“Aren’t you afraid you’re going to run out of movies?”
Of all the responses I have had when I explain 100 Days of Horror, this is probably the one I get the most frequently. Obviously the people remarking on this are not horror fans. In horror terms, I’ve still barely scratched the surface of all the movies that are out there, just waiting to be watched. I’m ashamed to admit there are huge chunks of Italian horror I’ve not even begun to watch! I’ve not seen enough of Dario Argento’s early years, and maybe too much of his later. His takes on some classic stories left me with a giant CGI praying mantis in Dracula and rats down the pants in Phantom of the Opera. Those images are permanently burned into my brain.
|I guess there's no second date?|
It started three years ago, an idea percolating in my head after I attended Crypticon in Seattle, the largest horror convention in the Pacific Northwest. Being around other horror fans was a new and exciting experience for me. Of course I’d had friends over the years who enjoyed horror movies, but mostly on the more commercially accessible end of the spectrum (sorry about making you watch The People Under the Stairs that one time guys, you’re the greatest), but none that truly understood my passion or love for the genre. It was a revelation to discover a group of like-minded individuals all coming together to celebrate horror for a weekend.
Like the previous year, I walked away from the weekend with a list of new titles of movies to watch. All movies that I’d never seen. Some were classics I’d heard of (Teeth, why did it take me so long?), others newer or more indie and hadn’t crossed my radar (what’s this American Mary I keep hearing about?) I also had the realization that I often fell back into watching my favorite movies over and over instead of trying something new.
From that, 100 Days of Horror was born. I decided that in the 100 days leading up to Halloween, I would watch 100 horror films I had never seen (Descent, this doesn’t diminish my love for you). That was the only criteria. The movies on my list range from classics, to new in theaters to whatever happened to be streaming on Netflix at the time. This formula is not foolproof. The movies I’ve watched have ranged from the truly excellent to the truly uninspired. And yes, there are times when all I want to do is watch anything but a horror film. I tend to end up with one or two lost weekends of Gilmore Girl repeats to keep my sanity intact.
|The scariest part of the movie is their hair.|
The countdown begins on July 23. It’s a Saturday, so mark your calendars and plan accordingly. I intend to start it off with Joel Schmacher’s classic, The Lost Boys. I’ve been stockpiling new releases on Netflix and building a list of classics. Other movies I plan on hitting are Jacob’s Ladder, Hush, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Light’s Out, to name a few. Will you take the challenge? #100DaysOfHorror
In the past two years I’ve watched 200 horror films I’d never seen, and here are a few of the winners:
Ravenous, directed by Antonia Bird and starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle is set in the 1840s during the Mexican American war. The dark comedy borders on satire, and who doesn’t love a good piece of satire about cannibalism? At an isolated Fort, a man appears (Carlyle) seeking help. He tells soldiers his wagon party had gotten lost with tragic results. The other members of his party had eaten everything they could before resorting to cannibalism. As the soldiers set out to see if there are any more members of the party alive, legends of Wendigos hint at a more sinister situation. The film is full of fabulous performances, as well as David Arquette who always seems to just be David Arquette to me no matter what he’s in, but that’s okay. The score, composed by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn of Blur is truly unique and features an off-putting use of period instruments and bizarre rhythms. Overall, a unique and enjoyable movie.
|But am I still pretty? PLEASE TELL ME I'M PRETTY!|
Starry Eyes is a movie they should show in every college drama program across the United States to try and scare some sense into those of us dumb enough to pursue a drama degree. Not that that would have stopped me from getting not one, but two drama degrees, but it may have given me a moment’s pause. Written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, it tells the story of Sarah (Alex Essoe) an aspiring actress who suffers from trichotillomania (a form of OCD which causes her to pull out her hair). After bombing an audition, she has a meltdown in the bathroom, ripping out chunks of her hair. The casting director witnesses this and invites her to come do it again on camera. From there, Sarah finds herself faced with more and more demands on her with the promise of stardom in reach. Though reluctant, her ambition is so great, nothing will stop her from achieving her success. Starry Eyes is not the sort of movie to watch if you want a quick pick-me-up, but it is a delightfully brutal film focused on the creation of a beautiful monster.
I realize I’m extremely late to the bandwagon on this one, but Kurt Neumann’s The Fly (1958), the predecessor to David Cronenberg’s film, is a damn good movie. It may not embrace the body horror with the exuberance that Cronenberg does, but it remains compelling and at times chilling. It helps that the film stars Vincent Price as François, whose brother Andre (David Hedison) was recently killed by his wife Helene (Patricia Owens). Since killing her husband Helene has remained in an almost catatonic state, not willing to tell anyone why she would do what she did. Francois finally gets her to admit that her husband had built a machine that transferred atoms from one place to the next, but due to an unfortunate accident, ended up with the head and arm of a fly. The actors approach the material with earnest and the script itself is surprisingly well thought out. I’ve never looked at a spider’s web the same way…
|How can I show human emotion? I'm a terminator!|
If I were to explain the premise of Maggie to someone, Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the father of Abigail Breslin, a girl who is infected with a "necroambulist virus" which essentially slowly turns her into a zombie, I suspect more than one person would raise an eyebrow. If I followed that statement with, “and Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a surprisingly nuanced and touching performance,” I suspect I would be met with laughter. Nevertheless, despite flaws in the execution of the story, the performances cannot be faulted.
Despite my disturbingly low standards for what I enjoy in a horror film (seriously, it takes a whole lot for me to not find something redeeming), there were a few that couldn’t get even me to like them:
The Quiet Ones wasn’t a movie that should have been bad. It had a solid cast of recognizable actors. It was produced by Hammer Films, which has tried to get back on the map after folding in the 80s. It dealt with a professor (Jared Harris) trying to prove that poltergeists are not actually supernatural beings by using a pale and creepy girl as a test subject. All of these things should have made for a good movie. Unfortunately, if suffered from what I personally consider to be the kiss of death for horror films. It was forgettable and boring. Even now, looking back at when I watched the movie two years ago, I struggle to have much of a memory of it beyond it starring that one guy from The Hunger Games. Your time would be better spent revisiting another of Hammer’s classic movies.
Deranged (1974) was part of a double feature I had on the disc that included Motel Hell. Needless to say I found Motel Hell a lot more enjoyable. Loosely based on the serial killer Ed Gein, it stars Robert Blossom as Ezra Cobb. Ezra was raised by a religious zealot mother, and after her death, mirroring the serial killer he is based on, he digs her up. The movie has quite a cult following but just didn’t click with me. I love a good campy cheese-fest, but I may have seen just a few too many movies with similar premises…or I kept wanting it to be Psycho…
|For once in my life can't the bad CGI shark actually eat the handsome leading man?|
Okay, listen. I tried. I really really really tried to like Sharknado, but I just couldn’t. It couldn’t get the balance right. The premise is shockingly simple. Waterspouts are lifting up sharks and depositing them in Los Angeles. Shenanigans ensue. It wanted it to be campy and clever but it was never campy enough or clever enough to make it fun. If you’re gonna call a movie Sharknado, it can be stupid but it still has to be fun. Maybe I was suffering from horror fatigue by the time I got to it, but I suffered through the whole movie. I just couldn’t enjoy myself. Now if they manage to eat Donald Trump in one of the sequels, they may get me back…
Are you taking the #100DaysOfHorror challenge?
Tell Kim on Twitter: @seattlescreams
Tell Kim on Twitter: @seattlescreams