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Orange Title - Denotes first-time-ever viewing
Caution: Spoilers may follow!
Last year's tally: 32 films; 15 first-time viewings
This year's goals: 50 films; 30 first-time viewings; complete theme nights and subset lists
NOTE: These films are NOT counted in my totals, as I consider them to be a sort of pre-Challenge warm up.
XX Carnival of Souls (1962) (DVD)
- Carnival of Souls
has been on my radar for quite a while. I think that the first time I heard about it was when I bought Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film
. Then, a few years later, around 1986 or 1987, a new friend who was also into strange cinema made me a copy of a bootleg of it that he had traded for. I really, really liked it the first time that I saw it; watching it on VHS from a somewhat beaten-up print really gave it another layer of atmosphere. When it was re-released theatrically in 1989, I caught it in a theater near Georgetown University, where I worked. I took a co-worker, but I was afraid that he was going to hate it, as it was a 27-year-old, black-and-white, ultra-low-budget film. But he liked it, and my appreciation for it grew after seeing on a big screen with an audience. Watching it last night, I didn’t like it quite as much as I remembered liking it, but it’s still so utterly unique that I don’t see how any horror fan could really dislike it. A lot of the things in it that now seem obvious were probably quite novel at the time of its release; the only reason that they’re not novel now is that Carnival of Souls
has had such a back-door sort of influence on the genre that ideas from it have quietly seeped into quite a few films over the years. I’d definitely put it on a list of the hundred best horror films ever.
XX Diabolique (1955) (Blu-ray)
- I sure do love me some Diabolique
. At the time of its initial release, it was widely considered to be the scariest film ever made. I have to agree; nothing before 1955 even comes close to the terror that the last ten minutes of the film inspire. It may also have been the first film to close with a request not to give away the ending to others. Alfred Hitchcock was so jealous of Diabolique
that he hired the writers of the source novel to write him a story for a movie; the result was Vertigo
(and he lifted the “don’t tell the ending” bit for Psycho
as well). Officially remade twice (including a very good made-for-TV version directed by John Badham pre-Saturday Night Fever
); unofficially ripped-off probably dozens of times.
1. Night of the Demon (1980) (DVD)
- Night of the Demon
is so very, very weird. It seems like it’s going to follow the path of various Bigfoot films before it, but it goes places that no other Bigfoot film dares (or has the good sense) to venture. In fact, unless I’m mistaken, the film’s main plot point may very well have been taken from a National Enquirer
headline from the mid-1970s. The screenplay has some major structural problems (for instance, what bearing did the ritual in the woods have on the plot?), and the acting ranges from acceptable to really awful…yet it remains watchable, mainly due to the still
over-the-top gore sequences.
2. The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) (DVD)
- When I first saw The Happiness of the Katakuris
a decade or so ago, I remember thinking that it was okay, but I didn’t really warm to it. Because of my initial lukewarm response, I wasn’t really looking forward to watching it again for the Challenge, but I girded my loins and put it in the player…and enjoyed it absolutely and totally this go-round. In fact, I remember thinking when it still had about a half-hour to go that I could easily watch another few hours of the adventures of the Katakuris, and I was disappointed when it had to end. I laughed out loud several times during it (especially when it went karaoke for one of the songs). I’m discovering that I usually don’t “get” Miike’s films the first time around, but after a second watch they’ve all become favorites.
3. The Wicker Man (1973) (DVD)
- A mainland police officer goes to an island off the coast of Scotland to investigate a missing child. Once he gets there, he finds that there’s a lot more to this missing person case than he anticipated. Although this is often described as a horror film, I feel that it’s much more of a mystery with horrific elements than a flat-out horror film. It’s rare that a film’s music contributes as much to a film’s success as the music for this one does; it’s spot-on perfect (even though I don’t think that I’d enjoy a soundtrack album of it very much). Like Carnival of Souls
two days ago, this is essential viewing for any real movie fan, and it’s doubly-essential for horror buffs. Best line: “Do sit down, Sergeant--shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.”
4. The Green Inferno (2013) (Theatrical Showing)
- Gore-fest disguised as an environmental…gore-fest is actually a lot more fun than I thought that it would be. Yeah, it’s disgusting, but that’s kind of the point of films like this one. You can tell that Eli Roth wasn’t taking any of it seriously, either. It did make me think, however, that the next time I’m traveling with a group over possibly cannibal-infested territory, I’ve got to make sure that there’s at least one person in the group fatter than me. That’s something that the Lonely Planet
guidebooks’ll never tell you.
5. Bad Ronald (1974) (DVD)
- To escape a murder charge, a teen builds a fake wall where a bathroom door once was and hides out there. His mother is the only one who knows he’s there, but when she dies and the house is sold to a new family with three attractive teenage daughters, the boy’s caution takes a backseat to his crush on one of the girls. Fairly average ‘70s TV movie is helped by some good performances and couple of more-shocking-than-expected moments.
6. The Devil's Daughter (1973) (DVD)
- Girl who barely knew her mother finds out after her mother’s death that her daddy is the devil and she’s betrothed to a demon. Shelly Winters stars as Lilith, head of the satanic cult. Fun in a stupid kind of way.
7. The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973) (Streaming--YouTube)
- Buddy Ebsen, Chuck Connors, and the Shat (William Shatner, natch) battle some ancient druid spirits seven miles up in this dumb cross between Airport
and The Exorcist
. Featuring a frozen dog and some sort of green crap bubbling up from the cargo hold. Easily the least of the three made-for-TV movies I watched today.
8. Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009) (DVD)
- Zombies invade the pretty island town of Port Gamble, Washington, causing the usual havoc. The only new thing that this film brings to the table is the explanation for the zombie outbreak: Middle Eastern terrorists caused it via viral warfare. Other than that, it’s pretty paint-by-numbers, but it’s certainly watchable, and the female lead is quite attractive.
9. Cold Prey (2006) (DVD)
- Slasher movie, Norwegian-style. A quintet of snow-boarders find just the right deserted spot to spend the day on the slopes, until one of them breaks his leg and they have to find shelter for the night. Fortunately, there’s an abandoned ski lodge nearby. Unfortunately, they won’t be the only ones there. Cold Prey
borrows liberally from the slasher films of the early ‘80s, but it puts what it steals to good use, rather than just trotting out clichés and showing them off as if to say, “Hey, we saw My Bloody Valentine
, too!” And you’ve got to love a movie with such a cold, desolate setting that still
manages to get one of its female characters down to her underwear for a while.
10. The Mist (2007) (DVD)
- Based on Stephen King’s novella that first appeared in the seminal anthology Dark Forces
, The Mist
is the third feature-length adaptation of a King work by writer-director Frank Darabont (who also made a short film from King’s story “The Woman in the Room”). It’s also probably the worst of the three. That’s not to say that there’s not plenty to like in it, because the acting is top-notch and the cinematography is adequately eerie…but the film is overlong by at least twenty minutes, and then there’s that ending…. I thought it was a powerful way to end the film when I saw it in the theater eight years ago, but now I find it to be almost a mean joke on the audience. I would have much preferred the ambiguity at the end of King’s story than what Darabont has served up. On the other hand, I was even more impressed with Marcia Gay Harden’s performance this viewing, and it was fun to see where Darabont found three of The Walking Dead
’s cast. I would still recommend it, but with some major reservations.
11. Eyes Without a Face (1960) (DVD)
- A surgeon who has accidentally disfigured his daughter attempts to transplant other girls’ faces onto her, without a lot of success. I find it hard to believe that I’d never seen this French classic before tonight, but at least that’s now been rectified. And a classic it is, too, with what had to have been literally sickening close-ups of the facial surgeries and an oddly jaunty, yet entirely appropriate, musical theme by Maurice Jarre. I have a few minor quibbles with the film, but, overall, it’s as good as I’ve always heard that it is.
12. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Interminable zombie opus from Australia follows a few guys around as they lay waste to zombies by way of computer-generated blood spatters. In a parallel story, one of the guys’ sister is kidnapped and experimented upon because she’s allergic to the zombie virus due to her Type A negative blood. Oh, and she somehow becomes able to cause zombies to do her bidding via telepathic mind control. What meager pleasures the film offers up are inundated by the sheer pointlessness of the endeavor. And did I mention the film’s new addition to zombie lore? Zombie blood and breath are flammable...so much so that our roving gang rigs up a vehicle that runs on zombie breath. Give me a frickin’ break.
13. Ring of Curse (2011) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Outsider teenage girl is bullied into writing a play for school; little do her classmates know that everything she writes is cursed, and whoever reads it dies. This low-budget film is rather ambitious, considering that it was conceived mainly as a vehicle for the three girls in the Japanese pop group Buono! (the exclamation mark is theirs, not mine). It has a Rashomon
-like structure, with the middle part of the film the most effective, as it’s told from the point of view of the bullied girl. It’s certainly not the best Japanese horror film that I’ve ever seen, but I’ve also seen far worse. Keep watching after the credits for a fun meta-moment.
14. Horror Express (1972) (DVD)
- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing star as two British scientists traveling aboard a train bound from China to Russia. Lee is transporting a half-man, half-ape fossil that’s been found in an ice cave; unfortunately for everyone on the train, the monster thaws out and a body count ensues. Telly Savalas shows up with a half-hour to go and chews the scenery to shreds. When I was in high school, the local television station bought a movie syndication package featuring Horror Express
, and they ended up showing it at least once a month for about a year. I think that I watched it almost every time that they showed it. Fast-paced and fun.
15. Bay of Blood (1971) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- Mario Bava directs this influential giallo wherein someone is knocking off the heirs to a plot of land around a bay. While this wasn’t the first body count movie (or even the first one directed by Bava), its graphic mayhem set a template that proved to be a seminal influence on the slasher film (particularly on Friday the 13th Part 2
, which copied most of its death scenes). Also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve
16. The Last House on the Left (1972) (Blu-ray)
- Wes Craven’s first film, a rip-off of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring
, tells the story of a group of thugs who first murder a girl, then wind up having to spend the night at her parents’ house when their car breaks down. Genuinely disturbing film is tough to watch and even tougher to appreciate; even Craven himself can’t justify it except in academic terminology. The unfunny comedy relief somehow makes it even more horrifying.
17. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) (DVD)
- It’s ten years after A Nightmare on Elm Street
, and, because the Freddy Kruger films are no longer being made, the spirit of Freddy is getting restless and needs an outlet back into our world. What better way back in than to start showing up in the dreams of the real people who created the movies: Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, and Robert Englund? At once silly and dizzyingly self-reflexive, New Nightmare
is much like a cinematic Mobius strip that keeps turning in on itself. It’s sorta-kinda brilliant until it gives in to its own tropes with about twenty minutes left. Unfortunately, audiences didn’t want meta-Freddy, and the film fizzled at the box office. Craven tried going meta again two years later with much more profitable results.
18. Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- Amicus’s first anthology film has a great cast, some good atmosphere, and very, very few scares. To say that it’s tame would be a gross understatement--there’s barely a shiver to be had in its 98-minute running time. It’s still fun, but the lack of scares and the lack of resolution in some of the stories (the second one especially--it just stops cold) keep me from recommending it to all but the most rabid of British horror fans.
19. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) (DVD)
- I remember going to see this when it was released in the early part of 1990. I was living in Shirlington, Virginia, and it was playing at a theater that was very close to my apartment. I remember that it was really
cold that day, and that two teenage girls wandered up to me and begged me to buy them tickets to go see it and to pretend that I was their older brother so that they could get in. What I DON’T remember is anything whatsoever about the movie. So tonight’s viewing was just like a first-time viewing for me, although I won’t count it as such. The plot, as much as it has one, has two friends driving cross-country running afoul of Leatherface and his family. Leatherface now has a mother and three brothers, but no father…so continuity with the first two films has gone straight out of the window. There's also a little girl in the house that I thought was Leatherface's sister, but according to the IMDB, she's actually his daughter! That takes things to a whole new level of messed up, if that is indeed the girl's role in the family. Parts of the film play like a partial remake of the 1980 Mother’s Day
, and one of the characters seems to be some weird kind of cross between Adam Sandler and Carl Spackler, Bill Murray’s character from Caddyshack
. It’s not particularly scary, it’s just strange and unsatisfying. Five years from now I probably will have forgotten everything about it again. It’s still better than the Chainsaw
sequel with Matthew McConaughey, though.
20. The Babadook (2014) (Streaming--Netflix)
- This is the second time that I’ve seen this film, and I was really hoping that it would grow on me this time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It’s not that I don’t
like The Babadook
; it’s just that I don’t have a whole lot of admiration for it. To me, it’s much more a rather obvious parable about the horrors of depression and survivor guilt than it is a horror movie. I do feel like the film is very well-acted; I just wish that it had given me a lot more fright and a lot less Freud.
21. Nightbreed: The Director's Cut (1990) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Clive Barker wrote and directed this adaptation of his novella Cabal
, wherein a guy named Aaron Boone goes to the city of Midian and pretty much causes the destruction of the place. Midian, by the way, is located under a cemetery and is populated by all sorts of different kinds of monsters. There’s also a psychiatrist, rather poorly played by horror film directed David Cronenberg, who is trying to pin a string of murders he’s committed on Boone. Oh, and Boone is dead even before he gets to Midian…and he can turn into a monster when he feels like it…and there’s a porcupine woman…and a dog…. Nightbreed
is rather silly, all things considered (one of the creatures even looks like the short-lived but creepy McDonald’s mascot Mac Tonight
), and even with its monsters and gruesomeness, it still comes across as kind of an updated, creature-fied version of Gene Autry’s The Phantom Empire
. Not being a fan of fantasy films, I found it to be overlong and just barely tolerable, but I do think that Cirque du Soleil could make a kick-ass show based on it.
22. Screamtime (1986) (Streaming--Amazon Prime)
- Direly stupid anthology film has two miscreants robbing a video store of some tapes, then watching them at a friend’s house. Each tape that they watch is a story that we have to cope with as well. The first story concerns a put-upon puppeteer and rips off the ending of Blood Feast
; the second tale is the best, but the lead actress wears such humongous glasses that I forgot all about the plot and just gaped at those enormous lenses; and the third has vengeful fairies giving a thieving youth and his buddies the what-for. Yup, what they’ve got here are your basic killer Tinkerbells. The wraparound story ends with the killer from the first tale killing one of the VHS thieves, while the other is strangled to death by an arm that comes out of the TV…but you’d already figured that out, hadn’t you? If you don’t mind your stories not having any kind of dramatic tension or logic at all and/or you really, really dig large eyeglasses, then you might be able to wring a little enjoyment out of Screamtime
. For all others, this is bad. Real bad.
23. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Interesting first feature from Ana Lily Amirpour often plays
like a first feature, with the occasional plotline that doesn’t go anywhere and scenes that really don’t belong in the film…but then there’s another side to the film that’s self-assured and poetic and absolutely right
. The plot has to do with a vampire stalking the streets of Bad City, a mostly-deserted town in Iran, and the people that she befriends and/or kills. Amirpour seems to be a fan of Jim Jarmusch, as her film is in black and white and has the same kind of ennui about it that his early features do. Worth seeing if you’re in a meditative frame of mind.
24. Barricade (2012) (Streaming--Netflix)
- A widower (played by Eric McCormack, Will of Will & Grace
) takes his two kids to a mountain cabin that his wife had stayed at when she was a child, but things get weird once they arrive. Barricade
doesn’t break any new ground and can be quite frustrating in spots, but when the credits started to roll I found that, for the most part, I had enjoyed it. Another in a seemingly endless stream of horror films made by WWE Studios, Barricade
has one of the best jump scares that I’ve seen in years--I had to pause the movie for a few minutes because I couldn’t stop laughing at how much it scared me. I must have come at least half a foot off of the couch. Worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something different.
25. The House by the Cemetery (1981) (DVD)
- Another Fulci bloodbath, another film that doesn’t make a lick of sense. A family moves into an old house (by a cemetery, not that that has any bearing whatsoever on the plot) in Massachusetts and don’t live to regret it. The voice dubbing for the character of Bob is hysterical, which leads to the question: Why do I want to punch every child in an Italian horror movie in the face? If you’re a fan of Fulci, you’ll probably enjoy this; as a non-fan, I enjoyed the excessive gore, but not a lot else.
26. Curtains (1983) (Streaming--YouTube)
- A film director has his star actress committed to an asylum in order to do research for a part. While locked away, she learns that he’s making the film without her and having auditions for the lead role (which was supposed to have gone to her) at his house. She escapes and shows up at his house, along with five other girls. The actresses start dying one by one, but who’s doing the killing? While there are aspects of Curtains
that I like (the hag mask that the killer wears, the doll that shows up here and there, the parts of Paul Zaza’s score that sound like leftovers from Prom Night
), the pacing of the film is all wrong, and I pretty much gave up pretending to care after about an hour. While the film looks nice, it’s not one that I’m going to recommend to anyone.
27. Stigmata (1999) (DVD)
- Patricia Arquette, an avowed atheist, starts exhibiting stigmata, so Vatican miracle debunker Gabriel Byrne is brought in to investigate. It turns out that she’s possessed…but not by a demon. Not-bad religious horror film has a good cast and a pretty good score by ex-Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan. It’s not the best movie you’ll see this year, but it’s worth a watch. If only Arquette’s character had taken about half of her candle budget and spent it on fixing some of the leaks in her apartment’s ceiling.
28. Hell Night (1981) (DVD)
- I saw this back in the early ‘80s, but I didn’t catch it in the theater, so I must have seen it either on HBO or on videocassette. I remember enjoying it a lot, so I was anxious to watch it again after 30+ years. It didn’t hold up quite as well as I remembered it, but it’s still a fun watch. How can you dislike a movie that uses one of the all-time great set-ups? Four pledges have to spend the night in Garth Manor, where all the Garths were murdered twelve years ago…but two of the bodies were never found. What the pledges don’t know is that their fraternity brothers have rigged the house with speakers, two-way mirrors, and other devices to try to scare them. What neither group knows is that the two missing Garths are still alive and living in the maze of tunnels and secret rooms under the house. I find it interesting that Frank Darabont was a production assistant on the film--he was all over the place in the ‘80s.
29. Dance of the Dead (2008) (DVD)
- Incredibly fun zombie film is the best kind of horror comedy--the kind that takes its horror seriously and gets its comedy from the quirks of its characters. There’s nothing new going on here; we’ve seen this same setup dozens of times. However, the beauty of this film is in its details. For instance, I loved how the zombies skyrocket out of their graves and hit the ground running. It also features perhaps the worst rendition of a Pat Benatar song ever. This may not be the best first-time view of the Challenge for me, but it’s the one that I’m most likely to rewatch soon.
30. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) (DVD)
- Slight but amusing “documentary” about a group of flatmates in Wellington, New Zealand who are vampires. It’s nice to see a new film that sticks rather reverently to vampire lore; its take on werewolves, however, is a little less canonical. All of the leads are spot-on perfect, but writer/director Taika Waititi is especially ingratiating as a foppish dandy-turned-vampire.
31. In the Mouth of Madness (1994) (Streaming--Google Drive [Alyxstarr's link])
- John Carpenter does Lovecraft and the results are…meh. I’ve never been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft (I find most of his stuff, rather than being horrific, to be silly), but a lot of horror fans love him. John Carpenter must be one of those fans. He flirted with some Lovecraftian imagery in The Thing
, but here he goes into full-blown Yog-Sothoth mode. I liked the idea of the Mobius-strip logic of the lead character in the film being the main character in a book that the film character reads, but, overall, even though the film was crawling with misshapen creatures, I found it to be neither scary nor particularly good.
32. Terror in the Aisles (1984) (Blu-ray)
- Adequate time-waster plays like the horror movie equivalent of That’s Entertainment
, in that the film strings together a bunch of the scariest moments from (according to the end credits) sixty-two films while celebrity narrators (in this case, Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen) babble on about how we all experience fear and we all have to leave the theater at some point and blah blah blah. There’re a bunch of clips that aren’t from horror movies at all, and virtually all of the music from the film clips has been rescored, but it’s still kind of fun playing “name that movie” with the scenes that are shown.
33. House of Wax (1953) (Blu-ray 3D)
- This remake of 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum
nominally stars Vincent Price, but the real star is the outstanding 3D effects. There’s a remarkable spatial depth to the film, but every once in a while director Andre de Toth also throws in a shot where something gets shoved or thrown right in the viewer’s face. Having never seen the film in a flat version, I can’t vouch for its entertainment value without the 3D, but with it, it’s one of the most solidly entertaining films that I’ve seen in a while…and one of the best 3D features ever.
34. Man Made Monster (1941) (DVD)
- Lon Chaney, Jr. stars as a guy who has a high tolerance for electrical shocks, which makes him the perfect candidate for mad scientist Lionel Atwill’s experiments in creating a race of electrified men. This might be the perfect Golden Age Universal horror film to introduce kids to monster movies; I loved it as a kid because it had a sympathetic “monster” in Chaney, a cute dog that did tricks, and nifty special effects. It’s still fun after almost seventy-five years.
35. The Terror (1963) (Blu-ray)
- Infamous mess of a film started with Roger Corman finishing up The Raven
three days early, so he got Boris Karloff, Sandra Knight, Jack Nicholson, and Dick Miller to shoot some disjointed scenes on the The Raven
’s sets, figuring that he could build a film around them later. And, to his credit, he did. What he never had, though, was a complete script from which to work. Also, after his three days with the cast, he didn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to the film either, so he piecemealed the rest of the film together. When Monte Hellman had a few days, Corman got him to take a few of the actors and shoot; when Francis Ford Coppola had some time, he took a crack at it, and so on, through a total of five directors and countless script changes. That it even ever came together in a releasable form is simply amazing. The Terror
isn’t very good, but it has a few points of interest, such as the hawk attack and the finale that was kinda/sorta lifted from Tales of Terror
. (In a sort of weird replay of fate, a few years later Karloff owed Corman a few days’ work, so Corman gave Peter Bogdanovich Karloff and twenty minutes of The Terror
to craft a new movie. The result was Targets
, Bogdanovich’s first feature which featured Karloff’s last great role.)
36. Frankenstein 1970 (1958) (DVD)
- Boris Karloff plays the last descendant of the Frankensteins. He needs money for some sort of new atomic machine, so he rents out his castle and grounds to a TV crew. Of course, he’s keeping up family traditions again in a sub-basement that he’s tricked out with the latest gadgetry. The first half of the film moves painfully slowly, but once Herr Baron Frankenstein starts killing off the TV cast and crew to provide parts for his creature, the film becomes much more interesting. Horror films of the late 1950s are really fascinating to me because of their experimentation with gore. The Black Sleep
had a few seconds of fairly icky brain surgery, and Frankenstein 1970
has a human heart being palpated by Dr. Frankenstein in the few brief seconds it spends between coming out of one body and being put into another. There’re also a couple of eyes that are kept in a jar and get dropped on the floor, perhaps in a nod to the previous year’s Curse of Frankenstein
. Frankenstein 1970
is worth watching on a slow evening, but don’t expect too much from it. The “1970” part of the title is never explained.
37. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) (DVD)
- Every once in a while I run up against a classic that has been discussed so much that I can’t really find anything new to say. So it is with this film. It’s perfect family viewing for this time of year, but only the very youngest kids will actually be scared by it. Every time that I see it I find something new to chuckle over; this time Lou’s line as he’s about to enter McDougal’s House of Horrors to deliver the crates containing the monsters cracked me up--he takes one look into the House of Horrors, turns to Bud, and says in all seriousness, “I’m not gonna like this.” Man, but I love this film.
38. Out of the Dark (2014) (Streaming--Netflix)
- Julia Stiles, her husband, and their daughter relocate to a small town in Colombia where her father is the grand poobah of a large company. While there, they discover that their house is haunted by the ghosts of some children who are now after their daughter. Middling “thriller” starts out well enough, but it ends up being rather preachy and not at all scary. Unless you’re really hurting to watch a ghost movie that you haven’t seen yet, I recommend skipping this one.
39. Here Comes the Devil (2012) (Streaming--Netflix)
- I missed this when it was a subset film last year because I had to bail out on the Challenge with about three days left in it. I’m now sorry that I missed it. Here Comes the Devil
is, so far, the highlight of this year’s Challenge for me. The setup is fairly simple--a family that’s out for the day stops at a gas station near a boulder-strewn hill. The kids ask to climb the hill, and Mom and Dad agree. When the kids don’t come back after a few hours, the police are called. The next day, the kids show back up, but something seems to be a little off about them. And there’s that rumor that the hill that they visited is cursed…. Every time that I thought that I had the plot figured out, writer/director Adrián García Bogliano threw me a curve ball, so that right up until the very end I was kept guessing. This is the type of film that the average viewer might not like, but horror fans should eat it up with a spoon. Not to be missed.
40. Next of Kin (1982) (Streaming--YouTube)
- Someone is murdering people at the nursing home that Linda has inherited from her mother, but who is the killer? Okay film has large swatches of tedium broken up by some nice giallo-inspired moments (including, in spots, a soundtrack and roaming camera that recall Dario Argento’s Tenebrae
) and some arty, pretentious-but-still-fun non-sequitur moments. The nominal male hero of the film later turned up as the killer in the Wolf Creek
41. Black Sheep (2006) (DVD)
- When Henry goes home to sell his stake in the family sheep farm to his brother, he finds that his brother has been financing a lab to create genetic modifications to the animals. Unfortunately, at the exact time that he arrives, the meddling of some activists causes a bad experiment to get loose, and soon all 50,000 of the sheep on the farm turn carnivorous. As if that’s not bad enough, a sheep bite can cause a human to turn into a weresheep, and soon Henry and the remaining humans are fighting to survive the onslaught of mutant mutton. Disposable but fun film from New Zealand has some effective gore courtesy of the guys at WETA, and some funny bits and quite a few scares from writer/director Jonathan King. Black Sheep
takes a while to get started, but once it gets cranked up, it's a blast.
42. Stir of Echoes (1999) (Blu-ray)
- About fifteen years ago, I ran into a friend from high school in the electronics section of Walmart. We spent a few minutes catching up, but since we were standing in the movie aisle, our conversation eventually turned to what films we had seen lately and which ones were good. He asked me which movie I had liked better: The Sixth Sense
or Stir of Echoes
. At the time, I replied that I thought that The Sixth Sense
was the better film. Tonight, after watching Stir of Echoes
for probably the third or fourth time, I’m not so sure. David Koepp’s adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel is a model of economic storytelling; there doesn’t seem to be a wasted frame in the film. The film is so packed with details that it practically requires repeated viewings to catch all the clues, both visual and aural, that Koepp has layered into the film. It’s almost a bonus that the film is so well-acted, engrossing, and, at least in its first half, scary. I think that, as more time goes by, Stir of Echoes
will be seen as one of the great horror films from the turn of the century.
43. Pet Sematary (1989) (DVD)
- Out of all of Stephen King’s books, Pet Sematary
scared me the most. I found it to be unremittingly grim and flat-out frightening. When the movie came out, I was amped up and ready to be scared witless. The film, unfortunately, didn’t live up to my expectations. In fact, it may be the unintentionally funniest King adaptation of them all… and there’re a lot of bad King adaptations out there. How could such great source material lead to a movie as bad as this one? I think that the main culprit was Stephen King himself: he wrote the screenplay for the film, and it’s awful. His decision to turn the character of Victor Pascow into a sort of undead Greek chorus wasn’t the best of ideas, and his dialogue reeks of what a former graduate school classmate of mine liked to call “exposition with a blunt object.” King doesn’t get all the blame, though: Mary Lambert, the director, stages scenes with all the sledgehammer subtlety that she showed in her music video days, while the editors apparently used rusty garden tools to cut the film. Elliot Goldenthal’s score sounds like huge swatches of it were lifted from Lalo Schifrin’s score for The Amityville Horror
. And then there are the actors. Fred Gwynne is the only actor to come out of this debacle nearly unscathed, although he does tend to bite at the scenery occasionally…but the rest of the cast is uniformly awful. Denise Crosby acts like she signed on to be in a drama about domestic violence. Blaze Berdahl as Ellie, the daughter, gives a one-note performance, and that note is LOUD. But the worst performance in the film belongs to Dale Midriff...er, Midkiff, whose anguished scream of “NOOOOOOOOOOO” after a truck makes roadkill out of one of his family members made me laugh long enough to have to pause the DVD to regain my composure. I think that it’s about time to remake this one. Maybe this time they’ll get it right.
44. Idle Hands (1999) (DVD)
- Goofy (but funny and ingratiating, as well) tale of Anton Tobias, a teenage slacker whose right hand gets possessed by a demon that looks for the laziest person that it can find. Once the demon possesses the hand, it kills as many people as it can before finally dragging someone close to its host down to hell. At least, that’s what the Druid priestess that’s chasing the demon would have us believe. Fun cast has a blast with this dumb premise, but the results are often smarter than you’d think. Seth Green and Elden Henson easily steal the movie as a couple of Anton’s stoner friends.
45. 6 Films to Keep You Awake: To Let (2006) (DVD)
- A guy and his pregnant girlfriend go to look at an apartment that he saw an ad for, but they soon live to regret it when they find out that the landlord is crazy and intent upon never letting them out of the apartment building. So-so film from usually reliable Spanish director Jaume Balaguero seems overlong at 69 minutes, and there’s a lot of shakycam footage thrown into the film for absolutely no reason. It’s not awful, but Balaguero has proven that he can do far, far better ([rec]
, The Nameless
46. The Midnight Hour (1985) (Streaming--YouTube)
- If you were to put as many horror tropes as you could into a blender (making sure to add in a double-fistful of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”) and hit “puree,” this is probably what you’d get. This is lowest common denominator filmmaking, made by a TV network to appeal to as many different demographics as possible. As such, it’s neither very good nor awful, neither scary nor funny; it’s just there. I can see where some people might think that this is fun, but excepting the music, I didn’t find much to like here. Still, I didn’t entirely dislike it either, because it DOES have a little bit of everything that’s Halloween-themed in it. With the sound turned down, it would make a perfect background video to have on at a Halloween party; with the sound turned up, it’s a barely adequate time-waster.
47. Mother of Tears (2007) (DVD)
- Easily the least of the “Three Mothers” trilogy, Dario Argento’s long-awaited film isn’t as terrible as some would have us believe. In a nutshell: Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) witnesses a co-worker’s murder after they open a box (containing a knife, three ugly knick-knacks, and a ratty t-shirt) that mysteriously showed up at their museum. From that point on, Sarah is thrust headfirst into an ever-deepening well of witches, murder, and psychic visions from her dead mother. Even bloodier than the other entries in the trilogy, Mother of Tears
will probably prove unwatchable for those with a strong aversion to scenes depicting eye trauma, as it seems like every other kill involves some violence to the victims’ eyes. As is the case with the other two films, dream logic dominates the proceedings, so don’t expend a lot of energy trying to logically connect the happenings in the film. Just let it roll over you, and you’ll probably have a pretty good time.
31 Films Subset
-- Completed (by using the Bonus Day)!
-- Only missed the Horror/Comedy Crossover!
-X- 09/30: Avant-garde, Niche, and Surreal Minus the Slick & Polished Mainstream Appeal - The Criterion Collection Crossover - Carnival of Souls
-X- 10/01: Get on the Ball & Do Not Fall, Because Big or Small ...They'll Devour You All! - Bigfoots, Yetis & Tiny Terrors - Night of the Demon
-X- 10/02: 5-Star Service & Closed for the Season; Caretakers Go Psychotic for No Apparent Reason - You'll Never Check Out! - The Happiness of the Katakuris
-X- 10/03: Farewell Master of the Macabre and Heavy Metal Hammer Legend of the Gods - R.I.P. Sir Christopher Lee - The Wicker Man
-X- 10/04: Cathode Ray Boob Tube: Retinal Detachment of the Mind's Eye - Made-for-TV Horror Movies & Horror Mini-Series - Bad Ronald
-X- 10/05: No Stereotypes Perpetuated; The Frights Will Be Elevated - LGBT Horrors - Zombies of Mass Destruction
-X- 10/06: Wintery Conditions Possibly Ahead; Don't Wind Up Frozen Minus Your Head! - Blood and Snow - Cold Prey
-X- 10/07: Nevermore Frightening. Nevermore Enlightening. Miskatonic University Approved. - Based on Horror Novels: Lovecraft / Poe / King / Matheson - The Mist
-X- 10/08: A Blinding Vision of Eyeronic Cover Art You'll Never Live to See! - Eyes of Death - Eyes Without a Face
-X- 10/09: Decaying Walking Corpses Wreaking of Stinky Cheese, Beware Their Bite, Or Contact Their Disease! - Zombies - Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
-X- 10/10: Itinerary of Hostel Intent; Railway of Unnerving Descent - The European Passport to Terror - Horror Express
-X- 10/11: Farewell to the Dream Master of Modern Horror - R.I.P. Wes Craven - The Last House on the Left
-X- 10/12: Chronological Horror Years Faceoff - The Third Chapter! - 1965 (Gold) Vs. 1990 (Silver): The Gory Platter - Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
-X- 10/13: Up or Down: Household Horrors Lurk All Around! - Better Crypts & Mortuaries: Attics & Basements Edition - The Babadook
-X- 10/14: You Have the Right to Remain Silent. Forever. - Police Stations - Nightbreed: The Director's Cut
-X- 10/15: Once, Twice, Three Times the Lacerations - Horror Anthologies - Screamtime
-X- 10/16: They Date. They Mate. They Procreate. They Eradicate. - Crazy Love - A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
-X- 10/17: VHS Distributor Status: Defunct. Nightmarish Visions: Continue To Run Amok - 1980's Video Companies Spotlight: Vestron Video - The House by the Cemetery
-X- 10/18: Sanctuary on Sacred Ground ...Nowhere to Be Found! Don't Turn to the Pope! Abandon All Hope! - Chapels of Horror - Stigmata
-X- 10/19: Dreaded Reunions & Bad Cafeteria Food Are the Least of Your Worries; Avoid at All Costs, Or It's Gonna Get Gory! - Schools Out ...Forever - Dance of the Dead
-X- 10/20: Bela's Blood Sucking Bloodbath Birthday Bash Bonanza Extravaganza! - Vampires & Apocalyptic Horror - What We Do in the Shadows
-X- 10/21: Don't Fail to Recite the Incantation, or You'll Be Better Off Hanging with Jason! - Necronomicon Ex-Mortis: Book of the Dead - John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness
-X- 10/22: Inflated Ticket Prices & Glaring Screens; Behave Yourself or Lose Your Spleen! - Theaters of Blood - Terror in the Aisles
-X- 10/23: Pay to Get In. PRAY to Get Out. - Free Admission: Enter at Your Own Risk - House of Wax (1953)
-X- 10/24: Mass Marathon of the Damned 6 - Drive-In Double Features: Bloody Cult Flix! - The Terror / Frankenstein 1970
-X- 10/25: The Super Sunday Random Maniacal Mashup of Insane Indecisiveness - Evil Trees & Plants / Web of Horror / "Vs." Horror Films / Occult Detectives - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
-X- 10/26: It Slices! It Dices! It Circumcises! - Slashers / Giallos / Serial Killers - Next of Kin
-X- 10/27: Straitjackets Unhinged; Crazies On the Fringe! Holy Crap, It's Societal Collapse! - Werewolves / Were-Creatures On A Full Moon - Black Sheep
-X- 10/28: Ectoplasmic Entities Materializing at Night; Strong Yet Suspenseful Emotional Frights - Supernatural & Quiet/Soft - Stir of Echoes
-X- 10/29: Furry Flying Abominations with Hideous Feet, Screaming Feline Critters Always in Heat, And An Essential Ingredient In Your Hotdog Meat - Bats / Cats / & Rats - Pet Sematary
-X- 10/30: Possessive Demons Cast Their Spell, Steer Clear or Discover the 7th Layer of Hell - Devil's Night Debauchery: Demonic Possession / Satanic / Witchcraft / Hell - Idle Hands
-X- 10/31: Halloween Evokes the Spirits of the Dead, Tread Lightly or Experience the Color Red! - All Hallows Eve Horrifically Hideous Hellfest / Samhain: An Evening of Celtic Horror - The Midnight Hour
--- 11/01: Comedy Plus Tragedy Equals Hilariously Horrific Death - Horror Comedies Crossover -
-- Only missed completing it by four items!
This Year's Stats -- Final Tally
Select 10 actors:
-X- Lionel Atwill -or- Jack Palance - Man Made Monster
-X- Linda Blair -or- Billy Drago - Hell Night
-X- Marilyn Burns -or- Heather Langenkamp - Wes Craven's New Nightmare
--- Jodelle Ferland -or- Emmanuelle Vaugier -
--- Gunnar Hansen -
--- Irwin Keyes (R.I.P.) -or- Patrick Macnee (R.I.P.) -
--- Monique Gabrielle -or- Laura Gemser -
-X- Macarena Gómez -or- Mary Elizabeth Winstead -or- Christina Ricci - 6 Films to Keep You Awake: To Let
-X- Anne Gwynne -or- Elsa Lanchester -or- Anne Nagel - Man Made Monster
--- Richard Johnson (R.I.P.) -or- Michael Rooker -
--- Udo Kier -
-X- Christopher Lee (R.I.P.) - The Wicker Man
-X- Traci Lords -or- Robert Picardo -or- Sam Neil - John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness
-X- Harriet Medin -or- Alida Valli - Eyes Without a Face
-X- Dick Miller - The Terror
--- Betsy Palmer (R.I.P.) -or- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (R.I.P.) -or- Alex Rocco (R.I.P.) -
--- Michael Pataki -or- Angelo Rossitto -
--- Andrew Prine -or- George Zucco -
--- Debbie Rochon -
--- Tom Towles (R.I.P.) -or- Robert Z'Dar (R.I.P.) -
Select 2 film composers:
--- Richard Band -
--- Fabio Frizzi -or- Jerry Goldsmith -
-X- James Horner (R.I.P.) -or- Paul Zaza - Curtains
-X- Fernando Velázquez -or- Christopher Young - Out of the Dark
Select 5 directors:
--- Al Adamson -or- Eddie Romero -
--- Charles Band -
-X- Jeff Burr - Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
--- Roy Ward Baker -or- Don Sharp -
--- Darren Lynn Bousman -or- Neil Jordan -
--- Edward L. Cahn -or- William Beaudine -
-X- Wes Craven (R.I.P.) - The Last House on the Left
--- Mario Caiano (R.I.P.) -or- Ryûhei Kitamura -or- León Klimovsky -
--- Lloyd Kaufman -or- Andy Milligan -
-X- Eli Roth - The Green Inferno
Select 2 makeup effects artists:
-X- John Chambers -or- Giannetto De Rossi - The House by the Cemetery
-X- Sergio Stivaletti - Mother of Tears
--- Chris Wallace -
--- Kevin Yagher -
Select 2 producers:
--- Chris Bender -or- Joel Silver -
--- Mark Burg -or- Rob Tapert -
--- Michael Carreras -
-X- Roy Lee -or- Irwin Yablans - Hell Night
Select 2 writers:
-X- Clive Barker - Nightbreed: The Director's Cut
-X- Adrián García Bogliano -or- James Wan - Here Comes the Devil
--- Simon Barrett -or- Eduardo Sánchez -
--- David Cronenberg -
Select 30 of the following sub-genres / types:
-X- *3-D Film - House of Wax
-X- Anthology Film - Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
-X- Appears on BFI's 100 European Horror Films List - Eyes Without a Face
-X- Appears on Video Nasties List - The House by the Cemetery
-X- Based on a Novel - Pet Sematary
-X- Cannibalism - The Green Inferno
-X- Cinema Inspired By: Stephen King - The Mist
--- Cinematic Titanic / Horror Host / MST3K / RiffTrax -
-X- Comedy / Spoof - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
-X- Criterion / Masters of Cinema Version Film - Eyes Without a Face
--- Death by: Drowning -
--- Distributor / Studio: Arrow Video -
-X- Documentary - Terror in the Aisles
--- Extraterrestrial / Takes Place in Space -
--- Found Footage -
-X- Frankenstein - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
-X- From a Face Off Judge (Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill, Neville Page Patrick Tatopoulos or Michael Westmore) - Stigmata
-X- Ghost / Haunting - Stir of Echoes
-X- Giallo - Bay of Blood
-X- J-Horror - Ring of Curse (aka Gomennasai)
-X- Killer / Evil Animal - Black Sheep
-X- Killer / Evil Child - Pet Sematary
--- Killer / Evil Doll -
-X- Made-for-TV Movie - Bad Ronald
-X- Monster / Creature Feature / Godzilla - The Mist
--- Mummy -
-X- Musical / Rock ‘n Roll Horror - The Happiness of the Katakuris
-X- Nation of Origin: Canada - Curtains
--- Nazi -
-X- Psychological - The Babadook
-X- Rape / Revenge - The Last House on the Left
-X- Slasher / Psycho / Homicidal Maniac - Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt)
-X- Takes Place on a Holiday - Idle Hands (Halloween)
--- Takes Place on or Under the Sea -
--- Three Installments in a Franchise -
-X- Vampire - A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
-X- Werewolf - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
-X- Witchcraft / Satanic / Religious - The Devil's Daughter
--- With Commentary -
-X- With Two or More Horror Legends - Horror Express
-X- Zombie - Zombies of Mass Destruction
Watch films in at least three formats:
-X- First format, (DVD), (Night of the Demon).
-X- Second format, (Streaming video), (Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead).
-X- Third format, (Blu-ray), (The Last House on the Left).
Watch films in at least three languages:
-X- First language, (Japanese), (The Happiness of the Katakuris).
-X- Second language, (Norwegian), (Cold Prey).
-X- Third language, (French), (Eyes Without a Face).
Select 8 decades of film history:
--- 1890 -
--- 1900 -
--- 1910 -
--- 1920 -
--- 1930 -
-X- 1940 - Man Made Monster (1941)
-X- 1950 - House of Wax (1953)
-X- 1960 - Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
-X- 1970 - The Wicker Man (1973)
-X- 1980 - Screamtime (1986)
-X- 1990 - Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
-X- 2000 - The Mist (2007)
-X- 2010 - The Green Inferno (2013/2015)
Select 4 ratings:
--- G -
-X- PG - House of Wax (1981 reissue)
-X- PG-13 - Barricade
-X- R - The Green Inferno
--- X / NC-17 -
-X- Unrated - The House by the Cemetery
--- M -
--- GP -
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: 50 Total Watched: 47
First Time Viewings: 28 (60%)
25 DVD – 53%
16 Streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, GoogleDrive) – 34%
5 Blu-ray - 11%
1 Theatrical Screening - 2%
1940s: 2 (4%)
1950s: 2 (4%)
1960s: 3 (7%)
1970s: 7 (15%)
1980s: 9 (19%)
1990s: 7 (15%)
2000s: 8 (17%)
2010s: 9 (19%)
Longest Film Viewed: The Mist
Shortest Film Viewed: Man Made Monster
New favorites: Here Comes the Devil
, Dance of the Dead
, Eyes Without a Face
, House of Wax
, What We Do in the Shadows
Would not miss if all available copies were used to insulate all the tiny houses in the new tiny house craze: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead
, Nightbreed: The Director's Cut
, Out of the Dark
LIST IS NOW FINALIZED.