Josh Lobo's I TRAPPED THE DEVIL looks like twisted, horrific fun.
Gran'ma calls up Satan for a favour. Meanwhile, Tulip tries not to kill Lara as they pull the job in Osaka.
INTO THE FOREST is an allegorical look at a divorced family grappling with mental illness. Or is it?
Season 3, Episode 4: “The Tombs”
Directed by Wayne Yip
Written by Mark Stegemann
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Gonna Hurt” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Coffin” – click here
Back to Hell, for the first time in ages! A guard goes to a cell, letting the prisoner inside know: “It‘s time.” Of course, you know who it is— the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish). They head for the elevator, so he can get back to business. Hell’s quite the place, a lot of interesting architecture. Satan (Jason Douglas) is waiting in his office with the Angel of Death. Satan and the Saint have a talk. They discuss the man’s breakout, when he went back to Earth to hunt down the preacher, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). Seems the Dark Lord doesn’t like what it did to his reputation, so it’ll require making “amends.” That is, a bit of torture. The Angel of Death gives the Saint of Killers a nasty whipping, though he’s not overly affected.
But it gives Satan a thrill. It’s all good, man.
In the real world, Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is busy trying to get information out of Madam Boyd (Prema Cruz). She gets trapped in Boyd territory. Luckily she’s a “crazy bitch,” and she gets herself out of there with the Madam with a bit of sheer will and gunfire.
Jump to back in the day, down in the tombs, where young Jesse (Will Kindrachuk) was ringleader of the circus in the Tombs at Angelville. He was their big presenter. Jody (Jeremy Childs) was a bare knuckle staple at those events. And TC (Colin Cunningham) had all those who gave over their souls to Madam L’Angell (Betty Buckley) locked up, awaiting a chance to fight in the middle of the ring so they might get back them back.
In present day, Jesse stands in the Tombs like years ago, watching his old pal, the vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), fend off the paedophile science teacher who’s spent an eternity down there. Eventually, Cass kills his opponent. He doesn’t get any time to celebrate, though. Jesse kicks him around a bit in front of TC and Jody. A nasty situation, even if it’s all part of an ultimate plan.
Soundtrack note: Great tune, fitting the Southern atmosphere and setting of Preacher.
More of the past. We see Madam Boyd has history with Jesse. She tells Tulip, in the present, the preacher was the “worst person” she’d ever loved. We see them when they were young. They were secretly having a relationship behind the back of those at Angelville. He was continually having a problem with reconciling the L’Angell business with life. He drove her away, purposefully, to keep her from danger. This is a recurring theme in Custer’s life— pushing people away, hurting people, whether it’s Sabina, Tulip, Cassidy, in order to keep them from being hurt worse by the fallout of his horrific personal life. Such as currently, he’s chopped Cassidy into bits and he’s putting the vamp, in pieces, inside a box to ship him out of there. The vamp thinks it’s bullshit, though this is the only way Jesse knows how to do things.
Back in day again, we see Jesse doing his thing at the Tombs. Sabina’s brother turned up looking to find Jesse, attacking him in the ring. The two men went fist to fist brutally. And Jesse strangled him to death in front of everybody. Hooooly shit. Following that he went back to hosting the sick show, even going so far as to quote Gladiator. In the present, Tulip refuses to believe Madam Boyd when she tells her the story.
In the Tombs, Jesse tells people “God has left Heaven” at the latest show. They’ve also discovered the vampire’s gone— he’s also escaped his box at the shipping store. Well, the preacher is actually shutting the place down. He refuses to let it continue. That is, until the vamp returns singing “Danny Boy.” He’s back for a fight, too. Good ole Irish lad. This pits him against Jesse. The two kick the shit out of one another, using fists and weapons alike. The preacher begs his friend to take the fall. At that moment, Tulip enters to see the carnage between the two men. She witnesses Jesse renouncing God and putting a makeshift stake into Cassidy, looking like a veritable monster. Once it’s all done Cass and Tulip take off together. Although the vampire tries to stress that Jesse’s only a “product of his environment.” And on top of that, Ms. O’Hare can’t bring herself to go. She pushes the vamp away to keep him safe. That recurring theme is the same for her right now, she’s in a position where she has to hurt someone to ensure they won’t be hurt worse by her collateral damage. Only she doesn’t realise Cassidy’s being watched by the Grail, as well.
Tulip goes back to Jesse, she knows the truth and she only wants him to be honest with her. She wants to be trusted, like a proper partner. So, Jesse tells her about what happened to Sabina’s brother. In reality, the guy was trying to kill him, and he was forced to do what he did out of self defence. It all just went to bolster Jesse’s reputation amongst the fans at the Tombs, creating a sick identity for him.
In Hell, Satan tells the Saint he has a mission for him. A bit of retrieval. He needs “two someones” brought back downstairs. They’re threats. It’s got to be a less lethal excursion, so the Saint can’t use guns this time. If he gets the job done, then he gets his weapons back, and he can go back to killing, searching for his preacher. I wonder who the two are, huh?
I will forever love this series. Enough said!
“The Coffin” is next time. Gonna get more fun from here on in, though that’s par for the course at this point, I suppose. Giddy up.
Ridley Scott's continuation of the Alien franchise explores the act of creation, drawing major parallels to John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost.
Another entry in Amando de Ossorio's BLIND DEAD series brings us more zombie Templar Knights! Om nom nom!
Another a.k.a Mark of the Witch. 2014. Directed & Written by Jason Bognacki.
Starring Paulie Redding, David Landry, Lillian Pennypacker, Maria Olsen, Michael St. Michaels, & Nancy Wolfe. Full Frame Features.
Not Rated. 80 minutes.
Generally, I’m an internet critic whose standards aren’t overly picky. If you’ve ready more than a handful of my reviews you’ll probably notice I’ve given out more 5-star reviews than others might in their own. But I don’t necessarily mean a 5-star film is always perfect; part of my judgement, as any of our judgement is, comes from a subjective place. You can never get rid of subjectivity. However, even while I try to give certain films a break for little nitpicky things there is a limit to my understanding. I’m not going to give a shit film a great rating. I just try to cut filmmakers some slack; it isn’t easy to make a great movie.
When it comes to movies like Another, there’s only so far my sympathies extend. I’m a sucker for possession movies, or anything to do with Satan (mainly because I don’t believe in any deities or any of that stuff and I can just enjoy the darkness for what it is). There are plenty movies out there tackling demonic possession. A good many retread the same trodden area as the last, too many doing home to or straight copying from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. The great horrors about supposed possessed people, and the entities possessing them, are few and far between. Another simply tries to mash too many things together, including too many changes in style, changes in tone, and the massive overuse of particular techniques that drive home the message that everything in this film tries too damn hard, paying off with nothing more than a couple fleeting moments worth watching.
A baby is carried by figures in black hoods and robes. A dark ceremony commences.
Cut to 18 years later. Jordyn (Paulie Redding) is celebrating her birthday with friends. Although, her Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe) is being creepy. She brings up the fact Jordyn’s mother was at the same age as the daughter when she passed. Then Ruth goes ahead and stabs herself, screaming that “it‘s time.”
From that moment on, Jordyn finds her life changing. She spirals into a terrifying word of demonic possession, strange desire, and so much. Soon, Jordyn becomes aware that she may just be a relation of the devil himself.
The most grating thing about this movie is the fact half of it, at least, is filmed in slow-motion. Honestly, it is crazy. Never have I seen a technique so brutally beaten over the head of the viewer. At first before the slo-motion kicked in, I actually enjoyed the dark, sort of washed out look. But then it starts, and scene after scene is slowed down ridiculously, offering no sort of evidence it’s even used for a particular reason. Simply put, writer-director Jason Bognacki obviously couldn’t figure out a way to make it look unique, so he piled on the slow-motion. I hate to rag on a director so badly for something. It’s a really poor choice, though. The entire film drags on because of its overuse, and the repetition will just dull you to tears.
Even worse, there’s no practical work (re: effects) worth talking about. And I’m sorry to the filmmakers out there who may feel otherwise, but if you do a horror film especially and you have no practical makeup effects, instead opting to CGI things to death, then there’s no way I’m going to enjoy it. At least not to the point I’ll want to watch it again. Even if it’s half-and-half, I can dig that. In opposition to all that, Another goes for about 90% CGI and maybe, MAYBE, 10% practical. And those practical bits are so minute, I’m probably overselling it by saying there’s ten percent worth. Either way, even the CGI’d stuff looks bogus, including a terrible little showdown between two old women that could’ve been great yet comes off like some of the worst stuff from the 1980’s.
With a bunch of awful performances, a ton of terrible effects, as well as a story that meanders from one place to another trying to cram several sub-genres into one, Another a.k.a Mark of the Witch is one of the most unforgettable movies I’ve seen in ages. There was nothing I could find here worth the time it took to watch this dud. I’ve given it 1 single star, simply because I liked the beginning, the very end, and there’s a tiny scene after the credits which looks good. Other than that this is truly dreadful horror cinema. I never like to shit all over a film, but this one isn’t worth talking up in any sort of sense. Jason Bognacki tries his best, however, it’s almost as if he tried too hard, in too many different directions. Never does the film come together properly, which is a shame. As I said, I do love a good possession horror, or anything with the devil, witches, et cetera. This simply comes with nothing much for me to be impressed by, so I can’t push myself to try praising Bognacki, or anyone involved with the film. Want a better Mark of the Witch? Try the Mark of the Devil. Not at all the same, but whatever – better than wasting your time trying to slog through this unpolished bit of horror rubbish.
In an effort to try and diversify, I’ve done my best to not include anything I included on last year’s Halloween List. Not to worry: plenty of horror for you here.
Wade on in to find yourself something creepy; one title for every day of the month in no particular order but merely numbered for order.
I’ve tried not to do anything too obscure. Most of these titles you should be able to track down somewhere. But regardless, I wanted to try and name at least a few movies other lists don’t suggest this time of year. Huge fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween (my review here) and even the rest of the series honestly, except for the last couple entries. They’re the ones you always hear about! I’d rather try to go for some titles you either might not know or wouldn’t think to watch.
Now… Let’s get spooked! October is upon you. I watch horror just about every single day of the year. Though I always get excited to share that passion with everyone else leading up that creepy day we all know and love.
1) Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
An obviously low budget movie, this 1971 underrated gem takes us to the depths of the line between sanity and madness.
To say much of anything would ruin this for you, but the movie follows a young, emotionally and psychologically unstable girl who goes out to a little farmhouse with her husband and their friend, only to experience a living nightmare of sorts after meeting another young redheaded woman who is at the house, drifting and living there.
Some people say this is a vampire film, though, I think it’s mostly because there’s a legend of vampire activity in the story itself. Me? I’d say this is psychological horror at its finest with emotional problems and local legends at its root, driving everything that may (or may not) be happening in the plot. Check this one out! It’s been called one of the scariest films ever, as well as the fact Stephen King has often talked about it in various interviews and I’m always keen to see the movies he thinks are scary. But regardless, I find this is a creeper. I watch it, then there’s always a hesitation to watch it again the next time because it’s that damn unsettling.
2) A Horrible Way to Die (2010)
* My full review is here
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have teamed up since this one to make an excellent slasher infused with dark comedy (You’re Next) and one of the best action-thrillers of the past few years with a throwback aesthetic (The Guest).
But honestly, it’s this film of theirs which really gets me in the gut, punches me hard and sucks the wind out of me. Some complaints I’ve seen are directed at Wingard’s directing, believing the handheld and more chaotic style of the film to be either distracting or simply not enjoyable.
For me, I think the handheld vibe helps A Horrible Way to Die because out of it comes a very intimate feeling. In every scene, whether it’s the serial killer (played by fabulous actor A.J. Bowen) or his sweet and emotionally devastated wife (played by an equally fabulous actor Amy Seimetz), no matter if it’s just them or they are onscreen with another character(s), there’s an incredibly intimacy from the style Wingard chooses to go with that really nails home the visceral feeling of this movie.
Not only that, Barrett’s screenplay is pretty great. It’s sparse and it doesn’t particularly telegraph a whole lot where the plot is headed. Then once the finale kicks in, again, it’s like a gut punch. It hits you hard, not once but twice before finally you can’t help but be in awe of how everything plays out. At least I didn’t see it all coming. I thought things were headed in a much different direction. This is one chilling movie; not really a date horror movie, not necessarily something you’ll want to watch with a group of friends, but rather a film you might consider taking in alone, a bit of a personal and riveting experience for a creepy fall evening.
3) Alone in the Dark (1982)
First off, this is clearly not the Uwe Boll shitfest of a video game adaptation.
1982’s Alone in the Dark is possibly one of my favourite ensemble horror cast movies, at least it’s near the very top. Featuring not only Donald Pleasence, we are treated to some horror with two other powerhouses: Jack Palance and Martin Landau.
I mean, isn’t that just the strangest combination for a slasher horror you could ever imagine?
Simple premise: when a massive power outage happens, a bunch of psychopathic patients from a mental ward break out, searching for the new doctor whom they falsely believe to have killed their old doctor. Honestly, it’s a top notch ’80s era slasher. Not to mention the fact, again, that the three top actors are amazing. For me, a lover of the first Batman from Tim Burton and many of his other works, it’s awesome to see Palance as a crazy, nasty maniac here. There’s one scene in particular where they’re driving around in this truck, or some sort of vehicle, and they’re just tormenting people like the mailman, et cetera; it’s classic dark comedy/horror. Great one to get your murder spree fix, especially if there’s a crew wanting to watch a fun and at times horrific slasher.
4) Carnival of Souls (1962)
This is one of the best, creepiest, most unnerving low budget horror movies I’ve ever seen.
Basically, a woman experiences a car crash, flying into the water off a bridge, and after she survives begins to experience strange happenings: she sees people, a man in particular, pale faced, walking after her, stalking her, appearing almost everywhere she goes. She’s also being drawn to a rundown pavilion, an old carnival, where it seems the strange man and other ghostly people are living.
I have no problem with low budget look, as long as the story and the atmosphere of the film can still be achieved. Carnival of Souls does have a highly independent look, but it doesn’t deter from anything. It’s all black and white, which only adds to the creepiness. Director Herk Harvey uses his imagery in a great way, plus the story itself and the plot maintains its effectiveness. Pop this on for an irregular ghost-like story with some shots that will – I guarantee – haunt your dreams, if you let them.
5) Zombi 2 a.k.a Zombie a.k.a Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
* My full Blu ray review is here
Despite the often confusing titles of the film, this is not a sequel, but merely a victim of silly, opportunistic marketing.
Lucio Fulci’s 1979 Zombie is one of the most incredible flesh eating films you’ll ever see! Fulci is classic. He was one of those horror filmmakers who went for broke and sought to bring as much bone/eyeball crunching, blood spurting, neck biting, flesh peeling action as he possibly could in an hour and a half or so.
This movie is no more elaborate than any other in the sub-genre – people are being turned into zombies on an island, the disease itself making its way towards New York City on the boat of a scientist. Horrific madness ensues.
If you’re a zombie enthusiast, or a horror fanatic in general, and you have not seen this: you need to, it is mandatory. You’ve not seen zombies until you see this!
6) The Beyond (1981)
Another Fulci classic – it’s hard for me to decide, though, if pressed The Beyond would be my top pick for his masterpiece (tied with A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin).
Beginning with a woman inheriting an aging hotel in Louisiana, soon it becomes clear the Gates to Hell – The Beyond – sit just below its foundation. When she and a doctor try to escape, they discover The Beyond and earth are becoming one, as the gates have opened and the dead are walking the earth.
This is more of Fulci’s savage and visceral horror mixed with an awesome dose of the supernatural, and yes – zombies! Or at least undead, whatever you want to call them. Others may not agree, but I do honestly think this is Fulci’s best. It’s my favourite, anyways, and I’m always keen to tell people this is a great film for Halloween!
7) In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
John Carpenter is truly one of the masters of horror, up there with the greatest. He’s also got an excellent, darkly comic tone in many of his films. Plus, he does wonders with thrillers; he knows suspense and tension more than anyone else in the horror genre.
In the Mouth of Madness is often described as Lovecraftian, as it plunges into familiar territory to the amazingly creepy H.P. Lovecraft. Sam Neill plays an insurance man sucked into looking for a famous horror fiction author, eventually coming face to face with the author’s own creations all crammed into a tiny, supposedly fictional town. It is one amazingly terrifying movie, at times downright chilling, at others there’s that dark comedy Carpenter does so well. The whole time, though, you’ll find yourself beginning to question – like the main character – what exactly is reality and what is imagination. For a weird and involving bit of horror, take this one out on a scary night.
8) Session 9 (2001)
For a full review, click here.
For me, this is one of the scariest movies of all time. Yes, there are a couple rough moments (re: acting), but you can pin that badge right on David Caruso; I actually don’t dislike him, though, I can’t defend him here. Most of the time he’s good, it’s just a few real stinkers sneak out here and there.
Peter Mullan is who you want to pay attention to. Even while Josh Lucas (before he got big) and Brendan Sexton III give two extremely solid performances, Mullan holds this all together.
Directed by Brad Anderson, written by him and Stephen Gevedon (who also plays a nice role in the film), Session 9 is a slow burn horror, which will gradually push itself under your skin like a splinter. By the time you’re near the end, after the climax has really rocked you and the finale begins, there’s this quiet sense of trauma you might feel. That’s a good thing; means this movie does its job.
Scene of note: when Jeff (Sexton) is running through an underground tunnel while the lights are going out behind him, one by one, his screams drifting out of the darkness, I honestly feel my heart race. Terrifying film, but this scene gets me something fierce.
9) The Sentinel (1977)
For a full review, click here.
Haunted house horror movies are a dime a dozen. There are plenty I love, and even more I don’t like at all. However, The Sentinel is one of the most perfect haunted house stories, to me, on film yet.
When a fashion model moves into a Brooklyn apartment, an old building, terrifying appearances begin to emerge, people who are no longer living seem to be still inhabiting their apartments, among other things.
There’s something about this movie which will always draw me in. I only saw it for the first time about 4 years ago and it floored me. It’s a mix of supernatural horror, religious superstition, and psychological trauma/character study. Amazingly creepy at points, plus there are a handful of amazing actors here from a young Christopher Walken to Chris Sarandon to Ava Gardner and John Carradine, Burgess Meredith, and the delightful Eli Wallach. Oh and a mysteriously dubbed over Jeff Goldblum, which is kind of hilarious, and Jerry Orbach. Perfect haunted house film for when you’ve got a stormy night outside – this will draw you in and creep through your bones!
10) Prince of Darkness (1987)
Already we’re back to Carpenter. But with good reason. Plus you may as well get used to it because there’s at least one more on here; not the one you’d expect, either.
1987’s underrated, overlooked, and only cult appreciated Prince of Darkness has a little bit of everything: religion, zombie-like people, Alice Cooper, Donald Pleasence, ’80s babes with hair to match, and of course – Satan!
When a green ooze is discovered in a canister (no you’re still on the right page this is not a review for the second live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film) below a church, a priest assembles a team of mathematicians and scientists in order to study the contents. Turns out, the ooze is as old as time itself: it is the devil, evil in pure material, sensory form. When the ooze begins to make its way out gradually, people are taken over by its terrifying power, from the homeless people wandering around outside the church to the mathematic-scientific team working inside. What begins is a struggle between good and ultimate evil.
This is just a downright awesome movie. Carpenter, as I said, knows how to really build up the suspense and execute his tension in the appropriate way. There are incredible effects (on the Blu ray Carpenter explains them in typically excellent Carpenter fashion; one involved the mercury from a crane, I believe, or something similar they were doing highly unsafely), the acting is good, and Carpenter’s writing is also spot on here – he merges the superstitions of religion, the idea of a pure evil, and brings it into the scientific, intelligible world. Interesting stuff and it’s a creepshow of a movie with more of Carpenter and his dark wit. Good for when you want a movie about good/evil/the devil without all the typical stuff.
11) Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Another movie it took me years to see, one of William Castle’s best, Mr. Sardonicus tells the tale of a man who digs up his father to find a winning lottery ticket with which he was buried, only to also discover his face has become distorted into a permanent and grotesque smile. When he makes a doctor treat him, the results might be worse than the smile itself.
There are certain classic horror movies you always hear about – anything with Vincent Price or Boris Karloff particularly, and so. Yet there’s never enough buzz about this brilliant Castle flick. I also love his gimmicks, he truly knew what audiences wanted. Screw all the same old 3D movies we see nowadays – Mr. Sardonicus let the audience use the ‘Punishment Poll’, letting them determine what Baron Sardonicus received ultimately as his punishment!
But this isn’t just gimmick. The movie is a gothic romp through the eyes of greed and jealousy and heinousness. Fitting for any wild Halloween night. Definitely a good one for a crowd or pair!
12) The Fog (1980)
For a full review, click here.
We’re back to Carpenter. Yet again! Of course we are.
This is another of my favourite Carpenter films, especially in terms of his pure horror. A great script, great actors, on top of the truly creepy zombies. Or whatever you want to call them – zombies, undead, ghosts, I don’t know.
The story is simple yet very scary – a coastal town’s long buried history literally unearths itself when the members of a disrespected and murdered leper colony return from the dead to come, in the fog, to kill anyone and everyone in their path.
Carpenter creates a wonderful sense of dread with all his tension and then the terror comes on hard once people start to die, once the fog knocks at each door and surrounds every little thing in sight. Pop this on for another spooky, stormy October night. Definitely will get you in a Halloween-y mood.
13) A Clockwork Orange (1971)
For a full review, click here.
I’ve got a sneaking suspicion most of you by now have seen Stanley Kubrick’s shattering dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange. I won’t bore with a recap of the plot. What I will say is this: Kubrick makes this story into a carnival of horrors. Perfect for any October evening, as the masks and lights and colours, the mayhem, the carnage of this film truly speak to Devil’s Night in many ways. Throw this on and get your fix of madness.
14) Livid (2011)
I know not everyone is into subtitled films, but when it comes to horror you’re seriously missing out if you only watch English language movies. So I opted to only include one foreign title on this year’s list.
Livid is a French film about a young woman who begins training as a live-in caregiver to an old woman in a virtually eternal coma; discovering she has some kind of fortune kept hidden in her massive estate, the young woman and her two friends try searching for it. But when they make it inside during the night, things start to get extremely strange for the intruders. They discover it is not mere money, nor jewels, which is the actual treasure in the old lady’s home, but rather something far more sinister.
This is one savagely macabre film at times. There are great elements of a thriller, as well as lots of gothic style stuff happening. I can’t think of a creepier flick to add on to the haunted house viewings already on the list; it may not reinvent the wheel, though, it spins one hell of a tale. Lots of scary stuff lurking in this one, fit for any Halloween celebration when you want something aside from the regular tired recommendations on other lists. Even on mine, this one stands out.
15) Feed (2005)
This is perhaps the weirdest of all the films on this list. Absolutely no way to truly describe it without a full-on description and I don’t want to ruin ANYTHING. So go in without a trailer, but I’ll try and give you a bit of a… taste.
Cross a gritty cop thriller with strange and deadly fetishism, you’ve got Feed: a law enforcement agent falling off the deep end, after too long exploring the savage and rampant sickness floating around the internet, and comes up against one of the most depraved serial killers he has ever known.
Have you ever maybe heard of ‘feeders’ or a similar term? These are men who enjoy feeding women; they like to see them gain weight, they love to watch them consume food and drink, it turns them on. Not sure about the psychology, but it is certainly something different. Well, take that fetish to a truly deadly length.
Put this in only if you’re ready to be tested. While there’s very little blood, barely any at all to speak of, this is still a damn nasty horror. Though, there’s lots of interesting stuff happening. Plus you get a weird and wild performance from Alex O’Loughlin.
16) Angel Heart (1987)
I always hear people talk talk talk about both Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke, yet there’s rarely ever a reference to the fabulous 1987 Alan Parker directed Angel Heart. Recently it went up on Netflix Canada, so I suppose more minds will end up falling into this one. There needs to be more recognition for this one. It’s almost not really a true horror, rather a twisty supernatural thriller more than anything. Above all, I find the performance of De Niro absolutely fascinating – one role out of his vast filmography I believe is different than the rest and also like the film itself doesn’t receive the credit which it deserves – and Mickey Rourke gives us a level-headed effort which gives his character, aptly named Harry Angel, a very real, very sensible place in an otherwise unreal filmic space.
If you’re craving something dark, macabre, dripping of the filth and sleaze of a New Orleans underbelly packed to the brim with voodoo, murder, and double crossing criminal types, this is the film for you. There are some wonderful themes in here which I find fit the Halloween season perfectly.
17) When a Stranger Calls (1979)
* For my full review of this movie’s terror – click here
There have been films before this (think: original & fantastic Black Christmas) and after which use the ‘killer calling from inside the house’ trope. Almost none better than 1979’s When a Stranger Calls.
Babysitting one night, young Jill Johnson is terrorized by a psychopath who kills the children she is meant to be looking after. Traumatized by the experience somehow she manages to go on and live her life normally. Then seven years later, the same madman comes back to haunt Jill again; now older, a little wiser, she must somehow survive her second brush with insanity.
The best part about this movie, for me, is the fact it replaces the masked or hidden killer and early on in the film we see the killer – we know who he is, in fact we’re treated to a good portion of the plot where the focus is him, his mind, his life or at least his attempt at trying to have one. So instead of seeing a maniac without any real reason behind him, the killer here – played by Tony Beckley in fine fashion – is not so much sympathetic, as much as he is utterly, scarily, and wildly human. That’s the scariness here: without a mask, we’re forced to watch this killer be himself, we’re forced to see who he is and deal with everything it implies. Instead of forcing our feelings of fear off on a masked slasher, our fear is right in our faces.
When you need a slasher but want something actually terrifying without the need for jump scares and all the modern bells/whistles, When a Stranger Calls is calling you: view this one and you’ll no doubt find yourself checking the empty, dark bedrooms before heading to bed on Halloween.
18) Hellions (2015)
* My full review is here
Only recently did this become available on iTunes, but what timing! This is a perfect viewing for Halloween; in fact, wait until the actual night, not just during October. This one is set on Halloween, it pushes the fears of masked unknowns roaming neighbourhoods on Halloween, and there is so much going on.
After discovering she’s pregnant, a young teenage girl finds herself home alone on Halloween, when a group of masked children lay siege to her house. Initially undecided about the child inside her, Devil’s Night will shape her decisions to come after coming face to face with pure evil in pint-size costume and form.
This is a unique movie and will not be for everyone. Director Bruce McDonald – a homegrown Canadian talent – used infrared cameras during the filming, which gives several extended sequences and a good bulk of the movie a pink-ish hue, with the whites, greens, and other colours becoming extremely vibrant. There’s an unbelievable Halloween feel through this technique, apparently it was meant to mirror the effect of the Blood Moon (the script set Halloween on such a lunar event). Not only that, the horror and the terror are all there, in spades, from the creepy creeps to insane moments of blood/gore.
You need a nice savage fix for Halloween? You’ve found the one. Support this one, support Canadian/independent film. Hopefully this will bring the fear, too.
19) Spring (2014)
* My full review is here
This is one of the best horrors I’ve seen in a few years, honestly. Up there with some other great titles. Even further than that, you don’t get too many horror-romance hybrids, other than the awful excuse for whatever you want to call it in Twilight. This film from indie pairing Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead is a true mix between Lovecraftian style horror and a dramatic romance movie set abroad.
When Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) flees to Italy from his home in the U.S, precipitated by the death of his ill mother, he is not prepared for anything that’s about to happen. First, it’s more of an exciting, exotic adventure to a new place on a whim. But then he meets a mysterious woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker) and his life heads into a spiral; down into love, down into something deeper, more dark than just love. Louise is not who Evan thinks she is and soon he’ll figure it all out.
Part of Spring is Lovecraftian as I’ve mentioned – you’ll figure out how on your own. There’s good horror with an eerie atmosphere of dread hanging over every last scene, even in the more beautiful bits. Part of Spring is also a touching character piece of a man sort of running away from himself, running away from even being human – having to live and love and let people go – when he meets a woman who changes everything. There’s a lot to enjoy here. You’ll get something romantic, in a strange sense, as well as a good dose of creature feature-like horror. Looking for an interesting twist on the horror genre? Definitely find this one and give it a go (decent price on iTunes), it’s a unique piece of film from two interesting filmmakers.
20) The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Ever see I Am Legend and just think to yourself: this would be way better if it was Vincent Price?
The Last Man on Earth is an all around better film than that mediocre bit of post-apocalyptica. Taken from the same source material – Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend – this 1960s era horror/science fiction classic sees Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan, the titular last man alive. Or is he?
What I like about this is the subtlety. I mean, the Will Smith-starrer was in a post-apocalyptic landscape, yet still there’s this huge blockbuster style as if Michael Bay were sitting behind the wheel. Honestly, it’s just not right. Yet in The Last Man on Earth, we get a real quiet, desolate feeling from start to finish. Even better, I love the way the vampire-humans look and act in this, as opposed to a bunch of CGI’d zombie-like infected humanoids. To each their own, but this is a far spookier vision of Matheson’s original novel than its more recent incarnation. And who can’t love Vincent Price? Here he’s a little less hammy than usual, which I love anyways, though don’t kid yourself – there’s always ham with Vincent. Part of his charm. Most of all this is a seriously creepy picture of a decimated world roamed by a single man and hordes of vampiric humans. Want to get creeped out, put this on alone and let yourself be drawn into the world of this terrifying post-apocalyptic vision out of a 1954 novel from one of the great science fiction writers of the 20th century.
21) Candyman (1992)/ Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
So what’s Halloween season without a couple double features? This is the first of three you’ll find in the last heap of this list.
Candyman is one of the first horror movies I remember seeing as a teenager which actually scared me bad enough to give me a nightmare. There’s something about Tony Todd’s performance, his voice and his demeanour all together that creeps the hell out of me. And the story itself, adapted into screenplay by director-writer Bernard Rose, is from Clive Barker originally titled “The Forbidden” out of Volume V from his Books of Blood. That in itself makes things interesting, but this is adapted well and the original story is just solid, so you can’t lose.
Basically this is an urban legend brought to life by the supernatural, as two women research a legend at Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago, it actually comes into existence. The Candyman, long ago persecuted, begins to kill people and drive one of the women completely mad. The second film, subtitled Farewell to the Flesh, sees a family torn apart by the Candyman and a young woman become a target of his horrific longing.
I love Candyman, and I even love the sequel. Though, the first is still best. Part of it is Tony Todd, hands down. But apart from that, Bernard Rose does amazing stuff and creates a whole scary aesthetic, from the terror of the visuals to the creeping sound design and score. A scary, dark night is the right one for these two films. You should honestly watch them one after another in a double feature, they’re stellar and will chill you to the bone.
22) Black Death (2010)
Oh man, what a work of horror this is – set in medieval times, as the black plague is spreading, an English monk is tasked with heading to a remote village, alongside a knight and his crew of nasty outsiders, in order to figure out where the witchcraft originating the disease is hiding.
There’s sorcery and witchcraft, action involving medieval misfit bounty hunters; there’s Sean Bean being a bad ass; there are medieval zombie corpses; and much, much more.
What I love in this is the story, the plot, as well as the solid acting from Bean and Eddie Redmayne, along with others you’ll surely enjoy. Medieval times are ripe for horror and do not get used enough, at least not correctly. This film in particular, directed by Christopher Smith (Triangle, Severance, Creep), gets just about everything right for this savage period piece. Plenty of weird darkness happening, lots of bloody horror, and you’ll love the finale: it’s a god damn barn burner!
23) The Wicker Man (1973)
For a full review, click here.
Ever see a movie you’ll never forget? One that leaves a mark on you forever?
The Wicker Man is one of those for me. About 15 years ago, I saw this one very late at night and during the climax of the film was absolutely jarred. Stuck to the screen, what happened in the final moments really leapt out at me and latched on, never letting go. Every time I watch this, I can’t get it out of my mind for a good while afterwards.
I won’t say too much, just in case you’ve yet to see it, trust me – it is a really unique experience. With Christopher Lee playing an absolutely delightfully demented local leader, a sort of enigmatic and lord-like cult figure, you’re sure to find this unsettling. Give it some time. At first, and for a little bit, the movie might seem to be something quite unlike any horror you imagined. But once things start moving, the horror is evident underneath it all. Put this on for a real fall-style horror night. Maybe in the early evening, as the changed leaves are hanging in shadow, and the October weather outside seems delightful… this horror thriller, set in the Scottish countryside, will change all that.
24) Starry Eyes (2014)
* My full review is here
Never has the quest for fame ever been displayed so intensely and terrifying as it is in Starry Eyes. Following a young woman trying her best to break into Hollywood, or at least the outer fringes, the story takes us on an aspiring actress’ journey in the film world, which becomes more like a descent into the lower bowels of Hell.
This indie film was on my radar for a year or more before it came out, simply because the poster art was glorious and the synopsis looked to be pretty intriguing. Was I surprised, though! Most of all, amongst the horror and the insane body-horror coming out during the finale, Alex Essoe – who plays main character Sarah – cranks up the bar for indie film acting with her performance. There’s nothing else I can say without giving up too much. Go in without watching a trailer even and you’re going to see something unexpected. This will rock you. A good one for a group of friends, a pair, or solo; just let it grab you and the horror will blow you away.
25) Don’t Go in the House (1979)
For a full review, click here.
A lot of people will probably say this is a horrible attempt at the slasher sub-genre. Somewhere, though, I remember reading one of the best analyses of Don’t Go in the House, and it accurately described how this movie was almost the film metaphor of the death of the 1970s. I won’t go on too much more, just consider that while watching.
Simple pitch? This movie sees a young man, whose tortured childhood under a ruthless and sick mother who burned him (literally and figuratively), stalk women, bring them to his home, then trap them in a steel room downstairs where he’ll burn them alive.
Nasty enough for you? There’s lots of silliness here, no doubt whatsoever. But there is more to it, there is some kind of really palpable atmosphere here amongst everything else. With disco music and burning humans, there is certainly a bit of Halloween-y goodness happening in a good portion of scenes. Naturally, there is ’80s cheese, too.
An amazing flick to choose if you’re going to have a few people over to watch some movies. Have a laugh with this, but remember – keep in mind there may be more to it, no matter how low budget or whatever else you deem it the movie may be. Despite any of that, there’s lots of nasty horror here in slasher movie form to please your needs and wants this Halloween season.
26) Asylum Blackout a.k.a The Incident (2011)
* For a full review – click here
This one came out of nowhere for me. Usually I like to pride myself on keeping an ear to the ground for all sorts of horror; even the most diligent of us fanatics fall short some times, right?
Well Asylum Blackout, while deemed amateurish by others, is an awesomely creepy piece of horror.
After a power outage knocks the communications and electricity out at an asylum, the guards and staff members must band together in order to try and survive through the night, or at the least until some sort of help and hope arrives in the form of police. But the inmates overcome the main guard and some of the others, leaving only the staff, the young stoner musicians in the kitchen to face off against the violent and mentally unstable patients running amok in the corridors.
There’s lots of style in this one, but also some nice bits of substance. We get more character than you’d expect, though it isn’t exactly sprawling – still, it’s nice to get any when it comes to modern horror, so many movies opting only for scares and style without anything beneath as its foundation. With this movie, I found myself really falling into feeling for the guys in the kitchen, they weren’t all the smartest or all hugely stand-up guys, yet they were sympathetic characters and I was putting myself right in their shoes. The very last shot is a bit foolish and I wish the filmmakers opted for a different close. Other than this moment, I loved everything else.
Close to Halloween, when the mood is right, put on a copy of this one (available through Google Play at a great price to rent or buy). A group watch is definitely recommended; you’ll be talking to the characters, laughing at times, gasping at others. Hopefully this one will terrify you because it certainly pulled a number on me.
27) Murder Party (2007)
Admittedly I’m not huge on horror comedy. I love dark comedy in horror, and I do love comedies (obviously a horror hound). There’s just something about horror-comedy I’m not always game for, but time and time again there are movies which prove as exceptions – big time – to this self-imposed rule of mine.
One such film that many people I know haven’t yet seen, or even heard of, is Murder Party. This is a fantastic little indie horror-comedy from director-writer Jeremy Saulnier; you may have heard of his impressive indie revenge-thriller Blue Ruin, or perhaps the film I’m DYING TO SEE, his new Neo-Nazi versus punk band concoction Green Room.
Beginning with a nice, quiet guy who finds an invitation to a Murder Party on the street, this movie is full of hilariously hipsterized characters (who you’ll be aching to see perish), nasty horror effects done practically and wonderfully, and then there’s the main character’s journey which will make you laugh and cringe at times.
If you want a good movie for Halloween day/night, this is perfect! A great comedy with equal amounts of fun horror, this is not one you’ll regret spending time to watch. Lots of fun for the 31st here! Maybe even one to put on whilst the little trick or treaters make their way to and from your door.
28) Maniac (1980)/ Maniac (2012)
Another double feature, this time a horrific, savage opus – the 1980 William Lustig-directed, Joe Spinell-starring Maniac versus the Alexandre Aja-produced, Franck Khalfoun-directed 2012 remake. Honestly, I’m a huge fan of both, for different reasons.
The original is a character study in absolute depravity, focusing in on Spinell’s version of a real, raw, genuine maniac whose issues with women have turned into something absolutely awful. There’s something painful about this character, which Spinell brings across in such a clear way it almost hurts you to see him resorting to the murders he commits out in the night, stalking the city streets.
Then in the 2012 remake, there’s not just Elijah Wood doing a great job with a partly sympathetic but mostly vile and horrible character, Khalfoun further makes things interesting by employing the use of 1st-person P.O.V throughout the entire film. There’s something really creepy about finding ourselves directly behind the eyes of the killer, only stepping outside his immediate perspective in a few brief shots.
Each of these movies has its merits, but for me I’m a bigger fan of the 2012 version. Seriously. I bet I’ll piss off tons of so-called horror movie purists. Whatever. I haven’t the time or effort to pretend I care. I love Wood as the character, even more than Spinell whose creepiness is astounding – and he’s a good actor generally – there’s something in this new one that just gets to me further. I think Spinell lent himself to the role because of his natural appearance and also his acting talents, but Wood’s boy-nextdoor appearance countered with the maniac in him becomes something wild over the film’s runtime.
Want gore and depraved characters, plus really incredible practical makeup effects? You’ve come to the right place. Double feature these two and you’ll be set for a Halloween season night when full-on, balls out horror is knocking at your door.
* My full review of the 2012 remake is here
29) Shivers (1975)/ Rabid (1977)
This last double feature is from a favourite director of mine, a fellow Canadian – David Cronenberg. The master of body horror, a true auteur.
His 1975 film Shivers takes psychosexual horror to another plateau, as an apartment complex becomes overridden with zombie-like humans – not dead, these are humans with pulses. However, these living, breathing people are sex crazed, and they’re passing on a terrible virus, multiplying, over and over.
If there were ever a pre-It Follows classic concerning sexually transmitted disease – hell if there were ever a precursor to some of the epidemic films we see today – Shivers is one of the most significant out there. Word has it Dan O’Bannon saw this film and loved it, inspiring in part his ideas for Ridley Scott’s Alien four years later. You want to get terrified of sex and the human body? Shivers will get you and it will work its way under your skin, under your nails; it will get inside you.
Two years after Shivers, Cronenberg came back at it again with Rabid starring Marilyn Chambers – the story of a young woman whose experimental plastic surgery after an accident turns her into a unsatisfiable zombie-like creature, rabid, seeking out blood, and this soon becomes a city-wide infection, reaching far and wide.
Another foray into the epidemic sub-genre of horror, Cronenberg’s Rabid is a low budget, fierce piece of work that is very much a visceral experience. As is usual, this movie is all-out body horror right from the start and Cronenberg is right at home in this area.
I think if you’re looking for zombies this October/Halloween, forego all the typical stuff one night and opt for the David Cronenberg epidemic duo of Shivers and Rabid; a healthy meal of zombie-styled horror in a devilish, excellent Canadian wrapper.
My full review of Shivers is here.
30) May (2002)
For a full review, click here.
Lucky McKee attracted me immediately to his work with this modern reinterpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
May follows the young alienated titular woman whose only friend is a doll she’s had nearly her entire life; it helped her get through all the tough life moments, especially difficult for May with her lazy eye problem and distant nature. She has an obsession with hands and meets an interesting young guy whose love of all things weird draws her close. But after his rejection, May is determined that each person is horrible except for ONE SINGLE PART; or in this man’s case, two small parts. From there, her journey to find and create the perfect companion, the perfect friend and lover begins, and there is no telling how far May will go in order to secure a happy and fruitful relationship.
What I love about this? Everything. The acting, the plot, the writing, plus it has a great soundtrack to boot. Including a few costumes on Halloween, this is a perfect movie to spook you out, as well as make you laugh inappropriately a ton and feel awkward a little. What good horror doesn’t do those things? Okay, well not all make you laugh, but a real horror movie is absolutely going to make you feel uncomfortable at least once or twice. Dive in – this one is unique and a nice spin on an old story.
31) The Others (2001)
From the director of another fabulously chilling work of horror, Tesis, this is a stellar story of despair, ghosts, and haunted places. While you could say this is a haunted house style film, I think it’s more strictly about ghosts than an overall haunting. I say that for a particular reason, which I’m sure you’ll understand after watching.
The Others gives us a story of a reclusive family and their new caretakers, all of whom end up dealing with spooky presences all about the large estate on which they live. While the husband is off with the war presumably, the mother of the family looks after her children, doting on them, protecting at all costs. Once ghosts begin to all but leak from the very walls around them, the mother tries to discover exactly what is going on.
The performance from Nicole Kidman is solid, the music and atmosphere are all perfectly sinister and beyond scary with lots of suspense and tension. There’s nothing I can complain about here and it makes for some fine ghost story telling. The ending still surprises me now, even though I know it, simply because I find myself gripped by the plot and the aesthetic of the film overall just really works its magic. Perfect ghost film for an October night, certainly for Halloween when the night is dark and people are roaming the streets, sounds filtering through the windows in bits and pieces. This really has a fitting atmosphere for that type of evening.
I hope everyone found something worth watching off the list. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’m likely to have seen them but still want to hear what everyone else likes to watch for October and the Halloween season of fright.
Drop a comment if you want and I’d love to hear what you’re watching, as well as if you’ve been digging the movies here.
Happy Halloween to all, my friends!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 10: “The Name Game”
Directed by Michael Lehmann (Tyrant, True Blood, Dexter)
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the next episode, “Spilt Milk” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Coat Hanger” – click here
With the return of Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré), now pregnant, along with Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) lies to Kit Walker (Evan Peters). He tells the young man they did not come, therefore keeping Grace and the baby insider her under wraps.
Meanwhile, Pepper has been given the gift of gab. She tells Arthur all about how the higher alien lifeforms mostly laugh at him and his crude experiments. Even more than that, we get the sad story behind Pepper’s life; she did not, in fact, kill her sister’s child, but merely got thrown in jail because of the shape of heard, as she is microcephalic. It’s an AMAZING SCENE because Pepper gives the doctor a dose of reality, ironically enough. Almost too much for Arden to take, especially to hear it from someone he’d so long ago written off as mentally challenged and useless to him.
Monsignor Howard (Joseph Fiennes) survived his crucifixion at the hands of Leigh Emerson (Ian McShane). Now he’s being confronted with the ultimate evil of Satan within Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe).
Nice flashback to the Angel of Death (Frances Conroy) telling Howard to cast out the devil from Mary. He’s advised to guard his thoughts, to keep his rosary close, and hopefully this may help him combat the demonic forces at work in Briarcliff. We’ll see if that’s the truth in the long run or not.
Still feel absolutely terrible for Jude (Jessica Lange). At least she now has Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson); their relationship has changed immensely now that Jude’s been introduced back into the asylum. Mary Eunice taunts Jude as much as she possibly can, certainly a ton since Jude smashed the “Dominique” record in last episode.
Lana has her own troubles, of course. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is still kicking around. Sister Mary Eunice has brought him back on in a permanent position – Bloody Face and Satan together is one SAVAGE combination! Phew. What’s awful here is the way Thredson taunts Lana, talking about her carrying the child, breastfeeding it, so on and so on. Hearing all this Kit utters one of my favourite single lines of the season: “You’re one sick twist.”
The worst has come for Jude. She underestimated the devil inside Mary Eunice. After a bit of argument between the two, the young and awful nun brings Jude in to Dr. Arden where they give her some especially brutal shock treatment. Again, I feel horrible. Jude is getting way more than she’d ever brought upon herself.
When Mary Eunice tends to Monsignor Howard’s stigmata-like wounds, he attempts to appeal to Satan, however, she turns the tables. Miss Satan holds the Monsignor down on his bed and rapes him. The first time I watched this, when it came on FX originally, I actually didn’t realise Satan held Howard’s arms down initially with unseen force; doesn’t last the whole way through, but still, long enough to qualify it as a rape. Arden walks in and sees the end of all this, part jealous and probably part turned on in a sick way seeing the devil work with the body of Sister Mary Eunice in such a dastardly fashion.
One of the best scenes out of the entire series comes in this episode. We’re treated to a great rendition of “The Name Game”, which is of course why the episode is titled as such. After coming out of her shock treatment, Jude has this incredible dream type of sequence. It’s so cool because everyone else goes with it. At first, Lana and Kit seem weirded out, but then they’re each a part of it – love the way Lana jumps in so reluctantly to start, then Kit ends up jiving in after awhile. There’s something so ridiculous about the scene, yet at the same time I cannot help but love every second of it. Because it’s beyond trippy while being fun – there are some inmates rocking out in a highly creepy way. Even Pepper gets down like crazy.
But it’s just perfect once the whole sequence ends, Jude lifts her head up off the new jukebox Sister Mary had put in, then – BAM! – she’s right back with Lana again. So perfect, right down to the editing itself. Wonderful sequence.
One thing Jude successfully accomplishes is telling Mother Superior about Lana – that she put her in the asylum, wrongfully, and asks Mother to help Lana get out.
Arden is beyond a broken man. He tries to kill himself while out feeding his monsters, but can’t bring himself to do the deed. Satan herself tells Arden he’s pitiful and throws him to the ground. While Dr. Arden is completely despicable, I think his own final chance for hope of redemption, for any hope of walking away from his horrible and disturbing past died when the devil entered Sister Mary Eunice. Her innocence maintained him in a sense, now he’s completely run off the rails after witnessing Howard being raped by Satan.
At the same time, Howard goes to Jude who is completely rocked by the electroshock therapy and apologises for not having believed her about the devil being in Briarcliff. He’s unsure of what to do, if he ought to renounce his vows, and hopes Jude will help. She can only advise: “Kill her.”
I highly doubt the Monsignor is in any shape, both mentally or physically, to do the deed. Particularly when you consider the fact Satan appears SO STRONG while in the skin of Sister Mary Eunice, as if her innocence and mild nature feeds the deep, dark evil like oxygen on a roaring blaze.
Yet Howard proved me wrong. Able to quickly turn the tables on Satan, he throws Sister Mary Eunice to her death from the third floor of Briarcliff to the lobby floor. As she perishes, the Angel of Death comes for Mary. Grim and gorgeous little moment here, something I actually did NOT see coming, as you can tell by what I said not a moment ago.In Arden’s office, Thredson ends up coming across Grace – Pepper pops up from between her legs and tells him she’s crowning. Uh oh. This is bad news for Kit because Thredson now has leverage he’ll be using with which to try and manipulate him. Almost immediately, this leads Thredson to the place where Kit stashed the tape of the Bloody Face confession. However, Lana switches everything up by taking the tape, not telling Kit nor Oliver, and using it as her own leverage – now Kit is safe. For now, at least. Who knows what will happen in the last three episodes.
Another of my favourite scenes out of the entire series comes – something I’d never expected when first watching this in its original run – when Dr. Arden puts Sister Mary Eunice on the conveyor into the furnace to be cremated and he lays atop her lifeless corpse, then hits the button and goes on in with her. SUCH A FITTING DEATH! It’s a weirdly romantic gesture, at the same time that dirty Nazi bastard gets a karmic end in a furnace like he’d done/watched done to so many European Jews during the Holocaust.
Amazing, amazing episode. Love it so much.
Next one is titled “Spilt Milk” and is directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
Stay tuned for more horror and depravity!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 2, Episode 7: “Dark Cousin”
Directed by Michael Rymer (Hannibal, Queen of the Damned)
Written by Tim Minear
* For a review of the next episode, “Unholy Night” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Origins of Monstrosity” – click here
In the opening to this episode, as Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) is seemingly about to die in a bed, two nuns discovering her bleeding everywhere all over herself, we get the WONDERFUL FRANCES CONROY returning to American Horror Story. She is the Angel of Death; that’s right, the Angel of fucking Death. in she swoops to kiss Grace, however, one of the nurses pounds her in the chest to spring her back to life. Sadly, it’s apparent Grace would’ve rather died.
Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) and his sassy partner Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) have a little chat. She chastises him for botching the sterilization on Grace. However, he claims not to have performed any such operation. She says “all of her lady parts have been scooped out.”
What’s most wild about this scene is how Arden gets physical with Mary. She warns he’ll die next time, throwing him across the room and into the wall.
An inmate named Miles (Tongayi Chirisa) sits in the bakery listening to the voices in his head spit vitriol through his brain. He’s had enough, as they egg him on. All of a sudden, he asks to try and fix the meat slicer, as it looks to be slicing too thin, he says. The voices scream at him until he lays his wrists down into the slicer’s blade.
The shocker comes when Sister Mary Eunice comes down to see an ancient Aramaic word scrawled across the white tiled wall of the bakery. Mary asks Miles sternly: “Did you summon her?” Hmmm. Would that be Satan ad the Angel of Death having a little interfamilial trouble? Perhaps. We will most definitely see.
Certainly, as Miles gets locked away by the guards and finds himself alone in a tiny cell, the Angel of Death comes to him, offering her kiss: that of Death. Love the BIG WINGS which protrude out of Frances Conroy’s back; the imagery is incredible, as well as the entire costuming she has going on, all of the black, very 1950s-ish.
Plus, fashion aside, there’s an excellent meeting between the cousins: Satan and the Angel of Death. Two amazing actors going back and forth, all sorts of good stuff especially once the real Sister Mary breaks through a moment before SATAN
HIMHERSELF rises up to stuff her back down into the dark recesses of her own soul. Just can’t get enough of this whole bit.Dr. Arden goes to visit Grace, mostly in order to not have to take a fall for her botched hysterectomy. All the while, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is fighting to try and get his case heard; he’s now told about Grace, that she may not make it through the night with her injuries and infection. A lawyer lays out Kit’s case pretty plainly, not doing much to help other than progressing forward trying to say it’s best to go for an insanity plea, to say he doesn’t know right from wrong. Ironically, Kit jumps up and cracks him over the head, knocking him out behind his desk then runs off.
Disgustingly we’re treated to a scene of Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto) thrashing on top of his surrogate mommy, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who fades off and sees the Angel of Death off at the peripherals of her vision. She seeks THE KISS slightly, feeling as if “death might be better” and that she used to be scared of it, but not any longer. Though right on the verge, Lana stops short of the kiss saying “not yet”. This is probably the biggest testament to her power as of yet, over anything else which came before. She willingly heads back into the situation.
Following quickly, Oliver descends upon her very angry. He feels as if the’ve reached an impasse, there’s nowhere to go except MURDER for Lana. But he claims to wish to make it as painless as possible for her; y’know, painless death.
This begins a savage fight for survival. Great fight and chase sequence here, as Lana manages somehow to escape the lair of Dr. Bloody Face. She runs out into the road where a car eventually stops to pick her up. The driver (William Mapother) is immediately quite an edgy man, accusing her of probably doing something to her boyfriend. He’s obviously got his own mommy issues, women issues in general, raging on about his own personal life, his wife cheating on him, et cetera. Then in the back of the car, the Angel of Death appears. Lana watches as the driver blows his own brains out and the car goes smashing down.
What might be one of the most cruel twists so far sees Lana back at Briarcliff, Sister Mary Eunice standing over her, stuck in a head brace and the whole getup. She’s back in a bed, right at home once more within those hideous walls.
Back to Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) who has discovered Sam Goodman (Mark Margolis) bleeding out on the floor with a piece of glass in his neck. Knocks at the door come, she sees blood on the television saying MURDERER with newspaper articles about the girl she killed in a hit and run; are they there, or simply images in her own mind?
She has a major flashback to her old days in 1949, as a singer, a serious alcoholic. Intense, desperate, sad scene for Jude whose further flashes to the night she killed the girl keep coming back, over and over. There’s some excellent little black-and-white bits here that I found incredibly effective. There’s this bit where we get an almost Oliver Stone-like feel to certain shots, of which I’m a big fan.
Now Jude is being framed for the death of Goodman. Sister Mary Eunice finally reveals herself to Jude, who remembers Jed Potter and the exorcism, what happened to the young nun as the presence left that boy. This all puts Jude in a terrible way, an awful state, back on the booze and yet knowing all the TRUTH but feeling powerless to do anything about it.
What does she do? Tries to commit suicide by opening her veins in the bathroom at a diner.
OR NOT. Tricked us. “Nothing but a passing thought,” Jude tells the Angel of Death out in a booth at the diner. Luckily the angel says she doesn’t judge, she merely comes and takes; never judging, only doing the job. Even more of Jude’s character comes out here and it’s so crushing to hear parts of her former life, how bad it was for her, what led her down a path of alcoholism and doubt. Solid scene, though, seeing Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy back together again, quite unlike Season 1 yet still impressive.
Jude goes to see the parents of the girl she killed in the hit and run years ago. It’s quite a tense, almost awkward yet touching scene. Until we figure out there’s been more going on with Jude’s memories.
Apparently little Missy Stone – all grown up now – (Kristin Slaysman) with the blue coat all those years ago, the one she’d run down, is still alive. Part of this makes her thankful, at the same time she still ran the girl down. It still happened, just didn’t kill her. So… relief, but never relieved.
Lana reveals to Sister Mary Eunice that Dr. Thredson is in fact Bloody Face. Of course, this is in no way a good thing. Certainly, Satan already knew that Bloody Face was Oliver.
It’s more terrible when Mary reassures a frantic Lana: “No one knows that you‘re here.” Not exactly what Lana wanted to hear in the sense which Mary tells her; Satan surely wants to keep her closed up and out of sight.
Kit Walker comes into Briarcliff through the tunnels of death, finding Grace to try and escape. As they attempt to break free, Arden’s latest monstrosity shows up and tears apart a nun. In the whole fiasco, Grace takes a bullet in the chest when Frank McCann (Fredrich Lehne) is aiming for Kit. The Angel of Death shows up for her, and finally, as she says: “I‘m free.”
What a whopper of a finale to this episode!
Next is “Unholy Night” – directed by Michael Lehmann (Dexter, Californication, Tyrant). One of my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE American Horror Story episodes.
Stay tuned, friends and horror hounds alike!
All hail the Lords of Salem!
Horns. 2014. Dir. Alexandre Aja. Screenplay by Keith Bunin; based on the novel of the same name by Joe Hill.
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, and David Morse. Mandalay Pictures.
120 minutes. Rated R.
Horror can often look like a tired genre. The heyday of 1970s psychological horror and 1980s slashers passed quickly, while birthing some extremely talented artists. This period gave way to a fairly unoriginal decade throughout the 90s. However, since the year 2000 there have been some new horror directors stepping out of the shadows to reclaim the genre.
One in particular is French director Alexandre Aja. He got his first big break with his French horror Haute Tension (English title: High Tension), which brought him to the attention of American horror master Wes Craven. Aja was given the privilege of remaking Craven’s own The Hills Have Eyes: one of the only worthy horror remakes in recent memory.
Horns, based on the best-selling novel by author Joe Hill whose famous father happens to be Stephen King, is Aja’s newest film, and for the most part it is a very fun, very wild ride.
Horns is about a man named Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) who recently lost his girlfriend Merrin (Temple). She was brutally murdered, and everyone thinks Ig did the deed. After some time Ig caves and sleeps with an old friend of his while drinking heavily. The next morning, to his horror, Ig discovers two horns have started to sprout out of his temples—all of a sudden people start telling him things he never asked to hear. From one person to the next, Ig hears everyone’s dark, dirty secrets. At first it seems more of a burden, but soon he decides to use his newly discovered persuasiveness to root out his girlfriend’s murderer and prove his innocence.
The story itself is wonderfully weird. I’m a fan of Stephen King myself, and knowing now Hill shares his father’s predilection for the macabre I will most certainly be picking up a copy of Horns to read, as well as other books.
There’s just enough horror to keep it in the genre, but this story really works because of its humour. Ig hears his share of disturbing tales and sadness due to the horns, but it’s the comedy that comes out of a few conversations that really got to me. I’m not a huge horror-comedy fan, but this script worked well enough with both elements.
Though Hill did not write the screenplay, it’s easy to see he and his father are drawn to similar stories; the flashbacks to Ig’s childhood are reminiscent of some scenes from King’s novel It, both in setting and tone. While the comparisons are there, Hill is most certainly his own man. I’m hoping some of his other work will end up being adapted soon enough.
My personal favourite part of Horns is Daniel Radcliffe. For one, the guy does a near flawless American accent. A lot of British actors play Americans on film, but Radcliffe is one of the few who can slip into the accent and never waver. Juno Temple does a fine job as well. This film, though, is all Radcliffe. His performance is incredible. Always determined to shed the perpetual image of Potter, here he hurls curse words, strips down to nothing, and conveys every shade of emotion on the spectrum. But more than that, he’s natural. Nothing about his performance feels forced.
I was always a fan, but after Horns I can definitively say I think Radcliffe is one of the best young actors out there. In the final act of the film he acts circles around everyone else on screen.
I would highly recommend this film to anybody. If you’re a horror fan, Aja provides a few creepy little bits to satisfy true genre lovers. For those who aren’t so inclined, Hill’s story is actually a beautiful romance disguised as a horror-comedy. If you let it, Horns will grab hold of you. My only complaint about the film is its use of CGI. Though there are a few really graphic bits where Aja sticks to practical effects, a lot of the film’s finale was very plastic looking. There was no other way to really do it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t look all that good. Unfortunately, these few effects near the end really take away from some of the film’s emotional weight. I found myself not caring as much about what happened in the last five minutes as I did about just making it to the end credits. That being said, it did not ruin the film. It’s another great step in Alexandre Aja’s career as an interesting and important director of modern horror.