Musings in the Dark: October 2020


Horror 102: Vampire Horror

My final entry for this year’s celebration came down to, once again, me trying to decide between two of my favorite vampire movies: 30 Days of Night (2007) and Fright Night (1985).  30 Days of Night is about the takeover of Barrow, Alaska (the northernmost city in Alaska that can go a solid month without daylight) by vicious, feral vampires, led by the incomparable Danny Huston.  I love this movie because the vampires are ferocious and monstrous, the way vampires should be.  Consider this my commentary on Twilight vampires and to an extent, Anne Rice’s vampires.  I prefer for my vamps to be fucking savages.  

Horror 102: Body Horror

The Fly (1986) stars Jeff Goldblum as eccentric scientist Seth Brundle.  Seth has invented a teleportation device, which garners the interest of investigative reporter Veronica Quaife, played by Geena Davis.  Veronica wants to write an article about Seth’s research but Seth convinces her to wait, as there are some kinks that need to be ironed out.  Veronica spends time with Seth while he works on the device and they eventually fall in love. 


Horror 102: Horror Comedy

Tremors (1990) is the story of Valentine McKee and Earl Bass, played by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward respectively.  They are the hired help and friends to the handful of residents in a tiny Nevada town called Perfection.  Val and Earl are sick of their doldrum existence as odd job workers and take off for the nearest big city (in this case, Bixby).  But before they can get out of Perfection, strange occurrences take place and they end up trapped.  The strange occurrences--people dying on telephone poles or being dragged below ground--are tied to the existence of some giant prehistoric worms and the rest of the movie deals with how Val, Earl and the other residents of Perfection defend themselves against the worms.

Horror 102: Werewolf Horror

Directed by the homie Wes Craven, Cursed (2005) is a movie about siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) who get into a car accident and are injured by a large animal.  They start to exhibit wolfish tendencies by being attracted to the smell of blood, eating raw meat, and being agile and able to move quickly.  They realize that they were attacked by a werewolf, and other women are being ruthlessly murdered by it as well. 


Horror 102: Old Horror

A/N: I’ve been unavailable for the past couple of days and so I’ve gotten behind in my posting.  But I will catch up by doing two-fers for the next couple of days.  Halloween will be here soon!!

I went back and forth with this one for a long time.  My top choices were Tod Browning’s Freaks (1930) and Elmer G. Unger’s The Black Cat (1934).  While I love Freaks, especially the ending, I went with The Black Cat because in the end, it had Boris Karloff playing a Satan-worshipping villain and I am here for anything and everything Boris Karloff.  


Horror 102: Women in Horror

The Descent (2005) is a British horror film about a group of female thrill-seekers engaging in a spelunking trip in North Carolina.  The women, led by the fearless Juno (Natalie Mendoza), are of the belief that they are exploring a known cave system.  However, Juno has misled her friends and taken them to an unexplored system because she wanted them to be the ones credited for its discovery.  Shortly after entering the caves, part of one collapses and the cave’s entry is sealed off, forcing the women to move deeper into the system in order to find another exit.  What the women do not know is that the caves they’re traveling through are inhabited by feral creatures who hunt via sound.  Situations occur and things happen, and the women end up getting separated, becoming fodder for the underground predators.


Horror 102: Supernatural Horror

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) begins when the body of a woman is found unearthed in the basement of a house where a double murder took place.  The body is taken to a mortuary, run by Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch).  They have been tasked to figure out the cause of death.  Jane Doe’s body is layered with mysteries and as the father and son coroner team processes the body, the mysteries reveal themselves until Tommy and Austin figure out exactly who Jane Doe is and must suffer the consequences of knowing her identity.

This movie was a pleasant surprise.  I didn’t know what to expect, but once the autopsy began, I was hooked.  Every time the coroners discovered one of Jane’s many, many injuries, it corresponded to a weird supernatural event in the real world of the autopsy room.  By the time Tommy cracks open Jane’s skull to examine her brain, all hell breaks loose.

I love this movie, obviously.  Definitely worth checking out.


Horror 102: Horror Anthology

This wonderful little anthology came out in 2007.  It’s a collection of five interrelated stories involving the “Rules of Halloween” and featuring a precious orange-pajama-burlap-sack-wearing little scamp named Sam. I adore Sam (which is a nickname for Samhain) and even when he gets unmasked, he’s still adorable. Sam is the keeper of Halloween and it is his job to make sure that the rules are followed. 

Sam, aka Halloween Badass


Horror 102: Black Horror

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a duuuh!  It’s Candyman, which dropped in 1992.  We all know the rule: you look in the mirror and say Candyman’s name five times, and he appears with his hook for a hand and slits you from groin to gullet.  I freakin’ LOVE this movie.  It is based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” and it is about a graduate student, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), who is working on her thesis about modern folklore.  She learns about the myth of Candyman from someone she was interviewing and decides to investigate further.

"Be my victim..."  "Um, okay." 


Horror 102: Sci-Fi Horror

Event Horizon (1997) is about a rescue crew who are tapped to head to Neptune and recover a lost one-of-a-kind spaceship.  The ship was fitted with an experimental gravity drive, designed for deep space exploration.  But it disappeared seven years prior to the events of the movie and no one knows where it went.  Captain Miller, played by Laurence Fishburne, leads the rescue mission with his crew along with the ship’s creator, Dr. Weir, played by Sam Neill. 


Horror 102: Television Horror

NBC pulled a genius move in 2013 by hiring Bryan Fuller to run an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ characters from his novel Red Dragon.  The show, called Hannibal, ran from April 2013 to August 2015.  Mads Mikkelsen was tapped to play the character of Hannibal Lecter, and bay-bee...whew chile!  There was a time when Anthony Hopkins was the definitive Lecter, but Mads has since supplanted Sir Anthony.  He plays Hannibal as the Devil and does things just to see what happens.  The co-star of this excellent show is the adorable Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, known to us fans of the book as the one who caught Hannibal Lecter.  The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford and he killed that role.


Horror 102: Holiday Horror

I saw the original Black Christmas (1974) about fifteen years ago after reading about how influential it was on later horror movies, such as When A Stranger Calls and my beloved Halloween.  Being that it was from 1974, I felt good that it was going to be a worthwhile watch.  One minute in, I was not disappointed.  The movie opens from the killer’s perspective; he’s peeking into the windows of a sorority house, finds a rose trellis and climbs it, gaining entry to the house via the attic.

Downstairs, the sorority sisters are doing sorority sister things.  What’s interesting is that periodically, one of the sisters will go upstairs to do something or get something and is murdered by the creepazoid and stashed either in the attic or in one of the bedrooms...and for the longest time, people don’t notice that they don’t come back downstairs.  The killer crank calls the girls, using language that he heard them say in conversation. The father of the first girl that was murdered, Clare, comes to pick her up and is frustrated that she cannot be located.  


Horror 102: Alien Horror

Man, this was a toss-up between two of my absolute faves: Alien and The Thing.  Both are horror classics.  Both were game-changers; Alien more so than The Thing, but when I did mental gymnastics trying to decide between the two...I chose The Thing.  Why?  Because of that ending.

Based off J. W. Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?”, John Carpenter’s The Thing came out in 1982, around the same time as Steven Spielberg’s E.T.  Most movie-goers at the time preferred to see a benevolent alien rather than a malevolent one, and as a result, The Thing flopped hard in theaters.  But over time, people have come to realize that The Thing is an excellent film; one of Carpenter’s best works and perhaps one of the greatest movies of all time.


Horror 102: Children in Horror

The Bad Seed (1956) is about a mother, Christine Penmark, who slowly comes to grips with the idea that her eight-year-old daughter, Rhoda, might be a serial killer.  Rhoda, played by Patty McCormack, presents as almost perfect.  Rhoda believes that she deserves all the good things and when she fails to win a penmanship award, it brings out her innate amoral ugliness.  Her desire to have the things she wants leads to the deaths of two people.  Christine believes that she passed that amoral trait on to her daughter and as such, blames herself.  But Rhoda is very much her own person, and a very evil one at that.

I love, love, LOVE this movie.  


Horror 102: Foreign Horror

The Vanishing is a 1988 Dutch film about the abduction of a woman, Saskia, from a rest stop.  This movie takes a different tack, as you know right up front who kidnapped her and why.  Saskia’s boyfriend, Rex, has been tormented for three years wondering what happened to her.  He starts to get postcards from Saskia’s abductor, which frustrates him even more. 

Eventually, the two meet and the abductor, a mild-mannered chemistry professor named Raymond, tells Rex that in order to find out what happened to Saskia, he must be willing to experience what she did.  Rex stupidly, foolishly agrees to Raymond’s demands.  Is knowing what happened to her better than not knowing?  Rex soon finds out.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m claustrophobic.  The final few scenes in The Vanishing have stuck with me for decades and are the stuff of my nightmares.  I can barely watch the end of the movie without getting anxious. 

That’s horror done right.


Horror 102: Creature Feature Horror

The Relic (1997) is one of my all-time favorite movies.  My bestie and I caught it at the dollar theater waaaaay back in the day.  A detective, Lt. D’Agosta is investigating the decapitation deaths of the crew of a cargo ship and they lead him to Chicago’s Museum of Natural History, where he meets an evolutionary biologist, Dr. Green.  More murders happen in the museum and Green and D'Agosta have to work together to discover the culprit; which just so happens to be the Kothoga, a South American chimeric lizard god. The beast is quickly and constantly evolving due to rapid mutations in its DNA.


Horror 102: Folk Horror

1973’s The Wicker Man.  Starring the great Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle.  A cop, Sgt. Neil Howie, played by Edward Woodward, arrives on the island of Summerisle in search of a missing girl named Rowan.  Sgt. Howie tries to conduct an investigation, but does not get much help from the locals.  He becomes certain that they are lying to him about Rowan’s existence.  

Sgt. Howie is a celibate Christian, and when he realizes that Summerisle’s citizens are pagans, he becomes disturbed by their behavior and frustrated that they won’t help him in finding out what happened to Rowan.  What Sgt. Howie doesn’t know is that his presence on the island is deliberate, and what awaits him is drop-dead terrifying.  

I watched this movie, bemused at the antics of the locals, and when I realized what was going on and saw Sgt. Howie’s ultimate fate, I was mesmerized.  Folk horror is usually hit or miss for me, but The Wicker Man slaps! 


Horror 102: Satanic Horror

I watched Angel Heart (1987) shortly after it came out on video.  The hype surrounding the movie at the time was the fact that Lisa Bonet (Denise from The Cosby Show) starred in the movie and did things that “soiled” her “good girl” image.  But that’s a discussion for another day.  I was a pre-teen when I first saw Angel Heart, and therefore a lot of it got past me.  It wasn’t until I watched it again when I was older that I understood what was going on, and bay-bee....!

The movie is based on William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel, published in 1978.  Basically, a well-dressed mysterious gentleman procures the services of private investigator Harry Angel to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite.  Apparently, Johnny Favorite is in debt to the gentleman, one Mr. Louis Cyphere, played to the T by Robert DeNiro.  Harry accepts the job, but soon finds himself deep into a web of mystery and intrigue, and waaaay over his head.

The ending scene, interspersed with the closing credits, sticks with me to this day.  I’ll never look at an elevator ride the same.


Horror 102: My Favorite Horror Movies

 As you know, Dilettantes…the 10th month is here and I am overjoyed!  It’s my favorite time of year and last year, I learned how to celebrate it as only I can.  Last year, I began a series called Horror 101, where I brought to the forefront a mixture of my favorite horror novels, horror stories, horror movies and horror TV shows.

This year, I plan to continue the series.  I am going to focus strictly on horror movies.  When I first came up with this idea, I foolishly thought I could do a top 10 list of my favorite horror movies.  I shared this idea with Noob, a fellow horror head, and she promptly laughed in my face.