Fifty Favourite Horror Films

I more or less do this every year. Not too many new additions, but I love every one of these, so that’s something. Suggestions for future Octobers are always welcome!

1. Suspiria
2. The Birds
3. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with me
4. Possession
5. Black Christmas
6. The Exorcist
7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
8. The Shining

9. Ginger Snaps

10. Don’t Look Now
11. What Have they Done to Solange?
12. The Legend of Hell House
13. The Curse of the Cat People
14. Nosferatu (1979)
15. Trouble Every Day
16. Rosemary’s Baby
17. Sombre
18. Frailty
19. The Bride of Frankenstein
20. The Silence of the Lambs
21. Psycho
22. Evil Dead II
23. Eyes without a Face
24. Let the Right One In
25. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
26. Dead Ringers
27. Dawn of the Dead
28. Carrie
29. The Devils
30. American Psycho
31. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
32. Phenomena
33. House of Usher
34. Ravenous
35. Perfect Blue
36. Kill, Baby, Kill
37. The Loved Ones
38. The Innocents
39. Les Diaboliques
40. Cat People
41. The Vanishing
42. Opera
43. The Masque of the Red Death
44. Let Me In
45. The Devil
46. Isle of the Dead
47. Alien
48. The Seventh Victim
49. The Body Snatcher
50. Audition

Director’s Chair: Women on Board

I was tagged by the Dancing Image to make a director’s list, but not just any kind, one centered on females working in the industry. I feel absolutely inadequate in terms of listing my favourite female directors but I am more honoured to be tagged, so I will give it a go. I am limiting it to just five filmmakers, if only because I have no idea what I’m doing. This is not a revolutionary list, but hopefully you can still find some value in it! I also wish I had something to say about these filmmakers but I am short on time and even if I wasn’t, though I’m listing some of these wonderfully talented women, I STILL am not too familiar with their overall work. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Honourable mentions to Holland, May, Wertmuller and Cavani

 

Catherine Breillat

Essential Film: Anatomy of Hell

 

Claire Denis

Essential Film: Trouble Every Day

 

Sofia Coppola

Essential Film: Marie Antoinette

 

Jane Campion

Essential Film: Bright Star

 

Ida Lupino

Essential film: Outrage

Five Best Films I saw in September

Near impossible to narrow it down this month. So difficult in fact, that I will name some honourable mentions; True Heart Susie, Let Me In, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Marwencol. As always, first time viewings only are included.

The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan)

Girly (Freddie Francis)

The Man with the Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov)

Opera (Dario Argento)

Ravenous (Antonia Bird)

Viewing List for October

Dario Argento's Opera

As some of you already know, October is my favourite time of year. Not only do I get to wear chic sweaters, but the weather and atmosphere is ripe for horror. It is  not a matter of of just being the month that “hosts” Halloween, but those cool nights that smell like dead leaves… there is nothing more pleasurable than curling up with a good movie, a warm blanket and possibly a significant other and getting the pants scared right off ya. I realize this is premature, but I figured i’d start planning now so I could have something to look forward to in the next few weeks. This is a list of films I haven’t seen, and obviously, I won’t see all of them… but these are my cinematic goals for the upcoming Halloween season. Let me know which I should prioritize and which I’d better skip!

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Lucio Fulci)

Alice, Sweet, Alice (Alfred Sole)

All the Colors of the Dark (Sergio Martino)

Blood and Black Lace (Mario Bava)

Case of the Bloody Iris (Giuliano Carnimeo)

City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold)

Death Laid an Egg (Giulio Questi)

Dolls (Stuart Gordon)

Don’t Torture the Duckling (Lucio Fulci)

Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey)

House (Nobuhiko Obayashi)

House on Haunted Hill (William Castle)

Inferno (Dario Argento)

Jigoku (Nobuo Nakagawa)

Kairo (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Murders in Rue Morgue (Robert Florey)

My Bloody Valentine (George Mihalka)

Night of the Creeps (Fred Dekker)

Opera (Dario Argento)

Phantasm (Don Coscarelli)

Ravenous (Antonia Bird)

Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon)

Return to Horror High (Bill Froelich)

Session 9 (Brad Anderson)

Seven Dead in the Cat’s Eye  (Antonio Margheriti)

Singapore Sling (Nikos Nikolaidis)

Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik)

Spider Baby (Jack Hill)

Strait-Jacket (William Castle)

Tenebre (Dario Argento)

The Blob (Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.)

The Changeling  (Peter Medak)

The Killer Must Kill Again (Luigi Cozzi)

The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven)

The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur)

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (Jorge Grau)

The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman)

The Omen (Richard Donner)

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Emilio Miraglia)

The Schoolgirl killer (Antonio Margheriti)

The Sentinel (Michael Winner)

The Silent Scream (Denny Harris)

The Slumber Party massacre (Amy Holden Jones)

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (Sergio Martino)

Village of the Damned (Wolf Rilla)

Viy (Georgi Kropachyov &

What have they done to your Daughters? (Massimo Dallamano)

Who can Kill a Child? (Narciso Ibanez Serrador)

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (Curtis Harrington)

Five Best Films I Saw in July and August

Though it was off to a shakey start, Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival proved to be THE film event of the summer. Even the truly terrible films made for irreplaceable experiences due to the uniquely passionate Fantasia audience. The closing night… Scott Pilgrim and then, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Could it have been any better? Most of my home viewings were pretty radical too. It wasn’t easy narrowing down the list to just five!

August on the other hand was more subdued. Most of my viewings were slanted towards recent hollywood releases, for better or for worse. I am hoping to delve back into the work of foreign and older filmmakers in September. Let’s hope I can discover some new gems.

Five Best Films I Saw in July

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Eli Craig)

Fish Story (Yoshihiro Nakamura)

The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright)

Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik)

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Five Best Films I saw in August

Closely Watched Trains (Jiri Menzel)

Gimme Shelter (Albert Maysles & David Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin)

Hot Fuzz (Edgard Wright)

Les Beaux Souvenirs (Francis Mankiewicz)

Missing (Costa-Gavras)

Black Narcissus (Powell & Pressburger, 1947)

Click Image for my Review

Black Narcissus. Several nuns get upset by the strange atmosphere of, and surrounding, their new convent, which was formely a Himalyan harem. (Quite an idea for a music, that. Take it away, Rita.) […] P.S. Barring perhaps one in any hundred who willingly practise it, I think celibacy is of itself faintly obscene; so I admire still less the dramatic exploitation of celebacy as an opportunity for titillation in the best of taste.

– James Agee, August 30th 1947. Various excerpts.

Fantasia 2010: I Spit on your Grave (Monroe, 2010)

What is it about being in the country that makes a city girl feel as though she is being watched? Steven R. Monroe’s remake of the controversial cult classic, I Spit on your Grave, at the very least upholds the “integrity” of the original film. The film holds no punches and is as shocking and disturbing as advertised. It makes the recent remake of Last House on the Left look like a pre-school Disney sing-a-long tape. I Spit on your Grave will get under your skin, even if you don’t want it to.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, it is fairly simple: A young woman, Jennifer, rents a cabin in the woods, only to be brutally gang-raped by the locals and left for dead. She is very much alive though, and takes on her revenge with extreme cruelty and violence.

The film’s much talked about rape sequence is one of the more “interesting” ones I’ve seen in cinema (though I think the most disturbing and affecting is still in Bergman’s The Virgin Spring). It is not entertaining, it is not alluring, and it is not exciting. It is as cringe-worthy as it ought to be, and the filmmaker gives it a fair amount of time without dragging it out unduly. The film also very effectively portrays the immediate emotional invasion felt by a victim of sexual assault. Even before the men touch Jennifer, one has a grand sense that they have robbed her of the very basic respect all humans should be treated with.

The rape becomes all the more affecting by creating realistic characters that are not simple caricatures or monsters. Their actions are not justified by their emotional, cultural or social problems, but we are allowed a faint glimpse in the make-up that allows them to act so unforgivably. The prevailing influence however is a need to exert power. The evidence of their inability to control anything in their lives, least of all women, escalates up until the actual rape. The only one of them with any influence is the police officer, and that is what makes him the most reprehensible of the group. His level of hypocrisy, corruption and cruelty is unparallel. He is one of the cruellest cinematic villains in recent memory.

After the extended assault she experiences, Jennifer is left for dead. The men involved suddenly become anxious that she will be found. They spend the next few weeks searching the swamps for her body. After having so little respect for Jennifer’s body, it suddenly takes on a great deal of importance. This perceived power is perhaps why some people have latched onto this narrative as being feminist. Though we know little of whom Jennifer is, her femininity is quite obviously seen as an extreme threat to these men, and they seek to destroy it.

Jennifer’s body remains the centerpiece of the film, aesthetically and thematically. Though the film does not completely succeed it attempts to present her figure in a non-exploitive way, one can definitely see a progression of the way her body is treated. She is the most sexualized when seen quite literally through the eyes of the men, through the lens of a video camera. Though an obnoxious cinematic technique, it is undeniably used with purpose in this case.

When enacting her revenge, Jennifer very consciously avoids using her sexuality as a tool. There is just one moment where she brings sex back into the equation and that is when she blind-sides Johnny. Re-enacting a fantasy alternative of their first meaning, she is driving the same car, but is wearing nearly nothing. This particular sequence is not lurid or exploitive, as it reveals the egregiousness of his initial perceptions. She presents him with the situation he imagined and twists it in a deliciously perverse way.

The men don’t stand a chance once Jennifer begins her vengeance. There is nary a moment of struggle, and she dominates them far more completely than they were ever able to dominate her. It is not clear if they are simply weaker than she is, or that she is far better prepared than they were. It is here that the film becomes somewhat weak. Though Jennifer is interesting and compelling, she is also underdeveloped. The brief glimpses we have into her character and history don’t support the physical strength, intelligence and expertise she would have needed to follow-through. Obviously, the film is largely a “fantasy” but I can’t help thinking or wishing someone had beefed up her history.

The implication of Jennifer’s vengeance is fascinating, as she uses so deftly the words and actions of the men against themselves. In a very obvious sense, the film embodies the ruling of an “eye for an eye”. Somehow, the film makes me wonder if she’s even punishing them for their crimes. Well, of course she is… but what I mean is she seems less concerned with seeing them suffer or die, than to teach them a very permanent lesson. The lesson is one of empathy; of human understanding. Her actions almost seem contradictory, but the men have made their nature clear, and their complete lack of mercy has made their fate ultimate.

What I like best about the film is the creativity and absurdism that is infused in the revenge sequences. It is no less cruel or nihilistic, but it does have a dose of dramatic irony that makes it palatable. Even so, even some of the most hardened horror fans will no doubt cringe and *gasp* look away. The ambiguity in the film’s final act and Jennifer’s final “mona-lisa smile” ensure that the film sticks with you, it does not offer any comfortable closure and much of the film’s events remain open-ended.

I feel I’ve written a lot about this film, without having said very much at all. I have not even touched the rather strange and disturbing screening and subsequent Q & A period which only elevated the discomfort the film inspired. The detachment, anger and giddiness on display were even too much for me. Someone fainted; another person was nearly escorted away by security, and that only briefly touches on the strangeness of the evening. IT was a disturbing night at the movies, and much of that is owed to the filmmakers. I am still unsure as to whether or not I like it, it certainly hit a chord. It is at the very least a unique experience, and one that I would not recommend for a good 95% of the human population.

Fantasia 2010: Mai Mai Miracle

Click on image for full review

This festival has already started on a better foot than last. My first film last year (and my first Fantasia film ever) was Ki-duk Kim’s Dream, a movie that really really sucked. Today is the third day of the festival, but nothing until now has really interested me. I decided to take my little sister to see an anime film she hasn’t seen, hoping I’d enjoy it too. Mai Mai Miracle is hardly revolutionary, and borrows heavily from Miyazaki, especially My Neighbour Totoro, however it is also done with a huge amount of care and love that it’s easy to forget how derivative it is. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and most films will be as good, if not better than this one. A full review will be posted on Sound on Sight within 24 hours.

And so it begins…

I have all my tickets for Fantasia, I’ll be seeing 23 films, starting tomorrow. I hope to have thoughts for each and every one of them so tune in to the next three weeks as I see…

Mai Mai Miracle

I Spit on your Grave (2010)

Possessed

Heartless

Feast of the Assumption: BTK and the Otero Family Murders

A Serbian Film

Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror

The Land Before Time

Bodyguards and Assasins

Saving Grace

The Devils

La Meute

[rec] 2

Red, White and Blue

The Violent Kind

Centurion

The Last Exorcism

Deliver Us from Evil

Dream Home

The Loved Ones

Summer Wars

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World