Five Sleeper Hits on Streaming

Summer is always a rough season. Summer combined with the Corona virus lockdown is almost unbearable, but being stuck inside doesn’t have to be torture. I found these five low budget gems, definitely better than expected, that should satisfy your horror movie cravings.

We Summon the Darkness (2019)
Service: Netflix

“There’s a lotta evil out there.”

For anyone’s who has ever worn a leather vest over a jean jacket, sported big feathered hair, or been bullied for listening to Ozzy or Slayer, all over the misguided belief that heavy metal is Satan’s music for devil worshippers, this one’s for you. Set in the 80s, this low-key thriller about three victims falling prey to a murderous cult with diabolical intentions isn’t particularly scary or gory, but it definitely harkens back to those old glossy B slashers that the studios used to churn out. The movie stars a gaggle of Hollywood’s brightest teen stars, led by Alexandra Daddario, and Johnny Knoxville, surprisingly right at home, playing a smarmy televangelist. The energy is high and acting is decent, honestly though, absolutely nothing else stands out here. Both the plot and the twists are totally predictable, it’s a little hard to tell if that’s by design or not. If I was one of the filmmakers, I’d get all meta and say, ‘oh yeah, it was supposed to be that way.’ People really enjoy homages, and stickin two giant middle fingers up to the real evil in the world, those big greedy corporate churches, for lying to the world about great music, using the lord’s name in vain, and besmirching religion. That, plus a bitchin’ soundtrack, and heavy metal couture, so 80s, you can almost smell the AquaNet, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night.

Spring (2014)
Service: Shudder

“I gotta make sure you’re the kinda crazy I can deal with.”

There aren’t too many well-made horror romances out there in the world, but this movie is in top ten. Spring, the story of grieving young man who finds love with a mysterious woman, while on a vacation in Italy, is just as refreshing as its name sounds. It’s simply a beautiful movie, everything from the strange Lovecraftian story to the incredible cinematography, and the dark, creepy suspense to the blossoming love between two strangers. What makes the film work, besides getting lost in charming scenery of Southern Italy, is the chemistry between the leads Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker, it’s sweet, like saccharine, yet, definitely filled with a touch of danger and mystique. Their romance moves a little fast and even seems unrealistic, but if you factor in love at first sight (hey, it can happen), and remember the vulnerability of a lonely, grieving, inexperienced young man, it becomes real easy to understand why he would be attracted to an alluring, beautiful, mystical 2000 year old creature. It’s almost sad to watch her toy with him so effortlessly, then again, the boy is as impulsive as he is lost. A violent episode in the film’s beginning shows he’s far from a perfect hero and they might just be morally matched. As for the girl and her “condition”, well, you’ll just have to go watch the movie to see if her intentions are pure or not.

Ghost Stories (2017)
Service: Hulu

“Things are not always as they seem.”

This movie about a skeptical professor and paranormal debunker is a cleverly disguised anthology from IFC Midnight, turns out to be one of the scariest movies that I’ve seen in a long time. Triple threat writer-director Andy Nyman stars as the wry skeptic investigating the disappearance of his hero mentor. Once he finds him, he is then tasked with looking into the old man’s three most disturbing cases, which brings the professor on a terrifying journey of self-discovery. Nyman, along with co-creator Jeremy Dyson based their script off their hit theater show of the same name. The writing, cinematography and performances here are all phenomenal, in particular, Martin Freeman as a haunted banker, and in a mystery role, that I won’t give away. Ghost Stories makes good work of jump scares and sports some deep Hammer vibes, paying homage to numerous horror films, so it’s not inventing the wheel or anything, just making really good use of the tools from the tool box. Sometimes, that’s all a proper horror film needs.

One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Service: Shudder (Japanese subtitles)

“One take, no cuts. With one camera from start to finish.”

Shin’ichiro Ueda’s brilliant feature debut is a bit of movie inception. The movie starts off as a seriously cheesy low-budget zombie movie about an indie film crew filming a zombie movie in an abandoned warehouse, when suddenly, they’re attacked by real zombies, much to the director’s delight. If you’re still watching by the time the credits roll about 37 minutes in, yes, you read that right, boy, are you in for a treat! As you’re sitting there wondering ‘what the hell was that?’ a new movie starts. Well, sort of, it’s a flashback, and all good things to those who wait. One Cut of the Dead isn’t really a cheesy low-budget zombie film, it’s a hilarious meta-satirical comedy about filmmaking, including the backstage antics of producing live television. There are a ton of references to zombie movies and lots of gore and screaming, of course, but, the real prize here is the storytelling. One Cut features a strong message about the collaborative filmmaking process, and the resourcefulness, courage and heart it takes to be in the entertainment business. I guarantee, by the third act, you’ll forget all about those 37 minutes wasted in the beginning and cheer on the film crew’s spirited efforts to make their zombie movie.

Blood Quantum (2019)
Service: Shudder

“Every one of those motherf****** is a time bomb.”

Blood Quantum is essentially zombies on a modern-day reservation. You get all the blood-thirsty ravaging undead and pensive natives struggling to survive day-to-day, while reconciling their anger, resentment, and fears. Writer-director Jeff Barnaby channels his inner Romero and delivers biting social commentary on real life native troubles by drawing parallels to surviving in the zombie apocalypse, thus, immediately making it a better than average zombie story. Life on the reservation hasn’t improved, but it hasn’t necessarily deteriorated either. The white man is still trying to kill us. Same shit, different millennia. A little closer to the heart, there’s nice family drama subplot involving a wayward son named Lysol, wonderfully played by Kiowa Gordon. Lysol is one complex dude. He’s angry and alluring, righteous, and terrifying, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he represents a lot of young native men across the North America. Sadly, in a film filled with quirky interesting characters, Lysol is one of the few fleshed out characters. Dropped plot points involving back stories is just one of tiny problems that all add up over time, keeping the film from being truly great. I read director Barnaby wore several post production hats to ensure he told the story he wanted to tell, but I can’t help but wonder what the film could have been, if only it had a bigger budget and better editing. Despite its obvious flaws, this is a solid horror movie with nice cinematography, comical one-liners, ranging from cheesy to endearing, and plenty of zombie action and bloody carnage.

Worst Dads in Horror

Posting this blog a day late and a dollar short, just like dear ‘ole dad. If you were one of the millions who spent Father’s Day pining over your lost, non-existent volatile relationship with daddy dearest, cheer up, and be glad you weren’t the offspring of any of these bad dads of horror.

10. Satan – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

It doesn’t really get much worse than having Satan for a dad. Sure, there are probably perks to being the Antichrist, but the trade-off is lifetime of micromanagement from mid-level staffers on daddy’s payroll. Satan’s coven rape, conspire, commit murder and drive the chosen mother-to-be to the brink of insanity, all to ensure Satan’s son is born on the exact date that will make him 33 years on the millennial, the same age as Jesus when he came into his own. Who would’ve guessed the devil would be so petty?

Rosemarys-Baby

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Scary Bites

Some of you may have noticed there was no Haiku of the Week.  Please forgive me.  I suffered a sudden health scare this week.  Recently, during a trip to a local botanical park in Austin, TX, I was bitten up by mosquitoes. The bites turned out to be more serious than I thought because I fell ill with a blood infection. Luckily, no serious disease. I’m now recovering and should be totally fine. Haiku will return next week, but as summer approaches, I can’t help but remind everyone to please use insect repellant.

Also, think twice about using those flowery shampoos and fruity lotions when camping and traipsing through the woods. We wouldn’t want insects to take over the world just because we want to smell good.

Bogleech-MagictheGathering Insects-heartstabbermosquito-jasonfelix
Bogleech: MagictheGathering Insects- heartstabbermosquito by Jason Felix

For more heartstopping terror, go here: http://www.bogleech.com/magicinsects.html

Best Horror Reboots/Remakes

January is almost over and few of us have kept our resolutions. Don’t worry, the year is still new and second chances can happen anytime. So, in keeping with that theme, here’s my picks for the best horror reboots/remakes.

Typically, I’m a big fan of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  However, with the superior technological advances in both filmmaking and special effects, some reboots or remakes are pretty darn good, a few even surpass their predecessors. Let me know what you think.

 

10. Fright Night (1985/2011)

Yes, the characters aren’t half as charismatic as the original cast, but the acting talents of Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette and David Tennant are what keep Fright Night from being a bad remake. While the story itself hasn’t changed much, the remake loses most of its humor, in favor of a more sardonic style, making the film more of a thriller.

Biggest Changes: Setting location moves from main town, USA to a glitzy suburb of Las Vegas. No more camp, just blood-thirsty vampires.

frightnight

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13 Stocking Stuffers for Halloween Lovers

This Christmas, break away from the cheap chocolate and seasonal flavored ChapSticks and give Halloween lovers stuffing stockers guaranteed to warm their little dark hearts.

Perfumes and Potions
https://blackphoenixalchemylab.com/

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Saturday Horror Matinees

 

The full moon has risen and transformed the Wolfman.
Frankenstein’s monster is alive and looking for a Woman.
Dracula’s magnetic gaze will leave you entranced.
The Mummy has risen and wants his soulmate to dance.
The Invisible Man has lost his left shoe.
It was found by the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
King Kong terrorizes the Empire State Tower.
Godzilla rampages Tokyo with his atomic powers.
The Blob crashed landed from outer space.
The Living Dead will eat your face.
I grew up at the theater, watching double features.
That’s why I love all monsters, madmen, and creatures.

 

Universal Monsters Photo©Universal Studios

 

Scariest Movies for Halloween Night

This isn’t just another ‘best of scary movie’ list, this is ‘the best of scariest movies to specifically watch on Halloween night’ list.  You can watch those other films any day of the year.  There’s something really special about watching a spooky movie on Halloween night though. These movies are not recommended for children, but, I’ll leave the parenting up to you.

♦♦♦♦♦

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Not only is Director Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish language film visually stunning, it’s hands down one of the scariest and most masterfully written ghost stories ever produced. Besides that, creepy ghost children are just never not going to be scary.

the-devils-backbone-santi

Get Out (2017)

Writer and Director Jordan Peele delivers a terrifying psychological thriller, which relies on the audiences’ own inner fears to fuel the suspense on what the true scare here is all about, Is it a ghost story? Is it a killer story? Is it all someone’s imagination?

get out still

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Director Michael Dougherty weaves together four separate terrifying Halloween night horror stories, each connected by a mysterious little creature, who reminds us Halloween can be deadly if you mess around and break the rules of Halloween. I consider this film quintessential Halloween viewing.

trick r treat sam

Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

Dead kid. Check. Dead cat. Check. Dead ghost. Check. Writer and Director Takashi Shimizu doubled down on scares by telling this frightening story out of order, which added confusion for some. Make no mistake, scary is scary, whether you understand it or not. However, if subtitles or non-linear storytelling aren’t your thing, you can always rent The Grudge, the American remake, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and the very same dead kid, dead cat and dead ghost. I affectionately refer to this film as the Neverending Ghost Story

Ju-on1

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Top 10 Back to School Horror Films

It’s that time again. Time for all the kiddos to go back to school. Hollywood has long picked on teens to sell their worst nightmares to the delight of horror fans all over the world. Just when you thought there was nothing scarier than teenage angst and rampant acne, here’s ten Back to School thrillers that will make you glad that you’ve already graduated.

Prom Night (1980)

Chance of being killed is absolutely a good reason to skip the prom.

Four high schoolers, who made a pact in grade school never to reveal their involvement in the accidental death of a friend, are stalked by a masked killer on Prom Night, the anniversary of the death.

prom night

Unless you’re a diehard Idris Elba fan (which I am), I suggest watching original over the 2008 version. With Halloween and The Fog under her belt, star Jamie Lee Curtis secured the title of Scream Queen with Prom Night. The movie’s disco soundtrack became more popular with fans than the movie itself, but a copyright lawsuit killed its chances of US release. Original soundtrack was only released in Japan, making it a rarity among collectors but bootlegs are easily found these days.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

No one sleeps through the night in this neighborhood.

Four teenagers are stalked through their dreams by the vengeful spirit of a janitor, and alleged child murderer, who was killed by the teen’s parents, years ago.

nightmare on elm st

This film gave birth to one of horror’s most iconic killers, Freddy Krueger, played by the charismatic Robert Englund, and superstar Johnny Depp, in his film debut; and, it also saved New Line Cinema from bankruptcy, when the film made a killing at the box office. The screech of Krueger’s clawed glove is second most hair-raising sound in horror, the first being, the infamous chainsaw.

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Best Summer Horror Movies

Summer camp, beach vacations, cook-outs, pool parties, lemonade, fireflies, hot temps and endless sand, these are the things that make summer memorable. Halloween may be right around the corner, but summer is still in full swing. So, if you’re stuck inside during the heatwave, here are 10 great summer horror flicks to watch.

It Follows (2014)

There’s no mention of summer in this movie. It just feels like summer. Boredom often leads to casual sex, which leads to fear and paranoia, and eventually, leads to the suffering of life-long consequences. One of the creepiest things about this movie is watching the mundane life of Michigan teens.  Writer/director David Robert Mitchell never really explains the origins of it is but whatever it is, it’s hella scary.

it follows

Summer Camp (2015)

Taking jobs in exotic locations is all the rage during summer. Four Americans sign up to be camp counselors in Spain for the summer but a rage-inducing virus turn the young compadres into blood-thirsty fiends. From the teams that made the mega-hit The Conjuring, and Rec, the wildly successful Spanish zombie films, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill zombie film. No spoilers, but let’s just say, these aren’t your typical “undead” folk.

summer camp

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Who doesn’t love a good summer by the water? When teens return to the scene of the crime from the previous summer, they are haunted (or hunted) by a mysterious stranger. This by-the-book slasher film starred all the biggest 90s super teen queens and heartthrobs of the time. Besides that, nothing special here unless you like watching snobby teenagers get their comeuppance.

i know what you did

Piranha (1978)

Just when you thought it was safe to go tubing down the river… genetically altered piranhas attack summer resort residents. After the success of Jaws, 1970s Hollywood cranked out a slew of numerous man v. nature horror films. This Roger Corman production was a direct rip-off but not quite as spectacular as Jaws. It did, however, help cement the hungry little fishies’ legacy as devilish man-eaters. The movie spawned a sequel and two remakes including the 2010 all-star gorefest, Piranha 3D, which is porn stars, piranhas and Elizabeth Shue, no seriously.

piranha 78

The Lost Boys (1987)

Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old and never die, sounds like a great summer motto, right? Two teens move to Santa Clara, the murder capitol of the world and find vampires. This movie made two Coreys famous and solidified Kiefer Sutherland’s villainous David as one of pop culture’s greatest vamps. Director Joel Schumacher hired acting heavyweights Dianne Wiest, Ed Herrmann and Bernard Hughes to offset the movie’s camp. Horror movies really shouldn’t be this fun. Now what was that main character’s name again?

lost boys

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Going away for the summer takes on a whole new meaning. After witnessing a tragic accident, Angela goes to live with her crazy aunt, who eventually sends her off to a summer camp being stalked by a serial killer. After Friday the 13th hit it big in 1980, a slew of low-budget slasher camp-themed movies followed. This is probably the best of the bunch. This cult classic’s cringe-worthy kills still pack a punch and a shocking twist ending, on par with Hitchcock’s Psycho.

sleepaway camp

Tremors (1990)

Summers are hot and dry like a desert. A small town is terrorized by bloodthirsty sand creatures. Tremors is fantastic homage to the old Sci-fi monster movies of the 50s and 60s. The charismatic pairing of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward lead an all-star cast in a perfect blend of action and comedy. None of 5 sequels that spawned afterwards quite live up to the originality of the first one, but they’re all still good b-movie camp.

tremors

Friday the 13th (1980)

Camp counselors, the unsung heroes of summer, and horror films. Cursed Camp Crystal Lake enlists the help of several young adults to prepare for the opening of summer camp but brutal killer arrives first. Jason Vorhees, the iconic killer drives the first film’s plot but his actual appearance doesn’t happen until the very end. No matter, he gets plenty of screen time in the other eleven movies following. It’s the second highest grossing horror franchise at $773.4 million, following behind The Exorcist. Rumor is the film series will end at lucky 13. Fans shouldn’t hold their breath while waiting for legalities over film rights to get sorted first.

friday13

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Sometimes, summer is an unbearable scorching hell. In August 1973, after picking up a bizarre hitchhiker, a van full of young people stumble upon a house of terror. Considered a horror masterpiece, it was shot in Texas, during summer, in 115-degree heat, so the sweat dripping off the actor’s faces is real. The killer and several of the film’s details were based loosely on real life cannibal Ed Gein, but that’s as true as it gets. Writer and director Tobe Hooper did manage to coax some the authentic acting and screaming from its unknown cast. It’s the only movie on this list to be banned in several countries around the world (reasons vary, everything from the graphic violence to use of power tools in the title). Leatherface went on to become a horror icon and the mere sound of a chainsaw revving up, still sends chills up the spine.

texas

Jaws (1975)

“You’ll never go in the water again.”  Summer of fear. A giant great white shark terrorizes the beach community of Amity Island over 4th of July holiday. Based on Peter Benchley’s novel, Hollywood’s first known summer blockbuster, Jaws is more a study in fear than it is about a man-eating shark. It’s about personal fear, communal fears, societal fears, mass hysteria, imagined fear, projected fear, and of course, fear of sharks. It’s nearly the perfect thriller that continually builds suspense throughout the whole movie. Amity Island’s colorful characters jump to life, thanks to excellent casting choices and the brilliant script has snappy dialogue, including one of the greatest monologues ever written for film, performed by the mesmerizing Robert Shaw.  It’s all backed by John Williams’ unforgettable score, which is now burned into the mind of every filmgoer who puts a toe in the water. Many people claim their fear of sharks and swimming in the ocean was born after their viewing of Jaws. No other film in history of cinema has had the impact on our society in the way that Jaws has. It is the ultimate summer horror film.

jaws

 

Honorable Mentions:
The Burning  – Another summer slasher camp movie with Cropsey (yes, that Cropsey)
Blood Beach – Beach blanket bingo with monsters
The Hills Have Eyes – Don’t break down in the desert
Turistas – Don’t break down in a foreign country
Club Dread – Don’t let serial killers stop your party