Hello all. Mark here.
It is a good time to be a fan of horror. In the last two years there has been a welcome explosion of horror hybrids that defy expectations and are critically beloved. They are all confidently made and have done a great job of taking a tired genre and making it fresh. None of these films are reactive and their creators could care less about trends. They’ve forged their own way through the horror jungle and come through as their own beasts. If you are into horror hybrids featuring freaky masks, cheeky vampires, squishy romances and body mutilation you are in luck with these films!
If you are into 21st century horror make sure to check out these posts centering around the best the 21st century has had to offer the horror genre.
Creep has a grounded realism that focuses on two very lonely people. One person resorts to answering craiglist ads for money while the other has obvious mental problems. Together they form a weird duo brought together by loneliness. Their day filming spirals into a controlled chaos in which clues are unraveled and the term “Chekhov’s axe” takes new meaning.
Creep doesn’t reinvent the found footage wheel but it takes the genre into unexpected territory. The footage isn’t nausea inducing and the video diary brings an organic vibe to a man holding a camera for way too long. It is a tiny little thing that is getting national press. It doesn’t feature CGI and the locations are scarce but it features a good idea and enough vision to get it in front of audiences. If you are looking for inspiration and want to create something in the film world I totally recommend you watch this film. It is simple, smart and builds to a brutal conclusion. Let me know what you think when you watch it!
Housebound is a glorious horror hybrid that plays equal parts funny, scary and outrageous. It is a pure horror hybrid that features the fun insanity that goes with New Zealand horror films. It plays like a Peter Jackson horror film teamed up with The People Under the Stairs and formed something completely different. Housebound exemplifies the current crop of horror hybrids because it refuses to be pegged down into any genre. It is pure filmmaking at its best and I can’t wait to see what director Gerard Johnstone does next.
What We Do in the Shadows (Redbox, VOD)
What We Do in the Shadows is a glorious comedy/horror mockumentary that centers around four vampires who live in New Zealand. The horror hybrid blends comedy with lots of gore and features some of funniest characters of the last several years. It is a creative blast of niceness and violence that will most certainly become a cult classic. The 85 minute film is so full of one-liners, sight gags and hilarious characters you need to watch it more than once.
Wyrmwood: The Road of the Dead (Netflix)
Wyrmwood is a fantastic Australian micro-budget zombie film that is taking the horror world by storm. It was a labor of love by directors Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner who initially planned on a six month shoot and saw that expand to a 3 1/2 year labor of love. The budget jumped from 20,000 to 150,000 andScreen Australia had to throw in 800,000 to get it finished. The script changed drastically and so did the characters. However, the final product is a bonkers delight that is loaded with blood, bruises and zombies that can fuel vehicles. It is like Mad Max met a zombie film and then became something else entirely. You kinda have to appreciate a singular vision that was filmed on weekends and holidays.
Little horror films like Honeymoon don’t come around very often. They take a familiar subject (body snatching) and make something original out of it. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it gets a lot of mileage out of its story. Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway fully commit themselves to whatever is thrown their way and they draw you in with their chemistry. First time feature director Leigh Janiak handles the tension building well and you can tell she has thought this movie out with great detail.
The Babadook (Netflix)
The Babadook is a visually arresting horror hybrid that proved to be an amazing calling card for director Jennifer Kent. The Babadook is the type of movie that transcends genre and much like Rosemary’s Baby adds class to the horror world. The fact that The Babadook was universally praised by critics while featuring a truly bonkers plot proves that we are in a solid time for horror. I love what Kent said abouthorror filmmaking to New York Magazine.
I continue to watch modern horror films, despite the constant disappointment. I don’t think a lot of the filmmakers making horror now know its worth, or realize the potential of the genre. Just because it’s a horror film doesn’t mean it can’t be deep. I think a lot of filmmakers who make horror now go in with dubious motives — money, predominantly. They want to make a film that will feel like a theme-park ride, and ultimately make a lot of money.But horror is a pure form of cinema. I think there are some modern-day filmmakers our there who understand that. The films that will stand the test of time are the ones that have depth
Spring (Amazon Prime)
Spring plays like Before Sunrise met An American Werewolf in London and spawned something like Species but totally different. It is an earthy film that plays with romance, love, loss and lots of squishy things. The critics have rallied around it (89% RT) and it is part of a recent low-budget horror revival. Spring has proven itself to be a genre lifter that take old ideas and makes them original.
A neat example of where Spring veers from the horror path is in the meet cute. The two characters lock eyes, she is obviously out of his league and when he approaches she immediately invites him back to her apartment (think Species). He is caught off guard and begins to wonder whether she is trying to rob, kill or trick him. He declines the offer and instead tries to set up a coffee date. It is a neat moment that plays against type.
It Follows (Redbox, Netflix)
It Follows has a unique style that blends a lurking sense of dread with absolute urgency. It isn’t afraid to mess with the genre while sticking to well-worn tropes. If you combined All the Real Girls with Nightmare on Elm Street and threw in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Elephant and The Sixth Sense you would have something sorta resembling the film.
Director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) takes my favorite aspects of horror (urgency, dread, patience) and combines them with a beautifully simple story about the dangers of sex. Mitchell lets the film breath and this allows the rabbit and hare story to unfold organically. The teens sleepless state creates a dreamy atmosphere that is captured nicely by the lingering camera and patient editing. The film moves at a methodically slow pace yet you have a hard time catching your breath.
Cheap Thrills (Amazon Prime)
Director E.L. Katz who formerly wrote for Fangoria does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia, humor and horror of the night of escalating dares. He draws strong performances from the cast and elevates the material to where even the most conservative of critic appreciates the work. The film can be frustrating and vague but I think that will only further discussion and leave more to the imagination of the viewer. It leaves you with questions in which there are no easy answers.
The movie has a nasty streak that will alienate many but capture a solid cult following. It wears you out but it doesn’t drain you with depravity. It walks a tight rope of gore and despair but manages to not fall into a nothingness abyss. David Koechner and Sara Paxton remain mysterious throughout as we never get any revelations about them. Are they really a couple? Have they done this before? The questions are welcome because it leaves you to come up with the answers.
The Guest (Netflix)
The Guest is a pure genre experiment that is equal parts nasty and fun. It borrows heavily from other films (I love this Grantland article) but it adds something different to the norm. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett got the idea for the film after a double header of Halloween and The Terminator. Wingard had this to say about it:
The Alien and Michael Myers movies … you couldn’t really put together what they were. They were these like shapes. They were terrifying in their obscurity. That’s something that’s influenced so many people. Horror, in many ways, went way down that rabbit hole for many years. People are still riffing on those concepts, with the masks and facelessness of the killers and stuff. And I thought, What would it be like to do the inversion of that? What if Michael Myers, instead of being this shapeless guy following you around town from a distance, what if he lived in your house?
The Guest is bloody, gory and at times very uncomfortable. The goth techno soundtrack blares loudly while Dan Stevens kicks ass in a nearly monotone voice. I had to laugh as everybody chooses to ignore the oddness of Steven’s because of his clean cut looks and relaxed persona. There is obviously something wrong with him but he honeypots (Thank you The Interview) everyone into ignoring his constant violent actions.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Netflix)
Scott Weinberg of The Horror Show sums up this movie perfectly:
It may take a while before Dracula is scary again, but until that time we can certainly appreciate little vampire tales like the willfully and enjoyably strange A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which is the first feature from Ana Lily Amirpour, and feels like a sly and respectful homage to filmmakers as disparate as Nicholas Ray, Rod Serling, Anthony Mann, and Jim Jarmusch. Sort of a western, kind of a sci-fi story, sometimes a film noir thriller, and most assuredly a beautifully black-and-white portrayal of two wildly different young people who come to forge an unlikely relationship, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is what one might call an “arthouse film,” in that it’s often more interested in mood, tone, music, and frame composition than it is in a straightforward narrative – but one doesn’t need a traditional plot-driven structure to appreciate this eclectic, serene, and sometimes powerfully moving film.
We hope you enjoyed our previous episode on: Analyzing the Cheek Embracing World of Nicholas Sparks Films.
SUMMARY: This week the MFF crew discusses the Trailers for upcoming movies of the end of Summer and Fall 2015, the interchangeable versatility of Tom Cruise and Bill Murray, and some hypothetical fights revolving around the Predator movies.
This episode’s trailers include Pod, Black Mass, Harbinger Down, Everest, Victor Frankenstein, The End of the Tour, Memories of the Sword, Sicario, No Escape, The Hateful Eight, The Transporter: Refueled and The Last Witch Hunter.
We also answer such important questions as…
“Will The End of the Tour be the most touching and humbly quote-brimming film of the year?”
“What movies would benefit from replacing Tom Cruise with Bill Murray?”
“How will Victor Frankenstein be like Sherlock Holmes?”
“Could Snake Plisskin take out the Predator faster than Dutch and his commandos?”
“How do we really feel about Vin Diesel or the Predator using a sword?”
Sit back, relax and learn about everything you missed.
If you haven’t seen some of these movies, be comforted that we will geekily inform you as to why you should watch them.
You can stream the pod at the Sharkdropper website, listen to us on with your mobile app OneCast, or download the podcast on Itunes.
If you get a chance please REVIEW, RATE and SHARE the pod!
Proudly sponsored by the audiobook company Audible, your new MFF podcast episode is here!
John’s Horror Corner: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), a sequel with a very different story to tell.
MY CALL: This sequel maintains everything we love about Freddy while delivering a very different (however sloppily told) story. I think it’s a worthy sequel even if not comparable to the original…after all, so few sequels are. MOVIES LIKE Freddy’s Revenge: First off, you should first see the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Other classics everyone should see include Poltergeist (1982; discussed at length in our podcast episode #16) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes series (1977). For more recent horror with a similar sense of humor try Wishmaster (1997) and Hatchet (2006).
With the original written and directed by Wes Craven (Cursed, Deadly Friend, Deadly Blessing), our new director Jack Sholder (Wishmaster 2, The Hidden) has some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, much as with Clive Barker’s step back after the first Hellraiser (1987) film, the original writer/director (Craven) contributed to the writing of this sequel. And further similar to Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Freddy’s Revenge continues where the original left off (5 years later anyway) but advanced with a unique storyline clearly separating this second installment as more than simply a rehashing of the first with a different set of victims.
Opening as playfully as the original ended, an obvious nightmare depicts a school bus ride gone wrong accompanied by some effects that could only be described as silly by today’s standards—yet I still love them. Clearly this sequel has brought every bit of humor from the original, and then added more of its own—but we also maintained the dark and dire evil aspects. From his very introduction Freddy laughs noticeably more frequently in this film as his malicious and cruel humor cuts into our moral fiber. This notion was a trend set in part 1, but now Freddy has a new dark desire; he wants Jesse (Mark Patton) to kill for him now!
The new kid attending the same school as part 1’s victims, Jesse learns that his family has moved into the very house in which Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) killed Freddy five years ago. The timeline offers a new student body of potential victims including classmates Lisa (Kim Myers; Hellraiser: Bloodline) and Ron (Robert Rusler; Weird Science, Sometimes They Come Back, Vamp).
Things get more than a little weird in this sequel. At one point Jesse wanders off to an “alternative lifestyle” bar of sorts (or some metal/biker bar with some BDSM undertones) and encounters his gym coach (Marshall Bell; Total Recall), who takes him back to the school gym to run laps and shower it off. During this surreal sequence, his coach is killed. I was 100% certain this zaniness was a dream, but apparently I was wrong. On top of that, at one point a finch becomes murderous and kills its mate before attacking Jesse’s father and then exploding for no apparent reason; no one questions this as unnatural. Speaking of weird, Freddy seems to be crossing over into reality on his own accord, which seems to violate the rules we once learned about him.
Freddy (Robert Englund; Wishmaster, Hatchet) returns as the same demonic power with the now iconic ugly red and green sweater, a single clawed glove, a face still-moistly burned beyond recognition, and a penchant for painfully raking his claws over metal objects. The main difference is that he is no longer a shadowy mysterious entity of few words. He is now a known quantity with more lines and screentime.
What makes this sequel completely dissimilar to its predecessor is that almost everything takes place in a dream-touched reality rather than in the victims’ nightmares. Freddy uses Jesse’s unwilling body as a conduit to exact his revenge. Whereas part 1 introduced us to the terrifying notion that someone (or something) can hunt and kill us in our dreams (and we really die!), this sequel removes from us not only control of our dreams but also control of ourselves. This sequel also largely replaces “scary” with an almost “perverse awkward unease” and injects a bit more humor into the Krueger formula. For example, we briefly see twisted distortion of a cat attacking a monster rat, and there are two sort of guard dogs with evil baby faces. This does well to keep us out of our comfort zone and taunts the line between reality and Freddy’s dreamworld.
Freddy is a twisted and pure evil. It’s intended to be sick and disturbing, and more perverse than humorous—although fans laugh at it today. We find these kinds of scenes delivered with a deliberate humor in Hatchet (2006), Wishmaster (1997) and so many more releases of the past 20-30 years…and also blatantly more deliberate in later installments of the Nightmare on Elm Street or Leprechaun franchises.
This film isn’t “great” but I find it a worthy successor to the original and still a more-than-decent 80s horror movie; it’s good. We call backto the elements that worked before, replacing shadowy, steam-spewing boiler rooms with a creepy power plant where Freddy worked in life; instead of impressions on Nancy’s bedroom wall we find Freddy’s form emerging through Jesse’s stomach and his claws piercing through his fingertips; and rather than slicing off his own fingers he now peels away the flesh of his scalded head to reveal “I’ve got the brains!” Without going into detail, I should add that I still enjoy ALL of the practical effects in this film. Sometimes the simplicity makes it more gross, weird, off-putting, or even a bit funny—and I loved the transformation scene. But these crowd-pleasing callbacks pale in the novelty of the story, however sloppily it may be told.
The ending is deliberately sort of silly and illogical, leaving us with the tongue-in-cheek play that Freddy wasn’t really defeated. But that was and remains a fun staple of horror—twists and surprise endings, even if stupid, that make us smile. Perhaps not comparable to the original, this remains a fun movie experience and worth the ride. It certainly made me smile.
Wyrmwood is a fantastic Australian micro-budget zombie film that is taking the horror world by storm. It was a labor of love by directors Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner who initially planned on a six month shoot and saw that expand to a 3 1/2 year labor of love. The budget jumped from 20,000 to 150,000 and Screen Australia had to throw in 800,000 to get it finished. The script changed drastically and so did the characters. However, the final product is a bonkers delight that is loaded with blood, bruises and zombies that can fuel vehicles. It is like Mad Max met a zombie film and then became something else entirely. You kinda have to appreciate a singular vision that was filmed on weekends and holidays. What makes this film work is the obvious love of cinema behind the camera. It is a little film that eventually could and I love how Kiah and Tristan are looking back it now with a sense of humor. I liked their candor in an interview with The Guardian
For somebody to start making a film like that, it basically means they’re one of two things: very rich or very, very stupid,” says Kiah. “I think we come into the second category. Our ambition way outstripped what we actually had in front of us.
At the start we slotted out all the scenes we had to shoot on a big Excel spreadsheet,” says Tristan. “We looked at it and we were like: ‘Are we actually going to do this?’ This is huge. It’s gargantuan. We looked at each other and said: ‘Yep, f**k it. Let’s do it.
Wyrmwood tells the story of a zombie plague breaking out and a man named Barry (Jay Gallagher) having a very bad go of it. He has to kill his family with a nail gun, constantly battle zombies and his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey) was kidnapped by a disco dancing mad scientist. Eventually, he meets up with some cheeky survivors and together they patrol Australia in souped up cars. The tiny budget is used well as the focus is on gore/cool costumes while the action takes place in small warehouses and back roads. You can feel the sweat rolling off of the characters and according to The Guardian:
The Roache-Turner brothers understand that with this style of film you can be many things – incredulous, trashy, befuddling, utterly and profoundly weird – but you cannot be boring. To help maintain a lickety-split sense of mayhem they used more than 200 litres of fake blood, 50 litres of fake sweat, 100 rolls of black gaffer tape and 2,000 cable ties.
What I appreciate about Wyrmwood is that is takes an established horror genre and breathes new life into it. This wasn’t a film that was reactively made according to a current trend. The directors had a story to tell and they did it in three years. The going must’ve been tough yet they and the actors/crew stuck with it and the finished product is blowing up around the world. It is a shame that it is already the most illegally downloaded film in Australia and it hurts my soul that the creators had to unleash this post on Facebook.
If you are fans of the zombie genre or Peter Jackson’s early splatterfests I totally recommend Wyrmwood. Also, if you are an independent filmmaker I think it would be a fantastic motivator because it was a massive independent undertaking that saw the light of day. Watch Wyrmwood. Appreciate the mayhem. Check it out on Netflix.
MFF Reader Poll Results: What Are Your Favorite 21st Century Horror Films That Don’t Appear on “Best of” Lists
Hello all. Mark here.
I’ve learned a couple things throughout the course of the finding the best horror film of the 21st century. The first is that nobody will ever agree on a winner. The second is that everybody is passionate about movies that don’t get as much recognition as they should. For some reason these movies are near and dear to peoples hearts and even though they will never be on “best of” lists we still champion them when asked. For instance, you need to watch Cheap Thrills, Honeymoon, Creep and Spring.
When I unleashed the 21st century horror film results I included a poll that featured horror films that rarely ever appear on “best of” lists. I wanted the under appreciated to get some love. I compiled the list from reading through Reddit, AV Club, MFF comments and scouring the internet for under appreciated horror films. I also offered an “other” box for people to write in their votes (is there a movie called Your mom? Three people wrote that in). 5,300 votes later we have an eclectic list of films. (that nobody will agree on!)
Remember that this isn’t a “best of” list. This was simply meant to give fan favorite films a second life. I promise there won’t be a “best of” list of the films that didn’t make this list.
Here are the other five lists I’ve released in the last two weeks.
Before you jump into the lists I made sure to check copious “best of” horror lists to make sure these films didn’t pop up often (if you scour the internet you will find a random list I’m sure). Movies like May, The House of the Devil, Eden Lake, Splinter, Bug, Amer, Antichrist, Dawn of the Dead, Maniac, Inside, Attack the Block, I Saw the Devil, The Mist, You’re Next, The Loved Ones, Evil Dead, Ginger Snaps, Devil’s Rejects, Excision, 28 Weeks Later and Cloverfield were mentioned various times in horror websites and the MFF polls so I decided not to add them to the voting lists. Check out my 21st century critic/horror posts for the links.
I also started up a discussion thread (not asking for upvotes) on Dreadit and got a ton of horror movies that will never be on a “best of” list. I’m hoping this list will give a nice counterbalance to the films below. Splinter, Triangle, The Signal, Grave Encounters, The Collector, The Shrine, 1408, American Mary, Altered, The Burrowers, The Pact, Wer, Tusk, Halloween (2007) and Joshua didn’t make the top 14 but they are well regarded and have their champions.
The reason I’ve included 14 movies is because the voting between 10 and 14 was really close and some of these films were separated by only a few votes.
14. House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
Written by Chris Kelly (check out his bonkers horror short film centering around Christmas)
House of 1000 Corpses is what a horror lover always wanted in a film: It’s quick, gory and there’s a simple story involving lots of death. Rob Zombie created a throwback to classic 1970s and 80s horror films with an updated twist. Using old school horror tactics with new school camera angles and lighting, Zombie creates a film that throws its audience on its head and leaves them there. Some audiences will love it, some won’t understand it and others will hate it. It’s hard to find something right or wrong with this movie because it is in a world all its own. House of 1000 Corpses is its own thing in its own world that exists only in the minds of hardcore horror fans.
13. Joy Ride (2001)
While I was collecting data from Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb I noticed a surprising trend. Critics and audiences really like Joy Ride (73.2 cumulative score). Director John Dahl (Rounders, The Last Seduction) and writers Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams created a blue collar thriller that was way better than it had any right to be. Vulture wrote an article about Paul Walker and I love what they said about the film.
And let’s not forget that the guy made some great films, too. Joy Ride, the 2001 gearhead horror flick in which Walker and his ex-con brother Steve Zahn run afoul of a deranged trucker, is masterful, and it works in part because the actor is so good at just plain freaking out. His character gets it from all sides: the psycho trucker, the hillbillies he crosses at various rest stops, his shady brother who keeps macking on the girl he loves (played by Leelee Sobieski). At one point, the Psycho Mysterious Trucker calls Walker in his hotel room to tell him Zahn’s in the other hotel room trying to seduce Sobieski; so Walker has to run over there and both warn his companions that the bad guy is still out there and also confront his brother about the whole hitting-on-his-girl thing. He handles it the way any of us would: by totally losing it. And it’s glorious fun to watch.
12. Devil (2010)
I am a big fan of Devil (even the toast bit). It is an under appreciated horror film that starts strong and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The opening shot of Philly upside down does a fine job of establishing dread and proving that the world is upside down. It has a refreshing lack of pretense and it simply wants to tell the world a new story. Shakespeare it ain’t but it was never intended to be the next Exorcist, Omen or Sixth Sense. The horror landscape has a dearth of original ideas so it pains me when something trying to be original gets dismissed before it ever hits the movie screens (people laughed out loud when they saw “produced by M. Night Shyamalan”).
The lack of interest and preconceived notions is a shame because Devil is a neat little one-off film that features a claustrophobic vibe and singular story. The 52% Rotten Tomatoes rating is better than the standard horror film rating and it is light years ahead of the 25% average of Shyamalan’s prior three films. Devil features one of the coolest openings of recent memory and I loved the grey and off-kilter vibe it established. Also, I have no problem with toast being used a devil detector.
11. Constantine (2005)
Keanu Reeves is the reason Constantine has stayed on the radar for over 10 years. He plays the role with a devil may care attitude that loads up on cynicism and self-awareness. Constantine is a fun little horror hybrid that features Keanu talking smack to spiders, battling a euro trash devil and hanging out with Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel. Constantine is a weird film that throws you into the action and is chock full of personality. Richard Corliss sums up the charm of the film with this quote about Reeves:
Halfway through Constantine, a fully clad Keanu Reeves steps into a shallow pail of water, sits on a chair next to it and holds a cat in his lap. Any actor who can retain his charisma in this weird-silly moment–can keep us watching, and admiring his dutiful nonchalance–deserves to be called a movie star.
10. Dog Soldiers (2002)
This line from Dog Soldiers sums up the film.
We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.
Dog Soldiers is an action packed spectacle that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. However, it makes the wheel look amazing. It is a fun ride that borrows heavily from other films but shows all the traits of Neil Marshall’s (The Descent) future films. Dog Soldiers walks a fine line of humor, violence and suspense. For instance, after a massive kitchen brawl the werewolves get the upper hand and a soldier says “I hope I give you the sh*ts. You f**king wimp.” Dog Soldiers exemplifies independent horror and is urgent and exciting in ways very few films can match.
9. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Leslie Vernon/Mancuso is a wonderful creation because he is equal parts self-aware, funny and dangerous. Behind the Mask loves the horror genre and has a blast playing with the familiar tropes (virgins, backstories, walking). Director Scott Glosserman gathered a killers row of familiar faces (Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelba Rubinstein) and introduced the world to a fresh-faced future killer.
I think what keeps this film going is the same thing that made Trick r’ Treat explode. It has a loyal audience who spread around the DVD and have a genuine love for it. When I unleashed my “best of” lists the most commented on exclusion was Behind the Mask. Many people have commented in the last two weeks that “Behind the Mask doesn’t get the love it deserves.” It is the kind of film that has a loyal following but tiny audience. That is why I am happy that it made it on this list
8. Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Written by Zach Beckler (Check out the trailer for his film Interior).
One of the most underrated films of the 21st Century, The Mothman Prophecies is first and foremost a film about mood. This is not a film about answers or truths, because it has neither. This is not about the search for the Mothman, but the inherent fear and unease we have of what is beyond our control and comprehension, and it expresses that beautifully. About a widowed journalist who ends up in a small town on his way out of Washington. He has no idea how he got there, and some townspeople claim he has been there all week, knocking on doors. This is not the only strange thing happening, and it all comes back to sightings of a mythical creature called The Mothman. This film has an eeriness and a discomfort to it unlike many films I’ve seen. Every strange thing that happens feels both random and imminent.
There is a standout scene where the journalist finally gets to talk to this creature, which calls itself Indrid Cold. The scene makes both perfect and no sense, and is horribly unsettling, as the journalist asks Indrid to prove himself by naming things in the room it can’t possibly see or know. Directed by Mark Pellington, famous for the video for Jeremy by Pearl Jam, the entire film has a cold and somber tone, with wonderfully abstract use of scene transitions, as if from the point of view of something with infinite perspective. In the end, the film leaves you without a safety net; there are no explanations for what has happened. There are things bigger than us, and the only thing we know is the most terrifying thing: that they are out there.
7. As Above So Below (2014)
Written by Megan (my wonderful wife)
I didn’t want to watch this movie. In truth, I don’t usually enjoy horror movies and when Mark suggests one to watch, I usually decline. But with nothing else piquing my interest that evening and a very cool poster, I reluctantly agreed to watch As Above, So Below… and you know what? I’m a huge fan. I know that the internet does not love this movie and I don’t really care, because what AASB and I have is special and the haters cannot spoil it. This movie is structured like an adventure film, with the feeling of traversing great distances (literally to hell and back) in the span of 93 minutes, but you never leave the French catacombs. Those catacombs though… they really are a character in this movie and I believe are the source of any and all feels (of the horror related variety) that the viewer experiences.
Finally, there is the overall story arc, when all hope seems to be fading and the characters are dropping like flies, something surprising happens. The main character digs deep and finds her hope and will to live and starts us on a course out of the darkness for the team, I found this refreshing. So at the end of the movie, you’ve been on an adventure in a totally creepy/cool setting and you aren’t totally depressed or scared out of your mind… I call that a win.
6. Slither (2006)
Jack MacReady: It’s obvious the bastard’s got lyme disease!
Bill Pardy: What?
Jack MacReady: Lyme disease. You touch some deer feces, and then you… eat a sandwich without washin’ your hands. You got your lyme disease!
Bill Pardy: And that makes you look like a squid?
Slither is The Thing made by Troma alumni. It is a comedic body horror film that boomeranged over audiences heads in 2006 and now is coming back full circle. The practical effects combined with James Gunn’s script created a bonkers masterpiece of gross special effects and fantastic dialogue (I can’t get drunk. I have too much muscle mass). Slither love has been gaining steam through the years and people are starting to appreciate the joyfully obscene and gross creature feature. I remember walking out of the theater with a smile on my face and an appreciation of all things James Gunn. What makes Slither so special is that it is different from all of its horror comrads. It is a weird little thing that wear its R-rating on its sleeve and doesn’t care if you like it or not.
5. Orphan (2009)
While reading through the Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews you can’t help but notice a pattern. Words and phrases like sleazy, gross, trashy, ludicrous, murderous psycho brat, amoral, fetishistic, overwrought, shameless, perverse and effective pop up all over the place. Mick Lasalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gives a great summation of Orphan.
So sloppy, so lowdown, so shameless and so entertaining, Orphan provides everything you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still has the power to surprise.
When I first saw the trailers for Orphan it annoyed me. I had zero desire to watch some movie where good actors (Vera Farmiga, Peter Saarsgard) deal with another evil kid. I was wrong! The tagline “There’s something wrong with Esther” is true. Just thinking about the plot twist hurts my soul. Orphan is a creepy little thing that dared to be really really ridiculously weird.
4. Oculus (2013)
Written by MFF’s Horror Leviathan John Leavengood.
“Horror is generally (and fairly) characterized by one-dimensional characters stereotypically struggling to serviceably act their way through flat writing to occupy screentime until they drink, vandalize, premaritally fornicate, or do whatever it is that justifies their upcoming death. Despite this, a few bold filmmakers press on and we find the occasional pleasant surprise in The Cabin in the Woods (2012), The Conjuring (2013), and other films with products aimed at more than simply turning a profit and instead bringing us new spins on classic tropes and even some entirely original ideas.
I feel that Oculus (2014) is one of those refreshing films; a clever and hypnotic submission to the genre. Thoughtful cinematography, deliberately distracting lighting and scene-cut transitions mislead our own disoriented sense of time along with that of our protagonists’. Both creepy and engaging, this psychologically driven ghost story weaves our protagonists’ tortured past into their present with a shockingly smart script. This is definitely the best evil mirror movie on the market, and a superior horror film overall as well! It’s clever, it keeps us guessing, and there’s nothing like it. You may be left with more questions than answers. But this is a quality of deliberately disorienting mystery rather than plot-holed writing.”
3. 30 Days of Night (2007)
The vampires of 30 Days of Night bring new energy to the mythos and they do this in practice by simply being more primitive. This type of monster is so out of the mold of the modern take on vampires that it is fair to call them more of a werewolf archetype than a vampire. Vampires, on the whole, are creatures with the power of seduction; while werewolves are monsters of rage. These particular vampires have rage aplenty and are so good at killing that they’ve no need, at all, to seduce anything. They are filthy, ugly things, and they don’t care if you like them; they only care if you’re dead.
In 30 Days of Night, director David Slade has proven he has a knack for tense contextual horror; those awful situations that manage to creep right under your skin. The townsfolk’s fight to survive is a horrendous and passionate battle. There’s one shot in particular that is simply stunning; a bird’s eye view of a frozen street, panning slowly over the breadth of nearly the entire town, capturing a long and frenzied battle between the vampires and their victims. This shot goes on and on and does so much to impress the impact and scale of the devastation and horror faced by the small Alaskan town.
2. Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Jeepers Creepers starts off as a creepy road trip film and ends with a punch to the audiences face. The bad guy is a force of evil who drives an old truck and must have a sense of humor because it plays “jeepers creeper” while detaching people’s peepers. He is an ancient being called “the creeper” who creeps every twenty-third spring for twenty-three days. What Jeepers Creepers excelled at (in the beginning at least) was creating a sense of dread in the unknown. What is this monster? Will it be cool enough to warrant a sequel? Will the mythos be absolutely crushed in the sequel?
What makes Jeepers Creepers so memorable is the absolute eye gouge of an ending. Jeepers Creepers shows us that teenagers in horror films can be likable and proves a movie about a creeper who steals peepers while listening to Jeepers Creepers can actually be scary.
1. Insidious (2010)
Insidious does something glorious. It tells a simple story about a family under attack and creates a world you want to see more of. Not only are there likable characters but the creatures in Insidious are pure nightmare creations (sans Darth Maul comparisons). Sitting in the theater watching Patrick Wilson traverse The Further while knowingly walking into the den of a jerky red demon is one of the most stressful moments in recent horror. They are good people battling evil creatures in a familiar (poltergeist-y) world that develops its own personality. The limited budget and practical effects worked towards the films advantage because it had to rely on practical effects, monster creations and solid acting to carry the day. It is rare when we get very good actors being harassed by red-faced demons.
I love that the family actually moves away from the “haunting” and Lin Shaye has proven herself to be the Insidious MVP (I really like 2 & 3). This one million dollar independent wonder sparked off a new crop of cheap and profitable horror and opened the door for the fantastic 2014-2015 horror films we are experiencing.
Viva la Insidious!
The world needs movies like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I bet right now you are wondering why we need another television to film adaptation. The movie is a breath of fresh air that never takes itself too seriously and is a lot of fun. It wears its cheekiness on its sleeve and gives the viewers a breezy 90 minutes full of fun action, believable chemistry and good looking people. Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock) is a master of style and you could tell he enjoyed his time directing U.N.C.L.E. If I had to sum up the film in one moment it would be when Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) gets drugged and he makes himself comfortable before he passes out.
The film revolves around The Americans and Russians teaming up to stop the Germans from getting their hands on powerful world hurting technology. The plot is an excuse for Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill and Alicia Vikander to travel around the world in search of action, tailored suits and wrestling. I love that nobody uses their natural accents and seem to be loving it. It is nice seeing Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer do something other than play a morose Superman or second fiddle to Johnny Depp. The two have a nice chemistry and the film is at its best when they are bickering. The two men are joined by the always reliable Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina) who brings her sly sensibilities and easily holds her own against her tailored suited co-stars.
I really enjoy The Man From U.N.C.L.E. because it knows exactly what it is and has fun with that confidence. It may be an unnecessary movie but still proves to be effective. There is a moment when they are attacking a German compound and are engaged in a boat chase in a closed marina. Cavill gets thrown from the boat and finds his way to a cargo van where a conveniently located picnic basket of dinner awaits him. He sits in the van enjoying the food and wine while Hammer drives around in the background being chased by a heavily armed gunboat. The moment is cheeky, fun and ends with a cargo van landing atop a boat. Of course, the duo arrive safely back to their hotel (totally dry) and are able to meet the villain before she becomes suspicious of them.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E is way better than it has any right to be. Guy Ritchie imbues it with a wonderful visual style and the actors are all game. If you get a chance check it out in theaters before it becomes a hit on DVD. It is worth your time and will leave you with a smile on your face.
Now that The Fantastic Four has been in the theaters for a few weeks and the dust has settled I’ve decided to write a review. I know the reports of infighting, reshoots and odd behavior helped mold opinion and had a lot of sway into the final product. However, I want to stay away from the speculation and talk about the movie that was dumped into the theaters. It is a weird little thing that is devoid of life and lacks the necessary wonder, charm and action to make it memorable. It is full of personable actors yet gives us nothing memorable. When compared to “bad” superhero movies like X-Men: The last Stand at least they offered some truly odd decisions and Vinnie Jones saying “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch.” The comic book movie I’d compare F4 to is The Green Lantern. Both films had plenty of talent yet did nothing more than create 90 minutes of nothing.
Do you remember the scene in Josh Trank’s Chronicle where the newly powered teenagers discover they can fly and they take off into the sky? It is a moment of pure joy and awe that was punctuated by an airplane bursting through a cloud and almost smacking the teenagers. Their youthful exuberance and sudden knowledge of their powers almost caused them a whole lot of pain and carnage. You bought into the moment because you believe three kids who could fly would do so with reckless abandon.
The teenagers in Chronicle got drunk, found a hole with a glowing rock in it and had to learn to deal with their troubles. There was joy, anger, anguish and most importantly fun. Director Josh Trank worked wonders with found footage superheroes and it made some sense that he was tapped to resurrect The Fantastic Four.
The biggest problem with The Fantastic Four is that is features none of the life that Chronicle had. The remake couldn’t even capture the bubble gum saccharine of the most recent Fantastic Four films. It is a movie that wants to play like The Fly met Chronicle and added some Fantastic Four elements. It gives Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell and Reg E. Cathey nothing to do and I am 100% certain that this film bombing will do nothing to slow their career progressions. This is the rare film where the actors will walk away unscathed while the director takes the fall. If anything the actors have now mastered the art of staring at computers while typing in algorithms for inter-dimensional travel.
Kate Mara (House of Cards) is a good actress and all she does is type, type and type while listening to Portishead.
Fantastic Four never takes flight and places the likable actors in front of computer screens or green screens and never allows wonder, humor or immaturity. The moment I liked most is when the guys get drunk after hearing they won’t be able to travel to Planet Zero. What do they do when they get drunk? They decide to get in their machine and go to the other dimension. It all goes terribly wrong and shows them making mistakes due to immaturity, booze and hubris. I believe that a bunch of overly intelligent twentysomethings would risk their necks in order to be remembered.
Instead of learning how they get used to their powers (like Chronicle) they cut to a year later where The Thing is working on government military ops. The military is sending The Thing out to crush terrorists and I 100% thought we would have a PTSD subplot centering around a kid turned into a rock turned into a killing machine. Imagine a scene where The Thing has to kill for the first time. How would he handle that? However, there is zero time spent on this idea and we quickly move on to some world destroying shenanigans.
The end is a bunch of green screen hooey involving Toby Kebbell’s Dr. Doom trying to suck the earth into Planet Zero by a black hole (of course). The team unites and the battle is over in five minutes. The battle reminded me of the first Fantastic Four ending and The Heroes season one battle finale. They both underwhelmed and had the luxury to build up to those underwhelming moments. The 2015 Fantastic Four rushes us to the ending and it is over before you can even pretend to care about it.
Fantastic Four isn’t enough of a train wreck to be fun and isn’t fun enough to make you feel anything. Go watch Ant-Man again. It is fun and the final battle actually wrecks a toy train which is amazing.