Brainee's 2011 DVDTalk Horror Movie Challenge List
First Time Views
= first time viewing
1. ☼ Lizard Baby
(2004) - Having seen a couple of these Hideshi Hino movies already, I knew to keep my expectations low. And this still managed not to meet them. Not much of anything even happens. I suppose a highlight is the lizard baby itself, which looks laughably like Kermit the Frog.
2. ☼ The Boy From Hell
(2004) - This is actually of the better entries in the Hideshi Hino series. As usual the monster is goofy as hell. But it maintains a pretty relentless pace for its 50 minutes, full of gore and craziness. If you ever wanted to see a movie with a giant midget dressed as a boy stomping people in hell, this is the movie for you. My main quibble is with the theme music. Goblin's "Profondo Rosso" score called ... it said come up with original music you plagiarizing bastards.
3. ☼ Ghosts - Italian Style
(1967) - A bit of a disappointment. This could've been good if it was a saucier Italian sex comedy ... or if it went all-out having fun with the horror-comedy aspects of the story. Despite Sophia Loren being billed as the "star", she mostly sits around while these stupid Italian guys mug for the camera. And it's too bad the only real ghost action occurs as a throwaway joke at the very end (with the story that could've followed that seeming a lot more interesting than what we just spent 90 minutes watching).
4. ☼ Between Two Worlds
(1944) - Pretty good war-time Twilight Zone-ish movie. And I mean one of those sappy preachy TZ episodes ... not one of the scary ones with man-eating aliens or something. Still, despite being talky (not surprising to hear this was based on a stage play) and some of the actors going overboard with the melodramatics I thought it was solid. I liked the set-up with the boat passengers gradually figuring out they were dead, and the dread in which they awaited "The Examiner" ... who would decide whether they went to heaven or hell.
5. ☼ Devils of Darkness
(1965) - It'll be a sad day when I stop finding old horror movies that I haven't seen before. And while I thought I'd seen all the Hammer (or pseudo-Hammer) horrors, new (to me) ones still pop up. Though I can kind of see why this one is so little known. Yeah, it does a mash-up of Satanists and vampires with hot gypsies and swinging 60's parties. But it just ends up being a limp effort. The main baddie, Count Sinistre, just isn't very imposing - Christopher Lee's Dracula would crush him with one arm tied behind his back. And there just aren't any good horror payoff moments - no stake impalings, no blood-dripping fangs. Hell, the vampire bites don't even seem to break the skin ... victims just look like they got a hickie. I like the name though - Count Sinistre. You almost have to go into a career of blood-drinking and Satan-worshipping with a name like that. You never hear stuff like that coming from guys with names like Count Goodfellow.
6. ☼ The Wolf of the Malveneurs
(1943) - Creaky little curio made in Occupation-era France. This one has gothic horror trappings in spades - a cursed family, spooky old house, a mad scientist, monster on the loose. Too bad so little actually happens. I thought this might end up being some kind of werewolf movie, but it only ended up being a fake-out (after the werewolf story was brought up at the beginning, it was pretty much ignored until the very end). Still, probably worth watching for horror fans as a curiosity.
7. ☼ Dexter
: "Those Kinds of Things" (2011); ☼ Supernatural
: "Hello Cruel World" (2011)
8. ☼ Boogiepop Phantom
(2000) - Episodes 1-4
9. ☼ Dead Girl Walking
(2004) - Another in the Hideshi Hino series. Clearly this won't be for all tastes (not surprisingly Netflix users trash it for being "boring"). But extremely ambitious for this series ... almost arthouse in it's approach. I love the director's "old-school" style ... starting with the 60's-style opening credits. It's all over the place in tone - from silly, to gross-out, to perverse, to sad, to philosophical. And I have to give kudos to any filmmakers willing to stretch themselves like this.
10. ☼ Ravaged House: Zoroku's Disease
(2004) - And yet another Hideshi Hino movie (just about worked by way through the series). And damn ... these last two were depressing as hell. Nothing like the other ones (which were goofy, shoddy, over-the-top affairs). This isn't even a horror movie in the conventional sense. Just a pitiable tale about a poor young man who comes down with a horrid leprosy-like disease - and how his family is torn apart by it, and outsiders cruelly ostracize them.
11. ☼ Boogiepop Phantom
(2000) - Episodes 5-8
12. ☼ Boogiepop Phantom
: Episodes 9-12 (2000) - Well, that was something different. One of the most unsettling and creepy anime series I've seen. The story jumps all over in time, through multiple characters - the sounds and visuals are all designed to create disorientation in the viewer. Not that I have any idea what the story was about. Well, I picked up a few things ... but a lot remains a mystery. Though now I'm reading that the series is a sequel to a live-action movie. I'll have to give that a shot - though I've also read it isn't very good. Also, "Boogiepop Phantom" suffers from the same problem that some other anime has - it's based on tons of material (a couple dozen novels) that can't be condensed in the given running time. Maybe this was great for all the Japanese Boogiepop fans, but this poor American newbie was left puzzled.
13. ☼ The Haunted Casino
(2007) - My "prize" from last year's horror challenge. Err ... can I get my money back?
Though when you see "A Full Moon Production" and "A Charles Band Film" you know to set those expectations floor-low. But my problem is this: remember the good old days when a horror movie would be crappy - but they'd make it watchable for fans by giving it a fast pace, a high body count, and hot girls would get naked? We're not a demanding lot, we horror fans. How did "Haunted Casino" do? Pace - talk, talk, talk ... after a couple of murders to begin the movie, nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes. Blood - aside from one (lame-looking) arm-dismemberment, practically nothing ... a typical episode of "Supernatural" is bloodier than this. Nudity - all tease, no delivery. What's the point of having a hot nympho ghost, an oversexed girl with an internet sex site, and a lesbian (who has the hots for the internet sex girl) if the movie doesn't do anything with it?!?
The last 20 minutes elevated this from a total turd (not coincidentally where Sid Haig and Michael Berryman get the most screentime).
14. ☼ Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh: Boogiepop and Others
(2000) - Tell me you're not the tinest bit intrigued to see something with a character called "Boogiepop". I messed up by not watching this before the anime series. The book (from which is based) was the first in the Boogiepop series. The live-action movie was intended by the producers to be viewed before the anime. Things got screwed-up production-wise and it came out afterward. While still confusing, it does make things much clearer (especially relating to who/what is Boogiepop). Though I think the events from the movie should've been the first few episodes of the anime. Animation gave the filmmakers much greater freedom to be mind-bending. The fantastical elements don't quite work for live-action (Boogiepop in particular is awfully silly looking). At least they don't work well for the extremely low budget this obviously had, and the amateur actors. It's not bad by any means ... I was actually expecting much worse. It's just the anime series is much better.
15. ☼ The Video Dead
(1987) - This was one of those VHS's that always remember seeing when browsing the horror section as a kid. It shouted to me "Look at me! I look cool, don't I? Rent me!" Yet somehow I resisted it's call. Until now. Actually, I probably would've liked this back then. Cheesy as hell, but it's got a fast pace, oddball humor ... and it has zombies! No mindless brain-eaters are this lot. I appreciate that they'll take a moment after a kill, nudge another zombie, give a look as if to say "Good kill, huh?", followed by a hearty laugh by them all. They're polite as well. Believe it or not, one scene had them break into a couple's house. It was early and the couple was still sleeping. Rather than shamble up the steps and wake everyone they just hung out in the kitchen ... one can even be seen eating Cheerios!
Only when the couple wake up do they kill everyone.
16. ☼ Phobia
(1980) - Another cool video box that I somehow missed. This movie is best known because of its director - John Huston. Yes, that John Huston. He was slumming pretty badly around this time, before going out on a high note with "Prizzi's Honor" and "The Dead". Aside from Huston's involvement, and for Starsky and Hutch fans it stars Starsky, this doesn't have much going for it. A movie about a psychiatrist using controversial shock techniques to cure phobias, whose patients all start being stalked by a psycho who kills them according to their worst fear, sounds like it should be good. But it just doesn't deliver ... I had to battle to stay awake. As as far as the mystery part of the plot is concerned ... the tagline actually gives away the identity of the killer!!!
17. ☼ Fade to Black
(1980) - How did I ever not see this one? I liked it a lot, even if the plot and characterizations don't hold together completely. As a movie (especially horror movie) nerd, this one speaks to me. How come writer-director Vernon Zimmerman never made another feature after this? It's interesting to see a very young Mickey Rourke show up as well.
18. ☼ Amer
(2009) - It's easy to see why this has divided responses from horror fans (while professional critics mostly give positive reviews). I went in thinking this was going to be a stylish giallo ... which isn't the way to approach this movie. What it turned out to be was a highly experimental non-narrative art film. And when I say "non-narrative", I don't mean the story-light style of most gialli. I mean there's pretty much no story at all. Instead you follow along select episodes in a girl's life, whose representation in the film is likely extremely different than reality. If you give in to it's pace and style (and don't expect a conventional horror-thriller to ever emerge), there's a captivating quality to this - and it certainly has me thinking about it for some time after.
19. ☼ Giallo
(2009) - This wasn't a bad movie. There's just so little to distinguish it from all the other serial killer movies (except maybe by being a little nastier). The story actually played out a lot like "Silence of the Lambs" - minus all the Hannibal Lector stuff. One little thing I just realized while checking out the imdb page - Adrien Brody played the killer in addition to playing the inspector!
20. ☼ The Praying Mantis
(2004) - Hmm ... well that was a lot less "horror" than you'd think a movie about a man-murdering succubus monster would be. Much more an art-house romance. I would've liked a little more story here ... or failing that, at least some characters to relate to. Instead nothing's explained. And of the three main characters, one guy's aloof, the other's an egotistic asshole, and the girl's a psycho. At least she looked good naked.
21. ☼ Left Bank
(2008) - What's with these Belgium art-house horror movies? I liked this more than "Praying Mantis" - it seemed to have more of a focus on what it wanted to do. And even there wasn't much horror, it kept my interest by having the characters interesting. An odd movie, in that for most of the running time it seemed to be just a romantic melodrama ... but it would occasionally drop little supernatural things into the mix to remind you that something weird was afoot. You can feel "Rosemary's Baby" and "Wicker Man" influences running strong. And the way things wrapped up at the end is certainly something I haven't seen before:
22. ☼ I'll Bury You Tomorrow
(2002) - I'm not usually a fan of micro-budget horror. And to be honest, I don't think I would've rented this if I realized it was one of those shot-on-video shoe-string budget amateur affairs. Though for what it was, this was pretty solid. It's actually a shame it has that cheap video look, because it's reasonably well put together. Nothing really new story-wise (though I guess you can never have enough movies about psycho killer necrophiliacs). Not as lurid as these things can get, though it certainly has it's moments. If there's a major problem, it's that it's far too long (nearly 2 hours). A side note: I looked up the director on imdb, and was confused to see a woman's picture (with the name Alan). Turns out there wasn't a mistake - the director is just a transvestite.
23. ☼ Dexter
: "Once Upon a Time" (2011); ☼ Supernatural
: "The Girl Next Door" (2011)
24. ☼ Creepy Hide and Seek
(2009) - Why would anyone play creepy hide and seek? If you win, you survive to play another day. If you lose, you die. At least for me, if I'm playing this game the ghost better give a decent reward for my win - like a clue to a hidden treasure or something.
25. ☼ Macabre
(1958) - How have I never seen this? Maybe never being released on home video until recently had something to do with it. This had such an awesome poster:
Not to mention the $1,000 "death by fright" life insurance gimmick. I had to wonder if even the naive audiences of the 50s were a bit disappointed ... instead of a horrifying shocker, they got a small-town mystery story. William Castle would deliver the horror goods much better with his following "House on Haunted Hill" and "The Tingler".
26. ☼ The Bloodstained Lawn
(1973) - I love tracking down these ultra-obscure horror movies from my various sources (only 14 votes at imdb). And it wasn't bad at all, though it was a stretch to fill its meager 80 minute running time - lots of scenes of people just hanging out, doing drugs, having orgies, playing guitar ... with some horror working its way in there. I suppose there's some kind of social statement being made here - in a movie where a rich family wines and dines the local dregs of society (prostitutes, drunks, hippies), only to drain all their blood to sell on the open market. And what was the symbolism of the weird blood-sucking tentacled robot? Err ... I think that was just because a giant blood-sucking tentacled robot looks cool!
27. ☼ Fringe
: "One Night in October" and "Alone in the World" (2011) - Was going to count these as my first wildcard before watching them from my DVR. But damn ... if stories about a brain-drilling mass murderer and a child-eating fungus don't count as horror, I don't know what does.
28. ☼ Daybreakers
(2009) - Pretty good stuff ... these guys have come a long way since "Undead". I wish I got to see more of this world (and how things got to how they were) rather focus exclusively on Ethan Hawke's mopey character. But it gets points for not detouring into the romance I was sure was coming. And for having vicious vampires (especially the blood-deprived devolved ones) who don't sparkle.
29. ☼ The Phantom Carriage
(1921) - I'll admit to not always having the patience for silent "classics". It really can be a completely different style of film making that's tough to watch sometimes. But this was quite absorbing, and surprisingly sophisticated in its story-telling structure. The ghost scenes are still wonderfully eerie and effective. And I like the idea that the last person to die each year (on New Year's Eve) has to serve as the Grim Reaper for the next calendar year. My only question is ... why does the last death of the year always occur in Sweden?
30. ☼ A Taste of Evil
(1971) - The 70's were a great time for American made-for-TV horror. And this is no exception ... you know you're in good hands with acting veterans Barbara Stanwyck and Roddy McDowell, and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster (who wrote so many great Hammer horrors). It's a shocker to see the movie start with a little girl getting attacking and raped (while playing with her Raggedy Ann doll no less). And it developed into a good mystery. One of the nice things about these older made-for-TV movies is that rarely overstay their welcome (running 90 minutes minus commercials).
31. ☼ The Walking Dead
(2011): "What Lies Ahead"
32. ☼ Wake Wood
(2011) - I was a little disappointed this ended up essentially ended up being a slight re-write of "Pet Sematary". But it was well done, and a classy production worthy of reviving the Hammer name.
33. ☼ Marronnier
(2004) - Holy shit! Unfortunately I don't remember which positive review encouraged me to put this in the Netflix queue ... so I can make a note to never believe that critic again. Don't be fooled by the plot synopsis, which makes it sound fun and crazy. Utterly incompetent on just about every level and 80 minutes I wish I could have back. If it wasn't for this stupid challenge, I would've bailed
34. ☼ Doctor Who
(2011): "Closing Time"; "The Wedding of River Song" Wildcard #1
- Unlike an earlier list I noticed, I'm not going to call these horror because of one scene with skulls
But both episodes have alien monsters killing people ... hell, that's probably good enough. But I've been hoarding my wildcards, so I'll use one here.
35. ☼ Night Life
(1989) - Another "only available on VHS" treasure from the 80's! And it was pretty good. It's surprising to see no horror elements show up until an hour into the movie. But the early scenes aren't boring, and it's clear the producers loaded up their budget for the final 30 minutes (with some big horror/action set-pieces). Romero zombie purists will NOT be pleased however. Not only do they run here ... but when their victims run faster, they have no qualms about getting in a car and driving after them!
36. ☼ The Face at the Window
(1939) - My first Tod Slaughter movie, and it was a good one. A werewolf killer, a freak in a cage, a mad scientist reanimating the dead, a spooky Victorian London setting ... and of course Slaughter himself, as an over-the-top evil scumbag. I can see why he was a popular stage actor - his size and booming voice probably dominated the stage. And while this style of acting has long since been out of style, it does perfectly fine in this era.
37. ☼ Crimes at the Dark House
(1940) - If anything, Slaughter is even more over-the-top nasty in this one. Though he clearly loves his work, chortling with glee as he murders his pregnant mistress and other assorted evil deeds. While American horror in the late 30's was tamed down (thanks to the Hays Code), this feels a lot more extreme - almost Grand Guignol in its approach.
38. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
(1970) - Finally giving my Blu-Ray a spin (unfortunately wasting a lot of time setting up a new slim PS3 with my home theater system). This holds up well. Thanks to Argento's stylish direction (which never feels indulgent) and interesting cast of characters - including a stuttering pimp and a cat-eating recluse painter.
39. ☼ Shutter Island
(2010) Wildcard #2
- I knew that this wasn't going to be an actual horror movie (like the ads suggested). Though I wouldn't hold anyone against counting it. It has so many horror movie trappings: spooky insane asylum, dark stormy nights, mad scientists performing evil experiments, homicidal maniacs, insanity, ghosts. Just because the horror rug gets pulled from us at the end doesn't negate the 2 hours of horror that came before. We'll see ... if I need another wildcard, maybe I'll change the designation
40. ☼ Dream Home
(2010) - This has gotten a lot of buzz. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed. Yeah, it's super gory. But that's all it is. A series of gore scenes, with characters we haven't gotten to know. The tie-in to the housing crisis doesn't add any depth or sophistication. The movie did have me wondering something ... how long can someone really survive without any entrails?
41. Mad Monster Party?
(1967) - It's sad to think current (and future) generations of kids won't give this a chance because of the primitive "Animagic" stop-motion style. I don't get the question mark in the title ... what's the question? Are they mad? Are they monsters? Is it a party? Seems to me like the answer to all three is a resounding "yes".
42. ☼ Supernatural
: "Defending Your Life" (2011); ☼ The Walking Dead
: "Bloodletting" (2011)
43. ☼ Dexter
: "Smokey and the Bandit" and "A Horse of a Different Color" (2011)
44. ☼ Angel Negro
(2000) - Chile's first horror movie, eh? Keep working at it guys. Tired and cliched slasher made by people who clearly watched "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" too many times. Not helping the matter were the awful subtitles, unreadable in many scenes because of white on white issues.
45. ☼ The Crimes of Stephen Hawke
(1936) - This starts off with one of the most shameless displays of running-time padding I've ever seen. The first 10 minutes is a radio show variety program (culminating with Tod Slaughter finally coming out and introducing the movie). You get a musical-comedy routine by Flotsam and Jetsam (you don't want to know). You get an interview with "The Pussy Butcher" (you really really
don't want to know). Once the movie starts it's pretty good. Again, these old British horror movies really seem a lot more extreme than the post Hayes code stuff coming from Hollywood at the same time. Slaughter brutally breaks the spine of a little boy in the opening scene!
46. ☼ The Scorpion with Two Tails
(1982) - Not to be confused with Sergio Martino's earlier "The Case of the Scorpion's Tale". That's a good movie ... this is not. Very weak sauce for a giallo - no sex, tame violence, dull mystery, boring characters. The DVD notes mentioned this was going to be a 4-hour made-for-tv miniseries. Thank god that was scrapped. If this material was stretched to 4-hours the results would be so dull it would threaten the fabric of space and time. The music was good ... when it was first used in Fulci's "City of the Living Dead". These Italian horror cheapies from this time period can really be pretty shameless in how they rip-off better movies.
47. ☼ Gantz
(2010) - I haven't seen the anime (and manga) this is based on, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Despite imdb labeling this as horror, it isn't - pretty straight-forward sci-fi action to me. I enjoyed the premise and there are some wonderful action set pieces (loved the battle with the statues). I have to agree with the accusation that the characters are idiots. Let's see ... you have a gun that pretty much obliterates anything with a single shot. Yet you dick around in fights, running around and letting people get killed, because you forget to shoot?!?
48. ☼ Remote Control
(1988) - I'm not sure what director Jeff Lieberman's story was. There was a 7 year wait from "Just Before Dawn", and 16 years after this until his next feature. "Remote Control" is very much in the vein of his earlier "Blue Sunshine", also featuring mind-controlled murderers. But instead of bad acid, it's aliens and crappy VHS sci-fi movies to blame. The crazy 80's styles are so over-the-top that it has to be a joke (and imdb must agree, listing this as a comedy).
49. ☼ Gantz: Perfect Answer
(2011) - Not much I can find to read about this in English. But I do have to agree with one comment I read - if you're a fan of over-acting by J-pop idols, then this is the movie for you. There are still big battles, but the crazy alien/monster designs are gone - which is disappointing. Despite being called the "Perfect Answer", this isn't. If you're going to ask the audience to commit to over 4 and a half hours, give us a good ending!
50. ☼ Paranormal Activity 2
(2010) - I don't get why people who hated PA1 would even bother with this ... I think some people just like to bitch. I liked it. I liked how it managed to be a prequel and a sequel. But again, like PA1, I question the actions of the male lead. I don't know about you guys, but if I saw my wife and child being thrown about (and dog maimed) by an invisible demon I'd: a) find someone better to help me than the nanny I just fired, and b) GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!!
51. ☼ The Sister of Ursula
(1978) - Well, if nothing else I have to say this for this movie ... it's the first time I've seen a dildo-wielding killer. Other than that, this is kind of dull. It does have nice scenery. And if you're into soft-core porn, this has that going for it too - in fact, there's a lot more soft-core porn than horror/thriller action.
52. ☼ Fringe
: "Subject Nine" (2011); ☼ The Un-Gone
(2007); ☼ The Simpsons
: "Treehouse of Horror XXII" (2011) Wildcard #3
53. ☼ Supernatural
: "Shut Up, Dr. Phil" (2011); ☼ Dexter
: "The Angel of Death" (2011)