Ghostface Invocation: All the Scream References in The Angel of Indian Lake

Jade Daniels’s slasher-film passion clearly saturates the narratives of the Indian Lake Trilogy. When it comes to this horror genre, her namings are legion (as attested by the Letterboxd listings [1, 2, 3] of the various films mentioned in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, Don’t Fear the Reaper, and The Angel of Indian Lake). Jade’s notable cinematic go-to’s include the HalloweenNightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th series, and the films Just Before DawnJaws, and A Bay of Blood. But her (and author Stephen Graham Jones’s) favorite scary-movie franchise to cite arguably is Scream. Callbacks to the Kevin Williamson/Wes Craven creation are sounded throughout the novel trilogy, and nowhere more extensively than in The Angel of Indian Lake. Here is my Letterboxd-inspired attempt to quote (without plot spoilers) the various Scream echoes in Jones’s latest Jade Daniels book:

1. It’s Monday, not Friday, meaning no pep rally for football. nobody pulled the fire alarm. It’s not senior skip day, , and Banner hasn’t instituted some curfew to keep everyone safe–there’s no reason to. Ghostface isn’t out there slicing and dicing. (p. 26)

2. “Dwight,” I say down to this junior on his knees.
He probably thinks it’s a Dewey reference, but I’m really calling him Brad Pitt from Cutting Class. Because that’s what he’s doing.
“Um, Trent, ma’am,” he stammers, trying to peel out of the glittery Father Death robe he’s now tangled in. (p.31)

3. After taking attendance and passing back quizzes and peeling up the Post-it notes stuck to [ ___ and ___ ‘s] seats–“Casey” and Steve” respectively, fourth time in two weeks–we finally dial the lights down […]. (p. 38)

4. I was going to be that janitor working a mop in Scream, waiting for Principal Himbry to surprise me. (p. 39)

5. “Do you like scary movies?” someone behind me says, not with a voice-changer, but with that same kind of murderous chuckle that promises the game’s only beginning here. (p. 52)

6. One says Casey, one says Steve.
Casey who was gutted and hung from her childhood swing, Steve who was tied to a chair in his letterman jacket and gutted just the same. (p. 53)

7. Of note is that both Ms. Daniels and Dr. Watts have agreed to wear “Ghostface” masks (not robes) for these sessions, so as to promote “honest talk.” (p. 54-55)

8. “This isn’t public knowledge,” Banner whispers, eyes darting around Dewey-style. (p. 61)

9. Next time we see [ ___ ], he might look like Dewey from the second-to-last Scream: grey, grizzled, a sort of wince to his step. (p. 71)

10. “A Cassandra’s someone doomed to know the truth but nobody believes her. I’m like the sidekick, the Randy. Good for a little comedy breather, some out-loud exposition, but ultimately not a real factor.” (p. 75)

11. It is how slashers like to open: a Barry and Claudette going down, a Casey and Steve deader than dead. (p. 91)

12. She’s in a pale nightgown, is barefoot, and isn’t moving with the [ ___ ] crowd. Rather, everyone’s flowing around her, their eyes across the lake.
“Maureen Prescott,” I mumble.
Sidney’s mom, from the third Scream(p. 113)

13. But, on the napping couch that day, when I finally made the connection Chin wanted me to make, I looked down to my feet to see if I had tiny skulls painted on my black toenails or what–more like Ghostfaces, thanks–and kind of wiggled my toes in greeting to myself, and… (p. 131)

14. I’ve seen a Casey strung up from a tree by her guts, though. I’ve been in that cell Rod died in.
No thank you, Mr. Craven, Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Cunningham. I’m fine being on the outside for once. (p. 137)

15. “I don’t even like that movie.”
“You don’t like Scream? How can someone not like Scream?” (p. 145)

16. Like I have to, I flash on the first time seeing Principal Himbry in Scream, and how, for a moment, it was definitely him chewing through the senior class. But I guess The Faculty would cover that soon enough. (p. 148)

17. I was always meant to be Randy, a Cassandra, a Clear, never the Sidney, never the Laurie, the Nancy. And, I might worship at the shrine of Ripley, sure, but nobody gets to be her. (p. 148)

18. You were always trying to get me to buy into that one, Mr. Holmes, but I always had Sidney and Billy in my head, picking their genre. (p. 156)

19. Gale Weathers is staring right into her new camera man’s camera, she doesn’t care how beat up she looks after this Hell Night, what she looks like is a SURVIVOR, one with Friends now, and what she’s telling the world is that the Dark Night of the Scarecrow is over. (p. 182)

20. By reluctant degrees, I crank my head over, my neck popping in the process, Billy-style. (p. 187) Continue reading

Mob Scene: Thanksgiving

Yes, it’s April Fools’ Day, but tonight Dispatches from the Macabre Republic returns by celebrating Thanksgiving.

Eli Roth’s 2023 film evinces an astute awareness of slasher formula. Its extended opening sets up a genre-specific plot, one quintessentially driven by revenge (to quote slasher savant Jade Daniels, in Stephen Graham Jones’s 2022 Stoker-Award-winning novel My Heart Is a Chainsaw: “years ago there was some prank or crime that hurt someone and then the slasher comes back to dispense his violent brand of justice”). Thanksgiving takes this inciting prank/crime element, and elaborates it into a full-blown mob scene.

Getting the jump on Black Friday sales, the local RightMart in Plymouth, Massachusetts, decides to open up at 6 P.M. on Thanksgiving night. A seething crowd gathers outside in anticipation (“Let us in or you’ll be a patient–in Mass General,” one hooligan intones when a RightMart security guard begs the crowd members to remain patient). When the film’s protagonist Jessica (daughter of the store owner) sneaks her friends in through the employee entrance ten minutes early, those still waiting outside the front doors do not react kindly. A regrettable act of taunting amidst this premature shopping spree precipitates a store-storming riot. Immediate pandemonium breaks out as the crowd stampedes in, a battle royale of brawling and looting. Employees are trampled, an innocent bystander suffers a gruesome arm-mangling, and the wife of the store manager (tragically caught in the wrong place/time) is mowed down by a rogue shopping cart–then partially scalped by one of its wheels for bad measure.

Roth’s mob scene is brilliantly orchestrated, spotlighting the darkest impulses of the store crowd. The gonzo violence only accentuates the satire of human callousness and consumerist greed. In hindsight, the scene also subtly clues viewers in to the identity of the subsequent (John-Carver-masked) slasher who manifests the following Thanksgiving season and wreaks bloody, holiday-themed havoc on the RightMart wrongdoers.

A wickedly witty slasher that offers up a grisly yet satisfying course of revenge, Thanksgiving can currently be streamed on Netflix.

 

Jack Splat (Review of Dark Harvest)

Long-delayed, director David Slade’s adaptation of Norman Partridge’s acclaimed novel Dark Harvest has finally been released. The film–which centers on a bloody crop-/community-prosperity ritual that a Midwestern, mid-20th Century town performs every Halloween night–has several admirable aspects. It boasts impressive cinematography: the view of the long, lone road leading from the remote hamlet and cutting through a cornfield gauntlet is nothing short of stunning. The film does a fine job of dramatizing what it’s like to grow up in such a strange hometown, and reaps added emotional impact by making Richie Shepard–younger brother of last year’s celebrated winner of the October 31st bogey-slaying “Run”–the protagonist (the source text focuses on a non-related character, Pete McCormick). Slade’s Dark Harvest also succeeds in planting the seeds of mystery and suspense, delaying the reveal of the town’s defining Big Secret until well into the film.

Unfortunately, though, the shortcomings overshadow the strengths here, and Dark Harvest ends up butchering Partridge’s novel. The film lacks charm; the teen characters are quite coarse in language and behavior, and the kills (not all of which are orchestrated by Sawtooth Jack, the cornfield-grown, pumpkinheaded monstrosity who comes stalking into town on Halloween night) prove exceedingly graphic. Despite its rural locale and year 1963 setting, the film fails to cloak its harsher, more modern sensibilities and feels like it is just wearing Americana drag. Partridge’s riff on Shirley-Jackson-style folk horror had a strong Twilight Zone vibe, whereas Slade’s film adopts the more dubious approach of a splattery pseudo-slasher.

With the October Boy/Sawtooth Jack, Partridge created a truly legendary horror character, a depiction that the film sadly does not capture. Yes, the cinematic Sawtooth’s flaming jack-o-lantern head is impressive, but his body grossly disappoints. Scoliotic and spindly-armed, the figure suggests an extraterrestrial more than an animate scarecrow. He has been stripped of language, emitting only an asthmatic wheeze as he staggers through the neighborhood savaging whoever crosses his path (the awful urgency of the Run–Sawtooth’s desperate quest to reach the town church by midnight–is completely lacking in the film). Worse, this Sawtooth Jack lacks the ingenuity that Partridge invests in the character, the demonstrated ability to outwit overzealous teen antagonists. Such distancing of Sawtooth as a mute, murderous Other renders the attempt to turn him into a sympathetic monster ultimately unconvincing.

No doubt, adapting the novel Dark Harvest was no easy task, and not just because of the special effects required to bring the fantastic Sawtooth to realistic life. Partridge’s richly poetic prose, with its lush similes and extended metaphors, does not translate readily to the screen, so a difference in aesthetic experience for the audience is perhaps inevitable. Still, Slade (working from Michael Gilio’s screenplay) could have adhered more closely to the book. Partridge’s novel is framed as a dramatic monologue, a form of address that naturally draws the reader in; the film might have made more strategic use of voiceover (which is limited to the opening moments), facilitating the delivery of the backstory of this Faustian town and its cabalistic Harvester’s Guild.

An instant classic of Halloween fiction, Partridge’s Dark Harvest is a novel to which fans happily return at October time (I myself have lost count of the number of times I’ve read it). Slade’s watchable but unmemorable film, adversely, is unlikely to enjoy such staying power; its Run promises to be more singular than annual for most viewers.

 

Behind the Scenes of Sleepy Hollow

When preparing to publish The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ultimate Annotated Edition, I did extensive background reading, but one item that escaped my notice was the shooting draft for the 1999 Tim Burton film Sleepy Hollow. Thanks to a link posted on the Halloween blog, The Skeleton Key, that oversight has now been corrected. Some thoughts/observations about the shooting draft…

The shooting draft’s cover page presents some interesting sub-titular info : “Being the true storie of one Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.” This is a nice callback to Washington Irving’s Diedrich Knickerbocker, a writing persona notorious for the confusion of fact and fiction in his recording of allegedly “true history.”

An early scene in the film (Ichabod’s dispatching north to Sleepy Hollow by the Burgomaster [Christopher Lee]) is conceived more fully in the shooting draft. This “Audition Scene” features applicants (“mostly obvious Cranks and Eccentrics”) demonstrating “Devices for crime fighting and crime solving” to New York City officials. One amateur Inventor shows off a “combination wallet and mousetrap” pickpocketing deterrent, while another Spotty Man ends up trapped inside his own contraption, the “Tompkins Self-Locking Confessional.”

Reading the shooting draft evokes a mental replay of the beloved Burton film; bits of delivered dialogue echoed inside my head. Equally rewarding are the shooting draft’s descriptions of iconic objects/figures. I love the word picture painted of the Tree of the Dead: “Its branches reach far and wide, knotted and gross, like agony captured in wood sculpture.” This looming embodiment of gloominess sports a “vertical wound in the bark, like a terrible suture, now healed” into a “mushy scar.” The grotesquerie of the Headless Horseman–his “putrid innards” and “maggot-infested muscle,” his steed of “moldering flesh”–is also emphasized. Irving’s legendary ghost-or-goblin has been realized as “Hell on horseback.”

In the film, the Horseman’s last exit (carrying Lady Van Tassel off into the Tree of the Dead) provides a macabre spectacle, but this farewell might have been even more frightful if a special effect detailed in the shooting draft was retained: “For an instant, Horseman and horse are transformed, SKELETONS OF LIGHT, entering the tree!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the description of Lady Van Tassel and Reverend Steenwyck’s illicit tryst: “On a blanket, a semi-naked MAN and semi-naked WOMAN are in the midst of rough SEX” (I never realized rough sex existed in late-17th Century Sleepy Hollow!). The shooting draft itself makes light of the late night scene: Asked by Young Masbath what he discovered, Ichabod says: “Something I wish I had not seen. A beast with two backs.” The astonished, naive Young Masbath takes the expression literally: “A beast with…? What next in these bewitched woods?!”

One key thematic figure from the shooting draft never made it into the film: The Crane family cat. This striking feline (black with a white paw and glowing eyes) appears in several of the flashbacks to Ichabod’s youth, and at film’s end greets the heroes upon their arrival in New York City: “THE CAT’S EYES ARE HUMAN, INTELLIGENT, KINDLY…They are Ichabod’s Mother’s eyes.” A happy ending is rendered even more felicitous, as the good, guiding spirit of Ichabod’s Mother has apparently survived the woman’s torture/murder by her puritanical husband.

The shooting draft certainly furnishes an entertaining read for completists. And for more on Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, check out my essay “Eerie Rider: The Headless Horseman’s Forays into Pop Culture” in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ultimate Annotated Edition.

 

Hercule Poirot in a Horror Pic?

Director/lead actor Kenneth Branagh leans unabashedly into the macabre in his latest Agatha Christie adaptation, A Haunting in Venice. His renowned detective Hercule Poirot is drawn out of retirement and into a nightmarish scene: a series of murders at a reputedly-haunted Venetian palazzo, on Halloween night (while a tempest rages without), following an unnerving seance. There are jump scares, moldering skeletons, ghostly apparitions (perhaps hallucinated), and moments of grisly violence–including a plunging impalement that puts one in mind of The Omen. At first, this might all seem a terrible bastardization of the source material, a move too far afield from the gentility of Christie’s mystery novels and their typical English-countryside milieu. The strong emphasis on horror shouldn’t work in this particular case, but it does.

Branagh’s film enfolds its audience in its lushly atmospheric central locale; an effective sense of claustrophobia is created as the viewer is trapped alongside the characters within the creepy, shadow-swathed, storm-ravaged palazzo. Rational explanation vs. (seemingly) spectral vengeance makes for an engrossing conflict, one that A Haunting in Venice overtly thematizes (Poirot’s staunch nonbelief in the otherworldly leads to a quite interesting character arc for the detective). The supernatural/fakery debate is as old as the Gothic genre itself, and that’s what Branaugh has furnished a prime example of here: the cinematic equivalent of a classic Gothic novel. Agatha Christie by way of Ann Radcliffe.

If there is one drawback to the film, it’s that the murder-mystery element proves insufficiently baffling. Certain passing references scream out to be recognized as key clues. Without having read the original Christie novel Hallowe’en Party, I guessed the murderer long before the climactic reveal. I’m no Poirot, but have watched enough mysteries to know not to trust an unlikely suspect. When the wavering finger of suspicion conspicuously failed to point at a specific character, my attention was focused in exactly that direction. A more elaborate employment of red herrings would have strengthened the plot of this hardly-lengthy (107 minutes) film.

A Haunting in Venice does not present as satisfactorily complex a mystery as the preceding Christie adaptations (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile), but succeeds as a visually lavish Gothic thriller. Haunting in all the best ways, the film makes for the perfect viewing to kick off the Halloween season.

 

Harvest Time

The October Boy is getting his screen Run at long last.

The release of the film adaptation of Norman Partridge’s classic Halloween novel has been frustratingly delayed over the past few years, but the trailer for Dark Harvest finally has dropped and the on-demand premiere date of October 13th been announced.

And, boy, am I stoked. The trailer looks very promising; the book’s 1963 setting (in a Midwestern small town) has been retained, creating strong American Gothic vibes. Judging from the trailer (and the film’s R rating for “strong horror violence and gore”), no punches are going to be pulled during the October 31st mob scene that ritualistically determines the townspeople’s fate.

The success of the film, I believe, hinges in large part on how much of Partridge’s hardboiled, Monster-Culture-savvy prose style director David Slade (30 Days of Night) can capture onscreen. Most important of all, will be the special fx employed to animate the formidable scarecrow bogy, the October Boy (aka Sawtooth Jack). Done correctly, the result could be a creature that becomes as iconic as Pumpkinhead. Realized poorly, and the whole film could flounder. The trailer only offers vague glimpses of the figure, so hopefully something really amazing is being kept under wraps.

Keeping my fingers crossed that Dark Harvest proves the viewing event of the Halloween 2023 season…

Check out the official trailer below, and click on over to Halloween Daily News for an extended breakdown of it.

Slash and the City: Scream VI (Film Review)

It is certainly apropos that the newest entry in the Scream series is set in New York City. Much like the Big Apple, the film is loud, overcrowded, and hectic in its pacing.

Scream VI returns the self-designated “Core Four” from last year’s Richie-and-Amber-orchestrated slaughter. Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Chad (Mason Gooding), and Mindy (Jasmine Savoy Brown) have migrated cross-country to delve into East Coast college life, but remain as likable as ever. Both individually and collectively, the quartet conveys a mix of charisma, vulnerability, and badassery that proves quite engaging (although Sam’s ongoing struggle with being the illegitimate daughter of O.G. Ghostface Billy Loomis is growing tiresome as a storyline). The Core Four carry the film, and the actors’ performances are the only thing that saves Scream VI from being an absolute disaster.

Fans should be forewarned, though: the film is unabashedly violent, and doesn’t hesitate to punish victims, villains, and protagonists alike. Nobody emerges unscathed here–and that is part of the problem. [Mild spoiler] Brutalizing the heroes and subjecting them to gruesome knifings by Ghostface yet having them ultimately survive feels manipulative, a cheat. The unlikely resiliency of the Dewey Riley character in previous Screams has now expanded into a near cliché, one that results in diminishing returns in terms of audience investment in the horror.

Unfortunately, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett substitute savagery for subtlety and artistry (the latter seems limited here to the crafting of graphic kills). Scream VI eschews the series’ trademark humor, and sly meta-commentary on the horror genre gets minimalized. The mystery element is paltry, with clues dropped clunkily into the proceedings. For me (the same will be the case for many a viewer, I suspect), the identity of Ghostface was obvious very early on.

The film does feature a thrilling set piece in which the heroes desperately attempt to evade Ghostface by climbing across a ladder propped between the high windows of adjacent apartment buildings. A stabbing scene on a packed subway car is less effective, unstriking in its unoriginality (the costumed crowd doesn’t recognize attempted homicide in its midst because its Halloween!). Overall, the film fails to make compelling use of its new, NYC setting. In its focus on a secret, Ghostface-murderabilia-stocked shrine staged in an abandoned movie palace, the film approaches shark-jumping levels of hokeyness. Gale Weathers’s discovery, shortly after the killings begin, of this allegedly hidden lair emblematizes the film’s shortcomings. Gale’s offscreen discovery is less the product of good investigative journalism (as she claims) than bad scriptwriting–a facile and unconvincing attempt to propel the plot forward. In every sense, Scream VI feels like a rush job.

Safe to say, reckless escalation won’t sit well with slasher purists. When Ghostface takes up a pump action shotgun and attacks Sam and Tara in a local bodega (blowing away several innocent bystanders in the process), he threatens to push the film out of the horror genre and into the territory of gritty crime drama; imagine a Death Wish reboot directed by S. Craig Zahler.

One last critique. The “Suddenly Psycho” climax has always been one of the diciest aspects of the series. Billy and Stu pulled off the self-reveal admirably in the original, and Richie and Amber provided a fun revisiting of such craziness in last year’s Scream, but more often than not the batshit switch-flip has made for a jarring development. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say that Scream VI takes all this to the nth degree. After this, such hackneyed scene of hammy theatrics really needs to be left on the cutting room floor when the inevitable sequel is lensed.

With its sprawling urban mise-en-scène and over-the-top violence, Scream VI lacks intimacy, charm. For all the self-awareness (as expressed by the characters) of being caught in a “franchise” now, the film–a brazen deviation from the Craven/Williamson formula–consistently forgets what has made the series great over the past quarter century. A disappointing follow-up to last year’s clever and thrilling requel, this latest offering ranks alongside Scream 3 as the franchise’s lamest installment.

 

Quoting Ghostface

The Scream franchise’s slasher Ghostface offers the best of both worlds: the menace of mute brutes such as Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, and the hellish articulateness of a Freddy Krueger. Ghostface is at his/her taunting, threatening, terrorizing best when making cold calls to impending victims. In honor of tomorrow’s release of Scream VI, here are ten killer examples (two from each of the first five movies; leaving out the obvious, and ubiquitous, “What’s your favorite scary movie?”) of Ghostface’s macabre, snarky banter.

 

Scream (1996)

Casey: What do you want?
Ghostface: To see what your insides look like.

Sidney: So, who are you?
Ghostface: The question isn’t “Who am I?” The question is “Where am I?”

 

Scream 2 (1997)

Cici: Why do you always answer a question with a question?
Ghostface: I’m inquisitive.
Cici: Yeah, and I’m impatient. Look, do you want to leave a message for someone?
Ghostface: Do you want to die tonight, Cici?

Randy [answering Gale’s phone]: Gale’s not here!–
Ghostface: I’m not interrupting anything, am I? You three look deep in thought. Have you ever felt a knife cut through human flesh and scrape the bone beneath?

 

Scream 3 (2000)

Roman: It’s not just a new script. It’s a new movie.
Sarah: What? What movie?
Roman: My movie.
[Roman’s voice suddenly changes]
Ghostface:  And it’s called Sarah Gets Skewered Like a Fucking Pig. Still in character, Sarah?

Sidney: How do I know their voices are–
Ghostface: Are real? How do you know you’re not hearing things? How do you know I’m not someone in your head? Somewhere, you know. [Dewey and gale yelling in background]. Or do you?

 

Scream 4 (2011)

Sidney: This isn’t a fucking movie!
Ghostface: Spare me the lecture. You’ve done very well by all this bloodshed, haven’t you? Well, how about the town you left behind? I’ve got plans for you. I’m gonna slit your eyelids in half so you don’t blink when I stab you in the face. You’ll die when I want you to, Sidney. Not a moment before. Until then, you’re going to suffer.

Rebecca: I’m handling Miss Prescott’s calls and appearances. May I take a message?
Ghostface: You are the message.

 

Scream (2022)

Ghostface: Who played the dumb bitch at the beginning of Stab 1 who answers the door and gets carved up by the killer?
Tara: Fuck you.
Ghostface: Is that the answer you’re going with?

Ghostface: Really? You can’t save your own sister? All you have to day is say, “Kill Richie.”
Sam: Tara! Don’t hurt her! Please! Please! Please! I’m begging you!
Ghostface: Or say, “Kill Tara.” And I’ll make sure to hit all the organs I missed last time.

 

Macabre Accolades

Admittedly, New Year’s Eve is one of my least favorite holidays, but the best part about the close of December is the prevalence of year-end retrospectives.  Here’s a compilation of links to different websites honoring the horror genre’s best offerings of 2022:

BookRiot: “The 10 Best Horror Books of 2022”

CrimeReads: “The Best Horror Fiction of 2022”

Paste Magazine: “The Best Horror Books of 2022”

Vulture: “The Best Horror Novels of 2022”

LitReactor: “The Must Read Horror Graphic Novels of 2022”

Esquire: “The 23 Best Horror Films of 2022 (So Far)”  [posted in October]

Rolling Stone: “10 Best Horror Movie of 2022”

Collider: “10 Horror Movie Protagonists Who Made Smart Decisions in 2022”

Dread Central: “Top 10 Horror Movies of 2022”

But when it comes to this kind of stuff, nobody does it better than:

Bloody Disgusting: “Top 15 Best Horror Movies of 2022”; “The Top Ten Scariest Scenes in 2022 Horror Movies”; “The 10 Best Kills in 2022’s Horror Movies”; “12 Best International Horror Films of 2022”; “The Year of Unforgettable Horror Monologues”; “The 8 Funniest Horror Movie Moments of 2022”; “10 Best Horror TV Series of 2022”; “2022: The Year Jenna Ortega and Mia Goth Dominated the Horror Scene”

Any other sites I missed, and which you would recommend checking out? Let me know!

***

Finally, I’ll weigh in here by citing my favorite pieces of horror-related media from 2022 (note that I say “favorite” rather than “best,” because I still have a big list of items to read/watch):

Favorite TV Series: “Wednesday” (reviewed here)

Tim Burton, The Addams Family, Jenna Ortega, and Edgar Allan Poe? Count me in(vested wholeheartedly).

 

Favorite Horror Film: “X”

This clever twist on the slasher formula had it all: a gripping story, stellar performances by the ensemble cast (led by Mia Goth in a dual role), crazy kills, and stunning visuals (both beautiful and grotesque)

 

Favorite Anthology: Classic Monsters Unleashed

Dracula and Frankenstein Monster and Dr. Moreau; Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, and the Headless Horseman: oh my, what an entertaining collection of new stories paying homage to legendary horror figures.

 

Favorite Novel: Reluctant Immortals

A clever and terrifically entertaining updating/reimagining of Dracula and Jane EyreI’ll have a lot more to say about this book shortly here at Dispatches from the Macabre Republic, in the next installment of Dracula Extrapolated.

Comparing Countdowns

In a previous post, I covered Shudder’s The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time. Now that the Halloween-season-spanning, eight-episode series is complete, let’s compare its rankings to those in the similar countdown specials that preceded it on the Bravo channel.

Abbreviations:
B100= Bravo’s The 100 Scariest Movie Moments [2004]
B30= Bravo’s 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments [2006]
B13= Bravo’s 13 Scarier Movie Moments [2009] 

 

The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time

Episode 1
101. It Follows (2014)
100. The Orphanage (2007)
99. ‘Salem’s Lot (1979)
98. Horror of Dracula (1958)
97. Black Sabbath (1963)
96. Pulse (2001)
95. The Strangers (2008) [B13: #13] 
94. The Wolf-Man (1941) [B100: #62] 
93. Cat People (1942) [B100: #97] 
92. The Birds (1963) [B100: #96] 
91. Mulholland Drive (2001)
90. Child’s Play (1988) [B100: #93] 
89. An American Werewolf in London (1981) [B100: #42] 

Episode 2
88. Us (2019)
87. The Witch (2015)
86. Zombi 2 (1979) [B100: #98] 
85. The Changeling (1980) [B100: #54] 
84. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) [B100: #52] 
83. The Brood (1979) [B100: #78] 
82. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
81. Demons (1985) [B100: #53] 
80. Doctor Sleep (2019)
79. Candyman (1992) [B100: #75] 
78. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
77. The Evil Dead (1981) [B100: #76] 
76. Dawn of the Dead (2004) [B30: #13] 

Episode 3
75. Annihilation (2018)
74. Cujo (1983) [B100: #58] 
73. The Fly (1986) [B100: #33] 
72. The Wicker Man (1973) [B100: #45] 
71. Nosferatu (1922) [B100: #47]
70. The Night House (2020)
69. Aliens (1986) [B100: #35] 
68. The Babadook (2014)
67. The Last House on the Left (1972) [B100: #50] 
66. Terrified [Aterrados] (2017)
65. Friday the 13th (1980) [B100: #31] 
64. Dawn of the Dead (1978) [B100: #39] 
63. Peeping Tom (1960) [B100: #38] 

Episode 4
62. A Quiet Place (2018)
61.The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
60. Phantasm (1979) [B100: #25] 
59. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
58. When a Stranger Calls (1979) [B100: #28] 
57. Black Christmas (1974) [B100: #87]
56. Jacob’s Ladder (1990) [B100: #21] 
55. Threads (1984)
54. The Howling (1981) [B100: #81]
53. Gerald’s Game (2017)
52. Misery (1990) [B100: #12] 
51. Frankenstein (1931) [B100: #27] 
50. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) [B100: #17] 

Episode 5
49. A Bay of Blood (1971)
48. The Conjuring (2013)
47. Get Out (2017)
46. Twin Peaks: Part 8 (2017)
45. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
44. Rosemary’s Babysitter (1968) [B100: #23] 
43. Inside (2007)
42. Se7en (1995) [B100: #26] 
41. Zodiac (2007) [B13: #4] 
40. 28 Days Later (2002) [B100: #100] 
39. 30 Days of Night (2007)
38. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) [B100: #7]
37. Suspiria (1977) [B100: #24] 

Episode 6
36. The Blair Witch Project (1999) [B100: #30]
35. Paranormal Activity (2007)
34. The Sixth Sense (1999) [B100: #71]
33. Let the Right One In (2008)
32. The Invisible Man (2020)
31. Wait Until Dark (1967) [B100: #10] 
30. Don’t Breathe (2016)
29. Hostel (2005) [B30: #1] 
28. Lake Mungo (2008)
27. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
26. It: Chapter One (2017)
25. I Saw the Devil (2010)
24. Hellraiser (1987) [B100: #19]

Episode 7
23. The Descent (2005) [B13: #1] 
22. Saw (2004) [B30: #3] 
21. Scanners (1981) [B30: #14]
20. [REC] (2007)
19. Carrie (1976) [B100: #8] 
18. The Omen (1976) [B100: #16]
17. Night of the Living Dead (1968) [B100: #9]
16. The Exorcist III (1990)
15. Final Destination (2000)
14. Jaws (1975) [B100: #1]
13. Scream (1996) [B100: #13]
12. Halloween (1978) [B100: #14]
11. Alien (1979) [B100: #2] 

Episode 8
10. Ringu (1995)
9. Train to Busan (2016)
8. Sinister (2012)
7. The Exorcist (1973) [B100: #3]
6. The Shining (1980) [B100: #6]
5. Psycho (1960) [B100: #4]
4. Audition (1999) [B100: #11]
3. Hereditary (2018)
2. The Thing (1982) [B100: #48] 
1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) [B100: #5]

 

Some Thoughts:

*This 2022 list makes a conscious effort to be more culturally inclusive; a quarter of the list is comprised of non-North-American films.

*Freaks is the highest-ranked film from the B100 list (#15) to not make the Shudder list. The Haunting (B100: #19) is perhaps the most surprising omission, though (here, the film  is supplanted by the Netflix series).

*The Thing [B100: #48] makes the largest jump from the original Bravo list–a testament to how the film’s reputation has continued to grow over the years.

*The Silence of the Lambs is the Top 10 film from the original Bravo list (#7) to have the biggest drop here. It’s somewhat surprising, too, that the #1 film from the original Bravo list, Jaws, falls all the way to #14 here.

*Dawn of the Dead is the only film listed twice here–the 1978 original and the 2004 remake.

*Frankenstein and The Wolf-Man make this list but their Universal Monster cohort Dracula doesn’t. The top-ranked Universal Monster film on the list: the 2020 remake of The Invisible Man.

*The Shining is the top-ranked Stephen King film adaptation on both this list and the original Bravo list. Despite King’s vocal denunciations of the film, Stanley Kubrick clearly struck a horrifying chord with audiences.

*Twenty-two of the entries here were released after 2009, and so were not even available for consideration for any of the Bravo lists. The top-ranked film here that was eligible but didn’t make the Bravo lists was Ringu (but B100 did rank the American remake of the film at #20).

 

The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time was a wonderful treat this Halloween season. The series brimmed with stunning clips and astute commentary. Mike Flanagan’s closing remarks are so good, I have to quote them in full here:

One of the neat things about the genre is that, yes, we love to be startled, and yes, we love to be frightened, and sometimes we love to root for the killers. We can pour all of our kind of base instincts into sympathizing with the slasher. It lets us do so many different things. It’s cathartic in so many different ways. But it also, in all of its expressions, is just an invitation. For us to be a little bit braver in processing what we go through as people, whether that’s dealing with loss, trauma, violent fantasies, universal fears, fear of the unknown, fear of death itself, or just fear of what we are capable of doing to each other. All of those expressions of the genre all invite us to try to be honest about that, and to try to be a little bit courageous. Just brave enough to make it through the scene, just brave enough to make it through the movie, just brave enough to make it through the episode. And we collectively get that little bit braver.