A little while back I posted a list of “post-childhood kindertraumas; movies that legitimately scared me even though I viewed them as a reasonably rational adult. Well, if I waited just a little while longer before posting I could have easily added the Australian A24 supernatural scare-fest TALK TO ME. This flick grabbed me by the jugular, slapped me around some and even had me crunched up in the corner of my chair watching the screen through my fingers. I really wasn’t prepared at all, the title sounded more like an innocuous Stevie Nicks single than a horror film and the trailer had me thinking it was just your standard seance/Ouija board flick. Boy, was I wrong; at one point I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m getting too old for this!”, while discretely scanning the theater for the nearest exit just in case I needed to bail. There’s a brief moment of glimmering light near the climax when I thought it might transform into a rousing, cathartic “Dream Warriors” battle between good and evil forces but nope, the noose only tightens exponentially and I was jettisoned down a greased slip n’ slide toward hopeless REQUIEM FOR A DREAM territory. It was all sorta like when I thought I could ride the Matterhorn Mountain ride at Disneyland as a kid but ended up crying for my mommy instead.
Teenager Mia (Sophie Wilde, who I’m sure we’ll see plenty more of in the future) has basically adopted the family of her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jenson) as she tries to find solace from grieving her own mother’s suicide. The two girls and younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) sneak off to a party where a bunch of other kids are playing around with a strange plaster hand covered in cryptic writing. The deal is, you grab the hand to talk to the dead but if you hold it too long you might be stuck with a permanent tag-along ghost. Of course Mia’s mourning makes her extra susceptible and soon she’s playing horrifying games and winning even more horrifying prizes. Makes sense, we’ve all seen vaguely similar set-ups before but writing/directing brothers Danny & Michael Philippou really know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to delivering absolute unmitigated horror and dread. These incredibly creative (and mercilessly cruel) men even went so far as to gleefully stoke my biggest bugaboo fear of losing control and hurting myself and my much recorded aversion to scary faced smiling elderly people. Let’s just say that there’s one octogenarian visage that appears towards the end of the film that simply will not evaporate from my mind’s eye. I’m at the point where I may have to watch kitten videos on YouTube in an effort to erase the nightmare stain.
In other words, TALK TO ME is brilliant across the board; the direction is inspired, the acting (especially Wilde) is thoroughly convincing and the general tone is consistently somber, off-putting and dread inducing. As dark as the film is though, there’s an undeniable fresh, youthful undercurrent of exuberance to it that keeps what should be tired, absolutely enthralling. There’s also something so heart-wrenching and tragic throughout that keeps it from feeling like the typical horror ride. Mia is such an understandable and relatable character. All of her dumb moves come from a place of simply wanting to escape her emotional pain. She’s like a drug addict who thinks she’s found a miracle cure when she’s really just circling the drain. I really can’t praise this strangely moving, truly frightening work of art enough. I stand here so torn between wanting to see it again as soon as possible and wanting to run as far away from it as I can. To me this is horror in it’s most rare, concentrated, undiluted form and of course it’s equal parts mesmerizing and repulsive. I highly recommend going out and seeing TALK TO ME in the theater, I doubt there will be a better horror movie in some time.
I'm piggybacking off of Unk's stellar post about high-rise horror because I really like this little subgenre and while these may not exactly be horror films, more "thrillers", I've always tended to think of that as a fairly nebulous term and not too important a distinction as I find there is a lot of overlap. Anyway, here are a few I like...
The tenants of a dilapidated South Bronx tenement building are besieged by and fall victim to a Death Wish 3 style street gang with a taste for rape, murder and mutilation amongst other things, until they resist with lethal force of their own. This is a fairly forgotten and pretty nasty film, but is definitely one of the best in the genre.
Using the 1977 NYC blackout as a backdrop, this film has future nerd Robert Carradine leading a bunch of psychopathic killers who escape while being transferred from prison on a revenge mission of a much more violent sort on the inhabitants of an upscale high-rise building.
Enemy Territory (1987)
Can’t we all just get along? This film, starring a pre-Candyman Tony Todd and post-Ghostbusters Ray Parker, Jr. of all people, answers with a resounding “no”. When Barry Rapchick (Gary Frank) an alcoholic insurance salesman takes his lily-white ass into the ghetto to make a sale, The Vampires, a local racist black militant street gang led by The Count (Tony Todd) take it upon themselves to let him know, he ain’t in Kansas anymore.
Along the way, some obligatory kumbaya-ing takes place between Barry and Will (Ray Parker, Jr.) a telephone repair man who is in the projects tapping more than phone lines-if you catch my drift. But in the end, it is a “bigoted” crippled shell-shocked Vietnam veteran (Jan Michael Vincent) and his arsenal of high-powered automatic weapons that provides the means of survival.
Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)
Right off the bat I just want to say, I in no way endorse Sting. I do however recommend this thriller from Ridley Scott. It tells the story of a lower-class Queens cop played by Tom Berenger, protecting a Manhattan socialite who is being pursued by a killer, after she witnesses the murder of a fellow bourgeois. It is one of my favorite "New York movies" and features gorgeous inky black night time cinematography.
Now this is the quintessence of what we're talking about, people trapped in a big building with a homicidal lunatic; simple, straight forward and very satisfying. A corporate spy and a business woman are trapped in an office building and must contend with a ruthless killer on a mission to revenge himself upon the corporation responsible for his wife and son's deaths. This is a very good thriller which is well paced, taut and pretty intense.
This is a cool little film about a hormonal man obsessed teenaged girl named Lisa, whose mother doesn't allow her to date, because she's afraid she'll wind up like her, a single mother. So instead, Lisa stalks and spys on random guys (way to raise a kid there, single mom). While returning from the store one night, Lisa runs into a guy she becomes particularly enamored with. Unbeknownst to her however, he just so happens to be the guy going around the neighborhood killing beautiful women. As if that wasn't bad enough (wait, there's a cheap pun coming) she begins flirting with danger when she inadvertently begins seducing this lustmord lothario over the phone in her best big girl voice.
Guilty As Sin (1993)
We already knew Don Johnson is the suavest son of a bitch on planet earth whom women are powerless to resist from back in his Miami days, but in Guilty As Sin, he plays a real lady killer. David Greenhill is accused of murdering his wife and seeks out the services of an attorney played by Rebecca De Mornay, he begins intruding into her life and she comes to find he may not be innocent. She vows to do whatever is necessary to get off the case including planting evidence but that only angers Greenhill. A lot of the action takes place in big office and apartment buildings culminating in a showdown which leaves Greenhill with one hell of a splitting headache.
Psycho Cop Returns (1993)
Here is a case of a sequel being vastly superior to the original. Just between you and me- tete a tete- the first one flat-out sucks, I mean really sucks. But hot damn, did they redeem themselves with the second one; the titular Psycho Cop rampages through an LA office building where some businessmen are hosting an after-hours party. It looks and feels like there was a budget this time, the acting isn't terrible, it's got a fast pace, there is some pretty good gore and lots of nudity for good measure- just everything a growing boy needs.
Night of the Juggler (1980)
Stupid name, good movie. A down on his luck guy living in a South Bronx shithole had the American dream savagely denied him and so he decides to kidnap the daughter of a real estate mogul to secure a multi-million dollar ransom; problem is, he kidnaps the wrong kid; Not too bright. James Brolin plays the ex-cop father of the kidnapped girl, who will stop at nothing to affect her return; extra not too bright. This film is one of the prime examples of grimy 70s New York, when the rot was front and center; it was honest, not hidden behind a false and feeble veneer of cleanliness.
Critters 3 (1991)
I never much cared for Gremlins or Ghoulies; for me, when it comes to movies about little monsters fucking shit up, Critters is the gold standard. In this entry in the series, a 16-year-old Leonardo Di Caprio who looks 9, takes on the furry little intergalactic killing machines in a big Los Angeles apartment building.
Lady Beware (1987)
Katya (Diane Lane) is looking to make it in Pittsburgh (where?) in the fast paced and highly competitive world of department store window displays (what?) and is stalked by a psycho lab tech (huh?). It sounds weird and it is, but there is something to it.
Nightmare on the 13th floor (1990)
Not to be confused with The 13th Floor from 1988, which is a not very good Australian film about a couple of squatters encountering some child ghosts. This 1990 made for TV film starring James Brolin (again?), nurse Ratched and Alan Fudge (mmm...fudge) is about a travel writer who discovers some satanic goings on, on the sealed off 13th floor of a Victorian hotel, where years before, a serial killer went on a chopping spree.
Scissors (1991) and Sliver (1993)
Sharon Stone wound up doing two films featuring high rises in two years, that's got to be some kind of record; but if not, it should be. In the first she plays a wacked out virgin who gets trapped in a loft apartment that looks like it belongs in a Dario Argento movie and as such the film itself kind of feels like Argento directed it; are we sure he didn't? it is very weird. In the second, she moves into an apartment in a modern human terrarium where she is spied on like a rodent and did I mention all of the previous owners couldn't help but wind up dead? because that happened too; it was one of the selling points.
When released in 2010, Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s INSIDIOUS provided a refreshing contrast to the gory splatter resurgence that dominated horror in the early aughts. With striking images, creepy tunes (that Tiny Tim song!) and clever, unsettling usage of darkness and tense silence, the film ushered in a new wave of supernatural features and even went and cemented Lin Shaye as a horror icon to boot. Its sequel presented dysfunctional family dynamics as per THE SHINING to unnerving effect and was followed by a prequel with its fair share of teeth-grinding moments, and a fourth film that was more financially successful than memorable. In the recent fifth film in the franchise, INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR the action goes full circle as we re-connect with the first two film’s unfortunate Sawyer family who now struggle with death, divorce, estrangement and for father and eldest son, that pesky feeling that they’ve been hypnotized to repress memories of battling demons in another realm. Relations threaten to becoming even more awkward with the looming possible recollection that Pop got possessed and tried to murder the entire family.
Always amiable Patrick Wilson reprises his role as Josh Lambert AND makes his directorial debut. Josh has seen better days as his mother (a missed Barbara Hershey) has died, his ex-wife Ranai (reliable Rose Byrne) finds him exhausting and his eldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) can barely stand the sight of him. Middle child Foster (Andrew Astor) is given the full middle child-treatment and is delegated to go-between status and youngest daughter Kali appears at Grammy’s funeral and then disappears entirely. Maybe due to Wilson’s acting background, there’s a clear focus on earnest drama for the first chunk of the film and I gotta say, it’s a little depressing that the Sawyers somehow missed their earned happily ever after by a long shot. Things pick up when Dalton goes to art school and an exercise in class begins to recall his ghost and ghoulie-ridden past.
I gotta admit I’m quite the sucker for horror films involving artists and their creepy paintings (2015’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY comes first to mind) and the art school/college location allows for the action to expand away from its haunted house springboard. Eventually we do get to take yet another trip back to “the further” (a dreamlike alternate dimension rife with evil entities), visit with some familiar quirky characters and are treated to plenty of fan pleasing Easter eggs (for those who partake). There’s even a cool bit where this latest outing is allowed to intertwine with the earlier pictures in a really clever way I don’t want to spoil. This all may be a little too mainstream and familiar to truly knock anyone’s socks off but the film delivers at least a few fun, authentic jolts here and there. It’s all very wholesome in the end and I rather enjoyed just being inside a theater on a hideous summer day taking in the unthreatening PG-13 scares. In some ways, this family driven ghost show franchise can’t help but stoke my fond memories of the comfort horror POLTERGEIST trilogy and oh how I do appreciate that. Now, if you do go see INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR please stay for the end credits which incredibly features Patrick Wilson (who really seems to respect and thoroughly embrace the horror genre) and the band Ghost covering Shakespeares Sister’s nineties hit “Stay.” It’s so well done and reflects the storyline of the movie in a spot on, “Who’d of ever thunk it?” kind of way.
when I was a kid (circa 1993) I had a spooky children's book that I'd like to describe to you to see if anyone can name it so i can locate a copy
It was a western. The town had the word "Gultch" in it which I think may have also been in the title. There was a fog so thick in the town I believe the narrator says you could hammer a nail into it and hang a picture. Someone spooky comes to town, a tall Frankenstein's monster looking character and something spooky happens.
That's all I can remember. I've searched for spooky children's books online, books with the word "Gultch" in the title, books about fog.
I come up with nothing.
Can your readers offer any help??
PRIME CUT (1972) Lee Marvin as a hitman, Gene Hackman as a guy named Mary Ann and Sissy Spacek in her screen debut; I'm sold. This one threw me for a loop because ostensibly it's a crime/action film but it suddenly takes a sharp left turn and goes to some very unexpected and unsavory places.
BONE TOMAHAWK (2015) I owe S. Craig Zahler an apology; I went into this thinking it was going to be absolutely terrible and for that I am sorry, because boy was I wrong. I love westerns and was going through a kick of watching a dozen or more at the time of seeing this. I knew nothing about it going in and was expecting a cheap UNFORGIVEN knock off. Instead, what I got was a western-cannibal-horror film and just like with PRIME CUT, it caught me off guard and left me disoriented. It's like THE SEARCHERS meets CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and in probably the most memorable scene, I think even throws a nod to CUT AND RUN (1984) in there at the end. I liked it so much and was so impressed by it, I haven't seen it since my initial viewing because I want to preserve the memory. All I can say is, woah, that was intense.
WARLOCK MOON (1973) A pretty good supernatural horror film which has its flaws (especially in the foreshadowing department, in 1973, apparently colleges had cannibalism classes; which now that I think about it, compared to the stuff they teach today is positively wholesome) but also has a few genuinely intense, suspenseful scenes, which, putting myself in the characters place, actually increased my heart rate. Something it also does very well is, it leaves questions about the events of the film unanswered, which in supernatural horror films especially is important.
THE BUTCHER (1979) An ex-soldier turned butcher named Paul romances a teacher in a provincial French town beset by a string of murders. This is a quiet film which has a bit of Hitchcock to it; it doesn't go in for anything hysterical and there isn't much of a mystery as to who has been doing the deed. Instead, we get a bit of a subtle character study of a man whose mind has been stretched beyond its limit and is done with life; his own and others.
THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES (2002) In my opinion, one of the few truly scary films ever made. There is an otherworldly feeling to this film, so much mystery to it, so many unanswered questions, which is what makes it terrifying. I am still hesitant to watch it because Indrid Cold genuinely freaks me out.
28 Days Later (2002) When I first saw this on the big screen, it was like having a dose of adrenaline. I kept thinking that I had too many windows in my house (that usually comes to mind with zombies of any kind). Another thing that struck me was how much I cared about the main group of four characters (Jim, Selena, Hannah, and Frank-I remembered their names without looking it up). I was anxious about their safety, and when one of them (if you know you know) was infected by a drop of blood in the eye, I wept because I was so invested in the survival of this, created by circumstances, family. It did give me nightmares about rage infected people chasing me down for several weeks after watching it.
The Orphanage (2007) I do not think this movie ever came to a theater close by, so I saw it on DVD back in the olden times when Netflix sent physical DVDs to your house. This one stayed in my head for a long time after viewing it mainly because of the crushing sadness when Laura (Belén Rueda) discovers what actually happened to her adopted son, Simón (Roger Príncep), who went missing early in the movie. I cried and cried over that particular reveal. But overall, this one has a great creepy atmosphere that sticks with you. I’m also a sucker for creepy sack masks like the one Tomás wears. If you like haunted house flicks, give this one a try, but be sure to have a box of tissues handy for the ending.
The Strangers (2008) This one I also watched at home and not in the theater. This one really got under my skin. Home invasion flicks really freak me out because it is something that could actually happen. In fact, I wrote a post about The Strangers about ten years ago (HERE). I still have not rewatched this one, and I'm not sure I'm brave enough to do it.
Sinister (2012) I went to a late showing of this creepy flick opening weekend, and then I went home to my empty house. This was not the best idea. I ended up turning on all the lights in the house. Professor and Princess, my two cats, thought I was nuts. I don’t know why I was so freaked out. I don’t have kids, and the big baddy in the flick was using kids; however, my logic doesn’t work very well in a dark, empty house. I vowed never to go to a late scary movie again. In fact, if I’m watching something scary, I usually chase it with something funny and light hearted. It makes for a more restful night’s sleep.
Skinamarink (2022) After all the buzz surrounding this one, I had to see it. So the weekend it hit Shudder, I watched it with my husband. This experimental horror movie had me on edge the entire time. I cannot quite pinpoint why. My husband got bored and wanted to go to bed, but I made him keep watching because I was too unnerved to watch the rest alone. Perhaps it brought back the time in my life when I was about Kevin’s age (Lucas Paul), and I was too scared to be alone in the house. My mom would go outside to hang up the laundry, and I would wedge myself between the screen door and the main door into the house to avoid being in the empty house. So, the thought of being trapped in the house with my parents missing took me back to being a frightened four-year-old. After watching the movie, I spent weeks pouring over reaction and analysis videos on YouTube about Skinamarink. I don’t know if I can ever watch it again. Oh yeah, f#%k that Fisher Price phone!
I recently came across this PSA or PIF as it’s known In it’s country of origin, about a gas leak in a kerosene tank looking for a way out until it find an opening.
It pours out into the living room and when the resident turns on the heater, BOOM.
I was curious how many people from Britain remembered the ad and how it effected them as children.
Here are some pictures from the ad along with a sculpture I did of the main antagonist.
Enjoy. Big fan of your site
My best friend and I were watching INTRUDERS on TV back in 1992 and were blown away. We recorded it and have re-watched it many times .
At that time we were reading lots of books about UFO and alien stuff. We certainly tried to escape from something back then when we were teenagers; maybe growing up or hidden sexual desires or conflicts. We had much fun with that flick but at the same time it gave my friend a good scare and he started to see aliens in his bedroom. The most iconic scene was the scene where the boy at the pond turns his head and reveals he is an alien. We've been still talking about that scene today and sending that pic to each other to this day. So this was how I stumbled over your homepage.
You see even in Germany this flick has traumatized people over TV. It is broadcast at least once a year by cable TV somewhere. I think it is a good movie and the actors are very good. Except for Stephen Berkoff and Richard Crenna you don't see the other actors often. I couldn't believe this is the same Richard Crenna like in the RAMBO movies. I recognized him there later.
My personal Kindertrauma on TV is "JAWS" and the "Deadly Friend". I nearly puked in my soup when I saw when Anne Ramsey's head is smashed with a basketball. I felt so ill I wrote a letter to the TV station and complained about that. I could not watch the movie for 20 years.
So much for Intruders and for now.