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

June 28th, 2020 · 11 Comments

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.

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Masters of Horror Funhouse

May 22nd, 2020 · 10 Comments

UNK SEZ: Below are ten images from the anthology series MASTERS OF HORROR. Can you name the episodes and the directors behind them? Apologies in advance if anyone is not familiar with the series because that would render today’s puzzle kinda impossible for you. Don’t fret though, The good news is that both seasons of this great show are available free to watch on Tubitv and it’s never too late to check it out!

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

March 13th, 2020 · 9 Comments

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Name That Trauma:: Mystery32 on Gem Embedded Hands

January 21st, 2020 · 3 Comments

Hi there,


I was telling my wife about Kindertrauma, and how I had a trauma resolved here years ago, and it turns out that she has one! She remembers that there was a large group of people in tan/brown robes standing near a lagoon in the desert, surrounded by desert rock formations. Each person had a gem embedded in their hands. The vantage point of the scene was as though someone was spying on them.


Thanks, Mystery32

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Name That Trauma:: Luke C. on a Circular Saw Safety Short

January 7th, 2020 · 1 Comment

There’s this child safety video that we were shown multiple times in grade school in the 80’s that terrified me as a small child. A kid making popcorn outside with a raggedy extension cord that catches his house on fire, someone sawing off their finger with a circular saw, stranger danger, etc.

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So Underrated:: Blood Salvage (1990)

November 7th, 2019 · 3 Comments

As is my sworn duty, I’m here once again to sing the praises of 1990’s BLOOD SALVAGE. Thanks to annoying ownership issues, writer/director TUCKER JOHNSTON‘s solidly offbeat dumpster dive into madcap depravity has still not been released on DVD and Blu-ray and that’s a shame for lovers of horror. It should at least deserve the positive notoriety most elusive fright flicks receive but instead, I find it’s still not mentioned enough. No soldier as eccentrically gruesome, darkly humorous, genuinely unnerving and strangely melancholy as this should ever be left behind, especially when it features performances by legends like JOHN SAXON, RAY WALTSON and I kid you not, EVANDER HOLYFIELD. If you’re looking for the missing link between TOBE HOOPER‘s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and ROB ZOMBIE‘s HOUSE OF 1,OOO CORPSES (2003) look no further than TUCKER JOHNSTON‘s BLOOD SALVAGE. It has aged like fine moonshine! It boasts a familial bouquet akin to WES CRAVEN‘s THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) the tart crispness of MOTEL HELL (1980) the toasty acidity of AMERICAN GOTHIC (1988) and the gritty aroma of MOTHER’S DAY (1980). Why isn’t every horror fan gulping this fine brew down?

In BLOOD SALVAGE we are introduced to the Evans family who travel in a handsome Winnebago into questionable territories so that their teenage daughter April can compete in carnival-set beauty pageants. When we first meet April, she appears to be the haloed darling of the competition, admired for her bravery and pluck due to her requiring a wheelchair. Interestingly though, rather than ride the typical course of presenting her as a one-note virtuous saint, we soon learn she’s actually bitter about being treated like a “charity case.” Moreover, she’s revealed to be testy, bratty, snobby and downright ornery. She’s such a hellion that she ends up being one of the most unique horror heroines out there. She doesn’t transform when in danger; she simply takes off her mask of sweetness and reveals her true colors. She’s kind of a cross between the petulant, trouble-inviting Amy Harper (ELIZABETH BERRIDGE) in THE FUNHOUSE (1981) and the obstinate, trash-talking Vanessa Lutz (REESE WITHERSPOON) in FREEWAY (1996), what’s not to love? Even more fascinating is the way April has no qualms slipping back into her “butter wouldn’t melt” persona when it better serves her than snarling. I could go on and on about April all day. She’d probably hate the term “final girl” as much as I do.

On a collision course with the Evans family is the Pruitt clan. Patriarch Jake (DANNY NELSON) has been creepily following April’s career and since he and his two dim-witted yokel sons are already taking part in devious shenanigans, abducting April isn’t much of a stretch. You see, the Pruitt’s have a salvage yard but it’s actually a front for their more lucrative business of kidnapping people, putting them through horrendous medical experiments and then selling their body parts on the black market. It’s somehow even more disturbing then it sounds, almost difficult to watch at times and yet also cartoon-y and unrealistic enough to not leave too bad of a taste in your psyche. Although sons Hiram and Roy (CHRISTAIN HESLER, RALPH PRUIT VAUGHN) are kind of cookie-cutter horror numbskulls (see MOTHER’S DAY or OF MICE AND MEN) daddy Jake is handled as deftly as April and stands as a worthy and equally complex adversary. He too is bitter about the cards fate has handed him and covets April as a placeholder for his deceased daughter. Religious zealots are nothing new in the annals of horror but there’s something pitiable about how Jake uses his self-righteousness as a salve against his deep pain for not being wealthy enough to save his cherished child. Forever broken, he becomes what destroyed him, placing the value of money over that of human life. Sure, he’s a raving psychotic but in a way, he’s only mirroring his own experience with a greedy and apathetic medical industry. He eradicates self-doubt with fire and brimstone verse and his projection is so fierce he’s even trained his torture victims to chime, “Amen”.

BLOOD SALVAGE has its flaws but most of them lean toward budgetary issues and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Its limited location and unpolished, lived-in environment add so much flavor that would be impossible to duplicate on a similar scale today. As much as I enjoy how it salutes a litany of other rural psycho family flicks, there’s no denying that it carves its own path moving adamantly against knee jerk expectations. People who you’d assume would survive don’t and the most dramatic demise is handled with chilling indifference. The climax is a wonderfully executed funhouse crawl with trapdoor after trapdoor all the while balancing the grueling and the amusing in equal measure. I know I’m at risk of over-selling at this point but hey, somebody has to. There’s really no reason that this consistently entertaining trek through the bowels of insanity isn’t a horror staple by now. Nope, it’s not on DVD but it is currently on Amazon Prime in an adequate though not ideal (too dark) presentation that will leave your peepers begging for a better edition. Someday somebody will be a hero and release this bad boy in the respectful way that it deserves. ‘Till then, I’ll be over here carrying this torch. Oh geez, I forgot to mention the Pruitt’s lovable pet alligator! How could I do that? Be good and spread the holy word. Amen.

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Midsommar

July 11th, 2019 · 3 Comments

Hey, just last week I was saying that I dug the low challenge comfort horror of a certain cursed doll movie and stated I was fine getting my nerves rattled elsewhere. Well, leave it to ARI ASTER the director of the soul-curdling HEREDITARY to take me up on the offer and deliver a giant slice of uncomfortable dread cake covered in the most colorful sprinkles human eyeballs can endure. Love it or lump it, MIDSOMMAR is quite the cinematic experience. It’s visually stunning, emotionally ravaging, weirdly funny and surprisingly satisfying as a covert revenge flick. Much like his previous trepidation fueled puzzle box, MIDSOMMAR is constructed with great precision and you’re sure to find yourself connecting dots hours after you leave the theater. There are so many secondary subliminal images that you may start to doubt your own perception. As someone who is terrified of travel and the prospect of hallucinating, this flick didn’t have a hard time getting under my skin. Have you ever played a video game so long that the images and colors get grafted on the inside of your eyelids and then you’re cursed to see them even when your eyes are closed? This movie did that to me. I feel like got a tattoo in my head.

FLORENCE PUGH is impeccably authentic as Dani, a young woman who is suffering after an unspeakable family tragedy. Afraid to be alone with her torturous feelings she tags along with her increasingly insensitive boyfriend Christian (JACK REYNOR) to Sweden to attend a cult-like commune’s celebration with his shady bros. Once there, the too trusting group (who clearly have never seen THE WICKER MAN) are exposed to various hallucinogens, lovely folk art, assisted (with a mallet) suicide, an inbred oracle, bear abuse, a plethora of impressive flower arrangements and one of the most uncomfortable sex acts ever committed to film (leave the kids at home). It’s really a whole hell of a lot to take in and it’s quite the ordeal at times but somehow Dani’s psychological baggage gets intertwined with the festivities and it’s kind of rewarding to see her work through her pain. Sure, she’s surrounded by lunatics but they’re some of the most empathetic lunatics you could ever meet! It’s also very safe to say that Dani learns that she doesn’t really need her boyfriend Christian as much as she thought she did. It’s a real Oprah “ah-ha” moment except with multiple casualties.

ARI ASTER clearly has a talent for making his audience squirm but what I find so fascinating about him is how adept he is at characters. By the end of the movie, I felt like I had actually met new people and spent real time with them. There’s an incredible exchange early on in which Dani confronts Christian about not being fully honest with her in regards to the impending trip and he so smoothly manipulates her that she ends up apologizing for even asking. Rather than present Christian as a cartoon douchebag begging for a comeuppance, it’s easy to believe that even he’s not aware of how low key toxic their relationship has become. Something tells me that even if this couple decided to stay home something equally horrifying would have found its way to them.

At two and a half hours, MIDSOMMAR is not exactly your Friday night multiplex barnburner and like ASTER’s previous film it’s sure to not be everybody’s cup of laced tea. Having said that, this is no way a retread of the director’s debut. Although it too is committed to dredging up levels of emotional suffering rarely exposed MIDSOMMAR, with its searing brightness, ethereal setting and fish out of water cultural ribbing, is unmistakably its own snarling beast. It’s a trip, in more ways than one, and like surviving a dysfunctional relationship like the one it cleverly dismantles, you might not be the same person when it’s over.

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