Monday, September 21, 2015

Contemporary Horror: 30 Films

It would be fair to say that being a horror movie fan has been a critical component of my life. Some of my early defining moments revolve around the horror genre — seeing Predator in the theater at age 4, reading The Exorcist clandestinely under my desk in school at age 8, and being terrified by a midnight television broadcasting of The Shining when I was stuck babysitting on Halloween at age 11 — and most of my teens (and a lot of my twenties) were spent amassing an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, collecting films on DVD (a then newly released medium), and forging friendships with other horror fans.

This enthusiasm has certainly not waned with age… with certain caveats. I’ve become excited about a lot of other genres and my tastes have changed and refined over the years. Which is to say that I am still excited about a lot of horror films, but I generally have a sour, cynical attitude about much of the recent genre output. I’ve developed something of a reputation as a contemporary horror hater. I’ve become the old man telling the damn kids to get off his lawn.

Though I’ve spent much of my life identifying as a horror fan, I don’t have a fanatic, unwavering loyalty to the genre as a whole. I’d rather see great films not constrained by a specific genre. There is also much about recent horror that I do genuinely, passionately hate: found footage horror, fast zombies, the epidemic of needless remakes, torture porn, CGI-based effects, stupid twist endings, and movies with the shiny yet shallow veneer of MTV music videos.

But in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to make a list of 30 films I enjoyed — if not outright loved — from 2000 to 2014. I’m not including 2015 as I’m always behind on watching recently released movies. That leaves roughly two films per year, though I was delighted (and, sorry, totally surprised) to find that I liked many more than 30 films from the last few years. Some of these are old favorites, while others I discovered more recently. Not all of these are technically horror and there are some overlaps with the thriller/suspense genre. Most of them are disturbing, violent, darkly psychological, and sexually unsettling.

And there is a stunning amount of incest in the films on this list.

Cherry Falls (Geoffrey Wright, 2000)
This slasher satire stars the late, great Brittany Murphy (shut up, I love her) in a much more effective take on what Scream was trying to accomplish. Tongue-in-cheek, genuinely funny, and something of a love letter to both ‘70s giallo films and ‘80s slasher movies, it follows a series of murders in the rural town of Cherry Falls. A mysterious black-haired woman begins killing all the town’s virgins, so the local high schoolers decide to pop their collective cherries as quickly as possible — to the absolute dismay of their parents and the town’s police chief (Michael Biehn). This subversive, lesser seen film was subject to harsh censorship and never had a theatrical release in the US.

Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
Another tale of teen angst and budding sexuality, I was obsessed with this film when it came out (hey, I was 17). In recent years I’ve come to care less for Ginger Snaps’ overt horror elements and its attempts to symbolically link lycanthropy and puberty, and more for its depiction of bored, morbid teens. Sort of An American Werewolf in London meets Heathers, the film follows misfit sisters Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) as they rebel against getting their periods, classmates, their overly enthusiastic but clueless mother (Mimi Rogers at her funniest), and boring suburban Canadian life. You might need to be a teenager to really appreciate this film, but I have warm feelings for it and its misguided, if much darker sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, which finds a lonely Brigitte suffering from addiction, mental health issues, and imminent werewolf transformation. Another runner up in this category is May (2003), which you also probably have to be in your teens to love.

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
This adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ blackly comic novel about a serial killer investment banker in 1980s New York might be less violent than the book, but it’s still basically Evelyn Waugh meets Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in all the best ways. Thanks to assured directing from Harron, a solid script from Guinevere Turner, and a career-making performance from Christian Bale, American Psycho is a refreshing blend of yuppie satire, transgressive violence, and absurd, surreal scenes that keep it smart and fresh. While I completely disagree that Phil Collins improved Genesis after Peter Gabriel’s departure, it’s impossible to think of Collins the same way after this film. My one major complaint is about the absence of the rat scene, a truly disgusting moment that would have assuredly gotten the film an X-rating if Harron made any attempt to film it explicitly.

Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)
New French Extremity was probably the last new horror trend that I really followed with enthusiasm. In a 2004 issue of Artforum, critic James Quandt described the movement as, “Bava as much as Bataille, Salò no less than Sade seem the determinants of a cinema suddenly determined to break every taboo, to wade in rivers of viscera and spumes of sperm, to fill each frame with flesh, nubile or gnarled, and subject it to all manner of penetration, mutilation, and defilement.” I wound up outright disliking or feeling lukewarm about the more overt horror efforts — Haute tension, Ils, Frontiere(s), À l’intérieur, and Martyrs — but I’m in love with many of the more sexually transgressive examples, such as Baise-moi, Dans ma peau, Ma mère, and the films of Catherine Breillat. Trouble Every Day is easily my favorite of these and follows that goddess of modern French cinema, Béatrice Dalle, as a scientist’s wife who becomes unable to control her cannibalistic, sexual urges. Denis is a brilliant filmmaker and I can even forgive her for the near unpardonable act of casting Vincent Gallo. A must see.

The Happiness of the Katakuris (Takashi Miike, 2001)
With an output that is incredibly prolific but uneven, Japanese director Takashi Miike deserves a solid mention on this list for his years as reigning horror champion in the early 00s. His 1999 film Audition is one of the best and Gozu, Visitor Q, and Ichii the Killer all rank high in his catalogue, but there is nothing else like this absolutely bonkers horror-comedy-musical that is more neglected than his other classics. A struggling family opens an inn, which seems destined for failure when a promised access road is never built. Things get worse when anyone who comes to stay winds up dying. They hide the bodies, determined their business will survive. If you’re turned off by the description “musical,” just wait.

Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
While this is more of a psychological thriller than a horror film, it found its way onto many “Scariest Films of the 21st Century” lists and with good reason. What was initially conceived as a television series became this lengthy, disjointed, and sort of two-part film about an actress (the ever-surprising Naomi Watts) who arrives in Hollywood and meets a beautiful, mysterious woman who seems to have amnesia. The two grow closer as they get to the bottom of the mystery, which dissolves into a parallel tale about a failed actress’s obsession with a more successful one. Though it lacks a single moment as terrifying as some of Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me, or Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive is one of David Lynch’s masterpieces and if you don’t like it then your mother is a whore.

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (Guy Maddin, 2002)
Winnipeg’s resident experimental filmmaker, Guy Maddin, made one of the best recent interpretations of Dracula — source material I will probably never tire of — with this atmospheric, lovely work modeled on silent cinema. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet perform a thoroughly dreamlike and surreal adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel that has more in common with Dreyer’s Vampyr than it does with Francis Ford Coppola’s overwrought adaptation from the ‘90s. Dancer Zhang Wei-Qiang gives a memorably otherworldly, erotic take on the Count, while Maddin’s direction is daring and poetic.

La vie nouvelle (Philippe Grandrieux, 2002)
I tried to keep New French Extremity (or any one subgenre or director) from overwhelming this list but Philipe Grandriuex, whose work I recently discovered, is a must. In the incredibly dark, experimental A New Life, a young, well-off American (Zachary Knighton) living in Eastern Europe becomes obsessed with a beautiful prostitute (Anna Mouglalis), though she is mixed up with a violent ring of human traffickers. Little is shown directly, but La vie nouvelle remains one of the most disturbing and truly Sadeian, yet compelling films on the list, partially thanks to a mesmerizing performance from Mouglalis, who has become one of my favorite actresses in recent years.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, 2002)
Though I think it is genuinely one of his best films, South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is on this list sheerly because it’s his first genre film. His Vengeance Trilogy — which includes Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance — straddles the line between horror, crime cinema, and revenge films and, for my money, proves that he’s one of the best genre directors working today. He went on to make some great films in the last 15 years, including a sci-fi tinged romantic comedy (I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK), an atmospheric vampire movie (Thirst), and an English-language psychological horror films based on Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (Stoker). I’m excited to see what he does in the future.

Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-ho, 2003)
More of a serial killer thriller than an outright horror movie, this gripping tale — inspired by the true story of South Korea’s first serial murderer — might be less well known than other Korean horror movies like A Tale of Two Sisters, Three Extremes, Tell Me Something (another personal favorite), or Bong Joon-ho’s big monster movie The Host, but it is one of my favorite films of its type and is effectively atmosphere and bleak. In the mid-‘80s, women in rural Korea are being raped and murdered, but local police have neither the training nor the technology to find the killer. An experienced detective (Kim Sang-kyung) from Seoul is sent to advise on the case, though he clashes with the locals.

Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz, 2004)
While everyone was losing their minds over New French Extremity film Haute tension (2003) — one of the worst of the bunch, in my opinion — this superior Belgian horror film got somewhat passed over. Both movies have rural settings and involve interesting gender transformations as part of their bleak, unexpected endings. A singer (Laurent Lucas) is on his way to a holiday engagement when his van breaks down and he’s forced to spend the night in the isolated inn of a failed comedian, Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), who becomes obsessed with him. Though it has its flaws, Calvaire is a bold, exciting example of what genre cinema could and should be. I have yet to see Du Welz’s latest film, Alleluia (2014), but it’s high on my list.

The Last Supper (Osamu Fukutani, 2005)
This highly underrated Japanese film follows a handsome plastic surgeon (Masaya Katô), whose fortune began to rise dramatically when he started eating human flesh, though now he’s addicted and spends his nights hunting beautiful young women. Though probably inspired by real-life Japanese cannibal killer (and inexplicable celebrity) Issei Sagawa, The Last Supper’s urbane murderer is cut from the same cloth as Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lector and is nearly as compelling. The film is peppered with some glorious moments of absurdist comedy and features a pièce de résistance that must be seen to be believed. I had the fortune to see this screened at the Dead by Dawn festival in Edinburgh, but most people seem not to have heard of it, which is a real shame as it’s an absolute delight.

Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
Since 1989’s The Seventh Continent, Austrian director Michael Haneke has left his mark on both horror and art house cinema. Though he doesn’t often engage directly with the horror genre, his catalogue represents some of the most disturbing, chilling films of the last few decades. In Caché, a married couple (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) begin receiving anonymous videotapes of their daily lives. They are understandably disturbed, but receive no help from the police thanks to the ambiguous nature of the tapes and are forced to investigate on their own. Thanks to this film, the sado-sexual romance/thriller The Piano Teacher (2001), post-apocalyptic drama Time of the Wolf (2003), and The White Ribbon (2009), arguably one of the most disturbing dramas made in recent memory, Haneke remains one of the greatest directors of his generation.

Slither (James Gunn, 2006)
Though there are great examples of horror comedies — An American Werewolf in London, Return of the Living Dead, and Evil Dead II come to mind — this is a hard genre to get right, particularly since many of these films seem to be laughing at horror fans rather than with them. But I really enjoyed Slither, which riffs on David Cronenberg’s They Came from Within and Night of the Creeps. A meteor crashes near a rural Southern town and locals are infected with and possessed by slug-like parasites. This would make a fun double feature with another surprisingly good rural horror comedy, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010); both films share cast members from Joss Whedon’s Firefly for the sci-fi nerds out there.

The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
Existing in that liminal space between ghost story and Hitchcockian thriller, Martel’s film is at once the unsettling and eerie look at a woman’s descent into madness and an allegory for Argentinian politics. During the so called Dirty War in the ‘70s, death squads wiped out more than 10,000 (and possibly up to 30,000) of the country’s citizens. Vero (María Onetto), a middle-aged dentist from a well to do family, hits something on an abandoned road and, concussed and believing it to be an animal, flees the scene. She later fears it may have been a child and becomes consumed with guilt. As the men in her family try to manage the situation, she recedes into a dreamlike world full of haunting imagery.

Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)
Not really a horror director, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist can at least be considered a unison of horror and art house sensibilities. I know a lot of people hated this film — and tend to despise von Trier — but I am resolutely in the opposite camp. Antichrist follows a couple (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe) whose child dies accidentally. The wife cannot move past crippling feelings of grief and guilt, so her therapist husband decides to treat her with psychotherapy in their isolated cabin in the woods. Though von Trier’s early film The Element of Crime (1984) is perhaps my favorite, you could really ruin your (or someone else’s) day with a triple feature of the phenomenal Dogville (2003), about one woman’s torture and degradation at the hands of a small town, Antichrist (2009), and Melancholia (2011), about a recently married woman’s ennui in the face of an impending apocalypse.

Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
Another film that falls in the tradition of bleak, day-ruining cinema that is horrifying-but-not-quite-horror is this Greek family drama. Controlling parents (Christos Stergioglou and Michelle Valley) keep their three teen children (Angeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis) imprisoned in their compound home, where they are raised with a slightly alternate understanding of reality. As their son reaches adulthood, they attempt to deal with the problem of addressing his sexual needs while keeping outside influences to a minimum. The less said about this blackly surreal minor masterpiece, the better, because I wouldn’t want to ruin anything. I still need to see his follow up film, Alps (2011), and I’m particularly excited for his latest effort, The Lobster (2015).

The Temptation of St. Tony (Veiko Õunpuu, 2009) 
2009 was actually a banner year for genre cinema, but I’m trying not to let it overwhelm this list. My favorite out of all of them is this Estonian rarity, an absurdist black comedy with horror elements that follows Tony or Tonu (Taavi Eelmaa), a middle class, middle age, mid-level manager with an utterly boring life. Due to a series of comically absurd events, he finds a pile of severed human hands in the forest and he inadvertently begins questioning life and morality, which leads him to a number of unexpected places. While it is primarily a black comedy, there are some truly creepy moments. The ending scenes at a hellish nightclub, Das Goldene Seitaltern (The Golden Age), verge on sheer terror thanks to a memorable performance from Swedish actor Sten Ljunggren.

The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (Mladen Djordjevic, 2009)
The last film I’ll include from 2009 is this “still not really a horror film but will really ruin your day” Serbian effort. I really enjoy when audience members walk out of a film in outrage, disgust, or horror, and this definitely happened during the screening I attended at the Philadelphia Danger After Dark festival (RIP). Not for the faint of heart, this cinema verite, mockumentary style film broke some obscenity laws in various countries around the world and concerns a motley band of porn stars and drug addicts who travel the war-ravaged countryside performing live sex shows — until they are propositioned to make snuff films. In addition to graphic depictions of sexuality that include hardcore inserts and innumerable perversions such as some very real bestiality, there are also brutal snuff sequences. Partly inspired by Djordjevic's earlier documentary, Made in Serbia, about the Serbian porn industry, it’s far superior to A Serbian Film, though the latter received more attention. I really love this movie.

The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010)
OK, this is technically also not a horror film, but this Hitchcockian thriller soaked with sexual menace is another sublime day-ruiner and proves that Roman Polanski’s still got it. Ewan McGregor stars as an unnamed ghost writer hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) when the first writer’s body washes up on a beach. The memoirs — like the prime minister himself — are tightly controlled and the writer finds himself in an increasingly claustrophobic situation rife with paranoia, manipulation, and threads leading to the prime minister’s dark past. This may not go toe-to-toe with Polanski’s early films like Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Macbeth, or The Tenant, but it’s one of the best thrillers made in recent years and is particularly memorable for its menacing visual palette.

Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011)
With very few exceptions, I really hate twist endings, but I can sometimes still enjoy a film if I know what to expect. Kill List is a prime example of this and if you’d like to avoid spoilers, stop reading now. Two former soldiers turned contract killers (Neil Maskell and the amazing Michael Smiley, pictured to the right, who is probably the sole reason I liked this film) accept a job to kill three strangers, but change their minds halfway through when they discover that the second target has a number of repulsive videos in his possession. They are forced to complete the job under the threat of death, but find themselves in the midst of a violent occult ritual. If I had been blindsided by the conclusion, I probably would have hated the film, but I ultimately liked its nightmarish qualities and sense of PTSD-related unease. It has many fascinating parallels with the first season of True Detective. With that said, genre cinema really needs to find a new approach to the “everyone is actually a homicidal cultist” trend that’s emerged with disappointing recent films like House of the Devil, The Last Exorcism, and Starry Eyes. Wake Wood, a recent Hammer Studios revival, did something far more interesting with a similar theme. While it lacks the highs of Kill List (that sound design), it also lacks the film's somewhat egregious lows (the hunchback knife fight).

The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
I fell hard and fast in love with this elegant tale of medical experimentation, revenge, and sexual horror. Based on Thierry Jonquet's novel Mygale, The Skin I Live In follows Robert (Antonio Banderas), a surgeon who has been experimenting unconventionally and possibly immorally on synthetic skin. He also keeps a girl in his home who wears a body suit, is not allowed to leave her room, and is always monitored by camera. She bears a strange resemblance to his dead wife, but who is she? How did she get there? Told in a series of chronological leaps backwards and forwards, The Skin I Live In is essentially a blend of horror and melodrama. It visits Almodóvar's trademark themes of trauma, memory, sexuality, and identity, as well as revolving around the two mainstays of body horror: sexual trauma and medical experimentation. And don’t discount Banderas, who gives one of his best performances here.

Antiviral (Brandon Cronenberg, 2012)
Speaking of body horror, I found this debut film from David Cronenberg’s son to be a delightful surprise. Patented viruses and germs are harvested from celebrities to be sold to their fans — who will be injected with them — in a dystopian future. A young man employed to harvest the viruses, Syd (the strangely mesmerizing Caleb Landry Jones), sells them on the black market and is determined to get a particularly coveted virus from a popular actress who has fallen ill. Poetic, disgusting, and beautiful, this deceptively simple film uses its themes of corporate espionage and insane celebrity fixation to its advantage. It makes other recent attempts at body horror, such as the deplorable American Mary, seem laughably derivative in comparison.

Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012)
Director Peter Strickland is one of the most exciting talents working in recent years. Though he doesn’t solely make horror films, he has an obvious love for the genre as is evident with Berberian Sound Studio. A British sound engineer (Toby Jones) is hired to work on an Italian horror film. The language and cultural barriers increase his building sense of paranoia and he becomes sucked into the mind games in the studio. Though it suffers from some flaws, Berberian Sound Studio is part of a fascinating body of work that includes Strickland’s superior Hungarian revenge film Katalin Varga (2009) -- which I'm actually a little torn about not putting on the list instead -- and the distractingly beautiful, melancholic Duke of Burgundy (2015), about two lonely women in a sadomasochistic relationship. The latter is one of my favorite films of the last five years.

Byzantium (Neil Jordan, 2012) 
I’m as surprised as anyone that I liked Neil Jordan’s recent return to the supernatural. I’m a huge fan of The Company of Wolves and even Interview with the Vampire, and Byzantium re-examines many themes found in both of those films, such as storytelling, fantasy, difficult family relationships, and coming of age. Two vampires on the run, a mother (Gemma Arterton) and daughter (Saoirse Ronan), hide out in a dilapidated hotel by the seaside. As the mother tries to keep her daughter safe from vampire elders pursuing them -- this is a world where only aristocratic, worthy males are initiated into vampirism, so their very existence is illegal -- the daughter makes an unexpected connection with a local boy (Caleb Landry Jones again). This is more of a poetic teenage fairytale than a horrifying vampire story and it certainly falls in line with recent romantic vampire films like Twilight, Only Lovers Left Alive, and Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned (with which it would make a decent double feature for anyone who likes this subgenre), proving that vampire films really will never die.

A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013)
Wheatley is perhaps unfairly the only director with two entries on this list, but I felt like Kill List and A Field in England are both worth discussing, particularly since the latter is such a singular work. Like most of Wheatley’s films (and Peter Strickland’s), it has a breathtaking soundscape that rounds out a vague, potentially confusing plot set during the English Civil War. Worlds away from the bodice-ripping period pieces of Hammer Films, this unusual example of folk horror follows an alchemist’s assistant (Reece Shearsmith) who attempts to escape the battlefield with two army deserters. Soon they’re essentially taken prisoner by a rogue Irishman (the wonderful Michael Smiley again) searching for a nearby treasure. Don’t expect a straightforward narrative and you’re in for quite a treat.

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
One of the best actual horror films on this list is this tale of an alien (Scarlett Johansson) who disguises herself as human in order to prey on lonely men in the Scottish countryside. She brings them to a black abyss, where she feeds on them. The less said the better, though like A Field in England, Under the Skin makes the most of a tremendous soundscape, surreal visuals, and little in the way of exposition. I actually hate the Hollywood-induced need to aggressively explain everything in a plot’s past, present, and future, so this level of ambiguity is a breath of fresh air. I go back and forth on Johansson herself, but she’s vulnerable and enigmatic here and it’s a second, deep breath of fresh air that a Hollywood starlet would even consider making a film like this.

Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, 2014)
Sure, this isn’t actually a horror movie, but I couldn’t imagine this list without one Cronenberg film on it. Like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, this could be described as a thriller that centers on a troubled family unit and like those films, Maps to the Stars has moments of hilarious satire, domestic drama, disturbing violence, and sexually explicit material. Agatha (Mia Wasikowska in a great performance) returns to Los Angeles to track down her estranged family, which includes her famous child star brother (Evan Bird) whose career is going through a rough patch. Their father (John Cusack) is a celebrity psychologist who is treating a failed actress (Julianne Moore) who can’t move beyond the trauma of her actress mother’s early death — or her mother’s more elevated fame. In a strange twist of fate, Agatha becomes the actress’s personal assistant, setting in motion tragic events. As I said earlier of Polanski, Cronenberg is clearly still bringing his A game.

The Falling (Carol Morley, 2014)
Also not a horror film, The Falling follows in the footsteps of films like A Picnic at Hanging Rock, Heavenly Creatures, and Don’t Deliver Us From Evil that exist somewhere between psychological thriller, folk horror, and coming-of-age drama. When Abbie (the memorable Florence Pugh) becomes sexually active, her best friend Lydia (Games of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) is disturbed by the distance that has sprung up between them. Abbie falls ill, believing herself to be pregnant, and suddenly dies after fainting. Lydia falls (literally) prey to Abbie’s fainting spell, causing a school-wide epidemic that doctors and authority figures can’t explain. Morley’s influences are solidly felt and will give you an idea of exactly what to expect from this restrained meditation on hysteria and sexual awakening.

The Treatment (Hans Herbots, 2014)
Taking the complete opposite approach is this depressing Belgian thriller about a tormented detective (the probably too dreamy for the role Geert Van Rampelberg) obsessed with his brother’s childhood disappearance, likely at the hands of a local pedophile. When a new child goes missing, the investigation awakens old traumas and leads him down an increasingly dark path. Though they haven’t popped up on this list yet, US company Artsploitation have distributed a number of great European cult/horror films that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. While I still need to catch up on their catalogue (I’m most looking forward to seeing horror films Horsehead and Der Samurai), I really enjoyed this flawed, if bleak thriller that improves upon other films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that explore generation-wide, systemic corruption and violence.

Last but not least, I feel honor bound to mention Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s reimagining of Thomas Harris’s famous cannibal for NBC. I am absolutely in love with this three-season show, which recently went out on a ridiculously high note. I can’t think of anything television related that ended so strongly, though I honestly don’t watch a lot of TV. I dislike the more mainstream genre shows — such as Lost, The Walking Dead, or American Horror Story — and while I enjoyed much about the first seasons of True Detective and French show The Returned, I really only have eyes for Hannibal. Explicitly violent, occasionally sexual, and concerned with transformation, death, art, and beauty in all forms, it’s a bold reimagining of Harris's fiction. Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham and the godlike Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter have a profound relationship utterly different from Harris’s books that transcends the normal bounds of TV for something that is surreal, erotic, and illuminating.

There are also still plenty of films left to watch, so I’m sure I’ll do a part two sometime in the next few months. I have yet to see (or see in their entirety) things like Beyond the Black Rainbow, Pontypool, Eden Lake, The Woman in Black, Frankenstein’s Army, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. There are also a surprising number of upcoming films I’m looking forward to seeing: I’ve already mentioned The Lobster, but also Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution, Pablo Larraín’s The Club, Ben Wheatley’s J.G. Ballard adaptation, High Rise, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, and even Victor Frankenstein, a period piece starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Happy viewing!


  1. I tried to write a drunken response but it was too long.

  2. Condensed

    Cherry Falls - haven't seen

    Ginger Snaps - haven't seen

    American Psycho - don't like, feel like it misses the point of the book

    Trouble Every Day - haven't seen in so long I'm drawing a blank. Downloaded to re-watch. Also, I hate Martyrs so much it makes me ill

    Happiness... - cultural divide. Also, I hate most musicals. Would have put Audition

    Mulholland - love it

    Dracula - can't find it on torrents

    La vie nouvelle - downloaded

    Mr. Vengeance - best of the Vengeance trilogy, but I would have gone with Thirst

    Memories of Murder - great true crime drama, not horror

    Calvaire - haven't seen, feel like I would be lukewarm on

    Last Supper - can't find it on torrents

    Cache - downloaded

    Slither - kind of avoided, but I like Dale & Tucker, so will check out Again, Housebound. And I still feel like Cabin in the Woods is a good (not great) horror comedy made with genuine love for the genre, despite usually hating JW.

    Headless Woman - downloaded

    Antichrist - love it

    Dogtooth - love it, dowloaded Alps

    Temptation... - downloading

    ...Porno Gang - not really interested

    Ghost Writer - haven't seen, will look for

    Kill List - love it, personally I can't get enough of 'everyone actually worships the devil.' Really like House of the Devil and Starry Eyes too. I mean... what were you expecting from those titles?

    Skin I Live In - worthless Eyes Without a Face ripoff. Believe me, we'll talk about this one...

    Antiviral - liked it. Also, American Mary is not body horror. If anything, pro-body. Plus, really good performance by Katherine Isabelle. Shut up, Gingersnaps and "great" Brittany Murphy fan

    Berberian Sound Studio - Hitchcock does giallo. Love it. Also, Duke of Burgundy was the saddest movie I saw this year

    Byzantium - not really interested

    A Field in England - watched tonight. Liked it, but not as much as Kill List. You're more period piece than I am.

    Under the Skin - love it

    Maps to the Stars - top of my to-watch list

    The Falling - not interested, at least in a 'horror' capacity

    The Treatment - downloaded

  3. Stuff you haven't seen that I have

    Beyond the Black Rainbow - I'm with Leslie on loving this one. Best bad trip scene since Altered States. Also features a Venom song. Acid Queen if I remember correctly. Manages to be its own thing while at the same time being a total amalgam of all its influences.

    Pontypool - I really enjoyed this, actually. At its heart a metaphor for how we all latch on to talking points and start spewing them back like mindless zombies (duh). Makes good use of a minimal cast and location.

    Frankenstein's Army - total kaiju horror fun. It's like Blair Witch happening on the set of the Power Rangers. Get drunk and smile.

    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - beautiful feminist vampire film. Hats off. They say they want a female director for one of the Star Wars films, and I hope Amirpour at least makes the running.

    Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, dammit!

    Here's my 2015 list so far.

    Nightbreed: The Director's Cut (USA, 1990)
    Starry Eyes (USA, 2014)
    The Canal (UK, 2014)
    Mary Shelley's Frankenhole Seasons 1&2
    The Monster Squad (USA, 1987)
    Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell Seasons 1&2
    The Babadook (AUS, 2014)
    Gremlins (USA, 1984)
    Kill List (UK, 2011)
    Evilspeak (USA, 1981)
    Housebound (NZ, 2014)
    Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem (USA, 2015)
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (USA, 1986)
    El Dio De La Bestia (SPA, 1995)
    The Hills Have Eyes (USA, 1977)
    Let's Scare Jessica to Death (USA, 1971)
    Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (USA, 1990)
    Highway to Hell (USA, 1991)
    Maniac Cop (USA, 1988)
    Buio Omega (ITL, 1979)
    Brain Damage (USA, 1988)
    Goodnight Mommy (AUS, 2015)
    Foxes (short) (UK, 2012)
    Excision (USA, 2012)
    The Addams Family (USA, 1991)
    Late Phases (USA, 2014)
    Child's Play (USA, 1988)
    A Field in England (UK, 2013)

    1. Give Cherry Falls a chance, but you don’t really need to bother with Ginger Snaps. Definitely watch Trouble Every Day, La vie nouvelle, Cache, Slither, and Ghost Writer. Keep in mind that Headless Woman isn’t really horror, but it is great. I can’t BELIEVE you didn’t like Skin I Live In… I’ll check out those others I haven’t seen soon and there’s a lot on your list that I haven’t watched, but we can discuss more on Saturday if I see you.

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