Film Reviews for "James Jay Edwards"
Frame of Mind posts for "James Jay Edwards"
Several years ago, Cinema Fearité covered The Astral Factor, aka Invisible Strangler, which is a 1976 movie about a killer who has mastered the psychic art of astral projection, allowing him to commit his crimes without being detected. However, a year before The Astral Factor was made, in 1975, another movie beat it to the conceptual punch. That movie is Psychic Killer.
Let’s face it. Cats are cool animals to have in horror movies. Whether it’s a classic like The Black Cat or a modern masterpiece like Cat’s Eye, a feline presence adds just the right amount of cuddly creepiness to any fright flick. Cats are even cute when they turn into the antagonists of the movie, such as in Cat People, because in the end, the cat is not to blame, right? Director Jean Yarbrough (The Devil Bat, She-Wolf of London) played around with the cat-like villain motif with his aptly named 1948 noir thriller The Creeper.
Even the slimiest of schlock filmmakers grows up eventually. Aside from Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi hasn’t looked back towards his Evil Dead days since The Quick and the Dead. Wes Craven took a break from making slasher movies to make his passion project Music of the Heart (with Meryl Streep and Angels Bassett, no less). John Carpenter also put away the scary stuff long enough in the mid-eighties to direct Starman. Even the goopiest of the goop directors, David Cronenberg, turned a corner and started making Oscar bait movies. For Cronenberg, the transition film between the weird eXistenZ and the brilliant A History of Violence came in 2002 with his somewhere-in-between movie Spider.
To horror fans, Alfred Hitchcock is best known as the director of Psycho, one of the pioneering movies of the slasher genre. But to cinema geeks, he is better known for what many consider to be his masterpiece – the 1958 classic Vertigo.
One of the most tried and tested ways that Hollywood has found to sell horror movies to the public is to bill them as “based on a true story” or “inspired by actual events.” This piques the interest of moviegoers, no matter how dubious the claim may be. Case in point: the 1979 classic The Amityville Horror.
Horror fans everywhere are celebrating the Oscar success of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which won best picture and best director (among a handful of other honors), and Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which took best original screenplay, at this year’s awards. Horror(ish) movies at the Oscars are rare, but not unheard of. The last (and only, until now) horror(ish) movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture was 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs.
Fueled by the success of the Friday the 13th and the Evil Dead franchises, the cabin-in-the-woods motif has become a staple of the modern horror movie. Sometimes it’s played for gore, as in Cabin Fever, and sometimes it generates real horror, as in Misery, but the trope itself is one of the most recognizable in cinematic history, even garnering a parody, simply called The Cabin in the Woods, which turned out to be one of the best movies of 2012. Because of its familiarity, however, the archetype is usually played for laughs, even way back when it was in its infancy in 1990 and Demon Wind was made.
Sometimes, science fiction horror movies are subtle, like the modern classics Ex Machina and 10 Cloverfield Lane. Other times, they’re pants-poopingly frightening, like Alien and Event Horizon. Still other times, however, they walk the line, becoming so crazy that the viewer is unsure as to what to think, like Phase IV and Prophecy. And then, there are movies like Embryo.
What’s in a name? For movies, it can be a lot. Would Life have been better if it were called Space Station Massacre? Would The Spidery Double have made a better title than Enemy? In the world of B-movies, exploitative titles are almost a badge of honor – just look at Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungles of Death, or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers for examples. But, back in 1964, way before any of those movies, the bar was set by The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?
Canadian horror, sometimes referred to as “Canuxploitation” movies, are fascinating. Sometimes, they are cinematic masterpieces like David Cronenberg’s The Brood, Scanners, or Videodrome. Other times, they are brilliant head-scratchers like Deranged or Cathy’s Curse. But no amount of Cronenberg classics or low-budget cult flicks can prepare a viewer for the Canadian enigma known as Beyond the 7th Door.
Oscar season is here again, and that means Hollywood gets to tell you what movies are good. Of course, I do that year-round, so you can trust me. The 90th Academy Awards Ceremony is March 4th, but you can place your bets on the nominees right now. And, as always, I’m here to help you sort your way through them.
A few years ago, Cinema Fearité took a look at the legendary science fiction classic The Blob. Now, we’re doubling down with the less legendary – but equally awesome – science fiction classic The Green Slime.
In a post-The Blair Witch Project world, it’s difficult to fool the public with a faux-documentary, but before 1999, people were gullible. Orson Welles caused panic with his radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds back in 1938. In 1980, Cannibal Holocaust was so convincing that director Ruggero Deodato was brought up on murder charges. And in 1992, the BBC scared the hell out of an entire country by broadcasting the simulated news report Ghostwatch.
Gothic horror is usually thought of as a period subgenre, with lavish costumes and grand sets. Gothic horror movies are also generally considered to be older classics, like Nosferatu or Frankenstein. Even modern gothic horror movies are either set in past centuries, like Crimson Peak or The Woman in Black, or deal with the making of those older classics, such as Shadow of the Vampire or the appropriately entitled Gothic. But every once in a while, there comes a modern gothic horror movie set in its actual time. Flowers in the Attic fits into this mold.
Science fiction is a nebulous thing. It can be heavily futuristic, or it can take place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Or sometimes, it can take place just barely in the future, giving the audience a glimpse of almost an alternate timeline of history. It is one of these worlds in which 1975’s Rollerball takes place.
In the years after the writer’s passing, Bram Stoker’s estate was very protective of his intellectual property. So, in 1922, when German expressionist filmmaker F.W. Murnau was denied the rights to do an adaptation of Dracula, he did one anyway – but he had to change the name of his lead character from Count Dracula to Count Orlok, and had to refer to the count as a Nosferatu instead of a Vampire. And the silent classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror was born. More than seventy-five years later, in the year 2000, music video director E. Elias Merhige (who, appropriately enough, worked with Marilyn Manson, among others) made a movie about the making of Nosferatu called Shadow of the Vampire.
It’s that time of year again! For what it’s worth, here are my ten favorite movies of the year. As always, these are my favorites, and the results of the other writers at FilmFracture may vary.
Most horror movies are meant to be terrifying. Some, like Student Bodies or Saturday the 14th, are comedies first, going for laughs before scares. And then there are those movies which were made seriously, but wind up packed with unintentional laughs in addition to the thrills and chills. Night School is one of these films.
A couple of years ago, Cinema Fearité explored a glorified student film from 1984 by now-music documentary filmmaker Gorman Bechard (Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements, Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart) called Disconnected. Well, in 1987, Bechard followed up the crazy Disconnected with the equally crazy Psychos in Love.
In the horror world, there are a handful of movies that are household names, movies that are well known by even those who aren’t fans of the genre. Movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Night of the Living Dead have transcended the genre and have leapt into the vernacular of everyday cinema. Then, there are films that are just as legendary, but are only revered and worshipped by the insiders, the hardcore horror fans. Suspiria is one of those movies.
Last weekend saw the passing of the influential filmmaker Ulli Lommel. One of the freshest voices of the New German Cinema movement of the sixties and seventies, Lommel collaborated with both Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Tenderness of the Wolves) and Andy Warhol (Blank Generation) throughout his career, but he is best known by horror fans for his 1980 proto-slasher The Boogey Man.
There are movies that are hits from the start, and there are movies that fade away into obscurity. And then there are movies that find their audience years later by playing to packed theaters at midnight to viewers who come back night after night, despite having seen the films several times over. The ultimate midnight movie is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but movies like The Room and Night of the Living Dead have also brought people out in the middle of the night. And so has the 1977 cult film Eraserhead.
Horror filmmakers and fans alike have always had a morbid fascination with real-life serial killers. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and The Zodiac Killer have all inspired horror movies - even the legendary Jack the Ripper got a speculative thriller. Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein alone has been the basis for dozens of films, everything from film classics like Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to cult standards such as Deranged and Motel Hell. In 1964, just a few short months after he claimed his last victim, The Boston Strangler (aka Albert DeSalvo) got his movie – the simply titled The Strangler.
One of the most pointless disaster films of the twenty-first century was Pompeii, the 2014 action vehicle for “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harrington. But there’s a better Pompeii movie, and we’re not talking about any of the many interpretations of The Last Days of Pompeii. This week, Cinema Fearité takes a look at the 1958 B-movie Curse of the Faceless Man.
The seventies gave the horror world a ton of classic movies. Jaws scared people into not going into the water. Halloween struck fear into the hearts of babysitters everywhere. The Exorcist made people afraid of demonic possession. But, for every Jaws, Halloween, or The Exorcist, there were a dozen other movies that fell along the wayside. Made in 1977, Ruby is one of these movies.
The seventies were one of the coolest decades in horror history. There were slashers, occult movies, vampire flicks, psychological thrillers, and old-fashioned ghost stories. And sometimes, as in the 1971 classic Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, there’s a lot of subgenre overlap.
A few months back, Cinema Fearité waxed upon the confusion that sometimes can be inspired by horror movie titles when we compared Witchtrap to Witchboard. But what happens when two movies from different decades share the same name? We saw it with the non-Chucky Sidney Lumet movie Child’s Play. We saw it with movies called The Hand and Maniac. And now, we’re going to see it again with the non-Hitchcock 1945 British movie Frenzy.
With the semi-ironic popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey movies, film fans everywhere are discovering the wonders of S&M and B&D. Okay, not really, but the movie/book franchise has piqued the interest of “square” people and brought sexual domination to the pop culture forefront. Of course, for horror fans, it was always there. Way back in 1963, Italian uber-director Mario Bava (Hatchet for the Honeymoon, A Bay of Blood) played with the trend with the aptly named The Whip and the Body.
New York, New York. A hell of a town. The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down. And it’s a great backdrop for movies, horror or otherwise. Even when that movie is as surreal and fantastical as The Warriors.
This past weekend, a remake/reboot of Flatliners opened in theaters to little fanfare. Not only was it not screened ahead of time for press, but there were no early paid showings on Thursday night in most markets, with the first opportunity for anyone to see the film coming on Friday morning. Well, in celebration of a movie that the studios seem to be hiding, this week’s Cinema Fearité is taking a look at the original 1990 movie upon which it is based, also called Flatliners.
Out of all of the elements of the polarizing mother! to be controversial, one wouldn’t expect the title to be one of them, but the awkward non-capitalization at the beginning coupled with the exclamation point at the end has been playing hell with the auto-correct of critics everywhere (including my own). But mother! is hardly the first movie to feature strange characters in its name; from Airplane! to Land Ho!, movie titles have gotten creative with their punctuation. Because this is Cinema Fearité, we’re going to take a gander at a horror movie with an exclamation – 1961’s Bloodlust!
Generally speaking, sequels pick up somewhere after the events of their predecessor, whether a few minutes, weeks, or years, and continue to tell the story. Some take place within the same cinematic universe, but with different sets of characters and circumstances (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2/Blair Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane). Others are prequels, telling the story that leads up to the events of the first film (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Annabelle: Creation). Still others, however, are sequels in name only. Such is the case with Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
Last week, in honor of the recent spike in Stephen King movies, Cinema Fearité took a look at King’s one and only directorial effort Maximum Overdrive. Well, after the record setting weekend that IT just had, we’re doubling down on King. This week, we’re going to dive into one of his most disturbing adaptations: 1998’s Apt Pupil.
Stephen King has always been a prolific writer, and filmmakers have always loved making movies out of his works, but Hollywood seems to be in the midst of a “Kingaissance” as of late, with the disappointing The Dark Tower releasing this past summer, the terrifying IT opening this weekend, and the “how are they gonna film THAT?” Gerald’s Game making its premiere on Netflix at the end of the month. For all of his novels and short stories that have been adapted into movies, King has surprisingly only stepped behind the camera to direct one of them himself – the 1986 technology-run-amok thriller Maximum Overdrive.
American rock and roll music is seen as a smorgasbord of musical influences, borrowing liberally from both European and African sources. But the influence of the Native American culture on rock music has rarely been acknowledged. Documentarian Catherine Bainbridge (who also explored Native Americans in Hollywood movies with Reel Injun) and cinematographer Alfonso Maiorana (who worked with Bainbridge on the TV series “Mohawk Girls”) explore the Indians that have had an impact on rock and roll in their fascinating new movie Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.
It’s been less than two months since the passing of the legendary George Romero, and the horror world has been struck by another huge loss; celebrated director Tobe Hooper died last weekend at the age of 74. Although Hooper’s biggest box office success was the Steven Spielberg-produced (and some say directed) Poltergeist, his claim to fame is much more influential. In 1974, he made the most infamous of all American horror movies: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Here at FilmFracture, David Cronenberg’s movies have been so well-covered that his last name has actually found its way into our Microsoft Word dictionary. From his first feature film Stereo to his experimental Cosmopolis, you could say that we are fans, at least of writing about his work if not of the work itself. And this edition of Cinema Fearité adds one more title to the list; this week, we’re taking a look at Cronenberg’s most controversial film, his 1996 fetish thriller Crash.
Revisiting old technologies can be fun. The analog warmth of vinyl records sounds better than the harsh digital compression of CDs. The feeling of flipping the pages of a good book in your hands beats the hell out of scrolling through that same book on a tablet. And, as any avid movie collector will tell you, VHS tapes often have way cooler artwork than their DVD/Blu-ray counterparts. But no one ever thinks about that other lost form of communication – the typewriter. No one, that is, until music video director-turned-documentarian Doug Nichol made California Typewriter.
Hampton Lansdon Fancher. You may not recognize the name, but you are no doubt familiar with his work. His biggest claim to fame is that he wrote the first drafts of the script for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, but he also had an extremely prolific career as a b-level character actor. But even behind the scenes, Fancher has led a fascinating life. So fascinating, in fact, that his filmmaker pal Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) made a movie about him. That movie is called Escapes.
For the most part, horror movie antagonists are somewhat tangible, whether they’re human killers, monstrous creatures, or demonic spirits. Sometimes, however, the villain isn’t so clear cut. Movies like It Follows, Sole Survivor, and the Final Destination movies have more abstract villains, and therefore, they are a different kind of frightening. The 1988 movie Pulse also falls into the unconventional antagonist category.
Another death rocked the pop culture world earlier this week. The name Haruo Nakajima is not instantly recognizable by most, but he was a key figure in many people’s youths - he was the first man to don the Godzilla suit way back in 1954. He played the King of the Monsters twelve times over the course of 18 years (not including stock footage appearances), beginning with the original 1954 Gojira (and its 1956 American re-edit Godzilla, King of the Monsters!) all the way up to Godzilla vs. Gigan in 1972. Right in the middle, in 1962, Nakajima got to portray the big guy as he did battle with the other King of the Monsters, King Kong, in the aptly titled King Kong vs. Godzilla.
Most horror fans will agree that the genre experienced a bit of a lull in the nineties. Sure, there were some bright spots, like Event Horizon, Nightbreed, and Candyman, but much of the decade’s horror output was dedicated to high-gloss, hip-cast clones of Scream. Some of these too-cool, slick-and-glossy productions weren’t all that bad, though. Case in point – the 1998 sci-fi horror flick Disturbing Behavior.
It seems as if 2017 picked up right where 2016 left off when it comes to Hollywood deaths. Last week, the passing of influential director George Romero overshadowed that of master thespian Martin Landau. Unfortunately, this past weekend brought another death to the movie community; character actor John Heard died at the age of 71. Heard was best known for his portrayal of Macauley Culkin’s father in the Home Alone movies, but the prolific actor had a rich resume of both television and film that spanned from the mid-seventies right up to today. In between appearances in high-profile movies and regular stints on network television series, Heard stuck his tongue firmly into his cheek and made fun horror movies, from Cat People to Sharknado…as well as the subject of this installment of Cinema Fearité, the classic 1984 fright flick C.H.U.D.
To say that the horror world lost an irreplaceable icon this past weekend when George A. Romero passed away is an understatement. Although he made movies about vampires (Martin), witches (Season of the Witch), and killer monkeys (Monkey Shines), and had some legendary collaborations with superstar horror writer Stephen King (Creepshow, The Dark Half), Romero was, and always will be, known as the father of the modern zombie movie with his “Living Dead” series of fright flicks. And it all started in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead.
Horror movie titles can be confusing, and we’re not just talking about the endless sequels, remakes, and movies that are called Don’t (insert activity here). There are the completely different movies that share a common name like Stage Fright, Beneath, or The Boy. There are the very similarly titled movies that are often mistaken for each other, such as Trick or Treats, Trick or Treat, and Trick ‘r Treat. It only adds to the quagmire when the same director makes two different movies with titles that are very much alike, such as what writer/director Kevin S. Tenney (Night of the Demons) did when he followed up his 1986 classic Witchboard with his 1989 offering Witchtrap.
As one of the premier voices in the science fiction and horror genres, Rod Serling made his mark in the world as a screenwriter. But, it’s impossible to overlook how effective of a narrator he was. Between “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery,” Serling’s soothing and calm introductions to tales of the mystical and macabre are burned into the minds of fans everywhere. He was even enlisted as a narrator on projects that he didn’t write, everything from Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise to Delbert Mann’s The Legendary Curse of the Hope Diamond. He also slummed it sometimes, such as when he narrated the subject of this week’s Cinema Fearité – the 1973 anthology Encounter with the Unknown.
Most thrillers go from point A to point B in chronological order. A few, like Irreversible or Memento, work their way backwards. Still others will skip around in a Tarantino-esque kind of way. White of the Eye falls into this last category.
After getting his start in nonfiction television, documentary filmmaker John Scheinfeld has carved out a nice little niche for himself in the music film world with his The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?). Keeping up the momentum, he now explores the life of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane in his newest film, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary.
Last week, Stephen Furst passed away at the age of 62 from complications related to type 2 diabetes. Furst was one of those actors with a face more famous than his name, his most instantly recognizable role being that of Kent “Flounder” Dorfman in Animal House. Although his early career saw him in mostly comedic roles, he also worked in drama, action, and, yep, you guessed it, horror. In 1980, just a couple of short years after he made Animal House, Furst played the “title” role in The Unseen.
Geek culture lost one of its biggest icons this past weekend when Adam West passed away at the age of 88. West was easily most well-known and loved for fighting crime on television in the sixties as “Batman” (the Pow! Zap! Bam! era), but he also won over millennial audiences by playing a cartoon version of himself, Adam West, the mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island, on the animated series “Family Guy.” But West had a plentiful and prolific career on both the big and small screens, even venturing into horror a few times with movies like Zombie Nightmare, Curse of the Moon Child, and the subject of this week’s Cinema Fearité: the 1982 supernatural thriller One Dark Night.
British science fiction writer H.G. Wells was one of the most inventive and prolific writers of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, and it seems as if every one of his stories has been turned into a movie. Of course, there are the popular big name films, like The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, but a deeper examination of the adaptations of Wells’ bibliography will bring up awesome fright flicks like the subject of this week’s Cinema Fearité: Empire of the Ants.
In the mid-nineties, horror got very self-referential. Movies like Scream and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare gave audiences a peek into a cinematic world that as aware of itself, a meta-universe that, sometimes hammily, winked and nodded at its influences and predecessors. This wasn’t invented in 1994, though. In 1980, an all-but-forgotten gem called Fade to Black did it first.
It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well then, in 1961, Great Britain flattered the hell out of Japan by making a little Godzilla homage called Gorgo.
Last week, the talented character actor Michael Parks passed away at the age of 77. Parks was one of those actors whose name might not be instantly recognizable, but whose face is known by every cinemaniac. He was a regular in films by both Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith has gone on record saying that he wrote Red State and Tusk specifically for Parks. Like so many other cult favorite actors, Parks did his share of horror movies, schlock with titles like The Savage Bees, Nightmare Beach...and the subject of this week’s Cinema Fearité – The Evictors.
In the rapidly declining world of print journalism, newspapers are known for their different sections. There’s the news and politics section, the funny papers, the sports page…and the obituary column. Obit takes a good look at the surprisingly lively writers who are responsible for producing the content for that last section.
In the seventies, a whole subgenre of horror popped up that revolved around the profession of babysitting. Led by movies such as Halloween and When A Stranger Calls, horror films made young girls everywhere think twice about childcare as a moneymaking venture. In 1980, a television movie, simply called The Babysitter, flipped the script on the stalked kinder-care motif by making the sitter the hunter instead of the prey.
A piece of pop culture history was lost this past weekend when Erin Moran, best known as the little sister Joanie on the long-running sitcom “Happy Days” (and carrying the role over to the spinoff “Joanie Loves Chachi”), died of cancer complications at the young age of 56. “Happy Days” made Moran a household name in the seventies, but she was already a child star at that point, and went on to have a humble television career after. Of course, because this is Cinema Fearité, we’re going to take a look at Moran’s one and only horror movie, the 1981 Roger Corman-produced sci-fi schlockfest Galaxy of Terror.
This week’s Cinema Fearité is going to be a little different. With Donald Trump sending warships to North Korea and their leader, Kim Jung-un, constantly developing and testing his country’s nuclear capabilities, the world hasn’t been this close to nuclear war since the Reagan era more than thirty years ago. It’s time to revisit the 1983 television movie The Day After.
There’s little doubt that Stanley Kubrick is one of the most influential directors in modern cinema. He revolutionized the science fiction genre with 2001: A Space Odyssey, the dystopian nightmare with A Clockwork Orange, the horror movie with The Shining, and the war film with Full Metal Jacket. He even invented the political satire with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. But he wasn’t always so...Kubrickian. Like most filmmakers (see David Cronenberg’s Stereo), Kubrick started his career making cheap and simple films. His second feature, made way back in 1955, was the tidy little noir thriller Killer’s Kiss.
Following the success of Gremlins in 1984, the film industry decided that the next big thing would be tiny creature movies. The ghoulies in Ghoulies led to the troll in Cat’s Eye and the critters in Critters led to the demons in The Gate. But all of that was just prepping the world for 1988’s Hobgoblins.
Last week, Cinema Fearité brought you Offerings, an eighties slasher that was just behind its time. This week, we’re heading to the other end of the scale by featuring a movie that was years ahead of its time. That movie is 1983’s Sole Survivor.
The eighties were called the “Golden Age of the Slasher” for a reason; slasher movies were a dime a dozen. By the time the decade ended, audiences had pretty much seen it all. That didn’t stop the movies from trying, though. In 1989, a little-slasher-that-could recycled every trope into a movie that, well, seemed like a bunch of recycled tropes. That movie is Offerings.
Whether it’s because of the innovative architecture or the retro nostalgia is anyone’s guess, but horror movies set in malls are fun. Sometimes, they’re smart indictments of consumerism, like Dawn of the Dead. Other times, they’re just silly creature features about college co-eds, such as Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. And sometimes, they’re both, like the 1986 technological warning-meets-teenage party movie Chopping Mall.
Last month, Cinema Fearité paid tribute to female filmmakers for Women in Horror Month by diving into Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary, and Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-hiker. Thanks to the untimely passing of Bill Paxton, we got a little sidetracked last week with our remembrance of Frailty. Well, better late than never; we’re back on track to wrap up Women in Horror Month by taking a look at Antonia Bird’s 1999 cannibalism movie Ravenous.
Another blow was dealt to not only the horror scene, but to Hollywood in general this past weekend when versatile everyman actor Bill Paxton died from complications following heart surgery at the age of 61. Paxton was first noticed by most fans as a punk in The Terminator (“Your clothes. Give them to me.”) and as bully older brother Chet in Weird Science (“How about a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?”). He went on to play legendary roles in classic films like Aliens and Near Dark, and even had mainstream success in big studio movies such as Apollo 13 and Titanic. In 2001, Paxton pulled double duty, starring in and directing Frailty, one of the most psychologically disturbing movies of the twenty-first century.
Documentaries about subcultures are usually fun because they give the viewer a glimpse into a world that they might otherwise have never even known existed. The new film from Jon Manning, Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe does just that, and does it in a way that is both informative and entertaining.
February is Women in Horror Month, and Cinema Fearité has been celebrating all month long. First, we took a look at Mary Harron’s American Psycho, then we checked out Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary. This week, we’re taking it all the way back to 1953 with Ida Lupino’s noir thriller The Hitch-Hiker.
Last week, Cinema Fearité celebrated Women in Horror Month by taking a look at Mary Harron’s American Psycho. We’re continuing the party this week by featuring another classic fright flick directed by a member of the fairer sex – Mary Lambert’s 1989 Stephen King adaptation of Pet Sematary.
As both a black man and a homosexual, writer James Baldwin’s work usually dealt with social injustice and inequality on some level. When he died in 1987, he left behind an unfinished manuscript for a book called Remember This House that detailed his own memories of the civil rights struggle of the sixties. This manuscript is the framework for I Am Not Your Negro.
In case you haven’t heard, February is Women in Horror Month. Although generally underrepresented, female filmmakers have made some of the most important (and most enjoyable) horror movies in history, from classics like Amy Holden Jones’ The Slumber Party Massacre and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark to more modern masterpieces such as Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation. And then, there’s one of the greatest films, horror or not, of the 21st century – Mary Harron’s American Psycho.
Not to get overly political, but it’s all over the news that the events of the first week of the Trump administration reminded enough Americans of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to rocket the 1949 book to the top of the bestsellers list again, almost seventy years after it was written. For those who don’t like to read, the prophetic novel has been made into a movie not once, but twice. The first time was in 1956, just a few years after its initial publication. But, the definitive cinematic imagining of the story was the later one, both made in 1984 and entitled 1984.
Just last week we lamented the fact that Cinema Fearité was turning into a memorial column for legends who have recently passed away. The bandwidth used to post that article had not even been calculated before another loss was suffered – Miguel Ferrer died of throat cancer at the age of 61. Most recognizable to horror and cult movie fans from his supporting roles in “Twin Peaks” and Robocop, Ferrer was one of those actors whose face was more famous than his name. In 1997, he took center stage as the lead in Stephen King’s The Night Flier.
The last few months have been packed with two-and-a-half hour epic movies loaded down with big stars, and you know what that means! It’s Oscar season! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the list of nominees for the 89th Academy Awards, with the ceremony scheduled to take place on February 26, 2017. If you follow other awards races, the 2017 Oscar nominees will hold few surprises, so the only drama of the night will be if there are a few upset wins. Here’s a little look at the nominees, as well as some predictions for who might walk away with the statues.
Lately, it seems almost as if Cinema Fearité has been more of a memorandum column for horror icons who have passed away than a weekly tribute to cool horror movies. Well, it happened again; William Peter Blatty died last week of plasma cell myeloma at the age of 89. Blatty will far and away always be remembered as the man who wrote The Exorcist, both the novel and the screenplay, but he had a healthy little moviemaking career outside of that one film as well. In 1980, seven years after The Exorcist, Blatty was given the chance to direct a movie himself with The Ninth Configuration.
If you ask a horror fan about the movie House, you’ll most likely hear about the 1986 campy cult-classic haunted house comedy that was directed by Steve Miner of Friday the 13th fame. But every once in a while, you might get an earful about a crazy Japanese movie from 1977.
A mere day after the great Carrie Fisher died last week, her mother, the equally great Debbie Reynolds, passed away. Like Fisher, Reynolds was mainly known for a single role, that of Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain. But, also like Fisher, Reynolds had a long and versatile list of credits to her name. Since this is Cinema Fearité, you have probably guessed that she appeared in some horror movies. Yes, faithful reader, she did. In 1971, Reynolds starred in the musical mystery What’s the Matter with Helen?
Another year has come and gone, and with that…here are my Ten Favorite movies of the year, from Hollywood musicals to revisionist westerns, from supernatural horror to very real horror.
The science fiction world suffered a huge blow this week when Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack at the age of 60. Of course, Fisher’s career-defining role was her portrayal of Princess Leia Organa, the leader of the rebel forces in the Star Wars movies, but she had a pretty lengthy resume of other work, including appearances in The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally…, and Hannah and Her Sisters. She even played around a bit in the horror world, playing parts in a 1984 Showtime production of Frankenstein as well as small-but-pivotal roles in the Sorority Row remake and Scream 3 (where, in pure meta-Scream style, she plays a jaded version of herself). However, aside from Star Wars, her most loved performance may well be her turn in the 1989 horror/comedy The ‘Burbs.
When it comes to holiday horror movies, Christmas is second only to Halloween itself. Since its humble inception five or so years ago, Cinema Fearité has covered Jack Frost, Don’t Open Till Christmas, Christmas Evil, To All a Good Night, and Black Christmas. When most people think of Christmas horror movies, however, there’s one movie that comes to mind even before any of those – the 1984 Santa slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Revenge movies had their heyday in the seventies with the release of high-profile innovators like The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave as well as more underground imitators such as Death Weekend and Poor Pretty Eddie. The eighties had their punks-gone-wild movies like Class of 1984, Tuff Turf, and Bad Boys. In 1984, a movie called Savage Streets mashed these two exploitation subgenres together in the most magnificent way.
When people think about B-movie producers, the names that come to mind are usually Roger Corman, William Castle, maybe even Ed Wood. A good decade before those guys, however, there was Val Lewton, who owned the 1940s with movies like I Walked with a Zombie and The Ghost Ship, as well as his trio of Boris Karloff collaborations that included The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, and Bedlam. Arguably his best movie is his first, the 1942 creepy classic Cat People.
The hits just keep on coming for 2016. Over the holiday weekend, the entertainment world lost yet another legend when Fritz Weaver passed away at the age of 90. Even if his name isn’t immediately recognizable, his face certainly was; Weaver appeared on every type of television show, from “All My Children” to “Wonder Woman.” He guest starred in just about every horror show imaginable, anchoring episodes of “The Twilight Zone” (both the sixties and eighties versions), “Tales From the Darkside,” “The Outer Limits,” and even “Monsters” (remember that one?). On the big screen, he shined in big budget adventure movies like The Marathon Man and Black Sunday, but he always had time for horror movies like Creepshow, Demon Seed, and this week’s Cinema Fearité offering – the 1981 shocker Jaws of Satan.
Last week, an actor named Tom Neyman passed away at the age of 80. Calling him an actor might be a bit of a stretch, since he only made one movie way back in 1966, but that one movie is legendary…for being one of the worst films of all time. Well, since it’s Thanksgiving anyway, let’s take a look at that famous turkey - a little movie called Manos: The Hands of Fate.
As cheap of a ploy as it sounds, setting a horror movie in a mental hospital is a highly effective way to raise the creep factor. From Asylum to The Ward, and even in cult classics like Alone in the Dark and Bad Dreams, a loony bin is a great setting for scares. Even fringe horror movies get spookier when they take place inside an insane asylum. For an example, look no further than Samuel Fuller’s 1963 noir thriller Shock Corridor.
Two of this year’s most buzzworthy horror movies have had animals featured in prominent roles. The Witch stars a freaky 210 pound goat named Charlie as the evil Black Phillip, and a charming seagull named Sully almost steals The Shallows away from Blake Lively with his performance as Steven Seagull, her rocky reef-mate for the movie. All of the hype surrounding these two talented non-humans brings to mind another stirring performance by an animal – that of the titular character in the 1985 anthology Cat’s Eye.
Horror on television has been around since the fifties and sixties, but it only reached out towards the children’s television market in the nineties with shows like “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and “Goosebumps.” Before long, Nickelodeon, the “Kid’s Network” and home of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, even branched into scary TV movies aimed at the pre-teen demographic. Around Halloween of 2000, Nick pulled no punches with its controversial television feature Cry Baby Lane.
Let’s face it, some movies are just plain weird. Some are shockingly weird, like The Baby or Pink Flamingos. Some are surreally weird, like Eraserhead or any one of a number of films from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Either way, there is an entire unofficial subgenre of cinema that takes strangeness to a whole new level. Sonny Boy falls squarely into this category.
Horror fans love to complain about remakes, but there are times when a re-imagining does actually surpass the original. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a good example. So is Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Franck Khalfoun’s brutal interpretation of Maniac comes pretty close. And, of course, David Cronenberg’s The Fly has to be in the conversation. But hold up…because the original 1958 version of The Fly is pretty hard to beat.
Italian director Mario Bava is considered to be one of the pioneers of both the giallo and the slasher subgenres of horror movies. With films like A Bay of Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, and Kill Baby, Kill to his credit, Bava’s work is usually seen as bloody and gruesome, but there was another side to the filmmaker. Bava could make movies that teemed with subtle suspense, such as his 1963 classic Evil Eye.
On September 18, 1980, a technician at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, dropped a tool that punctured the side of a missile, spraying rocket fuel into the silo. That may sound like a minor mishap, but the fact that the missile contained a nuclear warhead that was 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima escalated the situation. Long story short – the missile exploded, but the warhead did not, and although the incident was widely publicized, the full details were covered up. Until now.
Most people who are into horror movies consider themselves lifelong fans of the genre, but nobody’s first horror viewing experience was The Wizard of Gore or Cannibal Holocaust. Most childhood fans started off with the more kid-tested, mother-approved gateway horror movies like Something Wicked This Way Comes, Paperhouse, or, if they were lucky enough to start watching in 1987, the appropriately titled The Gate.
Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA for short, is the fastest growing sport in the United States today. Combining the flash of professional wrestling with the brutality of boxing, MMA draws thousands to live events and sells millions of pay-per-view orders. MMA is also the subject of a new documentary from Vlad Yudin (who also made the bodybuilding doc Generation Iron) called The Hurt Business.
The horror world lost one of its most influential figures earlier this week with the death of filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis at the age of 90. Lewis earned the nickname “The Godfather of Gore” with his bloody schlock classics like The Wizard of Gore, The Gore-Gore Girls, and A Taste of Blood. He got his start in the business by making so-called “nudie-cuties” in the early sixties, but in 1963, he found his true calling when he made his first splatter masterpiece Blood Feast.
With about forty feature films to his credit over a sixty year span, director Robert Wise was a fairly prolific filmmaker. He also was extremely versatile, with a resume that includes everything from Hollywood musicals such as The Sound of Music and West Side Story to science fiction epics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He also did more than merely dabble in the horror genre, with credits like The Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, and Audrey Rose to his name. His crown jewel, at least as far as fright flicks are concerned, is the 1963 spookfest The Haunting.
JT LeRoy was a real-life Cinderella: an androgynous boy with a truck stop prostitute for a mother who lived a life of drug addiction and sexual abuse before becoming a literary phenomenon when his first autobiographical book, Sarah, was published in 1999. JT LeRoy was also a fraud: an identity manufactured by writer Laura Albert as a way for Albert to write about taboo subjects that she normally wouldn’t dare approach. Albert’s deception was exposed in 2005, and the entire drama is documented in the fascinating film Author: The JT LeRoy Story.
It would seem as if 4k restorations are all the rage in the horror world. Last year, Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre got one, as did George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and there’s one for Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm on the books as well. Well, not to be outdone, it has recently been announced that one of the most controversial horror films ever made, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, is also getting the 4k treatment for its thirtieth anniversary. It’s as good a time as any for Cinema Fearité to take a look back at the 1986 shock film classic.
In retrospect, it would appear as if Universal Studios owned the American horror cinema market in the 1930s. In actuality, however, nearly every studio in town was making horror films just as prolifically during that decade, with RKO Radio Pictures (King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Freaks, Mad Love), and Columbia Pictures (Black Moon, The Man They Could Not Hang, The Black Room) all releasing quality fright flicks. Columbia was especially productive, even managing to convince some of Universal’s stars to moonlight on their movies. That’s what they did in 1933 with the great Bela Lugosi, just two years after he became a household name in Dracula, with Night of Terror.
Although they’re not always considered horror films, there can be little doubt that rape-revenge movies are horrifying. Some of them, like Wes Craven’s debut film The Last House on the Left, are well-crafted artsy experiences. Others, like Meir Zarchi’s infamous shocker I Spit on Your Grave, are more exploitive in nature. And some, like 1975’s Poor Pretty Eddie, are a crazy combination of both.
Ever since George Romero turned the horror world on its ear with Night of the Living Dead, the words “Night Of The” have become staples of fright flick titles. Whether it’s a creature feature B-movie such as Night of the Lepus or a tense crime drama like Night of the Juggler, those three words can really let the audience know what they’re in for. Cinema Fearité has already sung the praises of a couple of these aptly-named movies - Night of the Creeps and Night of the Demons. And now, we’re doing one more – the 1984 horror comedy Night of the Comet.
It’s common knowledge that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was the result of a friendly writing competition between herself, her future husband Percy Shelley, the poet Lord Byron, and author/physician John Polidori. While stuck indoors during the unseasonably rainy summer of 1816, the four writers took turns trying to scare each other with stories of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. Only the four participants know for sure what happened over the course of those isolated and secluded days, but director Ken Russell (The Devils, Altered States) posits one theory in his 1986 movie Gothic.
When most people think about classic horror writers, two names usually come immediately to mind: Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. But there is a third name that deserves to be there. The prolific French writer Guy de Maupassant had every bit as much imagination and talent as Poe and Lovecraft. There just haven’t been enough movie adaptations of Maupassant’s work for him to have gained household name status. There have been some Maupassant movies, however - the best known being the 1963 chiller Diary of a Madman.
Former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason’s football career can be defined in a single play. On September 25th, 2006, in the Saints’ first home game since their city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a punt by the Atlanta Falcons that was returned for a touchdown, the first score of a game which the Saints would go on to win. It was more than just a football play. It was a symbol of resilience, a statement about the resurgence of a city that had been nearly destroyed. Gleason provided a spark of hope which turned the city around.
The biggest news coming out of last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was, arguably, the announcement that the upcoming Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett movie The Woods is, in fact, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. With all the hoopla and hub-bub, some fans seem to have forgotten (or perhaps have been trying to forget) that there already has been a Blair Witch sequel: 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.
When people think of horror auteurs, the names that normally get thrown around are ones like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento. One name that usually does not get brought up is Herk Harvey, an industrial film director who barely dipped his foot into the horror pool. Harvey only made one feature length movie, but it’s a doozy. In 1962, Harvey took a break from making educational documentaries to produce his contribution to horror history, Carnival of Souls.
In the wake of John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween and Sean S. Cunningham’s equally legendary Friday the 13th, film studios everywhere in the early eighties rushed to get their own psycho killer movies into theaters. The era that has come to be known as the Golden Age of the Slasher saw dozens, if not hundreds, of splatter flicks released, each bloodier than the last, and many with exploitative names like The Prowler, Madman, and Maniac. Fitting right in with the most stereotypically titled of the Golden Age Slashers is the 1984 schlock flick The Mutilator.
From the very beginning of cinematic history, there have been movies about trains. One of the first “Actualitiés” by the Lumiére Brothers in 1895 was Arrival of a Train at la Ciotat. In 1903, filmmaker Edwin S. Porter introduced the world to composite editing and location shooting with The Great Train Robbery. The horror world has given audiences Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and the seminal slasher Terror Train, as well as modern classics like Snowpiercer and Transsiberian. And that’s just the tip of the symbolic iceberg – there have been plenty more, lesser-known train horror movies. For example, in 1941, after Porter but before Hitchcock, a horrifying locomotive pulled into the station in the appropriately titled The Ghost Train.
For classic horror back in the day, there were basically two big studios; America had Universal Pictures and Great Britain had Hammer Film Productions. But, there were also smaller companies that pumped out movies as well, one of which was American International Pictures, headed up by uber-producer Samuel Z. Arkoff. AIP made and distributed B-movies, many of which fit squarely into the fright flick genre, from the mid-fifties right up until the company’s absorption in the early eighties. In 1965, right at the apex of the company’s output, AIP distributed the classic British creepfest Die, Monster, Die!
Not only is Jack the Ripper one of the most famous and infamous killers of all time, he’s also a pretty good movie villain. Whether the movie sticks relatively close to the true story, like Jack the Ripper, or takes things in a surreal mashup direction, such as in Edge of Sanity, Jack is always a fun antagonist. A movie can even transport the slicey Brit into the future and still be effective. Case in point: the eighties crime thriller Jack’s Back.
A lot of weird stuff can be found on the internet. The general rule is that just about anything – and I do mean anything – is just a Google search away. For example: who would have thought that Competitive Endurance Tickling was a thing? Well, if you believe the new documentary Tickled, apparently it is.
When it comes to horror remakes, there are two approaches that can be taken. First is one of replication, where the filmmaker simply imitates the story and style of the original. The recent remake of Carrie did this, as did the new rehash of Poltergeist (and don’t even get me started on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho). The other way of thinking is to take the basic premise of the original and run with it until something new and different emerges. These are the reboots that become legendary classics, movies such as David Cronenberg’s The Fly or Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac. Horror icon John Carpenter’s 1982 reimagining of The Thing belongs squarely in this second category.
Horror movie titles can be so commanding, especially when they’re telling the viewer not to do something. The word “Don’t” has appeared at the beginning of so many movie titles that silly director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block) spoofed the trend in his hilarious contribution to the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Grindhouse. The “Don’t” movies can be subliminally cautionary, like Don’t Look Now. They can be sagely advisive, like Don’t Open Till Christmas. They can even wide-eyed and optimistic, like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. But, most of the time, they’re exploitatively demanding, like Don’t Go Near the Park, Don’t Go in the House, or Don’t Answer the Phone! Way back in 1973, one of the first movies to warn its viewers to “Don’t” do something was the proto-slasher Don’t Look in the Basement.
Whether one considers him one of the freshest voices in modern cinema or just a hack Hitchcock imitator, there’s no doubt that Brian De Palma has made some of the most important movies of the last half century. Now, fellow directors Noah Baumbach (Mistress America) and Jake Paltrow (“NYPD Blue”) turn the camera around on the iconic filmmaker in the simply titled documentary De Palma.
Whether it’s a badge of honor or a sign of disrespect is up for debate, but it seems as if, for better or worse, every reasonably successful horror movie in history gets remade, some more than once. Stephen King adaptations are no different; the superstar author’s first three books (Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, and The Shining) have all been made and remade (Carrie has gone through the reboot ringer twice). Now, since the reimagining of It has finally gathered enough steam (and a director and cast) to go into production, it seems like as good a time as any for Cinema Fearité to take a look back at the scariest television miniseries of 1990: Stephen King’s It.
In the sports world, the Green Bay Packers get a lot of attention for being fan-owned, as the NFL team has been possessed by shareholders for nearly an entire century. The Packers may be the only community owned organization in American professional sports, but worldwide, the practice is fairly common, especially among football clubs (the type of football that Americans refer to as soccer). A textbook example occurred in the early part of the twenty-first century when a group of British villagers pooled their money and bought a racehorse. Their unlikely story is told in Dark Horse.
In 1996, the late, great Wes Craven re-energized the fledgling horror genre with his smart, self-referential classic Scream. Craven found his inspiration two years earlier when, in 1994, he pulled back the curtain on filmmaking with the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel/reboot Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Both of these movies recognized and reflected upon the workings of the horror movie genre as part of their overall makeup. Well, when it comes to self-aware horror movies, the 1991 Troma-distributed, micro-budget horror comedy There’s Nothing Out There beat Craven to the punch by a few years.
In New Orleans, an elder care worker named Samantha Montgomery writes songs, records them acapella, and uploads them to YouTube under the internet name Princess Shaw. Half a world away in Israel, an eccentric musician named Ophir Kutiel, better known in the online world as Kutiman, scours the web for videos of musicians plying their craft and assembles them into “visual symphonies.” Presenting Princess Shaw shows what happens when Kutiman discovers the raw talent of Princess Shaw and puts his unique musical polish on it.
It’s graduation time, the point of the year where students switch the tassels over to the other side before tossing the whole cap into the air. Cinema Fearité’s quest to remain timely is just as fervent as any recent grad's thirst for knowledge, so this week, we’ve got a movie that is both seminal and topical: the 1981 slasher Graduation Day.
On April 12, 1961, the Soviets put a man into space. Twenty-three days later, the Americans repeated the feat. Both events played a huge part in the so-called Space Race, but Hollywood beat them both to the punch, putting a human into space two years earlier in 1959 with the aptly-titled First Man Into Space.
In the world of slasher movies, there are two never-fail scenarios. The first is the killer-in-the-woods, which Cinema Fearité has explored several times over the years with features about Madman, The Burning, The Final Terror, Sleepaway Camp, and Just Before Dawn. The other is the university-kids-being-stalked motif, which we’ve covered with Terror Train and The Prowler. Well, this week, we’re going back to college again with a buried gem from 1981 – Final Exam.
This past weekend saw the untimely death of Wayne Crawford at the comparatively young age of 69. Crawford is probably best known for producing such cult classics as Valley Girl and Night of the Comet, but he was also a talented writer, director, and actor. And sometimes, he did it all in the same movie. The 1978 low-budget horror classic Barracuda was one of those times.
Between the success of “The Walking Dead” on television and the campiness of any number of the “X vs. Zombies” movies in theaters (or, more likely, on VOD), zombies are literally everywhere, having invaded every last fiber of popular culture. George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead is usually credited with inventing the modern zombie, but the horror trope goes back farther than that. Low-budget movie moguls the Halperin brothers (Ex-Flame) made what most people consider to be the first feature length zombie movie thirty-five years earlier in 1932 when they came up with White Zombie.
When most people think about witches, they automatically envision women. Movies are no different; from the old classic The Witches to the modern masterpiece The Witch, the title characters are usually female. But there are male witches – or warlocks, as they are known – in movies, and 1971’s Simon, King of the Witches is as good of an example of a witch-man movie as one is bound to find.
Actors usually don’t just step into million-dollar roles, they most likely have had to work their way up. Sometimes, they even have to start in horror movies. Everyone knows how Johnny Depp began his career in A Nightmare on Elm Street and how Jennifer Aniston’s first movie was Leprechaun, but even the too-cute and equally talented Brooke Shields made her big screen debut in a horror movie way back in 1976 when she appeared in the cut-rate supernatural slasher Alice, Sweet Alice.
Although it has a fairly rich cinematic history, most American filmgoers only know Austria as the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger. With its close proximity to (and shared language with) Germany, what few Austrian films that find their way to America are often mistaken for German productions. The country is not usually thought of as a hotbed of horror, but last year’s dark horse thriller Goodnight Mommy was Austrian, as was Michael Haneke’s 1997 home invasion nightmare Funny Games (which was remade in English ten years later by Haneke himself for American audiences). In 1983, another legendary Austrian horror film was made, the proto-psycho-slasher with the name that means “Fear” in English, Angst.
In the mid-sixties, writer/director Dan Curtis successfully injected vampires into a soap opera with “Dark Shadows,” a show that not only ran for over twelve hundred episodes, but also spawned a number of tie-in movies, a nineties television reboot, and even a 2012 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big-budget reboot-of-the-reboot. Curtis was more than just “Dark Shadows,” however; he owned horror on the small screen, with TV movie titles like Scream of the Wolf and Dracula on his resume. He also made a couple of the greatest television horror anthology movies ever – one was the 1975 classic Trilogy of Terror, and the other, the focus of this week’s Cinema Fearité, is the criminally underrated 1977 effort Dead of Night.
On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were driving along a road in rural New Hampshire when they were reportedly abducted by extraterrestrials. Four years later, on September 3, 1965, Norman Muscarello saw a UFO while hitchhiking near Exeter, NH, and reported it to police, which resulted in New Hampshire Police Officers Eugene Bertrand and David Hunt also observing the phenomenon. These are two of the most compelling and controversial cases in the annals of UFO encounters, and they are examined in the new documentary Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter Encounter.
The horror and science fiction genres have always loved their end of the world movies. From the original comet-crashing 1916 movie The End of the World to more modern dystopic films like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the end of mankind is a solid premise. In 1964, the extinction of humanity by alien invasion was explored in the dramatically titled The Earth Dies Screaming.
On March 10th, 2016, influential keyboardist/composer Keith Emerson died of an apparent suicide. Emerson was best known as a founding member of the prog-rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer (or ELP for short), but the maestro also dabbled in film scoring. Arguably, his most famous score was the soundtrack to legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s 1980 classic Inferno.
The internet was in mourning a couple of weeks ago over the death of a talented-yet-underappreciated character actor named Tony Burton. Burton was most recognizable for his role as Duke, Apollo Creed’s corner man who would become Rocky’s corner man, in all of the Rocky movies up until Rocky Balboa. However, in 1976, the same year that the original Rocky was released, Burton had a small-but-pivotal role as a prisoner in an influential horror classic: Assault on Precinct 13.
Last weekend, Hollywood icon George Kennedy passed away at the age of 91. Kennedy won an Academy Award for his performance in Cool Hand Luke, but he was not above taking sillier, less distinguished roles in fun movies; he appeared in all of the Airport series of disaster movies as well as the entire The Naked Gun comedy franchise, and that’s not even mentioning his stint as a regular on the nighttime soap opera “Dallas.” Of course, he also did horror movies, with performances in the noir thriller Strait-Jacket, the schlockfest Brain Dead, and the “Old Chief Wood’nhead” segment of the anthology Creepshow 2. In 1981, Kennedy even appeared in the full-blown slasher movie Just Before Dawn.
The big difference between the classic horror anthologies of yesteryear and those that are made today is consistency. Today’s anthologies, movies like those found in the V/H/S and The ABCs of Death franchises, have different directors and writers for each segment, so the quality and tone can vary greatly. That’s not the case with the old-school classic anthologies. From 1924’s Waxworks right up to the beloved Creepshow movies of the eighties, horror anthologies were the vision of a single director, one filmmaker who would bring several stories to life by putting his or her personal thumbprint on each one. One of the most fun and forgotten of these classic anthologies is 1983’s Nightmares.
No matter how you slice it, babysitters make great Final Girls in horror movies. The combination of being alone in a strange place and being forced to be responsible for someone else’s safety as well as their own makes a character a great victim…and a great heroine. The babysitter motif has been explored in many movies, both classic (Halloween) and not-so-classic (Babysitter Massacre), but perhaps never as effectively as it was in the 1979 shocker When a Stranger Calls.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and love is in the air. When most horror fans think of Valentine’s Day, the movies that come to mind are either My Bloody Valentine (if they’re over 40), Valentine (for the 31-39 crowd), or My Bloody Valentine again (for the reboot crowd who’s under 30). But there are a few others. For example, there’s the 1981 psycho-slasher Hospital Massacre.
In case you’ve missed it, Cinema Fearité has been on a “Maniac” binge for the past couple of weeks. First, we examined Dwain Esper’s 1934 scaresploitation classic Maniac, then we explored the 1963 Hammer Pictures thriller Maniac. This week, we conclude our trilogy with the movie that most horror fans think of instantly when they hear the word “maniac”; the 1980 psycho-slasher Maniac.
Last week, Cinema Fearité examined the Dwain Esper 1934 exploitation/educational film Maniac. This week in our continuing Maniac series, we take a look at the 1963 Hammer Film Productions crime thriller called, of course, Maniac.
What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to horror movies, quite a bit. If you go too generic, you won’t pique peoples’ interest. If you’re too specific, you risk giving away plot points or, worse, including inside jokes in your title. But let’s face it; there are only so many good titles to go around, and some movies are going to end up with the same name, especially when that name is a very general term. For instance, there have been at least three different movies called Maniac over the last eighty years or so, not counting short films and reboots. Over the next few weeks, Cinema Fearité will take a look at the three most popular ones, starting with the earliest: a 1934 exploitation film called, of course, Maniac.
I was recently at dinner with a couple who had been told I write about movies. It came as no surprise when they asked me, "What were the best movies you saw this year?" I hate that question, just as much as I hate when someone asks what my favorite film is, or what movie is the greatest ever made. If you're thinking that's an easy question to answer, it's Citizen Kane, I hope we never meet. FilmFracture's James Jay Edwards did an excellent job at picking ten of the best films of 2015, and it got me thinking, "What could I contribute?" Well, I find myself unable to remember most of the films I watch, for various reasons. So what movies do I remember seeing in 2015, and why? I'm about to tell you.
It’s Oscar season again! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the list of nominees for the 88th Academy Awards, with the ceremony scheduled to take place on February 28, 2016. For the most part, this year’s nominees are disappointingly safe, but there are a few good dark horses here and there that may keep Oscar Night interesting. Here’s a little look at the nominees, as well as some predictions for who might walk away with the statues.
The horror community suffered yet another crushing blow this past weekend. As if it wasn’t enough that Wes Craven and Gunnar Hansen passed away this last year, another icon was lost when Angus Scrimm died on Saturday, January 9th. Over the years, Scrimm became a fixture in horror movies and television shows, appearing in dozens of productions of all sizes and budgets, but fans know and remember him from one role – he was The Tall Man in Phantasm.
On New Year’s Day, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, the man who shot blockbusters like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Deliverance passed away at the age of 85. During his long and prolific career, Zsigmond worked in just about every genre imaginable and photographed for everyone from Robert Altman to Brian De Palma, but he got his start in quickie westerns and low budget horror films. His first feature-length movie was the 1963 exploitation flick The Sadist.
There’s little doubt that Tom Holland is one of the most prominent Masters of Horror working today. He practically defined supernatural horror in the eighties as the director of movies like Fright Night and Child’s Play. Before he sat in the director’s chair, however, he did his time at the typewriter, penning scripts for underground classics such as The Initiation of Sarah, The Beast Within, and Class of 1984. With his impressive resume, there are bound to be some minor works of his that have flown under the radar. Scream for Help is one of these underappreciated gems.
It’s been another wild and crazy year for horror. As has been the trend lately, horror on the big screen has been pretty stale while VOD has shined, and even though the pickings have been fairly slim, there have still been some great movies. Here are my top ten horror movies of 2015.
Top ten time! These are my, James Jay Edwards’, top ten favorite movies of the year. I speak for no one else.
When people think of Christmas horror movies, it’s the killer Santa movies that come to mind, movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night (and its reboot Silent Night), Christmas Evil, and To All a Goodnight. However, there are plenty more Christmas horrors, and not just silly ones like Jack Frost and The Gingerdead Man. In 1974, the original Christmas slasher, Black Christmas, was born.
In the wake of the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho, filmmakers everywhere wanted to cash in on the lunatic movie craze. Releases with the word “Psycho” in the title peppered the next decade, with movies like Russ Meyer’s Motorpsycho!, Al Adamson’s Psycho a Go-Go, and Freddie Francis’ The Psychopath all racing their way into theaters. But one film beat them all there, following Psycho by just one year in 1961: Anatomy of a Psycho.
In 1962, burgeoning young filmmaker François Truffaut approached his idol, the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, about sitting down for an extended interview about his attitudes and methodologies towards cinema. Truffaut, a critic as well as a filmmaker, asked all the right questions and Hitchcock affably gave all the right answers, and in 1966, the results were published in veritable bible of auteur film theory, a simply titled book called Hitchcock/Truffaut. Now, “The Daily Show” writer Kent Jones has turned those conversations into a movie, the also simply titled Hitchcock/Truffaut.
In what seems like a weekly occurrence, Hollywood has once again been rocked by the death of one of its biggest stars. This time, supreme character actor Robert Loggia has died at the age of 85 after battling Alzheimer’s disease for the past five years. Loggia worked in just about every genre imaginable, taking on roles as diverse as Tom Hanks’ boss in Big and Al Pacino’s drug lord in Scarface. Of course, he did horror films, too, with key parts in The Believers, Innocent Blood, and the underrated Psycho II. Getting his start in the industry way back in the fifties, it’s no surprise that he made some fun sci-fi turkeys as well, one of the first being the 1958 classic The Lost Missile.
Horror spoofs have been around almost as long as horror movies. In 1925, a silent parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde called Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde was made, starring none other than Stan Laurel in the titles role(s). The horror parody subgenre is still going strong, as evidenced by this year’s brilliant What We Do in the Shadows. Along the way, there have been spoofs of every type of horror movie, from the paranormal (Saturday the 14th) to the slashers (Student Bodies) and everything in between (30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Horror parodies can even start successful franchises, as has been the case with Scary Movie and A Haunted House. But, the best parodies are the ones that fool the viewer into actually being scared while they’re laughing. That’s what the 1980 horror comedy Motel Hell does.
I’m a sucker for a good music documentary, and this year has had more than its share. From The Wrecking Crew to Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, 2015 has kept my ears ringing and my toes tappin’. Well, we can add one more to the list: Janis: Little Girl Blue.
The last few years have been rough ones for Laurie Anderson. The musician and performance artist has suffered through the deaths of her husband (who happened to be legendary rocker Lou Reed), her mother, and her beloved rat terrier. It is this last loss, that of her dog, Lolabelle, which is at the center of Heart of a Dog.
Character actor Rex Reason passed away last week at the age of 86. Reason primarily worked in television, with appearances on several shows in the fifties and sixties such as “Man Without a Gun” and “The Roaring 20’s,” but he made movies, too, and his two most memorable roles happened to be in science fiction/horror movies. One was in the final installment of Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon franchise, The Creature Walks Among Us. The other, his most recognizable performance, was in This Island Earth.
It’s always fun to look back at an important and influential filmmaker’s early work. Whether it’s revisiting the old films of Hollywood royalty, such as George Lucas’ THX 1138 or Steven Spielberg’s Duel, or checking out the initial projects of genre icons, like John Carpenter’s Dark Star or Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, seeing the visions of developing artists never disappoints. One of these early pictures that set the stage for a successful film career is the first film by horror legend David Cronenberg, an artsy little science fiction shocker made in 1969 called Stereo.
The horror world lost another one of its icons this past weekend when Gunnar Hansen passed away at the age of 68 from pancreatic cancer. Hansen is, of course, best known for playing the cannibalistic killer Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974. After that, he made one more movie, 1977’s The Demon Lover, then backed away from acting for about a decade. His return to the screen came in 1988 when he took a role in the campily, yet appropriately, named Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.
There’s little doubt that Alfred Hitchcock is one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) influences in the world of cinema. Many successful directors owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Master of Suspense, everyone from Robert Zemeckis (What Lies Beneath) to David Fincher (Se7en, Panic Room), from Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Duel) to David Lynch (just about every Lynch film). The supreme Hitchcock worshipper, however, is Brian De Palma, whose entire early career, a resume which includes movies like The Fury, Body Double, and Blow Out, seems to pay tribute to the big guy. Case in point; De Palma’s 1980 Psycho homage Dressed to Kill.
It seems as if hardly a week goes by when there isn’t a news story about some sort of alleged police misconduct. Unfortunately, much of it ends up with civilians being killed. That’s why Peace Officer is such a timely film.
One of the most fun parts of Halloween is seeing all the cool stuff that the holiday brings to television. Annual Halloween programming floods the airwaves each year, from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” to “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.” Regular series broadcast their own Halloween specials as well, from the “Treehouse of Terror” episodes of “The Simpsons” to reruns of the spooky “Roseanne” Halloween shows. And then, there are the made-for-TV movies, awesomely fun and family friendly gems like Halloweentown and The Worst Witch. One of these cool Halloween television movies is the 1985 musical horror comedy mashup The Midnight Hour.
A couple of years ago, Cinema Fearité made the observation that the monsters that were made famous by the Toho Co. Ltd. Kaiju movies were like The Avengers, even venturing so far as to say that the mighty Godzilla would be Toho’s Iron Man, and Rodan is like their Captain America. If all of that is true, then the star of 1962’s Varan the Unbelievable would be one of the less appreciated heroes, someone like Hawkeye or Quicksilver.
Often seen as the godfather of the Italian giallo movie and a pioneer of the modern slasher film, Mario Bava has made movies that deal with both the supernatural (Black Sunday, Kill Baby, Kill) and the evils of humanity (A Bay of Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon). And sometimes, he mixed the two with horrifying results. A perfect example of this kind of subgenre mashup is his surreal 1973 movie Lisa and the Devil.
The trials and tribulations of Roman Polanski’s personal life often overshadow his body of work; in the midst of having his wife killed by the Mason family and his underage sex scandal, it’s easy to forget that the man knows how to make movies. From the cinematic classics of Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown to his later personal projects Carnage and Venus in Fur, Polanski’s filmic style is inimitable. Although he could never be pinned down to one particular genre, his early movies were mostly horror, and in 1965, Polanski’s second feature Repulsion proved that he could scare with the best of them.
When most people think of National Lampoon, the first thing that comes to mind is movies, specifically Animal House and Vacation, but there's much more to it than that. The entire sordid history is recounted in Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.
During his woefully short six-year career, William Girdler made truly memorable films. A renaissance man who wrote, directed, scored, and produced, Girdler made nine films in the seventies, including the schlock classics Asylum of Satan and Three on a Meathook, his The Exorcist ripoff Abby, and his beasts-gone-wild movies Grizzly and Day of the Animals. His final film, released in 1978, was the strangest of them all: The Manitou.
In 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween ushered in the Golden Age of the Slasher Movie, spawning dozens (if not hundreds) of imitators. In order to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, many golden age slashers would take pride in their ability to come up with new and inventive ways to kill kids. It didn’t take long for this to become the formula, either; as early as 1981, one movie bragged about including “six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see” on its theatrical poster. That movie was Happy Birthday to Me.
There’s something pleasantly simple about fifties science fiction horror films. The early low-budget filmmakers would do things like stick a diving helmet on a gorilla suit (Robot Monster) or inject red dye into silicon jelly (The Blob), all in the name of creating memorable movie monsters. This naiveté carried over into the mad scientist films of the fifties as well. A perfect example of this innocence-in-filmmaking is the 1953 sci-fi camp-fest The Neanderthal Man.
Everyone starts somewhere. Before horror icon John Carpenter made Halloween, he did the low-budget sci-fi nerd-fest Dark Star. Before George Lucas became a household name with the space opera Star Wars, he created the futuristic vision THX 1138. Even the debatably biggest name in filmmaking, Steven Spielberg, had to pay his dues; before the sharks of Jaws, the aliens of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the Oscars of Schindler’s List, the budding director made Duel.
This week, the horror world is once again reeling from the loss of one of its most influential figures; writer/director Wes Craven has passed away at the age of 76, a victim of brain cancer. Craven was the mastermind behind not one, but two of the greatest horror franchises ever thanks to his work on the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream films. Throughout his career, Craven did supernatural horror (Deadly Blessing), sci-fi horror (Deadly Friend), campy horror (The People Under the Stairs), even comic book horror (Swamp Thing), all with the same awe-inspiring results. In addition to making movies, Craven also dabbled in television, working on both “The Twilight Zone” and “Freddy’s Nightmares,” as well as a handful of spooky TV movies. One of these TV movies aired a few short months before the release of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, a suburban fire-and-brimstone tale called Invitation to Hell.
Nestled in between the low-budget horror days of the fifties and sixties and the golden age of the slasher in the eighties, there were some bloody good films made in the seventies. Of course, most people point to legendary classics like Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as good examples, but a look at the underbelly of the genre exposes splattery flicks like Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore and Hawkes & Grinter’s Blood Freak. Also in this category of seedy slasher cinema is a little 1973 movie called Scream Bloody Murder.
It’s no secret that the Twilight movies have given vampires a bad rap. Edward Cullen has single-handedly turned the mysterious, sophisticated bloodsuckers of Dracula and Nosferatu into sparkling, romantic wusses. But, in between the suave vampires of old and the compassionate wimps of today, there existed a meaner spirited, in-it-for-themselves creature of the night. Cinema Fearité has already discussed the tribe of nocturnal bloodlusters in Near Dark, but that same year, in 1987, a more popular movie celebrated the evilness of the vampire, and did it with humor as well as horror. That movie was The Lost Boys.
The introduction of sound in motion pictures was a fairly gradual thing; it’s not like every movie suddenly had synchronized sound one weekend, the slow transformation occurred over several years in the late twenties and early thirties. Over that time, many studios double-dipped, remaking silent movies with sound and releasing them as a whole new movie, and horror movies were not exempt from this trend. Cinema Fearité has already covered how London After Midnight was turned into Mark of the Vampire, The Hands of Orlac was rechristened as Mad Love, and The Cat and the Canary became The Cat Creeps, but other classic horror tales like The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame found themselves remade shortly after the innovation of sound cinema as well. Amidst all of the legendary movies that were being “soundified,” there were also a bunch of lesser-known thrillers. The Drums of Jeopardy is one of these underappreciated gems.
Last week, the world lost a bona-fide icon when professional wrestler/action star Roderick George Toombs, better known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 61. Inside the ring, the fan-favorite Piper was primarily a villain in the WWF (later the WWE) and WCW, but on the screen, he was a hero. By far, Roddy Piper’s biggest cinematic legacy is the 1988 John Carpenter science-fiction horror film They Live.
In the early eighties, legendary actor Marlon Brando had the features of his head scanned and digitized by a special effects house, thinking that someday in the near future, actors would be replaced by computer generated images of themselves, therefore rendering themselves obsolete. It is both fun and fitting that director Stevan Riley (Fire in Babylon, Blue Blood) uses these cleaned-up hologram-like Brando head images to narrate Listen to Me Marlon.
To the uninitiated, it would seem as if the LEGO toy brand was thrust into the limelight by last year’s The LEGO Movie, but truthfully, the beloved construction toy was always there. Now, A LEGO Brickumentary tells curious viewers everything they ever wanted to know about one of the world’s most popular toy companies.
A couple of years ago, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer made The Act of Killing, a disturbing look at the attitudes of former Indonesian death squad leaders towards their past crimes during their country’s genocidal communist cleansing of the mid-sixties. Now, Oppenheimer tells the other side of the story in the companion piece The Look of Silence.
It’s said that everything old is new again, and of course, the sentiment is never more apparent than in the world of horror movies. Even when a newer film is not considered a sequel or a remake (excuse me, a reboot), its concepts and themes can still usually be traced back to some earlier film that it rips off (excuse me, takes influence from). For example, take last years’ Housebound, an ingenious tale about a haunted house that ends up simply having a crazy guy living within its walls. That concept sounds suspiciously like Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs. But, even Craven’s masterpiece was not a completely original idea; the influence for that frightfest can be found in the 1974 television movie Bad Ronald.
It’s been over ten years since Morgan Spurlock’s eye-opening sensational documentary Super Size Me showed people the evils of dining on a diet consisting of McDonald’s food and nothing else. That’s just enough time for a new generation of activists to latch onto That Sugar Film, a movie in which Australian actor Damon Gameau (“Raw”) does basically the same thing.
The roots of the modern slasher movie can be found as far back as the early sixties in films like Psycho and Peeping Tom, but the subgenre really hit its stride in the late seventies and early eighties. The period that has come to be known as the Golden Age of the Slasher Film was spearheaded by the success of movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but there were dozens (if not hundreds) of other masked killer movies flooding their way into theaters at the same time. The 1979 bloodfest Savage Weekend is one of these under-the-radar slashers.
One of the biggest stereotypes surrounding homosexual men involves their voices. Who doesn’t know the sassy, high-pitched feminine lisp that is used to both instantly recognize and incessantly parody gay men? In Do I Sound Gay?, journalist/filmmaker David Thorpe examines the “gay” voice, and makes a misguided attempt at ridding himself of it.
Alien invasions are a pretty common theme of sci-fi/horror movies, and most of them have the same thing in common; they all seem to have similar looking aliens. The typical movie alien is a bipedal humanoid with an oversized, egg-shaped head and big eyes. Even the variations of the theme still don’t stray too far from the look; whether it’s a campy b-movie like Without Warning or a horrifying vision like Xtro, the two-legged enlarged-cranial visitor from another planet reigns supreme. In 1958, right in the middle of the classic period of the sci-fi movie, director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. (4D Man, Dinosaurus) got creative with his alien invaders, and the results turned into one of the most beloved science fiction movies of all time: The Blob.
The teenagers-in-the-woods theme has been a staple of the horror movie for years, gaining the height of its popularity in the early eighties. Of course, when the stereotype is brought up, the first images that come to mind are those of the Friday the 13th movies, but the trope has been explored in many other fright flicks of the era such as Madman, The Burning, and The Final Terror. In 1980, right at the onset of the trend, director Greydon Clark (Satan’s Cheerleaders, Dance Macabre) was already changing things up by injecting an alien killer into the camping-kids scenario in his sci-fi horror schlockfest Without Warning.
Things can get messy when emotions are involved, so love triangles make good backdrops for horror movies, even when two of the three parties don’t realize they’re in a trio. Whether in 1932 with Tod Browning’s classic Freaks or just last year in Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece Stoker, one thing is perfectly clear; when it comes to horror movies, three’s a crowd. In 1935, accomplished cinematographer/director Karl Freund (The Mummy) took a love triangle and tossed a mad scientist into the mix, giving the world the aptly titled Mad Love.
Hollywood lost yet another star recently when composer James Horner was killed in a plane crash earlier this week. Horner is best known by movie buffs as the creator of the scores to Oscar-bait movies such as Titanic, Avatar, and Bravehart, but horror fans remember him for his earlier work on classics like Deadly Blessing, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and, of course, Aliens. In the early days of his career, Horner went through the “Roger Corman Film School,” and one of his first feature length soundtracks was that of the 1980 creature feature Humanoids from the Deep.
Ah, the good old days. The birth of hip hop music. Back when it was possible to judge a book by its cover – or, as the case may be, a person by his fat-laced Adidas sneakers, baggy sweatpants, and Kangol bucket hat. This is the time period in popular culture that is explored by music journalist Sacha Jenkins’ new documentary Fresh Dressed.
Last week, the horror world was rocked by the death of one of its most prolific actors, the iconic Sir Christopher Lee. Throughout his long and storied career, Lee got to play key villains in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, the Star Wars prequels, and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. However, he was best known to horror fans as one of the faces of Hammer horror, appearing in classics like The Curse of Frankenstein, The Devil Rides Out, and Scream of Fear, as well as portraying the legendary Dracula several times for the studio. Lee also made many horror movies away from Hammer, and one of the most memorable films in his catalog is the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.
When filmmaker Crystal Moselle first met the Angulo brothers in 2010, they were six wide-eyed teenagers running loose on the streets of the East Village in New York City. It was literally one of the first times they had ever been outside of their family’s apartment. Sensing a bigger story, and appealing to the brothers' interest in filmmaking, Moselle made friends with the boys and was granted access to their isolated world for the next five years. The result is her compelling documentary The Wolfpack.
Over the years, some of the most memorable horror films have been made by directors who don’t usually work in the genre. The Exorcist, a film which is arguably the greatest horror film ever produced, is William Friedkin’s only pure horror film. After making Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow turned her attentions to Oscar-bait war movies. The terrifying Misery was made by Rob “Meathead” Reiner, who came from (and returned to) a comedy background as both an actor and a director. In 2000, Robert Zemeckis, a filmmaker known for such family classics as Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump, dipped his foot into the horror pool with the spooky haunted house flick What Lies Beneath.
Tod Browning is known to most movie fans as the director of the classic Universal horror film Dracula. The seminal Bram Stoker tale is not Browning’s only foray into the vampire mythos, however; four years earlier, in 1927, Browning made London After Midnight with Lon Chaney, and four years after, in 1935, Browning essentially remade the same movie with his Dracula star Bela Lugosi, calling it Mark of the Vampire.
The modern incarnation of the zombie was practically invented by George A. Romero. Even with the added speed and agility of the remake-era zombies, the blueprint of Romero’s mindless undead brain-eater is still readily apparent. Because of all of his influential work within the zombie subgenre, it’s easy to forget that he made non-zombie movies as well, and great ones at that, movies like Martin and The Dark Half. One of Romero’s greatest non-zombie movies is also one of his best overall films, the animal horror movie Monkey Shines.
The year 1960 was a banner year for horror, even if no one knew it at the time. In America, Alfred Hitchcock was defining the slasher genre with Psycho while Michael Powell was doing the same in England with Peeping Tom. Roger Corman made two of his most memorable films, The Little Shop of Horrors and House of Usher, while Terence Fisher pounded out not one, not two, but three future Hammer classics in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Brides of Dracula, and The Stranglers of Bombay. The year also saw the production of William Castle’s 13 Ghosts, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Bert I. Gordon’s Tormented, and Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses. But, amidst all of these influential and inventive films, perhaps the most creative horror film from 1960 is the French classic Eyes Without a Face.
Visual artist Hans Rudolf Giger is one of the most enigmatic of pop culture icons. His distinct work is everywhere, from the production design for the sci-fi/horror movie Alien to his album covers for groups like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Dead Kennedys, but few fans know much about the man himself. And, after seeing Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World, they still won’t know much about him.
There’s an old showbiz adage, often attributed to the great W.C. Fields, which offers the advice to “never work with children or animals.” It’s believed that the reasoning behind this is that children and animals are not only unpredictable, but they also steal any scene in which they appear. In the case of animals, it can go one further; the unpredictability can be downright dangerous, and one only needs to look as far as the 1981 exploitation film Roar for evidence.
For as iconic of a figure as Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain is, fans of the musician really haven’t gotten the documentary about the man that they have always wanted. There was Kurt & Courtney, Nick Broomfield’s totally unsanctioned 1998 film that focused more on the suspicious circumstances that surrounded the death of the rock star than on his life itself. Then, there was About a Son, the 2006 snorefest that paired up author Michael Azerrad’s interview tapes with Cobain with a bunch of boring cinematography in an attempt to capture the desolation and despair of the singer’s old Washington state stomping grounds. But audiences have never gotten an honest depiction of the man behind the music. Until now.
There is no horror movie prop that strikes fear into the hearts of viewers quite like the Ouija board. Some say it’s a portal to another dimension, others say it’s a silly game by Parker Brothers, but no one quite understands how or why the device behaves the way it does. One thing is for sure; whether appearing in classic films like The Uninvited and The Exorcist, or in more modern movies like Paranormal Activity and What Lies Beneath, the Ouija board (also known as a talking board or a spirit board) has carved itself out a seemingly permanent place in horror movie culture. The debatable king of the Ouija board horror movies is the 1986 spook-fest Witchboard.
In 1931, Boris Karloff became a horror icon playing a character who was reanimated by a mad scientist in Frankenstein. But his star-making performance as the monster in James Whale’s classic Universal fright flick is not the only time that the talented Karloff has been brought back from the dead. In 1939, he once again cheated the reaper in The Man They Could Not Hang.
When it comes to movies, sometimes the lines between genres are not entirely black and white. This fact is never as clear as it is when discussing the horror world. Sure, there are obvious horror movies, like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but there are also grey-area films that straddle the genre line like Deliverance, Taxi Driver, and last year’s amazing Nightcrawler. Another of these “fringe horror” classics is 1966’s Seconds.
Every good rock and roll act has been backed up by a good manager. Elvis Presley had Colonel Tom Parker. The Beatles had Brian Epstein. And The Who had Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who are the subjects of a conveniently titled documentary called Lambert & Stamp.
Horror movies are so simple when there’s a clear-cut antagonist, someone like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers to play the villain role. Sometimes, things aren’t quite so obvious, such as when zombies look like regular people in movies like Dead & Buried or when aliens take the form of other organisms such as in The Thing. And things get really complicated when the threat is completely ambiguous, as is the case with the newest sensation horror film It Follows. Way back in 1978, however, underdog horror writer/director Jeff Lieberman pondered what would happen if something that someone experienced in their past could affect their present state, using drugs as its example, and brought us Blue Sunshine.
For more than forty years, Sabastião Salgado has been one of the premier social documentary photographers in the world. He’s worked for newspapers and magazines, photo agencies and photographers’ cooperatives, and has even been a UNiCef Goodwill Ambassador. Now, Sebastião’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, has teamed up with narrative and documentary filmmaker Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club, Pina) to make a movie called The Salt of the Earth about his father’s life, work, and most importantly, his photographs.
Hollywood is still reeling from last week’s passing of actor Robert Z’Dar at the age of 64. Born Robert James Zdarsky, Z’Dar carved himself a niche in the film industry by becoming the quintessential villain, and had roles in such big-budget movies as Tango & Cash and Mobsters. Z’Dar’s most famous role, however, was that of the title character in the 1988 cult classic slasher movie Maniac Cop.
Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, better known as The Amazing Randi, is one of the greatest and most renowned magicians in the world. In his day, he would amaze and confound audiences with his Houdini-like escapes and tricks. Later on in his life, also like Harry Houdini, Randi would serve the same masses that he used to deceive by routinely exposing fraudulent clairvoyants and debunking phony psychics. Because of this, he was known as one of the “good” magicians, an illusionist on the people’s side. The perfect name for a documentary about him is An Honest Liar.
The phrase “based on a true story” has been used to sell and promote horror movies for decades. Just the thought that the horrific events that are unfolding onscreen may have actually happened is enough to grab the attention of viewers. Whether in the form of faux-documentaries, like The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Blair Witch Project, or as dramatizations, such as The Amityville Horror or The Town that Dreaded Sundown, true stories make fascinating movies. Sometimes, a tiny kernel of truth can sprout an entire exploitative tale as it did with Eaten Alive, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile. Other times, however, the real stories are unknown, so the films have to rely on complete speculation like they do with Open Water and The Strangers. Such is the case with the 1935 movie Phantom Ship and its account of the final journey of the Mary Celeste.
Some of the most horrifying movies ever made have been war movies. No one can argue that the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and the Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter are as scary as any traditional horror film. When horror movies mix with war movies, things get really frightening Case in point: Jacob’s Ladder.
A couple of years ago, writer/director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering broke the silence on the issue of sexual assault in the military with their gripping documentary The Invisible War. Now, they have tackled the same problem on college campuses with their newest film The Hunting Ground.
Driving can be such a repetitive and menial chore – unless the driver happens to be in a horror film. Because of the loneliness and isolation, long stretches of roadway make great settings for movies, whether the action takes place during the day or night. From Steven Spielberg’s Duel to Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers, drivers are never safe as long as they’re on the road. This message was delivered loud and clear in a 1977 television movie called Night Terror.
Whenever there’s a controversial subject, each side of the debate has its experts that provide scientific and credible evidence of their argument’s superiority to the opposition. The practice of spin doctoring has been around for decades without a whole lot of change. But who are these “experts,” and what makes them so knowledgeable? That’s the question at the heart of Merchants of Doubt.
Guitar Player magazine once described guitarist Tommy Tedesco as the most recorded guitarist in history. The funny thing is that most listeners would never even know it was him playing. The twangy galloping acoustic guitar on the “Bonanza” theme? The fuzzy, distorted intro riff to “Green Acres?” The silly wah-wah solo that signaled the beginning of “Three’s Company?” All Tommy Tedesco. It turns out, Tedesco was only one of the unsung studio musicians of the Los Angeles scene. There was a group of about twenty or so seasoned professionals who seemingly played on every record made on the west coast in the sixties and seventies. This group, and the documentary film that is named after them, is known as The Wrecking Crew.
When people think of horror movie villains, the first names that usually come to mind are Jason, Freddy, and Michael – a real boy’s club. Likewise, the last survivors tend to be women – Final Girls. When a skillful and innovative director flips the script and reverses the roles, the results can be especially creepy, as evidenced by films such as Misery and Fatal Attraction. And when a movie doubles down and uses not one, but two female antagonists to torment its male victim, those results can be extremely effective. Suspended Animation is just such a film.
In the horror world, low-budget movies are just as much (if not more) fun than their big Hollywood brethren. Amongst the modern B-Movie pioneers are a number of influential auteurs who have paved the way for those who have come later. Guys like Roger Corman (A Bucket of Blood, Bloody Mama) and Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) have proven that anyone with a little creativity and a lot of perseverance can make movies. Another one of these guys is Charles Band, whose production company Empire Pictures, and later Full Moon Pictures, has been behind great movies like Crawlspace and Tourist Trap. As a director, one of Band’s more ambitious ideas involved getting together with six other directors to make a not-really-an-anthology anthology movie called Ragewar.
When sports fans think about dynasties, there are certain names that come to mind. The New York Yankees have dominated Major League Baseball for nearly a hundred years. The Chicago Bulls of the nineties ruled the basketball courts. The National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls in the eighties and early nineties. But perhaps the most successful dynasty of all time worked its magic on the ice, and we’re not talking about the Montreal Canadiens. For a long time, the most feared hockey team on the planet was the USSR Men’s National Ice Hockey Team, and they are the subject of a fascinating new documentary called Red Army.
Hollywood lost another one of its shining stars this last weekend when Louis Jourdan, the debonair French character actor, passed away at the age of 93. Throughout his long and storied career, Jourdan worked with Hitchcock, played Count Dracula, and lent his voice talents to Scooby-Doo cartoons. He is best known to movie fans as the suave leading man in the musical Gigi and the villain in the Bond film Octopussy, but the horror community remembers him for another role; in 1982, Jourdan played the antagonistic Dr. Arcane in Swamp Thing.
David Cronenberg successfully transitioned from low-budget sci-fi horror to “legitimate” filmmaking with A History of Violence in 2005. Although Cronenberg is now known as a big Hollywood moviemaker with reputable films like Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method on his resume, horror fans will always remember the man for his early films, slimy science fiction body-horror movies like The Brood and Scanners. The last really weird movie he made, in 1999, was eXistenZ.
There’s nothing better than an old fashioned haunted house story. Whether they’re sublime, as in The Haunting and The Innocents, or completely visceral, like The Amityville Horror and The Legend of Hell House, movies about haunted houses are always enjoyable, as long as they’re done right. In 1944, an unusual kind of hybrid ghost-house movie was made, a kind of comedy-romance-noir thriller called The Uninvited.
Edgar Froese died last week. Movie fans might not immediately recognize the name, but they most certainly know his work. As the founder and only continuous member of the electronic musical group Tangerine Dream, Froese helped dozens of films, from the Tom Cruise vehicle Risky Business to, well, the other Tom Cruise vehicle Legend. Tangerine Dream’s music worked especially well within the context of science fiction and horror films, with the group providing the soundtracks to such movies as Near Dark, Firestarter, The Keep, and Spasms. In 1981, Tangerine Dream contributed its inimitable sonic stylings to a budding little Ozploitation flick called Strange Behavior.
They say that there are only so many story ideas to go around, and that everything is influenced by something else. This theory is never more true than when it is applied to horror films, where even the best slasher or haunted house movie is indicative of an earlier movie; let’s face it – Devil’s Due is basically Rosemary’s Baby and Ouija is essentially Witchboard. Some are pretty obvious (basically, all vampire movies can be traced back to Nosferatu), but many are subtle. In 1931, Universal Studios made the definitive version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, turning Boris Karloff into a horror legend. Sixty years later, in 1991, one of the more clever variations of the Frankenstein tale was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public when Body Parts was released.
The cinematic universe lost another star this weekend with the passing of the stunning Anita Ekberg at the age of 83. Born in Sweden, Ekberg did some modeling and light acting in America before being “re-discovered” by Federico Fellini in Italy when the director cast her in La Dolce Vita. Ekberg quickly became a commodity in Europe, making movies in just about every genre imaginable. In 1969, the beautiful bombshell dabbled in the horror world by starring in the vampire tale Fangs of the Living Dead.
There are few novelists who have had as much success getting their works turned into films as Stephen King. Seemingly every page that has come out of the writer’s prolific imagination has been made into a movie, mini-series, or anthology television episode. Big-name filmmakers line up to work with him, too; the movies made from his first six books alone were directed by Brian De Palma (Carrie), Tobe Hooper (Salem’s Lot), Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), Lewis Teague (Cujo), David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone), and John Carpenter (Christine). In 1993, another horror heavyweight took a crack at adapting one of King’s books when the legendary George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Martin) made The Dark Half.
One of the most effective things that a horror movie can do is take a seemingly innocuous presence and turn it into something frightening. A popular subject for this treatment is insects; everyone sees them every day without much thought, but when a movie makes them go haywire, it’s terrifying. Whether it is ants, like in Phase IV, or bees, such as in The Deadly Bees, insects can be effective movie antagonists. In 1988, The Nest brought another insect into the spotlight, one that already had a bad reputation as a creepy-crawly: the cockroach.
Killer Santa Claus movies have been the go-to Christmas horror films ever since the slasher movie came into prominence in the early eighties. The 1984 bloodfest Silent Night, Deadly Night is the film that comes to most people’s minds when they think of killer Santas, but it wasn’t the first. Cinema Fearité has already discussed Christmas Evil, a similar themed film that came out in November of 1980. However, one movie beat even that one to the punch; in January of 1980, a psychopath in a Saint Nick suit was killing kids in To All a Goodnight.
What a confusing year 2014 has been for the horror world. Home video and VOD releases dominated the scene, and those fans who did leave the comfort of their own couch ended up at the local art house theater instead of the multiplex. While the big studios disappointed, the indies really picked up the slack. Here are one fan’s opinions as to the top-ten horror movies of 2014.
Ever since George Méliès’ groundbreaking 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, science fiction has been one of the campier genres in movie history. The silliness ran rampant throughout the fifties, with alien invasion movies like Robot Monster and The Man from Planet X inspiring more amusement than terror. In the late seventies, Ridley Scott’s Alien flipped the script on the sci-fi label, stripping the corniness away and turning it into a genre that could really scare people. In 1997, another pivotal movie in the sci-fi horror world was released, the absolutely horrifying Event Horizon.
Real-life legendary monsters make great fodder for horror films. Whether it’s the mythical Abominable Snowman in Shriek of the Mutilated or the Bigfoot-like Fouke Monster in The Legend of Boggy Creek, nothing scares people like something that can actually get them, even if that fear is fueled by paranoid speculation. When a few groups of the more aggressive Africanized honey bees escaped from their South American hives and were rumored to be heading for America in the fifties, movies about swarming killer bees were bound to follow. The first of these was, surprisingly, a British film, made in 1966, called The Deadly Bees.
Back in the days before cable television and home video, there were basically two ways to see a movie; one could go to the theater and see the movie as it was intended, or one could wait a few months (or years) until the movie hit T.V., where it would be shown edited for time and content. To compete with theaters, broadcast networks took to producing their own made-for-T.V. movies, and these television movie-of-the-week offerings included a handful of films that went on to become horror classics, movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and even the first adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Sometimes, the T.V. movies were less-than-classic, but still ended up being a lot of fun. Such is the case with 1972’s Moon of the Wolf.
Thanksgiving horror movies are hard to come by; Turkey Day fright flicks just aren’t as plentiful as those set on Christmas or Halloween, and those that are out there are, well, turkeys. In past years, Cinema Fearité has featured Home Sweet Home, Blood Freak, and Blood Rage. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your dinner table, we’ve dug up another hidden holiday horror. This year’s Thanksgiving offering is a science fiction/horror T.V. movie from 1998 called Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County.
Over the last few decades, Australia has emerged as a powerful force in horror movie production. Between the classic Ozploitation movies of the seventies and eighties, such as Patrick and Razorback, to the new wave of Aussie horror that includes films like the Wolf Creek franchise and The Babadook, the land Down Under has put out some consistently terrifying movies. They’re not all B-movie schlock, either. In 1989, Australian director Phillip Noyce (Sliver, The Bone Collector) took a tiny-yet-talented cast and turned out a suspenseful thriller called Dead Calm.
Even those who are unfamiliar with the name Saul Bass know his work. An iconic visual artist with an instantly recognizable style, Bass is responsible for the promotional posters for films like The Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder, and The Shining. In addition to print work, Bass also designed title sequences, crafting the memorable opening credit scenes to Alfred Hitchcock movies such as Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo. For all of his Hollywood clout, Bass only got to direct one feature length film, but it was a doozy: 1973’s insect sci-fi/horror movie Phase IV.
Science Fiction movies from the fifties have a reputation for being simple creature features, films with names like Beast from Haunted Cave, The Mole People, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Not as plentiful, but still just as popular, are the movies from the era where man is the monster, films such as A Bucket of Blood and The Black Sleep. Sometimes, however, the villain is a combination of both. In 1953, one of the most creative sci-fi movies of the sixties was made, a clever little movie called Donovan’s Brain.
There is no scarier night on which to set a horror movie than Halloween. John Carpenter’s Halloween revolutionized the entire genre, and Cinema Fearité has already discussed that particular date’s impact on movies like Trick or Treat, Trick or Treats, and Night of the Demons. No matter how many Halloween movies that one is able to see, it seems like there will always be more. In 1988, a straight-to-video low-budget job was made that has been silently gliding under the radar of many fans, the ingeniously titled Hack-O-Lantern.
Vincent Price was one of the most recognizable personalities in the horror world. The late actor had enough talent to work with greats like Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B. DeMille while still keeping enough of a sense of humor to lend that talent to movies by the likes of Roger Corman and William Castle. Price made truly disturbing movies like Witchfinder General, yet still found time to twist his moustache as a guest star on “The Brady Bunch.” In the midst of all of his gimmicky villainy, people sometimes forget that the man could act. One only needs to look as far as his 1946 thriller Shock for proof.
The reason that The Blair Witch Project was so effective is that audiences thought that it was real; the movie had a genius viral internet marketing campaign that helped fool the public into believing that the three filmmakers were really missing and presumed dead. Unfortunately, now that the hoax has been exposed and every aspiring director with a camera has made a found footage movie, there will never be another movie like The Blair Witch Project; today’s viewers are too astute to be fooled twice. That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a movie like The Blair Witch Project in the past, however; in 1980, another film convinced the public that its subjects had met with horrible fates. This film, sometimes called “the most controversial movie ever made,” is Cannibal Holocaust.
The roots of the modern slasher movie can generally be traced back to 1960 and the release of Psycho and Peeping Tom. Between then and the late seventies, when the golden age of the slasher began with the release of films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, a handful of modest films kept the blood flowing, movies like Fright and Black Christmas. However, in 1971, the Italian giallo master Mario Bava made a film that seemed to lay down the blueprint for the modern slasher, a movie called A Bay of Blood.
There is nothing more satisfying for a horror fan than a surprise ending. From The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Saw, twist endings have been keeping horror audiences guessing for decades. Whether it’s a simple last second jump scare or a jaw-dropping revelation, the shock of the unexpected is something that makes a movie really memorable. In 1983, a movie was released that had the mother of all shock endings. That movie is Sleepaway Camp.
Anytime a new technology is introduced into the popular culture, a horror movie will come along to exploit it and make people afraid. Cinema Fearité has already covered this phenomenon with TerrorVision’s treatment of cable television and Videodrome’s take on home video. Modern movies have explored the darker side of personal computers in films like Cry_Wolf and Smiley. Computers were a target of horror movies well before the 21st century, however; in 1981, when home computers will still relatively new, Evilspeak was there to make them scary.
Around the same time that Motown Records was doing its thing in the big city of Detroit, Stax records was recording and releasing music down south in Memphis. The output from these two labels represented the best of what American music had to offer, and continued well into the days of the British Invasion of the mid-sixties. Although Motown had more chart success and record sales, Stax had the attitude; the cool mix of blues, gospel, funk, and jazz that became a recognizable sound all its own. Director Martin Shore tells the Stax story, but not in the traditional way, in his new documentary Take Me to the River.
What does Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors have in common with Nirvana’s Nevermind? They were both recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. Since its opening in 1969, Sound City has recorded an extremely diverse range of artists, everyone from Barry Manilow to Rage Against the Machine. It would have been difficult for anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock to get away from Sound City’s aural output – Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” as well as countless other smash hits, were all recorded there. For over forty years, Sound City has toiled diligently behind the music. Now, thanks to Nirvana drummer/Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Sound City gets to take the spotlight in a new documentary, appropriately called Sound City.
With roots that stem from various mythologies as opposed to any single source, the werewolf has been depicted in many different ways over the history of cinema. From the silent classic Wolf Blood to the teen romance Twilight series, werewolves have been brought to the screen by both costumed actors and CGI artists. Seemingly every studio and director has had their own individual take on lycanthropy. Even Amicus Productions, the British studio that was mainly known for its anthology films, got into the werewolf act in 1974 with The Beast Must Die.
Most people think of zombies as, depending on their age, either the slow moving walkers of George Romero’s movies or the athletic sprinters of films like 28 Days Later. The original cinematic zombies, however, were the voodoo zombies of films like White Zombie, Revolt of the Zombies, and I Walked with a Zombie, real people who were turned into the walking dead by witch doctors or Haitian priests. In 1942, a film that introduced traditional zombies into the murder mystery genre was made called The Living Ghost.
The horror anthology movie has been a staple of the genre for as long as there has been a genre, finding its beginnings with films like Waxworks in the silent era. The trend continues to this day, with successful franchises such as V/H/S and The ABCs of Death carrying the torch. Anthology films may have hit their heyday in the seventies with classics like Asylum, Tales from the Crypt, and Vault of Horror, but their popularity carried over well into the eighties with movies such as Creepshow, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and countless others. One of those countless others was 1985’s Night Train to Terror.
If you have not seen Frank, stop at the end of this paragraph and go see it. Do not check IMDB, watch a trailer, or read any reviews or publicity materials for the film, just go see it. The rest of this article will deal with a spoiler that is not really a spoiler, because just about all promotional materials for the film make it common knowledge. But, Frank is the kind of movie where the surprise reveal of the identity of the title character is a key aspect of the effectiveness of the film. So do not pass go, do not collect $200, just go watch Frank. We’ll be right here.
The term “splatter cinema” was first coined by George Romero, but his films rarely fit the pure definition of the term. Although there is plenty of gore in some of his films, Romero’s movies tend to have more substance than the average splatter flicks, movies which exist purely for blood and guts’ sake. The true king of the splatter film is the Godfather of Gore himself, director Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis’ filmography consists of dozens of films with titles like Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, and The Gore Gore Girls, each one bloodier and more exploitive than the last. The real crowning achievement of Lewis’ entrail-encrusted career, however, came in 1970 with his masterpiece The Wizard of Gore.
Slasher movies have always been based, at least a little, in comedy. While early films like Halloween and Friday the 13th horrified audiences, the later entries into both franchises flirted with humor, recognizing the silliness of their premises. Freddy Krueger, the antagonist of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, is as quick with a witty remark as he is with his razor glove. In 1981, released just a few months before the legendary horror comedy Saturday the 14th, another comedy was made that satirized the slasher genre before the golden age had even gotten rolling, the aptly titled Student Bodies.
Rich Hill, Missouri, is a small town of less than 1400 located about 90 minutes south of Kansas City. The town’s citizens are a mixture of the working class and the poverty stricken, but they hold on to hope. A new documentary, simply called Rich Hill, paints a picture of the town as seen through the eyes of three of its residents, all teenaged boys.
As everyone has heard by now, Robin Williams died earlier this week at the age of 63. A comedian first and foremost, the actor broke into Hollywood playing humorous roles in movies like Popeye and Mrs. Doubtfire, but quickly proved his meddle by taking on dramatic parts in such films as Dead Poets Society and What Dreams May Come, even winning an Oscar for his performance in Good Will Hunting. Williams showed time and again that he was a versatile and talented actor, and he even got to prove his chops in the horror genre with a truly creepy performance in One Hour Photo.
Hollywood lost yet another legend last week when special effects makeup guru Dick Smith passed away at the age of 92. Smith was behind the effects makeup of some of the most important films in cinematic history, including The Godfather (and The Godfather: Part II), The Exorcist, and Taxi Driver. Unlike many unsung makeup artists, Smith was highly recognized for his talent, winning an Academy Award for his work on Amadeus as well as receiving a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2011. In spite of all of his big-name credits, Smith still did plenty of small budget movies; he was behind the effects on horror classics like Ghost Story, Spasms, and The Sentinel. While balancing his time between Oscar bait films and schlock b-movies, Smith contributed one of the most jaw-dropping moments in horror history with his work on David Cronenberg’s influential 1981 sci-fi thriller Scanners.
In the late nineteenth century, influential science fiction writer H.G. Wells gathered a group of serialized chapters together into what would become his novel The Invisible Man. The story’s idea has been filmed dozens of times throughout cinematic history, beginning with James Whale’s legendary 1933 Universal classic The Invisible Man and continuing into the 2000s with the Paul Verhoeven/Kevin Bacon film Hollow Man. The vanishing person concept became a staple of the sci-fi genre, with the premise finding its way into alien invasion movies like Edward L. Cahn’s Invisible Invaders as well as comedic sendups like John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man. In 1960, at the height of the cold war, the invisible man idea was combined with the menace of looming nuclear threat in the quickie low-budget sci-fi film The Amazing Transparent Man.
This past weekend, the horror world lost yet another one of its icons when writer/producer/director John Fasano passed away at the relatively young age of 52. Fasano’s most famous work was done outside of horror, having written the screenplays for Another 48 Hrs. and Universal Soldier: The Return, but he also did solid work within the genre with his script for the modern classic Darkness Falls and the creation of the horror-comedy web show “Woke Up Dead.” He broke into the horror scene as a director in 1987 with his first film, now a cult favorite, called Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.
There are bad movies, and then there are Bad Movies. The first category includes movies that in some way are just inferior films, with little or no entertainment value. The second category, capital B and M Bad Movies, are movies that have substantial flaws and are universally loved in spite, or maybe even because, of them. Filmmakers like Ed Wood and Roger Corman have built entire careers out of making schlocky films, and the trend continues with modern movies like Showgirls and The Room. Although the title of Worst of the Worst is highly debatable, a film that is definitely in the running for the honor of the King of the Bad Movies is 1953’s alien invasion disaster Robot Monster.
Following the success of pioneering films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the eighties became so flooded with psycho killers that it is widely referred to as the Golden Age of the Slasher Movie. Movies like The Burning and The Prowler followed the formula closely, mixing violence with the sort of tongue-in-cheek comedy that would define the slasher subgenre. However, by the middle of the decade, darker films like Scream for Help and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer had begun to downplay the humor, raising the brutality level in the process. A good example of this type of film is the 1985 killer-on-the-road movie The Boys Next Door.
Most people recognize actor Peter Billingsley from his greatest contribution to popular culture – he played Ralphie in the yuletide classic A Christmas Story. After appearing in the traditional 24-hours-marathonable holiday tale, Billingsley’s lovable geek look got him more work, mostly on television in sitcoms like “Who’s the Boss” and “Punky Brewster.” However, the youngster had made movies before landing his signature role. He even made a horror movie in 1982, the year before A Christmas Story, called Death Valley.
The curse is a classic trope of the horror movie, and it has been exploited thoroughly over the years. Whether it’s a voodoo curse, like in Black Moon or Revolt of the Zombies, or a more vengeful curse, such as in Drag Me to Hell or Thinner, curses are powerful and mysterious, making them absolutely horrifying to the uninitiated masses. In 1959, an interesting curse movie was released that has flown curiously under the radar, a little film called The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic dance music festival held in several different locations all over the world during the summer months. The festival brings fans together into a musical circus-like atmosphere for three days of non-stop partying. The largest of these gatherings is the one that takes place in Las Vegas, NV, and that is the one that is at the center of Under the Electric Sky.
In Yiddish, the word “mensch” refers to “a person of integrity and honor.” One would not think that it would be a term that could apply a showbiz manager, but it is the best description for Shep Gordon. Even those who have never heard of Shep Gordon are probably familiar with his clients. He’s one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful players, having represented musical heavyweights like Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, and Teddy Pendergrass. His list of A-list friends is exponentially longer than his artist stable, and the guest lists to his famous parties read like a who’s-who of Hollywood. And every one of these friends and acquaintances has nothing but good things to say about him. He’s more than a mensch, he’s a Supermensch, hence the title of the intriguing documentary about his life and times, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.
In the modern horror world, few actors have been as prolific as Lance Henriksen. After getting his start with small roles in big films like Dog Day Afternoon and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Henriksen transitioned into bigger roles in fright films like Damien: Omen II and The Visitor. By the mid-eighties, he had found his niche, having scored bona-fide starring roles in classic films like Aliens, Near Dark, and Pumpkinhead. In 1989, Henriksen closed out the eighties with the lesser known but completely enjoyable thriller The Horror Show.
Long before he hit the horror big time with his groundbreaking effects on 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, makeup artist Rick Baker was making Hollywood bleed, ooze, and gush. He started his career in the early seventies, creating nightmares in films like It’s Alive, Squirm, and the attempted reboot of King Kong. His big break came in 1977 when he created aliens and creatures for a little film called Star Wars, but that same year he contributed to another classic of the sci-fi/horror genre, The Incredible Melting Man.
“I don’t know if they’re here, or have ever been here, but I definitely do believe in them.” William Eubank, director of The Signal ponders the existence of aliens and UFOs. It’s a fair question; The Signal is all about the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Earth, and Eubank’s first film, Love, was produced and scored by the rock band Angels & Airwaves, whose famous frontman, Tom Delonge, is an outspoken alien conspiracist. Eubank speaks fondly of Delonge - “I’ve sat in his backyard many a time with night vision goggles, looking at the sky. He’s a good dude.”
Despite the amount of respect that he has in the horror community, Wes Craven is really only known for two franchises: A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. His other films have been hit-and-miss, but fans of the genre still flock to his work. Cinema Fearité has already covered his two “deadly” movies, Deadly Blessing and Deadly Friend, but in the years between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Craven also made classics like The Serpent and the Rainbow in 1988, Shocker in 1989, and, in 1991, a little ode to the house that every kid in the neighborhood avoided called The People Under the Stairs.
Before becoming a household name as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins toiled away for 25 years in Britain, playing roles in both movies and television. The classically trained actor cut his teeth performing in adaptations of works by Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Tolstoy, and portraying characters as diverse as Charles Dickens and Adolf Hitler. His first real foray into American Horror was in 1977, when he took on an ambiguous role in director Robert Wise’s 1977 film Audrey Rose.
The horror world is full of legends. In Hollywood, Universal Studios had Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney, Jr. Across the pond in England, the Hammer Horror pictures had Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The biggest of these icons of fright, however, was Vincent Price. Price’s cultural impact transcended the horror world; he appeared everywhere from “The Muppet Show” to “The Love Boat,” and contributed to recordings by musicians as varied as Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper. He gained fame and fortune with his campy sense of humor, but he was first and foremost a horror personality. Any doubts of this fact can be put to rest with one viewing of his 1968 film Witchfinder General.
The fun thing about the horror genre is that just about anyone with the ambition to follow through can make a movie. Sometimes, as is the case with Halloween or The Blair Witch Project, the simple movies can become classics. All that stands between a filmmaker and the next big thing is having a creative mind and coming up with a good idea. Sometimes, one doesn’t even need that to make a cool movie; they just need to put their mind to it, and get out there and do it. An example of one of these “happy accidents” is the 1983 low-budget slasher Disconnected.
Before the days of the scream queen, it was not uncommon for big-name actresses to work within the horror genre. Whether it was in their prime or in the twilight of their careers, women like Audrey Hepburn (Wait Until Dark), Bette Davis (Burnt Offerings, Dead Ringer), Mia Farrow (The Haunting of Julia, See No Evil), and Joan Fontaine (The Witches) would appear in horror movies if the project was right for them. After nearly forty years in Hollywood, the iconic Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) starred in a handful of horror movies in the sixties, the most high-profile being her team-up with Bette Davis, the 1962 camp classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. A couple of years later, in 1964, Crawford made her most off-the-wall film, a low budget exploitation flick called Strait-Jacket.
In horror movies, killing can sometimes be a family affair. Whether it’s the mutant backwoods kinfolk in Wrong Turn, the infamous Sawyer family from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or the murderous Firefly clan of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, groups of villains just make more sense when they are related by blood. It doesn’t even have to be ancestral blood, as Kathryn Bigelow showed in her vampire classic Near Dark. In 1970, the legendary B-movie mogul Roger Corman (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors) got in on the family act, making a film based on the prohibition era Barker Brothers Gang called Bloody Mama.
In the nineteen eighties, every new cultural fad or trend seemed to inspire a horror movie. Cinema Fearité has already pointed out the horror world’s reactions to cable television (TerrorVision) and the home video revolution (The Video Dead), but it hardly stopped there. In the pre-internet days, people could call pay-telephone numbers that began with the prefix 976 in order to be connected with party lines or to be read their horoscopes. Of course, a movie was made about the growing-yet-doomed premium-rate phone craze in 1988, and it was predictably called 976-EVIL.
Water is something we all take for granted. We couldn’t exist without it, yet we only think about it when it’s running scarce. We use it to cook, clean, work, and play, and we do it all on a daily basis. Renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky has teamed up with filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (Payback) to pay tribute to the most overlooked and underappreciated of the Classical Elements in the documentary Watermark.
In 2007, a young realtor named John Maloof was looking for pictures of different areas of Chicago for a book that he was compiling. He bought a storage unit for $380 that contained thousands of negatives and a bunch of undeveloped rolls of film. When he examined the negatives, he saw some of the most captivating street photography that had ever been taken. He knew that he was onto something, so he snooped around the locker a bit more and found pieces of mail addressed to a woman named Vivian Maier. Seeing that there was a story developing, he enlisted producer Charlie Siskel (“Tosh.0”) to help him tell it, and the resulting documentary is Finding Vivian Maier.
Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th is inarguably one of the most successful horror franchises, and for good reason. Not only did the series practically invent the campers-in-the-woods stereotype, but its villain, the hockey-mask wearing, machete-wielding Jason Voorhees, is so iconic that his image has become synonymous with the horror genre in the minds of fans and non-fans alike. However, Friday the 13th was not the first movie to use the name; the year before the first Camp Crystal Lake movie, in 1979, another film had the genius idea of exploiting the most superstitious day on the calendar, the completely unrelated Friday the 13th: The Orphan.
It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In 1984, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street revolutionized the slasher movie. Because of this, the film spawned not only several sequels, but a number of rip-offs as well. There was the rock and roll film Dreamaniac. There were not one, but two Bollywood A Nightmare on Elm Street clones: Mahakaal (The Monster) and Khooni Murdaa (Deadly Corpse). Craven himself has been accused of cinematic cannibalism with his own My Soul to Take. Even the sequels had imitators; Inception and The Matrix can both be viewed as derivative of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Although not all good, some of these imitations were not half bad, either. An example of one of the good clones is 1988’s Bad Dreams.
The horror world lost another one of its stars this weekend when Kate O’Mara passed away at the age of 74. O’Mara was most well known to American audiences from her work on “Dynasty,” and British fans remember her best from her stint on “Doctor Who,” but horror nerds know her as a Hammer girl. Even though she only made two pictures for the legendary studio, she shined bright enough in them for fans to consider her an icon. She made both of her Hammer films in 1970, and while The Horror of Frankenstein may have the bigger name, O’Mara is at her beautiful best in The Vampire Lovers.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is generally thought of as essential reading in science fiction literature. In 1984, the epic novel was adapted by director David Lynch (Blue Velvet) into a lumbering, disastrous movie. Ten years earlier in 1975, however, another movie adaptation of Dune was in the works, one that had been meticulously planned and prepared by Chilean cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (Holy Mountain), only to have funding fall apart before a single shot could be filmed. This unrealized version of Dune is explored in great detail by documentarian Frank Pavich (N.Y.H.C.) in his new film, the appropriately titled Jodorowsky’s Dune.
There’s a reason that spiders are essential to any Halloween party decor; they’re scary. That goes for movies, too. Whether in classic sci-fi films like Earth vs. the Spider or modern monster movies such as Big-Assed Spider, eight legged creepy crawlies have snuck their way into movies for as long as there have been movies. Hollywood heroes have done battle with single mutant spiders, as in Tarantula, and whole groups of them, like in Arachnophobia. Sometimes, spiders can play a small role in a film, only to end up having their scene be the most memorable in the picture, as is the case with The Fly. And, sometimes, spiders just have to show up as eerie set dressing and let the humans do the scary stuff, like they do in 1968’s Spider Baby.
In 1974, director Tobe Hooper made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film that would change the landscape of horror forever. After following it up with the less-successful but still respected Eaten Alive, Hooper had a run of bad luck. He was fired from two movies, The Dark and Venom, in the middle of production. He was brought on to direct the Steven Spielberg-produced Poltergeist in 1982, only to have Spielberg direct most of that film himself (allegedly, depending on which story you believe, of course). Three years later, Hooper finally got himself a break; he made Lifeforce.
If an actor is lucky, he or she will take on a role that will define their entire career. Sean Connery was James Bond. Robert Englund was Freddy Krueger. And Anthony Perkins was Norman Bates. The trademark role can be both a blessing and a curse; the actor is usually remembered forever in pop culture history, but it is often difficult come out from the shadow of that one character. Anthony Perkins was specifically tied to Norman Bates in the years after Psycho, so much so that he portrayed the unstable man-boy in three sequels, even directing one of them. Although Perkins made dozens of other movies during his career, he will always be Norman Bates to audiences. Perkins didn’t do himself any favors with role selection, either; he played mentally unstable characters several more times in his career, but the most memorable came in 1989’s Edge of Sanity.
In 1982, director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass collaborated on the masterful documentary Koyaanisqatsi, an art film that combined Reggio’s beautiful visions with Glass’ haunting music. The pair would team up again in 1988’s Powaqqatsi and in2002’s Naqoyqatsi. Now, in 2014, Reggio and Glass have once again created a stunning marriage of sound and picture with the much more pronounceable Visitors.
The works of certain horror writers just beg to be turned into motion pictures. The classic works of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft make great movies, as do the books of more modern scribes like Richard Matheson and Stephen King. And then there’s Henry James. Often thought of as the father of the psychological ghost story, James didn’t allow himself to be pigeonholed into writing strictly horror. Because of this, he is not generally thought of as being an icon of the genre, but his The Turn of the Screw is inarguably one of the most frightening tales ever committed to paper. The novella has been filmed numerous times since its 1898 publication, but the most memorable adaptation is the 1961 version directed by Jack Clayton (Something Wicked This Way Comes), simply called The Innocents.
Horror movies are built on the fear of the unknown, and a big part of that unknown is the “thing that lurks in the dark.” However, some horror films can be just as effective in the harsh light of day. The first half of John Carpenter’s Halloween takes place in broad daylight, just as much of Jaws does, and those two films are considered two of the scariest classics ever made. In 1971, before both Jaws and Halloween, sci-fi/fantasy director Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green, Fantastic Voyage) made a bright film with a dark side called See No Evil that featured a protagonist who was blind, living in darkness even in the daylight.
Nowadays, the big gimmick at the cinema is 3D. From silly monster movies like I, Frankenstein and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to Oscar-bait films such as Gravity and Avatar, seemingly every modern big-budget movie gets a 3D release. Hollywood even trips over itself to re-release hits like Titanic and Jurassic Park in 3D in an effort to squeeze additional revenue out of existing titles. Classic 3D horror films may not have been as slick as modern ones, but they were just as much fun for audiences. As early as the 1950s, 3D could be found wowing theatergoers in films like House of Wax and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Released in 1961, a little Canadian film called The Mask added an interactive element to the technology, simultaneously amazing and horrifying viewers in the process.
The word phantom can mean several things. It can be another name for a ghost. It can represent anything that is imaginary. It can also denote something that is difficult to attain. Cinematically, the term has been used in movie titles about both superheroes and submarines, and that’s not even including variations on the name such as The Phantom of the Opera, Phantom of the Paradise, or Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. In 1931, before all of these (okay, well not before the original silent The Phantom of the Opera), another film used the name The Phantom, and it’s easy to see why it has been lost in the shuffle.
Although he wouldn’t become a household name until A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, Wes Craven spent the seventies building up his legacy with low budget shockers like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. In retrospect, these films are highly revered, but they were seen as little more than grindhouse schlock in their day. Just before he dabbled with the mainstream with Swamp Thing, Craven eased out of exploitation cinema in 1981 with a spooky film that combined slasher gore with occult creepiness called Deadly Blessing.
The X rating is a double edged sword. For adult films, the X is a badge of honor; it’s the rating for which they strive. For a mainstream film, it can be the kiss of death. There have been several mainstream films that have gone on to great success, both critical and commercial, despite being initially given an X rating. Classics like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead began their cinematic lives with X ratings. John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy even won the best picture Oscar in 1969 with an X. But not all mainstream X films are so lucky; in 1971, writer/director Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States) made The Devils, a film which many consider to be the best picture of the director’s career. Despite heavy editing, it was slapped with an X rating and, therefore, Russell’s original vision of The Devils has never been properly released.
In the nineteen thirties, Universal Pictures was busy making legendary monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy that would turn stars such as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff into household names. However, across the pond in England, a director by the name of George King was making a horror star out of another actor: the aptly named Tod Slaughter. In 1939, after making a handful of pictures together, King and Slaughter closed out the decade with the creepy The Face at the Window.
With all of the gratuitous sex and violence that come with modern horror movies, they are generally thought of as fare for mature audiences. However, there exists a category of cinema that bridges the gap between the scary animated films of Disney such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the controversial X-rated schlock films like Cannibal Holocaust. Rated G or PG, this group of films, which includes classics like Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Watcher in the Woods, has served as a gateway for kids to enter into the world of horror without alarming their parents too badly. In 1988, a film called Paperhouse was released that walked the line between childhood innocence and nightmarish terror very well, inspiring fear in youngsters everywhere.
Alien invasion movies have always been incredibly fun to watch. Whether they involve Roland Emmerich-style destruction, as in Independence Day, or subliminal political allegory, like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, aliens always strike a chord with audiences. Interplanetary takeovers are hardly a new phenomenon, though – in the forties and fifties, years before manned space travel became a reality, filmmakers consistently landed alien intruders on Earth in films like The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Playing upon the public’s fear of the unknown, the space invader theme quickly became a popular one, and one of the best examples of the genre was an under-the-radar, low-budget classic called The Man from Planet X.
Here they are, the top ten horror movies of 2013...and a few honorable mentions too.
Ah, Christmas. There’s something about the yuletide holiday that lends itself well to horror movies. When it comes to movies about psychotic killers, Christmas is right up there with Halloween. Since the central Christmas figure in the capitalistic world is Santa Claus, it figures that many slasher movies would feature madmen dressed as Jolly Old Saint Nick. When people think of killer Santas, the film that comes immediately to mind is 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night. However, four years earlier, writer/director Lewis Jackson traveled that route with his now-classic Christmas Evil.
Places like amusement parks and circuses have been captivating settings for horror movies for years. From Tod Browning’s 1932 circus creepfest Freaks, through Tobe Hooper’s carnival slasher The Funhouse, right up to guerilla filmmaker Randy Moore’s surreal Disney freakout Escape from Tomorrow, fun places seem to get spooky when the light hits them just right. The effect is amplified when the roadside attraction is deserted and decrepit, as seen in 1979’s aptly named Tourist Trap.
When it comes to holiday themed horror movies, Thanksgiving really gets the short end of the stick. Of course, Halloween has all of the really good movies, and rightfully so, seeing as how John Carpenter’s Halloween essentially kickstarted the modern slasher genre. Christmas has a pretty long list of entertaining films about it as well, including classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas. Even April Fool’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve have legendary slasher movies that revolve around them. Between Home Sweet Home and ThanksKilling, the few fright flicks about Thanksgiving have been, excuse the pun, turkeys. In 1987, director John Grissmer (False Face) came up with another attempt at Thanksgiving horror with a twisted tale of twins called Blood Rage.
In the sporting world, there are a handful of elite athletes who were able to rise head and shoulders above their competition. In the NFL, Jerry Rice not only still holds just about every major receiving record worth holding, but holds them all by such a huge margin that many will most likely never be broken. In the NHL, Wayne Gretsky was so dominant that the entire league, not just the teams for which he played, retired his number 99 jersey. The NBA’s Michael Jordan was a player who, every time he touched the ball, seemingly held the defense at the mercy of whatever it was that he wanted to do with it. These athletes had something special, something for which they have each been memorialized forever within their respective sports. Lance Armstrong had it, too. At least, that’s what everyone thought.
In order for an audience to really be able to root for a horror movie protagonist, said protagonist has to have some kind of weakness or flaw, making them vulnerable. This concept is the reason why many horror heroes are teenage babysitters or young schoolboys; these are the archetypes that are at a serious and definite disadvantage to the monster or killer who may be stalking them. When traditional stereotypes won’t do, the director can raise the stakes even further by giving the hero an even bigger disadvantage, like putting them in a wheelchair, as in Rear Window, or by making them deaf, as in Wait Until Dark. In 1961, Hammer Horror gave the heroine-in-a-wheelchair theme a shot in the creepy ghost-mystery Scream of Fear.
Halloween parties are great settings for horror films. What else but mischief and mayhem can be expected when a group of people, all dressed in their scariest costumes, gathers on the spookiest night of the year? Add the inevitable Ouija board and séance, and the results are usually sheer terror, and that is what viewers get in the 1988 cult classic Night of the Demons.
When it gets to be late October, John Carpenter’s Halloween and its many sequels are the go-to movies for both big parties and late-night loners. And it’s no surprise; as a pioneer of the slasher genre, the film is not only a masterpiece in its own right, but one of the most influential horror movies of all time. But, as the most famous film of the holiday, it’s also been shown and reshown, to the point of oversaturation. For those who want something new this Halloween, here are a handful of alternatives to Michael Myers that are bound to impress...
In the groovy seventies, true-life monsters became pop culture fads. The big three – Bigfoot (or Sasquatch), The Loch Ness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman (or Yeti) – found their ways into exploitative documentaries, sensationalistic television shows, even children’s toys. Low budget filmmakers jumped on board with fictionalizations of the creatures, making classic films like The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Crater Lake Monster, and Snowbeast. In 1974, husband and wife sexploitation filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay (The Slaughter) tried their hand at a Yeti movie with Shriek of the Mutilated.
The woods has always been a great setting for a horror movie. Whether the heroes are running from a mutant monster (Prophecy), battling one of God’s creatures (Grizzly), or fleeing from a masked madman (Friday the 13th), the disorientation and secluded surroundings are just as frightening as the antagonist itself in most of these movies. In 1983, at the height of the golden age of the slasher film, a film was released that seemed like just another killer-in-the-woods movie, but was destined to become a cult classic. That movie was The Final Terror.
Because of the overwhelming volume of Hollywood films that are made and the success of the horror genre, the modern horror movie is a fairly American phenomenon. However, the influence of European filmmakers on these films cannot be understated, whether those roots fall within the surrealism of German Expressionism or the eerie Gothicism of Britain’s Hammer pictures. Of course, Italian filmmakers have made their mark on the horror world as well, with the striking visuals of Dario Argento and the shocking gore of Lucio Fulci leading the way. But, before Argento or Fulci hit their stride, Mario Bava was making movies in Italy, influencing both of those directors. Nestled in between Bava’s masterpieces Black Sunday and A Bay of Blood sits an amazing yet unsung example of his work from 1966 called Kill Baby, Kill.
There is a treachery that comes with making a movie with a generic name. The trouble is that another film will invariably come along with the same title, causing confusion for fans and followers of both movies. For example, many do not realize that, before it was an Uwe Boll videogame adaptation in 2005, Alone in the Dark was an awesome Jack Sholder slasher movie in 1982. Creature was an eerie Klaus Kinski science fiction vehicle twenty-five years before it was a forgettable modern-day monster movie. And, in the early seventies, a decade and a half before the name would be co-opted by a terrifying talking Good Guy doll named Chucky, Child’s Play was a bona-fide psychological thriller directed by the late, great Sidney Lumet.
With the advent of the B-movie and the coming of innovative, low-budget filmmakers like Roger Corman and Ed Wood, horror movies began to develop more creative and interesting monsters. Soon, viewers were treated to hybrid monsters, beasts that combined typical tropes into different (if not completely new) archetypes. Examples of this include the serial killing vampires in Near Dark and the alien werewolf in The Dark. In 1986, audiences were treated to the granddaddy of all hybrid monster movies, Night of the Creeps.
Monster movies are fun. Whether they play on serious fears, such as films like Jaws and Alligator, or take a more tongue-in-cheek approach, with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Slugs: The Movie, monster movies make for great horror films. The classic science fiction era of the fifties had no shortage of cool monster movies, and filmmakers were tripping over themselves to find the most outlandish and improbable animals that they could mutate into killer beasts. In 1959, special effects man-turned-director Ray Kellogg (The Green Berets) thought of the cutest animal he could, gave it poisonous teeth, and came away with The Killer Shrews.
As one of the staple characters of the classic horror film, the mad scientist has been subjected to more than his share of stereotyping. When one thinks of the mad scientist, the image of Colin Clive in Frankenstein instantly comes to mind, the man screaming “it’s alive” excitedly over and over again while collapsing onto the ground. As colorful as the picture of Clive’s Henry Frankenstein is, there are many other crazed doctors in the horror world. In 1956, director Reginald Le Borg (Diary of a Madman, The Mummy’s Ghost) brought his entry to the mad scientist genre to the table with The Black Sleep.
There are few doubts that Universal Studios is one of the biggest influences on the horror movie genre, having had a hand in the production of fright films since the earliest days of the silent era. The name Universal is synonymous with monster movies, earning their reputation with classic films like Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man, but not all of their horror films dealt with mythological creatures and sympathetic beasts. In 1927, with Hollywood’s silent era quickly coming to a close, Universal made a highly influential haunted house movie called The Cat and the Canary.
In the early nineteen eighties, with the slasher movie craze in full effect, a handful of directors were already trying to break the horror movie mold. John Carpenter, the man who ushered in the golden age of the slasher movie with Halloween, was remaking Howard Hawks’ The Thing. Tobe Hooper was trading in serial killers for supernatural terror with Poltergeist. And then, there was David Cronenberg. Always a purveyor of an artful mix of both science fiction and horror, Cronenberg followed up his breakthrough film, Scanners, with the equally strange Videodrome in 1983.
The horror world lost another legend last week as Hollywood mourned the passing of Karen Black. Black was well known to fright film fans for her tour-de-force quadruple performance in the seminal television movie "Trilogy of Terror," but the actress was far more than a genre actress, appearing in such influential films as Robert Altman’s Nashville, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot. She will be remembered primarily for her work in suspense and horror, however, having worked with everyone from Tobe Hooper in Invaders from Mars to Rob Zombie in House of 1000 Corpses. As the horror it-girl of the seventies, she found herself starring in the understated yet creepy 1976 haunted house film Burnt Offerings.
With a television and film career that spans over seven decades, Joan Fontaine has always been one of the more versatile actresses in Hollywood. Her big break came in the early forties, when she became one of Alfred Hitchcock’s girls. For Hitch, she made Rebecca in 1940 (which won the Oscar for best picture as well as earning Fontaine a best actress nomination) and Suspicion in 1941 (for which she won the best actress Oscar). Since her time with the Master of Suspense, Fontaine has done everything from classic cinema, with roles in films like Ivanhoe and Jane Eyre, to campy science fiction, with a turn in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. In 1966, Fontaine gave her last big-screen performance as the lead in the Hammer Horror film The Witches.
In 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws opened a lot of doors for the man-versus-nature horror film. In the years that followed, theaters saw heroes fighting different kinds of fish (Piranha), other aquatic animals (Alligator), and even landlocked beasts (Grizzly), all in imitation of the big shark blockbuster. In 1977, the film that seemed to be the closest thing to a blatant Jaws rip-off was released when mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis brought Orca to the screen.
Blackfish is documentary filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s disturbing look into the capture and treatment of orcas, or killer whales, in aquariums and marine theme parks. Specifically, the film deals with those whales that snap, attacking their trainers. Even more specifically, the film centers mostly around one particular animal: Tilikum, a male orca who has been involved in the deaths of no fewer than three people (two of his trainers and one knucklehead who snuck into the park after hours and decided to go for a swim). Blackfish chronicles Tilikum’s entire life as an exhibition animal, from his capture, to his training at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada and his transfer to Sea World in Florida and, ultimately, the detailed accounts of the incidents that resulted in the deaths of his trainers.
One of the biggest challenges in making an alien invasion movie is giving the audience something new and different. Should the aliens be bobble-headed egg-brains like the campy classics in This Island Earth and Mars Attacks!, or should they be the sleek and swift, genuinely terrifying beings from Alien or Independence Day? In 1959, screenwriter Sam Newman (The Giant Claw) and director Edward L. Cahn (It! The Terror from Beyond Space) found a way to approach aliens in a way that no one had ever seen...literally...in Invisible Invaders.
Over the course of film history, zombies have evolved from the reanimated Haitian voodoo corpses in White Zombie to the swarming disease infected victims in World War Z. They have rambled aimlessly in Night of the Living Dead and sprinted purposefully in 28 Days Later. In 1946, Republic Pictures showed the world a zombie that had never been seen before and hasn’t been replicated since in their Valley of the Zombies.
Just about every modern horror movie archetype has roots that can be traced back to the silent film era. Nosferatu the vampire chilled audiences a full decade before Bela Lugosi made Dracula into a household word. Frankenstein hit the silent screens in 1910, twenty years before Boris Karloff’s iconic performance. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the blueprint for the modern day slasher film. And in 1925, fifteen years before Universal’s The Wolf Man, audiences were terrified by the original werewolf movie, a film called Wolf Blood.
Revenge has been a theme of slasher movies since before they were actually called slasher movies. Early revenge horror films such as I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left were graphic and brutal affairs, but the vengeance motif transitioned well into the tongue-in-cheek campy world of the slasher film when the craze hit its stride in the early eighties. Films like Prom Night and Terror Train took the time honored desire to get even and injected it with the clever and imaginative killing power of the slasher genre. In 1986, with the golden age of the slasher at its peak, horror fans were treated to another great story of bloody high school revenge with the release of Slaughter High.
Hollywood lost another icon this week as influential writer Richard Matheson passed away at his home in Calabasas, California at the age of 87. Even if his name is not immediately recognizable, his stories certainly are. He wrote the most instantly recognizable episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel.” His work has been produced by dozens of important directors, including everyone from Roger Corman to Steven Spielberg. His novel "I Am Legend" was made into at least three different films in three different decades with three different legendary lead actors: Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth), Charlton Heston (The Omega Man), and Will Smith (I Am Legend). Matheson could work in any medium, be it short stories, novels, movie scripts, or teleplays, all with the same inspired results. Illustrating his supernatural side in 1977, he provided the screenplay to one of his more understated works, a T.V. movie called The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.
American studios such as Universal and RKO discovered in the twenties and thirties that monster movies sold tickets, and it didn’t take long for the trend to travel overseas. While Britain’s Hammer Horror was busy rehashing their own versions of gothic Universal monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula, Japan’s Toho Company found influence in the science fiction monsters of RKO, striking gold with Godzilla in 1954. Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Toho kept pumping out mutant reptile movies, and they found success again in 1956 with Rodan.
Perhaps the oldest good versus evil story is that of God and Satan, and the struggle between the two powers has made for some memorable cinema. The seventies alone saw the making of two classics of the horror genre, The Exorcist and The Omen, both of which deal with the fight between the Church and the Devil. In 1977, the year after the release of The Omen, action film director Michael Winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic) tried his hand at the age-old tale when he made The Sentinel.
After a string of highly successful films that started way back in 1931, the legendary Bette Davis made a seamless transition to television in the early fifties. When she returned to film about a decade later in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the actress found that she had become a bit of a horror movie icon. Never one to disappoint her fans, Davis followed up with another spooky film in 1964 when she played a pair of twins in Dead Ringer.
The golden age of slasher films saw Hollywood struggling to find new and different horror movie killers. By the time the late eighties rolled around, mad murderer movies had become stale and passé, and studios were willing to do seemingly anything to find a way to refresh the genre. In 1989, the generically titled Night Shadow was released, a film which tried to combine the suspense of the slasher film with the sheer terror of the werewolf movie.
In 1968, after a successful run on television’s “Peyton Place,” actress Mia Farrow finally broke through to big-screen audiences in Roman Polanski’s influential horror film Rosemary’s Baby. Although Farrow would go on to play straight roles in works such as The Great Gatsby and a television production of “Peter Pan,” she never failed to keep her horror fans happy with films like See No Evil and Secret Ceremony. In 1977, she made her most frightening film since Rosemary’s Baby when she starred in The Haunting of Julia.
As strange as it may seem, horror movies and stage plays have enjoyed an incestuous relationship over the years. Starting as far back as the musical adaptation of the Roger Corman classic The Little Shop of Horrors, iconic horror films such as Evil Dead, Carrie, Night of the Living Dead, and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die have all been turned into theatrical productions. The big screen/small stage connection is a two-way street, however, with dozens of movies having been adapted from stage plays as well. One of the most frightening films of the sixties was born out of this trend when director Terance Young reworked playwright Frederick’s Knott’s Wait Until Dark.
This week, the motion picture industry lost one of its most influential figures. Special effects artist Ray Harryhausen passed away in London at the age of 92. Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation techniques are the stuff of legends, from the ape in Mighty Joe Young (which won an Oscar for best visual effects) to the medusa in Clash of the Titans. Although he is mainly known for his contributions to adventure films like Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, his creations lent themselves equally well to science fiction and monster movies, and 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea is a classic example of his unmistakable work.
Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures made a habit of capitalizing on the successes of Universal Pictures movies in the 1950s. The production and distribution company pumped out modernizations of the classic monster films, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. In 1958, hot on the heels of Universal’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, AIP rushed a film with the working title of I Was a Teenage Doll into production, a film that would be quickly released as Attack of the Puppet People.
Masked killers are always scary, but the words “based on a true story” seem to magnify the effect. From The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to The Strangers, the claim that a horror movie is based on actual events gives it an air of authenticity that can be terrifying. In 1976, during the infancy of the true crime horror phase, the gimmick was exploited by a classic film called The Town that Dreaded Sundown.
One sure way for a horror movie to shock the public is to make the main villain a child, or a group of children. Some of the more frightening movies in horror history have employed this technique, ranging from a single kid in The Bad Seed and The Good Son to entire tribes in Children of the Damned and Children of the Corn. In 1981, a trio of horrible kids wreaked havoc on their hometown in Bloody Birthday.
With the dawn of the eighties, slasher movies saturated the horror genre; spawned by the 1978 success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, scores of imitators made their way into theaters during what would become known as the Golden Age of the slasher film. Some of these films, like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, became timeless classics. Others toiled away in obscurity, only seen and remembered by hardcore fans of the subgenre. Released in 1980, Silent Scream is one of the underappreciated.