October – I mean, Horrortober – is my month long Mardi Gras, and I know I’m not alone. As usual, I’ve been saving special books and movies to keep me immersed in all things horror for the 31 days and nights of terror-fueled delight. And I was smart enough this year not to take on any writing projects so I have all the time I need.
First up, the Monster Men got our furry mitts on the newest edition of 31 Days of Terror. It’s a damn fun game where you roll the dice and then consult the book to see what movie you should watch. This is our fourth year playing it on Monster Men and it was pretty funny how we bent the rules to get a good movie for Halloween night. It’s a cool way to discover new movies or revisit ones you may have forgotten. Check it out right below. For my part, I want to see if I can top my Horrortober movie total of 55 this time around. We shall see…
Now, on to my reading list. Here are the books I’ve been smuggling away, saving them for my favorite month. Have you read them? What did you think? I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to be very happy with them.
How far would you go to bring back someone you love?
When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything.
A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil?
Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again.
Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don’t know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half.
On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.
Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.
A tale of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
Antarctica. A mining base at the edge of the world.
Anders Nordvelt, last-minute replacement as head of security, has no time to integrate himself into the crew before an act of sabotage threatens the project. He must untangle a complex web of relationships from his position as prime suspect.
Then a body is found in the ice. Systems fail as the long night falls. Now Anders must do more than find a murderer: he must find a way to survive.
Will anyone endure the night shift, or will ice and frozen corpses be all that remains?
Alex: A hardened goth-punk who’s convinced she’s a vampire with a penchant for blood.
Stacia: A seventeen-year-old raised by an alcoholic mother, her fellow captives the only family she’s ever truly had.
Kammie: The youngest of the three—a mute who finds solace in a houseplant.
But does life outside the house offer the freedom they’d envisioned? Or is it too late, the scars too deep?
A coming-of-age tale of revenge and survival that explores a friendship and the desperate measures taken to ensure they stay united, held together by the scars that bind them.
The end of summer, 1986. With only a few days left until the new school year, twins Jeremy and Jack Schaffer are on very different paths. Jeremy is the geek, playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends Kathleen and Randy, while Jack is the jock, getting into trouble with his buddies.
And then everything changes when neighbor Mister Higgins is killed by a wild animal in his yard. Was it a bear? There’s something big lurking in the woods behind their New Jersey home.
Will the police be able to solve the murder before more Middletown residents are ripped apart?
Things are finally opening up and we’re all slowly going to crawl out of our houses over the next few weeks. After what the world has been through the past three months, I’m very concerned about the impact this will have on the horror genre. Will people want more scares after the coronavirus? I have a strong feeling that therapists won’t have a free hour in the day for years to come. This pandemic has given birth to a host of new fears for many, some still lurking under the surface and waiting to leap out the moment folks start to regain their equilibrium. I speak from experience, having grappled with a crippling anxiety disorder twenty years ago. If you’ve been sheltering in your house for months watching the news and worrying, it’s going to leave a scar.
So, what will the wave of the horror future be? I think what people need now more than ever is laughter. We’ve dwelled in the darkness for too long. We need the light. Luckily, if you’re a die hard horror fan like me in need of a chuckle, there are a lot of good movies out there to satisfy your craving while letting in the light. Here are 13 movies guaranteed to give you a break from your worries. What are some of your favorites?
EVIL DEAD 2
ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK
SHAUN OF THE DEAD
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
A HAUNTED HOUSE
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
We’re all finding ways to cope with our shelter in place orders. And everyone has their own private concerns they have to grapple with while in isolation. It could be loss of a job, loss of a loved one, illness, anxiety, grappling with home schooling, feeling disconnected or, as most of us will agree, worrying about the future.
Some days are better than others. Two days ago was just a gray fog kind of day for me. I woke up that way and the fog never lifted. After a while, I didn’t fight it. I just reconciled myself to the fact that the blahs would win this battle. After beating down a panic disorder some twenty years ago, I keep feeling as if those old ways are going to break down my defenses and find their way back. That fear leads to the irrational fear that nearly broke me.
For me, I had to find a new line of defense. Something that could take my mind out of my mind (aka, my head out of my ass) and also give me comfort.
Enter Roger Corman.
Knowing his birthday was coming up was what made him top of mind for me. He just turned 94 and is still cooking. He’s even started a short film fest competition where people in quarantine shoot a 2 minute video in their home.
I immediately went to online streaming haunts like Amazon Prime, YouTube and Tubi to see what I could find. Damn, I found plenty. When I feel like my day is shit or even when I’ve had a great day, a Roger Corman film is both a perfect, nostalgic pick me up and a reward for a job well done.
Lately, I’ve been devouring Corman flicks like an elephant at a peanut factory. Or a bottle fly at a murder scene. These movies take me back to when I was a kid or an early twenty-something, eager to devour anything horror and scifi. If you’re of a certain again, they might do the same for you. So, what movies have been keeping me sane? Check out the trailers below and maybe you’ll find one that will give you an hour and a half of blessed relief and comfort.
THE TERROR WITHIN – George Kennedy, Andrew Stephens, the end of the world and gargoyles. Need I say more?
FORBIDDEN WORLD – A cheesy, sexy, gooey Alien riff that’s a blast to watch. And check out some of the walls in the spaceship. They were made of painted Big Mac boxes.
GALAXY OF TERROR – Erin Moran, Sid Haig, Robert Englund and Ray Walston head this total Alien ripoff that is seriously creepy and trippy. Some pretty cool monsters in this one. Be careful what you fear!
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP – Polluted salmon turn into bipedal, horny fish men. Always a go-to movie for me. That dummy scene in the tent is a true WTF moment in film history.
IT CONQUERED THE WORLD – A line from this movie is very apropos today – “It’s the end of everything!” If that monster doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will. And it has Peter Graves and Lee Van Cleef!
ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS – The Professor from Gilligan’s Island wishes he was back with the crew of the Minnow. This movie is way better than it has any right to be with some really disturbing concepts. Oh, and the crab monsters are a lot of fun.
X : THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES – Ray Milland kills it in this horror/scifi thriller. It also inspired my novella, Optical Delusion.
Man, as if all this craziness with coronavirus (and the possibly more dangerous reaction to it) wasn’t enough, did we really have to lose a horror legend? News that Stuart Gordon suddenly passed away was a total shock. I have to admit, it rocked me. Let’s be glad Dr. West wasn’t around to revive him. That would not have gone well. (And no, not too soon! Gordon had a wicked sense of humor, as anyone one who has watched his movies can see.)
When I think back to the glory days of the video store in the 80s and 90s, the films of Stuart Gordon loom large. Some of my favorite discoveries on VHS were products of his warped imagination. I read Lovecraft as a teen, but I never truly enjoyed his stories until Stuart Gordon made his, most times, loose interpretations. Who knew they could be so…sexy?
He wasn’t afraid to inject his tales of terror with dark humor (Dr. West battling a reanimated feline), sex (Barbara Crampton in full S&M gear), gore (the feasting creature locked in the dungeon) or even utter sweetness (a little girl befriending a man who is just a kid at heart). Above all, he brought Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton into our lives. For that, I would never be able to thank him enough.
I’ve been spending the week going back and enjoying Gordon’s filmography. Below are my top 5 in order. Step away from the anxiety for a spell and lose yourself in some trailers. If you haven’t seen any of them, shame on you! If you’re a fan like me, which ones are your favorites?
#5 – DAGON
#4 – CASTLE FREAK
#3 – DOLLS
#2 – RE-ANIMATOR
#1 – FROM BEYOND
Happy New Year, my hellions! I hope you all survived the holidays with your gray matter intact. With the start of the new year comes the obligatory list of horror movie badassery. The genre has been on a roll lately and I was hoping to close out the decade with a bang. Alas, that wasn’t so. I was genuinely worried that I wouldn’t find 13 good flix to put on my list. Thank Cthulu (and a case of the Christmas cruds) that I had some downtime to search desperately for any and all horror movies and my new Roku to help me watch them. So, let’s get on with it, shall we? And as always, I’ve provided trailers to get your motors humming.
#13 – SWEETHEART
This little number dropped on Netflix just in time to make the 2019 cut. It was The Creature From the Dessert Island and I dug the hell out of it. A girl washes up on a beautiful, remote island, only to find out there is a killer sea creature that comes ashore each night looking for fresh (or even dead) meat. Two gills up!
#12 – US
Yes, I know Jordan Peele is the second coming of John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling all rolled into one. Us is a slick flick with some great performances and real laugh out loud moments. But once I tugged on the story’s thread, the whole thing just fell apart for me. It gets on the list for its quality. Just don’t spend any time trying to figure out the logic of it all.
#11 – PIERCING
What a hella weird movie. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold and dark December night. A man decides he absolutely must kill a hooker and gets a hotel room ready for the dirty deed. Only the lady of the evening is nothing he was expecting. The city is comprised of models and you never get a sense of time and place. It’s a freaking fever dream that would give David Lynch or David Cronenberg a right stiffie. Mia Wasikowska is outstanding.
#10 – SATANIC PANIC
Pretty pizza delivery girl goes to the very wrong house and gets mixed up in a night of sacrifice at a suburban cult. All I can say is that this is a blast. Zippy, bloody, funny as hell, because that’s where these soccer moms and dads want to party. Rebecca Romjin as the cult leader is just killer bee. One of my favorite horror comedies, for sure.
#9 – ZOMBIELAND 2
I had zero expectations for this one, especially since it’s been 10 years and an Oscar win since the first. But damn was I wrong. What makes these movies is the chemistry between our 4 survivors: Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin. I’ll be the first to say the zombie genre should have its head cut off, but then this comes along and forces me to eat some crow (brains). Now I actually want a third helping!
#8 – HARPOON
Three old friends take a trip to the sea and end up murderlizing each other in my biggest surprise of the year. The budget here is small, but the writing and acting are large. It’s plain fun in the sun with a dash of backstabbing brutality and cannibalism??? You have to see it to believe it.
#7 – CRAWL
A full on b-grade monster movie that gets a wide theatrical release? Shit yeah! Director Alexandre Aja drops a father and daughter into the eye of the storm where they are trapped in their rapidly flooding house filled with and surrounded by hungry alligators. Way better than it should be, Crawl is a throwback flick that’s only missing Ray Miland or Doug McClure. A must see.
#6 – THE NIGHTINGALE
In all honesty, this is the best movie I saw all year. It’s technically not a horror movie, though some things happen here that step well beyond anything Jason Voorhees has ever done. A woman with nothing left to lose tracks down the British soldiers who waster her family in 1825 Tasmania. Not for the faint of heart, this will both depress the heck out of you and lift you up.
#5 – MIDSOMMER
The second cult movie on the list, Ari Aster has done it again with his follow up to Hereditary. This is one long, trippy movie with an ending that will leave you speechless. Aster’s artistry flows from the veins of Kubrick and can be thoroughly enjoyed with no sound at all. He’s definitely working out some issues about pain and loss through his movies. This was also the year of looong horror movies (I’m talking to you, It 2) and the director’s cut of Midsommer is over three hours long! Worth every minute.
#4 – TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
This Mexican import grabbed me by the feels and kicked the ever-loving shit out of them. A band of orphaned children in a town run by a drug cartel are hounded by cartel killers. I haven’t had a movie affect me emotionally like this in a long time. It’s part fairy tale, part way-too-real and wholly unique and amazing.
#3 – VILLAINS
I’ll bet dollars to donuts most of you haven’t even heard of this one. I was lucky enough to catch it in the theater during it’s 3 day run. Starring Maika Monroe (It Follows) and Bill Skarsgard (Pennywise), this is instantly my favorite home invasion movie. A bumbling couple break into the home of 50s-looking homicidal maniacs. This is one I will own and watch every single year until I drop dead from too much horror.
#2 – READY OR NOT
Hands down, the most fun I had at the movies all year. Samara Weaving is cementing herself as the IT GIRL, knocking it out of the park in this satire about rich asswads who sell their souls for fortune and fame. I laughed so hard my jaw hurt. The kills are great and the ending is sheer perfection. Not one missed note. When I walked out of the theater, I said nothing was going to knock this from my number one spot. And then came…
#1 – DOCTOR SLEEP
I have no idea how Mike Flanagan pulled this one off. He had to make a movie that was a sequel to the movie, The Shining, as well as the book, and the follow up book, Doctor Sleep. This is the kind of stuff that needs to be studied in film school. It gives you all the nostalgia you have for The Overlook and adds a new chapter to the tale of Danny Torrance that is simply mind blowing. The movie itself is gorgeous to look at and the performances by Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson are spot on. This is a sweeping epic that you rarely see in horror and it’s a shame the opinions of boneheaded critics kept people from going to see it. I’m absolutely gobsmacked (love that word) by what Flanagan accomplished here and will be adding it to the steady rotation. I could write a book on all the things that make this great, but I’ll spare you all.
Ah, the dog days of summer are here. Time to beat the heat, or bask in it, and head to beaches and pools and sunny climes.
But us horror hounds know, even an innocent getaway can turn deadly in a flash (or perhaps, a slash?). For those of you loading your family into planes trains and automobiles between now and Labor Day weekend, here are 10 scary flicks you can show the kiddies to make your vacation a little more interesting. Click the movie poster to each to view the trailer. Might wanna bar that flimsy hotel door with a chair and have a weapon on hand….
10. MOUNTAIN TOP MOTEL MASSACRE
I haven’t watched this since renting it on VHS back in the 80s, but how could I not include it on the list? If you have motel or hotel in the title, you win!
Now, you wouldn’t catch me ever staying in hostel. Not because I’m worried about being kidnapped and killed. More like I don’t want to be trapped in a tiny room smelling stranger’s farts all night. Howver, if you’re traveling through Europe on the cheap, beware!
Not my favorite King movie adaptation (or the only one on this list), but 1408 is a wild ride. I also love that John Cusack is a writer who pens true haunting books. Could be a glimpse of my future.
I think of this one every time I pass by a seedy roadside motel. A real nail biter that stars the lovely Kate Beckinsale. Frank Whaley as the motel front desk asshole is so icky, I can never look at him the same.
6. PUPPET MASTER : THE LITTLEST REICH
The latest addition to this long running franchise is by far the best. When a bunch of people go to a convention, the puppets go absolutely wild. If you haven’t seen this yet, do so now and thank me later (with beer).
5. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS
Rob Zombie’s best (and I’m looking forward to the sequel), this is the nastiest motel you will ever see. Raw, foul and unwavering. This does make you think, WTF is wrong with RZ? His posse is in full effect here, from Ken Foree to Sid Haig and of course, Sherry Moon.
I can’t make this list without the godfather of motel horror. This is the slasher that started it all. A brilliant film that makes up in mystery and tension what it lacks in blood and body count. And that music! Go get ’em, Norman!
3. THE INNKEEPERS
I adore this movie. An old Massachusetts inn is about to close for good, and the last two workers on shift are out to prove the ghosts in its walls are real. And what an ending. Just like Psycho, it’s also blessed with a magnificent score.
2. MOTEL HELL
We all know it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters. One of the best cannibal movies ever made (next to Texas Chainsaw Massacre), you’ll laugh as much as you’re cringe. Sausage anyone?
- THE SHINING
Many moons ago, Stephen King went on a little vacation, staying at an empty, sprawling hotel in Colorado. It spawned the greatest ghost story ever told. The Shining may not be an exact retelling of his book, but that doesn’t dull the shine of Kubrick’s masterpiece. Who wants to walk the maze with me? The top 3 movies all share one thing – amazing music that still sends shivers down my spine.
As a man who makes his stock-in-trade trade in creature features, I make it a point to watch as many monster flicks as possible. Somehow, I missed the 1993 horror/scifi romp, TICKS. That was the year my wife got seriously ill, so there are quite a few things that flew under my radar. Cut to years later and I always assumed I had watched it. Well, I hadn’t…until now.
I’ve had TICKS on my Amazon Prime watch list for a while now. If I had realized it was Ami Dolenz on the poster, I would have watched it sooner. The daughter of Monkee Mickey Dolenz, I crushed on her when she played a genie in the movie Miracle Beach.
If you’re looking for pure icky bug mayhem and some gooey gore, TICKS is for you. We start with a very young Seth Green being sent to one of those city kids goes to the woods camp. He meets a street thug who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t make a free throw. That gutter punk is none other than dancing Carlton, AKA Alfonso Ribeiro. It’s wig flipping to watch him play the tough kid who also sells dope on the side. They’re picked up in a van by couple Holly (played by Rosalind Allen, who I remember from the soap, Santa Barbara, but was also the marine biologist on Seinfeld) and Charles (Peter Scolari, from Newhart and Bosom Buddies – ever wonder how much he truly hates Tom Hanks?). Their sullen daughter is along for the trip and they’re joined by bad boy Ray, his main squeeze Dee Dee (Ami Dolenz) and a girl who never talks.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Clint Howard is a filthy redneck who has some insane contraption that pumps steroids into his marijuana plants? It looks like something the Little Rascals or Bugs Bunny would make, only less sturdy.
That weird goo is what drips on a tick and starts the whole shit storm. I always let out a little cheer when I see Clint in a movie. He’s this generation’s Dick Miller (RIP). The ticks pupate in these ooey-gooey egg sacks and when they pop out, they’re about the size of a man’s hand. Giant ticks skitter everywhere, latching onto faces and backs, crawling up pants and burrowing under rippling flesh.
This is all practical effects and it’s glorious. Be warned, a dog gets the tick treatment and he does not fare well. The third act is freaking bonkers, with hordes of ticks descending on the cabin, pot farmers looking to kill the wilderness kids and something growing inside Carlton. I don’t want to give too much away, but take my word and watch it if you haven’t already. Alas, there’s no nudity, but you do get Dolenz in a very teeny black bikini. There’s plenty of slime and blood and ticks exploding like pus filled popcorn when flame touches them.
I wonder how Seth Green feels about this movie. If you didn’t know better, you would swear he would never get another acting gig. He’s that bad. But hey, he was young and learning. Without this, we might not get Buffy or Robot Chicken!
It’s been a while since I posted a movie review, but I felt this was good penance to make up for missing TICKS for the past 26 years. It is now my job to preach the word. The only thing creepier than the ticks in the movie are the millions of ticks around my house carrying Lyme Disease. Thank you, Plum Island buttholes for creating that little gift.
Now, go watch TICKS. I have to attend to my chiggers.
Oh, and if you revel in the squeamish delight of TICKS, your skin will crawl with joy when you read THE DEVIL’S FINGERS. Swap out bugs for a killer fungus and let the games begin!
Well, well, well, here we are again, nursing our New Year’s hangovers, making plans to go to the gym and opening up that new Dilbert desk calendar (and man, do I miss The Far Side calendars). 2018 had me very nervous, my dear Hellions. For a while there, I didn’t think there would be enough worthy movies to make it to the unholy top 13 list. Last year wasn’t the strongest year for horror movies, but there are some damn fine flicks to enjoy. So, take my paw and let’s travel back in time…
#13 – SATAN’S SLAVES
Talk about a last minute entry! I literally watched this right after I had finalized my list because I heard it was on Shudder. It’s not very often I get to tout an Indonesian horror flick. Not to be confused with Satan’s Slave (1976), this horrific ghost/Satanic cult foray into primo jump scares is tense, atmospheric and crazy terrifying. The English subtitles are in need of another pass by a translator, but you can enjoy it without them. It’s that creepy. * Editor’s note, this movie knocked The First Purge off the list. Sorry Staten Island.
#12 – THOROUGHBREDS
What’s a top 13 list without an entry that involves Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch, Split)? Thoroughbreds just skirts the horror line, but damn is it twisted fun. Lily (Anya) is a rich brat who hates her step-dad and lacks empathy. Amanda (Olivia Cooke from the amazing Bates Motel) is her old friend, an automaton born without the ability to feel emotions who once stabbed her beloved horse to death. These two chicks are fucking nuts in all the best ways. Great performances all around, and it’s also Anton Yelchin’s last movie before his tragic demise. Watch it and pour a little libation on the floor for Anton.
#11 – HALLOWEEN
I was very excited to see what the folks at Blumhouse would do with a franchise that had seen better days (but had yet to fall into the pit of Hellraiser inanity). I LOVE the original. It’s one of those pivotal movies in my horror education. I dig part 3 and 4 and could do without all the rest. And Rob Zombie’s attempt? Let’s move on. Anyway, this is a direct sequel to the original, asking us all to forget the others happened (did Bobby Ewing just step out of the shower?). Poor Laurie Strode is still traumatized by the babysitter massacre. Now a grandma channeling Sarah Connor, she’s just waiting for Mikey to get out of max so she can finish him off. Luckily for her, a pair of podcasters are just the hokey patsies to reenergize the unkillable killer. It was better than the sequels, but for me, fell flat in some areas that could have made it amazing. When it was over, my first thought was – I hope this is the actual end. I think if I had tempered my expectations, I would have liked it even more. Ignore me. It’s a solid horror movie.
#10 – TERRIFIED
We’re going international again, this time to Argentina for some bat crap insane multiple hauntings. Terrified has THE scariest and most disturbing imagery of the year. There isn’t just one haunted house on this idyllic Buenos Aires street. No, there are three, and shit is gonna get crazy. From rotting dead boys who come back home for milk and cookies and something sinister and hungry in a kitchen cabinet sucking the blood from a wounded hand, this is one of the craziest ghost movies I’ve seen in a long while. If you have a kid afraid of monsters under the bed, DO NOT let them see this. You’ll be carting them off to a looney bin if you do. I hear they’re remaking it for an American audience with the same director. I hope they don’t lose the mojo.
#9 – VERONICA
OK, now we’re off to Spain for a disturbing possession movie that, in my opinion, trumps The Exorcist. Teenager Veronica plays with a Ouija board during an eclipse and done gets her soul repossessed. Here’s the cool part. It’s based on an actual Ouija/possession case in Madrid back in 1991, so that always adds to the icicles up the spine vibe. I fell in love with Veronica, a teen with way too much responsibility who just wanted to be a dumb kid for a fateful moment. With scary nuns and devilish disasters and well executed jump scares, you’ll steer your ass away from spirits boards for life after this puppy.
#8 – TERRIFIER
Art the Clown is the scariest motherfucker who ever donned greasepaint. Taking place on Halloween night and mostly in an abandoned building, Terrifier channels the best of 80’s gore with spectacular kills and some true WTF moments. I’m no fan of clown horror flicks and thought this would be just like all the rest. Crap, was I wrong. Seriously, when Art smiles that bloody-mouthed smile, your genitals will crawl up to your esophagus. No blood is spared and please, oh please, let there be a world with more Art the Clown!
#7 – THE RITUAL
This was an early entry from our pals at Netflix. Based on a novel by Adam Neville, this British don’t-go-in-the-woods descent into terror centers around five buddies who have had their share of tragedy. Honoring their friend’s last wishes, they get to hiking in the middle of freaking nowhere in Sweden. When the weather gets bad, they find shelter in a rickety cabin and so, so much more. We’re taking hallucinatory images that may be real, bones in trees, a village of the freaking damned and a mythical monster. The creature effects in The Ritual are unforgettable. This is destined to be a movie I revisit time and time again. And yet another import from a far off land.
#6 – THE STRANGERS – PREY AT NIGHT
Did I have any high hopes for a follow up to The Strangers? Hell no! I took Hellion #2 and my mother to see it at a matinee so I didn’t have to pay full price. Well, I’m here eating my hat. In some ways, I liked this better than the first. Loved the 80s music (you will never hear Total Eclipse of the Heart and not think of the swimming pool) and it has two scenes that I think are damn close to legendary. Killer cast meets masked killers. What’s not to love? Unlike the first, this is one I have to own.
#5 – HEREDITARY
Kudos to releasing a ‘mainstream’ movie with more what-the-hell-am-I-watching moments than you can shake a machete at. Toni Collette gives the performance of the year as a woman cracking up as her family falls apart. Mom dies. Uber stranger daughter gets the James Dean treatment, son loses it and hubby just tries to make dinner and keep their shit together. This is basically two movies. The first three quarters has a The Shining aura about it with a gradual buildup and breakdown. Collette physically reminds me of Shelly Duvall and their mental collapses are just as similar and moving. There is a moment when a switch is flipped (you’ll know it) and it’s time to fasten your seatbelts. The ending is not for everyone, hence a lot of confused and angry people in my theater. Good. Stay out of my genre!
#4 – PUPPET MASTER – THE LITTLEST REICH
Yeah, I’m just as surprised as you that this is not only on my list, but in the top 5! I mean, it definitely has the most ridiculous title of the year. And it’s a fucking Puppet Master movie. It’s also the one movie I can’t stop thinking and talking about. Why? Well, it’s written by the amazing S. Craig Zahler (who has given us Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99). ‘Nuff said. Witty, self-aware and loaded with unique kills, nudity and gore, it’s everything previous Puppet Master movies are not. If you ever wanted to see a dead guy pee on his own head in a toilet bowl, look no further. And it has cameos by Barbara Crampton and Udo Kier. Hot damn, this was the most fun I had watching a movie all year.
#3 – REVENGE
I’m not a big fan of the rape/revenge subgenre, though I do like the trio of I Spit On Your Grave remakes. Revenge is made with such artful direction, it stands head and improvised weapons above the rest. Matilda Anna Ingird Lutz has herself a real star turn as Jen, a young wanna be messing around with a married man in his sweet desert house. When his two creepy friends crash the party for a day of hunting, the raping begins and the blood flows. And let me tell you, the amount of blood shed in this flick is epic. Jen bleeds more than ten stuck pigs. It’s over the top and goes a little Machete every now and then, and that’s perfect. The final sequence running in circles around the house is gag inducing and brilliant. The bar is now set and I dare someone to raise it.
#2 – OVERLORD
Thank you, JJ Abrams! Overlord is not one, but two great movies. If you like war flicks, this is your jam. If you’re a horror hound, ditto. If you’re like me and dig both, holy Hannah is this awesome. American GI’s have their plane shot down over a Nazi occupied town in France and need to take out a tower so Normandy can happen. No pressure. The shit that happens in the plane in the opening sequence had me breathless. I know it’s no shock that those creepy ass Nazis have been up to their old weird science shenanigans again. What ensues is pure chaos, savage monsters, explosions and gunfire. I could easily slide this into the number one slot. In fact, this and the next movie have been jockeying back and forth for months now. I’m sure a year or two, I might declare this the winner. But for now, we’ll call it 1B…or 2.
#1 – A QUIET PLACE
Jim Halpert, who knew you had this in you? A Quiet Place is, quite simply, brilliant. The world has been taken over by creatures from another world. They may be blind, but they can hear your every move. It opens with a stunning gut punch and ratchets up the tension like a torture rack for the next 90+ minutes. I’ve literally never been so uptight in a movie theater. I had to have my ass cheeks surgically separated. With a small but stellar cast, A Quiet Place is an instant classic. Especially for a guy like me who is obsessed with alien/horror movies (The Thing, Alien, Signs). This takes a familiar trope and adds a spin that makes it unforgettable. Like It Follows, this is one of those movies that will be the measuring stick by which I judge a person’s character. A sequel is already in the works, following a new band of survivors. I doubt it can equal this, but I’m in.
Here are the other movies that were in contention and just missed the cut:
CAM, MANDY, STEPHANIE, APOSTLE & GHOST STORIES
And my nod to the stinker of the year is THE MEG. Just like 2017’s dreadful THE MUMMY, The Meg was so bad, my blood pressure spiked and I wanted to tear the screen in half – or take a nap, which I settled for.
You made it this far. Let me know what you think of my choices and their ranking. What do you think I missed? What movie on the list do you think is a stone cold stinker? Most importantly, what movies are you looking forward to in 2019?
In honor of the release of my novella, RATTUS NEW YORKUS, I decided to share a list of 10 horror movies centered around those disease-bearing rodents. If rats make you squeamish, this makes a great double dare to watch a few of these selected horrors.
Now, in no particular order, here are 10 flicks straight from the sewer. Click the movie poster to watch the trailer and see which one ‘squeaks’ your interest.
I named one of my hamsters Ben, and he was appropriately mean as hell. With a theme song performed by young Michael Jackson, this was my first foray into rat horror films. A young boy befriends old Ben, who just happens to be the ringleader for a horde of menacing rats. I always tell people, this is the rat movie to start with.
9. THE FOOD OF THE GODS
This is my favorite because it’s a Bert I. Gordon joint. That man is my hero. When the animals on a pacific northwest island start slurping up some white goo, they get, well, they didn’t call him Mr. B.I.G. for nothing. I saw this in the theater when it first came out and buy it on every new format.
I’m not gonna lie. This one is not so great. Also known as Altered Species, its the common rat trope of a chemical getting exposed to rats and making them…well…rattier. If this came out now, it would be in Red Box with a bitching cover image and nothing else.
7. OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN
You know, I had forgotten all about this until now, and I don’t know why, considering how much I liked it back in the 80s. It stars Peter Weller (Robocop), a man possessed with figuring out what unseen terror us lurking in his home. Is he out of his mind, or is there something furry and lethal stalking him? Pure 80s goodness.
6. THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE!
This wins, hands down, for best title. Not sure how easy it will be to find this early 70s shlock (ahem) classic that’s more about werewolves than rats. If you like watching loonies do bad things to rats, this might be for you.
5. THE KILLER SHREWS
I have to tell ya, the giant shrews in this 50s scifi romp are kinda icky. They made my skin crawl when I first saw it many moons ago. Yes, I know a shrew isn’t technically a rat, but watch this one and tell me if it makes a difference. You know it’s worth a watch when it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
4. DEADLY EYES
I fell in love with this VHS cover back in the day. I rented it quite a few times over the years. Now, it’s not the greatest, but there is some fun to be had here. We’ve got rats as big as dogs invading homes and an entire city. I’d love to see this movie remade with a The Meg sized budget.
3. RATS – NIGHT OF TERROR
Ok, this is an Italian horror movie, and we all know how I feel about that. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it. I will give it props for being a post-apocalypse rat horror flick. And there is a pretty cool twist in the end.
2. GRAVEYARD SHIFT
Maybe not the best Stephen King adaptation, but it’s still fun to watch. And how about that movie poster, huh? There’s tons of rats in the old textile mill, and a little somethin’-somethin’ extra. I actually dig this movie and have to remember to watch it during this year’s Horrortober.
Whether you watch the original (co-starring Elsa Lanchester, the Bride of Frankenstein) or the remake with the supremely odd Crispin Glover, you can’t go wrong. The lesson here is, beware of dudes who have a posse of rats as their only friends. Considered a classic for a damn good reason.
And there you have it, 10 movies with high ick factors starring armies of furry beasts. Once you’ve seen them all and want more, don’t forget to check out Rattus New Yorkus and find out what happens when you take a blowtorch to thousands of rats in Grand Central Station.
It’s that time of the (new) year again. 2017 was a surprisingly strong year for horror flicks. Once you got past duds like the latest Resident Evil and Underworld installments, horror hit its stride with a slew of stellar releases, one of them already on most classics lists. Many of my favorites came out between January and April, which is not the norm. I had a hard time whittling my list down to 13, and some real quality movies just missed the final cut. Basically, I ranked movies based on how much they lingered with me long after the final credits rolled on. There are some controversial picks on here, so strap in and get ready…
#13 – CREEP 2
Mark Duplass is one hawk-eyed lunatic. I loved Creep and was anxious to see what he did with the sequel. Let me tell you, Creep 2 did not disappoint. Stakes were upped, strangeness got, er, stranger, and Peach Fuzz made a reappearance! Best watched in a hot tub with a serial killer.
#12 – SUPER DARK TIMES
As My Chemical Romance once sang, “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me.” This one creeped me out because it seemed so damn real…and terrifying. Set in upstate New York, it’s bleak both in imagery and tone. You’ll remember kids you grew up with that were just like the cast presented here, and you’ll think, “crap, this could have happened to me.” This is one that will stick with you for a long, long time.
#11 – THE DEVIL’S CANDY
From the director who gave us one of my favorite movies, The Loved Ones, this one was on my top 10 list for most of the year, getting bumped at the very end. Ethan Embry gives a stellar performance as a struggling artist caught between a rock and a devilish place. Filled with awesome metal guitar licks and psycho imagery, it’s a can’t miss.
#10 – GERALD’S GAME
2017 was inarguably the year of Stephen King. Unlike most people, IT won’t be on my list. But the adept direction of Mike Flanagan brought King’s most difficult book to life, anchored by the performance of the year by Carla Gugino. It also had the most cringe-inducing scene of the year, bar none. Netflix has knocked another one out of the park. I also suggest you head on over to Netflix to check out another King adaptation, 1922. It’s bleak and haunting, so have plenty of booze on hand.
#9 – SPLIT
Thanks to The Visit, I was chomping at the bit to see M. Night Shyamalan’s newest venture into horror. James McAvoy is brilliant, his multiple personalities putting us all on edge from start to finish. There’s not a wasted frame of film in this tight, suspenseful hostage drama with an ending that had people shouting “holy shit!” at the screen.
#8 – LIFE
I have to say, this one surprised me the most. When I saw the coming attractions, I was like, meh. Boy, was I wrong. Life is the best monster movie of the year. I tell folks it’s like Alien, only brighter and prettier. The creature in this space opera is terrifying and there are some super-sweat-inducing moments. Best of all, they nailed the ending. Life breathed life into the monster movie!
#7 – A DARK SONG
In any other year, A Dark Song might be my top pick. How can I describe it? Dark. Desperate. Bizarre. Creepy. A grieving mother hires a man experienced in the dark arts to bring her son back so she can talk to him one more time and get his forgiveness. You never know whether the shaman is full of shit or the real deal, and what he puts her through is truly torturous. A fantastic movie.
#6 – THE SHAPE OF WATER
Having known about this movie for some time, I had penciled it in as my favorite movie of the year way back in March. It didn’t quite make it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautiful movie to behold. Imagine a love story between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a mute cleaning woman. It’s lush and dreamy and at times achingly beautiful, so much so that it’s on the fringe of a true horror movie. Guillermo Del Toro is a master storyteller and his visual aesthetic is this side of stunning. I’m pretty sure I’d love this movie even if the sound was off.
#5 – THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
Now, this is my kind of horror. We all think of the work place as one of the inner circles of hell. Well, your warren of cubicles and backbiting co-workers has nothing on Belko. It’s gleefully insane, bloody and gripping. I rarely watch a movie more than once in a year, but I’ve already seen it three times. The Belko Experiment takes no prisoners. Literally.
#4 – THE BLACK COAT’S DAUGHTER
I can’t say enough good things about this atmospheric, haunting tale by Oz Perkins (son of Anthony “Psycho” Perkins). With a miniscule but fantastic cast, this is one that will linger with you for a long while. The sense of isolation in this blizzard-wracked girl’s academy will leave you shivering. I have to admit, this one bothered me for days. I watched it again to see if I could dispel the feeling, and it only got worse! It also has one of the most realistic and brutal kills of the year. Watch it now!
#3 – GET OUT
Look, I know this is going to be #1 on 90% of lists you see. Don’t get me wrong, it deserves it. Get Out is an instant classic, a Rosemary’s Baby-esque romp into dark territory and creeping dread. I loved it. Jordan Peele knows his horror and has his pulse on the stuttering heartbeat of American society. It’s crackling smart and witty and will keep you guessing all the way to the end. Everyone who loves horror needs to watch this one.
#2 – MOTHER!
I’m not going to lie, this is the most controversial movie I’ve seen in a good long while. Is it horror? It is for me. The building tension and utter confusion had my heart racing for most of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is simply amazing in her portrayal of a woman in love beset by people and events of Biblical proportions (there’s a hint for you). No movie has set my brain on fire more than Mother! – ever. Not to mention, there are a few scenes that left me breathless and wishing I’d averted my eyes. And that’s coming from an old, jaded horror hound. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but I feel in my gut it’s going to be the kind of movie people talk about and dissect for generations.
#1 – RAW
Yeah, I’m just as surprised that this French import has made the top of my list. Set in a veterinary school that looks like a post-apocalyptic academy run by MDMA-fueled lunatics, Raw was a punch to the gut. Again, we have a small yet killer cast (the Oscars never looking to the genre for best actors is just one of many reasons it’s a sham), off-kilter storyline and moments of incredible gross-outs that easily made it my movie to least forget in 2017. Subsequent viewings have only made it even better. Raw will be on my steady viewing rotation from here until I’m rotting and raw meat.
HAPPY DEATH DAY
Just like The Autopsy of Jane Doe from a couple of years ago, I didn’t see this one until recently, after I had compiled my list. Rather than revamp the entire list, I decided to give it an honorable mention. A self-aware horror take on Groundhog Day, this is witty and fun and guaranteed to make you jump a few times. Shit, even out cat hit the ceiling at one point. If you’re a fan of The Final Girls, you’ll love this.
What do you think of the list? How does it compare to your own? How many have you already seen?
But wait, there’s more! Still looking for more horror movies to catch up on? Take a gander at my Final Guys podcast where I present a slightly different list, along with my partners in crime. Happy bingeing!