Posted in Other Media

Horror Films A–Z, Sept. 2020: X, Y & Z

The X-Files

Initial: You know what’s harder to find than a horror movie that begins with “O” that I wanted to rewatch? One that starts with “X.” So, instead I’m going to highlight a few X-Files episodes.

Production Notes: I decided to watch four of the “scariest/goriest” X-Files episodes that generally show up on such lists.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)

“Home” (s. 4, ep. 2, 1996)
Director: Kim Manners
Writers: Glen Morgan & James Wong
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Tucker Smallwood

It was tradition in college for my friend Tania and me to get take-out on Friday nights and watch The X-Files. While it wasn’t unusual to be taken aback by an episode, “Home” left us with a distinct “What did we just watch?” I wasn’t much of a horror fan then; something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre was years in my future.

“Home” makes the “scariest” lists for good reason. Yes, there is gore and a shocking level of depravity for 1990s TV, but it also touches on themes of motherhood and change. Plus, it’s really well-made. The cinematography is excellent and the choice of “What a Wonderful World” in the soundtrack is inspired.

“Sanguinarium” (s. 4, ep. 6, 1996)
Director: Kim Manners
Writers: Valerie Mayhew & Vivian Mayhew
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Richard Beymer

I don’t really remember this episode, even from the last time I surveyed The X-Files. If you have a problem with medical squickiness, this isn’t the episode for you. I wasn’t much a fan of the witchcraft elements, but they did provide for a very Halloween-ish couple of scenes.

“Detour” (s. 5, ep. 4, 1997)
Director: Brett Dowler
Writer: Frank Spotnitz
Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Colleen Flynn

I visited Florida once. I spent 90% of my time on push polo fields and a beach-side cabin. But between the beach and the airport, I noticed the greenery; bright and encompassing. Verdant. An amount of plant life that was a little scary…

I was a little dubious of this episode at the beginning; the effects didn’t look like they’d be that convincing. Fortunately, the production team realized that the best way to highlight a “monster” is to not show it. The chase through the forest in broad daylight is pretty tense.

“Roadrunners” (s. 8, ep. 4, 2000)
Director: Rod Hardy
Writer: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, David Barry Gray

After college, I lost track of The X-Files (and television in general), so my knowledge of later seasons is fuzzy. So, I did want to sample an episode from those later years.

From the everglades of Florida to the deserts of Utah… I was definitely all-in on this episode until near the end. I was so pleased to see Scully walk into a creepy town and take no crap. Alas, it turns toward her needing to be rescued and apologizing for…well, doing the very same thing Mulder did in the episode “Detour.” Still, good bit of tension and body-horror.

You’re Next

Year: 2011
Runtime: 1h 35m
Rated: R

Director: Adam Wingard

Writer: Simon Barrett

Stars: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen

“I’ve never seen you act like this before.”

“Well, it’s a unique situation.”

Initial: A switch-up when I realized I had more free streaming options than I realized.

Production Notes: Filmed entirely in Columbia, Missouri.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I was beginning to wonder if ever watch a new-to-me film that I enthusiastically like!

You know how I mentioned my affinity to competence porn a couple posts back? You’re Next has a final girl character who kicks ass from the first moment things go sideways. It’s delightful. There are obviously some trope subverting things going on in this movie, but the plot isn’t reliant on audience knowledge of those tropes. You’re Next was clever, well-made, and darkly funny.


Year: 2007
Runtime: 2h 37m
Rated: R

Director: David Fincher

Writers: James Vanderbilt, Robert Graysmith

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo

“I’ve been thinking…”

“Oh, god, save us all.”

Initial: Zodiac is one of my favorite movies. Absolutely in my top ten, if not my top five.

Production Notes: Lee Norris plays Mike Mageau in 1969 and Jimmi Simpson plays Mageau in 1991. Norris is the first principle cast member seen on screen; Simpson is the last.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
There are so many things I love about Zodiac: Of the three main characters, we spend the most time with the most socially awkward one. David Fincher’s direction highlights place as well as character. But most of all, I love the writing.

Zodiac, based on the nonfiction investigation into the Zodiac killer, does not have a firm resolution. The path of the real-life narrative is messy; the investigation doubles back on itself and is full of holes. The temptation might have been to tidy things up and Hollywoodize the ending. But somehow, James Vanderbilt’s true-to-source script was allowed to stand. I love it for its not being like everything else.

So, that wraps up the first half of Horror Movie A to Z: The Return! I’ll have a little wrap-up in my next Perilous Update post.