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?
Happy Halloween to all my Hellions far and wide. As we slip into the spookiest of all days, I thought I’d share my one and only time messing around with a Ouija board. I wrote this article a few years back and thought it would set the mood perfectly. So light some candles, lock the door and call out to the dead…
Halloween is fun until the scares are real. I learned that in college.
This is something I and my old friends rarely talk about, not because we worry it might sound crazy to people (and it does). No, we don’t like bringing it up because of how deeply it affected all of us. Maybe it was the night (Halloween), the place (my friend’s apartment next to an old cemetery), our intentions (five dopes looking to talk with the dead) that took us down a dark path. It was most likely all three. Yeah, it had to be.
My friend Gene (all names changed to protect the quasi-innocent), rented a top floor apartment right across the street from a cemetery in New Rochelle, NY. We were in college and had started our own fraternity because we hated the dumb crap frats made pledges do. With us, if we liked you, you were in. No humiliation.
I digress. Four of us went with Gene to his apartment on Halloween night with the express purpose of having a séance. There wasn’t anyone in particular we wanted to reach beyond the veil. Any disembodied spirit would do. Oddly enough, we were all stone cold sober. That alone should have told us something was off.
We had a couple of problems. None of us were mediums and we didn’t have a Ouija board. It was too late to run to the toy store to buy one. That problem was easily solved. We drew up letters and numbers on paper, cut them into squares and lined them up on the floor in a circle. For a planchette, we used a cut-up plastic coffee lid. There, Ouija boards made easy! It wasn’t the best looking spirit board, but it would do.
The five of us sat around the carefully placed scraps of paper, each putting a finger on the makeshift planchette. We asked it questions. The wind actually howled outside the window. All we were missing was lightning and a black cat.
At first, nothing happened.
But then the planchette started to move. It was the oddest sensation. My finger was barely on it. Sure, one of them could have been moving it, but I got a strange rush that went through my body. Something was talking to us, answering our questions. And it wasn’t happy. The more freaked out we became, the angrier it got. As much as we wanted to stop, we just couldn’t. When we spoke about it later, we all agreed we were feeling the same unearthly vibe.
We learned the name of the spirit was Fran Turner. Fran wasn’t thrilled that we were disturbing her. We were no longer thrilled that we had called something into our little, unprotected circle (I later learned that homemade spirit boards are a biiig no-no. It’s like opening a portal without knowing how to close it properly).
Finally, we couldn’t take it any longer. We removed our fingers at the same time. Hearts racing, we were happy to leave Fran alone.
But it didn’t stop there. Even in the dark, we could see Richie’s eyes had rolled up to the top of his head. He began talking in a strange voice, saying he was Fran Turner! Now, Richie was one of the most innocent, unassuming guys I’d ever met. Still is. He’s not a prankster. For several minutes, this Fran Turner talked to us through Richie. I’ll admit, I nearly crapped myself. We were so flipped out, we shook Richie hard and scattered the pieces of the Ouija board all over the room.
That seemed to break the spell. Richie stopped talking, head rolling onto his chest. When he opened his eyes again, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It took a while to settle him down. We left the apartment an hour later feeling an invisible set of eyes at our backs. We promised to never, ever screw with a Ouija board again. It took a few slugs of Jaegermeister to get me to sleep later.
We couldn’t let it go. The next day, we were all still shaken. Our usually boisterous meet up in the school cafeteria was markedly subdued. While I was in media class, a couple of the guys went to the boneyard. I’m pretty sure you can guess what they found.
Fran Turner’s grave was right there, the old headstone nestled in the middle of the cemetery. At one point that week, each of us went to the grave, mouths hanging open, minds blown, knees feeling as if they’d been turned to Smucker’s jelly.
It’s over 25 years later and we’re still confounded by what happened that night. Some guys refuse to even talk about it. Did we actually pluck the shade of Fran Turner from the ether? Was it our focused, collective unconscious that created the spirit’s actions on the board and Richie’s bizarre spell? I don’t know or hold out hope to ever get to the bottom of it. All I know is that it happened, and there are five grown men who would pay good money to have the whole night erased from our memories.
If you take anything from this, please don’t fuck with Ouija boards next to cemeteries on Halloween night.
Trick or treat instead. You can thank me later.
That’s right hellions, the final book in my One Size Eats All Trilogy is finally here! THE DEVIL’S FINGERS is a nasty “be careful when you go in the woods” tale of conspiracy, infection and brutal murder. Think of it as a mashup of Day of the Triffids/Cabin Fever/Friday the 13th/Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
WHAT HAS LONG PINK FINGERS AND SMELLS LIKE ROTTING FLESH?
It is a slime-covered fungus known for its pinkish red tentacles and pungent odor. It is indigenous to Australia but has spread to North America. Its Latin name is Clathrus Archeri, also known as Octopus Stinkhorn. Most people call it The Devil’s Fingers . . .
I DON’T KNOW BUT IT’S GROWING ON YOUR NECK.
Deep in the woods of Washington, botanist Autumn Winters stumbles onto a field of the luridly colored fungi. Two of her fellow campers make the mistake of touching it. Now it’s growing on them. Fleshy gelatinous pods. Sprouting from their skin. Feeding on their blood . . .
AND IT’S STILL GROWING.
Autumn watches in horror as her friends are transformed into monstrosities—grotesque, human-fungal hybrids as contagious and deadly as any virus. Autumn knows she must destroy these mutations before they return to civilization. But if there’s one thing that spreads faster than fear, it’s The Devil’s Fingers . . .
“The descriptions of pods bursting with tentacles wiggling was enough to make me gag. I had a hard time not reading this book in one sitting. If you’re a fan of Hunter this will not disappoint. Go and download a copy, it’s a must read. Just be warned, the level of gross is high in the pages of this one…” — The Scary Reviews
Guess what? Devil’s Fingers are a real thing! It’s a terrifying looking fungus that looks straight out of an alien nightmare. Their actual name is Clathrus Archeri, and watching one “hatch” will make your stomach turn. Don’t believe me? Check this out…
If you’re intrigued by the terrible things I do with this horror fungus, click here to order The Devil’s Fingers today!
And for those audiobook lovers out there, the first 50 people to pre-order my One Size Eats All audiobook from Graphic Audio will get a free Grand Pa Guignol yo-yo!
Let’s play a game.
A Halloween/Horrortober game.
It’s called 31 DAYS OF TERROR – CHAPTER 2. If you’re like me, you want to fill your Halloween season with horror. For me, one of those ways is watching a horror movie every single day. But the questions is always, what movie do I watch?
Enter 31 Days of Terror.
31 Days of Terror is a roll the dice game where chance selects your movie each night. Author Steve Hutchison has compiled categories and lists of movies in this great second edition. It’s easy to fall into the same old same old with your Horrotober movie selections. The great thing about this game is that it will suggest movies you’ve either forgotten or never heard of, along with plenty of tried and trues.
This is the second year the Monster Men have played the game to help build our viewing list. Watch our latest podcast to see what 31 movies we came up with this time around and see if there are any forgotten gems you want to add to your own. I know we rolled a few very welcome surprises this time around.
And by all means, BUY THE BOOK so you have a fun way to build your own Horrorotber viewing list each and every year.
So, what movies are you planning to watch? Hellions want to know.
Every time I look at the calendar lately, I get giddy. October – uh, I mean HORRORTOBER, is almost here! That means one month of complete horror immersion, from books to movies and things to do.
I’m looking forward to Horrortober more than ever this year because the slate of horror flicks that have come out in 2018 have left a lot to be desired. I feel as though I’ve been bombarded by duds like Unfriended : Dark Web, The Nun and Winchester. Yep, time in the local movie has has not been time well spent, although A Quiet Place and Hereditary are a couple of bright spots. Hell, Puppet Master : The Littles Reich is now in my top 10 for 2018! That’s all that needs to be said.
For me, Horrortober means going back to revisit the movies that are the reason for the season. My goal, that I’ve been able to surpass most years, is to watch at least one horror movie a day. Every year, I rewatch Halloween (natch), It Follows, Motel Hell and The Funhouse and several other staples. But each year, I also add a bunch I haven’t seen in a while. So, what’s on this year’s to-watch list?
2018 is the year of Fred Dekker for me. I’ve added House and The Monster Squad to the old queue. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the top 10 rat movies to see. On that list is Of Unknown Origin, which is now on my Horrortober list. I’m a HUGE John Carpenter fan, but it’s been too long since I revisited They Live. I’m rectifying that this year. The Changeling was just restored in what I hear is a wonderful Blu Ray, which I may buy to give us nightmares in the Shea lair. Or I’ll just watch my old, grainy DVD. Oh, gotta have vampires, so Near Dark is in the rotation.
Now, I have two questions – are you here to chew bubblegum or kick ass? No, that’s not it. What movies do you think I should add to my list? We can watch them ‘together’ and discuss on Twitter. Also, what’s on your Horrortober list? Let’s make this a month long party and swap movie ideas. Those who comment here and share are in the drawing to win free ebooks of Rattus New Yorkus, Jurassic Florida and more. So come on you hellion horror hounds, let’s get pumped for Horrortober!
Okay, you’ve answered the door a thousand times and have run out of candy. Time to shut out the lights, crack open a beer or wine (blood red, of course) and watch a scary movie, something to haunt your dreams. Sure, you could stick with the tried and true like Halloween or Night of the Living Dead. But why not explore new dark territory this year? Here are 5 movies guaranteed to give you shivers…
5. THE SENTINEL
3. THE DESCENT
2. THE ORPHANGE
- THE NIGHT STALKER
Is there any month finer than October? I don’t have to list all the reasons why October…ahem, Horrortober…kicks ass to my Hellions. I’m pretty sure we’re all in agreement here.
Now begins the quest to once again watch at least 1 horror movie a day, read only horror books, and attend only horror parties and functions. Naturally, I’m also in the midst of writing a new horror novel, so I literally cannot escape the genre I love during Horrortober.
Every year, I set aside books and movies just for Horrortober, a bit o’ curation for the season of dark terror. Typically, I read about 6 books or more (some of them novellas). This year, I’ve decided to tackle 2 BIG books and 1 graphic comic.
I prefer the uncut version Stephen King’s THE STAND, reveling in all 1,156 pages. I’ve come to realize that reading this book is a young man’s game. It’s literally too heavy for me to hold for any length of time. Looks like it’ll be a lap book this go around. I’m also looking forward to reading CRAB MONSTERS, TEENAGE CAVEMEN, AND CANDY STRIPE NURSES, a beautiful book crammed with glossy pages of Roger Corman’s oddball, incredible film career. Somewhere in between those two massive books, I hope to sneak in the Howling Commandos graphic comic. Any book with Man-Thing is a must have for me.
For your own TBR pile, click here to get a free copy of my ghost novella, THE GRAVEYARD SPEAKS. Nothing better on Horrortober than a haunted cemetery!
As for the movies I’ve set aside, here’s a few sitting on my queue…
THE DARK HALF
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
THE CRAZIES (GEORGE ROMERO’S ORIGINAL)
THE LOVED ONES
THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOO TRILOGY
HALLOWEEN (1, 3, 4 & 5)
And sooo many more. Last year, I watched 50 movies in Horrortober. I’m not sure I can top that, but dammit, I’m going to try!
As always, I’ll tweet the movies I watch with the hashtag, #Horrortober, along with my rating system of 1 through 9 tana leaves. The Mummy is always proud. I encourage you to do the same thing so we can all see what we’re watching, loving and hating.
I’ll also be at Chiller Theatre at the end of the month (milling around and having fun) along with several other spooky events.
So, what are your plans for Horrortober? Share your to-read and watch lists. There just may be some special surprises for those Hellions who want to get in on the fun.