Not long after my partner in crime Erik Davis read this fantastic piece at the AV Club, he emailed me this: "I love this idea. Go read it twice and then totally steal the concept!" Considering that many of Edgar Wright's films are wonderful homages to beloved genres, I figure he won't mind the flattering imitation. But seriously, do read (not SCAN) this excellent three-page article at the AV Club. Frankly I think Edgar Wright sounds like the world's coolest film professor when he geeks the hell out. (And kudos to Keith Phipps for steering such an excellent conversation.)
My qualifications? I've seen virtually every horror flick you can think of, I'm very pleased to be FEARnet's resident film critic, and frankly I've (somehow) dedicated my entire life, so far, to this stuff. (Plus I have really good taste.) Obviously I will avoid choosing any horror films that Mr. Wright already snagged (and damn him for picking the wonderful 1972 Amicus antholgy known as Asylum; I truly adore that flick), and I'll probably editorialize less because I don't have a Keith Phipps to chat with, but let's get rolling. An early dinner (of something nutritious) and then we go...
6:00pm -- Bride of Frankenstein (1935) -- Better than the original. Yes, better. A sequel that's smarter, creepier, and even more tragic than its predecessor, which itself is a pretty amazing horror movie. So it is possible. And this was in 1935.
8:00pm -- Young Frankenstein (1974) -- There are a few truly excellent horror/comedy mash-ups out there, but this is still the king of the hill. Not particularly scary, but the production design (and the gorgeous black & white palette) managed to evoke 1933 in 1974. And once your brain is tricked into thinking it's a serious film, bang, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder deliver something head-slappingly funny. ("Sedagive!?!" will never fail to make me laugh.) And you're going to need something funny, because we don't have many more chuckles from here on out.
10:00pm -- May (2002) -- I feel like a broken record on this one. Written and directed by Lucky McKee (he'd go on to direct The Woods and The Woman, among others) and featuring a fascinating performance by Angela Bettis, May is a bit like Frankenstein updated for the modern woman. Well, one mentally unstable and harrowingly insecure woman in particular, that is. Darkly funny, consistently compelling, and strangely touching, this is a horror flick I never get tired of recommending.
12:00 midnight -- Martyrs (2008) -- If you're a horror fan who hasn't seen this truly ferocious French import by now, you probably couldn't pick a better time to dig in than midnight on Halloween. Frequently dismissed as a garish piece of torture masquerading as pseudo-theological nonsense, Martyrs is made for people who've seen most of the torture-laden horror flicks by now -- and are looking for a different slant on the material. Suffice to say that this one delivers. It may even leave a bruise.
2:00am -- Dance of the Dead (2008) -- Fair enough. You deserve something a little bit lighter after that last movie, and here's a horror/comedy that has earned some fans -- but not nearly enough. Conceived at the altar of Carpenter and Dante, this one has a great little hook: a zombie invasion has taken place on prom night, and the only ones who can save the day are the geeks who couldn't score dates. Director Gregg Bishop strikes a great balance between colorful carnage and breezy banter, plus there are a few moments of zombie mayhem that are legitimately creative. Imagine that!
4:00am -- Isolation (2005) -- It's getting late, so now we need a flick that you probably haven't seen before. To that end I offer this strange but very effective tale of bovine bio-horror from Ireland. No, it's not about "killer cows," per se, but ... well ... something that gestates INSIDE of cows. It's all very icky, but it's also strong enough for me to remember it fondly, more than five years after I caught it at a film festival one afternoon.
6:00am -- Mute Witness (1994) -- Just another "pretty young mute make-up artist gets locked in a Moscow studio overnight and witnesses a horrific snuff murder before desperately scrambling to stay alive" thriller. Don't read too much about this nifty little chiller before watching it; there are some nice surprises in store. And lots of tasty tension.
8:00am -- Black Death (2011) -- I hate to snag such a recent title, but I've seen this one three times now, and each time I'm more convinced that it's great stuff. Equal parts medieval adventure, bleak drama, and legitimate horror, it's evidence of a filmmaker who loves his genre fare, but refuses to do the same story twice. (Christopher Smith's other films are Triangle, Severance, and Creep.) Suffice to say that a bunch of allegedly holy mercenaries are charged with trekking out to a distant village that has (somehow) managed to avoid the black plague. Great stuff.
10:00am -- Ravenous (1999) -- Enjoy your breakfast with one of the juiciest tales of cannibalism you'll ever experience. Guy Pearce plays a cowardly soldier who has been remanded to an isolated post during the Mexican-American War, and Robert Carlyle is a freaky cannibal who falls out of the forest one day with one crazy tale to tell. Backed by some twisted humor, strong performances, and a truly unique musical score, this is one of those movies that's so nuts you wonder how it got made. I for one am very glad that it did.
12:00 noon -- Frailty (1999) -- The first feature from longtime character actor favorite Bill Paxton, this is a fascinating, moody, and rather ballsy horror story about a man and two children who are chosen by god to exterminate various demons that look exactly like normal people. Or perhaps it's about a father who goes insane and shows his two sons some very horrific things. Either way it's freaking great. Brett Hanley's clever screenpaly presents basic thrills and ambiguous chills in equal measure, and Paxton's cast (which includes Powers Boothe, Matthew McConaughey, and himself) is nothing short of superlative. Let the final scenes percolate in your brain for a few minutes, and then we'll get to...
2:00pm -- Session 9 (2001) -- Lots of horror films take place in an (allegedly) authentic / abandoned lunatic asylum, but I cannot think of one that does a better job of capturing the creepiness of such a daunting location. Directed by festvial favorite Brad Anderson (The Mechanic), it's about a group of asbestos removal workers who must spend several days working inside the ominous Kirkbride Mental Hospital, and slowly begin to realize that they're not alone. Anderson does a fine job of paying off certain expectations and subverting others, culminating in a third act that's a little bit fractured, but makes perfectly spooky sense to me. (I love this flick.)
4:00pm -- Alien (1979) -- It's the ultimate monster movie because the monster is always changing. We don't even know what we're supposed to be looking for. It's the ultimate haunted house movie because ... it's a house (ok, a spaceship) that offers no escape. It's got a monster attacking from the outside, which is scary, and it also has a monster attacking from the inside -- which is terrifying. And it's the ultimate suspense thriller because there's probably something hiding down each dark, dank, shadowy, unfamiliar hallway. Stunning cast, great tension, fascinating ideas, and quite simply a whole lot of fun. I've lost count of how many times I've seen my all-time favorite horror movie, but you can rest assured that I'll be making time for another A L I E N spin come October 31.
(Before you all tar and feather me, I'd like to apologize for this program's distinct lack of "foreign language" titles. I also feel lame for picking so many (relatively) recent films, but hell, there are only twelve spots! I'm not a miracle worker! Feel free to nag me on twitter if you must.)