2018 Moviefest Week 1

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The original Halloween circa 1978 kicked off the moviefest as is tradition - but this year, it was made better as I look forward to the new Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode as she returns to Haddonfield 40 years later - that is, 40 years after the original movie ended as if none of the sequels occurred. Yes folks, my 5-skull film is particularly sweet this year with anticipation. I also plan to break from my tradition and go to this film on opening weekend. Mostly because I can’t wait, but I admit that I don’t want anybody to see it first and tell me it sucks or some equivalent. That would ruin everything. I mean, I am okay if it sucks, I sort of expect that. But I want to see for myself. And maybe . . . just like IT, the film will be awesome.

Week 1 ended with an overachievement. Ten movies, including five that are new to the moviefest this year: Winchester, A Quiet Place, Mr. Jones (2013), Hold the Dark and The Others. Detailed movie reviews for Winchester and A Quiet Place were posted earlier in the week and both are really good films at 3½ skulls. I may bump the score up later but that was my first assessment so I went with it.

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Mr. Jones, on the other hand, just sucked. A found footage film, it took about forever to get going - I fell asleep a couple of times and got distracted a bunch more and had to keep rewinding to give it a chance. In my opinion you could skip to the last 20 minutes of the movie to watch the best part, but then you wouldn’t know why it was the best part and it probably wouldn’t matter. A boring sabbatical sprinkled with relationship issues and all the time my brain keps asking, who is funding all this? But we have the discovery of the mysterious “scarecrows” and the den of their maker while the hero rushes off to New York leaving his girlfriend behind (again - who is funding this?) so he can market the documentary to end all documentaries. The last 15 minutes I admit I watched without interruption (which may tell you everything you need to know) because it looked like they were onto something. The overuse of the fade to black combined with crummy special effects just did me in. Even as I write this, I struggle to remember how it ended, made more complicated by watching a good movie while I write.

I had high hopes for Hold the Dark, a Netflix original that released earlier this month. The trailer didn’t grab me and neither did the storyline, but Netflix has a strong history in my book so I dove in. By the time I climbed out, I was soaking wet with WTH? I mean, Netflix, come on! First The Open House, and now . . . this? For strong points, the movie is well cast with Andrew Skarsgård, real-life brother to our new favorite Pennywise, along side Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough. And while I’ve never heard of the actor who played the Wolf Man, his performance was great as was officer Dale. Or Sergeant Dale. Or whatever. When I researched the cast I couldn’t believe the irony of Riley Keough starring in It Comes at Night which I drew as an immediate comparison when I finished this film. Like the former, I have no idea where Hold the Dark was going - I couldn’t detect plot beyond the shallow summary. Now, I’m okay with a slow burn or a thinker film, but I had a long day at work so don’t make me make up the plot. My job now is to sit back and enjoy. I did not.

The remaining 7 films (including Halloween) are trustworthy stand-bys that never disappoint. I always watch Insidious and it’s first sequel together because they are masterfully interconnected. Brilliant. And The Cabin in the Woods, a solid 4-skull film that you get when you cross The Evil Dead with The Hunger Games and Thir13en Ghosts. Perennial favorites. The Others has inexplicably escaped the moviefest list in the past - I have no excuse, other than I saw it for the first time on the big screen while vacationing in Maui. Even the most exotic place on earth needs a bit of horror.

We finish out the first week of moviefest with The Exorcist. Terrifying as a book in 1971, as a movie in 1973, and as a series in 2016. And all still terrifying today. There is something to be learned by simply watching a great and truly terrifying horror film.

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I close out the first week with a visit to a full contact haunted house on extreme night. An experience my brother will describe in detail to help you decide whether extreme haunting is for you. For me, full contact is more than enough.


Happy October, I hope your own moviefest is bringing you chills and thrills as we count down to half time.

Guns and the Sound of Silence

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You know how much I love going to the movie theater to share my love for horror films with too many people who have never heard of Emily Post. If that’s you, google it and then go to Amazon and buy the book. I believe manners are the only hope we have to save our society.

When A Quiet Place released earlier this year, I was conflicted. I really wanted to see this movie. It was top on my list going into the new year and early reviews from critics and real people I trust were excellent. But everything about the title and the trailer screamed “shut the hell up” to an audience that I did not believe had the aptitude to remain . . . well . . . quiet. So I didn’t go.

 

I also didn’t go to the theater for Winchester when it was released but for a different reason. The film got horrible reviews from critics and scored an embarrassing 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t need much of a reason to avoid the uncouth movie crowd and I need less of a reason to just be anti-social. That score was all it took. I mean, the movie world loved Get Out (99%) and hated Winchester and since I didn’t care for Get Out, how could Winchester be any good?

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 See? This is the problem with movie reviews. The critics are ruining the experience for the rest of us. They are biased and they tell us what to watch and what to ignore. And damn it – we listen to them. How many times have you put a movie on your watch list, only to skip it once the reviews come out? How many of you went to the theater to see Winchester after seeing the RT score?

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 Vudu has this cool feature where you can pre-order a not-yet-released video on disc and get instant access to the digital copy. It’s actually kind of dangerous. So when I was home from work due to illness one day, I took advantage of the instant gratification and purchased Winchester. It was supposed to be a crappy movie and I was feeling crappy so what the hell. Anyhow, I really love Helen Mirin and worst case scenario, I would get some much needed sleep.

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 To my surprise, I was rewarded with a well written, well cast, and well executed film set in a real place with real history. A fictional story written around a house rumored to be haunted by victims of the Winchester rifle. A history that asks you to imagine the what ifs? What if the rooms were constantly built and rebuilt in order to free or contain ghosts? What if the reason some people could see the ghosts while others could not was ... well, that’s a spoiler. The film was criticized for its jump scares, and yes, there are those. But they were well timed and did not substitute for a suspenseful plot. (BTW…I love a good jump scare.) When you see Winchester, as I hope you will, keep in mind that the real Sarah Winchester was indeed an inventor and she was obsessed with the number 13, and see how these attributes are woven into the screenplay. I hope you look past the rotten review on Rotten Tomatoes and give this one a look. Let the critics know you are in charge of the movies you choose.

 

I had been told that my fears of seeing A Quiet Place in the theater were not founded – that the nature of the film practically ordered the audience to be quiet, and the audience complied. I waited anyway and then I watched it twice in the same week. The second time was to catch what I’d missed the first time. Am I the only one who thinks a good movie is better the second time?

 

Well maybe not better but … deeper? Let me explain. Once you know how the movie ends, you can’t be surprised by the ending or the jump scares or anything else.  (Although I still jump when Michael Meyers sits up in the original Halloween.) But I find that the second take frees me up to pay attention to the details I missed. It’s why debriefing a movie with friends is so much fun – everybody sees something somebody else missed. It’s also another reason to wait until the movie is available on streaming. The downside to watching at home is that distractions like dogs and refrigerators can really interfere with the story here. I missed a key piece at the very beginning the first time around while messing with the audio. Ironic, isn’t it?

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You barely have to watch the trailers for A Quiet Place to know that making even the slightest noise is bad. Like death bad. Talking is not allowed so there is very little dialogue – 25 lines in the entire movie and you’ll have to wait until you are almost half way into the film to start. It’s almost as if you are watching a really good silent movie. One that relies on great scenes and even greater acting which John Krasinski and Emily Blunt deliver in spades. Krasinski nearly turned the movie down because, like many actors, he doesn’t do horror. This is the point at which people challenge whether this move belongs in the horror genre. To answer that challenge, I go back to my first post ever and then suggest you decide for yourself. Just don’t miss this film, and then don’t miss it at least one more time.

Film Review: The Open House (Netflix)

I watched The Open House twice in a row. That's not a compliment.

In previous years, Netflix coffin nailed the horror film genre.  I laughed out loud with Little Evil and The Babysitter. I found Death Note gripping in spite of it's gentrified cast. The Void unnerved me with its imagery.  Even 1922 was watchable if predictable. I keep Before I Wake as part of my Halloween film requisites. Yes, it smarms at the end, but given the nightmares it recreates, it's more than forgivable.

I had hoped The Open House would follow the Netflix pedigree especially since it starred Dylan Minnette, otherwise known as the kid from Netflix's 13 Reasons Why. And while Dylan's acting honors the Netflix family tree, he has so little to work with that it doesn't matter.  I suppose sooner or later, every family has that one kid they'd rather not talk about.

I watched this movie twice, back to back. The second viewing was motivated by a belief that I must've have missed clues to explain things.  After repeated pauses and rewinds and reviews, which is much more difficult on a Roku player, I concluded the only thing I missed was time doing something much more valuable, like resurrecting my Farmville account.

This movie barely reaches the minimum criteria for Horror. It spends nearly the entire film setting you up by providing a parade of people as suspected antagonists. Your diligence as a viewer is never rewarded. It's a movie that uses real estate in it's premise; the loss of investment should have been a given.

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I can't see a thing through all of the plot holes

Whoever the killer is, they must be psychic. Only a person with clairvoyance could put together a plan this ridiculous and expect anybody to follow it. Do you really expect me to believe that inducing hypothermia will wake up a person just in time to stab somebody accidentally? What idiot keeps running through the house or lunges at a fellow family member in the dark after such a torturous physical and psychological trauma?   Contact lens removal as a plot point...really? I don't know where the writers got their ideas, but I'm certain they never been conscious for a planning meeting.

Throughout the film, you are constantly reminded that somebody is playing some kind of game. Not only do you never learn who's playing it, you never have any clue what game is being played. When I was young, my older brother and his friends used to play a card game called Fizbin, inspired by the game from a Star Trek episode. The purpose of the game was to make up so many confusing rules that I'd get frustrated and leave them alone. Open House is playing this same game and getting the same results.

Netflix has other new films and hopefully these new children will be worthy proteges. For now we'll just try to keep this miscreant on the downlow.

 

Spending the Night In a Haunted House

Due to an unexpected and fortuitous event, which was strange since it was a funeral, I had an opportunity to spend the night at a haunted house, The Asylum 49. 

As professional haunts go, the Asylum is moving into the top position not only in its state but in national rankings. Asylum 49 succeeds in part because it comes with an almost corporeal fear that cannot be attributed to anything physical about the place or the design of the haunt. Its creepiness transcends any of its scenery or props. 

Asylum 49 started off as a residence, then an old-folks home.  In 1953 it was converted into a hospital. But early on, the hospital seemed paralyzed by something unknown that kept it locked in the past. The hospital gained a poor reputation from years of inadequate patient care which stemmed mainly from what was viewed as arcane facilities and treatments. Over time its reputation grew to the point that even routine procedures there would cause one to wonder if they should take a long drive to a better hospital or risk life and limb for a simple colonoscopy. 

A book about the hospital's haunted history on Amazon.com

A book about the hospital's haunted history on Amazon.com

Its location, right next to a cemetery, didn't help matters much either. It seemed as though something knew the outcome of a stay beforehand and decided to make the trip from hospital to the graveyard as efficient as possible. There's even a chapel across the street where most funeral services are performed.

After decades of questionable care and above average mortalities, not to mention an sharp uptick in accounts of seeing things in the halls and rooms, the hospital closed in 2000.  It remained silent and empty for six years, plenty of time for the restless souls of unneeded deaths to claim residence not to mention any graveyard dwellers who may choose to join them. 

Asylum 49  took over in 2006 as the owners became fascinated by the history as well as many stories that were told by both patrons and staff. A place born to be haunted has now become a haunting attraction. Is it any wonder sightings have increased and images and audio purporting to prove that entities exist there have increased so dramatically.

During the off-season, the place is open for tours and ghost hunts. I received my invitation to attend a hunt and spend the night if I wanted. I accepted both.

I'm a skeptic. For all my writing on theory, I do not follow the practices based on paranormal beliefs. However, my skepticism does not translate to an expressive cynicism. While I doubt the reality of the paranormal, I respect those who do believe enough to climb down the rabbit hole. I'm willing to remain silent about my doubts and join them on a hunt just to observe. 

We were given a storytelling introduction with photo and audio evidence of sightings. Somewhere around 2:00 a.m. we went with the guides through the hospital. They entertained our group with personal anecdotes of the guides' own encounters as we went through each corridor and open area. 

It was all very interesting and fun. But for all of their tales, I saw, heard, and felt nothing. This surprised me by itself. I have been in many old buildings alone or nearly alone. They are never still. HVAC systems creak and thump. Lights hum. Wind whistles through cracks. You feel drafts and hear noises that can unnerve you. I once stayed up for almost an hour in a place hearing a strange and upsetting scratching sound that turned out to be a beetle caught upside down inside a folded piece of paper. None of that was here.

The anomaly of the hunt was its peace. The atmosphere remained inherently creepy, but on this particular night, it seemed free of anything suggesting the macabre. I wandered the building with a guide and alone and felt surprisingly relaxed and at rest. The absence of uncertain sights and sounds made the place feel truly empty; as though it was missing a part of itself.

Perhaps it was the calm before the season of awakening. The haunt cast is busy with final rehearsals and preparing for the start of the blessed season. Maybe the real residents of the place are themselves getting ready and I caught a break.

Perhaps it was my fatigue. I'm definitely getting too old for staying up way late and chasing unknowns. By 3:30 a.m., I headed to my designated hospital room and slept in one of the hospital beds. Never once did I feel creeped out or at risk, but I was also overwhelmingly exhausted.

Perhaps this says more about me than anything else. It may be I am just at a stage where if such things do exist I can accept it as easily as I do foul language on T.V. and Russian ads on Facebook. Maybe things that once bothered me and unnerved me no longer do. Maybe that's why I have returned to my love of this dark holiday. Maybe it's my way of accepting, even celebrating the fact that I am growing nearer to being part of the macabre with each birthday. 

Maybe spooks don't exist at all. Truth is, that's the most likely explanation for why most of us do not have any paranormal experiences. I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong.  But either way, I think I'm cool with it.

I will be returning to enjoy the haunting by the cast and crew. I'm a sucker for these attractions and Asylum 49 is very attractive. Maybe it's my love of all of it that keeps the ghosts at bay. I'm just no fun to haunt. You can follow the link below and check out the Asylum 49  for yourself.

 

Preseason 2018

Hooray for the Halloween preseason with a menu of horror films that can be streamed via Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. And this year I have a surprise for you. The full line-up of September pre-season streaming has been pre-selected, pre-screened, and published in advance so you can plan your preseason viewing to suit your schedule. Year ‘round horror is a lot of hard work, but you’re worth it. And you’re welcome.

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I thought it would be fun to kick off the preseason with a movie about movies. You know I love lists so I think you’ll enjoy the 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen. Don’t worry about writing all of them down, I’ve done that for you as well as researching which movies are available for streaming here. Only two of the films in this documentary made it to the preseason list: The Descent and Tourist Trap. The opening scene in The Descent is probably a top ten, good enough on its own to earn your commitment through to closing credits. I put Tourist Trap on the list because I agree that it must be seen to be believed. And because it earned high praise from Stephen King in his book Danse Macabre. Expect sound, style, and B-movie performances that define this era of horror.

 

By the way, did you know that more horror movies were made in 1981 than any other year? At least that is what 50 Best claims.

New to preseason screening are three binge-worthy series that are sure to wreck your September weekends. My personal favorite is The Exorcist, a damn scary television series based on the original story. This series was carried on Fox network television meaning no nudity or profanity so technically, you won’t have to send the little ones away. But do send them away as there are plenty of disturbing and utterly terrifying scenes that even kept me up at night. Season 1 consists of ten episodes so you’ll have plenty of time to move on to Season 2 if you have your meals delivered. Both seasons are available in their entirety on Hulu.

Slasher is a Netflix original series and everything you need to know about what to expect is in the title. I dare you to stop after the opening scene of the first episode. Both seasons of Slasher are available on Netflix. If you want to get anything done in September, stop after Season 1 and save Season 2 for another time. I found the second season weak by comparison, but binge worthy all the same. Season 3 is in production.

I saved Castle Rock for last because I want all ten episodes of Season 1 to be available so you can close the curtain on the preseason with a binge worthy of a King – Stephen King, that is. I am thoroughly enjoying this brilliant tale that is based on themes and characters from the world of Stephen King, but having to actually wait until the next episode is killing me. It’s hard to believe this is how we used to watch television. Castle Rock is a Hulu original.

While we’re talking about Stephen King, three of the pre-season films are Stephen King stories: Dreamcatcher, Gerald’s Game, and 1922. If I were to create a genre, it might be Western Horror and there we would find 1922. And Bone Tomahawk. Kurt Russell reprises his role as the sheriff of an old west town, almost as if he walked off the set of Tombstone and into a world not of this world. I’ve loved Kurt Russell ever since he stepped onto the big screen in a pair of tennis shoes, waking the inner nerd in all of us. The Stephen King films are all available on Netflix; you’ll need Amazon Prime for Bone Tomahawk.

I can't in good conscience recommend Open House. I think Netflix dropped the ball on this film that started out strong but didn't deliver for me. You may feel differently. I heard a comparison of Netflix originals to HBO originals that went something like this. HBO does a few things extremely well (Game of Thrones) while Netflix does a lot of things pretty good. I agree, and Little Evil is amazing so I can forgive. Also, be prepared for subtitles when you watch Veronica. They flash across the screen pretty fast and I found it difficult to follow the story. It's also why I haven't watched Audition yet.  

One final mention and then I’ll let you browse the rest of the preseason line-up for yourself. In my opinion, Halloween H20 is the best of the Halloween sequels. While it falls short of the original – how can it not? – it’s a decent if not predictable Halloween film. Bonus points for Jamie Lee’s mother who has a minor role with a major line: "It's Halloween, I guess everybody deserves one good scare."  Heh, heh, heh. I put this film on the list partly because it has been missing from streaming for a long time and it is a good sequel, but mostly because it is your last chance to see a Halloween sequel before you have to forget there were any Halloween sequels. October celebrates Jamie Lee’s return to Haddonfield with a caveat – the film picks up 40 years after the original as if none of the five sequels happened. Forget the hospital scene and a melting Michael Meyers in Halloween II; or the return and defeat of Michael Meyers in Halloween 4 followed a year later by Halloween 5. Then the curse of Michael Meyers and finally, Halloween H20. It’s remarkable that five sequels were spawned in the 20 years after the original, yet zero in the last 20 years. Maybe that will make the amnesia easier. I am all for ignoring the lesser sequels to see what happens. Catch Halloween H20 on Hulu.

There is plenty to keep you busy with streaming media as you gear up for the Halloween season. Enjoy the line-up and check in for reviews of a few movies that appeared on the big screen this year.

Happy pre-season, the fun is just starting!

Hereditary. Also, Why Would Anyone Want to Summon a Demon?

If you haven’t seen Hereditary yet, put it on your list.  Toni Collette is amazing. She gives us what is arguably the best performance ever in a horror film. Hereditary was filmed in my home state of Utah and that got my interest when I blogged about upcoming horror back in February By the time the movie was released, Hereditary had gotten so much media attention as audiences protested the trailer and walked out of the film that I couldn’t wait to find out what all the hype was about.   

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To be fair, there are disturbing scenes in Hereditary. Just like there are disturbing scenes in a lot of horror movies. It’s part of what makes the genre and everyone’s threshold is different. Like I found Mother! so disturbing that I did not write about it and I feel it is my duty to warn anyone who hasn’t seen it that there are some things you simply cannot unsee. Not much gets to me but Mother! did. I saw no media objection directed towards that film with its star-studded cast that included Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Pfieffer and Ed Harris. Hereditary did not come close to the shit I saw in Mother!  

Not that I think you should bring the kids to see Hereditary.  It earned its rating and at the heart of the film is a demon conjuring cult sort of theme. No spoilers here because if you don’t know that by now, you should just in case you were planning to save the babysitter fee and bring your young’ns for a glimpse of the Utah backdrop. Don’t.

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There are few things I love more than screening a new horror film with a group of friends, then debriefing over food and drink. So on this occasion while my fellow horror movie buff and I were talking about the qualities of the demon in this film, our new-to-the-genre and not-really-a-scary-movie-guy-but-smartest-person-I-know friend asks a simple question. "Why would anybody would want to summon a demon?”

Silence as my brain goes, “Duh.” I mean, “What?!?"

Then a couple of weeks later I asked my daughter (raised on horror movies) what she thought about the film and she said the exact same thing. Word for word. What’s going on here? Summoning demons is basic. Isn’t it obvious why people do it?

Well it turns out, not so much.

And it turns out that not everyone levitated their friend during a sleepover in junior high or hypnotized their other friend during an assembly in high school, or held séances and played with Ouija boards as a teenager. When I saw the movie The Craft I totally related because I remember doing that. Well, not all of that. Like nobody died or ended up in a padded cell as far as I know. But this supernatural stuff I learned in school; I just didn’t get any class credits for it.

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So, for my friends and family who were deprived of such experiences in their youth, I spent a lot of time researching the summoning and conjuring of demons – when it started, how it started, why people do it, what are the results – stuff like that.  I fell into giant black holes of etymology, history, religion, politics, ancient ritual, and philosophy.  I had a blast. But there was so much out there that I would need to set up a database just to organize my thoughts. Add to that the fact that this topic crosses some very sensitive boundaries and I am willing to admit that maybe – just maybe – the obvious why of summoning a demon is perhaps not so obvious.

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Nor is it necessarily evil. In fact, the original sense of a demon was a benevolent being derived from the ancient Greek term for a spirit, a supernatural power, even a god. It is in modern English where demons are associated with malevolence and generally synonymous with Satan or the “devil” or some disciple of evil.

And, according to lore, demons have powers that can be used or given if they walk the earth - and to do that, they have to be summoned.  What powers? Well, that depends on the demon. So back to the movie.

King Paimon is the demon featured in Hereditary. He is the 9th of 72 demons you will find listed in “The Lesser Key of Solomon,” a 17th century spell book on demonology. If you’re into that sort of thing. Paimon has a command of the arts and sciences, he is gifted in necromancy, and he has the ability to control people as well as produce money and material wealth. 

 So there you have it.  Knowledge, money, and power granted by this demon to his followers if allowed to walk the earth. So, the real question is . . . Why wouldn’t anyone want to summon a demon?

I loved this film. The story line was original and socially relevant without being exploitative. It was just scary enough and just disturbing enough without going too far, though some of you will challenge this. Sure, there is room for criticism, but Collette's performance is so good that you will forgive the little things you would have done differently. All in all, a great modern horror movie.

Oh, and as to the question, “Why wouldn’t anyone want to summon a demon?” Because demon favors come at a cost, like your soul. Everybody knows this. Just like everybody knows why they would want to summon a demon.  Oh, wait …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

98 Horror-ble Years

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German filmmaker Robert Wiene (pronounce that any way you like) released a silent movie in 1920 that created a new genre of film: horror. That movie is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and it set a standard that still terrifies viewers nearly 100 years later - without sound, color, or special effects. This film is patient zero for horror movie fans and whether or not this type of silent film is for you, it gives us a handy reference to look back at what the last 98 years of horror have produced.

Our friends at Rotten Tomatoes are back with a list of the best horror movie for each year since horror movies were invented. A link to the list is provided below and unlike our "75 best" list from last fall, there aren't really any statistics to play with. Rather, I found myself trying and determine from this list the first horror movie I remember seeing. And of course challenging whether there were other films released in the same year that I would have put in the #1 slot. So here goes.

Nosferatu is the definitely the oldest film on the list that I have seen, though I saw it just a few years ago.  Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 horror movies ever (if not the best horror movie ever), it takes the spotlight away from patient zero and invites the argument for which film sets the standard. I don't think you can truly be a horror movie fanatic without adding this one to your watched list. Not because it is the best horror movie you will ever see (it probably won't keep you up at night), but because of its influence on the genre. And if you missed the top pick in 2000 because you were watching American Psycho, Final Destination, or What Lies Beneath, track down Shadow of the Vampire. This film is a dramatization about the making of Nosferatu and stars John Malkovich as the (shall we say crazy?) director of Nosferatu who, it is said, employed a real vampire to play the part of the vampire. 

Psycho, and the original Phantom of the Opera are movies I remember seeing as a kid. But since they were released before I was born, I clearly saw them in rerun. I'm sure I didn't remember seeing The Birds as a toddler, so ditto for this film. Not appearing on this list, apparently losing the 1958 competition to The Fly, is The Blob - my first official challenge for the movie that should be on top. Perhaps I saw these on Nightmare Theater? Google that if you must.

In my head it is a tie between The Birds and The Blob for the first horror film in my memory. The dead victim lying on the floor with gaping holes for eyes pecked out by birds vs. a sigh of relief walking home from school when I saw that my house was still there and hadn't been consumed by an alien gelatinous mass. Then there is Rosemary's Baby, a film I remember watching in the living room with my mom.

Definitely the first movie on this list that I saw in the theater was Last House on the Left. Disturbing on so many levels, this movie cannot be unseen or unforgotten so I remember where I was when I saw it. This is one of those films that one can argue is not horror, and I agree. This is sadistic psycho killer but I get that the lines get blurry. It was also Wes Craven's first so a moment of silence for the master. here. However, there is a horror film that I remember seeing three years before Last House - but it is not on this list. That movie is Scream and Scream Again. I remember the guy waking up in the hospital with no legs and really nothing else.  Three additional movies not on this list that I remember seeing in the theater one year before Last House, in no particular order, are The Two Headed Transplant, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, and What's the Matter with Helen? The Two Headed Transplant was a last-minute Christmas Eve activity designed get a rowdy crew to Christmas Day. I also saw three other horror movies in the theater the same year Last House on the Left was released and I only bring this up because the original Tales from the Crypt is the clear winner for the first scary movie I ever saw that really scared the hell out of me. I remember ducking behind the theater seat screaming at the pumping heart. I forget how many years I spent trying to track that movie down and I finally own a copy. Holy cow, how far we have come with special effects.

Moving down the list it is almost disturbing how many horror films I saw in my teens. So if you wonder why a slasher film with a glass of wine is my idea of relaxation, well, now you know.   

What you probably need to do now is tick a few of these movies off your own list OR do what I do: be the consummate critic and throw down a few challenges of your own. For that you'll need to be a horror movie Mensa or an index to all of the horror films. I posted a link to one I used so you can get started, just in case you were thinking of doing something productive.  I'll help you out with some of my own thoughts.

The Exorcist lost to Don't Look Now, Halloween lost to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Omen went down to Carrie. This appears to have started a Stephen King era despite the fact that only two of his films made top slots.  Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining was the second and ironic since King criticized it so openly and bitterly that Kubrick sold him back the film rights if King would just...stop...complaining. I have a love/hate relationship with this film.

I was happy to see The Conjuring in the #1 slot for 2013 as it continues to top my list of the scariest movie ever. The Cabin in the Woods ruled the previous year, which I totally agree with and wonder what I was doing in 2012 that caused me to miss this one the first time around. I am disappointed that Insidious did not make the list, losing to Let Me In. Although it isn't really fair for me to judge since I haven't seen Let me In. I will get right on that to be fair.

I conclude my commentary with a final shot at Get Out. Not that it was a horrible movie - it wasn't. It was just a bad horror movie - social political commentaries annoy me when they mess with my horror. And also because It was such an awesome film that was shoved in the back seat of this list and that's just wrong. Watch them both, as they are worthy, but It is the superior horror film.

So … what is the earliest horror movie you remember? And what #1 films would you unseat with your own favorites?  I know I have added a few movies from this list to my queue and with Halloween  just four short months away, it's time to get busy.

 

A New Year of Horror

It is 2018 and do you know what that means?  A whole new line up of horror movies to last all year.

2017 was rumored to be a groundbreaking year for horror films - some sources say the biggest year ever with record breaking earnings. Movies like It, Get Out, Split and Annabelle Creation exceeded projections and, some say, pulled a stale Hollywood out of its slump. It was the clear winner for me. Not just because it was great (because it was), but because I really wanted to like it so I set my expectations very high. The film  measured up, showing this natural skeptic just how good a remake from a novel can be. And while I did not think that Get Out lived up to its hype, a horror movie on the Oscar ballot for best picture is impressive. 

But this post is not about last year, it is about 2018. 45 movies including 7 TBDs. So let's get started

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January

The new year begins with the final chapter from the Insidious series, The Last Key, a Netflix original, The Open House, an early season zombie offering, Day of the Dead: Bloodline, The Summer of '84, and a dark comedy that was included in last year's preview but not released, Mom and Dad, starring Nicholas Cage. I added Delirium last minute, moving it off the TBD when it was found with a final release date, streaming availability, and some pretty nasty reviews. Watch at your own risk.

February

Six offerings for the month of February.  Winchester, inspired by true events, a Netflix original, The Ritual, a second zombie film, The Cured, the third film in the Cloverfield series, The Cloverfield Paradox, and Annihilation with Natalie Portman - sure to spark debate about its place in the horror genre. Death House is a late addition to the February list due to its limited theatrical release and apparently a lot of gore. Hint: you can grab The Ritual and Cloverfield Paradox right now on Netflix streaming.

March

Beware the Ides of March.  Or beware of strangers. And creepy dead girls, and old friends, and asylums. Or maybe just beware of sequel syndrome because two of the four films that kick off our spring are sequels: The Strangers Prey at Night and Unfriended: Game Night. Continue these stories or try The Terrible Two and Unsane. What the hell, try them all. Even a bad horror movie is good, right?

April

It's no April Fool's joke this year with seven - count them - SEVEN films to whet your horror movie appetite.  Trailers for The New Mutants, A Quiet Place, and Truth or Dare were featured previews when I saw The Final Key earlier this year. A Quiet Place is one I would definitely save for home viewing; I can only tolerate the movie crowd when the volume of the film exceeds the ambient noise of rude moviegoers screaming and laughing at the wrong time. Not to worry, though. There are plenty of other options in April: Bad Samaritan, Incident in a Ghostland, the first of two movies by the same name, The Endless, and Ghost Stories which brings back one of my favorite formats - separate but intertwined tales of horror. 

May

Nothing to see here. Take a break and work on your golf game.

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June

I am pretty excited about Hereditary scheduled to be released in June. This movie was filmed in Utah and who doesn't love to watch a movie filmed in their home state? Bonus points when it is a horror film.

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July

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July brings the fourth installment in the Purge movie series: The FIrst Purge. Known also as Purge: Island and The Purge and the Fury, this  film is a prequel to the first Purge movie released in 2013. It will also be the first Purge movie not directed by James DeMonaco which can be good or bad depending on your fondness for the films. The movie poster features a hat that looks suspiciously like a ripoff from Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Do I sense a foreboding of political agenda with this movie scheduled for an Independence Day release?  

 

August

The heat of August brings with it the much anticipated Slender Man starring Javier Botet, an actor with unique physical features that gave us the Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2Mama, and the hobo in last year's sensational remake of It. And to keep the summer sizzling, we have Jason Statham and a 70-foot shark in The Meg,  family secrets hidden away in the South of France in The Incantation, and The Little Stranger.

 

September

Get ready for the preseason with another long-awaited movie, The Nun - the nemesis that haunted Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring series. We also have a sequel to the 1984 movie by almost the same name, The Predator, a new comedy horror, Slaughterhouse Rulez, and a family friendly film starring Jack Black - The House with a Clock in its Walls

 

October

What would the month of October be without the 40th anniversary of Halloween? Jamie Lee Curtis is back for what promises to be her final confrontation with her brother, Michael. Only a hopeless horror movie junkie like me would dare expect something as good as the original. Also in October is Overlord where secret Nazi experiments result in supernatural forces. Venom comes from the Marvel comics universe but currently without a disclosed plot as it is in post production, but rumored to include Peter Parker - Spider-Man?

 

November

Satisfy your post-Halloween crash with Lars Von Trier's serial killer drama, The House that Jack Built.

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December

Look closely at the movie poster for Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and you'll see a pedigree that includes 1408 and Bone Tomahawk, and perhaps a reason to check it out since the title is little motivation.

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TBD

The TBD list at this time includes three movies slated for release last year: Patient Zero, Polaroid and Suspiria. If you were holding your breath waiting for any of these films in 2017, you'll have to come up for air and wait a little bit longer. New on the TBD list are four films beginning with The Haunting of Sharon Tate, Hillary Duff already sparking controversy with her portrayal of the most famous victim of the Manson family. Also You're Not Alone, the second 2018 movie titled The Endless, and The Slice, a comedy horror about the murder of a pizza delivery driver, .