Saturday, April 14, 2018

Rotten Tomatoes Lists the Best Horror Movies

Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review aggregate site you either love or hate, compiled it's list of the 100 Best Reviewed Horror Films. This is based on what they call an "Adjusted Score" on eligible titles which stipulates at least 40 reviews and the number of reviews skewing the list (using some statistics thing called a Bayesian formula). Some of these are my favorite films of all times (#2, 17, 18, 23, 34, 41, 45, 58, 73, 90) and others I'm surprised to see on this list (#32, 44-really?, 51, 71), and some I'd never heard of (#72, 84, 93, 94). Anyhoo, my spring/summer project is to watch the remaining 23 films (marked in dead skin blue) on this list that I haven't seen.

1 Get Out (2017)
2 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
3 Psycho (1960)
4 Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922)
5 King Kong (1933)
6 Repulsion (1965)
7 The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
8 The Babadook (2014)
9 Rosemary's Baby (1968)
10 Frankenstein (1931)
11 It Follows (2015)
12 Let the Right One In (2008)
13 Aliens (1986)
14 Freaks (1932)
15 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
16 Eyes Without a Face (1962)
17 Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
18 Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
19 The Witch (2016)
20 The Birds (1963)
21 Gojira (1956)
22 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
23 The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
24 Don't Look Now (1973)
25 The Vanishing (1988)
26 The Innocents (1961)
27 A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
28 Drag Me to Hell (2009)
29 The Evil Dead (1981)
30 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
31 Carrie (1976)
32 The Loved Ones (2012)
33 Young Frankenstein (1974)
34 Halloween (1978)
35 Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
36 Room 237 (2013)
37 Re-Animator (1985)
38 Train to Busan (2016)
39 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
40 The Host (2007)
41 Shaun of the Dead (2004)
42 Dracula (1931)
43 Zombieland (2009)
44 It Comes At Night (2017)
45 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
46 Suspiria (1977)
47 Eraserhead (1977)
48 The Fly (1986)
49 Dawn of the Dead (1979)
50 Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
51 We Are Still Here (2015)
52 Don't Breathe (2016)
53 The Wicker Man (1973)
54 Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
55 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
56 Frankenweenie (2012)
57 The Blair Witch Project (1999)
58 The Shining (1980)
59 The Exorcist (1973)
60 An American Werewolf in London (1981)
61 The Conjuring (2013)
62 The Dead Zone (1983)
63 Misery (1990)
64 Let Me In (2010)
65 Cronos (1994)
66 Gerald's Game (2017)
67 Bone Tomahawk (2015)
68 The Orphanage (2007)
69 28 Days Later (2003)
70 Near Dark (1987)
71 Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
72 Russian Ark (2002)
73 Poltergeist (1982)
74 Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut (2004)
75 The Devil's Candy (2017)
76 Chronicle (2012)
77 Goodnight Mommy (2015)
78 The Descent (2006)
79 The Omen (1976)
80 Slither (2006)
81 Ginger Snaps (2001)
82 This Is the End (2013)
83 Altered States (1980)
84 A Field in England (2014)
85 Spring (2015)
86 The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
87 Gremlins (1984)
88 Backcountry (2015)
89 Paranormal Activity (2009)
90 The Thing (1982)
91 We Are What We Are (2013)
92 The House of the Devil (2009)
93 Save the Green Planet (2004)
94 Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary (2003)
95 Dressed to Kill (1980)
96 The Others (2001)
97 The Conjuring 2 (2016)
98 Santa Sangre (1989)
99 Willow Creek (2014)
100 Split (2017)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quite the Quiet Place

John Krasinski's directorial debut A Quiet Place is truly terrifying, tense and terrific. It's a creature feature that makes the genre feel fresh again, not by its plot contrivance (be quiet or be killed) but by the solid nearly wordless script, a cast that includes the ever-versatile Emily Blunt and the astounding work of Millicent Simmonds as her deaf daughter, and the pitch perfect direction that builds dread, releases havoc and reloads. There are no cheap startle scares. And it's also a smart, staying just ahead of the audience, and then a surprisingly moving film. The world we are dropped into has no clear explication and yet feels full realized, completed with lush swooping hills of the family's otherwise idyllic farm. The most mesmerizing thing about watching this film in a packed theater is how silent and attentive the audience was – no candy wrappers, no cell phones. I've never seen anything like it. This will likely be the year's best horror film and a must-see for movie lovers of all walks.

ADDENDUM: By now most horror fans have heard the news that A Quiet Place is breaking box office records with a huge $50 million opening weekend. And it's holding a steady at 95% on the Rotten Tomato aggregate. So naturally, Film School Rejects reports that the screenwriters are hopeful for a sequel and have some great ideas of where to take the story. Please note there are spoilers, so don't read the article if you haven't seen the film!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Yes, But Is It "Prestige Horror"?

The horror genre is back in a big way and with the recent attention and wins of The Shape of Water and Get Out, there's no doubt prestige horror will be making a huge comeback in the year(s) to come. But what is prestige horror? Basically, it's a serious, dramatic film with a high pedigree that dips into genre themes, such as the supernatural, unnatural monsters, or serial killers. These movies are usually not blockbusters (like The Conjuring or IT) but tend to be indies or lower budget films that get quite a bit of love on the festival circuit and lots of praise from critics (although their marketing campaigns are usually very misleading). Below is my litmus test to determine whether a horror movie is a prestige horror film.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Department 56 Adds to "Nightmare" Village

Department 56's has added a few pieces to their Nightmare Before Christmas line (available June 25). So far this series has replicated what's been available through Disney and Bradford Exchange although with much better detail, larger size, and much better quality. This year we get Lock, Shock & Barrel's Treehouse, the Town Square Fountain, and Zero's doghouse. I hope they keep going and give us some more odd buildings like the round monster building, the witch hat buildings, the cat building, the octopus tower, or maybe even the spiral hill.

Town Square Fountain, #6001202, $40

Lock, Shock & Barrel Treehouse, #6001201, $130

Zero And His Dog House, #6001203, $20

Elsewhere, Department 56's Halloween Village series adds another interesting witch building (Emeralda's Shoe Shop) and a few less inspired buildings that don't scream out to me. I'm not sure what happened since Enesco bought the company but it feels like Halloween has veered towards the dull and stodgy (and enough with the train cars!). Perhaps they've realigned to their target demo (which skews older based on the the village organizations I've met with) and they want to be inoffensive as possible? 

Esmeralda's Shoe Shop, #6000660, $115

The Bone Grinder Mill, #6000663, $140

The Black Cat Flat, #6000661, $160

Last Laugh Asylum, #6000659, $155

Monster Mash Party House, #6000659, $160

But all is not lost when I saw two accessories: Tree of Terror and Row of Skulls. Both of these are actually pretty scary and maybe even disturbing. I wish they would bring this kind of sinister feel to a couple buildings. Where is black and sinister gothic mansion/monster house like the one from Stephen King's IT? Department 56, please create a focus group with a few of us younger village collectors and let us be your Halloween consultants!

Row of Skulls Curved, #6001747, $18.50

Tree of Terror, #6001754, $30

All photos in this post are from

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy National (Pet A) Spider Day!

March 14 is National Save a Spider day and it's a perfect day to start eradicating some of that arachnophobia. Spiders save us from being overrun by other bugs such as mosquitoes, flies, ants, and aphids. Spiders only bite humans in self-defense and while all have venom, few are dangerous. Scientists are studying the use of some spiders' venoms as a more natural pesticide, as well as treatments for Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and other diseases. So go out and pet a spider! Actually, on second thought, don't. They may interpret your love pat as an attack.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Valdemar Legacy" Conjures Up Lovecraft

Some films fly by without a blip, especially if they are foreign horror films. While browsing on Amazon Prime Video I came across La Herencia Valdemar (The Valdemar Legacy). This gothic yarn from Spain was released waaaaay back in 2010 and never really got a U.S. release, other than being unceremoniously dumped onto Amazon. It's remotely inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and while not a great film, is definitely an interesting trip into Necronomicon territory.

The movie starts as a modern day haunted house film and then abruptly shifts to the 19th century when the rise of spiritualism led to many charlatans. The elegant melodrama revolves around a childless couple who run an orphanage outside a remote village. The husband gains an interest in the occult and soon the couple is holding seances (for guests like Bram Stoker and Lizzie Borden!) as a means to finance their selfless work. But things take a dark turn. The plot circles back to modern day but ends on a cliffhanger because – TWIST - there's a second movie!

Unfortunately neither Amazon or any other streaming service (or DVD seller) has La Sombra Prohibida (The Forbidden Shadow). Thankfully, the interwebs easily revealed a (legal?) source to stream (not download) the entire movie. Part 2 picks up right where we left off with the heroine way back from the first 10 minutes of the first film. A bunch of often nonsensical chaos ensues (including a cameo from Howard Phillips himself!) and its Lovecraftian themes emerge clearly. Part 2 is not as successful as the moderately successful first movie, but it does bring the entire story to a resounding close.

While Valdermar I & II don't feature the best effects or production values, especially the action heavy second part, I admire the ambitious storytelling, grand cosmic themes, and the many strong performances that draw you into the tangled plot. Few films swing for the fences like this and I'm surprised there isn't a cult following for this saga. Perhaps there is in Spain? Here in America, mainstream audiences hate subtitled films, even though some of the best horror films are coming from abroad. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft may be disappointed that this isn't an adaptation of any specific stories but nonetheless, this is an entertaining supernatural saga that's worth checking out.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Shape of Oscar

A creature feature, horror comedy and family film about skeletons won Oscars!!! Congratulations to Best Picture THE SHAPE OF WATER, with Guillermo del Toro, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay GET OUT, and Best Animated Film, COCO. It's so rare when genre films get serious recognition and today we celebrate!

Poster artwork by James Jean

Thursday, February 22, 2018

SyFy's Channel Zero Scores 10s Across the Board

I'm not sure where my head was in October 2016, but my eyeballs completely missed SyFy's horror anthology show called Channel Zero. With thousands of streaming options on top of pay cable, it's easy to miss great shows. I'm so happy I stumbled across this show after seeing previews for the third season which started earlier this month.

Each season is based on a popular story from the Creepy Pasta site that I can't seem to shut up about. Season 1: Candle Cove, is full of dread, taut tension, and bizarre visuals that I can't seem to shake even now. At six episodes, the show is easily bingeable over the weekend, and probably better watched this way. The story and plot systematically unfold with almost no exposition. Characters jump right into the weirdness in the first episode, and immediately we're introduced to a creepy puppet tv show that only kids can see – and it's influencing them to do terrible things! It's surreal nature means that the show follows no real "horror rules" making the proceedings quite tense. You just don't know what to expect (like all that damn tooth horror). The production is lean but well filmed and the effects modest, but the fine actors really stand out and make this a stellar show (Paul Schneider and Fiona Shaw looking at you).

Comparisons to American Horror Story are inevitable but I don't think they're in the same league. AHS is brash, pulpy, gory, glam trash held together by a top notch cast and an extensive marketing budget. Channel Zero is just so damn better. The stories, characters, and the direction all work together to create a true sense of horror that AHS lost after it's second season. Perhaps I've overlooked SyFy for horror/weirdness but that's two great series (along with Happy!) I'm retroactively gagging about.

Don't believe me? The first two seasons (Season 1: Candle CoveSeason 2: No-End House) are available to stream in their entirety through March 21 on, and the SyFy app. And watch the new cycle, Season 3: Butcher's Block, Wednesdays at 10/9C. I'm looking forward to Season 3 although I might wait to binge on it all at once (not what the network likes to hear but it's the truth). I recommend that you do so as well.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Unusual Decor for Your Halloween Village

It's only February and I'm already thinking about my Halloween village. I was at Petsmart looking for stuff my black cat demands, and walked through the fish section. I stumbled across this awesome aquarium decor and thought some of these pieces would be interesting accents for my village. I ended up choosing the octopus because the scale was perfect for the ghost ship I already own. The pieces are expensive because they are non-toxic and stand up to being submerged in water (but still less expensive that usual Department 56 pieces). I really loved the many rock formations and gnarled tree limbs too. Some of the plants are even blacklight reactive if you wanted to have a really surreal effect. Check them out at Petsmart.