Best Horror Films of the 2000s

Though something of a self-confessed horror fan, I still feel as though I am behind many of the die-hard fans. I also seem to search and appreciate different aspects of horror than many others, and there are a few films from my own list that I can’t say I’ve really seen anywhere else. That being said, hopefully I’ll motivate a few viewings and discussions; it was a lot of fun to write. For reference sake, I’ve seen about about 50 horrors from last decade, and am also including a short list of top five films I wish I had seen before making this list.

Top Five Horror Films of the Decade that I still need to see

Session 9 (Brad Anderson, 2001)

The Hills have Eyes (Alexandre Aja, 2006)

Kairo (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001)

High Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003)

Mulberry Street (Jim Mickle, 2006)

10. The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)

A film that I personally find depreciates in value on multiple viewing; The Mist is far too misanthropic for me. Not even the heroes are noble or virtuous; they are not even weak in an appealing way. I just want to say, I don’t need likable characters to enjoy a narrative but to have such a larger number of people with few redeeming features irks the optimist in me who believes that people are fundamentally good. That being said, their dynamic and situation is fascinating enough to not only sustain the film, but make it one of the best horrors of the decade. The story unfolds in a way very typical of the invasion narrative, as characters are forced to co-operate in order to survive, and inevitably fail because of conflicting interests and egos. This film integrates both the military and religion into the relatively small space with great effect, highlighting both the power and powerlessness of the individual within the “machine”. The much debated final scene is really what elevates the film to new levels for me, as the bleakness is brought to eleven by the faceless human monsters who come to the “rescue”. The Mist reflects a contemporary distrust in the military, not only as potential “monsters”, but the dangers they can unload on the public without us being informed or able to properly survive. In essence, it is about their failures to protect us, and in that sense, the father’s failure to protect his own family seems like a very apt comparison within the structure of the narrative.

9. Trick ‘r Treat (Michael Dougherty, 2008)

I feel in many ways, that Trick ‘r Treat is at odds with many of the other films on my list; It is not particularly unsettling, preferring to channel the “feel” of the Halloween season, rather than the true nature of horror. That is not a criticism, as much as it is an observation. The film still has its scares, but they are mostly incidental, harmless and subverted by both the absurdity of the plot and the comic bravura that runs through the entire film. The film is not completely shallow though, and in its subversion of our expectations, it also manages to make a few interesting observations on the horror genre and its clichés. Perhaps the best example is the twist on the virginal college girl; the premise is set up stereotypically, having her chastised and teased for her innocence, and then preyed upon by the lusty monster. Though it is hardly the first time we see the expectation of the innocent female transformed or turned on its head, I think this one is done with a new level of creativity that is unprecedented. Though the reveal of what the “victim” is plays a large part in what makes the story so interesting, it is what it represents that is pivotal ; something lusty, animalistic and the fact that she did not have to be corrupted to reach that state, that it existed within her from the start… and that she embraces it completely.

8. Suicide Club (Sion Sono, 2001)

Not an easy choice, though often disturbing and disgusting, Suicide Club does not exactly fit a classical horror formula. The grotesque nature of some of the subject matter and the extreme (and not cartoony) violence elevates it to a kind of spectacle horror like many slashers are, or more recent “torture-porns”. The film escapes from all the natural inclinations of western horror, and is not only an incisive commentary on popular Japanese culture, but the profound effect the lack of individualism has on society as a whole. The film’s opening sequence is one of the most shocking of all times, and not only sets a tone, but defines every moment that follows. The mass, and seemingly, random suicide of teenage girls leads to government investigations into the phenomena, that only seems to be growing, as well as a huge amount of self-examination. The most disturbing scenes are the two mass suicides, the first being apparently planned, though no real explanation is offered… the second, a genuinely random act of school yard games. The film offers a theory about people distancing themselves from… themselves; that most of us live a kind of out of body existence where we are not truly connected to the lives we live and with the other people in our life. That we exist as cogs in a larger game, allowing ourselves to be swayed and moved by the currents of the information age. Though, hardly an endorsement of suicide, the film approaches the subject as a kind of perverse revolt over individual freedoms and power that is ironically as faceless as the existence they are protesting.


7. Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)

Much like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films, Drag me to Hell is notable for its formal and aesthetic qualities rather than the strength of its plot. By that I don’t really mean that it is a “visual” splendour, in the sense that Suspiria is, but rather that the creativity of both the constructive of the scares, and the use of motifs is both potent and consistently clever. The story is fundamentally weak, though it works as a very effective vehicle for Raimi’s unique horror sensibility. The manifestation of hell is very different than that of the Evil Dead films, as it is largely internal, motivated by Christine’s moral degradation. As a result, it often seems that the evolution of the scares moves from being extremely external, beginning with very physical attacks that are often without precedent or strong instigation, to becoming an internal battle, often with dreams, and with profound effects on Christine’s state of mind and relationships.  The film is just unmitigated fun.

6. The Last House on the Left (Dennis Illiadis, 2009)

I’m still kind of baffled that I liked this film so much; it is a remake of a remake for heaven’s sake! The film is somehow good though, from the almost ethereal quality of some of the imagery (notably the use of water throughout the film, which is at once redeeming and cleansing, but also hides the truth) to the lurid nature of the parent’s revenge, it displays a kind of artfulness a-typical of contemporary mainstream horror. The film is downright dirty, often times extremely difficult to watch. It appropriately makes the infamous rape scene extremely painful and disgusting, focusing especially on the victim’s experience, rather than the gratuitous violence of her captors. The second half of the film is comprised almost solely of the parent’s revenge on the people who raped and attempted to murder their daughter. The violence is gratuitous, at once satisfying and extremely disturbing. It is fascinating to see their transformation, but their moral degradation is even more apparent. The film does try to have its cake and eat it too, but I think it is successful enough on a formal level to ignore any apparent tonal or thematic inconsistencies it espouses.

5. Frailty (Bill Paxton, 2001)

Though the film is overtly about religion, and the dangers of fundamental belief, the film is universal in its handling of family matters and the questions of faith and morality. Rooted in a Christian ethos, a father receives messages from God that instruct him to destroy the demons that live among them. He takes on the aid of his two sons, one who believes him without question, and the other who doubts him every step of the way. It should be no surprise that this creates an incredible amount of tension between the characters, and because the film itself never fully commits to what perception of reality is accurate or not, the audience is not only disturbed by the possibility that the father is insane, but that even worse, that he might not be. The film is shockingly brutal, without ever having to show very much. Most of the violence takes place off or just beyond the confines of the screen; the characters carry the weight of their actions, whether it is with a certain amount of disgust, or the sense of a dutiful act completed. It is a film that does a lot with very little, and relies heavily on both its writing and the strength of its performances… two things that more horror films could try.


4.Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

One of the more compelling entries in the vampire genre, Let the Right One, is an intimate and frightening story of the wolf and the lamb. It is entirely possible that this film could be read as a kind of love story, not unlike Twilight, where two bodies of the same age interrelate in a seemingly romantic way. This is a disturbing interpretation of events, but I do not think it is an illegimate one. If we want to be reductive, Wuthering Heights is also a love story, and so is Lolita. It is because love is seemingly involved that all of these narratives become so disturbing, because we do not want to believe something as sacred and holy as love can be so perverted by abuse, violence and obsession. In Let the Right One In, because of the appearance of the characters suggests pre-pubescent youth, it is easy to ignore the implied age of one of them. When they are both lying together in bed, naked, the scene is not disturbing because one is a vampire, but because we do not want to believe in sexualized children… even if Oskar’s own naivety implied little more than a healthy curiosity in the opposite sex, the imagery is strong enough to unsettle us. This idea is used recurrently through the film, and is a rather common one in the handling of children in horror. It just so happens that this film integrates it with a newfound melancholy and sense of loss, that almost serves to justify the character’s reliance on each other, even if one can only assume that at least one of them will be a little more lost for it. We both hope for Oskar and Eli to remain together, because they are both lost souls who seem to have found hope, while we shrink at the most likely consequences of this “union”.

3. Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)

Horror is probably the best genre of filmmaking to deal with traumatic life events, especially ones that are commonplace. Ginger Snaps deals not only with the coming of adolescence between two sisters, “the curse”, but also the trauma of early sexual discovery. The film appropriately handles the complex nature of female sexuality, not only in the woman’s role as the submissive player in the male-female power-plays but how it is further exercised in relationships with other women. This is not only present in the idealized female friendship that exists between Ginger and her sister Brigitte, whose relationship borders on incestuous in their psychological and physical intimacy but in both girl’s interactions with their classmates. The aggression and rivalry displayed between the sisters and popular girl, Trina, reveal the nuances in both female competitiveness and even the sexual tension that exists between rivals, in how Ginger dominates Trina both physically and mentally, and then has the audacity to offer Trina’s “body” for her father to taste. It’s sickening and disturbing on so many levels, but yet, somehow un-gratuitous and natural. One of the great films about adolescence and teenage girls.


2. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)

As scarce as female directors are in the filmmaking world, in the realm of genre (beyond rom-coms) they are as rare as albino two-headed calves. Claire Denis is the exception that makes the rule, especially considering, that she makes a film that is so un-genre-like… pure arthouse fluff. Suffice to say, I love every minute. The film is exceptionally feminine in the handling of horror and violence; the plot is thin, but the anxiety and relationships are strong. The characters are in anguish, as the ones who are infected can’t help consuming other people “just to feel something”. Her handling of consummation is hardly different than her treatment of sex, and both are unconventional for any genre, especially horror. The perspective is that of a woman, the focus is on the flesh, touching, moving… it is not only focused on the female experience, but adulates the male form in a cinematically unfamiliar way. The film is not necessarily about violence, physical or emotional, between lovers, but about our self-destructive nature and how it poisons our lives. On an aesthetic level, it is a film about the flesh; a study of movements, deconstructions, comparisons, and filters. The body is seen in many states, through many lenses, in many locations… constantly transforming and taking on new meanings. It is a film like a dream, or more like a nightmare, it is an existence that you don’t want to believe… but fear does.

1. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Jonathan Levine, 2008)

A film that has no right to be as sad and probing as it is, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, is at its worst, a self-aware and over-stylized pretentious film that attempts to over-compensate the familiarity of its structure with almost patently absurd visuals. Why include it then? Truthfully, a large part of me loves all that empty self-awareness; it is so descriptive of a sub-genre of horror that gave up so long ago. It is this premise of absurdity though, that allows moments of true intimacy and humanity to peek through. The characters are not only aware of their superficiality; they seem to strive to be the clichés of adolescence that we find so often in popular culture.  The men seem to recognize the moral corruption of their pursuits, how misogynistic and destructive it is, while the women pursue degrading situations that only further put into question their own identity and self-esteem. Both personalities are extremely vulnerable when isolated from the authority of mom and dad, and the comfort of not being brutally murdered by a faceless killer. The tension is palpable, the melancholy real, and the revenge brutal. For a film that works so hard to look like a magazine spread, the murders are not fun or beautiful, they are not even particularly creative… but that’s why they are so effective. They humanize the inhuman, and only further contribute to the re-evaluation of horror norms within the slasher genre that shows no respect for death or human weakness.

Movie related Readings Online and Off

*possible additions to be made in next few days.

I thought I’d do something a little different, and talk about a few of the recent film articles and reviews I’ve read and enjoyed. They range from academic to more loose and fun stuff. I haven’t been watching nearly as many movies as I would like outside of class, so I haven’t been updating nearly as much as I would like. Hopefully in the coming weeks I’ll see a little more and have more to say, this is also entirely dependent on how often Fashion TV plays Australia’s Next Top Model, which has been sucking so much time away from my ability to watch films in the evening. As this is my first attempt at this kind of post, I can’t say how much depth I will go into as to my responses or if this is more of a place for me to recommend some interesting readings.

Recent Issue of Cineaste Magazine: A Special Focus on Contemporary Horror Film

I don’t have a regular subscription to any magazine; I usually just pick up something that looks interesting. I have a few favourites, but mostly I pick up something new each time I go out. This week I got Cineaste, mostly because I am a sucker for horror and nearly every article is focused on different offsets of the contemporary horror film. I’m mostly looking at two particular articles, but as far as I can tell, they’re all interesting. I still haven’t read the one on Saw and Torture porn, only because I actually haven‘t seen any of those films and would prefer to see the films before reading the text.

Childhood’s End: Let the Right One In and Other Deaths of Innocence by John Calhoun

Takes a look at the evil children in horror films historically and how it has transformed over time to reflect different social anxieties. It doesn’t hurt that Let the Right One In is one of my very favourite films from the decade, but it is a film text that is ripe for this kind of analysis. Calhoun examines especially the social context involved, as the film is set during the early 1980s when Sweden is caught very deeply by the strain of the Cold War. It discusses the issues of community, and how fragmented it is on a personal level, as well as on a wider social one. The author appropriately draws comparisons to more modern Japanese horror films, which usually feature children predominantly, but also use the effect of technology as a means of exploring our deteriorating relationships, understandings of self and the corruption of innocence. I think, for me at least, because it is so fundamental to my own attraction to horror, is the exploration of the body within the visual narrative of the film (and explored in the article).

“The betrayal visited on us by our own fragile bodies is often the most horrific breakdown of all. Oskar’s vulnerability is emphasized from the first scene, when his pale, skinny body is shown clad only in jockey shorts. The torment he undergoes at the hands of the boys at school is unusually violent, easily making the point that monstrous children can come in forms other than the supernatural variety.”

I think the children’s body above all, is representative of us at our weakest and more fragile, but in terms of narrative is also the most flexible to explore our own personal and social anxieties. Putting children in situations that confront our taboos and even our own personal nostalgia is very threatening to our world view. Calhoun appropriately diagnosis’s the film as being quite conservative, as it seems to suggest if children had more guidance, and stronger religious or moral structure that the situation of the film could not exist. Though an extremely well researched and well reasoned article, it’s one I could only dream of writing myself, my only wish would have been for Calhoun to tie his ideas about politics, social issues and even immigration fears, to the apparent dissolve of the family unit.

Something else about the film I find fascinating, is Oskar’s own obsession with violence, and desire for destruction. As someone who has lived with (through?) a school shooting, it is a behaviour and a desire that I struggle to relate to or understand. I don’t think I have done enough reading on the individuals to know exactly what doctors or psychiatrists say about their mental state, but Let the Right One In, presents a world where nature and nurture are so closely linked that one wonders if it is even possible for Oskar to be pulled out of that world if an adult were to reach out to him.

(Un)safe Sex: Romancing the Vampire by Karen Backstein

This is probably the best article I’ve read on the Twilight phenomena, as it does not operate in hyperbolic extremes. Though I think a lot of the issues relating to relationships and romance are problematic at best, I think the anger towards the series is also blown out of proportion. Karen Backstein looks at the evolution of the vampire sub-genre, especially how the female character has transformed to supporting character/victim to being the very biased protagonist. It’s worth noting that movie monsters, especially vampires, have always been closer to female audiences than male. If you want an interesting read I recommend “Refusing to Refuse to Look: Female Views of the Horror Film” by Brigid Cherry. She has a very interesting study on female horror fans, polling them on kind of horror sub-genres and specific films, often resulting in unexpected results. I think it would make an interesting companion piece to this article.

Back to Twilight, she sheds light on the apparent sexual sterility of the vampires of today, and how and why this appeals to younger readers. Though I’m not too far out of my teens, I have to wonder how these apparently gentlemanly vampires that want to “wait”, are influenced from a hyper sexualized society that puts incredible pressures on young women to be sexually active. Not only that, but the images and expectations from pornography sets standards that are not only intimidating, but potentially devastating on an emotional level. Backstein even looks at the changing sexual relationship between Bella and Edwards over the course of the novels, and how when they do decide to engage in sexual relations, that he is a giving and responsive lover. It plays both into the young woman’s fears but also, their ultimate sexual desires.

There are also interesting ideas about duality as presented in the chosen texts and some discussion about my own personal favourite vampires series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Von Samuel Muses on Fassbinder’s BDR trilogy

Maybe it’s because I just watched the trilogy myself, or that Von Samuel is a dear friend and a great writer, but I personally think that his recent  writing inspired by Fassbinder’s work is among his very best. If you haven’t checked out his blog before, he does not write traditional reviews, preferring instead of channel feelings and impressions from his viewings through his own unique writing style. It’s definitely an interesting and enriching departure from traditional film discussion and analysis, I like it. The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola and Veronika Voss.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sasha Gervasi, 2009)

I know as much about heavy metal music as I do quantum physics; hint, it’s not very much. That being said, I couldn’t help being pulled into Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a story that rightfully focuses on the pursuit of dreams rather than metal. Though a hugely influential and talented band, Anvil, whose members are referred to as Canadian demi-Gods, never hit it big. After disappearing from the major stage back in the early 1980s, they continued to drop from the mainstream, falling further and further into obscurity. It is the mid 2000s when the film begins; Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner are the remaining members of the original line-up. Both live in Toronto, and work ordinary jobs, and live ordinary lives. It is only at night and on weekends where they are able to take the stage and experience their music.

They are offered a tour in Europe, but nothing seems to go right. Then they record an album that no one seems to want to put out. Nothing seems to work out for these two best friends, but they are relentless in their pursuit. The filmmaking is sympathetic to their plight and instead of painting them as washed up has-beens, they are painted as men who just were not in the right place at the right time. Neither is perfect; both are neurotic and emotional. Lips is even aggressive, and his anger is not only thrown upon strangers who refuse to pay him, but Robb. Most of these moments are uncomfortable, for a man who is so often gentle and concerned with his family, he seems so volatile that one wonders if the film is not painting a full portrait of him.

Then again, their imperfections lend to how endearing both men are. Their meekness and kindness seem to be to their downfall; their career has been plagued by mismanagement and non-management. You see on their European tour, that their manager (who is also the fiancée then wife of another band member) has no idea what she is doing, and they put up with her. Even though Lips concedes that the tour was a failure, he cannot seem to blame her, even complimenting her heart and passion.

The film’s best moments revolve around family, and how conveniently Lips and Robb’s families compare and contrast. With Lips, there is more than just a suggestion that his family does not and never has approved of his choice to be an artist. Yet when his older sister lends him some money to produce his record, we remember how family can often overcome petty differences. It does not seem like a play for documentary drama, there is never a doubt that her act is out of pure generosity and love for her brother. It is honestly one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the year, and it’s somehow never cloying or over-sentimental.

This film could have easily veered in two directions, both of which would have been pandering. The film somehow succeeds to hit a middle road. Though quite obviously directed to elicit a very specific reaction to the people involved, it is still remote enough to allow for the audience to make their own judgments on the events and individuals. The film ends on an appropriate a moment, it seems to pattern perfectly Anvil’s first big break, invoking the same kind of adolescent awe, but with a new sense of opportunity and thanks. It is open ended, but there is such a sense of hope in the people themselves, that you cannot help thinking that whatever happens, these are people who will appreciate every good turn that comes their way.

The Beginning of the End of the Beginning of a List of the End of the Decade

The 2000s were an important decade in my development as a film fan. It was the decade of my adolescence, my graduation from high school and my eventual ascension to secondary education. It was the decade I discovered cinema…

That being said, my passion for film was always tied to films that existed long before I was born, my passion for film is more tied to old library VHS tapes than it is to the big screen.  That being said, there is still little that compares with seeing a truly magnificent film in theatres… many of my favourites of the decade were first seen in a darkened theatre surrounded by other people with a similar passion. I can almost remember the exact circumstance and reception of the audience for each film I’ve seen over the past ten years, because for me, it was as much a chance to see a great film as it was an event defined by circumstances and surroundings.  It is a unique emotional and intellectual experience, and one I don’t see myself trading the most expensive state of the art home theatre system for those smelly seats in my smelly cinema.

What to say about this in film? Apparently, a lot of things happened, some new CGI stuff, some motion capture, DVD then blu-ray, some movies about short men with big feet, etc. I’m never good at making accurate historical assessments… I do like the apparent effects of globalization on the industry though, how many more foreign language films we get, and how we already have filmmakers attempting to reflect in their work a more connected world, which is far more easy said than done. It’s an imperfect science, as most film is… as often as you get something that is startlingly modern and new, you get something stale, fetishist (not in a sexy way) and generically mainstream (*cough Slumdog*).

Since everyone is doing it, I’ve decided to present my top films from the decade. I tried to see as much as I could, but there will always be something I miss, so I think there is no point in delaying this anymore. Well… I am delaying it, since I’m only starting tomorrow, but this fancy introduction took a whole ten minutes to write, so as far as I’m concerned I’m invested. Before I start, three mini lists. First, the top ten films of the decade I wish I had seen, my five worst films and then ten honourable mentions before I start with the actual list tomorrow. Allez-up!

Ten Films from the 2000s I Wish I saw Before Making this List

Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002)

Les Amants Reguliers (Philippe Garrel, 2005)

Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004)

Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)

Yiyi (Edward Yang, 2000)

Les amours d’Astrée et de Céladon(Eric Rohmer, 2007)

Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2001)

L’Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)

The Wayward Cloud (Ming-liang Tsai, 2005)

2046 (Wong Kar-Wai, 2004)

Five Worst Films I saw this decade (more or less)

Arsene Lupin (Jean-Paul Salomé, 2004)

Bangkog Dangerous(Oxide Pang Chun & Danny Pang, 2008)

Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, 2008)

Brothers (Susanne Bier, 2004)

Inside(Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury, 2007)

Runner-ups, Honourable Mentions for the Best Films of the Decade

Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)

17 Again (Burr Steers, 2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)

Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton & Co-director, Lee Unkrich, 2003)

The Corporation (Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott, 2003)

Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008)

A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)

Five Best Films I saw in October

Another October gone by, and another marathon of great horror. I think I just about matched my output of last year, though I will say, I don’t think my enthusiasm was what it was. I think the deeper I delve into horror, the more difficult it’s going to be to discover great films, and really this month was evidence of that. Still, saw some excellent films. Can’t wait to see what November holds ! As always, alphabetical order and only first viewings.

The Dead Zone (Cronenberg, 1983)

a old dead zone David Cronenberg 1621

Faust (Murnau, 1926)


A Serious Man (Coens, 2009)


Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983)


Where the Wild Things Are (Jonze, 2009)


A Horror Movie Marathon Guide for the Horror Movie Fan


When attempting to choose appropriate films for your own movie marathons, it is important to know your audience. Are you watching it with young people? Film fans? Popcorn fans? Etc. It’s no surprise that most websites that work try to recommend “event” films cater to the largest possible audience; the casual film fan. As someone who is not a casual film fan, and whose friends are not casual film fans, these guides are almost entirely useless. So instead, I’ve decided to make my own guide for the horror movie buffs out there. Using my own experiences, as well as attempting to put on paper my wildest film watching desires, I’m making the ultimate Halloween Movie Marathon guide.

I’ve come to realize, when approaching this kind of event, it’s important to set aside an ample period of time to go through with it. If you don’t have time for at least three films, then the event isn’t even worth having. I think the ideal number of viewings is four, though it’s important to understand that even under the best conditions, there are often one or two films that will be ignored or talked through. This is not a bad thing, it’s the nature of these get together, especially if we’re meeting together different groups of people who do not necessarily know each other. It’s part of the reason why I have categorized the film in a rough order that I find pretty effective in garnering attention, but also prioritizing the films you want to see most, or have the greatest impact by putting them towards the end of the show, when people are more settled and conversation has began to die down.

What about the actual hosting? I can’t say I’m particularly skilled in this domain. What I do know is, Halloween is fun and informal, if you can to decorate you can get stuff cheap and if you don’t, most people won’t care. What IS essential is to make sure that you have enough seats for people. Since this is meant to be something for the ‘long haul’, think comfort. If people have to sit on the floor or on hard wooden chairs, provide a lot of pillows and even blankets.

I consider myself an amateur cook, so any kind of get together like this makes me think of what kind of food I could whip up. Perhaps because my own childhood experience with Halloween have to do with candy and treats, meal type foods, or even buffet style doesn’t seem right. It is all about decadence and sweets, and food that will go straight to your gut, heart and thighs.

If you’re up to actually making food, instead of just breaking out the store bought candy and chips, here are a few recipe suggestions. I’m not really one for baking, so I’m just linking a few recipes that I personally like.  If I ever continue this series, there will most likely be “real” cooking involved, and I’ll post my own recipes.

Better than Reeses Peanut Butter Squares

*Important note for this recipe, instead of letting it set, put it in the freezer for at least 40 minutes.

These are the most incredible things ever. It doesn’t have to be Halloween to make them, because they’re like… the best thing ever.

Mud Cake

I’ll let the greatest network in the world do the rest of the work for me, go to the Food Network, I’m sure there are a lot of goodies to be had.

For those who need a little Irish in their festivities, fun punches are always in order. Go for red, it’s like blood! RIGHT! RIGHT?

Another important ingredient to a successful Halloween movie marathon, is obviously, costumes! Tell people to bring them, wear them, live in them… threaten them if they refuse to humiliate themselves, and make sure to have a lot of spare sheets, because if they won’t comply, they’ll just be ghosts and will be shunned by everyone else. I think movie themed costumes are fun, and since this is a movie marathon for movie fans, there will hopefully be (less) embarrassment because nobody recognizes that you are Nana from Vivre sa Vie, or Norman Bates dressed as his mother, not Eddie Murphy in drag.

Now onto the fun part, the movies! As I said earlier, the ideal movie night is four films… that is the model I will be working with.

The Fun, Recent Film


In my experience, starting with a fun recent horror is always a good idea. Though this is a marathon for film buffs, it can’t be expected that everyone attending will have the same level of experience and enthusiasm for cinema. Starting with something that people will be familiar with, perhaps even that some have seen is a good way to start the evening. It’s also the kind of thing that can be talked through, it’s often culturally relevant, and if others have seen it, there is no great loss if full attention is not kept.

My top recommendation is Sam Raimi’s Drag me to Hell. Not only is it a film that balances comedy and horror beautifully, it is one that is best enjoyed in a group setting. I know many people have seen it, but I also know just as many wouldn’t say no to see it again. This is a film that demands audience involvement, and it’s difficult to ignore talking goats, vomiting gypsies and crazy house flies.

Other options: Trick r’ Treat, Shaun of the Dead, Planet Terror and Death Proof (I guess this counts?)

Nostalgic Favourite or So Bad, it’s Good

800 large carrie blu-ray2

Now that people are a bit more comfortable and more into the horror mood, I recommend going for a classic favourite. Now for most people, this category would probably be a bit more narrow, but for the film fan the pickings can come from a good 80 years of horror. It’s best to remain accessible, because you might still have a few “outsiders” hanging about, but it is also about time to start going for the more unconventional choices. I also recommend avoiding classics that don’t deserve their status, like Friday the 13th. Go for something good, not something that is thought to be good.

Though, a suitable alternative to this category is the so bad it’s good film, so I’ll be including two top recs.

Top Recommendation for Nostalgic Favourite: Carrie, De Palma’s film about a battered adolescent with powerful psychic powers. The film has wide appeal, and is quite popular, but still underseen.  It provides the holy trinity of great horror, boobs, blood and evil mothers (I wish I could have another ‘b’, it might catch on!). It is at once frightening, and yet, I think can also be seen on a less serious level. It’s a lot of fun, and is great cinema. It shouldn’t disappoint!

My top recommendation for So Bad, it’s Good: Top of the Food Chain is a strange Canadian film that needs to be seen to believe. It’s a high bred of cheap horror and cheap science fiction, and plays around with strange sexuality and strange scientific politics. It has all the right elements of great bad movies; boobs, mannequins, aliens, countless one-liners, musical sequences and a nonsensical setting.

Other recs (for both categories): A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Happening, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, The Wicker Man (1973), The Birds and The Bride of Frankenstein.

Foreign/weirdo film


Now we get into the fun weird part of the whole thing, when you move beyond entertaining the masses and we take some risks. There are many directions you can go with the foreign/weirdo film, and there is a good chance that at least one person will walk away annoyed, upset or bored out of their mind. That’s part of the fun! At this point of the night, most people are getting a little sleepy and are more prone to pay attention. It’s also far more likely that people will really get into this, because of their state, and already into the horror spirit.

Top Recommendation:  Nosferatu (1979), while many people have seen the original by Murnau I’d personally argue that Herzog’s remake is even better. It is just as disturbing, while also capturing the strange level of humour involved. Having Kinski involved is an added bonus, as there is inevitably one person in the room familiar with his insanity, who will always joyfully convey some stories to the ‘audience’. This is the kind of film that gets under your skin, but will inspire as much melancholia as it does fear. It is a beautiful film and one that should be seen by more people.

Other Options: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Black Sunday, Suspiria, Possession (1981), [rec], Trouble Every Day and Eyes without a Face.

It’s at this point that people are really into the horror mood that it’s a good idea to take a little break, have people tell their favourite scary stories and experiences. You’ll be surprised at people’s brushes with the ‘supernatural’ and even the non believers will have a story or two that defy explanation. It’s also the perfect lead in to the final film of the night, which should also be the scariest.

Scary Scary Scary


Part of the fun of Halloween is indulging in the horror of… horror. End the night on a note of true horror and choose something that is truly terrifying. In the spirit of evening, its’ best not to go for the obvious, though there are many films that are classics for a reason. I’m naming a few of them as other options, only because I think they are horrifying and reputations are earned.

Top Recommendation: The Legend of Hell House. As much as there are many films that earn their titles, there are some that are criminally underseen. Though somewhat divisive, I’d put The Legend of Hell House  at the top of my recommendation list for the truly “get under your skin” horror. It’s a battle between science and religion, and the attack of a truly terrible man who has long been dead. The film invokes Cries and Whispers with all the red wallpaper and darkened rooms. It is also the only film I can think of that involves ghost rape.

Other Options: Black Christmas (1974), The Innocents (1961), The Shining (1980) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I also think it’s not entirely wrong to let the third category just bleed into this one. Most of the weird foreign ones are also really scary and disturbing.

Hopefully that was of some help, and I lived up to my promise of going beyond the obvious horror movie night choices. I know I fell on a quite a few ‘classics’, which almost defeats the purpose of this post entirely, but I can’t help it… they’re so good! If you have any recommendations, for movies or for the event don’t be afraid to post it!

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Jonathan Levine, 2008)


Strange evocations… memories and dreams… dissipated and scattered… they run through the flickering images, all at once familiar, but somehow fresh, as if I’m seeing them for the first time. A pause is taken between words; it feels like an eternity. The characters fill the air with sound, because in silence we reveal too much of ourselves. From a young age, we understand talking as a means of hiding yourself, an elusive way of diverting attention away from your eyes and feelings. Then, once we have the need for words, they have already lost all meaning, and we cannot say what we mean… the silence becomes deafening.

A pretentious ramble for a pretentious film, but that isn’t to say I didn’t adore it. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is an over stylized and over thought horror film that makes me weak at the knees. It’s critics call it an feature length music video, perhaps omitting so much of the intelligence, and surprising tenderness the film inspires, as well as that seems to be the point.

The film strikes me as a cross between a Malick film and Death Proof, polishing it’s grimy locale with a sparkled aesthetic. I suppose I could understand why some would find it grating, it seems self-indulgent and absurdly self-aware. Yet, for me, that intense attempt at beauty seems self-reflective of the teenage psyche, and aids the film in its deconstruction of slasher norms. The film, especially, seems to take a good hard look at the perception and objectification of women in the horror sub-genre, revealing deep rooted insecurities in the female characters. Any action that can be perceived as being bitchy or slutty, is often counteracted with another moment of vulnerability; the inequality of sex, obsessions over personal appearance and a desire to be wanted or perceived as beautiful. Amidst the debauchery, we feel as though these moments of soul exposure are real, and it takes all the pleasure away from the murders.

As much pleasure I took in watching the characters be murdered in interesting ways in Sorority Row, here they inspired an aching disgust. The motivation and deaths themselves, remind me of experiences best left forgotten, and I think this is not a stretch of the imagination. I think it is aiming to create an incredible sense of dread and disgust. As beautiful as everything is, the deaths are not poetic, nor are they fun. You want to turn away, because as careless and annoying as these characters can be, they are understood as being human. I don’t think this film tries to have its cake and eat it too. I don’t see it as exploiting either sex or violence as a means to titillate and “moralize”, it stands somewhere in between.

Quite honestly, I don’t know why this film hit such a powerful chord. It’s a strange film, and I’m not even sure if it’s a great one. I find if endlessly appealing though, strikingly creative, and always surprising. I’m still not quite sure what to make of the ending, but the way it reeks of desperation (on the parts of the characters rather than the filmmakers), wins me over, despite the fact that it seems like an unprecedented shift in many respects. Perhaps I’m too easily swayed by style, but… the way we see our dreams, is often just, if not more interesting than the content of them… or something!