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Bigfoot on Film – HUNTING GROUNDS

It goes without saying that I get a little giddy whenever I come across a new Bigfoot movie. Which seems odd, since most of them are so terrible. If horror is the red headed stepchild of cinema, Bigfoot is the redheaded step-beast of the genre.

That being said, there has been an upswing in Squatch movies the past few years. In fact, one of my favorite flicks was Exists, the found footage Bigfoot thriller by Eduardo Sanchez.

Ever since I saw just the poster for HUNTING GROUNDS, I’ve been dying to see it. I even saved it on my Instagram account to remind myself to watch it as soon as it came out. Well, the time is nigh!

hunting grounds

This latest foray into Squatch Horror is brought to us by Uncork’d Entertainment, the company that has released cool flicks like It Watches and After Death. Hunting Grounds centers around a father and son (played by Jason Vail and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) down on their luck, recovering from the loss of their wife/mother. Dad’s drinking has cost him his job and now their house. They have nowhere else to go but the family’s dilapidated cabin in the woods.

Little do they know, the cabin is smack in the middle of the infamous Ape Canyon. Squatch devotees like myself will be giddy over the reference. You see, back in 1924, a group of miners were attacked in their cabin by a band of highly pissed off Bigfoot who rained rocks and fists on the small structure for an entire night. In the world of Bigfoot stories, this is right in the top 5. Kudos to the filmmakers for doing some research! Also, once you know the true story, you have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen here.

The family dynamics are at times uncomfortable to watch, and that’s a good thing. Dad is a bit of an ass, a man lost in his grief. His teenage son absorbs his abuse because he knows there’s a good guy deep down inside. Things get even worse for the kid when his father’s absolute asshole of a friend shows up at the cabin to do some drinking. This friend, Sergio (David Saucedo), is possibly the biggest jerkoff I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. You want this schmuck to get it in the worst possible way.

The cast, though small, is filled with familiar faces in the horror scene. You’ll be like me, checking IMDB and going, “Oh yeah, that’s where I saw him!”

The father’s brother-in-law also comes to visit, and the foursome go out hunting. Let’s just say, things go downhill from there.

Look, I know Bigfoot movies aren’t going to be high art…yet. That’s what they used to say about comic book movies. What I want is to be entertained and to see some Squatches. Hunting Grounds gives us a glimpse of Bigfoot within the first few minutes. Score one in the win column. Too many of these movies wait for the reveal in the last couple of minutes.

Also score one for no CGI. The Bigfoot creatures are all practical effects, which were decent. I will say, they are huge. I would have liked a little articulation in their faces so they didn’t look so much like masks, but that’s quibbling. What I got was a trio of enormous Squatches wreaking havoc on the cabin and the puny humans inside.

That’s not to say that Bigfoot is the bad guy here. On the contrary, they’re more curious than anything else. It’s only when they’re provoked that they strike back, and in some pretty cool ways. There is some good gore in the final act, which was pleasant to see as well.

If you have lazy Saturday and you’re tired of watching the dreck on the SyFy channel, definitely fire Hunting Grounds up. Or have some friends over for a booze n’ Bigfoot night and have a ball.

Give a Squatch a watch!

Best Horror Movies of 2016

2016 may not have been a year chock full of future classic horror flicks, but there were some real standouts. I had  a bigger list than usual to choose from, but once I got past my top 5, the rest were pretty interchangeable as far as jockeying for position. March was a banner month for quality horror releases. October never seems to be. Strange.

So, without further ado, here is my annual top 13 list for the year. Hopefully this will give you something to watch on these cold January nights.

13. THE BOY

The Boy.jpg

This was one of the first horror movies I watched in a theater last year. I was bored and figured it would kill some time. It makes my list because of the strong performance by Lauren Cohan and the overall creepiness of the doll, Brahms. Just look at that face. *shudders* With a very cool twist, The Boy is definitely worth a watch. Plus you’ll want to have a son and name him Brahms, just for the sake of saying his name over and over again.

12. THE CONJURING 2

the-conjuring-2

Look, I know that this movie has as much to do with the real Enfield haunting as I do with ending World War II. That being said, it was fun in a well made, house of horrors kind of way. There were some good jump scares and that nun haunts my dreams. Plus, I’ll watch anything with Vera Farmiga (and if you haven’t been watching her in Bates Motel, shame on you!).

11. THE PURGE – ELECTION YEAR

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I’ve come to realize that The Purge is one of the most solid horror franchises to come along in many years. For my money, it gets better with each movie. Election Year is just bat shit crazy with some of the wildest visuals of the series. I fell in love with the ‘car of lights’ and masked hotties out for a night of murder. Might be my next tattoo. It’s a wild ride and I demand a fourth flick!

10. THE WAILING

the-wailing

Don’t let the 2 1/2 hour running time scare you off. The Wailing is a disturbing, engrossing trip into witch doctory and possession. A product from Korea, it has the most stunning imagery of the year, with scenery to die for. Add to that several scenes that will make your blood run cold, and you have a winner.

9. HUSH

hush

The premise is deceptively simple – a deaf woman is trapped in her remote house, stalked by a masked (at least for a while) killer. I didn’t realize how tense I was until it ended and I felt stabbing pain in my jaw. Being deaf, she can’t hear her attacker as he prowls around the house, nor can she hear the noise she makes as she tries to get away. Good home invasion horror.

8. THE INVITATION

the-invitation

This is why you don’t accept a dinner invitation to your ex-wife’s house! You know right away that something is up with this gathering of old and new friends in the Hollywood hills, but it’s a blast watching it all unfold. The ending left my mouth hanging wide open. Best watched with sketchy friends.

7. DON’T BREATHE

dont-breathe

Now, I know a lot of folks were calling this the best horror movie to come along in years. It’s not, but it is a lot of twisted fun, especially thanks to Stephen Lang’s killer portrayal of a blind man trying to fend off a trio of burglars. This is the second movie of note to be set in the ruins of Detroit (the first being my favorite, It Follows). The abandoned neighborhood alone gave me the willies. There is one scene that will linger with you. I won’t spoil it, but don’t watch it after you’ve eaten turkey.

6. 13 CAMERAS

13-cameras

A young couple moves into a house owned by the strangest looking and sounding dude since the wackadoo from The Human Centipede 2. What could go wrong? Disturbing owner installs cameras all around the house and sees things he should not see. I LOVED the way this one ended. If you’re a fan of The Loved Ones, the vibe this flick gives off is just for you.

5. THE WITCH

the-witch

Hands down, the creepiest movie of the year. Colonists are thrown out of town and forced to struggle to survive in the wilderness. Right off the bat, a witch steals their baby and it’s all downhill from there. This movie has it all – creepy twins, bitter cold and darkness, the devil and Black Phillip the goat. Do not miss this one.

4. THE MONSTER

the-monster

No one should be surprised that a guy who calls himself a monster man would be over the moon about a movie called The Monster. The real horror here is the relationship between an alcoholic mother and her young daughter. Trapped on a dark, rainy road in the dead of night, they have to battle a terrifying creature that is the physical embodiment of mom’s karma. With two stellar performances, it’s sometimes hard to watch and pretty bleak. All the ingredients I look for!

3. BASKIN

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This is the first Turkish movie to ever make my list. It’s a true WTF flick. It makes Hellraiser look like a kid’s cartoon. It’s gross, disturbing and maybe doesn’t make a ton of sense, but it’s a freaking blast. If this is what hell is like, I’m going to church every day.

2. TRAIN TO BUSAN

train-to-busanLook, I’m sick to death of all things zombie, which just goes to show how great this movie is. It’s a Korean zombies on a train and easily the best zombie flick since the original Day of the Dead. I love the way the zombies reanimate here and pile up on one another. It’s the only movie I’ve watched in years that had me shouting out loud. Get your ticket for this train. You won’t regret it.

1.10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

1o-cloverfieldThe moment I saw this in the spring, I knew it would be my favorite movie of the year. John Goodman is menacing and simply awesome as a doomsday prepper who ‘saves’ a man and woman from a supposed alien invasion above. This is vastly different from Cloverfield, and for my taste, far better. I almost didn’t want to leave the bomb shelter. It’s the only movie that came out in 2016 that I bought so I can watch it over and over.

And now, for some honorable mentions…

Like I said, once I got past my top 5, quiet a few movies on my longer list could have cracked the top 13. Here are some others that tickled my horror bone : LIGHTS OUT, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, and I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE.

What were your favorite movies of 2016? What movie do you think I’m crazy for including or excluding? Lay it on me!

11 UFO/Alien Movies That Are Out Of This World

I’m not afraid to admit I have an addiction. I can’t get enough movies about UFOs, aliens and abductions. No matter how bad, I’m compelled to watch them all. Lately, it seems as though a law has been passed decreeing that all UFO/Alien flicks MUST be found footage with a 10 shilling budget. I’m here to guide you from the darkness and into the light (you know, the one emanating from the underbelly of the Mothership).

Here are my favorite 11 (because anyone can do a top 10 list). I’ve put a quick synopsis followed by my own review for each. When you’re not watching the skies, put your peepers on these…

FIRE IN THE SKY

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(Based on a true story) In 1975, logger Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney) and his co-workers discovered a hovering UFO. Walton’s pals fled, but Walton was not so fortunate. Whisked aboard the strange craft, he was subjected to a painful, unearthly medical study.

The Travis Walton case is one of the most intriguing abduction cases of all time. The movie is very well done, tense and downright creepy, especially once we get a glimpse of the interior of the gross and trippy alien ship. 4 of 5 flying saucers.

HANGAR 18

hangar-18

Was a damaged alien spaceship really hidden by the government in the infamous Hangar 18? This film shows you how it might have happened. Aired on television as “Invasion Force,” but with a different ending.

I loved this movie when I was a kid. Plus, it stars Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin. It doesn’t hold up so well, but I can’t ignore the pull of nostalgia. 2 of 5 flying saucers

EXTRATERRESTRIAL

extraterrestrial

Still reeling from her parents’ divorce, April (Brittany Allen, Dead Before Dawn) is dragged by her boyfriend (Freddie Stroma, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, Pitch Perfect), and a group of his friends back to the cabin where she spent summers as a child. Her trip down memory lane takes a dramatic and terrifying turn when a fireball descends from the sky and explodes in the nearby woods. The group venture out to the crash site and discover the remnants of a ship from another planet, along with footprints that suggest its alien occupants are still alive. They soon find themselves caught in the middle of something bigger and more terrifying than anything they could ever imagine.

This is one bat crap crazy movie. And the more I watch it, the more I like it. I especially love the ending, the very point most directors in this little genre drop the ball. 3.5 of 5 flying saucers.

COMMUNION

communion

(Also based on a true story) Whitley Strieber goes with his family and some friends to his holiday home in the forest. They experience some weird occurances, are they UFO activity? Whitley is abducted and then faces a horrible dilema; was I abducted or am I going mad? He sees a psychiatrist who tries to use hypnotic regression to discover the truth.

Now, this one holds a special place in my tin foil heart. Living close to where author Whitley Strieber had his experiences, the book and then this movie totally captured my attention in the 80s. I watch it at least once a year, every year, despite its odd construction. Hey, it stars Christopher Walken and a score by Eric Clapton! 4 of 5 flying saucers.

THE FOURTH KIND

fourth-kind

Based on actual case studies, The Fourth Kind uses archival footage and dramatic reenactments to present the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever in this provocative thriller.

Set in a remote Alaska town, I admit I was one of the suckers who bought the line that the footage interspersed within the movie was real. No matter. Even knowing it’s fake, the movie still gives me chills. 3.5 of 5 flying saucers.

ABSENCE

absence

Doctors are baffled when an expectant mother wakes to find her nearly-to-term pregnancy apparently disappear overnight. Police investigate the situation as a missing child, and only her husband and brother trust her version of events.

I’ll bet most of you have never heard of this one. I plucked it off of Netflix one day and was pleasantly surprised. It’s downright haunting and a found footage flick that gets it right. 3.5 of 5 flying saucers.

ROSWELL

roswell

In the summer of 1947, a rancher discovers the charred remains of an unidentified flying object in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. 20 years and 350 eyewitnesses later… the truth about what he found is finally coming out.

No, this is not the TV series. I think we all know about Roswell and Area 51 by now, but when this came out, it was pretty riveting. I believe this was produced by Showtime. I had to wait to watch it on VHS because I couldn’t afford Showtime back then. It was worth the wait. 3 of 5 flying saucers.

SIGNS

signs

A farm family wakes up to find a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard and are told that extraterrestrials are responsible. The circles begin appearing all over the world as the family grapples with the fact that Earth is being invaded.

By far, this is my favorite M. Night Shyamalan and Mel Gibson movie. It’s a movie about a broken family smack in the middle of one of the most terrifying alien invasions ever put on film. Very atmospheric and one of the few movies where old Mel is not the macho hero. Swing away! 4.5 of 5 flying saucers.

DARK SKIES

dark-skies

As the Barret family’s peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.

Another well executed film about a family in crisis. I actually jumped a couple of times when I saw it in the theater. The ending pulls no punches. Pretty bleak stuff. 4 of 5 flying saucers.

ARRIVAL

arrival

Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.

Wow, wow, wow. Don’t expect over the top theatrics and insane special effects. This is pure storytelling woven with some high concept science. It’s taut, intelligent and at times, heartbreaking. A must watch! 5 of 5 flying saucers.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

close-encounters

Universally considered the best film ever made about alien visitation to Earth, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind was nominated for eight Academy Awards®, winning for Best Cinematography. Power repairman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) has an extraordinary encounter with a strange spacecraft while out on a call. Recurring visions of a mountain fuel an increasing obsession that drives him to an emotional breaking point.

This is the godfather of all UFO movies. So much of this has become part of our everyday culture. Beautifully shot with a fantastic performance by Richard Dreyfuss, at almost 40 years old, it’s still the one UFO movie to watch if you plan to watch only one. 5 of 5 flying saucers.


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Creepy Movies For Halloween and Casting Remakes

Tis the season for lots ‘o horror movies. There are so many to choose from, it’s always difficult to decide what to watch. If you’ve been following what I’ve been watching on Twitter under hashtag #Horrortober, you’ll see I’ve watched over 30 so far. I’m hoping to hit the 50 mark this year. I give a rating for each movie so you know which ones to avoid and which ones to pop in the Blu Ray player or get On Demand.

Catching up on a couple of episodes of Monster Men, we review perfect movies for Horrortober like HUSH, DON’T BREATHE, GREEN ROOM and NEON DEMON. These 4 flicks will definitely have you waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

 

Next up, we wax unpoetic about unnecessary remakes and who we would cast in each. Do movies like Jaws, Alien and Escape from New York need to be remade? Hell no! But we all know that Hollywood can’t help itself. It will happen. If it happened today and we were casting directors, here’s where we would take things. The big question is, how would you recast them?

Movie Review : 13 Cameras

My man man, pots and pans, Spencer Mitchell is back, this time with a review of a very cool flick called 13 Cameras. I haven’t seen it myself, but after reading his review, I’m going straight to Amazon this afternoon. There’s great horror out there. Sometimes, you just need to rely on someone’s recommendation to point you in the right direction! And this particular movie opens up a whole can of worms about the prevalence of cameras in today’s society and what that means for us.

Take it away Spencer…

13 Cameras: A Video Surveillance Horror Story

While ugly, failing appliances and bug infestations may be at the top of the list of a renter’s worst fears, being spied on by creepy landlords is also another concern. No one wants to be unknowingly watched and recorded, but the movie 13 Cameras takes it a step further. If nothing else, this film shows that the technology so many depend on to protect their homes, property, and person can easily be used against them.

As 13 Cameras opens, Gerald, played by Neville Archambault, is seen purchasing a load of little cameras and installing them in a house. In come newlyweds Ryan and Claire, played by PJ McCabe and Brianne Moncrief, who are expecting their first baby and looking for a new place to rent. Claire picks up on Gerald’s unsettling vibes right away, but since the house is perfectly suited for their growing family, the couple signs a lease and seals their fate.

13 cameras

During the film, Claire and Ryan do the normal things that all married couples do within their homes: argue, have sex, and plan their futures. The problem is most people don’t have a landlord watching their every movement on camera. Then comes the twist: Ryan is having an affair with his assistant Hannah, played by Sarah Baldwin. It gets to the point where Ryan’s indiscretion is not only threatening his marriage with Claire, but Gerald’s favorite pastime as well. And you know Gerald’s not having that. As the tension between Ryan and Claire becomes more intense, Gerald steps beyond watching them on camera and physically invades their lives.

Archambault’s performance as Gerald is excellent and flawlessly gives the audience sweaty-crazy-landlord realness. He doesn’t say much throughout the film, but his very presence is unnerving. Once the audience sees he’s not some quivering lump but a very muscular man beneath his sweat-stained shirt, you get a sense that Claire and Ryan are in serious danger. As for the ending of 13 Cameras, let’s just say that it is as disturbing as the rest of the film.

Theatrical drama aside, there are some real life problems with video surveillance. It’s commonly abused and can easily put sensitive information and footage into the wrong hands. Technology simply hasn’t reached the point of being fool-proof, and that era may never come at all. That said, home security systems can provide some major benefits, are effective at warding off would-be intruders, and there are ways to safeguard them, according to many resources.

One of the biggest vulnerabilities with most home security systems is they’re not encrypted, which makes it much easier for hackers, stalkers, and even pranksters to spy on you and invade your privacy. Choose a system that uses encryption and is tamper resistant. Another way to stop hackers is by properly securing your home’s router if your security system relies on WiFi. Change the default password and be sure your router’s firmware is current. To very easily determine whether unauthorized users are interfering with your security system, regularly scan the IP history of your camera logs.

The problems presented by unlawful, intrusive surveillance all seem like infrequent worse case scenarios, but cameras are hacked into more than people realize. Because it touches on real life issues that people have encountered with surveillance gone wrong in a terrifying way, 13 Cameras is more of a horror movie than a suspenseful thriller. Take a lesson from Claire and Ryan: to avoid a safety and privacy catastrophe, you have to be careful when it comes to having cameras within your home.

 

Eco Horror – Mother Nature Strikes Back

Growing up in the 70s, I was exposed to dozens of horror films from the 50s and 60s that centered around man’s environment getting revenge on the beasts who dared tamper with or destroy the world around them. Those movies, along with Universal’s monster movies, were my ‘starter-horror’. They’re what made me what I am today. Not sure if I should thank them or sue anyone left alive who made them.

Guest blogger Spencer Mitchell loves the Eco-Horror sub genre as much as I do. So this week, I’m jumping in the back seat and letting Spencer take the wheel. Take it away, #1 Hellion!


 

Many popular films and novels feature conflicts involving man vs. man or man vs. beast. But what happens when humans face conflict with the world around them? The world is indifferent to the suffering of humans, but that doesn’t mean the fates of the two are not intertwined. So here are five of the scariest movies that show what happens when we don’t respect the power of planet Earth and the end of the world comes for us.

The idea of nature rebelling against humankind is not a new one. In 1954, just as the world was in full terror due to the Cold War and the rise of nuclear technology, the horror movie Them! provided quite the scare. This movie was one of many “big bug” films that focused on nuclear testing gone awry to create humongous, radioactive creatures. Though it is remembered as little more than a classic black-and-white B-movie today, Them! certainly shocked audiences with its frank portrayal of what could happen to the natural world in the event of an atomic incident. (Hunter’s note, Them! is one of my all time favorite movies.)

them pic

In 1976, tiny creatures went rogue once more in the sci-fi thriller The Food of the Gods, loosely based on an H.G. Wells novel. This time, the abnormal growth in animals is due to a miraculous “food” that bubbles up from the earth to provide sustenance for rats, wasps, and worms. This substance (a result of man-made waste) ends up making the animals grow larger than humans, disturbing the gentle balance between man and nature. Though the film was financially successful, it is widely forgotten today – which is actually rather unfortunate since the theme of ecology striking back against industry remains prevalent in our modern world.

In the 2004 action movie The Day After Tomorrow, Manhattan is thrust into a climate-change-induced Ice Age, leaving millions stranded in a polar prison. Though the film dramatizes the effects of global warming, it definitely serves as a potent worst-case scenario. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), drastic climate change is in our imminent future whether we like it or not, forecasting “a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.” This will eventually cause changes in precipitation patterns, droughts, the melting of ice caps, and even stronger hurricanes.

When a horror master decides to take on the subject of man versus nature, you know the result will be a chilling portrayal of what can happen when the world fights back. M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening involves a mysterious plant-based neurotoxin that drives those exposed to it to commit suicide. This film may include more fantasy elements than others, but the message is clear – when science messes with the natural world, the natural world has ways of defending itself and seeking retaliation.

the bay pic

Found-footage horror films have always served to bring the viewer in closer to the subject and make it feel more realistic. This is even more chilling when the subject is a deadly waterborne epidemic that hits a small Massachusetts town during a local festival. In 2012’s The Bay, hundreds of townspeople succumb to a flesh-eating, stomach-turning illness caused by unsafe waste disposal that was covered up by the local government. The entire event is captured on film by a young reporter and presented as a mockumentary. It’s a chilling horror film, but it also shows how far some people are willing to go to deny the effect humans have had on nature.

Though many of these films were made to entertain and frighten viewers, they are not created in vain. They show what could happen to our world if we keep disturbing nature’s delicate balance…and what will happen if we don’t make the changes soon.

 

The X Files Is Back – I Do Believe!

I have to admit, I was an X Files fan for life right from episode one. The show carried me through the 90s and was a constant source of inspiration when I was starting my writing career. Christ Carter was a guy just like me, a man deeply influenced by Kolchak and The Twilight Zone. I wanted to believe I could be Christ Carter one day!

The TV series lasted 9 years, ushering in the wave of paranormal shows that continue to this day. It spawned two movies, video games, comic books, novels and a lasting legacy with legions of fans who have always wanted more.

Well, sometimes, you get what you ask for.

X files

The X Files returned to our lives for a 6 episode run on Sunday night. As soon as I heard the opening theme song, I was taken back to settling in on Friday nights (before it moved to Sunday) with a scotch and a cigar, phones off the hook so I could savor every episode. I don’t smoke cigars anymore and scotch gives me acid reflux, so this time I had to settle for a water some Skinny Pop popcorn. I made it manlier by getting the pepper popcorn. So there.

The first and last episodes will feature the continuing alien conspiracy, with the four in between being the monster of the week.

Although the first episode wasn’t exactly a barn burner, I was amazed over how easily David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson slipped into their roles as Mulder and Scully. Sure, they’re older, a little wiser, a little jaded, slightly broken. But they’d have to be after everything they’ve been through. Their chemistry is still there, and the look and feel of the show was spot on. All of the alien stuff was confusing, but it always was! It even ended with the Cancer Man (I’m not calling him the Smoking Man). From the sneak peek, it looks like all of the gang is back, and I couldn’t be happier.

Will this lead to another 6 episodes? A movie? A full season? I hear Carter is already prepping more episodes. It’s all going to come down to ratings and the willingness of the stars to commit. So you better get everyone you know to watch!

If I was a betting man, I’d plunk down some dough on more X Files to come. Let’s hope I’m better at seeing the lay of the land than Fox Mulder.

Best Horror Movies of 2015

I have to admit, I was watching horror flicks right down to the wire to make sure I got as many as I could in before making my annual top 13 list. There were some I had high hopes for that didn’t make the cut like Let us Prey and, believe it or not, Paranormal Activity – The Ghost Dimension. And then there were the usual pleasant surprises that just had to make the cut. Unlike other years, there was no question about my #1 movie. I love it so much, I’ve made it my favorite movie of the 21st century.

Oddly enough, there are no cryptid movies on the list this time around. Didn’t really see any worth considering, other than Zombeavers. That’s right, I said Zombeavers.

OK, enough of my preamble. Will you join me for the countdown?

#13 – A GIRL WALKS HOME AT NIGHT

Admittedly, I’m not a big vampire guy (though I do love Near Dark!). This Iranian art-house vamp flick may be a little slow for some, but I loved the change of pace. And the fact that it was in black and white gave it huge points in my book. Heavy on atmosphere and subdued performances, I give it two fangs up.

A girl walks home alone


#12 – ORB

You all know I love alien movies. I can’t make a top 13 list without including at least one. Knowing that, I watched just about every alien-esque movie that came out last year. Most were total duds or just plan confusing. Not so with Orb, a neat gem that reminded me a lot of the movie Bug (the Ashley Judd one, not the awesome 1975 drive-in creature feature with Bradford Dillman). Three siblings are confined in a lake house. One of them is a vet who is admittedly crazy, but says he has something captured in the basement. Aliens + paranoia = Hunter bliss.

Orb


 

#11 – BACKCOUNTRY

You like Jaws? How about moving the action to land and substituting the shark for a bear? Yeah, that hits the spot. Based on a collection of camping gone wrong stories, this one literally had me holding my breath. It was one of those Netflix random discoveries that makes my subscription worth it. This city boy is staying the hell out of the woods now.

backcountry-movie-poster-bear


#10 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY

Ah, those crazy Austrians and their demented children. This subtitled affair is a slow burn of sheer craziness. I figured out the twist early on, but it didn’t matter. The execution makes this a must-see for true horror fans. Kids are creepy – especially twins who collect hissing cockroaches and are left on their own like feral children. TV star mommy with a shrouded face thanks to mucho plastic surgery makes for a very unsettling home in the middle of freaking nowhere. And I love what those boys do with super glue. Bad kinder!

goodnight mommy


#9 – ALMOST MERCY

You know that weird kid that everyone swears will grow up to be a school shooter? Well, in Almost Mercy, he has a friend – a strange girl, no less – to keep him grounded. Or can she? I can’t get over how good this movie is. It’s bleak, funny, sarcastic, loaded with social commentary and drenched in blood. And if you think you know what it’s about by my description or the blurb on IMDB, try again. Watch this so you can be one of the cool kids.

almost mercy


#8 – THE GREEN INFERNO

Man, a lot of people have dumped all over this cannibal gore fest. I guess I just don’t run with their crowd. The latest movie from Eli Roth, starring his lovely wife, Lorenza Izzo (who was also in Knock Knock – yowza), delivers on what it promises to be – a brutal movie about conservationists getting what they deserve, at least according to Trump. The gore in this one was way over the top for a theatrical release, and for that, I applaud Roth. And you will truly hate the asshole activist leader. Watch it on an empty stomach. Or if you’re truly badass, watch it during a pig roast. Mmmmm, long pig.

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#7 – CREEP

2015 was the year for Mark Duplass, who gave us a great indie horror movie like Creep, and a big budget clunker like The Lazarus Effect. Creep is a 2 man show about a dude hired online to film a guy going about his regular day because he’s dying and wants to leave a record of his life behind for his child. Duplass is downright unsettling. You will never be able to get ‘Tubby Time’ or ‘Peach Fuzz’ erased from your brain after watching this. This is part of a series of low budget horror flicks that Duplass is slated to make for Netflix. You have to check it out.

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#6 – BONE TOMAHAWK

Of course an author who wrote a horror western (Hell Hole) is going to love a horror western movie. The fact that it stars my hero, Kurt Russell, had me all in from the word git! Part The Searchers and part The Hills Have Eyes, Bone Tomahawk is a dusty ride through dangerous terrain with the ragtagiest bunch of ragtags ever assembled. The spooky race of Trogs that have kidnapped a woman and Russell’s deputy are freaking bizarre. Saddle up and hit the trail!

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#5 – WE ARE STILL HERE

Horror movies need more main characters north of 40 (coming from a man living in that altitude). You get better, more believable actors and a sense of gravitas that can’t be found in most tits ‘n zits flicks. Barbara Crampton is one of my all time faves (and yes, I met her last year!), so I had to watch this one. An older couple settle in to a house that is very haunted, but by what? There are several scenes that actually disturbed me and made me jump. And the third act is just bat shit wild. After watching this, I dare you to go into your basement with the lights off. Go on, I triple dog dare you!

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#4 – THE VISIT

M. Night Shyamalan is back! The Visit is about the most fun you’ll have with a horror movie. And, it’s found footage done right. The performances by the kids are great and grandma and grandpa are simply off their rockers. If I was staying with them overnight, I’d need a diaper (like grandpa and his dirty diaper shed) and 10 Xanax. This is one I can watch again and again. Naturally, there’s a twist at the end, and the payoff is damn good. Let’s hope M.’s days of The Happening are behind him.

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#3 – THE FINAL GIRLS

This wonderfully original premise has a girl who gets reunited with her deceased scream queen mom by transporting into the 80’s slasher flick that gave Mom her start. I loved living in an 80’s slasher movie for an hour and a half, considering I was a teen during that golden decade. The Final Girls is snarky, nostalgic and touching as all get out. My wife actually cried when we watched it. And she’s as jaded a horror fan as I am. It’s a trippy movie with lots of blood, just enough laughs and a few salty tears. This one really took me by surprise.

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#2 – SPRING

In any other year, this would be my top movie. Maybe because I’m getting older and soft, but I can’t get Spring out of my head. It’s a horror love story. That’s right, a horror love story. Set in Italy and beautifully shot, the story centers around an American 20-something who stumbles into and falls in love with an exotic, mercurial beauty who just happens to turn into a different creature every night. These are the two best performances of the year, hands down. It was done so well, I was ready to pledge my love for Louise despite her monstrous nature and the possibility she may kill me. I had vivid dreams about this for nights afterward. I haven’t had a movie affect me like that in at least 20 years. Right after it ended, I ordered it on Amazon. This will be one I go to every year.

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#1 – IT FOLLOWS

There is nothing I don’t dig about It Follows. First, it’s a totally fresh idea wrapped around familiar territory. From the opening scene of a neighborhood that brought me right back to Halloween to the nerve jangling synth soundtrack, I was smitten. A curse in the form of a shape shifting ghost that will follow you until it catches you and kills you can only be transmitted by sex. That’s right, VD meets an ethereal Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. I posted a full review when I saw it that you can read here. It Follows is my favorite horror movie of the past 30 years. I don’t think I’ve been this jazzed by a movie since The Thing. I’ve watched it several times and it only gets better. I listen to the ass kicking score when I write. I may even tattoo a scene from it on my body one day. Yep, you can count me in as an unapologetic, rabid fan.

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If you want another top 13 list that is very different from my own, check out my partner in Monster Men crime’s list. Old Jackie has quite a few great recommendations even I have yet to watch. Between the 2 of us, you definitely have enough movies to keep you busy during a big ass snowstorm!


Need wicked cool horror flix to watch? Sign up for the Dark Hunter Newsletter and become an official Hunter Hellion!

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Top 5 Haunted House Movies Just In Time For Halloween

It’s Halloween, the time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Ghosts and demons lay in wait for little boys and girls who prefer tricks over treats!

What better way to spend the season than watching great horror movies? Here are what I consider the 5 best haunted house movies of all time. For my money, ghosts are far scarier than monsters because we’re potentially looking at our own destinies. Will you be among the trapped spirits some day, haunting the family living in your former home?

5. THE SENTINEL

The 70s were a treasure trove for horror. This is the decade that gave us true frights like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left and Halloween. Lost in the mix is this chilling classic about a NY fashion model who moves into a creepy brownstone apartment. The residents are the most disturbing cast of characters you’ll ever meet. Part ghost story, party possession tale, some scenes in The Sentinel will haunt you for the rest of your life. And it’s loaded with stars, including Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Beverly D’Angelo, Ava Gardner. John Carradine and so much more.

Click the movie poster to watch the trailer...if you dare!

Click the movie poster to watch the trailer…if you dare!

4. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR

This flick needs no introduction. Even if the story the Lutz family told the world is total B.S., this is still a spine tingling movie.This one has it all – evil spirits, bleeding walls, mystery rooms, imaginary friends with bad intentions and a home clouded by the spectre of a mass murder. James Brolin is brooding and terrifying as the spirit of the house drags him down. Almost 40 years later and this one still gives me chills.

The trailer alone scared the crap out of us back in the day.

The trailer alone scared the crap out of us back in the day.

3. THE CHANGELING

George C. Scott plays a composer who lost his family in an accident. Trying to put his life back together, he moves into a huge old house that, as we come to find out, is quite haunted. First of all, Scott may be the biggest-name actor in a horror movie – ever. His performance gives a gravitas rarely seen in the genre. As the story unfolds, you’ll find your goosebumps just won’t go away. That’s one haunted house I might skip if invited to spend the night.

Click the poster to watch the whole movie. You've been warned!

Click the poster to watch the whole movie. You’ve been warned!

2. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

I wasn’t a fan of The Blair Witch Project and the whole found footage dealio, but Paranormal Activity changed my mind. This one actually made my wife and I nervous when we went to sleep that night (it doesn’t help that we live in a haunted house). I can think of better things to film in the bedroom, but I’m glad they concentrated on the demonic spirit here. I just watched it again last week and it’s still unsettling. Find the BluRay with the alternate ending if you can!

spread some baby powder on your floor tonight!

spread some baby powder on your floor tonight!

1.THE HAUNTING

Hands down, this is my favorite ghost movie ever. Short on special effects because it doesn’t need them, a college professor gathers willing subjects to live in a haunted mansion in Massachusetts. As the caretaker warns them in the beginning, “No one can hear you scream in the dark. In the night.” Using the twisted history of the house to put your nerves on edge, The Haunting is all about atmosphere and odd sounds and tortured souls. This is a must watch for any true horror fan.

The trailer alone is scarier than most full movies today.

The trailer alone is scarier than most full movies today.

So, what would make your top 5 list? There were so many I could have added here, but I forced myself to whittle it down to the 5 that deeply affected me, long after the end credits.

It Follows – In The Footsteps Of Horror Greatness

It seems like it’s been decades since I was this thrilled by a horror movie. And when I sit back and think about it, 30 years is about how long I’ve been waiting for a movie like It Follows. Maybe it’s because the movie has a whole late 70s, early 80s vibe, taking me back to the time when I was young and enthralled by the movies of John Carpenter and George Romero. In fact, there are so many elements of It Follows that remind me of Halloween, yet with an entirely unique story and feel, that I felt like a teen again, experiencing a whole new world of horror at its best.

It-Follows-posterHere’s the story – Jay (played by Maika Monroe, who was just in the horror/thriller The Guest) is a kind of directionless girl living in the suburbs of Detroit. She has a tight group of friends (her sister, Paul who was her first kiss and also kissed her sister when they were younger, and Yara, a girl who spends all her time reading ebooks on a pink clam shell) who just hang out with no real aspirations or parental supervision. We only see Jay’s mother from side angles, and when we do, there’s always booze nearby, so we get the feeling that this generation has been left to themselves.

Jay is dating a guy she met outside the neighborhood. He takes her out one night and they make good use of the back seat of his car.As she’s basking in the afterglow, he chloroforms her, straps her to a wheelchair and has her sit in an abandoned building, waiting for a spirit to begin stalking them. He explains that by having sex, he’s transferred a curse to her. She will be followed by a spirit that can look like anyone until she passes it to someone else. If she gets caught before she does, the spirit will kill her and in turn, kill him.

The rest of the movie is spent with Jay running from the shape shifting spirits. They walk slow, but they also never, ever stop following you. She can drive far to buy some time, but the spirits will always catch up with her. There’s never really a moment of full rest, and you can feel the desperation with each frame. Her friends stick by her, but even they can’t help much because they can’t see what Jay can and no one knows how to stop it.

Now for the look of the movie. All of the cars in It Follows are hulking behemoth’s from the 70’s/80’s. From the decor of the houses, to landline phones and even the way people dress, you’d swear the movie was set in 1979. The only connection to modern times is Yara’s e-reader. Viewers are shown the absolute depression of Detroit, with rows of abandoned, crumbling homes. I feel the director chose to stop technology and fashion right when Detroit was beginning to falter, capturing the final heyday of a city in amber.

The opening sequence of It Follows is the best I’ve seen since Halloween. The score is absolutely chilling. I went out and bought it an hour after I saw the movie. It’s part of a new wave of horror movies using synth soundtracks, just like they did back in the day, to set your nerves on edge.

We all know that horror movies have long conveyed that premarital sex leads to very bad things. I can think of no worse consequence than the curse bestowed on Jay in It Follows.

And yes, I’m going to come right out and say this is an instant classic. For my money, it’s the best horror movie I’ve seen since Carpenter’s The Thing. I get the sneaking suspicion that writer/director David Robert Mitchell is as much a Carpenter fan as I am, because he’s created something that can proudly sit alongside the master’s best works.

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