And today’s Halloween pick is the other one of those “save the special ones for Halloween every year” picks. I told you I couldn’t decide between two films, so I was ending the year on two no-brainers. Yesterday I gave you the incomparable classic Night of the Living Dead (1968). Today, I give you the pivotal horror game-changer, The Evil Dead. It felt apropos, since the Starz series, Ash Vs. Evil Dead premieres tonight (so much yes.) Soooooo many horror freaks my age have this movie, and it’s incredible sequel, to thank for steering us in the direction we did. True story, when I was in high school and I heard the tales of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell putting cameras on 2×4’s and big wheels and just running around like idiots making this thing for almost no money, I immediately thought, “I want to do that with my life.” I wanted to make low budget horror movies. Like many of us out here, for better or for worse, we have Sam Raimi to thank for our careers in horror. Ever since that epiphany, I have had an original Evil Dead poster framed next to my writing desk ever since college. It hangs in my office right next to me as I type this. It’s a very important film for me. I was lucky enough to go to an incredible event at Beyondfest this year where I got to see the original Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 projected on the big screen surrounded by a million of my fellow Evil Dead fanatics. The best part was that between the films, both Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi held a Q&A session with Edgar Wright and just talked about the making of the movies for almost 90 minutes. It was my absolute HEAVEN. Heaven, I tell you. Hearing their stories from the trenches only cemented why I’ve had such an obsession with these films from an early age. They were run-and-gun, low-budget, horror movies that relied on unique visuals, aggressive bizarre effects (think Tim Burton-esque, but a LOT more disgusting), and the centerpiece of Bruce Campbell to hold it all together. The story is the tried and true classic. Group of friends go to a cabin in the woods. There they find an ancient book (the Necronomicon!), and some recordings from a scholar, and accidentally release demons that will “swallow your soul!” From there you’ve friends that suddenly want to kill you, possessed grannies in the cellar, and even trees that, um, want to have sexy-time with you. It’s bonkers. Purely bonkers. And amazing. Every frame of The Evil Dead holds your eyes and your imaginations. Whether it’s upside down, zooming around at a frantic speed, spinning around, it’s always alive. And that’s what this film is to me – alive. This is why Sam Raimi is such a genius. He just found a new way of doing things. Everything feels fresh. Everything feels new. And like I said, everything just feels alive. It’s a horror masterpiece for a reason. If you want to see one film that truly feels alive in every sense of the word, watch The Evil Dead and realize why so many of us hold it in such a high regard.
That should do it for 2015’s October Horror Movie Recommendations. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Although remember, horror isn’t just for October. It’s there all year round.
And now, as per typical, I will sleep until Thanksgiving. Farewell all.
“They’re coming to get you Barbra.” Such a perfect, memorable, and foreboding line to start a perfect, memorable, and foreboding film. If only young George Romero knew the extent of the explosion he was creating when he did this little flesh-eating zombie film in good ole Pittsburgh. Yep, no-brainer choice today. I usually hold the real no-brainers for Halloween every year, but I was deciding between two films this year and couldn’t choose. Instead, I’m ending my 2015 list with TWO no-brainers. I couldn’t wait anymore; I had to write about each film now. First, it’s this masterpiece. I love the original Night of the Living Dead. It summarizes everything I love about horror films. It’s claustrophobic; it’s dread inducing; it has an array of interesting characters; and as has been dissected many times over, it actually says something. This is Halloween viewing 101. Night of the Living Dead is to Halloween as It’s a Wonderful Life is to Christmas. Almost everyone I know has seen it. Some people watch it every year. In my community, it’s must-watch stuff. But like It’s a Wonderful Life, there are shockingly still a lot of people who have never sat down and watched it. This is for you. This is the kick in the butt for the rest of you to view some real film history. Night of the Living Dead is simple. One morning as a brother and sister are visiting their father’s grave, a strange frantic man attacks them seemingly from nowhere. The sister escapes to an isolated farmhouse for safety. There she meets an array of extremely variant characters. And just as the threats of the undead build on the outside, the threats of personality and power clash on the inside. It’s this duel threat that set NOTLD apart from all the rest. Who’s side are you on? Do we move to the cellar or stay upstairs? Each character is kind of right, and each character is kind of wrong. There is no exact black and white, which is genius. And speaking of black and white, the gritty visuals in this film are incredible. The black and white creates such a realistic claustrophobia that you are instantly pulled deep into this world. As the relentless zombies continue to try to break into the house, and the characters start to crumble amongst themselves, you can feel your chest tightening. THe zombies are slow-moving, but not brainless. They can open car doors. They can take rocks and smash windows. They can think more than most zombies, which makes the threat more real. And when more and more of them start to surround the house… chills. And don’t even get me started on the scene in teh cellar. And of course the absolutely gut-twisting finale. Oh, man. I have to stop or I’ll ruin everything. Dammit, I love this movie. I could go on for ages, but I’ll just leave it here. If you haven’t seen this already, just go experience it for yourself. Seriously, this is must watch stuff here.
DEATHGASM!!!! Holy lord Deathgasm. I don’t even know where to start. I think my friend Brendan said it best when he told me, “If you, Jeff Dixon, saw this movie when you were 12 years old, it would be your favorite movie ever.” And you know what? He’s right on point. This is 12 year old Jeff’s wet dream. It has everything I loved (and still love). It has heavy metal, comedy, horror, metal, gore GALORE, Satan worshippers, and more METAL!!!! This is the metal obsession movie that I always wanted. If you are a lifelong metalhead like I am, all the references to bands that no one knew but my friends and I, will make you melt with joy. Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Mutilation, they even mention A.C.! (*Please, don’t ask me what A.C. stands for, because it’s about as awful as it gets. We used to listen to them in college and laugh our asses off.) Anyway, Deathgasm, or sorry, DEATHGASM (because as they say in the movie, lower case is for pussies) is what you get if you combine Peter Jackson’s Dead/Alive (or Brain Dead, for overseas fans), Evil Dead, and Tenacious D. And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. The story is about a metalhead that never quite fits in and is picked on constantly in life. But it all changes when he finds some ancient sheet music known as “the black hymn” and plays it, summoning demons to take over the world. It’s super low budget, which makes all the effects even the more amazing. Plus, they are almost all practical gore effects. Practical! Sure there are some CGI kills here and there, but this thing was a labor of love and it shows. This is yet another amazing flick to come out of New Zealand, they are KILLING it lately. The comedy is sometimes a bit adolescent and stupid, and there are a few too many dick sight gags, but whatever. The 12 year old in all of us approves. It’s stupid, it’s insane, and it’s kind of brilliant. Most of all, it’s fun as shit. Just turn it up to 11 and give it a spin. Get ready to see more puking blood than you ever thought was humanly possible. IT’S SO METAL!!!!!
Yeah, I know I just barely posted a Universal Classic a few days ago with Frankenstein, but I just can’t help myself. My youngest daughter and I have been watching all of these during this Halloween season, and I honestly forgot how awesome this movie truly is. The Invisible Man is so good still today, but damn I wish I could have seen it back when it came out. The effects must have been truly mind-boggling. When he first takes off his bandages to show… nothing. Oh man, that must have made people faint. Although my personal favorite effect was the body-less pants sprinting down the street. By now, most know the story. A scientist working on an experiment finds a way to turn himself invisible, but he can’t figure out the antidote. The problem is that the longer he stays invisible, the crazier and more maniacal be becomes. Finally, he gets to such an insane state that he essentially becomes a serial killer. This is the fact that was lost on me when I saw this so long ago. I forgot that The Invisible Man actually kills hundreds of people in this movie! I mean honestly, 1933? This movie was downright aggressive. And to add insult to injury he usually laughs maniacally while doing it. The fact that you still find empathy for what has become such a horrific man is what’s so clever about this movie. In fact, that’s one of the highlights to almost all the Universal Classics. Watching this through the eyes of my 9 year old daughter was amazing. She was glued to the screen, and even when had to pause it to answer the phone, she rushed me to “hurry up” because she wanted to see what was going to happen. At the end, she looked at me with a pensive look on her face and said, “I had no idea The Invisible Man was going to be so sad.” It really affected her. Look, if a movie from 1933 can still affect a 9 year girl today, then mission accomplished. Universal does it again with another iconic flick.
Yeah, I get to brag a little and say that awesome “I saw this at Sundance” line. So here goes, I saw this at Sundance… and it was awesome. I’m a sucker for creature features, especially creature features done RIGHT. This one is done freakin’ right. I knew I was in for something special when for some reason Edgar Wright came to the screening in Park City and introduced the film along with the director. Little did I know that they were childhood friends, but still it was cool to see that kind of support and backing by an amazing director in his own right. The Hallow is simple. A family moves into a severely isolated home in the Irish countryside. The dad works for a logging company testing the surrounding woods. But the locals don’t like them there. They say the woods are special; that they house ancient creatures; and no one should be meddling. The family stays the course, and well, let’s just say the locals kind of know what they’re talking about. There are creatures all right. Terrifying mysterious creatures. Oh, and the couple’s new baby is the target, which of COURSE ups the ante. The Hallow seems simple, but it’s so much more. First off, the suspense, especially in the first half, is palpable. There are numerous scenes that have you gripping your seat. But then it just goes from there, building entire mythologies, dancing into some body horror, and finally building to a place that most creature features don’t go – actually showing the creatures. And showing them in their entirety. Now granted, as per usual, the movie is much scarier when you don’t see the monsters, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t pretty fantastic when you do. The monsters are fantastic and almost all practical! All different kinds of
xxxxxxx. (I’m not going to spoil it, now am I?) The compassions to The Descent are pretty spot on. While The Descent is a superior film, The Hallow still deserves a nice home in the “damn solid creature feature that is actually scary” category. Be aware, there are a few different movies called The Hallow, so make sure you look for the Irish one. As of this posting I think it’s a DirecTV exclusive right now, but it has a wide release soon. When it comes out, give it a watch on VOD. It’s a magically terrifying time.
Okay, you want brutal? I’ll give you brutal… More brutal than you can even imagine. Today is for the hardcore. Today is for the true horror fanatics that don’t flinch in the face of something truly disturbing. We’re talking about the absolutely incredible Hong Kong flick, Dream Home (*Note, do NOT confuse this with Dream House, the American Daniel Craig movie.) Some of you in the film circles may have heard about this film, most notably because of its extreme violence (more on that in a second.) But the thing about Dream Home is that it is SO much more than just a run of the mill, torture porn, slasher flick. And that’s what makes this movie even more disturbing. Far too many times when a movie depicts stomach-turning violence on this level, it’s got a goofy, or somewhat “simple” storyline. Here, the film is actually telling a socially conscious story, rich with characters that you truly feel for. Dream Home is about a woman that grew up in a poor part of Hong Kong during the harbor property battles. All she ever wanted in life is an apartment with a harbor view, which the movie actually presents a convincing argument for. She works two jobs, saves every penny, all while taking care of her brother and sick father. She is the ultimate “pull yourself up by your bootstrings” protagonist that we as an audience are behind all the way. But here’s the thing, the first scene of the film we see her commit a wretched murder, but have no idea the context. What flows throughout the rest of the film are flashbacks divided by the real time story. At first it’s a bit disconcerting, but by the end of the film, all the timelines come together and everything is explained. It’s actually a genius technique. And this isn’t the only genius technique of this film. Every frame of this film is meticulous. You may be watching the most heinous shit on screen, but man is it stylized gorgeously. The craft behind this film only makes the violence more disturbing. And now, the violence… Everything you’ve heard is true. This may be one of the most shocking, sickening, disturbing, and truly jaw-dropping films you’ve ever seen. Forget Hostel, personally I think Dream Home has it beat. There were countless stories of people vomiting in the movie theaters, and when you watch you understand why. Some of the stuff you see will utterly blow your mind. It was even hard for me to watch. My stomach rumbled at a few points. It is so graphic, so violent, and so ruthless, you practically feel it. And yet even after all this, in some ways we still ROOT FOR THE KILLER! It’s such a conflicting emotional ride. Here’s the deal. I LOVE this movie, but I can not say this enough… Be warned. This is for the most hardened fans only. I mean it. But for those of you who can handle it, you are in for an experience you will never forget.
After seeing my friend Clay’s awesome Giallo killer costume the other night at horror trivia, it was the perfect reminder for me that I haven’t put enough Giallo on this list. Well, in honor of that costume, here’s one of the best from the master of Giallo himself, Dario Argento. This is Deep Red. Deep Red is one of those stylistic movies that if you saw it at an impressionable age, you’d be obsessed with every frame. In typical Argento visual style, every frame is stylized. It’s an awesome array of extreme close ups, wide shots that utilize the entire screen, and of course a whole bunch of inventively framed shots that make the inner photographer in all of us smile. But storywise it also has Argento’s trademark mystery, suspense, twist & turns, and of course his brutal, in your face, violence. It’s everything you’d ever want from a Giallo, including the leather gloves. Deep Red is about a musician that witnesses a murder of a famous psychic, and sets out on his own mission of curiosity to figure out who did it. Yes, there are some of Argento’s typical gaps of logic on display, but honestly it doesn’t matter in the least. This thing is a work of 70’s Italian wonder. The suspense is thick in so many of his scenes. The mystery is quite rich and fun. And the kills are pretty damn solid. I mean, let’s be honest, any scene featuring a giant meat cleaver-wielding maniac is going to rule regardless. Plus, all of the creepy kid stuff keeps you on your toes. From the opening flashback, to the weird toy mannequin that “attacks” someone, and of course the weird girl who tortures lizards (which sadly he actually did in one scene, to the anger of many animal cruelty groups). There are so many amazing touches in the music as well, from the creepy children’s song that plays before each kill, to the always incredible Goblin score. Deep Red is the movie Argento did right before most people say was his ultimate effort – Suspiria. But Deep Red is phenom all to itself. If you’re in the mood for nice juicy Italian Giallo, you’re welcome.