and quick removal) of Eddie, motorcycles play a significant role in this treasure of a film.

It was 1975, after all, and no self-respecting edgy, dangerous film could possibly convince the world of its anti-establishment bonafides if no one rode a motorcycle. It turns out, it’s the ones who aren’t riders you need to watch out for.

1. Race with the Devil (1975)

At some point somebody decided they were tired of seeing the motorcycle riders always turning out to be Satanic hippies. Nope, not this time.

The film re-teams Peter Fonda and Warren Oates – so great together in 1971’s The Hired Hand. They’re buddies taking a top-of-the-line RV out for a spin across Texas, along with their lovely wives. They stop to camp in the middle of nowhere, the guys take their bikes out for a stretch, and next thing you know, they’re being followed by Satanists and who knows which of these backwoods locals can be trusted?

The film generates real tension in much the same way Spielberg had done four years earlier with Duel. That tension, supported by solid, gritty performances, give this one surprising punch.

Fright Club: Best Horror Musicals

We’re on a music kick. Last week we looked at the best rock star horror movies, so it seemed only natural to move on to the best horror musicals this week. At our house, this particular sub-genre might serves as a kind of bridge between the two of us, since Hope generally hates musicals while George appreciates them. And though it is true that Hope can find some love in her heart for a musical with a side of bloodletting, it turns out that George only likes actually good musicals. Which is to say, they disagree a bit on this list.

Hear the full disagreement, er, podcast HERE.

5. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Dude, 1974 must have been nuts. Brian De Palma’s first and only musical is a Phantom of the Opera/Faust/The Picture of Dorian Gray mash up (with some Frankenstein, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and more than a little Rocky Horror thrown in for good measure). That’s a heady mix, and while the film was nominated for an Oscar for its music, it isn’t exactly the classic you might expect.

A campy skewering of the soulless music industry, Phantom sees tiny Seventies staple Paul Williams as the Satan-esque Swan, a music executive with a contract for you to sign. Poor Winslow (William Finley) is just as wide-eyed about his music as all those would-be starlets are about their chances for fame and fortune in this evil world of pop super stardom.

Like many horror musicals, the film works best as a comedy, but Finley’s garish visage once he makes his transformation from idealistic musician to mutilated Phantom is pretty horrifically effective. The film as a whole is a hot Seventies mess, but that’s kind of the joy of it, really.

4. House (Hausu) (1977)

If Takashi Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris were to marry Pee-wee’s Playhouse, this would be their offspring.

A spoof of sorts, Hausu tells the story of six uniform-clad high school girls named Gorgeous, Fantasy, Sweet, Melody, Kung Fu, and Mac. The nomenclature alone should clue you in on the film’s lunacy. The giggling sextet spend spring break at an aunt’s spooky house – or, in fact, a cheaply made set of an aunt’s spooky house. Not a single thing that follows makes sense, nor is it really meant to.

Expect puppets, random musical sequences, remarkably bad backdrops, slapstick humor, and an amazingly sunny disposition given the sheer volume of human dismemberment. The trippy nonsense wears a bit thin eventually. Luckily director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s film clocks in at under 90 minutes, so the screen goes dark before the novelty wears off.

3. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Here’s a bizarre idea for a musical: The barber upstairs kills his clients and the baker downstairs uses the bodies in her meat pies. Odd for a Broadway musical, yes, but for a Tim Burton film? That sounds a little more natural.

Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a full-on musical – Burton’s first – and every inch a stage play reproduction. For many films, this would be a criticism, but Burton’s knack for dark artificiality serves the project beautifully, and he achieves the perfect Dickensian Goth tone. His production is very stagy and theatrical, but never veers from his distinct, ghoulish visual flair.

As in most of Burton’s best efforts, Sweeney Todd stars Johnny Depp in the title role. Depp is unmistakably fantastic – consumed, morose, twisted with vengeance – and he’s in fine voice, to boot.

The supporting cast boasts a liltingly nefarious performance by Alan Rickman. As the judge whose sent an innocent Todd off in shackles, raped his wife, then took custody of his daughter, whom he leeringly admires, Rickman is wonderful as always. His duet with Depp on “Pretty Women” is the film’s real musical gem.

With Burton’s help, Depp found another dark, bizarre anti-hero to showcase his considerable talent. With Depp’s help, Burton gorgeously, grotesquely realized another macabre fantasy.

2. The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

Takashi Miike is an extremely prolific director. He makes a lot of musical films, a lot of kids’ movies, a lot of horror movies, and then this – a mashup of all of those things. Like Sound of Music with a tremendous body count.

The Katakuris just want to run a rustic mountain inn. They’re not murderers. They’re lovely – well, they’re losers, but they’re not bad people. Buying this piece of property did nothing to correct their luck, either because, my God, their guests do die.

You might call this a dark comedy if it weren’t so very brightly lit. It’s absurd, farcical, gruesome but sweet. There’s a lot of singing, some animation, a volcano, a bit of mystery, more singing, one death by sumo smothering, and love. It sounds weird, truly, but when it comes to weird, Miike is just getting started.


1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Surely you expected no other atop this list because, honestly, nothing else comes close. The most iconic of all horror musicals, The Rocky Horror Picture Show boasts the best soundtrack, the best performances, the best mad scientist, and quite possibly the most fun there is to be had (legally) at the movies.

I’m afraid you’ve touched on a rather tender subject there.

Tim Curry is utter perfection as Frank-N-Furter (A Scientist). The entire balance of the cast is also amazing, but no matter how many times you watch Curry step out of that elevator, abuse his servants, or seduce his houseguests, it never gets old.

Creator Richard O’Brien’s raucous, once controversial film about a sweet transvestite, a slut, an asshole, and a couple of domestics who sing, time warp, throw rice, animate monsters, swap partners, and finally put on a show is still as much fun as it ever was.

Once a subversive take on the classic musicals and sci-fi films of the 30s and 40s, Rocky Horror is now a high-camp icon of its own.

Countdown: Winter Weather Lunchtime Options

Some people eat sauerkraut to begin the New Year, but if weather predictions hold true, we may be looking at snowbound isolation, even power outages. How long will your provisions hold out?! After enough time homebound and desperate, you might find yourself contemplating roasting a leg of neighbor over an open fire.

Should you find yourself in such a state, here are a few films you can think of as how-to’s.

7. Motel Hell (1980)

Super cheese director Kevin Connor teamed up with low rent 80s staple Nancy Parsons and 50s heartthrob Rory Calhoun – not to mention Elaine Joyce and John Ratzenberger – to create one of the best bad horror films ever made. So gloriously bad! Farmer Vincent (Calhoun) makes the county’s tastiest sausage, and runs the Motel Hello as well. Now if swingers (note: cannibals are always eating swingers) keep disappearing from the motel, and mysterious, bubbly moans are coming from those sacks out back, that does not necessarily mean anything is amiss. Motel Hell is a deeply disturbed, inspired little low budget jewel.

It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters.

6. Eating Raoul (1982)

This bone-dry black comedy plays like an early John Waters film made with less money and more irony. The sexually repressed Mary and Paul Bland need to generate capital to open a restaurant and get away from the customers, patients, and neighbors constantly trying to have sex with them. They team up with a scam artist and thief named Raoul, played with almost shocking aptitude, considering the film itself, by Robert Beltran. Together the threesome knock off perverts and swingers, rob them, and sell their bodies for dog food. But when Raoul gets a little too ambitious, not to mention lucky with Mary, well, the couple is forced to eat him. And live happily ever after.

It’s amazing what you can do with a cheap piece of meat if you know how to treat it.

5. Soylent Green (1973)

Soylent Green may not be the most famous of Charlton Heston’s sci-fi cult classics, but his granite-jawed overacting is so perfect for this melodramatic examination of human nature, greed and desperation that it is still an amusing genre study.  Heston is a cop in this urban nightmare of an overpopulated future where the elderly are wooed into euthanasia by the same company that produces the only food available. You do the math. You’ll undoubtedly do it faster than Heston does, but that doesn’t undermine the fun.

You’ve got to tell them!  Soylent Green is people!


4. Titus (1999)

Director Julie Taymor glories in the spectacle of Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. Considered a pot boiler when it was written, it compares favorably in this century’s ultra-violent landscape. Titus, (Anthony Hopkins, perennial man eater), returns victorious from war, but the violence he wrought revisits him when he becomes entangled with a diabolical widow/war spoil (the ever-luminous Jessica Lange). Cannibalism, incest, rape, mutilation, infanticide, and an enormity of assorted carnage take on a surreal beauty under Taymor’s artistic direction.

Hark, villains, I shall grind your bones to dust, and of your blood I shall make a paste.

3. Delicatessen (1991)

Equal parts Eraserhead, Motel Hell and Amelie, Delicatessen is a weird, wild film. Set in the apartment building around a macabre butcher shop in a surreal, post-apocalyptic France, the film addresses the same cannibalism catalyst explored in many films: a human race that destroys everything required to sustain life and must turn to the only nourishment left. The carnival funhouse approach to cinematography predicts the absurdly funny take this black comedy has on humanity and its future.

Answer me meathead.


2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The action in this granddaddy of all cult films turns on one dinner scene. (Now you yell “Meatloaf again?!”) Creator Richard O’Brien’s raucous, once-controversial film about a sweet transvestite, a slut, an asshole and a couple of domestics who sing, time warp, throw rice, animate monsters, swap partners, and finally put on a show is still as much fun as it ever was. Once a subversive take on the classic musicals and sci-fi films of the 30s and 40s, Rocky Horror is now a high-camp icon of its own.

I’m afraid you’ve touched on a rather tender subject there, Dr. Scott. Another slice, anyone?

1. Silence of The Lambs (1991)

Why miss any opportunity to watch one of the most perfect horror films ever made? The fact that a movie about a man who eats human flesh tracking down a man who wears human flesh could win all five major Academy awards is itself a testament to how impeccably this film is put together. From the muted colors, haunting score, and meticulous cinematography to the shockingly authentic performances from Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Ted Levine, Silence of the Lambs is a stunning achievement in any film genre.

I do wish we could chat longer but I’m having an old friend for dinner.