On the Radar – Tumbbad

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This week, we’re taking a look at Indian horror fantasy Tumbbad, a genre epic being heralded for its stunning cinematography, fine storytelling, and creepy atmosphere. Winner of Best Picture at last month’s Screamfest (Los Angeles), it also snagged some awards at the prestigious Sitges International Film Fesitval in Barcelona and was the first Indian film ever selected to open Critics Week at the Venice International Film Festival. Tumbbad takes place in the 18th Century and tells the story of an ambitious young man who discovers his family’s secret connection to an evil fallen god. In a classic fable about placing greed above common sense, he’ll discover over the course of his life that some deals aren’t meant to made. It took directors Rahi Anil Barve, Anand Gandhi, and Adesh Prasad six long years to finish production of the film, but reactions from the festival circuit – boasting both an 8.8 on iMDB and 88% on Rotten Tomatoes – suggest that the mammoth effort was worth it. Still without an American distributor, no release date is yet scheduled in the States or most anywhere outside India as it continues on its festival tour, but we would expect to see this sometime throughout 2019.


Here are some of the critics’ reactions to Tumbbad:

“Atmospheric, heavy on mythology, and scary as hell. Not a film for the squeamish or claustrophobic.”

    Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter

Tumbbad sears char-blackened folklore into a supernatural bake that sizzles and steams and hardens over with a crispy bite…an accomplishment in horror filmmaking that lights any discredit of genre quality arguments ablaze.”

    Matt Donato, Slashfilm

Tumbbad is pure classic horror through and through – its finale is ambitiously crazy, and in some ways, it reminded me of The Descent meets The Evil Dead.”

    Heather Wixson, Daily Dead

“A slow burn whose finale is wonderfully unexpected yet fitting, Tumbbad is a great film and hopefully the start of a new trend in India.”

    J Hurtado, ScreenAnarchy

You can check out the English-subtitled trailer here:



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Horror Watch – November 2018

Here’s a list of the upcoming horror releases for November, and we have a remade classic, Nazi monsters, a zombie musical, killer cowboys, a vegan fable, and something like the 12th Amityville movie. Also, with three wide releases, there will be no shortage of horror on the big screen this month.


Suspiria

Release: Nov. 2 (expansion – limited began Oct. 26)
Rated R – 2hr 32min
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth

Official Synopsis:
Young American dancer Susie Bannion arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Co. When she vaults to the role of lead dancer, the woman she replaces breaks down and accuses the company’s female directors of witchcraft. Meanwhile, an inquisitive psychotherapist and a member of the troupe uncover dark and sinister secrets as they probe the depths of the studio’s hidden underground chambers.

Expanding from 2 screens to 250. A wider expansion is expected Nov. 9th.



Welcome to Mercy

Release: Nov. 2
Unrated – 1hr 43min
Directed by Tommy Bertelsen
Starring Lily Newmark, Eileen Davies, Kristen Ruhlin

Official Synopsis:
Stricken with stigmata, Madaline travels to a convent where nothing is what it seems — and her friend August is seemingly the only person she can trust. Together, they must confront the demons inside Madaline before she becomes the Antichrist.


Coming to limited theaters & VOD.


Possum

Release: Nov. 2
Unrated – 1hr 25min
Directed by Matthew Holness
Starring Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong

Official Synopsis:
After returning to his childhood home, a disgraced children’s puppeteer is forced to confront his wicked stepfather and the secrets that have tortured his entire life. Featured in our Oct. 23rd feature of Under the Radar.

Coming to VOD.



Monster Party

Release: Nov. 2
Unrated – 1hr 29min
Directed by Chris von Hoffman
Starring Julian McMahon, Robin Tunney, Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner

Official Synopsis:
Three thieves plan a daring heist at a mansion dinner party. When their plan goes horribly wrong, the thieves realize the dinner guests are not as innocent as they seem, and their simple cash grab becomes a violent and desperate battle to survive.

Coming to limited theaters and VOD.



Haunting on Fraternity Row

Release: Nov. 2
Unrated – 1hr 33min
Directed by Brant Sersen
Starring Jacob Artist, Jayson Blair, Molly Tarlov, Shanley Caswell

Official Synopsis:
A fraternity house throws their big “Winter Luau” party but when fraternity brothers and coeds begin dying horrible deaths, they discover an evil entity has taken over the house.

Coming to VOD.



The Amityville Murders

Release: Nov. 5
Unrated – 1hr 37min
Directed by Daniel Farrands
Starring John Robinson, Chelsea Ricketts, Paul Ben-Victor

Official Synopsis:
On the night of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. took a high-powered rifle and murdered his entire family as they slept. At his trial, DeFeo claimed that “voices” in the house commanded him to kill. This is their story. A pseudo-remake of Amityville II: The Possession.

Coming to VOD and disc.



Death House

Release Nov. 6
Rated R – 1hr 35min
Directed by Harrison Smith
Starring Cortney Palm, Cody Longo, Kane Hodder, Sid Haig, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Barbara Crampton, Dee Wallace, Tiffany Shepis

Official Synopsis:
Touted as ‘The Expendables’ of horror – during an exclusive tour, a power breakdown inside a secret prison known as the Death House sends two agents fighting through a labyrinth of horrors while being pursued by a ruthless army of roaming inmates. As they fight to escape, the agents push toward the lowest depths of the facility where they learn a supernatural group of evil beings is their only chance for survival.

Coming to VOD.



Overlord

*Pick of the Month*
Release: Nov. 9
Rated R – 1hr 49min
Directed by Julius Avery
Starring John Magaro, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier

Official Synopsis:
On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out a mission crucial to the invasion’s success. But as they approach their target, they begin to realize there is more going on in this Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. They find themselves fighting against supernatural forces, part of a Nazi experiment.

Coming to theaters everywhere.



Lasso

Release: Nov. 13
Unrated – 1hr 37min
Directed by Evan Cecil
Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Lindsey Morgan, Andrew Jacobs

Official Synopsis:
Tour guides unwittingly lead their group into a death trap when they bring the people deep into the woods for a rodeo, and relentless cowboys begin to hunt them like animals as part of an evil ritual.

Coming to VOD.



The Clovehitch Killer

Release: Nov. 16
Unrated
Directed by Duncan Skiles
Starring Dylan McDermott, Samantha Mathis, Charlie Plummer

Official Synopsis:
Tyler Burnside is a Boy Scout, a volunteer at his local church, and the dutiful son of an upstanding, community leader dad. Only one thing troubles the quiet Kentucky town he lives in: the unsolved murders—in which ten women were brutally tortured and killed by a psychopath known as Clovehitch—that rocked the community more than a decade ago.

Coming to limited theaters & VOD.



The Farm

Release: Nov. 16
Directed by Hans Stjernswärd
Starring Nora Yessayan, Alec Gaylord

Official Synopsis:
After taking a wrong turn on the highway, a young couple decide to stop at a roadside diner for food and relaxation. Their fun trip soon becomes a fight for survival when masked kidnappers imprison them on a farm where humans are the main course.

Coming to VOD.



Anna and the Apocalypse

Release: Nov. 30
Rated R – 1hr 32min
Directed by John McPhail
Starring Ella Hunt, Sarah Swire, Paul Kaye

Official Synopsis:
A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other.

Coming to limited theaters. Nationwide Dec. 7.



The Possession of Hannah Grace

Release: Nov. 30
Rated R
Directed by Diederik Van Rooijen
Starring Shay Mitchell, Stana Katic, Grey Damon

Official Synopsis:
A shocking exorcism spirals out of control, claiming the life of a young woman. Months later, morgue worker Megan Reed takes delivery of a disfigured cadaver during the graveyard shift. Locked inside the basement corridors, Megan’s horrifying visions soon lead her to believe that the body is possessed by a demonic force.

Coming to theaters everywhere.



On the Radar – Pledge

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In this week’s installment of On the Radar, we have college thriller Pledge, a nasty piece of work that was the talk of this year’s Fantasia Fest (Montreal) and FrightFest (London). From director Daniel Robbins and writer/co-star Zack Weiner, this film depicts three hapless freshmen who, in their attempts to rush a fraternity to improve their social standings, wind up in the hands of sadists who run them through a brutal gauntlet of abuse and torture and may perhaps have no intentions of allowing them to survive the ordeal. Despite his debut feature Uncaged having failed to gain much love or attention, Robbins appears to have hit the mark with this vicious exploration of a culture driven by toxic behavior and paired with a crushing pressure to conform. With a score of 7.8 on IMDb and 80% on Rotten Tomatoes so far in its festival run, Pledge has been acquired by IFC Midnight for release sometime next year.


Here’s what a few of the critics have had to say:

With a smart and savvy script – rich with genuine characters and the matching dialogue and a breathless pace of twists and turns – I have zero hesitation in offering up a very high recommendation. 4.5/5.

    – Michael Klug, Horror Freak News

Pledge is a mean and disgusting home run of a horror film…Don’t miss this one.

    – Luke Rodriguez, Modern Horrors

It’s not gore for gore’s sake…but you may need a strong constitution to last the duration. This film is a bloody and brutal burst of masculinity that packs a punch. 4/5.

    – Kat Hughes, The Hollywood News

Pledge sets a model example of what an indie effort can accomplish simply through solid production value and remarkably strong casting…It’s just a clear-cut slash of traditional thrills biting off only what it can chew with entertainingly sharp teeth. 85/100.

    – Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt


IFC Midnight generally makes all its releases in simultaneous limited theater/VOD style or straight to VOD and disc, so we’ll be looking out for when they lock in a solid date next year and are looking forward to experiencing this alleged “Green Room meets Saw” stomach-churner.



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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

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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

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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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On the Radar – Possum

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With this first installment of On the Radar, I’m taking a look at the British creeper Possum, the debut feature from Matthew Holness, a comedian who is apparently notable in the UK, but I’m admittedly unfamiliar with. While I can’t speak for his comedic talent, he certainly appears to have quite the dark streak. Possum is the story of a children’s puppeteer who returns to the home of his abusive stepfather carrying with him a satchel containing a horrific creation, the puppet Possum, that appears to be taking on a life of its own. Shot on 35mm film, Holness is apparently going for an authentic 70s/80s aesthetic for his unorthodox creature feature and, as 2014’s The Babadook featured a sinister take on children’s pop-up books, is invoking the innocent nature of both nursery rhymes and children’s puppets to corrupt for the viewer’s discomfort. “Can you spy him deep within? Little Possum. Black as sin.” The title character’s little rhyme sounds about as charming as he looks on the poster. Currently with a 7.2 rating on IMDb and an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, Possum is promising to be quite the squirm-inducing experience. According to those who have already seen it, it is of the ‘slowburn’ variety, and while I wouldn’t mind if horror had a little more fun these days, that seems to be the defining quality of this era in the genre.

Here’s a sample of what some of the critics have had to say:

“Supremely disturbing…possibly the scariest puppet ever committed to celluloid.”

    – Matthew Turner, Nerdly

“Part of its slow burn terror is just how dangerously unpredictable the whole thing feels.”

    – Josh Slater-Williams, SciFiNow

“[Possum] strikes the nerve between wanting to cry and wanting to scream. 10/10.

    – Katie Driscoll, Starburst

“Matthew Holness taps into psychological horror greatness with a cerebral picture that will lay eggs in your brain.”

    -Daniel Kurland, Den of Geek

Those are some bold reviews for this movie thus far, and it is coming to theaters in the UK on Oct. 26th and to VOD in the States on Nov. 2nd. I’ll be posting a review of my own shortly thereafter, and while I have some reservations that this might be insufferably pretentious horror exclusively for the arthouse crowd (I’ve gotten burned like that before), I have some high hopes for this eerie-looking flick.

Check out the trailer here:


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Halloween (2018)

Released Oct. 19, 2018
Rated R – 1hr 46min
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak


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Forty years after the infamous Babysitter Murders devastated the town of Haddonfield, the killer – Michael Myers – is being transferred to a lesser facility after decades of silence and docility. He escapes to continue his obsessive-compulsive killing spree, seeking out the one who got away, Laurie Strode (Curtis), but she has spent her entire adult life waiting and preparing for this day. What she doesn’t count on is that her granddaughter Allyson (Matichak) will wind up in his path.


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David Gordon Green’s Halloween is absolute fan service, wrapped up in a bloody package and delivered with a smile. It’s everything one could reasonably ask for from an entry in this vaunted horror series


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There’s no doubt about it – the classic iteration of Michael Myers is back, crashing through the door of pop culture in the way he’s prone to do. It’s all here – the forboding atmosphere, the suspense, the clever callbacks to previous films, the nebulous and destructive evil of The Shape, the distinctive and amazing musical scoring of John Carpenter, and once again, the return of the franchise’s most beloved survivor, back from the dead and everything. As a lifelong Halloween fan, I should have been doing cartwheels of joy out of the theater, but instead, I was left both satisfied and somewhat bothered.

Let’s begin with the concept. Every single movie but the original has been wiped clean from the slate to set up the plot for this outing. That’s fair enough and not particularly difficult to accept once the film starts rolling, but I personally would have still left 1981’s Halloween II in the mix. It would have upped the stakes substantially, considering how much more carnage Michael committed there, yet I suppose we’re being asked to accept a situation where many have forgotten how potentially and phenomenally dangerous he really is. Still though, it’s somewhat jarring to need to forget so much backstory – especially when it’s actively provoking memories of those entries as it goes along. Certainly forgivable, but a bit awkward and it never quite shakes off that bizarro world undercurrent.

Also, Michael Myers is one lucky son of a bitch. All he does is wander, stalk, and kill, yet fortune forever smiles down upon his efforts as he coincidentally encounters everything and everyone he needs in order to suit up, recover his iconic mask, and be led on the trail of his most elusive prey, without once doing a single Google search. As we enter the climactic third act, this reliance on plot convenience has something of a shark-jumping moment that flirts heavily with the absurd and it was difficult to really get back into it when the story is reaching its zenith point.

That point is still good, however. Michael’s inevitable confrontation with three generations of Strodes, all of whose lives he’s impacted through his remorseless deeds in one way or another, is a rightful highlight of Halloween. It’s too brief and, to be honest, H20 already walked down this very same path before and did it better, but it’s still good. That may very well be the Achilles heel of this update – there’s so much to compare it to and while it does most things well, there’s many instances where those things have already been done better within the same series.

I don’t want to get too negative on Halloween 2018 though. Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic as Laurie Strode, Survivalist Grandma. Not unlike Sarah Conner of the Terminator series, her traumatic encounter left her hardened and paranoid, costing her a healthy relationship with her daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer in an adequate if unnotable performance. Andi Matichak is charismatic as Laurie’s granddaughter through whom Laurie is attempting to reconcile her past mistakes – she might be the best among the three alternate universes of Laurie Strode descendants and is a name to watch out for in the future.

Director David Gordon Green aims to amuse, for the most part, with invoking the vibe of numerous predecessors – even Rob Zombie’s adaptation with a particularly brutal sequence set in a gas station. He does, however, establish some awesome set pieces of his own – the best involving a single unbroken 5-minute tracking shot of Myers hitting the neighborhood for the first time; to his credit, it’s one of the very best and most chilling sequences from all 11 movies. Additionally, the dialogue is witty and on point throughout and, although I already mentioned it, the updated score from the master of musical menace John Carpenter is as integral to the character of Michael Myers as is his trademark mask.

Ultimately, this iteration of Halloween is neither the all-time best of the series or the best since the original. It is extremely solid though, despite its story that wobbles with many an unlikely circumstance and a final confrontation that is over a bit too quickly. It’s firmly in the top half of the franchise and a welcome return of the series after a lengthy 9-year absence (16 years if you’re inclined to disown the Zombie interpretations and 20 if you furthermore ignore the abysmal Resurrection). This may very well be the end of the road for the original Michael Myers, and as such, it serves as a worthy send-off for the legendary villain. Despite the unforeseen return, he’s likely headed back out to the reboot pasture again, so it’s wise for fans to soak this one in while it’s new.

Halloween gets a rating of
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Review Roundup #3

That’s 27 reviews, 5 weeks of daily posts, and over 100 pages of text written so far for Terror Spective – not too shabby. A special thank you to those who have been reading regularly. This is an ad-free, revenue-free, hobby kind of thing, so if nobody was checking it out, there really wouldn’t be any incentive to it at all. In the first month and with no promotional budget, there was nearly 200 visitors from 10 different countries, and I’m willing to bet that at least half weren’t sniffing around to see if there was anything worth hacking. I would really like to get into some horror television in the future – The Haunting of Hill House is burning a hole in my Netflix queue at the moment – but the movies keep me plenty occupied, and so, that’s where the focus will remain. There will very likely be a site redesign in the near future, some time after Halloween, which might take several REVIEW RUBRICdays to complete, but that’s quite enough navel-gazing for now – here’s a quick recap of my review process. I look at premise, story, characters, pacing, visuals, acting, atmosphere, effects, musical score, and the presence and quality of what can just be called ‘horror elements’ – I don’t score each category individually, just weigh them all out against what the premise seems to need and crunch it all into a letter grade.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be reviewing the much-anticipated new Halloween movie, a stylish medieval horror film from the Basque region of Spain, and maybe a couple of older films for the hell of it. Also, I’ll be trying out a new feature this week – Under The Radar – highlighting an upcoming movie that looks promising but isn’t getting much attention.


Intruders – 2016 – Grade: B+

INTRUDERSAvailable on Amazon Prime Video. Anna suffers from intense agoraphobia and has not ventured outside her sprawling home in ten years. In the meanwhile, she has been caring for her terminally ill brother, who finally succumbs to his pancreatic cancer. During his funeral, a group of career criminals break into the home, expecting it to be empty, only to find Anna, who had been too terrified to leave even then. They think their greatest problem is figuring out what to do with her, completely unaware of what she might be capable of doing to them. Full review here.


The Endless – 2018 – Grade: B

THE ENDLESSAvailable on Netflix. Brothers Justin and Aaron are scraping a meager Raman-eating existence as housecleaners after having escaped from a suicide cult ten years earlier. One day, they receive a tape in the mail from their old ‘religious affiliation’, inviting them back to visit. Although Justin wants nothing to do with this, Aaron is miserable in the impoverished workaday life they lead, and convinces his older bro to oblige him with a return to the camp. As Justin had feared, they might not be able to escape a second time. Full review here.


The Strangers: Prey at Night – 2018 – Grade: B-

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 80Available on Amazon Prime Video. The long-awaited sequel to 2008’s The Strangers, a family of four intend on staying the night at a secluded mobile home campground. The film’s titular psychopaths intend that the family does not survive until morning. Full review here.


Delirium – 2018 – Grade: C+

kinopoisk.ruAvailable on Netflix. Tom has spent the last twenty years in a mental institution, after witnessing and being implicated as an accomplice in his brother’s murderous deeds. Inheriting the estate of his wealthy late father, he’s released onto 30 days of house arrest, under the cruelly watchful eye of a parole officer. Unallowed to leave the premises for a month, he attempts to move on and build a life, but the sins of the past may not be so accommodating. Full review here.


Apostle – 2018 – Grade: C

APOSTLEAvailable on Netflix. The year is 1905 and a strung-out junkie is recruited by his estranged father to recover his beloved sister who has been kidnapped and is being ransomed by a sinister cult entrenched on a remote island. Plagued by withdrawl and haunted by a tragic past, he must keep himself together as he goes undercover as a new initiate to devise some means of rescuing her before it’s too late. Full review here.


We Go On – 2017 – Grade: C

WE GO ONAvailable on Shudder. Compulsive phobic Miles Grissom places an ad in the newspaper offering $30,000 to anyone who can offer him compelling evidence of an afterlife to assuage his crippling fear of death. It attracts a lot of attention, especially from his own mother, who moves back in with him perceiving him to be in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Together, they begin to sift through the numerous proposals he’s received, an endeavor that may lead to the ruin of them both. Full review here.


Pyewacket – 2018 – Grade: C

PYEWACKETAvailable on Hulu. An angsty teenage girl, Leah, is extremely upset with her mother after she abruptly uproots their lives and moves them out to the boonies. After having her difficulties with the change trivialized and her life choices criticized, she is compelled to perform an occult ritual to curse her mother as retribution (damn, she ain’t one to piss off). As increasingly odd things begin to occur in their new home, she is filled with regret and must find a way to undo what she did, because demons don’t make takebacks easy. Full review here.


Malevolent – 2018 – Grade: C-

MALEVOLENTAvailable on Netflix. The year is 1986 and two American siblings have moved to Scotland – their late mother’s homeland – and are trying to make some cash with an elaborate paranormal investigation con job that promises to exorcise spirits from people’s homes. Problem is that the sister, Angela, is actually starting to see ghosts, throwing off her brother Jackson’s well-scripted routines. When an old woman, whose own son brutally murdered her three adopted daughters many years earlier, calls them out to her sprawling, decaying estate, Jackson sees big money in the opportunity, but Angela senses big trouble. Guess who’s right? Full review here.


Head – 2018 – Grade: F

HEADAvailable on Amazon Prime Video. Five college students go on a camping trip, unknowingly choosing the location where a massacre of campers occurred years earlier. When they find their vehicles have been disabled, they’ll join up with an investigative reporter in an effort to keep their heads (most won’t). Full review here.


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

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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

PHANTASM
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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

NOTLD 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

FULCI COLLAGE

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

DEAD SNOW 2

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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

28 WEEKS LATER

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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.