This final wrap up post for 2017 isn’t about one individual or even two, this is about our collective achievement. Machine Mean may have started with one nerdy guy talking about horror, history, politics, and whatever else crossed his mind, but it has GROWN way beyond that. From guest posts and interviews to a full on partnership between myself and Chad Clark, we have watched this little horror movie and book review site flourish. In 2017, we had over 17,000 readers, leaving over 200 comments, drawn in from all over the world–predominately in the United States, the UK, Canada, and France. Our most popular post was Chad’s article The Dark Tower And Toxicity in Modern Nerd Culture, ringing in nearly 2,000 reads. In 2017, we posted 137 articles totally nearly 190,000 words. But we couldn’t have done this alone. We’ve had a lot of help from some 31 really awesome contributors. Continue Reading
Women have broken more boundaries and defied not only gender clichés, but also more social and cultural obstacles than men as well. Hollywood, or the world for that matter, is still very much a man’s world. Actresses still struggle to get paid the same amount as a male counterpart. Horror is not with its own stereotypical pitfalls, but in fairness, horror has also come a long way. Slasher movies are known for typecasting women as weak characters. Sure, but looking at it from another angle, perhaps you might notice that as said slasher movie victim is running around bumping into dead things and screaming at the top of her lungs, she survives while typically every single if not 99% of the male character population parishes in some grotesque way. At the very least, maybe those stereotyped movies are saying that when the shit hits the fan, women are survivors. To say the only contribution women have made for horror is to play its victim is a gross generalization. In movies where women are intended to be the victim, they survive. And then there’s the other side of the road. The villains. The most creepiest characters and monsters of horror, in my humble opinion, have been women. Consider Kathy Bates in Misery and you tell me if her portrayal as Annie Wilkes didn’t creep you out! Putting aside our egocentric macho bullshit lets admit it, women have done more for horror, and are continuing to do more for horror, than men. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite horrible women!
Eihi Shiina as Asami Yamazaki in Audition (1999)
I’m not ashamed to say, Asami scares the shit out of me. And for good reason. Leave it to the Japanese to come up with something so twisted. The story follows a widower named Aoyama who, aided by a film producer friend, hosts an “audition” of which they aim to work as a dating service. Aoyama sets his sights on the quiet and withdrawn Asami, but when they venture to his house, Aoyama soon discovers Asami is not so reserved as she appears to be. The torture in this movie is…insane. Its almost doubled by the this otherwise seemingly sweet woman, who even during the torture is nearly whispering pleasantly as she inserts nails into Aoyama. Here’s a clip on YouTube, but its not for the faint of heart.
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Both Conjuring movies that have thus released have been true pleasures watching on the Big Screen. And while you cannot have Lorraine Warren without her partner and husband, Ed (Patrick Wilson), I feel it is Lorraine who really shines, in both movies. In part 2, the Warren’s are called out to Enfield, England to help Peggy Hodgson, a single mother of four who tells the Warren’s that something evil is in her home. When one of her daughters begins to show signs of demonic possession, the Warren’s work quickly to try and help the besieged young girl. The Lorraine and Ed relationship almost reminds me of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, where Ed is the headstrong, well-meaning “car sells-man,” and Lorraine is the collected talent. Not to mention that Vera is a real treat watching on screen.
Jane Levy as Rocky in Don’t Breathe (2016)
Another slam-dunk that came out last year, Don’t Breathe was a surprise; not surprise hit with new audiences and horror fanboys alike. Stephen Lang may have stole the show with his creepy vulnerability, but it was Levy playing the part of thief/single mom Rocky that really sold me on the story. But Don’t Breath wasn’t you typically casting, technically Rocky was the bad guy, of sorts, breaking in to a blind man’s house in the hopes of making it rich so she can take her kid and escape the wastelands of inner city Detroit. And Rocky takes some hits in this one, as well as dishes out her own vengeance. Seeing how this is her second appearance on “My Favorite Women in Horror” list, last years being Mia from Evil Dead, I’m very curious what this young lady has planned for 2017.
Karen Gillan as Kaylie in Oculus (2013)
Karen Gillan in anything is both entertaining and amazing. Her time with The Doctor aside Matt Smith as the 11th incarnation of The Doctor, to her reprised role as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. Oculus was a solid lead for her, released shortly following the end of her stint on Doctor Who. In this movie, Gillan plays Kaylie, a strong headed woman who attempts to exonerate her recently released brother in order to prove that he did not murder their parents, but that a cursed mirror did. The movie is a total head trip and Gillan plays wonderfully as a strong resourceful leader whilst still somewhat vulnerable. A drop in the bucket among paranormal movies coming out, Oculus is potent enough for its flavors to let it stand out. Gillan certainly added to the movies benefit.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin in The Witch (2015)
Another rising star, right there beside Jane Levy, Anya Taylor-Joy has been in horror hit after horror hit, starting with The Witch, followed by Morgan, and finally this years mind bender, Split. The Witch is a unique movie that divided horror fans into two groups of “love it,” and “hate it.” From what I can tell, most are in the “love it” group, and for good reason. What caught my attention was the use of 17-century records as means to developing a script that sounded very much like a movie set in the mid-1600s. The Witch was also not what I was expecting. I thought maybe the story was going to be about this town and witches were involved in some manner. But instead, the movie focused on a zealot uber religious family that is exiled from a colony for being too religious, which is funny in its own right. And whilst the family struggles to survive living on their own in the wilderness, tragedy befalls them when the youngest newborn member of the family is thought to be taken by wolves. the mother blames Thomasin, the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty, and love to one another. As said above, the movie wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be. Yet, it was still really provocative, with plenty of tension and wonderment, especially when you realize there really are witches out there. The ending was one of the more satisfying endings to a movie I’ve seen in years.
Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of dark fiction. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. He is published with The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. His debut novel, Reinheit, is published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein and Apocalypse Meow. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, both Dwelling and Emerging and Conceiving, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can keep up with Thomas and all his strange books by joining his author newsletter, at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.
You can get Reinheit for $2.99 on Amazon!
Why the hell not? Everyone else seems to be putting together their lists of “best of’s” for 2015. Why not me? And besides, “its the first goddamn week of winter.” What better way to usher in the new year by reflecting on the old? And 2015 was certainly a year of boom and bust for movies, books, AND television. Mostly television (for me at least), as I moved away from my typically nightly catch-up to indulge instead on flicks, new and old. Most of which I had not previously seen. So…my list here will be generated from my own experiences and not necessarily a quote-unquote 2015 best of. These will be the “best of’s” of which I personally experienced. And, as suggested, this will also be a list of “busts” as well. The BEST of 2015 cannot exist without the WORST of 2015, for without the worse how can we define the best? Boom…meta… Anyhow. Lets get this end of year jam started, shall we? Also, note that I cannot discuss every single thing I’ve watched or read. The list would feel endless and I’d rather not bore you to tears here. This is meant to entertain as well as inform. So I’ll focus on my tops, and give you a few morsels from both best and worst. Okay?
Let’s kick this wagon off with the least watched medium, on my part. Television.
Best of 2015:
- South Park, without question this season (#19!!! if you can believe that!) is one of Trey and Parker’s best seasons…also their shortest with only ten or so episodes. But each episode is tailor made to fit within this larger story taking place. So, instead of a twenty or whatever season run, we get a longer, broken up movie. But not just that, we get the best in social commentary, from PC shenanigans to gun rights, Trump, and even Caitlyn Jenner, there’s a little bit of everything to offer for everyone.
- Gotham…while not technically over yet, and not typically horror, but certainly “dark fiction,” and we’re just at the mid-season final, still I have to say here how much fun it is to watch this show. I wasn’t a huge DC comic reader back in my childhood. I was more into Spawn and Marvel. But I did watch the hell out of some Batman: The Animated Series! And still to this day hold that particular show on the most highest pedestal. This is the second season for Gotham and the obvious focus this season has been on the “Rise of the Villains.” The star, I think, of this season is not the protagonist focus (Jim Gordon), but rather The Penguin, played by the very talented Robin Taylor. Not only is the show entertaining, but it is also unafraid to take risks, for there is no other group of people more willing to hate then the nerds.
- Ash vs. Evil Dead…disclaimer, I do not have cable. Nor am I typically willing to buy a season when I know good and gosh darn well that eventually it’ll release on Netflix or DVD for much cheaper. Honestly, with Ash, I’m having a hard time keeping to this rule. Though I have only watched the season opener, “El Jefe,” hot damn if this show doesn’t ring true to the original Evil Dead movies. Wow. I’m hoping to watch more of this and am tittering on just buying the damn season on demand, but so far it seems like Ash is his typically Army of Darkness self, but the mood of the show is less campy as Army was and more in pace with the actual Evil Dead cabin flicks.
- X-Files…say whatever you want about how old this show is and how it does not fit within a “best of 2015” bit, I do not care. With the upcoming resurgence of X-Files in 2016, I’ve been following (as best I can) with the Facebook X-files page who are doing a one episode a day thing till the return. And its been fun, to see fan made poster art for each episode and to revisit old haunts from my 1990s childhood. I’m currently on season 8 right now.
The so-so of 2015:
- Supernatural. I’ve been watching this show since day one and though I tend to think the longer a show airs the less punch it retains. It does surprise me how they keep going and come up with these “even badder” bad guys. This season its all about “The Darkness,” this entity that was around before God said, “Let there be light.” There is not much for me to complain about this time around. I’m glad to be done with the whole “mark of Cain” bit and back in the dynamic duo story. There’s still something missing, though. Typically, I was willing and ready to catch up on Hulu the day next, but for this season, I’m falling horribly behind.
- Hemlock Groove…man, this show was so awesome during season one. Season two was so-so…and here we are again. The story in this new and final season feels a tad more developed than season two, but still…I’m finding a hard time forcing myself to watch for watching sake.
- AHS: Freakshow… remember when I said I don’t have cable…? Well, I catch up on last seasons typically on Netflix or Hulu. You may also be surprised to find this show on my list of “so-so’s.” Well, truth be told, I actually enjoyed this season…but, I cannot forgive those musical numbers. Reading the synopsis, I was so ecstatic about a “freak show” season. The circus, as any fan of horror knows, is the roots of the macabre. You don’t go to the circus for the mundane, do you? NO! You go for the spectacle. And what better spectacle, both in truism and metaphor than the freak show? While I did enjoy the story and plot, despite some flattering moments, the reason for the casting away into the “hummock” pile, are the, as I said, musical numbers. I don’t mind musical numbers, mind you, what I don’t mind is the inclusion of modern music with a period piece. Freak Show was set in the late 1950s, right? Why the hell was crab boy singing Nirvana? Seriously! If you’re going to do a period piece, keep to the music of that era. It would have made the season sooooo much better… Ugh!
The BIG BUST of 2015:
- Sleepy Hollow…has bored me to tears… What the heck happened? Season one was soooooo good. I loved the concept. The retelling of the classic Ichabod Crane story was genius…and then Season Two came along, also promising, but then fell flat on its face. The story was so blundered, it felt like two different season endings. Don’t get me wrong. I like fast pace horror. But this made zero sense to me and the character motivations felts rushed and unbelievable. The aftertaste of season two has spoiled my keeping up with season 3 on Hulu. I may go back once its released on Netflix…maybe.
Moving on…cause if I don’t all be here all day! Next up are my favorite, the movies…
The BEST of’s:
- Krampus…yup… Of all the movies I went out to see in 2015, Krampus was one of the more entertaining ones…keeping to horror and dark science-fiction that is (sorry Star Wars!). My review for Krampus holds, both humorous and terrifying. But not just that, Krampus had a message for not just the holiday season, but for the yearlong. Krampus wants you to think about what you are spending your time with or on and to consider others than yourself.
- The Green Inferno…hell yes this movie made my “best of” list! It felt as if we were waiting forever to see this movie. The hype was a bit stretched for this one. And again, there’s a message with this movie about being intentional, but besides that, we get to watch a bunch of wannabe “save the forest” types get picked apart like a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich by the very people they were trying to “save.”
- Insidious Chapter 3. First off…get over yourself. Yes, I watched this movie…IN THEATERS!!! and…I LIKED IT!!! Sure, this isn’t the creme de la creme of horror movies. It was still entertaining as hell and fun to just unplug and watch. There was also character exploration and mourning and loss of loved ones. More going on then you’d probably expect. Plus, as any jump scare horror flick, the movie had a very lasting and satisfying sense of dread. Listen. I’m getting the feeling that horror is turning into one of of things, like wine drinkers or better yet, beers drinkers. Some people will only drink craft beer, and even still some will only drink a certain kind of craft beer. Others like pilsners, like Miller or Bud. And there are some who like both. The same, I think, could be said of horror. Some are, for lack of a better word, snobs when it comes to the lower end flicks, while others will drink anything sat in front of them, especially if its cheap or free. I like I’m more of a moderate. I enjoy craft beers, but would rather spend the night with a lower costs pilsner.
- The Omen (1976). And yes, I know this is a list of “best of’s 2015,” but so you remember when I said this would also be a list of my “first of’s” experiences for 2015 too? Well, now you know. As surprising as it may be, this was my first screening of the original Omen. I had for whatever reason thought the movie would be boring and drawn out, and certainly there were moments of just that, but the movie itself was fantastically grim and haunting. There’s something about these demonic stories that get under my skin! I think when the Nanny (Mrs. Baylock) bumps off mommy Throm in her hospital bed, it is a very chilling scene.
There are so many more “first of’s” for me to list, but again…I’m trying to keep this shortish!
The so-so’s of 2015:
- It Follows. While not entirely bad as some have come to review this flick, it certainly had a kind of hipster-esk vibe going on. The opening for the flick was haunting, but throughout the remainder of the film it kind of fell flat. Obvious commentaries of sex and adolescence. A few splashes of genuine horror, but otherwise…uh, whatever…you know? The hype for this movie was crazy. Only released to a few theaters and then a few more. I had to drive almost into downtown Houston just to watch this damn thing. On the other hand, sometimes its fun to get caught up in the hype, especially over a horror movie. Sure, we’re often disappointed in the end, but the ride to disappointment is enjoyable…right?
- Crimson Peak, while again, a fantastic and beautifully done movie, is (story wise) completely predictable. I went to see Crimson shortly after watching Inferno. It was nice to get back to a classic gothic story with superb acting, my favorite being Jim Beaver. The ghosts were haunting, but could have had more punch. In the end, the people were the ones you had to watch out for…which in itself if you think about it is kinda a nice change of pace. What soiled the movie for me was the very predictable story. I like to be entertained. My standards are not that high. But the one thing that will ruin a movie for me is predictability. Some predictability is okay, as is the ole Jewish saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Most of everything has already been done a few times over, but yet, as a writer, there’s a certain skill one must learn in keeping old motifs fresh and interesting. There has to be a surprise and there were no surprises in Crimson Peak.
- Late Phases, while technically a 2014 flick, this was a first screening for me in 2015. The movie had a lot going for it. Low budget. Choice actors. Great setting and mood. There was just something lacking with this return to werewolf classic. Most of which had to do with the practical effects. While my hat goes to the director and producers of the film for making that decision when it would have cost them less to go CGI, still… On one hand, the transformation scenes are actually quite good…but when we get a good look at the wolf…it looks absolutely campy. Had this been a horror comedy, sure okay. But no, this was a rather serious flick.
The BIG BUST of 2015:
- Deliver Us from Evil, man…I had some high hopes for this flick. I watched this one earlier in 2015. I think I rented it on Redbox or something. Jeez. Wish I would get my $1.50 back! This movie stunk to high heaven. What pisses me off most about this flick is how great the set up is. Soldiers discover or awaken something ancient and evil in Iraq and bring it home with them, but then the plot de-evolves into The Ralph Sarchie Show. Give me a break dude! Radar…jesus… To be fair, there were some horror-tastic moments. But I just couldn’t get past this dudes ego. It ruined the movie for me.
I have a feeling there are more “busts,” but for now, lets just keep it at one.
Next up. Last but not least, the books of 2015!
Best of 2015:
- Christine (1983). As one of many King books I read this past year, Christine was one of my favorites. It was short and sweet and had such a colorful cast of not just characters, but also of the town and music and mood. Man, it was a total time portal. The ride was very entertaining. And albeit tragic when it finally came to an end.
- The Stand (uncut). I was just going to list one King book, but it would be dishonest for me not to list The Stand (uncut). This book is so epic and vivid and realistic. There’s a lot to digest in this book and too many things to mention to keep my own modest post.
- Salvage, this was a indie book by a fantastic writer buddy of mine, but don’t let our friendship fool you, this book is freaking haunting and a fantastic use of the classic paranormal tale to talk about some rather difficult subjects, namely depression and the death of loved ones. and probably more importantly, facing our pasts.
- The Colour Out of Space, while technically a short story and not a book, still a amazing read. In 2015, I felt compelled toward the classics I’d ignored in my youth. A lot of these “classics” included a return to H.P. Lovecraft. Personally, in my own craft, I feel this resurgence to the fear of the cosmos, the unknowing and uncertainty of the future played in these grim little tales of madness and creatures from another dimension.
- And in the Endless Pause, There Comes the Sound of Bees is my first story with Mr. Jeffery X. his style is entertaining with a dash of literary prose. He is clearly not afraid with being cheeky nor is he afraid to go places most people wouldn’t even think about. Mr. X told me once he writes from what he dreams, and with this short tasty treat, I do not doubt that. It is a fantastic mythos created from the most mundane of life, the mobile community. Inside that mobile home, Mr. X explores themes of density and cultural dispositions. This short is included in The Black Room Manuscripts, released earlier this past summer.
And there are a ton more, mostly King…sorry and a few Clive’s.
Honorable mentions for best of 2015, mostly because I just started them in December, or because they are not technically out yet.
- Hunting Witches. The first story I read from Mr. Jeffery X, as mentioned above, was his fantastically strange bit in The Black Room Manuscripts, “And in the Endless Pause. There Comes the Sound of Bees.” Having such a long title itself is quite cheeky, but also creating a mythos from a mobile home community into a somewhat insectoid like culture is very very cheeky, and I love that. I had the pleasure of reading Hunting Witches as a beta. I feel honored Mr. X trusts me with his story in its most raw form. From what I saw, I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing the final product.
- Pale Highway. Nic Conley is a great guy and has read a lot of my own work. I’m happy to finally get the chance to read some of his. This is his second book, but it seems (even though I’ve just read thru chapter one thus far) this story is more personal for him.
And the so-so’s of 2015:
- Koko…jesus, will I ever make it thru this damn book? Maybe… Koko is not horrible, at all. In fact, the book is rather fantastic, its just so slowly paced, its really hard to keep reading. Most of the time it takes a backseat in place of some other more proactive story. Which is sad, cause I really want to read this one…some day.
- The Great and Secret Show. Okay, i’m taking a risk here from being clubbed to death by my fellow horror readers and writers. As this epic novel from Clive is said to be one of his best. Personally, I’m having the same issue as with Koko, its just too damn slow to keep my attention. It is beautifully written and the mythos Barker is creating is amazing…I just can’t keep it in my hands long enough to get thru it. Sorry guys!
And the BIG BUST for 2015:
- I’ve got nothing. Seriously. I’m trying to think of one. There were a few indie’s that, while maybe fitting into the “so-so” category, were certainly not a “bust.” There were certainly a few “so-so’s” from the bigger, well known names too. And to be honest, if a book is really that bad, I’m not going to force myself to read it.
And there you have it folks. My list for best and bust for 2015. Thus far, the year has been fantastic, both in the movie realm and also in the literary world. While for the “blockbuster” names I’ve kinda regressed into the older books I missed in my youth, most if not all of the new horror is coming from new and mostly (and sadly) unknown authors. New kids on the block willing to take risks with their work. To talk about uncomfortable things and an eagerness to contribute something of worth to the literary world. I have a feeling 2016 will hold many wonderful new works!
We are well into the Christmas season, past it perhaps if we are to measure the span in which Hobby-Lobby set out this years decorations. Besides seeing Ho ho ho signs and Jolly Saint Nick animatronic statues several months in advance, what really gets me excited about this time of year are the movies. Yes, time with family is also important. Get together parties and work functions, as well. The music is also good, though come mid December you may be ready to rip out your car stereo. Much like Halloween, Christmas movies are my thing during this time of year. However, the big difference between Halloween movies and Christmas movies is that I can watch Halloween movies everyday of every second of the year, whereas Christmas movies only feel appropriate one month of the year, December. So, in a way, Christmas movies have a special reverence. There are only but a few on this list that you could watch outside of Christmas, especially the more action induced flicks. But still, the argument holds. And FYI, most of these movies are currently on Netflix instant streaming! So, without further adieu, here is my top Christmas movie list spectacular!!
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992):
Kicking things off right, I want to start with one of my most favorite Christmas movies!! I’ve loved this one since I was a kid, in fact, I’m fairly positive my parents still have the VHS copy somewhere in their basement. What’s not to love? Micheal Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge is fantastic, and Miss. Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat and the gang are also superb in this classic retelling of Charles Dickson’s short story, “A Christmas Carol.” The comedy is on par and, despite being a children’s movie, the horror-esk aspect remains somewhat intact.
2. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988):
Kids today have somehow lost an appreciation for Ernest P. Worrell style comedy. I know, sad, right? This 1980’s classic comes on the same stock as “Ernest Scared Stupid,” or “Ernest Goes to Camp.” I bet kids nowadays don’t even know the name… Anyways, enough lamenting. This holiday CLASSIC (that’s right you damn kids!) is a heart warming story about Santa passing on the torch (or magic if you will) to the new select Santa. Its a movie about self-discovery, family, doing the right thing, selflessness, and how even rich cooperate CEO’s can get what they want on Christmas, even snow. And as always, the late great Jim Varney is especially on par!
3. Bad Santa (2003):
Changing gears here to the more adult themed Christmas movies, Bad Santa is one of my favorite “raunchy” holiday flicks. Billy Bob Thornton plays such a great deplorable character. And Tony Cox is as usual witty and hilarious. There are a number of late great actors in this movies as well, including both: John Ritter and Bernie Mac. Bad Santa is a fun dark comedy about a pair of poorly teamed con-artists who, once a year, reunite to rob outlet malls on, you guessed it, Christmas Eve. Billy seems like a natural drunk, his performance looked very genuine! This one may be better suited to watch after the kids go to bed and the beers come out.
4. Scrooged (1988):
Yet another take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” What makes this one highly watchable is because it has the ever supreme Bill Murray as the leading role as Frank Cross (Ebenezer) who apparently in this retelling is a wildly successful television executive with cold ambition. Scruffy voiced Bobcat Goldthwait makes an wild shotgun toting appearance in this classic movie. As well as a full cast of late greats who help Murray re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past. Another dark comedy, def. worth your time to watch after the kids go to bed!
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989):
I couldn’t possible conduct a list of top Christmas movies and not include one of Chevy Chases’ best hits in the National Lampoon archive, could I? No! This family friendly comedy is probably on the shelf of every red-blooded American, right beside those creepy nightmare Elf on the shelf’s….eek! Christmas Vacation is classic story about a family man trying to do everything he can to pull off a perfect Christmas. But in most, if not all, Chevy Chase flicks, nothing ever goes according to plan, yet somehow everything eventually finds it way back to some kind of warmhearted object morality. “Awe, kidnapping and assault is okay, kids. I learned the real meaning of Christmas!”
6. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):
Moving into the more classic of holiday traditions, this legendary black and white Frank Capra movie has been in the queue of the last three generations, no doubt passed down from great-grandparent to grandparent to parents to the kids of today. How could you not fall in love with this one? It’s a classic suicide tale with George Bailey (played by the late great James Stewart) having wished he had never been born, when an angel is sent to earth to make his wish come true. But soon after, George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how they would be different if not worse off had he never been there. I’ve seen so many renditions of this story, the best are usually in short skits or collection movies like “Beavis and Butt-head do Christmas.” This is most certainly a classic you’ll want to watch with your kids. They might grumble at first, but when they get older and can (hopefully) appreciate the classics, they will appreciate your effort and cherish the movie as it properly should be!
7. Die Hard (1988):
Time for the violence!!! Die Hard is a masterpiece that can be enjoyed year round, but during Christmas it holds a significant meaning for the children of the 1980’s! Bruce Willis proved with this action flick that he could hold his own as one of the great pillars of 1980’s action heroes. Die Hard is a classic story of a New York City policeman by the name of John McClane who just so happens to be visiting his estranged wife and daughters on Christmas Eve in LA, cause everyone knows LA is full of weird-o’s. He joins wifey at a holiday corporate Christmas party where she works. But the festivities are interrupted by a group of hodgepodge terrorists who take over the exclusive high-rise. Not only does Die Hard have one of our nations greatest fictionalized heroes, but also our top fictionalized villains, Hans Gruber, played by the ever talented Alan Rickman.
8. Black Christmas (1974):
And now for the horror!!! Some may be surprised, but Christmas isn’t without its freights! There are plenty of horror themed yuletide mayhem for those with a taste for something a little darker than “A Christmas Carol.” Black Christmas is my pick for horror during the month of December. Its a tale following a group of sorority sisters, who begin to receive anonymous, lascivious phone calls. Initially, the girls egg the caller on, but stop when he responds threateningly. Soon, one goes missing from the sorority house, and a local adolescent girl is found murdered, leading the girls to suspect a serial killer is on the loose and it may just be the killer on the phone! Cue dramatic music (Da-Da-Daaaaa!). Black Christmas, in its own right, is a classic slasher, maybe even borderline exploitation, following the great sorority house murder movies during this era. You can find this gem free on YouTube! Enjoy!
9. And everyone else!!!
As this list has progressed, I’ve noticed just how many great seasonal flicks there are to watch! Its just too numerous to list them all. So, in the object of saving some time, lets go through the honorable mentions waiting in my Christmas Queue:
Lethal Weapon (1987) classic action!
Trading Places (1983) classic racial comedy!
Batman Return (1992) classic awesomeness!
Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) another old school 1970’s horror!
Gremlins (1984) everyone’s favorite don’t feed your pet after midnight movies!
Fred Claus (2007) Hey, no judgments!! I thought it was funny!
The Santa Clause (1994) still no judgments, I saw this when I was a kid, and I still love it!!! And I love Tim Allen!!!
Well, here is my list. What are some of your favorite Christmas movies?
The most cliché thing about horror movies is how they seem to help aspiring actors and actresses earn their stripes (or lashes) in Hollywood. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Why not horror? As far as Hollywood goes, horror can be a bit taboo in regards to gaining cinematic fame, but on the other hand, horror can be one of the easiest avenues for breaking ground in ones acting career. And, without a doubt, some of my favorite horror movie death scenes involve someone who is now famous. Why? Not really sure, its just satisfying seeing folks who’ve later gone on to win (or at least be nominated) for an Oscar or even the coveted Golden Globe. Though i’d hate to think of Hollywood snobs using my beloved genre as a way to earn their bones without any sort of respect to the art, the lasting image of their demise that you can watch over and over is gratifying enough to reconcile the abuse. In my search across the web, i’ve selected eight of the best scenes with actors who’ve met their end on film. Enjoy!
8. Johnny Depp
Before Johnny Depp was growing dread locks, sailing the high seas, wearing purple top hats, and selling candy to kids like dope he made his cinema debut as Glen in forever classic Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). As you can see from the clip below, Depp had one of the most memorable deaths in the movie.
7. Seann William Scott
Springing from his American Pie notoriety, Seann William Scott was cast as Billy Hitchcock, the bumbling fool in 2000’s epic horror movie, Final Destination. Though not the most gut wrenching death scene from the movie, his decapitation was still rather impressive.
6. Jack Black
A few short years before his breakout and award winning role as Barry in High Fidelity, following a long string of cameos and lesser guest appearances, Tenacious D front man Jack Black made his horror movie debut in an unaccredited role as Titus Telesco in the 1998 horrible film I still Know What You Did Last Summer. This little gem was a bit hard to find and if you watch the clip below, you’ll understand why Black wanted to keep his name uncredited.
5. Ted Danson
Before he was cast in his award winning role as local bar keep Sam Malone in a little television show you might have heard of called Cheers, Ted Danson was cast as Harry Wentworth in Romero’s and King’s short story horror film Creepshow. I’m not sure what’s more bizarre from the film, how calm Danson was during his death scene or how unnerving comedian Leslie Nielsen was?
4. George Clooney
Say what you will about the man, but George Clooney has played some impressive characters. But long before any of his award winning role as the savvy ER doctor, or the long bearded felon, or even bat nipples, back in 1987, Mr. Seth Gecko made his cinematic debut as Oliver in Return to Horror High. I’m not entirely sure whats going on in this death scene nor am I entirely sure I want to know, but regardless, the scene and movie have become timeless pieces of horror history.
3. John Travolta
Before Mr. Saturday Night Fever boogied his way into the hearts of teenage girls, John Travolta began his cinematic career as Billy Nolan in Stephen King’s movie adaptation Carrie. No stranger to being knocked off in movies, his role in Carrie remains as one of his first and most memorable on screen death.
2. Jack Nicholson
Nine years before his first award winning role as George Hanson in Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson played Wilbur Force in a lesser known part in the cinematic adaptation of The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). He was only on screen for a few minutes and technically he wasn’t bumped off or anything; however, even this small role from Nicholson’s long career shows the roots of his more psychopathic characters.
1. Kevin Bacon
Before he challenged rural America to a dance off or foot raced Steve Martin for a cab, Kevin Bacon began his acting career in horrors most iconic movie, Friday the 13th (1980), as the doomed pot smoking teen, Jack Burrell. There are two reasons why Bacon made # 1 on my list of the best of celebrity horror movie deaths: for one, its Friday the 13th (duh!) and second, its Kevin Bacon, enough said!
Of course, our list could go on and on, especially if we change our list to: stars who’ve been in horror movies. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, and as we’ve said before, horror just as happens to take in more lessor knowns. Some other modern celebs who’ve dawned my beloved genre include: Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Renee Zellweger & Matthew Mcconaughey (The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Drew Barrymore (Firestarter), Emilio Estevez (Nightmares), Ben “the batman” Affleck (Buffy the Vampire Hunter), Sigourney Weaver (Alien), and Crispin Glover (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) just to name a few. Who are some of your favorite actor and actresses who made their start in horror?
Ever since Thomas Edison’s silent film, Frankenstein, debuted back in 1910, horror movies have resided in the imaginations of those disturbed enough to actually enjoy them. According to the documentary, Nightmares in the Red, White, and Blue, between 2003 and 2008, horror movies grossed over a hundred billion dollars at the box office. Sure, one Nolan or Jackson movie could top that margin with just one film, but we’re talking horror and horror movies are typically done on a lower budget with lesser known actors. Understandably, horror is big business. Horror sales and because horror can be done on any kind of budget, we end up with a rather large pool of productions to choice from, some good and some…well…you know. The horror movies that end up flopping, not only in the box office but with fans (because lets face it, box office rating matter little when it comes to horror), sometimes carry a glimmer of hope to ever being re-imagined into something better.
These remakes/reboots can be, though rarely, actually better than the original film. Some may disagree, but the original Omen (1976) was a real snoozer, while the remake was freaking amazing. Then, there are those reboots that should never have happened because there is no reason to touch the original, or, it simply cannot be done. This kind of film would include John Carpenters The Fog (1980). Carpenter’s vision was so much better developed than Rupert Wainwright’s piss poor attempt; my first (and only) viewing of the 2005 disaster made me want to vomit, and not in the “good God, gore” kind of way. And finally, there are horror movies so horrible that they should never, never — ever, be remade, because they were bad enough the first time around. This is not a challenge for Hollywood. Please, heed my warnings and never remake the following movies– ever — for real — no joke.
5. Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)
First up, Pinocchio’s Revenge, released back in the good (laugh) old 90’s. Defense attorney, Jennifer Garrick, (somehow) acquires a Pinocchio puppet from a condemned serial killer (opps, I think we’ve seen this before)…and then suddenly bad things start happening. Yikes, how did producers think this was ever a good idea? Pinocchio’s Revenge sounds like a cheap attempt at riding the coattail success of the Child’s Play franchise and that alone really makes me want to hate this movie.
4. Thankskilling (2008)
You know those movies that are intended to be horrible movies from the start? Kind of like B-rated flicks so horrible their actually good. Well, sometimes these already intended atrocities end up just being plain old rotten. In Thankskilling (2009) a, you guessed it, turkey rampages through a small town, killing off college kids (this is what our generation has to offer?)… the end. Oh wait, and the turkey talks because it is possessed by the spirit of a ticked off Indian warrior who was murdered some time during the good old pilgrim days. I know this movie was intended to be a horror-comedy, but if your name isn’t Stuart Gordon, Sam Raimi, or Edgar Wright, your already working uphill.
3. Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
This 1980’s blockbuster (insert sarcastic remark here) has all the trimmings for a xenophobic movie of the year award. There could have been a story here, but where the bus left the station was with the subtext. Sea creatures coming to the surface to mate with women and kill off the men…I’m just going to leave that where it is. The story could be salvaged because it already has a little Lovecraftian “Dagon” ring to it. However, even the late, great man himself was as culturally competent as Kristen Stewart is at acting (oh snap!). But really, xenophobic themed movies just seem too disconnected nowadays. If this was ever to be remade, it should only include the idea of creatures from the deep wreaking havoc on those living on the surface…hmm…sounds familiar, right? Now, if we can only find giant robots to fight them off…
2. Hobgoblins (1988)
Do I really need to explain this one? Lets just say, back in the 80’s, while Gremlins was enjoying their blockbuster success, a few other lesser known producers thought…”hmm, maybe we can do the same thing,” and thus, Hobgoblins was born. Unfortunately, but predictably, they could not do the same as director Joe Dante did, or ever will. Watching the trailer, I can’t even understand what the movie is even about. Goblins making you do stuff…and then what? Lower budget movies usually means you have to work harder in developing the story, but apparently these guys didn’t get the memo.
1. Leprechaun (1993)
Finally, we arrive with Leprechaun. If you have been keeping a mental list of horror movies you know that should never be remade because they were so dang horrible the first time around, and Leprechaun so happened to be on your list, then you, sir or madam, have excellent taste in horror. For some odd reason, unknown to myself, the 90’s was one of the worse decades for horror films. Sure, some did mange not being tarnished; movies such as, Candyman or even Scream (don’t judge me) were actually really good. But when we see films like Leprechaun…well, it makes me want to file away the entire decade. The plot surrounds an “evil” leprechaun who goes on a murder spree, after his stolen bag of coins doesn’t really feel like a sound story plot. Don’t get me wrong, you can use mythological creatures as the antagonist and still be good, but you need a solid script to back it up. Check out the movie, Wishmaster, for one of the better examples I could give of using a mythos, combined with a descent story.
Well, there you have it folks. My top five movies that should never, ever be remade because they were bad enough the first time around. Trust me, the world doesn’t need more wooden, magic little monsters; we’ve hopefully outgrown the cheap 90’s wave of horror. If you have your own suggestions, please leave them in the comment box, God knows, there are plenty of them out there!