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!
With all the hoopla going on, in anticipation of the return of Dana Skully and Fox Mulder in the 6 episode event starting up in January 2016, I though it’d be a good idea to revisit not just the television show, but also the movies. Here, I want to focus more or less on Fight the Future, the 1998 cinematic debut of the X-Files from boob-tube to movie theaters. Personally speaking, and I’m sure many of you will agree, the X-Files defined my 1990s television experience, introducing ideas in a compelling narrative about two FBI agents who couldn’t be further apart, but are yet drawn together through circumstance, all-the-while, the outside world seems to be encroaching upon them, where friends are rare and trust is precarious.
As the show airs in 1993, we are guided into the dark and deary basement office of one Fox Mulder who has been, more or less, red flagged for his strange and unorthodox methodology and theories. Fox, in his own words, believes he is “the key figure in an ongoing government charade, the plot to conceal the truth about the existence of extraterrestrials. It’s a global conspiracy, actually, with key players in the highest levels of power, that reaches down into the lives of every man, woman, and child on this planet, so, of course, no one believes me. I’m an annoyance to my superiors, a joke to my peers. They call me Spooky. Spooky Mulder, whose sister was abducted by aliens when he was just a kid and who now chases after little green men with a badge and a gun, shouting to the heavens or to anyone who will listen that the fix is in, that the sky is falling and when it hits it’s gonna be the shit-storm of all time” (Fight the Future, 1998). Dana Skully acts as his counterpart, the yin and yang so to speak, of the duo. She’s the rationalist, balancing the supernatural and keeping Mulder rooted. As Fox says regarding the relationship, “But you saved me. As difficult and frustrating as it’s been sometimes, your God-damned strict rationalism and science have saved me a thousand times over. You kept me honest. You made me a whole person. I owe you everything, and you owe me nothing. I don’t know if I want to do this alone. I don’t even know if I can” (Fight the Future, 1998). And as we can extrapolate from his tone in the 1998 movie, their relationship develops over time. Dana started out as an outside perspective, brought in by the higher-ups to report back on Agent Mulder’s case files, aka the X-Files, to basically debunk his work. But through the course of their investigations, she caught glimpses of things she (or science for that matter) could not explain. And let me say right here and now, Fight the Future and the show has some of the best scriptwriting I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching play out on screen . So, now that the players have been set up, lets talk a little about the movie and where it fits in the lexicon.
Fight the Future was released in 1998, fitting between the end of season five and six. The show aired by in 1993 with some of the more darker episodes and best creature features. With the show, we’re given a central story arc mixed with “filler” episodes, episodes which typically have nothing to do with the main story. While the main story plots are intriguing, for the X-Files, I’m more of a fan of the fillers, the go-betweens. In these episodes, you’ll find more of the scares, the darker stories intermingled in the global conspiracy ones. Some of the best in this category include: Home, Squeeze, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, The Host, Die Hand Die Verletzt, Folie à Deux, etc etc, just to name a few (and these few are some of my favorite episodes). If you have a Facebook account, you can follow the day to day episodes on the official X-Files page. They’ve also included some very unique fan made mondo posters to par with each episode. Between “filler” and “central story,” Fight the Future was part of the main story arc. Its counterpart, I want to Believe, released in 2008, was the filler equivalent to the shows, which doesn’t mean it was bad because of it, though I don’t think it found much footing with fans in 2008. Maybe they were hoping for something more to the central lexicon than a filler, but as I said before…
Looking at Fight the Future as a stand alone would be confusing, I think. To watch this movie and understand what’s going on, you’d have to be a fan of the show. Though, Carter did throw in some clues here and there. Still though, I still think if I watched Fight the Future without ever having watched the shows, I’d feel as if I was missing some insider joke. I’m a really happy they did it that way, while not leaving a newbie out of the loop entirely, the movie was made for fans of the show. Consider Serenity, the movie based on the cult-loved Firefly. They made that movie so that anyone can walk in off the street and understand everything going on. Sure, they might miss a few relationship side jokes, but overall, the movie was a restart on the show. I feel it would have been better, had they ignored the noobs and made the damn movie for the fans. Does that make sense, or am I going crazy? Sure, maybe Josh what’s his name was just trying to finish his show knowing Firefly would never return to television and the story he came up with was the best he could do…
Back to the X-Files…
Fight the Future is a fast paced movie; which is rare, to be a 2 hour movie based on a television show which airs for roughly 45 mins. From the very start, we’re drawn in to this global event, from the Ice Age opening credits to the black blood virus to team Fox and Dana working the bomb threat in Dallas, all the way to the conclusion and those sinister bestial aliens the story whips us and keeps us glued to the set. There is a small lag near the middle, but even so, there you’ll find some damn fine writing, my favorite is with Mulder at the bar, as part of the quote above with him describing himself to the bartender and why he’s drinking so much. And then there’s the moment between Skully and Fox in the hallway when Fox tells Dana how he feels and they ALMOST kiss, an adolescent teen-girl expectation, I know, but one that had been built up over time…had someone walked in on the movie at that moment without ever knowing the events in the show, it would have seemed silly. But for those in the know, the romance between the two has been a slow and methodical build up, finally realized towards the end of the show and actually acknowledged in I Want to Believe.
If you haven’t seen Fight the Future, even if you’ve never seen the show, I think its a safe bet to assume there are enough clues for you to understand what’s going on. And if you’re a long time fan and haven’t seen this movie…well, I’m not sure what to say to you… FOR SHAME!!!
My Review: 5/5
Is it just me, or does it seem like nerds have completely taken over everything worth watching? Don’t get me wrong, I am a nerd, and — as one of my favorite drive-thru commercials often says — “I’m lov’in it.” No complaint here. Its just strikingly odd to find such a concentrated pooling of nerd based entertainment in a incredibly bottle necked period of time. Lets count the cost. Marvel is dominating theaters. DC is smoldering television. And horror in general has made a lot of strides since the decade of reboots (the early 2000’s) in both theaters and television. It is truly an amazing time for nerds. Sure, there have been some misses. But there have also been a lot of hits. And it feels as if our movies and shows are picking up traction and getting better and better as the decade moves along. Yes. This era of nerdom will pass, sadly. Trends come and go on the evening tide. However, the time for mourning has not yet come. Instead, we should be celebrating the advancement of these amazing nerdy forms of entertainment.
If you have not yet partaken in the nerdness, no judgments my friend. Though I do feel a little sad for you. If you’re looking for a solid base to jump into the fray, considering any of the following movies and television shows! You will not be disappointed.
Iron Man (2008): If you’re going to start anywhere, Iron Man would be a good option. Back in 2008, Iron Man was one of the first “good” superhero movies that teed up the Marvel line up quite nicely.
Avengers (2012): If can skip all the individual movies, the set up for the mother of all nerd movies; however, I do require that you at least watch Captain America: The First Avenger before watching The Avengers. You can skip Thor and Iron Man 2 if you want.
Captain America: Winter Solider (2013): Okay. So maybe flicks like The Avengers are a little too crowded for your tastes. Or perhaps its a bit too nerdy and comic bookish. Again, no judgments. If The Avengers isn’t cutting it, try Winter Solider. This last Capt America movie was by far one of the best Marvel movies yet. That’s right…even better than Guardians of the Galaxy (Judge away nerds!). It was old school espionage, giving a nod to both the Cold War era action movies and toward the comic. I loved the first Capt flick cause I’m a sucker for period pieces, but Winter Solider was just so damn good, especially during an era when we’re just now looking back and analyzing the post 9/11, post Patriot Act world.
Gotham (Fox television): DC may be getting creamed in the theaters, but damn if they’re not dominating cable television!! In an area where Marvel seems to be stumbling hard, DC has done nothing but pick up momentum since Arrow aired a few years back. Now we’ve got the Flash, Arrow, Constantine (my person favorite, thus far), and Gotham. And some nerds are protesting this new re-telling of Gotham origins; however, I am not one of those critics. I love the show, especially since I was never a hardcore reader of Batman growing up. The show gives assuming and nostalgic easter eggs while still maintaining a well thought out story. The Flash is a little campy, but watchable. The Arrow has been hard core since the start. And Constantine, as I said above, is one of my favorites because its the more gritty side of DC. An amazing combination of horror and comic. Gotham is worth the watch, if anything, to at least see a new origin take on Oswald Cobblepot, my favorite DC villain, second only to Killer Croc.
And there are many more, of course, not mentioned here in this article. Supernatural has made a strong come back from last season’s snorefest. American Horror Story is still one of the best horror anthologies ever to grace television boxes. Sleepy Hallow comes and goes, depending on the episode, definitely worth checking out on Hulu at least, or wait for the inevitable Netflix release. And The Walking Dead has also made a triumphet return, much to the joy and satisfaction of zombie nerds everywhere. Personally, I feel as if I’ve never had such a hard time keeping up with shows as I used too. Either way, I hope the trend lasts and continues to grow.
What are some of your favorite nerdy shows to come out? Or are you still waiting for yours to make an appearance?
Douglas Petrie, writer and co-executive producer of American Horror Story, recently announced the setting for the upcoming season 4. This time audiences will be transported in a 1950’s era carnival. And fans have been surging approval all week. As a fan of AHS myself, how can we not get excited about this new setting? 1950’s carnies? Yes, please! This reported setting ekes everything traditional where horror is concerned. Horror is rooted in the mystique of the carnival, from the days of Lon Chaney, Tod Browning, and Irving Thalberg. But even for non horror historians, folks will enjoy the twisted nature of the grandfather of theme-parks. This fall we’ll find “who will dare to face the challenge of the Funhouse? [And] who is mad enough to enter that world of darkness? How about you, sir…?” (The Funhouse, 1981).
The popularity of American Horror Story is interesting. Horror has always festered in the hearts of those depraved enough to look, but AHS has a wider base audience that doesn’t fit the typical horror fan scheme. The same was said regarding Frank Darabont’s take on The Walking Dead; however, rating and audience approval has been a roller coaster ride all its own, with downs in the opening of a new season, and ups midway through the second half, while AHS has enjoyed a rather steady climb, growing a wider fan base with each season. Why is that?
Perhaps using The Walking Dead as a comparison isn’t exactly fare. Getting zombies on a continuing television show is a transformative process, especially a Romero influenced zombie story. Truth be told, how many episodes can you really do before you know everything there is to know about the characters involved? How much longer can this story of this set of particular characters go on? On the other hand, audiences (despite disapproval) feel invested in these character stories and will sit down every Sunday night (or Monday afternoon, if you watch online) season after season just to see what happens next. OR…The Walking Dead could take a cue out of American Horror Story’s play book. Dedicate an entire season to just one cast of characters and their story. Producers could make the seasons a tad bit longer, but that’s it. One season, done.
You may or may not agree with the above formula. But hey, its working for American Horror Story. And why, you may be asking? Because its an old new take on how the cogs of horror operate. Long drawn out and reoccurring seasons on the same set of characters will kill a horror story quicker than the FCC. Consider Tales from the Crypt, a near decade run horror anthology (1989-96) that demanded absolutely zero audience dedication, because each show was a single story all its own, and yet people still tuned in to hear the Crypt Keeper’s hilarious chuckal and corny one liners. And before the Crypt, we had Tales from the Darkside, created by George Night of the Living Dead Romero himself, which ran from 1983 til 88′. And before Darkside, during the 70’s we had Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1970-73) based on some of the early work being done by Stephen King. And before that was audiences enjoyed The Twilight Zone (1959-64), with its incredible cast of writers, which included alums of macabre Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Bradbury. Anthologies work! Its a proven 55 year old formula! The only difference now is that American Horror Story has taken said formula and turned it into a single season turn around, instead of a single episode turn around. And this gives us the best of both worlds. We can become invested in characters without feeling stuck with them until the show comes to its inevitable end.
And that’s the rub, right? I think most of us have a tendency of kidding ourselves by thinking our beloved shows will end. And there are those who still feel the sting of watching an amazing show never reach its desired conclusion (cough cough, Firefly, cough) before being canceled. Perhaps the future of television will focus on crafting seasons the way American Horror Story does. Sure, it might not work for most shows, especially shows soiled in drama who keep audiences coming back by drastically killing off major characters (no matter how beloved) each and every end of a season, and despite how much you hate the writers for it, you still come back dammit! But for horror and science fiction, the anthology platform works and can actually improve both the story and ratings. What are your thoughts on the old new? Leave them in the comments box below!
There are certain things you come to expect when you watch horror. Characters are typically isolated in remote areas, cornered in buildings or rooftops, and even sometimes sent off to unworldly places, far far away from the land of rationality. Audiences love seeing characters dealing with tuff situations because its entertaining, and sure, we’re twisted, but its a part of why horror is fun; environments are the foundation of suspense. Another aspect common in horror are character tropes, such as: jocks, deviants, stoner, promiscuous, doubting Thomas, know-it-all, curious, investigatory, überpious, bigots, pranksters, nerds, and (sadly too often killed) not-the-white-guy. Out of these familiar character tropes, heroes tend to emerge; however, heroes in horror are not the same as heroes in action films, comedies, or dramas…well…sometimes dramas. The heroes in horror often become the martyrs in horror. These aren’t the characters who end their life because they simply cannot go on, such as when Dr. Jenner & Jacqui, during The Walking Dead’s season one finale, decide to allow the CDC’s safety protocol system to detonate the building with them inside. No, these martyrs of horror sacrifice themselves for some “greater good,” that helps, in some way, the surviving characters. These martyrs of macabre are as close to saints as horror movies can get. The following are my top ten horror movie heroes turned martyr!!
10. Michael (Dawn of the Dead, 2004):
Michael was without a doubt one of the most selfless characters through the entire film. Not surprisingly, when we find that our hero was bitten during the armored escape, in his attempt to save Ana, he casts the remaining survivors and stays behind as an army of undead feverishly search for a way unto the docks. Michael is a typical type of martyr in a zombie movie, but it doesn’t make it any less a tear jerking moment for cinema.
9. Gorman & Vasquez (Aliens, 1986):
When Burke’s betrayal hits its cataclysmic conclusion, more than half of the Colonial Marines sent to planet LV-426 were put in a serious pickle, and for more than a few, it was “game over, man.” The last marines to go were Gorman and Vasquez, who, as the remaining survivors were crawling through the colony complex air ducts, became trapped. Instead of going out by being impregnated by some facehugger or simply being thrashed by the aliens themselves, Gordon & Vasquez, hand-in-hand, detonate a grenade. Arguably, one could say this was a similar situation mentioned above with The Walking Dead; however, Gordon and Vasquez were not suicidal, these marines knew they had run out of options and if they we’re going out, they were going to take as many of the aliens out along with them, semper fi!
8. Childs, MacReady, Garry, & Nauls (The Thing, 1982):
For the remaining survivors of the American Antarctic Research Station, when Blair is MIA, the last one who could be infected, things become a bit precarious. The Thing plans on going back on ice until rescue comes. Knowing this, the guys decide to burn down the camp, in hopes of destroying the Thing. With sub-freezing temperatures, they know this is a death sentence and still willingly go out and set the complex ablaze. In the end, only MacReady and Childs remain alive to watch the camp burn and while the flames flicker, you can’t help but feel some glimmer of hope for humanity. In the face of death, these men’s sacrifice to keep the alien from reaching a larger population was beyond the call of duty.
7. Sheriff Eben Oleson (30 Days of Night, 2007):
When the sun is due to rise at the end of the polar-night cycle, the vampires, wanting to remove all evidence of their month long buffet , and to kill any remaining survivors still in hiding, decide to burn down the sleepy town of Barrow, Alaska. Sheriff Eben Oleson knows he cannot face them as a blue collared mortal and injects himself with some vamp blood and faces off with the vampire ring-leader, Marlow. With surprise on his side, the good sheriff wins the fight and the remaining vampires flee. Knowing what he has become, Eben decides to stick around and watch the sunrise with his estranged wife, Stella, sacrificing himself to keep the town safe from…himself.
6. Capt. Miller (Event Horizon, 1997):
When the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark is dispatched to answer a distress signal received from the Event Horizon, an experimental ship with a gravity drive which generates an artificial black hole and then uses said gravitational power to bridge two points in spacetime(makes sense, right?), they soon after discover that the Event Horizon has been to another (not so sunny) dimension. In the face of horrible hallucinations coming from the Horizons core (gravity drive engine thingy) and Dr. Weir (the ships creator) completely out of his gourde, Captain Miller decides to detonate the Event Horizon and use the forward section of the ship as a lifeboat. During the conflict with two very unpleasant manifestations, Miller is forced to set off the explosions while still on the rear end of the ship. As the near end (ha!) of the ship floats away, the gravity drive activates, sending Miller and his nightmare friends back, assumingly, to hell.
5. Karen White (The Howling, 1981):
After burning an entire Colony of werewolf’s to the ground, the traumatized news anchor decides to warn the world of these creatures existence. Surprising everyone in studio, Karen decides to “turn,” having been bitten during her Colony burning exploits, and subsequently shot live on television. Differing from the way Sheriff Oleson went out, Karen uses her death as a warning to the greater world, giving some kind of meaning to her demise. Unfortunately, people are great deniers and ignore her stunt, rationalizing the transformation as a stunning special effect.
4. Dean Winchester (Supernatural Season 3 finale):
Obviously, Supernatural is not a horror movie, but the sheer sacrifice of character Dean Winchester has moved me to ignore such litigation’s. At the conclusion of Season Two, Dean had sold his soul to a Crossroads demon in order to bring his brother Sam back from the dead. The Winchester’s are no strangers to self-sacrifice, but Deans event seemed so much more epic. As Season Three drew to a close, when Sam and Dean attempt to take out Lilith, Dean’s “time” runs out and a hellhound tears him to shreds. The scene closes with a frightened and distraught Dean hooked on chains in hell. Normally, i’d stick to my horror movie formula, but, as far as television goes, this was one of the most disturbing episodes i’ve ever seen!
3. John Constantine (Constantine, 2005):
Failing to prevent Gabriel from using Angela in unleashing the son of Lucifer on earth himself, John, knowing his soul is the one soul on earth the devil would collect himself (long story), he decides to slit his wrists. Bleeding out, an overjoyed Lucifer arrives. John tells the king of hell about his sons exploits and the devil, grudgingly offers John an “extension.” John refuses and asks the devil to release the soul of Angela’s sister from the pit instead. Lucifer happily agrees, but as he attempts to drag John to hell, Constantine begins to float upward toward heaven. Lucifer ends up, having run out of options, restoring Johns life to give him ample time to make more mistakes that could send him to hell. Constantine is a catch-22 martyr because, in the end, he survived. However, for a time, he was technically dead and gave up his “free pass” to save the soul of his friend.
2. David Allen (Evil Dead, 2013):
Davids loyalty to his sister was definitely put to the test in this remote little cabin in the woods. After childhood friend Eric unleashed a forest demon, who ended up possessing Mia, Davids sister, the survivors discover the only way to stop the nightmare is to kill the demons host. In the end, David finds a way to kill the demon and save the life of his sister. Unfortunately, there are corpses-a-plenty for the hellbound heart to possess and David, in an act of love, decides to set the cabin ablaze with the demon and himself trapped inside, because nothing says: “I’m sorry I let you turn into a junky,” like burning yourself alive. I’m sure his screams will have no ill-effect on Mia’s future recovery.
1. Father Damien Karras (The Exorcist, 1973):
After Father Merrin fails to expel a demon from sweet Regan and dies from a “heart attack” during the exorcism, its up to Father Damien to save the sweet innocent girl and send the demon back to hell. Fighting the possessed Regan, Damien implores the demon to enter him instead of remaining in the child. The demon agrees, but while Damien is still, somewhat, in control of his own actions, he throws himself out the window, falling down several flights of stone stairs and breaking his neck in the process, sacrificing himself to save a girl he hardly knew.
Honorable Mention. Theodore Douglas (aka. T-Dog, The Walking Dead, season 3):
You have to wonder how T-Dog survived as long as he did, considering his clumsy and non-commonsense nature. However, he was always well intentioned and looked out for the other survivors in the group. Several times he could have ducked out and left, but decided to stay and fight. In the end, even this muscular fellow couldn’t withstand the power of a zombie bite. But he refused to go out as just another victim and so, sacrificed his life to save Carol… For his actions, giving himself to be eaten alive, Theodore most certainly earns honorable mention.