Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Ghastly1

Titus (1999), is a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Grand Guignolesque Titus Andronicus. Often called “the least of” Shakespeare’s plays, due to certain people’s distaste for the theatrical presentation of the violence of life and what it says about the nature of us anthropoids. Rape, revenge, mutilation, murder, cannibalism, despair as well as poetry abound in the Bard of Avon’s relentlessly brilliant and most unappreciated work. 
The plot centers around the eponymous Titus, a victorious Roman general recently returned from warring against the Goths -played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins, who given the notoriety of a certain character with a predilection for cannibalism he previously played was the perfect casting choice for the role- and he and his family’s tragic downfall at the hands of Tamora, a Gothic queen and Aaron, a Moor whom he captures as war spoils and the bloody vengeance he wreaks upon them in turn.

The film, while certainly violent, does not cross the line into exploitative splatter movie territory, as it easily could, by any means; but is instead tastefully restrained in a way which I feel heightens the impact of the violence and makes it all the more wrenching- and in certain scenes and senses, satisfying- in the cinematograph of your mind. Despite the much commented upon unpleasant goings on, the film is not entirely dour; there are moments of levity interspersed with tragedy as in the scene where Titus is reunited with his previously severed hand. There is also a sense of nervous suspenseful comedy- and dare I say possibly one of the most arresting pieces of acting in history on the part of Anthony Hopkins– when Titus, feigning madness is visited by the “spirits” of Rape, Revenge and Murder.

The one downside to the film is the use of deliberate anachronism of costumes and iconography from various periods in history to signal the applicability of the play’s perennial themes to all ages; I do not care much for this because Shakespeare does not need to be “interpreted for modern audiences” as the story is far strong enough to stand on its own even after the passage of centuries and its themes to become manifest on their own. Much like the earlier Romeo + Juliet (1996) we are given characters with hyper modern and rather annoying 90’s edginess in the form of Tamora’s sons, Demetrius (Matthew Rhys) and Chiron (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and with outright bizarre looks in the form of Alan Cumming‘s Saturninus. I would have preferred a straight forward period piece because these sorts of choices distract from the core focus of the story.

Despite my critical nitpicking Titus is a great film which does credit to its source material and does not shy away from the unpleasant realities of life we as horror fans explore in our love for the genre and goes to show that what Harold Bloom said about Shakespeare inventing what we think of as the human is true; in him inhabited all the divergent personalities of his plays from the vile Aaron to the jocular Falstaff and princely Hamlet, yet by virtue of containing them, was yet more than them still. In fact, it may not be too much to say that Titus anticipates and acts as a progenitor to the good doctor himself. Truly genius.

Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home(1987) is an obscure comedy film starring Jon Cryer, which hits the spot if you are a fan of 80’s teen movies while simultaneously satisfying the horror fan due to its main character being a huge horror fan himself. The story is nothing out of the ordinary; Morgan Stewart is a boy who meets a girl and they fall in love. This rather cliched scenario is spiced up by the fact the boy is an outsider- but not of the dark and brooding, weirdo variety; instead he is happy and relatively well adjusted- but he is butting heads with his straight laced parents in a search for personal independence- pretty standard stuff. What also sets the film apart and where the film becomes of interest to horror fans is that it is fun picking out all of the horror movie posters that Morgan has on his walls, seeing all the masks and things he collects, the many references to horror movies sprinkled throughout as well as what I think is the only celluloid representation of romance blossoming while on line waiting to get a copy of The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh signed by George Romero- pretty unique. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out.

Summer School (1987) is another 80’s comedy film which is better known than the aforementioned Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home, and is just as much enjoyable, thanks especially to two characters in particular; the mighty Chainsaw and Dave. Set around the unfortunate inhabitants of a summer school class, this shows that one can have fun even in less than ideal circumstances. Horror fans will definitely relate with Chainsaw and Dave because they are two horror freaks obsessed with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and who even set up a screening of it in class. They also have a talent for practical make up effects which is put on full display in one memorable scene in which they stage the massacre of their entire class. This movie is light and fun and just the right aperitif for a night of horror films. 

Five Favorite Things:: Full Metal Jacket (1987) By Bdwilcox

First, let me preface this by assuring the reader that Full Metal Jacket (which I’ll call FMJ from here on out) is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Many people would claim that FMJ is not a horror film but a war film and they would be wrong. FMJ is one of the most realistic horror films ever created that documents, in stark visuals, the transformation of innocents to monstrous killing machines and the consequences of unleashing them upon the world. It relays with an unblinking eye man’s inhumanity to man and the historical bloodlust of mankind for unceasing war and conflict. It is the quintessential horror film that relays its message not with symbolism or subtle references but with a rifle butt to the face.

1: R. Lee Ermey

If there was ever a more perfect character in a film than Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, I haven’t seen it. R. Lee Ermey was the most potent, over the top encapsulation of the entire film’s zeitgeist in one unforgettable character. He was the symbol of war itself: in a polite, genteel society, the populace would be ashamed of something so crude, base and uncivilized but when the inevitability of conflict came and the threat became too personal, society would cry out for such animalistic, brutal men to protect them. He was the devil himself but the necessary devil that society never admits it needs but always turns to in case of danger. The closest character I can compare it to is John Wayne‘s character Ethan Edwards in John Ford‘s The Searchers.

2: Quotability

With 99% percent of the greatest lines coming from R. Lee Ermey‘s character, most improvised by him, you could say this movie was the R. Lee Ermey show and you wouldn’t be wrong. But there are plenty of other great lines from the film that my friends and coworkers reference non-stop to this day. It gets to the point that when a new person comes onboard and is driven insane by our constant references to certain movies, they break down and watch them only to start quoting them themselves. Between Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Caddyshack, Full Metal Jacket and The Simpsons, you pretty much have a movie quote for every situation in life.

3: Two act play

Full Metal Jacket is essentially two movies squished somewhat uncomfortably together, but it’s that juxtaposition that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The first act is the creation of the monster, a striking success in the case of Joker and a disastrous failure in the case of Private Pyle, but an unblinking portrayal of dehumanization and stripping away of innocence and its replacement with unadulterated savagery. The second act is the monster escaped: a spinning, dizzying dance of the macabre as the monster’s creator cackles with delight as his creation is unleashed upon the world. They are like quarreling siblings whose personalities are so polar opposite it leads to constant fighting but, in the end, they are inseparable and imagining one without the other would be intolerable.

4: The Soap Party

While most people would say the most brutal scene in the movie is the bathroom scene where Private Pyle’s and Hartman’s story lines end, I would say a far more brutal scene is the soap party where Private Pyle’s company mates hold him down and beat him mercilessly with bars of soap wrapped in socks. Unlike the bathroom scene, the brutality here was more than just graphic and gory; it was merciless, compassionless, inhumane and was a breaking point where Joker’s humanity left him and he became the monster of Hartman’s design. The closest analogy I can think of is a puppy with an innate defect that makes him unable to stop peeing on the floor and the owner, who has been concerned and caring up to this point, embraces the darkness and beats the puppy mercilessly out of frustration. This is the image that came to mind as Pyle is lashed to the bed with the sheet, unable to escape and lets out soft whines and whimpers as the blows rain down upon him. He is now totally alone, completely abandoned, his only supporter now his torturer, and he has become eternally trapped “in a world of shit”.

5: The sniper scene

This is the scene that sticks with most people and for good reason. It is the climax of the film, the encapsulation of the film’s message, and one of those rare scenes that brings the viewer to an uncomfortable place where they start to feel that pull of savagery, that transformation to the base impulses of humanity they just witnessed on screen with horror. A sniper has just tortured and butchered characters we have come to love and sympathize with; when they finally corner the sniper it’s a 12 year old girl who was sacrificially left behind to slow their advance. And instead of a little girl, terrified and praying, we see a butcher, a destroyer and our impulse is “Kill her, make her pay for what she just did to our friends”. We have become the monster, we have been transformed, we have become what we would never allow ourselves to be. A fake war in a fake story in a fake scene has made us feel things we never thought we could feel and never admit we could contemplate. And the stark contrast between the cold, remote, detached killing wracked by the sniper and the personal, intimate killing of the sniper herself is a masterful juxtaposition that makes the psychic shock even greater.

Bonus trivia: R. Lee Ermey was never supposed to be in the film. He was originally just a hired technical consultant but wanted the role so bad he would dress up in his drill sergeant uniform and literally transform himself into the character on set. Stanley Kubrick swiftly noticed and gave him the part he was born to play. The role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman was originally given to Tim Colceri who was eventually cast as the insane helicopter door-gunner. Colceri never forgave the betrayal and in a later interview wept bitter tears over losing the role.

Five Favorite Things:: Hell Night (1981) By Unk

1: Theme Song/ Score

HELL NIGHT crashes open with a shrill scream followed by the rallying anthem ‘Theme from HELL NIGHT’ sung by Leza Miller. Leza has a chirpy, raspy voice which is perfect because you can easily imagine star LINDA BLAIR belting out the lyrics warning about a creature with “real sharp teeth and eyes that shine.” DAN WYMAN, who is responsible for the film’s underrated score, wrote the song and if you’re curious about his credentials, he helped out with the music for both HALLOWEEN and THE FOG. The more you watch the movie the more the persuasive score will get under your skin. One of my favorite moments involves a character dropping a gun that spins around followed by BLAIR turning her head toward it and the way the musical cues embellish that moment is pure joy. 

2: Garth Manor

That House! HELL NIGHT’s exteriors were filmed at the Kimberly Crest Mansion (which also shows up in FLEETWOOD MAC’s “Big Love” music video) in Redlands, California. It’s a majestic building with tons of personality that it seems to take on a life of its own thanks to the masterful way it’s lit and shot in the movie. Through a bunch of cinematic trickery, the mansion becomes even more daunting and expansive with the suggestion that there are hedge mazes in the front courtyard and a labyrinth of tunnels beneath (in actuality, only two tunnel sets were utilized and then repurposed again and again). Although we don’t see an exorbitant amount of the interiors (which were filmed elsewhere), director TOM DeSIMONE is able to convince the audience that the location is sprawling with hidden passageways, trapdoors and a treacherous roof. Every time I watch HELL NIGHT, I get the sense that I’m viewing new details and uncharted territory.

3: The Cast

I know it’s wrong to say but HELL NIGHT is my favorite LINDA BLAIR movie. I realize THE EXORCIST is far superior but I think we see a lot more of BLAIR’s charm and warmhearted personality in this movie (plus I get to avoid seeing her get a brain scan). Her character Marti is one of the great slasher heroines in my book as she doesn’t magically become competent or survive by luck alone, she actually earned her resourcefulness by working hard at her father’s auto shop for years. Mr. Incredible Jawline PETER BARTON (FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER) is a fitting romantic and chivalrous match for Marti; even though they’re from different worlds, they click as twin outsiders who are not seen fully by their peers. SUKI GOODWIN is adorable as the frothy, good-natured party girl Denise and VINCENT VAN PATTON as surfer dude Seth is the secret fearless hero of the film. I love Seth! He escapes the horror-filled mansion only to be scoffed at by the police when he tries to get their help (typical) and so he steals a shotgun and returns to save his new friends! I want to build a statue for Seth. I dig also that all four of this dream team don variant classic party costumes that not only fit their personalities but go far to give the whole film a timeless quality that continues to this day.

4: Andrew Garth

HELL NIGHT’s main (but not lone) mayhem-causing killer has a rather pitiable past. Where Marti’s positive relationship with her father and working-class background allowed her to thrive, Andrew’s rich yet dysfunctional dad focused on his imperfections and forced him to watch the execution of his mentally and physically challenged siblings. It’s almost as if money can’t buy you happiness! I don’t want to excuse Andrew’s rude behavior (trying to murder everybody) but to be fair, they were invading his home and he’s had a tough life. I love that Andrew is kept well within the shadows as the film’s roller-coaster ride ascends and how his visage becomes horrifically ubiquitous as it descends. There’s very much a Frankenstein monster-like quality to poor Andrew (albeit a Frankenstein monster on speed) and I’ll always get a kick out of the way he enters a room via a trap door under a rug to stand ominously silent like a ghost (just like Michael Myers did before him). Andrew’s final demise is incredibly clever and well-orchestrated. I hate to see him go but at least he does so in style.

5: The General Vibe

HELL NIGHT is a fun movie. It’s my go-to comfort spook show that leaves zero bitter after taste. It respects all of its characters as more than just cannon fodder and presents a thrilling scenario without ever leaning even slightly toward sadism. It’s almost amusing that critics at the time were quick to dismiss it as a cynical dead teenager movie because it doesn’t have a bad bone in its body and is generally quaint compared to some of its slasher siblings. Its benign attempts at bawdiness, references to drug use, and low-key killings would hardly render it a PG-rated movie today. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete cuddle cartoon, although HELL NIGHT never dwells on its violence, I find a few of the characters so likable that their deaths truly do sting. Funny, when I was younger I certainly did wish it had some gory showcase kills like some of its cinematic brethren but I now I really enjoy that it’s got a voice and amiable disposition all its own. I’ll always appreciate a pitiless horror film that can drag me over hot coals kicking and screaming but sometimes it’s just nice to hang in a big old spooky house with LINDA BLAIR knowing the night will end with her walking away stunned but victorious.

BONUS: The Poster

HELL NIGHT’s poster/advertising art is way up there as one of my favorites in all of the early eighties slasher boom. Just looking at it puts me right in the mood and brings back many memories of being thrilled and stirred as a young horror fan. It’s a gorgeous work of art. I dig the blues and greens swimming around that offset BLAIR’s crimson gown and the gnarly hands rising from the bottom of the frame as if they’re twisting out of hell and meaning to drag her in. Check out that luminous moon! Look at that glowing window atop the mansion! The whole thing resembles the cover of a romantic gothic novel. “Pray for Day” is a killer, relatable tagline as well.

Five Favorite Things:: Prince of Darkness (1987) By Chuckles

1: The Brotherhood of Sleep

Prince of Darkness gets far less respect than it deserves, in my humble opinion, but even its detractors own up to the spectacular creepiness of The Brotherhood of Sleep dream sequences. Years before the found footage craze, PoD showed just how scary shaky-cam video tape footage could be. Everything about the sequences is great – the garbled electronic plea for intervention, the daylight horror and of course the nightmare slowly, weirdly emerging from the church.

2: The Canister

PoD loses a lot of people when ultimate evil is shown to be in the form of an ancient canister of swirling green fluid. But I love it. First, the design of this prop is top-notch and it looks incredible on film, giving off this strange green light. Actually, the whole church basement set looks great. Second, the concept is too cool for school. PoD gives the Christian mythos a full-on cosmic horror treatment and as such, while Satan is powerful and evil, it is also an utterly alien being – so alien as to not have any real form.

3: The Carpenter Crew

While lead Jameson Parker does not do enough with his role, the cast is otherwise heavy with Carpenter alumni who do it right. Victor Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) and Donald Pleasence (Halloween(s), Escape from New York) memorably square off as Scientist vs. Priest. Dennis Dun (BTiLC) and Peter Jason (They Live, In the Mouth of Madness) provide some memorable comic relief. Dun has some of the best moments in the film as his character Walter understandably and utterly flips out when faced with supernatural horrors. Also, Lisa Blount (not a JC alum but notably in Dead and Buried) is just really easy on the eyes.


I love the fact that the heroes are a bunch of grad students. They are from all of these different disciplines (ancient languages, chemistry, physics, math), each discovering different alarming things about the canister and the history of the people that brought it into the church (The canister is possibly millions of years old, the texts are filled with advanced mathematical equations, etc.) You know they are all wondering if they can get a publication or two out of the ordeal.

They have no resources, being broke-ass grad students. They can’t fight, being nerds. But they are smart and get a far better handle on the situation than an equivalent bunch of typical film undergrads (“college kids”) ever could.

5: The Ultimate Horror

There is an apparently unstoppable, horrifying evil force that is attempting to bring something somehow infinitely worse into our world and humanity’s only defense is a bunch of unprepared grad students and some teetering old guys. But it gets worse!

The Church once drew maps of the world that placed Jerusalem at the center of a round disc – the world. Then Science came along and showed that the world was a sphere with no geographical center. Then the Church placed the spherical Earth at the center of the solar system. Science then showed that Earth was just one of many planets revolving around the Sun. Then, before the Church could even get another iteration out putting the solar system at the center of something, Science revealed that our solar system is a tiny speck in a nondescript part of a massive galaxy in a universe of massive galaxies.

PoD takes it one step further – a step intended to horrify the religious person and scientist alike. Not only is our world a tiny speck in the middle of nowhere in particular – our entire universe is merely the bright positive mirror image of the “intended” universe of darkness and evil. Per the PoD mythos, the good Christian God does not even exist – the Creator of all things is actually the evil Anti-God of the Dark universe and we live in what is merely the unintended or perhaps unavoidable consequence of that dark creation!

That is some heavy stuff. Actually, our heroes could get like at least three publications out of it if they chopped it up right.

Five Favorite Things: Dead and Buried (1981) By Unk

1: The Opening Scene

DEAD AND BURIED has the most horrific opening scene I’ve ever experienced and it still haunts me to this day. It seems no matter how familiar I become with this scenario it never fails to unnerve me. It’s pretty simple; a photographer on a beach bumps into a pretty girl and she offers to pose for him in increasingly seductive ways. Just as he’s thinking he’s gotten lucky, a mob of random townsfolk beat the living daylights out of him, wrap him in a net, and set him on fire. So many things disturb me here; the betrayal, the trickery, the cruelty, the horror of being outnumbered, the way his face is monstrously distorted beneath the netting, the chilly calmness of the attackers, my Frankenstein-like general fear of fire and just the simple nightmare of going from contentment to pure horror so swiftly. Yikes.

2: The Cast

Vastly underrated JAMES FARENTINO (THE POSSESSED,1977) portrays everyman Sheriff Dan Gillis and he sturdily grounds the entire film. I’d put his journey of existential self-discovery on par with the protagonists of BLADE RUNNER (1982) and ANGEL HEART (1987). MELODY ANDERSON is equally well cast as his sometimes doting, sometimes darkly mysterious wife Janet who can change shades from kewpie doll cute to Noir dame sultry at the drop of a hat. JACK ALBERTSON (WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) is as quirky as he is sinister and DEAD AND BURIED boasts his final cinematic performance. Horror fans will surely be happy to see ROBERT ENGLUND in one of his early pre-Freddy roles and LISA BLOUNT (PRINCE OF DARKNESS) is the ultimate ice queen.

3: The Cinematography

Thanks to cinematographer Steven Poster (who was also DONNIE DARKO’s director of Photography), DEAD AND BURIED has a distinct look all its own. It’s gauzy, foggy, murky and I’d bet, completely immune to being sharpened by a high definition upgrade. It’s almost like an amorphous dream, soft around the edges, where you can’t quite clearly get a visual handle upon everything. If the overall gritty rawness weren’t enough the story allows a further visual deconstruction via out of focus, BLAIR WITCH-style homemade snuff films that eventually weave their way into the gruesome proceedings as well.

4: The Town

You can almost smell the saltwater when you visit DEAD AND BURIED’s little town of Potter’s Bluff. There are many visual references to coastal life and franchise stores are nowhere to be found, every joint is a mom-and-pop shop. The entire place feels lost in time and you’re more likely to see a 1950’s hairdo than anything resembling then current eighties fashion. Director GARY SHERMAN (RAW MEAT, 1972) wanted the kill scenes to pop and therefore regulated that the color red (even car lights were changed to purple) would not be visible unless it was due to the sight of blood. This consistency of the muted hues makes the film’s setting (in my eyes) resemble decades away video games like RESIDENT EVIL or SILENT HILL more than its fellow eighties horror films.

5: Stan Winston’s Special Effects

STAN WINSTON is a veritable genius and DEAD AND BURIED lets him show off his talents frequently (he’s not responsible for a lesser effect shoehorned into the film’s climax by producers). The one effect I do want to specifically point out involves a victim bandaged head to toe who comes to a bad end thanks to a hypodermic needle being shoved into his lone exposed eye (!). Here’s the thing; rather than an actor being wrapped in bandages, WINSTON created an entire mechanical body beneath to squirm and react to the horrific fate! I would never have known that based on the film itself. It’s an incredible, seamless effect.

BONUS: Favorite Line:

My favorite line is the last one delivered just before the credits roll but I won’t share that here in fear of ruining the ending for a first-time watcher. Suffice to say it is spoken ALBERTSON’s character, Dobbs the elderly local coroner/mortician and it hits like a casket slamming shut.

Day of the Triffids (1962) is a zombie movie…hear me out. By Mickster

On a whim, I decided to watch Day of the Triffids on Tubi TV (it is also on Amazon Prime). I watched parts of it about 17 years ago, so I wanted to see all of it. As I watched, I noticed that film makers must have been inspired by this movie. Specifically, directors of the zombie genre were clearly inspired by this film. Take a look at how Day of the Triffids compares to some zombie movies and a zombie show.

1: When Bill Masen (Howard Keel) wakes up to take the bandages off his eyes (he had eye surgery that kept him from viewing the meteor shower the previous night), he stumbles upon a seemly empty hospital that looks as though it has been turned upside down. This immediately reminded me of 28 Days Later (2002) and The Walking Dead (2010). Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) both wake up confused in seemingly empty hospitals unaware of the devastation that has occurred, while they were unconscious.

2: After people who viewed the comet go blind, society begins to quickly crumble. This mirrors practically every zombie movie/television show. People have as much to fear from each other as they do from the triffids or zombies. The train station scene where Bill Masen saves the little girl Susan (Janina Faye) from a man after the train crashes illustrates this idea. This is shown again when Bill finds a group of drunken convicts having their way with some blind women. He has to rescue Susan and Miss Durrant (Nicole Maurey) from this disturbing scene. In 28 Days Later (2002), Jim rescues Selena (Naomie Harris) and Hannah (Megan Burns) from the soldiers who lured them to their base under false pretenses. During season 4, episode 16 of The Walking Dead, Rick rips out a dude’s (Jeff Kober) throat with his teeth to save Carl (Chandler Riggs), not from zombies, but from a group called the Claimers. One Claimer was about to go all Deliverance (1972) on Carl, so Rick had no choice, but to go rippy rippy with his teethy teethy.

3: Sound attracts triffids the way sound attracts zombies. When Bill discovers the connection between sound and triffids, he uses the music in an ice cream truck to draw the triffids away from his group. Sound has been utilized as a tool for distracting zombies. Dawn of the Dead’s (1978) Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reinger) use the department store music to distract zombies, while they explore the Monroeville Mall for supplies. Shaun (Simon Pegg) makes noise and runs from zombies in front of The Winchester to save his friends in Shaun of the Dead (2004). Unfortunately, jukebox music attracts zombies to The Winchester later on in the film.

4: Smart people try to solve the problem. In Day of the Triffids, married biologists Tom (Kieron Moore) and Karen Goodwin (Janette Scott, from the Rocky Horror Picture Show lyrics) spend most of the movie trying to discover how to destroy the triffids. At the end of the movie, they discover that sea water kills them. With this knowledge, the world is saved from those pesky triffids. In Night of the Living Dead (1968), the reporter on TV shares how to destroy the zombies (a blow to the head), so the general public knows how to protect themselves. In Day of the Dead (1985), Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) attempts to train zombies to be non aggressive by using positive reinforcement. Remember Bub (Sherman Howard)? The company, Zomcon, utilizes domestication collars to turn zombies into house servants in the black comedy Fido (2006).

I rest my case. Day of the Triffids is a zombie movie even though it doesn’t have zombies.