Today - when we were driving through downtown on our way back from Beaverton, enjoying a break from the rain and hail, pointing out the trees that had bloomed since last weekend and listening to NO - we talked about how far we’ve come in the last two years. In March of ‘11, we had twenty-thousand dollars of combined car and credit card debt; this morning, we paid down both of those balances to zero. We were a month into living in Colorado and trying to recover from a year that almost broke us (while already hating our decision to move); this morning, I went to Burgerville and you went to work at Nike because we live in Oregon (now, finally, again). It baffles me to think that we came so close to trading in our king mattress for two twins and heading in opposite directions when nowadays I get to lock my ankles around yours every night in the same apartment building where we fell in love. I’m truly grateful to be home, with you, again.
Deck the halls with blood and mayhem! It’s time for another selection from my (2011) list of 12 Days of Holiday Horror.
More 2011 Angst
If you’re like me, then the only thing you’ll be warming yourself with on Christmas is your own boiling rage. This year, I’m shelving my copies of Love Actually and It’s A Wonderful Life to instead revisit my Top 12 Holiday Horror favorites. After all, violence rates tend to peak during this time of year; it’s best to let someone else do the slaying.
I’ve only been to a ski resort once in my life, and my time there ended on a stretcher. Along for the ride on the best-funded Girl Scouts field trip I’d ever attend, I didn’t really know what I was in for. Everyone else in my troop had previous experience on the slopes. A sturdy dozen of golden-haired children from happy middle-income homes, this assortment of girls from Troop 1100 was well-prepared for our Winter adventure. I, on the other hand, was a foster brat who haphazardly obtained my recreational winter wardrobe as a series of ill-fitting hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. I stood out like a pair of assless pajamas in a crowd of brand new neon snow suits with matching accessories; I think my pants were salmon. As in salmon-colored.
When we arrived at the venue, several girls paired off and went their separate ways. They were familiar with their surroundings and what was expected of them, and as a result I quickly found myself alone in front of what can only be described as a “curious-child killing device.” It was essentially a lift for the bunny slopes; red rubber triangles connected to a long cable would run up the length of the snowy hill transporting skiers to the top. The idea behind this mechanism was that I would be able to grab the rubber triangle, hold it tight and slowly be led up the hill by the cable, as though a very strong person were holding my hand and pulling me to my destination. I don’t know if my gloves were slippery or if I was simply uncoordinated, but instead of gently ascending, I tripped and stumbled for roughly forty feet before finally losing grip and letting go. My body fell backwards with such force that I began rolling down the hill behind me. Every time I tried to stop myself, I instead seemed to push and bounce my body upward, causing me to build even more momentum. I continued rolling down the hill until I hit a large tree-bush (I don’t remember if it was a tree or a bush, as I blacked out immediately afterward). One of my Girl Scouts chaperons had been apparently watching in horror the entire time. 20 minutes into the trip, and one kid was already seriously injured. The outing was ended, and when I went home from the hospital and returned to a troop meeting the following week, I was told by several perfect-looking young girls in brand new flare-legged jeans how much I had ruined everything. I quit Girl Scouts pretty quickly after that.
Bringing these babies back in-full this year. Also, look at how angry I used to be!
December is not a time of year that people typically associate with watching horror movies. The holidays are mostly reserved for cozying up with your loved ones and shamelessly rewatching Toy Story and Love Actually until your insides feel like fresh hot chocolate. Not for me, though, not this year. Thanks to a heavy helping of overeducation and underemployment, plus a career-chasing move that took me 1,600 miles away from any friends or family, I’ll be spending this Christmas bitter and alone. And that makes me feel like watching some blood fly.
In turn, I present to you Sara’s 12 Days of Holiday Horror, twelve films (presented in ascending order) to keep you company until the 26th of December, because - let’s face it, honey - no one else is gonna.
CityofBridges’ Top 10 Horror Movie Kills Recap
Because, fuck it, it’s Halloween.
#1) Trick ‘R Treat (2007)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin
What makes a good Halloween movie? Pumpkins, ghosts, house parties, urban legends, costumes, candy, fake blood and popcorn balls are all images that come to mind when thinking about the holiday, but a horror movie doesn’t necessarily need any or all of these things to be a great Halloween flick (Friday the 13th, REC). Over the last month, I’ve made dozens of posts suggesting and reviewing pieces to be watched during this season of spook. Several of these films occur in big, creaking houses where vengeful spirits and lost souls pray upon those who enter; some of these films circle around an ensemble cast of diverse teenagers who are all being stalked by the same lurking villain; one of these films is a TV episode; a handful of these films are from Japan and South Korea; a few of these films have NC-17 levels of gore, while others have no gore at all, and almost all of these films are pieces that I consider to be pretty low in quality and not worth watching during any other time of year. In fact, one of the basic tenants of Halloween is its lack of class and quality; a great Halloween movie doesn’t need to be a “good movie” at all. With this disparity in definition and diversity of choice, the question must be asked: Is there a secret, some sort of formula or invisible connective thread running between the classics, that sets great Halloween films apart from other scary movies? If so, what is it?
Trick ‘R Treat, the 2007 horror anthology produced by Bryan Singer, appears to have figured out the answer. An 82-minute tale featuring murder, werewolves and a school bus massacre, this Legendary Pictures production may be the greatest Halloween movie of all time. Adapted from Director Michael Dougherty’s 1996 animated short film “Seasons Greetings,” the film follows the happenings of a small, suburban neighborhood in Ohio on Halloween Night. Divided into four vignettes, each story features a separate cast of characters as they battle the spooky and the supernatural, all under the distant watching of a mysterious, costumed trick-or-treater named Sam. Sam’s job is to monitor and police the living residents of his town and ensure that they aren’t violating any Halloween rituals. Enjoy posing as a vampire and attacking young women in the street? Feel like smashing a pumpkin or blowing out its votive before the night ends? Have a wild hair up your ass to summon the spirits of dead children at a rock quarry? If so, Sam has a treat (trick?) for you.
The first vignette is called “The Principal” and features Dylan Baker as Principal Wilkins, a deranged school administrator who kills children with poisoned candy, then decapitates their corpses and turns the severed heads into Jack-O-Lanters. The moment when Wilkins is sitting on his stoop lecturing the kid (who I can only recognize as the pudgy one from Bad Santa), just before the poor little dude starts projectile vomiting chocolatey blood, was when I realized that I was going to be watching a perfect movie. The weaving of dark humor and gross-out practical effects into the otherwise sinister plots of Trick ‘R Treat is flawless. Halloween is supposed to be anything but tasteful; this film embraces that notion and delivers winks, nods and ribside elbow jabs toward the best of the holiday’s legend, tradition and pop culture. The third vignette, “Surprise Party (starring Anna Paquin!),” is easily the most tongue-in-cheek sequence I’ve seen in a studio film in the last 5 years.
And then there’s Sam, the cute little burlap sack wearing night sprite who, while present in every previous sequence, isn’t featured as a real character until the film’s final vignette. Every revelation that occurs in that last battle, from why Sam’s lollipop has a bite taken out of it to the removal of his mask, is so thoughtfully and hilariously executed. When Sam is stabbed, only to reveal that his guts are made of pumpkin seeds and pulp, I damned near died laughing. Just like the holiday itself, this film’s success relies entirely on its ability to balance being festive, terrifying and hilarious at the same time. This masterpiece of holiday horror takes the things that both kids and adults love about Halloween and amplifies them to an awesomely hyperbolic level of ridiculousness. Fun, scary and a little bit tasteless, Trick ‘R Treat is the movie I plan to be watching every year at Halloween.
TL;DR: Greatest. Halloween. Movie. Ever. TRUST.
Note: This is not a re-post. The top 2 were never posted last year. Enjoy.
#2: Friday the 13th (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsey Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon
Eat an entire pumpkin pie. Buy boots for the winter. Have drunken, hard-cider sex. Read at least one Harry Potter book. Wear glittery fake eyelashes. My shortlist of must-do’s for every October is extensive and ever-developing. This is the month when, every year, I finally begin recovering from Summer and invest in self-care; following The Treat Yo’ Self School of Thought, I engage in little rituals, ranging from festive to freaky, with the simple goal of doing something that I really enjoy. One tradition that I’ve been following for over 10 years now is viewing the original Friday the 13th, a classic 95-minute romp which I consider to be the penultimate movie to watch on Halloween.
Friday the 13th is the story of Jason Vorhees, a terrifying, blade-weilding spirit seeking revenge on the young camp counselors of Camp Crystal Lake. Developed by Sean S. Cunningham (The Last House on the Left), the film was created in response to the success of Halloween. Touches of the Michael Meyers legacy, such as the first-person perspective sequences shot through the eyes of the monster, are evident throughout the film; however, the piece breaks away from the stalker/victim model of its inspiration, instead drawing from grindhouse cinema and developing the story around an ensemble cast. The result is what is widely considered to be the first true Hollywood slasher, a perfectly engineered b-movie where a horrifying, sentient and often faceless monster preys upon a group of young teenagers and slowly kills them off one by one.
To speak of the cast wouldn’t tell you much. Other than Kevin Bacon (whose archery-based exit made my list of Top 10 Best Horror Movie Kills), no one in this film had a career outside of this movie. 1950’s film star Betsy Palmer, who plays Jason Vorhees’ mother, even struggled to find work after appearing in this picture. Palmer actually developed a rather negative relationship with Friday the 13th and called it “a piece of shit” in an interview once; her distaste appears to have been revoked, though, as she has recently appeared in several documentary films about the franchise. The rest of the film’s characters (the “slutty” girl, the “slightly less slutty” girl, the virginal girl (dies first), the douchebro and the clueless nerd) are most memorable because of how they were killed, not because of anything they say or do. In fact, the most memorable character of them all is nothing more than a a coated arm holding a machete or a view from inside of a ski mask. Even though we never see his face or body in-full, Jason Vorhees is the undeniable star of Friday the 13th.
Now, of course, the best thing about all of this is that ski-masked Jason never actually appears in the first film. (For those of you who don’t already know, here’s huge spoiler alert. But really, if you’ve haven’t seen this movie, why are you here, reading this?) It turns out that, all along, this group of young, athletic teenagers has been outpaced and outwitted by the stout, squinty, 50-something Mama Vorhees. She’s angry because year in and year out, these dang ‘ol kids keep smoking the devil’s lettuce and making late-night maritals on the sacred ground where her son died. She tells us this just before Alice chops her head off and escapes via a canoe into the middle of Crystal Lake. It’s not until the next morning that we see the monster himself; as our heroine is woefully grazing her fingertips along the top of the water, she is suddenly grabbed and pulled under its surface by the deformed and rotting body of a boy who drowned 20 years ago. She never resurfaces, the water settles and the credits begin to roll over a now still and silent lake. A film that delivers bone-chilling spooks and continues to claim victims until its very last frame, Friday the 13th is a canon piece Halloween horror that any true fan should get to know verbatim.
TL;DR: If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I probably don’t want to know you.
We entered must-watch territory about 2 movies ago, just fyi-
#3: Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
Directors: Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch
Starring: Heather Langenkamp (Narrator)
Every year until this year, I’ve embarked on a traditional weekend-long Nightmare on Elm Street marathon, usually never making it beyond Dream Child. Thankfully, I now have a way to enjoy all eight films in a single sitting (okay, maybe two) with Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a four-hour long documentary on the Nightmare series that covers every film in the franchise, even Freddy Vs. Jason. In a series of half-hour long segments filled with cast and crew interviews, film clips and all-new behind-the-scenes material, Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch compose an informative, delightful love letter to the series that has haunted the dreams of teenagers the world over since 1984.
#4: REC (2007)
Directors: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, Pablo Rosso
Embedding realism into a zombie flick can be a difficult task. Films that are rich with fast-paced action, well-developed characters and skilled cinematography often struggle to maintain their believability factor. Sometimes, the war-like personalities of central characters become overblown and cartoonish during zombie movie climaxes (Dawn of the Dead); in other instances, the central conflict of a zombie infestation is shelved partially through the narrative to focus on character-centered drama (The Walking Dead). Acknowledging that even the beloved sub-genre’s most successful works were flawed in this way, directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza gave us REC, an imaginative entry in horror cinema that sucks the audience into its universe in the first frame and holds you there until the credits roll.
#5: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen
As I enter the Top 5, I’d like to take a moment to point out some common themes in my Halloween films list. Though some of the pieces I’ve chosen revolve around Halloween specifically, most simply have a Halloween-esque or Autumn-like feel to them. I have an affinity for the atmosphere created by big, old houses (Amityville Horror, Bones), repulsive monsters (Pet Sematary, Silent Hill) and terrifying games of chase (The Blair Witch Project, High Tension). The cult favorite drive-in movie hit The Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes all three of these favorite elements of mine and shoves them into a single 90-minute scream fest.
Texas Chainsaw centers around Sally and Franlin Hardisty, a brother and sister traveling with their friends to the rural countryside to visit a family grave. Along the way, they pick up a maniac hitch hiker who cuts his hand open and stabs another passenger. In shock, the group quickly tosses him back onto the country roads and continues driving. While looking for gas, they stumbles upon a nearby homestead littered with broken-down cars and animal bones. Sally and her crew quickly realize that their presence in the creepy, death-littered home is an unwelcome one as an enormous man with a mask made of human skin and a running chainsaw bursts out of the basement and chases them down. What ensues is a heart-startling, twisted tale of survival that climaxes in a final confrontation which lasts a third of the film.
#6: High Tension/Haute Tension/Switchblade Romance (2003)
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Cécile de France, Maïwenn Le Besco
During the last decade, a stylistic movement called the “New French Wave of Extremity” swept through the world of horror and raised the bar for and the entire genre film industry. New works such as Martyrs, Inside and Irreversible challenged tired cliches about deranged hillbillies and creaky houses with their female-driven plots, hyper-realistic violence and nonlinear storytelling. High Tension (also released as Haute Tension and Switchblade Romance) is a benchmark example from the New French Wave that delivers intimate storytelling and thoughtful cinematography right alongside its exciting, in-your-face slasher action.
The story follows friends Marie and Alex as they venture to Alex’s far-away country home to buckle down and study for midterms. After a short evening spent catching up with parents and preparing for the next day’s studying, Marie and the rest of the household retire to bed. Everything’s friendly and peaceful until Alex’s father is awoken in the middle of the night by an unknown visitor pulling into his driveway; when he opens the door to confront the stranger, a series of fast-paced, bloody events occur and the audience launches into the epic game of cat-and-mouse that is High Tension.
#7: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams
1999 was an intense year of pop culture for me. I gave up my fandom of the Spice Girls after the release of their ominously-titled Goodbye album and picked up CD singles of “Baby One More Time” and “No Scrubs.” Nickelodeon retired Stick Stickly and I developed an affinity for Say What? Karaoke and Undressed. Titanic came out in theaters and open conversations about Kate Winslet’s size made me question my body image for the first time. My house got the internet (28K dial-up). And then The Blair Witch Project happened.
#8: Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Bill Moseley, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton
When I sat down recently to watch this film, I really questioned my own taste in cinema. Fundamentally, I understand that Repo! The Genetic Opera is not a good movie. Plot-wise, there’s too much going on at once to digest in two-hour sitting. While cohesive, its pacing is jittery and prevents the audience from adapting to any sort of consistent “flow.” The last half of the film is difficult to sit through; the novelty of its absurdity wears off after a while, and some people are simply unable to put up with a second hour of drama surrounding an organ repossession expert and his daughter with a blood disease told through the medium of rock opera. Admittedly, Repo! is a piece that falls into the category of “movies you can fast forward through and still get the general gist of,” yet I still find myself watching it once a year around Halloween.
Maybe it’s just enough for me that the movie was made. In a world of craptacularly uninspired 80s remakes (Remember when the reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street tried to work in victim blaming as a plot twist? Yeah.), Repo! is a breath of fresh air. The film takes place in a futuristic dystopia where a company called GeneCo has cashed in on a worldwide organ epidemic by offering personal financing for surgery; the only catch is that if you can’t make your payments on time, the company has permission to repossess your organs. This relentlessly absurd and disturbing set up consistently delivers on its own premise throughout the film.
Remember when I tried to have a horror movie blog? LOLOLOL WHAT IS INTERNET BLOG HOW DO I MAKE WORD?
#9: Dead Alive/Braindead (1992)
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Peñalver
Dead Alive is an epic zombie gorecore splatterriot that takes blood, guts, and bits of flesh to a gross new level of intensity. The story centers around Lionel, a mousy suburbian Northeasterner who lives with his rich mother, and Paquita, his sweet love interest. One day, Lionel takes his mother on an outing to the local zoo; there, they check out the new exhibit featuring the “rare and dangerous” Sumatran Rat Monkey. In an attempt to get a closer look, Lionel’s mother is bitten and suddenly becomes Patient Zero of the zombie apocalypse.
The film’s visual effects are the its highest achievement. Early moments of stop-motion animation depicting the rat monkey and zombie baby are hilarious, well-animated and faultlessly campy. Later scenes - such as the custard eating roundtable, house party, and lawnmower finale - implement animatronic props and other physical effects in a way that’s positively nausea-inducing. The final battle between Lionel and his mother is one of my favorite puppet-based gore sequences of all time; this scene is so bloody that after watching it, I had to walk into the bathroom and check my reflection in the mirror to make sure that I wasn’t covered in fleshy chunks of rotting human meat bits.
#11: Silent Hill (2006)
Director: Christophe Gans
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean
Rose and Christophers’s adopted daughter, Sharon, is being plagued by recurring nightmares about a far away town called Silent Hill. After a terrifying incident that sends Sharon sleepwalking to the edge of a cliff, Rose and her daughter take off to Silent Hill in hopes of putting an end to the dreams. Unfortunately, Rose swerves and crashes her vehicle during the drive; when she awakens, she finds herself parked on the city limits of Silent Hill with Sharon nowhere in sight. Rose immediately takes off in search of her daughter, but her quest to find her quickly becomes quest to figure out what happened to the town of Silent Hill and the people who lived there.
The image of Rose in her crashed vehicle struck a particularly intense chord with me. For a long time, my biggest fear was getting into a car accident. Being in that moment when the one-ton body of another machine is uncontrollably headed toward yours, when your hands lose control of the steering wheel, when the tires leave the payment and glass begins to fly – I feared that so much that I refused to drive for three years. It hits me now, though, that the true horror begins once the accident is over. It’s when the world stops spinning and you realize that you’ll be out thousands of dollars or you’ve broken a bone or a stranger in the other vehicle is bleeding to death that things really become scary. The same is the case for Rose; the nightmare begins in the aftermath of her crash.