J. Farley's 2009 Horror Movie Challenge Watched List
First time viewings are in orange
1: Sole Survivor
- decided to start off the challenge with a personal favorite, which is exactly what this film is. A woman is the sole survivor of a plane crash, but along with the luck, she can't shake the more sinister feeling that something is off. What's more, she's continuously being watched by various people, none of whom appear to be very vibrant or full of life. This moody little chiller was directed by Thom Eberhardt, a man better known for the lighter Night of the Comet
. While I enjoy that film, I feel that this one is more deserving of the spotlight. One could also say that the first Final Destination
owes more than a nod to it. There's a cheesy romantic subplot, but for the most part, the film works quite well. It sets a somber tone from the get-go, the scenes of Denise being watched are suitably creepy and everything comes to a head in a clever climax. I was happy when this was finally released on DVD, though the transfer isn't as good as I'd hoped.
2: The St. Francisville Experiment (2000) [DVD]
- a Blair Witch
ripoff involving four people who go ghost hunting in a supposedly haunted Louisiana mansion. Unlike the gem it's ripping off, there is nothing frightening here unless you consider bad acting to be scary. This is truly a film where nothing happens. It's a bore. We also get some priceless dialogue like this choice exchange - Character 1: "There's a dead bird." Character 2: "How badly dead is it?" This thing is also notable for having what is probably the most absurd cat jump scare I've ever seen.
3: Baby Blues (2008) [DVD]
- a long haul trucker hits the road just as his wife is in the throes of a psychotic break due to post-partum depression. Now left alone with their mother, the oldest son must attempt to protect his three siblings and escape their isolated farmhouse. This is a disturbing film with some intense imagery. The first 30 minutes are especially rattling, as we are treated to an all too realistic portrait of a mental breakdown. One particularly effective scene sees the mother sitting in a daze as she imagines heinous sounds eminating from the baby monitor in place of the baby's actual crying. The film eventually turns more towards a slasher type scenario, only with kids as the victims instead of the typical teenager. Not to say that it gets less disturbing, it actually doesn't. The kills get under your skin, especially the first one we're witness too involving the sharp point of a mirror. Colleen Porch is fantastic as the mother, never taking things over the top, something that easily could have happened. The kids are good too, all perfectly believable as normal kids in a terrible situation. There's a scene where the mother attempts to drown her daughter in the tub, the whole thing made more effective by one of the kid's reactions in the background, something that rang very true to me. Anyway, this isn't a film for everyone, but for what it is, it's exceptionally well done.
4: Paranormal Activity (2007) [AMC 15 Northpark]
- Katie and Micah are your typical young couple. Unfortunately for them, Katie has been shadowed by some kind of entity ever since she was very young. Micah decides it would be a good idea to try and catch the presence on camera, so he installs a camera in their bedroom to see what happens when they sleep. It was a real pain in the ass having to drive up to Dallas at midnight to see this, but at least I can say it was worth the effort. For a film I've been following for close to two years, it lived up to all the hype I'd built up in my head. Not an easy task. It is exactly what I've been looking for this past decade. Ten years ago, The Blair Witch Project
managed to scare me like no film before it. Since then, I've been waiting for another film to make me feel that way again, and Paranormal Activity
is a case of better late than never. Despite some comedic banter in the early half of the film, the feeling of dread and unease is present from the very first frame. It only worsens as the film goes on, the night scenes pushing the tension to the highest levels. The acting is strong, especially on the part of Katie Featherston. The most unnerving part for me was when Katie stands over Micah as he sleeps, just staring at him for hours on end. That really got to me, though it's just one of many chilling moments present here. It is definitely a case of less is more, which is usually the type of horror that I find most effective on a strictly frightening level. The theater was packed, and yet I haven't felt this creeped out while watching a film in years. That feeling also stayed with me long after the screening had ended. As a hardened horror fan, it is incredibly refreshing to find that a film still has the power to scare me. It doesn't happen often. In fact, it is exceedingly rare, but this one got the job done. Potentially horror film of the decade for me.
5: One Missed Call 2 (2005) [Sundance Channel]
- I'd seen the original Miike film and the '08 remake, so I figured I should check this out when it came on Sundance earlier. More phone calls from the future lead to more deaths for various characters. I thought the original film was quite generic for a Miike film, and we get more of the same here. That said, Miike did bring more character and some solid set-pieces, like the girl killed on live television, to the table, something that this one doesn't really pull off. The storyline here is also very confused, and in the end, it just doesn't seem to make any sense. You would want to miss one of these calls and you could certainly live with missing this movie.
6: The Roost (2005) [Showtime Extreme]
- four people are on their way to a wedding when they decide to take a backroad due to traffic. A bat hits their windshield causing them to wreck the car, and now they're stuck in the middle of nowhere. Oh, but there's a farm down the road. Too bad for them the rest of the bats have chosen the farm's barn to roost in. Worse, the people that the bats attack turn into zombies for whatever reason. This film takes a very threadbare plot and does nothing with it. Not that they could really do much with it to begin with I suppose, but this is another boring effort where not much happens. The bat attacks are underwhelming and it's never explained why their victims become zombies. They just do. The character are whiney too, so I couldn't really invest in them. Cult director Larry Fessenden appears very briefly as an ill-fated tow truck driver. The whole film has a faux "Frightmare Theater" wraparound complete with horror host, but it was more annoying than it was effective at creating any type of nostalgia. Weak stuff all around.
7: Zombieland (2009) [Premiere 14 at Burleson Commons]
- I was a little hesitant to see this one as I feared it would be another Shaun of the Dead
, which was a movie that I really hated. I couldn't resist though and thankfully it was a blast. Unlike that overrated British effort, this was actually funny and the characters won me over from the get-go. I had never seen her in anything else before this, but Emma Stone is flat-out gorgeous. Loved the Amber Heard cameo as well, not to mention another cameo that's better left unspoiled. The finale at the theme park is lots of fun too, and if they were to make a sequel, I would definitely be there to see it.
8: Pandorum (2009) [Premiere 14 at Burleson Commons]
- interesting space horror takes a while to get going. Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid are two guys who awaken from cryo-sleep to find themselves stuck on a seemingly empty spaceship. The ship is shutting down so one of them needs to restart the ship's energy source, but he'll face plenty of obstacles along the way, most notably a horde of bizarre creatures running rampant in the shadows. This film is sullied by some rapid editing and dumb scenes, including one where a creature tosses his intended prey a weapon. Why? I guess so it would be a fair fight. There's also two random characters who seem to know a lot about fighting, though one never really knows why they would be so well-versed in it. Still, the film certainly has it's moments and there are some intriguing ideas throughout. I ate up everything involving Tanis and the whole backstory. Reminded me of Solaris
in a way, and apocalyptic scenarios are something I am very fond of in cinema.
- two high school outcasts, J.T. and Ricky, ditch school and decide to waste time at an abandoned mental asylum. While exploring the basement, they come across a girl who is bound and covered with a plastic sheet. While Ricky wants to get out of there and call the cops, J.T. has a more disturbing urge. He wants to have some fun with her first. It isn't long before he realizes that she's undead, and now he has himself a zombie sex slave to keep him company. I saw this last month but figured I'd revisit it for the challenge. If one can get past the questionable character decisions that the story is built around (like the lack of concern for disease, etc.), this is a pretty effective film. The guy playing J.T. was terrific. It's his show through and through. His performance reminded me a great deal of Christian Slater. Aside from all that, this film is quite warped. The very premise of a zombie sex slave, but also taking it further with things like wanting to use oozing bullet wounds for sexual pleasure, putting a magazine pic over the deadgirl's face after she's been beaten to a pulp and the high school stud having the worst bowel movement imaginable. Great use of music too, and the film certainly looks better than it's budget. To cite another fault, a lot of these indie flicks seem to feel the need to add in random quirkiness for some reason. A silly scene in a gas station parking lot doesn't work. Still, this is solid overall, like a more deranged version of River's Edge
10: Who Can Kill a Child?
- while on vacation, a man and his pregnant wife visit an island that the former knows from his past. They arrive to find that the place is not how he remembered. In fact, it appears to be quite deserted aside from several children. It isn't too long before they come across an adult. Pity the kids get to him first, killing him and stringing his body up for use as a human pinata... For my money, this film's a masterpiece of the genre. It makes other killer kid films look like jokes in comparison. Originally seeing it via the Island of the Damned
cut, it's a very tense and unsettling film with some interesting socio-political subtext as relates to child violence. The likable main characters really struggle here, both physically and morally, in a picture as bleak as they come. It has such an impeccable mood and atmosphere to it. The closest comparison I can make is to that of Werner Herzog's short documentary, La Soufrière
. The isolated, disquieted feel of the island... very predominant. It's unfortunate that director Serrador faded into the land of television after this film. He clearly had a lot to offer the genre.
- while being pleasured as he drives, a piggish lawyer runs down the really old daughter of a really old gypsy and gets off scot free thanks to friends in high places. As a result, the gypsy curses the very overweight man with weight loss. More like a blessing than a curse, yeah? It would be if he could stop losing the weight, but that isn't in the cards. It's been a few years since I last watched this, so I figured I'd break it out for the challenge. Count me as one of about five people who actually enjoy this. Aside from Fright Night
, this is my favorite film from director Tom Holland. Yes, I like it more than the ever popular Child's Play
. Much like the pie in the finale, it really hits the spot. The only difference is that I don't feel bad afterwards. It probably would have been a better idea to double bill it with Drag Me to Hell
when I revisit that later in the month, but oh well. Special mention to Kari Wuhrer, who looks extra nice in her gypsy garb.
12: The Initiation
- a group of sorority pledges sneak into a mall overnight to pull off a prank that will get them initiated. Someone else is in there with them though, and it isn't long before bloodshed ensues. This is actually one of my favorite slashers, a large reason for that being the creepy atmosphere of the mall at night. It has multiple levels and is unlike any mall I've ever been to. We also get a few instances of characters catching a glimpse of the killer lurking about, something that I'm a sucker for. Getting that eerie look at something out of the corner of your eye, not sure if you really saw anything at all. Daphne Zuniga plays the lead, and I've always found her appealing even if she's far from the greatest actress. Vera Miles and Clu Gulager are also on hand to add some class to the proceedings. As for the kills, they're not the bloodiest, but they do their job. On my initial viewing, I didn't see the ending coming, though I've heard people say they did. There are some blatant clues.
13: Trick 'r Treat (2008) [Blu-ray]
- much talked about film has four interwoven horror stories taking place on Halloween night. I just finished watching this and I thought it made for a great time. As far as anthologies go, I'd say it's pretty much perfect. The film oozes Halloween spirit. There's some beautiful imagery here, all the more sterling in HD. I also loved how each story took place in the same town on the same night. I appreciate that kind of interconnectivity, sort of like you find in various Stephen King novels. Of the stories themselves, the werewolf one was my favorite, mainly because of the terrific climax. Sam was also a pretty nifty creation. Consider me a fan. While it may not reinvent the wheel, it does nail the anthology. Major props for casting the gorgeous Leslie Bibb and Lauren Lee Smith.
14: Door to Silence (1991) [DVD]
- a man driving home following a funeral encounters trouble and roadblocks at every turn. Fulci's final film is better than expected. Lots of odd situations on display as the main character struggles to get through the lengthy drive before his sanity cracks. The whole thing has a surreal quality to it, as it should considering the ending. Speaking of which, the ending is very predictable, but it's the journey that's far more interesting than the destination, at least in this case. It's far from the best thing the man ever did, but it was surprisingly entertaining.
15: Le spectre rouge (1907) [Youtube] Wildcard #1
- short film about a demonic magician who puts on a bizarre magic show. This is a very creative film with some imaginative visuals. The magician uses what I believe to be the souls of various women in his act, putting them through a number of unpleasant situations. One such sequence has him wrapping them in a black material that resembles a body bag when they're tightly tucked inside. He then levitates and burns them before our eyes. The whole thing is a lot of fun to watch and the effects are quite good, particularly for the time.
16: Killdozer (1974) [Youtube]
- an alien lifeforce imprisoned in a meteorite transfers into a bulldozer at a remote island construction site. It then begins picking off the construction workers. Even at a scant 74 minutes, this silly TV movie feels about as slow as the bulldozer. It's also slightly amusing how the dozer is able to sneak up on the characters considering how much noise it makes. One also has to wonder what the thing was hoping to accomplish. It's stuck in a bulldozer and on a remote island at that. That's not exactly a good position to be in. Perhaps that's it. It was angry about it's situation and decided to take it out on the construction crew. I suppose this movie would be an okay time waster if you're really bored.
17: Trapped (1982) [DVD]
- a small backwoods village is lorded over by the maniacal Henry Chatwill. He has his own demented form of justice, and some college kids (one of whom is a pacifist) have the misfortune to stumble upon him enforcing it. Now he has to shut them up before they can notify the authorities. Deliverance
style film from Canadian filmmaker William Fruet. While not original, it has some things going for it, the most notable being Henry Silva's unhinged performance as Chatwill. It's also unpredictable in which characters will and won't die. Of course, the college students could've avoided the whole mess if they weren't so stupid as to go looking for the body rather than leaving. This isn't a great film, but it did keep me entertained. I guess that's saying something since I'm not the biggest fan of the backwoods/hillbilly subgenre.
18: Snuff (1976) [DVD]
- notorious cult item that has to do with a Manson-like cult leader and his bevy of lovely women who do his bidding. They kill a bunch of people before finally targeting a pregnant actress and her rich boyfriend. There's also a tacked on ending that was advertised to have been real snuff footage. The gore doesn't even look realistic though, especially the snipping off of a finger. No question about it, this is a bad movie. It's also pretty aimless and there's a really overlong parade scene. There is some fun to be had though, as much of the film is really cheesy, not the least of which is the dubbing. Most will flat-out hate it, and frankly, I can't blame them.
19: The Skeptic (2009) [DVD]
- a lawyer's aunt dies and he inherits her house, which she believed to be haunted. He decides to stay there while separated from his wife, and why shouldn't he? He's a diehard skeptic after all. I'd say this works more as a mystery than outright horror, though it's all fairly straightforward. While the old house is a nice setting, the film is devoid of scares. Well, I take that back. There is one good scare, but it turns out to be a false one, no threat. The atmosphere of the house is there, it's just that the filmmakers fail to utilize it to any sizable extent. Tim Daly is okay as the "unemotional" lead, but Zoe Saldana steals her scenes as a high strung, yet appealing psychic. I felt that the ending was too abrupt. I don't mind abrupt endings, but this one really pushed it.
20: Next of Kin
- after her mother's death, a woman returns to the nursing home that she ran. Once there, reading through her mother's diary sets off a series of unsettling memories. Bizarre ocurrences begin taking place as well, like someone is toying with her. I've seen this referenced several times as a slasher film, though I wouldn't neccesarily call it a slasher myself. It's more of a slow-burning mood piece, quite ambiguous at times. It's also effectively creepy, one of my favorite scenes involving a figure watching the heroine just out of her eye range as she roams the woods in search of her boyfriend. Naturally, the filming locations are gorgeous and the cinematography does a fine job of catching them in all their glory. The film is complimented by a unique score and some stylish sequences, such as one terrific slow motion bit where the lead is rushing down a flight of stairs. All said and done, this is one of Australia's best contributions to the genre.
21: Beyond the Door III (1989) [MGM HD]
- third entry in the series of films that have nothing to do with each other. This one involves a group of teens heading to Yugoslavia. Once there, it is revealed that the virgin of the group, Beverly, is intended to be the bride of the devil. Really bad movie with some truly lousy gore scenes. The deaths themselves are creative enough, but the effects are terrible, several of them using obvious dummy heads. The characters are also an unlikable bunch who treat the lead poorly. They also never seem to much care when something otherworldly happens. One guy kisses his possessed girlfriend and gets a mouth full of maggots in the process. The girl then proceeds to rip her face off and the guy never mentions it as if it didn't happen. We also get some hilarious scenes of a train going off the rails, all done with very bad miniature work. This one's for those who like to laugh at bad movies. Anyone else should avoid.
22: Seventh Moon (2009) [DVD]
- new film from Eduardo Sanchez, one half of the directorial team behind the masterful Blair Witch
. A newly married couple are honeymooning in China so that the bride can meet the groom's family. Their trip coincides with the seventh lunar moon, a time when, according to Chinese myth, the spirits of the dead are free to roam the earth. Thanks to a shady driver, the newlyweds are about to find out that this is more than just a superstition. The mythology on display here is very intriguing and there are some eerie moments. I'd say the music is perfect for the tone of the film. The opening credits sequence, combined with the score, really gives off a foreboding feel. It sort of drags towards the middle, as it's pretty much just a long chase scene at that point. Lots of shaky camera movements too. That's never bothered me, but it's there for those that don't like it. There is a terrific shot towards the end of Amy Smart being chased by a pack of the moon demons. Overall, it's worth seeing but it's the weakest of Sanchez's films thus far. His previous effort, Altered
, comes highly recommended by the way.
23: The Deadly Spawn
- a meteor carrying a bunch of tadpole-like aliens crash lands in the country. The aliens swarm a house and look to have themselves a human buffet. This is a long time favorite from my childhood. It's a real treat for those who enjoy these cheap drive-in delights. The aliens in the film are spectacular creations. For such a low budget project, those are some of the neatest effects I've seen in a horror film. The same thing can be said for all the gore. It's graphic, gruesome and downright nasty. This film is a perfect example of what you can accomplish with a low budget if you're imaginative enough. It's also a welcome change that the film takes place on a really shitty day. It feels like your typical rainy, messy day that we've all experienced. I like the comedic elements as well, like the uncle talking to the younger brother about his fascination with monsters and the attack on a group of old women. Anyway, this is pure horror entertainment at it's most entertaining.
- Beverly Hills teen Bill Whitney is good at sports and popular at his high school, but he feels alienated from his upper crust family. His parents are indifferent towards him while lavishing favor upon his sister. Sometimes he even feels that they're conspiring against him, but is he just paranoid? This was Brian Yuzna's first film as director, and it's still his best. It works as both a joke on the rich and an allegory about their tendency to leech off of the have-nots. Even though it's pretty clear right from the start that things aren't what they seem, there's a great sense of paranoia here. You wouldn't expect a former Baywatch
star to be an alienated sort, but in the context of the film, it works. The dark humor works too for the most part. Some of the more juvenile attempts at humor (the kids on the beach) are admittedly lame, though in a way they add to the film's bizarre tone. I used to see the weirdo mother character as another pointless attempt at low-brow humor, but the more I've thought about it, she's likely the product of some inbreeding mishap through the shunt. Former Playboy centerfold, Devin Devasquez plays her daughter and Bill's love interest. It's refreshing to see a rich beauty portrayed as something other than an evil vixen for a change. The climactic scenes involving the big shunt are really something to behold. Quite perverse and the effects by Screaming Mad George are just spectacular. I also can't go without mentioning the sinister reworking of the "Eton Boat Song" which plays over the opening credits.
25: The Hearse (1980) [DVD]
- having recently gone through a tough divorce, a middle-aged woman decides to get out of town and spend the summer at her dead aunt's old country house. She finds that the house has a stigma among the locals and they don't welcome her with open arms. It turns out that her aunt may have been involved in the occult and perhaps the sinister hearse that's been lurking about is connected in some way as well. Slow moving picture that certainly takes it's time in getting where it's going. Trish Van Devere is good in the leading role. However, it's unfortunate that she was portrayed as such a good judge of character only to be fooled by the obviously off kilter antagonist. I was happy to see that the subplot of the handyman with a crush on Trish didn't devolve into an attempted rape scenario with his buddies. From the emphasis put on the three, I feared it might go down that typical road. By the way, it was very cool to see Christopher McDonald in an early role as one of the aforementioned friends. The guy is one of the more underrated actors out there.
26: End of the Line
- taking place in a subway, the story involves several members of a large religous cult who simultaneously receive notice via pagers that it's Judgment Day. This gives them the go ahead to bring out their special daggers and "save" all the nonbelievers, if you get my drift. The director's previous film was a most cheesy affair. This, on the other hand, is quite serious. It's also highly imaginative and often times unnerving, especially if you find freaky cults to be, well, freaky. There's some spotty acting here and there, but the film rises above it. There's some effective music too... I loved the little ditty over the end credits. Bottom line? This low budget treat deserves to be seen. *More in the subset discussion thread.*
- a reporter (the luscious Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman are covering the night shift at a fire station. Their relatively boring night gets a little more exciting when a call comes in about a woman trapped in her apartment. They tag along with the firemen, but this call is far more serious than any of them could have imagined. Wow, this thing is unnerving! I've seen it twice since my original viewing back in June '08 and it still rattles me as if I were watching for the first time. The last ten minutes or so in the penthouse are particularly ten of the most chilling minutes you'll ever see on film. Loads of backstory thrown in there too, but you have to piece it all together yourself, which is a plus. The sounds that the infected people made, almost cat-like, really got under my skin. This film has a very effective sound design all the way around. The imagery too, just nightmarish stuff. One scene looking down a stairwell at the screaming infected is like Demons 2
if it were actually scary. The film was all the more unsettling because I cared what happened to the characters. Most of them were good, likable people, while Manuela Velasco in particular has a very infectious personality as Angela Vidal. It's an incredible film laced with tension. French horror gets all the attention these days, but I think this is far superior to anything they've been coming out with.
28: Noroi, the Curse (2005) [Youtube]
- Kobayashi is a documentary filmmaker who is fascinated by the paranormal. Always looking for new cases to document, he and his cameraman begin investigating a series of freakish events that are seemingly unconnected, but will prove to be. Rather than Blair Witch
, this one reminded me of The Last Broadcast
due to all the different footage involved. There's a sinister atmosphere from the start, but the film manages to be quite funny at times through it's use of stupid variety show footage. If you're familiar with these shows, you know how ripe for lampooning they really are. The storyline itself is quite complex, particularly for the hand held subgenre. There are multiple strands and a deep mythology to interpret. It also isn't your typical Asian horror with long-haired ghosts, thank goodness. Instead, we get some legitimate scares through mood and build-up. When we see the flier that says a key character has gone missing, it's enough to give you a chill all on it's own thanks to what we've seen beforehand. There are also a few choice scenes that will stay with you. The two scenes that got the biggest reaction out of me both revolved around Marika, a likable actress who gets caught up in the occurrences through an on location TV shoot. The first involves going back to the tapes and catching something in the frame with her, the second has her losing control in Kobayashi's house as pigeons smash into the window. The mystery at the core is intriguing to watch unfold. At 115 minutes, the film didn't feel too long to me. Big compliment, as handheld horror typically works better when it's short and to the point.
29: The Spell (1977) [Hulu]
- middling TV movie about a slightly chubby teen who is teased by her sister and classmates. She begins getting even when she is taught how to be a witch by her gym teacher. This was obviously inspired by Carrie
, though this one underdevelops the high school turmoil in favor of the girl's miserable family life. There is nary a likable character present here. In fact, I haven't disliked characters this much since Mario Azzopardi's Deadline
, a film where I literally wanted to jump on screen and kill the wife with my bare hands. The girl's father is a dick, plain and simple. I was hoping for his gruesome demise the entire time. Her sister isn't much better. I hated these people so much that I was hoping they'd focus more on the school as opposed to the family. I did like Lelia Goldoni as the gym teacher, but she has about three scenes total. Characters aside, there are a few good moments. The opening with the popular girl pulling off circus style tricks on the gym rope was fun. We also get a bizarre death scene where a woman's skin starts burning and the confrontation between student and teacher is well done. Really though, this film isn't anything special. Along with what's already been mentioned, we also have to deal with one of those horrid TV scores and there's a twist at the end that's pretty weak.
30: Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) [DVD]
- Dr. Henry Jekyll is looking for a way to prolong his life, but he instead winds up turning himself into a woman who has her own distinct personality and desires. A unique take on the well-worn Jekyll and Hyde tale, this also mixes in elements of Jack the Ripper and Burke & Hare. Surprisingly enough, all three aspects meld together quite smoothly. The film does a splendid job of recreating the foggy London streets of the time. Acting is strong too. Unlike the film I watched prior to this one, I quite enjoyed all the characters here, especially Lewis Fiander as a smartass neighbor with a thing for Ms. Hyde. Susan Brodrick plays his sister who has a crush on Jekyll. She brings a lot of spunk to the role, and I found myself hoping things would work out between her and the good doctor. Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick are both great as Jekyll and Hyde respectively. They also look very similar to one another. Things do get a little repetitive towards the middle, but it's nothing too bad. Roy Ward Baker is responsible for my favorite Hammer film, Quatermass and the Pit
, and this is another winner from the director.
31: 13 Scarier Movie Moments (2009) [Bravo] Wildcard #2
- yet another Bravo program detailing horror movies and opinions from those familiar with the genre. It was a fun watch, but none of these will ever live up to the original 100 Scariest Movie Moments
that first aired back in '05. Also, The Descent
at number one? Seriously?
32: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) [DVD]
- ostracized by the scientific community, Dr. Jekyll is doing some rather pointless sounding experiments while his wife is cheating on him with his gambler friend. Unhappy with their relationship, he turns his experiments on himself and becomes the suave Mr. Hyde. Another take on the Jekyll and Hyde story, this one has some interesting ideas, but it never does much with them. Ultimately, the film is quite dull. Too much focus is placed on Jekyll's poor marriage and the affair his wife is having. It might not have been so bad if his wife were actually desirable, but she's an annoying shrue. Jekyll should just rid himself of her and consider his life all the better for it. Christopher Lee plays the friend with whom she's having the affair. He's playing against type here and is actually sort of the protagonist, but it's hard feeling sympathy for a philanderer. Paul Massie plays Jekyll and Hyde. He's actually not that great as either. His lines just sound unnatural. There are some interesting twists towards the end, but this isn't one of the better films from Hammer.
33: She Freak (1967) [DVD]
- a woman who has dreams of a better life decides she'd have more fun working for a traveling carnival. Weird choice for a better life, but whatever. Once there, it isn't long before she's courting the rich owner of the carnival freak show. After marrying him, she continues an affair with the ferris wheel operator. Everything ends badly for all involved. This is a pretty poor attempt at a remake of Freaks
. Instead of actual character development, the film feels content to give us countless scenes via musical montage. The entire courtship between the lead and the freak show guy is a wordless series of scenes set to music. We also have several lengthy scenes of the carnival being set up and then even more of it being taken down. This is sort of fun to see, but it takes up way too much time. The pointless scenes don't stop there, as we also get a cheesy fight midway through. One guy gets a screwdriver through the hand, which would seem pretty serious, but there are no repercussions. Leading lady, Claire Brennen (who unfortunately passed away ten years after this film), was actually quite good in the movie. The ending is decent too as the freaks have their revenge and we see what's become of her. Funny bit of trivia: Claire had a romantic relationship with the actor who played the side show midget that she's so disgusted by in the film.
34: The House of the Devil (2009) [HDNet Movies]
- a college student who has just finalized a deal for her own place needs money, so she takes a babysitting job. However, it turns out that the gentleman who hired her lied. She won't be babysitting children, but instead the man's mother... or so he says. She thinks of leaving, but is offered $400 dollars and stays. She'll wish she'd just trusted her instincts. The poster for this thing is a beauty. Truly a throwback to the older posters made for genre films in the 70's and 80's, it alone was enough to interest me in this movie. Alas, it doesn't live up to it's poster, but wasn't that often the case? Things start out well enough, but this is yet another film from the director of The Roost
that takes a pretty threadbare plot and does little with it. After the initial setup, the film drags on and on as the lead feels uncomfortable with her surroundings. I'm a fan of slow build as much as the next guy, but there's a difference between that and being plain dull. Once we do get to the action, it's over almost as quickly as it began and it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary. I also feel that the girl would have split pretty quickly, even if the house was in the middle of nowhere. On the upside, Jocelin Donahue is a solid, appealing lead. I'd love to see her in more things. The atmosphere is also pretty thick at times and the thing does feel like an older style horror film. I wanted to like this one more, but Ti West needs to do a better job with pacing in the future.
35: Masters of Horror: Dance of the Dead
- in a post apocalyptic future some time after World War III, a teen leads a sheltered life thanks to her overprotective mother. She meets Jak, a guy who gathers blood for a sickly MC to use in his shows involving the "Dance of the Dead". Mother is not pleased. Tobe Hooper's episode from a Richard Matheson tale is incredibly underrated. I go back and forth between this one and The Screwfly Solution
when it comes to picking the best episode of the entire Masters of Horror
series. It's definitely Hooper's best work since The Funhouse
. The premise is very intriguing and the episode is full of great imagery. This one also had a rather big budget look to it. Definitely the episode that looked the least like a TV episode. There's a certain editing technique used throughout the episode, one that most people don't care for. Personally, I thought it fit the world the characters were living in. I'm still not sure what the terrorist weapon that ruined the world was exactly, but I guess Matheson's story would better explain that. I need to read it some day.
36: Zaat (1975) [Turner Classic Movies]
- an idiotic scientist decides to turn himself into a walking catfish monster. He also wants to create a new race of fellow walking catfish monsters. This is a horrible movie. It starts off with some laughable narration and an awful folk song. It only gets worse from there. That said, I was cracking up a lot throughout this thing. There's one golden moment shortly after the guy has changed into monster form. He's walking through a basement and clearly trips over something, perhaps the shitty monster costume itself. We're also privy to the long, drawn out process of him getting his machines, pullies and other junk together in preparation for the mutation. This takes up about 20 minutes of screen time all by itself. About halfway through the film, we get more awful singing from a bunch of hippies, followed by a march to the jail. The so-called hero of the picture is a joke. He and his girlfriend wear ridiculous red jumpsuits to boot. They should've just stuck with the college guy and the sheriff, not that doing so would have saved the movie or anything. This is #7 on the IMDB bottom 100 list. I wouldn't rate it that low simply because of the amusement I got out of it, but it's really bad.
37: Prince of Darkness
- John Carpenter's masterpiece about a priest enlisting the help of a college professor and his students in preventing the coming of the Anti-God. Yep, I said masterpiece. I consider this to be Carpenter's crowning achievement. In fact, it's my favorite horror film aside from the original Black Christmas
. Carpenter really hit gold with the script, as it's both intelligent and thought provoking. The film is slow burning, yet intensely unnerving. The overall mood, the creepy street people, the church itself and the eerie occurences caused by the Anti-God's growing power all make for an unsettling watch. I also must make mention of the recurring dream projections via tachyons. A brilliant idea that adds an even deeper level to the film's frightening nature. The sense of hopeless isolation that Carpenter is able to convey despite the church being in L.A. is yet another impressive accomplishment in a film that never fails to impress. It's a rare case when I have not one bad thing to say about a movie, but this is one of those instances. It all works beautifully for me.
38: The Devonsville Terror
- 300 years ago, three women suspected of being witches were executed in the small township of Devonsville. In the present day, the citizens are still fearful of a curse supposedly placed on the town as a result of the executions. When a local grocery merchant murders his barren wife, the curse is seemingly reactivated with three young women arriving in town shortly afterwards. Are they the three witches reincarnated? Ulli Lommel is not a very well respected filmmaker, and with good reason. He has churned out horrible DTV movie after horrible DTV movie. That aside, this is his best film. Not saying much, but I actually like this one quite a bit. The rural town atmosphere is so thick, you can almost smell it. It makes for perfect Halloween viewing. We also get a terrific score and an interesting story. Witch tales are among my favorite genre material, and this one puts some unique characters front and center in the form of the Devonsville residents. Walter Gibbs and the Pendletons are certainly memorable sorts, and we also get Donald Pleasance as a doctor suffering from a family curse that causes worms to eat him from the inside. As the female lead, Suzanna Love is attractive, but her acting is relatively stiff. Not a big deal though, as her character is meant to be a bit of an enigma anyway. The finale, complete with exploding and melting heads, is definitely the highlight of the picture. Love it!
39: Panga (1991) [MGM HD]
- an American bride's sister is visiting her and her husband in South Africa. While out one afternoon, the sister disrupts a native tribe's voodoo ceremony in an attempt to keep them from sacrificing a goat. As a result, a witch doctor puts a curse on them. It isn't long before a demon from the sea is stalking the family and anyone else they know. This is also known as Curse III: Blood Sacrifice
, but none of the four films in that series have anything to do with each other. While this is far from a great movie, it is a fun watch. The African locations make for nice eye candy and we get Christopher Lee in a secondary role as a doctor who may be involved in the killings. Jenilee Harrison makes for an attractive leading lady, but her character can be rather annoying. No one else in the cast makes much of an impression, but they're all machete fodder anyway. That's right, this demon uses a machete. It's funny to note that the director's last name is Barton, also the last name of the director behind Zaat
, which I watched earlier. The fish-like demon on display here reminded me of the creature from that film, only with much better effects work courtesy of Chris Walas. The score for this film is rather odd, but you can't deny that it's catchy. Speaking of odd, there's a neat sequence where a character is burned alive after he's caught spying on the main character's from a reed field. You'd have to see the scene to realize how bizarre it is.
40: Murders in the Zoo (1933) [Turner Classic Movies]
- Mr. Gorman hunts down exotic wildlife for a zoo back in the States. He also has an intense jealous streak when it comes to men interacting with his wife. So jealous that he's more than willing to kill any man he deems a threat, and his weapons of choice are the animals that he has access to. This is a solid 30's horror picture with a unique storyline. It's also has a pretty potent mean streak for a film of it's time, one scene involving an alligator pit coming immediately to mind. Lionel Atwill has an effective screen presence as the sinister Gorman. His encounter with a python makes for a memorable scene. My main qualm with the film is a problem that plagues many pictures of the era, that being the style of comic relief that was popular back then. The Peter Yates character is pretty annoying, and we're treated to a particularly absurd scene where he pops a lion on the head. However, this is worth seeing. It's also well paced, clocking in at just a little more than an hour in length.
41: The Blair Witch Project
- in 1994, three student filmmakers went into the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland to shoot a documentary about a legendary witch. They were never seen or heard from again, but a year later, their footage was found. This is the film I always watch last on Halloween, the traditional close to my October horror marathon. Ten years after it hit theaters, it's still the scariest film I've ever seen. As I was watching it earlier, my dog bumped into something in the kitchen behind me and I nearly jumped out of my skin. This thing works like a charm every time. I can still remember how I felt sitting in the theater as this thing started. The dread hit me immediately and only intensified when they were preparing to head into the woods. It's hard to explain, but it's a feeling I had never felt before and one that I'll never forget. The ending is usually what's mentioned when discussing the film's most chilling aspect, but I actually feel that the tent scene is the most frightening moment ever captured on film. That said, this thing is terrifying from beginning to end. Even when nothing is happening in the early moments, just the knowledge of what's to come is enough to rattle you to the core. At least it was for me, anyway. Different things scare different people, but I feel that there is no greater fear than that of the unknown. There have been several instances in cinema where certain films have exploited this fear to superb effect, but none have done it as effectively as this little indie. Not The Haunting
, not Paranormal Activity
... hell, not even my favorite horror film, Black Christmas
. Thus, this is the perfect choice for my late night Halloween finale. A great film that gets my imagination working overtime and has me looking over my shoulder, closing the blinds and listening closely to any noises I may hear as I try getting to sleep.