31 Horror Movies in 31 Days …. Ish

Maximum overdrive

So much for getting this all wrapped up last October! Excuses are lame, so I’m not going to make them. Instead, how about I finish what I started by giving you the scoop on the rest of the Stephen King adaptations I’ve seen.

{side note: even though I LOVE The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand by Me, and Dolores Claiborne, I don’t really consider them horror so I didn’t include them in this list}

I really wanted to like this one, because John Cusack! And Samuel L. Jackson! And a creepy haunted hotel! But unnnnnnnggggggh….I hated it. The special F/X were pretty boss, but the plot is a mess, the acting is just plain NOT good, and the chosen ending (out of several alternatives) was pretty fucking awful. I know there are a ton of people who love it, though…maybe they appreciate it as over-the-top entertainment? So while I’d say SKIP IT, I don’t know, you guys. You might like it.

Apt Pupil
It’s been awhile since I watched this one, but I remember being really impressed with how the story was translated on screen. Ian Mckellan is postivitely terrifying as Kurt Dussander, and Brad Renfro (poor Brad Renfro!) is equally so as his student? Admirer? Hater? Who knows. This is one of the stories that I was really into when I was a kid, so a lot of the nostalgia I have about Different Seasons is probably leaking over to my love of this adaptation. (more…)


Deadly Friend

Another Craven movie I saw in the theater with high hopes, 1986’s Deadly Friend is unfortunately TERRIBLE (not even in a “so bad it’s good” The People Under the Stairs kind of way), and I can only recommend seeing it if you’re having a Bad Movie Night with friends—and have a lot of booze on hand. And even then, eh. THIS was his follow up to A Nightmare on Elm Street, for chrissakes. THIS.

Nerdy Paul (Matthew Labyorteaux, who will always be Albert Ingalls to me) is a super genius who moves to a new town because his awesome robot named BB—okay, awesome if you saw it in the 80s, I mean—got him a fancy college scholarship. Or something. Anyway!

It’s not long before he realizes next-door neighbor Sam is a hottie (HELLO Kristy Swanson) and she, along with new friend “Slime”, decided to prank the neighborhood crazy Elvira (Anne Ramsey) by having BB break her super secure gate and ring her doorbell. I know, TERRIFYING, right? Unfortunately, Elvira likes to shoot things, especially unruly kids, so she ends up blowing BB into a million smithereens. Aw, poor robot.

Paul’s barely has time to morn BB when (shortly after their first kiss) Sam gets beaten to brain death by her abusive father. Naturally, the only sane thing to do is for Paul to enlist Slime to help him steal Sam’s body and Frankenstein BB’s chip into her head. That way see, he can have a hot girlfriend who’s still alive, yet compliant and teachable.


The Serpent and the Rainbow

Ah, The Serpent and the Rainbow. This + The Believers kicked off a teenage obsession with all things voodoo and magic … which I guess would explain why I’ve watched it at least 20 times. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that my beloved Bill Pullman is the star.

Serpent is chock-full of insane drug-infused nightmares, visions, and of course the famous torture sequence, which left every male audience member shivering in fear.

Ethnobotanist/anthropologist Dennis Alan is employed by THE MAN to go to Haiti and track down a rumored potion that renders people unable to move or speak—and even gives them the appearance of death, though they can still think and feel. The end result, if the people survive this ordeal and manage to rip themselves out of their graves, is a sort of crazed zombie state.

All of this is actually based on a book by a real ethnobotanist, Wade Davis (who apparently HATED this adaptation), which I actually read and was fascinated by—well, after I got past most of the scientific talk. But this is a horror film, not a science report. So even though the potion and one of the “zombies” are routed in a (possibly) true story, Craven adds his own spin, which involves railroad spike torture, blood-filled coffins, mummies that shoot snakes out of their mouths, and a power-mad paramilitary leader obsessed with owning as many souls as he can.

So, anyway, Alan arrives in Haiti, and in the process of trying to track down a guy who will make the potion for him, falls for a beautiful doctor named Marielle and grabs the attention of Commander Dargent Peytraud, who is a very evil man.


Deadly Blessing

This 1981 entry into the Craven canon unfortunately suffers from extreme BOREDOM.

 Deadly Blessing is about Martha (Maren Jenson, who played Athena in the 70s Battlestar Galactica) a woman whose husband is an ex-Hittite, and who is being stalked by a mysterious figure in black who likes to murder people in various ways. It doesn’t take long before the figure offs her husband in a tractor “accident”, and Martha’s city friends arrive (Sharon Stone! What.) to help comfort her … but somehow just make things worse.

Craven’s script implies that the blame lies within the Hittite community, possibly with William (distinctive actor Michael Berryman), who also appears to be stalking her, and is obsessed with calling her, and well, everyone else who isn’t a Hittite, an Incubus. Yes, even if they’re female. (I do not think that word means what he thinks it means).

Ernest Borgnine also throws the term around liberally, making wild eyes at the three heathen women and angrily slapping his adult son around, just because. There’s also a clearly imbalanced mother & daughter who also live just outside the Hittite community and are harassed by them on a daily basis too.


The House of the Devil

Ti West’s The House of the Devil blew me away on multiple levels, not the least of which is that he just f’ing NAILED the 1980s look and feel of the thing. I mean, seriously.

Usually when I watch films set in the 80s, I feel like I’m watching a cheap imitation of that era with bad costumes and all the wrong props. But West got it, to the point where if I wasn’t such a rabid Tom Noonan fan, I wouldn’t be able to tell that this movie was filmed in 2009 instead of ‘84 or ‘85. Every single thing from the sets to the clothes and hair, to the “Satan is gonna get choo” plot – and right down to the film stock – looks authentically 80s. It’s AMAZING. If I still had a VHS player, you bet I would have gotten one of the limited edition tapes of this movie as soon as it was released.


So, is this movie scary? I know most viewers don’t think so – and maybe you just had to grow up in the 80s to love something like this now. But at points, I think it definitely is. A large amount of time is spent building the suspense to the point where you know something is going to happen, you just don’t know when, and you’re on the edge of your seat just WAITING for it.

When the “it” finally happens, it might seem kind of lame – unless you’re scared by Satan-worshiping creeps (and let’s face it, no one is creepier than Noonan. That guy towers over everybody and has one of the most interesting, frightening faces and haunting ways of delivering lines of anyone. ever. This is why he was so perfect as Francis Dollarhyde in Manhunter – but I’ll talk about that another time).

As for gore — the best, most splattery scene in the movie is when the main character’s friend bites it. Really, absolutely, terrific blood and splatter. I was super impressed!

It’s really really worth a watch, and I highly recommend.

If you’re looking for something by Ti West that’s a little more modern in its scariness, I thought Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever was excellently done. Tons of gore and splatter, and totally worthy of a sequel to Roth’s flesh-eating virus grossness.

Night of the Demons

Nice strategically place rips, there.

Night of the Demons 1988 Vs. 2009

The 1988 version of Night of the Demons is by no means a masterpiece, but since it was released during my impressionable teenage years, I kind of love it. It’s slow-going and takes forever to get to the gore, but when it does, it’s a mix of terror and WTF moments, involving lipstick being ingested by boob and naughty 80s dancing.

Unfortunately, the remake gets everything wrong. (more…)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

31 Horror Movies I Own #28: A Nightmare on Elm Street
“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy

I’ve written previously about my love for A Nightmare on Elm Street, but I wanted to reiterate how AWESOME the original 1984 movie is.

Wes Craven created one badass sicko in the form of Fred Krueger, which is why I continue to forgive him for crap like Cursed. Sure, the hair and makeup are incredibly dated, and twee little Johnny Depp getting sucked into his bed with his television doesn’t make any sense, but those things aren’t enough to tarnish this classic. It’s just that brilliant.

In case you don’t know, the story centers on teenager Nancy Thompson, her boyfriend Glen (Johnny) and her slutty friend Tina and bad boy counterpart Rod being terrorized in their dreams by a man with knives for hands. The only problem is that if dude kills you IN your dream, you actually die in real life. Oh, and it’s actually all their parents fault. Oops!

So lets talk about the good stuff: SO much great gore! So many buckets of splatteriffic goodness. The scene where Tina is being thrown around on the walls and ceiling while she’s being slashed to bits? So, so, so, so great. And Robert Englund as Freddy; the expert at deadly wit, the dream master, the bastard son of 1,000 maniacs—well, what can I say? The man rules all schools.

I also own the complete set of sequels, none of which, of course, are as great as the original, but I do still appreciate them as a whole. It’s also worth mentioning that Freddy Vs. Jason was a nicely done tongue-in-cheek film, with total devotion to both the horror icon’s legends in a way that made me very, very happy.

So the only question is, how did I feel about the 2010 remake? Well, I thought it was horrible and completely unnecessary. There’s no reason for you to see the update, guys. Just rent this one instead.

The Howling

31 Horror Movies I Own #12: The Howling
“I’m gonna give you a piece of my mind….”

A couple of years before he exploded my 80s kid brain with fuzzy adorable Gizmo and his nemesis, Spike, in Gremlins, Joe Dante directed what I still think is one of the finest werewolf movies ever made: The Howling.

In the most bone-headed move ever, a television station sends their attractive star female reporter Karen (Dee Wallace, at the time with Stone accompanying her name) undercover to a sleazy porn theater to entrap Eddie Quinn, whom they suspect of raping and murdering several women. Um. What.

In the theater, Karen is attacked by Eddie, who, after he’s shot, pulls a piece of his brain out of the bullet hole in his head and utters the quote I’ve noted above. BRILLIANT. Anyway, it traumatizes Karen enough that she gets amnesia. (more…)

The Return of the Living Dead

31 Horror Movies I Own #11: The Return of the Living Dead
“Send. More. Cops.”

If any movie cemented my love for Zombie apocalypses, it has to be 1985’s The Return of the Living Dead. Like any good horror-obsessed-alternative teenager in the 80s, I saw this (it has The Cramps and The Damned on the soundtrack, for chrissakes!) before the original Romero Night of the Living Dead—a fine ground-breaking film in its own right, but without the glamour and glitz of this blood-soaked, special F/X-laden, naked punk-rock dancing girl extravaganza. (more…)


31 Horror Movies I Own #7: Poltergeist
“You moved the headstones, but not the graves!”

Another Tobe Hooper masterpiece, Poltergeist is one of those rare horror movies that ages well. Despite its 1982 filming date, it doesn’t really feel that dated (unless you pay attention to the electronics…) and still holds up.

The story of the Freelings and their encounter with the group of ghosts living in their house could come of as campy and comical, especially with the inclusion of Zelda Rubenstein’s squeaky-voiced Tangina. But this thing is so well written and packed with suspense, that it reads as straight-up terror. (more…)