Tag Archives: HorrorFilms_AtoZ

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: U, V & W

Uncanny Annie

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: TV-MA

Director: Paul Davis

Writers: Alan Blake Bachelor, James Bachelor

Stars: Adelaide Kane, Georgie Flores, Paige McGhee

“Where do you keep your tools?”

Initial: “Katherine, what’s all this Hulu love?” Well, Hulu is the streaming service I currently subscribe to, so I might as well use it.

Production Notes: Another of Hulu/Blumhouse’s Into the Dark series.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
As a fan of concepts like the Deck of Many Things in Dungeons & Dragons, I wish this were a better movie. First of all, for a film called Uncanny Annie, it’s rather devoid of Annie. I’m not sure why you’d set up a creepy little girl villain, but then not use her. The black void the characters found themselves in is a great budget saver, but it didn’t quite work. The cast worked pretty well together, but I wished they’d been a smidge smarter, especially considering that several of them were fairly experienced tabletop and board gamers.


The Visitor

Year: 1979
Runtime: 1h 48
Rated: R

Director: Giulio Paradisi (as Michael J. Paradise)

Writers: Luciano Comici, Robert Mundi, Giulio Paradisi, Ovidio G. Assonitis

Stars: Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen

“Beautiful and peaceful. Where would that be?”

“Far away. Beyond the imagination.”

Initial: After watching the trailer, what even is this movie?!

Production Notes: Cast also includes director Sam Peckinpah.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
This is a bizarre movie, but despite what I’ve read of other people’s experiences of it, not incomprehensible. The plot is fairly simple. An evil alien (but totally not a demon) has spread his genes around. Barbara has passed some of those genes to her daughter, Katy, who is manifesting some malevolent psychic abilities (but is totally not possessed). A group of cultists (and Katy) want Barbara to have another child (a son, but totally not the antichrist). An old guy from space or maybe just another dimension wants to put a stop to this. The rest is amazing shots of people’s eyes, an absolutely terrible 70s action score, an amazing amount of easy-break glass, and Lance Henriksen being dispatched by a switchblade-wielding clay pigeon.


What We Do in the Shadows

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1h 26m
Rated: R

Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

Writers: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

Stars: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

“I was thinking, maybe… I should just bring a broom down here for you, if you wanted to sweep up some of the skeletons. I don’t know…”

Initial: I’ve been in the mood to watch Thor: Ragnarok, but it’s the Horror A to Z…

Production Notes: There’s a What We Do series on Hulu. I’ve watched a few episodes, but it hasn’t caught on with me. It tries too hard…

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I love a good horror comedy. What We Do in the Shadows is maybe more subtle in its comedy than most, relying on the absurdity of the situation, four vampires sharing a house, than out-and-out jokes. But I did notice more call-backs on this rewatch (I’ve probably seen WWDitS three times now). Ex. Vladislav the Poker’s look of excitement when told he can “poke” someone on Facebook. There are a few scenes that are a bit scary too: Nick attempting to flee the dinner party; Stu and the camera men suddenly being very much in danger. And well, as a vampire movie probably should, there’s a lot of blood.

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: R, S & T

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Year: 1975
Runtime: 1h 40m
Rated: R

Director: Jim Sharman

Writers: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman

Stars: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick

“It’s not easy having a good time.”

Initial: Not horror, really, but a Halloween movie, at least for me. And I really needed a fun break from horror and, well, life.

Production Notes: The first televised broadcast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show occurred on Oct. 25, 1993…

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
… And that would be the first time I ever saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though I’m sure a in PG-ized prime-time version. I have a very specific set of memories attached to Rocky Horror. Nineteen ninety-three was my freshman year in college and I had just moved from one dorm room (where I had a roommate) to another (where I didn’t). All the friends I had made thus far in college were in the other building and this particular Monday was the first weeknight I spent, alone, in this new room. I watched Rocky Horror, studied for a chemistry test, and fretted about how I was going to survive the semester. I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to pass my classes. I remember thinking that Rocky Horror was loud and weird and, I would later think to label it, queer. It felt safely transgressive. Watching it today, I’m amazed that it was on TV! This year, it was perfect thing to watch instead of the presidential debate.


Stir of Echoes

Year: 1999
Runtime: 1h 39m
Rated: R

Director: David Koepp

Writers: Richard Matheson, David Koepp, Andrew Kevin Walker

Stars: Kevin Bacon, Zachary David Cope, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas

“I’m not shocked that there’s another woman. Of course, the fact that she’s dead gives one pause.”

Initial: I’ve been looking forward to rewatching this film since I set my lists back in late August.

Production Notes: Director/writer David Koepp teamed up again with Kevin Bacon for another novel adaptation: You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Coming out a month after The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes never got as much credit as it deserves. This is the style of ghost story I enjoy most: one that has the supernatural, but is also a mystery that isn’t entirely solved by the supernatural. The plot is well put-together. Plus, I really like the blue-collar characters and neighborhood. Kevin Bacon plays a great somewhat likeable asshole. Yes, sure, it doesn’t have the “twist” of something like The Sixth Sense, but it’s solid and creepy.


Twice-Told Tales

Year: 1963
Runtime: 2h
Rated: N/R

Director: Sidney Salkow

Writers: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert E. Kent

Stars: Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Joyce Taylor

“My old friend, you had the grace of a panther!”

“I did, didn’t I?”

Initial: Decided there hadn’t been enough Vincent Price in my autumn.

Production Notes: Based loosely on three stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and The House of the Seven Gables.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
This movie is very 60s Victorian/Gothic, as can be expected. The “Rappaccini’s Daughter” segment was my favorite. Brett Halsey and Joyce Taylor are good-looking people with some chemistry and the garden is over-saturated and bright, the perfect contrast to the tragic romance of Giovanni and Beatrice. Price is at his most complex here too. His Rappaccini is honestly confused as to why no one thinks he’s done the right thing by making his daughter and her lover poisonous.

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: M, N, O & P

Mr. Books

Year: 2007
Runtime: 2h
Rated: R

Director: Bruce A. Evans

Writers: Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon

Stars: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt

Finding someone you think would be fun to kill is a bit like, well, it’s a bit like falling in love.

Initial: Haven’t seen this movie in ages. Really liked it the first time I saw it. My husband says it isn’t as good the second time around.

Production Notes: Mr. Books was potentially the first of a trilogy. Since the movie didn’t do well enough financially, nothing came of it.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I had really forgotten a lot about this movie. I remembered Dane Cook, but I’d forgotten about William Hurt as Mr. Brooks’ “dark passenger” and whole subplots concerning Brooks’ daughter and Demi Moore’s police detective. The plot feels a little over complicated; maybe better suited to a season of a TV series. The best part of this movie really is Kevin Costner as a serial killer and William Hurt as his invisible alter ego. The two play each other so well, sometimes as adversaries and sometimes utterly mirroring each other.


The Nightingale

Year: 2018
Runtime: 2h 16m
Rated: R

Director: Jennifer Kent

Writer: Jennifer Kent

Stars: Aisling Franciosi, Michael Sheasby, Maya Christie

“You white ones go fast, fast, fast. Get no where. I go slow. Get everything done.”

Initial: Another revenge movie that I’ve heard a lot about. Like The Lighthouse, I’m not sure The Nightingale is exactly classified as horror.

Production Notes: This is Jennifer Kent’s followup to The Babadook.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Yes, this isn’t horror movie and I’m a little torn about including it in this frivolousness. On the other hand, The Nightingale is about the horror of how humans can treat each other. Unlike the near over the top violence in I Saw the Devil, the violent acts here (including several rapes) are brutal and have immediate consequences. This isn’t an easy film to watch, but it is very deliberate. There is a mirroring of themes and sequences throughout which makes it a cut above many films I’ve seen.


The Other Lamb

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 36m
Rated: N/R

Director: Malgorzata Szumowska

Writer: C.S. McMullen

Stars: Raffey Cassidy, Michiel Huisman, Mallory Adams

“Why do you stay?”

“Because I’m afraid.”

Initial: I don’t have too many notions about this film going in. Picked because it was “O” and on Hulu.

Production Notes: Filmed in Ireland.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Well, that was a movie…

While The Other Lamb is more clearly marked as “horror,” I found it not horrific or scary at all. Mostly, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to take away from this movie. I don’t see how this group of women ended up following this super low-key messiah. If it wasn’t written and directed by women, I’d really wonder…


Pooka!

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 23m
Rated: TV-MA

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Writer: Gerald Olson

Stars: Nyasha Hatendi, Latarsha Rose, Jon Daly

“Look at all the pretty lights.”

Initial: I really love the character of Phouka in War for the Oaks. I expect that this Pooka has little to do with that one.

Production Notes: Another entry in Hulu’s Into the Dark series, produced by Blumhouse.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
For an hour and thirteen-ish minutes, I was on the fence with this movie. It has some creepy moments, some uncomfortable moments, and a lot of “what the heck is going on?” moments. Nyasha Hatendi’s earnest performance was pretty much keeping this movie in the positive column for me…until the end. Pooka! won me over at the very end by being a more-traditional-than-I-realized Christmas ghost story. I need to give it a rewatch. Is this the best way of telling a story? Maybe not.

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: J, K & L

Ju-on: The Grudge

Year: 2002
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: R

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Writer: Takashi Shimizu

Stars: Megumi Okina, Misaki Itô, Misa Uehara

Ju-on: The curse of one who dies in the grip of a powerful rage.

Initial: This was supposed to be a rewatch day, but instead of watching a not-very-horror “J” film that I’ve seen before, I’m going to watch a new film and stave off this future problem. I’m apprehensive about how much this film is going to creep me out. I have not seen the American version. Uh, either of them.

Production Notes: This is actually the third installment of the Ju-on franchise, but the first to get a theatrical release.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Not as creepy as The Ring, but what is? I did honest-to-goodness yelp once during this movie and it wasn’t at a particularly “scary” part. A criticism of Ju-on is that it’s a bit derivative. I can see that, but I haven’t watched enough J-horror for that to bother me at all.


Kong: Skull Island

Year: 2017
Runtime: 1h 58m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace

Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson

“Mark my words: there’ll never be a more screwed up time in Washington.”

Initial: Sometimes, you just want a good monster movie. Hope this one holds up to a rewatch.

Production Notes: Apocalypse Now (1979) and Princess Mononoke (1997) are both cited as inspiration for this film.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
One of my favorite films as a kid was Mysterious Island (1961). Despite the impossibility of uncharted lands filled with dinosaurs and giant animals, I just really enjoy the concept. So, Skull Island works for me. It’s got a great cast, some very picturesque cinematography, characters with clever dialog, and ginormous animals battling it out. Somehow it’s a movie that can contain both John C. Rielly being a screwball and Samuel L. Jackson being Ahab. And I realized that it’s really smart to have most of the giant monster fights in the water; it gives them weight and scale.


Lord of Illusions

Year: 1995
Runtime: 1h 49m
Rated: R

Director: Clive Barker

Writer: Clive Barker

Stars: Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O’Connor, J. Trevor Edmond

“You can’t have too many saviors.”

Initial: I’ve read the short story more recently than I’ve watched the movie.

Production Notes: The Magic Castle is a real place in Los Angeles. Not sure if they shot inside, but it’s a nice nod.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Actually, I’m not sure I had seen this movie before. I thought I had, but I think I’m confusing it with Angel Heart (1987). Anyway… I feel like every movie Clive Barker has written/directed ends up getting cut in ways unflattering to the plot. (I’m including Hellraiser in this…) The bones of the story are there and there are muscles and tendons and ligaments, but the films feel unfinished. It’s not that I want to be spoon-fed plot, but I want to know the characters and the world better before, inevitably, all hell breaks loose. Still, I like Barker’s movies for what is there and, if I hadn’t seen this movie in the past, I’ll be rewatching it in the future.

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: G, H & I

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rated: N/A

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour

Stars: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

“I should die and leave you in peace.”

“Here, drink some water first.”

Initial: Billed as the first Iranian vampire Western ever made.

Production Notes: Filmed in…California.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I really dug the look of this movie. It reminded me more of 1940s Hays Code-era noir/horror movies than the spaghetti Westerns that are said to have inspired it. It’s such a contrast to the sort of showy black and white of The Lighthouse. Sheila Vand, as the Girl, is honestly very intimidating when she’s not looking like an ordinary girl. Arash Marandi is such a good boy that I felt a little disappointed in him when he engaged in any of his crimes. A Girl… is a bit slow. There’s a line between holding a shot and holding it too long, and I think Amirour is occasionally on the wrong side of that line.


He Never Died

Year: 2015
Runtime: 1h 39m
Rated: R

Director: Jason Krawczyk

Writer: Jason Krawczyk

Stars: Henry Rollins, Booboo Stewart, Kate Greenhouse

“Why are you calling me, Gillian? I remember hating you.”

Initial: I have a weird affection for Henry Rollins probably because he’s an angry punk, but also smart and funny. I like subverted expectations. I’ve had this movie on by TBW pile for quite a while.

Production Notes: There’s a sequel She Never Died. There was also a series talk, which I’d totally be in for.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
The first thing I did at The End was message my sister with this movie rec. It’s so funny; just inky black humor for days. Henry Rollins plays the perfect world-weary, put-upon immortal. This movie could have been 10x gorier, but it doesn’t need to be. I also really liked the use of sound to convey the weight of Jack’s memories.


Hey, this is a Red Band trailer, so viewer discretion advised.

I Saw the Devil

Year: 2010
Runtime: 2h 24m
Rated: N/R

Director: Jee-woon Kim

Writers: Jee-woon Kim, Hoon-jung Park

Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Joon-hyuk Lee

“I was wondering about you. You don’t look like a monster.”

Initial: I had heard that this was one of the most brutal, affecting revenge movies ever…

Production Notes: This was Kim Jee-woon’s follow up to The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (2008).

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Historically, I have trouble managing my expectations and they got the best of me here. Working again with cinematographer Mo-gae Lee, I Saw the Devil is a well-shot, well-made movie. Yes, it’s violence is brutal, to the point that I question how any of these characters stay alive from one scene to the next. The structure felt a little messy to me; that the story might have been better served by being trimmed down. It’s all a lot, but instead of feeling worn down by the continued brutality, I got a little bored. I also like more ambiguity in character morality. I was frustrated by Soo-hyeon’s actions rather than appalled by them.

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: D, E & F

Dead Ringers

Year: 1988
Runtime: 1h 56m
Rated:

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: David Cronenberg, Norman Snider, Bari Wood, Jack Geasland

Stars: Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske

“You going to spank me, Doc?”

“It hadn’t occurred to me.”

Initial: Rewatch. After seeing a promo for this movie on (probably) Cinemax, I stayed up to watch this movie on cable while my parents were asleep.

Production Notes: Second movie during this project with cinematographer Peter Suschitzky. He was also the DOP of The Vanishing (1993). He’s a frequent Cronenberg collaborator.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I feel like Jeremy Irons’ 1991 Oscar for Reversal of Fortune was a make-up Oscar for Dead Ringers… Also, how did Peter Suschitzky not even get a nomination for this? Or at least someone responsible for the effects? The best effects are the effects that aren’t noticeable at all.

I first watched this movie at an impressionable age, but I think the aura of…discomfort…remains pretty much intact. This isn’t a movie that’s going to get you with gore or jump scares. It’s going to niggle its way under your skin and make you wonder what goes on in the lives of professional, successful, “together” people. People who may even be your doctor. This was Cronenberg’s follow-up to The Fly (1986).


Event Horizon

Year: 1997
Runtime: 1h 36m
Rated: R

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Philip Eisner

Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan

“Smitty have you seen… anything unusual at all?”

“No, I haven’t seen anything and I don’t need to see anything, sir, but I can tell you: this ship is fucked.”

Initial: Rewatch. One of the few “horror” films my husband likes.

Production Notes:

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
The year is 2047 and apparently we’ve solved cancer from smoking…

I know I used “much maligned” not long ago, but it really applies to Event Horizon, especially when it first came out. The majority of the criticisms seem to be: “It starts off with a good premise and then becomes a horror movie.” No, this is incorrect. It starts off as a horror movie and stays a horror movie as it excellently executes its tropes. It is, as it was pitched by its writer, a haunted house story in space.* If you think of it like that, you will have a fine old time.


For We Are Many

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 20m
Rated: N/R

Director: Lawrie Brewster, et al.

Writers: Claire Norton, et al.

Stars: Laurence R. Harvey, Eileen Dietz, Nicholas Vince

My name is legion, for we are many.
Matthew (8.28-34)

Initial: Thirteen stories in less than an hour and a half? I mean, I guess that’s possible…

Production Notes:

  1. “Wendigo” – dir./writ. Gavin Robertson, star. Iain Mitchell Leslie
  2. “Bad Company” – dir./writ. Carlos Omar De Leon, writ. Vorasine Vince Phrommany, star. Desire Jansen
  3. “Father” – dir./writ. Mark Logan, star. Laurence R. Harvey
  4. “Demon in the Woods” – dir. Alex Harron, writ. Chris Keaton
  5. “Night Train” – dir./writ. Brad Watson, star. Faith Knight
  6. “Eli’s House” – dir./writ. Mitch Wilson, star. Julin, Jason Duffy Klemm
  7. “Three Times Around” – dir./writ. Andrew Ionides, star Joseph T. Callaghan
  8. “The Slaughtering Ground” – dir./writ. Dane Keil
  9. “Breath” – dir./writ. Tom Staunton
  10. “The Summoned”
  11. “Intervention” – dir./writ. Paddy Murphy, star. Nicholas Vince, Brian O’Regan
  12. “The Damned Statue” – dir./writ. Matthan Harris, star. Eileen Dietz
  13. “The Murder of Crows” – star. Gareth Morrison
  14. “Creek” – dir./writ. Keith Robson

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Thirteen filmmakers from around the world were asked to produce shorts inspired by demons. There are actually, not including the wrap-around, fourteen shorts. (To make up for two wendigos?) And shorts they are, most without much plot other than “Oh, god, a demon!” There was enough variation in details though that the stories stayed relatively fresh.

Obviously, with an anthology film of this magnitude, some segments are going to be better than others. Stand-outs for me:

“Night Train” – Stylish, with a bit more plot than the rest and a science fiction twist near the end.

“Three Times Around” – An urban legend filmed in a found footage/streaming style. Very effective, the best of the social media-aspected tales.

“The Summoned” – Cursed mirrors are always fun. This one also had a rather good soundtrack.

Horror Films A–Z, Oct. 2020: A, B & C

All That We Destroy

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 21m
Rated: TV-MA

Director: Chelsea Stardust

Writers: Sean Keller, Jim Agnew

Stars: Israel Broussard, Aurora Perrineau, Dora Madison

“I like you. You’re weird.”

Initial: The trailer looks good, but the Google results hint that this is not very good.

Production Notes: Part of Hulu’s Into the Dark series.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
This movie is a sort of mash-up of Westworld (the ethics of how humans may treat clones) and We Need to Talk About Kevin (a mother’s relationship with her unbalanced son). Alone, both of these things are good. Together, eh, not great. We pretty much have a story in which a socially maladjusted young man kills women and is protected. It’s not a great look. The three young leads are talented though. I didn’t (because I’m face blind) remember Israel Broussard from Happy Death Day.


Before I Go to Sleep

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: R

Director: Rowan Joffe

Writers: Rowan Joffe, S.J. Watson

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong

“My is Christine Lucas. I’m 40 years-old and I’m an amnesiac.”

Initial: I confused Basket Case (which I have already seen) with The Brood. But then I found that I didn’t have access to The Brood. So, here we are at a movie with a trio of good actors. Seems like Memento but with the additional peril of men lying to a woman.

Production Notes: Based on a novel by S. J. Watson.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
This ends up being my second “woman without memory” movie in a row. Also the second murderous chemistry teacher in as many weeks…

Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth both give great performances. They are the strength of this movie. The plot? Well, there’s a lot of room to spring left-field twists when the main character doesn’t remember anything…


The Cell

Year: 2000
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Director: Tarsem Singh

Writers: Mark Protosevich

Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio

“And what world do you live in?”

Initial: I’m glad the The Cell is getting some love as it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary and making me feel old.

Production Notes: Before the movie came out New Line (or someone else connected with the movie) ran a fiction contest. I entered and did not win.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
The Cell is an underrated gem. From mundane to extraordinary: Let’s not talk about the science/technology… Otherwise, the story is solid enough and should get points for bring something different to the realm of serial killer movies. Jennifer Lopez gives a warm performance and, honestly, it was years before I realized that Vince Vaugh was primarily known as a comic actor. (The other movie I knew him from was the remake of Psycho.) The visuals in this movie are *stunning*. That is Tarsem Singh’s bread and butter. The character’s mind interiors are a dreamlike mung of vivid artistic influences. In a horror movie, that means that things are often disturbing and beautiful. (If you’re less interested in the disturbing aspect, Singh’s The Fall is absolutely worth a look.)