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31 Days of Halloween (2020): Three Horror Movies To Watch Before Halloween

It’s almost Halloween, and some of you haven’t even watched a horror movie yet. Not sure what you’re thinking, but it’s not too late! Here are three horror movies to watch before Halloween.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Before there was Cabin in the Woods, there was Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Both films take place in a world where horror is real, albeit not necessarily in the way the horror movies make it out to be. And both are fantastic.

Leslie Vernon starts out as a mockumentary. During a brief intro scene, we learn that in this world, Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger, and Jason Vorhees are all real, legendary killers. And Leslie Vernon wants to be the next in that illustrious line. To make his legend even more spectacular, he invites a documentary crew along with him, showing them the behind the scenes of how these killers do it, the tricks of the trade, and the planning a good killing spree requires. But as the appointed night draws near, it’s possible everything is not as it seems.

I’d heard about Leslie Vernon for years, but it was only this Halloween season that I finally got around to watching it. I’d been missing out, and the horror mockumentaries and self-aware horror movies of the past decade clearly owe a debt to what was, at the time, a pretty unique idea. Leslie Vernon starts off a little awkward, and it takes a while for it to find its footing. But when it does, the movie simply launches into orbit. There’s a point, definitive and obvious, where the movie transitions from the documentary style to traditional horror. It’s brilliant and perfect and I loved ever minute of it.

These kind of movies aren’t for everyone. But if you are one of those people who loved Scream and What We Do in the Shadows and Cabin in the Woods, The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a no brainer. And what better time to check it out than this Halloween?

4.5 Stars

Viewed on Shudder streaming.


Spoiler Warning: Somehow, I managed to avoid all spoilers to this movie. If you haven’t seen it and want to do the same, I’d stop reading now.

Truly, we are living in the golden age of horror. Horror’s always been around, and there have been classic scary movies in every decade. The classic monsters of the 30s and 40s, the aliens of the 50s and the zombies of the 60s and 70s (and the 2000s). Exorcists and slashers of the 80s and 90s. But today, it seems as though we’ve reached a new level of quality.

At the top of that peak are new classics, brought to us by new voices with a unique way of looking at things. They aren’t looking to scare us with jump scares so much–though they know when to throw one of those in there. Rather, they want to disturb us. They want to burrow in and leave us thinking.

Movies like The VVitch, The Babadook, and It Follows have redefined what horror can be. And then, there’s Hereditary.

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Hereditary hits you like a sledgehammer. From the beginning, it oozes dread. It starts with a funeral, and the atmosphere only gets darker from there. By the time that scene happens, you’ll be forgiven for wondering if you’ve stumbled onto the most depressing drama since Terms of Endearment. But the creeping fear that’s been growing since the beginning is about to break out, and when it does, you’ll be staring at the screen with your jaw open and your eyes fixed.

At its core, Hereditary is a movie about fate and about our utter powerlessness to fight back against it. We’re puppets in the hands of dark masters, and Hereditary drives that home from the very first scene. There’s something deeply Lovecraftian, and certainly Ligottiesque, about the whole thing, and if you are looking for a happy ending or even a bit of redemption, you need to look elsewhere. This movie is not for the faint of heart.

I’m not sure exactly what to say about Hereditary. It’s not a movie that I’m going to add to my yearly watch list. But I doubt I’ll ever forget it, either. I’m not sure you’ll enjoy Hereditary, but you must watch it. You don’t have a choice.

4.5 Stars

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Horror comes in all shapes and sizes, but there’s something about small horror, in closed, claustrophobic places, that gets me. Only a few characters. Small sets, and not many of them. Darkness, tight spaces. No escapes. When done well, the tension is unbearable, every sound its own jump scare.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those movies that does it well. Father and son run a mortuary/coroner’s office in small, nondescript town. When three people are murdered and the naked body of a young woman is found half-buried in their basement, it’s left to them to perform the autopsy on the Jane Doe to figure out just what happened. And figure it out they do, but will they live to tell the story?

The Autopsy of Jane Doe rises and falls with the actors. Most of the story is told through the eyes of our father and son team of coroners, as they discover more and more strange things about the body on the slab. When a storm begins to rage outside and strange things start happening inside, the story works because of their reactions. It’s easy to lose a story like this, to make it boring. But that never happens. The first two thirds of this movie are brilliant, and even if it slips up a bit in the final act, that’s a minor quibble.

In atmosphere and overall feeling, Autopsy reminds me a lot of Last Shift, another claustrophobic thriller. If you liked that one, give this one a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

4 Stars

Bonus review: All Cheerleaders Die. Caught this one on Shudder, and it was far better than I expected. Fresh, funny take on the zombie genre. Check it out.

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A Reading of The Call of Cthulhu

Ordinarily on Friday, we highlight some of the best songs out there with a horror flavor. Today, we’ll do something a little different. Enjoy a reading of the classic work, “The Call of Cthulhu.”

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31 Days of Horror (2020): The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Normally on this page we look to horror that entertains. But today and tomorrow, I’ll be delving into true horror, into some of the greatest mysteries yet to be solved. This one you may have heard of, but I bet the one you see tomorrow will surprise you.

On February 2, 1959, in the midst of a blizzard and sub-zero temperatures, nine experienced hikers cut through their own tent pitched on the side of a mountain and fled into the darkness. Half dressed, they made their way down the slope of the mountain called Kholat Syakhl—which according to some shaky translations means Mountain of the Dead.* Reaching the tree line, they cut down branches to start a fire. Here, two of them, Gregory Krivonischenko and Yury Doroshenko, died from exposure. Three others, Rusteem Slobodin, Zina Kolmogorova, and the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov, attempted to head back to the tent, perhaps to gather needed clothing and supplies. One by one they collapsed in the snow, never to rise. Four others—Nicholas Thibeaux, Ludimila Dubinina, Alex Kolevatov and Semyon Zolotaryov—were found months later, buried under more than ten feet of snow. Their deaths were the most mysterious of all.

They had obviously lived longer than the rest of their companions, as they had scavenged some of their clothing. Nicholas’s skull was shattered, broken in so many places that he would not have been able to move. Ludimila and Semyon’s chests were crushed with a force the medical examiner would describe as consistent with being hit by a car. Kolevatov died of hypothermia, though strangely, he was found with his jacket unzipped and his nose broken.

That’s the shortest possible intro I can give you into the mystery that has become known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Books have been written about it; entire websites have been dedicated to it. There’s no way I can cover everything you would need or want to know about this case. If you want to dive into the mystery headfirst, check out this site. It has original documentation and discussion of the various theories about what exactly happened on that night.

Here’s a map that will help you visualize the series of events.


It’s in Russian, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. You see the tent on the side of the slope. You see the footprints of the 9 going away from the tent and down to the forest where they built a fire. One thing that is not obvious to those who do not know the story is the yellow image on the bottom right. That is a storage area the campers set up the morning before they died. It contained extra firewood, clothing, and food.

The existence of that cache of supplies probably answers one question–where the campers were going. It is likely the case that after they left the tent, they lost their bearings in the blizzard and went the wrong direction. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late to change course.

But why did they leave the tent in the first place? Why didn’t they take a moment to put on more clothes before venturing into subzero temperatures? They are often described as fleeing in terror, but the footprints they left behind show an orderly descent down the mountain, not a chaotic flight. But there is one image that simply blows my mind, that makes me wonder just what in the world was going on.

I have linked to that image below. I warn you, the image is quite graphic. It is a picture of Semyon Zolotaryov taken the day his body was found, many months after he died. Take a look at what is around his neck. It’s a camera. A camera! Why in the world does he have it? Adding to the mystery, he was found with a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other. But unfortunately, he hadn’t written anything.

Here’s the photo.

I just can’t get past it. Whatever you think happened here–whether it was an avalanche (unlikely), the fear of an avalanche (more likely), escaped prisoners, Mansi warriors, or KGB assassins, if something happened that would scare 9 experienced hikers into abandoning the safety of their tent and rushing out into the cold, why would you leave warm clothes behind but grab a camera?

I don’t know that we will ever have the answer to what happened on that mountain, but I’m convinced the key lies with Zolotaryov’s camera. The film inside was badly damaged. The pictures recovered from the camera can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

Maybe there was something in the sky that night, something Zolotaryov was trying to capture on film. Maybe what ever that was, a missile, a plane, or something more extraordinary, that was the thing that made the campers leave their tent and rush to their death.

So what do you think? What’s your theory? What happened on that mountain side all those years ago? Let me know in the comments.

*It probably actually means Dead Mountain, as in, a mountain on which nothing grows. But that’s not creepy enough.

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31 Days of Halloween (2020): The Best Scenes in Horror Movie History Part II

And now five more of the best scenes in horror. Enjoy!

Dawn of the Dead (2004) — The World Ends

One of the best remakes ever–and that’s saying a lot considering the source material–Dawn of the Dead also has one of the best scenes of any zombie film. Most zombie movies, for whatever reason, don’t show the fall. The pick up sometime later. But this movie managed to capture exactly what it might be like to wake up on the last day of civilization.

The Babadook — Dook, Dook, Dook

I loved The Babadook, and I think a big reason is this scene. It starts so innocently, and yet it gets under your skin, unnerving you, making you think you something is watching over your shoulder. And maybe it is.

Sinister — The Lawnmower Scene

Sinister is an underappreciated horror movie in my view. But I don’t know anyone who didn’t appreciate this scene. Perhaps the single greatest jump scare out there. Turn the lights down and the volume up.

Army of Darkness –Hail to the King, Baby

Most horror movies sputter to their conclusion. Not Army of Darkness. It ends with one of the single greatest scenes in all of horror history. I can quote the whole thing. Who can’t though?

A Nightmare on Elm Street — Falling Asleep in Class

This is, without a doubt, my favorite scene in all of horror. It’s perfect. Perfectly written. Perfectly acted. And it sums up everything that A Nightmare on Elm Street is about. (As an aside, Nightmare is my favorite horror movie.

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31 Days of Halloween (2020): The Horror that Made Us

Children are impressionable. I say this not as a father but as a human being. The older I get, the more I realize just how impressionable they are. The nature vs nurture debate is eternal, but one thing of which I am sure is this–the horror that I watched and read as a child shaped me, more than I could have ever imagined.

Just seeing the covers of the books makes me nostalgic.

I find myself, to this day, thinking of certain of these experiences. There was R.L. Stein, that most prolific of horror authors for children and pre-teens. Goosebumps made him famous, but it was Fear Street that I walked down. The stories followed a fairly predictable pattern, and it was never difficult to figure out who the killer was. But to these young eyes, every book was wonderful, and I couldn’t wait to pick up the next one at Wal-Mart. I probably read every single one of them before I was finished.

There was “The Raft,” the second story on the second Creepshow. Some college kids head out to a nondescript lake to go for a late summer swim. They get to the raft in the middle just ahead of what looks like an oil-slick floating across the water. But they learn soon it’s so much more than that, and they may not escape with their lives.

To this day, I don’t like swimming in lakes. Can’t imagine why.

There was “Where the Summer Ends,” a short story by Karl Edward Wagner that I read in a book called Nightmares in Dixie. I’d picked it up in my elementary school library. Pretty sure the librarians had never read that one, cause if they had, it wouldn’t have stayed on the shelves. The story was about the things that live in kudzu, the ubiquitous plant that seems to cover half of the south. It borrowed into my mind like crawling vines, and it never let go. For decades, I thought about that story, never knowing who had written it, until I came upon it for a panel I was preparing for at a horror conference. It felt like coming home.

I wonder sometimes whether revisiting these childhood memories would be a mistake. I’m sure the Fear Street books no longer hang together. The acting and special effects in “The Raft” are probably terrible. The It miniseries that shocked me as a child would probably bore me now. (Though “Where the Summer Ends” is as good as ever).

But that’s not what matters. What matters is the impression they left, and the gift that they gave, a gift that has lasted a lifetime.

The lesson? Share your love of horror with your children. You never know what may start from small beginnings.

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31 Days of Halloween (2020): Horror Books…For Kids!

As I explained earlier in the month, I just had a baby. And that’s got me thinking more about horror books written specifically for children. And being a horror author, I’ve received quite a few as gifts in recent days. Here are three I recommend, particularly to anyone looking to raise a little Lovecraftian.

C is for Cthulhu by Jason Ciaramella and Greg Murphy

One of the first things you teach your children is their ABCs, but what if your kids can’t tell the difference between C and Z? Then C is for Cthulhu is for you. Written by Jason Ciaramella with beautiful illustrations by Greg Murphy, this book will be a hit in any household.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon for Beginning Readers by R.J. Ivankovic

“Dagon” was the first story by Lovecraft I ever read. If I’d had this book when I was a kid, it could have been the first story of any kind I ever read. Illustrated and told in a style reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, Dagon is a great way to introduce your kids to the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu for Beginning Readers by R.J. Ivankovic

Without question, the very best of these Lovecraftian kids books is Ivankovic’s treatment of “The Call of Cthulhu.” Also done in a Seussian style, Ivankovic manages to capture the original feeling of dread that pervades Lovecraft’s work–all in a sing-song rhyme and with child-friendly illustrations. A can’t miss.

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31 Days of Halloween (2020): My Horror Fan Theories

Horror rarely plays it straight. Few genres lend themselves to allegory, to hidden meanings, to twists than horror. But sometimes, hidden meanings are unintentional, and if we are so inclined, we can see our favorite stories in a new way entirely. Consider the following.

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix) is really about mold toxicity.

Netflix’s excellent The Haunting of Hill House is easily one of the best things to happen to horror in the last decade. Brilliantly acted, exquisitely shot, beautifully written, there’s little that matches it in horror on the screen today. But what if Hill House isn’t haunted at all? At least, by nothing unnatural? It’s right in front of our face.

Stuff like this kills the resale value.

Just look at the walls of the Red Room. They are covered in toxic black mold. And don’t take my word for it–removing the mold is a key plot point of episode 7.

Now here’s the thing about mold; sure it can kill you, but it can drive you crazy, too. What are some of the symptoms? Confusion, difficulty concentrating, disorientation, memory loss, mood swings, irritability, aggression, and yes, hallucinations. In other words, every single thing we see during the series. And the longer you stay in it, the worse it gets. It’s not as sexy as a house that devours souls, but still pretty terrifying if you think about it.

Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street has suffered a psychotic break.

I’m on record for my love of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but what if the whole thing is in Nancy’s head?

So, are they supposed to look like a couple here, or what?

A Nightmare on Elm Street leaves something to be desired when explaining what’s going on. Why is this happening now? What gives Freddy the power to enter people’s dreams? And why just Nancy’s friends? Weren’t there other people involved in Freddy’s murder?

None of this hurts the movie, and if anything, too many people feel the need these days to explain every little thing that’s going on in their movies, books, or whatnot. But it does open up some possibilities.

Given what we know, there’s really only one thing that makes sense–this is all part of Nancy’s psychotic breakdown. She’s in a padded room somewhere, experiencing a megalomaniacal fantasy, one where a boogeyman from the neighborhood–legends of which we know are whispered by little girls playing jump rope–has come back to target her and her friends. But only she can overcome him. Only she can defeat him. She is the hero of her own story.

A Head Full of Ghosts is about an actual possession.

The last couple posts have been about debunking the horror of the story, but with A Head Full of Ghosts, we have a chance to do the opposite.

It took me forever to realize this shot is sideways.

What if Marjorie really was possessed, and what if that possession passed on to Merry when she died? What if everything Merry has told us in the book, at least everything that happened after the spirit was driven from Marjorie, is a lie? After all, it gets awfully cold in that coffee shop there at the end. Could that be the demon, stealing the energy from the room, and inadvertently revealing itself?

True, I’ve pretty much rejected this supposition in the past, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so…

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Abyssal Plain Updates

Happy Winter Solstice, friends. Remember not to call up that which you cannot put down.

The Abyssal Plain: The R’yleh Cycle has been out for about a month now and it’s doing great, thanks to all of you. Reviews have started to come in, and they’ve been very good. I hope that you’ll continue to post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as you finish the book. There’s no greater gift you can give to an author than a review. So much depends on them.

With the book launching so late in the year, I didn’t expect to make any Best Of lists. Turns out, I was wrong. Richard Auffrey has The Abyssal Plain on his Best of the Year list, and I can’t tell you how honored I am. I’ve been reading Richard’s blog and book reviews for a very long time, and there are few people in the business I respect more than him.

So give yourself an early Christmas present or a right on time Solstice gift and pick up The Abyssal Plain. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

And as a bonus, go check out the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s A Solstice Carol. It’s fantastic, and just one of the great holiday offerings from the society.

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The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle

When William Holloway came to me to me and suggested we write and edit a Lovecraftian anthology together, I was skeptical. My writing time had been limited by work, and I’d been trying to finish the sequel to That Which Should Not Be and He Who Walks in Shadow for so long I was becoming a poor man’s (very poor) George R. R. Martin. But then he told me his idea.

A civilization at the beginning of the Old One’s return, still oblivious to the doom gathering beneath the waves, and shaken by a global catastrophe they don’t yet understand. Struggling to survive in a world gone mad. Five authors, four stories, all taking place in different places, advancing the story toward its inevitable conclusion. I was hooked.

Now The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle is here, and I could not be more proud of what we produced. I hope you’ll check it out and leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, and wherever you buy books. And thank you, as always, for your constant support.

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The Mist

It is a rare thing, a horror movie that not only frightens but truly surprises. And that is why The Mist is one of my favorite movies of the last decade. Based on one of Stephen King’s best and most Lovecraftian storiesThe Mist tells the story of the aftermath of a particularly bad storm on a small town in Maine. The town supports a military instillation, one that apparently is engaged in some top secret research. The storm unleashes something from behind, and whatever it is, it hides in the mist.

The main characters are trapped in a supermarket, with the mist surrounding them. And as the tension builds inside the building, the people inside become as dangerous as whatever is hiding in the shadows. The movie is loyal to the book, and this is yet another instance of Stephen King taking a simple but brilliant idea and crafting it into a stunningly horrifying masterpiece.

It’s rare that I worry too much about spoilers in a review. After all, it comes with the territory. But I don’t want to say too much about The Mist. It shouldn’t be ruined. There’s simply too much to enjoy.

The Mist is one of Frank Darabont’s greatest works, and many of the actors in the film went on to star in The Walking Dead. He is an uncompromising talent, as The Mist reveals in soul-crushing grandeur.

5 Stars

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Now Available: The Abyssal Plain

It’s not every day a new book comes into the world, but when it does, it needs your help to grow and thrive. I hope you’ll pick up my latest, The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle. I promise – – you won’t be disappointed. And don’t forget to leave a review!

They called it the Event.

The Event changed everything. The earthquakes came first, including the Big One, shattering the Pacific Rim and plunging the world into chaos. Then the seas came, the skies opened, and the never-ending rain began. But as bad as that was, there is something worse.

The Rising has begun.

A lone man who abandoned the world for his addictions searches a waterlogged Austin for something, anything to cling to. Little does he know that something else searches for him.

In the Sonoran Desert, the downtrodden of the world search for a better life north of the border, only to see the desert become an ocean: an ocean that takes life and gives death.

In the woods of Alabama, survivors escape to Fort Resistance, but soon discover that it isn’t just the horrors of the deep places of the world that they need to fear; but rather a new and more deadly pestilence that has grown in their own ranks.

In England, it’s too late to fight, and all that’s left is to survive. One man reaches for his own humanity, but what to do when humanity is an endangered species?

And in the Pacific, He is rising.

In The Abyssal Plain: The R’lyeh Cycle, authors William Holloway, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, Brett J. Talley, and Rich Hawkins have created a timely and uniquely modern reimagining of the Cthulhu Mythos.

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Suspiria (1977)

Throughout the 1970s, Dario Argento produced a string of excellent films that helped cement Italy’s place on the horror map. Among the best of these movies was the 1977 film Suspiria. Building around a relatively simple and straight-forward story, Argento managed to create a moving canvas on which one stunning image after another was displayed. At times, the story takes a back seat to the shear artistry of the film, but unlike some movies that are all flash with no substance, Suspiria uses the vibrancy of the surroundings to draw us in to the world Argento creates and add to the mysterious and otherworldly nature of the events that we witness.

Suspiria tells the story of Suzy Bannion, a talented young ballerina who travels to Germany to perfect her craft at one of the most respected dance academies in the world. Arriving on a stormy night, she travels to the academy only to meet with a panicked young girl who flees from the building without explanation or any seeming cause. Suzy is later to learn that after leaving the young woman was murdered, and soon she beings to suspect that something sinister is taking place in the dead of night somewhere deep within the bowels of the academy.

Any discussion of Suspiria must begin with Argento’s exquisite use of color. Suspiria has to rank as one of the most beautiful movies ever filmed. The brightness of the images we witness helps to add to the fantasy like quality of the movie; it is simply difficult to imagine this kind of vibrant color in the real world. One can begin to predict when a murder is about to happen simply by looking at the set. When the colors fade, someone’s life is likely to vanish as well. It may seem as though I am overemphasizing a trivial aspect of the film, but a picture truly is worth a thousand words in this instance, and I highly recommend that even the most casual horror fan take a look at this movie. Adding to the brilliant visuals is a tremendous soundtrack by Goblin. A simple layered track echoes throughout the production and adds to the suspense of the proceedings while also emphasizing the mystical and dreamlike feel of much of the production.

Beyond being a work of film art, Suspiria is also a pretty good movie. Jessica Harper is in top form as Suzy and Alida Valli steals every scene she is in as Miss Tanner. Some of the other actors are less impressive, and provide wooden, forced performances. These instances, however, generally only involve characters with minor or brief roles, and are an annoyance at worst. The death scenes are also incredibly impressive. The first is a work of art unto itself—brutal, bloody, and brilliant—and caps what is one the best first 20 minutes in any horror film, primarily because it builds a level of suspense often reserved for the end of most movies. The terror begins right out of the gate, but not until Argento has peaked our senses with a delicious build up. Argento does not spend all of us brilliance on this first murder. In a later death scene, the use of shadow on a building façade both helps to obscure the true danger the doomed character faces while also reinforcing, and revealing to the sharp eyed viewer, the evil at the heart of the story.

This is not to say that Suspiria is a perfect film. The writing may strike the viewer as childish at times, and for good reason. Argento originally intended the film to be populated with 12 year old students, but the intense blood, gore, and scenes of violence lead to a decision to pursue older actresses. Despite this change, Argento did not order a rewrite, leading to some unusual and childish exchanges. Furthermore, viewers are advised not to think too deeply about the story. When the secret of the academy is revealed, an overly thoughtful viewer might well be led to ask, why a dance academy? Finally, the ending is somewhat weak. I was once watching this film with a friend who, while riveted throughout the movie, exclaimed “That’s it!” at film’s end. This is especially strange, given the tagline of the movie which reads, “The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes Of This Film Are The First 92.” First of all, the movie is only 98 minutes long. Not real sure what happened to the other 6. And while I can certainly agree that the beginning of the movie is scarier than the end, that’s really not saying much. Taken as a whole, however, Suspiria is a superb film and tremendous entry into anyone’s horror collection.

5 Stars

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Watched a neat little horror movie on Netflix recently called Pontypool. The movie tells the story of the eponymous town of Pontypool  and a bizarre virus that is spreading through the community, causing widespread chaos and rioting. But this is not your typical zombie (infected) flick. The vast majority of the story is told from a small, isolated radio station where the station’s manager, production assistant, and star D.J. are hold up, describing to the listeners what they are hearing from reporters in the field. Adding to the interesting take (spoilers ahead), the virus is transmitted by words rather than microbes, a nice twist on the notion that words can induce action in the people who hear them. Good movie. I recommend it. 

4 Stars

Bonus: The first lines may be the best part of the movie. I reproduce them here.

Grant Mazzy: Mrs. French’s cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. “Have you seen Honey?” We’ve all seen the posters, but nobody has seen Honey the cat. Nobody. Until last Thursday morning, when Miss Colette Piscine swerved her car to miss Honey the cat as she drove across a bridge. Well this bridge, now slightly damaged, is a bit of a local treasure and even has its own fancy name; Pont de Flaque. Now Collette, that sounds like Culotte. That’s Panty in French. And Piscine means Pool. Panty pool. Flaque also means pool in French, so Colete Piscine, in French Panty Pool, drives over the Pont de Flaque, the Pont de Pool if you will, to avoid hitting Mrs. French’s cat that has been missing in Pontypool. Pontypool. Pontypool. Panty pool. Pont de Flaque. What does it mean? Well, Norman Mailer, he had an interesting theory that he used to explain the strange coincidences in the aftermath of the JFK assasination. In the wake of huge events, after them and before them, physical details they spasm for a moment; they sort of unlock and when they come back into focus they suddenly coincide in a weird way. Street names and birthdates and middle names, all kind of superfluous things appear related to each other. It’s a ripple effect. So, what does it mean? Well… it means something’s going to happen. Something big. But then, something’s always about to happen.

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Paranormal Activity III

Since the breakout success of The Blair Witch Project, the first person horror genre has been on fire. The technique pulls the viewer into the action. We see only what the camera sees, and when the protagonist is behind it, we become the center of the movie. Granted, it requires some suspension of disbelief. Movies like Cloverfield require us to accept that during a disaster, people would continuously film the action. The original Paranormal Activity managed to avoid that problem in a very simple way—a family is being haunted, and they want to know why. They set up cameras and record what happens. It was a fairly brilliant premise, and it made a lot of money. Sequels were inevitable, and so we have Paranormal Activity III.

Is PAIII as good as the original? Not quite. For one, this time we know the formula, and the producer’s decision to continue focusing on the same family instead of branching out seems like a mistake. What we learn about Katie and Kristi doesn’t really add anything to the story and borders on unbelievable. Moreover, whereas Paranormal Activity did its best to avoid the problem of having a character continue to film in unbelievable situations, PAIII decides to throw that restraint aside and rely on suspension of disbelief. At times, the movie takes it too far.

Having said that though, PAIII offers some great scares. The actors are first rate, and we really believe we are watching real people in real situations. The addition of the camera on the oscillating fan is simply tremendous, and as the camera swings back and forth, the sense of anticipation is heightened, whether anything is waiting for us as the camera moves along its path or not. PAIII is a tense film, and every time a new night falls, we know that the demon is waiting. A good movie for horror fans.

4 Stars

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This review will be a short one. Captivity is a terrible movie. It’s not just bad; it’s not enjoyable at all. And frankly, it’s a disgraceful film that does damage to the entire genre. Fortunately, few people saw it, so I expect its impact is minimal. If you take anything away from this review let it be this: there is nothing good about this movie. It is irredeemable, boring, and a complete waste of time. It’s not funny. It’s not so bad its good. It’s just bad and not worth the two hours of your life that you will never get back.

This is normally the part where I talk about the plot. That’s because most movies have one. Not so with Captivity . Basically, we begin with model Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert), a cardboard cutout character if there ever was one, being kidnapped by an unknown assailant. Then begins an hour of psychological and physical torture. Ah, but there is a twist. There is another captive, Gary (Daniel Gillies). Together they try and stay alive and escape their captor.

Everything about this movie is terrible. The acting is over the top and ridiculous. The writing doesn’t help matters either. The story is incredibly banal at times and stupid at others. For the first hour, we are subjected to pointless torture scenes interspersed with idiotic dialogue between our two victims. After a “twist” that you may or may not see coming (does it matter?) the tone of the movie shifts dramatically. Were it a better movie and were this shift accomplished in a more competent way, I might have been impressed. Instead, the change is simply jarring, and even more boring than before. And here is where I give the whole movie away, so if you still want to watch stop reading now. Gary is in on it. He and his brother Ben (Pruitt Taylor Vance, normally a bit player for a reason) kidnap women and torture them for their sexual jollies. After Ben sleeps with them, they kill them. Except this time, Gary is in love. When the cops show up he kills his brother and tries to frame the murders on him. After a few boring scenes of cat and mouse, Jennifer gets the better of him. But her experience has changed her, and in the final scenes we learn that she has begun to kidnap serial killers and torture them as her means of cosmic revenge. So there. Now you don’t even have to watch this trash.

Something Else To Watch For

The part where she drinks blended human is at least different.

ZERO Stars

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