Top Ten Horrors of 2021

Hello fellow ghouls, goblins, beasties, and overall badass film lovers. It’s that lovely reflective time as we begin anew. Why not take a look at my favorite ten horror films of 2021? And maybe touch on some others. Who said there were no good horrors this year? (Yes, I have actually seen this floating around the interwebs). Strictly speaking, for the big names in horror that in the last decade have been vital to its resurgence, this wasn’t their year, but, indie horror, you made your mark.

I’ve always said that one of the things I love about genre films is the ability to transcend the usual “off” or “odd factor” and curate something specifically unique. Horror touches on fears and human emotions, and it can be rewarding and still, cut deep. I’ve always admired the part of horror that strives to say something true and personal. For that point, I want to highlight that two of my favorites of the year are not, by any means, what you’d consider obvious horrors. There’s a lot embedded within them, from loss to yearning, and how we find love and ourselves, in the strangest of ways, and of course, some dark imagery and violence.

source: Neon

1.) Titane (Julia Ducournau)

My first two choices required their own more in-depth write up here because I loved them. Titane was one that has stuck with me every moment since I saw it, often recalling the emotions and the odd and unexpected heartstrings that it pulled on. Yes, she kills people with a hairpin and has an “appreciation” for fine vehicles, but there’s also something lurking beneath that encompasses most of the movie, whose search makes this genre-blasted, unique and provocative follow up by Julia Ducournau a masterclass in the unexpected. It’s as brutal at times as Raw, and it will undoubtedly lose some of its viewers, but I was enchanted throughout. Both top performances by Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon. A haywire but intimate tale, that is one of the year’s best if not the best horror. Kudos to the scene, for horror-loving-sake, where she keeps having to hairpin new inhabitants she was unaware of. Whoops! Know your surroundings!

Available on VOD

source: A24

2.) Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson)

Lamb was another that truly struck me as soon as I saw it. As a feature directorial debut, it’s such a curious thing when one decides to make a film such as this. I don’t want to give away all of the details that make this strange movie tick, but I’ll say that it’s ultimately visually beautiful (and disturbing) at times, with part-folk-lore, part dramatic resonance as a couple deals with the effects of grief and a second chance, albeit in the oddest of circumstances. Noomi Rapace is terrific, and Lamb is a must-see.

Available on VOD

source: A24

3.) Saint Maud (Rose Glass)

Another truly impressive feature debut by Rose Glass, Saint Maud is a chilling psychological horror, one that (literally) twists and turns as our lead, Maud (Morfydd Clark) ventures deeper into herself and into madness. Mental health, obsession: Saint Maud is a bleak, slow burn, yet confident debut that will stun. The whole film has a buildup of tense, discomforting proportions with an uncertainty as to how it’ll eventually explode. Well, the ending certainly does, and it was one of the most shocking and searing images left with me this last year. Don’t sleep on this one! Let’s be honest – you wouldn’t be able to anyway after this.

Available on Hulu

source: Arrow Video

4.) The Stylist (Jill Gevargizian)

The Stylist is yet, another, feature directorial debut, by Jill Gevargizian. During the day she’s a hairstylist, and a damn good one, but at night she gives into her other predilections, which include, well, – killing. Where she also excels. This female-driven serial killer story is heavy on the style but also with an emphasis on heart, even when our lead is committing the most heinous of acts we can’t help but feel for her. Or maybe that’s me, but either way, excellently conveyed, unhinged performance by Najarra Townsend. Check it out!

Available on Shudder

source: Dark Sky Films

5.) My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To (Jonathan Cuartas)

As with many of my other choices, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, is a film that resides in horror but feeds on drama, in this case specifically, it is familial relationships and the pressures that come from being responsible for a member of the family, and your willingness to do anything for their survival. In his first directorial feature debut, Jonathan Cuartas creates a compelling portrayal of the lengths siblings will go for their own, even when it means… killing and retaining blood to keep their youngest brother alive. A stimulating design that leans on the performances of its leads, and a genuine nurturing of its central thesis. You’ll undoubtedly ruminate on it for a while.

Available on VOD

source: Vertigo Releasing

6.) Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond)

After missing this during its Sundance stretch I was quite excited to discover the throwback dizzying debut of Prano Bailey-Bond. Am I catching a theme here that I didn’t intend with first time efforts? Why yes I am! And I love it.

Censor is a film that took a few days of sitting on to know how I felt about it (not unlike some of the others; Lamb for one) where it kind of hit me like bricks all at once, but yet it was something I was also appreciative and engaged with as it went on. Visually, I really adored the aesthetic quality, it was unlike many horrors that I had seen. While some of the narrative elements became mixed in the middle, I was still fond of Censor. Quite the clever debut.

Available on Hulu

source: IFC Films

7.) Werewolves Within (Josh Ruben)

My first (and only) horror-comedy of the batch (well – an entirely intended one) Werewolves Within might be the best video-game adaptation we have seen yet. While I am still hoping others will prove more impressive in that realm, this is a light-hearted, fun-loving jaunt that doesn’t bite off more than it can chew. It does what is intended while still keeping the lycanthropy love alive. A bit silly, but a delightful Sam Richardson keeps it afloat.

Also, see Eight for Silver if you’re in for some more wolfy delights of 2021.

Available on VOD

source: Netflix

8.) Oxygen (Alexandre Aja)

Criminally underseen on Netflix during a time where the streaming service should have leaned on gems like this, Oxygen is basically an hour and forty-one minute depiction of Mélanie Laurent in psychological agony as she wrestles with a variety of fear-inducing moments of confusion, terror, perseverance, and eventually, acceptance. As the main focal point of the film, she’s truly amazing, and this movie made me squirm and breathe heavily in tandem, which proves that a one-scene, pandemic-timely thriller, can do its work. Some issues may arrive storytelling-wise, but overall it’s an exercise in containment and distress.

source: IFC Films

9.) We Need to Do Something (Sean King O’Grady)

I’m not sure if it is because this is an indie or just slid under the radar, but We Need to Do Something definitely stuck with me after viewing. As primarily a documentary director it was intriguing to see Sean King O’Grady venture not only into fictional storytelling, but head-on genre-infused craziness, that includes a one-room set of four family members stuck in a bathroom during a storm. Their frustrations, exhaustion and eventual terror win out in the end, but the ticking of the clock as you wonder what exactly is happening is quite interesting. Filing in at an hour and 37 minutes, it’s a lean game too. You might not have your answers in the end (which may be to the dislike of some) you’ll ve curious with your questions, I assure.

source: Warner Medi

10.) Malignant (James Wan)

This is another that you’ll find a full review on here, and while Malignant caught me off guard (seriously, even if you are unsure, finish this puppy) its audaciousness had me unexpectedly, wonderfully confused, nearly jaw-droppingly so, as I laughed, and jumped up wondering what had just happened. In a lot of ways, James Wan really settles for shock more than endurance, but it’s still one worthy of a nod from this last year. I know you’re curious now ;).

Available on HBO Max

Also worthy…

Honorable Mentions: The Night House, Saloum, Fear Street: 1978, Antlers, Last Night in Soho, Hellbender, What Josiah Saw, In the Earth, You’re Not My Mother, Lucky

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the most memorable TV Shows/Miniseries in the last year for me. There’s the shock and awe, thrilling dramatic: Squid Game (Netflix), the sermon/invocation of Salem’s Lot small town misdirection Midnight Mass (Netflix), the was a lot more fun than it ought to be Chucky (syfy network), The revamped, newly inviting Dexter: New Blood (Showtime), the lord of the flies meets delightful female teenage angst (meets supernatural etc.) in Yellowjackets (Showtime) and finally, King’s it isn’t really horror but you are expecting it yet this is a romance – Lisey’s Story (Apple tv).

source: Showtime

Happy Watching! May 2022 delight and frighten you! (In a healthy, responsible way).

Titane & Lamb: Did I Just Fall in Love?

Short answer: Yes, why yes I did.

When it comes to 2021 and “horror” (yes the quotations are on purpose) there’s a couple of films that had, until the last two days, popped in my mind, but hadn’t yet quite arrived before my eyes. Now that I’ve been able to rectify that and was able to see each, I can happily say they’ve made it into my heart as well. This hasn’t exactly been the year for horror, but if it means highlighting these, I am all for it. Always.

To rewind, the reason I put that in quotations is that I’m not entirely sure either should be considered predominantly horror, at least not as a defining element, even if there are sequences that definitely relish the description. I found them both to be unexpectedly poignant, and touching at times, flooring me in different (and, similar) ways too. Days later, as I reflect back on Lamb and Titane, I’m reminded of that beautiful staying power of movies, even when they are -technically- by some definition’s bonkers as F. These are two of my favorites of 2021, and I’m absolutely full of bliss to try to explain why.

Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson)

source: A24

Mourning. This movie begins and ends with the feeling. There’s the undeniable sting of loss that permeates throughout the story, even when things get odd, or cute, or even horrific, there’s still the underlying sensation of being “without.” This is a powerful thing.

Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) and Maria (Noomi Rapace) appear to maintain a content existence on their sheep farm in Iceland. One day, when delivering a lamb, they make an unexpected discovery, and it brings back old wounds, while giving them new -if not a strange kind of- hope.

While not overly gratifying, it aspires greatly, and that makes Lamb standout. Even more so, it’s imaginative, which is always a reason for a hearty, enthusiastic clap. I recognize what it’s attempting, even when it isn’t completely coherent in execution, and it kept me fully engaged. In large part, it was the characters, and by extension, their performances, which really captured their affection.

This weird tale is one that may ask a lot of its viewers, especially that of patience, but it never seems small or fleeting in its presence. If anything Lamb is potent. There’s a supernatural element, that isn’t ever truly ignored, but a more intimate and personal one ends up feeling most prominent, which is that of loss. The unyielding, unmatchable feeling of being without someone you love.

There’s a tender element of Lamb, that invokes the warmth and joy of family, making even the oddest moments. I found it to be beautiful; heartbreaking and warming in equal measure. Sometimes, all we can ask for is the briefest of the lot, and Lamb seems to relish in its joy, even if it wonders if it “should” be doing so at all. Who are we to judge joy?

The cinematography by Eli Arenson is gorgeous, making me want to relinquish myself to the beauty (and sometimes terror) of the great expanse of nature. Peculiar to the umpteenth degree, Lamb finds its sweet spot in the unnatural, yet, natural places that horror can often find home.

I’d say this: don’t expect to be terrified, but be welcomed to finding a film that delves deeper and still manages to be sweet. I really relished it, and found myself unpacking elements, still, even now. This is definitely one of those films that will hit or miss, making some frustrated by the end and others pondering it for days. Lamb doesn’t take the time to explain everything, nor should it really have to. I think that this is a film that benefits from the intangible. Either way, I felt it was a sincere look at human emotions through the guise of a fantastical lens.

titane (Julia Ducournau)

source: Neon
source: Neon

Very few movies lately have struck me as much as Titane has. Despite almost seeing it at TIFF this year (it wasn’t available in my area) and hearing so much discussion on the film, I still remained in the dark about what I was going to see when I entered into this one. I’m so very glad that I did because it manages to cohesively tie together feelings that all remain on its raw (not a ref to her previous work 😏) surface. And it was wonderful. I’ve had a few conversations since with those who have seen it, but I can say, while we all didn’t have my response, we all had a visceral one. I feel like everytime I want to just explode with emotion and love, even if I can’t always wrangle the words to do so. Words are so lovely, and sometimes they just don’t do justice. Let’s see if I can now…

Either way, one of my favorite and one of the best of 2021.

After an accident as a child leaves her with a piece of titanium in her head, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) seems to now be disconnected from the world, except for when it comes to cars, and her sexual expression. Unhappy at home, and seemingly in any sort of relationship, Alexia finds purpose in other passions. Which, eventually, get her into trouble and on the run from the law. [Being purposely obtuse].

For the first half hour of the film, I was wondering if Titane would go too far, too fast. The thing is, there are some quite dazzling sequences in this time, but my favorite is really when the exclamation point is over and the film gives into its ellipsis. What happens after someone goes, truly, over the edge?

As a big fan of Raw I was excited to see where Julia Ducournau took us next. The writer/director has truly honed her craft here, creating a layered, extravaganza of emotion and style.

In some ways I consider the film split into two, (even if there’s intersecting elements and themes) with the “before” and “after” of Alexia and Adrien, as you will. There are some truly spectacularly choreographed moments of psychosis in part one (Ducournau is so good with musical choices/sequences) and in part two, there’s the real tender, heart-rending part. The one that makes you wonder deeper about the person you had been watching previously, committing heinous acts, and who has you considering the humanity in us all. Especially, the sensation of heartache and connection. Our stories mold us.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but even when it gets truly meaningful there is always this tenuous thread of oddity, sown into the fabric of Titane is the most wonderful of ways. This isn’t everyone’s film, but for us, weirdo’s out there, I can’t imagine a more satisfying dive.

So, let it take a hold of you, because it will push you- prod at you, and pull you into some far reaches of your psyche and body you don’t expect.

Part body horror, part emotional rollercoaster and part stylistic thriller, Titane is powerful because of its ability to weild multiple weapons at once.

The relationship between Alexia/ and Vincent (Vincent Lindon) is one of true wonder, moving and earnest, because -while- its birth is out of a place of distrust- its settlement is within a place of necessity and mutual healing. Both of these individuals need the other, they just didn’t know it until now. We’re all broken in ways, and sometimes we don’t know or expect who/what will be our healing grace.

There’s so much to absorb, I don’t know if I can express my love verbally enough. This is a film that moved me, shook me, shocked me, but ultimately made me yearn to be as meaningful as this medium can be.

It is one of the extraordinary reasons that I continue to keep film as my savior, my confidante, and most importantly: my joy. That unexpected twinge.

Titane is absolutely exactly as it has been sold. If by that you mean amazing, yes, it is one of the best of the year. Wholly original, I would suggest any who expects their cinema to inspire and upend to see.

I was really swept up by both of these movies, and I would suggest any cinephile experience them before 2021’s end.

Spooktober Day 31: Halloween (1978)

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.

Well, here it is, the last day of Spooktober. I didn’t get to finish these by the end of last month, but- isn’t Spookytime, kind of every day?

It seemed fitting to finish with the film named after the last day of the month (and of course) the original, John Carpenter one. I’ve got some thoughts about the sequels, Rob Zombie’s takes, and the newest by David Gordon- Green, but I’m just going to spend the last of Spooktober 21′ talking about the O.G. Not only was this the first of its namesake, but it was really the defining slasher that would spawn many others, each hoping to capture its atmosphere and thrills.

source: Compass International Pictures

I first saw this at a young age (of course) and I remember loving it immediately, struck by the quaint neighborhood and the day to day lives that seemed so innocent and bland, as they suddenly became haunted. Even just Michael Myers watching from behind shrubbery seemed ominous.

It’s Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois, and a group of teenagers are being stalked by a killer who has escaped a local Sanitarium 15 years after murdering his sister. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is known by most even slightly aware of pop culture for good reason: she’s a memorable, tough and a relatable female protagonist. Curtis, who is the daughter of Janet Leigh (known for the iconic Psycho- you may have heard of it) really gave us the iconic scream queen we wanted, and needed.

The movie is also surprising, for its subgenre, in a way, because of its disciplined use of gore and blood. When you think of Halloween, it is the dread that’s coming for the characters, in the face of (Well, William Shatner) but, ultimately, evil.

Halloween is generous with its pacing, and by the time Michael Myers makes his first kill, it’s built up with a unique amount of suspense. There’s no reason a film like this needs a fast-paced murder fest. Rack up the tension, and when they come, the audience will feel them significantly more.

source: Compass International Pictures

John Carpenter has mastered how to do horror (and movies in general) and knows how to capture a mood that embodies a film. This is meticulously made, with every decision working to craft the stylistic, iconic film many of us hold so dear.

The simple (not to be confused with bad) and enduring score by Carpenter is like the icing on this diced up cake. It’s like the inner dialogue for our killer, never letting up and making the entire film musically endowed with a spooky cadence. As he never speaks, and doesn’t give us any reason for his actions, so much of Myer’s is unexplained and unsettling. He’s a seemingly soulless, villain, and from the unforgettable prologue of the film, the frame of mind for the film is set.

Halloween resounds due to its expert work of direction and carefully built tension with a reminder that darkness exists in even the most peaceful of places. It’s still scary today, and a staple of the holiday-watching season.

Happy Halloween beasties! With so much more horror to talk about, this won’t be the end.

Spooktober Day 30: The Descent

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.

Disclaimer: These are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

2005 was the year of the “movies about people stuck in caves with weird creatures” and while The Cave is entertaining and funny (in ways it shouldn’t be) The Descent is much better and legitimately creepy. I remember watching it for the first time and it made me realize how discomforting itty bitty spaces can be, and also, how even watching someone else on screen deal with this, can prove to be nauseatingly effective.

Neil Marshall‘s film plays on fears that many of us have: enclosed spaces deep into the ground, darkness, and not to mention, the blood-thirsty things that dwell in the unseen recesses of a cave. Well, if that wasn’t one before, it may very well be now.

source: Pathé Distribution

When a group of friends, who often go on risky excursions, decide to go cave-diving in the Appalachians, things go horribly wrong. Forced to find another way out to survive, they’ll also have to battle off the creatures that rule these caves, and they…are hungry. Among the women is Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), whose recent loss of her husband and child, weighs heavily on her, and while these thrill-seekers think they know what they are getting themselves into it, they are proven wrong, frequently.

With production design that’s truly genius, there are also some interesting camera tricks to make this space somehow feel even smaller, danker and more terrifying. The use of light (and lack there of) as well as the blood soaked crevasses, is also expertly done, making the limited locale feel never ending. The creature design remains great, even now. See the picture below for their beauteous look.

The writing (also by Marshall) gives us a cast of female characters that feel real, fully realized, with their own histories and relationships between them. There’s a lot here to incur unpleasant reactions, and it’s one that may have you anxious to run out into the sunlight and open space soon after, as The Descent delivers on suspense. It’s a grim tale that provides a 99 minute rush of blood to the head.

source: Pathé Distribution

Add in some strong performances and chilling score, and The Descent becomes quite the intelligent, scary little film. Who knew claustrophobia could be fun? This is horror done right.

Also, check out Marshall‘s Dog Soldiers if you’re looking for a werewolf fix!

Spooktober Day 29: The Horrors of Christmas

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.

Disclaimer: These are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

Somehow, we are already at the end of the year which means… yes, holiday season! This, of course, also requires us to take a look at some of the best/most memorable horrors that tackle this comfy, cheerful, time.

With the exception of Black Christmas, which I was confident I’d love going into my watch, Krampus and Better Watch Out were more of the wildcard variety. This meant that both could potentially be disasters, but instead, were unexpectedly fun. While the reasons differ, each had a creative twist on a portion of the genre that, overall, manages to be pretty weak and one that invites a lot of lower quality takes. Luckily, I can say, these three are not “coal.”

Let’s hear it for the horrifying yuletide. The most wonderful time, of the year:

Black Christmas (1974)- source: Warner Bros.

Black Christmas (Bob Clark)

It’s winter break, and a group of sorority sisters start receiving some discomforting phone calls. Who is making them? What do they want? When someone goes missing and another is found dead, the realization sets in that they might just not be safe.

Ya think?

At this point, (I think) there have been 2 additional remakes of this film, yet, nothing has come close to the original and the fear it instilled when considering the question… who is inside the house? Lurking? Watching? That’s a terrifying notion, especially when you start thinking about the “unbeknownst to you factor.”

Is it a little thin on plot? Perhaps. Is the editing a bit sloppy? Mmm, yeah. But, Black Christmas successfully builds suspense to a point that eats at you as a viewer, and now, so many years later, it’s still effective for a reason. Also, this is from the director of “A Christmas Story”….that cheeky bugger.

Unnerving and a product of its time, Black Christmas is an iconic slasher that is a must-see for any horror fan.

Better Watch Out (2016)- source: Well Go USA

Better Watch out (Chris Peckover)

This is one of the newer films I’ve discussed for Spooktober, and I have to admit that this film about “a teenager and his babysitter fighting off intruders” did not go in a direction I was expecting. In a lot of ways, this works because of the good casting, and the skillful balance of creepy and clever.

Luke (Levi Miller) has a thing for his babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), who’s going to be watching him one last time before she heads out into the world, and out of town. When someone starts terrorizing the two, they are thrown into a situation they’d never expect: fighting for their lives.

Don’t ask me to reveal the twist, because I won’t, I’m a firm believer in less is more and that includes your knowledge of a film prior to seeing it. Better Watch Out manages to surprise and disturb, for multiple reasons, making this a Christmas you won’t soon forget.

Krampus (2015)- source: Universal Pictures

Krampus (Michael Dougherty)

Eccentric, dysfunctional family? Check. A sudden lack of Holiday cheer? Check. A giant, forboding horned figure that enlists the help of other weird entities, and makes the family pay for this? DING, DING DING.

Krampus is honestly a lot of fun. I saw it in theaters, and I remember leaving quite giddy. It’s one that I’ve watched in my December Xmas movie-time since its release, and now that I’m reflecting, may just have to do it again in 2021.

Even though the characters in this film have their annoyances (purposely of course) and are often making poor decisions, we still want to see them make it out alive. And, what brings people together faster than potential death?

I have no illusions that Krampus is perfect, but when it comes to a horror Christmas-themed movie, this has a lot of the necessary ingredients, and it undoubtedly has flair. It’s fairly bleak, so that may be difficult for some to overcome, but if you can, and you relinquish yourself to its grasp, you might be entertained. If not, at least, you’ll be questioning your own exclamation of joy during the Holiday season, and wondering who might just show up to punish you.

Happy Holidays 🙂

What are some of your favorites? Do you like these? Let me know!

Spooktober Day 28: Young Frankenstein

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.

Disclaimer: These are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

Young Frankenstein by no means is an absolute favorite, nor is it even on the upper tier of horrors or comedies, but, is it influential? Is it part of little Kristy’s history, therefore it’s important to include in this personal tie-in to my spooktober? Hell yes.

Mel Brooks can be hit or miss, like so many directors, but with Young Frankenstein I could really feel his adoration for the genre, and for the films of the past, the Hollywood monsters that molded this into what it is today. This may very well be his best, and while I have an appreciation (or at least a nostalgia) for many of his, Young Frankenstein, to this day, still feels witty and well-intentioned, and that, matters.

source: 20th Century Fox

In a lot of ways, as silly as the conceit may initially seem, Young Frankenstein, isn’t inherently over the top. Not in the way that many of his others are. The film works, even when it maybe shouldn’t, often exceling at times in a natural fashion despite its unnatural premise. I mean, it’s still a spoof- after all.

Speaking of its premise:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is very uncomfortable with the history of his name, trying hard to make his own from his grandfather’s infamous experiments. When he ventures to his family castle, he recreates some of his work with the help of Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). What comes of it, is…well, Young Frankenstein.

When you’re trying to be a parody of something beloved, it isn’t always easy to accomplish in a way that can be experienced without the potential, occasional cringe, but this is one of the more successful of takes. With an abundance of slapstick, never limiting on the absurd, there’s plenty of comedy to appreciate.

Gene Wilder can be such a gem, let’s be honest here- the film wouldn’t be what it is without him. He’s enigmatic, known for being a screen presence for a reason, and regardless of how much the entire cast sells it, he’s the glue. Even just his speech patterns, facial expressions, make Young Frankenstein. The excellence of casting doesn’t just end with him though, everyone, is spot on.

source: 20th Century Fox

I’ve often thought the film could benefit from being trimmed, and some aspects just don’t work, but for the most part, there’s a reason this movie can still be enjoyed. Call it nostalgia, call it a connection to a simpler time (wait, aren’t those basically the same?) either way, its got wit, its got silliness, and it’s chock full of one-liners, all made with love from Brooks.

Young Frankenstein feels like a worthy homage, and I think, in many ways, this is why the film remains full of life, so many years after its release.

Spooktober Day 26: Don’t Breathe

Disclaimer: These are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

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 isn’t an easy thing to sustain tension over the course of a feature, and one of the most recent films that unexpectedly did this exceptionally well was Don’t Breathe. As a new-and unnecessary sequel IMO, though I’ll probably still watch it- was recently released, it makes sense to touch on this particular thriller that stood out at a time when it wasn’t easy to do.

I can comfortably admit that when I first saw this movie I didn’t expect much. While not loaded with the exact same premise, I had seen enough of “similar” genre fare to know this had the potential to disappoint. Well, there are two sides to the coin, and this landed positively, up. Even now, as I show this to new audiences, I’m excited to see reactions, because, while not perfect, Don’t Breathe, is a worthy inclusion in this Spooktober because it works to do exactly what it aims to do. With so many floundering titles, that’s, truly, something.

source: Sony Pictures Releasing

The film starts from an interesting angle. Our main cast is a trio of young thieves, some more likable than others- Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) decide to rob a blind military vet (Stephen Lang) who is supposedly sitting on a lot of cash. Horrible right? It could mean a new start for Rocky, and like any movie of the like, the last “score” they’ll need. From the very beginning, there’s an obvious bad feeling that only increases with each new scene. This isn’t going to be good. Who do you even root for here? That conundrum makes for a fascinating dichotomy that continues for… a good while. Until, eventually, with a dose of just an absurd disturbed decision, forces our audience to choose sides.

Directed by Fede Alvarez, it’s clear that he has an affinity for the genre, and I can appreciate what he infuses by building and sustaining the thrills through the course of the narrative. In many ways, the characters are constructs, not really filled out, and that’s okay. You don’t have to really be rooting for them, to still feel invested in what is happening. Don’t Breathe is often a teeter-totter, between characters, moments, and often- even rooms. What will this new scenery bring? Can they survive? Can they navigate in the dark, and avoid being heard? There’s enough there to prolong our attention and curiosity and that alone is imperative when making a film such as this.

are you Afraid of the Dark?

Don’t Breathe also goes for the creepy factor, full force at times. There’s a taut pin-drop route, that always seems to keep you hooked. The unpredictable nature of the film helps to steer you around unsuspecting, darkened corners that will have you peering between your fingers.

source: Sony Pictures Releasing

Is this the best of the genre? Hardly. However, Don’t Breathe does manage to steer the audience at its will, making it difficult to not watch until the credits, wondering what will come of our cast, friend/foe/both, and ultimately enthralled regardless.

I’d say that’s a pretty successful horror/thriller, right?

Let me know what you think!

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.