Tag Archives: horror

THE DARK TAPES (2017) by Dee Emm Elms

[98 minutes. Not rated. Directors: Vincent J. Guastini, Michael McQuown]

As soon as I finished watching the horror film The Dark Tapes, I realized that I had a big problem as a movie reviewer. I wanted to immediately get the word out to encourage other people to find the movie and see it – but I also didn’t want to give much of anything about it away to anyone. I came into the movie almost completely cold, and that’s how I think everyone should see it. And, believe me, I think everyone should see it. Just watch it. It’s that good. But for those who need more convincing, I’m offering as much of a spoiler-free review here as I can. That’s how much I want you to see The Dark Tapes.

In telling you that this movie joins the ranks of The Blair Witch ProjectThe Poughkeepsie Tapes, and Alien Abduction, you can probably guess that The Dark Tapes is a found-footage movie. The title kind of gives it away. And let me add that before pressing “Play” on my remote control, I thought the title seemed uninspired and bland. After watching it, I realized that the title is perfect, and I wouldn’t want anyone to make a change. Its rather-generic name belies its contents, which is kind of a central theme to much of the movie – that what you see isn’t what you get, that conventions can and will be subverted in ways a viewer may not expect, and that sometimes it’s the most unassuming things that can hide the biggest and most sinister secrets.

So many found-footage movies try to compensate for a limited budget by being loud and shocking. They throw things at the camera over and over, or feature loud “stinger” sound effects or screams to hide the hollowness of their contents.  The people who made The Dark Tapes know this, and they play with the audience’s expectations of this in a variety of ways throughout the movie. I didn’t jump in my seat even once during The Dark Tapes, and if you think that’s a bad thing… well, I submit that you don’t know much about horror beyond its ability to provide the odd adrenal rush.

The Dark Tapes is about the horror of dawning realization. It’s about the horror of creeping dread. Right from the first segment, it draws your interest and makes you question what it is you’re seeing. It drops you right into its world. That could be a weakness for less-aware filmmakers, but I suspect it’s done here with definitive intent. Because from the first moment to the last, The Dark Tapes pulls off a trick that only the absolute best found-footage movies can manage: keeping you in that perfect horror movie moment where you’re in a state of perpetual dread, in that feeling you get when you hear the clickity-clack ride up the roller coaster… right before the big drop. Except that The Dark Tapes isn’t about the big drop. It’s about the ride climbing and climbing… and then coming to a sudden stop, and leaving you there – waiting for a more existential drop. With The Dark Tapes, you don’t get to release the tension the movie builds until after you finish the movie. This film leaves you halfway up the climb – perhaps suspended there, perhaps hanging upside-down, and waiting for a rescue that you know in the back of your mind just isn’t coming because that’s not how the world really works. In the world of The Dark Tapes, there’s something deeply wrong with the roller coaster we’re all on, and observing how and why – unspoiled – is one of the movie’s great pleasures.

Credit directors Vincent J. Guastini and Michael McQuown for making beautiful use of budgetary limitations. The Dark Tapes reportedly cost around $65,000 to make, but you wouldn’t know it from watching because this movie shows how creative people can overcome the shortcomings of any budget. So much work, craft, and care are evident, and special note should be made of McQuown’s clear expertise at editing that brings all these well-crafted elements together – they not only transcend typical found footage movies, but horror movies in general. In The Dark Tapes, you get a film that takes you on a journey from calm to chaos and back with the guiding hand of someone truly creative who knows what they’re doing and isn’t wasting a second of what you see onscreen. And, in a way, even that deft editing could be interpreted as something sinister. But I’ve said too much already.

Performances throughout The Dark Tapes are natural when they’re supposed to be, and unnatural when… well, let’s say when you’re dealing with the unnatural. Again, my desire to keep your experience undiluted prevents me from saying much else.

However, I do want to give praise to Cortney Palm as Nicole Fallek, and David Roundtree as Martin Callahan. Both play characters who are dealing with fear, panic, and realization – while also keeping their heads in bizarre circumstances. Like everything else about The Dark Tapes, their work displays a delicate balancing act that ramps up the tension while remaining believable. Future found-footage moviemakers could learn a lot by observing how these two performers play out their reactions to what they’re experiencing.

I want to, mysteriously perhaps, levy praise on a pair of elements: the visible and audible in-movie work of Guastini, McQuown, and Ryan Allen Young that I simply can’t reveal further without spoiling. The things I’m talking about literally gave me goosebumps on five different occasions. You’ll know them when you see and hear them. And, if you’re like me, you’ll never forget them.

Likewise, I don’t think you’ll forget The Dark Tapes. It’s a movie made by legitimate talents that gets at the heart of what makes movies scary, and what makes horror movies both unnerving and delightful. When the film ended, I felt like I could watch five more movies set in the world of The Dark Tapes, each telling different stories. If more is to come, I’ll be waiting – with a blanket pulled over my head in that mix of anticipation and fear.

Because in the world of The Dark Tapes, the truth isn’t out there – it’s right behind you.

Crash Analysis Support Team:

Dee Emm Elms was born in 1972 in Glens Falls, New York. Dee writes about many subjects ranging from social justice issues to Lost In Space, and often mixes them together. Her favorite topic is horror, and horror movies in particular. Her novel Sidlings may be read at sidlings.com, and she would be pleased for you to check it out.  Dee may be contacted at her email sidlingsnovel@gmail.com, or her Twitter: @d_m_elms.

(Movie poster from Teaser Trailer. Dee Emm Elms photo via Dee Emm Elms.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with James Cullen Bressack

The Last Knock

At just twenty-five, James Cullen Bressack has managed to rock the horror genre with a multitude of films from My Pure Joy to 13/13/13, and to his very latest, Bethany, about a woman who moves back into her childhood home…

James’ feature film career began at eighteen after Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi inspired him to make his own movie on a micro-budget. Listen in to learn about James’ upcoming films, his work with Zack Ward and Shannen Doherty, and why you should see his latest venture, Bethany, starring Stefanie Estes.

The 2000s: Horror’s Best Decade (Part 3: The Final Chapter) by Paul J. Williams

Please allow me one last time to preface this article with a warning and a statement: Beware! Dozens of movies are discussed and spoilers may exist, so please keep that in mind as you read.

And, I’m not a movie historian or expert; I’m just a cinephile, probably like you, who enjoys horror movies. I also like to reflect upon times and situations in our history and ask: Why? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.

NOTABLE DIRECTORS

As we entered the 2000s, one filmmaker seemed to lead the charge for a resurgence in the horror genre: M. Night Shyamalan. Coming off the monumental success of 1999’s The Sixth Sense, he dipped slightly with 2000’s Unbreakable, before reconnecting with audiences with 2002’s Signs, which unfortunately has not stood the test of time in terms of its plot or an ending that makes sense. After that, poor Night descended that proverbial slippery slide with one miscalculation after another. However, I’m happy to report that the past few years have been a rebound for Mr. Shyamalan with the success of The Visit in 2015 and Split in 2017. While Night might have slumped in the 2000s, several other filmmakers rose to prominence in the horror genre, aside from the aforementioned Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, et. al.

TI WEST started with a couple of independent features before directing the sequel to Cabin Fever, which he now disowns. Afterwards, though, he started the run he has become known for with The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament, and segments on V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. His latest feature-length film was the 2016 non-horror, but critically acclaimed, In the Valley of Violence.

LUCKY McKEE brought us the now cult-classic May in 2002. Several years later, he returned with The Woods in 2006, followed by The Woman in 2011. His latest movie, Misfortune, is scheduled for release in 2017.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: Post-Apocalypse

Another oldie but goodie subgenre that resurged in the 2000s was post-apocalyptic movies, with many in the zombie subgenre as well. Here are a few survivors, though admittedly, some are more drama than horror:

REIGN OF FIRE, starring the not-as-yet-popular Christian Bale and the always great Matthew McConaughey, in a 2002 UK movie where dragons emerge and destroy half the planet.

TIME OF THE WOLF is a 2003 Michael Haneke post-apocalyptic drama that nobody saw during its initial run, but has become appreciated years later.

WAR OF THE WORLDS is Steven Spielberg’s 2005 loosely-based adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel about an alien invasion. Tom Cruise plays a longshoremen from Newark, NJ (remember, this is science-fiction) who must flee with his kids as the war-machines destroy everything in their path. With awesome set-pieces and special effects, the movie went on to receive positive reviews and hundreds of millions of dollars.

CHILDREN OF MEN is a 2006 UK movie set in a near-future where women, inexplicably, can no longer become pregnant. Alfonso Cuarón directs Clive Owen to a great performance as the man who may be able to help mankind. Surprisingly not a hit at the box-office, the movie earned critical acclaim and always pops up on “Best of” lists.

THE ROAD is the 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a father and son trekking along a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of that elusive safe-ground.

DAYBREAKERS is a 2009 vampire tale starring Ethan Hawke, who must love acting in these genre movies. Ultimately a fun ride, the film made double its budget.

STAKE LAND, from 2010, also sets us in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with vampires. A touching story executed on a low budget with some great scenes and a moving soundtrack.

“THE ORIGINAL WAS BETTER”…Yeah, No Shit…

Remakes, reboots, reimagining, whatever you call them, they were everywhere in the 2000s and the horror genre was the biggest victim. This was really the only low point, in my opinion, for the genre this decade.

Look, I like to think I’m not naïve or a prude; I get it, I really do. Hollywood is a business, and businesses’ goals are to earn profits. I’m an American trying to turn a buck as much as the next guy, so maybe if I were in these producers’ shoes I’d do the same, but they all reek of capitalism. There appears to be no artistic or creative goal to them at all… Okay, maybe I am a little naïve after all…

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of these:

THE FIRST: Announced in 2001 and realized in 2003, the first remake of an original horror classic in the 2000s was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Besides Jessica Biel running around in a skimpy white tank-top, the movie offers or adds nothing to the iconic 1974 original.

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL: Touched upon in Part 2, after the relative successes of Rob Zombie’s early/mid 2000s horror-films, producers who owned the rights to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween, tasked Zombie with remaking it in 2006. He would go on to write, produce, and direct it entirely in his own broad, bloody vision, abandoning what made the original so special. It didn’t stop Millennials and scores of others from rushing the theaters, and the movie went on to huge box-office grosses, which spawned the 2009 sequel. A feud of some sort, that might be total nonsense, between Carpenter and Zombie has emerged over the years, but the two seem to have made amends recently.

THE WORST: Hands down, unequivocally, without any doubt, 2006’s unintentional spoof-remake of the 1973 UK classic, The Wicker Man, takes the prize. Nicholas Cage leads the way in this turd, playing the detective searching for a missing girl on a remote island. An unmitigated disaster all the way around… “Not the bees!”…

THE VICTIMS: All of these tried and essentially failed at remaking their original classics: Willard (2003), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Fog (2005), House of Wax (2005), The Omen (2006), When A Stranger Calls (2006), Black Christmas (2006), The Invasion (2007), April Fool’s Day (2008), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Friday the 13th (2009), The Last House On the Left (2009), The Stepfather (2009), The Wolfman (2010), I Spit On Your Grave (2010), and last but not least, A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010). That list is way too long.

THE EXCEPTION: Let Me In is the 2010 American remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire drama, Let the Right One In. Perhaps why this was one of the very few remake successes in the 2000s is the ingredients of talented professionals that collaborated to make it: Written and directed by Matt Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, and the always great, Richard Jenkins, the movie received critical acclaim, though wasn’t the biggest hit at the box-office.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Before we finish, I’d like to mention other movies of note that prove this was one of the best decades for horror:

THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, a 2005 “young girl possessed” movie adds the unique aspect of also being a legal drama. That, along with great performances from both veteran and novice actors, separates this from other ubiquitous demonic possession stories.

HARD CANDY, a two-hander directed in 2005 by David Slade, stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page, a year before she would explode as Juno, in this disturbing revenge tale set in the modern, technological era.

BUG, a 2006 psychological horror from William Friedkin, who directs a sparse cast, made double its budget, and was well-received, despite many disappointed with its conclusion.

TRICK ‘R TREAT, technically a 2007 film, is a horror anthology directed by Michael Dougherty, set on Halloween, that was released straight-to-DVD in 2009. Of course, with hindsight being 20/20, not releasing this was a detrimental decision by Warner Brothers, as the movie was eventually received with critical acclaim and has gone on to develop a big cult following. It undoubtedly would have earned a significant profit at the box office.

THE MIST is a 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novella by director Frank Darabont, who seems to be one of the only filmmakers to successfully transfer King’s stories to movies. The film is faithful to the pages up until the ending, I’m sure most of you know by now, which is very different from the novella that had an ambiguous, yet hopeful finish. It’s a real kick in the balls.

THE ORPHANGE, in 2007, is a scary ghost story (with kids!) from Spain.

EDEN LAKE, a highly disturbing 2008 UK film, starring Kelly Reilly, a then little-known Michael Fassbender, and an unknown Jack O’Connell. A young couple are attempting to enjoy their vacation, but a gang of local hoods have other plans for them. Some scenes are hard to watch, for sure.

TRIANGLE, a UK release in 2009, is a mind-fuck of a movie that, despite Melissa George running around in short-shorts and heels, is a very cleverly structured film.

ANTICHRIST, a 2009 experimental horror from the mind of the infamous Lars von Trier, stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple whose infant son dies in the prologue. No hyperbole: It’s some of the craziest shit you’ll ever see on screen.

GRACE, from 2009, stars Jordan Ladd as a grieving and pregnant widow, who may also lose her baby. Directed by Paul Solet, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

DRAG ME TO HELL is the 2009 supernatural movie written and directed by the accomplished, Sam Raimi.

BLACK SWAN, though not 100% horror, is Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 companion-piece with 2008’s The Wrestler, about a performer’s obsession with their craft, ultimately leading to their demise. Natalie Portman’s performance would go on to earn her an Oscar for Best Actress. Creepy scenes, mild “gore,” and foreboding atmosphere allows me to list this as a horror.

MONSTERS is the 2010 feature-film debut of Gareth Edwards, who would go on direct Godzilla in 2014 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016. It’s not surprising that Edwards would be selected to helm these big budget movies, considering what he does with the visuals and effects in Monsters with only $500,000. The movie puts a great twist on the alien “invasion” subgenre and explores themes way more relevant today than in 2010. Dialogue was adlibbed a la Before Sunrise, however, the actors in that film were much more up to the challenge than the cast in Monsters.

Last, I’m embarrassed to admit I omitted in Part 1, the South Korean movie, A Tale of Two Sisters, from 2003. Unseen by me until some years later, the film is loosely based on an old Korean fairytale and has since been adapted several times.

2010: THE BUBBLE BURSTS

With a decade like the 2000s filling up with so many notable horror movies, the inevitable bubble would burst, which it did, right on cue in 2010 with two films: Human Centipede and A Serbian Film.

One rare thing these two movies have in common is that in this modern, digital, social-media age, each film had an old-fashioned word-of-mouth aspect to them. This was more so with Human Centipede, which I think more US viewers have seen or at least heard of. 2009’s Paranormal Activity was the last horror movie I remember having more of that pre-internet dialogue amongst folks.

HUMAN CENTIPEDE Technically, it’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and was written, produced, and directed by Dutch filmmaker, Tom Six (Oh, the Dutch!). Just from the movie poster, you know you’re in for it. The film starts out torture-porn-esque, with three tourists kidnapped in Germany by a deranged scientist, but devolves much lower than other movies of this ilk. If you haven’t watched it, I’ll just come out and say it: The victims are surgically attached to each other, mouth to anus, hence becoming his human centipede. Themes and inspirations in the film are evident and, of course, this received what you could call “mixed” reviews at best, but it has spawned two sequels which, admittedly, I’ve passed on.

Before we move on, I want to formally recognize three professionals. I’ve been on movie sets and have asked actors to reach down into some deep emotional and physical territory to accomplish a scene, but what is asked of the three actors in Human Centipede goes above and beyond. Here’s to Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura for what they endured in this movie. It wasn’t for nothing.

A SERBIAN FILM Co-written, produced, and directed by Srđan Spasojević, A Serbian Film is an obvious indictment of the filmmaker’s country, Serbia, and its government. Also classified in the subgenre of “just when you thought you saw it all,” A Serbian Film tells the story of poor Milos, a financially strapped, retired porn actor called back to duty by the craziest fucker ever to live. Just how crazy? I’ll give you a hint: “Newborn porn” becomes a porn subcategory.

Somewhat surprisingly, the movie is photographed very nicely, and has way more of a professional look for a movie of this nature. A Serbian Film would ultimately become one of those movies defending itself against censorship in many countries, creating various edits. No matter which cut you’ve seen, or will see, the movie is like no other.

POST-MORTEM

So here comes the arbitrary part where I try to figure this all out. Why, in my assertion, was the 2000s a great decade for horror?

It could be because we became a global society and gained access to movies from around the world that we may have missed twenty years earlier. You’ll notice many, many of the films discussed did not originate in the United States.

It could be because cameras and equipment became much more affordable, opening up filmmaking to those who are truly independent and outside the Hollywood studio system. Everything went digital, as well. DSLR cameras shot HD and became an accepted norm. Expensive film-stock was no longer necessary. Editing software could be downloaded on a laptop. Creative, talented filmmakers were no longer on the outside looking in.

It could be because so many events of the 2000s were so painful, filmmakers thought they had to raise the bar in the movies they showed us. They didn’t want us to pause our movie to turn on CNN and watch something in the world more horrific.

It could be that filmmakers thought they could only explore themes with certain subgenres of horror. The zombie and post-apocalyptic movies jump to mind.

It could be just the ebb and flow of life. The 1980s were an important, prolific decade for the horror genre, which was then followed by a horror dearth in the 1990s.

But, enough of me blabbing. What do you think?

Before I go, I’d like to thank Billy Crash, proprietor of Crash Palace Productions and close friend, for hosting this series on 2000s Horror. I had a blast.

Until we meet again, everyone…

(Photo of Stake Land from Confessions of a Film Junkie.)

Crash Palace Support Team

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Paul J. Williams is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and his short films have appeared in numerous festivals. Although Paul’s the man behind Rolling Dark Productions, he’s also a detective in Morris County, New Jersey. Paul’s a Medal of Honor recipient from the City of Newark for actions on December 14, 2002

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Occupational Hazards

The Last Knock

You may hate 9-to-5 drudgery, but some horror films truly showcase the workplace as a definitive occupational hazard.

We’ll take a look at The Belko Experiment, Resident Evil, Asylum Blackout and many more with occupational hazards from cooks, and miners, to innkeepers. Maybe you’ll finally appreciate where you’re employed a little more – or maybe you’ll feel frightened about what’s right around the corner besides your needling supervisor and his brown-nosed cronies.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@MelanieMcCurdie @MFFHorrorCorner @FRI_FRIGHTNIGHT @BonesofthePast  @gillybrody @ianchampion1 @IsaacsHauntedB @Dorsetghost @KateySagal @Horror_WTF @UndeadWalkingFS @ScreamHorrorMag @DailyDeadNews @KyleDHester @thetracyray @PreacherSix @naomiwgrossman @EileenGrubba @ @Sharkkteethsolo @JamesCullenB @JeremyFultzDTP @tomasboykin @CarmenArgenzian @billoberstjr @alorre2000 @DYNAMITEDORK @RogerCorman @loveandmonsters @RonGizmo @JamesGunn @seangunn @RookerOnline @JohnCMcGinley @GreggHenry88 @JTripplehorn @MollyRingwald @barbaracrampton @CultQueenFilm @Ti_West @jocelindonahue @Dee_Wallace @GerwigGreta @realdepp @1JamesRusso @Jedowdle @THETomSavini @thenaomiwatts @GroovyBruce @craigzobel @Pat_Healy

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Kent Harper

The Last Knock

Kent Harper‘s no slouch: He has six features on the way, and besides acting, he’s also a writer, producer, and director. Thankfully, he was able to take a break from his day to talk about his approach to acting, film, and life in general, as well as his experiences on the set of Surveillance, which he co-wrote with Jennifer Lynch. Horror fans may often see Kent Harper as a formidable force on-screen, but he’s so much more than that. Learn about the mind behind the man, and what’s up with his forthcoming films: Villainous, Deterioration, and A Blast of Sunlight Explodes.

Follow Kent Harper on Twitter and Instagram and see everything he has going on with IMDb!

(Photo from Kent Harper.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Thespians of Terror – Barbara Crampton

The Last Knock

Barbara Crampton has been a favorite actress to many horror fans for many moons. We celebrate her films and accomplishments, and provide more insight into the woman who rocked Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond films, as well as You’re Next and Road Games. We’ll discuss Crampton’s other appearances in film and television, her thoughts about horror cinema, and why she’s having more fun than ever with the genre.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@barbaracrampton @PhantomDarkDave @jeffreycombs @stevecourtney79 @MonsterManiaCon @MelanieMcCurdie @RealCharlesBand @AlexVorkov @RealJillyG @isaacrthorne @13horrorcom @dixiefairy @FoundFootageFan @antibirthmovie @awholelottabern @RobZombie @Marquette_Jones @Forgiving_Chris @DirectingMagic @GuyRicketts @Scream_Factory @SpookyMovies @RattleDemBonez @IOTNQDfilm @CrazyDLane @palkodesigns @12nighthorror @12DAYSTARWARS @TK007icensed @12DAYSOFMOVIES @scottia @alphabetsuccess @firstscreamto @LoveAndBananas @LoudGreenBird @GroovyBruce

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Maria Olsen

The Last Knock

Maria Olsen is back! You’ve seen her in Southbound, the Paranormal Activity franchise, Starry Eyes, The Bunnyman, Dead Game, and so much more! The phenomenal actress and producer, who steals the screen at every turn, now has 28 feature film projects in various stages of completion. Wow!  Join Billy Crash as he sits down with Maria Olsen in her fourth THE LAST KNOCK appearance. They discuss her projects, what’s on the horizon, and how she found her way back into horror cinema after a hiatus. Don’t miss one of the horror genre’s favorites, who has over 160 film and television credits – and Maria Olsen is not stopping there!

You can find Maria Olsen on Twitter and don’t miss her tremendous body of work on IMDb.

(Photo from Cinehouseuk.)

Hungry Like the Werewolf by Billy Crash

Werewolves Got Bite

When it comes to horror sub-genres, “creature features” are a favorite of many, and one can break down that sub-genre into other segments, like a centipede, human or otherwise, if you prefer. But the hairiest of them all – besides King Kong and Mighty Joe Young, of course – are tales of werewolves.

This is not a personal favorite because of the limitations of the beast in recalling who it had annihiliated in the wake of a full moon; the notion of the full moon itself because even if the satellite is not full, the moon is still present with its gravitational pulling power; and since silver is so prevalent and realitively easy to come by, it’s not too difficult to take out a weremonster on the silver screen, no less.

 

Sympathy for the Hairy Devil

The central element of most forays into wolfdom involves a “good man” who becomes the “bad beast.” In this case, the individual has given up humanity, a consideration for others, and becomes a cannibal or tooth-and-claw shredding machine relying on base instincts. The beast within is our animal instincts made real. It’s as if we’ve gone back 2.8 million years to our hairy ancestors, the Homo Habilis, who stood on two legs in the continent of Africa, and had to navigate the world’s dangers in order to achieve “survival of the fittest” mega-status. This is undoubtedly why most motion pictures depict Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Mr. Hyde” as a primitive and often hairy man. After all, we don’t want Mr. Hyde to look like the rest of us because that means we’re all bad. Dr. Jekyll’s alter evil is the base form of humanity giving into the dark side of the self we often choose not to express.

Like Mr. Hyde, the human turned werewolf isn’t just bad to the bone, but wears its evil on the outside: hairy, pointed ears, larger nose, and gnashing teeth (Hyde also has some kind of deformity). It’s visual proof that this character is to be avoided at all costs.

 

Why Eight is Gr8

What follows is a list of the top eight werewolf films ever made to date. Why not the average top ten? Because this is it. The rest are 3 stars or less out of five, and that doesn’t make the cut. And that’s because most werewolf movies rank really low due to weak storytelling that usually involves someone (a guy mostly), who either becomes a werewolf from a bite, or who already is one, but either does or doesn’t know it, or someone thinks he is and can’t prove it… Well, you know the story. The clichés are virtually endless – as well as the disappointment. But what follows are great looking films with twists to the tried, true, and tropey, that make us embrace the wolf like Seth Green’s Oz in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and keep us free from a trap:

 

The Wolf Man (1941) – 3.5 stars

The hairy grandwolf of them all, because the 1913 silent, The Werewolf had been destroyed in Universal’s 1924 fire, George Waggner’s tale from the pen of Curt Siodmak features Lon Chaney Jr. as the tragic Larry Talbot (the surname means an extinct dog with large ears). Larry’s a pragmatic soul who doesn’t heed the warnings of “you can’t go home” and ends up being bitten by a wolf. He becomes the monster, the wolf man, and his demise, his fall from humanity is one of the saddest stories in all of horror.

 

Late Phases (2014) – 3.5 stars

If anyone should have been nominated for best actor in 2014, it was Don Damici for his portrayal of the elderly and blind veteran, Ambrose McKinley. Bitter about his move to a retirement community, he’s soon concerned that people aren’t dying of old age, but from “dog attacks” in the neighborhood. Like a famed blind samurai, McKinley stakes his ground and fights back – hard. As a writer, Eric Stolze delivered something different than the usual youthful fare.

 

Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004) – 3.5 stars

Ever see a werewolf film based on a true story? Sure we had Brotherhood of the Wolf, but that went right off the rails. Elena Serra and Alberto Marini deliver the story of Romasanta, Spain’s first recorded serial killer, who killed thirteen women in the mid-1800s and turned them into soap (Fight Club made real). He avoided “death by garrotte” mostly due to his statement that he was a werewolf. In the film, Julian Sands plays the man who wooed women to their demise in Paco Plaza’s dramatic horror.

 

An American Werewolf in London (1981) – 4 stars

This masterful horror/comedy from writer/director John Landis, with phenomenal special make-up effects from guru Rick Baker, tells the story of David Kessler, played by David Naughton, who should have listened to the locals and stayed indoors. Instead, he heads out, gets attacked by a werewolf, and… Well, the rest is up to you. The narrative took the sad sack story of 1941’s The Wolf Man and made it more introspective, yet maybe just as sad.

 

Wolf Cop (2014) – 4 stars

After winning $1 million in a contest to make an independent film, writer/director Lowell Dean delivers the over-the-top story of Lou Garou, portrayed by Leo Fafard, who’s a drunken bum of a cop, but when fur hits the fan, steps up and finally does the right thing to save his town, and maybe even himself. If you want a fun ride, this one will leave you howling at the moon.

 

Howl (2015) – 4 stars

Coming out of nowhere, if Train to Busan is the best zombie film on the rails, take a ride on Paul Hyett’s train to Furtown where the werewolves come straight out of Creep City to punch your ticket. Ed Speeler’s is Joe, an attendee of spineless proportions who doesn’t want to step up and engage in the hero’s journey. He’s checking tickets and using his best customer service skills to keep ticked off passengers at bay, when the amazing Sean Pertwee, in a cameo as the driver, hits a deer and brings the train to a halt – and then all Hell breaks loose.

 

Ginger Snaps (2000) – 5 stars

Hard to believe that so long ago the horror world came face to face with Emily Perkins, Kris Lemche, and Katherine Isabelle, whose careers were launched from a coming of age parable in bloody wolf form. This very dark comedy of perfect proportions features two death worshipping who want to keep womanhood and the world at bay, but end up fighting against everything they ever wished for.

 

Dog Soldiers (2002) – 5 stars

Sean Pertwee leads his boys on a military exercise in the Scottish Highlands, only to discover that the drill is definitely over when werewolves come out to play and decimate his squad. Kevin McKidd stands tall, and with his breathren, do everything imaginable to truly keep the wolves at bay. Neil Marshall’s amazing film captures a military unit at its realistic best and keeps us rocking on a gut-ripping ride of action, mystery, suspense, and a ton of carnage.

 

No, I didn’t forget lycanthropes of The Howling, Wolfen, Silver Bullet, or The Company of Wolves. They just didn’t have enough bite. Underworld and Monster Squad didn’t make it because the onus was on the vampire who led werewolves around on sometimes invisible leashes. But what do you think of this list? And what are your favorite big teeth, big eyes, and hairy beast movies? Let me know and we’ll chat about it.

Woof.

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Dog Soldiers from Dog Soldiers Wikia.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2017)

The Last Knock

It’s hard to believe that the oppressive creepfest, The Eyes of My Mother is the feature film debut of writer/director Nicholas Pesce. Using black-and-white digital photography to capture the mood, we follow Francisca (Kika Magalhaes and Olivia Bond) on her coming of age journey that goes horribly wrong. The Eyes of My Mother is a dramatic horror of unsettling proportions, and we’ll go behind the story to bring you the story…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@thenickpesce @evepaludan @kicksindamix @GuyRicketts @MagnetReleasing @MissDeAnnah @willbrill @cultmetalflix @ClaraJWong @MelanieMcCurdie @paulnazak @machinemeannow @RealJillyG @Barry_Cinematic @AmandaBergloff @palkodesigns @InnerGhosts @LianeMoonRaven @HellInSpace @NathanStrack @ThomasOtterman @Kent_Harper @FriscoKidTX @LoudGreenBird @dixiefairy @RonGizmo

Event Report: Monster Mania 36 by Jonny Numb

 

The long-running Monster-Mania Convention knows how to show horror fans a good time. For 3 days every March and August, genre stars and a wide variety of vendors descend upon Cherry Hill, New Jersey (just over the Ben Franklin Bridge) for a celebration of macabre delight.

Over the past decade, I’ve attended at least one MM con per year, and have never been disappointed. Between the guests (usually a mix of new blood and returning fan favorites) and the vendors spread across several rooms, this truly is a holiday for horror-hounds – a combination of celebrity wish-fulfillment and a cornucopia of dazzling material goodies awaiting discovery.

There are certain things that MM newbies should be cognizant of: Even if you get to the Crowne Plaza early, you may want to pack your walking shoes (or something that doesn’t lace up to the thigh). My best friend and I arrived at noon on Saturday, and were greeted by a mile-long backup of vehicles waiting to chance the packed parking lot. As veterans of the con, we had never seen MM this busy.

After an odd winter of wildly fluctuating temperatures (from balmy 60s to well below freezing), the day was a mix of sun and wind, the type of slap-you-in-the-face cold that Calvin’s dad would insist “builds character.” As we walked from our faraway parking spot, we speculated on the reason for the turnout (John Cusack being the headliner guest; our later arrival; the parking lot being taken up by out-of-towners in for the whole weekend) and stopped at a delicious* pit barbecue place for lunch.

Upon passing through the automatic lobby doors of the Crowne Plaza, we faced a scene of (mostly figurative) chaos: the extensive foyer/lounge area was packed with people. On first glance, it was overwhelming and obnoxious – a mass of bodies like something out of a Clive Barker novel – but my excitement over being there eventually trumped a sinking feeling of not enjoying the show on account of being unable to move.

The line for tickets moved with great efficiency (with at least 3 or 4 volunteers keeping on top of things), and good news for everyone whose favored ATMs were on the fritz prior to driving over (like me): the admission table does take credit cards. Following the acquisition of the much-coveted wristband, I progressed to the line for the lobby ATM. While a longer wait (maybe 15 minutes), those around me had a good sense of humor whenever somebody would sincerely ask, “Who are you in line for?”

Following my ATM adventure, I met my friend in the room where a majority of the celebrity guests were gathered. Forming a border along the wall, the center section was a swarm of fans looking to get up close and personal with stars as varied as Oscar winner Louise Fletcher, original “Buffy” Kristy Swanson, guys who played Jason Voorhees (Ted White and C.J. Graham), Lucas and “Toothless” from Stranger Things, and even con mainstay Doug “Pinhead” Bradley (whose line seemed permanently stretched halfway across the room).

We both had clear ideas of who we wanted to meet, and began with the lovely Ashley Bell (from Carnage Park and The Last Exorcism, among others), who possessed an energy and enthusiasm that was infectious. MM 36 was her first proper convention, and she was elated to meet her fans. She had nothing but glowing things to say about her collaboration with director Mickey Keating and co-star Pat Healy in Carnage Park, and told me of Psychopaths’ (another Keating project) April premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. After graciously posing for a picture, she suggested making a phone call to Billy Crash (proprietor of this fine site!) and concluded by pointing me in the direction of Love and Bananas – an elephant documentary she’s involved with (also her Twitter handle). Though I committed a faux pas that I will take to my grave, Miss Bell embodied everything a fan could want in a convention guest – down to earth, energetic, and clearly passionate about the genre.

Years ago, my friend had a great alternative poster from John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was unfortunately damaged beyond repair in a house fire. Needless to say, he acquired a reprint for MM, which hosted a mini-reunion of the men of Outpost 36 – Thomas Waites (Windows); Peter Maloney (Bennings); con newcomer Wilford Brimley (Blair); and a nearly-missed Richard Masur (Clark).

In addition to first-time convention guests Bell and Brimley, cinematographer Dean Cundey (who shot Carpenter’s most well-remembered films) was also on hand. Keeping within the same universe, synth wizard Alan Howarth was there with a diverse selection of scores, and also closed out Saturday night with a free concert.

At the end of the day, my friend accumulated five signatures for his The Thing poster – not too shabby.

Nestled within the same corner of the room was the wonderful Barbara Crampton, who has worked in (Re-Animator; From Beyond; Castle Freak) and out (various daytime soap operas) of the genre over the years, and has been enjoying a career renaissance as of late, with efforts like You’re Next, We Are Still Here, and Sun Choke expanding her fan base even further. A line of about a dozen waited patiently for her to return from lunch; when she did, she paused to address the fans: “Thank you so much for waiting! I had to get something to eat!” (I suspect that Mrs. Crampton was really visiting the Fountain of Youth – we should all hope to look so amazing at 58.) When it was my turn, my photo choice was a no-brainer – a still from 2015’s Sun Choke, which I told her was her best performance, “Better than Emma Stone in La La Land,” to which she gave a good-natured (yet doubtful) laugh. Mrs. Crampton asked me what I did for a living as we posed for a photo, and revealed that her sister in Vermont was also a civil servant, to which she recited the line that led me to state government: “It’s a steady paycheck, and you get benefits.” ** It was a very human moment that recalled my meeting with Ashley Bell, and another testament to how down-to-earth genre stars can be.

With our usual approach of getting autographs out of the way, we engaged with Phase Two of our MM experience: slowing our pace to a zombie shuffle to be dazzled and lured by the varied wares in the vendors’ area. Everything from horror-based fridge magnets, original art prints, vintage posters, enamel pins, DVDs and Blu-rays, and custom apparel – among many other tempting items – were available in this extensive section.

One of the things I enjoy most about MM is that many vendors are mainstays, so there is a predictability to the layout that is comforting. Troma Films, for instance, takes up permanent residence at a corner table, complete with an alcove for photo ops with Toxie, Sgt. Kabukiman, and the Troma Girls.

After collecting some new pins and magnets, I picked up an out-of-print copy of Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (from a consistently reliable used-DVD & Blu-ray vendor), and dropped considerable coin at the Severin Films table (who were giving away free DVD copies of Richard Stanley’s Hardware with multi-disc purchases). My last stop was Vinegar Syndrome, where I complained about how abysmal Massage Parlor Murders is, and made humorous small talk with one of the slightly inebriated guys, who told me, “When the ATM runs out of money, it beams a signal to the guy who has to put money in the ATM” and – regarding his cell-phone’s cracked screen: “I threw it at a guy once, that’s why it’s cracked; you laugh – it’s true!” If the celebrities started my experience off on a high note, this encounter brought MM 36 to an entertaining close.

Some cons champion quantity over quality, but insofar as personality is concerned, MM has the consistent feeling of a curated exhibition – by fans, for fans. Despite the added stress of an overcrowded hotel this time around, even that tension was fleeting in the name of the wonderful community that descended on Cherry Hill for yet another horrifically satisfying weekend.

 

(* = Billy Crash can attest to this.)

(** = CC: Karen “Plate of Shrimp” Rice-Young)

(Photos of Barbara Crampton and Ashley Bell via Twitter.)

Crash Analysis Support Team:

unknownJonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) only plays favorites when it comes to review sites like Crash Palace Productions and loudgreenbird.com. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter and Letterboxd.