Last week’s Insidious giveaway had one of the highest turnouts of any redblog contest, right up there with Letters to Juliet and Transformers. (I really need to write a movie that’s a horror-rom-com starring giant robots.) So clearly we’ve got some scary movie lovers out there in redblogland.
And as always, there are plenty of new horror films to feast on. I’ve pulled out six I like, plus another six with some fun, scary, maybe even goofy stuff in ‘em.
What Kind of Scary? Shining and Poltergeist-style Haunted House plus Paranormal Activity Inspired Demonic Possession
Who’s Gettin’ Scared? Parents Patrick Wilson (Morning Glory, The Switch) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class) are concerned about their son Ty Simpkon being in a supernatural coma. There’s Something About Mary‘s Lin Shaye tries to help out in the Zelda Rubinstein Poltergeist role.
Who’s Doin’ the Scarin’? It’s a deluxe combo-platter of spooky, including ghosts of little kids, sibling murderers, hulking men, a mean old hag, and best of all, a Darth Maul-lookin’ demon who excels at pop-up scares and loves him some Tiny Tim.
Best Thing About It: No, it’s not “the most terrifying film since The Exorcist,” but this PG-13, gore-free romp from the creators of Saw and the producers of Paranormal Activity mixes creeping dread with fun-house “boo!”s. Free of blood and guts, Insidious is the rare horror film that lovingly takes the genre seriously, but also understands the old-school joys of scaring and being scared.
What Kind of Scary? Interestingly, shifts from first film’s Viral “Rage” Infection to Demonic Possession
Who’s Gettin’ Scared? A Barcelona SWAT-like police team, some too-curious teenagers, and a health official with a Higher Calling
Who’s Doin’ the Scarin’? A sealed-off apartment building full of fast-moving Rage Zombies, controlled, we now learn, by a demon living in the body of a little girl and hiding somewhere on the premises
Best Thing About It: This Spanish-language sequel from the director and writer of 2007′s excellent REC (remade in America as Quarantine) picks up where the first film left off and dives right into the heavily armed action–think of it as Aliens to REC‘s Alien. As with REC, the first-person-shooter camera gimmick gets strained, but there’s plenty of creepy dark-hallway scares, disturbing undead ghouls, and several fun twists.
What Kind of Scary? Sociopathic Telepathic Twins!
Who’s Gettin’ Scared? Their classmates, parents, and a police detective (Orlando Jones).
Who’s Doin’ the Scarin’? Seth and Jonah (real-life twins Gary and Edmund Entin), two prep-school chips off the old Gyllenhaal who use their hallucination-inducing powers to carry out “projects” in which they force others to kill themselves so that the emotionally numb siblings can try to feel something.
Best Thing About It: This one is a genuine hidden gem as director Antonio Negret’s archly grim style plays like Hitchcock’s Rope Meets Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. The onscreen talent shows promise as well: Both Entin Brothers project sardonic menace with Cruise-level intensity, while mastering the Dead-Eyed Look of Evil from Under The Bangs. And Samantha Droke is fetching as the good girl one of the twins falls for (much to the murderous chagrin of the other).
What Kind of Scary? Crazy Hallucinations, House-Based Possession, Civil-War Horror-Western
Who’s Gettin’ Scared? A band of Confederate bank robbers, including E.T.‘s Henry Thomas, Almost Famous‘ Patrick Fugit, Swampy That Guy fave Mark Boone Jr, and best of all the Great Michael Shannon (The Runaways, Boardwalk Empire).
Who’s Doin’ the Scarin’? A seemingly abandoned farm house in Alabama, home to some genuinely scary looking ghosties.
Best Thing About It: Acting and atmosphere! Maybe the ins and outs of the story are familiar, but director Alex Turner lays on the American Gothic and makes good use of heavy hitting thespians like Shannon.
What Kind of Scary? Haunted Abandoned House, Children of the Cornfields!
Who’s Gettin’ Scared? Typical car-load of lost young travelers: The Hot Couple, the Dumb Jock, the Geek (friend of redblog, Devon Graye)
Who’s Doin’ the Scarin’? Some really creepy, zombie scarecrows
Best Thing About It: Much better than the “teens caught in corn terror” premise would suggest. Surprisingly well-made and visually rich, especially the way director Brett Simmons films the decaying house, the foreboding cornfields and those re-animated scarecrows. Plus the fate of the victims is completely unnerving.
What Kind of Scary? Rape, Torture, and Vengeance Exploitation
Who’s Gettin’ Scared? At first it’s Sarah Butler, brutally raped by rural hicks. Later it’s the hicks who find themselves on the pointy end of some very cruel payback, usually involving traps and rusty tools.
Who’s Doin’ the Scarin’? First half: Small-town hicks, aided by corrupt local law enforcement. Second half: Tables get turned with extremely horrific results.
Best Thing About It: Make no mistake, like the original 1978 exploitation flick, this remake is out to deeply disturb and disgust–it’s not easy to watch. But ISOYG unfolds with confident self-awareness from director Steven R. Monroe and becomes both a solid example of its gruesome, gritty genre and a commentary on it.
Party teens gather to booze it up and play doctor, only to find–shocking!–that the ghost of a Lizzie Borden wannabe is slicing them up one by one. Typical slasher fare, but with above-average performances from the victims to be. (One of whom is Eliza Dushku’s older brother!)
Gory Saw-style torture porn with chains not saws, mixed in with elements of Final Destination and The Ring. Twilight‘s Nikki Reed stars, Keith David is the now-obligatory skeptical Black detective (see Seconds Apart above), and Saw vet Betsey Russell makes the first of her two appearances on this list. Best of all, what would any horror roundup be without a little Brad Dourif?
This one almost made the “Recommended” list. Its Nightmare on Elm Street riff has party teens (again) being picked off in gory manners by the malevolent spirit of a dead girl. But halfway through there are several sequences involving Japanese-style pale, pop-up ghost faces that are genuinely, hauntingly scary. The rest doesn’t match the flat-out creepiness of those bits, but for horror fans they make Forget Me Not worth a look.
Ready for something truly shocking? Here’s a scary movie about… adults! Nope, not a teen to be seen. However, it does mine familiar “pregnant woman might be going crazy” horror territory as a sexy couple move into an old house full of dark secrets and maybe some spooky spirits.
We now enter the Drive-In portion of the list–these last two entries are best watched with beer, grilled meat, and smart-aleck pals. For example, this one follows greedy explorers into the South American jungle where they encounter deadly natives who worship a Swamp Thingy creature: “the root of all evil” that’s “part plant, part animal, all bloodthirsty.” It’s supremely silly stuff, with The Unit‘s Max Martini, The Shield‘s Menito Martinez, and yes, Betsey Russell all getting tangled up in green.
But your best bet for Drive-In fun on an inebriated weekend night has to be this magnificent bit of were-cheese. Saw‘s Costas Mandylor teams up with Meshach Taylor of Designing Women and Mannequin (yep, you read that right) to hunt a pack of were-hyenas, led by a busty, tattooed, mulleted she-alpha who can’t keep her top on. Things wind up with two naked she-hyenas fighting for control of the pack. I know what you’re thinking: How is this not already in your DVD player?