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Thomas S. Flowers’ BEST OF 2015 Dark Fiction Extravaganza!

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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. Ash vs. Evil Deaddisclaimer, 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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!

 

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FIGHT THE FUTURE: X-Files in review

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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

 


Gourmandizing Hulu’s Wondrous Horror Collection

More than any month of the year, October bids us to watch more then normal amounts of horror. We dip into our collective vaults of DVD and Blu Ray frights. And of course, in the Age of Instant Streaming, we’re given the added benefit, though life-draining practice, of watching movies online through sites such as Crackle, Shutter, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. While these streaming proprietors may in fact be digital vampires, ghost in the machine hypnotists singing sweet lullabies, tempting us to sit hour after hour, binging on our most favorite shows and movies, we cannot deny the often overwhelming selection they provide. Netflix has stumbled a bit in horror selections in recent years, though you can still find a good amount of classic picks.  I’m not a member of Shutter, so I cannot make any kind of comment of their selections. Nor do I watch anything on Amazon. I’m a fan of the cheap, and when it comes to more bang for your buck, both Netflix and Hulu are worthwhile choices for those looking to get away from the endless money pit of cable and dish networks. Its interesting how easy it is to find a best of list on both Netflix and even YouTube, journeymen and women who’ve done the leg work to provide a collective list of top tens or so for us to dabble our curious appetites. However, I haven’t seen many Hulu lists, and I find that strange. Why? Have you been on the horror genre list on Hulu, have you seen? Well…allow me to say, Hulu boasts the largest/cheapest collection of horror movies that would satisfy any deranged loon. The only drawback is that there are TONS of horror movies to pick from. Thus brings us to the point. We need a list. We need a Hulu Horror List. Here, you’ll find not the BEST OF; rather, my own personal picks from Hulu’s dark and endless vault. Enjoy!

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Lord of Illusions (1995): Based on a Clive Barker short story, Private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) travels to Los Angeles and meets with a new client, Dorothea Swann (Famke Janssen). Swann reveals that she and her husband — famed magician Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor) — have been targeted by a religious cult experimenting with reincarnation. After Philip dies on stage in the midst of a dangerous trick, D’Amour must struggle to protect Dorothea from the ruthless cult members and their newly reanimated religious leader, Nix (Daniel Von Bargen). 

Hellraiser I & II (1987, 1988): These picks are conjoined because they’re perfect watching back to back. Part II picks up not long after the traumatic events from the first flick, continuing the misadventures of would-be twenty-something Kirsty Cotton verses Pinhead and his leather bound Cenobites. If you haven’t indulged in these of Barker’s darker imaginings, please do. It’ll make a great choice among any Halloween marathon listing. Forever classic and haunting.

motel hell

Motel Hell (1980): No list is complete without some gore-heavy satire! Motel Hell is about a brother sister duo, Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons), who run a rural hotel, but they earn most of their cash operating a food stand that specializes in world-famous sausages. After years of success, however, the duo’s upstanding brother, Sheriff Bruce (Paul Linke), eventually discovers the grotesque details of his siblings’ booming business: Vincent and Ida are actually plumping up their hotel patrons, killing and dismembering them and then grinding them into frankfurters.

Cannibal Holocaust (1979): While you’re out watching The Green Inferno, be sure to check out this original masterpiece of fright. Cannibal Holocaust was one of the first steady-cam mockumentaries/found-footage flicks. An American professor flies down into the Green Inferno, to discover the fate of a group of documentary crew. And he found them alright, what was left anyhow. He also found what remained of their footage. Upon his return, the professor watches the grisly footage. Cannibal Holocaust is a fantastic film. Old but still gritty and gruesome, even by today’s standards.  

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978): If you haven’t seen this one, you probably never will. Pure science-fiction satire, spoof, low-budget flick about over-sized killer tomatoes that go on a rampage killing people…yup.

candyman

Candyman (1992): There sure seem to be a lot of Clive Barker based flicks on this list…what does that say about me??? Whatever! Candyman is a classic mythology story about resurgence and racism. Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) befriends Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) while researching superstitions in a housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side. From Anne-Marie, Helen learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a knife-wielding figure of urban legend that some of her neighbors believe to be responsible for a recent murder. After a mysterious man matching the Candyman’s description begins stalking her, Helen comes to fear that the legend may be all too real.

The Thaw (2009): Not the best among Hulu’s options, but certainly a decent flick. I think the reason why I watched it and included it on my list is that the movie reminded me a lot of the classic X-Files episode from season 1, code named “Ice,” when Mulder and Skully are sent to investigate when a team of geophysicists stationed at a remote Alaskan outpost are killed by a parasitic alien life form. In The Thaw, ecology students discover a prehistoric parasite that has been released from the melting polar ice cap threatens the safety of the world. Again, you may find the acting to be a bit sub-par, but the premise and story is, I thought, pretty creepy.

Cannibal Ferox (1981): Jesus…what’s wrong with me? My list seems to be full of Barker flicks and cannibal films…I think I may need professional help. Until then, if you’re collecting a list of gruesome grind house type movies to add to your Halloween month list, you may want to consider Cannibal Ferox. There isnt much to plot here, just gore, and lots and lots and lots of it. The basic premise is this, a cocaine dealer and an anthropology student fall victim to cannibalistic Colombian natives…boom…there you go, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Scanners (1981): Okay…finally, a Cronenberg film! Here you’ll find men and women born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers. There are many who exercise the benefits of their special gifts in a safe and judicious manner. However, there is a group of renegade scanners who plan to create a race that will rule the world. If anything, you need to watch this movie for a very infamous scene and nod towards practical effects. Its great! You’ll know it when you see it…

The Beyond (1981): If you haven’t seen this one, you need to. Its a mesmerizing gem that at first feels kinda lack-luster, right? But as the film progresses, so does the bizarre. Its a fantastic journey and somewhat artistic film by famed Italian director Lucio Fulci…and yup, he put zombies in there too!

Demons (1985): A group of people are trapped in a large movie theater in West Berlin that is infected by ravenous demons who proceed to kill and posses the humans one-by-one, thereby multiplying their numbers…..enough said!

Pieces (1982): In this violent and gut-wrenchingly gory flick, set in a Boston university, the story centers on a crazed meat cleaver killer who hacks up hapless women in the hopes of building his dream girl. A throwback to the 70s savage cinema era. If you can stomach this one, you might want to add it to your list, along side every other cannibal flick I’ve mentioned. You can book your therapist after.

intruder

Intruder (1989): Nearing the end of the Slasher Age comes a grisly picture, a claustrophobic thriller set entirely in a small supermarket, whose owner is preparing to go out of business. This doesn’t sit too well with one of the staff members, who busily butchers the night crew using the tools of the trade (hooks, axes, knives, power tools, and so on). A fantastic gore and practical effect based horror tune that even cameos Sam & Ted Raimi and the man, the legend, Bruce Campbell!!!

Well, there you have it folks. Not a top pick, but a solid pick from among Hulu’s endless treasure trove of horror. If you have the time, be sure to check out some others on their site. Lots to pick, lots of golden B-flicks as well, and even more classic ones, including: Evil Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Cronos, Carnival of Souls, The Innkeepers, The Brood, and so many more!!


Horrible Women, or my favorite women in horror

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With February being Women in Horror Month, I thought I’d do my part in honoring the many women who’ve made the genre I love so bloody fantastic. Women who have broken boundaries and defied not only gender clichés, but also social and cultural as well. Now, in all honesty, horror is not with its own stereotypical tropes, but in fairness, horror has also done more to mangle down those grey stone walls of truism. Slasher movies for one have a nasty habit of typecasting women into weak character roles. Yet, looking at it from another angle, 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, perhaps even slasher movies are saying that when the shit hits the fan, women are survivors. 2013’s home invasion horror movie You’re Next may or maybe count as a slasher flick (we’re going to roll with it), but in the film while there are a few damsels in distress, Erin Hanson (played by the beautiful Sharni Vinson) utterly dominates the movie, chewing bubble gum and kicking ass, taking no prisoners. 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 the F out! Lets all be honest here, lets put aside our egocentric macho bullshit and come clean. Lets admit it, women have done more for horror than men. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite horrible women!

Lina Leandersson as Eli in Let the Right One In (2008):

Lina Leandersson as Eli, Let the Right One In, 2008.

Let the Right One In released in our most desperate hour, during a very strange and scary time for vampire tropes. I hate to mention here on my blog, but it needs to be said, in 2008, vampire lore had been polluted with Twilight-esk glowworm sparkle making me want to scream for trying to ruin a classic horror monsters! Yuck! And thank Zeus those days are over. Let the Right One In was an welcomed breath of fresh air, an absolute amazing horror flick. And Lina Leandersson playing the century’s old vampire Eli was magnificent. She was so innocent until she wasn’t. The best scene has to be at the pool when Oskar is confronted with some rather violent bullies. You do not see her inflict the carnage, but when Oskar comes out of the pool and you see all the gore surrounding this small adolescent girl, it is a utter chilling moment in horror history. Her portrayal as his protector was totally believable. The American remake was decent, but for this list I have to go with the original Swedish version. It was by far the superior.

Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully  in The X-Files (1993-2003, 2008, 2016):

Gillian Leigh Anderson as Agent Scully, X-Files (1993-2003).

What can really be said about our favorite doubting Special Agent? The X-Files had a huge impact in my life growing up. And the show is still good. Better than most of what passes as TV nowadays, not to sound like some bitter old man. Gillian Anderson’s portrayal as Dana Scully is interesting. She’s the yin to Fox Mulder’s yang (not to sound dirty). She was the rational part of the relationship, Mulder was the wide eye dreamer who jumped at any and all shadow that spelled conspiracy or extraterrestrial or both. She was a skeptic, sure, but she had to be to level out Mulder’s eccentricism. She was also the scientist, the doctor, the brains of the operation. Her portrayal is interesting because its a role typically played by men. Are men not the more rational? DON’T ANSWER THAT! (cough-cough, wink-wink).

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986):

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, 1986.

Though the first time Miss Weaver portrayed Ellen Ripley was in Alien (1979), she did not feel to me as strong of a character as she was in its sequel, Aliens. She was a survivor, for sure in Alien, but in Aliens she kicked some major xenomorph ass! In James Cameron’s epic sci-fi horror, Ripley was easily the strongest character not only because of what she did, but the fact that she did it while struggling with PTSD, struggling with the memories of the traumatic events from the first film. She was a protector when at times you felt she was the one needing protection. Hell, she came out on top while every single one, save Hicks, of the supposedly badass Colonial Marines gets bush whacked! She even goes toe to toe with the “get away from her you bitch” queen bee! Aliens is an excellent movie for many reasons, but the best is watching Ripley transform from traumatized survivor to tuff-as-nails She-Ra!

Jane Levy as Mia in The Evil Dead (2013):

Jane Levy as Mia in The Evil Dead, 2013.

I have no idea what some nerds have against this movie. It is absolutely fantastic. It wasn’t a reboot, it wasn’t a remake, it wasn’t a continuation; 2013’s The Evil Dead was simply another cabin-in-the-woods movie cast in an Evil Dead universe. The mood from the very beginning is grainy and dark, given the subject matter of Mia’s rehabilitation with drug addiction. And it just gets darker. And her struggles felt real. And when the table turns and her inner-demon, as they say, comes out…her creep factor goes sky high! It was fun watching Mia start off playing the victim of the demon that had taken hold of her, and then in actuality becoming the monster (and scary one at that!). And it was satisfying seeing her, by the end, transform into a person willing to literally and metaphorically come out swinging. Mia was not some Ash trope, she was her own character, and a strong and realistic one at that.

Gaylen Ross as Francine in Dawn of the Dead (1978):

Gaylen Ross as Francine in Dawn of the Dead, 1978.

While I struggled between Gaylen as Francine in the original and Sara Polly as Ana in the 2004 remake, because I feel both characters and women were strong in each of their respective films, in the end I had to go with Gaylen Ross. Blame it on my favoritism to the original classic or on my love for Romero or whatever you want. Regardless, who can deny the magnetism in Ross’ portrayal as Francine? She was a lone woman surrounded by male machismo and was still able to keep her voice heard over all the grunts and farts. From the very get-go, when they land at the mall and she states “Stephen, I’m afraid. You’re hypnotized by this place. All of you! You don’t see that it’s not a sanctuary, it’s a prison! Let’s just take what we need and get out of here!” Yet, while being overruled by the male majority, she remains patient and lets it slide until her prophecy becomes reality. Of course, her best line is when the boys hatch a plan to secure the mall without consulting her and she confronts them with her own demands, telling Stephen mostly to never leave her without a gun again because (she states mockingly) “I just might know how to use it.” And what’s more interesting is that she is not only the lone woman in the group, but also pregnant. That in itself says something to the strength of her character to deal with these boys and keep her cool in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist (1973):

Linda Blair as Regan in The Exorcist, 1973

As horror director and visionary Tom McLoughlin put it (and I’m paraphrasing here) Linda Blair as Regan was everything sugar and spice and everything nice, and she was set up so beautifully pared with her mother, but when she turned on us she became is absolute terror because while she is being victimized by the demon (or demons if you have read the book) she is also the monster, this evil thing that is in total control. Linda Blair did such a marvelous job with her role that The Exorcist is without argument the scariest movie ever made. But it was not just Blair and Regan that made the movie sensational, it was also Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, a strong independent single mother, balancing a profitable career and parenthood. Both actresses deserve mention as this list.

Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton in Hellraiser (1987) & Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988):

Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton in Hellraiser, 1987.

I wanted to give Ashley Laurence’s portrayal as Miss Cotton credit in both films because she was pretty much the same character types in both films, though you can imagine that in Hellbound she was struggling more with the hellish (no pun intended) events in the first movie. Miss Cotton was a believable loving daughter who did what she could to love her step-mother, but as they classic trope demands, her step-mother was quite wicked and unlovable. I love Cotton’s character. She’s not weak necessarily. She is a survivor. And she most certainly has her wits about her during times of tribulation. Consider the moment in Hellraiser when she first opens Lemarchand’s box (aka The Lament Configuration, aka The Puzzle Box). When the cenobites first appear, though terrified, for obvious reasons, she is still able to keep her cool and hatch a plan to trade her life for Frank’s. And at the end, when the cenobite attempt to alter the deal she sends each and everyone of them back to hell via solving the puzzle box. In Hellbound, though traumatized, she not only confronts the return of her wicked step-mother, Julia, but manages to humanize Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and the other cenobites, turning them back to their original self’s. Clare Higgins also deserves mention here. I was not impressed with her portrayal as Julia in the first Hellraiser, her character was too needing of Frank to stand on her own. But in Hellbound, the gloves came off!! She was a strong and dominate villain, blood thirsty and seductive, even without skin. Yet, despite strong acting from Higgins, I’m more favorable toward Laurence as Cotton. She was smart and foul mouthed, a perfect combination.

Well, there you have it folks! Just a few favorites from the numerous women who have not only embraced, but also defined horror. Who are some of your favorite women in horror?

Thomas S. Flowers creates character-driven stories of dark fiction ranging from Shakespearean gore feasts to paranormal thrillers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books and hosts a gambit of guest writers who discuss a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can follow Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.

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