Archive for Dead of Night

7 Horror Films to Ruin your Christmas

Posted in Best Of, Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

It’s the holiday season – as the nights lengthen and the weather turns vicious, we turn to warm fires, bright lights, and wishes of wellbeing. At least, some of us do. For those who like their holidays with a dose of darkness, here is a list of films that capture the wickedness of winter.

  1. BLACK CHRISTMAS

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What other movie scores a murder scene with “O Holy Night”? Oft credited as the first ‘slasher’ film, this one takes place in a sorority house on the brink of winter break – but someone does not intend for the sisters to go home. Featuring a truly creepy villain (BILLY!) and one hell of a creepy ending, “Black Christmas” is great spirited terror. (Stay away from the gory remake – the 1974 version is where it’s at.)

  1. CRIMSON PEAK

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The director himself claims that this is not a horror film, and to a point I agree – but this traditional Gothic yarn is perfect for a cold winter night. The visuals are stunning, the performances are spot-on; and the titular house, embedded in drifts of red snow, is sure to become an icon. Best watched by a fire while the wind howls outside.

  1. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

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Encased in the bitter snows of Sweden, this understated masterpiece is one of the best vampire films ever made. Its exploration of innocence, loneliness, and intimacy are beautiful, but also deeply chilling. This is no Twilight – there is true evil at work here. Gorgeously shot, too, this is ideal for lonely winter viewing.

  1. RAVENOUS

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No winter is complete without a visit from the Wendigo! As discussed in a previous post, this film is brutally original and also true to its source legend. Set in the icy climes of frontier-era California, the story gives us our fair share of viscera, blood, and snowy spirits. Take some pointers for Christmas dinner, too.

  1. DEAD OF NIGHT

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While only one segment of this anthology relates to Christmas, the overall film has an atmosphere of fireside ghost stories gone horribly wrong. What begins as cozy becomes claustrophobic – but I won’t give too much away. No film delivers old-fashioned chills more darkly and stylishly.

  1. THE THING (1982)

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What better setting for a horror film than a snowed-in station in Antartica? Sticking closer to the source story than the original, and taking some cues from “At the Mountains of Madness,” John Carpenter’s classic is paranoid and claustrophobic – also sporting some of the grossest monsters in horror history. You think getting stuck with your relatives at Christmas is bad? Try spending December with the Thing.

  1. THE SHINING

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An obvious choice, but too perfect to ever exclude. Stanley Kubrick adapts Stephen King’s ghost story and turns it into a cosmic nightmare. The snowbound waste of the Overlook is pervaded by a sense of dread that only Blackwood can conjure – a massive force watching over. Part ghost thriller, part domestic drama, but ultimately a surreal assault of the senses, there is no better film for a dark snowy night.

Did we overlook anything particularly chilly? Let us know! And happy dark days, fellow ghouls.

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Films That Haunt Me (Halloween Edition): DEAD OF NIGHT

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy 2nd of October! Continuing on the theme of the month, I present the first of our Halloween-themed Films That Haunt Me.

When we think of classic horror from the 30’s and 40’s, we tend to recall the Universal monsters or Val Lewton’s psychological thrillers. My personal favorite from that era is a far cry from any of these offerings. Ahead of its time, brilliantly written, and ultimately, surprisingly terrifying, today we discuss DEAD OF NIGHT.

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This is perhaps one of the earliest anthology films, and it’s clear how it set the standard for the ones to come. It is structured around a house full of people, gathered for an undisclosed purpose, telling stories of their encounters with the supernatural – all to soothe the fears of a man who repeatedly dreams that he murders someone. Each story mounts in deadliness and terror, until the line between fiction and reality is blurred, then obliterated.

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It’s tragic that this film isn’t more readily available. Once you’ve seen it, you recognize how heavily it’s influenced everything else in the genre – from the Twilight Zone to Creepshow to any psychological-surreal horror out there. And it was made decades before most of its tropes were made standard. There’s creepy dreams, undead plot twists, one hell of an evil dummy, and a tremendously unsettling ending. I had a vague idea of what the film was when I sat down to watch it, and I did not expect it to frighten me so much. Subsequent viewings have not lessened that effect.

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What makes this film truly remarkable for me is the circumstance under which it was created. A British studio struggling to survive after World War II decides to make a horror film, a genre seen as sinful trash back in that day. What they end up creating is something so ambiguous and psychological, predating that subgenre of horror by perhaps twenty years, and changing the genre forever. That is something remarkable to me.

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As for the relation to October, this film captures the traditional spirit beautifully – an old dark house, telling scary stories, doubting the line between real and unreal, et cetera. The individual tales are ingenious, but the arching story is what really evokes the creepy atmosphere. This film holds up amazingly well, considering its age, and is perfect for a quiet night when the wind is moaning. Watch out – it might start circling your dreams, too.

Top 5 Haunted House Films

Posted in Best Of, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by smuckyproductions

I have a special place in my heart for good haunted house movies. So, in honor of an age-old genre and in anticipation of my new book that uses many of its tropes, here’s a few of my favorites.

5. The Changeling (1980)

This film, extremely influential in the genre, creeped me out beyond words. While not the most well-crafted movie, the storyline is inventive and very chilling, with a great twist and heart-pounding climax. The mansion is perfect, full of hidden rooms and cobwebs. Certain scenes – those who have seen this movie will remember a rubber ball – are wonderfully spooky, and the seance sequence is one of my favorites of all time. A must-see, especially around Halloween.

4. The Woman in Black (1989)

This isn’t really a haunted house movie (the ghost can travel) and it isn’t even a movie, as it was produced for TV, but I forgive this discrepancies. I enjoyed the remake, actually, but the original is one of the only films to manifest its ghost in a truly creepy way – most movies, when they reveal their spirit, loose tension because it just doesn’t look right. The titular character is just terrifying. Again, the atmosphere provided by Eel Marsh House and the misty English countryside is spooky as hell. This movie proves that nothing can beat the British in the 80’s for sheer eeriness. Impossible to find, but worth the search.

3. The Others (2001)

While arguably not a horror film, this quiet tale is horrific enough to include here – at 13, this movie scared the crap out of me. The atmosphere and setting are all perfect, claustrophobic but also large enough to cause fear of the darker corners. Kidman is brilliant, and her character is wonderfully complex. The children’s performances are shockingly good, too. This movie is much more creepy than frightening, but I’ll be honest, the piano scene sends chills up my spine. The ending could have been cheesy, but it’s subtle and beautifully done. A fantastic movie in every sense, and the perfect ghost story for a cold night.

2. The Innocents (1961)

An obvious addition to the list. This film, with its chilling music (can’t go wrong when you have a little girl singing) and dark themes, is fantastic for any genre. Here is another film to make its physical ghosts terrifically scary – when the first apparition appears to the fabulous Deborah Karr in the window, it’s impossible not to be creeped out. The mansion is gorgeous, full of atmosphere. The ambiguous ending – was it real, or is she crazy?? – is ahead of its time, and brilliant. It’s a unique movie, so much so that I was a little put off at first, but when you learn to appreciate it, it will never let you forget it.

And, DRUMROLL PLEASE….

1. The Haunting (1963)

Four years after I saw it for the first time, this movie remains one of the scariest I’ve ever seen… and nothing happens. There are some strange noises, some creepy wallpaper patterns, and a hysterical leading woman (a brilliant performance by Julie Harris), but that’s it. It’s a brilliant piece of cinema. Not only does it raise interesting questions about the nature of ghosts, it also introduces some terrifying ones. Hill House is beautiful and frightening all at once. The cast is amazing. The script is genius. I could go on. Skip the awful remake and see this one – arguably the scariest ghost film of all time.

Honorable Mentions

– Poltergeist: My first real horror film. Would be on this list, but it’s just a little too much for my taste now.

– Full Circle: A great performance by Mia Farrow, wonderful score, cool story – worth a look.

– The Amityville Horror (1979): Rather terrible in some senses, but who can forget Jody? Great memories with this one.

– Dead of Night (1945): This isn’t a 100% haunted house film, but I love it too much to ignore it – one of the stories, after all, involves ghosts.

– The Entity: Very cheesy but very scary, it’s dated but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.