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 21, 2020

FAVE 20: Yours Truly


Here's a glimpse behind the curtain: I finalized my list just this past weekend! That's right, while cruelly demanding that all special guest lists met a pre-SHOCKtober deadline, I worked on mine until a few days ago. Being able to wait is just one of the many, many perks of being a Blog Owner. Okay, it's actually the only perk, but I treasure it nonetheless!

There was only one spot, really, I was focused on. I spent a great deal of time ruminating on many films as they wrassled for the incredible privilege of being called one of my favorites. I'm sure you all know the pain of making many a Sophie's choice! But it finally all settled into place like a good cheek filler and this list is the most me it can possibly be. Here we go, in no particular order!



THE HAUNTING (1963, Robert Wise)


This quintessential haunted house movie is a terrifying exercise in minimalism that burrows deep under my skin every time I watch it. We never see whatever it is that stalks the halls of Hill House, but it's there, clawing and pressing at the doors, trying to get in. The wood buckles, the doorknobs slowly turn--it is chilling enough to break my brain! Credit goes to Robert Wise, of course, for knowing the power of unseen horrors--but credit is also owed to this cast that truly sells those horrors. When the impossibly cool Theo (Claire Bloom) panics as the thunderous footsteps draw closer to her room, when playful playboy Luke (Russ Tamblyn), frozen in fear, drops his booze bottle, when Eleanor (Julie Harris)--prickly, fragile, lost Eleanor, speeding towards her end--snaps out of her daze and realizes that Hill House has fully claimed her at last...it all feels real, that we're right to be scared of this ugly house and its ugly history, and that the townsfolk are right to live no closer than town, not to come any nearer than that.


MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973, Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz)


"They're waiting for you...and they'll take you, one by one. And no one will hear you scream!" God DAMN do I love Messiah of Evil. It's possible that it caught my eye during a SHOCKtober past--whenever it was, it was definitely here when a kindly commenter recommended it. As we all know, I love a town with a secret, and Messiah's Point Dune is a town by the seaside and under a blood red moon with a cult of the undead secret. Is it any wonder I fell in love so hard? I've never seen another film capture the idea of the uncanny so well. In the beginning voiceover (very reminiscent of another love, Let's Scare Jessica to Death), our heroine tells us that Point Dune "doesn't look any different than a thousand other neon stucco towns," and it's true. From the bright lights and overwhelming walls of products at an empty grocery store to the televisions displayed in storefront windows to the marquee of the local movie theatre, Point Dune looks like Average Small Town, USA. But it feels wrong. It's too quiet, for one thing. The streets are always empty. If the townsfolk aren't acting strange--standing silently on the beach staring out to the sea, or silently looking to the sky--then they're afraid of those who are. Every instance of comfortable, familiar Americana dissolves when the horrors awaiting in that grocery store and on those streets and at that beach and in that theatre are revealed.

And they're revealed after sequences of long buildup, where the tension ratchets up as, say, Laura walks down the grocery store aisles or the seats behind Toni at the theatre slowly fill up . Messiah of Evil is a masterful example of using mood and atmosphere to the utmost, and it's a gorgeous rumination on the creative process to boot, full of art, striking cinematography and colorful production design. I will never not recommend this film! The Code Red physical media editions are out of print and pricy, but there's a handsome transfer on YouTube, of all places. Check it out.


THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall)


It's always heartbreaking when that photo I've just posted appears onscreen after all is said and done and those six women are gone, killed by horrors they never could have predicted. Who knew that monsters from our nightmares are real, and that being trapped by a cave-in wouldn't end up the worst part of their day? There's no doubt that Neil Marshall made a bonafide genre classic: the sense of claustrophobia is palpable. It's got lots of cringe-worthy violence and gore in times of pure action and relative quiet. The creature design is some of the best. But what keeps this movie feeling fresh and vital to me are those six women and the relationships between them. Marshall gives us plenty of time to get to know them and the cast chemistry makes this one of horror's greatest ensembles, which only heightens the tragedy of it all. They display remarkable resolve and courage in the face of indescribable terror and there are small, human moments that take these characters beyond the usual stock archetypes we get in these kinds of movies: I think of Sam, the future surgeon, giving a last tentative glance at her hands before she ruins them in her desperation to survive. I think of the deep friendship between Sarah and Beth brought to an end neither of them should have had to face. I think of sisters Sam and Becca protecting each other and encouraging each other to push on. There is such relief in gulping in that fresh air alongside Sarah when we think she's found a way out, but ultimately the UK ending feels right to me--not just because the US version ends on a dumb jump scare, but because of that bittersweet photo.


THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)


Of course, of course. This movie was (and continues to be) an experience and I cannot overstate how much I love it. It made me the found footage apologist / aficionado I am today. It still scares me beyond belief. Although it is not set in New England, it taps into my homegrown love of witches and witches' graves and urban legends and the woods and all the horrors waiting within. I feel this movie. 

It's also interesting to dissect the politics in this film, the way the two men berate and undermine Heather almost from the jump, their gaslighting and disdain so palpable and obvious that a silly fan theory has evolved, which is that they lured her out there to the woods to kill her. It's ridiculous, of course, but it does speak to the fine whiff of misogyny that seeps in from time to time in the film and in the fandom. No, they say, this isn't a film about a woman who just fucking wants to make a movie and ends up mired in a supernatural situation beyond her control, it's actually a movie about these two men. They are driving the narrative! Meanwhile, Heather cops the blame for a situation wherein she did absolutely nothing wrong and still goes on to frame one of the most iconic shots in horror film history. Justice 4 Heather Donahue, Heather Donahue 4ever.


FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981, Steve Miner)...no wait, FRIDAY THE 13th PART III (1982, Steve Miner)...PART 2? PART III...PART III? PART 2


I have long maintained that Part 2's Baghead Jason is best Jason, and while that is still true, my love for Part III cannot be denied. It cannot be denied so much that there is constantly a war for my affections waging between these two movies! Ultimately I couldn't decide...or maybe I decided that I want both. Part 2 is full of iconic moments and characters, from the machete in Mark's head to Mrs. Voorhees's beef jerky head to Ginny fucking goddamn Field...but I ask, does Part III not also have more than its share? The spear in Vera's eye (RIP, queen), Jason putting on that hockey mask but sometimes giving us a peek at what's underneath it, and BIG DUH, horror's most underrated, underappreciated, and overlooked BOSS of a Final Girl, Chris motherfucking Higgins. All of that in THREE whole dimensions. It's clearly my favorite Friday the 13th! But then again, I love Jason showing up in Alice's apartment in Part 2, and...ugh. I now pronounce them movie and movie, and their marriage makes them one big experience that's my fave Friday.


THE WITCH (2015, Robert Eggers)


This masterpiece exemplifies some of the things I mentioned when talking about The Blair Witch Project, mainly my love of New England and everything spooky therein. The woods! Finally the woods of my dreams (nightmares) was captured on film: the darkness, the sheer size, the beauty, the foreboding. The wind is foreboding in this movie. Everything is foreboding in this movie. It evokes the damp, the chill, and the grey of a perpetual Autumn. I find the tension throughout The Witch almost unbearable as I wait for this hyper-religious family to tear itself apart or for the horror of the woods to emerge or both; the tension and build are so much for me that the first time I saw it (in the theatre, opening weekend...RIP Before Times), I said OH MY GOD right out loud like a fool when some of said tension broke during that raven scene. I expected to get a great horror film and to be scared, and I got all that. What I didn't expect, however, was a parable about women's autonomy. I never could have predicted that Thomasin would choose to live deliciously and instead of being punished, she flew up into the trees feeling nothing but joy. Before 2015 I'd long lamented on the pages of this here blog that I vehemently wanted more witches in my scary movies...even so, I thought that if I got 'em, those witches'd never be allowed to live. The Witch proved me wrong and ushered in an era that has vastly shifted the way women's stories are told in horror.


STRAIT-JACKET (1964, William Castle)


It's not William Castle's most bonkers movie, but oh, is Strait-Jacket so much fun. As Lucy Harbin, Joan Crawford takes an axe and gives her cheating lover forty whacks, then emerges from the asylum years later and attempts to rebuild her life and her relationship with her daughter (played by a young Diane Baker, aka one Senator Ruth Martin, she of the fantastic suit). Is Lucy holding on to her sanity? Or is she responsible for all the freshly axed heads rolling around?

It is absolutely as campy as it sounds, of course, but Strait-Jacket is so much more than that thanks to Crawford, who turns in a bravura performance. She approaches the role like she approached every role, committing to Lucy Harbin the way she committed to, say, Mildred Pierce. She goes over-the-top as she vamps it up, putting on her jangly charm bracelet and practically shoving her fingers in the mouth of her daughter's boyfriend as she hits on him. But she also lets us feel the weight of Lucy's guilt and pain over her past and all the years she lost. Seeing her desperately try to hold on as it seems her sanity is slipping away again isn't merely a horror movie "will she or won't she?" thrill, it's downright heartbreaking. She's awards-worthy, quite frankly, in a movie that also features really fake-looking decapitated heads. Actresses like Crawford are why the subgenre is called Grand Dame Guignol, after all. Strait-Jacket is a treasure.


LAKE MUNGO (2008, Joel Anderson)


The first time I saw Lake Mungo, I fell in love with it. The second time I saw Lake Mungo, it left me too scared to sleep. It's never left me, and I think about Lake Mungo all the time. Yes, it has that scene, but it's all the unsettling quiet and dread before it that really makes that scene land with such a terrifying, devastating impact. This movie, a mockumentary about the Palmer family coping (or not coping) with the drowning death and possible spectral return of their 16-year-old daughter and sister Alice, is so perfectly constructed and acted it's easy to forget that it's fiction. Still photographs, videotapes, 8mm film, and newsreels tell some of Alice's story, but as we learn, "kept secrets...she kept the fact that she kept secrets a secret." The dialogue is largely improvised and the performances are so natural, it feels like we're actually watching how a family grieves and how some of them might dare to hope that Alice isn't truly gone. Alice was haunted, essentially, by her own death drawing ever-nearer, which feels very familiar as the number of infections continues to rise precipitously every day. That fatalism and sense of doom really speaks to me and is part of the reason why this film hasn't left me. That and, you know. That scene.


The WHISPERING CORRIDORS series (1998-2020)


Hey, if Ben can cite the Poltergeist trilogy as "a" fave in his list, then I can say the whole series! Sure, I like some of the entries more than others, but it's most interesting to look at the five films (there's a sixth on the way) as a whole. 

Whispering Corridors (1998), Memento Mori (1999), Wishing Stairs (2003), Voice (2005), and A Blood Pledge (2009) all use South Korean girls' high schools as a setting, but each socially-conscious film has a different plot and school and different characters, so they need not be watched in any particular order. They deal with various subject matters that these students face, whether it's the brutal school system itself, a suicide epidemic, peer pressure, or even taboo topics like gay relationships. They're hugely important films for many reasons, not the least because they helped kick off cinema's New Korean Wave in the late 90s.

All of this, of course, is wrapped in big supernatural packages with the requisite ghosts and the dark hallways they haunt. Some entries are more "horror" than others--Wishing Stairs might be the most overtly horror movie typical--and they probably won't keep you up at night, but as I've come to learn over the years of writing at Final Girl, that doesn't always matter. In fact, for me these days, it often doesn't. 

I love the creepiness of these movies, but what I love more--what I love most, even--are the relationships between the girls. Unlike most of their western "schoolgirl horror" counterparts, we get to see these characters (GASP) interact. They tease each other, they have fun, they confide in each other, they band together, they bully one another. These movies are spooky, funny, sad, and always interesting. While I'm not--nor have I ever been, SPOILER--a schoolgirl in South Korea, the experiences that play out ring true and familiar regardless. The specifics might not be the same, but hey, teen girls are gonna teen girl no matter where they are. If I have to recommend only a couple, they are Memento Mori, which was one of the first Korean films to explicitly depict a lesbian relationship onscreen rather than merely hint at it, and Voice, which is the most stylized of these movies (and also is gay as heck). I love Whispering Corridors, too. Actually I love all of them and that's why I listed all of them, see?


SALEM'S LOT (1979, Tobe Hooper)


When Tobe Hooper died, I watched Salem's Lot as a tribute. As much as I love it, watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre wasn't even a consideration that night. This is the only vampire movie for me, if I'm being honest, and one of the greatest--if not theeeeee greatest--made-for-TV horror movies. I will only indulge in the 2-part miniseries event version, thank you, because that shit is epic. Residents of a small town in Maine begin disappearing and dying to something that feels like a plague, but there's no plague. Finally, two hours in--TWO HOURS IN--Mr. Barlow makes his appearance and the true ill that has befallen Salem's Lot is revealed. I'm sure there are some who are not into the long-ass build-up, but I am certainly not one of those some. Give me more, I say! I wish Salem's Lot was a week long, because I can't get enough of it's horror-flavored soap opera feel. 

This movie--excuse me, this event--is so damn scary that I can't believe, still, that it was made for television. Mrs Glick's return? Ralphie Glick's return? Please. And I cannot stress enough how deeply Mr. Barlow terrifies me, like right down to my core. The kitchen scene, where he suddenly materializes from a dark heap on the floor and seems to fill the whole room, is it, baby. I love that he's just this mysterious, repulsive monster. Who is Kurt Barlow? Who was he before he was this? Was he anything before he was this? Who the fuck cares, I say. He is a plague, and that's all I need to know. There's nothing else that would help me anyway.


THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009, Ti West)


I am so into this movie. It's the perfect combination of waiting a while for something to happen and hey, the waiting is the point and something happened and it rocked your face off. I drink up the exquisite rising tension of House of the Devil every time I see it, even though I know when the action will really hit. I could watch Samantha explore that massive, unfamiliar, creepy-as-all-h-e-double-hockey-sticks house forever, whether she's doing it stealthily or bopping around as she blasts The Fixx on her Walkman. I love a what's behind the door? movie, and this is one of the best: who is this "grandma" that Sam has been hired to babysit, and why is grandma's door locked? Throw in an eclipse, a sinister pizza order, and a bathtub littered with hair trimmings and you've got a sinister WTF of a good time. And while this film is completely to blame for kicking off the retro trend in horror that we continue to deal with, it remains the one that, to me, gets what a 1983 horror movie feels like, the pacing, the editing, the set dressing, those hair styles...it still feels like a lost movie from another era. RIP to Megan, always the true pal who knew what was up the whole time, never the babysitter.


AMITYVILLE 4: THE EVIL ESCAPES (1989, Sandor Stern)


I talked a bit about my (our) love for all things Amityville the other day, but my love of Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes isn't necessarily a part of that, I don't think. You see, I love Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes because it dares to exist. How can this movie about a possessed floor lamp actually exist? People...made this movie? Like, people showed up to set everyday? To make a movie about a possessed floor lamp?? It seems like a joke--it has to be a joke--but somehow it is not a joke. It's treated completely seriously, which makes its existence all the more baffling. A floor lamp, purchased at a yard sale at 112 Ocean Avenue, becomes possessed by a demon. The floor lamp telekinetically drives a van! The floor lamp makes a garbage disposal turn on! The floor lamp drives a young girl to want to murder! The floor lamp has an evil face sometimes! The floor lamp battles Patty Duke, but the floor lamp loses when Patty Duke throws it off a cliff and it explodes on the rocky shore below! But then maybe a cat gets possessed, so does the floor lamp really lose? It doesn't matter. We all win, just because Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes is.

MARTYRS (2008, Pascal Laugier)


Martyrs always appears, rightly so, on those lists of the most extreme horror movies. It is violent, it is gory, it is brutal. To call it a "tough watch" is to put it way, way too mildly. In short, it is not my kind of movie! I don't enjoy watching people get tortured, and I don't "enjoy" Martyrs, but I do love it. It is a depressing film made by a depressed man, a film that speaks to our inhumanity to one another, to the way the wealthy (and white) will casually exploit the disenfranchised until there's nothing left. It is a rumination on our endless fixation on knowing the unknowable, on what's next, on what awaits us after the end, on what the point of all of this is. It seems that Laugier, in his state, was saying that there is no point beyond pain and suffering.

There's more to it, however, whether intended by Laugier or not, and it's what flayed me open the first time I saw Martyrs and what keeps me coming back to it: it is that for all its seeming inhumanity, Martyrs is actually imbued with kindness, and Martyrs is a love story. 

Anna is a saint long before the cult attempts to make her one, and it's why she is able to "transcend" at the end of her life. Despite this world continually beating her down or beating her loved one down--she and Lucie met at that orphanage, after all--Anna helps. She never stops. She talks Lucie down during her psychotic breaks. When she sees that one of Lucie's victims is still alive, she tries to get her to safety; Anna doesn't know that this woman was also one of Lucie's torturers, but she might have afforded her some kind of mercy regardless. She tries to rescue and gently takes care of the victim she finds in the basement. Laugier doesn't seem to want to reward this--rather, Anna's repeated kindness lead to her capture and torture. Martyrs feels like nihilism 101: the world doesn't reward kindness, he seems to say, and none of it matters. But it turns out that it does matter, and it's that surprising, secret, soft heart of the film that breaks me. 

In her pain, Lucie saw the monster, the fellow torture victim she had to leave behind.

In her pain, the unnamed victim sees cockroaches crawling all over her and burrowing under her skin.

In her pain, Anna sees Lucie. "I miss you," she says.

Instead of more pain, Anna gets some comfort near her end. It's beautiful, and it's the most any of us can hope for.


CREEPSHOW (1982, George A. Romero)


As I'm sure you've heard me say time and again, this movie is absolutely perfect, and I don't have the words to describe how much I love it. It is the best Halloween-time viewing. It is the best anthology movie. It is fun with a capital fun. There is not a story I would excise, there is not a story I simply tolerate to get to the others. They are all baller, and this EC comic come to life is gross and scary and, to use a word that all the youths use, a "hoot." The cast is pitch-perfect, playing it riiiiight on the line of campy. I will never, ever tire of dotty old Aunt Bedelia, of Leslie Nielsen in that velour track suit, of Sylvia Grantham's smoky-voiced scolding, of Upson Pratt being a right bastard, of everything, most especially Adrienne Barbeau as Wilma "Billie" Northrup. She is always a treasure, but here she is her most treasureful. I mean, she knows all the best stores. 


ZOMBIE (1979, Lucio Fulci)


Listen, like any rational human being I adore George Romero's Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead. They are essential films not only to me, but to the horror genre. But while I was composing this here list, it came to be like a bolt out of the blue (or, perhaps, like a rotten hand out of the ground): holy shit. I fucking love Zombie

As I said, I adore Romero's work and he's the father of the zombie genre as we know it. But this absolutely disgusting Lucio Fulci film is my perfect zombie movie. There is none of that "the living are the real monsters" pontificating. There is no allegory. It is simply the dead come back to life, and as the movie's tagline says, they have one goal: we are going to eat you. That's all I need to be scared out of my mind!

I knew about this movie long before I ever saw it, thanks to ol' worm-eye's appearance on the cover of Fangoria. You know who ol' worm-eye is. This movie has iconic zombies, and they are all so gross. I love it. They are rotten and nasty and falling apart and full of worms. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I fucking love it when zombies claw their way out of the ground, and this movie gives me the goods a lot. I love that almost all of them have their eyes closed and move by instinct. I love that they move with the slowest shuffle--barely moving, so much so that they make Romero zombies look like Snyder zombies. But when they get close, suddenly they'll getcha just like that. I love the mystery of an abandoned ship and this movie gives me that. I love any score by Fabio Frizzi, but Zombie's title track might be my favorite. I love the long buildup, the journey our heroes undertake on their way to the voodoo-cursed island Matul intercut with the medical staff there trying to get a grasp on the plague killing residents and causing them to come back to life. I love the crazy-ass gore, and that eyeball scene--you know the one--is eye-conic (I'm sure that old Fangoria called it "eye-popping"). And I love that downer ending, with the undead shuffling over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, the world already lost to them. 

It's not just one sequence or one moment or one shot that unnerves me in this movie, it's everything. This is absolutely my absurd, illogical nightmare come to (un)life, and it makes me want to pull my covers up over my head. More than any other film on this list, I think (even Creepshow), Zombie makes me feel like a kid again.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991, Jonathan Demme)


Not that it matters, but I sometimes wonder if I would love The Silence of the Lambs--because love it I do--if Clarice Starling was played by anyone but Jodie Foster. I know other actresses have given it a go since, but thinking of the 1991 film, it seems inconceivable, doesn't it? Foster/Starling is such a beyond-perfect melding, or embodiment, or whatever you want to call it, that I can't imagine it being any other actress. Don't get me wrong, this film is obviously a gen-u-ine masterpiece from top to bottom and all the way around. (It was the third film in Oscar history to win the "big five," after all, if you put any stock in that sort of thing.) But I'm not sure it would land on my list of favorites without Foster, because Clarice Starling is the reason it's here. She is such a hero! She's such a hero she's virtually unmatched amongst other female characters. She's the personification of bravery, pushing on despite all of her fear. I love that she fucks up because despite her innate brilliance, she's still in training. Ugh, Clarice, perfect Clarice.

AGONY

PAIN

LOVE -- IT


SUSPIRIA  (2018, Luca Guadagnino)

This one should be no surprise to anyone who has spent one second or more (or less, let's be real) interacting with me. Believe it or not, I still have things to say about Suspiria, yes, even after four Gaylords of Darkness episodes about it (including, umm, that one where we talked about it with Luca Guadagnino and David Kajganich), even after I spent the entirety of last SHOCKtober talking about nothing but it. There is always more to say about this film that is woven into my DNA...but you have to wait for that more to say! I can't wait to say something about that more to say, but the time to say it is not now. *evil laugh*

 

THE FOG (1980, John Carpenter)

My favorite ghost story. Gimme that glowing fog rolling in and over the streets of Antonio Bay. Gimme every single one of Nancy Loomis's sarcastic "yes, ma'am"s. Gimme her and the rest of this incredible cast. Gimme the legend of the Elizabeth Dane. Gimme that classic John Carpenter score. Gimme a stomach pounder and a Coke! Gimme the terror of that slow, insistent rapping on Mrs. Kobritz's door. Gimme the glowing eyes of Captain Blake and his crew. Gimme the Stevie Wayne lifestyle, because there has never been and there will never be anyone cooler.


[REC] (2007, Jaume Balageró and Paco Plaza)

Ángela Vidal is second only to Clarice Starling in the horror movie heroine department for me,and in a just world she would have gotten out of that building, solved the pandemic plague possession curse thing, and gone on to win every Pulitzer Prize in history for her fearless reporting. This movie is the only found footage movie where "don't stop filming!" isn't just, like, a way for the audience to go "Oh, so that's why they haven't put the camera down." Here it's a journalist's ethos and battle cry! The government is lying to the residents of that unfortunate apartment building and essentially holding them all hostage, and Ángela Vidal is going to find out why, dammit, no matter the cost. I love her. And I love this movie. It's a found footage masterpiece if you ask me; I know there are sneaky edits in there, but so much of [REC] feels unedited, like we're actually watching this story unfold as it happens. The choreography as they go up and down that massive staircase and in and out of various apartments! Seamless. There are killer jump scares, lots of blood and formative sequences galore. How many other found footage horror movies have used the night vision and someone getting dragged away into the darkness bits of this film's closing moments? The Blair Witch Project may have brought found footage into mainstream horror, but [REC] stands right next to it as one of the most influential in terms of subgenre tropes. Once Ángela and the crew leave the fire station, this movie does not let up. It keeps building and building until we're in that attic, groping around in the dark...and when we finally see what's up there, hot damn. I still hold my breath every time. I love this movie so much.

 

FATAL FRAME (2014, Mari Asato)

I only saw this movie less than a week ago, but here it is regardless. That's how deeply this movie resonated with me. Today we dropped an episode about it on Gaylords of Darkness, where you can hear me really expound on it. Man, it just ticked so many boxes for me:

  • gothic overtones
  • J-horror
  • girlschool horror
  • it's based on a video game (WHAT? I KNOW)
  • it's so beautiful
  • it's so gay
  • it's directed by a woman
  • it made me emotional!
  • so many bitchin' sequences

If you listen to Gaylords, then you know that I'm currently vibing with J- and K-horror more than ever before right now. The melancholy that hangs over all of my favorites (like the entire Whispering Corridors series above!) is perfectly in tune with the melancholy that I feel as I isolate during this pandemic. They don't make me sadder, they are simply in tune with my current wavelength, and they are a comfort. Fatal Frame came out of nowhere and knocked me right out. I was expecting ghosts in a girls' school, and I got that. But I also got a touching story about friendship and love and rejecting the paths that society demands we follow. It's a gorgeous film, and I have absolutely no qualms about having it on my list despite the fact that it's been in my life for such a short time. It'll be around forever. Sometimes you just know, you know?

PHEW THAT'S IT, IT'S FINALLY DONE. Here are the other films that vied for a coveted spot: Hell Night (1981), Thelma (2017), Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Shining (1980), Pulse (aka Kairo, 2001), Black Christmas (1974), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), The Thing (1982)

19 comments:

goblin said...

I've never heard of Messiah of Evil before (or maybe I did and just forgot) but it sounds hella intriguing. Thanks for the YouTube link. I'm definitely going to watch it before SHOCKtober comes to an end.

I have to confess, Martyrs, along with A Serbian Film, is one horror movie I would never, ever dare to watch. The combination of soul-crushing nihilism and unspeakable cruelty is something I cannot bear. It's a lesson Funny Games taught me, and I guess that one's rather "tame" by comparison. And after all, some things simply can't be unseen, even if they happen in a movie.

I don't understand how anyone could claim Blair Witch Project isn't Heather's film (literaly and figuratively.) She's obviously the driving force of the narrative, even after they get lost in the woods. But at the same time, I don't see how Mike and Josh's behavior was misogynistic. They are losing their shit because of their hopeless situation and are looking for someone to blame. Whether that's justified or not is another matter, of course (no one put a gun to their heads and forced them to come along after all) but it's a very human thing to do. If Heather had been Heath, I think they would have still reacted the same way.

Amy C said...

Amazing list - and there’s a few on here I haven’t seen (also Messiah) which is actually pretty exciting I’m curious about what other off the beaten path J and K horrors you like, I’ve seen most of the main ones, but that’s a sub genre I’m super into, and I’m always keen to find more.

Stacie Ponder said...

In the words of Nene Leakes, I said what I said! Blair Witch is not a movie full of woman hatin' (I called it a whiff!), but it's full of microaggressions that "Heath" would not have been subjected to, even in the earliest goings, before they get to the woods. Even though, as you said, no one put a gun to their heads, who is the one ganged up on? Who is the one forced to continually apologize? Who is the one who makes a snot-riddled, tearful confessional? Who is blamed for their predicament even after Mike loses the map? None of it is Heather's fault, but it's all Heather's fault. She takes it on herself.

What we see in Blair Witch plays out so often in found footage that it's become a trope: there is a "bossy" woman whose ambitions lead to a predicament (even though generally there are other forces at work and things "should" be fine), woman is ganged up on, woman shoulders blame and apologizes. YMMV (and does) and that's cool, but I'm not getting it from nowhere.

CashBailey said...

The FATAL FRAME movie was shockingly good, considering it came years after the heyday of J-horror. it showed that there is still life in the old dog yet.

I still have the Code Red DVD of MESSIAH OF EVIL but didn't get around to getting the blu-ray.

The WHISPERING CORRIDORS is mostly superb. The first one was highly controversial since it was shining a light on the incredibly brutal Korean school system, where physical and mental abuse of students by teachers is not only accepted, but encouraged.

And what more needs to be said about SUSPIRIA, except that it's the best horror movie of the decade.

matango said...

A number of these I haven't seen but have been meaning to, and a few that I haven't heard of that I'll search out.

The thing that gets me about the lamp is how fucking ugly it is. I mean, wasn't it a gag gift in the movie? But it is so ugly. Like not ugly in the way Victorian things sometimes are, like just unbelievably ugly. And it's got a lizard demon in it.

CashBailey said...

'Annabelle' is fucking ugly, too. Hilariously so. But they've gotten about five movies out of it.

CashBailey said...

MESSIAH OF EVIL really a brilliantly atmospheric little movie.

European artsiness meets apocalyptic Lovecraftian dread, made on a miniscule budget.

Susandoku said...

I think the lamp has a certain unique charm.

Kubaton said...

I cut together all the scenes of Ralphie floating out the window and I project them onto a screen in the bay window on the front of my house for the trick or treaters. I love the backward-filmed fog in both The Fog and Salem's Lot!

G.G. Graham-Midnight Movie Monster said...

I've never seen [REC], but considering the source, I'm now totally willing to give it a spin. Messiah, The Fog and some William Castle goodness? Iconic.

Stacie Ponder said...

G.G. you have a real teat (that is a typo that STAYS) of a movie waiting for you! I would love to see [REC] again for the first time, I lost my mind.

Stacie Ponder said...

@Amy C -- I am also always hungry for more J- and K-horror, so feel free to recommend! I recently saw KIDAN: PIECE OF DARKNESS which is a fun anthology with ~10 small stories. Not a lot of info on it out there, but one of the segments was directed my Mari Asato, who directed FATAL FRAME.

Hmm maybe when SHOCKtober is over I will compile some sort of...list...thing because all I wanna watch lately is Asian horror and I've been partaking a lot

Stacie Ponder said...

I think the floor lamp is delightfully hideous, even when it appears demon-free. That said, if I were a hundredaire I would definitely consider having a replica made to display in my home. For now I have the Buttercruds plush possessed floor lamp and it's quite possibly the greatest thing I own!

Susandoku said...

That plush lamp is fucking incredible. Both the plush and the actual lamp remind me of the tree from the "Mel" vignette in Tales that Witness Madness. Now that I think about it, I voted for both films... I might need this lamp.

Unknown said...

I feel the same way about Martyrs, and I'm glad to hear there's at least one other person out there! For me it's the best example of the way horror can affirm the dark and painful shit we carry inside us. Instead of trying to deny it's there or finding a bright side, but saying "yeah it hurts." That's why I can't stop watching it, and even though I don't enjoy it, I admire it intensely.

The Whispering Corridors series are such gems, and no one ever talks about them, so thanks for doing the good work. Messiah of Evil, Strait-Jacket, and Fatal Frame have all shot up to the top of my to-watch list.

Astroboymn said...

I love this list but esp Messiah of Evil, which is most def always on my list. Near the top, in fact.

Pokemon Postmon said...

A great list there! I have to admit that, recently, I've been loving some of the bad/great sequels out there (Howling 2+3, Children of the Corn 2....), so I guess I really need to see Amityville 4 now, huh?
Also, cheers for one or two other suggestions in that list. :)

CashBailey said...

The last Asian horror movie to really put me on my ass was THE WAILING. That director also made a movie called THE CHASER which is, in my opinion, the best thriller of the new millennium.

It's a movie that leaves you both physically and mentally drained, as only the best Korean thrillers can. Hollywood thrillers are such weak sauce when you compare them to the glorious stuff South Korea puts out.

Diandra said...

always interesting to read how people find so many different aspects of Martyrs