Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Celebrating SIX Years Of Fear: Six Horror Films I've Never Seen (That Practically Everyone Else Has!)

While I have seen a ton of horror movies, there are still some out there that I haven't put my stamp of approval (or disapproval) on.  The following are six films that I have yet to experience, some of which are pretty damn popular in horror circles.  But I need to know if they are actually worth my time, so anyone who wants to weigh in, feel free....

Well, it's possible I have seen part of this.  Either that or I have just seen the main Wishmaster dude in pictures and clips.  It actually looks pretty scary.  HE actually looks pretty scary, kind of like the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers.  But am I correct in saying this guy is a demonic genie? Does he have a bottle? How is he summoned? What does he want after you make your wish, and how many wishes do you get? Does he want you to do unspeakable evil? Does he want to take your soul to hell?  (Doesn't everyone these days?) And my most burning question remains:  how the hell did this movie get three sequels?

Why doesn't this sound like a horror film?  It sounds like a movie about a gang from the wrong side of the tracks or something.  Is it a film about vagrants?  Hookers?  Homeless people? I'm confused. I understand it has a huge cult following, but I'm just not feeling it.  The movie poster does nothing for me, and to be honest it looks really stupid. I know I will offend with that comment, but someone is going to have to list this film's merits and perhaps I'll give it a go.  I do respect all your love for it though.  Horror fans are eclectic and proud. So never fear, I won't make fun of you for appreciating it.

Here's another one I'm not entirely sure I haven't seen. Some of the 80's are a blur to me, and 1985 was one of those years when I did a lot of drinking after football games.  It's possible I may have subjected myself to this one at someone's sleepover, but I really can't be sure.  What is this about?  A rather ambiguous title, don't you think?  Any pics I've seen always has....well, stuff drooling out of their eyes and mouth, so I need to know just what the hell is going on before I take the plunge.  Please advise.

Hmm.... David Hess.  Must contain reprehensible, misogynistic material, right?  Let me guess...he's a career criminal that abuses, rapes, and kills women. Does it have a plot? Is there a reason to watch it, other than for completeness sake?  I know it's a Deodato film, so that gives it some credibility in horror circles, correct? It's one of the video nasties on "THE LIST" so I assume there's a ton of violence. Are there different versions, like a trimmed down, less violent one that I should avoid due to continuity problems? Do I really need to see this? Does it bring anything new to the table at all?  Or is it just a free-for-all kill-a-thon that I'd do well to avoid?

I've heard of this one, many times. I always thought it was a comedy.  Is it?  I'm not crazy about comedy in horror. (Unless it's as good as say, Shaun of the Dead or Young Frankenstein). When I found out it stands for "Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller", I knew it had to be ridiculous.  So I just never saw it. Avoided it like the plague.  Still have no desire to see it, even though it has some decent stars in it.  Am I making a mistake here? What actually happens?  How are these "dwellers" released from underground?  Is it an apocalyptic movie? Where do the CHUDs come from? Again, I'm just not feeling it.


Yeah, clowns just don't do it for me. Pennywise from IT scared me well enough, and of course the Poltergeist clown episode scarred me for life.  But sitting through an entire movie (because I can't call something with killer clowns in it a "film") full of the jolly - yet demented and murderous - idiots just isn't my idea of fun.  Can someone convince me otherwise? Why are these clowns in space?  Why does it take place in space, or doesn't it? Are the clowns intimidating? I'm guessing no, but perhaps I've got this all wrong. I'm afraid it's going to take a lot of convincing for me to waste my time with this one.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Celebrating SIX Years Of Fear: Six Favorite Scenes In Horror

Not much of an introduction is needed here, these are simply six of my most favorite scenes in horror. Scenes that made my heart stop, skin crawl, or my anxiety level reach outer space.

Jurassic Park was a popcorn movie, no doubt. A summer blockbuster of the highest degree. But it was also a damn scary flick in places, none more than this classic scene of heart-thumping fear.

 Insidious was an uneven film at best for me, but there is no denying that this scene in which a creepy ghost dances to Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" has a very unsettling feel to it.  Even more so when you watch this particular clip.

I was probably twelve or thirteen when I saw The Shining for the first time, and while seeing someone naked in a movie may have been a relatively new thing, I wasn't prepared when she morphed into a rotting old woman. Gets me every time!


The Exorcist is a powerful film filled with disturbing imagery and famous scenes. My favorite is a subtle few moments when Father Karras is having a dream about his now-deceased mother. We get flashes of Pazuzu, sure... but more unsettling to me is Karras's mother, ascending out of the subway, only to turn and retreat back down. All the while pleading....Dimmy!

Dark Skies is a relatively new film with the age-old plot about an alien invasion. I'm not as big of a sci-fi fan as I am straight horror, but to be honest this was one of the most effective flicks I've seen in a while. And I'm not much for jump-scares, but this one totally got me.

The Woman in Black (1989) will forever be in my top three all-time favorites (Jaws, Psycho). It evokes such a sense of dread, I've never seen anything quite like it. This scene sent chills up my spine the first time i saw it, and has chilled me to the bone in every subsequent viewing. This is how to do atmosphere in horror, folks.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrating SIX Years Of Fear: Six Films That Made Me Stop In My Tracks

Watching a horror film should always evoke some kind of intensity. It's horror's calling card.  It's meant to make you stop and think.  Some films do this in leaps and bounds, far more than others.  These six films I've highlighted made me stop like a deer in headlights.  They are profoundly affecting.  As well as brilliantly effective.  See if you agree....

OLDBOY (2003)

An intense, effective movie like Oldboy just sticks in your head like a bad song. The first time I saw it I was stunned by how twisted and deviant it was.  If you've never seen it, you need to.  The ending will blow you away. Choi Min-Sik, (I Saw The Devil), plays Oh Dae-su, a man who - after missing his daughter's birthday due to a drinking binge - wakes up in a hotel room, alone.  He is then kept prisoner in this room for fifteen years.  FIFTEEN YEARS.  His captor is never seen and after said fifteen years, releases him on a roof top without any indication of why he imprisoned him in the first place.  Herein lies the mystery of the film. As Oh Dae-su tries to put together the pieces and discover the truth, he is taunted by his captor. It is obvious that Oh Dae-su is meant to understand eventually.  Along the way he falls in love with a young woman who helps him try to solve the puzzle and seek revenge.  The thought of losing fifteen years of your life because someone had some kind of vendetta against you is pretty damn sobering. The lengths his captor goes to make Oh Dae-su's life miserable is unheard of.  I've never seen anything like this film before or since. One of a kind and bloody brilliant.


The first time I saw The Blair Witch Project was in the comfort of my own home.  I never saw it on the big screen as I'm not much for "hype" movies, and couldn't imagine it being everything it was made out to be. And it really isn't.  It's just three people wandering through the woods for 90 minutes. HOWEVER.  There are moments of this film that made my skin crawl.  My husband and I own a cabin in the woods, and all I could think was how similar it looked.  I've never been able to look out into the woods behind the cabin and think of anything but Blair Witch or Evil Dead.  Being lost in the woods is bad enough, but the real kicker here is the film's final moments.  It scared the hell out of me - and my husband too.  Too many people dismiss this movie, saying they "didn't get" the ending. Well those people obviously didn't pay attention earlier when the townsfolk were discussing how child killer Rustin Parr would take two children into the basement and would take make one face the corner and listen while he murdered the other child.  The final moment is Heather coming into the basement and finding Mike standing in the corner.  And then she screams and drops her camera.  Powerfully effective.  I am not easily freaked out, but it took everything I had to go down to the basement after the film was over to put my dog outside.  I thought about that film for weeks afterward.


Lake Mungo is one of those movies that you sit and think about for long after it's over.  Like The Blair Witch Project  before it,  the found footage style in which the film is presented makes you feel like you are watching a true story.  Especially in this film's case because it is a mockumentary. You could be watching a forensic show about a young girl being missing and it would be no more effective than this tale of fifteen year old Alice going missing at an outing with her family.  Presumed drowned, Alice is mourned by her loved ones and soon the film morphs into supernatural territory when the family begins to experience strange happenings at their home.
Interviews with Alice's family, friends, and a local psychic all help to string together the events of her apparent death, though an explanation is never fully given. You don't need gore, you don't need jump scares, and you don't need a rational explanation to create an effective and unsettling horror film. Just ask anyone associated with Lake Mungo, they'll show you how it's done. The subtlety that surrounds nearly every frame of Lake Mungo is an unnerving freight train barreling down the tracks. It's a quiet film, in fact so quiet that it's deeply disturbing.  I found myself reliving a few key scenes every time I closed my eyes. To me, that's a sign of excellence in horror.  Nearly everyone who has seen this film would agree with that.


I'm not exactly sure what bothered me so much about Sinister. I mean, it's an effective horror film on its own merit, and the acting is above average with Ethan Hawk's presence, but it's nothing earth-shattering, plot-wise. Perhaps it's because I first saw the movie alone at the theater, I don't know.  Maybe it's the thought of living in a house where something terrible happened.  Which is what Hawke's character does, in bringing his family to live in a house where a family was hanged to death in the tree in their backyard.  Ellison (Hawke) doesn't tell his family about the murders, just brings them there to live while he writes a book about the crime.  He finds a box of 8mm films - each with titles like "Pool Party" and "BBQ" - obviously left by the former owners.  In watching them, however, they depict horrific murders instead of family gatherings. What's worse is that Ellison, in studying the films, discovers a ghoul-like demonic face seemingly watching each murder scene.  What he discovers in delving into the mystery is totally unsettling, even more than the creepy murders themselves.  After seeing this movie I couldn't wait to get out of the theater and into the daylight. Which, in turn, didn't make me feel one bit better. Go figure. 


Nazi's scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  I've always been morbidly fascinated with the horrific events of the Holocaust and wondered how in the hell the entire world let that kind of atrocity go down. In any event, Hitler and his henchmen were pure and simply evil.  And who knows evil better than Stephen King?  Based on one of his short stories, Apt Pupil takes a teen (Brad Renfro) who develops an unhealthy obsession with the Holocaust and places him in the same town as a man who may or may not be a Nazi war criminal (played to perfection by Ian McKellen).  Todd Bowden (Renfro) discovers his elderly neighbor Arthur Denker (McKellen) is almost certainly Kurt Dussander, a high-ranking SS soldier hiding out in sunny California.  Todd ends up blackmailing Denker, trading his freedom for tales of mayhem from the death camps during WWII. The two develop an uneasy friendship, and the stories of ghastly concentration camp  conditions and horrendous human tortures fill their days and nights.  To make matters even more dreadful, Todd buys Arthur a duplicate of an SS uniform and forces him to wear it, which in turn helps Arthur reach deep into his memory, exposing the true horror of his previous life, which then begins to leech into his present.  Deeply disturbing, Apt Pupil made a lasting impression on me, and remains one of the most chilling films I've seen to date.


Horror films come in all different shapes and sizes. While this film would initially be thought of as a drama, there's no doubt in my mind that this film is an outright horror film.  Tilda Swinton marvelously plays the dejected mother of a seemingly loveless and obviously disturbed child. Flashbacks tell the story that from the moment the child is born, he isn't happy and does everything he can to make his mother equally as miserable.  He cries endlessly, won't play with toys, deliberately poops in his diaper, and gives his mother essentially no reason to love him.  It's unclear if Swinton's character ever wanted children, yet for all her trying to be a good mother, it ends up being no contest to Kevin's inherent psychopathic tendencies.  As a teen he is nothing less than frightening, pretending all is well when his father is around yet always on the verge of something... And that something is reprehensibly evil.  Because we are privy to the mother character constantly flashing back to a scene where she is driving to a tragedy at a high school, it's not hard to imagine what has happened, but it's the getting there that just takes your nerves and twists them until your stomach flops. From the day he was born, this child has irrevocably changed her life forever, and yet in the last scene there is still a mother's love evident.  Swinton was somehow passed over for an Academy Award for this role, but it's a tour-de-force of skill and perfection.  I don't think any film has affected me quite like this one. Terrifying.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Celebrating SIX Years Of Fear: Marie's Six Favorite Directors

~by Marie Robinson

Behind every great movie there is a great director. Sure, there are actors and a script, which are obviously huge variables in a quality film, but the director is like the conductor who orchestrates these elements into a visual symphony. I could easily choose top 50 of my favorite directors, but in honor of Fascination With Fear’s sixth birthday, I took the challenge and picked my top 6.


The remaining five directors are in no particular order, but be assured that Mr. Lynch is my number one man. I believe the first film his I saw was Mulholland Drive and I was immediately hooked. His films are surreal, poignant, heartfelt and disturbing and speak to me in some indiscernible language that I somehow understand. While I may not always “get” his films, I adore their intricacies and enjoy unraveling them slowly and lovingly. FAVORITE FILM: Lost Highway 


The Baron of Blood. I scolded my friend who had me watch Videodrome when I was in high school, but I’m thanking him now for giving me a first look at the wonderfully weird realm of David Cronenberg. His nightmarish imagery is unparalleled and unique, his worlds are frightening and fascinating; Cronenberg knows the darkest regions of the human heart, and portrays that haunted place unflinchingly. FAVORITE FILM: Naked Lunch 


I covet and adore this man’s beautiful and expansive imagination. A talented artist, writer, and director and a die-hard Lovecraft fan; his scripts read like dark fairytales and his films flow like poetry. He combines classic clichés with innovative new visions of old tropes. Del Toro is a master storyteller who brings legendary creatures to life for all of us dreamers to revel. FAVORITE FILM: Pan’s Labyrinth.


He has such sights to show you… When I was in middle school I read Barker’s illustrated young adult novel Abarat and loved it. It only excited me more when I later put two and two together that he was also the filmmaker I adored! Since this discovery I have lapped up every form of media that Barker has spat out, be it books, movies, or artwork. He perfectly pairs the elegant and grotesque, and is one of the bravest storytellers the world has known. FAVORITE FILM: Nightbreed 


If you weren’t raised on the Master of Suspense I am sorry for youuuu! Okay, that sounded mean, but seriously, I feel so fortunate to have grown up watching Hitchcock films. From The Birds to North by Northwest, he has created so many classics that have shaped the mystery genre. One of my most beloved books as a young girl was a book of ghost stories penned by Hitchcock that I found at a yard sale, which I have since lost but will always remember clutching close on many a rainy night. FAVORITE FILM: Rear Window 


The man might have questionable character but he has been through hell and back. If surviving the Holocaust isn’t enough, he also had to endure the brutal murder of his pregnant wife at the hands of the Manson family, and it’s no surprise that his films are highly psychological and often disturbing. No matter what you think about the man, you can’t deny his status as a master director who crafts truly mind-bending and immersive films. FAVORITE FILM: Rosemary's Baby

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Bloody Sunday: Wrong Turn Edition

Ahh, those mutant backwoods freaks do love the red stuff.  Lots of gory shots from the film series to check out:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrating SIX Years Of Fear: Six Films That Wowed Me With Violence

Well, Fascination with Fear is six years old this week!  So in lieu of writing a post thanking everyone that ever lived (because I've done that before and those people know who they are), I've decided to do some lists.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis (yes, all seven of you!), because lists are one of my favorite things to do!

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll bring you some favorites in categories ranging from "violence in film" to "movies that made me stop and think"
Six will be the magic number here.  It will be difficult to keep any list of mine down to six items, but I'm going to give it a whirl.

First up, I wanted to get down and dirty.  Here's six films that wowed me with violence. I've seen a lot of violent horror films.  A lot of gore.  A lot of ferocious brutality.  And that's all well and good.  But what I am talking about here is a violent film that had a plot.  Something that made me think and not just sit on my couch like a lump while someone's head was removed.  Here's my six picks for favorite violent flicks. (Hey, that rhymed!)

This is one of my favorite films anyway, but it fits here so nicely.  Like The Hunger Games after it, Battle Royale pits children against each other in a battle to the death.  Also a book first (same title, by Koushun Takami), it depicts a society gone awry, with the Japanese government each year forcing a class of students to fight to the death on a deserted island.  Its focus remains on a couple that want to stay together and find a way to escape their fate.  I prefer this film to THG for a few reasons. It is less flashy and decadent, it is raw and brutal, and I saw this movie first, so it holds a special place in my cold little heart.

 Words can't describe the first time I saw this film.  Well, I guess they can...here's my reviewISTD is such a great revenge flick, and some may say there isn't much plot.  But I beg to differ.  There is a ton of raw emotion here, with Lee Byung-hun capturing my heart during his heartbreaking performance of a man on a mission to find, torture, and kill the maniacal serial killer that brutally killed his fiance.  And Choi Min-sik could possibly be my favorite villain in all of horror.  Astounding.

 A film I just saw and reviewed, The Seasoning House gets under your skin even though you cannot imagine how it accomplished it.  A young girl torn from her mother's arms is forced into a horrific life at a house of horrors where women are held captive as sex slaves for the use of soldiers on break.  At once a gripping, gut-wrenching tale, it boasts heaps of violence in the form of brutal assaults and rapes and living conditions the likes of which you'll never see.  But the heart of the tale lies with Angel and her quest for freedom from such tortures. Surprisingly effective. Surprisingly affecting.

MARTYRS (2008)
The French are well known for their violence, and I could have added any number of films from there onto this list (Inside, Frontiers, High Tension), but for a movie that reached down into my gut for a visceral reaction, Martyrs takes the prize.  Full of brutality and bloodshed, it tells the tale of Anna and Lucie, two girls that suffer in such unimaginable ways it's hard to wrap your head around it.  Controversial as hell, it compels the viewer to keep watching, as the somewhat complex plot (at least for a horror film) delves deep into the heart of darkness.  And it's very hard to dig your way out. Not for the weak of heart (or gut!).

Sam Peckinpah was known for controversial films, but maybe none as much as this particular 1971 thriller. Dustin Hoffman and Susan George star as David and Amy Sumner, a couple who move to her native England to escape the violence in America.  Instead, they get in over their heads with a group of locals from the small village where they make their home.  Part of the controversy was a scene in which Amy was gang raped and appeared to enjoy it.  Other dubious violence occurs in the final scenes, in which David gets his revenge, shooting up the villagers like it was free.  But no one will argue when I say it is a truly excellent film.

I couldn't leave my main man Dario Argento off this list.  While Argento is often lauded for his "beautiful death" scenes, there can be no doubt they are violent.  And though many of his films would qualify for this small list, I'm going with my favorite (and most likely the one with the most cohesive plot). An American writer on a book tour in Europe finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery that seemingly echoes the plot of his latest novel.  Boasting copious amounts of the red stuff, Tenebrae is actually what I would consider to be a near-perfect example of a giallo film.  A fine example of a film, period.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dark Arts: Spotlight On Aeron Alfrey

~by Marie Robinson

Welcome back to “Dark Arts”, our new ongoing feature on the visual splendor of nightmares.

Today’s celebrated artist is Aeron Alfrey, who I first became familiar with through his incredible blog, Monster Brains (http://monsterbrains.blogspot.com/), which—like this feature—showcases artists who have a taste for the macabre. I was absolutely delighted when I discovered that he is an artist himself, and a passionate one as well.

Like many others, he was originally inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and his paintings have been featured in exhibitions and books, such as Artists Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft (published by Centipede Press). His work has recently been featured on the cover of a reissue of Noctuary by Thomas Ligotti (released by Subterranean Press); he has also worked on another Thomas Ligotti cover, Grimscribe (Subterranean Press).

Not only is he important to the world of weird fiction, he is also a hell of an artist who creates dismal, disturbing landscapes that exist in the realms of Lovecraft, and the darkest corners of your mind.

 Visit Aeron Alfrey’s blog here (http://www.aeronalfrey.com/)

Cover for Thomas Ligotti's Grimscribe

The Last Known Picture of Joseph Merrick

Baba Yaga

Illustration from The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

The Mist

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Seasoning House (2012) : A Brutal Yet Compelling Debut

For at least ten days, THE SEASONING HOUSE sat on my coffee table, waiting to be watched.  For some reason, I kept putting off watching it, thinking I just wasn't in the mood for a film I had heard was intensely violent and difficult to watch.  But after a particularly bad day at work, I thought a little brutality might just be the ticket.

Directed (and co-written) by former special effects wiz Paul Hyett, THE SEASONING HOUSE wastes no time getting right to it.  A young girl is brought to a house of horrors in which teenage girls are forced into prostitution to service soldiers on break from war in the Balkans.

Viktor (Kevin Howarth) is their pimp, the owner of the brutal brothel, and he takes a special interest in the girl he names Angel.  Angel (Rosie Day) is a deaf mute, and has an unsightly port-wine birthmark on her face, making her seemingly too unattractive to present to the militia.  Instead, he forces her to be his personal sex slave, though he does seem to genuinely care about her in his own warped way.

In flashbacks, we come to realize Angel has been ripped from her home, having watched her mother be shot and killed right in front of her by soldiers who then round up all the young women in town and bring them to Viktor.

Angel has the unenviable task of doping up the restrained women, making them less likely to fight during their assaults. She paints their faces with makeup beforehand, and afterward she cleans them up and empties their waste buckets. 

One day one of the captives, Vanya (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), realizes Angel is deaf and makes a connection to Angel by using sign language.  Angel is shocked to see someone who knows how to sign, and the two are able to strike up a friendship.    Angel spends time with her friend but doesn't allow anyone at the house to know they are close.

Angel has a habit of sneaking around the house by exploring between the walls, and knows its secrets inside and out.  She's able to sneak in to see Vanya without anyone being the wiser, but with this friendship comes the capacity to love, and Angel ends up an unwilling witness to the violent rape and brutal beatings that her friend has to go through, at one point her pelvis is broken during the sex act. Viktor explains this ferocity away by announcing that the men pay more to use the girls more "extensively".

As if things couldn't possibly get any worse, the band of soldiers responsible for her mother's death come calling.  They are there for a rollicking good time and won't be deterred by Viktor, who seems uneasy at their arrival.  The leader of the pack, Goran, is played by none other than Sean Pertwee, whom I love in anything and everything.  He plays a convincing ogre in this film, a baddie from the word go - but he's extraordinarily fun to watch, even as an evil tyrant.  Once Angel recognizes that this is the man who is directly responsible for her mother's death and for giving her and the other girls the horrific life they are living, a plan begins to form in her mind.  A plan made even clearer once a beastly hulk of a soldier set to have an unrelenting and brutal interlude with her friend goes too far.

I didn't want to like this movie.  I wanted to hate it on principle.  I shouldn't like a film that brutalizes and perpetuates violence against women.  Something that shows in inhumanity of people should not be a fun time. But hot damn, this is a decent film.  Rosie Day as Angel is the center point and everything revolves around how it affects her.  The depth of emotion with which she plays her forlorn and bereft character is astounding, she's that good.  I had no choice but to become completely immersed in her world and her desperate situation.  I felt it in my gut when things were at their worst, and reveled in her triumphs as she attempted revenge.

Hyett doesn't hold back here.  He's telling a story that in some parts of the world is all too true, and the gritty sets and design tell a bleak tale all on their own. It's both appalling and riveting.  It made me sick to my stomach, yet compelled me to watch onward.  It was like an exquisite train wreck...you can't take your eyes off it.

 THE SEASONING HOUSE shouldn't be disregarded as yet another "torture porn" or exploitation-type of film, as it has a bigger, more harrowing tale to tell.  You'll be thinking about it long after it's over.  I know I still am.