The Wisdom Of Crocodiles

*Originally written in 2003

Decapitated Zombie Vampire Bloodbath: #101: The Wisdom of ...

A moving, beautifully told, and original vampire movie, and one which has vanished into the unknown. Jude Law, probably in his best performance, is a modern day vampire. Naturally, this being a modern movie which strives to be original, Law’s character has few of the vampire traits we would recognise; he can live in sunlight, crucifixes hold no power over him, he cannot transform into other animals, he does not have fangs. However, he is semi-immortal, and must drink human blood to survive. Indeed, it is this fact which drives the story, and it is a tragedy rather than a horror. With great acting, beautiful and subtle camera-work, a touching story and a fitting soundtrack, The Wisdom of Crocodiles bears all the markings of a good movie; unfortunately it is little known, and of course has flaws which likely hindered it from becoming more widely seen.

Law is Stephen, an attractive, clever, charming young man who happens to be a vampire. In his quest for the ‘perfect’ woman who can save him from his torturous life, a strong woman with the ability to love him, literally changing her blood. All the women he has found in the past have been scared of him, so he has killed them. When he does this, he takes a fang like object from them. In his desperate search for love he finds Anna, (Lowensohn) a beautiful young woman and they begin to fall for each other. She is enchanted by him, but is also cautious, and when he saves her from a gang of muggers she becomes scared. The truth soon comes out in parts, and all the while the police are interested in Stephen’s involvement in the death of his ex-girlfriend. The story builds to a suitable emotional climax, and never at any point can we predict what will happen.

The film failed at the box-office because it is very downbeat, and only features one big name star. The director is also little known, but shows immense talent and gets the best from the cast. Hoffman’s script has some of the best dialogue in years, clever, and full of metaphor and depth. It is definitely a film crying out to be rewatched as you will find something new with each viewing. There is imagery to suit the script, and Law’s charismatic performance could not have been bettered. Lowensohn is also very good, her intensity growing as she finds out more about Stephen. Of course, as a vampire movie people will expect blood and scares. Here there is little blood shed and few scenes of violence, though all are handled suitably, and of course it is not that kind of film. The cop storyline adds further depth, but for some the proceedings will be too slow. The film has its own pace, and rarely gets out of first gear, but this is the way it should be. An underrated film, but as Jude Law’s stardom rises hopefully he will not forget this, and his fans will discover it.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisdom Of Crocodiles!

Knock Knock

I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, but I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Eli Roth. I love his enthusiasm, and the films he makes are generally made with love and have solid ideas driving them, but the execution is almost always lacking and he seems to give up part way through and inject unnecessary humour. I have nothing against humour in horror, but his always falls flat. Knock Knock is a remake of the notorious, yet little known 70s exploitation film Death Game – but is it a film which allows Roth’s strengths to overcome his weaknesses?

The film begins promisingly enough – Reeves is playing a wealthy husband and father who lives in a post modern glacial home. One night, while his family is out of town, two unfathomably sexy young women knock knock at his door claiming to need help finding a party. One thing leads to another and before long we are treated to a sleazy threesome. In true Bunuel style, the girls don’t seem willing, or know how to leave – all the more troubling when neighbour Colleen Camp stops by disapprovingly and when the girls destroy some artwork in the house. As matters progress, the sleaze and nonsense increase to silly levels.

Although that promising start eventually dissipates into a watered down tables turned version of Funny Games, with a lot less to say, it’s still stupidly watchable in the same way most exploitation movies are. The cast is a lot of fun, even if it is a little cringe-inducing seeing some of the things Reeves gets up to in the movie. There are many moments when the girls’ plan could have been foiled or come crumbling down, but silly contrived circumstance gets in the way. I’m not sure what precisely the film is trying to say, but it comes off as both hating men and women equally while still glamourizing the hollow and violent nature of both sides. It doesn’t come close to being a horror movie, and it’s not particularly funny to be considered a comedy – exploitation and a mish mash of genre tropes mean it’s more like a sleazy morality tale where the lesson seems to be ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’. Still, for all its faults, its more enjoyable than a lot of the po-faced horror out there, and it’s brief enough that you’re not sacrificing much by giving it your time.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Knock Knock!

Zombieland

Ever since the trio of Shaun Of The Dead, Dawn Of The Dead Remake, and 28 Days Later, zombies have seen a resurgence in media that hasn’t really gone away since. We’ve had a number of big budget movies and shows, and an even larger number of low budget and indie titles. Zombieland falls into the former category, and even though I’m a self-confessed zombie and horror junkie I didn’t get around to watching it until 2017. So, how does it fare against the myriad other horror comedy crossovers?

It fairs quite well. Make no mistake – I’m no great fan of Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, or Jesse Eisenberg but none of them managed to irritate me during the course of the movie, and everything which the cast and crew attempted, worked amicably. There are laughs, both visceral and script based, the gore isn’t overloaded so as to put of sensitive non-horror fans yet present enough and wrapped up in entertaining action to appease those who like a bit of red on them.

The story and structure is all quite tongue in cheek – both mocking and paying skewed reverence to the genre. There has been an outbreak which has led to zombies everywhere, and one geek loner is travelling through the US and surviving following his self-made rules. As any zombie fan will attest – we all have our own rules for surviving our own imagined apocalypse. Along the way he meets Woody Harrelson’s character – a piss-take composite of several prior Harrelson creations and the conniving sisters played by Stone and Breslin. Part Road movie, part Crime caper, part comedy horror, the disparate parts rarely feel like they are pulling in opposing directions and the highlights are of course the Bill Murray cameo sequence and the finale set in an Amusement Park. If you know me, you’ll know I love movies set around or involving Amusement or Theme Parks.

At the time of writing, I haven’t yet watched the sequel but based upon how much I enjoyed this one I imagine it won’t be long before I catch up to it. Let us know in the comments what you think of Zombieland!

Pandorum

Horror movies set in space inevitably draw comparisons to the Alien Franchise – what else is there to compare to? Jason X? Somewhere between that zenith and nadir lies everything else. It’s a sub-genre or setting which has seen some resurgence in the last decade, but one which nevertheless feels underused. I would assume the very nature of the setting would send budgets skyrocketing. Pandorum is somewhere closer to Event Horizon on the scale and like that 90’s cult hit it raises a lot of ideas and questions, yet tends to frustrate more often than it delights.

Pandorum is a film which ultimately frustrates more than it delights. While it seems to know what it wants to be, the clashing of genres and ideas along with a few unusual choices, prevent the film from being entirely coherent and enjoyable. Starting off with the casting, we have Dennis Quaid – an everyman actor who most wouldn’t consider to be an A-Lister, but someone who has plenty of hits under his belt and is respected. Playing alongside him is Ben Foster, who I consider to be the finest actor of his generation yet seems fated to never break through to the mainstream or critical recognition he deserves. The film largely follows this pair for the bulk of the film, with a couple of curious cameos to keep things from being too stilted. Both actors carry the film well, but based on their names alone it would be difficult to pull in a huge audience.

Looking next at the story – you’d be forgiven for thinking this is an all out space horror movie, with scares, monsters, action – but it’s both more claustrophobic and appeals to the internal rather than the visceral. There is action, but it’s spread unevenly between bouts of dialogue, philosophy, and procedure – there is horror, but it’s closely knit to those moments of action. It’s part survival, part mystery, and I wasn’t convinced that the two mesh successfully. I’m fully prepared to stand in the minority on this and I know there will be plenty of dedicated fans after watching – for me, I wanted a little more tension in both the survival and action aspects. The script has a lot to say, but traps its more interesting aspects under what is ultimately an unsatisfying story more dependent on its central twist. Again, it’s difficult to see what sort of audience the film was meant to draw.

Where the film does mostly succeed is in its interior designs – the craft itself is slimy and dark, labyrinthine, and filled with endless corridors and connecting pits and crawlspaces. Director Christian Alvart does his best work in the scenes of our survivors traversing the giant ship in various fetch quests, allowing the sense of mammoth scale to collide with the ironic claustrophobia of being alone. Effects wise – it’s not a huge budget film, but both CG, practical, and make-up are good for what they could achieve.

While I don’t think the movie is ‘good’, I don’t believe it deserved the critical and commercial drubbing it received. It’s fine as a cult film and it’s strong enough that it has and should continue to find fans – at the very least it should have made back its budget, but whether or not it is deserving of the rumoured sequels or prequels I’ll leave up to you. It’s another interesting space-horror film which doesn’t hit the mark, but which is worth catching for Sci-Fi fans still hoping to fill that post-Alien, post-Pitch Black void.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Pandorum!

Girls Against Boys

I know, I’m slacking with the movie reviews at the moment. Which is only shooting myself in the foot as those were always what gave me the most traffic when I started the blog. It’s just that, recently, the music posts are taking my interest and they’re much easier to write. With the music ones, I’m just listening and typing, while the movie reviews I put 5% more effort into. Of course, I’m still posting all of the lists and writing a lot in the background which is zapping my creative juices. Having said that, I do have a tonne of old movie reviews written in the early 2000s that I haven’t yet published here – they’re not the most enlightening and I can’t be arsed updating them – so catch#22 – do I bother posting them and risk ridicule, or take the time and effort to update them when I’m a lazy bugger? Having said that, I also have a load of less old album reviews which I could be posting too. For whatever reason, I just keep pumping out new crap instead of old.

Girls Against Boys then. Yes, this is a movie review for anyone who hasn’t been scared off by that unrelated intro. I’m planning to post a few more movie reviews, that’s all I’m saying. I can’t recall where I first heard about Girls Against Boys, but it had been on my radar for a few years. Starring Danielle Panabaker (possibly why it was on my radar) as Shae, a Student who is having a relationship with an older, married man. When he scorns her, she drowns her sorrows at a bar and meets colleague Lu and bunch of standard Bro scumbags. One of the scumbags doesn’t take no for an answer and rapes Shae. If there’s a common thread running through the film, it’s that people are scumbags – men, women, single, married, young, old. I’m sure that’s not the intent and that the film was designed to be an empowering rape revenge feminist film, but the message is muddied to prevent it from being meaningful.

The film’s central problem doesn’t lie in the handling of the sexual assault, or the subsequent violence, but more in the handling of the two protagonists. Lu is clearly unhinged from the beginning but rather than being some powerful avenging angel, she instead devolves into a crazy white woman trope – an obsessive just as evil as the clueless men she kills, except more calculating. She comes across as someone who will attack at the merest sniff of male sexuality; yes, those she attacks are, at best assholes with boners and at worst, serial rapists, but the fact that she attacks with little provocation in some cases, and ultimately that she is revealed to want Shae for herself paints her as just another collection of tropes shoved inside an alluring body. Shae seems a little to easily led along the path of destruction – from the outside I can understand the desire for revenge, but there is little inner anguish or display of such drive or emotion. Neither actress is at fault here, rather the writing and direction – muddled when it should have been clear, and focused on violence instead of turmoil. The flawed cherry on top is the nailed on ‘shock’ ending which closes the film suggesting Shae is now the obsessed, or the possessed, even though she has no reason to be. It’s a tacky, groundless ending which serves no purpose other than to further muddy those already churning waters.

Elsewhere the movie works. As mentioned, the two leads are captivating while the assortment of side characters play up to their roles as Type A to Type Z scumbags efficiently. There are a couple of exceptions to the scumbag rule – again no complaints with the performances, and one character does elicit a drop or two of sympathy. Director Austin Chick doesn’t dwell on the sexual assault – this is in no way in the same league as something like Revenge or I Spit On Your Grave in terms of graphic depictions or exploitation which makes the film all the more frustrating – this could have been a more powerful piece dealing with how women are viewed in society, with how such crimes are investigated or ignored, and how the victim is often made to feel guilty or forced into finding justice outside of the law. Instead it feels like Single White Female for a new generation, but without the conviction or smarts to decide what it wants to be or say.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Girls Against Boys!

 

TTT – The Shock Waves 100!

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for another overlong list – yay! I’ve been listening to the Shock Waves podcast for a while now – for a anyone who doesn’t know it features four horror fans (who also work in the industry) chatting about their love of horror, which movies they have seen recently, and then in the second half they bring in a guest – typically a horror legend/actor/director/effects guy/distributor etc. It’s a great listen. Anyway, I recently listened to their 100th episode (which is actually a couple of years old now), which sees the team of four picking 100 movies which they all agree upon, that they feel every horror fan, and every film fan, needs to see. Naturally, I wanted to give my thoughts, which absolutely no-one asked for.

So below I’m going to list the films below and give a couple of one-liners on each. I’ll give some semblance of form by splitting each movie into three parts – have I seen it, is it in my top movies of the release year, and a brief sentence explaining my high level thoughts. As always, stick your thoughts in the comments!

28 Days Later

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Brought the zombie genre running and screaming into the new Millennium.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y (Favourite Horror Movie Of All Time)

My Thoughts: Yes, it’s my favourite Horror Movies Of All Time. That about covers it.

Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A (But probably)

My Thoughts: One of the earliest and still finest examples of merging Horror and Comedy, and a great gateway film for younger viewers to be introduced to the world of Monsters.

Alien

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s the critical pick for best Sci-Fi horror. It’s deceptively simple – unstoppable killer in space stalks ill prepared crew. It’s basically another Slasher movie, but with one of Cinema’s best Monsters doing the killing.

Angel Heart

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: A stylish mix of noir and horror and boobs. It’s good, though I don’t love it as much as the Shockers.

Angst

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

An American Werewolf In London

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: I’d agree it’s the best example of horror comedy out there. It’s also a fairly downbeat movie, even with the laughs. Jenny Agutter is gorgeous, the creature work is superb, and it has some classic jump-scares.

Asylum

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: For the longest time it has been my favourite anthology (outside of Creepshow). The wraparound actually makes sense, and each of the stories is strong. I saw this one young, probably why it has stayed with me.

Audition

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Classy, confusing, creepy.  Stylish, scary, soul-scarring.

Basket Case

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I like the first one, but my more or less dislike of the series brings down my enjoyment of the first – something about the creature effects and camp sounds in the later movies once I saw them took away from how I view the first.

The Battery

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

The Beyond

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s Fulci doing what Fulci does, but dialled up to 69, with just enough Lovecraft to nudge the WTFery into the next realm.

Black Christmas

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: A fine slasher, but one I came to later than most so it had a lesser impact.

Black Sabbath

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

The Blob

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s better than the original and it has some yummy 80s effects. I must revisit it as it’s been too long.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: I loved this when it was first released, a big budget sumptuous, serious vampire movie with a legitimate cast and director – and that rare example of such a thing being done correctly.

The Bride Of Frankenstein

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A (But probably)

My Thoughts: Probably James Whale’s best movie. He has a few classics.

The Brood

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Mehhh, I always classed it as a lesser Cronenberg movie, but it’s been probably 20 years since I’ve seen it so I suppose I should go back again.

Cabin In The Woods

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s basically a Whedon movie with lots of Buffy related shenanigans, so of course I was going to love it. It’s also very funny and clever too.

Candyman

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s funny how life imitates art. Or is it the other way around. The film itself became something of an Urban Legend when I was young, when it was released. Older siblings would explain the Bloody Mary-esque plot to creep out the younger kids, and I was somewhere in the middle, intrigued by the vision of a hooked man hunting down, well, anyone.

Cannibal Holocaust

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year:

My Thoughts: It’s not for the faint of heart, not really because it’s overly bloody or obscene, but because of how grimy and docu-real it feels. It’s cheap and nasty like an Abel Ferrara movie, and it gets under your skin. Plus there’s the animal torture stuff. Plus an all time great main theme.

Carrie

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: King’s first book and King’s first movie – it does come across as dated and cheesy now, but it still features two great lead performances and De Palma sense of style brings the most out of the shocks.

Cat People

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year:  N/A (but probably)

My Thoughts:

Cemetery Man

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: One in a long line of bizarre zombie movies which tries to do its own thing, this one blends comedy, horror, romance (of sorts) and introspection as one man’s malaise deepens.

The Changling

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s another I came to late – I saw it in pieces when I was young – but it never had the effect on me that it seems to have on everyone else. It’s certainly moody and downbeat, but others love it a lot more than I do.

Child’s Play

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Some good performances and effects, and the whole series is entertaining, but at the end of the day – it’s still a fucking doll; punt that shit.

Christine

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Lesser Carpenter, and lesser King for me, this tale of obsession has some good performances, some great effects, but the soundtrack and the scares aren’t as impressive as most of Carpenter’s work and it’s one I rarely revisit.

Creepshow

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s probably my most loved anthology – Romero, King, ideas, comic, gore, laughs – what else do you want?

The Conjuring

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: Of all the modern series, The Conjuring manages to be the best melding of classic scares and atmosphere, newer sensibilities and fresh ideas, and a good cast attempting to make something legitimate.

Dawn Of The Dead

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s the greatest Zombie movie ever made. It’s one of the best horror movies ever made. It passes from being merely a great movie, to an all time movie, to one which is rarely far from my thoughts.

Braindead

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s a top 5 all time horror comedy for me, one of the bloodiest movies you’ll ever see, and one which will unquestionably make you laugh your ass off.

Deathdream

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Demon Knight

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s a long time since I saw this – I think I’ve only seen it once, in my early teens. I remember enjoying it well enough at the time.

Demons

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s a fun time in its own right, but I truly do think this one would benefit from a remake – or maybe the time it would have had a decent remake has since passed. It’s the premise I love more than the execution.

The Descent

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: I must say I didn’t care about, or remotely think about, the fact the cast is all women/any feminist issues, until several watches later. All I cared about was that it was a kick-ass movie. It’s not as flawless as some – I think too many of the characters are similar and similar looking, but as far as claustrophobic horror goes, there aren’t many better/

Don’t Look Now

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s heartbreaking, stylish, unique, haunting. I know a lot of people won’t appreciate the approach but it’s a lyrical, layered movie.

Drag Me To Hell

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: From lyrical and layered, to cats, gypsies, and saliva. This is pure entertainment which delivers precisely what it promises – scares, laughs, and fun.

Event Horizon

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I’ve personally found it overrated, but I’m not going to moan at the people who love it. I think there’s a better movie in here than what we got, but it’s still okay.

Evil Dead

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s Evil Dead – no brainer.

Evil Dead 2

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: See above

The Exorcist

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: See above – but adding that it’s one of a very short list of horror movies which garnered critical acclaim from those outside the horror community.

The Exorcist III

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I need to see it again, but it’s a fun movie which is better than it has any right to be, and tops it off with some impressive, memorable scares.

Eyes Without A Face

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: One of those foreign horror movies which horror fans quickly find when they start branching out. It’s best to see this early in your Odyssey, but it’s still shocking and surprising after all these years.

The Fly

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Possibly Cronenberg’s most accessible and well-known body horror movie, it made stars of Goldblum and Davies, and features some of the best make-up and effects ever put on screen.

The Fog

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s one of the great ghost movies and one which doesn’t get as much praise as some of Carpenter’s works. It’s an exercise in atmosphere which every budding filmmaker should see.

Friday The 13th 4

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Lets be clear; in terms of the great trilogy of horror franchises, Friday The 13th is dead last in terms of quality. The original is clearly the best, but it’s barely on terms with the mid tier Elm Street and Halloween sequels. Part 2 is okay, three is a laugh-fest, Part 4 is the Corey Feldman one, 5 is trash, 6 is marginally better… you get the idea.

Fright Night

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I like it, I saw it young, it just didn’t have the profound impact on me of say, The Lost Boys. It’s one I revisit less than others so it’s probably due another watch.

The Funhouse

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I’m not sure what this is doing on the list, beyond the fact that it’s Tobe Hooper. It’s fun, but it never feels more than just another 80s Slasher. Again, it’s the premise I love more than the film we got.

Get Out

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: I like it. Is it the greatest horror movie ever, or of the year it was released – no. But credit for making people who don’t usually watch or care about our dirty little movies sit up and take notice.

Habit

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Halloween

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Nuff said.

The Haunting

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Any number of films on this list I can call out as being must sees for aspiring film-makers, but The Haunting should be one of the first. Atmosphere, tension, sound, and how to make a terrifying film without a lick of gore or obvious scares.

Hellraiser

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: There’s something seductive about Hellraiser, which is apt. It’s bloody, grim, imaginative, and has a style which I don’t believe has been coined yet – neo-gothic? Gothic Noir? Post-gore? Sado-masochistic appreciation?

The Hitcher

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: I don’t remember when I first saw The Hitcher. I was pre-teen in any case. It blew my mind. It still does.

House Of The Devil

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: It’s a great love-letter, like several Ti West movies are, but it’s more than that as he seeks to and successfully makes a film which is more than a series of nods and winks.

Insidious

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: A dry run for The Conjuring, but it’s more twisted cousin. The first one is great, the rest are increasingly silly and convoluted, but this one has scares never seen before.

Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: A film with an idea and a twist so good that I used to tell school friends and kids about it, have them hanging on every word, and have them shocked by my retelling of it. Which, looking back now kind of spoiled the movie for them, but still made them all go off and watch it.

Jacob’s Ladder

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s a very odd movie, there isn’t a lot like it, and it make me question why there aren’t more war/PTSD related horror movies. With lizards and chiropractors.

Jaws

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Perhaps the greatest gateway horror movie of them all.

Just Before Dawn

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Some of the make-up is cool, but it’s a very silly film. It’s impressive thatit ever got made, with its premise, with how amateurish it all is, and it’s definitely worth seeing, but I wouldn’t have it anywhere near any sort of Top 100 list.

Let The Right One In

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Maybe the first of the new wave of classy horror (as opposed to elevated horror), it’s a chilling, thought-provoking, beautifully shot and acted film with doses of grisly action.

Lets Scare Jessica To Death

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: A disturbing, atmospheric film which builds upon Repulsion and The Haunting, but is more visceral.

The Lost Boys

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: A rites of passage classic – one which remains fresh even though it’s deeply entrenched in the 80s.

Malevolence

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Martin

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Romero proving he wasn’t just a zombie, gore guy.

Martyrs

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: The pinnacle of the French Extremism New Wave, brutal and unforgettable.

Messiah Of Evil

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

The Monster Squad

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Another one of those movies with a poster which drew me in as a kid on the video store, but one which actually live up to the promise of the poster.

Near Dark

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Maybe my favourite Vampire movie.

Night Breed

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I need to see it again, it always felt messy when I was young, and a let down after Hellraiser. 

Night Of The Creeps

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s fun. Funny. Never impacted me as much as it did others.

Night Of The Living Dead

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: A near flawless exercise and example of how to do low budget horror.

The Omen

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Great kills, iconic scenes, wonderful score, stellar cast.

Peeping Tom

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Pushed under the rug after Psycho, but just as notable.

Pet Sematary

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: King’s scariest book goes heavy on the shlock, but still packs a few potent punches.

Phantasm

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I never grew up with these movies like others did, but the first is fun and innovative.

Pieces

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Poltergeist

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Another rites of passage movie for when kids are getting into horror.

Possession

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Psycho

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It’s Hitchcock, and the daddy (Mummy?) of modern horror.

Pumpkinhead

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: I’ve only seen it once, can’t remember a whole lot about it.

Re-Animator

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Gory 80s fun, the likes of which you don’t see anymore.

REC

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: The pinnacle of hand-held horror.

Return Of The Living Dead

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: One of the premier mixtures of horror and comedy.

Rosemary’s Baby

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: While dated, and while it relies a little too heavily now on the ending, it’s a masterclass of paranoia with some great performances.

Scream

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Another Wes Craven classic which remains clever and funny decades on.

The Shining

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Kubrick. King. Nicholson. Overlook. Saggy bewbs.

Slumber Party Massacre

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Society

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: A front runner for title of goriest movie ever, it’s a funny, often John Waters-esque satire, with added fisting.

Sole Survivor

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Suspiria

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: Argento’s best, and one of the most visually stunning horror movies you’ll ever see, with a typically bewildering plot, inventive kills, and terrific score.

Tenebrae

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: Argento again, maybe the finest Giallo movie with plenty of up close and nasty violence and memorable moments.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: A clear contender for best of all time, while it’s rough around the edges in places, their’s no doubting the emotional, visceral, and cinematic impact.

The Thing

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: When it comes to best Sci-Fi Horror film of all time – it’s this or Alien, right? Aliens is more all out action. The Thing is my favourite of the two, and it’s a Top 5 all time favourite Horror movie for me.

The Tingler

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N

My Thoughts: It’s fun – we need more interactivity in our Cinemas.

Tourist Trap

Have I Seen It: N

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: N/A

My Thoughts: N/A

Trick R Treat

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: It still hasn’t really found an audience outside of dedicated horror fans – if TV channels would show this every Halloween like they do with Christmas movies in December, this would be much bigger – it deserves it.

The Wicker Man

Have I Seen It: Y

Is It In My Top Movies Of The Year: Y

My Thoughts: The pinnacle of folk horror, British horror, and not a bee or bear suit in sight.

There you have it – The Shock Waves approved 100! Which films have you seen, which ones are you yet to see, and which films would make your list. Remember, this isn’t necessarily the best 100, or your favourite 100, more of a ‘100 we can all agree should be seen by horror fans’. Let us know down below!

Children Of The Corn

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I can’t be specific on dates, but Children Of The Corn was one of the first horror movies I remember discovering. Like I mentioned in my Creepshow 2 review, posters can have a powerful effect on a growing, inquisitive, impressionable mind. Over time I somehow gained information about the story and the movie and began to form my own version of it in my head, but I didn’t get to see it until years later. There’s a danger of being let down after consciously or subconsciously hyping a movie, but where Children Of The Corn is concerned, the mystery and tone conveyed in the opening portions of the movie aligned with the picture I’d created in my mind. Watching again years later, it’s clear that there are better King adaptations and it that it has plenty of shortcomings. I still feel that it captures the essence of the unknown which juvenile and growing horror fans find so alluring, even if it doesn’t have enough bite to hold an adult audience in its thrall.

Adapted from King’s 1978 Night Shift short, Children Of The Corn is the first of (somehow) ten movies in a series which I can only assume grows increasingly <corny> as it progresses. King wrote the original screenplay, but as was normal for the time another writer would come in to usurp the script and focus more on violence than drama. The original story is a simple one – a bickering couple are driving through the US heartland, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, only to become lost and encounter a savage backwater. The key difference here being that the savages are a bunch of kids, creepy religious zealot kids who follow an unseen God known as ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’. The movie keeps the basics in check, albeit offering less in the way of marital distress and more in the way of heroic dads and wholesome family dynamics.

We open in pleasingly creepy fashion, as Isaac – moon-faced pre-teen leader of the group sends the crazed Malachi and friends on a poison and murder spree through their hometown, Gatlin. It’s a simple farming town, and the crops have been failing, which Isaac takes to mean their God is not pleased. And we all know how to appease an angry, malevolent God. Cut to a few years later and a ‘just about to be famous for Terminator’ Linda Hamilton (Vicky) and boyfriend Peter Horton (But) heading up river to start a new life. Driving through endless miles of nothing, their subdued fears about the future are disturbed by the sudden appearance of a child bouncing under the wheels of their car. After initially thinking they hit and killed him, they come to understand that he was already dead. The boy was trying to escape Isaac and his murderous ways, but ended up being sacrificed to the God of Buick. Should they leave him and go on their way? Should they drop the body off in a local town? Should they take him to a big city hospital, or the Police Station in local Gatlin? This being a horror movie, the pair make the wrong choice and quickly find themselves in a world of pitchforks and pasty teens.

The film isn’t as shlocky as some early King adaptations, surprising perhaps given the subject matter. Likewise, it isn’t anywhere near the level of his biggest films of the period – Carrie or The Shining. To its credit, it isn’t all silly surface scares – that sense of the unknown and of being lost permeates the atmosphere in the opening scenes and its an atmosphere which works for me personally having been a child with a heightened fear of being lost or left behind in a new place. Outside of personal feelings, the film is an obvious parable for religious fundamentalism and the dangers of allowing any cult to take power. I like this angle, as ham-fisted as it may be delivered here, and I’m sure a more dedicated experienced director and writer combo could do something stronger with the material viewed in this way. There are of course numerous departures from the source material, fleshing out the cult and delivering a less downbeat ending for example. It’s well enough shot, using the open and wide landscape to decent effect, and by and large the cast serve their purpose – all the more impressive given that many of them are kids. Hamilton doesn’t get to show off her later chops, but is more than the withering lead lady of the piece you might expect from such a film, and gets just as much screen time and action as Horton. They work well as a couple and spend much of the film apart dealing with various factions within Gatlin, again equipping themselves admirably.

Is it top tier King? No, but that’s generally reserved for his more classy material or when a classy director gets a hold of his work. But it’s serviceable enough for most viewers to get something out of it, and good enough that many King and horror fans might rank it as a second tier adaptation. In any case, in this strange time of locked doors and empty streets we find ourselves in it’s worth a watch to remind ourselves what the outdoors look like – and that what’s out there may want us for lunch.

Let us know what you think of Children Of The Corn in the comments!

The Stuff

The Stuff is another one of those movies which was just out of my reach in childhood. I was born in 1983, so many of the classic VHS titles of the 80s were familiar to me, but I couldn’t get near them until the DVD boom or today’s streaming. Thanks to a bunch of older friends and relatives, and older siblings of my friends, and thanks to be frequent jaunts into the video stores in my town, there was always a list of titles floating around my head as movies I absolutely had to see at all costs. In many cases these were movies which those acquaintances spoke of in hushed tones – everything from Basic Instinct to Evil Dead.  In mot cases it was the VHS artwork which caught my eye and solidified the movie’s position in my hallowed list. The Stuff had a great cover – some dude’s melting face, writhing in agony and despair as some sort of white gunk spilled from his empty eye sockets and mouth. Surely it was the greatest film of all time?

The Stuff  isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it is one of Larry Cohen’s best. Before I knew who he was, and before I’d seen The Stuff I was already familiar with his work. Q The Winged Serpent was a personal favourite of my youth and Return To Salem’s Lot was a curious sequel. Once I became more savvy towards film it became obvious that Cohen was somewhat of a political filmmaker – his often not too subtle satire veiled under the shlock of the time and other B Movie delights. The Stuff is no different, a clear attack on big business, advertising, consumerism, and the herd mentality of created needs and addiction. Surprisingly, it’s not the goriest film in the world – The Stuff (is it wrong that it looks delicious and I want to try it?) does frequently spurt from people but more often than not you simply see it slushing and slithering around like a gelatinous mass or worm, as it does a Body Snatchers number on whoever tastes it. Interestingly, Cohen would go on to write the story for Abel Ferrara’s 90s Body Snatchers movie.

So if it’s not overly gory, and if it has all this overt political stuff in its plot, why should the less discerning Horror viewer want to watch? Well, because Michael Moriarty. Here he is at his most smug, smarmy best – all Wall Street suits and ties, a walking ballbag of quips and testosterone who doesn’t appear to have thrown a punch in his life yet is just as efficient in a fight to the death as James Bond. His character is hired by a bunch of unsavoury Ice Cream moguls, seriously, to investigate the makers of The Stuff and find out what it is to either shut it down or share a slice of the pie. As he investigates he learns a lot more and finds his dubious allegiances tested. Along the way he meets a kid escaping from his Stuff-obsessed family, a hot executive, an old friend/rival, and a gun totin ex-military maniac. It’s like The A-Team, but weird. It’s also quite funny, and all the more amusing in retrospect thanks to the effects and how advertising works today.

As much as 80s Satires go, The Stuff is right up there with the most outlandish but effective. Cohen always makes an interesting movie and Moriarty always does whatever the hell he wants. Don’t go in, like 8 year old me did, expecting a bloody, scary, melt-fest. Go in expecting a few chuckles and some charming nostalgia and weirdness, and it gets the job done.

The Girl With All The Gifts

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The Girl With All The Gifts feels like the sort of film Sean Bean was meant to be in. The hardened, gruff military man whose heart will soften over the course of the film thanks to a precocious youth and a saucy minx. But he’s probably going to die in the end, maybe sacrificing himself along the way. At its heart though, it’s not about some burly man – it’s a film about a dying world, a mutating world, in which the surviving humans find themselves no longer relevant, much in the same way as I Am Legend suggests, except the focus in more uniquely on the relationship between a girl and her teacher.

As with most YA fiction and apocalyptic movies, there’s is a certain amount of world building and exposition to wade through before we get to the meat of the story and characters. We learn early on that a fungal based disease has wiped out most humans, with those infected being 28 Days Later type creatures. The central twist is that a group of kids who were born half infected are able to somewhat control their monstrous natures and retain portions of their humanity. Scientists have learned from these kids and are in the process of finding a cure and working on ways to further restrain the mutation from taking hold in the children. Gemma Arterton stars as the teacher, Glenn Close is the lead scientist, Paddy Considine is the Sean Bean, and Sennia Nanua is (insert title… maybe). There are varying degrees of distrust and desires between these leads and their factions but when an attack on their safe space makes them outcasts in a dangerous world, they need to find away to work together to survive.

The Girl With All The Gifts is that rare YA adaptation which almost entirely dispenses with notions of romance – there’s no tacked on boy meets girl here which is refreshing in a genre so devoted to pining teens and brooding hunks. While the world and the scenario isn’t exactly unique, there’s enough dedication to design to make this Britain feel believable, and enough quirks in the story and plot devices to keep it distinct. With the cast above you know it’s going to be a well acted affair, and I was surprised by how cold it is throughout – there are difficult decisions and moral dilemmas and characters seem troubled by these as well as the actions of others, while still seeking to meet their own needs or wishes. It’s pleasingly dry and bleak too when it comes down to the wire, and doesn’t allow for any surprise twist or heroic shock to save the day. It’s pretty clear from the opening minutes that humanity is fucked, but it takes until the closing minutes just to realize how much.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Girl With All THe Gifts!

Wake Wood

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Wake Wood is somewhat of a downer. There have been quite a few horror films in recent years dealing with how parents cope after the death of a child, some dealing with the psychological trauma, others taking a more visceral approach following the lengths some parents will go to either to get on with their lives or bring their child back. It’s a tradition going back most famously to Pet Sematary, but naturally it’s a fear as old as time with numerous fairy tales, myths, and stories from antiquity using this unimaginable tragedy and the associated grief as a starting point. Wake Wood lies somewhere in between the visceral and the psychological, not truly succeeding at either, but not truly failing either.

Make no mistake – Wake Wood is a Serious Horror Film – Caps all the way. It wants to hurt, and it wants to remind you of folksy tales like The Wicker Man and drama like Don’t Look Now. It doesn’t have the money or the directing chops of either of those, but it also doesn’t want to scrimp on the gore. It’s difficult to see who the film is really for then because, while plenty of people will want to see a film like this if you heavily market it towards one crowd they’re likely going to be pissed of by the blood or by the artistry. As mentioned – the artistry is more akin to someone just learning the ropes by mimicking their forefathers, while the blood is limited by budget and, well, good taste.

We open with the fairly upsetting mauling of a child by a dog – the girl, Alice, does not survive. Her mother and father – Louise and Patrick – move to a rural village called Wakewood and try to get on with their lives. The people of Wakewood seem friendly enough, though like any of these off the grid towns, there’s something a little off about them. Turns out they have a history of resurrecting the dead via a ritual with a series of rules. This is where some of the more interesting parts of the film come in, hinting at a sprawling history. There are various ancient trinkets and tools and rules employed, but they’re not really discussed or explained. These sorts of things are always interesting to me and I’d like to have known more about their purpose or origin. The main guts of the rules are straightforward enough – to raise the dead, you need another corpse. The person you want to raise must have been dead for less than a year. The person can only return for three days, and the person cannot go beyond the borders of the town. Naturally, as Patrick and Louise makes their decision, each of these rules comes in to play.

Everything about the film is cold, sullen, the muddy brown of a forgotten English graveyard – the performances (featuring Aidan Gillen and Timothy Spall), the direction, the look of the thing right down to the costumes. It’s mournful and bleak, even in its happiest moments and anyone looking for a slice of quirky horror or a hint of joy should shuffle by. It’s not without it’s charms – watching it reminded me of many a gloomy painting or Doom Metal album cover. It’s played out with conviction and its sense of grit and foreboding feels real – if there is a town out there which can bring people back from the dead, this certainly feels like it – insular, brow-beaten, and with the look of a tweed clothed farmer nonchalantly pistoning a bolt through a bull’s skull.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Wake Wood!