christmas horror story: Silent Night, Deadly Night

This has to be one of the worst holiday horror movie franchises in existence.  It may also be the only holiday horror movie franchise, which makes it that much worse.  Where is Black Christmas 2?  Jack Frost 2?  No one asked for Gingerdead Man and its many sequels but we got them anyway, and that’s really it.

Image result for silent night deadly nightThe first film follows two brothers orphaned after a criminal in a Santa suit murders their parents.  Years later, the eldest brother Billy now works at a toy store, and becomes unhinged when he is forced to fill in for the store’s Santa.  There are quite a few Christmas-themed murders happening: aside from murders committed by “Santa”, there is also strangulation by Christmas lights and impalement by deer antlers.  Of course the murders are sparked because Billy can’t handle people having sex, so the tagline “He knows when you’ve been naughty” is pretty accurate.

The second movie, creatively titled “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” is where we run into problems.

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Basically, you could skip the first movie and just watch the second.  The second movie contains a complete recap of the first movie, and is made up of at least 50% footage from the first movie.  The movie is about Billy’s younger brother Ricky, who takes up the mantle of Killer Santa (after killing a Salvation Army bellringer for the costume).  Ricky’s still upset about people being “naughty,” but also upset about the abuse he suffered as an orphan.  His main goal is to kill Mother Superior, who is now in a wheelchair and puts up a good fight before he finally offs her.

 

Image result for silent night deadly nightThe third movie still contains footage from the previous movies, but thankfully not as much.  Part 3, or “Better Watch Out,” follows the experimentation of a blind psychic girl, who a doctor is trying to connect to the comatose mind of Ricky.  Why?  Who the hell knows.  So Laura starts having visions of Santa killing people.  And then, of course, Ricky is awakened by the drunk asshole playing Santa at the hospital and he begins his murder spree anew.  This movie continues the tradition of laughable acting, but unfortunately, there weren’t very many Christmas-themed murders in this one.

 

Image result for silent night deadly night initiation“Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: The Initiation” finally drops the footage from the original movies!  Instead of Ricky as the main murderer, we are treated to a feminist cult that worships Lilith and causes our protagonist, Kim, to see cockroaches everywhere and makes her fingers do a weird twisty thing, and later lets Ricky (now a homeless weirdo – or is this even the same Ricky??) rape her and impregnate her with some weird giant larvae.  Aside from being set around Christmas time, the deaths and theme have little to do with Christmas.  There’s a lit Christmas tree on the top of the building where our initial sacrifice spontaneously combusts, and where our finale takes place.  A man is killed having fallen into said Christmas tree.  There’s also a lovely scene where Kim hangs with her current bf’s family, who turn out to be pretty sexist and anti-Semitic.  Given that the ending involves the defeat of the Lilith cult, I’m not sure what the takeaway is meant to be.  Are we for or against feminism?

Silent Night Deadly Night 5.jpg“Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker” proves that maybe the fifth in a franchise can be the best.  It amazes me that the actors in this franchise have become more recognizable (Mickey Rooney, what are you doing here??).  The Toy Maker starts out with a Christmas bang as a young boy listens to his parents having sex.  Little Derek then discovers a gift clearly marked “do not open until Christmas.”  After his father practically beats him down for opening it, Derek watches on as Dad opens the gift and is attacked by the Santa ball within.  The toy attacks Dad’s face (is it kissing him?  eating his face off?) and kills him.  Derek’s mom isn’t much better and quickly loses patience with him after the brutal death, deciding that buying his happiness is the only way – Mom doesn’t seem too upset it.  There’s a nod to SNDN4 with a larvae toy, and Ricky returns as a department store Santa.  “You would not believe the things I’ve been through,” says Kim, who also returns, and doesn’t seem too freaked out by mysterious Christmas gifts that keep showing up for Derek.  There’s a murderous Santa and a full-on assault by an army of toys (while the baby-sitter is having sex, naturally).

SPOILERS AHEAD

The finale of the last movie almost makes up for how terrible the first four movies.  I mean, a robot/puppet named “Pino” created by “Joe Petto” who just wants to be a “real boy” with a real dick, and somehow figures he’ll make that happen by sex with his mommy?  Didn’t see that one coming.

 

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my favorite evil clown movies (aside from It)

Stephen King’s It is generally considered the standard for the “scary clown” in horror movies, but there are so many other great ones! Here are my faves.

 

Stitches (2012)

(Stitches had quite the attitude, even before he died)

Highlights:

  • killer clown origin story
  • intestine balloon animals
  • pretty much the most clown-themed deaths of any movie I’ve seen except Killer Klowns from Outer Space*
  • or at least, the most punny deaths
  • Stitches’ potty mouth

 

Killjoy (2000)

(Killjoy the clown, apparently shooting someone with bullets from his mouth)

This gem was an extra in the Puppetmaster collection DVD.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an American horror movie with zero white people in it.  The highlights:

  • “Biiiiiiiiiitch”
  • Why won’t the hot girl give the nerdy guy the time of day?  Maybe because all he has is “Killjoy [his clown doll] and dark magic”?
  • The so-bad-it’s-good effect – pretty hilarious if you’ve had a few drinks (can’t say the same for the sequels, though…)

 

Clownhouse (1989)

(Cheezo the clown’s come-hither look, and this was before an escaped mental patient stole his costume)

  • a young Sam Rockwell acting like a complete asshole
  • I know what I like to do is make out with my boyfriend at a family circus
  • clown unibrown (clownibrow?)

 

Clown (2015)

(That wig is his hair now…)

  • creepiest/dirtiest clown costume (actually a demon skin, but whatevs…)
  • feeling dirty after watching it

 

The Last Circus (2010)

(The Sad Clown gets his revenge)

This Spanish film earns a spot on my list largely because it’s the one circus movie with a death by aerial silks! Highlights:

  • clown makeup applied by an iron
  • feuding clowns
  • lots of actual circus performing

 

In my opinion, a good evil clown horror movie should have a least a little humor – after all, aren’t clowns meant to make us laugh?  And while scary clown make up is, well, scary, I think it’s better for the clown to start out looking like all the other innocent clowns, and then grow more evil-looking – because clowns really aren’t meant to scare people!

 

*I personally didn’t like Killer Klowns from Outer Space, mostly because the clowns looked too fake for me (they were aliens, but come on).  But there is death by cotton candy, so you might find it worth watching.

what is it about slow covers of happy songs in horror movie trailers?

It’s a trend that has been going on for years.  A slowed-down version of a song played during a horror movie trailer.  The slowness of the normally happy tune throws you off, and suddenly the song’s lyrics sound creepy.  Recently, I saw a trailer for A Cure for Wellness (2017):

Took me a minute, but I finally recognized the song as “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones.  The song is covered by Benjamin Wallfisch and features Mirel Wagner on vocals.  A song that is normally frenetic, about simultaneously hurrying around and being bored, now applies to patients undergoing some mysterious surgery and takes a dark new twist.

For some reason this led me on a hunt to find all those other horror movies featuring slow covers of songs.  I came up with:

Last House on the Left (2009) features a cover of the Guns ‘n’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Taken by Trees.  The trailer punctuates the rather upbeat cover version with dramatic drum stops, but keeps the upbeat feel of it as clips of the parents getting bloody revenge for their “sweet child” play.

Lorde’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in the Dracula Untold (2014) trailer isn’t actually that much slower than the original, and the song is both lyrically fitting and super dramatic.

Victor Frankenstein (2015) uses an only slightly slower version of the Doors’ “Break on Through” by Josh Mobley.  Oddly enough, it isn’t the slowness but the guitar riff that really matches up with the feel of this movie.  It’s a bizarre version of the Frankenstein story that starts with Igor working in a circus.

The Nirvana classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” graces the trailer for The Gallows (2015).  The cover version, by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J. may have been chosen because it’s a teen slasher flick.  Or maybe because of that line, “Here we are now, entertainers,” because they’re all in drama club?

“Every breath you take… I’ll be watching you…” The extremely slowed down cover of the classic Police song in the Blair Witch (2016) trailer is covered by… Pia Ashley?  I think?  There’s no official recording.  But it’s certainly creepy enough – suddenly a love song has become one about stalking.  Or maybe that’s what it was about in the first place.

The Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies (2016) trailer features a cover of “Born to Be Wild” (by J2 ft. Blu Holliday) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, lyrics-wise.  Or tone-wise.  But since this film is a mash-up of classic literature and zombie gore, I suppose it works on that level.

2009 is really the earliest movie I could find that had a slow cover song in the trailer, but I have to give a shout out to a couple of cover songs in horror movies that weren’t in the trailers: Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” from Donnie Darko (2001), and Richard Cheese’s cover of “Down with the Sickness” from the end credits of Dawn of the Dead (2004) – both for entirely different reasons.  The first is simply one of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard.  The second perfectly captures the social commentary of spending the zombie apocalypse trapped in a mall.  Oh, and the cover of “Paint it Black” by Gob for in Stir of Echoes (1999).  And The Sunday’s version of “Wild Horses” in the movie Fear (1996).  And Mona’s cover of “Stand By Me” which was featured in the commercials for the Hannibal TV series.  And if I’m going to start throwing out TV series, I might as well add Placebo’s cover of “Running Up That Hill” from Vampire Diaries.

I honestly love this trend.  There are a few songs I’d love to see slow covers of in a trailer:

  • Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
  • Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel (Fever Ray does a great creepy cover of this)
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics – Marilyn Manson has already done a creepy cover, but it could be EVEN CREEPIER
  • Hello by Lionel Ritchie
  • I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen – there’s a cover by Bat for Lashes that I love
  • The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen – it was used in Donnie Darko, and there’s a quirky cover by Nouvelle Vague, but just the title of the song would be PERFECT for a slow cover and a horror movie trailer, perhaps one about werewolves?
  • Maneater by Hall & Oates – the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” used a cool cover of this by Grace Mitchell, but same reasons as above: title is perfect
  • Toxic by Britney Spears – ditto, again

 

For more non-horror trailers featuring slow cover songs, check out http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers/ and http://screencrush.com/movie-trailers-sad-covers-2/.  Clearly the slow cover song thing isn’t just for horror movies!

 

 

horror movies “based on a true story”: House of the Devil

mv5bmtaxmdaxodg5odreqtjeqwpwz15bbwu3mdi5odyxodi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…”

This is the text which opens the 2009 film, The House of the Devil.

What is true:

  • The statistics – which don’t actually say that any Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) occurred.  The stats are about beliefs.  I don’t know which survey was used to cull these particular statistics, but I found this article which mentions a 1990 study that reported “that 90 percent of Utah citizens believed that ritualistic sex abuse was occurring.”  So the belief was certainly there.

What is not true:

  • Any of the actual events depicted in the film.

The verdict: This film is more an homage to films made in the 1980s.  It was recorded on 16mm film to give it an authentic early 80s look, and uses familiar tropes, like the baby-sitter under attack.  The use of a “based on a true story” tagline is likely an homage as well, since many films of that era used it.  “True unexplained events” could mean anything, really.  There were thousands of cases of SRA reported in the 1980s, most of them after a few high-profile cases such as the one described in the book Michelle Remembers, and the McMartin preschool trial.  In the end, however, the preschool trial led to charges dropped and dismissed, with no evidence of any actual Satanic abuse, and Michelle Remembers was largely discredited.  In many cases of alleged SRA, recovered memories (which are highly questionable and often false memories) played a large role.

31 Days of Halloween, Days 28-31

It’s been a busy weekend, and I haven’t had time to post (or watch many horror movies, for that matter…).  But I did do many things to celebrate Halloween so here they are!

On Saturday morning I ran in the Costume Dash 5K, which was my only costumed event of this year.  My friend dressed as a cookie and I dressed as a carton of milk.  There were lots of Mario Karts, mermaids, and super heroes.  It was fun puzzling out what some of the costumes were meant to be, and I got a pretty good time (for me, anyway) of 36 minutes.

Saturday afternoon involved a hike to the Freetown State Forest in Fall River, MA (home of Lizzie Borden!).  This forest is located in the Bridgewater Triangle, a hotspot of strange paranormal events.  Specific to the forest:

  • Creatures called Pukwedgies by the Wampanoag are claimed to roam there, causing all kinds of dangerous mischief such as kidnapping people or pushing them off cliffs (to their deaths).
  • The quarry (which I visited) is a site where many people claimed to feel a sense of foreboding, and a number of suicides have occurred there.  Also, President Ronald Reagan apparently saw a UFO here?
  • UFOs, Pukwedgies, and apparently Bigfoot have all been sighted here.
  • A number of murders have occurred in the forest.  One missing girl was found dead and tied to a tree, and a prostitute was found brutally murdered (murdered by her pimp, who was also a Satanist).  In 2001, two bodies riddled with bullets were found on Bell Rock Road (which we drove down to get to the hiking trails…).
  • Other reports of Satanic cult activity, reports of an aggressive pack of dogs, an escaped emu, and as recently as May of this year, wire was found stretched across the trails at a height meant to decapitate dirt-bike riders.  Yikes!
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Not far into the trail, we came across what I call the “Death Camper” – a totally trashed trailer inside a locked fenced-in area.

Later we watched a few fun Halloween movies: Teen Witch (again) and Hocus Pocus.

Last night I attended Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns, which involved lots of professional pumpkin carving.  There were some amazing horror movie themed pumpkins, such as this one:

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mv5bmtm2otm1mty5nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwnjawmzkymq-_v1_uy268_cr20182268_al_Then last night I watched a doozy of a horror (?) movie called Brain Damage.  The description called it “surreal” and I certainly got that… It’s about Aylmer, some weird phallic-looking worm, that can give people drug-like trips.  In exchange, while you’re high, Aylmer likes to eat brains.  He also likes to sing… There were some bizarre deaths, including one where a girl goes to give Aylmer’s host a BJ and instead ends up with Aylmer in her mouth.  Just bizarre all around.  Recommendations if you enjoyed this one?  The only one that comes to mind is Eraserhead

Tonight will probably involve watching The Walking Dead, so I will leave you with a simple Happy Halloween!

31 Days of Halloween, Day 27: The Fog (2005)

the-fog-2005-16361A rewatch for inspiring my upcoming Nanowrimo novel, which will involve mist and fog…

This movie is surprising less about fog and more about people catching on fire and turning into mummies and ice?  Apparently the fog is so cold it freezes people?  The fog kinda reminds me of the sandstorm in The Mummy movies, as it can turn into a face.  It can also suck people right out of windows, but closing the door will keep it out!

What’s scary about fog is what you can’t see.  Here’s what you can see in the fog: pirate ships, ghosts, an entire tableau of a horrific event that happened in this little coastal town a hundred years ago.

Personally, I like this remake better than the original, which I found kind of… boring – it’s more centered around the storyline involving the radio station. Maggie Grace’s character was not in the original movie, and it almost makes the radio station plotline with Selma Blair superfluous (although I will concede that Selma Blair is no Jamie Lee Curtis!).

Recommendation time:

  • The Mist (2007) – There’s some creepy shit in this fog, way creepier than anything in either of The Fog movies.  Big things.  Prehistoric things.
  • Pontypool (2008) – Really the only similarity here is that this movie takes place largely in a radio station, but this is a pretty creepy ass movie – if you watch any of the movies on this list, make this be the One.
  • Silent Hill (2006) – While the fog here isn’t what the characters are battling, it certainly marks the territory of Silent Hill and adds to the strange atmosphere.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 26: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

large_yfqsgzw6aqymbjieiq0y9eb1rglAfter mentioning this in my recommendations a few days ago, I realized it was high time to give this one a re-watch.

This is still one of my favorite “the beginning of the apocalypse” scenes ever.  And then when they finally get to the mall and the Muzak version of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is playing?  The lounge cover of Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” played later in the movie is awesome as well.

I really love the group dynamics in this movie, how the original survivors meet up with the mall cops and then a second group of survivors.  I love seeing Phil – I mean, Ty Burrell – play a super dickhead.  I also really like Sarah Polley as an actress.  The moments of terror are interspersed with lighter moments, which is something many horror movie remakes don’t seem to realize is needed.

The one change from the original that I wasn’t so fond of was making the zombies fast.  While it does add a lot of scariness, I just feel like zombies should be slow!  But who really is to say how fast or slow real zombies would be, so I can forgive it.

On that note, I’m going to recommend movies with fast zombies:

  • 28 Days Later (2002) – At least they explained the speedy zombies, by not calling them zombies and instead calling it the Rage virus.
  • World War Z (2013) – This was explained in great detail in the book (can’t remember if they mention it in the movie) – about how the zombie virus wants to spread quickly, hence new zombies being faster, and also how the zombies slow with colder temperatures, hence people fleeing to Canada.
  • Zombieland (2009) – This is more comedy than horror but a great ride all the same.