31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 21

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 21 | Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

It’s funny that I mentioned that Pinhead wasn’t really the focus of the first (or even the second) film in the Hellraiser series. And now I’ll tell you why–Julia, the lady who was basically HBIC during the first–where she was making out with gross skinless people a lot and it was pretty gross–and second movie–where she was the one that was gross and skinless but still people wanted to make out with her and I still don’t really understand it–was supposed to be the one to take over the franchise, but the lady playing her didn’t want to do anymore Hellraiser sequels. And, as you’ll also notice, the dates between the first and the second movie means they were released only a year apart. The second movie was commissioned a week after the release of Hellraiser. The producers didn’t realize that Pinhead was so popular–I mean, SPOILERS, they killed him off in the second movie (when he got his throat slashed after we found out that all the Cenobites were human at one point)–until after Hellbound came out. From then on, Pinhead became more of the focus of the series, in which all in all there are nine movies.

I think this one was considerably more interesting, though that might be because it was almost exclusively “fantasy” (here, I’ll note the repeated use of the term “fairy tale” for you to do with what you will), taking place mostly in Hell (or, what can be perceived as hell, I suppose?). There a few scenes that take place “in the real world” but even those are gory and somewhat horrific. Plus, SPOILERS some more, we get two scream queens this time!

This movie is considered “British-American,” though I’m not really sure what the qualifications are. So, I’ll just count it as Americana since it’s definitely a part of the American horror cannon.

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31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 20

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 20 | Hellraiser (1987)

You might be wondering why I chose to go with this 20th anniversary edition photo instead of the regular one with Pinhead in the forefront like we’re used to seeing. Well, the answer to that is mostly that the movie isn’t really about Pinhead…he’s just the most…iconic part of the movies. Not that I don’t like his design or the voice or anything but the movie is a lot more about these boxes, known as Lemarchand’s boxes. They’re the real “hell-raisers” to be honest. While Pinhead and the other Cenobites are truly unnerving, they certainly aren’t the weirdest or grossest things about these movies. No one ever seems to talk about the gross skinless people that come back from the dead after invoking the Cenobites…or the creepy people that like to make out with the gross skinless people that come back from the dead. Or the religious iconography everywhere in the house. Or even the religious implications in general–the repeated use of the term “hell.”

I guess it’s worth noting that this movie, despite being clearly set in the United States, is actually British. It was directed by Clive Barker–who is also known for Candyman (1992), which is actually an American film–and based on a novel that Barker himself wrote. I’m not necessarily sure what that says about England since I’m not English and mostly focus on…America. But it might be something interesting to look into yourselves.

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31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 19

31 Days Horror Movies

Day 19 | You’re Next (2011)

So, the date on this movie is 2011 since that is when it was premiered at theToronto International Film Festival, but it wasn’t released to the general public until 2013, which is why you feel like it wasn’t that long ago that you saw it (if you saw it!).

To be honest, this is not generally the kind of movie that is my “cup of tea,” if you will. It’s more “thriller” and “slasher” than horror but they billed it as horror so I watched it. And I was very pleasantly surprised! I liked the movie a lot and while some elements were somewhat predictable–just from being involved with the “horror” genre as long as I have–but some of it was very surprising, in a good way.

I don’t really want to delve into the plot much because I think this movie is one that is best just watched with as little prior knowledge as possible.

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31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 18

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 18 | It Follows (2014)

I’ve been really excited to talk about this one!

First I want to mention the nebulous time period it is “set in.” As you’ve likely seen here and there, especially if you’ve seen this movie, the idea was intentionally to not give any real clues as to a specific time period. A lot of the settings and technology as well as the wardrobes seem a little…old? But then there is that weird little clam shell thing that the one character has and is reading something off of, like an e-reader. It’s bizarre and fun. Also, the soundtrack is pretty great. I would suggest looking into that one too!

This muddled clarity is intentional, made to feel a little like a dream–or a nightmare, really. A lot of people want to know what “it” is, but in my opinion the “it” is that sense of existential dread. Or at least, some kind of dread. I don’t doubt that within the movie, people really do get brutally murdered by some slow-moving entity that may or may not look like loved ones. It’s just meant to be terrifying, and I think it is for most people (again, it’s hard to scare me). Honestly, it took me a bit to figure out what my feelings were toward this movie but I have a positive opinion of it and I think it’s definitely going to be considered part of the horror cannon going forward. (I will warn, though, if you haven’t seen this movie there is a fair amount of sex in it.)

31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 17

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 17 | The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Yes, I know this is a remake of the Wes Craven The Hills Have Eyes (1977), but I figured I could talk a little bit about both! Wes Craven is particularly known for horror movies, often of the exploitation variety. I know that sounds a little bit negative but it’s not really. Before The Hills Have Eyes, Craven made a movie called The Last House on the Left (1972), which is considered a “rape and revenge” exploitation film. Basically, the idea is that Craven worked with “shocking” or “lurid” subjects. These two movies predate A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which is of course Wes Craven’s most well-known work, and is a slasher film–another type of “exploitation” movie.

Anyway, the plot of the movie is that the main family (the Carters) gets stranded in the desert when their truck and trailer skid off the road and they are brutalized and terrorized by a family of “savages.” Sounds a little like House of 1000 Corpses (2003), which came out a few years before the Hills remake, doesn’t it? That’s because the director–Rob Zombie–was influenced by The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Going back to the exploitation genre, and the slasher films which all of these movies are considered to be, the idea is “a ps*chopath [or multiple ps*chopaths]  stalking and violently killing a sequence of victims.” The people in the original movie who are trying to kill the Carters are just people who are “weird” and live out in this desert. This is a major difference between the original and the one from 2006.

In the 2006 The Hills Have Eyes, the movie makes a point of stressing that the people who terrorize the Carter family are the products of nuclear waste on miners that refused to leave the area after the United States government tested nuclear weapons in the American Southwest. Just to be clear, this movie was condoned by Wes Craven and he even had a large part in picking the two writers and director for the film.

Both versions of the film are pretty violent and there is rape both. If slasher films and super violence like Black Christmas (1974) and Halloween (1978) are up your alley then give either or both versions of this movie a try.

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31 Days of Horror Moves: Day 16

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 16 | Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I brought this movie up on day 14 in regards to zombie movies that don’t end happily. That is no joke with this movie! This is George Romero’s first movie and the first of several zombie movies he made later, including Dawn of the Dead(1978) and Day of the Dead (1985)–these three are colloquially known as “the Dead Series.” He also directed Creepshow (1982) and Creepshow 2 (1987), if that tells you anything!

This movie was made in the 1960s but it’s pretty violent! It’s also pretty heavily inspired by the novel  I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, a novel that has been adapted by Hollywood more times than you probably care to count! Anyway, the movie was pretty low budget so the set and props was pretty low budget. They filmed in a cemetery called Evans City Cemetery in Pennsylvania and used chocolate syrup (since it was a black and white movie) and ham/animal entrails for the cast members to chew on.

The movie is high stakes and high tension and deals with a lot of people in one house, trying to make survival decisions. And let me stress again, it does not have a happy ending.

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The Winchester House of Mystery

Sarah Winchester had some odd reasons for building this chateau-style labyrinthine house in San Jose, California. She was the widow of William Wirt Winchester who was the son of Oliver Winchester, the man who started his career as a clothing manufacturer and then worked his way up to the largest shareholder of the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company which was owned by Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson (yes, the same two who also owned Smith & Wesson) and later became Winchester Repeating Arms Company after the success of the Winchester Rifle (also known as “The Gun That Won The West”) which was a modified version of the Henry Rifle.

Needless to say, with the size and scope and specifics of the Winchester House of Mystery, Sarah Winchester was quite well off. An article once appeared in The American Weekly that detailed a nightly ritual of hers and was published in 1928 (six years after she had died). The article read:

“When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but onto the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.”

If that doesn’t give you an idea of how large and disorienting this house is, maybe you should check it out for yourself!

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31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 15

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 15 | The Babadook (2014)

This is considered a pretty spooky movie and it’s relatively successful. However, it’s more of a “psychological” horror and deals mostly with [spoilers after this point!!]  the aftermath of a woman who is stuck with a child that constantly reminds her of the death of her husband. The child is so smart and it makes him a bit insufferable, especially to the mother who finds him as that reminder and he is constantly acting out in school or with his cousin. A lot of this movie is the tension, the silences and the repetitiveness of the child’s bizarre behavior.

The babadook is pretty terrifying but the idea is that its not a “real” monster or entity, it’s the mother’s stress and depression.Here’s a good article that talks about it on The Daily Beast. I highly suggest you give that a read after you’ve seen the movie (if you haven’t seen it!). And hey, the director of the Exorcist (1973) was pretty impressed–and terrified!–by this movie.

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31 Days of Horror Movies: Day 14

31 Days of Horror Movies

Day 14 | Shaun of the Dead (2004)

This is the first in the  Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy by Edgar Wright andSimon Pegg. It’s considered a “horror comedy” so I’m counting it!

The movie is a zombie so it has the typical “our everyday lives make us zombies” message, which I have to admit I’m not crazy about but I think it is one of the earlier ones to do that? Don’t quote me on that. However, the movie was directed by Edgar Wright so you can expect that the cinematography was spectacular and clever. The zombie apocalypse is always an interesting setting but it doesn’t always end happily–see Night of the Living Dead (1968)–so don’t expect that here either.

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The Red Ghost

No, not the comic book character. This urban legend stems from the United States Camel Corps. Many US citizens and military officials were vying for the usage of camels as military beast of burden. Finally, in the mid-1800s, the military imported 33 camels and the operation was considered to be a success. However, with the start of the Civil War, most of the camels were sold to private owners or escaped out into the deserts of the American southwest. For decades to come, feral camels had been spotted in the area with the last sighting occurring in Texas in 1941.

But in the 1880s, sightings of the Red Ghost started. Several people got trampled by the mysterious lone camel which appeared to have a rider. No one knows who the rider was but there was obviously a skeleton tethered to the back of the camel, still attached to the saddle.

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