Top 10 of 2018

By Jason Sawyer – Dec. 30, 2018

With nearly 50 movies to consider, these are what I decided upon as the finest of the year. However, despite everything I watched, there are some notable exceptions. We didn’t launch until Sept. 15th, and while a solid effort was made at playing catch-up, the clock ran out and a few managed to slip through. Those would be Suspiria, The House That Jack Built, Revenge, The Clovehitch Killer, Incident in a Ghostland, and Anna & The Apocalypse. We tend to focus on streaming offerings here at Terror Spective, so those limited theatrical and VOD releases tend to fall by the wayside. Got no excuses for Revenge though – it got cut in favor of Christmas Horror Week, but it’ll get covered very soon. Also, I’m going to skip making a worst-of list – I reason that the actual worst horror films of 2018 were ones I purposefully avoided, because I’d much rather find titles to recommend than hate on.


Honorable Mentions:

(alphabetically)

– The Endless
– Overlord
– Prodigy
– Unsane
– The Witch in the Window


The Top 10

TOP 10 2018 LIST

Happy 2019 from Terror Spective!


Some more stuff to read if you want:

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Our Favorite Performances of 2018

By Jason Sawyer – Dec. 29, 2018

It’s the honest truth – 2018 was a ridiculously good year for horror. A simple Top-10 Movies list, which will be posted tomorrow, just wouldn’t suffice for the wealth of horror offerings made over the last 12 months, so I decided to break down the year’s best into 10 different categories to better explore all the greatness there was to be enjoyed throughout. Since we didn’t launch until mid-September, I’ve been scrambling to cover as much ground as possible, and while I didn’t get to everything, there’s nearly 50 films here in consideration. So with that, let’s get to it.


Best Content

This is for honoring the various providers and producers of horror material who consistently release quality films.

2nd Runner-Up – IFC Midnight

IFC MIDNIGHT LOGOYear after year, IFC Midnight cranks out a wealth of quality films – The Babadook and The Autopsy of Jane Doe being a couple of the most famous – and this year was no exception. Regrettably, the clock ran out on reviewing some of these titles for ’18, but their notable releases were: The Clovehitch Killer, Ghost Stories, Pyewacket, Wildling, The Devil’s Doorway, What Keeps You Alive, Lowlife, Our House, Feral, Welcome to Mercy, and Midnighters.

1st Runner-Up – Blumhouse

BLUMHOUSE LOGOI’ve mentioned it several times the last few months that Jason Blum is an exceptionally busy person. With something like 30 film production credits this year – most all horror – he shows no signs of slowing down in the future either. With a winning formula of tight budget management and faith in creator control, he’s been doing his part to forward the genre by proving that it can be profitable and interesting at the same time. Now that’s he been flexing his growing influence by acquiring classic franchises, there’s no telling what promising potential projects may lie ahead. Their notable releases were: Halloween, The First Purge, Upgrade, Unfriended: Dark Web, Insidious: The Last Key, Cam, Delirium, Truth or Dare, Stephanie, Seven in Heaven, All the Creatures Were Stirring, Into the Dark, and non-horror early Oscar favorite BlacKkKlansman.

Best – Shudder

SHUDDER LOGOThe best $5 a month a horror fan can spend. While their original content may not be as prolific as that of Blumhouse, both the quality and quantity of the original and exclusive content they procure and the bargain price at which it offered propel it to the top of the category. They have an amazing collection of classic and archival titles too. It doesn’t take long to gather that Shudder is operated and cultivated by diehard fans who know the good stuff when they see it. Their notable releases were: Mandy, Summer of 84, Terrified, Revenge, Satan’s Slaves, The Witch in the Window, You Might Be the Killer, Downrange, the Joe Bob Briggs marathons, Deadwax, Ruin Me, Still/Born, and Dead Shack.


Best Monster

This one speaks for itself, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking as well.

2nd Runner-up – Werner (Overlord)

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1st Runner-up – Mutant Bear (Annihilation)

MUTANT BEAR - ANNIHILATION

Best – The Jotun (The Ritual)

THE JOTUN - THE RITUAL


Best Character Performance

This category is for those who weren’t given much depth, screen time, or dialogue, but still managed to make a big impact. (Sorry Michael Myers, Predator, and The Strangers, but you’re all disqualified for familiarity.)

2nd Runner-Up – Sharon Morgan As Her (Apostle)

HER - APOSTLE

What straight-up scares there are to be had in Gareth Evans’ bleak period piece Apostle are provided by this mysterious blood-guzzling deity-like figure who, while imprisoned in an entanglement of her own overgrowth, is quite capable of travelling in an astral manner to occasionally antagonize (or perhaps warn) our hero at inopportune moments.

1st Runner-Up – Consuelo Trujillo As Hermana Muerte (Veronica)

SISTER DEATH - VERONICA

It probably wasn’t intended for this blind, chain-smoking, no-nonsense nun to steal the show during her brief appearances – she was merely supposed to be the plot dumper who gives our heroine important story-moving information that she couldn’t be privy to otherwise – but she does, and it was something of a mistake to waste such a memorable character. In fact, I don’t remember a whole lot else.

Best – David Howard Thornton As Art the Clown (Terrifier)

ART THE CLOWN - TERRIFIER

Terrifier doesn’t succeed very well at all as a movie – there’s barely any effort applied to provide even the most basic of narratives – but as a showcase for its spotlight villain, Art the Clown, it actually does quite well. Thornton nails the balance of extreme menace and ironic whimsy – exactly what you’d want from a killer clown – and his depiction of the near-invincible and out-maneuverable psycho is, essentially, the entire film.


Best Screenplay

Some movies don’t have the advantage of deep budgets or fancy effects to gain and hold the audience’s interest – they must rely largely on the strength of their story to get the job done. And some times, movies do have those things and still have damn good scripts.

2nd Runner-up: Ari Aster – Hereditary

1st Runner-up: Isa Mazzei – Cam

Best: Matt Leslie & Stephen J. Smith – Summer of 84

More so than any other film up for consideration, Summer of 84 is especially reliant on its plot beats, story twists, and subversions of expectations and tropes to succeed. Further, the movie is quiet about what it’s up to, subtly building toward a third act that hits with a ton of force. It’s a fiercely rewarding mystery with a devastating finish, and Leslie & Smith’s script provides the elements that make it shine.


Best Director

The director is the one who is ultimately held responsible if a movie is completed as a disastrous mess, so it’s fair they get the credit when it turns out great. The best generally exhibit a blend of vision, control, and resourcefulness, and this year, these were our favorites:

2nd Runner-Up: Panos Cosmatos – Mandy

1st Runner-Up: John Krasinski – A Quiet Place

Best: Paul Urkijo Alijo – Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil

While fans are gushing over the fantastic debut feature of Herediary creator Ari Astor (who I had at 3rd runner-up), this phenomenal first film from Basque writer/director Alijo has gone sadly overlooked. Visually stunning and thematically strong with an engaging story and strong performances throughout, Alijo conjures comparisons to filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and Terry Gilliam while establishing a unique tone that is decidedly his own, and for that, he takes the top spot here.


Best Youth Performance

You might not realize just how many roles there are for children in the horror genre until you start counting. There’s a lot, and that makes sense too. Children in peril is a fast way to engage an audience when you want to scare or unsettle them, and evil children are even more effective. Also, increasingly, horror is more closely examining parental relationships as well. As such, there was actually a lot of competition here.

2nd Runner-up: Charlie Tacker – The Witch in the Window

1st Runner-up: Simone Landers – Cargo

Best: Savannah Liles – Prodigy

Liles’ performance as sociopathic super-genius Ellie – a child so dangerous that she is held in restraints and treated with terror in a highly classified government facility – is the glue that holds this whole movie together. Largely dialogue-driven, her battle of wits with unorthodox psychiatrist Fonda, played by Richard Neil whose performance is very solid as well, makes for a surprisingly riveting film.


From here on out, the rest of the categories are pretty self-explanatory.

Best Supporting Actor

2nd Runner-up: Rich Sommer – Summer of 84

1st Runner-up: Linus Roache – Mandy

Best: Eneko Sagardoy – Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil

As captive demon Sartael, Sagardoy brings the complex and mischievous imp to charismatic life – portraying a conflicted antagonist that is torn between a sense of hellish duty, resentment for his failures and resulting captivity, and a desire to simply be free of it all. With his piteous obligation to responsibility paired with a lack of enthusiastic conviction to see it through, rarely has a demon been as readily relatable as his.


Best Supporting Actress

2nd Runner-up: Andi Matichak – Halloween

1st Runner-up: Andrea Riseborough – Mandy

Best: Laurie Holden – Pyewacket

Pyewacket is on a list of films that I was too harsh toward early on in my reviews and one of the motivators behind re-designing my whole rating process. While I harped on this film’s third act and its handling of its supernatural elements, it’s likely that I missed the greater point about a catastrophic relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter. Holden plays a frustratingly and realistically human role as Mrs. Reyes, torn apart over the grief of losing her husband while simultaneously blind to her daughter’s own struggles with the loss of her father. She’s both sympathetic and infuriating, so when the summoned demon of the title takes on her form to torment the young daughter, the film takes a chilling turn. This is one of the performances that has stuck with me after binging dozens of movies.


Best Actor

2nd Runner-up: Anders Danielsen Lie – The Night Eats the World

1st Runner-up: Alex Draper – The Witch in the Window

Best: Nicolas Cage – Mandy

No surprises here, as the one-time Oscar winner and two-time nominee has finally been paired with a role that both demands and accommodates the wild and unhinged performances that Cage has become associated with in his later career. The character of Red is not terribly special – a seemingly average Joe with a hidden past who is sent on a quest for bloody revenge after miscreants kill his wife and leave him for dead. To say it’s been done understates how often it’s been done. Yet, Cage breathes fire on what becomes a crusade to purge the earth of an evil and toxic force as much as it is to right the wrongs endured by Mandy, and the amazing film simply wouldn’t astonish like it does without him in the driver’s seat.


Best Actress

While the best female lead performance of the year was easy to decide upon, this was an extremely competitive category which included the likes of Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, and Emily Blunt. This is who we went with.

2nd Runner-up: Claire Foy – Unsane

1st Runner-up: Madeline Brewer – Cam

Best: Toni Collette – Hereditary

This was the easiest decision to make throughout this entire process. Collette turns in a tour de force performance for the ages as the supremely troubled Annie, who struggles with the loss of her mother, with whom she had a complicated and bitter relationship, and things only get far worse from there. Hereditary is her showcase, full stop, and her portrayal of an excruciating descent into madness and despair will be talked about for many years to come.


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1991: The Worst Year in Modern Horror

It’s rather widely agreed upon that the decade of the ’80s was a pop culture golden age. Cinematically, most every genre took on a very distinctive identity that would have its films forever associated with that era, and horror was certainly no exception. The years of 1980 to 1989 would see 104 horror movies wind up on their respective year-end top 100 lists in regards to box office receipts. By comparison, the ’90s would go on to have nearly a 50% drop in that figure – a decline that would have been even worse if not for the saving grace of Wes Craven’s Scream in late 1996 and the revival it inspired. Despite the many masterpieces, fan favorites, and iconic characters that arose from the ’80s, the early ’90s would prove that it couldn’t last forever. Ironically, that which provided the basis for all the terror in the cineplexes was likely the very thing that ultimately poisoned the well for years to follow.

As 1980 began, Hollywood – that monolithic mecca that is universally recognized as the entertainment capital of Western culture – had almost fully regained its stature from a time that had almost killed it. Like the many things that Millennials are attributed for ‘ruining’, the Boomers were implicated for almost bankrupting the major American movie studios. Between the convenience of television and an appetite for the more explicit and challenging cinematic fare of European cultures, Hollywood was bleeding money on epic WWII movies and big-spectacle musicals that people weren’t buying tickets for anymore. The puritanical Hays code (or Motion Picture Production Code), which had governed acceptable movie content since the 1920s, was obliterated when studio MGM ignored a code denial and defiantly released Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up – with its nudity, sexual content, and drug use uncensored – to the tune of $120 million in adjusted-for-inflation (AFI) revenue. Studio executives, very much against their will, were forced to relinquish creative control to these young libertine filmmakers to save their businesses. The MPAA rating system would be introduced in 1968 and theater screens would never be the same again. The New Hollywood was born.

Blowup-1966-1

Upon its release in December of 1966, Blow-Up, a sexually provocative murder mystery set in the London fashion world, blew up the long-standing adherence to moral conservatism in Hollywood and prompted the creation of the much more permissive MPAA rating system.

This time would prove to be a playground for budding auteurs and resourceful independent filmmakers alike. With the doors blown off of prior constraints on content, dark themes and mature material previously forbidden were now presented with a confrontational boldness to audiences that hadn’t realized how much they wanted all this grim realism. Novels that could have never graced the silver screen before – like Mario Puzo’s The Godfather ($719m AFI), Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange ($143m AFI), and most notably to horror, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist ($943m AFI) – became the kind of critically adored blockbusters that studio executives live for. The market was robust for aspiring indie directors too, with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (est. $73m AFI), Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (est. $17m AFI), Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (est. $125m AFI), and John Carpenter’s Halloween ($184m AFI) – making millions on their miniscule production budgets and eventually propelling all 4 filmmakers to Hollywood stardom. All of these noteworthy successes, however, were not of the type that play to the wishes of the industry’s elite power players – the bankrollers, producers, and money managers. For them, relinquishing that much creative control to the creators themselves is far too risky and uncomfortable, as they would much rather hold the proverbial reins themselves. Ironically though, the daring films that proved to be popular would lead studios to re-finding the pulse of audience demand, and on the backs of filmmakers like Steven Speilberg and George Lucas, the age of the fine-tuned blockbuster would be reborn and their control over finished products would be restored.

Pumping out what the people wanted certainly wasn’t a problem at first, as many beloved classics were made throughout the ’80s, but a trend would develop that eventually proceeded to rot the genre from the inside out. Generally, the first entry in what would develop into a long-running franchise – Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street being the most famed examples – would stand quite well as a quality film, but cash-drunk producers and executives were enraptured with the money mills they could transform these titles into. This often resulted in a string of hastily-made sequels that typically abandoned the pretenses of story and atmosphere, along with input from original creators, in favor of pure crowd-pleasing elements, even if the final product made no coherent sense.

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In 1973, The Exorcist would forever alter the perception of horror in mainstream culture. When adjusting ticket prices for inflation, its success at the American box office is on par with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

While plenty of favorites still managed to arise from this cynical gold rush, the utter lack of long-term vision in cultivating these box-office behemoths, and their engineered copycats, would result in both massive audience fatigue and a wholesale critical black-listing of horror altogether. Factor in the impact of the emergent VHS and cable TV formats that allowed for even greater market saturation of often lower-quality films, and the party was over. A golden age of horror had come to a close. 1990 was still a modestly successful year however, but two troubling trends would emerge. Flatliners was a solid hit, but despite its overt horror subject matter, would see its marketing campaign focus more heavily on its sci-fi thriller elements and its all-star cast, consciously distancing it from the troubled genre. Also, many of the other notable films of the year – Arachnophobia, Tremors, and Gremlins 2 (which flopped, failing to make back its budget during its theatrical run) – were firmly horror-comedies, sometimes bordering on farce, and audiences buying such obvious mockery of a thing doesn’t generally bode well for the thing itself. So, the stage was set for the bottom to truly drop out in ’91.

That may seem like an absurd statement to make, considering that horror hallmark The Silence of the Lambs would be released in February of that year. Having gone on to sweep the Academy Awards’ ‘Big Five’ – picture, director, actor, actress, and screenplay – the following spring, this film alone should save ’91 from being considered a low water mark, but therein lies a big problem. It’s not technically a horror movie. This, perhaps more than any other film, triggers the debate of ‘What is horror?‘ Some posit that it’s a difference in focus between suspense and fear, others present it as the presence or absence of gory violence or supernatural elements, and others still say that it involves whether or not death is the central-most theme. With the many inconsistencies in the application of the horror label over the decades, it appears to be largely a matter of the marketing approach to a thematically dark film, and Silence of the Lambs, modeling the success that Misery had the previous year as a ‘dramatic thriller’, followed suit and as much distance as possible was placed between the film and the horror genre by both the studio, Orion Pictures, and the A-grade Hollywood talent involved in the production. The tremendous success it enjoyed, both financially and critically, only exasperated horror’s commercial struggles and cheap reputation while establishing a trend of disallowing the genre, at least initially, to be associated with other banner films like Interview with the Vampire, The Crow, and Se7en.

HANNIBAL LECTOR

Despite becoming one of the most iconic characters in horror cinema, Hannibal Lector was initially distanced as far as possible from the genre. The marketing framed The Silence of the Lambs as a dramatic suspense thriller that just happened to contain moments of graphic violence and genuine terror. It would win big at the Oscars that year and since, no other film has won ‘The Big Five’ at the Academy Awards.

’91 also saw the development of studios vacating horror releases from the prime dates on the release schedule, relegating them largely to dumping grounds in January-March and August-October. Only in recent years has this trend started to reverse, both by horror being released steadily along the calendar and by genre blockbusters emerging from non-traditional times of the year. 1991 saw 3 releases throughout the post-holiday winter season – Warlock (Jan. 11, $19.8m AFI), Popcorn (Feb. 1, $9.1m AFI), and The Unborn (Mar. 29, $2.6m AFI), none of which succeeded to gain much attention, if not being outright flops entirely. (As a point of reference, most horror films need to gross at least $20-25m to be considered modest successes, but that is by no means a universal figure.) The following week, LGBT horror film Poison, slapped with an NC-17 rating and condemned by an American senator, would go on to earn a paltry $1.2m AFI. This was not an era where notoriety could be reliably counted upon as profitable publicity, and Poison would hardly be the only casualty of that fact, as demonstrated by the next film.

It would be another 4 months before horror would get to the big screen again, but this one was supposed to reverse the tide. With a budget of $20m AFI, Body Parts was easily the most expensive original horror production of the year, and with a August 2nd release date, Paramount Pictures was gambling that this gory thriller about a man who receives a limb transplant possessed by its former psychopath owner would take advantage of the shortage of competition and make some decent bank. Then, Jeffrey Dahmer happened. Not but 10 days before its scheduled release, the story about the discovery and apprehension of the infamous cannibal serial killer and his ghastly collection of people pieces captivated a nation. Disgusted by the gruesome details but driving the story’s exposure into the stratosphere through morbid curiosity, Dahmer dominated the news cycle. As such, public backlash against the upcoming release of Body Parts developed immediately, just by irrational association of the coincidental title, and marketing for the film was quickly suppressed. Occurring so close to the scheduled date, Paramount went ahead with the film’s opening, which sputtered to a $20m AFI run, failing to generate profit or cover the movie’s ancillary costs. Again, the very early ’90s were not a good proving ground for the idiom that any publicity is good publicity.

BODY PARTS 1991 MOVIE W DAHMER INSERT

Paramount Pictures was expecting its original horror-thriller Body Parts to hack up the competition. Instead, it was eaten alive by the media fervor surrounding infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Up next was Child’s Play 3, hitting the theaters four weeks later and less than 10 months after the release of Child’s Play 2. As the reliable horror money mills were consistently drying up, Chucky’s second outing had bucked the trend, pulling down $62m AFI at the box office, prompting to Universal Pictures to place the third film on a turnaround fast track of ridiculous speed. Audiences noticed the rush job, and the film ended up grossing only $32m AFI on a budget of $24m AFI – bleeding nearly half the revenue of its predecessor. Still regarded as one of the worst of the now 7-movie series – although it’s been received a little more warmly in recent years – there would not be another entry released until 1998, which would also scuttle the Child’s Play franchise title in favor of the ‘Of Chucky’ iteration.

A mere two weeks later, and doing no favors for the fortunes of little Chucky, came Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Financially, it was the biggest success for the genre that year, and by a sizable margin too, with a total haul of $75.7M AFI and an opening weekend that rivaled the Elm Street franchise’s biggest hit, The Dream Master. Improving 50% over the gross of previous entry The Dream Child, this would count as a win for New Line Cinema and appear as a bright spot in an otherwise dreary stretch, but all was not well in Springwood. It should come as no surprise that the film was received poorly by critics, for at this point, virtually all horror was dead on arrival with the film aficionado set, but the movie was not well regarded by fans either. If IMDb scores are to be trusted, Freddy’s Dead remains the lowest rated among all 9 entries in the series – this includes the tonally inconsistent Freddy’s Revenge, the shrugworthy predecessor Dream Child, and the frequently lambasted 2010 remake. It made for a thoroughly unsatisfactory close for one of the definitive franchises of the 1980’s (although, in ’93, Jason Goes to Hell would give it a run for every penny of its money in regards to disappointing fans) and basically served as the sickly swan song for an entire generation of horror.

Box Office for the Elm Street franchise with total grosses and opening weekends (adjusted for inflation)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) $66.7M $3.5M
Freddy’s Revenge (1985) $74.6M $7.4M
Dream Warriors (1987) $104.7M $20.8M
The Dream Master (1988) $109.8M $28.5M
The Dream Child (1989) $51.0M $18.7M
Freddy’s Dead (1991) $75.7M $28.2M
New Nightmare (1994) $39.6M $14.6M
Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) $125.2M $55.2M
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) $73.2M $38.2M

While Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was a box office success, its damage to the franchise was so thorough that not even a return of series creator Wes Craven with an ambitious and critically well-received entry was enough to rehabilitate its image with weary fans.

Yet, the death of an age is an opportunity for the birth of another, and seven weeks later would see the release of a film that made a stride toward something new, and it came from someone who was an architect of both the previous era and the one to follow. Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs was a subversion of what many had come to expect from mainstream horror, with its black inner-city protagonists, sharp biting satire of American society, and its tendency to mix moments of humorous levity in with its genuine scares – it was almost a total departure from the formula that had led the genre into its derivative dearth. Bafflingly released the day after Halloween (the only ‘horror’ release that October was Ernest Scared Stupid), the movie still went on to be a substantial hit, opening at #1 at the box office and going on to gross $52.5M AFI – more than quadrupling its production budget. Five years later, Craven would fully realize his blend of satirical themes and a distinct meta self-awareness mixed into a generally more playful horror tone with the genre-resuscitating blockbuster Scream.

From that release of what is often recognized as the quintessential 90’s horror film, the genre has never collapsed quite like it did in 1991. While its cultural influence has fluctuated, there has been virtually an unbroken chain of successful overlapping trends in horror cinema – the brief slasher resurgence inspired by Scream, Japanese-influenced offerings (The Ring, The Grudge), films shaped by the New French Extremity movement (the Saw series, Hostel, Alejandro Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes), a string of remakes of ’70s and ’80s classics, a return of the zombie, the found footage format, The Conjuring and Insidious franchises of James Wan, the ascent of Blumhouse, and a renaissance of slowburn psychological terror. As 2019 approaches, there is now more horror and more quality horror at any one time than ever before. Technological advances have allowed independent filmmakers access to more sophisticated equipment and processes while the proliferation of the internet have given them the same leaps forward in marketing and distribution. We currently have an era where intrepid auteurs are thriving along side a Hollywood system that is getting increasingly better at balancing its profit-driven controls with more autonomy for creators, and this is the case for most every type of movie – not just horror. It would seem as if we are in the midst of a new golden age right now, and hopefully, there is no recurrence of 1991 in the future.

Stream Picks – Hello Cruel World II – Oct. 26

For this week’s Stream Picks, we’re giving you Volume Two of our favorite international horror offerings. As always, these are all ready to watch on some of the most popular streaming outlets. Like last time, these recommends are not for those averse to subtitles – you’ll be doing some reading, but if you’re looking for something different to try, we think these are worth a watch.


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Mexico: The Similars – 2015 (featured)

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Unrated (equal to R rating for violence, language, and brief nudity) – 1hr 29min
Directed by Issac Ezban
Starring Fernando Becerril, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Humberto Busto

In this creepy homage to the style of The Twilight Zone, the year is 1968 and eight strangers are grouped together in a bus station by a bizarre weather phenomenon. When some of them begin experiencing inexplicable physical transformations, paranoia sets in and wild accusations are made, turning their refuge into a place of anguish and violence. Along with 2014’s The Incident, director Issac Ezban has been developing a reputation for his stylish depictions of sci-fi/horror that invoke the vibe of Black Mirror, The Outer Limits, and the aforementioned Twilight Zone.


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Iran: Under the Shadow – 2016

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Rated PG-13 – 1hr 24min
Directed by Babak Anvari
Starring Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi

Set in 1980s Tehran, a woman named Shideh, banned from her medical studies in the wake of the Islamic Revolution, must keep her daughter safe as Iraqi missile strikes rock the city and her husband is called to provide medical treatment on the war front. If that wasn’t enough, her child has caught the attention of a mysterious and sinister presence that dwells in their building. As the air raids intensify, so will the curse of this malevolent spirit. A BAFTA nominee for best picture, this movie ambitiously blends the political turmoil of a nation scarred by war, revolution, and cultural upheaval with horror inspired by Persian folklore.


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Hong Kong: Rigor Mortis – 2013

RIGOR MORTIS
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SHUDDERHOOPLA

Unrated – (equal to hard R rating for graphic violence, imagery, disturbing sexual content, and brief nudity) – 1hr 43min
Directed by Juno Mak
Starring Siu-Ho Chin, Anthony Chan, Fat Chung

A once popular actor, his life now in ruins, moves into a rundown apartment block and begins to contemplate suicide. What he discovers is that the place is ravaged by the same kind of evil entities that he used to fictionally battle as the star of a horror movie franchise. While involving a lot of cultural references and folklore that are very specific to that part of the world, this is a very stylish and bleak subversion of a sub-genre of Mandarin films that blended comical horror and martial arts in their depiction of the jiangshi, or hopping vampire. Yet vampires there aren’t the same as vampires here. It’s all quite confusing and much of the context is lost on Western audiences, but there is still a lot that can be appreciated in regards to visuals and tone, even if a substantial portion is lost in translation.


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France: Ils (Them) – 2006

ILS
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Rated R – 1hr 17min
Directed by David Moreau & Xavier Palud
Starring Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen

A couple living in their isolated home are set upon during the night by a gang of hooded assailants. That bare-bones plot pretty much sums this movie up, but what it lacks in story, it compensates for in sequences of pure tension and suspense. While it has much in common with The Strangers, this actually predates that film by a couple years. If you enjoy cat-and-mouse sequences and don’t mind a movie that is essentially just those, you should find this to your liking. (Heads up though – the ending hasn’t exactly aged so well.)


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Thailand: Laddaland – 2011

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Unrated (equal to R rating for graphic violence & imagery) – 1hr 53min
Directed by Sophon Sakdaphisit
Starring Saharat Sangkapreecha, Piyathida Woramusik, Sutatta Udomsilp

In this paranormal chiller, a family moves into an upscale neighborhood – the father eager to put forward the image offinancial success. With a hefty mortgage to pay and a fractured relationship between the parents and their teenage daughter, life in the seemingly peaceful upper-class subdivision isn’t what Dad had hoped for, as the house next door is the scene of a gruesome murder-suicide, intensifying tensions within their own household. Things boil over when visions of their slaughtered neighbors begin to appear. Despite the Southeast Asian setting, this film touches upon a lot of themes that Western audiences can certainly appreciate, as it plays like a variation of The Amityville Horror but for the post-Great Recession era.

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Best of the 1970’s – Retro Stream Picks

If modern horror was established by films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, H.G. Lewis’ Two Thousand Maniacs, and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead throughout the 1960s, then it grew up fast in the ’70s. The floodgates opened and suddenly, mainstream audiences were prepared to confront mature content, graphic imagery, and uncomfortable themes in a way unprecedented in the age of cinema. With the latest chapter in the Halloween saga coming out today, the remake of Suspiria scheduled for wide release on Nov. 2nd, and another chapter of the Amityville franchise due next month, this seems like a good time to explore the decade that made horror what it is now.


Suspiria – 1977 (featured)

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Often regarded as one of the highest examples of horror as an artform, this is generally considered the greatest film from heralded Italian auteur Dario Argento. With its bold color palette, meticulous framing, and sudden bursts of terrible violence, Suspiria still tells a compelling story of a stranger in a strange land that’s stranger than she could possibly imagine, but veers off into nightmares barely tethered to reality with little warning. This might not just be Argento’s best, but the best Italian horror film period.


Deep Red – 1975

DEEP RED
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Argento, in his prime, was more than just a one-note arthouse horror filmmaker – he was also a master of the giallo. To those who don’t know, a giallo was a kind of whodunnit murder mystery unique to Italian cinema that was known for its gruesome violence and sometimes explicit content, which would become extremely influential on what would become the ‘slasher movie’. Deep Red – or Profondo Russo – is one of the best, with fantastic direction, an intriguing plot, and a brutally relentless killer committed to keeping secret the sins of the past.


The Last House on the Left – 1972

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Its visceral depictions of violence still terrifying today, this film was also very influential on what would become the most prolific type of horror film in the 1980s, but not necessarily in content because Last House still churns stomachs today. However, three of the men behind the camera, Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th) and Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Parts 2 & 3) would go on to help define the genre for an entire generation, making it both fun and acceptable to the masses but without sacrificing all of its edge. This movie is proof that they were aware just how much edge it could have.


Black Christmas – 1974 & Alice, Sweet Alice – 1976

BLACK XMAS SWEET ALICE COLLAGE
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Black Christmas:
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Alice, Sweet Alice:
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No discussion of influence on modern horror would be truly complete without acknowledging this pair of underrated proto-slashers, although they both often get lost in the mix. Regularly referenced by later horror filmmakers, Alice‘s brutal knife-wielding masked killer and the elusive and depraved villain of Christmas would help shape the more iconic genre characters that audiences are familiar with today.


The Amityville Horror – 1979

AMITYVILLE HORROR 1979
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Next month marks the release of The Amityville Murders, the 11th film in the long-running franchise and a pseudo-remake of Amityville II: The Possession. The nearly 40-year-old original hasn’t necessarily aged so well, but it definitely contributed to modernizing the classic haunted house motif upon its release. Personally, I wouldn’t say it’s so much of a great movie as it is a collection of great set pieces with some tedious stuff in between, but it still deserves its spot when discussing the highlights of the era.


The Sentinel – 1977

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Here, we have another overlooked gem from this landmark decade – a tale of a struggling fashion model who may have moved into the apartment building from Hell. While very much a product of its time, it’s among a number of notable films from its time that bridges the gap between earlier films that defined horror mostly through broody atmosphere and modern horror, with its dark and often disturbing palette of themes and explicit imagery. It’s a very solid standard of the ‘slowburn’ formula that is enjoying quite the renaissance today.


Phantasm – 1979

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Rounding out this week’s list is a personal favorite of mine – Don Coscarelli’s unique sci-fi/horror fever dream with an interdimensional shape-shifting mortician, killer flying drill spheres, corpses of loved ones squashed down into super-strengthened servants, and a young boy trying to make sense of it all while struggling to survive the wrath of ‘The Tall Man’. By putting style, imagery, and mood over story but never taking itself too terribly serious, Phantasm is a bit like Suspiria’s guitar-playing pothead cousin that works down at the gas station. Nowhere near as refined, but a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with.


– Two weeks ago, we featured both the original Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in our Stream Picks, which you can check out here.


 

Ranking the Halloween Franchise – Worst to Best

With the long awaited 2nd revival of the Halloween franchise coming to theaters everywhere October 19th – and already receiving rave reviews from horror fans who were lucky enough to catch a preview – this seems like a good time for a retrospective of the movie’s 10 predecessors, even if this new one is pretending that 9 of them never happened. In fact, the 40-year journey of ol’ Michael Myers has been so strange, this marks the 4th time that at least part of his slate has been wiped clean.


10 – Halloween: Resurrection

halloween resurrectionStarting with the bottom of the barrel, Resurrection has almost no equal in the series for its awfulness. One can imagine the boardroom of coked-out movie execs trying feebly to brainstorm ways to make The Shape cool and edgy for Y2K teens. “Internet? Sure, the kids like the internet. Oh, let’s get a supermodel in there, and a rapper too. He can beat up Michael in a fistfight. How about reality TV? And let’s kill off who’s-her-face in the beginning – little something for the fans. Ok – time for lunch!” So all those ideas they vomited out were smeared into a formerly better screenplay called Halloween: The Homecoming and this steaming pile was the result. It’s best to pretend this one doesn’t exist at all.


9 – Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

halloween 6When I mentioned that Resurrection almost had no equal in awfulness, this incoherent mess is nearly up to the task of being the worst. Out of ideas, there was seemingly nothing left but to make Michael Myers a supernatural entity, and since that makes no sense, neither did the movie. Something about a cult, a rune, a demon, a curse, and an incest baby – I don’t know. There exists a different cut of the film titled Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers which explains these details that the theatrical version tried to dilute in its embarrassment, only to better demonstrate why this was a bad idea in the first place. This was, however, the film debut of Ant-Man Paul Rudd, for whatever that’s worth.


7 (tie) – Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers & Rob Zombie’s Halloween II

halloween 5 zombie 2 hybridAt least we’ve arrived into mediocre territory with this pair of unmemorable slap-dash sequels. Both offered little more than the same from the entry preceding it, with little flourishes wedged in for the sake of it, like psychic powers in Revenge while Zombie’s 2nd had…Weird Al Yankovic? Sure, why not. They trudged along unceremoniously, carrying the same tone as the previous film, that being a barely passable John Carpenter impersonation for Revenge and Zombie just brought the same sleaze he brings to everything. However, Revenge does have a memorable scene with Michael Myers behind the wheel barreling across a field toward his prey and Zombie’s 2nd had the superior ending between them.


6 – Halloween III: Season of the Witch

halloween 3Here, we find the odd duck of the family – the divisive Myers-less film in the franchise. This was the last film (before the upcoming one) in which John Carpenter had any involvement with, and it marked a failed effort of his to re-imagine the Halloween series as an anthology – each sequel being a different sinister tale surrounding the holiday. Maybe it would’ve succeeded if not for a bugshit crazy plot that needs to be seen to be believed – a description simply will not do. Regardless, fans hated it and it bled out half of Part 2’s box office revenue as a result. Yet, without the burden of carrying the Halloween brand on its back, Season of the Witch stands as a pretty damn good 80s horror movie that is unapologetically original. A warning though to those who have not seen it – this movie contains a fictional commercial jingle so infectiously catchy, you may sing it on your deathbed in a fevered delirium, if that sort of thing might bother you.


5 – Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

halloween 4We arrive to the top half of the series with this 1988 effort to reconcile for the sins of Season of the Witch. Michael snaps out of a nearly decade-long coma upon hearing that his niece is now living in Haddonfield after Laurie’s death in a car accident (who will go on to appear in 3 more movies despite dying again in the 2nd one, having a different kid in the 1st, and yet a different kid in the 3rd – there’s some continuity issues here.) With Donald Pleasance’s beloved Dr. Loomis again in pursuit, Myers manages to spread chaos all throughout the panic-stricken town in this worthy successor to the original two films. While Carpenter’s lack of involvement is noticeable, Return aims to mimic his presence the best it can, and largely pulls it off.


4. Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later

halloween h20Eager to wash off the stank of Curse, producers threw together this 20th anniversary commemoration of the series by bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back to the role that made her famous – despite having killed her off 3 films earlier. In fact, they were so eager to make this happen, they were willing to pretend all 3 of those movies never existed, which is, by now, a proud franchise tradition. While it definitely qualifies as a distinctly 90s slasher in the vein of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, it deftly pays homage to its roots, emphasizing the dread and tension in Michael’s stealthy nature, relentless homicidal drive, and nebulous undefined evil. Also, H20 boasts, bar none, the best ending of the whole series, which would have ranked it higher on this list had Resurrection not brainlessly pissed all over it.


3. Halloween II (1981)

halloween 2 originalWhile opting not to return behind the camera, John Carpenter co-wrote the screenplay to this first sequel, marking the last time he would have any involvement with the character of Michael Myers. By his own admission, Carpenter’s biggest influence for this effort was an old pal by the name of Budweiser, so that may explain why the movie feels somewhat lazy and derivative, with him attempting to copy the success of other films that had copied the success of the original Halloween. Despite that, it stands apart from many of the other early 80s slashers simply by retaining some of the original’s super-suspenseful pedigree. Moving the two-prong cat-and-mouse dynamic between Laurie Stroud, Michael Myers, and Dr. Loomis from a sleepy suburban street to the wider venue of a city hospital provides the story with ample set pieces to bolster Myers’ legendary villain status, and picking the action up from the moment of the original’s conclusion starts this one off with some momentum. While not quite on par with its predecessor, this outing doesn’t fall that short.


2. – Rob Zombie’s Halloween

rob zombie halloweenNo doubt a controversial pick for second best, this remake was blasted as absolute blasphemy when it was announced. No fan gave a tutti-fucking-fruity of a damn whether they liked The Devil’s Rejects or not, this was going to be the worst thing ever. And then it wasn’t. Zombie demonstrated that if Halloween needed anything, it was a full makeover – a complete departure of the trappings of the previous 7 Myers movies, even if it meant getting his trademark hellbilly grease all over everything. And it worked. It was smart to have this re-imagining stand far enough away from the original that a straight-up comparison is generally out of the question. A great portion of this distance is attributable to Zombie’s decision to focus on Myers as a genuine character and an exploration of what makes a man a monster. While Zombie had nothing much new to say with his sequel but hello to a fat paycheck, this is the rare horror remake that actually deserves some love (just don’t hug it – you’ll get hellbilly grease all over you.)


1. John Carpenter’s Halloween

halloween originalIt would be a bold move to put any of the other films at the top of this list, but that’s just not possible with any credibility. This is the movie that launched a thousand ships – shaping American horror for an entire era and launching John Carpenter’s Hollywood career where he would go on to make more films that would have lasting influences. It’s true that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, and the Italian giallos came first, Carpenter managed to concentrate all the dread and menace of those forerunners into a lean and mean package, and drop it in the lap of an American audience grappling with the fear and paranoia of rising violent crime and a seeming epidemic of serial killers. It went on to become the most successful independent movie and most profitable in comparison to budget of all time, and remained so for over 20 years (before being dethroned by The Blair Witch Project). It’s hard to imagine a self-proclaimed horror fan who hasn’t seen it and, while its conservative approach may seem dated to modern audiences, it remains to many the perfect cross-section of slowburn horror and the slasher genre. And now, 40 years later, the Boogeyman is still walking among us.


Zed’s Dead, Baby – Zombie Stream Picks

OUR FAVORITE MOVIES NOW AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON MAJOR STREAMING OUTLETS

This week for our Stream Picks, we’re devouring movies featuring the undead much in the same regard that zombies have for people. We’re going to highlight some of the classics featuring everyone’s favorite iconic flesh eaters as well as some more overlooked and underrated offerings from throughout the last several decades. Without further ado, let’s shamble away! (or sprint, if you prefer the whole fast-twitch zombie thing.)


Night of the Living Dead – 1968

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George Romero’s essential classic celebrates its 50th birthday this year – they’ve been coming to get Barbara for quite a while now. With this, an entire genre of horror was born and it established many of the ground rules by which countless works of fiction would use to paint their own portrayals of the ‘zombie’. In that sense, it’s every bit as important as Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. NOTLD has also aged remarkably well, thanks in part to a bleak ending that is still provocative by modern standards. Of course, it does have an unavoidable time capsule quality to it, but it more than earns its place as one of the all-time greats. (While neither the original Dawn of the Dead or the 2004 Land of the Dead are available to stream, you can currently catch the original 1985 Day of the Dead as a Shudder exclusive.)


Night of the Living Dead – 1990

NOTLD 1990

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Fun fact: neither George Romero nor the original’s producers knew that if the copyright information was excluded from a film, then it would enter the public domain by default. Ok, maybe that wasn’t so fun for them, but the distributors ripped off Romero anyway, so perhaps it was him that got the last laugh. Regardless, anyone can remake Night of the Living Dead and not owe a penny to anyone – as such, more than a dozen bastard remakes and sequels have been released, but this is the only one that is official and co-produced by Romero himself. This marked make-up FX maestro Tom Savini’s one and only feature directorial effort, which is unfortunate, because this is a very solid and often neglected remake that does enough of its own thing to feel worthwhile. Definitely a rewarding watch.


The Return of the Living Dead – 1985 (featured)

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This irreverent and more comedic spiritual sequel to NOTLD has become something of a classic in its own way. Directed by Dan O’Bannon, best known as the screenwriter of the original Alien, ROTLD replaces the straight-faced seriousness and allegorical social themes of Romero’s Dead series with tongue-in-cheek zaniness while offering up buckets of grue and munched brains. This flick is definitely more concerned with having a good time in the way that was very distinctive to the 80’s.


Night of the Comet – 1984

NIGHT OF THE COMET

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Holy shit – did someone mention the 80’s? Because this frequently overlooked zombie gem is peak 80’s, with all its cheesy, big-haired, mall-culture, oblivious charm. It’s very much – VERY much – a product of its time, and that along with being light on the red stuff (this was one of the very first PG-13 movies ever released), Comet doesn’t get much attention in the zombie conversation, and maybe it doesn’t warrant it, because its value is more in nostalgia (doubly so, considering its strong callbacks to a 1950’s sci-fi vibe) and for being a rather good movie.


Return of the Living Dead 3 – 1993

ROTLD 3

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Sure – could’ve listed this after its original, but couldn’t ruin a good 80’s segue like that. Anyway, this second sequel in the 5-film franchise takes a decidedly darker turn with this undead re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet, except if Juliet was revived as a zombie and took to self-mutilation with increasingly elaborate body modifications in an effort to stave off her cravings for human flesh. I bet ol’ Billy Shakespeare is kicking himself for not having thought of that first. With the violence more brutal and the subject matter more disturbing, ROTLD3 walks its own path with no apologies. While this version on Tubi TV is the heavily edited R-rated edition (and will be interrupted with ads), its proper unrated cut is only available to purchase on disc. Those are the breaks sometimes.


Lucio Fulci

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Zombie – 1979
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City of the Living Dead – 1980
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The Beyond – 1981
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This was the Italian master of gore at the height of his career. Like many Italian films of the era, the storylines of these movies often wander off into dreamlike (or nightmarish) incoherence, but it only contributes to their memorable nature. Fulci’s intent was to make audiences squirm with the most ghastly images he could offer, and with this trio, we have eyeball impalements, faces melting in acid, an agonizingly slow head drilling, and, perhaps most notably, a woman vomiting out all her internal organs. Oh, and there’s zombies in them, even if, with the exception of the film named Zombie, they’re often more of an afterthought.


Cargo – 2018

CARGO

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Soon to be featured in a review here, the acclaimed Netflix exclusive Cargo is set in Australia, with a more parental focus on the zombie apocalypse. Martin ‘Bilbo Baggins’ Freeman stars as a man recently bitten in a desperate search for someone who will adopt his infant daughter. More of an introspective and emotionally driven film than most zombie offerings, this one is for people who want to see a compelling drama that just happens to feature the undead than those looking for a more direct experience, but the horror elements are certainly there.


Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead – 2014

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While Scandinavian horror is often known for its desolate themes and deep explorations of profound personal matters, that’s not the case with this bat-shit, anything-goes, Nazi zombie splatter romp from Norway. It’s a sequel to the 2009 Dead Snow, but worry not, it didn’t exactly have the thickest of plots, so there’s not much to catch up on. Certainly not for the easily offended, the first film’s sole survivor has his arm replaced with that of the main super-zombie antagonist in an unlikely series of events. While it has a penchant for killing people he’d rather not be killing, it also possesses the magical power of raising the dead into loyal zombie followers. With his own army of Soviet POW corpses, he confronts the undead Nazi battalion for a final showdown. Filmed in both English and Norwegian, there’s also no subtitles for those who dislike them, and that’s fine because this isn’t a movie looking to be classed up with heavy reading.


28 Weeks Later – 2007

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We’ll wrap this list up with one of the better horror sequels of all time. Grim and relentless, just like its predecessor (which is unfortunately not available to stream anywhere), 28 Weeks features the attempted repopulation of a London left devastated by the events of 28 Days. Of course, it’s going to go all bloody kinds of wrong and it makes a number of bold critiques about authoritarianism along the way. The story seems to suffer from a bad case of plot conveniences, but the visuals, atmosphere, acting, and excitement are all taken care of, leaving us wondering where 28 Months Later is.


  • Last week, we covered the [REC] franchise which likewise deserves a spot here.
  • The week before that, we featured Train to Busan in our global edition of Stream Picks, which certainly belongs on this list as well.
  • And the week before that, we had World War Z on our Class of 2013 list, which is indeed a zombie movie. At least the big budget looks nice.

 


 

The Standard Terrors – Classic Stream Picks

With Halloween, our time-honored celebration of morbidity and the macabre, right around the corner, it’s become a favorite tradition of many to binge on some of the best and most beloved scary movies to set the right mood for the horrific holiday. Since not everyone has a library of increasingly dusty DVDs to choose from and may not want to be bound to the limited offerings of broadcast schedules, we’ve cultivated this list of some of the genre’s most iconic films (and a few highly-regarded, more recent selections) now streaming on major outlets.


Child’s Play – 1988 (featured)

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Directed by Tom Holland
Starring Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon

Wanna play? This 80s classic has held up extremely well, partly because it doesn’t immerse itself in the cultural elements of the time and also because dolls are still creepy as fuck with their dead eyes. It’s also impressive that Child’s Play manages to get around the potential goofiness of its premise, delivering a truly sinister depiction of a murderous toy and setting the groundwork for 6 sequels, an announced remake, and a proposed TV series.


Night of the Demons -1988

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS

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Directed by Kevin S. Tenney
Starring Amelia Kinkade, Linnea Quigley, Cathy Podewell

If Child’s Play transcended being labeled ‘an 80s flick’, then Night of the Demons proudly rolls around in as much 80s as it’s able. This movie is super-80s, but it’s also super-gory, with some truly awesome practical makeup FX. While it takes its time to get down to business, when it does, it businesses really well, with some really effective demon carnage and escape-the-house suspense. It may not be a mainstream classic, but a common favorite from its era among many horror freaks.


Blade – 1998 & Blade II – 2002

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Blade
Directed by Stephen Norrington
Starring Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson
Blade II
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman

This is the way vampires should be – brutal and monstrous villains in wait for a hero to dispatch them in spectacularly gruesome fashion. Disregarding the bafflingly awful Trinity, the Blade movies are a high watermark for horror-action, drafting the blueprint for the later Resident Evil and Underworld franchises (which I guess it can be forgiven for). Snipes is perfect as the badass vamp slayer and is surrounded by a cast of memorable characters that all contribute to the proceedings without ever stealing the whole show. If you’re gonna add a comic book superhero to your Halloween lineup, this is your guy here.


The Shining – 1980

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Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers

The ultimate slowburn horror movie and, oddly, Stephen King’s least favorite adaptation of his works (which leads me to believe that he hasn’t seen all of them). New to Netflix this month, there’s not much more to be said about this, one of the most widely known horror films of all-time and rightly so. Therefore, here’s a fun fact: Nicholson and Duvall are both resentful toward this movie and the recognition that has been heaped upon Kubrick’s direction without much regard for their performances or the crew. Duvall, in particular, was tormented by Kubrick in such a way as to literally turn her into the bundle of nerves you see on screen – to the degree that Nicholson has stated that her role as Wendy is perhaps the most difficult he has ever seen an actress tackle. Considering that she was nominated for Worst Actress at that year’s Razzie Awards, it goes to show that The Shining was hardly recognized as a classic upon its release.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974

TEXAS CHAINSAW

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Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hanson, Allen Danziger

Another timeless classic that needs little introduction, the original (and best) saga of Leatherface and family comes to Shudder, AMC’s horror-only streaming service. It’s not the slow and contemplative type of horror that The Shining is – at 80 minutes, TCM gets to it and is unsettling, uncomfortable, harrowing, and disturbing, yet with remarkably little gore. Somewhat unbelievably, director Hooper was aiming for a ‘PG’ rating with this effort (in the era before ‘PG-13″, that rating had a lot more breathing room for content), so he minimalized the violence, opting more for implication and suggestion instead. Despite doing so, he failed so utterly in this attempt that the film was initially slapped with the dreaded ‘X’ rating – only being downgraded to ‘R’ through appeal. Still to this day, many people think of Texas Chainsaw Massacre as being one of the most gruesome movies they ever saw – a credit to Hooper’s technique of creating an atmosphere so distressing and oppressive, that the memory wrongly confuses it with violence.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – 1986
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley

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If you don’t have Shudder (which many people don’t, but it comes highly recommended by us) and still want to see Leatherface in action in a quality effort from the original creator, then TCM2 will do the trick. Made 12 years after the original, TEXAS CHAINSAW 2this one has a quirky tone, almost bordering on self-parody, before alternating without warning to truly shocking depictions of graphic violence and menace. It makes for an odd dynamic that still manages to unsettle despite being so dramatically different from the first. While it can’t be recommended as highly as that predecessor, it’s still quite good, even if Dennis Hopper appears to be obviously laboring for a paycheck at times, seeming sometimes disinterested in what he’s saying or doing. That’s a nitpick though – this is still a must-see.


[REC] – 2007

REC

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Language: Spanish
Directed by Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
Starring Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza

Forget The Blair Witch Project, [REC] is the foremost film of the found footage format. The style comes under a lot of criticism, much of it deserved, but this movie kicks all the asses in all the right ways. While it has its similarities to 28 Days Later, [REC] totally stands on its own, ramping up the tension from a totally mundane setup into full-blown mayhem, trapped into the claustrophobic confines of a maniac-infested apartment building, all routes of escape blocked off by a government quarantine determined to keep everyone and whatever the hell is wrong with them away from the general public at any cost. While competently imitated by the American remake Quarantine, it’s simply not as good, and missing some of the climactic revelations that sets [REC] apart. In fact, those revelations helped launched a full-blown franchise, as there are 3 more movies that are all also currently streaming on Hulu. They’re all lesser than the original by pretty much every measure, but the final [REC]4: Apocalypse, which ditches the found footage approach, stands out as a pretty awesome flick in its own right.


Halloween – 1978

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Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Tony Moran

Another classic in need of no introduction, The Night HE Came Home – for the first time – is also on Shudder right now (although it also making a limited return to select theaters and being shown on AMC as part of its annual FearFest). As the new Halloween, seeing its big release on Oct. 19, ignores every sequel, the original is the only one you’ll need to get up to speed. Regardless of that though, there are some very worthwhile entries in this 40-year-old franchise, one of them being 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, also exclusive to Shudder. It’s more of the same, but in a good way, and it expands the scale of the original with Mikey, and the manhunt he causes, wreaking havoc across all of Haddonfield. There are some not-so-great sequels in the series though, and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, is one of them and likewise streaming on Shudder. It’s still entertaining, but it’s whittling itself down to just fans of the franchise and 80s slashers in general.


Hello Cruel World – Global Stream Picks

This week for our stream picks, we’re venturing out from the familiar sights, sounds, and themes of English-language horror to highlight just a tiny number of the fantastic and/or disturbing offerings that the wider world has on offer. Hopefully, you’re on board with Subs Not Dubs, because pretty much the entirety of these movies need to be read, but if you’re not, you’re missing out on some great stuff that is likely to be new to you. For this first global trek, we’re not going too far out on the deep end as far as obscurity or content is concerned, so for hardcore fans of international horror, there’s likely no surprises here, but for those looking to expand their experience with the genre, we think this list will do the trick.


FLAG THAILAND

Thailand: Shutter – 2004

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Unrated (equivalent to R rating for violence, horror imagery, and disturbing sexual content) – 1hr 37min
Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom
Starring Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee

Typically, Japan gets almost all the credit for Asian contributions to the horror genre (with many non-Japanese movies falling under the banner of ‘J-Horror’), but this extremely eerie and unsettling film put Thailand on the genre map, and since, they have produced quite an impressive array of scary movies. Vastly superior to 2008 American remake starring the other guy from Dawson’s Creek, Shutter features a young couple reeling from their involvement in a hit-and-run accident to find themselves plagued by seemingly supernatural forces – one that is increasingly making itself known in the young man’s photography. While a fairly standard story of the past refusing to stay forgotten, this well-made feature boasts an unnerving atmosphere, creepy imagery, and uncomfortable confrontations on its way toward a turn of poetic justice.


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Germany: Rammbock – 2010

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Rated R – 1hr 3min
Directed by Marvin Kren
Starring Michael Fuith, Theo Trebs, Anka Graczyk

Unlike numerous other European countries, Germany does not have much in the way of horror cinema, but this zombie outbreak flick is a noteworthy exception. At a very lean 63 minutes, Rammbock wastes little time getting to the action, and when it does, it’s good stuff. Taking place entirely within the same apartment complex, the occupants are suddenly besieged by the undead of the fast-twitch variety and will need to employ grit and ingenuity if they hope to survive. In its way, it’s a uniquely German take on the subject matter.


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Turkey: Baskin – 2015

BASKIN

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Unrated (borderline NC-17 for graphic violence, disturbing imagery, language, nudity, and aberrant sexual content) – 1hr 37min
Directed by Can Evrenol
Starring Görkem Kasal, Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Ergun Kuyucu

Not gonna lie – I’m somewhat surprised that a movie like this came out of a place as reputably authoritarian as Turkey. Sometimes short-handed as the “Turkish Hellraiser”, Baskin has a group of police officers – guys who wouldn’t be out of place in some hard-boiled cop drama – responding to a call at a remote and abandoned building, wherein lies truly terrible things. The story moves swiftly, the acting is good, the horror elements are very solid, and the compelling incorporation of Turkish folklore make this a must-see for the non-squeamish.


FLAG JAPAN

Japan: Noroi: The Curse – 2005

NOROI THE CURSE

STREAMING BANNER
SHUDDER

Unrated (borderline R rating for violence and content) – 1hr 55min
Directed by Kôji Shiraishi
Starring Jin Muraki, Rio Kanno, Tomono Kuga

Noroi: The Curse might be the very best horror film ever made in the mockumentary style. Masafumi Kobayashi is an author and documentary filmmaker who focuses on the supernatural; while his latest project appears at first to be quite typical for him, it will lead him down a terrifying path where seemingly disassociated events start coming together in a very malevolent fashion. With a complex and ambitious narrative, Noroi nails everything it sets out to accomplish all while making great use of the found footage format. It’s an absolute essential for fans of that style.


FLAG S KOREA

South Korea: Train to Busan – 2016

STREAMING BANNER
NETFLIXHOOPLA

Unrated (equivalent to R rating for a bunch of zombie violence) – 1hr 58min
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
Starring Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Su-an Kim

Didn’t intend to have two zombie movies on this list, but what’s popular is popular – the undead are pretty difficult to step around these days, and Train to Busan is likely the greatest film of the last decade to feature the fashionable people-eaters. This is everything the lesser World War Z aspired to be. Fast pace, lots of action and tension, high dramatic stakes, good characters, and the zombies themselves are formidable and memorable. While certainly not obscure, the movie hasn’t gained the attention it deserves from English-speaking audiences. If you haven’t seen it, this needs to go onto your Netflix list now, and if you don’t have that, Hoopla provides free rentals for library patrons. Seriously, Train to Busan is the real deal.


Free Streaming Options for Horror Fans

(NOTE: This is not a paid advertisement or endorsement of the following products – just some suggestions for your entertainment needs.)

Here at Terror Spective, the aim is to provide viewing suggestions, reviews, and articles about horror movies that you can watch right now. Whether they’re in theaters, available through most Video-On-Demand services, or showing on one of the major streaming outlets, we want to help you sort through the baffling number of choices and find something worth your while. Also, we don’t think you should be expected to shell out $30 for some collectors Blu-Ray of an obscure piece of genre cinema to watch whatever film we’re featuring. You likely already pay for one of the major streamers, so why not get more value out of that?

Speaking of value though, getting something for free is always nice. While we currently cover movies showing on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Shudder, we’re going to add these four services to the mix as well (and throw in a bonus suggestion as well because we think it’s kinda neat).


HOOPLA STREAMING
Of all these on the list, Hoopla is probably the coolest. With just a library card from one of over 1500 systems throughout the US and Canada, you can gain access to a rather substantial amount of horror movies (there’s also other movies as well as books, audiobooks, and comics). You’re limited to 8 titles a month and you must view your selection within 3 days, but they’re uncut and ad-free. We’ll take that. (Hoopla is available for Amazon, Apple, Google, and Roku devices.)


TUBI TV STREAMINGUnlike Hoopla, Tubi TV is an ad-supported service, so you can expect spontaneous commercial breaks at what are sometimes the worst possible moments, but free things can be like that sometimes. However, they claim that their selections are uncut and they do have a fairly wide selection, which is always appreciated. (Tubi TV is available for Amazon, Apple, Google, Roku, and TiVo devices, Xbox, Playstation, Samsung & Sony TVs, or direct-from-site.)


CRACKLE STREAMING
Crackle is very much like Tubi TV in regards to advertisements and not editing their movies for content, but the selection is slim pickings for the horror fan. However, they are the only streaming service, free or otherwise, currently carrying certain high profile titles like Insidious, John Carpenter’s Vampires, and Priest. So they don’t get much, but what they do get can be interesting. (Sony Crackle is available for Amazon, Apple, Google, & Roku devices, Xbox, Playstation, LG, Samsung, Sony, & Vizio TVs, and Windows phones.)


FXNOW LOGO
FXNow is something of a double-edged blade. They have the FX/FXX library available to stream (which means American Horror Story, It’s Always Sunny, and Archer, to name some notables) and have some really high-profile horror titles like the Evil Dead remake, Crimson Peak, and World War Z – all free with a pre-existing cable subscription with a participating provider. They also, like Tubi TV and Crackle, have ads, but that’s not the cringe-worthy part. They edit them for content. Imagine sitting down to watch Fede Alvarez’s hyperviolent Evil Dead remake to find that it’s cut to TV-14 (!?!?!?) At least six minutes missing to bring it to what is essentially PG-13 territory. No thanks. However, that’s not bad for something like World War Z that is already tamer and not likely to be missing much content, if any at all. It’s a mixed bag, but their exclusives are hard to ignore. (FXNow is available for Amazon, Apple, Google, Roku, & Windows devices, Xbox, and Samsung TVs.)


PLUTO TV
Pluto TV is not exactly a typical streaming service, but more like a free cable package. Instead of choosing from a library of on-demand titles, they provide a variety of channels that broadcast content in time slots, like old-timey television. They boast something like 100 different channels, and one of them is called Horror 24/7. Can’t really say how great the selection is, but at the time of writing this article, they’re currently showing Hellraiser, so that’s nice. This would be a great resource for the horror fan on a budget. (Pluto TV is available for Amazon, Apple, Google, & Roku devices, Sony & Vizio TVs, or direct-from-site.)