No One Will Save You (2023)

Your standard home invasion is frightening enough but what if you learned the “invasion” in question went far beyond your own home to include say, the entire planet? That’s basically the plight of poor Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever) who, when she’s not wrestling with progressively intimidating alien life forms, builds a scale model of the town that scorns her while mourning the loss of a childhood friend she accidentally killed.

This PG-rated sci-fi horror hybrid could easily crash and burn but thankfully it’s written and directed by our ever reliable buddy Brian Duffield who previously directed the outstanding SPONTANEOUS (2020) and penned such personal faves as LOVE AND MONSTERS (2020) and the highly underrated UNDERWATER (2020, I shall die on this submerged hill). Two standing ovation worthy choices were made by Duffield right from the starting gate. First of all, the aliens are blatant, upfront and in your face rather than stingily kept in the dark until the final curtain and secondly there is no dialogue (except perhaps a line at the beginning). As someone who easily tires of chin music, it’s a refreshing relief and I gotta say, it really works within the film to create an atmosphere of pure urgency. There’s not much else to do in Brynn’s unfortunate situation than shut up and run!

The title NO ONE CAN SAVE YOU works just as much as low key friendly advise as it does a gloomy observation. Brynn’s clearly battling her tragic past as much as the startlingly varied varmints that pursue her. Dever’s expressive mug and girl-next-door demeanor does much to ground the film’s more fantastic elements and make them as creepily believable as an extravagant nightmare. Few action stars endeavor as much as fast on her feet Brynn, and the I’m betting the sight of the imposing alien creatures alone would break the spirit of most. Although Brynn is of few words, while witnessing her ordeal I could not follow suit; I often muttered things like “Oh shit”, “no way” and of course a direct quote from John Carpenter’s THE THING (’82). “You gotta be fucking kidding.” My poor brain was trained to expect shy twiggy ectomorphs who sneak peaks from behind doors like in COMMUNION (’89) or those inquisitive surgery-happy abductors who are happy to ghost you post-examination like in the infamous traumafier FIRE IN THE SKY (’93). I wasn’t ready for giant spider-beings clawing over houses, parasitic throat-dwelling jellyfish and what can only be described as TIK-TOK-baiting intergalactic Vogue-ing.

As eye-popping and over the top as NOBODY IS GOING TO SAVE you is willing to go, it impressively remains a lean, clean, straight forward machine, an apocalyptic character study that expertly juggles both the personal and the infinite. Better still, unlike my own too numerous alien encounters, the events depicted here are memorable enough that I won’t have to resort to expensive hypnotherapy to tearfully recall them! What better praise is there than that? Bonus points are rewarded for the film’s ultimate conclusion that asserts that defiant denial in the face of horrific reality is the key to happiness. I couldn’t agree more.

The Nun 2 & A Haunting in Venice

Lord help me, I rather enjoyed THE NUN 2. I’ve gathered this CONJURING universe offshoot is considered to be a lesser branch on the franchise tree but I appreciate its pure simplicity and love how it generously pours on the gothic ambiance.The ever unassuming Taissa Farmiga returns as sister Irene who, after some globetrotting and Nancy Drew-ing, discovers that her nemesis, the demon nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons) rather than being relinquished to hell as assumed, has hitched a ride inside her good buddy Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) aka “Frenchie” and is hanging out in a boarding school in France. I can’t help but find myself grossly concerned with the jump-scare-happy happenings that follow because gosh darn it, I really want these two characters to live full and happy, demon nun-free lives. This is one of my favorite aspects of cinema, it allows the viewer to feel empathy for other humans while keeping them safe from any damage that fellow humans may potentially cause. I’m fine with simply being a cheerleader here. Go Irene and Frenchie! Down with Valek! Boo too all evil demon nuns!

Much like ANNABELLE CREATION and OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, I’m thinking THE NUN 2 is a happy step up from its underachieving foundation building predecessor. The scares (or at least the chair shaking, bombastic Dolby system my local theater wields) work well. In fact, one clever bit that plays with apophenia at a newsstand startled me even after I’d witnessed it countless times in the trailer. The titular Nun herself looks especially formidable throughout the climax and as hoary as many of the visual elements are, I have to admit they pretty much match my own personal aesthetic and I’d gladly hang many of the shots in this film on my wall. Better still, there is a previously unseen monster that makes a late in the game appearance (via a stained glass window no less) that absolutely turned my pupils into giant cartoon hearts. I wish I could describe this creature further without ruining his inauguration but suffice to say, I now covet an action figure of this glorious cherry on the cake beast. Consider me a convert, THE NUN 2 delivers the gruesome goods you'd expect and several you might not see coming.


I’ve always considered murder mysteries as horror adjacent fare and the latest Agatha Christie adaption courtesy of Kenneth Branagh A HAUNTING IN VENICE (proceeded by MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017) & DEATH ON THE NILE (2022)) favors the fright zone even more so than usual. Based on Christie’s 1969 novel “Hallowe’en Party”, this outing (again featuring the director as detective Hercule Poirot) focuses on seances, curses, ghosts and of course, murder most foul.

On Halloween night mystery author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey… now, I know you may be thinking, “Hey Unk, one of the many benefits of being a horror fan is that it makes it easy to avoid movies that prominently feature Tina Fey” but trust me, Branagh is well aware of the delicate situation and puts her innate snarkiness to ample use) coerces a retired and uninspired Poirot to attend a seance in a cursed orphanage inhabited by a grieving opera singer (EDEN LAKE’s Kelly Reilly) in order to expose the assumed phony psychic medium Joyce Reynolds (recent Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh). Poirot is quick to find a slew of flim-flam falsehoods throughout the session but as the night progresses and bodies pile up, it appears something supernatural may actually be afloat. It’s unlikely anyone will get too frightened of the goings-on here but there’s absolutely no denying the cozy nest of tension built or the dark foreboding beauty of the surroundings. As an epic storm rages outside, Branagh dips into the Orson Welles bag of cinematic artistry he has not deigned to plunder since DEAD AGAIN (’91) and wow, Venice has not been this visually stunning and haunting sinister since Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW.

No Place To Hide (1981)

Argh. I’m trapped in a heat wave and I have no place to hide. Might as well cover all the windows, blast my AC and hunker down to watch the made for TV movie NO PLACE TO HIDE (’81) (on ol' reliable YouTube). I got an itch and it can only be scratched by the legendary John Llewellyn Moxey (THE NIGHT STALKER (’72), HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (’72), I, DESIRE (’82) et al.). This flick has fascinated and creeped me out since my youth and may be ground zero for my freaky fear of movies involving women simply trying to make it to their cars at night in seemingly unpopulated parking lots or garages. I love this once ubiquitous trope-cornucopia spilling clacking heals on cement, startling car horns and menacing shadows and/or silhouettes. It’s even more satisfying if the potential victim ends up hiding under the car staring at ominous shoes. The real pay off is the inevitable hider in the back seat though. So gratifying.

Doe-eyed art student Amy Manning (frequently terrorized Kathleen Beller of ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? (’78) and DEADLY MESSAGES (’85) fame) would just like to get to her car without being attacked by a masked creep, thank you very much.
Make it to the car she does, but only to discover she’s fallen for the oldest trick in the book and is ubber-ing an assailant who sneakily hid in the back seat and waited for the most stressful moment to reveal himself (such things kindertraumas are made of). The uninvited masked threat, rather than kill poor Amy while he has a chance, instead utters the cryptic threat, “Soon, Amy, soon” and bolts out of the car as her head is turned. Turns out Amy has been stalked by this lanky lunatic for a while now, so much so that all of her friends and family are beginning to suspect she’s imaging the whole thing and the ever helpful police have thrown up their hands in exhaustion. Is Amy a nutcase or is somebody trying to make her look like a nutcase? When she receives a sinister funeral wreath in the mail it seems tangible evidence has finally been secured. That is until Amy questions the florist about who ordered the delivery and he informs her that she herself did! What the hell?

Luckily there is a tragedy in the past just waiting to be explored. Amy by all accounts was doing swell until that fateful day a year ago when her beloved (and rich) father, while visiting their lakeside cabin, died in a mysterious boating accident! Amy was meant to join her father on the trip but stayed behind (likely to concentrate on the sculptured bust of herself she’s been working diligently on) and now is looney with guilt. I don’t want to give too much away but I’m sure you’ll have a general idea of which direction this cart is heading when I tell you Amy’s super concerned and unsuspicious stepmother Adele (Kodak spokeswoman Marietta Hartley who incidentally, I assisted as a retail worker when she was doing a play in town in the mid-nineties) and beady-eyed psychiatrist Cliff Letterman (the totally non-creepy Keir Dullea) conclude the best way for Amy to face her mental problems is by visiting said secluded cabin far from any possible aid if trouble should arise. Sure, it’s probably the most unsafe place anyone could possibly think of going to but psychiatrists and stepmothers know best!

Just when you think you’ve got this particular DEATHTRAP (’82) all figured out, the game board is spun yet again and something akin to DIABOLIQUE (’55) emerges sweetly injected with some choice modern slasher set pieces. Horror mainstay and Hammer alumni Jimmy Sangster (HORROR OF DRACULA/FRANKENSTEIN etc., plus many a clever psychological puzzler like SCREAM OF FEAR (’61), PARANOIAC (’63) NIGHTMARE (’64) etc.) truly knows how to twist the knife, old pro Moxey keeps the cat & mouse stalking at an impressive pace and Beller is basically built for the material. Heck, the time period it was made in alone delivers nearly everything on my own personal goggle-box couch party shopping list. Outdated yet sincerely missed corniness abounds and it's possible NO PLACE TO HIDE might leave a few horror-heads craving more bloodshed, but all in all, this is one fun under-seen TV gem that shouldn’t stay hidden.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Ever since my very first kindertrauma watching SATAN’S TRIANGLE (’75) on TV as a kid, I’ve been especially partial to horror films that take place on a boat. THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER seems crafted to appeal specifically to me because it’s not only boat-bound but also takes place in 1897 and concerns none other than Dracula systematically taking out a trapped crew as if privately mentored by ALIEN and THE THING (The only way this film could get any more up my alley is if at some point it snowed). Based on the seventh chapter of Bram Stoker’s all time classic novel Dracula and directed by non-slouch Andre Ovredal (THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK), DEMETER further sweetens the gothic pot by presenting what might be the scariest vision of vamphood since SALEM’S LOT (’79). Frequent creature performer Javier Botet (the [REC] franchise, MAMA, the crooked man in THE CONJURING 2) is perfectly cast as the most visually alarming version of the Count yet, an unholy amalgamation of Max Schreck’s NOSFERATU and that pesky pterodactyl from JURASSIC PARK III. I’m talkin’ double yikes with a side of yikes.

Probably the most thankless job a person can have is being a crew member of the merchant ship Demeter, taxed with transporting the deadliest of cargo from Transylvania to London. Perils abound as a hideous stowaway savagely feeds upon any hapless soul that crosses its path. Sure, practical onboard doctor Clemens (Corey Hawkins) may be able to elongate your existence with a blood transfusion or two but it’s more likely you’ll end up with a neck ripped to smithereens, pupil-free eyes, and exploding into flames when the sun rises. It ain’t pretty. Like the aforementioned ALIEN & THE THING, DEMETER does a slick job of introducing a group of doomed individuals whose different personalities clash as their numbers dwindle. A nearly unrecognizable David Dastmalchian (who recently creeped about in THE BOOGEYMAN) is especially good as Captain-to-be Wojchek, a paranoid instigator who buts heads with the hero doc. Aisling Franciosi is similarly sharp as Anna, the tougher than she looks lunchable Drac snuck onboard in case he gets the munchies. I’m actually looking forward to all of the characters gelling further upon inevitable future views; these aren’t one note screamers, some of them get to ponder the nature of evil and our helplessness in the face of death before they kick the bucket.

I suppose my favorite aspect of DEMETER (besides its dense atmosphere, air of doom & gloomy demeanor) is its commitment to being absolutely brutal. Although it’s patient as hell getting to the point of no return, when it’s time to get the gruesome work done it really goes for the throat (so to speak). Nobody is safe here, in fact, nobody is likely to survive and Dracula is truly dead and loving it. In fact, the sadistic ghoul is like a kid in a candy shop. It’s like somebody finally took off this classic character’s reigns. Director Overdal wisely shows the beast in shadowy flashes at first but eventually he’s on full display and the make-up effects and design work are splendid and even awe-inspiring at times. The cinematography is wonderfully dank and murky adding to the feeling that you never know where the abomination might emerge from next and who isn’t thankful for a score by good ol’ Bear McCreary ( HELL FEST, FREAKY)? All in all, I couldn’t ask for a better cinematic escape on a nightmare summer day than to be plopped down onto a creaky vessel during a fierce rainstorm with a murderous entity clawing and flapping about. I suppose its poor box office performance (mostly thanks to its unwieldy title I suspect) is likely to sink any chances for a sequel which absolutely bites if you ask me.

Talk To Me

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.

High Rise Horror: Part 2 By Ghastly1

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... 

Tenement (1985)

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. 

Blackout (1978)

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.  

Trapped (1989)

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. 

Lisa (1990)

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. 

Insidious: The Red Door

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.

The Boogeyman (2023)

You’d think the world wouldn’t need yet another movie entitled THE BOOGEYMAN (the boogey bog was muddy enough with 2005’s BOOGEYMAN, its sequels and of course Ulli Lommel’s notorious 1980 throw in the kitchen sink, supernatural slash-a-thon THE BOOGEYMAN ) but the latest heir to the moniker has a major ace up its sleeve as it’s based on a short story by horror master Stephen King. Truth told, King’s tale is as slight as they come (a troubled man tells his therapist that his three children were all killed by an amorphous monster that hangs out in closets) so its utilized more as a kicking off point in this instance (a more faithful short film was made of it back in 1982). The result is an efficient, audience friendly PG-13 scare dispenser that’s sure to please horror fans looking for their fix. Ultimately, the film favors ALIEN-inspired creature features like A QUIET PLACE rather than its more psychological source material but there’s plenty going on in this monster’s bulbous head concerning grief and its aftermath to always keep it emotionally engaging.

Chris Messina (DEVIL, SIX FEET UNDER) portrays a therapist named Will Harper who conducts his sessions from home. He’s an emotional wreck having recently lost his wife in a car accident but is trying to keep it together for his equally devastated daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher of YELLOWJACKETS) & troubled tyke Sawyer (Vivian Lyra Blair). One day he unwisely allows a creepy stranger (David Dastmalchian) to weasel his way into his home office. The weirdo only bums him out further telling him through tears that a supernatural closet-dwelling creature murdered his three children. Worse still, when Will excuses himself and attempts to call for back-up, the loon creeps further into his house and hangs himself in a closet (and as we’ll learn, passes the horror hot potato onto the already overly burdened family). You’d think that having a slimy ten foot tall monster on your heals would be the last thing you’d need while processing the recent death of a loved one but as it turns out, it’s very therapeutic! While trying to legit kill everybody, our Boogeyman also inadvertently teaches the family if you hold on too tight to something, you’re going to be dragged (in this case into the basement).

I thoroughly enjoyed THE BOOGEYMAN. It’s got more than it’s share of good scares, an appealing cast and it was obviously built with the intention of giving the audience a fun ride. Director Rob Savage (HOST) does a great job of keeping the titular baddy shapeless and hidden in the dark for much of the runtime, only allowing teasing peaks here and there and then kindly delivers an appreciated full gander view during the surprisingly tense climax. Much creative work is is done with light and shadow and the film successfully brought me back to my own memories of being scared and alone at night as a child; absolutely convinced that something horrible was with me in my bedroom at night (in my case I was worried about the giant hand under my bed and a mysterious figure named “Mary Wolf” whose picture I was sure I saw in a children’s encyclopedia (in hindsight, I believe it was just a scary tribal mask). Hey, I might be biased, THE BOOGEYMAN is basically about giving physical form to a Kindertrauma, how can I possibly not love that?

Unhinged ('82)

I should probably be trying to keep up with all of the new horror movies that have been released this year but I can’t seem to stop returning to my familiar haunting grounds, the eighties. Real world chaos has got me yearning for comfort horror and it’s well recorded that I have a soft spot for slow burn, storm strewn, mansion set, hand wringing horror that preferably features a spinster of sorts and ideally was made in the greatest decade known to man (think THE NESTING, THE HEARSE, THE UNSEEN, SILENT SCREAM, et al.) Don Gronquist’s UNHINGED is just such a film and although it’s widely remembered as an especially non-gory and uneventful video nasty, I personally see it as a go-to easy fix for anything that might ail me. The acting ranks from monotone to cringey, the writing is bizarrely repetitive and needlessly mannered, there are long stretches where characters basically do nothing and yet, I can’t help yearning to bask in its creepy, quiet weirdness from time to time.

Three young, pretty gal pals (Laurel Munson, Sara Ansley, Barbara Lusch) embark on a car trip to a music festival, their journey amplified by bright fall leaves and an ambitious (especially for a 100k film) aerial view that apes THE SHINING. After the car radio alerts them to a recent spat of missing girls, their vehicle inconveniently crashes into a ditch and all goes black (which happens a lot in this movie). The trio finds themselves in a giant spooky mansion having been saved by a likable enough handyman named Norman Barnes (John Morrison) and an uptight shut-in named Marion Penrose (Janet Penner). The PSYCHO references don’t end with those names, Marion’s mother (Virginia Settle) is a paranoid bellowing crone, fixated on sex, who belts out commands and accusations at regular intervals. As accommodating as the Penrose family initially seems, the girls slowly learn that they might be prisoners more than guests as they are stalked by a mysterious mouth-breather and their numbers quickly dwindle.

With all its faults, UNHINGED has tons of character and there’s something about its classic rainy, travelers trapped in an old dark house vibe that I find irresistible. Gorehounds may be let down by the lack of blood but the few killings that do occur are notably vicious and there’s a jar full of eyeballs thrown in as a consolation prize. UNHINGED does indeed take its sweet old time swinging into action but viewers who stick with it throughout its slender eighty minute runtime will be rewarded with a (at least for me) jaw-dropping twist ending that fits all the puzzle pieces together tightly (and perhaps problematically by modern standards). It’s a memorable denouement that cleverly underlines the films assertion that repression is a ticking time bomb. I’d guess the biggest culprit of the film’s less than stellar reputation is the questionable local acting talent who are forced to speak globs of stilted dialogue that often goes in circles but I’m of the thinking it adds to the flick’s charming peculiarity.

UNHINGED may not be the murder by scythe slaughter-fest its poster art implies but its eccentric odd ball nature, objectively creepy atmosphere and beguiling synth score will always keep me coming back to the Penrose estate (Oregon's Pittock Mansion, an operating museum at the time of filming) for more.

High Rise Horror

EVIL DEAD RISE has gotten me thinking about all the great horror movies set in skyscrapers and buildings so it seemed like a good time to compile a good old fashioned horror list. These are the flicks that immediately sprung to my mind but as always I’m sure to have missed a few so please add any I missed in the comments section!

We may as well start off with one of the most famous filming locations in horror history, ROSEMARY’S BABY’s gothic ground zero New York’s Bramford building! I’m not above using the cliche that this oppressive structure operates as its own character in Roman Polanski’s satanic classic based on the equally stunning Ira Levin novel.

DEMONS 2 (1986)
A year earlier, Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS (1985) displayed the horrifying results of demonic entities infesting a cinema, this time out, the horde of possessed creatures take over an entire building and turn a birthday party into a living nightmare.

Billy (Zach Galligan) & Kate (Phoebe Cates) find employment working for corporate blowhard Daniel Clamp (frequent baddie John Glover) in a spectacular skyscraper in New York City. Fate insures they’re soon joined by their adorable pal Gizmo who inadvertently spawns trouble in a multitude of new ways.

They’re baaaack again. Little Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O’Rourke) is ghosted by her parents and sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle (horror royalty Nancy Allen & Tom Skerritt) in a Chicago skyscraper (John Hancock center). Of course, the pre-teen brings heavy baggage in the form of vengeful spirit Reverend Kane and pint-sized well-meaning psychic Tangina (the great Zelda Rubinstein). What more could be said about this underrated sequel that wasn’t mentioned in THIS epic post from years ago?

SHIVERS (1975)
Starliner Towers is a luxury high-rise that has everything! I’m talking a restaurant, a variety store, an olympic-size swimming pool AND an outbreak of parasitic pickle-sized creatures that turn people into crazed orgy loving perverts with violent tendencies. This extravaganza of non-stop body horror could only be an early calling card from Canadian creep-meister David Cronenberg.

THE FACE OF FEAR (1990) I read the book this made for TV movie is based on as a teenager when it was credited to author Brian Coffey. Turns out Coffey was really Dean Koontz who went on to take credit for his work and even co-write the screenplay for this production. Get this: Lee Horsley plays a psychic, former mountain climber with a fear of heights who is stalked by a killer in a high rise with his fiancé Pam Dawber. Where is Mork from Ork when you need him?

CANDYMAN (1992) & (2021)
Supernatural revenge phantom Candyman (The great Tony Todd) is certainly scary but is he as terrifying as Chicago housing project Cabrini-Green? My love for this film is best expressed HERE but in the interest of saving space let’s just say if your bathroom mirror can be removed for access to the apartment next door it’s time to look for some new digs. Note: Don't sleep on this flick's impressive 2021 re-boot sequel which feature's one of cinema's greatest long shot into a building's window death scenes.

Directed by horror legends Freddie Francis (THE SKULL, THE PSYCHOPATH, TORTURE GARDEN et. al.) & Ken Wiederhorn (SHOCK WAVES, EYES OF A STRANGER), 1987’s DARK TOWER has nothing to do with Stephen King and everything to do with a Building in Barcelona with a Bad attitude. As if window washing wasn’t a challenging enough job, this petulant premises promises to push you down to the pavement! Don’t believe me? Just ask Jenny Agutter (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON), Larry Cohen muse Michael Moriarty ( Q, THE STUFF, IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE, RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT) or Anne Lockhart (John Carpenter’s first choice to play Laurie Strode in HALLOWEEN)

Speaking of HALLOWEEN, this made for television thriller was written and directed by John Carpenter and filmed immediately prior to his trick or treat masterpiece. Originally titled HIGH RISE, this suspense tale features Lauren Hutton being terrorized by an unknown pursuer in her luxury LA apartment building. Playing a supportive co-worker and neighbor is future Carpenter wife, MAUDE alumni and irrefutable horror royalty, Adrienne Barbeau.

CANNIBAL MAN (1972) This surprisingly moving horror character study (and notorious video nasty) directed by Eloy de la Iglesis features zero cannibalism and is sometimes known as the more appropriate title APARTMENT ON THE 13TH FLOOR. Professional butcher Marcos (Vicente Parra) accidentally kills a taxi driver (it happens) and soon finds himself offing anyone who enters his orbit to cover his earlier crime. 

THE LIFT (1983) & THE SHAFT (aka DOWN, 2001)
Dick Maas is your go-to guy if you’re looking for a movie about an elevator who becomes sentient and decides to kill people. He directed both the 1983 Dutch science fiction horror film THE LIFT and its 2001 American remake starring Aussie THE RING survivor Naomi Watts!

DEVIL (2001)
Speaking of elevators on the fritz, how you like to be stuck in one (in Philadelphia no less) with infamous nogoodnik Satan himself? Would it make you even more unnerved to know what happens next is based on a story by renown brain-twister M. Night Shyamalan?

Well, the whole country has been overtaken by murderous corpses but don’t worry, the wealthy are living it up in a luxury high rise known as Fiddler’s Green. And who better to be in control of what’s left of society than wild-eyed live-wire Dennis Hopper? Comeuppance ensues.

CITADEL (2012)
This highly underrated psychological thriller taps into your every urban paranoia while also triggering the parental fear of protecting the vulnerable. Aneurin Barnard stars as agoraphobic Tommy who grieves his wife who died due to a violent gang assault and must protect his infant daughter from hoodie heathens that surround his rundown building. If you’ve ever been mugged this flick is an incessant fountain of nerve-jangling stress.

Monstrous aliens with super cool glowing teeth take on a gang of young street thugs (including John Boyega) in a Council estate in south London. There’s more action, humor and pure awesomeness on display here than you can shake a stick at!

HIGH RISE (2015)
It’s not exactly a horror movie but this opulent adaptation of the novel by J.G. Ballard novel sports a whirlwind DAY OF THE LOCUST scorched earth conclusion that distresses to the core. Featuring a stacked cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss, Sienna Miller and directed by Ben Wheatley (KILL LIST), this visually stunning, seventies-set, apartment complex as ant farm look at society’s self destructive nature has one too many dog endangerment scenes to become a favorite but is a highly memorable experience all the same.