#31HorrorFilms31Days Roundup (2)

Scary-movie1This is my second annual roundup for the 31 Horror Films in 31 Days challenge. I had such a great time doing it last year, that I just had to do it again. The rules are pretty simple — beginning October 1st watch 31 previously unseen horror movies by midnight of Halloween, tweeting each one with a descriptive blurb and the hashtag #31HorrorFilms31Days.

 

The real “challenge” comes into play cobbling together a list of 31 horror movies I’ve never seen before and stand a decent chance of being good. I cheated only a little with The Birds; I had seen it before but this was the first time on a big screen, so I decided to include it. If you think you know Hitchcock but have never seen any of his films on a theater size movie screen then I’m telling you you’re missing out. You have no idea. It’s like seeing the movie for the first time (and definitely how Hitchcock envisioned the size of the canvas he was working with). This makes all the difference.

 

There seemed to be a lot more duds this year peddling plain sloppy examples of lazy and unimaginative movie making and storytelling. But coming out of that mixed bag of uninspired mediocrity were some of the scariest (and funniest) horror movies I’ve seen in a long, long, time, so I’m still calling this year a huge win.

 

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Topping my list this year for outright scariest, achieving a surprising amount within its very modest indie budget is the Australian flick Lake Mungo (2008). Its simple but incredibly convincing faux documentary style relies on no special effects, no jump scares or loud music, and it still SCARED THE LIVING BEJEBUS out of me. It accomplishes so much with so little — this is as stripped down and bare bones as movie making gets, but it all felt so authentic and engaging, pulling you right into the heart of this family and the tragedy they’re experiencing. So not only is it a believable portrait of grief, it really digs at the psychological costs of grieving and how we might process an actual haunting. This is a movie that impressed me with its ambitious ending too. It’s a twisty narrative that when it finally departs from its straight-forward premise where you think you know exactly what’s going on, the movie is going to jangle your nerves, terrify you, break your brain (and then your heart). Watch it!

 

file_744248_wyrmwood-posterAnother winner from Down Under is the post-apocalyptic zombie flick Wyrmwood (2014). I’ve been burning out on zombies of late (and I place the blame firmly at the feet of The Walking Dead for my zombie fatigue — so glad I stopped watching). But this loud, action-packed, gory and edgy zombie fest from Australia is smart and innovative with some Mad Max thematic overtones to act as the cherry on top. The zombie genre is SO well-trod it’s really a challenge to pull off anything new, but Wyrmwood succeeds splendidly. Trust me, put this one on your watch list. And tell your friends! I want a sequel.

 

Another HUGE SURPRISE was the Lovecraftian romantic horror mash-up (yes, you read that right) — Spring (2014). This one was so unexpectedly spring-2014great, I almost gave it five stars. Not only is it a convincing love story set in a beautiful Italian landscape, it is a terrifying contemplation on body horror and metamorphosis. It’s subtle yet consuming, with great dialogue and fantastic chemistry between the two leads. And don’t just take my word for it: horror maestro and creative genius Guillermo del Toro tweeted that it’s “one of the best horror films of this decade.”

 

The FUNNIEST horror comedy that I watched this year had to be What We Do In The Shadows (though I finally got around to seeing Dale and Tucker vs Evil and that almost tied with it). Both of them I will watch again because they’re that good. What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary out of New Zealand from the creator of what_we_do_in_the_shadows_ver6Flight of the Conchords. If you weren’t a fan of that show, don’t let that stop you from checking out this HILARIOUS look at the life of a den of modern vampires sharing a house together trying to navigate their challenging condition and their annoyances with one another. It’s fresh, cheeky and a whole bucketful of bloody fun.

 

And lastly, while not strictly a horror movie per se, I finally got around to seeing Green Room with Patrick Stewart and the gone much too soon Anthon Yelchin. This is a gripping, edge of your seat, white-knuckle thriller that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final credits roll. It is INTENSE, extremely well-acted, and not easily forgotten. The violence is graphic, but not gratuitous, and the suspense and tension unrelenting. If you haven’t seen it yet, add Green Room to your queue. You won’t regret it.

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Lastly, please share what scared YOU this October. I’m already working on my list for next year!

 

31. WYRMWOOD (Australia 2014) Mad Max w/ ? Yes please! Action-packed, gruesome & funny 4/5

30. FEBRUARY (2015) Sally Draper’s left behind at empty boarding school over holiday. Quiet & supremely unnerving 3.5/5

29. SPRING (2015) A mash up of body horror & love story profoundly, authentically beautiful in its themes & charm 4.5/5

28. CLOWN (Canada/US 2014) Like if Jeff Goldblum had morphed into a demon clown instead of a fly 3.5/5

27. CELL (2016) Cell phones turn people into fast moving zombies, sorta??? Confused & messy & kinda dull 2/5

26. CUB (Belgium 2014) Boy Scouts + feral wood kid. No. Just no. Graphic violence + animal cruelty 0/5

25. TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL The dumbest, clumsiest college kids mistake two hapless hillbillies as psycho killers. 4/5

24. DEMENTIA 13 (1963) Francis Ford Coppola’s mainstream directorial debut & weak attempt at ripping off Hitchcock 2/5

23. GOODNIGHT MOMMY (Austria 2014) Opens w. twin boys playing in a cornfield. You know this isn’t ending well.

22. THE HALLOW (Ireland 2015) The deep Irish woods are alive with… you don’t want to know. It isn’t leprechauns 2.5/5

21. THE DEAD ROOM (New Zealand 2015) Minimalist approach to maximizing suspense. Impressive sound fx 3.5/5

20. STAKE LAND (2010) Mad Max meets The Road via vicious vampires. Gripping apocalypse melodrama with great acting 4/5

19. HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995) Paul Rudd’s film debut and the final film of Donald Pleasence

18. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (New Zealand 2014) Loved it! The funniest goddamn vampire movie you will ever see 4.5/5

17. THE ONES BELOW (2015) Epic suspense fail when your audience can predict every plot twist 2.5/5

16. FOUND (2012) What sucks more than being 12 and getting bullied? Discovering your brother is a serial killer 3/5

15. LAKE MUNGO (Australia 2008) Utterly unnerving indie gem in faux-doc style. Don’t miss this one! 4.5/5

14. PURGE 3: ELECTION YEAR (2016) Very shoot ’em up this time and LOUD. The tonight was much scarier 2.5/5

13. BONE TOMAHAWK (2015) A horror western with cannibals starring Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson? Yes please 4.5/5

12. BAD MILO! (2013) This is why men don’t give birth. Utter schlocky nonsense totally worth it for Peter Stormare 3/5

11. ZOMBEAVERS (2014) Because sometimes you just have to opt for the truly ridiculous. Raunchy, gory fun 3.5/5

10. THE BOY (2016) Lauren Cohen gets nanny gig in English mansion. The Innocents meets Pinocchio meets Chucky?? Meh 2/5

9. BLEED (2016) Never go ghost hunting in an abandoned prison when you’re pregnant. Recycled schlock 1/5

8. MANIAC COP (1988) What’s not to love here? 1980s NYC, Tom Atkins, ‘s chin & eyebrows, & Raimi cameo

7. HOLIDAYS (2016) Very meh horror anthology that tries too hard to be clever. That bathtub scene though 2/5

6. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR What part of don’t open the goddamn door do you not understand?! Nothing new here 2.5/5

5. GREEN ROOM (2016) Punk rockers get a gig in a den of neo-Nazis and see something they shouldn’t. Intense!  4/5

4. SINISTER 2 (2015) Predictable jump scares pale in comparison to outstanding frightening unforgettable original 2.5/5

3. BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2013) British sound engineer gets movie job in 70s Italy. Lynch-like weirdness ensues 3/5

2. THE BIRDS Small coastal town besieged by shrieking, screeching homicidal birds. Calculated silences=pure dread 5/5

1. CRIMSON PEAK Lush, gothic romance filled with terrible beauty and dread by the master 3.5/5

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My Favorite Movie Endings of All Time

the_end_small_2Just recently a friend and I had an animated discussion about our favorite movie endings. It turned out to be so much fun that I thought I’d compile my picks into a blog post.

Neither one of us is a rabid cinephile or film critic; we just love movies. So our respective lists turned out to be hodge-podges of personal favorites and guilty pleasures (as opposed to a more sober, hypercritical assemblage of undisputed “classics”). Sorry no Casablanca, Chinatown or Citizen Kane here. That’s not to say that I don’t take the movies on my list seriously; I take them very seriously. I love them all. Especially their endings.

BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!

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A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere

Revival, Volume One: You’re Among Friends (Revival #1) ★★★★
Tim Seely (Story), Mike Norton (Graphic Art)
Image Comics, 2012

Revival 1This is a re-read for me, in preparation of hitting up Volume 2, and I gotta say, I’m still excited about what this series has to offer. It’s a claustrophobic tale set in a quarantined Midwestern town that has recently fallen prey to a rash of re-animations. The dead are coming back to life, but not in the way you think, or with the same dramatic gore and apocalyptic consequences we have come to expect from the walking dead.

This isn’t a traditional zombie tale. First and foremost it’s a story about a cast of characters thrust into a very unusual and distressing situation. What happens when the dead and gone who have been grieved and laid to rest suddenly barge back into our lives again, not just walking, but talking? With needs, and fears, and memories?

What happens when the outside world beyond the borders of your sleepy little town becomes fearful and paranoid and only wants to contain whatever mystery is unfolding in your backyard, holding you under scrutiny and behind roadblocks leaving your town to not only fend for itself but ride out whatever traumas yet to unfold?

Officer Dana Cypress is caught right in the middle of the inexplicable “revivals” along with her sister Martha (or Em) who has a terrible secret. Then there’s the rookie journalist May who senses there’s much more going on in the town than meets the eye.

revival 1 sceneThis is a story that takes its time, and by the end leaves you with way more questions than answers. But the pull of the mystery is so addictive, you’ll be desperate to get your hands on the next volume. It’s a story that’s rich in atmosphere, a creepy-crawly sensation of impending doom, but doom that’s on a more personal scale of individual tragedy, rather than unleashing a free-floating anxiety for the fate of the entire human race.

The graphic art is crisp and clean and terrifying where it needs to be. The nature of small town life is realistically portrayed and the panel after panel of snow and cold had me thinking of Fargo and that a lot can happen in the middle of nowhere. My one complaint is that the three main women characters (Dana, her sister Em, and reporter May) are very similar in appearance, at least at first glance. I was better equipped to tell them apart this time around, but it still took some practice. It’s a shame that they should be artistically rendered so similarly, because as characters, each woman is very different with her own distinctive voice and personality.

Do yourself a favor and give this one a try.

The Walking Dead – where do we go from here?

walking dead 17As promised, here is a link to the project I just finished working on with fellow Goodreader, Kemper. Entitled This Zombie Apocalypse is Getting Too Depressing, Kemper and I weigh in on the unrelenting darkness of the series and talk about whether or not Kirkman has gone too far with this latest volume – Something To Fear.

***Spoiler-phobes beware*** This is a frank discussion of the comics up to Volume 17 (Issue #102) and spoilers for AMC’s Walking Dead Season 3 finale.

About us:

When not canning food in preparation for the coming zombie apocalypse, Trudi writes the Busty Book Bimbo blog in which she reviewed the latest Walking Dead collection..

The basement of Kemper’s Book Blog is filled with toilet paper and Scotch. That’s not because of zombies. He just likes to keep a lot of both on hand. He also reviewed The Walking Dead Vol. 17..

Kirkman, how could you?!

walking dead 17
The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear ★★★★
Kirkman, Adlard, Rathburn
Image Comics, 2012

***Warning: The following review contains spoilers!!!***

Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn’t raise no fools.

But that hurt. A lot. You’d think I’d be so numb by now that nothing would really get past my defenses anymore but apparently I can still be shivved right in the back and fall to my knees screaming. Watching Glenn go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. So prolonged. So bloody. And that final guttural scream for Maggie. Do_Not_Want_-_300::clutches chest::[Watching Glen go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. (hide spoiler)]

This new baddie Negan is a real piece of psychotic work. He makes the Governor look like a misunderstood, tree-hugging hippie who just wishes the kids these days would stay off his damn lawn.

Where can the story possibly go from here? Watching Rick break was tough. I know he’s told the community they’re rolling over…for now, but he’s obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan’s camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that.

Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it’s going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick’s group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won’t there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos.[Watching Rick break was tough. I know he’s told the community they’re rolling over…for now, but he’s obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan’s camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that. Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it’s going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick’s group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won’t there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos. (hide spoiler)]

Can’t get enough Walking Dead? Stay tuned. I’m working on a project with fellow blogger and Goodreads compadre  Kemper where we weigh in on the unrelenting darkness of the series and talk about whether or not Kirkman has gone too far with this latest volume and Glenn’s awful death. It will be appearing exclusively on Shelf Inflicted and I will link to it here when it becomes available.

Literary zombies is not an oxymoron

The Reapers Are the Angels ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Alden Bell
Holt Paperbacks, 2010

Alden Bell proves that the literary zombie novel is not an oxymoron.

reapersAbout zombies, you can say I’m … earnest. I love how they can be so many different things at once – pathetic, savage, terrifying, unrelenting. Zombies are shambling and starving, haunted and lost. They ramble and feed, yet there is a hint, always just a hint, of some long lost memory of who they used to be. Nothing captures that better than the scene from Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead when the zombies come in waves to the mall:

“Why do they come here?”
“Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”

More than anything else, I love what zombies can teach us about ourselves because surviving a zombie apocalypse is going to cost you: your soul, your sanity, your faith, your humanity. Like any zombie story worth its salt, The Reapers are the Angels is not about the zombies. It’s about the survivors — the ones left hanging on by their fingertips to the jagged edges of a dying world that just won’t die and stay dead. A world that shifts and groans under the weight of biting, grasping corpses.

Temple knows this world. She’s been hanging on by her fingertips to the jagged edges for ten years, since her orphanage was overrun when she was just five years old. Now she is fifteen, fierce and feral. She might long for human connections and to find her place in the world, but the basics of human interaction and social etiquettes have passed her by. What she knows is survival at any cost, and it has cost her plenty. She can’t help but think: “I got a devil in me.”But Temple’s not a monster. Even as he hunts her across the country, Moses Todd explains: “I’ve seen evil, girl, and you ain’t it”. This is a redemption story, because really, that is what Temple seeks even though she cannot articulate that basic human need in herself, for forgiveness, for someone to lay their hands on her and tell her she’s just a girl after all, and not an abomination.

Tor paperback cover, 2011

Tor paperback cover, 2011

I love the title of this book – there is something so poetic, so portent, so Old Testament medieval about it. The Reapers are the Angels … yes, I want to read that book. I want to know what that means. Alden Bell delivers prose to match that is so achingly beautiful in its stream-of-consciousness style. I love the heavy Southern dialect that’s been bastardized by time and trauma.

You give me a compass that tells good from bad, and boy I’ll be a soldier of the righteous truth. But them two things are a slippery business, and tellin them apart might as well be a blind man’s guess.

This is a short novel that manages to be epic in its themes and scope, all at once horrific, heartbreaking and rife with tragedy. The violence is explicit but even as the blood and stinking offal pour across the page the book’s magnitude and terrible beauty is never in dispute. Alden Bell is writing Southern Gothic set in a landscape where things are not “gross” but rather “grotesque”.

What more can I say? Read this book.

View all my reviews

The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology

The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology ★★★

new deadChristopher Golden (Editor)

I’m giving this three stars because overall, the stories are okay and several are completely forgettable. But I also encourage you to pick up this anthology because a few are outstanding and it would be a crying shame if you missed them.

Making it to Outstanding:

What Maisie Knew by David Liss:

At turns creepy, sick and disturbing; absolute compelling reading. If this premise has come up before, it was new to me and I loved it. The zombies are not the monsters of this story. The squick factor is off the charts.

Kids and Their Toys by James A. Moore:

Think The Body meets The Girl Next Door. There is a reason why children shouldn’t play with dead things. I haven’t been this creeped out since reading “Children of the Corn”.

Twittering from the Circus of the Dead by Joe Hill:

Mr. Hill hasn’t totally blown me away with his novels, but his short stories are EPIC and this one is no exception. If only all Twitter feeds were this engrossing and suspenseful! What starts out as a young girl’s whiny bitch-fest in installments of 140 characters or less, morphs into heart-stopping terror.

Family Business by Jonathan Maberry

Easily my favorite of the bunch just because Maberry took what were the ingredients of a major story and turned it into a kick-ass novel called Rot & Ruin. Read the novel first though because the short story contains major spoilers.

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