Category Archives: Night at the Kino

Night at the Kino: Terrifying Thirteen

Thirteen Fear-Filled Films Since 2000

This Friday happens to be a very special day; how rare is it to have a Friday the 13th occur in October. What are you going to do? If you have no plans, and are probably going to stay in, then this list is perfect for you! Why? Because I’m going to give you thirteen options for horror movies since the year 2000 (specific right?). Unlike my previous Night at the Kino, I wanted to introduce readers to the standout films that are considered modern. These range from zombie thrillers, possession stories, animated apparitions, even socially aware scares, and I’m confident that one of these films could get you in the mood for October (if you aren’t already). Now, how to find these films…well, there’s Redbox, some are on Hulu, but for the most…I’d say…do what you normally do (you know what you do, don’t you?). Below you’ll find them, and this is in somewhat of a particular order, but not one that is definite; honestly, take your pick, they won’t disappoint.

The Witch (2015)

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Hands down, I’d have to say this is the Control verse of modern horror. Robert Eggers meticulously crafted a truly tragic tale involving a Puritan faminly living in exile. Without revealing much of anything, I will say that the terror in this tale comes not from the supernatural but the human element. Where most films would focus on creating a grotesque or evil witches, Eggers turns the lens inward and dissects the nuclear family, one member at a time.

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The cinematography does a fantastic job of adjusting to the scope of the film, encompassing the entire woodlands and jumping to claustrophobic cabin settings. It truly is a terrifying film, and I dare you to try and watch it without feeling the dread on your skin. For his efforts Eggers won best director at 2016’s Sundance Film Festival. If you’d like to read my random movie review of The Witch, then click here

The Conjuring (2013)

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We’ve all seen plenty of films with this back story. A family moves into a home that happens to be possessed by an evil entity and it takes the family uncovering the secrets-with the help of some eccentric paranormal investigators-to break the curse. That’s this film in a nutshell, but that is only the surface of it. What James Wan’s The Conjuring did for horror (at least in my opinion) was focus on character development rather than diving right into the scare. This aids in the progression and pacing of the plot, which flows at a steady rate, rising to a dramatic climax in the end.

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Some people go crazy over the “Based on a True Story” label, but I will say, after doing my post-credits research, I was able to accept this title while others fail (The Warren’s were really out here, yo). Yeah, there are some jump scares and some cheap shocks, but the true terror of The Conjuring comes from its style of shooting. It feels campy, like a home movie at times, but that gives the viewer a closer approach to the terror, rather than capturing just reactionary moments.

28 Days Later (2002)

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Before Rick Grimes awoke from his coma to the end of the world, there was another hospital patient being welcomed to a zombie apocalypse in Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting) 2002 thriller “28 Days Later”. The plot is simple, a virus in a research facility gets released and humanity is in deep shit. How deep? Well, when your blood comes into contact with the strain, you lose sense of yourself and become a zombie. And this is where “28 Days Later” shines, the ability to revamp a concept. Instead of giving us mindless ghouls like George A. Romero did (R.I.P. to a legend), Boyle went with a more savage approach, giving them speed and ferocity instead of shuffling. The characters in the story are survivors, they aren’t heroes of any sort, and that’s what I love.Most tales in the zombie genre have gun toting warriors, but this group outlasts the horde by using wit-and luck. 

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The cinematography is gritty and there is an overarching feeling of abandonment in nearly all of the locations. Makeup and Special effects shine with the trademark red eyes for the Rage virus, and who can get John Murphy’s chilling track “In a House, In a Heartbeat”. Overall, this movie is on my list for its revolutionary take on a common theme in the horror genre. Also, fun fact, Danny Boyle turned down knighthood in England.

Noroi (2005)

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Hands down, this is the most terrifying movie I’ve seen. Noroi: The Curse is a Japanese film directed by Koji Shiraishi and from the first time I watched it, I’ve been cursed. The first thing to note is the storytelling: using a “mockumentary” style of cinematography to capture the horror (similar to the original “The Blair Witch Project”). Often this fails because we’re bound to one point of view for it, but this film does a great job by using various sources of media to cover the story-news clippings, and both professional and personal recordings. It introduces us to characters and we get an intimate look at their lives, and how this curse is affecting, and ultimately destroying them.

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My favorite character has to be Mr. Aluminum Foil (you’ll see), his role is so vital to the plot because he creates a sense of panic every time he’s on screen. This isn’t your typical supernatural film, so don’t expect to be hit with the cliche like jump scares and melodramatic sounds; the film grounds itself into reality, and only steps foot into the abyss when it has reached the base of the spiral. A truly terrifying film for anybody willing to read the subtitles (if you can watch Narcos, you can peep this too).

The Descent (2005)

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What happens when you take a group of spelunking woman who have underlying beef with each other, and pit them against the elements of nature, and a superior predator? If you watch Neil Marshall’s “The Descent” you’ll soon discover that answer. Firstly, having an all woman cast for this film is a testament to the versatility of horror-it’s not confined to the male genre-and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve listed it here. The premise alone is sure to breed fear, and then the writer decided to add a well-crafted back story behind the characters, which only added to the level of isolation and abandonment.

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Cinematically, this film pushes into new barriers, throwing us in the midst of extremely claustrophobic spaces, and using the natural darkness to add to the unknown element (also night vision was such a thing back in the early 2000’s). And who can forget that iconic scene when Sarah, played by Shauna Macdonald, emerges from the pool: it’s poster-worthy (which is why they used it as a promo). The Descent will have you afraid to explore any dark depths, whether they be caves or secrets.

It (2017)

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I read my first Stephen King book this year, “The Shining”, and it plunged me into a dark world, so when I heard that the classic “It” was being remade I was skeptical, but ready. Honesty Hour: I’ve never watched the original It-I am reading the book now though-but what I viewed in Andres Muschietti’s 2017 film was a very dark retelling of an already terrifying story. Clowns are easily the thing of nightmares; and Pennywise, played by Bill Skarskgard (“Hemlock Grove”) happens to be the most entertaining. Already from the beginning of the film we are cast into Derry Maine, and into the lives of the youth. The movie pairs both the innocence of growing up with the grim reaper of the gutters, and it delivers.

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Every moment was liable to worsen, as the film proved by keeping us on our toes. Why is this also on my list, because this is one example of paying homage to the source material. Hearing that Stephen King stamped this movie was enough for me to see it; avid readers know that it is rare for novels and films to find a common ground (Lookin at you “Game of Thrones”). It’s still in theaters, and makes for a perfect outing this Friday the 13th!

Kakurenbo (2008)

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Horror does not only apply to the human world, but to the digital as well, and Shuhei Morita’s 2008 animated short “Kakurenbo” is proof. Coming in at around thirty minutes, this film packs a dose of dread from the jump. The art style and background is haunting, and one is imprisoned in this game of hide and seek. A group of children come to play this mysterious game, Otokoyo, where oni (demons) come alive and seek the children.

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I remember watching this on Adult Swim, and having an entire new outlook on animated films. Once the story revs up, you’ll be upset when you find that the end is approaching; definitely something to view when you have some down time though.

Get Out (2017)

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There’s no way that I can go any further without addressing Jordan Peele’s breakthrough film, “Get Out”. Who would’ve thought black folk could do horror? (Because it’s not all devil magic). Aside from the social commentary regarding it-not brushing it’s importance off, there’s plenty of other think pieces out there-this is an engaging story. A “meet my black boyfriend” scenario gone wrong, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Johnny English Reborn”) begins to uncover a secret behind his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family. I have to give a shout out to the supporting cast in this film who really embodied their characters, Georgina’s meme worthy face, Walter’s sprint becoming an entire challenge, and Rod with his antics.

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Look at how much the film has shifted our culture, allowing more black stories to be told by us. And, the final bit that has to be addressed is the comedy (I’m a firm believer that any modern horror has to have it). Peele transfers his “Key and Peele” skit writing into the script, making room for fresh dialogue that naturally flows between each character; the comedy gave us the comfort we needed to get through this scary ordeal.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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This might be closer into the thriller era, but I will set it on this list anyways. I am one of the folk who enjoyed the original “Cloverfield”, and when this one appeared on Hulu, I decided to watch it. Now, like everybody else, I assumed that it was going to be the same take from a different point of view, but instead this film went in the opposite direction. Where the first film featured a monster raging through the city, this one focuses on the monsters inside of men, and what happens when three individuals are forced to occupy a bunker.

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Without giving away too much, John Goodman’s portrayal of the pragmatic Howard was one of the most underrated performances of 2016, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Michelle, held her own against him. The film has its moments of joy, but there is always a tension looming in the claustrophobic cabin, and it often ignites into confrontation. Aside from the other thematic elements, I have to say that the characters shine the most, and I believe that comes from the small number. Having fewer people on screen can create time for development and exploration.

Signs (2002)

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Aliens in a cornfield? Cmon that’s fresh af. M. Night Shyamalan brought the world one of the greatest plot twists with “The Sixth Sense”, so naturally there was already an air of mystery surrounding this film. And then, you hear the cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, Rory Culkin, and they welcome us into the Hess family. When a mysterious sign appears in the crop field in front of Hess family, it will push the renounced reverend Graham to uncover the mystery.

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Signs is unlike any other film on this list, it’s horror being in the unknown. We are graced with many moments in the film (the foil hats, Merrill’s monologue, Shyamalan’s cameo), and I like how they all relate back to this unknown entity; it’s all speculation, and it translates to the viewer as well. By the end of the film you’ll be wondering if any of it was real. Oh yeah, it’s on Hulu now!

The Babadook (2014)

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Another film that is currently on streaming sites is “The Babadook”. Yo, don’t let the people fool you, this movie is a scare, it’s just from an angle that is original; because what’s more fearful: a phantom from a child story booy, or a mother’s struggling battle with grief and a child that fails to behave. Director Jennifer Kent takes a leap into her own world utilizing set pieces and a cryptic style of storytelling, relying on an erratic rhythm rather than a steady pace. Do we ever know what “The Babadook” is, or isn’t; does it even matter?

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The desaturated color tone of the shots enhance the already grim tale, and Essie Davis’ portrayal of Amelia forces the viewer to share in her grief. And this is what makes the film scary, because once we’ve identified with this mother, we are sensitive to her plight but ultimately we’re enraged that she won’t address the issues. This frustration is converted into fear whenever the supernatural element is added, and since we’re in such a volatile state, we’re already ensnared. But it’s only an hour and a half of imprisonment, and will surely make you keep the lights on a little longer this weekend.

 

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

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After he blessed us with the “Spiderman” Trilogy (starring Tobey McGuire), director Sam Raimi returned to his slapstick horror roots with “Drag Me To Hell”. When Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a loan officer seeking a promotion, denies an elderly woman her loan, she is inadvertently cursed, and what a curse. It keeps the audience laughing long enough for the tension to build, turning back to the terror at a moment’s notice. The humor is amped with Justin Long cast as Christine’s boyfriend Clay Dalton, who often has smart remarks for every scenario.

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The film is true to Raimi’s genre blending of comedy and horror, even the antics of the supernatural are borderline hilarious (the maggots in the mouth scene). A must watch for any of his fan (if you watch “Mr. Robot”, you’re a Raimi fan).

 

Gok-seong or The Wailing (2016)

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Netflix has this movie on it’s catalog so there is no reason you can’t watch it this Friday the 13th. “The Wailing” is a South Korean film directed by Hong-jin Na, and it has crossed over into America for a very good reason. It’s terrifying. It’s hard to describe what this film is, because there are plenty of intertwining plots, but you watch a village become beset by an akuma, or demon. The film has great writing, both in terms of story as well as dialogue, each complementing each other. The conversations between the officers are often hilarious, and a great contrast to the macabre mysteries that are befalling the town.

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The soundtrack is spooky (yeah, I said spooky), and it really teeters on the shadow realm of acoustics. There are some scenes that leave you baffled (The Exorcism), and just when you expect the truth to be revealed, the film presses on further. It is a long ride, 2 hours and 36 minutes, but once the engine revs, you’ll be Wailing all the way until the end.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks. Ain’t no reason you shouldn’t be entertained-and terrified-this Friday the 13th. Of course, there are other notable works that I missed, and I feel cliche for making that disclaimer, but I’m going to do so anyways so you understand that my opinion is based more so on my immediate memory rather than a well devised agenda.. As always, feel free to comment or leave any feedback regarding my choices for films. Until next Tuesday…

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Night at the Kino: Groundbreaking Terror

Welcome once again to another Night at the Kino; however, this evening seems to be a bit more macabre than normal. As part of Terror Tuesday, I’m dedicating this month to horror, and what better way to introduce people to the genre than by reviewing movies that are landmark films. Each of these are original in their own right and have set the foundation for the majority of the films (both terrifying and cringeworthy) that we watch today. They may not all be considered “classics, ” but they have a permanent foundation in horror. Of course this goes to say that these are my opinions; however, I’ve been studying the genre and have made valid points to serve as evidence for my choices. There is a movie up here for every person too, despite what you may think. Watching the occasional scary movie can sometimes be a cathartic release of any potential fears that exist within your mind, so if you have nothing to do after reading this, why not stream one of these tales of terror. I try to keep the spoilers to a minimum as well but read at your own risk.

First in Fright

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This is a film you’ve probably never heard of, and you may, honestly, never watch but I’m starting my list with this entry because it is the first “horror” film (even before Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960). The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari as it is known in Germany, its country of origin, was released in 1920 during the silent film era, and yes this is a silent film. The story follows Francis, his friend Alan (who happens to be in love with the same woman as Francis), the woman, a strange carnival, and an even more bizarre booth owner. Dr. Caligari comes to the festival and wows the crowd with a somnambulist (a sleepwalker), Cesare, who also has the ability to predict the future. What happens after this is a series of strange murders, a kidnapping, and a finale that will leave you with the taste of confusion in your mouth. “Gothic horror” is evident in the story, but is also present in the entire production. By utilizing various color filters and handpainted sets, the director Robert Weine thrills us with a visual display of psychedelic madness. My favorite aspect of this movie was the use of the musical score and how it overlaps whenever characters are “speaking,” it’s a genius way to combine visual and auditory sensations without having the actual dialogue. Remember, this is a silent film made in the 1920’s, during the German Expressionism movement; what they did for this film may be considered rudimentary to today’s standards; however, this movie opened the door for the horror genre in cinema.

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Favorite Line: “How long will I live…?” “Til the break of dawn”


Dying of Laughter

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In 1984 Big Brother rules and Oceania is at war with Eastasia, but in our reality, away from the Orwellian nightmare, we were graced with another form of terror. Wes Craven came to the director’s chair once again after successfully completing both The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left, but this time he approached the genre with a new idea, comedy. This unlikely combination of terror and laughs introduced us to the maniacal dream-murder Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street. In a small town, on Elm Street, a group of teenagers finds their dreams haunted by a ghoulish man with a claw on his hand. Interesting fact: Craven got the idea after reading a report about a group of Hmong men mysteriously dying in from nightmares after refusing to fall asleep. What makes this movie so iconic is the villain. I’d argue that this film is carried more by Kruger than the protagonist Nancy, mainly because he was an entirely different villain than the previous movie monsters and masked killers. Krueger is a witty but ruthless, comedic but sadistic, a hilarious but horrifying character who throws in dark humor just before he mercilessly kills his victims. Craven also steps it up with the gore and the death scenes, for each one is uniquely crafted to the situation and the dreamer. Plus, this movie is the debut of everybody’s favorite pirate, Johnny Depp.

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Favorite Line: “Morality sucks”


“Based on A True Story…lol”

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You either love it or hate it, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of The Blair Witch Project (TBWP). Released in 1999 this film was a pioneer in the genre for one simple reason: found footage. This is a style of cinematography where the camera is angled from the point of view of the characters as if they were holding the device directly. What this does is add a new, intimate approach to terror. In TBWP, we follow a group of documentary students on a quest to uncover the secret of the Blair Witch, a mythical entity that is said to have lived in the woods. However, everything becomes increasingly tense as more strange happenings occur on their trip. If you’re looking for a film that gives you visual scares, then look elsewhere; the magic of TBWP is in the tense atmosphere that it builds. It’s heart-aching, dizzying, and traumatic while being a near-perfect imitation of a real camping experience gone horribly wrong. Although we may be too young to remember, this film also had an interesting twist when it came to promotion; it listed the three actors as missing on their website and utilized this gimmick to generate buzz for the initial release.

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Favorite Line: “I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open my eyes.”


Guess Who’s Going To Be Dinner

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Thomas Harris is a bestselling writer, and he is the creator of one of the most iconic cinema antagonists, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Harris’ novel, Silence of The Lambs, was adapted to the big screen in the year 1991, and it brought a dramatic shift to the horror genre by creating the “psychological thriller” subsection. Up until this point, horror movies were weekend flicks for teenagers and thrillseekers to watch, but this film attracted new audience members for its compelling and deranged story. FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by a young Jodie Foster, is recruited by the bureau to interview (read: interrogate) Dr. Lecter, the ever-impressive Anthony Hopkins, in hopes of learning clues to help them catch a serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill. Some would argue that this isn’t a horror film, but it contains many of the elements: a crazed killer who skins his victims, a second crazed killer with a craving for human flesh, a labyrinth (in both the plot and home), a kidnapping, torture, and character suffering. It doesn’t get more horrific than that. This is also groundbreaking for it was the first “not-horror-but-really-is-horror” film to win five Oscars, including Best Picture, further validating horror as a true paragon of cinematic art.

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Favorite Line: “Put the lotion in the basket!”


Late Night Cravings

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Our world today is completely oversaturated with zombies. The shambling corpses are in everything from one of the greatest comic book-to-TV adaptations to 4.99 cell phone games your seven-year-old cousin downloads over Easter weekend with the family. But, none of that would be the case if George A. Romero wouldn’t have come to the screen in 1968 (his feature debut) with the OG of zombie films, Night of The Living Dead. Plotwise this is insanely simple, a group of ragtag people has to survive in a cabin against a countless onslaught of “flesh-eating ghouls.” Now, the zombie was already a mythological entity that Hollywood had already tackled back in the 1920’s with White Zombie, but this film was the first time we saw the brainless, ravenous creatures that populate our culture. Romero’s skill lies in his ability to create both tensions between the survivors and the ghouls, but also within the group; also he cast a black man as the lead character, which was unheard of at the time (but that ending tho smh). The film is shot in black and white, but it was later remade in color. We owe a great deal of our culture to this film, and the best part is, the word “Zombie” is never used in this movie.  

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Favorite Line: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”


Mask On: The Concealed Killer

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We in America have John Carpenter to thank for many of our scares. This director/writer invented some of the best themes for horror, and he did most of it on an indie budget, starting with Halloween in 1987. The plot is quite simple (it becomes increasingly more fleshed out over the series…sort of), an emotionless murderer escapes from his detention center and returns to his small town to wreak havoc on a babysitter and her friends; did I mention that it was on Halloween night? What Carpenter does with this film is give us a realistic predator/prey scenario, which is reflected in the visuals. The cinematography is unique because Carpenter employs extended tracking shots that almost give one the feeling of “stalking,” and he doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks (i.e. jump scares) to frighten us; his “Shape” (aka Myers), as it was called in the script, does that for him. This film not only opened the door for the “masked killer” genre (aside from The Town that Dreaded Sundown), but it also birthed the career of Jamie Lee Curtis who plays the babysitter. Her character also establishes the theme of the “resourceful, clean-teen” survivor, although there is a scene of her hotboxing with her friends. If you’re looking for something that makes you feel uncomfortable after watching then this is the film for you. Also, fun fact about Michael Myers mask: the production team had excluded a mask from their budget, so left with only a few dollars they purchased a Captain Kirk mask (in the likeness of William Shatner) and malformed it to create the terrifying face we know and fear today.

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Favorite Line: “He hasn’t spoken a word in fifteen years.”


Love Can Be Scary Too

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This list of original sins wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a horror film that included genetics, a mad scientist, and…romance? Enter, The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. The version I’m reviewing is 1986 one, featuring Jeff Goldblum as our surprisingly charming Dr. Brundle. What separates this film from other horror films (and crappy remakes in general) is its ability to craft a love story that eventually spins into a horrific tragedy. Dr. Brundle is a reclusive scientist who has successfully created a teleportation device, but when his experiment goes wrong, he slowly starts transforming into something more insectoid and dangerous. But the beauty of this story lies in the relationship between him and Veronica, the beautiful journalist (played by the equally beautiful Geena Davis) who is writing an article about his project. We’re able to witness the transformation of our beloved protagonist into this bestial monstrosity, but we also watch the tragedy unfold as Veronica tries to save her lover. Patience is key in this film as the pacing is relatively slow, but there are elements of humor and drama that make the time pass until it’s time for The Fly to appear. This film was much more successful than its predecessor for two main reasons: the establishment of the story before the horror, and the special effects (it won Best Makeup at the following Oscars). Also, I stand by this claim that this film has one of the best climaxes I’ve ever seen.

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Favorite Line*: “I’d like to be the first insect politician.”

*Although not my personal favorite, the line “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” was improvised by Geena Davis in this movie.


Man and Madness

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Madness is the greatest sickness of the mind, and this list wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a film that delved into this metaphysical plague. Take one scary novel from a NY Times Best-Selling horror author and the visionary mind behind Full Metal Jacket and 2001: A Space Odyssey and you have created the terrifying classic known as The Shining. Written by Stephen King, The Shining is about a writer, Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), serving as the caretaker of a lavish hotel in the mountains of Colorado. He brings his family along and together they experience evil, in both the supernatural and the real. It’s a dizzying tale that’s sure to make any viewer squirm as they watch Jack descend into madness. Director Kubrick may have steered away from the direct source material, but in it’s place he created a visual masterpiece, often revered as one of the most artistic horror films. In every shot, there is a hint of fantasy, but it’s overshadowed by the realness of the situation, making it akin to a dream (or nightmare) rather than just a film. The soundtrack is another redeeming quality; there is more silence than sound, which draws our senses in and whenever it does grace our ears, the noises are more chaotic than typical songs. What Kubrick does with this horror film is show you that the terrifying things aren’t what you show, but what you don’t. This gives the viewer an opportunity to formulate his/her own fear, and there’s nothing more frightening than what is within the mind.

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Favorite Line: “Here’s Johnny!”


How to Properly Handle a Possession

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Considered one of the most terrifying films of the 20th century, The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, did something that other horror movies in the past hadn’t considered, which was to make a film that explored the dark side of religion, specifically (as the title says) exorcism. Exorcisms were, and still are, religious practices to “excise” a demon from a human host; many religions have their variation of exorcisms, but this film tackles the Catholic Church. When a teenage girl, Regan, suddenly starts to exhibit some increasingly bizarre behavior, her mother Chris, played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, goes to whatever lengths to save her daughter including recruiting a priest, who happens to be struggling with his own faith. The buildup of the tension and terror in this film is phenomenal; we slowly watch this normal girl become possessed by a foul-mouthed (and I mean foul) demon. It also has a very realistic approach to the story, because chances are you’re not going to take your daughter to Father Ignacio the minute she has an episode. Aside from the story, the other notable aspects of this film were the cinematography and soundtrack. The song “Tubular Bells” may be one of the most chilling melodies that have accompanied a horror movie. The visuals have a way of entrancing the viewer with recognizable and comforting symbols of religion (ex. Statues of the Virgin & Crucifixes) and then at the same time transporting them to a dark realm where children can crab walk up stairways and twist their heads. This film is an essential for any supernatural horror fan.

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Favorite Line: “What an excellent day for an exorcism”


Fear in the Final Frontier

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Let me go ahead and get my fanboy out the way and say that Alien is one of the best horror films ever made and my personal favorite. With only one other film under his belt, Sir. Ridley Scott used his creative genius and improvisation techniques to give us the deep space terror, Alien, in 1979. In the late future, where space travel and androids are common, a mining vessel receives a distress signal from a nearby planet. When the crew goes to explore, they uncover a mysterious “alien” lifeform that finds its way back onto their ship…and proceeded to hunt the remaining crew. The film contains classic elements of gothic horror but also incorporates science fiction as well, which sets the stage for this survival horror. Each character is fleshed out enough to have us care about them, the xenomorph was unlike any movie monster we’d previously seen, and the progression of the story is well-paced. There are also thematic elements in the story such as the life cycle of the creature, birth and death, artificial intelligence, and even some feminism. Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is worth mentioning too for her character is a break from the typical “helpless” female lead, in fact, Ripley is probably one of the most badass heroines in cinema history. The set design is another important quality; the Nostromo (the ship) is unlike any futuristic vessels. Most of us imagine space travel to be highly advanced, but this ship is a labyrinth filled with dead ends, claustrophobic ventilation shafts, aggressive steam, and other industrial elements. Even the antagonist, the xenomorph, goes through a change like the rest of the characters; tell me you weren’t terrified when it made its first kill as an adult. It’s design, along with the alien homeworld and Space Jockey, were creations of H.R. Giger (R.I.P.), a Swedish artist, whom Scott and the production team hired to be the art director. The “chestburster” scene is iconic and was unexpected by the crew (Veronica Cartwright’s reaction as Lambert is very real). What Alien did for horror was usher in the opportunity for genre-mixing, it blended so many aspects of cinema and art that it’s almost impossible to classify it as simply one. There are high tech computers and cryogenic chambers to appease the sci-fi fan, war-drama worthy camaraderie, and even elements of humor in the dialogue; but, what this film does most is generate fear, and it is this emotion that helps push it closer to the horror genre than the others. Regardless of where it’s classified, just know that this is a cinematic masterpiece and my number one film (in case you forgot).

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Favorite Line: “I admire its purity. A survivor…unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.


Eulogy of the Essence

So there you have it, ten tales of terror on a Tuesday (say that five times fast). Now, I realize that there are plenty of other films that I did not cover, but these selected entries, to me, are the most groundbreaking when it comes to horror, either due to their effect on the genre or originality. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses, but fundamentally, they are complete, and for that reason, they sit as the pillars of my foundation of fright. When it finally comes time for me to tackle the dark side of cinema, I will be drawing inspiration from these productions. I hope you’ve enjoyed my review and take the time out of your week to catch one of these movies because a good scare can do wonders for the soul.