The Return Of Horror

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Dennis
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I'm a big horror nut. I dare say it's my favorite genre. So I'd like to open up a discussion about it here. But rather then do the tried and tired thing of discussing our favorite horror movies ever, let's focus it to the last few years.

I'm starting to see a revival in brutal, unflinchingly relentless horror movies lately. The French seem to be leading the charge.

Haute Tension, aka Switchblade Romance
"Haute Tension"

Inside
"Inside"

Frontier(s)
Frontier(s)

None of these movies are perfect. "High Tension" has one of the best opening thirds to a horror movie in decades, and then blows it in the final act with a lame, forced twist. "Frontier(s)" is just too brutal, for the sake of brutality's sake. The film had nothing redeeming for me. "Inside" is easily the best of the three. And I owe our very own Suit-Up Reviewer, Tina, for pushing me to watch that one. There's also "Sheitan," which trumps all three of the above. But I'll let Brian James comment on that one.

Some other notable horror flicks I've seen in the past few years continue the trend of being non-US films. The most recent I saw was "Eden Lake," which is sort of like "The Strangers" on heroin. Easily one of the most unrelenting horror films I've seen in years. You won't believe how far this film goes.

Eden Lake

Then there's "Let The Right One In," a Sweedish Vampire flick, that in many ways, attempts to redefine the genre. For the most part, it does some very interesting things. It's also been one of the most critically hailed horror films in a while, taking the grand prize at the Tribeca Film Festival. I saw the movie recently though, and was a little underwhelmed by it. Which is sad. I wanted to love it. But alas, I felt it made a lot of mistakes, and had a problem with pacing.

Let The Right One In

But for me, one of my favorites of the past year comes from the Germans. It's a tight, very well directed movie called "Dead In Three Days." It's essentially a remake of "I Know What You Did Last Summer," but don't hold that against it. It somehow manages to still kick ass. They're already making a sequel to it. So check it out on DVD as soon as you can.

Dead In Three Days

Coming up, again from the French, is the controversial flick "Martyrs," that had audience members at this year's Cannes Film Festival getting up and leaving the theater in disgust, halfway through. It's a brutal revenge flick from Pascal Laugier, director of "Brotherhood of the Wolf," (a film I hated). I'm hearing great things about it though. And I dig that poster. So we'll see.

Martyrs poster

What about all of you? Sound off on some recent horror recommendations. Doesn't all have to be European. ;)

Cody
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I do agree that horror is making a turnaround/comeback this decade. There have been quite a few horror films that I have enjoyed within the past few years (too many more to name here because I watch everything i get my hands on); luckily, if you know where to look, you can find more than the American re-make/re-hash being churned out left and right.

The last really, really good old fashioned horror film that I had no qualms with was the Guillermo Del Toro-produced Spanish film "El Orfanato" ("The Orphanage"). The visuals, pacing, sound design and performances were top notch and the unraveling mystery reminded me, in a way, of old films like the original "House on Haunted Hill" or "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte". "El Orfanato" also has some disturbing moments, especially when it's anything to do with the character Tomas. Eww.

Speaking of Del Toro, of course there's "Pan's Labyrinth". I found the human savagery in that film far more frightening than that bastard with the eyes in his palms.

If 2004 isn't too far back, the Chinese film "Gaau Jui" ("Dumplings") is something that I can't explain here due to spoiler issues, but you must do yourself the favor and see (if you haven't). In terms of taboo and disturbing material, this one is up there with the banned Takashi Miike Masters of Horror episode "Imprint". I'll just say that "Gaau Ji" asks the question: "What you'd you do to appear young forever." An interesting note about the film is that the violence and taboo acts portrayed are carried out by women, something that you find more in foreign cinema than American (you can get the US edition of Three Extremes, which rocks, and a shorter version of "Dumplings" is one of the stories, the second DVD contains the uncut/un-condensed film).

But American horror isn't dead by any means, it just needs to pick itself up and stop liking in vacuum. You don't have to re-hash a 70's slasher film or break off another lackluster sequel to make a solid horror movie; which is where the indies are finnaly getting their head's above water and understanding. Take "Teeth" for instance, this is a unique film on so many levels. It's a dark comedy/horror about a girl who is an active member in a Christian Abstinence program for teens and finds out though a slew of disgusting, disturbing, yet funny circumstances that she has "vagina dentata", the mythical affliction of having teeth in your cooter. Yes, there is graphic penis trauma and yes, it looks real.

Another American film that isn't the finest movie you'll ever see, but is more than entertaining and steeped in cool-factor is "The Signal". When i sat down to watch this, based off of the trailer I wasn't expecting what the DVD delivered. I expected a quasi-"28 Days Later"/"Pulse" rip-off; but this film is none of those things. The camera work and editing are some of the sharpest I've seen in an indie. The dialogue is fresh and funny, the pacing hot, and the story irreverent and compelling. Side note: brand me a fool but I thought that "Pulse" (the US remake of the Japanese film "Kairo") was a 4 out of 5. It was visually disturbing to me, much in the way that (laugh now) I found "Silent Hill" and "1408" were. We're all frightened by different things, though... so please laugh all you want.

And speaking of, "28 Weeks Later" delivered the goods. That was probably my favorite horror sequel of all time. The opening sequence of that fucker gives me chills every time I watch it. But overall, this year I think my favorite horror film was "The Mist"; that movie is just so bizarre and the ending is marvelous, even when you see it coming. It's a Lovecraft/Bosch nightmare and it's unlike anything I ever remember seeing. Plus, have kids killed in your movie and it's a plus in my book.

Yeah, "The Mist" might have taken favorite altogether, but, Thailand's ("Sick Nurses")hand's down had my favorite scene; a girl swallows a fistful of razorblades, then chokes them the rest of the way down with a fetus from a formaldehyde jar. Lol. Thailand... you kill me.

 Teeth The Mist

HONORABLE MENTION:
"A Tale of Two Sisters"
"Feast"
"Broken"
"Infection"
"Right at Your Door" - (categorized as a 'thriller' but see it now if you haven't!)
"Hostel Part II" - especially the "Bathory" scene where Heather Matarazzo is skewered...
"Three Extremes" - (Miike's "The Box" is unsettling and Fruit Chan & Chan-wook Park bring their A game in this three story anthology)

Kirk
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Now that Cody replied, I'm going to have to think long and hard about my reply. Damn you for stealing all of my ideas.

I agree about The Orphanage, Tomas was a great creepy character. Actually, that mask was so great I don't even know where to begin with it other than I want one for myself. I thought the ending was great because it has to be every parent's nightmare.

I don't know if I would put Dumplings in my "good" category, but it certainly had some good EWWWW moments going for it.

Teeth is the one that I probably really disagree with you on. I'm sure there is a lot of subtext going on in it about a teenage girl coming to grips with her sexuality, but frankly I felt it was a little heavy handed. Ginger Snaps dealt with similar subject matter in a much better way, in my opinion. All that said, there were a few good blood squirts, and I think this one movie made up for all the bare breasts in typical horror movies with the amount of on screen cock.

The Signal was one I really liked too. I felt that it was a pretty unique concept, and I don't recall ever seeing something similar to it. Plus there were a few really funny sequences in it.

I was a little let down with 28 Weeks Later, to be honest. Visually I thought it was fantastic, especially the fire-bombing of London. However, the (what I like to call) Begbie Zombie, was a little too much for me. It started to go down the Day of the Dead road, which I've never really cared for.

That brings me to The Mist. And I couldn't agree with you more. It is easily one of my favorite American horror films in years. The photography was fantastic, the effects were great and I loved the beasties. Obviously I'm not going to spoil the ending for people who haven't seen it, but I will say it was a total shocker. Stuff like that doesn't typically fly in American films.

As for Dennis' movies...

Haute Tension is one of those movies that I heard a lot about before finally seeing it. I liked it up till the big reveal. It was one of those that just seemed way too forced to me and ended up ruining the parts of the movie I liked.

Inside will be arriving from Netflix tomorrow, I'm excited to see it.

Cody
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Begbie Zombie, what a hoot. Yes, that was the only 'out of character' thing going on in that movie. "Days" is still superior for sure.

Jenny
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I have to admit that I've almost given up on American/Western horror movies, with all the sub-genres that entails (survivalist, slasher, gore, and above all anything with intelligence to it). Unfortunately this attitude is difficult to shake when the American remakes market seems more prominent than that of the market for the originals: I'm thinking specifically of "Quarantine," which I can only imagine as an utterly unnecessary remake of the excellent Spanish film "Rec." Along with the remakes of the "Ju-on" (or "Grudge") films, which at least had the positive aspect of being made by the legendary Sam Raimi of "Evil Dead" and latterly "Spiderman" fame, and happily Raimi employed the original director Takashi Shimizu, "Quarantine" makes it easy to believe that there is nothing new, exciting or original going on in Western horror.

But I would like to remake (ahem) the point that this is not so: there are always, ALWAYS promising films about - but you probably need to look, as usual, to the low budget area of film-making, or at least the films with a smaller marketing budget. They are frequently more intelligently made films, made by people who are doing it for the love of it - as well as the love of the idea of one day becoming hugely famous and gracing TV shows with their presence to blast the commercial film-making scene - and who, as a result, have a huge background knowledge of the genre. And of course, the lack of finances usually leads to innovation and creation, since necessity is the mother of invention.

Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that the foreign market should be neglected: some of my favourites include "Inugami," the "Whispering Corridors" set and the Vengeance Trilogy (and anything else) by Chan-Wook Park, which are a nice little subgenre of horror which comprises a number of conventions from other film genres, including quirky humour and poignant ironic tragedy.

Essentially I'm saying that if you look, there are worthwhile films everywhere!

Kirk
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Frankly, I think the Asian horror craze was a little bit over-hyped. Some great movies came out of it, but let's all be honest, they all quickly fell into genre trappings as much as any American genre does. Seriously, how many movies can you see with a really pale female ghost that always stays in the correct amount of shadow?

In some instances, the American remakes were decently done but it's obviously much cooler to like the original. Say what you will about remakes, the fact is, most people don't like to read movies. If you have to re-shoot them with American actors so they can find an audience, so be it. And though I watch a lot of foreign language films, it is not uncommon that I don't want to read a movie. In my opinion, horror of all genres, is about having fun. Sure there are horror movies that are also intellectually challenging, but they are not the films that made me love the genre as much as I do.

Dennis
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Check out this list that a contributor of Bloody-Disgusting.com made. It was generated by user polls of the top 50 greatest horror films of all time:

http://thevaultofhorror.blogspot.com/2008/11/cyber-horror-elite-have-spo...

Tina
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No love for The Changeling? Always a bridesmaid.

Dennis
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Well, we're talking about the return of horror.

If you want to get into a discussion about great horror films of the past... bring it, gangsta.

Tina
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Dennis saidCheck out this list that a contributor of Bloody-Disgusting.com made. It was generated by user polls of the top 50 greatest horror films of all time:

http://thevaultofhorror.blogspot.com/2008/11/cyber-horror-elite-have-spo...

You opened the floodgates, my man!

Dennis
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Okay, I'll bring it first:

1. The Exorcist
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
3. The Shining
4. Don't Look Now.
5. Psycho

Kirk
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  1. Ghoulies
  2. Ghoulies 2

Conversation over.

Dennis
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Kirk said

  1. Ghoulies
  2. Ghoulies 2

Conversation over.

Understood...

Dennis
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But how DARE you omit Ghoulies 3!!!

How do you call yourself a human being!?

Kirk
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You implied all-time greats. Ghoulies 3 is great, but not all-time great.

Haas
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(Please forgive the trespasses contained within this ramble)

This isn't really about anything specifically said in this forum. Rather it's a question and comment put out to a bunch of people who know more about horror than I do.

I've often wondered when watching horror became so much like wine tasting. I don't remember it being so highbrow when I was growing up watching it. Formerly shit on by "serious" movie people, horror used to be junk food. So why is what used to be considered pizza and beer, now keeping shop on the corner of smarmy and highfalutin? I miss the days before the snobbishness. Horror used to be all about getting your girl to hold your hand and bury her face into your shoulder (I always tried to guide her lower. Towards the Staff of Comfort).

If I like a movie, I like it. If I don't, I don't. But I don't hold anything (especially an entire genre) to such a high standard that practically anything I would put before my eyes is doomed before it even starts. I hear so many people make blanket statements about horror. These usually revolve around either hating remakes or exclusively loving foreign horror. I happen to have liked the remakes of DAWN OF THE DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I also enjoy Asian and Italian horror, but I don't swear by any of this.

It seems to me that we are overly critical on horror. People seem to go out of their way to hate certain horror movies, like no other. If my friend Monroe hated GANDHI or MAD MONEY, I would probably never know it. But if Monroe hated any particular horror film, he would likely spare no effort or expense to announce it. Because somewhere along the way it has become fashionable to claim what is "good horror" and what is "bad horror."

Part of the problem is that there are so many sub-genres. It's difficult to know what to call "horror" anymore. Personally, I tend to think of horror in very basic terms. It's a film with either elements of the supernatural, or a flat out slasher. It has suspense, a build up, and then a payoff. It should also have some sort of a fucked up twist somewhere in there. It's also got to be at LEAST R rated. Of course the exact specifications are up to the individual, but this does seem to be an area where people tend to disagree. It's tough to label some of this stuff. It's even tougher to get everyone to agree. I think THE FLY (1986) is a good example of this. What IS THE FLY? (Besides a kick-ass fuckin movie!) Sci-fi? Horror? Something else? The point being, we're not always talking about the same thing to each other.

For me, I want as much "shock" as possible. I can never see enough blood and guts. I can never see enough outlandish deaths or monsters. I want to see the most violent, bloody, obnoxious, gratuitous fucking thing known to man. RIKI-OH (although not a horror) was a good start for blood. I want the absolute pinnacle! All the best scenes, edited together like a music video, two hours, maybe two and a half, strapped into the theater seat. I covet the Ludovico technique.

I would pay my admission, and I would ask for seconds.

Previously horror was simply an unsightly satisfaction. It could afford to be light on story, because it didn't always matter if the reasoning behind what we were seeing made perfect sense. (I don't care that HIGH TENSION had elementary plot holes. I enjoyed watching it.) All that used to matter was that it was happening, and we were loving it.

It's no different than what we tend to love about action flicks. The big kill, the gruesome event, and the over the top violence is a lot of what we remember. It's certainly a lot of what we talk about after. Nobody on this site confuses COMMANDO with being a brilliant achievement in motion picture history. But it was what started this site in the first place, and I would wager that we could talk for hours about the brutal shit that John Matrix pulled in that movie.

(I liked when he threw Sully off the cliff!)
(Remember when he shaved the head of the dude with the saw blade?!)
(What about when he chopped the soldier's arm off with a machete?!)

And yet, we all love horror films. Who doesn't? Sure, maybe there are a bunch of fruity chicks out there who can't stand to watch the spooky. Fuck them. But are we really talking about such an incredible coincidence? Is anyone here amazed that we all love horror? Of course not. It's pretty much universal. As long as we can keep our eyes on the ball, and not lose sight of what it is that we love about these movies, the thrills will come to us. I'm not saying you shouldn't hold horror to certain standards, but remember what you're watching. Isn't it just possible that our prejudices are keeping us from seeing some worthwhile shit?

As I mentioned before, there is a sense that disliking certain films has become fashionable. And it's certainly not exclusive to horror films. Even the beloved-by-all Stanley Kubrick was not immune to this. I do not think I have known a single person who enjoyed EYES WIDE SHUT. It's to the point now that I've given up defending it. Of course it wasn't Kubrick's greatest film, but to treat it like an Ernest P. Worrell sequel is just obnoxious. So isn't it interesting that the late, master filmmaker is responsible not only for EYES WIDE SHUT, but also one of the most universally loved horror films of all-time in THE SHINING? I don't know anyone who would have the balls to say they didn't like THE SHINING. On the other hand, there are people with whom I avoid mentioning my enjoyment of (some of) the SAW movies.

Wow, I really am rambling. Let me try to bring this fucker home.

What I really want to say is that horror films don't have to be something they're not. Enjoy the sub-genres for what they are, and always remember that horror should always be taken with a grain of salt. If we keep taking this shit too seriously, pretty soon we're going to end up bitching about horror films and Oscar snubs.

Ugh!

Look, for me the best case scenario I really hope for from my horror (besides lakes of blood) is to maybe see a creepy situation. That's it. I like a movie that shows me the most uncomfortable situation possible. It should have just enough realism to allow me to trade places with the protagonists in my mind.

Just like the endless conversations that couples had after seeing INDECENT PROPOSAL "What would you do if someone offered ME a million bucks to fuck him?", I want to discuss the "what ifs." I want a film that makes me consider what I would do (or even be capable of doing) if I found myself in the horrific predicament of your choice.

Finding yourself identifying with, and being scared by the goings on - I believe that is the mark of a true horror film.

But don't take my word for it. I'm the dolt who's about to watch BARRY LYNDON followed by COBRA. It's all about ranges, pizza and beer, and loving what gets you off.

Cody
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Haas you are not alone, I too enjoyed "Eyes Wide Shut" and both "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remakes (and even that really weird one before the re-boot with Rene Zellweger & Matthew Mcconaughey's remote control leg).

Dennis
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Any thoughts on David Goyer's new horror film, "The Unborn."

Pretty freaky trailer, that one is: http://www.firstshowing.net/2008/10/09/must-watch-david-goyers-the-unbor...

And pretty sexy poster to boot!

Kirk
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I've been interested in this since I first heard about it but that poster has sold it.

Brian James
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I am out of touch and made fun of here at the forums...

but I seen that the Teeth poster was given some love up above.

Loved me some teeth! Sheitan is the greatest horror flick in recent memory.

And Ghoulies III.

Kirk
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I've been neglecting the site some. I need to get back on this HARD. Time to figure out how to make it all work...

Cody
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Please do. I want to live here.