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

September 13th, 2020 · 2 Comments

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been feeling extremely existentially depressed, hopeless and misanthropic lately-even more so than usual- as civilization collapses in real time all around us, but such is the nature of things- that’s entropy for ya! That is something they tend not to show in all those futuristic “dystopian, post-Apocalyptic” films people seem to love; the spiritual and psychological damage inflicted upon those living through the collapse, it’s always cyberpunk chic and Road Warrior fun and adventure. I thought I’d turn your attention to a few films which are more indicatory of the reality of the situation we face and in the tradition of the great pessimists like Oswald Spengler and Arthur Schopenhauer, dash your hopes and dreams of Thunderdome. I will skip a film like Taxi Driver, because everyone knows it and there’s nothing, I can say about it that hasn’t already been said, instead here are some under the radar films presaging the apocalypse.

Naked (1993) Before he lowered himself into the cesspool that is the Harry Potter film series, David Thewlis made a movie that matters. Johnny (David Thewlis) is smart and as such he is sickened by the state of affairs in the modern world, so he becomes a flawed lugubrious yet loquacious Jüngerian Anarch so as to deal with the spiritual and societal alienation and nausea an inwardly healthy person experiences in a time of general decay. This film portrays an apocalyptic world not of the Hollywoodized fun variety but one which is all too manifestly real if one has the courage to look. Naked proves one can be a devout atheist and realize hell is very real and it is all around us; which is infinitely more unsettling than a projected post mortem punishment.

Buddy Boy (1999) If David Lynch directed Rear Window, I think this would be the result. Life is not all sunshine and roses for Francis (Aidan Gillen), who intellectually lies at the opposite polarity as Johnny, but who still knows when it comes to existence, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. He has been subjected to unrelenting misfortune and brutality for no discernable reason, saddled with caring for an abusive, invalid mother (Susan Tyrrell) and now as a result of all the misery and pain he beholds, old Jehovah- once his only solace- has lost the sheen that once he had for him. He feels lost and hopeless and retreats into himself and away from the world, beginning to spy on a French neighbor, Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner) he also seems to awaken his long dormant and hopelessly warped libido. Eventually Francis and his new crush meet and consummate a seemingly shared lust but as there are no such things as happy endings, what at first holds out hope for Francis soon proves to be his ruination and labefaction. When I first saw this film, Francis’s plight hit home in more ways than one, I really can relate with existing on the margins of an uncaring, hostile society and world, not in a pretentious artist sort of way but on a visceral too close for comfort, every day to be or not to be sort of way.

Bartleby (2001) Ah work, doesn’t everyone just love work? I mean we derive our raison d’être, our social standing, our sense of worth from what we do for money, don’t we? Surely, we are economic beings as both our not so nearly antipodal Capitalist and Marxist overseers would have us believe, aren’t we? What would we do with ourselves if we didn’t have somewhere where someone was telling us what to do for reasons, we a.) don’t understand and/or b.) couldn’t care less about? Well I have to confess I don’t love work; I don’t care about work, I do not have a Protestant work ethic nor do I want one, I am not passionate about anything relating to money or what I do in order to acquire it. In short, when it comes to work, “I would prefer not to” and neither would Bartleby. Based on Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” Crispin Glover plays Bartleby, an odd fellow who may just have hit upon the answer to something profoundly wrong with modern people and their relationship to economic activity. I prefer this adaptation to the 1970 version as it suffuses more overt surrealism into the truly surreal, pointless nature of the work place. 

Cop (1988)  Oh boy, I like this one. Imagine if Dirty Harry fought really dirty; Lloyd Hopkins (James Woods) is an effective cop-imagine that- not a nice cop, not a kind cop, but an effective one. He goes after bad guys-and yes there are bad guys in the world-he is gleefully “reactionary”, he isn’t concerned with political correctness; only correctness. He loves women but realizes more often than not, that means saving themselves from themselves. He is the only thing standing between people who have lost the instinct for self-preservation and the violent predators who are looking for their next easy meal.

When an awful poetry spewing “male feminist” serial killer (Steven Lambert) with artiste pretentions begins preying on the women of the urban hell of Los Angeles, leaving a trail of mutilation in his wake, whether they know it or not or like it or not, Lloyd Hopkins is the kind of cop- the kind of man- women need on their side, the kind which his worthless Chief (Raymond J. Barry) derisively describes as having “a wild hair up your ass for murdered women”. Hopkins is exactly the sort of cop who would be crucified in today’s climate precisely because he uncompromisingly does what is necessary to enact justice.

He is probably the most culturally pessimistic police officer in the history of cinema who sees the social decay of a society unraveling at lightning speed up close and personal on a daily basis and doesn’t hesitate to deliver a healthy dose of masculine cold water to the feminized airy fantasy worlds that people in this society seem to construct for themselves in the form of violent police stories told to his adolescent daughter (Vicki Wauchope). Predictably his wife (Jan McGill) is none too pleased with this, and calls him “a very sick man…in need of some real help.” to which he responds with what I feel is one of the most profound statements in a movie and which bears quoting at length for all to meditate upon: “Let me tell you something you should get through your head. They’re all little girls, Jen. Every one of them. Every one of those pathetic souls who eventually does herself in is a little girl. Every neurotic who lies on a couch…and pays some asshole shrink good money to listen to her bullshit is a little girl. Every hooker out hustling her ass for a pimp…who winds up with a dyke, a habit, or wasted by some psychopath, is a little girl. All these little girls have one thing in common. You know what that is? Disillusionment. And it always comes from the same thing, expectations. The greatest woman-killer of all time. A terminal disease that starts way back when they’re all just little girls. When they’re being fed all the bullshit…about being entitled to happiness like it’s a birthright. That’s what you don’t understand…when to stop perpetuating the myths that ruin their lives. Innocence kills, Jen. Believe me. It kills. I see it every fucking day of my life.”

Not liking that his wife up and leaves him, taking his daughter with her. He does not fret though but instead pursues other women including a prostitute witness who later winds up falling victim to the wannabe poet serial killer and a feminist book dealer cum poet (Lesley Ann Warren) dealing in more than just books in the form of post-rape PTSD which may or may not have set off the aforementioned serial killer. The film concludes with a showdown between the “romantic poet” beta male serial killer and the alpha male “misogynist” cop and one of the most satisfyingly abrupt endings of any film I can recall. This one feels timely because, given the state of affairs in this country, it seems we as a civilization have failed to heed its warning to our detriment. 

Ringing Bell (1978) A children’s cartoon about a little lamb named Chirin, with an important message about survival in a pitiless world for all of us weaklings who grew up with sugar coated claptrap about kindness and friendliness and pacifism being virtues. This is the film Lloyd Hopkins would show his daughter.

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Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Matty F.

September 7th, 2020 · 3 Comments

Hello wonderful people of Kindertrauma!

I have some recommendations for awesome movies for you to check out. Narrowing down the list to three was a challenge. I didn’t want to pick horror-adjacent movies I feel like most people have seen already (classics like Clue or Gremlins), and there’s so many great underrated flicks out there that deserve some love like Freaked, Copycat, Mary Reilly, and Flightplan. It wasn’t an easy decision, but here’s three non-horror movies for horror fans that I think are worth a watch.

Clay Pigeons (1998).

Joaquin Phoenix plays Clay Bidwell, a genial and unmotivated average guy in a nowhere town. These themes could be the set-up for many a story, but here we watch as things spiral quickly out of control like Animal from The Muppets decided to play his drums all over Clay’s life. There’s a likable sheriff played by the great Scott Wilson, a goofy Deputy named Barney, a sarcastic and intrepid FBI agent played by Janeane Garofalo, and a mysterious but affable new stranger in town (Vince Vaughn), all of whom play important roles in Clay’s predicament. They’d fit right in with the oddball residents of Twin Peaks, although the town they live in is much brighter and dustier and doesn’t have any supernatural undertones (although someday maybe we’ll get Clay Pigeons 2: The Revenge and scary Bob will take Clay to The Black Lodge) .

Clay, like his namesake, can be molded easily depending on who he’s interacting with, coloring not only his decisions but exacerbating the multiple dilemmas he finds himself in. You’ll find yourself feeling sorry for Clay one minute and wanting to slap him for the choices he makes like Cher does Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck. The script is infused with dark humor and takes a different approach to the typical beats of a crime thriller, from the sardonic dialogue to the gray morality of the characters. The serial killer in this dead-end town isn’t an indestructible monster like Jason, Freddy, or Michael, nor is he a brilliant criminal mastermind like Hannibal Lecter. There are no outright heroes or villains or blanket judgments on right vs. wrong.

“Some people just need – need – killing,” Vince Vaughn’s Lester Long tells Clay, and even if we don’t agree with that, the movie doesn’t take sides and lets us see how Clay, Lester, and Garofalo’s strong-willed Agent Dale Shelby react to the murder and mayhem around them. While there are striking scenes of blood and violence, director David Dobkin doesn’t highlight the gore, rather the character’s reactions to the bloodshed and chaos around them. The film utilizes an idiosyncratic, unconventional blend of crime, drama, humor, and pathos to tell Clay’s story, highlighting themes like friendship, loyalty, small town life, and where the line is between the choices you can live with and those that will keep you awake at night. Hopefully horror fans looking for something unique and offbeat to watch will appreciate Clay’s bizarre world.

The House of Yes (1997).

This independent black comedy has many of the tropes that horror fans know and love—a giant mansion, a weird and bizarre (by society’s standards) family, a raging storm, an electrical outage plunging the characters into darkness, deep dark family secrets being unearthed, and taboo subjects such as incest, mental illness, classism, and murder.

The phenomenal Parker Posey plays Jackie-O, who suffers from many unspecified mental afflictions and disorders, including her obsession with the Kennedy assassination and her twin brother Marty. Marty (Josh Hamilton) is returning for Thanksgiving dinner with his new girlfriend Lesly (Tori Spelling) in tow, despite the warnings from his mother (Genevieve Bujold) that Lesly’s presence could send Jackie-O into another psychopathic spiral. Why? Let’s just say that Jackie-O and Marty have a relationship that Cersei and Jaime Lannister would throw a piñata party for.

Like an affluent version of the Sawyer family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but with much less cannibalism, the Pascals live in a bubble from the outside world and do not take kindly to intruders. Maybe there’s a crossover movie with Pascals and Sawyers waiting to happen in a shared universe.

Jackie-O is horrified that Lesly works at as a waitress and comes from poverty. Tori Spelling is outstanding as Lesly, holding her own against the formidable Posey. Lesly acts as the audience surrogate, thrust into a world of wealth, privilege, and peculiarity she has never seen before. Spelling excels in a down-to-earth role that’s light-years away from the one that made her famous, the beloved Donna Martin.

It’s hard enough to meet your significant other’s family for the first time, and the Pascals aren’t Kardashian-level rich/crazy, or even Elon Musk-level rich/crazy; theirs is on a whole different level. Lesly is the outsider penetrating the bubble of abnormality the Pascals have fostered; she is our proxy to Sally Hardesty entering the Sawyer’s house. This is not a movie filled with action sequences or loud explosions. The emphasis is on characterization and the quick, witty dialogue from a smart script, as every conversation reveals another layer to each of the roles. The words spoken say several things at once, on many levels; while at the same time, it hinges on the things unspoken to drive the plot and interactions.

Lesly: I don’t think you’re insane.

Jackie-O: You don’t?

Lesly: No.

Jackie-O: You don’t think I’m an eensie-weensie bit insane?

Lesly: I don’t think you’re insane. I think you’re spoiled.

Jackie-O: Oh please. If everyone around here is going to start telling the truth, I’m going to bed.

Jackie-O is at once the most feared and loved member of the family. Her family’s money has made it so she is never held accountable for anything she does. It’s a razor-sharp look at how money guarantees privilege and success even when it’s not hard-earned. She disregards all others for her own feelings and manipulates those around her. Parker Posey is mesmerizing as Jackie-O, never playing her as a villain but as a pampered, damaged soul who can justify going against any societal norm for her own benefit.

The House of Yes takes on topics people don’t discuss in polite society and brings them to light. While it never mocks its characters or their suffering, it uses its humor to underscore the tense atmosphere and familial conflict. It would make an amazing horror film because its themes are horrific.

The Opposite of Sex (1998).

The always-incredible Christina Ricci plays the acerbic, amoral Dedee Truitt, who moves in with her well-off half-brother in Indiana and wreaks havoc on his life. She’s the human equivalent of a twister. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton could chase Dedee down by following her trail of destruction. From murder, unwanted pregnancy, seduction, thievery, manipulation, and the lies she spins, Dedee is the villain of the ultimate Lifetime t.v.-movie come to life. However, she’s also a smart and interesting lead character, never afraid to speak her mind or share her thoughts. Like Sophia from The Golden Girls, she does not care what you think or if you like her. She is who she is.

The bright script is whip-smart, insightful, and politically incorrect without devolving into maudlin sentimentality or providing trite resolutions. “If you think I’m just plucky and scrappy and all I need is love, you’re in over your heads,” Dedee tells the audience right away in a voiceover. “I don’t have a heart of gold and I don’t grow one later, okay? But relax. There’s other people a lot nicer coming up – we call them ‘losers.’” The movie tackles themes like rejection, isolation, love, longing, sexuality, sex, and the family that you’re born into vs. the family you make.

Those of us who grew up with their parents telling them that watching horror movies would “turn you into a serial killer” (wait, am I the only one whose folks said that?) can relate to the movie’s themes of being an outsider. Each character is on the fringe of judgmental genteel society in their own way. Every person in the movie is searching for something, somewhere, that gives them the feeling of belonging or acceptance. The greatest example of this comes from Lucia (Lisa Kudrow), the frumpy, bitter best friend of Dedee’s stepbrother Bill. Lucia is the complete inverse of the character Kudrow played on Friends. Her character is the most interesting in a movie filled with complex and layered roles, and she thoroughly deserved a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance here.

Having been relegated to the Judy Greer-best-friend-role even in her own life, Lucia is the observer and truth-teller of the movie, though no one really listens to her. “Do you know what my Mom said when she found out Tom was gay?” Lucia asks Bill (Dedee’s stepbrother). “She said ‘It’s such a lonely life.’ She said that to the single straight girl. Isn’t that funny?” Lucia represents the loneliness the characters – and people everywhere – feel; the sense of being an outcast, the knowledge that there’s billions of people in the world but sometimes you can’t find your peeps.

Side note: I never did turn into a serial killer. I didn’t even try. Sorry Mom and Dad.

Thanks for reading, Kindertrauma! Stay safe out there.

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

August 23rd, 2020 · 4 Comments

WARNING SIGN (1985)

I came to WARNING SIGN very late in life on late-night cable. I wrongfully avoided it at the video store because its bland VHS cover art gave me the impression that it was a stuffy political thriller. It’s actually much more like RESIDENT EVIL (2002) meets THE CRAZIES (1973/2010). Extremely likable yet strangely coiffed Kathleen Quinlan stars as Joanie Morse who works as a security guard at a bioweapon military laboratory that masquerades as a harmless pesticide plant. One day some dope drops a vial full of highly toxic bacteria and soon it’s on Joanie to shut the place down for quarantine to the mounting infuriation of all who work there. Worse still, the contagion causes those infected to turn into super pissed off zombie-like goons. There are some interesting against-type turns by Sam Waterson as Joanie’s Sheriff hubby and ALIEN’s Yaphet Kotto as an army Major assigned to snuff out the situation. The great character actor Jeffrey DeMunn (THE HITCHER, THE BLOB, THE MIST) is particularly compelling as Dr. Dan Fairchild, an ex-scientist, ex-alcoholic who just might be clever enough to save the day. Some of WARNING SIGN is hokey and far-fetched but in this day and age it’s probably more plausible than ever before.

IMPULSE (1984)

A great double feature with WARNING SIGN would be 1984’s IMPULSE which tells the tale of toxic chemicals infiltrating a small town’s water supply and making its inhabitants do the cuckoo conga. The ever-talented Meg Tilly (ONE DARK NIGHT, PSYCHO II) stars as Jennifer who receives a strange (for her at least) phone call from her mother cursing her out, haranguing her and calling her awful names. Her mother then proceeds to attempt suicide and so Jennifer and her boyfriend Stuart (Tim Matheson) leave their cozy city life to go back to her hometown to find out why ma is inexplicable flipping her wig. It turns out almost everyone in town is feeling just about the same insane way and that includes her super creepy brother played by dear departed Bill Paxton. I remember seeing this one back in the day and finding it a bit lackluster but in retrospect, I think my young self was just reacting to its dire, depressing, lethargic tone which I now understand completely.

THE FEAR INSIDE (1993)

Here’s a made for SHOWTIME movie that never made the jump to DVD so I’m guessing that’s why it has completely fallen into the cracks. Christine Lahti (of one of my favorite non-horror flicks HOUSEKEEPING) plays a (apparently very well paid) Children’s book illustrator named Meredith who lives in an endless mansion with her son. Meredith has agoraphobia so that means she never wants to go outside but when you see her digs you’d re-think the outdoors too. She decides to rent one of her hundreds of rooms to an adorable stranger named Jane (Jennifer Rubin of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS & BAD DREAMS) who is soon visited by her hunky brother Pete (Dylan McDermott of AMERICAN HORROR STORY) Here’s the scandalous thing though: Jane and Pete are not really brother and sister! They’re lovers on the lam who just killed a bunch of peeps and stole a giant diamond! Wha?!!! It’s true. THE FEAR INSIDE is kinda deliciously campy and it’s basically LADY IN A CAGE (1964), which is fine by me. Jane and Pete kind of remind me of Roy Batty and Pris from BLADE RUNNER and they also kind of remind me of Chucky and Tiffany from SEED OF CHUCKY. I love crazy people and Jennifer Rubin is so much fun as the psychotic, wild-haired Pam who I would also compare to Fairuza Balk in THE CRAFT for her virtuoso level of lunacy. She really goes for broke and switches from vulnerable and hurt to violating and hurtful with masterful ease. I wish Jennifer Rubin made more movies. She’s extremely underrated.

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Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Kevin M

August 5th, 2020 · 1 Comment

The Double (2013)

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “in the real dark night of the soul it is always 3 o’clock in the morning, day after day.” Likewise, THE DOUBLE takes place in a world that’s one long graveyard shift. You never see daylight, it’s always dark and gloomy. This adds to the hero’s heightened sense of loneliness (which is ironic because he meets his doppelgänger.) THE DOUBLE is a comic nightmare and it’s very funny, but there’s also some psychological horror about identity. Jesse Eisenberg’s dual performances are outstanding. Director Richard Ayoade’s comic timing brings life to this story, based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Part of the comedy comes from the bizarre situation that no one else sees the physical similarities between these two look-alikes. So, there’s a question of whether or not the hero is cracking up and experiencing a profound delusion. Horror fans will likely connect with the bleak material and the Kafka-esque anxiety running throughout the film. Bonus: you might find similarities to BRAZIL and TAXI DRIVER. 

Rhinoceros (1974)

Making a film version of Eugene Ionesco’s theater-of-the-absurd play RHINOCEROS is a losing proposition. Stage productions benefit from suspension-of-disbelief, audiences can meet the actors half-way, using their imaginations to see the human characters transform into rhinos before their eyes. It doesn’t translate to film. For better or worse, the 1974 movie makes no attempt to use any special effects to show that transmogrification. Theater people will point out that this film is not funny. Fair enough. But genre fans might enjoy it as a horror movie. First off, you’ve got Cronenbergian body horror, with people morphing into pachyderms. Then there’s an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS vibe (complete with political subtext) of a hero seeing his friends and neighbors assimilating into a non-human form. Lastly, there’s the I AM LEGEND angle, with Gene Wilder as the last man on earth. During these pandemic times, it’s fascinating to watch the terror of RHINOCEROS, where the planet’s dominant species is bringing about its own destruction. Bonus: lovers of ‘70s cult movies will enjoy seeing a peak Karen Black performance. And Gene Wilder might surprise you by playing a character that’s different from the “gentle madman” persona that he perfected elsewhere in his career.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

The trailer is hitting all the buttons to tell you it’s an “indie”, it’s “art house”, it’s “very Sundance.” All true. But you can watch MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE as a scrappy horror movie. It reminds me of early Wes Craven films. Like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, it’s thematically comparing two very different families. Elizabeth Olsen plays the title character, a traumatized young woman who leaves a cult and tries to reunite with her estranged sister. Olsen is fantastic, never going too big or melodramatic while going through a breakdown. Martha is like a “final girl” detoxing from a nightmare, unable to distinguish between what’s real and what’s vividly imagined. Writer-director Sean Durkin uses the camera to play tricks on the viewer, toying with memory and reality. Intentional ambiguities ratchet up the tension and create a hypnotic undertow of dread. All this, plus Sarah Paulson plays Martha’s brittle, guilty sister. And there’s my favorite John Hawkes performance as a believable cult leader who sings a haunting folk song. Bonus: water-as-memory imagery, for fans of SHOCK WAVES, DON’T LOOK NOW and STEPHEN KING’s IT (1990).

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

July 20th, 2020 · 5 Comments

Scalpel (1977)

Directed by John Grissmer (“Blood Rage”), this movie may not be horror, but there are enough twisted and horrible things going on here to please most horror fans.  A psychotic plastic surgeon helps a go-go dancer who had her face bashed in by giving her a brand new face….the face of his young adult daughter!  See…he allowed his wife to drown and killed his daughter’s boyfriend, which was enough to send the daughter packing.  In her absence, she inherited a hefty sum of money, so the surgeon does what any father would do and gives the dancer his daughter’s face so SHE would inherit the money.  They then have an icky sexual relationship.  Everything seems fine until…..his real daughter shows up again.  Then things really get twisted!  Horror elements include face-bashing, pseudo-incest, murder, and a general all-around sleaziness that makes one wonder how on earth it got away with a PG rating.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

This disturbing film follows a psychopathic boy from birth to young adulthood and the horrible event that ensues once he reaches high school.  Tilda Swinton, as Kevin’s mother, is outstanding in this movie and is totally believable as a mother who is at times frustrated, infuriated, confused by, and afraid of her son. As you watch Kevin grow up, you just know something terrible is going to happen eventually.  It’s like waiting for a train wreck to happen. As a parent, this film made me aware of a horror I’d never even considered: the horror of not knowing who your child is and being afraid of the answer.

The Devils (1971)

This ranks as one of my top 5 favorite movies, horror or otherwise. In 17th century France (in the midst of the plague) Father Grandier (Oliver Reed) is the only person preventing Cardinal Richeliu from taking over the city of Loudun in an effort to control all of the country.  The power-hungry Cardinal and his witch-hunters accuse Grandier of being a demon and of having control of the local nunnery, run by an insane hunchbacked nun who lusts after Grandier.  An exorcist is brought in to rid the “possessed” nuns of their demons and to prove Grandier guilty.  The corrupt court humiliates, tortures, and ultimately kills Grandier by burning him at the stake…all while his fellow townspeople watch.  Grandier is dead, the town is taken over.

Enough scenes of horror are in this movie to make it qualify as “horror” in my eyes. You’ve got several scenes of torture, a crazy, hunchbacked nun, plague victims thrown in pits, Oliver Reed being burned at the stake, forced vomiting, and the movie’s most controversial scene:  “possessed” naked nuns going berserk in a church, taking down a statue of Jesus, and masturbating, fondling, and going batshit crazy all over it. It must be seen to be believed! Unfortunately, an uncensored version of The Devils has never been officially released in the United States because of its controversial nature. Everything depicted in the film, however, is true and actually happened. The fact that Warner Bros. refuses to release a masterpiece of a film about church corruption BECAUSE of Catholic influence is the real horror!

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

July 16th, 2020 · 3 Comments

OK, I’m going to totally cheat here because I’m about to give my three non-horror movies for horror fans as well as three runners-up. I will divide them into the categories of science fiction, comedy and fantasy.

Science Fiction: Because horror so closely rides a parallel rail next to science fiction, I’ll start with that category. My pick for a non-horror sci-fi movie for horror fans is The Hidden (1987) (If you liked The Faculty (1998), you’ll love The Hidden). The runner-up would be Ex Machina (2014). Both underappreciated gems in the Sci-Fi genre.

Comedy: I find the best non-horror comedies for horror fans aren’t parodies but surreal comedies that make you feel like you’re in a fever dream. My pick for a non-horror comedy movie for horror fans is UHF (1989) which is one of the three mothers of surreal comedy to me (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Big Top Pee-Wee (1988) and UHF). Runner up would be One Crazy Summer (1986) whose cartoon interludes are worth the price of admission (And is one of the three mothers of John Cusack comedies: Better off Dead (1985), One Crazy Summer and Say Anything (1989)).

Fantasy: Fantasy movies are the lighter side of horror (plays Tales from the Darkside theme…”but not as brightly lit”…). My pick for a non-horror fantasy movie for horror fans is Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The runner-up would be Legend (1985). Both are fantasy movies whose imagery evokes feelings of horror but are tightly woven into a fantasy setting. (I was going to put in the Dark Crystal (1982) but my inner child is still too traumatized to mention it.)

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Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Eve Tushnet

July 2nd, 2020 · 2 Comments

1: THE SISTERHOOD OF NIGHT (2014)

This film looks like it’s gonna be a teen horror, maybe about witches??, and it is indeed about a secret club of high-school girls who meet in the woods to perform mysterious rituals. But this update of “The Crucible” uses wiggy costumes and snappy dialogue, not spells and special effects, to represent the apocalyptic emotions of teenagers. A girl dresses like a “David Bowie bird”; the sun glows, giant against the treeline, that golden edge-of-adulthood sun you’ll never see again. The girls come together to share secrets and cope with the painful family situations they won’t reveal to anyone else. Their club is more “personal with a dash of politics” than personal-political, but even so, this movie is the closest thing I’ve found to what it was like to be in Riot Grrrl. I have some criticisms: The movie repeatedly suggests that some of the girls will be gay, or will reveal experiences of sexual assault, but if memory serves those things don’t happen; that felt like a bait-and-switch or a lost opportunity. But mostly this is a beautiful film about teen girls in the age of Facebook.

It’s honest and touching and melodramatic. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry!

Plus it includes the graffiti, EMILY PARRIS IS A BLOG WHORE. Irresistible, no?

Recommended if you like: The Craft, Ginger Snaps, #horror (which, in spite of its ridiculous name, is a very fun movie).

2: BEYOND THE HILLS (2012)

This movie starts when a young woman arrives at a Romanian women’s monastery where her former best friend is a nun. The two girls grew up together in one of the notorious orphanages of Communist Romania; they protected each other, and in time became lovers, but now Voichita has found a refuge in the monastery and hopes that Alina will make her home there as well. No dice–Alina is an atheist and she’s come to rescue her ex-lover from the clutches of the church.

So begins a genuinely harrowing film based on true events. Seriously, this is a hard movie to watch, as hard as MARTYRS in its own way. The nuns begin to fear the influence of Satan, both on Alina and on the monastery as a whole. Evil portents seem to appear in the natural world, and hysteria begins to take hold. The monastery’s priest dismisses the idea of demonic activity for a while, but eventually the nuns persuade him, too, to see the cloven hoofprints… and then the movie’s real tragedy begins, as the nuns and priest show their willingness to destroy Alina in order to save her from the Devil.

The movie begins at a slow, meditative pace, with long quiet shots showing the hard manual labor of the monastery, then picks up speed; the climax is agonizingly tense.

Recommended if you like: The VVitch, The Exorcist, The Rapture.

3: THE FITS

Another, very different take on “The Crucible.” Toni is an eleven-year-old tomboy, a boxer in training, who becomes enraptured with the girls of the high-school dance team… just as those girls begin to suffer from an inexplicable fainting epidemic. Is it an environmental problem, something in the school’s water? Is it mass hysteria? Is it something beyond the realm of science?

Royal Hightower is amazing as Toni, taciturn and full of longing. THE FITS is gorgeous, and I love how it shows the characters’ physicality: the glitter dusting Toni’s fingertips, the blood on a boxer’s teeth, the tenderness of a newly-pierced earlobe. And its final sequence is genuinely sublime, as the film enters the realm of pure symbolism and dream. This is one of my favorite movies of all time and one of the best blends of realism and fantasy I know.

Recommended if you like: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Paperhouse, The Company of Wolves (or any of Angela Carter‘s writing).

Enjoy! (Or I guess, in the case of BEYOND THE HILLS, Endure!) I’ve written a few books but the most recent is my novel “Punishment: A Love Story,” which you can find HERE.

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Tags: Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans · Uncategorized

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

June 30th, 2020 · 3 Comments

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. 

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Tags: Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans