horror movies

My top 10 horror films of 2021

We made it through another year, everyone. I’m hoping that 2021 was more bearable than 2020 was.

If anything, we had some amazing horror movies out this year. Such a wide variety of voices and stories. In the UK, we didn’t have as many movies streaming at the same time they were in cinemas, so I missed a few key ones thanks to Covid (thinking about Candyman).

Actually, while compiling this list, I realised I missed out on a lot. No changing that now with only a few days to go! Nevertheless, we’re making a list here. Who cares if I still haven’t seen Censorship? But of the horror movies I saw this year, these are my top ten 2021 releases.

I’ve gone by UK theatrical and streaming release dates. So if you see something on here that was on everyone else’s 2020, blame the stupid pandemic we’re living through.

10 There’s Someone Inside Your House dir. by Patrick Brice

I was shocked by how much I liked this movie. Predictable? Very. But it’s a solid slasher that comes from an original source material. A girl and her friends are being stalked online where their biggest secrets are being exposed.

I know this received pretty lukewarm reviews, but I watched this on one of my flights back from the US and I thank it for making two hours pass by painlessly.

9 The Found Footage Phenomenon dir. by Phillip Escott and Sarah Appleton

A nice documentary about one of horror’s most polarising subgenres: found footage. I would love for this to be done as mini series to allow more in-depth discussion about the genre and it’s development. But great work for a panini doc.

8 Till Death dir. by SK Dale

One of the biggest (but pleasant) surprises of 2021 was how much I enjoyed this Megan Fox thriller.

Fox was great as the wife of a powerful man, stuck in an unhappy marriage. When she’s taken to their remote cabin for their anniversary, she thinks things might be on the mend. But it soon becomes apparent that her husband has something much more sinister in mind.

There are great moments that held me in suspense throughout. Again, Fox was really great, especially as she had to carry much of the movie on her own.

7 Werewolves Within dir. by Josh Ruben

It will be clear from the next few movies on this list that I really favoured horror comedies this year.

Sam Richardson plays Finn, a forest ranger who goes to a small town to keep the peace over a proposed gas pipeline. But there’s more than just politics at play here. Soon the residents realise they must band together to fight a werewolf. Only, working together isn’t exactly their strong suit.

The ensemble cast is really good here, and bring the film to life really well. I loved the snowy locked room mystery, even though I guessed who the werewolf was almost straight away.

Werewolves Within was my first Ruben film, but I’ve since watched Scare Me which was one of my favourite new-to-me movies of the year.

6 Freaky dir. by Christopher Landon

Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton switch bodies and play each other’s characters to perfection. Vaughn gives a great performance here that made me laugh until my side hurt. The script is hilarious, and it’s a film I find myself enjoying more with each watch.

5 Fear Street: 1666 dir. by Leigh Janiak

This summer, Netflix gave us three Fear Street movies back-to-back. They created an entertaining world of monsters and curses.

Each of the instalments had something about them that I liked, but part three really pulled everything together. It’s part three, so I won’t go into plot because of spoilers. But it’s proof that horror was alive and well in the mainstream in 2021. Truly, thank you Netflix for this gamble.

4 Psycho Goreman dir. by Steven Kostanski

Psycho Goreman is absolutely bananas. A little girl and her brother find an extraterrestrial overlord and force him to be their friend with a magic stone. It’s hilarious, disgusting and absolutely unique.

3 The Amusement Park dir. by George A. Romero

Is it cheating to include a movie made in 1975? Maybe. But I call the shots here.

The Amusement Park is a 50-minute movie that Romero made for the Lutheran Service Society in Pittsburg about elder abuse. The Lutherans didn’t like the film’s bleakness and shelved it. The film was believed lost until rediscovered in 2017.

It certainly is bleak. An elderly man spends time at an amusement park meant only for the young. He suffers embarrassment and cons throughout a day of abuse. I found this story very hard to watch at points. But it’s poignant and makes it’s points well.

I miss Romero and his work very much. It was a blessing to be able to see new footage of his this year.

2 Malignant dir. by James Wan

Certainly one of the more polarising horror movies of the year. I adored this bat shit crazy story. It’s really a movie you should go into completely blind. Watch the trailer if you wish, but it gives literally nothing away to what unfolds in the third act. It’s in that last act that things go from a three to 100. It’s a rollercoaster that you’ll never want to get off.

Malignant is bold and ballsy. I can’t help but adore that in a movie.

1 Veneciafrenia dir. by Álex de la Iglesia

A group of Spanish friends go to Venice for a holiday of debauchery during Carnevale. They’re incredibly irritating, typical tourists. But when their group starts to dwindle in numbers, they realise someone is targeting tourists in the city.

There are two movies I’ve seen this year that I think about every day since I’ve seen them. This is one of them. It’s one of the most stunning horror movies I’ve ever seen. The sets and costuming are jaw-dropping. The plot is fun and twisty – clearly very inspired by gialli. I cannot wait to be able to watch this one again. If it’s ever released theatrically, do yourself a favour and see it on the big screen.

Wicked Wednesday: 100 horror films in 92 days, wrap-up #3

I did it! I watched 103 new-to-me horror movies from August to Halloween, beating the 100 horror films in 92 days challenge. I feel very accomplished, but now… I know of don’t know what to do with myself.

This month, I managed to accomplish my goal of watching some Asian films. Now I can safely say that I’m eager for more. I’m seeing Hausu, which looks joyously bonkers, next week at the cinema. And I haven’t even looked at the BFI’s programme for Japan 2021 yet. Please send along any recommendations.

Will I be doing this challenge next year? Hell no! But I’m glad I did it.

As someone who loves rewatching old favourites, this challenge is exactly what I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. That being said, I’m feeling very burnt out. There have been many romantic comedies on the TV in the aftermath of Halloween.

Films #73-103

73 Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021) dir. by Kirk R. Thatcher

74 The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) dir. by Michael Chaves

75 There’s Someone Inside Your House (2021) dir. by Patrick Brice

76 The Haunting (1999) dir. by Jan de Bont

77 Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (Yōkai Hyaku Monogatari) (1968) dir. by Kimiyoshi Yasuda

78 Nightbooks (2021) dir. by David Yarovesky

79 The Demon (1979) dir. by Percival Rubens

80 Under Wraps (2021) dir. by Alex Zamm

81 She-Wolf of London (1946) dir. by Jean Yarbrough

82 Halloween Party (1989) dir. by Dave Skowronski

A delightful SOV short about some kids at a Halloween party. Clearly just a group of friends making a movie together, and it’s pure magic. I’m desperate to know more about it. Watch it on YouTube here.

83 Rawhead Rex (1986) dir. by George Pavlou

84 All Hallows’ Eve (2013) dir. by Damien Leone

85 Hack-O-Lantern (1988) dir. by Jag Mundhra

86 Till Death (2021) dir. by S.K. Dale

87 Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (Yōkai Daisensō) (1968) dir. by Yoshiyuki Kuroda

88 Seance (2021) dir. by Simon Barrett

89 Alone in the Dark (1982) dir. by Jack Sholder

90 Sinister (2012) dir. by Scott Derrickson

I watched this movie in broad daylight, and it still managed to unsettle me a lot. After watching it, I had to watch four episodes of the Babysitter’s Club just to feel slightly normal again.

91 Psycho Goreman (2020) dir. by Steven Kostanski

92 Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004) dir. by Brett Sullivan

93 Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) dir. by Bernard L. Kowalski

94 Brain Damage (1988) dir. by Frank Henenlotter

95 Halloween II (1981) dir. by Rick Rosenthal

96 What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971) dir. by Curtis Harrington

97 Mon Mon Mon Monsters (Bào Gào Lǎo Shī ! Guài Guài Guài Guài Wù !) (2017) dir. by Giddens Ko

98 Cat People (1942) dir. by Jacques Tourneur

99 Bingo Hell (2021) dir. by Gigi Saúl Guerrero

100 Dementia 13 (1963) dir. by Francis Ford Coppola

101 Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) dir. by Shinya Tsukamoto

102 Veneciafrenia (2021) dir. by Álex de la Iglesia

I watched this Spanish film during the Halloween FrightFest. This was my favourite movie I watched in October. A gorgeous giallo-inspired story that follows a group of Spanish tourists during their holiday in Venice. It ticked all boxes for me. Fantastic on the big screen.

103 Halloween Kills (2021) dir. by David Gordon Green

Wicked Wednesday: 100 Horror Films in 92 days, wrap-up #1

Earlier this month, I mentioned I was participating in the Letterboxd challenge “100 Horror Movies in 92 Days“, created by Sarah Stubbs. The premise is simple: watch 100 horror movies in the months of August, September and October that you’ve never seen before.

Now I am an outfit repeater. I’ll watch one or two new movies a week (if that), but I love rewatching old favourites more than anything. So watching 100 new-to-me movies is 100% a challenge for someone like me. So I’m pleased that I haven’t fallen at any hurdles yet! That being said, we’re only one month in…

So here is a list of the first films I’ve watched. We’ve hit the 33% mark, which I don’t think is too shabby. Though I have to admit a lot of these movies were shabby. But a small handful have become new favourites.

Are there any titles here that you’re surprised I’ve never seen before? I think most people would say #32 would be surprising. But shhhh… I’ve at least seen #4 multiple times over the last decade.

My goal is to watch more foreign films in September. I watched a small handful, but they were all European still. Let me know if you have any recommendations! Asian cinema (outside of the cornerstones) is always a blind spot for me.

Films #1-35

1 Horror Hotel (The City of the Dead) (1960) dir. by John Llewellyn Moxey

2 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) dir. by Scott Glosserman

3 Freaky (2020) dir. by Christopher Landon

A hilarious and fun return to teen slashers. I love it and was so pleased that this finally got it’s UK release date!

4 Scare Me (2020) dir. by Josh Ruben

Easily one of my favourites. Was absolutely shocked how much I loved this one!

5 Llamageddon (2015) dir. by Howie Dewin

And this one… 0% shocked by how much I hated this one.

6 Attack the Block (2011) dir. by Joe Cornish

7 Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio) (1971) dir. by Dario Argento

8 The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) dir. by Pete Walker

9 The Screaming Skull (1958) dir. by Alex Nicol

10 Macabre (1980) dir. by Lamberto Bava

Honestly, I hate myself for not having watched this batshit-crazy giallo earlier. A completely bonkers film worth going into blind.

11 Witchcraft II: The Temptress (1990) dir. by Mark Woods

12 C.H.U.D. (1984) dir. by Douglas Cheek

13 The Funhouse Massacre (2015) dir. by Andy Palmer

14 Fade to Black (1980) dir. by Vernon Zimmerman

15 X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) dir. by Roger Corman

16 Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005) dir. by Mary Lambert

17 Verónica (2017) dir. by Paco Plaza

18 Eaten Alive (1976) dir. by Tobe Hooper

Another Hooper movie that will be added to my favourites list.

19 Dark Water (2005) dir. by Walter Salles

20 Invisible Ghost (1941) dir. by Joseph H. Lewis

21 Piranha (1978) dir. by Joe Dante

22 The Haunted Palace (1963) dir. by Roger Corman

23 Bowery at Midnight (1942) dir. by Wallace Fox

24 The Dead Pit (1989) dir. by Brett Leonard

25 The Reef (2010) dir. by Andrew Traucki

26 Friday the 13th (2009) dir. by Marcus Nispel

This one took me by complete surprise. As someone who was never a major fan of the originals, I think this is a fun addition.

27 Nightmare Beach (1989) dir. by Umberto Lenzi, James Justice

28 Phantom of the Megaplex (2000) dir. by Blair Treu

29 Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019) dir. by Stephen Cognetti

30 The Raven (1963) dir. by Roger Corman

31 The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) dir. by Roger Corman

32 Scream 3 (2000) dir. by Wes Craven

33 Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000) dir. by Steve Boyum

34 The Found Footage Phenomenon (2021) dir. by Phillip Escott, Sarah Appleton

This was the only film I went to see at FrightFest in person this year. This documentary is a fairly in-depth look at the found footage subgenre, filled with the directors who created the iconic titles like Deodato, Øvredal, Sánchez among others.

There will be a wider release in the future, and I think anyone who is a fan of the subgenre will take something away from it.

35 Wishmaster (1997) dir. by Robert Kurtzman

Wicked Wednesday: Women in Horror Month random short film selection

This week I was trying to pick out just one short film to watch for today. But the more researching I did, the more shorts I found that were calling out to me. All sorts of shorts by women from so many different points of view and backgrounds. It was impossible to pick just one. Having too much to watch is never really a terrible problem to have, is it?

So I had a mini-marathon of short horror films made by women. So pleased that I enjoyed these all quite a bit. Some explored poignant themes while others made me laugh. Truly, women have something to bring to the table. They can prove it in no time flat.

The Lonely Host” directed by Lisa J Dooley (2019)

This short has to be one of my favourites of the week. It plays on a fear many of us have: what’s really going on at this Airbnb?

For Silvia, there’s no good news where she ends up. At her Bnb, the host is super perky and friendly. And being friendly is weird, right? When Silvia returns from a date night with her girlfriend, she realises she’s being watched through cam footage. Can the girl get the hell out of Dodge before it’s too late?

I loved this for a few reasons. At first, the ending really made me stop and think about what had actually happened. Then I realised it was playing on my own expectations and prejudices. Thank you for serving me a wonderfully unsettling slice of atmosphere, Dooley.

Una Mierda De Slasher” directed by Miriam Ortega Domínguez (2013)

This Spanish-language short is basically what you get when you have the worst group of friends ever.

When a group of friends sit down to watch a slasher movie together, they quickly find themselves debating the merits of slashers. Before the movie credits even roll, they find themselves in a nightmare…or do they?

The humour in “Una Mierda De Slasher” is really playful. The tone shifts constantly, keeping the viewer on their toes. But one thing is for sure: I’m so glad I don’t have this lot in my life.

SHE” directed by Zena S. Dixon (2019)

I adore Zena’s work over on her YouTube channel, Real Queen of Horror. She’s personable and funny and makes some really great content. The amount of recommendations I’ve compiled from her lists is incredibly long.

This film puts the “short” in short film, clocking in than less than five minutes. But even this little taste gives you plenty of fun and twists. It’s ladies night for our antagonist and her friends. They’re all playing a little game together, and it’s a little bit twisted.

Knock Knock” directed by Kennikki Jones-Jones (2019)

“Knock Knock” is easily the most surreal and heartbreaking short on this list.

Sinia is a kind neighbour, always looking out for the four children who live next door to her. The children’s mother is abusive towards them, so Sinia is always watching out for them. She communicates with them using a series of knocks on the wall.

But one night, things appear to get out of hand in the children’s home. Sinia tries to help, but she soon finds herself explore her true reality and mind.

This film is rich with symbolism. Jones-Jones offers a story here that is a heartbreaking look at mental health, poverty and motherhood. It’s beautiful, haunting and tragic.

SLUT” by Chloe Okuno (2014)

Like all these shorts, “Slut” very much roots its horror in reality. Young Maddy lives with her grandmother, who is housebound ill. It’s a lonely life, but when she meets a young man at a roller rink, she feels seen. But when Maddy’s new acquaintance is ‘stolen’ away by the local hottie, she decides to do up her image.

Maddy finds empowerment in her new look. She begins to seek new experiences. But unbeknownst to her, Roller Rink Creep is keeping a closer eye on her than she knows.

It’s a terrifying situation, that doesn’t even feel that outlandish to most women. This is not a cautionary tale demonizing sexual exploration, but rather the dangers of toxic masculinity.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! The night might not the way we wanted but here we are. I’m simultaneously watching Grady Hendrix talk about Dracula’s penis on the Shudder Fest Live Stream and learning about England’s new lockdown from the PM’s announcement.

What a life, eh?

Despite the fact that this October was one of the worst I ever had, I still managed to watch some great movies, listen to some incredible people and read good books. As ever, everything might seem dark, but you have to appreciate the light where you can find it.

First of all, thank God for Shudder. All day we’ve had various panels to stream: from horror icons to a discussion on the future of Black horror to (of course) discussions on vampire books from Hendrix himself. While we can’t party, at least it’s nice to feel connected with fellow fans online.

Being a horror fan is the best. Following the new format of their August festival, Arrow Video FrightFest: October Digital Edition was entirely online this year. Just live streaming The Stylist on Sunday morning made me feel like I was hanging out with other fans again. Sure I was in my sunny living room, not a dark cinema, but we can only pretend.

I watched Jill Gevargizian’s short film back in 2017 and was completely in love with the entire thing. It’s easily my favourite horror short. It’s the perfect bite-sized bit of terror. The movie expands on the life of stylist/serial killer Claire (played by Najarra Townsend, who reprises the role). We get to know more about her inner life and her motives. She’s a dark and twisted woman. It’s both difficult to watch and impossible to look away.

The movie was so gorgeous, and it was great to see Kansas City as the setting. I can’t wait to see more from Gevargizian. More local horror from local authors!

One of the best books I read this month was John Boden’s Walk the Darkness Down, a Western horror. The characters are all twisted and the enemy is one of the most disgusting I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.

On the nonfiction side of things, both Leila Taylor’s Darkly: Blackness and America’s Gothic Soul and John Bloom’s (aka Joe Bob Briggs)  Evidence of Love were both obsessive reads but for very different reasons.

Taylor’s book looks at the goth subculture through the lens of a Black American woman. She looks at everything from Siouxsie Sioux’s questionable cover of “Strange Fruit” to the ‘haunted’ houses of derelict Detroit. She writes so conversationally that her memoir blends in seamlessly with her critiques of culture. Listen to this one in audiobook form.

Evidence of Love was just an endlessly entertaining bit of true-crime fiction. This is one best gone into blind, but coming full circle – it’s thanks to Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires that I learned about this book.

I hope you’ve all had a good October. I hope it was filled with plenty of good spooky things. I ate a gingerbread mummy and played about two and a half hours of Animal Crossing just to trick-or-treat with my ‘friends’. Now I’ll be indulging in whatever horror movie I want because that’s at least one thing I can control.

Happy Halloween!

A beginner’s viewing guide for Women in Horror Month

It’s (finally) February, which means Women in Horror Month is here again! This month-long initiative works encourages people to learn and shout about women working in horror industries. Check of their official website to learn more about the various celebrations happening this month and their own database.

Women are an integral part of the history of horror. We’re writing the classics, taking centre stage in the films, filling spots in special FX classrooms. And what women also do is direct one hell of a movie.

I love the horror community. As far as genre fans go, we’re the best (I’m not biased – just 100% spewing facts). But we always need to work on being more inclusive – especially for fans just getting into the genre. Whether you’re old or young: everyone has got to start somewhere, right?

So here is my list of must-watch films for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the genre, and want to start at a place in command of a woman.

This is by no means a comprehensive list! Keep in mind I still have a lot to learn and watch! I’m greatly biased towards older films, and most (if not all) of the films on this list are created by white, English-speaking women in the West. My goal is to watch more diversely moving forward – so send me all the recommendations!

1. Slumber Party Massacre trilogy (1982, 1987, 1990): written by Rita Mae Brown (1), Deborah Brock (2), Sally Mattison (3) and directed by Amy Holden Jones (1), Deborah Brock (2), Catherine Cyran (3)

This slasher trilogy is (to the best of my knowledge) the only horror series to be entirely directed and written by women. While the title might fill some people’s imaginations with -ehm- fantasties, this series is actually much smarter than that.

While the first one comes off as a straight-forward slasher on the surface, it’s filled with plenty of symbolism. That’s only heightened in the second one – making it the smartest of the three entries.

Fans of the series are constantly bickering about which of the three is best. It’s ridiculous because part two is clearly the superior. This is the hill I’m willing to die on!

2. The Wind (2018): written by Teresa Sutherland and directed by Emma Tammi

One of the most frequently-visited themes in horror is motherhood. The Wind shows what happens when that journey is taken from someone who desperately desires it. It’s a story of betrayal, paranoia and loss. All set with the backdrop of some gorgeous, lonely American frontier.

This is a stunning, tragically over-looked period piece. If you like The Witch, you’ll like this because this is MUCH better.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992): written by Joss Whedon, directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui

You know the story: she’s the chosen one – born to kill vampires. Only this early incarnation of Buffy Summers looks a little bit different. It’s brighter, more colourful and contains a whole lot of Luke Perry. So, yes, this is definitely the least “horror” of the films on this list. But there are vampires – so it counts, dammit!

It’s very well known to any fan of the Buffy TV show that the script was basically wrestled from Whedon’s hands and mangled. That being said, I quite adore the early 90s valley girl vibe. Kristy Swanson’s Buffy is very likeable and silly, but determined and smart.

“Buffy, you’re not like other girls.”
“Yes I am.”

This is one of my absolute favourite movies of all time. And while I adore the TV show, I still prefer the movie. Does that make me the only member of this club? Probably. But add this to the growing list of hills I’m going to die on.

4. The Babadook (2014): written and directed by Jennifer Kent

Another entry about motherhood and grief – only this time we face a picture book villain who is wrecking havoc on a mother’s mind.

Australian director Jennifer Kent has created a masterpiece of modern horror. One that has joined the ranks of classics we will remember for decades to come. Kent deftly handles of themes of loss while building a great sense of terror while telling the story of a widow and her young son.

The Babadook himself is now a cultural icon. One who has left out little realm of horror and entered into the mainstream. You might not have seen his movie, but you’ll certainly be familiar with his white face and top hat.

5. American Psycho (2000): written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner (adapted from the novel by Bret Easton Ellis), directed by Mary Harron

The pièce de résistance. The big kahuna. The movie that consistently shocks people (for some reason) when they learn it was directed by a woman.

American Psycho is about greedy, narcissistic men. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a banker, obsessed with himself, money, women and the desire to kill. As his thirst for success grows, he goes to further lengths to achieve his desires.

It’s absolutely classic for a reason. Every bit of this film is weird, wonderful and absolutely twisted.

UPDATE FEB 8: I forgot to mention Mirror, Mirror – it is excellent. Watch it now!!

Wicked Wednesday: It was the year 2009…

I had a bit of an existential crisis last week. There was a moment when I had a horrible epiphany: It has been a decade since I first went to university.

A decade. Ten years.

TEN!

YEARS!

Sure, I knew my high school reunion was this summer. That was fine. High school was an absolute age ago, and I fully accept my own mortality. But for some reason, I never fully connected that fact to the fact that my university days followed right after. Unlike all four years of high school, moving away to college was actually a significant turning point in my life.

It was difficult to put myself into the mind-frame of 18-year-old me. But this is the universal truth: I was a baby. I mean, Baby Me basically boiled down to these things (and trust me, it was all she cared about):

Favourite bands: The Smiths, The Adicts, New Order
Favourite horror movies: Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Exorcist (1973)
Favourite novels: A Clockwork OrangeCatcher in the Rye

Sure. She was a bit basic and angst-y, but she was also a country girl meeting the “Big World” for the first time. So cut her some slack

Never fear! She was on her way up. This year was also one of the most formative for my love of horror. For one, this was still the height of zombie-mania. Zombieland was released. Seth Graham Smith published Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (thanks for that one, dude). My sister made my friends and I pose for zombie-related photos for her graphic arts project… (see low-res picture above).

One of the first things I did by myself at school was see Max Brooks speak. It was the first time I realised you could be a massive horror fan AND be articulate. Somehow, I had always been taught that the two couldn’t go hand-in-hand. Thanks, Mom!

For this week’s post, I had wanted to watch a horror movie made in 2009. You know, celebrate the culture! But to be completely honest, I watched the first 20 minutes of literally four different movies. Absolutely nothing was really interesting enough to carry on with. So…here we are?

It was a mixed bag for horror, 2009. For one, you had ALL the remakes: Black Christmas, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Friday the 13th, My Blood Valentine 3D. Yes, kids. We’ve been putting up with this for over a decade…

There were countless sequels as well. Saw VIThe Final Destination, Cabin Fever 2, The Descent 2 (which I didn’t even know existed until three days ago…).

But there was a lot of originality sprouting up too. Both for better and for worse (I’m looking at you Human Centipede).

Personally, I look back fondly on this year because there were a lot of movies release that are still favourites. It was one of the first years that I could drive myself to the cinema with my friends and go to horror movies by ourselves. Absolute grown ups! I killed my car battery during a screening of Zombieland after I forgot to turn off the headlights. Then my friends and I got fried cheese curds.

I was particularly obsessed with some movie called Paranormal Activity. You could “demand” a screening in your state, and I was absolutely passionate that Wisconsin partake. I shared a link on Facebook and everything. The marketing was not quite Blair Witch Project-level, but the fact that makes me smile fondly counts for something.

Favourite 2009 horror movies:

  1. Paranormal Activity (US limited and wide release)
  2. The House of the Devil
  3. Zombieland 
  4. Drag Me to Hell
  5. Orphan

It’s kind of fun to look back, even if it is a bit scary to think about how long ago that all was now. I can barely remember what I was even like then. Probably really annoying, but then again – have things changes that much?

Moving to Milwaukee really forced me to grow up. And thankfully that gave me the confidence to be an out-and-out horror geek. The following year, I would discover this website called Netflix. You could order DVDs, and they’d send them to your house. And that was the straw that broke the camels back. I haven’t looked back since.

But there seems to be a lot of gaps in my 2009 movie knowledge. Think I’ve missed anything important? Want to berate me for my basic movie choice? Go ahead! I rarely approve comments anyway. And what were you doing in 2009? Hopefully it was a good one, and hopefully this one is too.

(Yeah the hair was a choice, but she still cute.)

Horror movies to watch for the Halloween season

Only the uncivilised believe that any horror movie is appropriate for Halloween. Who watches Friday the 13th at this time of the year? These people are amateurs.

But seriously, we can’t consider every movie with snow a Christmas movie, so why make exception for Halloween? I’ve collected some of my favourite movies to watch at this time of the year. Some are on-the-nose, yes, but I like to think they best celebrate what this time of the season really feels likes.

I personally like to enjoy classics of the genre, but that isn’t to say there aren’t others worth mentioning. My list isn’t the most inspired, but sometimes it’s worth just revisiting the traditions. So whether you watch horror movies all year round, or just this week – maybe you’ll find something here:

1. Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s classic should be a staple for everyone’s Halloween. Growing up, I was constantly renting this movie from the rental shop. But it wasn’t until I watched it on the full screen at the Prince Charles Cinema in London that I realised how truly incredible this movie is.

Rent it, watch it, continue the tradition. But if you have the opportunity to see this in a cinema, you absolutely need to.

2.  Night of the Demons (1988)

On the surface, this movie looks like pretty standard fair: kids go into haunted house on Halloween, kids become possessed, kids die. But Night of the Demons is so much more than an average slasher film. Like many of the late-80s slashers, there’s a lot of style influence from the American hardcore scene (see number 5 on the list). It’s ascetic and memorable characters (including great performances from Amelia Kinkade and Linnea Quigley) make this a slasher a head above the rest.

This is one of the few films that I actually enjoy the sequel to (actually, any 90’s horror movie with Christine Taylor is a win), so I also will throw that one in as a bonus rec.

3. House of the Devil (2009)

This Ti West-directed beauty is more than just a nostalgia trip. While the film looks and feels very much like an early 80’s thriller, it offers a much more contemporary take. The tale is of a young woman who agrees to a babysitting job on the night of a lunar eclipse. Only the job isn’t so average, instead of a unruly group of kids, it’s to watch an elderly woman. It’s certainly a slow burn, but West does an incredible job at building suspense.

Also, arguably the best use of The Fixx in any movie.

4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

It’s fabulous, stylish and just everything a gothic stunner needs to be. Bride of Frankenstein picks up precisely where Mary Shelly’s original tale ended. This is Universal Horror at it’s height.

Arguably, any of the Universal Monster Movies is perfect for Halloween, but the story of Frankenstein and his monster is very special. And Bride of Frankenstein might actually be better than the original. Elsa Lanchester’s Bride character doesn’t come to life until towards the end, but she’s so iconic, you’d think the movie is about her.

And as always, anything where Boris Karloff is the monster is necessary viewing for Halloween.

5. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Like Night of the Demons, this Dan O’Bannon-helmed zombie movie is full of style and Linnea Quigley’s boobs. It has a fantastic soundrack, talking zombies (well, they can say “brains”), and the fabulous Don Calfa. The story isn’t exactly inspired, but it’s done in such a way that everything feels fresh. It’s enough to inspire your own picnic in a graveyard.

If not this one, just go with the classic Night of the Living Dead. That one never gets old.

6. Mad Monster Party? (1967)

I only watched this stop-motion animation movie for the first time back in September, but it made such an impression I feel compelled to share this strange, zany film. Sure, it is terribly dated, but how many animated movies really stand the test of time.

Answer: Charlie Brown.

But this little Rankin/Bass movie (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) is a literal monster mash of characters. It’s corny, yes, but anything that is willing to use King Kong alongside Dracula is going to be.

7. The Haunted Castle aka The Devil’s Castle (Le Manoir du diable) (1896)

My first proper introduction to Georges Méliès was in a media studies class at university. Our professor was completely enamored with the magic that the French director was able to create on film. And that affection was infectious. I’ve loved Méliès work ever since.

Many of his films contain sinister undertones, but none quite like Le Manoir du diable. Two men encounter Mephistopheles’ castle, which is haunted by bats, skeletons and spectres. It’s only three minutes, but this black-and-white silent film manages to create some seriously chilling imagery. Completely astounding for something created in 1896.

This is often considered the first horror film ever made. So if you haven’t seen it, be sure to treat yourself to a viewing.

8. The Omen (1976)

The 70’s was a truly golden era of horror cinema, especially the kind interested in religion, demons and Christianity. The Omen is often paired with the slightly-superior The Exorcist, and arguably, both of these films could make the list. But the first time I watched The Exorcist I was in a farmhouse in July – so I’ve ruled it out. But The Omen is about an adopted child that ends up being the Antichrist. Can it get more seasonal than that?

Just watch the graveyard scene.

9. Don’t Look Now (1973)

Based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story, this is a dark and brooding tale of lose and obsession. It’s certainly the most harrowing movie on this list, but it’s also the most stunning. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a couple of parents who leave for Venice after the accidental drowning of their daughter. But they don’t find the escape that they desire in Italy. Sutherland’s character begins to see visions, which includes a lot of red rain coats.

Don’t Look Now is filled with cold, dark places perfect for the short, dark days. It’s also terrifying.

10. Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night is everything I love about 80’s movies: it’s a bit wacky, the main character is a lovable goof, THE MONSTERS ARE REAL, KIDS, and there are a lot of great, memorable lines! It’s like Goonies meets Lost Boys meets Monster Squad with a bit more thrills. Oh, and a lot of great lines.

When Charley realises that his next-door neighbour is a blood-sucking fiend, he sets out with a motley group of friends to get rid of him. It’s a comedy of errors, but one that includes a late-night horror TV show host. The idea of horror movie actors helping you destroy a servant of darkness has to be a dream for most horror fans.

There is also a documentary available on Shudder called You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night, which I will need to watch…as soon as I make it through this list again.

Wicked Christmas-y Christmas: Silent Night, Bloody Night

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I’m not a festive person in the slightest. Yes, I’m that awful person that’s still celebrating Halloween in December because I really do not like Christmas. But I do like things like Gremlins playing everywhere and really gruesome festive horror movies. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of crap out there when it comes to the holiday slasher movie. But when done right, it’s really right – like this week’s movie. Silent Night, Bloody Night was released in 1972, and was written and directed by Theodore Gershuny (who also directed Love Me My Way) and co-produced by Lloyd Kaufman (never heard of him).

The movie begins with a voice-over from Diane (played by the always-excellent Mary Woronov), who is walking outside a house while reminiscing about the horrible things that had happened at the house in the months before. Silent Night, Bloody Night gives us a man set on fire… Hmmm. Yes. This is a Christmas movie for me. The man in question is Wilfred Butler. He died on Christmas Eve back in the 50’s. According to Diane’s voice-over, he was a man that was never at home, and his death was an accident. In his well, Wilfred leaves house to his only surviving family member, his grandson Jeffrey. The only request Wilfred has is that nothing be changed from the way he had left it.

Years later, Jeffrey’s lawyer, John, and his assistant Ingrid arrive in the town to sell Wilfred’s old house. Jeffrey wants an immediate sale, preferably by the next day on Christmas, and the town seems like a potential buyer. While John is sitting in his little meeting with the town’s, uh, “head chief people”, he tells them of the plan and they clearly aren’t keen by the prospect. They are all even more visibly disturbed when John says he will be spending the night in the house.

John is a cheating bastard, though, so when he gets killed later on in the movie it’s okay. He and Ingrid have a rather “special” relationship while his wife stays at home. Oblivious to everything going on, the two lovebirds head to the Butler house where John plays the organ for Ingrid, while an unseen man who kills dogs lurks upstairs. Festive!

During dinner, John tells Ingrid that Jeffrey is trying to sell the house for $50,000 in cash when he could get a much larger sum than that if he took his time. Jeffrey is looking for a quick sale, while it doesn’t even seem possible at the low price. Unfortunately, their lovely night of wine and organ playing gets cut short when an unseen creeper in the house hacks the couple apart with an axe. The killer then calls the police to alert them to go to the house. The call is then intercepted by Tess, the phone operator, who has a conversation with the man who calls himself “Marianne.”

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Meanwhile, a man arrives at Diane’s house. She’s home alone after her father, the mayor, receives a call asking him to go to the Butler mansion. The man identifies himself Jeffrey Butler, and says that he hasn’t been able to find the Sheriff at the house or the station. The sheriff isn’t around because he’s heading towards the Butler house. Along the way he makes a stop at the local cemetery. There he discovers a dug-up grave, but when he goes to investigate, he’s knocked out and killed.

Jeffrey returns to Diane’s and she tells him that a woman is waiting for him in the reception room of the house. The two decide to head there together where the find the sheriff’s car at the cemetery along the way. They turn back towards town where they find Towman. The man agrees to go with Jeffrey to look for Tess, and leave Diane waiting. Of course something creepy happens when the girl is left alone. She gets a call from “Marianne” who says they have the diary.

But the voice on the phone point’s Diane in the direction of a mystery: Christmas Eve 1935. While doing some digging, Diane discovers that the name of Wilfred’s daughter is Marianne. She is raped and gives birth to a son name Jeffrey. Butler House was turned over to a doctor, who turns the house into a mental asylum, and Marianne is committed there. This leads Diane to believe that Jeffrey’s mother is still alive, who he believes died in childbirth.

Jeffrey and Diane head to the house (finally, I think) and Jeff ends up hitting poor Towman with his car, killing him. This makes Diane suspicious for some reason. She sits in the car while Jeffrey explores his house to look for Marianne. While poking around, Jeffrey finds a letter from his grandfather. Wilfred expresses in the letter that he doesn’t think anyone will ever read it, but he hopes that Marianne will forgive him. The asylum flash back actually includes a few fun cameos from like likes of New York royalty like Candy Darling and Tally Brown, but none of that matters WHEN THAT TWIST DROPS!

This movie is filled with every twist and turn possible right through to the very end. This is definitely a slow-burn sort of film. It’s quiet in its approach, but the pay-off is rather worth it.  The creep factor is mostly with the version of “Silent Night, Holy Night” that plays throughout the background of the film. This mostly reminded me of listening to the old radio in my grandma’s house at Christmas. Carols be creepy.

But I’m surprised to never have heard of Silent Night, Bloody Night until a few weeks ago. The acting is good and writing is even better. Too many Christmas horror movies centre around the Santa-as-a-killer business, but so many of these truly successful holiday horror flicks take a more interesting, less obvious manners like Black Christmas. I really enjoy what was done in this movie, even though it does have it’s minuses, like the confusing plot and the lackluster off-camera death scenes. That being said, Silent Night, Deadly Night now has joined my list of favourite Christmas films.

On a final note, I just want to take a moment and appoint the MVP of this movie: Mary Moronov’s hair. Her hair in this movie is fucking FABULOUS. New hair goals for the rest of my damned life.

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Wicked Wednesday Halloween Edition: Chopping Mall (1986)

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This week I am taking a break from watching Wisconsin movies because it’s Halloween week and I deserve a treat (and a break). I’m celebrating the most wonderful time of the year with the 1986 slasher Chopping Mall. Last night I attended the Prince Charles Cinema’s monthly quiz, Filmageddeon. It was a horror-themed quiz in which I provided 95% of the correct answers for my team. But one of them I didn’t know was the poster for this little gem. Enraged by my own ignorance, I decided to sort my shit out today.

I asked myself How has this movie with such a fantastic title evaded my knowledge for so long? Well, it turns out it hasn’t. About fifteen minutes in to watching the movie I realised I had seen the damn thing before and it only existed in the dark recesses of my mind. The death scenes in this film (also known as Killbots) are some of the more instantly recognisable in the heavily-saturated 80’s slasher genre. But alas, this movie was obviously one worth revisiting.

Chopping Mall begins with how any teen slasher should start: a press conference! This movie barely clocks in over an hour, and a good portion of the beginning is this strange robot-pitch in a movie where clearly every minute matters. Or maybe it doesn’t. The robots that are subject to the scintillating discussion are the new security system at the shopping mall. Suck it, mall cops.

This was the 80’s, where apparently everyone lived at the mall in a sort of uber-consumerist society filled with vapid teens. I wasn’t born yet, but that is what the movies tell me. The teens in this one are not any better than you’d expect them to be. Of the four couples, I think three are just xeroxes of each other and another is, of course, the slightly-nerdy virginal pair named Ferdy and Alison. These are the only two worth mentioning because we all know that they are the only two have any chance in hell for surviving.

These kids are planning on staying after mall closing hours to party. Because, you know, the 80’s! Of course things are destined not to go smoothly once lightning strikes the mall, causing the computer system for the robots to malfunction switching their program to a much deadlier setting. Unbeknownst to the teens, the robots are slowly taking out the people in charge of them. That’s what happens when power goes to your head, right?

While the couples get laid in furniture beds, one of the robots continues on its killing spree by killing a janitor via animated electrocution (strangely enough, played by Dick Miller). Clearly these are just some cchoppingdickold-blooded killers because robot gives no fucks before hunting down the next victim. Before long, the teens ultimately become the prey. In some massive oversight (either by the movie or just the idiotic characters that were written), the robots were originally meant to attack anyone in the mall after hours who don’t present an identification card. Clearly bad things would happen to these idiots whether or not the robots had their boards on the fritz.

After watching one of their friend’s heads explode, the remaining three couples barricade themselves in a room where the immediate first idea is to split up. Little girls escape via air vent and boys take care of business with the power of guns! Instead of just listening to the boys, the girls panic and leave the air duct in search of the males. This is obviously a bad choice, but it just has to pay off in excellent death scenes, so who cares?

One of the other bland ladies takes a fall. Her idiotic boyfriend decides to seek revenge instead of them all just getting the hell out of the stupid mall. But there are plenty of bullets to fire at the robots, which are about as helpful as taking out Michael Myer’s eyes. Though eventually, the inevitable happens are we are left with the two heroes of the story, and they are both hell bent on taking down the computer that controls the robots. Poor Alison gets herself into all sorts of shenanigans like getting covered in tarantulas and fun with primer reducer.

The two go through hell together, but at least they can still have a laugh together, right?

Chopping Mall plays out like any typical 80’s slasher movie, but it’s still plenty of fun. The strength is hands-down the outrageous plot of the movie. It’s clearly a sill movie that never tries to take itself too seriously. The death scenes are fantastic and totally satisfying. Even the dialogue is pretty off-beat. I rather enjoyed (apparently) revisiting the Chopping Mall.  Oh and one last thing? The music in this is fucking mint.

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“Thank you, and have a nice day.”