Orange Title - Denotes first-time-ever viewing
Caution: Spoilers may follow!
Last year's tally: 26 films; 13 first-time viewings
This year's goals: 75 films; 50 first-time viewings; complete all lists
NOTE: This film is NOT counted in my totals, as I consider it to be a sort of pre-Challenge warm up.
XX House (1977) (Blu-ray)
- It’s not often that I’m completely at a loss for words about anything, much less a film…but House
has left me somewhat speechless. Simply put, as director/fan Ti West says in a supplement to the film, there is no other film like it. While the back of the case likens House
to an episode of Scooby-Doo
as directed by Mario Bava, I found it to be more like a live-action Max Fleischer cartoon as directed by Jean Cocteau and produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. The “plot” is that seven friends visit the home of one of their aunts, and while there, the house eats them, one by one…although it’s really impossible to describe the film adequately, as it’s got to be seen to be appreciated. I found myself laughing out loud quite often, and there were two or three times that I had to replay a sequence because it was so creatively adventurous. Everyone’s not going to like this film, but I found it to be absolutely delightful.
1. Black Sabbath (1963) (DVD-R from VHS)
- While not my favorite Bava movie as a whole, I still love Black Sabbath
…mainly because its “The Drop of Water” segment, at the time I first saw it, was the scariest thing I’d ever seen in my life up to that point. I prefer the AIP cut and Titra dub, as that’s the version that first made such a huge impact on me, but I prefer the sequencing of the Italian cut better, because the film builds in intensity and scares until culminating in Bava’s finest 20 minutes, “The Drop of Water.” The other two stories don’t do a lot for me (and “The Telephone” doesn’t make a lick of sense in its AIP incarnation), but that dead psychic in “The Drop of Water” makes up for all of the film’s inadequacies. That segment is STILL terrifying, 50 years after it was made.
2. X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) (DVD)
- For its budget, this is an extremely well-done little film, with Ray Milland inventing eye drops that allow him to see through things. At first, he’s only able to see through people’s clothes, but unlike 99% of the world’s male population, he doesn’t want to stop there. As he takes more dosages of the drug, the effect becomes cumulative, and soon he’s able to see through skin, then through organs, then into what lies on the other side of our reality. Don Rickles shows up in a rare straight role, and the ending must have been a complete mind-scrambler 50 years ago. Highly recommended.
3. Don't Go to Sleep (1982) (Streaming--YouTube)
- This one-size-fits-all made-for-TV horror film has always been at the edges of my radar, but I saw it for the first time tonight. I'd always heard that it was one of the scarier TV fright flicks, but it didn't do much for me. It does, however, cover pretty much all the bases when it comes to horror films, as it features a ghost, an evil kid, a psycho killer, an iguana, and Ruth Gordon. Even with all that, I have to say that I was mightily disappointed.
4. The Possessed (1977) (DVD-R from the Warner Archive Collection)
- Now, THIS is a good old-fashioned TV horror movie. You know that it's a good one because it stars Joan Hackett, who was in two other great made-for-TV horror films, Dead of Night
and Reflections of Murder
. It's also set at a girls' boarding school, which, in '70s TV-movies at least, were known to be hotbeds of witchcraft, Satanism, and other icky stuff. Harrison Ford shows up as a science teacher, and PJ Soles, as one of the featured students, rocks one of the worst hairdos ever. The Possessed
was the pilot film for a proposed series which would have starred James Farentino as a wandering evil-fighter. Too bad that none of the networks picked up the series; in the right hands, it could have been a winner.
5. The Reef (2010) (DVD)
- I'll admit that I have a fear of the ocean, mostly due to my phobia about being eaten by really big fish. The Reef
exploits this fear pretty well, yet I really didn't enjoy the film. My problem with it stems from the fact that I don't see the entertainment value in such a realistic depiction of the aftermath of a shipwreck, when there's obviously very little hope that any of the protagonists will make it out of their situation alive. For me, horror and suspense movies should be fun, and I didn't have any fun with The Reef
. The film is exceedingly well-made, but to what end? While I didn't hate it, I doubt that I'll ever want to rewatch The Reef
6. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) (Blu-ray 3D)
- When I watched Creature
tonight, I watched it in 3D for the first time since a local university showed it during my high school years. While it was a lot of fun with a big crowd, it was just as enjoyable in my living room tonight, due to the quality of the Universal Blu-ray presentation. This go-round, I was really struck by how incredibly detailed the Creature costume was. I especially liked how the Creature gasped for air when on land, and every time it opened its mouth, the inside looked remarkably like the inside of a fish's mouth, and the gills moved back and forth. This Blu-ray print has so much detail that I even noticed that the Creature's claws, when it grabbed the riverbank, bent like the rubber that they were. It's a classic, and it's great to finally own a decent copy in 3D.
7. American Mary (2012) (DVD)
- This surprisingly enjoyable (well, to me, anyway) twisted little fable about a medical school dropout who goes pro as a body modification surgeon features an outstanding performance by Katherine Isabelle. While I've known her face before, from such films as Ginger Snaps
and the made-for-TV version of Carrie
, I never took the time to attach a name to it...until now. I found the film to be absolutely fascinating, with only the ending being a bit disappointing. If the writer-director-actor sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska make as big a leap between American Mary
and their next feature as they did between Dead Hooker in a Trunk
and American Mary
, it should be completely amazing. Worth seeking out.
8. Videodrome (1983) (Blu-ray)
- While I generally enjoy David Cronenberg's films, Videodrome
is an exception. It starts off great, but the longer it goes on, the less sense it makes. By the end of the film, I just don't care WHAT happens to the character of Max Renn. It's not a film that I plan to rewatch anytime soon, but to give credit where credit is due, it features one of my favorite character names of all time: Barry Convex.
9. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) (DVD-R from Turner Classic Movies)
- This is another of those films that I'm surprised has taken me this long to get around to watching. I know that I have the VHS in storage somewhere, and I had a vague idea that I had actually watched it before, but I guess that I've only ever just watched the first few minutes, as nothing past the titles seemed familiar at all. The Town That Dreaded Sundown
was made by Charles B. Pierce, of The Legend of Boggy Creek
fame, and it shows. The dialogue sometimes (well, actually, most of the time) comes off as unnatural, and the whole decoy sequence seemed horribly out of place. I still found it funny, however. Dawn Wells (Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island
) shows up long enough to get third billing, and Andrew Prine and Ben Johnson are always watchable. The title is an all-time classic. A remake/sequel is coming out next year from the producers of Sinister
and American Horror Story
10. Black Water (2007) (DVD)
- Here's something that I can't explain: I really enjoyed Black Water
, yet I was only lukewarm about The Reef
. I find this kind of funny, since the same guy who directed The Reef
co-directed Black Water
, and both films have essentially the same basic plot. If you replace the ocean with an Australian mangrove swamp, and substitute a crocodile for the shark, this IS The Reef
. I am a bundle of contradictions. The middle third of Black Water
drags terribly, but the last half-hour or so evens it out with some good suspense. Recommended.
11. The Lords of Salem (2012) (DVD)
- An open letter to Rob Zombie: Dear Mr. Zombie, please stop making films. Really, please. Thank you.
12. The Black Sleep (1956) (Streaming--Netflix)
- When television came in to stay in the early 1950s and people started staying at home instead of going out to the movies, Hollywood had to do something to entice people back to the theaters. This "something" took many forms, from widescreen and 3D films to stereophonic sound. Smaller studios such as United Artists didn't have the deep pockets that the big boys had, so they had to make adjustments in smaller, yet just as important ways. The Black Sleep
nicely illustrates one of the ways that smaller studios and independent producers used to lure people into theaters--gore. While very few people these days would label The Black Sleep
as "gory," at the time that it came out it probably disgusted quite a few people. But if you take out the brain surgery and the melty-looking face of one of the characters, it's very much akin to films such as The Strange Door
or The Black Castle
. It also features a fine performance by Basil Rathbone, and it was the last film of Bela Lugosi's to be released during his lifetime. In its own way, The Black Sleep
was very much a harbinger of things to come. While it may be underproduced and overpadded with unnecessary dialogue, it inched the gore factor up a notch, for better or for worse.
13. The Flesh and the Fiends (1960) (DVD)
- I wasn't expecting much from what I figured would be a fairly dull potboiler, so I was pretty happy to be wrong. The Flesh and the Fiends
is another retelling of the Burke and Hare story, yet this one stands out from the pack due to excellent performances all around, especially from Peter Cushing and an unexpectedly slim Donald Pleasance. Recommended
14. The Vampire Lovers (1970) (DVD)
- Silly, trashy fun from Hammer and AIP. Ingrid Pitt stars as Carmilla/Mircalla/Marcilla Karnstein, a vampiress with a penchant for the ladies. It's based on Sheridan Le Fanu's novella Carmilla
, which was also the source for Roger Vadim's Blood and Roses
. The film plays a little fast and loose with basic vampire mythology (Carmilla is able to be out and about during the day, and there's some business involving burial shrouds that was new to me), but this really isn't the type of film that you need to spend lots of time thinking about. Carmilla's portrait reminds me of the paintings of Margaret Keane
, which is more unsettling than anything else in the movie. If the movie had matched the American poster
, it would probably be my favorite movie of all time.
15. Shakma (1990) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Stinkbomb of a film features a really pissed-off monkey stalking and killing medical school students who are playing a live version of a Dungeons and Dragons-esque game with one of their professors. Awful in almost every imaginable way, with particular raspberries going to the incredibly cheap plywood sets--there has never been a hospital with less-sturdy doors. Ever. It's another example of the trailer being head-and-shoulders better than the film itself; watch it instead.
16. Captive Wild Woman (1943) (DVD)
- John Carradine plays an endocrinologist who goes off the deep end, transplanting human glands into an ape and turning her into Acquanetta. This movie had the potential to get really freaky, as the ape had feelings for the leading man, but it weaseled out before getting too weird. There's a lot more lion- and tiger-training footage in the film than there is ape monster footage, so I was a bit disappointed in the circus-to-chills ratio. In a cost-saving in-joke, the circus owner often complains of Clyde Beatty not coming to work for him, while it's Clyde Beatty himself who doubles for the leading man in all of the animal-taming footage.
17. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) (DVD)
- Bela Lugosi's crazy eyebrows star in this fairly fast-moving tale of a madman, his monkey, and the girls they kidnap. It's no great shakes, but it's short and has some fairly innovative editing techniques for the time period. The leading man is as bland as bread dough, however.
18. Eyes of Fire
(1983) (DVD-R from VHS)
- Fascinating mess of a movie tells the story of what happens to a group of settlers who, in 1750, move into a valley shunned by the local Indians as being an evil place. It seems that the valley is populated by a mess of elemental spirits, including a cat-eyed demon witch, who don't take kindly to human trespassers. To give any more specifics would be a disservice to first-time viewers, as much of the effectiveness of the film lies in seeing what weirdo idea writer/director Avery Crounse trots out next. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's certainly memorable.
19. Dead Birds (2004) (DVD)
- In 1863, a group of bank robbers take shelter in an abandoned plantation house in Alabama. Unfortunately for them, something supernatural has remained there, and it doesn't like the intrusion. Okay film has some good atmosphere and performances, but I never really found myself as involved with it as much as I wanted to be. I think the problem lies in the fact that the film simply has too much going on, and the back story about the history of the house is unnecessarily convoluted. Worth a watch, but not essential.
20. Killer Tongue (1996) (DVD)
- I'm going to make a sweeping generalization here (something I've become quite fond of doing as I get older), but I feel that anyone that really likes this movie has something wrong with them. I'm talking DSM-IV wrong. It's easily the worst film I've sat through in the last year, and it's probably the second-worst film I've ever watched for the challenge. For a moment, it made me question whether my least-favorite film of all time should still hold that position. This one is BAAAAD. I would give a short plot synopsis, but I don't want to encourage anyone to seek this out, ever. It's best to avoid this film like you avoid that guy on the corner that smells like pee and talks to himself. You've been warned.
21. Hatchet (2007) (DVD)
- I enjoyed Hatchet
a bunch. While it doesn't break new ground, Hatchet
exemplifies Roger Ebert's quote about what makes a good movie: "It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.” Hatchet
goes about it with a great and game cast, some really funny lines, and a handful of terrific jump-scares. Highly recommended.
22. Severance (2006) (DVD)
- One of the more overtly political horror films that I've ever seen, Severance
succeeds not because of its politics, but because of its wicked sense of humor. I was a little concerned that the comedy might outweigh the horror, but the filmmakers struck a nice balance between the two. There's one scene involving the refrigerator on the company bus that had me laughing so hard I was crying. I blame it on my sick sense of humor. Like Hatchet
, highly recommended.
23. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) (Blu-ray)
- This is a fun film from the director of Dead Snow
. If you liked that movie, you'll probably like this one, too. While I enjoyed the film, it does get a bit draggy in the middle, and I grew tired of the hyperkinetic editing very quickly. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Step Brothers
, Talladega Nights
) were two of the producers. My favorite gag: the missing children's pictures on the milk bottles.
24. Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) (DVD)
- This typical early Roger Corman quickie has a slightly better monster than usual, but besides that, it's pretty much par for the course. Don't take that to mean that you shouldn't see it, however. The plot in twenty words or less: Atomic fallout has spawned mutant giant crabs, who absorb the intellect and memories of their victims. Sure it's dumb, but it's hard to dislike any film that features giant crustaceans with human eyes who snore when they sleep. A relatively painless 62 minutes.
25. The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) (DVD)
- Every male in Jonathan Drake's family has died on or around his 60th birthday of heart failure. It's just happened to his brother, and now Jonathan is afraid that it's going to happen to him. For a low-budget shocker from the 1950s, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake
is surprisingly engrossing, with great performances all around. Originally released as the top half of a double-bill that featured Invisible Invaders
as its co-feature, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake
warrants an easy recommendation.
26. Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009) (DVD)
- From the fine folks who brought you Tokyo Gore Police
, this film continues the tradition of gonzo splatterfests from Japan. I have to wonder what percentage of the total budget was for fake blood--it had to be at least 10-15%, as nobody just bleeds in this film; they make it rain with arterial spray. Features a cameo from Shiina Eihi, of Audition
infamy. It's no classic, but it's worth a watch if your sensibilities aren't too
27. Trilogy of Terror (1975) (DVD)
- Man, but I do dearly love made-for-TV horror movies from the '70s! This is one of the best...although to be perfectly honest, a third of this is one of the best. The first two stories are no great shakes, but the "Amelia" segment is a classic--so much so that it was released as a standalone videotape way back when, for those who didn't have the patience to hit the fast-forward button for a few minutes. Even though the "Amelia" segment scared the crap out of everyone who saw it in its original airing, it's actually kind of funny today. The sounds that the doll makes are really pretty goofy. What hasn't gotten funny is the final shot of the segment, which is nightmare inducing indeed.
28. Bride of Chucky (1998) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Third sequel to Child's Play
drops all pretenses of being scary and goes all-out to be as entertaining as possible. Since I've never been a huge fan of the series, I found Bride of Chucky
to be a total blast. Jennifer Tilly brings her A game, and the in-jokes scattered throughout the picture are pretty amusing. It's a lot of fun.
29. ParaNorman (2012) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Okay, I'll admit--I wasn't really looking forward to watching ParaNorman
. If left to my own devices, I probably would never
have watched it...so I'm glad that it was chosen as a subset selection, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The character design was really unique, the score was wonderful (I'm listening to "Norman's Walk" on Rhapsody as I type this), and it had, at least in the early part of the film, a rather melancholy feel that I don't think that I've ever seen in any other animated film. I'm now going to have to find this on Blu-ray 3D and make it a part of my permanent collection. Best line: "Don't make me throw this hummus--it's spicy!"
30. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971) (DVD)
- Back when I was a kid, my town's theater used to publish a small, usually bi-weekly 4-page flyer advertising upcoming films. The theater usually changed films on Mondays and Fridays, with the Monday-Thursday films marketed to adults, and the Friday-Sunday films marketed to kids. Most of the weekend showings were double-features, so each weekend page in the flyer showed two ad mats. When Let's Scare Jessica to Death
showed up in the flyer, it got three of the four pages just for it, as it stayed the whole week, which was something rare indeed. One of its three pages was one of those optical illusions
where you would stare at what appeared to be some dark squiggly splotches for about 30 seconds, then quickly look to a white wall to see the after-image correctly. That, and the poster
reproduction on one of the pages, made me both want to see the film and stay far away from it at the same time. I ended up not going to see it, but I finally caught up with it when it was released on VHS in the early '80s. I loved (and still love) the atmosphere of the film...it feels melancholy and decaying, which is the perfect mood for a horror film. There's a scene in it (and if you've seen it, you know the one I'm talking about) that sends gooseflesh up and down my arms. The movie's not perfect (Zohra Lampert's performance as Jessica is absolutely realistic, but it makes her character incredibly hard to warm up to), but it's got a singular mood about it that makes it, for me anyway, a perfect film to watch once the autumn nights start getting chilly.
31. Jack Frost (1997) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Here's another subset film that I was not looking forward to seeing. After watching it, I have to say that it's not nearly as bad as I thought that it would be. It had good actors (who played it as straight as humanly possible), nice cinematography, and was competently directed. But I have to ask the question: When you've obviously got some talent, both in front of and behind the camera, whey waste it on such drivel? How many people heard the concept and thought, "I can't WAIT to see that!"? My guess is not many indeed, and the movie's direct-to-video status confirms that. So what we get is a fairly well-made movie with an awful premise. This reminds me of what might happen if, say, Sofia Coppola directed a film for Troma. Not my cup of tea--and I find it difficult to believe that this is anybody else's cup of tea, either. Not recommended.
32. The Caller (2011) (DVD)
- Wow, but this was NOT what I was expecting at ALL. The plot in a nutshell: a woman in the midst of a divorce moves into an apartment and starts receiving odd phone calls from a woman named Rose. At first, she thinks that the calls are a prank, then she begins to think that Rose is crazy. The truth is something entirely different. On the one hand, it's a much better film than I thought that it might be, judging from the somewhat misleading DVD cover. On the other hand, it's rather confusing and doesn't really hold up under scrutiny. If you can put logic on hold for an hour and a half, it's pretty good. If you can't, watching it is a rather exasperating experience. I was exasperated. The lead actress, Rachel Lefevre, looks sort of like Chloe Grace Moritz blended with Jessica Hecht, the actress who played Ross's ex-wife Susan's lesbian lover on Friends
33. Return of the Living Dead III (1993) (DVD)
- The series switches gears and goes deadly serious for the third installment. I love the first film in the franchise, I hate the second film, and I'm ambivalent about this installment. The reason for my ambivalence stems from the fact that I have come to absolutely loathe any film that tries to make the audience feel sympathy for zombies (or vampires, for that matter). This sad state of affairs started in earnest with Romero's Day of the Dead
and Bub, the shaving zombie, and has cropped up time and time again in the past twenty-whatever years. ROTLD III
cranks it up yet another notch, with the two doomed lovers pulling a Romeo and Juliet-esque double cremation. Add to that the fact that I've never seen a Brian Yuzna-directed film that I've really liked, and I'm surprised that I can still stomach the film at all...yet it somehow remains watchable.
34. King Kong (1933) (DVD)
- There's not a whole lot that I can say about this one that hasn't already been said, and said better. Although The Lost World
from 1925 pretty much told the story King Kong
does, it was this film that really set the template for the "giant monster on a rampage" sub-genre. Essential viewing.
35. John Dies at the End (2012) (DVD)
- Don Coscarelli, director of Phantasm
and Bubba Ho-Tep
, is back in his gonzo element with this film. It's wildly inventive, funny, and maybe his best film ever. There's really no need for a plot synopsis, as it won't make much sense anyway. Just go in with an open mind and let the weirdness wash over you. I loved it.
36. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) (DVD)
- I successfully avoided watching this film for 25 years. It looked like a really stupid, sub-Tromaesque, amateurish attempt at a cult movie. However, I bought a copy a few years back in a three-pack with The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
, as I wanted to give Banzai
another chance. I still haven't gotten around to rewatching that, but when today's theme came up, I immediately thought of Killer Klowns
. I popped it in, and the first third of the film didn't disappoint me...by that, I mean that it was just as stupid as I had thought that it might be. But as I kept watching, I found myself beginning to enjoy this silly little mean-spirited film, and by the end I was digging it pretty hard. I don't know if I was just in a forgiving frame of mind while watching it or what, but I'm now a fan. The theme song by The Dickies is awesome.
37. Vampires in Havana (1985) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Odd Spanish-language animated film about, you guessed it, vampires in Havana. A descendant of Dracula has invented a formula to make vampires impervious to sunlight, and he wants to give the formula away for free to all vampires. However, vampire leaders from the US and Europe want to steal the formula and sell it to vampires, thus making scads of cash. They all meet in Cuba for a showdown. This film is really short, which for me was a blessing--there's a LOT of action going on and I got confused several times. I counted at least seven times that someone who was male got called a "mother." The music is great. Overall, I found Vampires in Havana
to be mildly interesting but nonessential.
38. The Return of the Vampire (1944) (DVD)
- Bela Lugosi stars as vampire Armand Tesla, who has a werewolf assistant named Andreas. Interesting wartime horror film from Columbia has a fairly goofy werewolf makeup, bite marks on victims' necks, and a fairly disgusting (for the time), if quickly glimpsed, disintegration scene. An interesting counterpart to the Universal horror films of the time, it lies, in terms of quality, almost exactly midway between them and the horrors being churned out by the studios on poverty row. The last line of the film breaks the fourth wall, to no great effect.
39. The Norliss Tapes (1973) (DVD)
- Another excellent TV horror film from Dan Curtis. This one's hook is that David Norliss, a writer who has set out to disprove the existence of the supernatural, comes to believe in it after witnessing strange things. Unfortunately, he disappears before finishing a book on the subject, leading his publisher to go looking for him. The publisher finds a pile of cassette tapes in Norliss's home, and as he listens to the first tape (we know this because it's clearly marked with a "1"), we see the story being narrated by Norliss. Essentially a remake of Curtis's The Night Stalker
, The Norliss Tapes
was also a pilot for a proposed series, but this one wasn't picked up. It's a shame, really, as the concept is interesting and Roy Thinnes, who plays Norliss, is always worth watching.
40. Scanners II: The New Order (1991) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- Needless continuation of David Cronenberg's Scanners
offers up nothing new or unusual. In fact, if I didn't already know better, I'd swear that the film was an extended first episode of a TV series from the early '90s that appeared on the USA Network or TBS. It's a relatively painless way to spend almost two hours, but there's no really compelling reason to watch it, either. David Hewlett and several pairs of funky contact lenses star.
41. The Devil's Carnival (2012) (Streaming--Netflix)
- I now know, after watching this film, what I want to do if aliens invade the Earth and give mankind one hour to live--I want to watch this film, because even though it only runs 55 minutes, it feels more like 55 hours. I suppose that there are some things to appreciate on display here (I thought the lighting was particularly effective in parts), but overall, I hated every incredibly long minute of this film. If the songs had been any good, I might have liked it a bit more...but as musicals are my least-favorite genre and the songs in this one were instantly forgettable, I'd rather pass a kidney stone than sit through this swill again. If you like musicals, your mileage may vary.
42. Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967) (DVD)
- Yes, this movie is stupid...but I saw it as a child and loved it, and I still have a great fondness for it. I see it as a beach party movie with country music and no beach. It's a sequel to Las Vegas Hillbillys
, again with Ferlin Husky (an ersatz Frankie Avalon) and Don Bowman (an ersatz Jody McCrea) , but Joi Lansing (as an ersatz Annette Funicello) replaces Mamie Van Doren this go-round as Boots Malone. I'm pretty sure that they wanted to call the character Boobs Malone, but that wouldn't have quite flown yet in the mid '60s. I had a crush on Joi Lansing when I was 7 or 8, but looking at her in some shots in this film, with her husky voice and ample figure, brings to mind Divine in Hairspray
. Hillbillys in a Haunted House
also wastes the talents of Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr., and John Carradine. If you're a fan of traditional country music, you'll probably like it better than most people. For me, although I'm not a country music fan, Sonny James and Merle Haggard had the best songs, and Sonny James actually acquitted himself nicely as an actor as well. I don't expect anyone else to like it, and I'm okay with that.
43. Blood Diner (1987) (DVD)
- Sort of an homage of sorts to Blood Feast
, Blood Diner
tells the story of two brothers who, guided by the exhumed brain of their dead uncle, attempt to reincarnate the spirit of an ancient goddess. To do this, they have to first build a body out of the parts of various women, and then they've got to serve up a "blood buffet" for a bunch of folks. During the blood buffet, they've also got to have a virgin on hand, so that the reincarnated...you know what? This movie is worthless. Just skip it. You're not missing anything.
44. Scream (1996) (DVD)
was the first DVD I ever owned. It wasn't the first because it was my favorite movie; I'd never seen it before owning it. No, my brother gave it to me as a Christmas present--he had seen it in the theater and had thought it to be one of the scariest movies he'd ever seen, and when the DVD format came out, he thought that giving me a copy of a good horror movie would coerce me into buying a player. He was right. Every time I watch Scream
, I like it more. My favorite moment this time around was Wes Craven's cameo, but there're SO many little homages in the film to horror movies from the past thirty-five years that I really can't imagine any true horror fan disliking it. My only real complaint is that Matthew Lillard should have dialed his performance down a LOT.
45. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) (DVD)
- This is one of my favorite horror films from the '30s. It's fast-paced, has great dialogue, and features Glenda Farrell. What's not to like? The early Technicolor just adds another dimension of strangeness to it.
46. Isle of the Dead (1945) (DVD)
- Of the seven horror films that producer Val Lewton made for RKO in the '40s, this one gets my vote as being the one that's still most shiver-inducing today. While Cat People
has plenty of classic moments, they're not really scary to me--they're tense, but not scary. Isle of the Dead
, however, actually gets pretty creepy near the end. It's not my favorite Lewton film (Cat People
still gets the nod for that), and it tends to drag in the middle, but I still like it a lot.
47. Psycho III (1986) (DVD)
- Anthony Perkins directs (for the first time) and stars, and does an admirable job of both. Even though it's a completely unnecessary sequel, Perkins manages to make it interesting and even wrings a little suspense out of a by-now very familiar character and setting. It's not particularly memorable, but it's certainly worth watching.
48. MST3K--Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1999/1985) (DVD)
- Godawful dreck from Charles B. Pierce is a long way from the original The Legend of Boggy Creek
or The Town That Dreaded Sundown
; in fact, it's a long way from anything remotely resembling a good movie. Luckily, Mike and the 'bots make it almost tolerable. Almost.
49. The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) (DVD)
- Peter Cushing's third outing as Frankenstein for Hammer doesn't get a lot of love from fans, but I found it to be a solid entry in the series. The monster this time out reminds me somewhat of the robot in The Colossus of New York
, which is not necessarily a good thing. Hammer seems to be aiming more towards the kiddie matinee crowd with this one, as the monster seems designed for pathos, there's not a lot of blood and/or spare body parts, and there's only one busty actress in sight.
50. Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001) (DVD)
- The only thing revealed to me by this entry in the never-ending series is that the producers were completely out of good ideas. If blood-filled corn kernels and stalks sound scary to you, then by all means give this one a spin. Idiotic.
51. The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) (DVD)
- It's hard for me to believe that I'd never seen this film before...but I hadn't until tonight. The fourth entry in Universal's Frankenstein saga marks a huge dropoff in quality from the previous films, but it still has a good cast and makes the most of its short running time. Lon Jr. plays the monster for the first and last time; he'd play the Wolf Man in this film's direct sequel.
52. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) (DVD)
- I first saw this film when I was somewhere around 12 years old. I loved it then, but I was lucky to have seen it on a (reasonably) big screen when our public library showed a 16mm print of it. These days, it's one of my least favorite Universal monster films--I find that it drags horribly for most of its running time, and they've shoehorned an awful song into the middle of it. And poor Bela! While it makes a certain amount of sense to have Lugosi playing the monster (as the monster does
have Ygor's brain in its head, and Ygor was played by Lugosi), it's sad that his star had fallen so much that he was reduced to playing a part that he had turned down after Dracula
53. The Mummy's Curse (1944) (DVD)
- Fast-moving entry in the series (the last, in fact, if you don't count Abbott and Costello into the equation) is pretty much interchangeable with the other entries in the series. Luckily, The Mummy's Curse
features TWO gorgeous brunettes as eye candy. The resurrection of Princess Ananka in this one is probably my favorite sequence out of the entire Universal horror cycle of the '40s (again, excepting Abbott and Costello). On the debit side, another lame song slows things to a crawl for two minutes or so. One of eight(!) films that Lon Jr. made in 1944.
54. In Their Skin (2012) (DVD)
- Decent-enough home invasion flick did everything right, yet my interest still flagged down the stretch. I don't really know what to pin the blame on--the performances were all fine, the cinematography was great, it resolved itself nicely...but it still didn't have the impact that I thought that it would. For me, the standout performance was given by Rachel Miner as Jane. Her character was fascinating. Overall, a pretty good film that just
misses the mark.
55. High Tension (2003) (DVD)
- Oh, but I loathed this film when I saw in in the theater, but my reaction to it seems to have mellowed a bit in the intervening years. For what it is, it's well-made, with some tremendously graphic mayhem courtesy of Giannetto De Rossi (Fulci's Zombie
). The "twist" still bothers me, but on second viewing, when you know what's going to happen and don't have a first-viewing emotional stake in the characters, it's not as off-putting. I'm changing its recommendation from "avoid" to "worthwhile, but with major reservations."
56. Grave Encounters (2011) (DVD)
- Man, but I thought that this one was going to be a keeper! The first half of the film was absolutely wonderful--I was enjoying it more than I've enjoyed any film this challenge. And then it went off the rails. The last 20-25 minutes were bad, with the last 10 minutes particularly awful. If only Grave Encounters
had lived up to its initial promise, it could have been something...it could have been a contender. As it is, it's half of a really good movie.
57. The Fog (1980) (DVD)
- Too bad that The Fog
came out in 1980; if it had come out only a year earlier, it might have had a fighting chance at becoming a classic. As it stands, it had the misfortune of coming out at the dawn of the slasher craze, and it was deemed too old-fashioned to fully compete in the marketplace (also see Ghost Story
). I really can't count the number of times that I saw The Fog
at my local drive-in, as it tended to play throughout most of 1980 and 1981 first as the main feature of double-features, then as the supporting feature for pretty much all of the Avco Embassy horror releases for those years. I'm pretty sure that I saw it double-featured with Phantasm
, Fear No Evil
, Prom Night
, and The Howling
at one point or another. And that's okay, because it's my second-favorite John Carpenter film. I love the atmosphere, the score, and the fact that it IS a throwback to an old-fashioned ghostly revenge tale. I really do need to upgrade my DVD to a Blu-ray.
58. Pontypool (2008) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Interesting take on zombie films starts slowly but builds tension as it progresses. Pontypool
is unusual for many reasons, including being set almost totally within a radio station and having a very novel way of transmitting the zombie virus. It's so nice to watch a film that shows that its creators have brains. There are also some really good performances on display, especially that from Stephen McHattie. While it's probably too cerebral for many horror fans, those willing to think a bit should find a lot to admire.
59. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) (DVD)
- Another case of my having a DVD for a decade or more and just now getting around to watching it. The Challenge is good about making me catch up on some films. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
is a pretty good Night of the Living Dead
ripoff that certainly doesn't skimp on the gore. I found it to have a rather nightmarish logic, with most of the action of the film happening between a few locations and the characters having to sort of rotate between them, always having to go back to a place that's no longer safe. I'd love to see this on the big screen from a well-used 35mm Don't Open the Window
print--it might be the ultimate wallow in that creepy '70s Euro-horror vibe.
60. The Possession (2012) (Blu-ray)
- I really wasn't expecting to like this one as much as I did. Here are a few of the things that it had going against it: 1) It's a Ghost House Pictures production and, from my experience, those run either hot or cold, with the majority running cold (at least for me); 2) It's rated PG-13, which means that pretty much anything interesting was pre-eviscerated, thus making it not worth my time; and 3) The previews made it look pretty stupid. Luckily, I was wrong on all counts, and I found The Possession
to be an engrossing, well-made, serious horror film. With Sam Raimi's name attached, I was very afraid that his penchant for Stoogeian (or is that Stoogian?) comedy would show up, but everything was played rather low-key for a change. This one's definitely one of the pleasanter surprises of this year's Challenge.
61. The Devil Rides Out (1968) (DVD)
- Hammer film about devil worshipers seems to me to be much darker than any of their other films. The cult in this one is SO much more evil than those in such films as Kiss of the Vampire
and The Satanic Rites of Dracula
, which gives the film an added weight lacking from most of Hammer's 1960s output. Christopher Lee takes what would usually be the Peter Cushing role, while Charles Gray steps into the villain role that Christopher Lee would usually fill. It all works incredibly well, due in large part to the effective screenplay by Richard Matheson.
62. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Along with The Princess Bride
, this is one of the two films that everyone seems to love except me. I haven't been able to put my finger on why I don't like the film, because there are aspects of it that I admire greatly. I guess that it just doesn't gel into a worthwhile experience for me.
63. Ghostwatch (1992) (Bootleg--SH!!!)
- A perfect film to watch on Halloween night, Ghostwatch
purports to be a live investigation of a haunted house in England. It apparently caused such a panic from viewers thinking that it was real (a la
Orson Welle's Mercury Theater broadcast of The War of the Worlds
) that the BBC has refused to re-air it in the twenty years since it debuted. It's pretty great, but the "man in the street" interviewer is truly obnoxious. Deliciously scary.
31 Films Subset
-X- 10/01: Chronological Horror Years Faceoff - 1963 (50th) Vs. 1988 (25th) - Black Sabbath, X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
-X- 10/02: Cathode Ray Tube: Retina of the Mind's Eye - Made-for-TV Horror Movies - Don't Go to Sleep, The Possessed (1977)
-X- 10/03: Just When You Thought it Was Safe... - Aquatic Horror - The Reef, Creature from the Black Lagoon
-X- 10/04: Disease, Decay, Mutilation & Mutation...It's No Vacation - Body Horror - American Mary, Videodrome
-X- 10/05: Inspiration Courtesy of Life's Depravities - "Inspired By True Events" Horror - The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Black Water
-X- 10/06: A Bit of the Old Ultra-Violence Nine - The Splat Pack - The Lords of Salem, directed by Rob Zombie
-X- 10/07: Blood Doesn't Always Run Red - B&W Horror Films - The Black Sleep
-X- 10/08: The Gentleman of Horror Turns 100 - Peter Cushing Centennial - The Flesh and the Fiends, The Vampire Lovers
-X- 10/09: The Monkey Did It! - Killer Monkeys / Gorillas / Jungle Horrors - Shakma, Captive Wild Woman, Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
-X- 10/10: Native Curses Bring On the Hearses - Native American / Horror Westerns - Eyes of Fire, Dead Birds
-X- 10/11: Well Hello Mister Fancypants - Horror Comedies - Killer Tongue, Hatchet
-X- 10/12: Headstrong and Ahead in the Game of Afterlife - Death By Decapitation - Severance, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl
-X- 10/13: Burn It! Send it to Hell! Toys That Play w/ YOU - Killer Dolls / Puppets - Trilogy of Terror, Bride of Chucky
-X- 10/14: Light on Gore, Yet Enough to Piss the Floor - Family-Friendly Horror - ParaNorman
-X- 10/15: Old MacDonald Is No Saint; Farmville It Ain't - Harvest Horrors - Let's Scare Jessica to Death
-X- 10/16: Slippery When Wet. Deviously Psychotic? You Bet! - Ice Terrors - Jack Frost
-X- 10/17: When a Stranger Calls From Inside the House - Telephone Terrors - The Caller
-X- 10/18: Some T&A, Innuendo or Not-So-Gentle Foreplay - Erotic / Sexy Horror Films - Return of the Living Dead III
-X- 10/19: BatShitCrazy Insane...Exact Opposite of Plain - Psychotronic Horror Films - John Dies at the End, Killer Klowns from Outer Space
-X- 10/20: Tru Blood and Glitter-Free Since 1734 A.D. - Vampires (Happy B-Day, Bela) - Vampires in Havana, The Return of the Vampire
-X- 10/21: Reading Minds 1 Blood-Curdling Scream At a Time - Psychic Abilities / ESP - Scanners II: The New Order
-X- 10/22: Singing in the Rain While Inflicting the Pain - Musical / Rock 'n Roll Horror - The Devil's Carnival, Hillbillys in a Haunted House
-X- 10/23: Tyrannically Thrown Together Threesome of Terrifically Tantalizing Terrors - Evil Families -or- Class Warfare -or- Occult Detectives - Blood Diner
-X- 10/24: They Slice, Dice & Gut You Like a Fish - Slashers, 2 / Giallos / Serial Killers - Scream
-X- 10/25: Mysterious Order of the Hallucinating Horrornauts - Mystery Horror Films - Mystery of the Wax Museum, Isle of the Dead
-X- 10/26: Mass Marathon of the Damned IV -Icons -&- Sequels: The Prequel - Psycho III, MST3K--Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues, The Evil of Frankenstein, Children of the Corn: Revelation, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, The Mummy's Curse
-X- 10/27: Privacy Invaded. Retribution Contemplated. - Home Invasion Horror - In Their Skin, High Tension
-X- 10/28: They're Here and They're Clear - Supernatural / Haunted House / Ghost - Grave Encounters, The Fog (1980)
-X- 10/29: Pop Culture Phenoms That Can't Take a Hint; Employed By Sprint - Zombies - Pontypool, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
-X- 10/30: Demented Debauchery of Devil's Night Redux - Demonic Possession / Satanic - The Possession
-X- 10/31: Something Good Will Eventually Go Here - Halloween Related - The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ghostwatch
This Year's Stats -- Final Tally
Select 10 actors:
-X- Angus Scrimm - John Dies at the End
--- Asia Argento -
-X- Boris Karloff - Black Sabbath
--- Bruce Campbell -
--- Bradford Dillman -or- Donald Sutherland -
--- Brinke Stevens -
-X- Conrad Veidt -or- Dwight Frye - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
-X- Dee Wallace - The Lords of Salem
--- Elisha Cook Jr. -
--- Elissa Dowling -
-X- Fay Wray -or- Edward Van Sloan - Mystery of the Wax Museum
-X- Ingrid Pitt -or- Virginia Wetherell - The Vampire Lovers
--- Ivan Rasimov -or- Robert Quarry -
--- Jefferey Combs -
--- Jessica Cameron -
-X- Karen Black (R.I.P.) - Trilogy of Terror
-X- Katherine Isabelle - American Mary
-X- Ray Milland - X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
--- Tina Krause -
-X- Tony Todd - Hatchet
Select 2 film composers:
--- Alan Howarth -
-X- Hans J. Salter - The Ghost of Frankenstein
-X- Marco Beltrami - Scream
Select 5 directors:
--- Bert I. Gordon -or- William Girdler -
-X- Brian Yuzna - Return of the Living Dead III
-X- Dan Curtis -or- Pete Walker - Trilogy of Terror
--- Dario Argento -
-X- Freddie Francis - The Evil of Frankenstein
--- Jess Franco (R.I.P.) -
-X- Mario Bava - Black Sabbath
--- Stuart Gordon -
--- Tobe Hooper -
-X- Wes Craven - Scream
Select 2 make-up effects artists:
-X- Amalgamated Dynamics -or- Rob Bottin - The Fog (1980)
-X- Jack Pierce - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
--- John Chambers -or- Joe Blasco -
Select 2 producers:
--- Dino De Laurentiis -
-X- Joel Soisson - Children of the Corn: Revelation
-X- Val Lewton - Isle of the Dead
Select 1 writer:
--- Dardano Sacchetti -
-X- Richard Matheson (R.I.P.) - Trilogy of Terror
Select 30 of the following sub-genres / types:
-X- *3-D Film - Creature from the Black Lagoon
-X- Anthology Film - Black Sabbath
-X- Appears on BFI's 100 European Horror Films List - High Tension
-X- Appears on Video Nasties List - Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
-X- Based on a Novel - John Dies at the End
-X- Cannibalism - Blood Diner
--- Cinema Inspired By: H.P. Lovecraft -
-X- Cinematic Titanic / Horror Host / MST3K / RiffTrax - MST3K--Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues
-X- Comedy / Spoof - Killer Tongue
-X- Criterion / Masters of Cinema Version Film - Videodrome
-X- Death by: Chainsaw - High Tension
-X- Distributor / Studio: Shout! Factory / Scream Factory - Attack of the Crab Monsters
--- Documentary -
--- Extraterrestrial / Takes Place in Space -
--- Film and at Least Two of its Sequels -
--- Film and its Remake -
-X- Found Footage - Grave Encounters
-X- Frankenstein - The Ghost of Frankenstein
-X- Ghost / Haunting - The Fog (1980)
--- Giallo -
-X- J-Horror - Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl
-X- Killer / Evil Animal - Black Water
-X- Killer / Evil Child - Children of the Corn: Revelation
-X- Killer / Evil Doll - Bride of Chucky
-X- Made-for-TV Movie - The Possessed (1977)
-X- Monster / Creature Feature / Godzilla - Creature from the Black Lagoon
-X- Mummy - The Mummy's Curse
-X- Musical / Rock ‘n Roll Horror - The Devil's Carnival
-X- Nation of Origin: Spain - Killer Tongue
--- Nazi -
--- Psychological -
--- Rape / Revenge -
-X- Slasher / Psycho / Homicidal Maniac - Hatchet
-X- Takes Place on a Holiday - Pontypool (Valentine's Day)
-X- Takes Place on or Under the Sea - The Reef
-X- Vampire - The Vampire Lovers
-X- Werewolf - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
-X- Witchcraft / Satanic / Religious - The Lords of Salem
--- With Commentary -
-X- With Two or More Horror Legends - Hillbillys in a Haunted House
-X- Zombie - Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Watch films in at least three formats:
-X- First format, (DVD), (X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes).
-X- Second format, (Blu-ray 3D), (Creature from the Black Lagoon).
-X- Third format, (Netflix Streaming), (The Black Sleep).
Watch films in at least three languages:
-X- First language, (English), (X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes).
-X- Second language, (Japanese), (Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl).
-X- Third language, (Spanish), (Vampires in Havana).
Select 8 decades of film history:
--- 1890 -
--- 1900 -
--- 1910 -
--- 1920 -
-X- 1930 - Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
-X- 1940 - Captive Wild Woman (1943)
-X- 1950 - Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
-X- 1960 - Black Sabbath (1963)
-X- 1970 - The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
-X- 1980 - Videodrome (1983)
-X- 1990 - Killer Tongue
-X- 2000 - Black Water (2007)
-X- 2010 - American Mary (2012)
Select 4 ratings:
-X- G - Creature from the Black Lagoon
-X- PG - ParaNorman
-X- PG-13 - Killer Klowns from Outer Space
-X- R - The Reef
--- X / NC-17 -
-X- Unrated - Hatchet
Attend a live event (convention, play, haunted house, ghost tour, etc.):
--- (insert event). OPTIONAL
Venture Into the Literary World:
--- Read a Horror Novel or Novella (insert title). OPTIONAL
Goal: 75 Total Watched: 63
First Time Viewings: 45 (71%)
43 DVD – 68%
11 Streaming (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime) – 18%
4 Blu-ray - 6%
4 DVD-R (from VHS, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Archive) - 6%
1 Bootleg DVD-R - 2%
1930s: 3 (5%)
1940s: 6 (10%)
1950s: 4 (6%)
1960s: 6 (10%)
1970s: 7 (11%)
1980s: 8 (13%)
1990s: 8 (13%)
2000s: 10 (15%)
2010s: 11 (17%)
Longest Film Viewed: Scream
Shortest Film Viewed: The Devil's Carnival
New favorites: ParaNorman
, The Possession
Would not miss if all copies were to join the Atari E.T.
game in a desert pit: Shakma
, Killer Tongue
, Jack Frost
, Scanners II: The New Order
, The Devil's Carnival
, Blood Diner