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 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 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.

Spooktober Day 15: You’re Next

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.

So, the idea of a family being stalked by an unknown group of people isn’t a new concept, yet, You’re Next does so in a way that is absolutely delightful. Yes, I used that word. Have you noticed? I adore the concept of terror- when displayed in a different form within cinema. This is why I feel the need to exclaim: You’re Next is a power to be reckoned with, even if some may not see it beyond its surface level flavor. Why? Let me tell you…

source: Lionsgate

Not only do we have a badass female lead, of the likes of many of the iconic final girls of the past but one that goes further with a true knack for killing- but, wait, there’s more: We’ve got some groovy tunes to murder to (some interesting kills) and attackers who use correct grammar. Be still my heart: I love it when they do that.

When I saw You’re Next I wasn’t entirely sold at first. I loved that there was a sort of underlying playful tone, and an awareness that you were in fact, watching a movie (which is usually because of the acting or writing) and can either be intentional or not, but I wasn’t sure I was seeing anything new. In the end, it didn’t really matter if this broke the mold because it was so much damn fun. When I’ve rewatched it since its release, even again recently, that same energy is present, despite knowing what is coming. Almost all of the gore on screen emerges with a clash, never relenting on the shocks and awe. This was also a film that (still) seems to be under the radar and overlooked. Of course it doesn’t help that it was made and then put on the backburner, waiting to truly greet audiences.

Most of the film takes place (with the exception of one scene) in and around a secluded large house, as a family gets together to celebrate their parent’s (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) 35th anniversary. Their four children and significant others all show up, and soon, are hunted by masked attackers. Things have clearly been rocky between the family for a while, with a shared messy history, and amid a dinner of squabbling, things get serious, very fast. It’s a mic-drop moment that instantly thrusts the film into a suspenseful place, proving that Adam Wingard’s take on the invasion story isn’t one to be missed.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, which doesn’t make it any easier to see them meet their demise. That is with the exception of middle child Crispian’s (AJ Bowen) girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson), who seems to be the only one proactive in fighting their assailants, and one of the only truly rootable characters. Gosh I love her. In fact, she may just be the most dangeous one of them all.

(Bonus, another character in the film is played by Ti West, who directed a previous Spooktober review: The House of the Devil.)

There’s a merging line that You’re Next traces around black comedy, narrowly near parody, that eventually pools around horror. It does so in a way that ensnares the best of the two worlds, while maintaining a level of intrigue. Why are they being targeted? Is it random or is there more to it? Also, can anything not be used as a weapon? You’re Next subverts a lot of tropes, while leaning into others, making it a delicious blend of bloody fun. And yes, most things can be weapons.

source: Lionsgate

Directed by Adam Wingard, it’s a sly thriller that seems self-aware of its intent, making the laughs land, the synthy-score pop, and the thrills and kills squeamishly entertaining.

A smart take on the home-invasion horror You’re Next offers plenty of realistic terror with situational comedy. Not everything hits the perfect note, but it’s more than enough to have a blast with it if you’ll allow it to. Also, the final shot of the film is surprisingly perfect and unexpected (as well as the credits). Give it a go, I dare ya.