Spooktober Day 25: A Dose of The Twilight Zone

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Okay, so this isn’t film, it’s TV, but it’s damn good TV. Especially when it comes to early inspirations for horror. The Twilight Zone had some of the most creative uses of the genre that I had seen. It was intelligent, innovative, and damn creepy. Growing up, my family had the ritual of watching marathons that aired on the sci-fi channel on New Year and the 4th of July. No matter how many times I’ve seen these, they never lose their appeal, and often, as I get older, I find even more to appreciate. If my roots are horror, The Twilight Zone was a very influential seedling.

I was flying recently, looking out on the wing from my window, and like I have every time I’ve been in this position, a tiny part expects some beast to make an appearance. Am I disappointed when there isn’t? Perhaps.

There are so many that I can’t possibly begin to concentrate on them all, and while they aren’t all as good (how can there be when there are so many) it’s clear from any viewing how much of a genius Rod Serling and the creatives were, so here are just some of the ones that left the biggest impact. This was a show, that -for its time- pushed the envelope, questioned things many often ignored, and peered into the great expanse of fearful possibilities. It stared into the abyss, it got weird, and thus, has left quite the impression on us all.

I believe that when it comes to The Twilight Zone one should go in without knowing very much, so I’m going to leave this list as a jump start to your Zone-time, and hopefully, you’ll be creepily delighted, as you experience something integral to my weirdness.

A Stop at Willoughby” (Season 1, Episode 30)

“The After Hours” (Season 1, Episode 34)

“The Howling Man” (Season 2 Episode 5)

“Eye of the Beholder” (Season 2, Episode 6)

“Nick of Time” (Season 2, Episode 7)

It’s a Good Life” (Season 3, Episode 8)

The Dummy” (Season 3, Episode 33)

Stopover in a Quiet Town” (Season 5, Episode 30)

Do you have any favorites yourself? I’d love to know!

Spooktober Day 24: Sinister

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I’m someone that has always been fascinated with the idea of fear. As I’ve spoken about before here, as well as on my podcast, it’s a curious thing. I’ve seldom really felt scared from horror films, moments perhaps (and I don’t mean the intended jump-scare sort that is mere ploy not true fear) but I very rarely leave a film discomforted. One of the only movies in my adult-life that I can confidently say did this for me was Sinister and for that reason alone, I’ve just got to talk about it.

source: Summit Entertainment

Part of what makes Sinister chilling, despite some of its cliches and required suspension of disbelief, is the fact that it’s a home video -found footage sort of film, and yet it isn’t. Our main character is finding these, experiencing what an audience would – had it been entirely that way, so we also get to witness the discomfort as he watches. It’s a double dose of fear and reactionary unease.

Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, an author of true crime, who relocates his family, wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), and his children, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley), to a home that was the location of a set of victims, in hopes to figure out what happened and to nab his next bestseller.

Ellison isn’t necessarily the most likable of leads, after all, he seems selfish in his motives despite what this may do to his family, but he’s most certainly determined. You can give him that. Sinister definitely has its fair share of jump scares, eerie twists, and moments where you want to yell at the screen, and yet- even if it isn’t perfect, I find it to be one of the scariest of its sort to come out.

Most of the film takes place in the home, taking this singular location and finding new ways to frame or illuminate a room or hallway. For a while, Sinister feels like a mystery, suited to the true-crime genre our main character dwells in, but soon, other strange things begin to happen, including the introduction to the creepiest Super 8 tapes you’ll ever watch. Soon, it veers into the unexplained, unnatural variety, linking so many murders and deaths that Ellison is in over his head.

source: Summit Entertainment

Director Scott Derrickson wields the talent of his lead, uses lessons from horrors past, and a keen eye for what makes a viewer tremble, and crafts something legitimately creepy. Once it starts on its path to scare, it becomes relentless. There’s something to the baddie, the lore of Bughuul that feels especially evil, making the title perfectly named.

Genuinely chilling, working hard to make you squirm, Sinister is a perfect watch for this spooky time of year.

Spooktober Day 23: May

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Oh May.

I remember when I first saw May I was a high schooler who frequented a local video store, to the point where all the employees knew me (and would often give me recos to my delight) and one day I was told I should see May. It was one that I loved, (watched twice before returning) and swooned about gratefully to the video clerk. While the next film recommended was not very good (I shall not name) I am still thankful for this. I’d like to think it would have found its way to me eventually, anyway, but at the time, I kind of needed it.

Us film lovers are like magnets to quality flicks. At least, I like to think so.

source: Lions Gate Films

There was something immediately intriguing about the film, in large part because of the lead performance by Angela Bettis. I couldn’t imagine another May. Even when it’s uncomfortable to watch (and believe me at times, it is) it’s riveting, and you still root for May no matter what she gets up to.

May is a bit of an outcast, feeling isolated as a child because of her lazy eye, and social anxiety. Her closest friend is a doll she is gifted, which remains true even as an adult. When she first sees Adam (Jeremy Sisto) she’s instantly fixated, especially by his hands, and while he seems interested at first, she eventually pushes him away with her intensity. He’s not the first, only the most pursued, she also starts seeing her coworker Polly (Anna Faris) as she tries to heal from Adam, but that, as well, begins to fall apart. The way she puts it back together, well, is a bloody, twisted weave.

“So many pretty parts and no pretty wholes.”

She just wants to be seen. Don’t we all? Yes, she doesn’t handle the pressure of this need so well, but you’re still empathetic to her plight. May meanders the line between odd and ultimately disturbed, with moments of her mental health fraying, until she reaches her eventual stony demeanor. Even from the start there’s a coldness to her. She is interested in connection, but seems just as fascinated in the end of things as she is in the beginning, the unraveling we much as the mending. There’s a lot of loose threads in life that she focuses on, often of the macabre sort, and at some point, she’s unable to keep them sown together.

Throughout the film she speaks, often yelling, at her doll. Each time she suffers, the glass around the doll cracks, a noise that sounds as if it’s embedded in her skull. Lucky McKee writes and directs with careful consideration for May, without holding back from showing how the box of her own making is shattering, and somebody is bound to get hurt.

The film propels into its third act with May determined to craft her perfect companion. Her restless spirit and troubled mind are suddenly at ease, she’s determined, as if she’s found her violent calling. She’s empowered, and her sudden assuredness is terrifying. Her boldness by the end, is truly unnerving, and her transition all the more when we see the final shot.

source: Lions Gate Films

There is often an awkwardness that calls on us all, and with May, you find yourself pleading with the screen, hoping things will change and work out. What is she ultimately hoping for? You’ll have to watch and see, but both director and star do a terrific job of making us feel her point of view, while never shying away from seeing her as others do. It’s a complex relationship to say the least.

All of this is done with a quality that’s quite engaging. As a character study, May is fascinatingly weird, and her tale is brought to life with a wonderful score and an overall creepy vision that builds tension while grossing us out in equal measure.

I have a affinity and soft spot for May that made it so I just had to include this film in this months list. It’s been influential in my love for horror, and in my own writing. It’s gone under the radar for many, but it shouldn’t. A little black humor, some Frankenstein nods, and a killer female lead, what’s not to like?

Spooktober Day 22: The Lost Boys

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I’ve covered so many different kinds of films this month, and somehow- we are already nearing the end (and I have so much left to say!) There have been a few horror comedies to slip their way through, and while there are many more I could touch on, I figured I’d exit that subgenre with one that really is its own species. This vampire horror/comedy has its issues but is a hell of a lot of fun.

The Lost Boys has an assortment of young stars at its helm. Before Twilight, this was the iconic young vampire flick (at least to me) with a lineup of 80s stars.

Joel Schumacher‘s takes us to Santa Carla (the murder capital of the world!) as brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) move with their newly divorced mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest). It doesn’t take long for the brothers to get introduced to the local sites, the local myths, and of course the local gang led by David (Kiefer Sutherland). To aid in the assistance of getting to know the area, Sam mingles with the Frog brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) local comic-book specialists and experts on the local vampire lore, while Michael meets the beautiful, enchanting, Star (Jami Gertz). Michael’s attraction to Star leads him to David’s attention, and before he knows it, he’s made a possibly irreversible mistake

source: Warner Bros.

Part satire, part comedy, part mystery, part supernatural horror (though there’s very little actual “chills”) The Lost Boys is a staple of its time, and of culture, in a way that’s hard to replicate. I find it to be a comfort watch, no matter how many times I see it. Sometimes it makes me laugh more than it should or more than initially intended, but that is also the beauty. There’s some great makeup design, and while the plot can be thin at times, the fact that this vampire story is not alluring is admirable. By the time Michael realizes what he’s gotten himself into, he is not only horrified but does everything he can to fight it. This isn’t sexy, this isn’t appealing, this is forever young- and terrible.

“If all the corpses buried around here were to stand up all at once we’d have one hell of a population problem.”

At only 97 minutes it’s a tight film, wasting no time diving right into the gory end. It truly breezes by making it easy to commit to, and even easier to forgive its flaws. The character relationships whether it’s the bond of siblings, mother and sons, new romances, or friendships, are also at the forefront, always giving us a deeper meaning even when the story is cast in leather jackets, dazzling lights, and hilarious dialogue.

source: Warner Bros.

As if the cast wasn’t already stacked Edward Herrmann also has a memorable role. Overall, the casting is really impressive, as well as the time-capsule vibe that feels like it’s just emitting 80s every time you pop the top. It has its moments of savvy, even if it has plenty of silly too, making it an amalgamation that stems beyond just nostalgia but into pop culture icon territory. There is a liveliness to it with its colorful boardwalk, interesting vampiric lair, and costume designs that make it stand out.

The Lost Boys gives an injection of lifeblood into a tired genre that needed some resurrecting at the time. It’s an exhilarating ride, a madcap line of quips and thrills that make it a hard to forget bloody cocktail. This and Fright Night (the original) should both be experienced if one is looking for some 80s vamp flavor. Go on, get your fix.

Spooktober Day 21: Rosemary’s Baby

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Rosemary’s Baby was a film I saw young enough where it was one that I didn’t quite understand why it scared me. It was more psychological than some of the others I had been consuming, and my not-quite-yet strange enough brain wasn’t ready to be completely compelled. The fact that it was still was is part of the reason it’s coming up in this list of 31 movies (which was very hard to only limit to 31). I find that for my earliest recollection of the film what stood with me the most was the overarching feeling of unease.

Even if you don’t know fully why something latches onto you, doesn’t make it any less true that it does. In many ways my imagination, and the direction of this film that demanded I use it, created something terrifying in my head without always explaining why it was.

“This isn’t a dream! This is really happening!”

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new building, hoping to start a family. After she becomes pregnant, her new neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) seem to want to help her, but there are ulterior motives underneath, as she grows more and more suspicious of those around her and their intentions. This includes her husband who continuously seems to disregard and dismiss her concerns.

Ominous. Rosemary’s Baby has always felt so ominous, much like another I almost wrote in its place The Omen. From an early onset of both of those films (there are other similarities as well, heh) there’s a hint of dread that is decidedly persistent on never letting you forget it. You see it in the characters, you feel it in the overwhelming mood, and when the end comes, you are consumed by it. What a spellbending ending too!

It’s pure psychological horror at its best, elegant in a way that’s rarely seen now, as the anticipation of what’s to come and the walls of security and certainty begin to fall around Rosemary.

The design of the apartment immediately feels as creepy as it inevitably proves to be, and the expert use of sound editing and that score (!) is perfect. The monsters in Rosemary’s Baby are more terrifying because of their suspected, as they portray it, innocence. The juxtaposition of characters and locale, the horrifying and the everyday life, make it enthralling. This isn’t a show and tell sort of horror, it’s the kind you breath in slowly and with each inhale, you feel heavier and heavier. The film is crafted in a sophisticated fashion, with detail paid to every movement of camera, and as the realizations settle in, and tightness in our chests is also reflected on Farrow‘s face.

Mia Farrow is phenomenal, tapping into maternal fears and sense of distrust with full vulnerability. She carries this film on her shoulders, even as everyone tries to push her further down, she remains, headstrong and resilient. There’s a moment where she’s just walking through oncoming traffic, her head clouded with (rightful) paranoia and fear. The movie uses its slow build expertly, as if feeling the full nine months and perpetual climax as Rosemary does, becoming more and more convinced that what she is carrying may be more than a child.

Rosemary’s Baby has inspired many to come after, finding a pulse of imitations in film and TV alike, with many hoping to capture the disturbing nature of this horror classic. All for good reason. It stands out because it truly is a rare sort of nightmare.

Spooktober Day 20: Poltergeist

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

When I was younger I remember thinking of Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film Poltergeist to be synonymous with static, and for anyone remembers the days you had to fight with the antenna to get the signal just right, know what I mean. Every time it would come on our TV I’d wonder, “is there something in there?” There was, it just wasn’t a poltergeist, just the movie-lovers bug.

MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

Poltergeist is the quintessential haunted house movie, and very imperative viewing for the time and genre. It transcends the period it was born from though, making it still relevant even if it isn’t the most intense of the genre. Which, in my opinion, when it comes to a story like this (and I’ve said it before) less is more.

They’re here

A happy suburban family, The Freelings (Craig T. Nelson, Jobeth Willians, Dominique Dunne, Olver Robins and Heather O’Rourke) unexpectedly come under the attack of a malevolent poltergeist. The American Nightmare, right? (Well, one of them 🙂 )

At first the mere oddities that occur can be passed off, even seeming someone amusing, after all- kids can talk to TV’s right and it’s cute, right? But when earthquakes occur that only the family can feel, furniture starts moving on its own, and trees begin attacking children, well, they might be dealing with a serious problem.

One of the reasons that Poltergeist remains in our collective psyches is the slow burn effect of a haunting done right. The Freelings feel genuine, relatable, and undergo a phenomenon most could never happening in the safe, comfort of their homes. Part of the film is the build-up, the pointed but subtle helpings of supernatural delights. Then when Carol Anne gets taken, the remainder is about how to get her back, enlisting the help of others, including the wonderfully iconic clairvoyant Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein).

MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

There are scenes from the film that definitely left an imprint when I was young, and when I revisit as an adult I can still understand their heft. It isn’t a scary supernatural film in the likes of more recent endeavors, but what it does show and how it unveils it makes for a fascinating take. The fact that this is produced by Spielberg is felt throughout, even with Hooper’s stamp too, (though quite unlike his other films). It feels more at home in Spielberg’s familial, suburban, “comfortable” landscape. For the time the special effects are done well, but the performances and writing sell it, with a lovely mix of emotion and terror. Kudos to the production design as well.

It’s effective without being harsh, and in a lot of ways Poltergeist is a softer sort of horror because it doesn’t prey, but instead pleads. When you hear Carol Anne’s voice through the TV it’s not only creepy, but a bit heartbreaking. At the end of the day it can’t be ignore either that, well, it’s a bit wonderfully weird at times too.

Poltergeist is a compelling entry that resides in a simpler, but no less effective time of supernatural horror.

Spooktober Day 19: Double M. Night Shyamalan: The Sixth Sense & Signs

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I would come to have a generally uncertain relationship with M. Night Shyamalan, and for good reason. When the director was on, he was on. When he wasn’t, you wondered… why? More would come that I would love, and dislike (some being a source of laugher induced joy- not the intended reaction) but I would always appreciate these two.

As a film lover, you should always witness and register talent. He has it. Sometimes he just emphasizes it more. With The Sixth Sense he mastered it into a feature length concoction of mood, an exuberance of perpetual unease and melancholy. We strive for what we want, what we have lost, and what we can feel. The Sixth Sense touches on all of that.

source: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

I saw The Sixth Sense in theaters with my mother, aunt and grandmother. A strange group for a theatrical experience such as this, and I remember vividly after how confused, yet, affected they were. No worries fam, younger Kristy would explain. I vividly recall dissecting the specifics, and recalling the signs throughout to punctuate the ultimate surprise ending, “Grandma, this was red here for a reason.” Suffice it to say it didn’t all compute, but it most certainly became clear I was paying attention. You might say, I was in school. And, like many before and after, Shyamalan tought me some things.

There are some scenes in The Sixth Sense that are honestly terrifying. When young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) sees some of the spirits, you feel the cold, the undeniable presence, and you’re invested. I remember truly feeling this as a young kid, wondering how I’d feel in these moments. Would I be brave enough to help? Or frozen in fear? Some of the reasons for these deaths/hauntings are really chilling. You feel that, no matter your age. Even know when I rewatch (and some say it doesn’t have the same effect when you know the end, it does for me) there are certain shots when a ghostly character steps into frame that spike your heartrate and make your hands clammy.

Haley Joel Osment gives one of the best child performances in a film, and with Toni Collette as his mother Lynn, and Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, there to help Cole through this challenging time, you’ve got quite the star lineup.

source: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Osment‘s performance is haunting, he’s guarded and soft spoken, trauma written in his body language and conflicted eyes. So much of the film is deeply emotional, and his expressions say it all. This isn’t a passing thought, it’s a full grown feeling, wrapped around him like a suffocating sarcophagus. Nobody will ever forget the ending, or now it made them feel the first time you saw it. When the reveal comes, suddenly obvious details come screaming back, and you feel fooled. In the right sort of way. Intelligent and poignant; this is a unique kind of ghost story. The human kind.

There’s a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?

source: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

When Signs came out I was excited, and of course, saw it in theaters as well. It was actually one of the few times there was a snafu in the theater which is partly why I remember it as well as I do. That, and, of course, some iconic moments that still stick with me. When the alien comes into frame on a video recording from a child’s birthday party (and Joaquin Phoenix reacts in a way that’s inspired many a memes/gifs) I remember how I felt, the sudden jolt in my chest. Isn’t that why we breathe movies? For that sensation? Whether it be an emotional gasp, a whole-hearted laugh, or a frightful hair-lifting moment, it’s transcendent for a reason.

This was a different Shyamalan even if it wasn’t really. There was still plenty of the tell tale “signs”- ha. What I love about this film is that it’s like an elaborate puzzle. It isn’t just a simple sci-fi/horror story. There’s little hints and answers given before even the questions are asked. By the end, it all snaps together, making the nightmare meaningful. Which, by all accounts, makes life feel a little more hopeful.

I thought there was just the right amount of imagination, hints of horror (without always the need to show it, a common Shyamalan trait I admire) and that ever growing need to understand why something like this is happening. For Signs, it was subtle and yet terrifying. My kind of flick. All of the acting, including the wonderful kids, hit their mark, and makes Signs as much about family, and the strength found there in the most challenging of times, than about a world-wide attack.

The reason these two stand out to me (also love Unbreakable) is because of this same joint intent; they’re intimate in the way that they’re about relationships, human perseverance, while also not denying that there is an unrelenting theme of the everyday, possible, weird, that can come at any time. Be it supernatural, alien, or our own personal demons, Shamlyan gets it. And, both of these films were influential in my love and expansion of the genre.

Spooktober Day 18: Let the Right One In

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

From the moment I first saw Let the Right One In, I was completely in love. The sub-genre of vampire films is one that struggles the most with originality, but also heart. Many have tried and failed (some tried and somewhat succeeded) but this is one that nails it on the head. You leave this film with such a fluttering array of emotions: fear and empathy, that it makes it really stand out. I mentioned this previously with Evil Dead, but I will say, that while I’m not going to deeply touch on it, Let Me In is one of those rare American remakes that does it justice. It maintains the best parts, while introducing some new, and also features terrific performances. While I prefer the original, I am very much on board with Let Me In, and I’d honestly suggest everyone see both. Quality films, deserve quality appreciation.

source: Sandrew Metronome

Directed by Tomas Alfredson with a sreenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, (based on his novel) Let the Right One in takes the cake on a variety of levels, from behind the camera, in front, and from its origins: the page.

When you’re dealing with stories about vampires it isn’t easy to be bold and new. But, if you can find a story of two children (one not truly a child- only in appearance) you get a disturbed, but also, meaningful take on friendship, and falling in love. It happens in many different ways, this is one, and while it’s not ideal, or…necessarily safe, you feel for them. Connection is, well, just that. And it should never be tossed aside. It’s rare when we find it.

Shy, Twelve year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) struggles with loneliness, both at home and at school, the latter of which is where he is victim consistent bullying. When he meets his new neighbor Eli (Lina Leandersson), Oskar finds the meaningful relationship he’s been yearning for, but, Eli has some bloody secret, appetites. The what and who of Eli doesn’t matter much to Oskar, as he begins to learn more. To him, he’s found his missing piece.

Yes, I wane poetic about this film, deservedly so, but at the end of the day it’s also a wonderful horror. There are times when we are very much reminded of the “monster” that Eli can be. She isn’t a child, and she’s responsible for gruesome murders. It can be sinister, it can be lovely, and it is always enchanting. An atmosphere is built early on that never leaves you, like one can feel the cold in your bones as you watch these characters amid the wintry landscape.

source: Sandrew Metronome

There’s something truly beautiful about Let the Right One In, from the look to the moody soundtrack, to the care used when creating these characters. Isolation can be felt by all. Kids are sometimes forced to grow up too soon, deal with issues beyond their years, all while feeling inherently, alone. Coming of age isn’t easy. The film is peculiar in all the ways it should be, and it’s one that is exquisitely imagined. It feels realistic, especially the two lead’s bond, and that’s a rarity among the genre. By the time the credits roll, Let the Right One In, really sinks its fangs in, and you are happy it did.

Spooktober Day 17: Scream

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Yep, another Craven! While this is a similarly iconic entry into the horror-world, this pioneered a change that would continue to be reverberated over time. At the time it was an affirmation that, yes, this genre can still be creative. Thank the stars.

This is a favorite among many fans of the genre, and while I have seen it a lot and I recognize that it guided a generation, it’s not top-tier for me, but that doesn’t negate the fact that its influence was seen and felt, still to this day. Wes Craven reinvigorated a sleepy genre once more. In a lot of ways, I feel like this is the matured, self-assured Craven, which makes for a wonderful evolution for the director.

This comes on the precipice of a fourth Scream movie arriving next year (oddly just named “Scream” which seems wildly confusing) and it’s got me reflecting on the franchise, and the most obviously, for a variety reasons- the best one (though 2 is also great).

A mysterious killer hunts a group of high school students in the town of Woodsboro, California. With stars of the time like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard at the helm, that power is just one of the many reasons, Scream is still going strong.

source: Dimension Films

Not only is it the O.G which always carries with a certain level of authority, but there’s also a way that Craven melds the newness and self-awareness of horror with reflections on the old slashers of the past, that makes this something special.

Something I love about Scream is that it doesn’t age. While some of the sequels most definitely do, there’s a sense of a pristine time-capsule like essence with this movie.

I remember when I saw this when it came out. This, I Know What You Did Last Summer and also, Urban Legend because it makes sense, as always, with movies to pile on a theme/trend when something works, were all very present at this time. I liked them all for different reasons, but when I saw Scream I loved the self-referential aspect, and also the schlocky humor. Who was the killer? The fun was in the discovery. Not to mention, a villain that has a mask similar to a famous painting that quizzes people on their horror movie skills? Sign me up please! Wes Craven does it again, with a new decade, and a new appreciation for the genre (also don’t sleep on the his 2005’s Red Eye).

source: Dimension Films

The writing, the music, and the performances/characters all were inspired, and influenced by the time they were formed. I can’t watch this movie without feeling the sensation of the 90s, and even in the most cheesiest of lines, I can’t help but feel a sort of comfort. That’s one of those lovely aspects of film that will never die. It’s like handprints in cement, even as time passes, there’s proof it was there, then, and it doesn’t lose it. It’s deft, hilarious, and ultimately, a huge part of the cinematic horror world.

Even if there’s a bit of tiredness as they continue the saga (for some, yet somehow, I’m still in it- though not assured in my reasoning), the characters and actors are a big part of what has made Scream the force that it is. Does anyone not know who Sydney Prescott is? That’s pretty powerful. It’s meta, irreverent, a bit farce, but also tied in with moments of actual frights- it’s still a horror after all.

Through reinvention and self-awareness, Scream woke us up, and brought the slasher genre to new, fun, bloody heights.

Spooktober Day 16: The Evil Dead (& Evil Dead 2)

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

It’s a Sam Raimi– a-thon (kinda). At least the first two Evil Dead’s, because, well, I feel like they fit immaculately. The second is really a remake of the first with a higher budget, and a bigger dose of wacky. Ot just seems sensible to celebrate both. I won’t dive in, but the remake of The Evil Dead was actually one of the better classic reimaginings that I have seen (another to be mentioned later this month).

I’m not really sure why, perhaps just a matter of circumstance, but I actually saw The Evil Dead 2 before I saw the original, as a pre-teen. I saw them nearly back to back, and of course, as anyone who has seen these, there’s plenty of correlations that make the second more of an improvement rather than a real connective- sequel. It didn’t really change how I felt about either, all I knew was this: Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were amazing, and I desperately wanted to make movies.

It’s low-budget filmmaking at its best because it utilizes the limited locale, the embracing of camp (is there a film that does this more??) and the fearlessness that goes into giving in to every, gory, strange, impulse.

source: New Line Cinema

When you watch either of these films you can feel Raimi’s love for the genre, from the debut on, there is a passion that is present in nearly every decision, every gloriously unique, rough around the edges, oddity. It’s proof that you can make a film on a low-budget, indie, DIY, and it’s inspirational in that way. As Raimi continues to make movies in the industry, it gives hope to the masses who want to follow in his footsteps. Even if… not exactly these peculiar ones.

Kind of like the Cabin in the Woods setup pokes fun of, five college students vacation in a remote cabin in the woods. Creepy, dark, obviously not the best place for some R&R and yet, they do it anyway. In a way, aren’t they asking for it?

When they find a mysterious book of the dead, they awaken something truly evil, demons that have been resting until the group summons them.

Somehow, despite some of the areas in the film that are too much or don’t quite work, the ones that do make up for it. The fact that this film still lives on in classic horror fandom is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of closeups and zooms, stop motion animation, frequent jump scares and some over-acting, even by our main lead Ash (Bruce Campbell) who continued in the sequels and the eventual show spin-off, but all of that builds to Evil Dead’s benefit. The cinematography by Tim Philo, including some intriguing long takes, really melds the the elements together, fashioning a unique viewing experience.

The ingenuity comes through even in the truly weirdest of times. The makeup work is really quite amazing for the time, and is a big proponent for the more effective chilling moments. For the most part though, the experience with The Evil Dead is one of wide-eyed curiosity to what will come next, and gut-busting comical moments. It’s also alarming, don’t get me wrong, there’s some parts to this film that are not easily swallowed.

source: Rosebud Releasing Corporation

In Evil Dead 2, it’s basically the same setup, the same lead, but with a bigger budget, and somehow? An even weirder trip. A do-over with even more freakiness. I think it kicks the humor into second gear, while also ensuring surprises are doused on the audience, on the regular. One of the reasons I almost prefer the second is because of how wildly out there it goes. And, that’s saying something considering some of what happens in the first. It’s a legacy of cinema for a reason. This movie goes so manic, so kinetic, it questions you to wonder about your own state of mind.

No one wants to be stuck in a haunted cabin, alone, but Campbell manages to entertain us as he loses his connections to reality, and somehow, we are fine joining him on this funny, strange, journey. It’s straight up gonzo, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It is also bloody mayhem. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you are just unsure of what exactly is happening, which eventually leads to more laughter- mixed with some disturbing content. Nothing you wouldn’t expect, truly, from this reimagining, but it’s a bit of a rollercoaster that one just can’t describe.

For both of these films, at the end of the day, it’s the direction by Raimi that makes these cult classics what they are. While I recognize, even now, that these aren’t for everyone, I feel like most can appreciate their intent, even if the execution makes their stomach woozy or their senses over-fried. It’s honestly a challenge to fully describe these films in a coherent way. To do so would be a misguided and almost- an insult- to the films themselves. You’ve got to experience them.

Either way, an impression is made.

That’s Groovy baby.