FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 28, 2020

FAVE 20: Danielle Riendeau

In the five minutes per day when she isn't teaching or grappling or helping folks as an EMT or running the show and writing and podcasting over at FanByte, Danielle Riendeau is probably writing about and/or watching a horror movie. (I don't want to brag, but in the five minutes per day when I'm not staring at a wall, I'm probably making a sandwich or thinking about making a sandwich, so.) She's all, like, smart about this kind of stuff, as anyone who's read her work at various outlets over the years, such as Vice and Polygon. She was kind enough to join me at the NYC premiere of Midsommar, where we endured the icy glares of PR folks (both for arriving at the venue too early but entering the theatre almost too late), and for sharing her 20 faves with all of us! A real stand-up gal. (I mean that literally--I don't think she ever sits down.)


This makes my list on the strength of the visual design -- I’m a huge sucker for depictions of hell, particularly if they go to these lengths, plus the deepening lore about the cenobites. It’s not the best movie, or the best movie on this list, but it really goes there, in so many ways, and I have to show love for that.

US (2019, Jordan Peele)

Us haunts me. I think that Get Out is the more important horror movie in Jordan Peele’s so-far-flawless oeuvre, but Us gets my nerves going, a tale of doppelgängers and oppression and oddity that is by turns extremely funny and extremely disturbing.

THE FOG (1980, John Carpenter)

Of all the underrated Carpenter films, this may be the most underrated. It’s just so moody and creepy and rich, a sort of Jaws on quaaludes experience. It also features pirate ghosts and Adrienne Barbeau in a lighthouse, things I never knew I needed until I saw them.

TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016, Sang-ho Yeon)

This is just a ridiculously well-done zombie movie, using the literal and figurative tightness of a single location, well-drawn characters, and a genuinely sad and affecting ending so, so well.

UNDER THE SKIN (2013, Jonathan Glazer)

There’s something just delicious and cold and terrifying about Under The Skin, a treatise on what it is to be alien vs. human, that I find irresistible. The sound design is haunting and unforgettable, as is the inherent inhumanity (groping, maybe, towards humanity) of its central character.

THE BABADOOK (2014, Jennifer Kent)

I’ve only seen The Babadook once. I don’t know if I strictly need to see it again, because it scared the utter bejesus out of me, but it also stuck. I mean, really stuck. Some of its lessons about abuse and trauma and grief -- especially the practice of living with grief and never getting over it (the ending is, IMO, one of the most brilliant and poignant in the genre).

ALIENS (1986, James Cameron)

Aliens once, memorably, freaked me out so much when I was watching it as a teenager that I hid behind the couch. It’s nowhere near the masterpiece that the original is, IMO, but it’s great, scary sci-fi that punches up pretty reliably at good old toxic masculinity and corporate malfeasance, so it has a nice, special place in my heart. Plus, it’s one of my mom’s favorite movies and was instrumental in my own falling in love with the genre.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995, John Carpenter)

Another wildly underrated Carpenter film (of course, in his end of the world trilogy) and just a wonderful tour de force of reality-bending horror complete with Sam Neill, weird creepy New England at its weird creepy best, and a favorite trope, fiction-turns-reality. Plus, a depiction of hell/chaos!

ALIEN 3 (1992, David Fincher)

This is the darker, bleaker, weirder Alien movie before the franchise went all the way to camp, and then back to doofy blockbuster (and then to Hammer Horror, but, somehow, with less subtlety). I think it may be the scariest Alien film, not just for the threat of the creatures but for the threat of desolation and misery that the prison camp promises.

HEREDITARY (2018, Ari Aster)

I think this might be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Something about the nauseating intensity of loss and family trauma goes right to my lizard brain and makes me want to run screaming from the screen. I watched Hereditary in theaters, with my hands over my eyes for some of its tensest moments, but I still feel like every frame has been burned into my memory. The other element that makes Ari Aster’s feature debut so chilling is the sheer inevitability of every event. It doesn’t matter what Toni Collette’s grieving Annie does, really, or what she’s willing to do, everything is going to go very, very wrong for her and her whole family. That’s TERRIFYING to me.

PULSE (aka KAIRO, 2001, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Pulse is a little long, but its quietly pervasive terror is hard to beat. There are some shots in this film that will haunt me forever, and the themes on loneliness and disconnection and dissonance hit me where it hurts. Like great horror should.

THE HUNGER (1983, Tony Scott)

For a long time, when I was a much younger woman, renting this movie AT A VIDEO STORE and bringing it on a date was my party trick. It’s a gorgeous, luscious, totally queer vampire movie starring Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and David *fucking* Bowie, and it features one of the most inexplicably arty (and hot) love scenes of the early 80s.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987, John Carpenter)

Another underrated Carpenter classic, this is just a buckwild creature feature that mashed up religious iconography with movie science, and tons of truly wild effects and a genuinely unsettling and creepy plot.

THE FLY (1986, David Cronenberg)

Of all the classic Cronenberg body horror, The Fly is the most intense and the saddest. It may also be the most timeless. I loooove Videodrome, for example, but it’s milder-than-first-draft filmed ending and the sheer douche factor of both James Woods and his character push it further down the list. But The Fly is unimpeachable. It’s the story of a (really hot) scientist who flies too close to the sun, sure, but it’s tragic. He never tried to hurt anyone, only experimenting on himself. He does, genuinely, want to benefit humanity with his invention. But he falls to a horrific (and truly disgusting) mutation, in the process showing just how messed up we all are, what with our fragile bodies and nasty diseases and all the horrible things that can go wrong. Body horror is one of the main reasons I love horror, since it’s — at its very core — honest about these awful truths. And The Fly is one of the very best.

DARK CITY (1998, Alex Proyas)

This may not grace all that many horror lists, but it plays enough in the territory to count, and it’s good enough to hold this high a place on my list. It’s dark, beautiful, deeply sympathetic sci-fi/noir with enough pure horror shots (think of the creepy aliens and their reality-bending machine!) to give me a few delicious nightmares. It’s a film that’s concerned with reality and the matter-bending, memory-twisting slipperiness of it all, and it really kind of deserves to be mentioned every time someone calls out “Remember The Matrix?” for doing this particular blend of mind-fuckery a good deal better.

EVENT HORIZON (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)

This is an all-time favorite film of mine, a scary, spooky, sci-fi horror cult classic with a near-perfect cast and a wonderfully unhinged plot. I’m such a sucker for “space crew deals with the unknown, gets asses kicked in weirdo ways,” as you can see from the rest of this list, and few other movies do it with such a delicious dash of 90s camp. It also has an incredible cast and buckwild production design.

THE THING (1982, John Carpenter)

The Thing is very close to being a perfect horror movie, and I just love it. I love hot Kurt Russell. I love the scope of cosmic horror that this group of guys-being-dudes has to contend with, whether they are up for it or not. I love the horrifying creature effects, as much as the first day I was exposed to them, at the now-defunct but truly formative Gory Gruesome and Grotesque Horror Makeup Show at Universal Orlando, which opened this little lass’s eyes to so many wonderful, terrible delights.

HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)

I watch Hellraiser every October, as part of my own personal Halloween festivities. I love that it’s basically a high-gloss tragedy about kink and wanting too much, a queer horror movie from long, LONG before queer horror movies could be explicitly queer or focus on queer characters as being anything other than pure evil. Not that we’re in an entirely enlightened age now, but Hellraiser still feels daring and fresh and dangerous. I’ll always feel bad for poor Frank (even though Frank is a huge asshole), the guy who just couldn’t get his rocks off enough. Or poor Julia (also, to be clear, an asshole), who just couldn’t get enough of Frank. Or for the poor cenobites (again, assholes), who can never seem to get enough of… anything, really. Desire is terrifying. Hellraiser is just honest about it.

ANNIHILATION (2018, Alex Garland)

I actually called Annihilation the best movie of the decade (best non-franchise, that is) a year ago, and I stand by that completely. It’s intoxicating, smart, weird, and also makes a genuine attempt to understand an alien force, something that may well prove entirely impossible for our human pea brains. Even the best and brightest pea brains around! This is a modern sci-fi classic, and it spends enough time in genuinely terrifying body horror territory (the pool scene and THE BEAR) to qualify as horror, for my tastes.

ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott)

When people ask me what my favorite movie is, this is my go-to answer. It combines so many things that I love: sci-fi, spaceships, real-ass people who don’t act like perfect Hollywood stereotypes, women who are tough and smart and don’t let their underwear trip them up, intense body horror and nauseating fear of the things that go on inside you when things go wrong, and imaginative production design. It’s a brooding, spooky, sometimes terrifying vision of corporate malfeasance and sweaty engineers in coveralls trying to survive. It’s feminist and freaky and I see something new in it every time I watch it.


Susandoku said...

Dark. City. HOW did I leave that off my list?? That film is amazing. In fact, this whole list is amazing - I can tell because so many of my very favorites show up: Event Horizon, Us, and Hereditary. Event Horizon and Hereditary are so scary, and Us makes me want to write a dissertation.

Unknown said...

Another great list, and I could kick myself for not including Dark City on my list! I still have dreams about those aliens/"Gentlemen".

CashBailey said...

The 'workprint' version of ALIEN 3 is a much better movie than the theatrical release.

It definitely makes that movie worth a re-appraisal.

matango said...

Since everybody else did a series as one movie, shouldn't Danielle get four more because she has the first three Alien movies and two Hellraiser movies? Or does that only work if takes all four (six? eight?)Aliens movies and all ten Hellraiser movies(Jesus wept, I stopped at four and that was too far)?

Stacie Ponder said...

@matango -- You are absolutely right! I just post 'em as they are basically, we can safely say that Danielle is the only Special Guest with a sense of HONOR

Rachel Kapila said...

So good to see Alien 3 getting some love