Saturday, October 17, 2015

Candidate #1

(July 2015)

"Do you know what would perk up this candy-ass display?
“Some motherf*ckin’ blood!”

With ten stories in its 97-minute running time, The October Society’s Tales of Halloween has a pretty darn good batting average for a horror anthology, in that--at least as far as I’m concerned--there really isn’t any segment in here that’s a particular stinker.
Naturally, you will like some stories more than others, but it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll come out of this thinking, “Sh!t, yeah, that was fun!”
And that’s what Tales of Halloween is, really.
From the “SNL sketch as directed by old school splatter Peter Jackson” insanity of Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” to the stylized horror of Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong” (with Pollyanna McIntosh!), from the blackly comedic commentary of the ultimately pointless debate between old school horror and the more modern black metal splatterpunk aesthetic in John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s “This Means War” (with James Duval!) to the bizarro horror of Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed” (with Pat Healy as “Forensic Bob”!), Tales of Halloween is some awesomely fun Halloween horror viewing.

“Are you kidding me?! My nuts were viciously assaulted by a monster, dude!”

Plus, there’s a whole bunch of familiar genre faces in here, including Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Noah Segan, Sam Witwer, John Landis, Adam Green, and Joe Dante.
Alex Essoe (from ¡Q horror! 2015 title, Starry Eyes) and Drew Struzan (as “Rembrandt”) are in here, too, along with Adrienne Barbeau, who basically echoes her Stevie Wayne character from The Fog as the very loose bridging element of “The Radio DJ”.
Originating from an idea by Axelle Carolyn (who also happens to be Neil Marshall’s wife), Tales of Halloween is a mighty fine addition to the ranks of horror anthologies out there.
So be sure and stuff this one into your Halloween candy sack!

“Go bag me some of those horror freaks!”

Parting Shot: The film is dedicated to the memory of Ben Woolf, who recently appeared as Meep in American Horror Story: Freak Show.

(Tales of Halloween OS’ courtesy of &

Saturday, October 10, 2015

(March 2015)

"Welcome to Camp Blue Finch, where romance in the sun can turn deadly!”
--VO from Camp Bloodbath trailer

Taissa Farmiga is Max Cartwright, whose late mother Amanda (Malin Akerman) happened to play one of the luckless teens in the “granddaddy of all campsite slasher films,” Camp Bloodbath.
On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Max finds herself at a Camp Bloodbath double bill (the original and the “so much cooler than the original” sequel, Camp Bloodbath 2: Cruel Summer), where something strange happens, dumping Max and her friends--plus frenemy Vicki, played by a post-Vampire Diaries Nina Dobrev--right into the film.
Mad, comedic horror mayhem ensues.

“I’m The Mean Girl in the ‘80’s horror movie, and we’re past the midpoint, so, you know… I’d say that I’ve overstayed my welcome.”

Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls is one of those titles that, though firmly rooted in the horror genre, is, in the final analysis, not a horror film. Thus, this extra-¡Q horror! rundown shout-out.
Now, the above plot crunch should tip you off that this is a meta title, preoccupied with the rules and the conventions of the genre. It would, in fact, make for a very interesting comedic counterpoint to/double bill with The Cabin in the Woods. (It should be noted that what The Final Girls loses in outright horror, it makes up for in some potent emotion and heart.)

So, if you’re looking for some fun in your Halloween horror viewing, pack your bags for The Final Girls! (Which, BTW, is tagged by the trailer as “The Feel Good Horror Movie of the Year.”)
In the immortal words of The Party Girl, Tina, “Best summer ever!”

“They won’t be singing ‘Kumbaya.’ They’ll be screaming ‘Kum Ba No!’
“Pack your bags for Camp Bloodbath, where the only marshmallow that will roast… is your sanity!”
--VO from Camp Bloodbath trailer

(The Final Girls OS’ courtesy of,, &

Friday, October 9, 2015

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

(June-August 2015)

This really shouldn't come as a surprise, not only for the obvious reason (this is one hellavuh show!), but also because--hopefully only for the foreseeable future, but sadly, perhaps for “good”--this looks like the last we’ll be seeing of it…

It’s an idiotic state of affairs that has us in a world where there are a gajillion procedurals (and their multitudinous spin-offs) and a bazillion more “procedurals with a twist” (ugh), and only one Hannibal, and no one sees fit to pick up where NBC has left off.

What more can I say that I haven’t already said in the past two ¡Q horror! rundowns where Hannibal sliced up a place for itself?
R.I.P. Hannibal. (At least for now…)

Parting Shot(s):

While the other shows I mentioned in last year’s Hannibal Candidate post did not seem at all interested in addressing the issues that plague them, Penny Dreadful made excellent strides away from a number of its past problems (though pacing still seems to be a bit of an issue).
Here’s hoping Season 3 continues its march towards greater heights of excellence…

Also, just in case anyone out there was thinking I wasn’t feeling any love for Bates Motel, on the contrary, it’s probably one of the more consistent shows I’m currently following.
The main reason why I’ve never mentioned it ‘round these parts before is that it’s always seemed to doggedly straddle that line between thriller and horror and never decidedly taken a step onto the horror side.
But, with Season 3 taking some of the most overt and definitive steps in its run towards all that we know and love about Psycho, I figured Bates Motel deserved some kind of ¡Q horror! shout-out. (Plus, as a Carlton Cuse show, it’s always been light years better than The Strain.)

And finally, if old school supernatural horror is your thing, you’d do well to check out the 3 episode The Enfield Haunting, based on the book This House Is Haunted, which chronicles the Enfield Poltergeist case (the same case which is, incidentally enough, also the basis for the upcoming The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist).

… And the Wrap-Up

So there we are.
Here’s to this year’s kicka$$ crop, and here’s to next year’s…

(Hannibal OS’ courtesy of; Penny Dreadful, Bates Motel, and The Enfield Haunting OS’ courtesy of

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

(May 2015)

"Why are we f*cking waiting in the greenhouse?
"This is f*ckin’ bullshit.”

Bullied loner Lincoln (Ronen Rubinstein) is sent to the Mind’s Eye Academy, a place to “reset,” where troubled youth can work through their issues, so as to “destroy the impulses” that brought them there in the first place.
But since this is a horror film and not some After School Special, it’s safe to say things do not go to plan.
The feature debut of director (and co-writer) Adam Egypt Mortimer, Some Kind of Hate is a brutal depiction of how petty and cruel the youth can be. While I’ll avoid getting into exactly what the film is about, I will say it plays like a wicked, vicious inversion of fellow ¡Q Horror2015 title Jamie Marks Is Dead (in which Rubinstein also, incidentally enough, appears).

As an aside, familiar genre face Noah Segan shows up here in a supporting role, and doubles as an Executive Producer.

This one isn’t inclined to pull punches, so be warned…

Parting Shot: I also highly recommend Mortimer’s comic book, the whacked-out science fiction opus, Ballistic, with art by Darick Robertson.

(Some Kind of Hate OS courtesy of

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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

(November 2014)

"I loved how ballsy they were, issuing a trailer that said, ‘From the Master of Horror, Eli Roth.’”
--Eli Roth

Beginning its life cycle as one of those fake trailers that seem to be strewn all over YouTube, Jon Watts’ Clown is a nasty piece of work.
Helped along in its evolution into full-fledged feature by Eli Roth--who was billed as the film’s director in the initial fake trailer, and was suitably impressed, not just by the conceit, but by the makers’ cojones--Clown wastes no times before plunging into its simple but brutally effective premise: loving father turns into scary, evil supernatural creature thanks to a demonic clown costume.

There’s some solid cinematic storytelling here by Watts (in his feature debut), ably assisted by a cast that includes Awake’s Laura Allen and familiar genre face Peter Stormare.
It should also be noted that just beneath the onscreen horrors--right underneath the clown make-up, if you will--is the insidious and despicable real life horror of child predators, of the horrendous urges some individuals have, and their choice whether to struggle against them, or succumb.
So yeah, there’s some disturbing child endangerment (and fatalities) in this one, so be advised accordingly.

Parting Shot: I also highly recommend Watt’s follow-up film, Cop Car, in which Kevin Bacon plays a porn ‘stached Sheriff on the trail of two runaway boys who’ve made off with the wrong (and titular) cop car…

And, after that impressive one-two punch, next up on Watts’ director dance card: the Sony-Marvel Spider-Man reboot… (Only in today’s sadly franchise-driven Hollywood does a career trajectory going from Clown to Cop Car to Spider-Man make any kind of sense…)

(Italian Clown and Cop Car OS' courtesy of

Monday, October 5, 2015

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

(October 2014)

"I am safe in the arms
Of my master, my king,
On the last day, I will follow,
My soul, I will bring…”

Anthony DiBlasi has become something of a regular ¡Q Horror! fixture ever since his excellent adaptation of Clive Barker’s Dread slotted itself neatly into the 2010 final rundown. (His Cassadaga was a 2012 Candidate. Additionally, he also Executive Produced Ryuhei Kitamura’s The Midnight Meat Train adaptation, which settled comfortably into the 2008 final rundown.)
He’s back ‘round these parts with Late Shift, where rookie cop Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is given her first assignment: be the sole officer on-site at a police station that’s being shut down in favor of a brand new one.
And since we’re here deep in this year’s final rundown, then you know that Jessica’s first shift on the job goes spectacularly awry as only one can in a horror movie…

It’s an interesting take DiBlasi has on the traditional haunted house set-up, where the protagonist spends a portion of the running time wandering the (supposedly) empty halls and rooms of the structure, while the weird goings-on begin to gradually escalate in frequency and intensity.
So, yes, the manner in which Last Shift unfolds will be familiar to the long-time horrorhead, but, there is also a lot to be said for a masterful execution of this kind of horror film, and Last Shift is a chillingly efficient take, with well-timed and disturbingly executed funhouse scare/set pieces strewn about the film’s nearly hour-and-a-half running time.

“Missy, if you can’t handle one night alone in an empty police station, then I think you picked the wrong line of work.”

(Last Shift OS and Blu-ray cover art courtesy of

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 fellow ¡Q horror2015 title 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