Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[9 of 13]

(September 2014)

"In the spring of 1946, in the small town of Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border, a series of horrific murders were committed by a masked assailant known only as ‘The Phantom Killer.’”

 “In 1976, a film inspired by the infamous ‘Moonlight Murders’ was released. Every year, on Halloween, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is screened somewhere in Texarkana, in tribute to the Phantom’s legacy of death and blood.
“Today, Texarkana is a place haunted by its past, defined by a mystery that was never solved, and a tragedy that could never be forgotten.”

So this is an interesting one.
“Based on the 1976 film entitled ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown,’ written by Earl E. Smith,” Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s identically titled piece is ostensibly a remake, but actually something arguably more ambitious.
It’s a film that’s set in the real world, or at least, a world much like our own, where the late Charles B. Pierce* did indeed direct a film entitled The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which was released in 1976, and was itself based on a series of unsolved murders in 1946.

Now, while the screenplay--by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who’s written for film (the Carrie remake), television (a bunch of Glee and some Big Love), stage (the Dallas Theater Center production of It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman and Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and comics** (he’s currently chief creative officer of Archie Comics Publications)--doesn’t necessarily break new ground as far as this type of movie goes, it’s really Gomez-Rejon’s directorial flair that seals the deal on this.
Bringing the same kind of visual bravura he brings to his American Horror Story episodes (aided and abetted by Michael Goi, who shot all the post-Pilot episodes of Salem as well as a whole slew of AHS, and Joe Leonard, who’s edited over a season’s worth of Glee), Gomez-Rejon’s work here is quite possibly the biggest reason to see this one.
But if you need more, there’s a whole bunch of familiar genre faces here, from Veronica Cartwright to Gary Cole to Denis O’Hare (playing Charles B. Pierce, Jr., the son of the man who directed the original 1976 Town!) to Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project’s very own “Josh”).

Produced by Jason Blum and Ryan Murphy (and thus, the presence of all the Glee and AHS alumni becomes readily apparent), this new The Town That Dreaded Sundown is an interesting (and at times, vicious) piece that comes with a hearty ¡Q Horror! stamp of approval.
When I sat down to watch this one, it had been quite a while since I’d last seen the 1976 version, but Aguirre-Sacasa’s script does an excellent job of paralleling the on-screen events with the plot of the original, as well as the real-life crimes (including an apparently tangential case that was not previously touched on).
So, whether you’ve seen the original or not, Gomez-Rejon’s quasi-remake should still work its bloody, brutal magic on you…

* Pierce also brought us The Legend of Boggy Creek, which scared the crap out of me when Channel 9 (if I remember right) used to show it way back when I was a wee horrorhead…

** Alongside Robert Hack, Aguirre-Sacasa is also absolutely killing it on Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, currently one of the best horror comics out there...

Parting Shot: The art on the original Town OS above? By the late Ralph McQuarrie.
Yes, that Ralph McQuarrie. You can even find samples of poster comps under the film’s working title, Phantom, at Ralph McQuarrie’s official Facebook page.

(The Town That Dreaded Sundown OS’ courtesy of

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[8 of 13]

(September 2014)

The following feature film was created by 26 directors from around the world. Each director was given a letter of the alphabet and asked to choose a word.
They then created a short tale of death that related to their chosen word. They had complete artistic freedom regarding the content of their segments.

Anthologies and consistency are rarely a close partnership.
Because of so many factors, chances are, in any given anthology, there will probably be entries that you will love, entries that you will not love, and entries that you will feel indifferent towards.*
I guess the original The ABCs of Death was simply too much of a mixed bag for me to feel right about giving it a blanket ¡Q Horror! nod.
Thankfully, that isn’t the case with the follow-up, the definite article-less ABCs of Death 2.

Among the definite standouts, we’ve got: the stop-motion grotesqueries of Robert Morgan’s “D is for Deloused”; Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper’s “K is for Knell”; Jen and Sylvia Soska’s “T is for Torture Porn”; and Chris Nash’s showstopping “Z is for Zygote.”
(Well, it would have been a showstopper if it had been anywhere else but at the end; as it is, it’s the most brilliant, WTF ending the anthology could have hoped for. Nash is known for his Skinfection Trilogy of short films: “My Main Squeeze”; “Blackhead”; and “Liplock.” He also submitted the entry “T is for Thread” for The ABCs of Death, though that slot was ultimately taken by Lee Hardcastle’s “T is for Toilet.”)

We’ve got the excellently-paced and edited “N is for Nexus” by Larry Fessenden (yay!) and “S is for Split” by Juan Martínez Moreno; the future dystopia of Vincenzo Natali’s “U is for Utopia”; the sordid goings-on in Jerome Sable’s “V is for Vacation”; and the gonzo bizarro “Y is for Youth” by Soichi Umezawa.
There’s also the weighty horror of Julian Gilbey’s “C is for Capital Punishment”; Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s “F is for Falling”; and Dennison Ramalho’s “J is for Jesus.”

And entries from a few other ¡Q Horror! alumni: “A is for Amateur,” directed by E.L. Katz and written by David Chirchirillo (who collaborated on ¡Q Horror! 2014 title, Cheap Thrills) and “X is for Xylophone,” which sees Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo once again work with their dark muse, Béatrice Dalle.

“Based on a franchise dream by Ant Timpson,” with a title sequence directed and animated by Wolfgang Matzl, ABCs of Death 2 is without a doubt a stronger title than its predecessor, and it most definitely deserves a ¡Q Horror! shout-out.
It’s also given me a whole boatload of faith and excitement for the third installment in this franchise dream, which is announced at the tail end of the credits roll.

* There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, such as when all the segments are executed by one person (Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, which wound up on the ¡Q Horror! 2010 Final 13) or if the number of segments is low to begin with (Little Deaths, which has three segments; anthologies with four segments or more, that’s where I think you start to get into trouble with consistency).

(ABCs of Death 2 OS courtesy of

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[7 of 13]

(July 2014)

As with Nacho Vigalondo's Open WindowsUnfriended takes place entirely on a computer screen, this time, belonging to one Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig, currently on MTV's Teen Wolf).
But while Vigalondo’s effort gets wildly ambitious as it unspools, Unfriended chooses to keep its narrative space controlled, and ultimately, it’s this choice that allows it to keep a tight focus on the horror movie shenanigans that ensue.

Directed by Leo Gabriadze from a script by Nelson Greaves, Unfriended has some heavy producing hitters in the forms of Timur Bekmambetov and Jason Blum.
It’s also an interesting double bill with Some Kind of Hate, sharing some of its thematic concerns like the casually cruel emotional violence the youth can so callowly and callously inflict on each other.

(Unfriended Netherlands OS courtesy of

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[6 of 13]

(May 2014)

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
--T.S. Eliot

Premiering at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, It Follows utilizes the blasted zones and landscapes of economy-ravaged Detroit as the backdrop for a tale shrouded heavily under a veil of dread and unease.
While I will refrain from revealing the film’s premise (best to come into this one as cold and unknowing as possible), I will say that it’s the kind of cinematic experience that gets underneath the skin, that leaves the audience, post-viewing, acutely aware of anyone and everyone you see out on the streets, and the unnerving threat potential they represent.

Things of note that I choose to speak of, in lieu of What the Film is About:

1)      Along with the excellent thriller The Guest (from the director-writer tandem of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett*), It Follows is part of lead actress Maika Monroe’s resounding one-two punch on the face of the genre landscape. Keep an eye on this girl… Aside from appearing in The 5th Wave (J Blakeson’s long-awaited follow-up to The Disappearance of Alice Creed), she’s also going Big Time Hollywood in Independence Day 2!
2)     Though I have yet to see writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s feature debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, based on what he displayed in It Follows, I’ve now become more curious to check it out.
3)     I particularly appreciated the Creepy Classroom Scene orchestrated to a reading of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (along with some help from Richard Vreeland, AKA Disasterpeace). And speaking of Disasterpeace? The soundtrack for It Follows… Creeptastic awesome sauce!
4)     One of the most potent takeaways from It Follows: it's not so much that these kids have no future. Perhaps even more tragically, while they do have a future, it's a future that's going to be constantly weighed down by the dread and unease I mentioned earlier...

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
--T.S. Eliot

* Whose names should be familiar 'round these parts for their work on A Horrible Way To Die and V/H/S.

(It Follows UK quad & French OS courtesy of

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[5 of 13]

(March 2014)

The set-up: Aaron (feature debut director Patrick Brice) is a videographer-for-hire, who goes to work for Josef (Mark Duplass), without initially knowing any pertinent details other than how much the job’s worth, and that “discretion is appreciated.”

That’s really all you need to know too, and I’ll leave Mr. Brice himself to say why.

“I wholeheartedly agree that Creep is a better, more full experience the less you know going into it. We were really trying to make something that a large part of the enjoyment would be the discovery of the film itself.”

Suffice it to say that Creep is pretty much a two-man op. Or, at least, a two-man op with some invaluable help from Blumhouse maestro, Jason Blum.
Working from a rough treatment, Brice and Duplass went off to shoot a majority of the film, which, under the guiding hand of Blum (whose input was, in Brice’s words, meant “to make [Creep] marketable as a horror film”), has resulted in a piece that’s both disturbingly intimate, and intimately disturbing.

“If you want to see a movie like Creep it's because you have two very relationship-oriented filmmakers, guided by Jason Blum, so what you're going to get is a movie that does not follow all of those rules of what a horror movie is. When Jason saw this, he told us, I've seen every piece of shit found footage horror movie, because I'm the guy they came to, but he liked we were not horror filmmakers, that we got the performances right, the relationship dynamics right.”
--Mark Duplass

Parting Shot: As much as Creep impressed (and disturbed) me, I honestly don’t know how to feel about hearing there are plans for sequels…

(Creep OS courtesy of

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[4 of 13]

(March 2014)

So you're an actor. You can become other people. But can you be yourself? Can you put your inner being on the screen? Then come try out for Celeste, a young up and coming actor in our Tinsel Town terror tale: The Silver Scream.

It’s that notice that aspiring actress-slash-Taters Girl Sarah Walker (Alexandra Essoe) answers which leads her right up to the gateway to fame and stardom.
But does she have what it takes to step through that gateway? Is she willing to embrace all that she is, deep down inside, in order to ascend into the firmament of the Hollywood elite?

Starry Eyes--written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer--takes a look at the idea of how Hollywood can really change a person, through the lens of the horror film.
Shot over the course of 18 days (with an additional 3 days of re-shoots), it’s a remarkable achievement that is a disturbing look at the entertainment industry.
And given that central idea of transformation and its ultimate costs, La La Land is the perfect setting for the narrative. A toxic environment where people reinvent themselves every day, where dreams are shredded and shattered every single hour. Where desperation is the drug of choice, mainlined by every waiter and limo driver and physical trainer, each and every one of them aspiring actors or writers or actor-slash-writers, all just waiting, yearning, for that Big Break.
It’s a film that asks, quite pointedly, how much are you willing to pay, how far are you willing to go, to answer the siren song of your ambitions.

“Sarah, if you can’t really let yourself go, how can you ever transform into something else?”

(Starry Eyes OS’ courtesy of &

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[3 of 13]

(January 2014)

It's been six years since Carter Smith's debut feature, The Ruins (which wound up on the ¡Q Horror! 2008 list), and he returns to these parts with another adaptation, Jamie Marks Is Dead, based on Christopher Barzak’s Locus nominated One For Sorrow.

Opening with the discovery of the corpse of the titular Jamie Marks (Noah Silver), it takes a while for the supernatural creeps to fully kick in, and when they do (at around the 20 minute mark), they’re pretty low key and actually have a lot of longing and aching poignancy in the mix.
But this in no way diminishes their unsettling and disturbing potency. (Note that the trailer is a tad misleading, seeming to suggest a fairly typical Hollywood ghost story, when the actual film is most definitely an atypical tale of the restless dead.)

Shot with a wintry melancholy by Darren Lew (his first feature work) and with Penny Dreadful’s John Logan as one of its executive producers, Jamie Marks Is Dead may not even register as “horror” for some, but there’s a gripping sadness here beneath the otherworldly elements that’s rooted in the horrors of existence and memory, of the need to belong and to be wanted, wrenching emotions that, sadly, even the quick are all too familiar with.

(Jamie Marks Is Dead OS’ courtesy of