Heavyweights of horror

Freddy Krueger. Jason Voorhees. Michael Myers. Leatherface. Pinhead. These are the heavyweights of horror. With 35(!) movies and 6 remakes between them, these iconic characters have hacked, slashed, sliced, and diced their way through cinemas for 25+ years. There are other horror icons, Chucky from the Child’s Play series and Jigsaw from the Saw series … Continue reading

Horror? Or just plain horrible?

Film is subjective. There can be no right and wrong, only a majority concurrence, and it seems to be that the horror genre wallows in mediocrity. As an unabashed horror fanatic, this pains me.

From the Vault: Pontypool

Pontypool—which is quite possibly the worst title I’ve ever heard—pays homage to its radio roots right from the start.  Shock Jock Grant Mazzy, expertly played by Stephen McHattie, purrs the story of a local woman’s missing cat over a black screen broken only by a red, skittering sound wave.  I know it sounds mundane, but there’s … Continue reading



The horror years

When I was six years old my mother took myself, her best friend and a station wagon full of children to see Gremlins (1984) at a nearby drive-in theatre. We lay out on the roof, full bags of candy spread out before us. The other children were older than me. I wanted to be brave. And when it came time to drop my mother’s best friend and the other children back off at their home—which sat far back from the street—I remember being left alone in our dark car for what seemed like an eternity, staring at the void below my dangling feet, sure a gremlin’s face would slowly reveal itself. In short, Gremlins destroyed little six year old me. But it also began a lifelong fascination with horror films that was partially nurtured by a pre-cable, metro Detroit television staple: Channel twenty’s Thriller Double Feature.

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The witching hour (and 38 minutes)

In the annals of horror sequeldom, few sequels are as reviled as Halloween III: Season of the Witch. On the surface, it’s not hard to see why. The original Halloween hit the horror and independent film scene in 1978 with a chorus of critical praise and audience screams. The saga of Michael Myers continued a few years later in 1981 with Halloween II, which picks up at the exact second the original ended. That film was also a success commercially (though not so much critically) and Michael Myers looked poised to become the first major horror icon (Jason had just made his first solo appearance in Friday the 13th, Part 2 that same year). The brains behind Michael Myers, John Carpenter and Debra Hill, felt pressured by the studio to provide a third entry for October 1982 but they had a different idea. Halloween II ended with Michael Myers burnt to a crisp, after all, so why continue that storyline? Carpenter and Hill liked the idea of a horror film series centered on the idea of Halloween but having storylines independent of each other. Thus, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was born. Audiences must have felt perplexed and deceived by this in-name-only sequel and the result was an interesting, albeit brief, experiment in taking the series in a new direction. Michael Myers would return to the series 6 years later with the aptly titled, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers but the wounds from Season of the Witch still haven’t healed even though my opinion is that it’s a fun and unfairly maligned film.

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From the Vault: The House of the Devil

From The Vault is a feature exclusive to The Cinephiles “Month of Horror.”  It will serve to shine a spotlight on some of the newer horror films that have flown under the radar.

Building tension is an art form I fear the horror genre doesn’t have much use for anymore.  A killer’s strike can be startling for sure, but waiting for the killer to strike can be excruciating.  This tension has been replaced with special FX, forcing me to reiterate the old, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” rule.  I am not entirely sure who made up that rule, but it was probably somebody’s mother.  If there is one area The House of the Devil excels in, it’s taking that rule to heart.

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Fall of the living dead

If you can watch Night of The Living Dead on an old, 10″ black-and-white television, huddled under a tent made from your own bedding, I’d highly recommend you do so. The more intimate the viewing, the better. In fact, I believe it to be one of those rare horror films that doesn’t necessarily benefit from audience participation. It wants to scare you on a much deeper, more personal level.

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The unreleasables

It’s tough making a movie. Think about a movie you’ve seen that you hated. No matter how bad it was, I guarantee it was tough to make. A movie is like a machine—there are lots of moving parts and they all need to be oiled and synchronized. I’m always intrigued when, after all the work that goes into it, a movie just never gets released or gets so radically re-worked that the story behind it becomes more interesting than the movie itself. Here’s a look at a few movies with sordid pasts. Some of them you may have seen, most of them, you probably haven’t.

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The failed career of Tobe Hooper

For horror fans, few films are as influential as 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Visceral. Atmospheric. Grotesque. It’s a living nightmare.

Only 30 years old, director Tobe Hooper had announced himself as force to be reckoned with. The beginnings of a long and illustrious career had begun to take shape. 8 years later Hooper would work alongside one of the behemoths of the industry, Steven Spielberg, directing an original script by Spielberg himself. That was 1982 and the film was Poltergeist, another horror classic. The stars seemed to align for Hooper but in fact, Poltergeist would be the director’s death rattle.

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