Monday, June 08, 2020

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen (2014)

I wrote this a while back for another site, but the project didn't work out. Seeing that it's now streaming in Amazon Prime I thought I'd throw it up here...

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen (2014)
"a countdown of horror's hidden gems"

We all love a countdown show, right? A couple of hours playing pop culture bingo, agreeing with or disputing the decisions and rankings. It's a good time. When I came across this one from 2014 (and that title which, frankly, felt like a challenge) I couldn't resist.

First, let me say that this is not a top tier production. It’s affiliated with the now-defunct Shock Till You Drop website and directed by Anthony Masi, whose career seems to mostly consist of making horror documentaries. It’s populated by passionate horror fans who work in the genre - but don’t expect any heavy hitters.

The biggest name is PJ Soles (Lynda in Halloween) who narrates. Besides her, there’s a motley crew of indie horror creators, mostly c-list actors, and journalists and bloggers you've probably never heard of. As you’d expect, they each pop up intermittently and give a little context, personal opinion and recommendations for each movie. Some of them are better at being in front of the camera than others, but the worse it gets are some cheesy jokes and dated comments about sparkly vampires.

What’s cool about this countdown is that it’s pretty much spoiler free, so if any of these films do catch your interest, you can seek them out happily knowing nothing more than the basics.

Here’s the list. What do you think? 
(btw I've linked any that I have reviewed in the past).

50. Basket Case (1982)
49. When a Stranger Calls (1979)
48. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
47. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
46. Valentine (2001)
45. Grace (2009)
44. The Hunger (1983)
43. Prophecy (1979)
42. The Dentist (1996)
41. The Food of the Gods (1976)
40. Motel Hell (1980)
39. Wrong Turn (2003)
38. The Fury (1978)
37. April Fool's Day (1986)
36. Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
35. Hatchet (2006)
34. May (2002)
33. Lemora (1973)
32. The Brides of Dracula (1960)
31. The Exorcist 3 (1990)
30. Burnt Offerings (1976)
29. The Funhouse (1981)
28. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
27. Hard Candy (2005)
26. Castle Freak (1995)
25. Feast (2005)
24. Slither (2006)
23. Inside (2007)
22. Tourist Trap (1979)
21. Trilogy of Terror (1975)
20. Splinter (2008)
19. Session 9 (2001)
18. Ginger Snaps (2000)
17. Alice Sweet Alice (1976)
16. Visiting Hours (1982)
15. Repulsion (1965)
14. Alone With Her (2006)
13. Near Dark (1987)
12. Joshua (2007)
11. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
10. Audition (1999)
9. Let The Right One In (2008)
8. Re-Animator (1985)
7. Wishmaster (1997)
6. The Descent (2005)
5. Alone in the Dark (1982)
4. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
3. The Beast Within (1982)
2. Pumpkinhead (1988)
1. Black Christmas (1974)

If you're the kind of person who’s going to watch 2 hours of something with a title like this, I'd say you've probably heard of, if not seen, a lot of these movies. Perhaps this was made more for spooky scene-setting, to be aired around Halloween for inspiration, but for those of us who kind of live and breathe horror, there’s a fair amount of “well, duh” entries. However, I did get a couple of new films to check out such as The Fury: Brian De Palma made a telekinetic horror movie?! Sign me up immediately! And The Exorcist 3: which I always assumed was crap, but apparently it's amazing.

The one that jumps out as a dubious addition in my opinion is number 45. Despite a juicy premise, Grace was a big disappointment lacking the gut-punch you expect from baby-horror. I’d swap that out (choosing pre-2014 films to keep it fair) for the “humans are the real monsters” tale of Deadgirl or maybe the bloody mindfuck of Triangle.

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen is worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something inoffensively horror-adjacent. While not something that's going to truly blow any horror fan's mind, the countdown doesn’t drag, there are some interesting tidbits, and you might just discover some new favourites.

Currently streaming on Tubi, Amazon Prime and Youtube, too.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Bird Box (2018)

For reasons I'm sure you can guess, I've been feeling more inclined to watch vaguely (and explicitly) apocalyptic films, lately. I don't want disease, because... too soon... but zombies and other stuff is fair game. With this in mind, it seemed like a good time to give Bird Box a try, as the initial "meh!" reviews put me off when it first dropped on Netflix. How bad could it be, though? I was still interested enough to chance it.

The first time I heard about this I thought (cw: Harry Potter) "HORROR BOGGART!" and it still stands, to be honest. Directed by Susanne Bier, based on a story by American novelist Josh Malerman (the screenplay by Eric Heisserer) we join the story switching between current day and flashback, meeting Malorie (Sandra Bullock), her sister (criminally under-used Sarah Paulson!) and gradually some other characters in a Dawn of the Dead (2004) type ensemble cast of people stuck together in one location. 

Trope roll call!
  • Sexy, tough female
  • Tattooed, creepy skinny guy who wants to fuck (it's Machine Gun Kelly but I'm old and don't know who that is *shrug*)
  • Grumpy widow (hi, John Malkovich)
  • Funny black dude
  • Soft-hearted lady who makes dubious decisions
  • Competent/kind/hot war veteran

Malorie stands out at the obvious lead here. She's tough, smart, empathetic - and heavily pregnant. She doesn't take shit and doesn't suffer the selfish whims of others gladly. Throughout this flashback we see the incredibly rapid end of the world (as they know it) from weird news stories ("don't worry, it's happening in another country, not here" - gulp!) to people behaving oddly, to full on societal crumble in a matter of minutes.

I am a stone cold sucker for tipping point apocalypse stuff, so this may have been my favourite aspect of Bird Box. The subtlety of the initial weirdness, paving way for the eventual riot and complete destruction of humanity. I dig it, although this stretch of the movie is pretty predictable for anyone remotely aware of the narrative beats of this genre. 

End-of-world ensemble emotions roll call!
  • Suspicion
  • In-fighting
  • Bonding
  • Double-crossing
  • Loss
  • Deception

You know what I'm talking about.

The threat to these characters works well enough; you either lose your mind and commit suicide upon seeing the monsters, or you lose your mind and try to convert others to look at them. There's some not-very-gross-but-still-cool eye effects work, too.

What didn't catch for me were the gigantic leaps in logic and suspension of disbelief required for this story. I've said many times before that when I, Jo, say this, it's a big red flag. I don't usually get this shit stuck in my throat with movies; I'll pick up just about anything you are putting down. However, Bird Box puts down a little too much. Between driving blind from a suburban neighbourhood to a supermarket literally only using the GPS (and said device not functioning the way normal ones do) to lapses in logic when it comes to personal safety when looting... this was a lot for me swallow from a film that was just okay.

It also confirmed something I already knew: I am a horrible person. I turned to my partner and said "I hope one of the kids dies in this". Oops? But I did! I needed something to sink my teeth into! They didn't have the courage to do anything other than mild peril, though.

Speaking of, interestingly (but not surprisingly) the book this was based on had a much more downbeat ending. Malorie reaches her destination, but rather than a paradise of smiling people and a former school for the blind, the book describes a place where the inhabitants have willingly blinded themselves so as not to fall prey to the monsters, and the "sanctuary" offers little more than what the family had already. Points deducted for shaving the sharp edges off of that, Bird Box producers! 

Apocalypse-lite. Streaming on Netflix now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

we're living in strange times.

I sat and listed all my loose DVDs in a spreadsheet last night... partly self-isolation boredom and partly because I am tired of forgetting and mis-remembering which parts of my collection are still left in the UK. SO. That's good and helpful going forward. 

I found I do NOT have Day of the Dead here, booo. But I did find it on Tubi, yaaay.

They also have the disappointing "remake" and a fairly impressive selection of other zed movies, should you feel so inclined.

Stay safe, everyone.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Lootcrate dream crate

A while back I was approached to build a "dream crate" for popular subscription service Lootcrate. Sadly this didn't involve being given lots of money to buy stuff... they just fancied finding out what things I'd enjoying discovering in an ideal unboxing.

So for my amusement - and hopefully yours, too - here's what I chose...

T-shirt: Death Has Come shirt

I follow Lunar Crypt Co. closely, because their stuff is always so cool! What's not to love about this shirt featuring such an iconic quote?

Pin: BURKITTSVILLE enamel pin

Pins are something of an addiction for many of us, and this one from Fright Rags would be an eye-catching, unique addition to a horror fan's collection. I'm kind of terrible in that I love deeper cut, "if you know, you know" pop culture stuff, and if you know and love The Blair Witch Project, this is unmistakably a reference to that. A nice little tribute.

Household: Blood Spill Doormat

Decent spooky housewares are the holy grail for the horror fan homeowner. This doormat in a "blood spill" design from Sourpuss Clothing is the perfect "welcome" to a house that keeps Halloween homewares on display all year long. Though it's maybe too nice and vivid in colour to use outside!

Vinyl Figure: Army of Darkness Deadite Pop!

There's got to be a Pop in there, right? Well I'm super picky when it comes to Pop Figures, generally preferring the more non-human ones as they seem to translate in design better. This Deadite from Halloweentown somehow manages to look cute and spooky all at once, plus thinking about the Deadites always cheers me up.

Something to read: The Yellow Wallpaper

This choice is maybe a little out-there... but it's something I feel passionate about. After randomly finding this short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman on Spotify some time ago, it's become a firm favourite that I find myself thinking about often. Only 6000 words long and first published in 1892, its story is an eerie one of psychological horror.

Want to pamper yourself? Why not do it in inky black bath water? This bath bomb from Hex-Bomb and sold by Foxblood is hardcore as hell.

This was a dangerous endeavour, because now I basically want to buy everything I have listed here. Hopefully you enjoyed this little break from the reviews, and maybe found some cool shops to follow, too? Thanks for reading! đź‘»