Film Reviews for "James Jay Edwards"
Frame of Mind posts for "James Jay Edwards"
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.
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.
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.
By the middle of the thirties, Boris Karloff had already played the monster in Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein as well as the title role in The Mummy, all for Universal. Taking a vacation from monster roles, Karloff turned to Columbia Pictures for a chance to show off his acting chops, and the film that they gave him was a tour-de-force for the thespian: The Black Room.
As one of the pioneers of low-budget, can-do filmmaking, Roger Corman has a reputation as one of the most prolific producers and directors of all time. His films usually revolve around some campy gimmick, whether it is the rubber suited monster in Creature from the Haunted Sea or the killer plant in The Little Shop of Horrors. In 1959, Corman was approached by American International Pictures to make a movie for less than $50,000, and the resulting film was the cult classic A Bucket of Blood, a picture without any monsters except for an emotionally damaged artist.
Oh, Canada. The relatively low production costs coupled with extremely film-friendly government tax incentives see many horror films heading north of the border to the land of hockey, mounted police and Bryan Adams to shoot. Sometimes, these films end up as classics of the genre, as is the case with Prom Night and Terror Train. Other times, they end up like 1977’s Cathy’s Curse.
When I was in elementary school way back in the seventies, there was a rumor floating around the playground that Christopher Lutz, the middle child from the family that was immortalized in The Amityville Horror, went to our school. He would have been in the same grade as my older sister but, of course, he wasn’t in her class. In fact, no one knew what class he was in. I never met him, and I’m not even sure that he ever attended the school, but the rumor itself is evidence of how big of a pop culture phenomenon that The Amityville Horror had become.
One of the biggest and most important advances in entertainment technology to come out of the 1980s is the advent of cable television and satellite reception. No longer were people limited to movies at a theater and a mere thirteen channels of programming. As with any new technology, however, there was a learning curve, and the features ended up confusing and frightening some customers. Someone was bound to make a movie about it and, in 1986, B-movie producers Albert and Charles Band did. That movie, equally hysterical and horrifying, was called TerrorVision.
When Jaws ushered in the modern monster movie era in 1975, moviegoers everywhere became terrified to go into the water. Jaws was so effective that it spawned a bevy of aquatic imitators, each more strange that the last. For several years after Jaws, audiences were treated to thinly veiled rip-offs like Orca in 1977, Piranha in 1978, and Alligator in 1980. Perhaps the most far-fetched, and therefore the most fun, of these water-logged creature-features is the Samuel Z. Arkoff 1977 killer octopus presentation known as Tentacles.
Because the horror genre has always embraced short film, the horror anthology has always been hugely popular. Whether it’s a simple excuse to stick a bunch of shorts together into a feature length film or a purely organic set of episodic storylines, horror anthologies provide frightening entertainment for the attention-deficit crowd. Although it hit its peak in the seventies with Tales from the Crypt, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror, the fad is actually much older; it dates back to the silent movie era with 1924’s Waxworks.
Just like any successful horror film, the first Friday the 13th brought about a slew of imitators. Not only did the film spawn more than a half dozen sequels in the years that followed, but the early eighties also saw films like Sleepaway Camp and Madman hop on the bandwagon and provide their own spin to the summer camp killer motif. The first of these films, releasing just a week after Friday the 13th Part 2 in 1981, was a bloody thriller that was destined to become a classic called The Burning.
By the nineteen seventies, every filmmaker in the horror world was looking for something new to scare audiences, and the scurry led to some very original films. For every influential blockbuster frightfest like The Exorcist, Jaws, or Halloween, there were several lesser known but just as creative movies. One of these films that slipped through the cracks was the 1973 low budget monster thriller Sssssss.
As frightening as male characters can be, the role of the villain in horror movies has not always belonged strictly to guys; women can be every bit as terrifying, if not more so. Whether she comes in the form of an unstable woman, like Annie Wilkes in Misery, or a supernatural banshee, like the title character in Mama, a lady is just as adept at inducing fear in an audience as a man. Although the trend has seen a boost since the seventies, the female horror antagonist is hardly a new concept; audiences were treated to it as early as 1944 in The Soul of a Monster.
Ever since the original King Kong amazed audiences with its cutting edge animation, stop-motion photography has been a viable alternative to costumed creatures in horror and science fiction movies. The nineteen seventies saw a nice little resurgence in stop-motion/live action monster movies, with the technique being used seemingly everywhere from Roger Corman’s Piranha to the Star Wars movies. At the forefront of the stop-motion movement was visual animator David Allen, and his work on 1977’s The Crater Lake Monster serves as a textbook example of the trend.
Many of the most successful and admired Hollywood directors cut their teeth making horror films. The legendary Steven Spielberg’s early career includes the classic fright films Duel and Jaws. The Godfather’s Francis Ford Coppola got his humble start working on the Roger Corman productions The Terror and Dementia 13. Peter Jackson could never have brought The Lord of the Rings trilogy to life if he hadn’t made his directorial debut with Bad Taste and Dead Alive. The recent critical darling Kathryn Bigelow is no exception; in 1987, years before The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, she made the revisionist vampire classic Near Dark.
In the world of horror movies, witches and the devil seem to go hand in hand; it’s always the Dark Lord himself that is behind the witchery. When children get dragged into the fold, things start getting really scary. A film made in 1971, right between Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, called The Brotherhood of Satan effectively pulls off the horror trifecta of creepy kids, a witch’s coven, and Satan himself.
As frequently misunderstood concepts, reincarnation and hypnotism are pretty good subjects around which to base a horror movie. While one would think that a movie about past lives and mind control would lend itself to be a psychological thriller, 1956’s The She-Creature takes the concepts in another direction and becomes a full-fledged monster movie.
In the 1930s, Fay Wray was as close to a female horror icon as Hollywood had; after carving out her niche in 1932’s Doctor X and The Most Dangerous Game, the actress found herself in the movie that would make her a career monster victim, 1933’s King Kong. Taking advantage of a studio system that shared resources like sets and crews, she appeared in an astonishing 21 films between 1933 and 1934. In between classics like The Vampire Bat and The Countess of Monte Cristo, Wray found time to star in a creepy little film in 1934 about voodoo called Black Moon.
Another year has gone by at FilmFracture and it has been full of great movies, mediocre trips to the cinema, and some downright awful wastes of time. With that said, here are the best and worst movies of 2012, based solely on their Production ratings (how they faired in other categories may have been better, or the same, click out on the titles to see for yourself). I must warn you, our choices for the best movies may come as quite a shock--who would have thought a Troma picture would make a best of list?
By the time the golden age of the slasher movie was in full swing, Jamie Lee Curtis was already a bona-fide scream queen. Her role as the archetypical final girl, Laurie Strode, in 1978’s Halloween put her on the map, and she had parts in no fewer than three horror classics released in 1980. Given that she made the box office successes The Fog and Prom Night in the same year, it’s no surprise that her other 1980 slasher film, a Canadian schlockfest about a group of med-school students on a train for a New Year’s Eve party called Terror Train, has flown under the radar.
Here they are, the top ten horror movies of 2012 as compiled by FilmFracture's own horror aficionado, James Jay Edwards.
In 1984, the movie world was up in arms about Silent Night, Deadly Night and the fact that its central figure was a serial killer who dressed as Santa Claus. Although killer Santas were nothing new, the controversy surrounding Silent Night, Deadly Night took publicity away from another 1984 Christmas slasher film, one in which the men in Santa suits were the victims, called Don’t Open Till Christmas.
Once a horror franchise gains momentum and finds an audience, it’s only a matter of time before sequels are no longer enough to satisfy its audience – the next step is a crossover. From Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and King Kong vs. Godzilla to Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, monster crossovers have a proven track record at the box office, attracting fans from both original franchise camps as well as new viewers who are curious to the trend. In 1958, American International Pictures took advantage of the teenage monster film craze and released a different kind of crossover film called How to Make a Monster.
Monster movies are some of the oldest, most beloved horror movies. As such, monster movies have also used every sort of cinematic technology to bring their beasts to life. The mother of all monster movies itself, King Kong, has been made and remade three times in three different ways: in 1933 with stop-motion animation, in 1976 using the simple but classic man-in-a-gorilla suit, and in 2005 utilizing the latest in green-screen CG technology. Horror and sci-fi fans are especially fond of the second method, the rubber suit monster, due to the varying degrees of camp and quality and because of the sheer fun of the creature feature. In 1971, Octaman was released, updating the classic creature feature for the nineteen seventies.
Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff both had successful and prolific acting careers before the 1930s, but the pair became horror icons when they were cast in their signature roles, Lugosi as the title role in Dracula and Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein, by Universal Pictures. As two of the crown jewels in Universal’s horror stable, Lugosi and Karloff were bound to be teamed up, and the first film in which the two actors took the screen together was 1934’s The Black Cat.
In the wake of the release of Fox Searchlight’s long anticipated Alfred Hitchcock biopic, appropriately called Hitchcock, a different production about the master of suspense has flown under the radar. Home Box Office, in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corporation, has made their own Hitchcock film, The Girl, which focuses on a darker side of the influential director.
Happy Holidays, everyone. This year the FilmFracture team brings you the most anticipated, and must see movies, of the 2012 Holiday Movie Season. Some may be obvious--The Hobbit--others not so much--Silent Night--but they are coming to theatres to make your holiday a little more bright, while being spent in the dark.
The horrors of drug abuse have had the pleasure of being documented on film for nearly a hundred years. While most of these films are thinly veiled social commentary, others mask their message in a true artistic expression of cinema. Somewhere in between Reefer Madness and Requiem for a Dream sits a weird little horror film from 1972 called Blood Freak which tries to do both – yet accomplishes neither.
As long as there have been actors, there have been actors wanting to be directors. Whether they would handle it all from the beginning of their careers, like Orson Welles or Woody Allen, or transitioned into directing after years of acting, like George Clooney or Ben Affleck, the desire to move from in front of the camera to behind it is a common one in Hollywood. This “I-can-do-that” mentality has even hit the low budget horror world and, in 1958, famed B-movie character actor Bruno VeSota (Attack of the Giant Leeches) tried his hand at directing in American International Pictures’ sci-fi horror gem The Brain Eaters.
With its origins in the early seventies, the revenge film has consistently been one of the most controversial genres in the horror world. Not only do these films feature extreme graphic violence, but they often include misogynistic scenes of rape and dismemberment that are not intended for the faint of heart. Revenge films are frightening in a different way than typical horror films; they don’t include supernatural creatures or mythical monsters, instead opting to use human antagonists that are every bit as evil, but bring a sense of realism to the story. In 1976, Ivan Reitman (yes, that Ivan Reitman, the man who also brought the world Ghostbusters and Animal House) produced a nasty little Canadian film called Death Weekend that remains one of the forgotten gems of the revenge film subgenre.
Of all the holidays that have had horror movies made in their honor over the years, there is still only one undisputed champion of the genre: the spookiest holiday of them all, Halloween. In 1978, John Carpenter’s genre defining classic Halloween paved the way for several imitators, the most obvious being a film made by adult film director Gary Graver a few short years later in 1982 called Trick or Treats.
As frightening as fictional serial killers can be, they are no match for the real-life bad guys. Movies have been made about the most famous of mass murderers, including both exploitation films like Ted Bundy and big Hollywood productions such as Zodiac. Back in 1959, the earliest of the household name serial killers also got the first movie of the bunch when Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman unleashed Jack the Ripper.
Ever since the resurgence of the slasher film in the early eighties, teenagers have been the staple victims in horror movies. Whether it’s a lone babysitter trapped in a dark house or a group of camp counselors stranded in the woods, the relative innocence and inexperience of adolescents make them ripe for the picking. In 1985, Friday the 13th director Sean S. Cunningham went one better by making kids both the heroes and the villains, an effort that resulted in the teenage horror film The New Kids.
Serial Killer as anti-hero has been a popular motif in slasher films for as long as there have been slasher films. From the seminal Peeping Tom through the influential Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to the over-the-top American Psycho, cold blooded murderers have always made a fun and different type of protagonist, one that can be rooted for as well as against. In 1970, legendary Italian giallo director Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve, Black Sunday) introduced the world to his own psycho killer John Harrington in an under-the-radar film called Hatchet for the Honeymoon.
Three things that have always made good fodder for horror films are ghosts, psychics and serial killers. In 1973, director Nicolas Roeg (The Witches) combined these elements in his film Don’t Look Now and, in the process, created one of the most frightening British films ever made.
Although Boris Karloff had been making movies for years before he became the monster in Frankenstein, this signature roll opened the gates to offers for more monster roles and cemented his legacy as an icon in the horror genre. Tucked neatly within Karloff’s filmography between The Mummy and The Black Cat is a lost little classic from 1933 called The Ghoul which ranks as one of his creepiest films.
There are two kinds of bad movies. There are bad movies that are just unwatchable, and then there are bad movies that strike a chord with certain audiences and are sought out and viewed because of the very fact that they are bad. In 1987, The Video Dead was made, becoming an instant cult classic and inspiring horror fans for decades.
Legendary writer Richard Matheson has had his hand in dozens of Hollywood productions, whether it has been as the imagination behind many of the more memorable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or as the creator of screenplays for movies like I Am Legend or Duel. In 1973, Matheson’s most frightening book was brought to the big screen, and The Legend of Hell House turned the haunted house genre on its ear.
Vampires have always been the most sexy and loved movie monsters. Starting with Dracula himself, following through The Lost Boys and continuing into Twilight, bloodsuckers have gained a reputation as the hip, romantic undead beings. It’s not just the male vampires that can be fashionable, either, as director Roger Vadim (Barbarella) showed the world in his 1960 film Blood and Roses.
Nineteen Seventy-six was a banner year for Jodie Foster. Already a bona-fide television child star, the fourteen-year-old made the jump to the silver screen in a big way, with not only her Oscar-nominated turn in Taxi Driver, but with starring roles in the family films Bugsy Malone and Freaky Friday. Those projects alone probably made her the hardest working kid in Hollywood, but she also showed off her versatility in a creepy little horror mystery called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.
Science fiction films, particularly those creature features from the 1950s, usually dealt with aliens from another world traveling through space in an attempt to invade or colonize Earth. But what about the beings who have always been here, hiding just out of sight? Prolific television Western director Virgil W. Vogel (“Wagon Train” and “The Big Valley”) asked that same question in 1956 when he made The Mole People, creating one of the most unique sci-fi monster movies ever made.
In 1974, director Tobe Hooper put himself on the horror map with his seminal fright flick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. So, how does the next big thing in horror follow up one of the most influential films in the history of cinema? By making a movie about a serial killer who feeds his victims to his pet crocodile, which is exactly what Hooper did in 1977 with Eaten Alive.
Mummies are some of the more unsung movie monsters, not getting as much attention as vampires or werewolves despite being a consistent fixture of horror cinema. Legendary studios like Universal and Hammer have always cranked out their numerous mummy movies and sequels, and in 1957 United Artists got into the picture when they distributed a different kind of mummy movie, a film called Pharaoh’s Curse.
W.W. Jacobs’ short story about wishes-gone-bad, “The Monkey’s Paw,” has been adapted into several effective films, but most of them stop when the story ends, when the mother has wished her dead son back to life and he knocks on the door. Although it draws inspiration from the same place, director Bob Clark’s 1974 film Deathdream starts at the end of the classic story, showing what would happen if the door was opened.
When a film has a bit of success, it’s inevitable that other films will try to ride the coattails and cash in on the windfall. The best example is John Carpenter’s Halloween and its ushering in of the golden age of the slasher film. Years before, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho inspired scores of filmmakers to pump out quick and cheap movies in an attempt to exploit the new psychopathic killer fad. One of the more interesting of these films is Robert M. Young’s 1962 horror mystery Trauma.
As a horror movie device, the power of telekinesis has always been popular. Brian De Palma made two films about it, Carrie and The Fury, before he even grew out of his Hitchcock phase. As overused as it is, the ability to move things with one’s mind is still an understated and misunderstood skill, and that combination opens doors to frightening situations. In 1978 (The same year that De Palma released The Fury), Australian director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) put an interesting spin on the subject by having his psychokinetic antagonist be a comatose young man named Patrick.
In the late nineties, Wes Craven’s Scream franchise had become so popular that it inspired its own comic horror send-up, the aptly title Scary Movie, that has spawned just as many sequels as its muse (so far, three). While no one will ever be able to accuse Scary Movie of being overly original, even the idea of a horror movie spoof was done twenty years earlier when Julie Corman (Roger Corman’s wife and B-movie producer extraordinaire) brought Saturday the 14th to the table.
Holiday themed films have been all the rage, beginning back in the late seventies with Halloween and continuing through the modern era with Valentine. When it comes to the Fourth of July, the choices slim out a little bit; of course, Jaws takes place on the holiday, and there’s the obviously named Independence Day. But those are big budget no-brainers. If one really wants to see an under-the-radar July 4th movie, the real American Hero is Uncle Sam.
The setting in which a horror movie takes place is integral to the effectiveness of the scares; haunted houses, insane asylums and dark forests are much more threatening than bright, sunny suburban neighborhoods. Yet, when an innocent place becomes the scene of terror, it can be doubly frightening. In 1982, a Canadian film from the golden age of slashers showed that not even a hospital, a place of healing and curing, is exempt from evil in Visiting Hours.
Aside from Edgar Allan Poe (and possibly Richard Matheson), no writer has had their short stories adapted into horror films more often than H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft has been so influential to the genre that even films which are not direct retellings of his stories, like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series, are based around one of his inventions, the Necronomicon, or the Book of the Dead. One of the first appearances of the Necronomicon on the big screen was director Daniel Haller’s 1970 creep-fest The Dunwich Horror.
In the world of horror movies, death can come from many places. Danger is all around, whether it comes from the axe of a masked serial killer, the claws of a rabid monster or the mouth of a mysterious alien. But what happens when the harm comes from something as seemingly innocent as desert? That was the question posed in 1985 by the horror/comedy film The Stuff.
Although no one doubts their physical prowess, it’s no secret that today’s professional wrestlers are as much actors as they are athletes. When a movie needs a certain type of personality, the filmmaker can usually turn to a grappler who wants to make a name for himself in Hollywood, whether as a hero, like Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live, or as a villain, such as Tyler Mane in Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Starting in the 1930’s, 400 pound Swedish sensation Tor Johnson blazed the acting wrestler trail, becoming one of B-movie legend Ed Wood’s favorite oddities in the process. He had recurring roles in Wood films like Bride of the Monster and the classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it was a film that wasn’t directed by Wood, 1961’s The Beast of Yucca Flats, which would go down as Johnson’s last credited film.
In 1976, Stephen King’s first novel, a memorable tale about a high school girl with telekinetic powers, was turned into the terrifying and successful movie Carrie by director Brian De Palma. Less than two short years later, apparently not finished with the extrasensory perception motif, De Palma’s next movie dealt with a pair of young people with psychic gifts when he made The Fury in 1978.
Once the vampire and werewolf movies of the 1930s had run their courses, Hollywood producers turned to science fiction to get their monsters into theaters, pumping out alien invasion and radioactive creature movies by the dozens in the 1950s. In 1957, the studio whose name is synonymous with monster movies, Universal, made a film called The Monolith Monsters that turned seemingly ordinary rocks into world-threatening invaders.
Although it may seem that making horror movies geared towards children is a waste of time, it has been proven time and again that a film does not need to rely on blood and violence to be frightening. A tight thriller that can invoke fear in an audience without resorting to cheap standby methods of shock can be even more effective than any gory slasher, causing a young viewer to remember their fright well into adulthood. In 1983, Walt Disney Studios took a stab at children’s horror with Something Wicked This Way Comes and, in the process, made kids everywhere afraid to go to carnivals.
Prolific Hollywood director William Beaudine is known mostly for his work on family-oriented television shows like “Lassie,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.” However, he made scores of films, many of them crazy mash-ups of characters, such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. In 1946 he made another mix-up film, combining mad scientists, ghosts and voodoo witchcraft in a creepy ode to Frankenstein called The Face of Marble.
The modern world can be such an impersonal place. Take, for example, automobiles. People tend to forget that there are other people in them so that, instead of living, breathing organisms with thoughts and emotions, they are considered just faceless metal objects standing between a driver and their intended destination. But what happens when the object in the way is a bloodthirsty killing machine that doesn’t want to yield? In 1977, a movie was released that let the world know what evil drives: The Car.
The Marquis de Sade’s writings are violent, sadistic and blasphemous. It only makes sense that someone would make a horror movie based on them. In 1965, Italian director Massimo Pupillo (under the name of Max Hunter) gave it his best shot on Bloody Pit of Horror.
The best thing for an aspiring motion picture director to do to hone his skills is to study at the heels of a master of the craft. Low budget movie mogul David DeCoteau has had the fortune to work with two such mentors; In 1980, he got his start in the movie business from the legendary Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), and in 1986 he went to work for the inimitable Charles Band (Puppet Master, Re-Animator). After working with these two B-movie giants, it’s no surprise that, in 1988, DeCoteau would make a movie with the over-the top, memorable name Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.
Slasher filmmakers were poking fun at the sub-genre way before Wes Craven did it with Scream. Even in its infant stage, filmmakers who saw the familiarity in the gratuitous sex and violence would exploit it, usually without apology. After the success of killer-stalking-kids films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, any location with a group of young women gathered together was considered a ripe scenario for a horror film. In 1982, producer/director Amy Jones sent a killer into a dream hunting ground - a teenage girl’s sleepover - in The Slumber Party Massacre.
One of the earliest tricks that filmmakers would use to forecast fear into their audience is the use of a “warning,” a bit of fourth-wall breaking narration in the movie that would let the viewer know that they were in for some pure terror. From Edward van Sloan’s “it will thrill you, it may shock you” speech at the beginning of Frankenstein to William Castle’s offering of patrons’ money back if they were too scared to stay until the end of Homicidal, these warnings were great fun, but rarely taken seriously. In 1958, director Alex Nicol went above and beyond with his introduction to The Screaming Skull; he offered to pay for the burial costs of anyone who died of fright during his movie.
Fear can be a powerful motivator. It’s common knowledge that it can save a person’s life when their fight-or-flight response kicks in, but can fear ever take a person’s life? Can someone ever be so scared that their body just shuts down, involuntarily, and they die? This is the concept that was explored in 1963 in director Lew Landers' (The Raven) last film, the generically titled Terrified.
For all the monsters and murderers that populate horror films, nothing is quite as scary as a good haunted house movie. The best ghost stories usually double as mysteries, with the victimized person having to research and solve the problem of the spirits’ unrest. Of all of the ghostly haunt films, few come even close to being as scary as the 1980 Canadian spook-fest The Changeling.
In all the annals of the horror movie archives, perhaps no real person has inspired more films than the serial killer Ed Gein. Gein’s life has provided the basis for such legendary villains as Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Not nearly as iconic as any of those films, but following Gein’s case much more closely, is another forgotten Canadian splatter film from 1974 called Deranged.
Everyone has survived the holidays, and the time has now come for the movie industry to slow down a bit. Take a deep breath and sigh as the winter movie season has officially begin. Say hello to horror movies, romances, and the odd-ball comedy or dramatic piece that did not seem to be award worthy. This is also the time where the limited release award films expand--so all is not lost on what we call "the season where movies go to die." I am only (partly) kidding of course, there are always great movies to be found regardless of the season and everyone at FilmFracture is excited to see what the New Year brings.
While William Castle may not be a household name outside of the horror genre, his films most certainly are. The director has been behind some of the most gimmicky and fun horror movies ever made, including House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler. Castle has often said that his personal favorite film of his own was the ghoulish 1961 tale Mr. Sardonicus, about a man with a strange affliction and the doctor who tries to help him.
In the fifties and sixties, The United States of America was not the only country to delve into making low budget sci-fi horror movies. In 1960, with the world still reeling from the use of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an Italian producer named Mario Fava (who may or may not be an alter-ego of the Italian master of macabre himself Mario Bava) made a quick and easy fright film called Seddok, l’erede di Satana, released in America three years later as Atom Age Vampire.
One of the more sensationalistic aspects of horror and science fiction films over the years has been the phenomena of 3-D. Long before James Cameron’s Avatar reintroduced the world to the fad that enjoyed a resurgence in the horror world in the 80’s, when it seemed that every franchise’s third film was in 3-D (Friday the 13th Part 3D, Jaws 3D, Amityville 3D), the kids of the fifties enjoyed the golden age of 3-D movies. In 1953, hidden between Vincent Price’s House of Wax and Universal’s It Came from Outer Space sat a neat little thriller called The Maze that has been all but forgotten among its contemporaries.
A good horror movie needs a frightening antagonist to keep the action coming. Whether it’s a faceless killer or a wild animal, a good villain is the driving force behind any film, not just horror films. Sometimes, however, an unseen force is a much scarier foe, a phenomenon that has been dealt with over and over again like in the Final Destination series. Producer David Foster’s The Legacy has one of these deadly entities, and is one of the freakiest movies of the seventies.
In the late 60’s, the Alice Cooper band invented the musical genre of “shock-rock,” with their in-your-face music and horror-themed stage antics. It seemed like a logical progression that, once his musical career cooled off, Cooper would go into acting, and the natural place for him was in a horror film. In 1984, after a string of unsuccessful experimental albums, Alice found himself cast as the lead in a cool little werewolf movie called Monster Dog.
A film that has been somewhat under the radar over the past few months is Red Tails. Only lately have materials been released for it, and only in the past two weeks has anyone been talking about it--mostly because of Executive Producer George Lucas. The time has come to see what Red Tails is all about when it releases on Friday, January 20th. Sure, the hopes for the film are not all that high because:
1. It has been hidden from audiences, and not much marketing put into it by 20th Century Fox.
2. With a release date in January it is always a gamble on whether a film will be worth anyone's time (lucky for all of you we help you with that decision).
The psycho killer has long been one of the obvious staples of the horror genre. What could be more frightening than an unstoppable madman preying on innocent and unsuspecting victims? How about an unstoppable madman who has mastered the art of invisibility? In 1976, television director John Florea (who directed episodes of both “CHiPs” and “Sea Hunt”) asked the question in a feature-length sci-fi cop show called The Astral Factor.
Christmas horror movies are usually thinly-veiled slasher flicks where the killer is some maladjusted grownup who was scared into insanity by a freaky Santa when he was a kid. In 1996, screenwriter Michael Cooney (Identity) flipped the script with Jack Frost, an original story about a murderous snowman, and the Christmas horror movie genre hasn’t been the same since.
The holiday season is upon moviegoers once again, and that means a new season of movie-watching has begun. This season is always filled with Award contenders, big name Directors making big serious pictures, and the opportunity for actors and actresses to show their best skills on screen--all in the hopes that they will take home one of the many possible awards available to them for the year's best work. There is also always the underdog independent film that will take everyone by surprise. Lest us not forget the plethora of family movies that will keep everyone occupied during those big family gatherings at the holiday's. After a lackluster (and that is putting it mildly) year of movies, this holiday season holds high hopes for moviegoers, and moviemakers alike.
Legend has it that in the early eighties, respected horror director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive) looked up at the Chrysler Building in New York City and said “that would be the coolest place for a nest.” The legend goes on to say that Cohen, fired from the directing job on another film and not wanting his New York stay to go to waste, quickly wrote, cast and shot Q, one of the greatest monster movies of the decade.
Whether they’re on film or in real life, cults are scary things. A group of people brainwashed to worship a deity and commit heinous acts in its name is a frightening thing, whether it’s the devil worshipping coven in Rosemary’s Baby or the murderous teenagers who pay tribute to He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn. In 1962, television director William J. Hole, Jr. (who worked on both “The Bionic Woman” and “Peyton Place”) teamed up with screenwriter Jo Heims (Play Misty for Me) and legendary B-movie producer Rex Carlton (Nightmare in Wax, Blood of Dracula’s Castle) to unleash The Devil's Hand on an unsuspecting world, and subsequently gave another meaning to the term “cult movie.”
There seems to be a slasher film about every holiday imaginable – Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays, even April Fools’ Day, they all have their own movies. The