aka, Something Creeping In the Dark
Written and Directed by Mario Colucci
Starring Farley Granger, Lucia Bosé, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Stelvio Rosi, Mia Genberg, Gianni Medici, and Dino Fazio
I have a high tolerance for Italian horror cinema. Incoherent plots and terrible dubbing are par for the course, but stellar locations, inventive set pieces, and the occasional flair for lighting and cinematography are the rewards I often get for overlooking those failings. Yet every now and then I trip over a dud like Qualcosa striscia nel buio that leaves me face down in the poop juice, questioning my commitment to Sparkle Motion.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Written by Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red
Starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Tim Thomerson, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein
Vampires are predatory. We all know that. Yet ever since they became lead characters, every effort has been made to reduce or excuse their feeding habits. They only take a little blood, or that of animals, or eat bad people, or use a synthetic material — anything to get around the basic fact about vampires; they are the bad guys. So whenever I get too sick of all this glamorization, I like to watch a film that remembers they’re monsters. Something like Near Dark.
Directed by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz
Starring Michael Greer, Marianna Hill, Joy Bang, Anitra Ford, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr., and Walter Hill
There are Lovecraft adaptations, and then there are movies that feel Lovecraftian. They take place in small coastal towns, where fishing is the main industry. People are secretive there, and they scurry about their business in the shadows. They are up to something in the darkness, but you’re reluctant to find out exactly what. Such a film is Messiah of Evil, and it’s one of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen.
Written and Directed by Xan Cassavetes
Starring Joséphine de La Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Caitlin Keats, Anna Mouglalis, and Michael Rapaport
Vampire movies featuring women used to be about sex, implied or explicit. The story of Countess Bathory has been filmed many times with varying degrees of predatory lesbian action. Naked, young vampire women occupy a significant portion of the filmographies of sexploitation-horror directors like Jean Rollin. But we’re starting to see more films that treat female vampires as actual characters, even as the Underworld series reduces Kate Beckinsale to a fetishized killer. One of these is Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned, which explores the struggle between intellectual and physical desire.
aka Dans ma peau
Written and Directed by Marina de Van
Starring Marina de Van, Laurent Lucas, Léa Drucker, and Thibault de Montalembert
One of the most ridiculous bits of praise I ever heard about a movie was that a girl in It Follows laid pieces of grass on her leg in a symbolic act of cutting. I liked the movie, but so what? An empty metaphor, unsupported and never addressed is nonsense. Self-harm is a real issue, not something to be winkingly referenced in an attempt to appear deep. Marina de Van understood that it is a frightening and irrational means of control, and she deconstructed herself to explore this in her film In My Skin.
Written and directed by Bill Gunn
Starring Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam L. Waymon, and Leonard Jackson
Vampires are associated with Eastern Europe in American film, despite the rich world culture of similar mythologies. Even in the classic blaxploitation horror Blacula, African prince Mamuwalde is turned into a vampire by a very traditional Dracula. Almost as though in answer to the Euro-centrism of Blacula’s origin, the following year saw the release of Bill Gunn’s Ganja &a Hess. The importance of this film cannot be understated, as it presented a very different model of black filmmaking amidst a glut of crass cash-ins.
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Written by Rachel Talalay and Michael De Luca, based on characters created by Wes Craven
Starring Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Ricky Dean Logan, Breckin Meyer, and Yaphet Kotto
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984, creating the relentless killer who became the sole speaking member of the Unholy Trinity of 80s Slashers. Together with Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger captured imaginations and box office with flamboyant murders and the inability to stay dead for long. Sequels were on such a fast track that only 7 years after the original Freddy movie the 6th one was released. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was not, of course, the end of Freddy Krueger. It wasn’t even the last time that the character would be portrayed by Robert Englund. But it was the last of the original sprint of Nightmare movies.
Directed by Danielle Harris
Written by Alyssa Lobit
Starring Alyssa Lobit, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Kamala Jones, AJ Bowen, Brianne Davis, Christopher Backus, Dana Daurey, and Chris Meyer
In last year’s review of X-Game I mentioned the influence of the Saw franchise on modern vigilante horror. Five years ago, Danielle Harris’s Among Friends used the sub-genres conventions to point out how rape culture targets victims with continued societal disbelief and minimization. Spoilers, ahoy. There’s just no way to discuss this one without revealing plot points.
Directed by Dan Curtis
Written by Robert Blees and Earl W. Wallace
Starring Anthony Franciosa, Donna Mills, Patty Duke, June Lockhart, June Allyson, Max Gail, Jeff Corey, Sid Caesar, and Vic Morrow
In the annals of Western cinema there are many monsters that take a human form, revealing their true nature only to kill. Perhaps the most tragic is the werewolf. Victim of a communicable curse, the lycanthrope is an unwilling servant of evil chained to the lunar cycle. But there are other beasts whose transformations are tied to the Moon: weremoths, werepanthers, and in Curse of the Black Widow a werespider.
Directed by Gary Jones
Written by Boaz Davidson, Stephen David Brooks, Jace Anderson, and Adam Gierasch
Starring Lana Parrilla, Josh Green, Oliver Macready, Nick Swarts, Mark Phelan, and Leslie Zemeckis
Ever since H.G. Wells wrote The Food of the Gods, scientists have been creating bigger spiders. Usually it’s in the pursuit of better nutrition, but every now and then it’s a straightforward attempt to weaponize arachnids. The film Spiders is the first entry in a series of movies based on this inadvisable weapons program.