River Acheron
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Happy Halloween everyone! This month, I thought I would do something a little different. So far, we talked about fictional characters coming to life and parallel universes, we pondered our own inspiration, we debated sex, and even delved into COVID. Pretty deep stuff! However, to help us all get into the holiday spirit, I wanted to dial it back a bit and talk about something a bit more light-hearted: HORROR MOVIES! It seems that this year, all of our holidays will be more or less abbreviated due to the state of the world right now, but that does not mean we can’t get into the spirit of things and keep Halloween alive.

It would probably come to no one’s surprise that I am a huge fan of the horror genre. I had a babysitter when I was six years old who showed me the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie and have been hooked into the genre ever since. Now, 20 years later, aside from seeing all the classics, I have delved into the obscure, with movies like ‘Death Bed: The Bed that Eats’, ‘Antfarm Dickhole’, ‘Bunnyman’, ‘Violent Shit’, ‘Night of the Lepus’, and of course ‘Weasels Rip My Flesh’ which was made by a 15 year old boy (Nathan Schiff) in 1979 on Super 8 with a $400 dollar budget! It has since become somewhat of a cult so-bad-it’s-good Z-Grade movie. I also recently expanded beyond the U.S. and got deep into Italian horror, checking out directors such as Mario Bava (‘Blood and Black Lace’), Dario Argento (‘Suspiria’), Lucio Fulci (‘The Beyond’), Bruno Mattei, (‘SS Girls’), Joe D’Amato (‘Porno Holocaust’), Ruggero Deodato (‘Cannibal Holocaust’), Claudio Fragasso (‘Hell of the Living Dead’)

Horror has always been an outlet for me. There’s a certain comforting escapism in it, that I think resonates with a lot of people. I use it to reference a lot of my topics here, because horror – along with science ficion) – is influenced by the state of the world, more than any other genre. It acts as a lens for the world we are currently living in. It’s always been this way, too. Take Dante, for example. Sure, he had his Purgatorio, and his Paradiso, but it’s the Inferno that hit well with readers in the 1300’s. It’s in Hell that Dante used the most political allegory, while allowing himself to explore the darker side of the human nature (the two are not mutually exclusive! lol). Horror has also been the genre that lets the truly creative have fun with what they are best at…set designs, cinematography, lighting, and ESPECIALLY makeup! This is why I adore gore in horror films, especially if it’s practical effects. The problem now, with computers and CGI, is everything can be done with the click of a button and it looks AWFUL! It’s a sad state of affairs that a movie like ‘Hellraiser’ (1987) done on one million dollar budget – using all practical effects and stop-motion…most of which could be done with makeup, a few neat camera tricks, TALENT, and things you can find in your kitchen – looks SPECTACULAR compared with the laughably abysmal Mummy’ (2017) on a 195 million dollar budget which was nothing but a CGI crap-fest made by people who obviously have no talent as actual FILM-makers!!!

However, I digress. This is an outlet that is based on stories. So, I want to streamline my question this month. What is your favorite horror movie, based on the STORY ALONE? Where it really counts. The tale the author or screenwriter is trying to tell you. We can of course debate the visuals and techniques, but for the sake of this venue I want to concentrate on the tale. So, for now, take the look of the movie out of it, forget cinematography, forget the effects. Think about the best story in a horror movie (or book!) that comes to mind. For me, it’s very difficult. It might even be more difficult than being asked to pick my favorite song of all time. In fact, I know it is. However, in the here and now, I would have to say, JUST based on the story – the tale -, taking into account the characters and their development, as well all the mythos that was created along the way, and intended from the start..I’d have to go with Clive Barker’s ‘The Hellbound Heart’ (the Hellraiser mythos). It’s easily one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. In terms of the movies, the first two are phenomenal, and captures the mood of the novella exactly. The subsequent sequels after the second movie are hit and miss, as the franchise changed hands many MANY times over the years, and more than once bastardized Clive Barkers vision. (I will post a link of one scene from Hellraiser 3 that still resonates with me, and is DEFINITELY something that one cannot do today! lol).

I’m curious as to what fascinates you about the genre, especially the STORY! That doesn’t mean your favorite horror movie needs to be based on a book, no not at all, but focus for a moment on the STORY. What is it that you love? What stays with you? Maybe it’s something you saw or read as a child that still sends chills down your spine, or maybe it’s a new tale that you cannot stop thinking about, for whatever reason.

Horror is a genre that not only lets us play in the furthest reaches of our imagination, but also one that allows us to tap into dark areas of our psyches that may be considered taboo by societies social norms. This is not new. Our counterparts in the Middle Ages (and even prior!) up to the Modern Era understood this. Horror lies on the fringes of social acceptability. Horror fans have been called anti-social for centuries, but in the way that term is used, it need not be a bad thing. Do not be afraid of your own dark side, because it is within that shadow (to reference Jung) that we may find aspects of our self that we keep hidden…that we HAVE kept hidden since childhood. This fascination, and fear is perfectly normal. I hope all of you have a fantastic Halloween. As a suggestion, if you never have seen it, I would like to share with you (IMO) the best Halloween-themed horror movie ever made. It puts you into the spirit of the holiday moreso than any movie I have ever seen, and it’s gory, and messed up, and all that fun stuff too! Check out 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, directed by Michael Dougherty. It just may be your new holiday favorite! All of that said, my only question for October is this:

….what’s YOUR favorite scary movie?

Scene from Hellraiser 3:

“First of all…I LOVE ‘Trick R’ Treat’, and I second that opinion! Hehehe! Some really cool twists in that, by the way.

What do I love about horror? Like you said, there’s a sense of escapism there for me. It’s not a matter of being scared or grossed out, like some people believe it is. I think they get scared the second they hear the word horror movie and just run away without even looking at it. Hehehe, but the point isn’t to traumatize you or give you nightmares for the rest of your life. It’s supposed to be fun. Like a roller coaster. A little jolt of adrenaline followed by a few nervous giggles and you get sucked in. What’s the big deal? If you really want to be terrified and feel like your life is in danger…watch the NEWS!

I was an 80’s kid when I was little. So I grew up in the slasher flick era. Michael, Freddy, Chucky, Jason, Leatherface, Hellraiser, and all the rest were all over the place. My friends and I used to thrive off of it. It was a rush. And for some movies, it still is! But, there was a time when horror movies were marketed towards teenagers who couldn’t get in to R-Rated flicks, and they made everything PG-13…which ruined a lot. You have no idea. There was this huge war on horror movies for a long time…but it thrived, nonetheless. Thank god. Like I said…it was meant to be FUN! And it was! 😛

Now, I have waaaaaay too many favorite horror movies to list here. Trust me…my fingers couldn’t handle typing them all out. But the ones that I would truly pick for their STORY alone? That narrows it down a bit. Not by much…but it helps.

Some horror movies really surprise me with their story, and I end up making them an instant classic in my mind. Some that immediately come to mind would be “Event Horizon”, “Get Out”, “Seven” (Which is more more of a crime thriller, but heavy horror elements), “Prince Of Darkness” and “The Thing” by John Carpenter, also “In The Mouth Of Madness”. I liked “The Strangers”. I thought the movie, “Hush”, was really unique and awesome. “Eli” was great, and “Prodigy”…hmmmm…”The Conjuring” I thought was pretty tense. “Frailty” is one of my all time favorites! And of course, the original “Nightmare On Elm Street”! The idea that you can’t fall asleep…something that you inevitably HAVE to do, whether you want to or not, is terrifying.

I think that psychological horror is the most frightening kind. Big monsters and serial killers and invading hordes of zombies can all be scary…but the real terror comes from being stuck in a situation that you have absolutely NO way of escaping! If that’s your thing? Then I leave a few recommendations of my own…

“Wolf Creek”, “Wolf Creek 2”, “Terrifier” (those first three are pretty gory, so buyer beware!), “End Of The Line”, “Crawl”, and V/H/S 1 and 2!!!

Ok, I mentioned, like, 50 movies there! But I’m still sure that I’m leaving plenty of them out. Hehehe! What can I say? I never ever get enough! But here are a few goodies you might have missed! Happy Halloween!”

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Comicality

“Nothing creeps me out more than a society all being in on something that one person is not, and they’re all acting in some form against them.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is the most iconic version of this that comes to mind. But there’s comedic and sci-fi versions of it as well. Such as The truman Show and The Host by the author who wrote the Twilight saga.

I don’t know why that theme in particular appeals to me, or if there’s a deeper meaning behind it.

I guess it could be that I don’t really trust people in general, in real life.

I’m a misanthropist. I prefer to keep my distance. Ironically, I’m also a humanist, I want things to improve for people. But I think, as a species (not everyone, there’s lots of decent people), we pretty much suck. We’re greedy and selfish, ignorant and bigoted. We let our fears control us, we cherry pick the truth we’re willing to accept, and that explains a lot of why the world is currently in the state it is.

My favourite part of Body Snatchers is this. It gave me chills when I saw it as a kid. Now it’s pretty cheesy.:D

When she tells him that it’s everywhere and he has no help. “Where you gonna go? Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere. Cause there’s no one like you left.

There was also this which caused a national outrage at the time. The BBC put on a horror show, but it was presented as a documentary. A lot of people believed it was actually happening LIVE on air at the time.

It was a different time, before Blair Witch Project and the Found Footage horror was a thing, and it was presented by a much loved TV presenter.

There was such a reaction to it. The police all over the country where getting calls. One poor kid even committed suicide over it.

It was banned in Britain and not allowed to be re-shown for decades after it happened.

I was about 8 at the time, watching it in my bedroom, and it spooked the shit out of me. Hahaha!

This clips explains the reaction to it.” –Mike

“Scream! Its a great slasher filled with cute actors and manages to be simultaneously humorous, scary, and suspenseful. I think its great.

I completely agree with you that horror definitely explores the bounds of social acceptability. Horror screenwriters and novelists often get into trouble for going too far! I think its an interesting conversation as to what is “too far” because there is no doubt some horror writers use the excuse of writing horror to engage with their most debased fantasies and that is kinda screwed up…but then again if nobody is truly getting hurt and it makes for a good screenplay then fair enough.

I watch a ton of horror movies. Most of them are absolutely not scary, but all of them are super fun. They contain fun plot ideas and mysteries to solve. I think at the core of my favorite horror movies is that mystery. There is something to uncover. The origin of the haunting, the identity of the killer, ‘that which man was not meant to know’, etc.

The mystery is the best part!” –Jake

” Not a horror fan XD

Well, that question is difficult for me.

I hope I don’t get lynched for my answer. LOL XD

Because I’m not really a horror fan. I mean, I can respect people liking it and all. It just seems to be not the right thing for me.

Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t watch them at all. They can be entertaining from time to time – just usually not my favourites.

Those genre classification are always a little difficult for me anyway. There are many movies that are not clearly one genre.

But how I understood it, horror is closely related to the scare factor. And that factor is completely lost to me. On the one hand I don’t really know what is that great about getting scared by a movie, but on the other hand I don’t think I get scared by movies anymore. I just don’t. There may be scenes that I find disgusting or nasty to look at, but not really scary. It’s not like I couldn’t be scared, I can be scared, just maybe not by movies? Maybe I have seen too much too early for that or maybe I just haven’t seen the right movies, because I was never out to get the hardcore ones out there. (There may be a bit adrenaline generated here or there – that’s not that difficult for movies, but no real scary impression that stays. Maybe the overall genre just doesn’t touch me deep enough.) Or maybe I just don’t like being scared and decided not to be scared too much by movies. XD

So I actually had difficulties to come up with a favourite movie here. I thought of a few that were okay, I guess, but definitely not enough to be called a favourite by me (I guess I can be quite critical).

But I think another effect is contributing to that: Because the genre lines are that blurry sometimes, there are probably a few that others would call horror movies, but I interpreted as something different. After all those genre designations always are a little subjective. But I would guess that’ a minority.

Fortunately you just asked for “scary movie“. There weren’t many really scary movies for me.
That said, I am considering my memory just might be crappy or that I perceived many movies with a little bit of scare factor in a different way. (Sometimes you just see well built atmosphere that can be really great as part of the movie)

Anyway, actually, I thought about it for a few days, but I really had a hard time remembering any scary movies. (As said my memory might just be crappy)

So I will take the prime example out of my childhood. In my childhood there probably were quite a few of other examples, but there always is this one that I’m remembering well.
While our parents were out for one evening my brother and I watched TV. We even were allowed to watch a specific show, but we just kept watching after that. I don’t know exactly how old I was back then, but I would guess it was between nine and eleven or something like that. I definetely was young. Zapping we stumbled across that one movie – and that movie was scary for me back then.

It was “Jeepers creepers 2“. And maybe the worst thing was, that we just watched the first twenty minutes or something like that. So I, then still a little boy, just saw a flying dark black something that takes away several persons, usually without really being seen as more than a black something. And it was just worse, because I knew nothing about the backround story. I think (I never really watched the movie) they even fight it later in some form. With knowing or seeing it it wouldn’t have made that kind of impression. But I only knew those few scenes that stayed with me. It took me years to find out the name of the movie. That all being sad, even that effect wasn’t that bad. It didn’t keep me from sleeping or anything like that. (And I don’t think it was really a good movie.) But if there was ever a scary movie experience for me, then that was it.

So that is all I can contribute to that topic, I guess (huh, a lot of guessing from me today, I guess).

Probably I just forgot all the scares. They are not that desired by me anyway.

However it’s amazing to see how much fun some people can have with it.

Oh, and by the way I practically have seen none of the mentioned movies. And you mentioned a whole lot, especially you, River and Comsie. Yes, at some point you found something. I mean, I watch movies and I even would have said I know a lot movies, but most of the mentioned are completely unknown to me (and wow, that were many if I add them up). At least I’ve seen “A Quiet Place“ and recognized a few other ones. I might have seen a few more of them, but not many. I mean, to my defense, some (or maybe a lot?) of the movies are just too much older than me.

And “Shutter island“ for example was a movie I enjoyed, but did not think of in this context. It didn’t really seem scary to me, but interesting in other ways.

But after all, I guess I just am not a real fan of horror. There are other genres/directions/things I like much more.

And yes, yes, yes, okay, that was enough. I’ll leave now. But have a nice day nonetheless ;)” –Who4M1

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“I used to love ‘Creature Feature’ that we used to get on an LA local broadcast station rather famous for launching horror host careers. Elvira made her ‘Hollywood’ start on that station and hosted ‘Creature Feature’ every Friday night. I was introduced to Hammer Horror films through that since this channel usually could only play schlocky B movies or foreign horror films.

I think I saw all the Hammer Horror catalogue through ‘Creature Feature’. I saw every Christopher Lee Dracula movie and other films that Peter Cushing starred in. I think my favorite, though, was The Creeping Flesh! It had an amazing story and some truly horrifying special effects considering the low budget it had. It has the most bizarre yet compelling Lovecraftian plot that not only makes you wonder about the nature of evil, but also the nature of insanity and what is real and what is not! It’s hard to get a hold of this lost classic, but all who see it find it to be one of the scariest things they’ve ever seen! I completely recommend it as one of the best examples of Lovecraft-style horror ever put to film!

I remember watching a lot of slasher films with my kinda-boyfriend when I was 12-13ish. The 80s was a treasure trove of trashy terror and, thanks to cable TV having no scruples and playing horror films during the day and parents being at work, Jon and I could, virtually, binge-watch such Academy Award Winning (not) films like My Bloody Valentine, Deadly Blessing, Prom Night as well as all the Friday The 13ths and the Halloweens. We found Halloween III: Season Of The Witch one of the funniest movies we’d ever seen up till then! It was seriously stupid! All this stuff actually prompted me to get a Fangoria subscription at the tender age of 13 along with my Starlog subscription so I could tap into how these films were made and what grossness I would get to look forward to next summer!

Jon actually found the slasher films scarier than I did. The only one that really got my goose was, basically, the very first one . . . Last House On The Left! Wes Craven’s debut as a ‘professional’ film director was a film that looked so inept that it really makes a viewer think they are watching a real snuff film done by vicious amateurs! The excellent acting of the two female victims in the film only adds to the bone-chilling horror this film brings. It is, by no means, the goriest of all slasher films (though the uncut version has some scenes that still challenge some of today’s jaded horror fans), but what gore there is really makes you feel that these murders really happened. This fact of the film was so provocative for the time (1972) that the film’s tagline became ‘Keep Telling Yourself . . . It’s Only A Movie!” The villains are entirely believable and their sadism makes the most imaginative undead mass-murdering mask-wearing monster look like the Easter Bunny! My friend Jon managed to get a video of this unrated version of the film and we watched part of it until I just had to go home because I couldn’t watch anymore. It actually left me with a bit of PTSD, to be honest. It helped to cause our break-up because it scared me how much Jon was into this film . . .

Speaking of monsters and ghosts: the film that actually most haunted my fertile imagination as a kid was A L I E N – and yes, I respect and love this film so much that I need to put the extra spaces in to the title because, well, that was such a cool title art idea! I had nightmares about this movie even BEFORE I saw it! The trailer alone was enough to scare the living crap out of me at 10 years old! I submit exhibit A for reference:

This trailer actually tells the story as to why A L I E N is such a masterful piece of horror cinema! The ‘music’ that has an actual racing heartbeat in it as well as the slow buildup are what this film is all about! Again, Lovecraft comes into play with A L I E N because the story is straight-up textbook Cosmic Horror that is defined as a story featuring an unknowable horror so completely strange and deleterious to human survival that it only confirms one of our most primal fears: the fear of the unknown! It points to a universe that is completely unsympathetic or even cognizant of human existence and is as likely to destroy a person as enrich them with new knowledge. It is the ultimate insult to our curiosity as human beings. The ultimate ‘curiosity killed the cat’ idea. Which brings into it why this film has been uniquely singled out as being one of the most terrifying of all horror movies, it is rife with symbols of all of our primordial terrors! Fear of the unknown, fear of one’s own curiosity, fear of rape and specifically male rape! The fear of contamination, the fear of parasitism and a new idea of death no one had ever considered for a human being and yet actually exists in nature! A kind of death so horrifying that it leaves a person feeling vulnerable and raped inside just by having watched it! Fear of sex. Fear of the dark. Fear of closes spaces. Fear of falling. Fear of strobbing out of control lights! Fear of one’s own complacency and sense of safety when, in actuality, that safety is a lie! This film is all of these things!

The monster, the Xenomorph itself, is the perfect monster! No monster has ever come close to its design! HR Giger, a self-admitted disturbed man, used art as therapy for his night terrors! What came from his dreams makes you wonder about this great surrealist artist. Where had his soul gone? What horrors had he seen in life to justify the absolute depravity and brutal beauty of his artwork? He was a product of World War II and had firsthand knowledge of atrocities we still cannot fathom to this day. The Holocost, the firebombings, the burned flesh mingled with technology creating a new necromorphic form of unlife! All of this was distilled into the Alien! A walking black skeleton with a disturbingly deformed penile head and an eyeless face who’s primary feature was a great steely maw holding an awful surprise inside! It was a dinosaur. It was a giant lizard. It was a giant scorpion! It was a huge man-thing with claws that could rip through metal plate like paper! It was the ‘perfect organism’ and a form of life so superior to humankind that it could become mankind’s perfect predator making humans doubt their technological prowess and understand that they, again, were the prey and no longer the ultimate predator. Mankind had met more than it’s match in the Alien!

The Xenomorph has now become as much a part of pop culture as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman so its shock value should have worn off by now . . . but it hasn’t entirely. It still disturbs us to this day! When it first came out in 1979, no one had been prepared for it. The very idea of the whole thing kept me up at night even before I watched it. My folks finally relented to see if actually seeing the film would take away what my imagination was terrifying with. But, no . . . the Alien never left me. Not until I got a toy Alien of my own did I finally ‘make friends’ with my ultimate nightmare. THAT is the bar A L I E N set, and if you haven’t reacquainted yourself with the movie in the past few years, you might need a refresher. Forget the stupid sequels and prequels. Watch the original without preconceptions and it will harrow you as it did when it first came out!

In other news:

The Amityville Horror was pretty creepy for a ghost story, but The Changeling was just bone chilling! I also like John Carpenter’s lost masterpiece, The Fog! That was a wonderful spookfest!

So many horror films! Modern ones are getting better. I’m glad they got out of the Torture Porn genre, though. That was just getting depraved!Hostile is still, largely, a ‘no-watch’ for me. As I’ve gotten older, I have less of an interest in horror movies. Reality is, sometimes, the worst horror show of all and after you’ve lived a little while things add up, you know?

Anyways . . . Happy Horrorween!” –MrM

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