Cinematic Nightmare Candy: Becky & Evil Dead Rise

Welcome to Cinematic Nightmare Candy. Providing your horror sweet tooth its (hopefully) terrifying fix.

For this Cinematic Nightmare Candy, I catch up with two films with festival origins, one from 2020 and one from this year. Each are fairly short, with their own flair and full of savage delights.

Becky (Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion)

source: Quiver Distribution

With the sequel coming out soon, it seemed time to dig into this violent foray!

Becky (Lulu Wilson) is a stubborn, grieving teen who doesn’t make it easy for her father (Joel Mchale) when he takes her and their two dogs to a remote cabin to spend some quality time.

To make things worse, he doesn’t let Becky know when he invites his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and Kayla’s young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). What starts off as an awkward familial situation quickly turns dire, when the worst situation imaginable becomes a nightmare.

While relationship discord spikes, escaped convicts and white supremacists Dominick (Kevin James), Apex (Robert Maillet), Cole (Ryan McDonald), and Hammond (James McDougall), show up in search of a mysterious key. What the Key is or does remains a secret, but this group is willing to do whatever it takes to find it.

They take the family hostage, but Becky, having retreated to her childhood hideout, is on the loose. When she realizes what’s happening, the anger that she’s carefully held deep down is released in a fury of blood and vengeance.

In other words: don’t fuck with Becky.

The Key to Carnage

They underestimate the scrappy 13-year-old at every brutal turn, and she makes their mistakes, fatal.

Kevin James is quite convincing as the menacing lead villain. It’s a funny, vicious turn for the commonly portrayed family man. Their rapport makes for some interesting comedic moments and biting scenes of disarray. One in particular, with the cutting off of a dislocated eyeball, will have you squirm.

For its simple premise, Becky has a lot of meat on its bones. With elaborate kills and resourceful survival skills, this young badass doesn’t shy away from a cumulation of assaults. The fast pace bodes well as this home invasion premise becomes an intelligently written and vicious tale of vengeance.

Becky, is by no means a horror/thriller that lives in reality, or seems entirely original, but the revelry imbued in its core makes it a worthy watch.

Evil Dead Rises (Lee Cronin)

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Evil Dead Rise, the newest of the franchise, hopes to connect a built-in fan base with new horror lovers. While it doesn’t quite reach the epic commune of horror and comedy as its predecessors, it has some fun and deliciously twisted shocks.

I admire what the film set out to do. It aims to carry the torch, but also add some new, gory flames.

This focuses more on family. Facing an upcoming eviction, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) and her three children are visited by her younger sister Beth (Lily Sullivan). Beth is a music technician who, after discovering she’s pregnant decides to visit.

Evil Dead Rise teases a cabin-lake story but instead settles into an apartment building that’s on the verge of being destroyed. The inhabitants come across a vault that contains some ancient, insidious text.

“I gotta kill the creepy crawlies that I got inside my tummy.”

Lee Cronin brings some new context to the story but doesn’t utilize it as much I had hoped. What transpires is an adrenaline rush, to be sure, and will undoubtedly please most looking for an onslaught of deaths and disturbing visuals. I admire the decision to shift the locale and I think it has shining elements that showcase creativity. If I separate myself from my love for the previous entries, I can appreciate this horror for its disturbing take.

Alyssa Sutherland‘s Ellie and her performance as the misery-loving deadite is one of my favorite aspects. She has some killer lines and distorted moves, which are increased by the limited space and isolated apartment floor.

There’s no shortage of chaos or kills, or blood. Some characters seem like fodder and don’t have much depth. While others garner more screen time, but still aren’t as fully fleshed out as one would hope. Flesh though, there’s plenty. It also features some throwbacks to the originals, including a voice cameo from Bruce Campbell and a showing of the versatility of a chainsaw.

If you have a weak stomach or are faint at heart, most likely you won’t be tuning in. It veers into disgusting as often as it can. While sadistic and amusing, pacing issues stifle some of the enjoyment of watching one of the worst family reunions on screen.

After an opening that effectively sets the tone, the film takes a few plotted steps back. The creepiness is shelved for gory exploits. A real misstep was the lack of the campy humor that the originals had in spades. There are moments of humor entwined with entrails and special effects, but it feels at odds with the other serious tones. The camera work is impressive, but even that is eventually ratcheted up to a frenzy.

Evil Dead Rises is a formidable yuck-fest which some tricks up its bloody sleeves, but it doesn’t quite nail the groovy nature of its predecessors.

Both are available digitally.

A Woman Kills (1968)

Restored by Radiance films, written and directed by Jean-Denis Bonan, and emerging over 40 years later, A Woman Kills is a stylish and gritty French new wave noir that taunts and disturbs in equal measure.

The city is at unease as prostitutes are being found murdered in a similar fashion to crimes already seen. But, serial killer Hélène Picard has already been caught and executed. Is it a copycat?

source: Radiance Films

It follows investigating officer Solange (Solange Pradel) who is having a relationship with the strange, executioner Louis Guilbeau (Claude Merlin). With his regaling of executions, mysterious Louis gives off a twisted vibe from the onset, but as the film unfolds, we see how far that goes.

A Woman Kills feels psychological, social and political. It encapsulates the era and the strife of the time. The film feels unencumbered by one defined genre, instead burgeoning into a unique hybrid that feels procedural and experimental simultaneously.

The Psyche of a Killer

With narration (Bernard Letrou) that feels calculated and indifferent, and camerawork that aims for claustrophobic and dizzying, one of the most memorable elements of A Woman Kills is its unyielding presence. Monochromic filming and genre blending make it a unique presence in cinematic history.

The unsettling songs written by Daniel Leloux add an intriguing layer to an already unnerving jazzy score. With a temperament that’s Avant Garde yet borders on imperceptible at times, the film carries itself boldly and confident which makes the feat admirable, especially for 1968.

source: Radiance Films

Any disconnected or disjointedness that it suffers from further invokes curiosity. The film’s format, which is odd to say the least, plays like a series of distorted snapshots that infuriates and unbalances the audience.

As a surreal portrait it still holds onto a tangible embodiment, simmering with the strife of the May 68 movement. The historical discord is felt in each step, while the music and narration orchestrate a discomforting journey. Visually and sonically, A Women Kills is masterful. It’s got wry commentary that marries words and images to alluring effect.

The work of cinematographer Gérard de Battista is playfully bleak, following the victims through the street like a documentary. It pairs well with the 68 minute runtime and never over stays its welcome. A Woman Kills chooses visual prowess over narrative substance, with the mystery weak in comparison to the presence of its visage.

While it draws comparisons to other French New Wave films of the time, as well as masters of psychological horrors like Hitchcock, A Woman Kills paves its own path.

I would have loved to have seen more of Solange Pradel, who was compelling but didn’t get enough screen time. Otherwise, the acting works, even if some of the plot points don’t always click as some of the choices, including the “reveal” haven’t aged well.

Despite any narrative concerns, a perceived lack of confidence in the script, and perhaps a product of the controversy and dismay of the time, I was hooked. A Woman Kills was tucked away for many decades and in ways, it has become crystallized.

There’s a beauty in the madness that makes this bizarre piece resonate. A Woman Kills is a bold undertaking, and it’s worth discovering.

Clash of the Remakes: George Romero

Horror remakes. Love them or hate them, they keep rising from the dead.

Has there been another director who has had their movies remade as much as George Romero? Perhaps, but when it comes to horror, he may take the cake.

Over the years there have been many, and I’ve chosen three that I feel are the cream of the bloody crop. Who will come out victorious among them?

It’s a zombie (sort of) feed for all. Let’s see:

First Contender: “They’re coming to get you Barbara.”

Night of the Living Dead (1990- Tom Savini)

This remake which Romero rewrote is a movie I had on VHS at a young age and fell for immediately. It’s fittingly directed by the horror makeup/effects master Tom Savini and stars Tony Todd as Ben and Patricia Tallman as Barbara, our protagonists for the undead proceedings.

It follows similar beats as the original but is dressed in a 90s style and a larger budget. The film moves fast, more rapidly than our attackers, starting from the iconic scene of Barbara and her brother being attacked in a graveyard, to her finding a house to hide away from the dead who have risen.

There she meets other survivors who hole up, without transportation. Of course, there is some discourse among them, with warring personalities that have different ideas about what should be done. What’s worse: the monster outside or within?

This sequel relishes the love of practical effects and promotes plenty of scares within the confined space. Savini’s look and feel translated to corpses from the beyond dusty, dirty, and mindlessly driven.

Night of the Living Dead is a remake that may have not been necessary but is an enjoyable revisit to what makes the living dead frightening, and endlessly reanimated.

As well as those still breathing.

Second Contender: “How do you kill what’s already dead?”

Dawn of the Dead (Zach Snyder)

Let’s live in a mall.

Dawn of the Dead is a rare sort of remake wonder as it gives a respectful nod to the original but still finds its own exemplified, gory, identity.

In a frenzied and heart-racing intro, we follow Ana (Sarah Polley) as she narrowly escapes the bite of her recently deceased, reanimated husband. Hysteria happens fast as the quiet suburbia that she resides in becomes a feeding ground for the flesh-craving creatures.

Zach Synder (in what I may argue as his best) directs this group of survivors who find shelter in their local mall as zombies ravage the world outside.

Kenneth (Ving Rhames) and Michael (Jake Weber) are among the others that form their own offbeat family inside the shopping center. Not a bad place to ride out the impending apocalypse, but, eventually you’ve got to leave. Right?

Its satirical but blood-soaked grin of a script comes alive with a smattering of jokes and a splattering of carcasses.

Dawn of the Dead provides new digs for the Romero classic, with heightened energy and gory thrills.

Third Contender: “Don’t ask me why I can’t leave without my wife and I won’t ask you why you can.”

The Crazies (Breck Eisner)

Timothy Olyphant is nearly reason enough for this dicey endeavor, but Breck Eisner’s The Crazies has a lot to offer in this disturbing delight.

After a government plane (housing some insidious chemicals) crashes into the town’s water supply, the people of Ogden Marsh find themselves driven to madness.

Sheriff Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his wife Dr. Judy (Radha Mitchell) are forced to fight for their lives, as they come to terms with the fact that their quiet life faces destruction.

The film is gorgeously shot which makes for some intriguing dissimilarities as the characters take some depraved dives.

The Crazies is a visually attuned reimagining that doesn’t slack on lunacy or acting chops.

And the winner is…

Tough choice, so the real suggestion is: watch all three!

Cinematic Nightmare Candy: Skinamarink & M3gan

Welcome to Cinematic Nightmare Candy. Providing your horror sweet tooth its (hopefully) terrifying fix.

We’ve had quite a few new horrors released this year, so it seemed like a great time to do a new nightmare candy! Especially when the two were films that incited quite a buzz and had overwhelmingly positive responses. One, in particular, was a viral sensation. Unfortunately, for this horror fan, both felt lukewarm to me. Each one was a mere shade of the potential that could have been.

source: IFC Midnight

Skinamarink (Kyle Edward Ball)

One of my best friends saw Skinamarink and absolutely loved it (and was quite terrified). This made me incredibly excited to see the film which seemed to have everyone talking. I didn’t feel it had the punch that I was expecting. Instead, I admired the intentions, the artistic and stripped-down visuals, but it just didn’t compute coherently. It became a frustration by its end because I was struck by what the feature could have been, and what the short film version was.

The film is set in 1995, and young Kevin (Lucas Paul) and Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) seem to be left to their own devices within their home. What’s happening? Why are they alone? The movie moves within its own wavelength of a splice of TV cartoons, legos, and the persistent question of where are the parents? And what possible boogeyman could potentially be lurking in this grainy, home-camera-looking capture of a childhood nightmare? When we do see or hear the parents they feel more like a specter than the individuals these children know.

There’s a brilliance that’s not quite surface level, and it becomes tawdry. Some of the cinematography works to make us feel secluded and unsure, while others feel a bit pretentious. It clocks in at an hour and forty minutes but stretches itself thin. With the extended shots, often of corners or out-of-reach framing, the minutes felt lingering. If the viewer takes these in the way I’m assuming director Kyle Edward Ball and cinematographer Jamie McRae intended, the claustrophobia may be staggering. If it doesn’t, that suffocation surfaces in a less ideal way.

Your imagination can play its devious tricks. At its strange little heart that’s where Skinamarink strikes. The eerie tone when it’s persistent is quite effective, especially the shadowy imagery that have you searching the darkness for the insidious. A few scenes had the hair on my neck stand up, but the rush didn’t sustain. The childhood fear encompassed can be visceral, but, it can also feel a level of tedium.

Something I admire is the lack of certainty and the reliance on interpretation, especially from the perspective of the innocent child. I have my own ideas of what was occurring and when I saw the short it confirmed it. The shorter medium seemed to be more conducive to what it was aiming for, and I would definitely recommend hunting that down.

While inventive and a great opportunity for experimental low-budget to be spotlighted, Skinamarink left me in the dark, yearning for much more. The prominent static became just that, a disconnect.

M3gan (Gerard Johnstone)

M3gan, the newest doll gone wild horror venture has all the characteristics we have seen before, but it’s packaged in a shiny, dancing new product.

This is both a positive and a detriment because -while still enjoyable- I felt the homages were paid in a way that felt repetitive and the facelift uninspired. I realize I am probably in a small group of critics who felt letdown, but in many ways, the trailer gave me the same thing the film did.

After Cady (Violet McGraw) loses both her parents she begins living with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) a talented roboticist. Gemma is working on a new prototype, M3gan, a doll that looks and interacts like a real girl. She seems like the perfect companion for Cady as she is overwhelmed by her trauma. So, Gemma brings her work home, hoping it’ll help advance the technology to be released while simultaneously providing Gemma a friend. M3gan seems helpful at first, but she is also incredibly protective of Cady, turning to violence as a way of exhibiting her coded nature. Sound familiar? Because it is. M3gan falls under the weight of its own ambition.

Of course, when you fast-track an AI project such as this the likelihood of disaster is maximized. M3gan is one of those movies where you know what’s going to happen, that’s undisputed, but does its predictability mar the overall intent or is it something you can wave off? The script fails to elevate the characters to feel organic, to the degree that I thought M3gan was better written.

The script is written by Akela Cooper, who also did Malignant, a film I feel to be superior. I wish M3gan honed in on some of the weird and shocking nature that the former incorporated so well.

I feel like the cast is perfectly adequate in their roles but there is an emotional factor that feels lackluster. The special effects are terrific, which makes any of the visual aspects with M3gan A+ but the narrative despondency incurs a level of dissatisfaction. This synthesized version of a substitute for connection doesn’t feel natural. Yes, this is an exaggerated tale as is, so one may not expect that, but I never fully believed in the benefit of the creation versus the risks. I also found the direction to be near-sided, caught in its own way, not seeing the full picture.

M3gan is definitely fun, but it succumbs to tropes and familiarity in a way that makes it feel reductive.

Both of these films hovered on the borderline of success for me. I respect and acknowledge each of their intents, but I also wonder what could have been.

Sundance Film Festival 2023: Talk to Me & My Animal

The Midnight section at Sundance Film Festival is always one of my favorites. As I have said before, horror allows for a lot of ways to diversify and surprise audiences. The first is a new take on the dangers of doing a seance, and the other is a coming-of-age werewolf story. Both of these films take something we have seen before but make it their own. Each of these features a young but bold female lead and marks feature film debuts which makes this even more exciting. I love new and emerging talent, and this year’s Midnight section had some bangers!

Talk to Me (Daniel and Michael Philippou)

Seances and communing with the dead are stories that have been in horror films for quite some time. The medium used to do so have varied and the consequences have changed, but it generally doesn’t work out well for those involved.

History repeats itself in Talk to Me, but in new and inventive ways, as it brings our present climate very much into play.

It’s become a viral sensation, of course, because does it really happen if it isn’t recorded? A group of friends takes turns gripping what looks like an ancient hand and repeating words to conjure a spirit. From there, they start a timer of 90 seconds to not be trapped for too long.

Mia (Sophie Wilde) is mourning the loss of her mother and around the anniversary, is restless. One night she suggests participating to her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and her brother Riley (Joe Bird), and she takes the plunge. It’s a rush and having seen the potential, it’s hard to stay away.

Terrifying but Thrilling

What occurs is a mix between the Exorcist and a scene from Ghost, but with a distinctly new fervor. A character is taken over by a spirit for a time, but who they are and what their intentions are, varies. Sometimes the response is comical, and others… dangerous. When the door is kept open too long, the spirit doesn’t return to where it came from.

This is the crux of this film where the characters should know better but don’t, and are then forced to correct things Riley suffers injury.

Miranda Otto has a supporting role as Jade and Riley’s mother, confounded when her son goes through an ordeal she can’t make sense of. Sophie Wilde portrays the lead confidently imbuing a sense of regret and determination that make her an actress to look out for. It’s a film that I wish would have dived more into the characters, but the short length time, they never felt one-note.

Hailing from Australia, directors Daniel and Michael Philippou capture a frenzied vision with a style that fuels the pulse-pounding moments, but occasionally feels off in the editing room. Talk to Me is terrifying in the way that it punishes with consequences fit for carelessness while also creating characters we can sympathize with. Mostly though it feels tight and tense, which is what you want from a potent 95 minutes of entertainment.

What works in Talk to Me is the vibrancy, the effects, and the creepiness that doesn’t rely on too many jump scares to make its mark. The script written by Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman provides the energy for the young cast to feed off of. This feature debut may feel simplistic, but it’s bound to make the audience wriggle with an apt amount of style and spark. I can’t wait to see what comes next from these two.

This supernatural showing takes a new spin on an old concept making it both creative and creepy when needed. I was hooked. Maybe let’s not play with spirits?

My Animal (Jacqueline Castel)

Werewolves seem to be making a comeback in recent years and I am all for it. It’s been a subgenre that truly seemed to peak early on, and I feel it’s one that needs a fresh bite.

Enter My Animal, a coming-of-age romance about a young woman in a small town who falls for the new girl. But, she has a secret, one that forces her to cuff herself to her bed at night when the moon is full.

Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) feels like an outsider. She wants to be a hockey goalie but is looked at as inferior because she is a girl, despite her talent, and she is forced to keep part of her identity hidden, all while dealing with an alcoholic mother and difficult family life.

When she meets newcomer Jonny (Amandla Stenberg) she’s enamored. Jonny is outgoing, a talented figure skater, and someone who brings out a side of Heather that she hasn’t shared before.

There is definitely violence and chaos but it is stoked by yearning and angst. It makes for the ideal sort of struggle with human and animalistic urges while grappling with familial struggles. As a vessel for loneliness, lycanthropy can be a powerful folklore guide. When it’s powered by sexual longing and the pressures a young queer woman could face it is especially impactful. Some of the plot points, especially when it comes to the hollow bullying side characters and the family performances (though Stephen McHattie provides an interesting turn as the father) aren’t as strong and feel more cliche.

Regardless, this is Bobbi Salvör Menuez‘s movie and she is especially compelling as Heather. When she finds her strength by the film’s end it culminates in an explosive fashion.

The film occasionally threatened to waver, but my attention did not. With a haunting moody feel and an innovative premise, My Animal keeps the bloody werewolf genre fresh and alive.

A coming-of-age queer werewolf story? I’m here for it.

Spotlight: The Best Horrors of 2022

What a year for a film, and what an exciting time for horror! There are so many that I really don’t know how I can possibly only highlight ten. Who made this number up as the definitive one anyway? Instead, I’ve decided to give a place for all of them! Why not? Horror knows no bounds.

The variety is quite eclectic, so if you’re looking for your next horror fix you’re bound to find it on this list, one way or another. Many of these I have written longer reviews for (either on here or on FI) and I will include the link. For the others, I’ll elaborate. As always, thanks for reading, thanks for staying spooky, and thank you for supporting horror!

Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg)

This is one favorite horror as it’s one of my top ten (overall) of the year, but what is intriguing about this particular Cronenberg creation is that it doesn’t feel like a horror to me. It morphs into something much more, and it’s a film I can’t wait to revisit. Currently streaming on Hulu.

I’ve got to admit I was pretty enamored with this one. It was a no holds barred return to form opportunity that was seized with an instinctual, sexual-like curiosity. What can the human body do? What should it? A true visionary, Crimes of the Future sees Cronenberg at his most curious and morose in many years.

Speak No Evil (Christian Tafdrup)

Speak No Evil was one of the first horrors I saw in 2021, and its impact is as strong today as it was then. It has to be the most discomforting horror I saw this year and the unique way that it wields that power is quite impressive. Currently streaming on AMC+.

The effects of this movie, and its final scenes still cling to my bones. Speak No Evil winded down with a quick and punching descent into significant darkness, and it left me pondering the details I had consumed in the previous 70+ minutes of watching. Shook.

The Wounded Fawn (Travis Stevens)

The Wounded Fawn was such a uniquely weird viewing experience that is definitely a must-see because it’s difficult to truly describe. Just let its freaky little vibe wash over you. Travis Stevens directs and is fantastic as always, and Josh Ruben is hilarious. Currently streaming on AMC+.

It is often a visual explosion, frequent bright tones of red reminding us of the blood lust at the core and the blood price to be paid. It’s an intriguing concoction of supernatural forces, psychological torment, and hilariously disturbing imagery. It also has to be said that it has one of the funniest extended finales I’ve seen in some time. A Wounded Fawn is delightfully bizarre and a daring dose of horror.

Barbarian (Zach Cregger)

This was one of the most fun horror experiences this year (the same can be said about the previous one too). The setup is interesting and current, and the twists are both creepy and hilarious. It’s good storytelling and still entertaining as hell. Gosh, I love Justin Long. Currently streaming on HBO Max.

Certainly, Barbarian is one of our best treats this spooky season with ample mystery and pure entertainment value. It’s what you’re looking for, even if you don’t know quite what that entails, but the set design, acting, and perverse, disturbing twists, make Barbarian a worthwhile discovery. Just bring a flashlight.

You Won’t Be Alone (Goran Stolevski)

You Won’t Be Alone is a movie that takes its time burrowing into you, but once it does it is hard to forget. This is one that still resonates, feeling like much more than a “horror” making you question identity and life. Currently streaming on peacock.

If parts terrify you, you’ll feel a sense of wonder by its end. There’s a metamorphosis that utilizes the full run time to ensnare the viewer.

It is haunting in its ability to convey what many others attempt. There’s nothing not challenging about this piece of art, but if you give yourself over to You Won’t Be Alone, and let it really sink in, I can’t imagine you not being moved.

Pearl (Ti West)

Pearl, the prequel to X, is definitely superior. The electrifying performance by Mia Goth (Oscars FYC) ensures that this horror is one of the year’s best. Currently available on VOD.

Pearl is a compelling and sinister intro to the character established earlier in the year, taken to new heights by Mia Goth’s striking performance.

The Innocents (Eskil Vogt)

The Innocents, much like Speak No Evil was one of the horrors this year that burrowed deep under the skin and left a lasting impression. I still shudder thinking about some of the scenes from this movie. Thank you 2022 for showing us that kids can be creepy again. Currently streaming on AMC+.

Shockingly disturbing, discomforting, and entirely evocative; there are scenes from The Innocents that have still not left me, weeks later, and there are feelings trapped, wound with celluloid in their pristine heritage that makes me confirm a truth despite any negative reactions: this is talent.

Prey (Dan Trachtenberg)

Who would think that a new Predator film that was actually a prequel would end up being one of the best of the series? With a standout performance from Amber Midthunder and a fresh, new perspective that utilizes practical effects and delivers on nostalgia, Prey is a must-see. Currently streaming on Hulu.

Deadstream, (Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter)

Deadstream manages to be quite commanding despite being one-setting, a limited cast, and a found-footage-like aesthetic. It’s witty when it needs to be, and disturbing when we need it to be. Currently streaming on AMC+.

I was pleasantly surprised by how hard Deadsteam hit. It was a blast, filled with a delightful blend of hilarity and horror and effects that felt real. It’s a must see for horror lovers! PSA: maybe don’t stay in a haunted house and if you do, bring duct tape. It’s super versatile.

Sissy (Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes)

Sissy was a delightful surprise that plays with its audience much like our lead, an influencer, might with her fans. We like her, and we root for her, but should we? Currently streaming on AMC+.

Overall, Sissy was a revenge tale that was an unexpected thrill. It causes a variety of emotions ranging from sympathy, to apathy, to disgust before also making you laugh. It’s equal parts sneer as much as it is a smirk.

The Sadness (Rob Jabbaz)

This is a head and adrenaline rush. There is no way someone can see this without feeling a little a: woozy, b: uncomfortable, c: downright disgusted. I can imagine some can’t even finish this one but the boldness alone is reason enough for it to end up on this list. Viewers beware, this isn’t for a weak stomach. This film rides at a 10 the whole time, and it never lets up. Currently streaming on AMC+.

Glorious (Rebekah McKendry)

This is one of those films that really should not work as well as it does but manages to be surprisingly humor-tinged, nightmare fuel. Kudos to the cast and the disgusting locale.

The small locale with big consequences is a win for me. Glorious adheres to this idea to create an entertaining movie that writhes with thought and provocation. There’s a lot hiding between its initial grotesque and gory facade. It’s a bloody, neon-tinged nightmare that becomes one man’s reality. In all of its disturbing glory, it shouldn’t be missed.

Nope (Jordan Peele)

Nope was one of my most anticipated films of 2022, and while it didn’t hit me the way that Peele’s previous entries did, it was still inventive and a hell of a good time. It’s got science fiction, terrific performances, and some spectacular shots. Please, Mr. Peele, keep creating. Currently streaming on Peacock.

Resurrection (Andrew Semans)

We’ve gotta have at least one movie that ends with a total WTF reaction, yeah? Resurrection has that, in spades. It’s weird, it’s atmospheric and Rebecca Hall proves AGAIN, how spectacular she is. Please Academy, recognize that horror can show some amazing talent. Currently streaming on AMC+.

Resurrection isn’t perfectly done but it brings such an intensity that it’s difficult to ignore. The performances alone are electric. It’s outrageousness will either impress or disgust (maybe both) but you won’t forget it. It bewildered me some.

Smile (Parker Finn)

While Smile may feel a bit like something we’ve seen before it delivers enough thrill and kills (with some great jump scares) to keep you glued to your screen. You may think differently about asking people to smile more after this one. Currently streaming on Paramount+.

Jethica (Pete Ohs)

Jethica is such an independent horror delight that transcends what you’d expect to give you a ghost story worth hunting down. Don’t sleep on it.

Quirky, hilarious, and somehow cathartic, this movie perfects just the right amount of earnest charm. It maximizes on its dry humor while honing it’s bittersweet mentality and terrific performances, all residing within an unique ghost story. Ultimately compelling and wholly original, I loved Jethica.

Torn Hearts (Brea Grant)

Brea Grant hits the mark again with her newest horror which is just infused with gory, spunky life. It’s a female-driven, country music-filled fight to the top, and Torn Hearts is savage.

An intriguing premise set in a world that doesn’t get its due in the horror game, guided in the confident, talented hands of Brea Grant, with an especially standout and savage performance from Katey Sagal, Torn Hearts shows that the price of stardom may just be signed with blood.

The Black Phone (Scott Derrickson)

The Black Phone was one of those films that was wildly different than I expected (more of a thriller, suspense than horror) but still felt comfortable in its own skin. I got more of a Devil’s Backbone vibe, and more of a ghost story feel than Ethan Hawke as a psycho movie the trailer enticed. Still, there are some intriguing twists and turns that end up all making sense in the end. Bonus points for the child performances.

Fresh (Mimi Cave)

Sebastian Stan, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Cannibalism, comedy, horror, discomfort. Do I really need to say more? Perhaps, but just watch it and find out for yourself. Fresh deserves its place on this list earning it through ingenuity and lots of limbs.

Fresh works best when it marries the grossness factor with slick black humor, percolating to a place of truly provocative horror. The film really shows promise for Mimi Cave and I can’t wait to see what other delicacies she has in her freezer. Sorry, not sorry for the quips.

Project Wolf Hunting (Kim Hong- sun)

It’s a bloody good show, and by that I mean, it’s entirely blood-soaked. So much carnage. Project Wolf Hunting doesn’t hold back, even for a second, and it makes it an intense, relentless experience. Not currently available on streaming.

It’s full of splatters, disgusting moments, and absurdity. This film is inventive and extravagant, but nonetheless, Project Wolf Hunting is sheer bloody entertainment. A wildly engaging nightmare on the sea.

But wait, there’s more: Watcher. Two Witches, Huesara, A Family Dinner, Slapface, and many others!

Also, some didn’t see these last year, but both are worth highlighting: What Josiah Saw + Hellbender!

2022 has been an exceptional year for horror, and if you haven’t seen enough, please- search them out! There are so many talented writers and directors out there creating originally horrific content! Shudder is also a must-have for any horror fan, they’ve breathed life into the horror streaming game.

Two Witches (2022)

When it comes to any sort of supernatural horror there are certain things that have to hit for me. The most important is an unsettling vibe. You’ve got to nail the mood because that’s the basis for which the horror builds.

Two Witches finds that early but really nurtures it significantly for the second of the two stories at play. In its early moments, it’s less subtle, using more of its dark comedy chops, and jarring features.

This is a film about witches, but also two parables separated into lightly blended chapters. We start with a couple, a young pregnant woman, Sarah (Belle Adams), and her partner Simon (Ian Michaels), who go to visit their friends Dustin (Tim Fox) and Melissa (Dina Silva). Sarah has already been feeling off, paranoid, and like someone is watching. When Dustin and Melissa decide to do a seance, with candles and Ouija boards, things turn amiss. The first half is very much attuned to unsettling imagery, sacrifice, and the cautionary tale of delving into spiritual invocations. Once you go there, can you go back? There is also the sense of old and new practices of witchcraft which make the two stories intriguing.

source: Arrow Films

In the second half, we focus on Masha (Rebekah Kennedy) and her roommate Rachel (Kristina Klebe). The introductory scene is a sexual encounter between Masha and a male partner where she pushes her limits and things turns aggressive. From there we get the idea that Masha is someone that wishes to be special, especially because of her heritage, and soon she even tries to adopt some of Rachel’s life and her experiences.

Basically, be weary of your roommates (hasn’t Single White Female, The Roommate, taught us anything?)

I’m not a jump-scare person per se unless it’s utilized in a creative fashion. Two Witches has some good ones, combining music, camera work, and acting.

The film is very much about curses or gifts as some may interpret, but also the passing of generations and the power that comes with it. In the second half there are interesting turns, and watching Kennedy float through the scenes as her confidence comes surging through is enigmatic to watch. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this horror tale makes it to the holidays and one scene where Masha delivers a “present” is a delightfully wicked scene.

The first half crawls so the second can run. I have some elements that I feel could have been tamed, and others spotlighted, but for the most part, Two Witches settles into an admirable discomfort. Pierre Tsigaridis is definitely a talented director, cinematographer, writer, and editor.

Rebekah Kennedy is really the standout, harnessing a performance of both internal uncertainty and external fire, that is immensely compelling. Two Witches doesn’t hold much back, lingering heavily on quick shots, hallucinations, terrific makeup, and body acting. Sometimes the movie feels a bit off-kilter in the sense of its tonal experience, but what it lacks consistency with writing it makes up for in ambiance and solid performances.

If nothing more can be ascertained one can appreciate that this directorial feature debut is incredibly telling of Pierre Tsigaridis’ talent. This may not be for everyone, but I would say stick it out and be on the lookout for future projects. With a stellar performance from Rebekah Kennedy and an intriguing supernatural take, Two Witches is worth a once-over. Keep the candles lit.

Spooktober 22, Day 31: Halloween (2007)

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, lists, audio, or video may also exist. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

Well, this is the end of Spooktober! Happy Halloween all! Of course, I have to end on a movie with the holiday in the title! This time I’m looking at the 2007 Rob Zombie remake. AKA the grungy, coarser take on the babysitting classic slasher that John Carpenter started.

If you’ve ever seen any of Zombie‘s previous work you know he has no qualms about getting dirty, gory, and disgusting. This takes aspects of the original story but flourishes it with some of its own creative and disturbing choices, the biggest being that Laurie is actually Michael Myer’s sister. It also shows more of Michael as a child, and how he became the killer he is.

After killing his stepfather and his sister he gets locked up where he develops a relationship with Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) who tries to help the young boy as he grows up, but to no avail. When he breaks out 15 years later, he goes back home to look for his sister, played as a teenager by Scout Taylor-Compton on Halloween night.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

In many ways, the remake doesn’t bring anything exactly new to the table, but it still hits some bloody notes that go hard. I think I am a bit kinder to this film than some because I do understand what he was trying to go for with his intent. I love the original Carpenter film, and I’ve found things to appreciate about at least – some – of the sequels, but I find nothing compares to the first for many reasons.

That being said, I think that Zombie has a distinctive take but he’s already coming at a disadvantage when you have a beloved horror villain with an enormous fanbase. There are some thrilling kills, and Scout Taylor-Compton does a terrific job as Laurie, but is ratcheting up the R rating enough? I believe so, and I think after the newest three films maybe some will come back and think more favorably upon a second watch.

Not without its flaws and unevenly paced, Halloween remains an interesting turn for the series, and another opportunity for Zombie to flex his horror muscles.

That concludes Spooktober 22, until next year! Happy Halloween and stay spooky!

Spooktober, 22, Day 30: The Witching Hour (Podcast) With Bailey Jo Josie

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, lists, audio, or video may also exist. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

For the Go, On, Scare Me I decided to invite my good friend, writer/editor Bailey Jo Josie to discuss all things Witchy! After recording, a couple films I meant to discuss popped into my head- Rosemary’s Baby and The Wretched (as we had predicted). We mention a lot of movies/shows so I’m sure there are many more! Happy to report Bailey Jo was right about Black Sunday too!

Have a listen here!

I did a poll regarding people’s favorite witches on Twitter, and Suspiria won (though I’m not sure if it’s the OG or remakes) but there was also some additional, wonderful write-in love for Practical Magic, Teen Witch and You Won’t Be Alone (a movie I loved from last year).

What is your favorite witch movie? And who is your favorite witch? Let me know in the comments!

Spooktober 22, Day 28: Pearl

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

The second of our double dose of Ti West this year, Pearl works as a prequel to the earlier released X, and while it’s a more contained story, it is elevated even more than its predecessor because of the terrific, electrifying performance by Mia Goth.

Pearl (Mia Goth) is waiting for her husband to come back to the war and lives with her judgmental mother and ill father. Pearl dreams of being a star, an actress, or a dancer, but most days are spent caring for the animals and holding onto the idea that she is meant for more.

source: A24

She finds out about an audition in town but tries to keep it a secret. Meanwhile, she meets a local projectionist at a theater (David Corenswet) who also makes her feel like she can make her dreams come true. The two have a connection, but, like most who meet Pearl, this temperamental girl will do anything for her, bottom line.

As a prequel to the horrifying farm where those who face peril in X are, this is more a character study, which allows Goth to dive into the role with a wink and smile amid a cascade of blood.

Pearl is a slasher, origin story that doesn’t let down. I love the contrast of colors with this drab farm, it really makes some moments, especially those that emphasize costume design or violent aesthetics pop. In Pearl, there’s more time living with this character which makes the moments of anger more pointed, and therefore more substantial. That’s not to say that all successful horrors do this, sometimes random unexplained atrocities can be just as effective. In many ways, it is a matter of context, and for this film, we see it

My favorite Ti West is still The House of the Devil, but Pearl has gotten me more intrigued to see where his third in this series will land. This also has one of my favorite end credit sequences (next to A Wounded Fawn) of the year which takes the dread that’s built over the course of the film and reminded you that her story, is most certainly, not over. Her wicked smile is imagery enough to keep you mulling over this one.

Pearl is a compelling and sinister intro to the character established earlier in the year, taken to new heights by Mia Goth’s striking performance.

Pearl is currently available on VOD.