Halloween is rapidly approaching, which means a lot of cinephiles & horror nerds out there are currently trying to cram in as many scary movies as they can before the best day of the year (except for Mardi Gras, of course) passes us by. We here at Swampflix watch a lot of horror films year round, so instead of overloading you with the full list of all the spooky movies we’ve covered since last year’s Halloween report, here’s a selection of the best of the best. We’ve tried to break it down into a few separate categories to help you find what cinematic scares you’re looking for. Hope this helps anyone looking to add some titles to their annual horror binge! Happy hauntings!
Art House Horror
If you’re looking for an escape from the endless parade of trashy slasher movies & want a more formally refined style of horror film, this list might be a good place to start.
The Neon Demon (2016): “The Neon Demon is consistently uncomfortable, but also intensely beautiful & surprisingly humorous. Days later my eyeballs are still bleeding from its stark cinematography & my brain is still tearing itself in half trying to find somewhere to land on its thematic minefield of female exploitation, competition, narcissism, and mystic power. This film is going to make a lot of people very angry and I’m certain that’s exactly the reaction Refn is searching for, the cruel bastard. At the same time it’s my favorite thing I’ve seen all year. I’m caught transfixed by its wicked spell & its bottomless wealth of surface pleasures, even as I wrestle with their implications. This is where the stylized form of high art meets the juvenile id of low trash and that exact intersection is why I go to the movies in the first place. The Neon Demon may not be great social commentary, but it’s certainly great cinema.”
The Witch (2016): “A lot of times when you tell people that you really liked a horror movie the first question they ask is ‘Was it scary?’ Now, that’s not a requirement for me to enjoy myself at a horror showing. Horror can be funny or gruesome or just eccentric or interesting enough to make questions about whether or not it was scary to even be relevant. With The Witch, however, I can actually answer that question bluntly & with enthusiasm. The Witch is a scary movie. It’s a haunting, beautifully shot, impossibly well-researched witchcraft horror with an authenticity that’s unmatched in its genre going at least as far back as 1922’s Häxan, so it has many virtues outside the simple question of whether or not it was a scary movie, but yes, The Witch succeeds there as well. At times it can be downright terrifying.”
High-Rise (2016): “High-Rise is, at heart, a mass hysteria horror, a surreal exploration of a weird, unexplained menace lurking in our modern political & economic anxieties. Instead of simply leaving the titular building when things go horrifically sour, its inhabitants instead party harder and their drunken revelry devolves into a grotesque, months-long rager of deadly hedonism & de Sade levels of sexual depravity. The people of the high-rise are portrayed as just another amenity, one that can malfunction & fall apart just as easily & thoroughly as a blown circuit or a busted water pipe. It only takes weeks for the societal barriers that keep them in line to fully degenerate so that the entire high-rise society is partying violently in unison in their own filth & subhman cruelty. If this is a version of America’s future in consumerism & modern convenience, it’s a harshly damning one, a confounding nightmare I won’t soon forget.”
Tale of Tales (2016): “It’s beautiful, morbidly funny, brutally cold, everything you could ask for from a not-all-fairy-tales-are-for-children corrective. It’s sometimes necessary to remind yourself of the immense wonder & dreamlike stupor a great movie can immerse you in and Tale of Tales does so only to stab you in the back with a harsh life lesson (or three) once you let your guard down. This is ambitious filmmaking at its most concise & successful, never wavering from its sense of purpose or attention to craft. I’d be extremely lucky to catch a better-looking, more emotionally effective work of cinematic fantasy before 2016 comes to a close. Or ever, really.”
The Boy (2015): “Much like the empty, existential trudge through life at its desolate motel setting, The Boy brings its pace down to a slow crawl for most of its runtime. Most of the film plays like a lowkey indie drama that turns the idea of morbid fascination into a mood-defining aesthetic. It isn’t until the last half hour so that the film becomes recognizable as an 80s slasher version of Norman Bates: The Early Years. It takes a significant effort to get to the film’s horror genre payoffs, but allowing the film to lull you into a creepily hypnotic state makes that last minute tonal shift all the more satisfying.”
The Body Snatcher (1945): “The Body Snatcher is surely one of the best of Karloff & Lugosi’s collaborations and a fitting note for the pair to end their work together on. The film’s promotional material promises The Body Snatcher to be, ‘The screen’s last word in shock sensation!’ which might not be true for cinema at large, but is at least literally true in the context of Lugosi & Karloff’s appearances together on film. It was the final word.”
Goodnight Mommy (2015): “Goodnight Mommy is a smart, taut movie that is beautifully composed and cinematically crisp, full of beautiful exterior landscape shots that highlight the isolation of the two boys and contribute to the logic of their slowly building paranoia in a home that no longer feels safe and a caregiver they cannot recognize.”
If the above list of art-house horror titles is a little too modern for your tastes & you’re curious about the genre’s origins in the 20s & 30s, here are some particularly great examples of horror cinema’s early beginnings.
A Page of Madness (1926): “A whirlwind of rapid edits, bizarre imagery, and an oppressive absence of linear storytelling make A Page of Madness feel like a contemporary with, say, Eraserhead or Tetsuo: The Iron Man instead of a distant relic of horror cinema. It’s an early masterwork of disjointed, abstract filmmaking and it’s one that was nearly lost forever, considered unobtainable for nearly four decades before a salvageable (and significantly shortened) print was re-discovered.“
The Phantom Carriage (1921): “The Phantom Carriage is well worth a watch even outside its massive influence on the likes of Kubrick & Bergman. The film was noteworthy in its time for innovations in its ghostly camera trickery and its flashback-within-a-flashback narrative structure. Those aspects still feel strikingly anachronistic & forward-thinking today, especially the gnarly phantom imagery, but you don’t have to be a film historian to appreciate what’s essentially a timeless story of brutally cold selfishness & heartbreaking remorse.”
The Bat (1926): “The Bat is a must-see work of seminal art. It’s not some antiquated bore with an antagonist that was plucked from lowly ranks for a higher purpose. The film directly influenced the creation of Batman, but it also achieves its own, exquisite Art Deco horror aesthetic that recalls the immense wonders of the Hollywood classic The Black Cat, except with more of a creature feature lean.”
Destiny (1921): “Released in the wake of the seminal Swedish masterpiece The Phantom Carriage, Destiny (sometimes billed as Behind the Wall or Weary Death) offers yet another striking image of Death as he conducts his business of harvesting expired souls (this time depicted as a passenger in a carriage instead of the driver, oddly enough). The early German expressionism landmark expanded the limitations of film as a medium, even cited by legendary directors like Alfred Hitchcock & Luis Buñuel as proof that cinema had potential & merit as an artform. The film’s ambitious special effects, unconventional storytelling, and morbid mix of death & romance all amount to a one of a kind glimpse into modern art cinema’s humble silent era beginnings.”
The Lost World (1925): “The same way the blend of CGI & animatronics floored audiences with “realistic” dinos in Jurassic Park‘s 1994 release, the stop motion dinosaurs of 1925’s The Lost World were an unfathomable achievement at its time. When the source material’s author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle screened test footage for the press (at a magician’s conference of all places) The New York Times even excitedly reported ‘(Conan Doyle’s) monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily life like. If fakes, they were masterpieces.’ Imagine writing that ‘if fakes’ qualifier in earnest & how quickly that writer’s head would have exploded if they got a glimpse of Spielberg’s work 70 years later.”
The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920): “An ancient German Expressionism creature feature about Jewish mysticism, The Golem: How He Came Into the World bounces back & forth from being an incredible work that nearly rivals Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon in sheer beauty & ambition and the most standard issue silent horror you can conjure in your mind.”
Dario Argento is one of the all-time horror movie greats, right up there with Mario Bava as one of the masters of the highly-influential giallo genre. His work is a perfect blend of art house cinema & trashy genre fare, the exact formula Swampflix treasures most. Boomer was in the midst of tirelessly covering all of Argento’s films at the time we posted our Halloween Report last year. He’s since finished the project and covered a few non-Argento giallo pictures in its wake. Here’s the best of what’s been posted since.
The Stendhal Syndrome (1996): “What separates art and sculpture from prose, film, drama, and music is that those media incorporate time as an element of the story, progressing in a more or less linear fashion from beginning to end. Paintings and sculptures do not have this luxury, and thus must evoke an emotional rapport and create a rhetorical space through a still image, implying motion with static visuals. The Stendhal Syndrome, in many ways, acts as a series of set pieces that are presented out of order, and must be ordered after viewing. You cannot read The Night Watch from left to right like a sentence; you first see the figures highlighted by chiaroscuro, and then focus on other faces, or the figures’ clothing. Syndrome is much the same, and the attempt to recreate this kind of experience on film is laudable in its audacity and its success. I simply wish that they appeared in a movie that was praiseworthy for the content of its story as well.”
The Church (La chiesa) (1989): “So much is left unexplained that La chiesa fails under minimal scrutiny. That having been said, this is still a very effective and scary film. The gore here is shocking because so much of the terror comes from slowly-building tension of watching possessed people act in eerie and creepy ways toward the unsuspecting innocents they have infiltrated. There are visuals here that I don’t think Argento would have been able to realize with his own skill sets, and there’s a writhing mass of dead bodies at the end that’s truly glorious in all its grotesque hideousness.”
Sleepless (2001): “Sleepless isn’t necessarily a return to form with regards to inventive cinematography, but it does feature several set pieces that effectively ramp up the tension while also being visually dynamic in a way that Argento hadn’t shown an aptitude for in the nineties–not even once. The first of such set pieces, the chase aboard the train, stands out as being particularly remarkable, and may be one of the best from the director’s entire career.”
Body Puzzle (1992): “Body Puzzle is a fun little giallo thriller, with delightful cinematography and a plot that works, for the most part. The tension builds slowly as it becomes apparent that there is no safe place for Tracy no matter where she goes, and the final reveal is foreshadowed in a manner that is utterly unexpected but fits all the clues that we have seen so far, minus a red herring that I am certain made most contemporary reviewers rather pissed, given the film’s overall low aggregate rating.”
The House with Laughing Windows (1976): “There’s a lot to unpack in The House with the Laughing Windows, and I like that the entire village is in on the murders, a la the original Wicker Man or the modern classic Hot Fuzz, although the reason for why the consent to be complicit in the murders requires inspection. As is the case with many gialli from this era, there is a larger cultural context that I am unfamiliar with, and that knowledge may lend itself to a clearer interpretation of the film’s themes.”
Confined Space Thrillers
One of the more unexpected trends of 2016 is how many high quality confined space thrillers have terrorized filmgoers throughout the year. Here’s some of the best examples of claustrophobic horrors we’ve seen this year.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016): “10 Cloverfield Lane is less of a ‘sister film’ sequel to the (shrill, annoying, insufferable) 2008 found-footage sci-fi horror Cloverfield & more of a tense, horror-minded thriller about the monstrous spirit lurking within doomsday prepper culture. I’m not sure that it’s the first film to depict the selfish nastiness & misanthropy at the heart of ‘survival’ types in the context of the horror genre, but it’s the first I’ve seen and it’s damn effective.”
The Invitation (2016): “The isolation of the main character’s skepticism makes The Invitation feel just as much like a psychological horror as it does a reverse home invasion thriller (where the victim is invited as a guest to the threatening stranger’s home). With the production value just as cheap as the fictional party’s wine looks expensive, The Invitation has a way of feeling like everything’s happening inside of its protagonist’s head as he works through painful memories in a storied space, as if he’s navigating a nightmare or a session of hypnotherapy. Thankfully, the film goes to a much more interesting & terrifying place than an it-was-all-just-a-dream reveal, but the psychological torment of the film’s nobody-believes-me terror adds a layer of meaning & emotional impact that would be absent without that single-character specificity.”
Don’t Breathe (2016): “Even with all of its flaws, Don’t Breathe is a delightfully wicked and taut horror thriller with great influences from other films in the same genre and outside of it. Beyond the ‘blind person fends off home invaders’ similarities to Wait Until Dark and the superficial similarities to The Edukators, there’s a lot of The People Under the Stairs in Don’t Breathe’s DNA (minus that film’s exploration of the race-related nature of economic disadvantage, which is lacking here).”
Green Room (2016): “Green Room‘s authenticity doesn’t stop at its depictions of D.I.Y. punk culture. The violence is some of the most horrifically brutal, gruesome gore I’ve seen in a long while, not least of all because it’s treated with the real life severity that’s often missing in the cheap horror films that misuse it. Each disgusting kill hits with full force, never feeling like a frivolous indulgence, and the resulting tone is an oppressive cloud of unending dread.”
Emelie (2016): “It’s rare that a thriller can get away with being this tense while showing so little onscreen violence. Emelie knows exactly what buttons to push to sell the discomfort of its children in peril scenario, especially when the kids are forced into exposure to above-their-age-range experiences like witnessing a python’s feeding habits or passionate fornication. If it had somehow worked those same provocations into its desperate-for-distinction conclusion I would’ve been much more enthusiastic about its value as a complete product. I really like Emelie, but with a better third act I could’ve fallen madly in love with it.”
Do you want to see some weird/gross/creepy/goofy monsters? Check out these bad boys.
Alligator (1980): “Campy creature features were a hot commodity around the time Alligator was released (Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, C.H.U.D., etc.), and usually the film gets thrown into that group. Yes, there are many campy moments in Alligator, but it’s actually an excellent, well-rounded film. I would go as far as to say it’s close to being on the same level as Jaws.”
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957): “The main innovation I Was a Teenage Werewolf brings to the table is the very basic idea of a teenage monster. It’s difficult to imagine modern horror cinema without teenage monsters. Transforming into a heinous, bloodthirsty monstrosity is a perfect metaphor for the hormonal powder keg of puberty and has been put to effective use in countless horror pictures. Even the werewolf teenager picture has evolved into its own genre, including titles like Ginger Snaps, Cursed, and, duh, Teen Wolf. In 1957, however, this idea was entirely foreign & even somewhat controversial.”
Pulgasari (1985): “Even without its exceedingly surreal context as a document of unlawful imprisonment under Kim Jong-il’s thumb, Pulgasari would still be highly recommendable as a slice of over-the-top creature feature cinema. I’m far from an expert in the hallmarks of kaiju cinema, but the film felt wholly unique to me, an odd glimpse into the way the genre can lend itself to wide variety of metaphors the same way zombies, vampires, and X-Men have in American media over the years. The titular monster ranges from cute to terrifying, from friend to enemy over the course of the film, which is a lot more nuanced than what I’m used to from my kaiju.”
Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968): “Perhaps the strangest detail about the ghost monsters in Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare is just how kid-friendly they look. I don’t use the comparison to the soon-to-follow work of Jim Henson and Sid & Marty Krofft lightly. Many of the creature designs are just aching for plushie doll or action figure merchandise, a sensation backed up by the film’s broad physical comedy & the fact that they befriend children in the film. What’s strange about this is that so much of the film would be a nightmare for certain young audiences. Ghosts take shape from magical, colored mists in spooky swamps. Buckets of giallo-crimson stage blood is spilled in the film’s many brawls. Adult language like ‘damn’, ‘bastard’, and ‘hell’ are liberally peppered throughout the script. This is all jarring at first, but when I think back to staging action figure battles on the living room carpet, that sort of violent crassness actually makes total sense. Children can often be goofy & violent in the same breath, so then it’s really no surprise that Spook Warfare was somewhat of a cultural hit upon its initial release. Even as an (admittedly goofy) adult, the mere sight of the film’s gang of monsters was enough to win me over as a fan, effectively bringing out my inner child enough to sidestep any concerns with plot or general purpose. Sometimes monsters brawling really can alone be enough to make a great film & Spook Warfare stands as a prime example of that maxim.”
Attack the Block (2011): “There are plenty of reasons for sci-fi & horror fans to give Attack the Block a solid chance. It’s a perfectly crafted little midnight monster movie, one with a charming cast of young’ns, a wicked sense of humor, and some top shelf creature feature mayhem. The film doesn’t need John Boyega’s teenage presence to be worthy of a retroactive recommendation & reappraisal, but that doesn’t hurt either.”
Clown (2016): “Without any intentional maneuvers in its fashion, music, or narrative, Clown effortlessly taps into a current trend of reflective 90s nostalgia by lovingly recreating the horror cheapies of that era. It does so by striking a very uncomfortable balance between horror comedy & gruesome misanthropy, forging a truly cruel sense of humor in a heartless, blood-soaked gore fest featuring a killer clown & his tiny tyke victims. You’d have to change very few details of Clown to convince me that it was actually a Full Moon Features release made twenty years ago. Besides small details like cell-phone usage and the inclusion of ‘That guy!’ character actor Peter Stormare, the only noticeable difference is that, unlike most Full Moon ‘classics’, it’s a genuinely great product.”
Daikaijû Gamera (1965): “Gamera is essentially a too-soon remake of Godzilla, but it’s a Godzilla remake that features a gigantic, fire-breathing turtle that can turn its shell into a flying saucer. I don’t think I need to explain any more than that to get the film’s basic appeal across. It’s a concept that pretty much sells itself.”
The Shallows (2016): “The film’s basic 1-shark-vs.-1-woman premise has a campy appeal to it. However, the shark attacks do have a real gravity to them as well. There’s intense gore in the film’s moments of self surgery & genuine heart-racing thriller beats when our hero & her friend the seagull have to stave off real-life dehydration & cabin fever. The Shallows is satisfied relegating itself to a 100% trashy surface pleasure ethos, but it doesn’t let up on the practical results of its central scenario’s violence & confinement and that dual goofy/scary balance is what makes this such effective summertime schlock.”
How to Make a Monster (1958): “Instead of staging a logical physical altercation of the Teenage Werewolf & Teenage Frankenstein from the previous pictures, How to Make a Monster instead depicts a movie production of that altercation. Set on the American International Pictures movie lot, the film centers on the make-up artist who created the look of the Teenage Werewolf & Teenage Frankenstein and his mental unraveling during the production of a film where the two monsters meet onscreen. It’s the exact kind of meta horror weirdness I was a huge sucker for in Wes Craven films like New Nightmare (except maybe a little cheaper & a little goofier) and it works like gangbusters.”
Halfway between high art & the depths of trash, these titles occupy a strange middle ground that defies expectations. They also are some of the scariest movies on the list in completely unexpected ways.
Tourist Trap (1979): “Tourist Trap instantly became one of my favorite horror films of all-time. I literally got goosebumps several times throughout the film, and I’m not one who gets scared easily. I highly recommend Tourist Trap for anyone remotely disturbed by mannequins or psychopaths.”
#horror (2015): “An explosion of emojis, group texts, cyber-bullying and, oddly enough, fine art, #horror is an entirely idiosyncratic film, a sort of modern take on the giallo style-over-substance horror/mystery formula, with its stylization firmly in line with the vibrant vapidity of life online in the 2010s. It’s such a strange, difficult to stomach experience that it somehow makes total sense that the film premiered as The Museum of Modern Art in NYC before promptly going straight to VOD with little to no critical fanfare.”
Hardware (1990): “The onslaught of roboviolence that dominates the final 2/3rds of Hardware is a chilling glimpse into Cronenberg’s America. Hardware‘s basics are very simple: a damsel in distress is trapped by a scary monster (robot) and any attempt to rescue her leads to more bloodshed. As trashy & campy as these genre films can be, however, Stanley manages to make them uniquely terrifying & unnerving. Hardware is both exactly just like every other creature feature I’ve ever seen before & not at all like any of them. I don’t know what to say about the film’s particular brand of horror other than it subliminally dialed into a part of my mind I prefer to leave locked up & hidden away. Stanley’s debut feature is both a schlocky horror trifle & an unholy incantation that puts the ugliest aspects of modernity to disturbing, downright evil use.”
The Nightmare (2015): “Ascher’s follow-up applies Room 237‘s judgement-free presentations of wild supposition to a different subject entirely: the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Halfway between the late night paranormal radio broadcast Coast to Coast AM & the hyper-artificial dramatic re-enactments of Rescue 911, The Nightmare pushes the boundaries of what a documentary even is & what it possibly could be. Ascher’s approach has little concern for evidence or context, but instead builds narratives from the oral history end of anthropology.”
Trick ‘r Treat (2007): “Although Trick ‘r Treat is far from perfect in terms of consistency & tone, its reverence for Halloween as a social & spiritual institution makes it a perfect candidate for the annual revisits I usually reserve for The Monster Squad & The Worst Witch. As soon as one of the first characters introduced is brutally murdered for offense of griping, ‘I hate Halloween,’ and talking down their decorations a day early, the film establishes its mission statement: to protect the sanctity of dressing up in costumes & eating candy at all costs.”
Bone Tomahawk (2015): “Bone Tomahawk strikes a satisfying balance between living out a (possibly outdated) genre (or two)’s worst trappings & subverting them for previously unexplored freshness. Part of what makes it work as a whole is the deliciously over-written dialogue, like when David Arquette’s ruffian thief complains to the sheriff, ‘You’ve been squirting lemon juice in my eye since you walked in here,’ but mostly it’s just nice to see Kurt Russell back in the saddle participating in weird, affecting genre work.”
Southbound (2016): “As a modern horror anthology, Southbound mostly delivers both on its genre-specific surface pleasures & its interest in boundary-pushing narrative innovation, which is more than you can say for most modern horror films it resembles. Besides, it features David Yow wielding a shotgun like a raving lunatic. Where else are you going to find that? (Please don’t ever tell me there’s an answer to that question.)”
Here’s some recommendations in case you’re looking to have some yucks along with your scares.
Goosebumps (2015): “I personally would’ve preferred if Goosebumps had been anchored more by practical effects rather than its somewhat tiresome CGI (although there were some genuinely effective visual cues like a beautiful funhouse mirror sequence & a sad little box labeled ‘Dad’s Stuff’ in the film) but the younger generation of kids in the audience are highly likely not to care about that distinction. For them, the film is more or less perfect as a primer for horror & horror comedy as a genre, CGI warts & all and, honestly, that’s all that really matters.”
Krampus (2015): “Other than it being a horror film about a murderous Christmas beast, one of the weirdest things about Krampus is that it made it to the big screen. Most Christmas horror movies go straight to DVD. I can’t even remember the last time a Christmas horror film was in theaters. It may have been the 2006 remake of Black Christmas, but I’m not quite sure. Anyway, it’s always a good sign when a campy movie makes it to theaters. Krampus brought in over $16,000,000 on its opening weekend, which is pretty impressive considering its campy reputation. Bad taste is alive and well!”
Ghostbusters (2016): “It’s subtle, but there’s a lot of love and respect for Ghostbusters as a franchise in this film, no matter what you’ve heard. Some of the more slapsticky moments went on a little long for me, but there’s too much fun to be had to stick your head in the sand and ignore this movie just because the ‘Busters aren’t the same ones that you grew up with. And, hey, if Dave Coulier replacing Lorenzo Music as the voice of Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters or the creation of the Slimer! shorts to pad out the Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters hour didn’t destroy the Ghostbusters legacy, this certainly won’t either.”
The Final Girls (2015): “If you happen to be a fan of 80s ‘camp site slasher films’ like Friday the 13th & Sleepaway Camp and you enjoy meta genre send-ups like Scream & The Last Action Hero, please check out The Final Girls as soon as you can. Save reading reviews (like this one, for instance) for after you give the film a chance. It’s best to go into this movie cold if you can manage it. I wish I had, anyway.”
Deathgasm (2015): “On the surface, Deathgasm has a lot more in common with the chaotic 1980s horror franchise Demons than it does with zombie fare like Dead Alive. It’s just that the films’ eye-gouging, throat-slitting, head-removing, blood-puking mayhem is played almost entirely for grossout humor instead of the discomforting terror inherent to films like Demons. This is especially apparent in the gore’s juxtaposition with rickroll gags & the goofy image of kids in corpse paint enjoying an ice cream cone. The horror comedy of Deathgasm is far from unique, though. What truly makes Deathgasm stand out is its intimate understanding of metal as a subculture. It’s easily the most knowledgeable movie in that respect that I’ve seen since the under-appreciated Tenacious D road trip comedy Pick of Destiny. I mean that as the highest of compliments. The difference there is that Pick of Destiny (besides being relatively violence free) got a lot of the attitude right, but didn’t have bands with names like Skull Fist, Axeslasher, and Beastwars on the soundtrack. Deathgasm not only looks & acts the part; it also sounds it, which is a rare treat.”
If you’re looking for a little irony in your horror comedy yucks, these films tend more towards the so-bad-it’s-funny side of humor, sometimes intentionally and sometimes far from it. They’re the best we have to offer in terms of bad taste.
My Demon Lover (1987): “I honestly didn’t expect My Demon Lover to be much different than the other hundreds of campy 80s comedies out there, but it actually does a great job standing out on its own. At first, the film didn’t seem like it was going to be anything but a cheeseball comedy about a fruit burger-eating airhead that falls for a perverted homeless guy who may or may not be a killer demon. Thankfully, things become much more interesting as the film goes on. The monster movie and romcom elements of My Demon Lover come together to create a rare combination that makes for one hell of a memorable flick.”
Slumber Party Massacre 2 (1987): “The Slumber Party Massacre II gets everything right on its approach to slasher-driven mayhem. The origins & specifics of its killer rock n’ roll sex demon are just flat out ignored. All you know, really, is that he kinda looks like Andrew Dice Clay (although I’m sure they were aiming for Elvis) with a Dracula collar on his leather jacket & a gigantic power drill extending from the neck of his electric guitar (or ‘axe’ in 80s speak). He mercilessly disembowels & impales teen victims on his monstrously phallic weapon/musical instrument all while shredding hot licks & doling out generic rock ‘n roll phrases like ‘This is dedicated to the one I love’ & ‘C’mon baby, light my fire’ before each kill.”
The Flesh Eaters (1965): “The Flesh Eaters is horrifically violent for a mid-60s creature feature, paying great attention to the special effects of its blood & guts make-up. Many credit the film as being the very first example of gore horror & it’s difficult to argue otherwise. The anachronistic-feeling intrusion of extreme violence in what otherwise feels like a standard Corman-esque B-picture is beyond striking. Although I’ve seen far worse gore in films that followed in its wake, the out-of-place quality the violence has in The Flesh Eaters makes the film feel shocking & upsetting in a transgressive way.”
The Boy (2016): “I expected The Boy to play out more or less exactly like the last PG-13 evil doll movie to hit the theaters, the largely disappointing Rosemary’s Baby knockoff Annabelle, but the film sets its sights much higher than that light supernatural tomfoolery. It’s far from wholly original as a horror flick, but instead it pulls enough wacky ideas from a wide enough range of disparate horror movie sources that it ended up being an enjoyably kooky melting pot of repurposed ideas.”
Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? (2016): “It’s a well-informed balance between heady subject matter & campily melodramatic execution that makes Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? such a riot, a formula that holds true for all of Lifetime’s most memorable features whether they focus on co-ed call-girls, wife-mother-murderers or, in this case, lesbian vampires. This film has the gall to approach topics as powerful as grieving over familial loss, coming out to your parents, and the horrors of date rape, but does so only as a means to a tawdry end, namely inane mother-daughter shouting matches & young, lingerie-clad girls making out in spooky graveyards. It’s wonderfully trashy in that way, the best possible prospect for made-for-TV dreck.”
Cursed (2005): “I wouldn’t rank Cursed up there with Wes Craven’s best or anything like that, but I don’t think the director was aiming for that kind of accolade with this film anyway. Cursed finds Craven relaxed, having fun, and paying tribute to the monster movies he grew up loving. Throw in a time capsule cast & some classic werewolf puppetry/costuming from special effects master & John Landis collaborator Rick Baker (when the film isn’t indulging in ill-advised CGI) and you have a perfectly enjoyable midnight monster movie pastiche.”
Victor Frankenstein (2015): “Victor Frankenstein‘s latent homosexuality (which really does stretch just beyond the bounds of bromance), laughable atheism, and grotesque body humor all play like they were written in a late-night, whiskey-fuelled stupor, the same way the film’s monster was constructed by the titular mad scientist drunk & his perpetually terrified consort. I know I’m alone here, but my only complaint about this film is that it could’ve pushed its more ridiculous territory even further from Mary Shelly’s original vision, with Victor planting wet kisses on Igor’s cheeks & Rocky Horror’s ‘In just seven days, I can make you a man . . .’ blaring on the soundtrack.”
Death Ship (1980): “It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes Death Ship engaging. It’s a disappointment in most regards. The acting is terrible, the characters are under-developed (to the point of wondering if anyone even tried at all), and the premise is never really fully explained. There are some shocks, but they’re too hokey to be convincing or effective. In fact, there’s almost nothing redeemable about this film at all. Yet, I still enjoyed it. Maybe not as a spooky Shining-esque boat horror I assume they intended, but as a campy masterpiece.”
Cooties (2015): “Cooties may be a dirt cheap horror comedy, but it finds a downright lyrical, disorienting visual language in the spread of its central epidemic. You feel like a little kid who just spun too fast while playing ring around the rosie watching the film’s violence unfold. It’s fun to watch as a horror fan, but it must’ve been even more fun to film for the little kids who got the chance, given how much of the film’s violence resembles typical playground activity.”
Rubber (2011): “A full-length feature film about a killer car tire might sound a little narratively thin to wholly succeed, but Rubber sidesteps that concern by adding a second plot line concerning meta audience participation to its formula. Rubber is not only an unnecessarily gritty/gory version of the classic short film The Red Balloon; its also a tongue-in-cheek indictment of the audience who would want to see such a gratuitous triviality in the first place.”
Every link listed above is for a review we’ve posted on the site. If you’re looking for lists or articles from our horror tag instead, check out our look at the horror works of comedic director John Landis, our comparison of the vampire mafia in Landis’s Innocent Blood with the zombie mafia of Shrunken Heads, our guide to the onscreen collaborations between horror legends Bela Lugosi & Boris Karloff, and this list of five must-see, sharkless Jaws knockoffs.
And as if that weren’t enough already, we also have podcast episodes on Felt, #horror, Boxing Helena, evil doll movies, Alligator, A Page of Madness, Martyrs, The Flesh Eaters, The Fly, and Possession.
-The Swampflix Crew