Horror 365 Movie(ish) 177: Research Question

For those of you who don’t live in the colonies, it’s Memorial Day here in the States, a day to honor those who died in the performance of their military duties. The sad reality is that it also serves as a big sale day for mattresses, furniture, etc.

Other than that, it operates about the same way as a Spring Bank Holiday. If you know, you know. Generally it’s a good weekend to avoid public places, pull up the drawbridge, and hunker down in the bowels of Castle Blogferatu until everything blows over.

Plus it’s sunny out. Ugh.

But in the interest of folks who may have other plans, I’m gonna keep this really short today and merely pose a question: What’s one horror movie scene that disturbed/upset/traumatized you?

I’m asking for quasi-research purposes. I’d like to use folks’ answers in a future blog post. That’s all I’m gonna say about that for now. I want it to be a surprise. So…have it at. The Comments are open.

 

 

Horror 365 Movie(s) etc. 176: Questionable Opinions Part II

It turns out I’m not the only person whose horror movie notions might be considered a bit suspect. You might be thinking, “What?!?” Disagreement within the horror community? No surely not.” I know right? I’m as shocked as you are. For example, one of my favorite horror YouTubers, Nightmare Maven, airs her own Unpopular Horror Movie Opinions on a semi-regular basis. It’s always nice to know one is not alone, and so in solidarity, I humbly submit Questionable Opinions Part II.

#5 Bram Stoker was a crappy writer

Clearly Dracula is an important novel. Stoker without a doubt created one of the most iconic figures in literary history. I understand that. It’s also slow, tedious, and heavy-handed in terms of the various contradictions surrounding science vs. faith vs. nature, yada yada yada. And the only thing that could save the marginally more interesting Lair Of The White Worm from itself was Ken Russell.

#4 Plan 9 From Outer Space is not the worst movie ever made

A number of years ago, a close, dear friend of mine gifted me a book called The Fifty Worst Films Of All Time ( BIG shout out to Jorge–poet, host of the Monday night open mic at Venue On 35th, and creator of the annual Gloom House 757 haunt). Now, the book was published in 1978 so that list would no doubt be extremely different today. My point is, this movie is not on the list. At all. Nor is any other Ed Wood movie. I submit that this cliché is more often than not spouted as a knee-jerk reaction to the mere mention of the title or its director. I hasten to add that folks who think this haven’t seen The Creeping Terror, The Giant Claw, Manos: The Hands Of Fate, Robot Monster, or, I dunno, Forrest Gump.

And speaking of Ed Wood…

#3 Ed Wood was not the worst director ever

Ultimately this opinion may not be all that questionable. For one thing, he believed in and loved what he tried to do. Wood put everything into making whatever movie he was making regardless of whether it worked or not. That gets a helluvalot of admiration from me. According to Jim Knipfel over at Den Of Geek, Wood makes some insightful choices in Glen Or Glenda. Plus, come on, there was Tor Johnson. Plus plus, you know you’re watching an Ed Wood movie every bit as clearly as you know you’re watching Kubrick. Or Wes Anderson. Or Shyamalan. Or Hitchcock.

#2 Bela Lugosi was not a great actor

I have never been a fan of the 1931 Dracula. Again, I get that it’s important. It is indeed a landmark film and equally as responsible as Stoker for elevating ol’ Drac to his iconic status–maybe even more so. My dislike is partly because I just don’t groove on vampires, partly because of #1 above, but largely because I just don’t get Lugosi as an actor. Don’t get me wrong. For one thing, I understand that he started out in silent movies. And I love me some Lugosi movies. The Black Cat (the one with Karloff, not Rathbone) is a perennial fave, as are Bowery At Midnight, Bride Of The Monster, and The Devil Bat. But not exactly De Niro.

#1 Zombies have always been able to run

It pains me to admit this, especially since I said the exact opposite in my first round of Questionable Opinions. Specifically, I pontificated thusly:

You might argue that the first zombie we see in Night Of The Living Dead does, in fact, run after the car, but it’s more of an off-balance lunge than a full-on sprint.

Well, in performing my due diligence, I took yet another look at Night Of The Living Dead and, well, there ain’t no denying it. He runs at the car. My apologies. Zombies still can’t come up outta the ground, though, and that’s a hill I will die on.

And that’s my latest list of unsubstantiated, purely subjective insights for you to make of what you will. Feel free to agree, disagree, or air your own grievances in the Comments.

Horror 365 Movie(s) 175: 5 Lesser Known Folk Horror Movies

I can say with absolute confidence that my favorite horror subgenre has to be Folk Horror. Culty stuff is great, but a cult alone is not enough to elevate a movie to Folk Horror status. Look at, for example, The Sacrament or Holy Ghost People–fine movies in their own right, definitely cult-centered, but just as definitely not Folk Horror.

What’s the difference? Well, one big one is sacrifice. A cult may well engaged in some kind of sacrifice, but Folk Horror specifically makes that sacrifice part of a ritual, usually pagan, often ancient, and frequently in support of fertility, maintaining a specific culture/way of life, and/or worship of some very old god(s). Even better, Folk Horror is enjoying a small resurgence with, of course, Midsommar.

Arguably, there would have been no Midsommar without Robin Hardy’s masterpiece, The Wicker Man–the major forerunner of practically all folk horror. If you’ve somehow never seen it, do yourself a favor, stop what you’re doing, and watch it. Then we can talk about 5 Lesser Known Folk Horror Movies.

#5 The Lair Of The White Worm

No way could I put together a list like this without Ken Russell. Based on a lesser known Bram Stoker novel, The Lair Of The White Worm tells the story of a Scottish archaeology student (pre-Dr. Who Peter Capaldi sporting some seriously Roger Daltrey/Tommy-lookin’ locks) unearthing a huge snake skull. This puts him in contact with Lord James d’Ampton (a boyish Hugh Grant) whose ancestry is somehow connected to all this. The movie is psychedelic, fantastical, and certainly owes some allegiance to Lovecraft’s “The Rats In The Walls” and Stephen King’s “Jerusalem’s Lot.”


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#4 The Wicker Tree

You don’t hear a helluvalot about Robin Hardy’s 2011 followup to The Wicker Man. It’s not really a sequel so much as a companion to the original and delves into similar ideas. This time, an evangelical Texas couple journeys into the Scottish Lowlands to do some soul savin’ amongst the residents. Naturally this takes place during the local May Day celebration, and the salvation attempts meet with hostile resistance then go completely sideways fast. Not quite as effective over all as The Wicker Man, but The Wicker Tree’s final act is just about as bleak and disturbing. It’s also possible that the end of the movie has some resonance with Midsommar.


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#3 The Borderlands

A somewhat recent addition to the subgenre, and the only found footage entry, 2013’s The Borderlands follows 3 Vatican investigators sent to a 13th Century church in Devon to check out reports of the supernatural. These events do indeed manifest themselves with increasing intensity, and it turns out that, surprise of surprises, the church was in fact built over the site of a temple to an unknown pagan deity. Oops. I won’t give away any of the other twists and turns other than to say that there is a distinctly Lovecraftian twist in store.


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#2 Robin Redbreast

I’ve reviewed this at length before, but it’s certainly worth a spot on this list. Aired in 1970, Robin Redbreast is the earliest of these five entries. It’s the tale of Norah who flees London for the southern English countryside after her relationship falls apart. Here she catches the attention of some very strange locals, one of whom she sleeps with and conceives a child. Norah becomes convinced that the locals plan to sacrifice her and take the child. The final shot is a simple framing of the four locals against the house’s stonework, but the effect is downright chilling.


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Honorable Mentions

Children Of The Corn, Kill List, The Owl Service, Penda’s Fen

#1 The Blood On Satan’s Claw

I debated whether or not to put this on the list at all. Anyone who’s familiar with The Wicker Man has probably seen or at least heard about The Blood On Satan’s Claw, and lemme tell ya, it’s a weird one. Predating The Wicker Man by a couple of years, this movie possibly ushered in the age of folk horror. It could be contended that this claim should be made for Robin Redbreast, but The Blood On Satan’s Claw arguably had a wider release and audience. A farmer uncovers a one-eyed skull in his field, spinning the surrounding village into turmoil and disarray. Widescale possession, a Black Mass, murder, weird patches of fur showing up on people’s bodies–trippy stuff.


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And there you go, a decent little Folk Horror primer if I do say so. As ever, drop me your favorites in the Comments.