Wednesday, 25 May 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Burn, Witch, Burn!

Burn, Witch, Burn!
Dir: Sidney Hayers. Starring Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair & Margaret Johnston. 1962

Adapted from Fritz Leiber’s novel Conjure Wife, by Leiber, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, Burn, Witch, Burn! is an outstanding and contemporary look at witchcraft. Blair is the practitioner, and Wyngarde is the husband who tries to convince her that it’s all superstitious nonsense. However, it’s Wyngarde whose perceptions end up altered.

Smart, entertaining and suspenseful, Burn, Witch, Burn! deserves more recognition, and is, in many ways, a precursor to Rosemary’s Baby. Here, however, the heroine’s husband refuses to believe in her power until he’s shown otherwise. In fact, the film hints at the notion that women in general posses a necessary power that men, through our blindness, refuse to acknowledge.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Black Christmas

Black Christmas
Dir: Bob Clark. Starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Lynne Griffin, Art Hindle, Marian Waldman and Andrea Martin. 1974

The original “the calls are coming from inside the house” flick. Sorority sisters are stalked in their home by a madman in the attic. Simple and effective, but it's that simplicity supported by a potent setting, atmosphere, score, cinematography, direction and acting that make this proto-slasher a standout. The characters, too, are another key to the film's success. They, and their problems, are memorable, believable and relatable. It also doesn't hurt that, for my money, Black Christmas features the eeriest obscene phone calls in any film I've seen, er... heard. Finally, and significantly, Black Christmas successfully exploits and subverts all the elements of a Canadian Christmas to its best advantage – the snow, the cold, the lights, the carols, the quiet and the Yuletide loneliness.

Friday, 20 May 2016

More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: The Birds

The Birds
Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and Veronica Cartwright. 1963

How do you follow up a groundbreaking hit like Psycho? With more innovation, in the case of Alfred Hitchcock.

The Birds is a cunning movie with many layers. Hitchcock sets it up like a romantic comedy, and then turns it into the horror film that it truly is. The film's structure is iconic, having influenced George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and countless others, no explanation is given for the attacks which echo the disharmony amongst the film's human characters, children are targeted, the ending is ambiguous, it's a technically challenging film, and there's no music; instead the screeching of birds gives us the soundtrack here. 

Like all Hitchcock films, The Birds is intensely visual, pure cinema. The suspense is outstanding, of course, but it's the characters that drive this movie, and the audience is asked to fill in the gaps between characters that are only hinted at in glances and actions. 

Suzanne Pleshette's Annie Hayworth is unforgettable, one of the most tragic characters in all of Hitchcock's films, and a sort of sister to Janet Leigh's Marion Crane in Psycho, unlucky in love rather then merely disappointed.  


More Favourite Horror Flicks, Alphabetically: Alien

Dir: Ridley Scott. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harr Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. 1979

Another version of this post originally appeared on November 5, 2007.

This movie has been written about ad nauseum, and it's so well known that it's a part of pop culture history. The premise isn't far removed from that of a slasher film - a group of stranded people are killed by a stalker, one-by-one. Elements of the film are also reminiscent of "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" and Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires". Still, it's a scary and suspenseful outer space horror movie with terrific effects and an iconic villain, one of the last (to this date) great monster designs. 

Though the first sequel, "Aliens", is the preferred alien flick by many, I still prefer the original. I like its emphasis on horror and suspense over the second film's focus on action scenes. And I find the original alien infinitely more scary than those in the sequel. The original creature is almost unstoppable, while the creatures in "Aliens" are easy to destroy, finding their strength in numbers.

Ridley Scott's direction is controlled and builds suspense terrifically. The script by Dan O'Bannon is smart, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is eerie and effective. The cast are all perfect, with Sigorney Weaver being a standout. The unexpected arrival of the baby alien is one of horror's classic moments. File this movie under "You Must Have Seen This By Now" category.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Florid: The Musical (That Wasn't)

My good friend The Annekenstein Monster posted about a stage musical that we almost wrote, based on a short film that we actually made. I think his post is worth sharing, so click HERE to find out more and hear the track "Eyes Froze Shut".

Monday, 4 January 2016

Home Media Recommendations 2015

Anchor Bay Canada
Black Christmas – Seasons Grievings Edition

Arrow Video US
Blood and Black Lace / Blood Rage / Island of Death / Spider Baby / The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne / The Tenderness of the Wolves / What Have You Done to Solange?

Criterion Collection
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant / The Brood / Night and the City

Cult Epics
Angst / Der Todesking

Forbidden Films

Kino Lorber
Deranged / The Evil Eye / A Girl Walks Home Alone in the Dark

Mondo Macabro
Tango of Perversion / The Wife Killer 

Scream Factory
Blood and Lace / Ghosthouse & Witchery / The Sentinel 

Clive Barker's Origins: Salome & The Forbidden

Severin Films
Nightmare Castle


Warner Archives
Face of Fire / Hand of Death / Our Mother’s House / The Strangler

Vinegar Syndrome
Corruption (w/Last House on Dead End Street) / Farmer’s Daughters / Long Jeanne Silver / Night of the Strangler

Visual Entertainment Inc.
Thriller: The Complete Collection of 43 Murder Mystery Movies

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

21st Century Horror (2000 - 2014) Part 2

This post was originally published on March 10, 2015, but was deleted.

Part 2 of an alphabetical list of horror films released since 2000 recommended by Bloody Terror. Please note that Part 1 has been updated. 

Let the Right One In (Dir: Tomas Alfredson; 2008; Sweden) 
Despite some iffy CGI, this is yet another interesting take on the vampire legend. Here, a bullied schoolboy befriends a girl who appears to be his age, but is in actuality not only decades older, but also a bloodsucker. 

The Lords of Salem (Dir: Rob Zombie; 2012, US) 
Zombie once again puts the focus on his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, here as a radio DJ and former drug addict who finds herself the unwitting pawn of witchcraft and black magic in New England. Zombie thankfully restricts his fondness for the overuse of “fuck” and its variations in his dialogue, and this, along with The Devil’s Rejects, is an example of when his cult icon casting (Judy Geeson, Meg Foster, Dee Wallace) works to the movie’s benefit. 

Martyrs (Dir: Pascal Laugier, 2008; France/Canada) 
Martyrs is a movie that twists in many directions before it settles into its disturbing final third. Part of the effectiveness in watching this film is in not knowing what comes next, but suffice it to say that it’s a grueling experience that you most likely won’t be re-watching over and over again for kicks. 

May (Dir: Lucky McKee; 2002; US) 
To be honest, it took me a second viewing before I got on May’s wavelength. My initial response was due in part to the film’s quirkiness, which upon my second time through worked in the movie’s favour, much like a representation of the main character’s unusual behaviour and ticks. What May eventually revealed itself to me as being is a character study of a lonely oddball and the repercussions of how she either does or doesn’t fit into Western society. 

The Mist (Dir: Frank Darabont; 2007; US) 
This film based on Stephen King’s short story bears a firm similarity to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and therefore Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, as a group of strangers are stranded in a single location while nature goes wild outside. In this case, it’s Lovecraftian creatures that come calling. Often criticized for its downbeat ending, I think this element is actually one of its strengths as it explores and exploits a common fear – the fear of making the wrong decision – that far too few films explore, and with this sort of insight and gravity. 

The Orphanage (Dir: J.A. Bayona; 2007; Spain) 
After conjuring imaginary friends, the young son of a couple disappears from their new home – an orphanage that they’re reopening – in this melancholy ghost story. Effective atmosphere, great ghosts, and a sadness that is missing from most takes on this, the most sorrowful of horror sub-genres. 

The Others (Dir: Alejandro Amenábar; 2001: US/Spain/France/Italy) 
A ghost story told in the classic style. Nicole Kidman is the mother of two children who suffer a strange allergy to sunlight. As they await the patriarch’s return from war, ghostly events occur. 

Pan's Labyrinth (Dir: Guillermo del Toro; 2006; Spain)
Though not a horror film in the strictest sense, Pan's Labyrinth provides enough atmosphere of dread, brutal violence, and fantastic creatures to qualify. del Toro follows The Devil's Backbone (see Part 1 of this list) here with another story set during the  Spanish Civil War. This time a young girl enters into a fantasy world to escape the real world horrors around her. A sad movie, and a beautiful one on all levels. 

Pontypool (Dir: Bruce MacDonald; 2008; Canada) 
A late night radio DJ and his cohorts are trapped in a radio station as a virus passed by language turns the residents of a small town into zombies. An interesting take on not only the zombie subgenre, but on the effect of words. 

[Rec] (Dir: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza; 2007; Spain) 
Another zombie film, and another zombie film that doesn’t use the term “zombie”. Also, this is yet another variation on the found footage trope, as a TV host and her camera operator ride with a team of firefighters one evening. The difference – this one is scary! 

A Serbian Film (Dir: Srdjan Spasojevic; 2010; Serbia) 
Along with MartyrsA Serbian Film is probably the most extreme film on this list. Hard to defend, the uncut version of A Serbian Film challenges the viewer to witness several disturbing atrocities, although an argument could be made that this is all in the name of addressing the political climate of Serbia at the time the film was made. Its one-line description: A retired porn actor is lured back into the business by dubious backers. 

Session 9 (Dir: Brad Anderson, 2001, US) 
After a group of men are hired to remove asbestos from an abandoned mental asylum, one of them discovers a patient’s counseling session tapes in the basement, and begins to listen to them. As the tapes build to their climax, so too does the antagonistic relationships among the men. For me, this was a truly scary movie, although I know others who have dismissed it as being too subtle. 

Shaun of the Dead (Dir: Edgar Wright; 2004; UK) 
One of the finest horror comedies ever conceived, this film takes on most of the clichés of the zombie subgenre, and even manages to incorporate some for the sake of drama rather than comedy. 

The Skin I Live In (Dir: Pedro Almodóvar, 2011; Spain) 
Director Almodóvar works with Antonio Banderas again after many years and creates this surprising and touching body horror film that transplants the horror from the corporal to the emotional. On the surface, it’s about a surgeon who experiments with synthetic skin. At its heart it’s much more than that. 

The Strangers (Dir: Bryan Bertino; 2008; US) 
A home invasion film that takes more of its inspiration from Halloween than from its nastier counterparts. In The Strangers, a couple are terrorized by three mask-wearing psychopaths. That’s pretty much it, plain and simple. But as the cliché says, it’s all in the telling, and this telling is scary and suspenseful. 

Three (Dirs: Kim Jee-woon, Nonzee Nimibutr, Peter Chan; 2002; South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong) 
Three… Extremes (Dirs: Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, Chan-wook Park; 2004; China. Japan, South Korea) 
These two anthology films each feature three shorts by different Asian directors and of varying quality. Combined, they serve as a concise introduction to those uninitiated in Asian horror, and an eerie reminder for those who are. 

Trick ‘r Treat (Dir: Michael Dougherty; 2007; US) 
A great seasonal viewing alternative to John Carpenters’ classic, Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology film with a terrific cast (Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker), and a by times haunting and/or grisly undercurrent. 

Trouble Every Day (Dir: Claire Denis; 2001; France/Germany/Japan) 
Béatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo are the leads in this vampire film that is more in the spirit of George A. Romero’s Martin than most other bloodsucker flicks. Both are great in this moody character study that features one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve witnessed in a millennial horror film. 

Under the Skin (Dir: Jonathan Glazer; 2013; UK/USA/Switzerland)
Horror or not? Alien walks among us, seducing victims like an extraterrestrial Aileen Wuornos. Perfectly and deliberately paced. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Dir: Lynne Ramsay; 2011; UK/USA)
The always impressive Tidla Swinton, here as a new mother, begins to suspect that her baby boy hates her. He grows into a troubled teen who becomes adept at hiding his true nature. Uncomfortable watching, and that's a good thing.  

Wolf Creek (Dir: Greg Mclean; 2005; Australia) 
Based on the true story of a serial killer who preyed on visitors to the outback, Wolf Creek is a nasty little flick that has you rooting for its lead characters even while it shows you the inevitability of a sharp blade. 

You’re Next (Dir: Adam Wingard; 2011; US) 
The trouble with some home invasion flicks is that they can be an unpleasant viewing experience. Not so with You’re Next, which wends some nice twists on the sub-genre while keeping the proceedings entertaining.