horror

7 Little-Seen Horror Movies You Should Watch, Because Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching, which means that you really should be watching some horror movies in the next couple of weeks. ‘TIS THE SEASON, DAMMIT. If you’re not watching horror movies in October, you’re basically the acting mayor of No-Funnsylvania  (the elected mayor of No-Funnsylvania was impeached after the local newspaper discovered that he is actually, in fact, way, way fun).

“But C-dog, you’re so handsome, and also, what horror movies should we watch? THERE ARE TOO MANY CHOICES.”

First off, thank you for noticing my handsomeness. I have upped my candy corn intake as of late, and I think the resulting, constant sugar high has really given my skin a nice dewy glow. Regarding your second point: I know… BELIEVE ME… I know. There are SO many horror movies out there, and a lot of them, frankly, suck out loud. It can be intimidating, wading through that sticky swamp of eye-grabby titles and lurid cover art, which can lead to frustration, hopelessness, and, eventually, you just end up watching I Know What You Did Last Summer for the twentieth time because whatever, who cares, take me away, Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Fortunately, I am here to help. See, I like horror movies. A LOT. It’s my “thing,” which I will admit is kind of sad and even a little creepy 11 months out of the year. BUT NOT IN OCTOBER, BABY. The Halloween-adjacent weeks are my time to shine.

So, to that end, please allow me to jam some horror movie recommendations into your eye holes. Some LESSER KNOWN horror movies, mind you. No Nightmare on Elm Streets or Halloweens here. The following movies are ones you may not have seen, but really SHOULD see. While they might have flown a little under the radar, they are all varying degrees of greatness.

And if you HAVE seen all of these, well then… do you want to be best friends?

To the movies!

NOTE: All of these titles are available on Netflix. If you DON’T have Netflix, then… what… do you like read a lot or something? Do you hike? YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: 1940’s, small-town serial killer baffles cops; terrorizes locals

If you were to take a vicious, hooded serial killer and drop him into an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, the resulting Mayberry bloodbath would look a whole lot like The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The movie is almost a horror sub-genere all its own; call it, “Slice of Life Horror.” Just small-town folks, goin’ ’bout their lives… having some laughs, some love, some joy, and some sorrow…  and every now and again, a couple of them get murdered by a psychopath. Tonally, this movie is all over the place; there are icy chills, and there are moments that can only be categorized as slapstick. To me, though, that makes TTTDS even MORE realistic, because life isn’t really just one tone all the time. Maybe it has something to do with this being based on true story? Or maybe the filmmakers were just kind of not great at their job. Either way, it works.

Also, the killer… dubbed “The Phantom” by the locals… is straight-up terrifying. His hood thing, seen in the posters, is simple, yet very effective as a part of his whole slasher ensemble. Plus, he murders somebody with a trombone. It’s weird. The whole movie is kind of weird, actually. It’s all just a little off-center. Which is nice.

Here Comes The Devil

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: Siblings disappear. Parents worry. Siblings reappear, but changed. MAGIC CAVE!!!

If you like your horror films slightly inscrutable and also full-to-bursting with weird, sexual energy and vaginal imagery, then, boy, you have really specific taste in horror films. Also, Here Comes the Devil is THE movie you’ve been looking for!

Now… I will admit up front that I did not totally understand what was happening in Here Comes the Devil. The ending, especially, is a bit of a head-scratcher. But that’s okay! Sometimes ambiguity is a horror movie’s best friend! Besides, I’m not very smart; it is ENTIRELY possible that this movie makes PERFECT sense, and it simply sailed over my head like a low-flying, very obvious condor.

Regardless, it’s worth a look, because there is a LOT of atmospheric, creepy ghost-style shit going on in HCTD. Oh, and it’s in Spanish, by the way. If you’re scared of subtitles, you are a weenie.

Antiviral

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: Celebrities infect fans with their viruses. Also, Lab-grown flesh!

Antiviral is a Cronenberg movie, but not THAT Cronenberg. This is a work by Brandon Cronenberg, who is the SON of David Cronenberg. Although, to be fair, the film-making apple did not fall very far from the auteur tree. Much like his father, Young Cronenberg traffics in body horror and ideas about “the new flesh,” all wrapped up in some rather pointed social commentary. Junior’s take is a little more arch and winking than his dad’s, but that fits well with his celebrity-culture focused plot line.

Now, I will grant you that Antiviral is technically a little more science fiction-y than it is straight horror. Here’s the thing though: Don’t worry about it. At the end of the movie, you’re going to feel pretty gross, and you’re going to really not feel excellent about life, in general, either. If that isn’t horrific, I don’t know what is.

Pontypool

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: Zombie virus that spreads via non-traditional methods.

We’ve all seen a million zombie movies by now, but this one… well… Pontypool is different. Giving away the twist would be, and SHOULD be, punishable by death. Your viewing experience is well-served by going in as blind as possible. So let me just say this, as a way of teasing your interest: The majority of this movie takes place in a radio station, and that setting is not an accident nor a casually tossed-off detail.

There isn’t just a ton of action in Pontypool, but it is absolutely riveting all the same. To that end, it is worth noting that this is the only movie on the list that you could stage as a theatrical production while making almost no changes to the script. That should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. If that’s your kind of horror jam, you will dig the absolute pants off of Pontypool.

The House of the Devil

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: 80’s babysitter versus Satanic cult.

A very pleasing throwback to the Satan-crazed 1980’s, The House of the Devil feels like the kind of movie you’d find occupying some real estate on the Horror shelf of your local video store, back when those were still a thing.

It should be noted that THOTD is paced a little slower than most horror flicks. It is not, as the kids say, balls to the wall (until the final 15 minutes or so). It’s the sort of movie that you kind of just have to sink into, like a hot tub. A HOT TUB FULL OF SATAN!!! Ahem, but yes, its pacing is a little on the leisurely side. Do not get discouraged! The payoff is exceptionally disturbing.

Also, there’s a thing that happens about halfway through the movie that made me jump clean out of my skin, forcing me to stop the movie until I could find some replacement skin to wear while my own skin was at the tailors, getting the hems re-sewn. It also caused me to spill my beer. So many tragedies caused by The House of the Devil

Let The Right One In

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: Swedish vampire befriends child. Shit gets ugly.

Ugh, you guys, I love this movie so much. There is some shocking, violent shit in Let The Right One In, unquestionably, but also it will just absolutely break your heart. A few times, actually.

Let the Right One In is cold, sad, gory, and amazing. Watch it. DO NOT WATCH THE AMERICAN REMAKE. It is okay, but it’s NOT the original. If you watch the remake first, an orphaned child gets his favorite toys taken away from him, which sets him on the path to becoming a serial killer. DON’T MAKE US HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANOTHER SERIAL KILLER. Watch the original, deal with having to read while you watch (it’s in Swedish), and just… you know… be a better person. This movie is worth it, you turkeys!

Grave Encounters

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PLOT IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: Douchey TV ghost hunters get exactly what they ask for.

This movie is a what-if regarding those countless “ghost hunter” TV shows, and what would happen if they stumbled upon an actually, really for real, haunted location. The filmmakers… the pretentiously-named The Vicious Brothers…are almost TOO good at recreating the smarmy, self-important aura that the casts of this breed of bottom-feeding shows put off. There are almost zero likeable characters in Grave Encounters.

But that’s fine! More chum for the waters, as it were. Terrible analogy, this movie does not take place on a boat, nor is it about sharks.

ANYWAY, Grave Encounters is mostly shot in the “found footage” style. This is important to note, because a lot of people find that style of movie-making to be the cinematic personification of laziness. I don’t necessarily disagree, but in this instance, it really works within the overall conceit.

Out of all the movies on this list, Grave Encounters would benefit the most from a few stiff cocktails and having all the lights in the house turned out. Doing those things will really ramp up your enjoyment of its somewhat cheesy, yet still pretty scary, offerings.

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In Celebration Of: Maximum Overdrive

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Last night, I watched the movie Maximum Overdrive. Though I had seen it before… it was a late-night staple of my HBO-saturated youth… I hadn’t actually sat down and watched it in well over a decade. Watching it again after so long was, in a word, GLORIOUS. Herewith, a celebration of the wonderful garbage that is Maximum Overdrive:

Maximum Overdrive is a movie about machines of all types… electric carving knives, video games, ATMs, (most prominently) cars and trucks, etc… that come murderously alive. Why? A low-flying comet, because why the fuck not? What do YOU know about comets? Not much? Me either. Maybe if they fly close to Earth, they make machines try to kill us. Who knows??? Space science is a mystery and, as far as I know, has never been studied by humans. Anyway, for eight days, Earth is in the “tail” of the aforementioned comet, which is signified by some keyed-in green fog that hangs in the sky during all the night scenes. This green fog/comet tail/mid-80’s budget SFX, it is implied, is what has made everything go cuckoo bananas. It is the actual villain of the movie. I say again: The actual villain of Maximum Overdrive is this.

-If nothing else, having comet farts be your movie’s bad guy is for sure a bold stroke of originality. Most horror films in the 80’s went with a masked slasher movie-style killer, or at least out-an-out aliens (such as in Aliens). This trailblazing streak runs all the way through Maximum Overdrive and its existence is almost certainly due to lots and lots of very high quality cocaine.

-Speaking of cocaine, Maximum Overdrive was written and directed by Stephen King. Stephen King, as you are most likely aware, is a guy who is famous for writing horror novels. You are most likely ALSO aware that writing horror novels and directing big-budget Hollywood movies do not generally involve the same skill-set. Movie producers in the 80’s were not aware of this, apparently. HOWEVER… they were aware that in the 80’s, attaching yourself to the name “Stephen King” was, at least in theory, a license to print money. That is why the movie poster for Maximum Overdrive looks like this:

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And the trailer looks like this:

 

The producers want to make it VERY clear to the general population that this is a Stephen King joint, even if Stephen King, himself, wasn’t totally aware of that fact at this time. King has stated in various books and interviews over the years that the production of Maximum Overdrive dovetailed nicely with the height of cocaine addiction, and that he really had no idea what he was doing behind the camera. Both of those are things that really put a first-time film maker at a disadvantage. I should know; I went to film school.

-If you’re a fan of bad acting, Maximum Overdrive is basically a sloppy, spilling-over, BBQ joint combo platter of lousy performances. And… keep in mind… I mean that in the best possible way. At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got acting so subtle it practically counts as a bout of narcolepsy (Emilo Estevez, looking like a high school quarterback that got a punk rock haircut on a dare, and Laura Harrington, who looks like the 80’s). And on the spectrum’s other end, there’s genre veteran Pat Hingle, who is so cartoonishly villainous, he wouldn’t be out of place tying Dudley Do-Right’s girlfriend to a log in a sawmill. But the undisputed bad acting champ of Maximum Overdrive is Yeardley Smith. All of her dialogue is spoken AT THIS VOLUME and with a Southern accent that makes Paula Deen look like Benedict Cumberbatch. It also just sounds a whole lot like Lisa Simpson, who Smith has been playing on The Simpsons for the past 20 years. That is, of course, no fault of hers or the filmmakers. It’s just really funny to hear Lisa Simpson (or a bizzaro world Southern Lisa Simpson, whatever) shriek about killer trucks. Maximum Overdrive has got layers, is what I’m saying.

-Having pointed out that Stephen King was a coked-out mess of director, and the performances are unilaterally garbage, I feel like to need to say here that, despite all that, Maximum Overdrive is just TONS of fucking fun. Parts of it are just bonkers (a guy gets murdered by a coke machine, which might be my most favorite thing ever captured on film that doesn’t directly involve female nudity), and some parts… like the film’s opening-scene drawbridge disaster… are actually quite spiffily executed. It’s also worth noting that Maximum Overdrive doesn’t shy away from the gore, which I find always enhances movies like this. Fun-bad movies have to have some splatter in them to really connect with ol’ C-dog, and this one does not disappoint in that regard.

-So, if you find yourself in the mood for a ridiculous, trashy, wheels-off movie to watch, drunk, with friends… you could do a lot worse than Maximum Overdrive. And, you can watch it right now, for free, right here on Zombie Fights Shark. Inexplicably, the entire movie is on YouTube at no charge. So… here’s that. YOU’RE WELCOME:

Double Feature Friday

Every Friday, as a service to your weekend’s entertainment, I will hand-pick two movies that together form a thematic Double Feature. I will also throw in a Wild Card film, should you feel like expanding the event to a Triple Feature. You’re welcome.

Double Feature Theme: “Horror Remakes Done Right”

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Wild Card:

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Info:

Saying that most horror movie remakes are garbage is kind of like pointing out that the color red is really red-looking, or that dirt has many dirt-like qualities. The whole argument… that movies shouldn’t be remade for an easy buck, because there is original content out there just waiting to be experienced… has become obvious and, frankly, exhausting. Movie studios are going to crank out remakes. They just are. Period. There’s too much money in it for them to give a shit what you think of their product’s quality… especially when there is a massive, hormonal line of dumb-ass teenagers right behind you just BEGGING to hand over their allowence money to see whatever cheap-thrills turdpile has been unceremoniously dumped into their local cineplex. Teenagers, after all, will always need a place to dry-hump each other in the dark. Theaters showing shitty horror movies fit that bill PERFECTLY.

The battle we SHOULD be fighting is not that they exist, but that they’re usually so terrible. They don’t HAVE to be. It’s not a law. In fact, there are actually some exceptions to the “horror remakes are shitty” rule, and thus… eloquently… we segue into this weekend’s double feature.

The original version of The Blob is a classic movie, but it is mainly a classic because it is just so very stupid. Sure, it’s got Steve McQueen (and, per the trailer, a cast of exciting young people!) as well as a nifty concept, but at the end of the day it’s really just a lot of people running away from slow-moving Smucker’s jelly. The remake, on the other hand is… well, ok, it’s kind of stupid too. HOWEVER, it does have one thing going for it, and that would be tons of gooey, nasty gore. Because of that… and because of the overwhelmingly 80’s vibe (Shawnee Smith’s hair alone will become, at least for an hour and a half, your reason for living)… The Blob remake is just solid gold good times.

Next up is The Crazies, a horror remake that benefits from the fact that most people don’t know it’s a remake. The original of the same name, shot in 1973, was helmed by none other than George Romero, and while Romero’s trademark social consciousness is present and accounted for, the film is a sluggishly-paced bore. Hindered further by acting that is decidedly amateurish, as well as production values that hover in the “industrial short film” range, the whole affair comes off as dull and lumpy. Not so, the late-00’s remake, which is slick as can be while still providing the requisite grimy chills. As a bonus, the updated Crazies features a pre-Justified Timothy Olyphant playing essentially… well… Raylan Givens, his character from Justified, but in someone’s internet fan fiction where Givens has to fight chemical-crazed zombie townsfolk. A little more serious-minded than The Blob remake, but still a lot of fun. The hospital pitchforking scene ALONE is worth the effort expended in watching this.

As for the Wild Card… Cape Fear isn’t a horror film NECESSARILY, but it does feature Robert De Niro in his balls-out scariest performance as a homicidal ex-con hellbent on revenge. With Scorsese at the wheel, De Niro chewing on every piece of scenery available, and Juliette Lewis damn near stealing the movie out from under everyone… the 1962 version of Cape Fear might as well not even exist.

Suggested Props:

To liven up your Double Feature experience, I recommend adding some props into the mix. For the “Horror Remakes Done Right” Double Feature, I suggest…

-Jell-O mold, preferably purple

-“Blob Shots” (spoonfuls of grape jelly floating in vodka)

-Gas masks, or, if gas masks are unavailable, scuba masks that you PRETEND are gas masks

-Sheriff badges

Suggested Extreme Props

-Sulfuric acid, so you can “melt along” with the actors in The Blob

-Pitchforks, so you can have a pitchfork duel at the conclusion of The Crazies. Last man standing gets the remainder of the Blob Shots.

HorrorFlix

Reviewing the entirety of the Horror genre on Netflix, one movie at a time.

This week’s film…

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Relevant Cast and Crew…

Writer/Director: Noboru Iguchi

Megumi: Arisa Nakamura

Aya: Mayu Sugano

Maki: Asana Mamoru

The Plot…

Ostensibly, Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead is about a group of teens (or possibly adults… it’s unclear, as they appear to range in ages from 17 to 35, yet are all clearly a part of the same social circle) that get stranded in the woods and are subsequently set upon by some really yucky zombies. But what Zombie Ass is ACTUALLY about is how much writer/director Noboru Iguchi is obsessed with young girls farting. I mean… far be it from me to judge another man’s fetishes. Whatever gets you through the night, as long as it’s legal and doesn’t result in everyone needing a tetanus shot, is usually fine. It’s just impressive that this dude has managed to parlay his particular fetishistic inclination into a film career. Because, make no mistake… Iguchi is to farting schoolgirls what Hitchcock was to blondes. As proof that this isn’t just a “this movie” kind of thing, here’s a short film that Iguchi made as part of the ABCs of Death anthology, entitled “F is for Fart.” [WARNING: For the love of whatever deity you hold dear, do not watch “F is for Fart” at work. Or around any loved ones that you would still like to be able to look in the eye after the four-minute running time of “F is for Fart” is up. Or around open flames. Because farts.]

ANYWAY, the farting figures into Zombie Ass in a couple of different ways (which I believe is the first time THAT sentence has ever been written). A through-line in Zombie Ass is Megumi, the central character, and her long, surprisingly violent history with Fart Shame. Megumi is deeply ashamed of her farts, so much so that… and bear with me here… she is unable to fart on command to save her little sister from a group of schoolgirl bullies. The sister, however, DOES fart in the presence of the bullies, filling her (the sister) with so much shame and humiliation THAT SHE KILLS HERSELF.

I gather that this is maybe treading into some deep cultural waters that we, as Americans, don’t really understand. Sure, we don’t ENJOY busting ass in front of people (well most of us don’t; the Frat Bro/Hilarious Uncle populations being exceptions to the rule), but we’re also not going to pitch ourselves over a ledge if a stray toot happens to sneak out in mixed company. In Japan, I gather that they take their farts a little more seriously. If this movie can be believed, of course, and given that it’s about butt-parasites that turn people in zombies… I’m not sure it’s credibility is super duper high.

The butt-parasites would be the OTHER way that farting figures heavily into Zombie Ass. Which brings us to…

The Gore…

This is the kind of movie that you’re going to want to wipe off of you when you’re done watching it, preferably with a bleach-soaked rag. Zombie Ass takes what can only be described as a “balls to the wall” approach when it comes to gore, mixing splattery practical effects with some iffy-quality CGI to create a truly nauseating buffet of blood, guts, shit, and puke. A lot of this stems from the fact that the aforementioned butt-parasites emerge from their hosts via, well, the butt. This leads to a lot… just a WHOLE LOT… of shots of creatures coming out of flayed, gaping anuses. CLOSE UP shots, mind you. Iguchi does not shy away from the butthole in Zombie Ass; in fact, whatever prosthetic they used for all the alien-ejecting-from-some-poor-son-of-a-bitch’s-rectum scenes deserves, at minimum, fourth billing on the movie poster.

The effect, overall, is at first violently gross. After awhile though, it becomes oddly numbing. By the end, when there are characters using the tentacle-like parasites coming out of their asses as weapons, it will hardly even register that you’re watching the depraved jerk-off fantasies of a madman. You’ll be like, “Oh, an ass-parasite ate that guy’s baseball bat… ho hum… what’s next, farts-as-jetpack? Oh… yep… right on cue.”

The Wrap Up…

Overall, despite this movie having a scatological streak wider than the ocean that separates Japan from the US, and despite the movie itself being… you know… kind of dumb, I actually sort of LIKED Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead. It was, if nothing else, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And it’s pretty funny! The scenes of our heroes being chased by hoardes of zombies that are crawling backwards, Jersey Turnpike-style, with butt-parasites chomping from between their cheeks is inherently pretty comical. Plus… and when you’re dealing with movies like this, it’s a BIG PLUS… the movie just zooms by. No pacing issues here, probably because Iguchi couldn’t wait to get to the next fart-based set piece.

So, if you’re looking for a movie to watch with your strong-stomached buddies while getting absolutely plastered on grain alcohol, may I please recommend a trip off the beaten path with Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead? You’ll be thoroughly disgusted, but you’ll also laugh your hopefully-parasite-free butt off. Megumi, take us home…

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