The Thursday Thirteen: Horror Films

Gene’O and I have switched off for the day—he’s writing about Tolkien in a special Thursday Thirteen at the Monster, and I’m writing here. As I sat here prepping for my comprehensive exams this weekend (and by prepping, I mean trying not to hyperventilate and eating Halloween Oreos), I thought to myself (prompted by said Oreos) “oh, it’s October, and this little monster hasn’t talked about horror films yet.” So that’s what I’m going to do today.

I’ve mentioned before that I like gory TV shows and all-things-zombie. And, naturally, I have an affinity for all manner of creatures and monsters. I also don’t mind being scared, especially if I can be scared in my own home, and especially if it’s October, which Sam and I have officially designated as a month of horror films. Below, I give you some of my personal favorites for the month.

1. Insidious, 2010.

I love haunted house stories, and I’ve watched this one with more, not less, horror each time I’ve seen it. The film maintains an excellent balance of newer film techniques with tried-and-true horror film staples. Plus, this creature that a friend and I isolated in the trailer still freaks me out, almost 5 years later.

Yeah, that thing. Night. Mare.

Yeah, that thing. Night. Mare.

2. 28 Days Later, 2002.

Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic world of contagion is fantastic. It does what the best horror movies do in that it provides us with a scapegoat to be afraid of (the virus, and those fast zombies) and then reminds us that what we should really be afraid of is humanity.

3. The Exorcist, 1973.

I was in college when I watched this for the first time, and I was absolutely frightened by it. The feeling lingered for a while, a few hours after the film was over. The re-watches don’t scare me as much, but it’s still a chilling film—superbly scripted and acted, with that spider-walk on the stairs still being one of the creepiest things I’ve seen on film.

4. Let the Right One In, 2008.

I’ve seen both this original, Swedish version and the American remake, Let Me In. And it was honestly a little difficult to decide which version to choose for the list. Each version is an adaptation of a vampire novel, and each has its own merits. The Swedish version ultimately topped out for me because of its careful timing and fantastic use of long, slow shorts and sparse dialogue to create tension.

5. The Cabin in the Woods, 2012.

This film surprised me, it really did. But then again, with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard at its helm and Kristen Connolly as its heroine, I suppose it shouldn’t have been surprised at the heady mix of cheekiness and gore. Not content just to subvert our expectations of the genre—it twists and rearranges them.

6. The Shining, 1980.

Jack Torrence is one of the scariest characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch on-screen, but at least 7/10’s of that is due to the performances put in by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Long. I’ve been watching this film since I was probably-too-young-to-watch-it, and I’m pretty sure that those twins in the hallway are the origin of my fear of kids-in-horror-movies.

Thosetwins

Those twins. Those. Twins. *shudder*

7. Zombieland, 2009.

A zombie film with Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Jesse Eisenberg? And they run into Bill Murray, you say? Sign me up. The film manages to be, at its heart, a zombie film, and while the characters are fun in a way that they rarely are during the zombie apocalypse, there are moments of tension, fear, and pop culture critique.

8. The Conjuring, 2013.

Another recent film, The Conjuring tells the story of the Warrens, American paranormal investigators, as they conduct an investigation and exorcism at the Perron family home. Using old-school scare tactics and striking cinematography, the new film manages a refreshing, cerebral take on the horror tropes of the investigator and the haunted house.

9. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, 1962.

Fantastically creepy, the aging sisters of Baby Jane are a stark reminder of the jealousy and animosity that can sit beside us, of the things we hide from ourselves and those closest to us. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are fantastic mirrors for one another.

10. Halloween, 1978.

Difficult to make a horror film list, especially in October, without mentioning this one. Mike Meyers has haunted our dreams for 36 years now, and he shows no signs of stopping. From the moment he stabs his sister to the film’s final act, Meyers is terrifying and mesmerizing.

meyers

Yikes!

11. Frailty, 2001.

Matthew McConaughey walks into a police station and claims to know who the God’s Hand Killer is, a terrifying serial killer who is revealed, through flashbacks, to be McConaughey’s father (Bill Paxton, in his directorial debut), an ultra-religious man who wakes up his two sons one night to instruct them on how to dispatch demons. The film is twisty-turny, and it’s a woefully underrated piece of suspense horror.

12. Psycho, 1960.

The king of horror films, Psycho still manages to be scary, over 50 years after its release. Norman Bates is a character of horrifying beauty.

13. Alyce Kills, 2011.

This is a new one for me, as I watched it for the first time last week. It has a bit of a sagging middle, but the opening act and the final act are fantastic. It’s plenty gory, though most of the gore is contained in the last 20 minutes of the film, and it’s also darkly funny and painful to watch Alyce, whose friends have missed all signs that she’s a budding psychopath, come completely unglued because of her guilt over a friend’s accidental death.

Alyce

Let me know what would make your list, and hop over to Part Time Monster and see Gene’O’s Thursday Thirteen over there!

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Weekend Music: Something Entirely Different

Fair warning: If you’re offended by the idea of a Rock Opera based on the life of Jesus, you should skip this one.

If not, enjoy my favorite number from the film adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar.

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A Mississippi Love Story now available on demand

Last week I wrote about the premiere of  A Mississippi Love Story, a new short documentary about the lives of Eddie Outlaw and Justin McPherson Outlaw in Jackson, Mississippi, during the months surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. It’s now available at Vimeo for on-demand rental and for sale. I received the notice on Friday, but saved it until this morning because I want as many people as possible to see this.

Mississippi-based film producer Robbie Fisher and Fisher Productions, LLC announced the release last week. The film introduces the viewer to Eddie and Justin, together living what might otherwise be considered an ordinary life during an extraordinary time in history. It provides a glimpse into the relationships the two have with one another, and with family, friends and their Deep South hometown. Against the backdrop of legal battles about same-sex marriage, Eddie and Justin share their personal take on what love really means.

“It was important to us, as Mississippians, to tell the story of this loving and devoted couple who are productive business people and well-liked members of the community, and who want their legal union to be recognized in their home state,” said Fisher.

The 13-minute film is available for a $1 rental fee or for purchase for $2.50. Cinematographer Lauren Cioffi spent months, beginning in March 2013, documenting the day-to-day lives of Eddie Outlaw and his partner Justin McPherson Outlaw. A second unit team captured footage in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on California’s Proposition 8 and on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Editor Azod Abedikichi employed an upbeat and whimsical style, which included animating original illustrations by Joy Abedikichi, to capture the essence and spirit of the subjects. Composer Chris Gibbons’ simple and beautiful Red Tango reflects the energetic and optimistic disposition of Eddie and Justin.

I have contact info if you’d like to get in touch; you can also tweet to @MSlovestoryfilm or @TheEddieOutlaw

Here’s the trailer in case you missed it last week.

O For A Muse of Fire

Since there’s a big 450th birthday party for Shakespeare going on this weekend at Statford, I think this is appropriate for a Sunday blog.

I caught a #Shakespeare450th tweet from @MargaritaMorris earlier this week asking people to share their favorite opening lines. You can find her blog here and read her about page here. Here’s my response:

That’s the first line of the Prologue from Henry V.  That’s not necessarily my favorite play, but it’s in my top 5. It is, however, my favorite opening. It frames Henry as an epic hero translated onto the stage. Here are two film versions of the Prologue.

First, Sir Derek Jacobi’s complete prologue from the 1989 Kenneth Branagh version.

And a truncated version from the 2011 movie Anonymous. I like this one because they made some effort to reconstruct the Elizabethan stage, and the delivery of the lines is very good.

I’ll be done with the A to Z Challenge at the Writing Catalog on Wednesday, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of me here, on twitter, and on your comment threads, by next weekend.

Take a moment in the next couple of days to enjoy a snippet of Shakespeare, and have a fabulous week. Feel free to share your favorite opening lines or other favorite moments from Shakespeare on the thread.