Popcorn Frights Film Festival, Florida’s leading international genre film festival, celebrates its 2nd year in Miami this August 12 through 18, 2016, presenting a record 16 features and 17 short film premieres at the landmark O Cinema Wynwood theater.
The line-up for the second annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival serves up a fearsome feast with the monstrous, the macabre, and the must-see. Opening Night features a spine-tingling double-bill presenting the Florida Premieres of the critically-acclaimed films Fear, Inc. (review), a fiendishly twisted and deliriously fun love letter to genre movies, and The Blackcoat’s Daughter (review), starring Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”), Emma Roberts (“American Horror Story”), and original music composed by the legendary Elvis Perkins.
Other buzzy titles in the lineup include Evolution, an astonishingly beautiful and mesmerizing blend of body horror and surreal fantasy, the genre-bending shocker I Am Not a Serial Killer (review) starring Max Records (Where the Wild Things Are) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) in a tour de force performance, the nightmare fueled Antibirth (review) that features dynamite roles from Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black) and Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry), Under the Shadow (review), a tense and atmospheric thriller set in a haunted Tehran apartment during the terrifying final days of the Iran-Iraq War, and the East Coast Premiere of Abattoir, Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II) unsettling new nightmare centered on a mysterious haunted house.
Encompassing the ever-burgeoning independent arena, this year’s increased number of films straddle the arthouse and grindhouse, including The Mind’s Eye (review), a mainlined shot of hyper-violent-telekinetic-carnage reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s Scanners, the East Coast Premieres of Beyond the Gate (review) starring the First Lady of Fright Films, Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), and the audaciously twisted and shocking Pet (review) that features a remarkably dark turn by Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings), and Mickey Keating’s latest descent into insanity, Carnage Park (review), that braids crime caper and survival story into one demented thrill ride.
Rounding out the program is the US Premiere of the gripping found footage thriller Man Vs, the North American Premiere of the supernatural horror thriller The Devil’s Doll, the action-packed post-apocalyptic vampire tale Daylight’s End, the visually stunning homage to the famed Italian Giallo genre, Francesca, and the retro throwback to classic 80s VHS horror flicks, The Barn.
Popcorn Frights prides itself on providing a fertile ground for new and exciting filmmaking talent, and this year will present 17 extraordinary short films, including SXSW award-winners Manoman and Night Stalker, as well as The Puppet Man starring John Carpenter, and Portal to Hell, which features one of Roddy “Rowdy” Piper’s (They Live) final performances.FULL FESTIVAL LINEUP
ABATTOIR Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman US | 98 minutes | 2016 EAST COAST PREMIERE. Seven meets Dark City meets Hellraiser in Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II) startlingly unsettling new horror film that centers on a mysterious house that’s been constructed wholly from rooms where deaths have occurred. An investigative reporter with the style and confidence of a young Lauren Bacall is the first to stumble upon these series of gruesome murders as she is helplessly led into the belly of this hellish and haunted beast. Starring Lin Shaye from the Insidious franchise.
ANTIBIRTH Directed by Danny Perez US | 94 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. What if the Dude from The Big Lebowski somehow ended up in David Cronenberg’s The Brood? Danny Perez’s nightmare fuel film strangely answers this long thought question by mixing one part horror homage and three parts anti-drug PSA with an offbeat kickass cast in a story that includes a monster pregnancy, alien abductions, covert operatives, and dynamite performances from Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) and Chloe Sevigny (Zodiac).
THE BARN Directed by Justin Seaman US | 96 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. Almost certainly destined for cult classic status, The Barn is a perfect retro throwback to classic 80s VHS horror flicks like The Monster Squad, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and Full Moon’s empire of direct to video features. It’s Halloween 1989, and best friends Sam and Josh are trying to enjoy what’s left of their final Devil’s Night before graduating high school. But the two pals and a group of their friends get more trick than treat when they take a detour on their way to a rock concert, finding an old abandoned barn and awakening a trio of Halloween demons inside. Now it’s up to Sam and Josh to find a way to protect their friends and defeat the flesh-hungry creatures that lurk within The Barn. Featuring Ari Lehman, the first Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th.
BEYOND THE GATES Directed by Jackson Stewart US | 84 minutes | 2016 EAST COAST PREMIERE. A throwback flick in the spirit of horror faves such as Phantasm, The Beyond, and Poltergeist, this endearing instant-classic is filled with unique, personal, witty, and utterly terrifying imagery as it pays loving tribute to the VHS format, video stores, and board games of the 80s era. Co-written by Stephen Scarlata (Jodorowsky’s Dune) and starring the First Lady of Fright Films, Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Beyond the Gates centers on two estranged brothers who unearth an old VCR board game that acts as an inter-dimensional hub to a nightmare world where their Father’s soul is trapped and can only be saved by playing the game.
THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER Directed by Osgood Perkins US-Canada | 93 minutes | 2016 SOUTH FLORIDA PREMIERE. In this atmospheric, brutal, and darkly beautiful film, two young students at a prestigious prep school for girls are assailed by an evil, invisible power when they are stranded at the school over winter break. Easily one of the most brilliant horror films you’ll see all year, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is frightening with razor-sharp tension and a suffocating, intense atmosphere which grips from the first frame and doesn’t let go. Starring Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Emma Roberts (American Horror Story, Scream Queens) and featuring original music composed by the legendary Elvis Perkins.
CARNAGE PARK Directed by Mickey Keating US | 90 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. A treat for lovers of the bloody grindhouse cinema of the ’70s, this harrowing psycho-thriller stars Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) as an unhinged sniper who terrorizes a bank-robbing duo and their beautiful hostage (Ashley Bell of The Last Exorcism) after they stumble into his desert killing fields. Thrust into a wicked game of cat and mouse with a highly trained and mentally imbalanced killer, they begin a harrowing fight for survival. Mickey Keating’s latest descent into insanity has him braiding crime caper and survival story into one demented thrill ride. Ashley Bell quickly turns the role of damsel in distress into that of a badass, “don’t fuck with me” female lead traversing the horrors of Carnage Park.
DAYLIGHT’S END Directed by William Kaufman US | 106 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. Starring Lance Henriksen (Aliens, The Terminator) and Johnny Strong (The Fast and the Furious), Daylight’s End is an action-packed post-apocalyptic vampire tale that is pure carnage and white-knuckled powered adrenaline! After a mysterious infection transforms people into blood-thirsty creatures, a drifter bent on vengeance comes across a band of survivors desperate to escape the city. The ammo is in stock, the adrenaline is high, and time is of the essence, because in this world, things go more than bump in the night!
THE DEVIL’S DOLL Directed by Padraig Reynolds US | 85 minutes | 2016 NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE. In this supernatural horror thriller, a brutal serial killer is finally gunned down in the middle of carrying out one last heinous act of bloody murder. In the maniac’s possession is a box of Guatemalan talismans, which mistakenly end up being sold as charm jewelry in a thrift shop. Soon those who bought the ‘worry dolls’ begin to act strange and begin a plague of mindless slaughter and carnage.
EVOLUTION Directed by Lucile Hadžihalilovic France | 81 minutes | 2015 French with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. In this astonishingly beautiful and mesmerizing blend of body horror and surreal fantasy, a young boy living in a mysterious, isolated seaside clinic uncovers the sinister purposes of his keepers. Evocative, enthralling and unnerving in equal measure, Evolution is a provocative fairy tale that beckons you deeper and deeper into an unforgettable domain filled with stunning cinematic imagery and stylistic nods to David Lynch and David Cronenberg that will seduce and repulse in uncanny harmony.
FEAR, INC. Directed by Vincent Masciale US | 92 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. Your worst fears realized…for a price! Fear, Inc. is a fiendishly twisted and deliriously fun love letter to genre movies that’s a mind-blowing horror-show cocktail of blood, guts, and screams. When a horror junkie and his friends sign up with a company that brings their customer’s greatest fears to life, they must quickly determine if its demented employees are there to scare them, or make them pawns in their own sick and deadly game. Like Wes Craven’s Scream, Fear, Inc. inspires outsized frights and dread even as it hilariously skewers and splatters horror movie cliches in funny, spirited ways. Featuring a special appearance by Abigail Breslin (Zombieland).
FRANCESCA Directed by Luciano Onetti Argentina-Italy | 79 minutes | 2015 Italian with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. Fans of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Goblin, and Lucio Fulci dare not miss Francesca, a visually stunning homage to the famed Italian Giallo genre that so faithfully and lovingly reproduces its seductive and perverse forms that it feels like it was literally plucked from the era! A dazzling combination of menacing Grand Guignol atmosphere, brilliant cinematography, gory violence, lush décor, and pounding soundtrack, “Francesca” tells the tale of a psychopath who uses the “Divine Comedy” as a clever reference to rid the city of impure souls through a series of gruesome murders. This audacious film synthesizes all the familiar Giallo motifs (psycho killers, blood violence, convoluted plot twists, pulse-pounding music) into an almost perfect symphony of fear that’s unlikely to ever be repeated on screen.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER Directed by Billy O’Brien Ireland-UK | 104 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. Just imagine if David Cronenberg slipped into a fever dream while binge-watching Dexter, Fargo, and Six Feet Under, in one go, and you’ll have just a shade of what I Am Not a Serial Killer has on offer. A darkly heartfelt, astonishingly foreboding, and imaginatively sinister tale of a likable teenager (Max Records of Where the Wild Things Are), raised by a mortician family, whose own nascent sociopathic tendencies make him a perfect amateur sleuth when a serial killer strikes his folksy Midwestern town. Take it from us, the film is far, far more unique and fantastically bloody than the premise might imply, helped in no small part by an Oscar-worthy performance by Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future).
MAN VS. Directed by Adam Massey Canada | 87 minutes | 2016 US PREMIERE. Man vs Wild vs Predator, need we say more? In this gripping found-footage horror thriller, a reality TV star of a survival show is forced to fend for himself in the remote woods for a routine episode, until he’s awoken by an earth-shaking crash that unleashes a series of weird and eerie events ultimately forcing him to come face to face with his deepest fears and the otherworldly. THE
MIND’S EYE Directed by Joe Begos US | 87 minutes | 2015 FLORIDA PREMIERE. For gorehounds who like the early films of David Cronenberg (spotlight Scanners) but secretly wish their themes and subtext didn’t get in the way of the exploding heads, Joe Begos’ The Mind’s Eye presents a mainlined shot of hyper-violent-telekinetic-carnage that you won’t soon forget. Pitting telekinetic savants against a mad doctor keen on siphoning their power, this giddy ’80s throwback stages a psychic war zone complete with bulging cranium veins, exploding heads, and a visceral kick of brainiacs willing each other into mind-melting, bloody oblivion. Cronenberg, Carpenter, Romero, and can all be found in the cinematic impulses of this unrelenting scream fest.
PET Directed by Carles Torrens US | 90 minutes | 2016 EAST COAST PREMIERE. You can’t escape the bonds of love in the shocking Pet. Starring Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings, Lost) and Ksenia Solo (Black Swan), this audaciously twisted story centers on an introverted loner who imprisons a woman he’s obsessed with, only to find the tables turned on him. Like the dark and daring Hard Candy and Gone Girl but with more trashy fun, Pet will have you both squirming in your seat and teetering on the edge, but you won’t want to look away.
UNDER THE SHADOW Directed by Babak Anvari Jordan-Qatar-UK | 84 minutes | 2015 Farsi with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. Those cracks in the ceiling are hiding a lot more than dry rot in Under the Shadow, an astonishingly tense and atmospheric thriller set in a haunted Tehran apartment during the terrifying final days of the Iran-Iraq War. A grim allegory of female oppression, this brilliant feature debut grounds its premise in something ineluctably sinister: imagine a cross between The Babadook and The Conjuring and you’re halfway there. Set in 1988 Iran, a mother trapped in her apartment during the chaos of the war worries that malevolent spirits have taken possession of her daughter, leading to a bone-chilling horror tale of paranormal and real-life terrors.
THE BIRCH Directed by Ben Franklin UK | 5 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. A bullied teenager, fearing for his life, turns to an ancient creature of the forest for protection…and revenge.
BLIGHT Directed by Brian Deane Ireland | 15 minutes | 2015 FLORIDA PREMIERE. A young priest is sent to a remote island off the Irish coast to help protect an estranged fishing community from dark supernatural forces but nothing is as it seems.
DEATH METAL Directed by Chris McInroy US | 5 minutes | 2016 WORLD PREMIERE. A practical effects driven splatter comedy featuring a metalhead, his guitar and carnage.
DISCO INFERNO Directed by Alice Waddington Spain | 12 minutes | 2015 English and Spanish with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. A black-clad vixen infiltrates a sumptuous mansion overrun with cultists in what begins as a rescue mission, and then deliriously descends into an eerie musical reverie, before finally arriving at a most unexpected conclusion.
FUCKKKYOUUU Directed by Eddie Alcazar US | 8 minutes | 2015 FLORIDA PREMIERE. With the ability to travel in time, a lonely girl finds love and comfort by connecting with her past self. Eventually faced with rejection she struggles with her identity and gender, and as time folds onto itself only one of them can remain. Featuring music by Flying Lotus.
GWILLIAM Directed by Brian Lonano US | 6 minutes | 2016 SOUTH FLORIDA PREMIERE. A recently released criminal is looking for a good time. He can forget his sins but he can never forget…Gwilliam.
HADA Directed by Tony Morales Spain | 9 minutes | 2016 Spanish with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. Tonight Hada comes to visit Daniel because he his last baby tooth has fallen out. What Daniel doesn´t expect is that his worst enemy is the light.
IRIS Directed by Richard Karpala US | 11 minutes | 2015 FLORIDA PREMIERE. What starts as a familiar tale of a criminal driving to the middle of the woods to bury a dead body, ends with a bloody twist of karmic justice thanks to his Siri-esque smartphone app.
THE MAIDEN Directed by Michael Chaves US | 9 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. As a real estate agent goes about her business to close a sale on a dilapidated house, she begins to discover that the property is inhabited by an evil presence working against her.
MANOMAN Directed by Simon Cartwright UK | 11 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. When an office clerk attends primal scream class, he releases something from deep within that knows no limits.
MAYDAY Directed by Sébastien Vaniček France | 13 minutes | 2016 NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE. A passenger subject to violent hallucinations must overcome the imminence of his death during a trans-Atlantic flight.
METUBE 2 Directed by Daniel Moshel Austria | 5 minutes | 2016 Spanish with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. The biggest, boldest, and sexiest operatic flash mob the internet has ever witnessed!
NIGHT STALKER Directed by New Image Ltd US | 10 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. A horror love story with tunes by the band Fort Lean presents bite-sized bits for all of your sex, gore, and hilarity cravings.
PIGSKIN Directed by Jake Hammond US | 14 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. When a high-school cheerleader accepts a date from the football team’s star quarterback, a grisly manifestation of her own bodily insecurities pushes her into a self-destructive nightmare.
THE POND Directed by Jeroen Dumoulein Belgium | 16 minutes | 2015 Dutch with English subtitles FLORIDA PREMIERE. Breathtakingly beautiful and sharing an artistic vision with Guillermo Del Toro, “The Pond” is set in the early 1900s and follows a young girl who tries to unravel the mystery of the dark pond behind her family’s mansion.
PORTAL TO HELL Directed by Vivieno Caldinelli US | 12 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. A crusty and recluse superintendent is thrown into the ultimate fight against evil when a couple of cultists open a portal to the ancient and mysical city of R’lyeh, awakening slumbering god. Starring Roddy “Rowdy” Piper (“They Live”) in one of his last onscreen performances.
THE PUPPET MAN Directed by Jacqueline Castel US | 9 minutes | 2016 FLORIDA PREMIERE. A supernatural killer stalks a young woman and her friends in a seedy, neon-lit dive bar in this short film featuring horror legend John Carpenter.
Festival Premiere Badges are on sale for a limited time for $120 per person and $180 for couples, and single screening tickets are available for $12. To purchase badges or tickets and view the Festival schedule, visit www.popcornfrights.com
LOCATION: All films will screen at the O Cinema Wynwood (90 NW 29th Street, Miami, FL 33127).
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With their previous film Lead Me Astray receiving overwhelming acclaim at festivals (star Alannah Robertson even won Best Actress at the Independent Horror Movie Awards), we’re couldn’t be more excited for Bendy Spoon Productions’ latest effort, Remember Redfield.
The whodunit murder mystery flick takes place in a secluded estate, where an assailant begins picking off the bickering guests one by one. Logan Webster directs.
Old loves, rivalries, and vendettas resurface at a high school reunion party held out on a reclusive estate, but the evening takes a deadly turn when one of the guests begins systematically killing all the estranged attendants, leaving the group to try to decipher who, of all their friends, has the potential to be a murderer.
Directed by Logan Webster, the film welcomes back Jace Pickard, Alannah Robertson, and Tom Danger with an ensemble of familiar faces as well as some new ones ready to be killed!
WildEye Releasing has announced the July 26 DVD and VOD release for Brandon Scullion’s debut feature, Consumption. Since the world premiere on the festival circuit, Consumption has been praised by critics. Famous Monsters described the feature as “gruesome goulash of ghosts, cults, and good ol’ demons”.
A group of friends travel to the snowy Utah mountains for a weekend retreat. One brings with him a dark secret that could destroy their lives forever. As they prepare to face an ancient secret buried in the woods outside their winter resort, an unstoppable evil begins to grow, consuming them one by one.
Developed by IO Interactive
Published by Square Enix
Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
With the release of “Marrakesh,” half of the currently scheduled Hitman content is now out. I enjoyed the previous two episodes, but haven’t really been impressed yet. It was all technically solid, but lacked the punch to really draw me in. I’ve outlined what I was hoping for in my previous reviews (link here), but to briefly recap I feel like the game lacks identity and flavor. These games have always been about pitch black comedy and creative killings, and while Hitman has so far definitely delivered on being a great sandbox, it’s lost some of the polish in the process.
I also predicted that as the episodes came out, they would probably address these problems to some degree. Episodic releases are tricky, since games require a difficulty curve to stay interesting. When all you have is a trickle of content every month or so, it’s hard to judge each individual piece as part of a whole and not its own isolated package. I expected that with time the guided “opportunities” would be more vague and less immediately lethal, and that the larger and more open level design would necessitate more creative thinking.
“Marrakesh” kind of proves me half right. It’s a step in the right direction to be sure, but doesn’t go quite as far as I want it to. I say this keeping in mind that there are still three episodes left. If the build stays this slow, it either won’t reach the peak it needs to get to or do so jarringly quick.
What the episode nailed was establishing its own tone. It wasn’t the iconic “Hitman” gruesomely quirky, but rather went its own direction by being considerably more grounded and serious. Typically, assassinations were always more obtuse in effect and scale. Sure, nuclear launch codes would be exchanged and international drug cartels disrupted, but all of that was narrative fluff behind garroting a couple dudes in a few rooms. No matter what was at stake in the story, the reality of the level was a few guards, a target that needed murdering, and a few flavor events in between.
Episode 3 drops you off in the middle of a brewing revolution about to boil over. Swedish banker Claus Strandberg stands convicted of murder, but during transit was freed by a group of unknown gunman and now sits safely in the Swedish Consulate. The breakout, meant to appear to be foreign orchestrated, was actually the work of General Reza Zaydan. An associate of Claus, Reza hopes to use the event to stir distrust in the current president, and give justification for a military coup. You must eliminate both targets to quell the unrest and bring stability back to the country.
For a game that generally has you assassinating colorful characters in charge of various shadow governments or linchpins in grand conspiracies, seeing Hitman take notes from the Arab Spring is surprising. Targets tend to be flavored with a pinch of goofy, but there’s very little to laugh at between the tortured prisoners held in the General’s camp stationed in an abandoned school and the distant, aloof calm of the Swedish consulate. This is the blackest I’ve seen a “Hitman” game, bordering on almost losing its comedy. It’s a tight line to walk, but one that it did so well. It doesn’t try to replicate the charming elements of previous games, but creates its own tone that is just as compelling. It was a bold move that made the episode better than the sum of its parts.
However, the actual assassinations were too strict. The map itself is very large, but the targets are constrained to two tight and very well guarded areas. Most of “Marrakesh” revolves around figuring out how to get in. Once inside, the job is basically done. Getting them alone is pretty easy even without scripted events, and even if you don’t hide the body the two locations are separate enough that the alarms don’t really affect one another.
The “opportunities” have changed as I predicted, but I’m on the fence as to how much I like it. They are now less specific, guiding you towards key locations/events without giving you all the steps. Most of time, you’ll go towards an opportunity only to find that you can’t get through the door. This is where the creative thinking should come in. Unfortunately, the solutions are often very linear. Getting into a club, wear a waiter uniform. After finding a key, climb down a pipe to get to the door. There are certainly more obtuse ways to do it, but the obvious solution is too immediately useful to pass up. I appreciate not being given all the steps, but I wanted that to be because of freedom in completion.
I think that there is still a bit to go in making this a great game, but I’m pleased with the steps they have taken. I just wish that these bright bits didn’t shine a light on the flaws in the rest of the system. The next step is going to be crucial, as we’re rapidly approaching the point where the identity of Hitman will be established. Don’t take this as doomsaying, as I’m actually quite hopeful. The way that this innovated was good, and the level of improvement it brought over “Sapienza” as bigger than the one “Sapienza” brought over the “Intro Pack.” I hope they keep this curve of build, raising the bar even more in the next episode. With 6 episodes, they really don’t have any room to stumble, and Hitman hasen’t really hit its stride yet. It’s been jogging up to a run, and hopefully will finish with a solid pace.
Comedian Jordan Peele has joined the cast of the puppet horror film Abruptio, which comes from writer and director Evan Marlowe.
In the film, all of the characters, “…will be performed by life-sized, realistic latex puppets“, in a nod to the films of Jim Henson, such as Dark Crystal.
“Les Hackel is a guy down on his luck who wakes to find an explosive device has been implanted in his neck. He must carry out heinous crimes in order to stay alive while trying to identify the mastermind manipulating the now twisted and strange world around him.
Peele joins Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses), Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) and James Marsters (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), who plays “Les”.
The film has an undetermined 2018 release date.
James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious, Saw, Dead Silence) is back with The Conjuring 2 (read our review), which brings the next true story from the case files of Ed and Lorrain Warren to the screen!
Reprising their roles, Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson star as Lorraine and Ed Warren, who, in one of their most terrifying paranormal investigations, travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
In theaters Friday, June 10 from New Line Cinema, now is a great time to revisit our trip to the filming locations of The Conjuring 2 and take a look at this spine-tingling clip we shared the other day.
The Conjuring 2 tells the infamous “Enfield Poltergeist,” which took place at a council house in Brimsdown village, borough of Enfield, England during the late 1970s. The aforementioned links tease what to expect from the film that also stars Frances O’Connor (“The Missing”) as the single mom, with newcomers Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley and Benjamin Haigh as her children; Maria Doyle Kennedy (“Orphan Black”); Simon Delaney (“Roy”); Franka Potente (“The Bridge”); and Simon McBurney (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation). In addition to directing the film, Wan wrote the screenplay with Carey and Chad Hayes, and David Leslie Johnson.
IFC Midnight has acquired US rights to Danny Perez’s Antibirth, Bloody Disgusting just learned.
Antibirth had its world premiere in the Midnight section of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where Fred Topel wrote in his review:
‘Antibirth’ is a good old body horror movie. It’s got the suggestion of pregnancy, so you’re dealing with the undertones of a woman’s mixed feelings about her own capacity to give life, but if you don’t want to go there it’s really just gross as hell.
The film, written and directed by Perez, stars Emmy nominated Natasha Lyonne, Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning actresses Chloë Sevigny and Meg Tilly as well as Mark Webber.
“In Antibirth, trailer dweller Lou (Lyonne) and her best friend Sadie (Sevigny) spend most of their nights steeped in a murky haze of pot smoke and booze-filled TV-watching sessions, venturing out on occasion to party in a desolate community full of drug-addled ex-marines and other miscreants of society. After an otherwise normal night of self-destructive behavior, Lou awakens with symptoms of a bizarre illness and psychosomatic, recurring visions that she can’t seem to shake. Unfazed, she continues with her hard-living ways, but even her frequent bong rips don’t fully explain the shitstorm swirling around in her head. Without being able to remember anything from the night before, she struggles to get a grip on the reality of her situation as unusual conspiracy theories begin to arise. As her symptoms grow at a rapid pace, something otherworldly has infected her body, and try as she might, it refuses to be ignored.”
The film was produced by Cole Payne, Roger M. Mayer, David Anselmo, Justin Kelly and Lyonne.
[Interview] Director James Wan Says No ‘Amityville’ Spin-Off Movie, Insinuates Further ‘Conjuring’ Entries
In the latest film from director James Wan, the man who brought us such horror gems as Insidious, Saw, and The Conjuring, Ed and Lorraine Warren return to the screen with one of their most demanding cases yet: The Enfield Poltergeist. The Warrens make their way to northern London after hearing about the strange occurrence of an eleven-year-old girl claiming to be terrorized by the spirit of a deceased previous owner, and upon their arrival, begin experiencing horrifying bouts of paranormal activity themselves. The Hodgsons may be the one family who needs help more than any of the people they’ve have reached out to before, but once the demon begins targeting the Warrens as well, will they be able to even save themselves from what’s coming? Only time will tell what lies in what for everyone involved in The Conjuring 2 (read my review).
James Wan’s first Conjuring film featured an opening with a sequence from the infamous real life Annabelle case, wherein reports had been processed with witnesses claiming that a particular doll was exhibiting signs which suggested that it might be possessed. After The Conjuring was so well received, a spin-off film was released with John R. Leonetti directing and Wan producing, simply titled Annabelle.
Now, in the sequel The Conjuring 2, the movie opens up with a scene featuring the Warrens handling the infamous Amityville haunting. Ed and Lorraine gather with a group in the home to test to see if there’s any strange activity in the air that might support Ronald DeFeo Jr.’s claims. According to DeFeo, he was possessed by a demonic entity when he shot and killed his entire family while they slept in their beds – he had no control over his actions. He was of course promptly arrested for his crimes and sent to trial, but Ed and Lorraine aren’t searching for a reliable defense for this man, they just want to find out the truth. However, when Lorraine reaches out with her mind to see if she can pick anything up, what she discovers lurking in the shadows of the that home is far more ungodly than anything she could have imagined.
Both The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 movies open with a short scene from different famous Warren case than the one that the movie is about. The scene from the first movie was made into a spin-off film which we know now as Annabelle. Now, with The Conjuring 2 releasing wide soon, and also showing a scene with the famous Amityville case, does that mean that there will be an Amityville spin-off movie helmed by James Wan? Wan says no.
“You know in terms of a director, I think there are a lot of other things that I would love to do, that I would love to pursue” says director James Wan. “But I think I definitely want to continue you know, keeping my presence in the horror world with movies I’m going to start producing. I want to be involved more as a producer in this world, sort of what I did with “Lights Out”. I think it would be a great opportunity for me to work with younger filmmakers and explore the horror world more. I just think coming back to The Conjuring 2 was in some ways something that I felt like I needed to do after F7. That was such an emotionally tough movie, and I needed to come back to some kind of familiarity, and to work with people that I really love, but moving forward, I would like to explore some other directing opportunities”.
Wan continued excitedly about his new producing project, short turned feature length film Lights Out.
“I’m starting to branch more into the producing world and it is really hard to find filmmakers who get what it takes to pull off a scary sequence so when I saw the “Lights Out” short I was like, “Oh wow, this guy gets it!” You know it’s very simple and so I really appreciated it and I love like the title as well and so, when I spoke with David [F. Sandberg] early on I ended up just really liking the guy. He’s such an easy guy to work with, and get along with, and so it just felt like, ‘Okay let’s do it! Let’s give this guy a break and a give him chance to turn it into a feature’”.
Although Wan says he’d rather focus on his producing career than make his own Amityville movie, he does hint that he would like to make more Conjuring sequels in the future.
“I mean listen, part of the reason why I didn’t make The Conjuring 2 all about just Amityville is I felt that it’s a story that’s been done a lot, and I don’t want to repeat what’s already been done. The Warrens have so many great stories in their archival boat, and it would be amazing to explore lots of other stories if we’re lucky enough to have future installments”.
Based on what he says here, it seems that Wan would indeed like more Conjuring sequels, if they’re financially possible. In the end, basically, whether or not there will be any more Conjuring movies totally depends on if the fans show up to support Wan opening weekend.
“Well, let’s see how well Conjuring 2 does. That’s the reality of it.” Wan says matter-of-factly.
He looks tired as he speaks, but at the same time, utterly happy. He’s just finished his tenth film, and made a sequel that arguably exceeds the high bar set by the first. Aside from all of his cinematic success, Wan clearly is a filmmaker in love with his craft, and that trait will shine through whatever project he helms.
The Conjuring 2 hits theaters everywhere on June 10th, 2016.
There are spoilers and then there are spoilers. (This is your only warning.) This one, however, is all in the family.
As much as I loved Prometheus, it wasn’t a proper Alien film. Sure, it lives in the same universe, and was planned to bridge directly into Ridley Scott‘s 1979 film, but it was meant to be a spinoff of sorts.
Now that Scott has learned the value in sticking with the franchise he launched all of those years ago, the Prometheus sequel was changed into an Alien prequel that dons the moniker Alien: Covenant.
Although there’s quite a bit of information already out there, little is known about the motivations behind the new crew, which include Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Jobs, The Babysitters), Demian Bichir and the hilarious Danny McBride (“Eastbound and Down”), as well as Alex England (Gods of Egypt), Billy Crudup, Amy Seimetz (A Horrible Way to Die, “The Killing”), Jussie Smollett (“Empire”), Carmen Ejogo and Callie Hernandez (Machete Kills). (Michael Fassbender is returning as Prometheus‘ android, David.)
In the film, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David (Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.
But who is leading this crew? Why is she more important than continuing Elizabeth Shaw’s story? (Noomi Rapace will allegedly not be returning to the role.)
Here’s the reason…and it’s a bombshell:
Sources close to film and actress tell the Playlist that Waterston will be playing Ellen Ripley’s mother in “Alien: Covenant,” which is an amazing twist and true to Scott’s promise that the post-“Prometheus” prequels will eventually lead right up to the first ‘Alien‘ movie. But it should be noted that Waterston isn’t the lead of the movie, and it’s an ensemble piece like “Prometheus.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Alien: Covenant is rumored to introduce Ellen Ripley’s mother, which not only bridges the films, but the bloodline.
Gamers will be even more excited as this extends the family tree that was an intricate part of the Alien: Isolation videogame. For those who don’t know, Isolation‘s protagonist was Amanda Ripley, who is none other than Ellen Ripley’s daughter (she was pictured as an old woman, played by Elizabeth Inglis, in the extended version of James Cameron’s Aliens)!
The obvious concern here is that Scott is pigeonholing Ellen’s mother into the franchise. It’s weird to think that Ellen’s mother could be directly connected to the events in the first Alien; what are the odds of Ripley coming across the galactic events set off somewhere in space by her mother? Slim to none, that’s for sure. Ignoring that for a second, the fanatic inside me is overwhelmed in joy and anticipation. The thought that Scott and his team of writers have found a way to bridge the films in more way than one is incredibly exciting. Now, all I can think about is a new timeline that follows Mama Ripley’s adventures for another handful of movies. Holy. Shit.
Alien: Covenant – here’s everything we know so far – takes off for Paradise on August 4, 2017.
Well…part of it, at least.
A new clip from the upcoming Eli Roth-produced horror film Clown has been released and it shows the danger of trying to remove something that’s stuck to your face. Also, it encourages better training for your pets because lord knows we don’t want them eating any random thing they find on the ground!
Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare and Elizabeth Whitmere star in the pic about a man who puts on an old clown costume, only to transform into a demon clown that eats children.
“’Clown’ is a story of a loving father who dons a clown outfit and makeup to perform at his son’s sixth birthday, only to later discover that the costume – red nose and wig included– will not come off and his own personality changes in a horrific fashion. To break the curse of the evil outfit, the father must make grim choices with his own family facing danger.”
Directed by Jon Watts, Clown hits limited theaters and VOD on June 17th.
Shane Black was recently interviewed about The Predator, the upcoming fourth entry in the franchise that began back in 1987, and he released a very important detail that casts doubts on whether or not we’ll be seeing the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Dutch”.
“The name I’ve given the [hero] in ‘Predator’ right now is Quinn Mackenna. And that may change,” Black tells Empire. So yes, it may change to Dutch but as of now it seems pretty obvious that this means Schwarzenegger isn’t committing to face the universe’s deadliest hunter any time soon.
Continuing his interview, Black brought up some really great points about the current status of films and how audiences absorb them.
We live in a culture where everyone’s like, ‘[I want to] know everything about it before it comes out, and I want to be able to see every moment, and I’m gonna go back and forth on the goddamn YouTube channel and get every goddamn moment and every Easter egg.’
[But] I’ll tell you a little bit about it. It’s an attempt to event-ize the ‘Predator’ and make it more mysterious. ‘The Predator’ has been so overdone in a way —very low budget with a guaranteed return, every couple of years there’s a knock off churned out. It’s gotta get to the point where people buy their tickets in advance instead of saying, ‘Oh honey look, another ‘Predator’ movie. No, Adam Sandler’s got this thing on TV, let’s do that instead.’
I want people to say, ‘’The Predator’ is coming, I know it’s coming, we want to see it, it’s mysterious, interesting, it’s got the same sense of wonderment and newness that ‘Close Encounters’ had when that came out.’ That’s what we want. That’s very impossible to achieve, but we’re going to try.
We’ll hopefully know more in the coming months but nothing is certain until The Predator hits screens on February 9th, 2018.
I know that some of you have a lot of interest in hearing about a film or show from the perspective of the filmmakers as it gives insight into a lot of things that may have been overlooked. If that’s your bag, AMC has uploaded “See”, the second episode of their show “Preacher“, and it features commentary from executive producers and directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. You can watch the episode right here.
Brad did a write up on what fans can expect from the third episode, which airs this Sunday.
Based on the twisted and popular ’90s comic book franchise of the same name, “Preacher,” created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, is the story of Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) a conflicted Preacher in a small Texas town who is inhabited by a mysterious entity that allows him to develop a highly unconventional power. Jesse, his ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and an Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) embark on a journey to, literally, find God.
Other cast includes W. Earl Brown as ‘Sheriff Hugo Root’, the mean-hearted father of Eugene Root aka Arseface (Ian Colletti), a flinty-eyed, conspiracy-credulous redneck who is not a fool and has a vulnerability to him.
Jamie Anne Allman will play Betsy Schenck, a meek wife who appears to suffer beatings by the hand of her husband, Donny. When the Preacher checks up on her, though, she tells a different story. Derek Wilson is Donny Schenck, a Civil War re-enactor and abusive thug who gets into altercations with Jesse Custer but nevertheless shows up to church on Sundays.
Once a certain story has been adapted so many times, what were once tropes can sometimes turn into archetypes, and age-old clichés can be revitalized through a new perspective. Such is the case with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a story that’s been translated to the big screen so many times that it’s become a significant part of film history. From Nosferatu to the Hammer Horror productions, this story has seen numerous updates and alterations that continue to keep it relevant in mass media after all these years. Now, first-time Brazilian director Monica Demes, with a little help from the legendary David Lynch, brings us a chilling new tale of vampiric seduction in modern times, inspired by Stoker’s classic.
Lilith’s Awakening stars Sophia Woodward as Lucy (replacing Mina Harker in a sly nod to Nosferatu) as a troubled woman dealing with feelings of repression in almost all aspects of her life. From her less-than-satisfying home life with Jonathan, played by Sam Garles, to her difficult relationship with her conservative father Abe (Steve Kennevan), Lucy feels trapped. Things change, however, when the mysterious Lilith, played by Bárbara Eugenia, begins her assault on the quiet town, leading Lucy down a dark path towards her own hidden desires.
On the surface, Demes’ script seems to be a faithful, if slightly gender-bent, adaptation of Stoker’s work. However, Lilith’s Awakening shares more in common with Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, and other less conventional works of supernatural horror that comment on traditional gender roles and society standards. In this version of the story, Lucy isn’t a helpless, submissive character being slowly corrupted by the forces of evil, but an intelligent woman that begins to question her place in life, allowing herself to be attracted by Lilith and in no need of rescuing.
Even if this discussion of gender roles doesn’t seem pleasing to some viewers, Lynch’s peculiar influence can be felt throughout most of the movie, though Demes is in constant control of the picture. The film feels slightly more lucid than most of Lynch’s work, but his “Transcendental Meditation” obviously had an effect on Demes’ writing process, which resulted in a mysterious yet satisfying final product. From the dream-like pacing of the plot to the gothic, monochrome visuals, Lilith’s Awakening certainly looks and feels delightfully eerie.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of some of the film’s casting choices. While the “indie” budget certainly had a role to play in the stiltedness of some minor dialogue, much of the film depends on the silent conveying of emotion, which wasn’t handled as well as it could have been in a few scenes. That being said, Woodward was a phenomenal choice for a strong female protagonist, and Eugenia stole the show whenever she was onscreen. It’s unfortunate that these characters don’t share more screen-time together, as I felt that their moments together were the highlights of the film.
Lilith’s Awakening definitely isn’t for everyone, but those who can appreciate David Lynch’s work will warm up to Monica Demes’ style. The gothic visuals and impressive story more than make up for any minor flaws, and I look forward to seeing more of the director’s projects in the future, as long as they’re as stylish as this one. Lynch himself has made more than enough contributions to the film world, but it’s always pleasant to see a master of the craft pass his teachings along to a new generation, as this film was produced through the David Lynch MFA in Film Program.
Lilith’s Awakening will be premiering at the Dances with Films festival on Saturday, June 11th.
“Ash vs Evil Dead” actress Samara Weaving unknowingly became part of an internet kerfuffle when a conservative Twitter account tweeted a picture of her where she’s bloodied and bruised under the guise that she was a Trump supporter who was assaulted simply for her political beliefs. However, it turns out that picture was a makeup test for the Starz horror comedy show.
Co-star Bruce Campbell brought a lot of attention to the matter when he quoted the tweet and simply stated, “Check your facts, folks. This is an actress named Samara Weaving from #AshVsEvilDead. This is a make-up test. Sad.”
Due to the large amount of retweets and mentions this generated, the account that originally tweeted out the photo has since deleted the post and stated, “Tweet about Trump supporter being beaten turned out to be fake. I apologize for misleading my followers. Now it is deleted.“.
— Bruce Campbell (@GroovyBruce) June 8, 2016
— Samara Weaving (@Sweaving) June 8, 2016
Owen Teague (Netflix’s “Bloodline”) has joined the cast of the upcoming It adaptation, according to THR. The site explains that Teague will play, “…Patrick Hocksetter, [who is] part of a group of bullies who torment the Losers Club. He is a psychopath and keeps a refrigerator full of animals that he’s killed.”
Based on the novel by Stephen King and directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama), the film will be broken into two parts. The first will focus on “The Losers Club” in their childhood while the second film will follow them as adults.
Teague joins Bill Skarsgard, who will be playing the villainous Pennywise the Clown, as well as Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special), Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”), Jack Dylan Grazer (Tales of Halloween ), Wyatt Oleff (Guardians of the Galaxy ), Chosen Jacobs (Cops and Robbers) and Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man).
It hits theaters on September 8th, 2017.
In 2013, director David F. Sandberg made a very simple but effective horror short titled “Lights Out”. In the short, an everyday woman turns off the light in her home before she goes to bed, only to discover a shadowy figure lurking in the darkness. She quickly flips the switch on and off, on and off again, to make sure what she has seen is real, but the figure is only visible in the dark, and seems to disappear entirely when the light is on. Although she can only see the entity when the lights are off, she can definitely tell that it’s slowly moving closer. With each flick of the light switch, it inches one step forward, until it’s standing directly in front of her, ready to pounce. Terrified, the girl runs to her room and jumps into bed. As she shakes with fear under her covers, the figure makes its way over to her nightstand, and for a single single second bears its horrifying bug-eyed face before displays a ghastly smile and clicks off the lamp, leaving the girl to inevitably fall prey to its attack.
Not only did this short win Sandberg the best director prize in the “Who’s There” category for the BC Horror Challenge and the award for best short at the Bilbao Fantasy Film Festival, but it also caught the eye of producer Lawrence Grey who brought it to The Conjuring director James Wan, who then offered to help produce the short if Sandberg was up for turning it into a feature length film. Thus, the movie Lights Out was born, and Sandberg was given the chance to prove himself as a real Hollywood director.
Admittedly, Lights Out has a slightly silly premise. Darkness Falls, From the Dark, and The Chronicles of Riddick all have similar setups, meaning that the characters in all of these films have to stay in the light to stay alive, but none of them quite measure up to the bar that this Wan produced picture has set. The reason why? Director David F. Sandberg actually understands how to send chills down an audience’s spine. His charcoal figure who basks in the darkness creates a petrifying atmosphere whenever she appears onscreen. Her crooked movements stand out like a stutter as she walks stiffly down the hall, making her appear less and less human every time she pops up in a quiet corner, or a whispers evil instructions from within a pitch black closet. She is death, and she’s come to silence those who seek to bring joy to the world, especially those who wish to help Sophie recover from her delusional illness.
Sophie’s been talking to herself for ages, but lately, since her husband mysteriously died, her sickness has taken a turn for the worst. Her kids Martin and Rebecca try their hardest to help their mother routinely take her pills and stop speaking to people who aren’t there, but their attempts to lessen the effects of their mom’s mental illness seem to be in vain, as she only grows more crazed and unfit for parenting. One night, as Martin catches her muttering to an invisible foe in the darkened corner, and then witnesses five bony fingers reaching out from around the door frame, he begins to wonder if his mom is truly afflicted, or if there actually is a malevolent spirit hiding out in their home.
In a way, this wicked spirit who goes by the name Diana is really just a metaphor for the issues in the house that have been building up for years and are now bursting at the seams; a personification of all of the negative energy clustered inside of these tired old walls. Sophie has been pretending that everything’s fine for a long time now, and although she believes that she is protecting her children from her morbid nature, she’s actually creating tiny rips and tears within the family unit that are too rugged and too deep to be easily covered up and painted over. This house embodies everything that this family stands for, and if it is haunted by an otherworldly force, then are just as cursed as their childhood home. Martin and Rebecca can’t avert their eyes any longer. Their mom is standing at the brink of sanity, and if they’re not careful, they’ll lose her forever, as she sinks deeper and deeper into a sea of depression. It’s an interesting parallel drawn between a woman who battles with her own personal demons and the demon who is terrorizing her family, which helps to elevate the film above a typical generic horror movie and turn it into a thoughtful commentary on society’s perception of mental illness and how we as a nation choose to deal with it.
Aside from the intelligent social discussion that it sparks, Lights Out is also a great movie just because it’s one of the scarier films to hit the mainstream in quite some time. It’s packed to the brim with jump scares, but instead of feeling cheap and unnecessary, they help push the momentum forward, and make it feel easier to relate to the characters because you can’t help but feel sorry for their horrifying situation. The sound editing is truly top notch, as is the lighting department, which together combine to create a scary story that really gets under your skin and raises the hair on the back of your neck. In the hands of a lesser director, even with the help of his skilled crew and killer cast, the plotline of Lights Out could risk coming across as cheesy and uninspired, but Sandberg shines in the director’s chair, and delivers a very impressive directorial debut. The only thing left to do now is thank Wan for bringing him to our attention.
It’s not a perfect film, but with time and the same creative people at his side, Lights Out director Sandberg could truly become a terrific and memorable filmmaker. Stories like his aren’t just engaging because they’re reminiscent of a Cinderella tale, but also because they remind us that it is possible to work hard and hone your craft and be noticed by someone higher up. It may seem like the odds are stacked against you, but if you keep your head down and focus on your work, you might just wind up catching a horror maestro’s eye, and get your shot at the big time. Independent film is still very much alive, and noteworthy folks like Sandberg are leading the horror genre in a very exciting direction.
Make sure to catch Lights Out when it hits theaters on July 22nd, 2016.
Iron Maiden‘s poster for their current Book of Souls tour has been deemed too frightening for children in Lithuania, prompting authorities to ban the advertisements. The poster, which you can see below, shows band mascot Eddie holding a bleeding heart in one hand while his eyes glow red and he snarls at the viewer.
Live Nation lawyer Mindaugas Paukštė told Delfi, “We received a letter that should stop advertising because it scares children – at the moment we think, how to behave, but, most likely, will have to remove the posters.”
There hasn’t been a replacement image made public yet for how they’re going to promote this show. However, given how big the band is across the globe, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be hurting on ticket sales.
One of the big traditions of the Telluride Horror Show is the unveiling of the festival’s yearly key art, a piece of work that is used for much of their merch as well as their program cover. Each year, the show takes an iconic landmark in Telluride and gives it a horror twist, bringing a splash of terror to the town. This year is no different as artist Mark Zingarelli has once again brought his magic to the festival and crafted an air of witchiness for the clock tower of the San Miguel Courthouse.
The 2016 Telluride Horror Show will take place from October 14th through 16th.
William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is long considered to be one of the greatest horror movies ever released. Building slowly and adding layer upon layer of tension, the film generated controversy and disgust upon its release. But it also won much acclaim, earning 10 Academy Award nominations, including becoming the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture. It’s mark on society is undeniable, which is why the following story is so interesting.
At this year’s Cannes film festival, Friedkin told a masterclass event about the time he was invited by the Roman Catholic Church to shoot an actual exorcism. “I was invited by the Vatican exorcist to shoot and video an actual exorcism which… few people have ever seen and which nobody has ever photographed. I am not talking about some cult, I am talking about an exorcism by the Catholic Church in Rome,” he explained.
The director also commented that the experience was remarkably similar to the version in his film and that witnessing it had a profound experience on him, stating, “I was pretty astonished by that. I don’t think I will ever be the same having seen this astonishing thing.”
While the 80-year-old director is adamant that this happened, the Vatican itself is denying any involvement or invitation, although they offer an alternative explanation. “The Vatican does not have an exorcist,“, a representative told AFP (Source). Instead, they explain, “People often confuse any Catholic initiative/organisation/person with the Vatican. Perhaps this is the case here.”
Part of what unites us all as horror fans is our love for something not generally held in high regard. While many dismiss this genre as being populated by cheap cash-grabs, we keep enough of an open mind to approach even the newest splatter sequel hoping for great things. In addition to the horror everyone seems to laud, i.e. The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs, we get a kick out of the ridiculous heights of the Friday the 13th or Final Destination franchises, even while fully aware that they are hardly deserving of any Oscars. Their faults, from over-the-top storylines to subpar acting, only add to the charm. Movies such as these are often described as guilty pleasures, meaning we know they’re bad but we nevertheless derive enjoyment from them.
This is a concept that needs to be retired. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, and horror enthusiasts of all people should recognize that.
Many devotees of all things blood-soaked got into the genre for similar reasons, although our origin stories vary. Aside from a pursuit of the adrenaline rush that comes with being scared, we relish venturing into the unexplored depths of the film community, dredging up some forgotten B-picture from the back of the Blockbuster and raving to friends about how crazy it is. To do that requires a willingness to accept movies for what they are; admiring something like C.H.U.D, for instance, means the viewer must abandon their preconceived notions of what makes a “good” film, i.e. one that might be featured in the Academy Awards’ yearly highlight montage meant to showcase the power of celluloid.
No, we are not assessing a C.H.U.D. with the same criteria by which we judge a Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Depending on the subgenre, we are probably hoping for some spooky set pieces, gross-out gore effects, or crazy plot twists; if we find these elements and are entertained throughout the entire experience, the movie was a success. Whether it scared us or made us laugh, that little Blockbuster hidden treasure has now made our list of oddities that absolutely must be screened for all those unaware of its existence. “Dude,” we might declare to a friend the next day day, “you have got to see this movie.” It’s not that we like it ironically. Quite the contrary: we have genuinely found some solid filmmaking on display. It just happened to be lurking in the unlikeliest of places and surrounded by some questionable storytelling decisions.
This scenario was especially prominent before the proliferation of the internet. These days, when we mention a movie to an acquaintance, they can instantly look up the IMDB page, and they now bring to the discussion the belief that this picture has been declared objectively good or objectively bad. Really, it’s hard not to let the critical consensus color our perception of things. But there was a time when discovering information about horror, particularly obscure entries from many years ago, was not so easy. Unless you read something in a book or heard of it via word of mouth, basically all you had to go on was the back of the VHS. As a result, every movie carried with it an aura of secrecy, and to pop a tape in the player was to open up a mystery box that we could form a completely unbiased opinion of.
Remnants of that childhood appreciation of the strange and unexpected remain in every horror fan, yet as we grow up, our critical eye widens, and it becomes harder to embrace the same films we once wore out the VCR with. Confronted with the internet’s unanimous take on a movie’s quality, whether it’s the IMDB rating or Metacritic score, a small part of us begins to doubt our sanity for fancying something the public has declared terrible. How can we not look like clueless idiots for so thoroughly adoring a movie with a 5% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes?
The solution is to classify it as a guilty pleasure, a term which makes it possible to retain our original positive gut reaction while not having our critic card revoked. If we know it’s bad, we tell ourselves, then we can still like it and be free from judgement!
Screw that. Our younger selves had it right: if we dig a movie – whether it’s a John Carpenter classic or an aggressively stupid slasher sequel – we should have no hesitation advocating for it, no matter what anyone else thinks. No guilt is required.
To fully understand why, let’s take a look at some common examples of guilty pleasures and examine the reasoning that is traditionally provided. One category of guilty pleasure is the “movie with an admittedly dumb storyline,” one where the premise alone leads most logical human beings to shake their heads in disbelief. If we find ourselves eating up the picture – not ironically, mind you, but with total sincerity – any recommendation apparently must come with a caveat.
Take Jason X, the Friday the 13th installment that infamously sends Jason to space. The premise is absurd, but the film is a complete ball and is endlessly rewatchable. By this point, it became clear that the Friday series had gotten out of control, so James Isaac just decided to go wild with this one and create something light and hilarious. It features basically everything we would expect from a Friday the 13th, including over-the-top deaths and just enough camp as to not take things into comedy territory.
Does that not, then, make it a good entry into the series? If you enjoyed yourself while watching the movie, then it’s good in your eyes. Its job was to entertain, and it succeeded at that. Why must guilt factor in? Read any review of Jason X, though, and you’ll be met with all sorts of hedging language, as if the writer is afraid to commit to their own favorable opinion. “Okay, I know Jason X is absolutely awful, but I have to admit, I really enjoyed it,” they’ll write. “It’s a terrible movie, but it sure did entertain me.” But if a movie’s primary goal is to entertain, then those two ideas completely contradict one another, do they not?
Roger Ebert always argued that movies should be judged based on what they were trying to do. Typically, what critics who use the guilty pleasure label mean is that compared to some horror films that are a bit more well-rounded, Jason X might fall short. The acting is subpar, and the storyline is quite unrealistic. If director James Isaac’s goal was to make a completely straight-faced and scary Friday the 13th, then Jason X could safely be considered a failure. But that clearly wasn’t his goal.
To summarize, then, we have a movie that accomplished what it set out to accomplish and that enthralls its audience at every turn. If you agree with that statement, and the positives overwhelmed the negatives, then something like Jason X is not your guilty pleasure. It is a good, if highly flawed, film, and you should feel perfectly comfortable defending it as such.
Next, there’s the category of “movies that are probably bad for society but that we still kind of like,” which is why the Saw series frequently comes up in the guilty pleasure discussion. These kinds of movies are like fast food; we don’t necessarily feel bad while we’re eating it, but the negative effect it has leaves us with a belly full of shame and regret. With Saw, we can recognize that the later sequels are absolutely vile and an example of the industry in the 2000s focusing on making films shocking rather than making them scary. Some therefore feel uncomfortable defending films so gross that most friends and relatives shy away from or view as utter filth. We nod along with others who rail against the movies and say, “I know, they’re awful, but I just love them for some reason.”
But don’t stop at “for some reason.” Take a closer look at why you love them and ask yourself whether you ought to feel guilty at all. One reason many are drawn to the series is the increasingly inventive traps, which remained quite clever all the way into the final installment. Never do we get the sense that the crew behind-the-scenes is just phoning things in. They clearly put a lot of thought into the elaborate death sequences, and there’s something magical about listening to Jigsaw explain the rules of a new game as we smile at the ingenuity on display. The storyline is also, at times, genuinely interesting and surprisingly intricate. Who could forget the insane twist ending of Saw II, or the way some of the subsequent entries unexpectedly mess around with our perception of time?
These are all qualities that make for compelling movies, yet we are too often unwilling to voice those positive attributes due to the negative stigma that comes with espousing the fifth sequel in the Saw franchise. Why feel ashamed of appreciating a movie for its creativity and surprises, even if it might indulge in violence more than we’d like? We shouldn’t be saying, “The Saw movies are terrible, but I like them; they’re my guilty pleasure.” We should be saying, “The Saw movies can get a bit over-the-top and self-indulgent, but I’m a fan of the series for its inventive traps, intricate storyline, and surprising twists.”
The third category consists of films like Pieces and Birdemic: Shock and Terror, movies that are objectively poorly made but that we love to make fun of. This is the type of picture for which the phrase guilty pleasure makes the most sense, but it’s still not entirely accurate because, deep down, there is a small part of us that likes what we’re watching. After all, there’s a clear difference between a fun bad movie like Troll 2 and a boring bad movie like The Last Exorcism Part II. While the latter is uninspired and generic, the former attracts us to it thanks to the spectacularly cheesy acting and the baffling storytelling decisions. Can anything we enjoy so much be considered bad? It’s more that it’s good in a different, unintentional way, some sort of strange beast that fails to meet the filmmaker’s goal but fulfils another purpose entirely.
The proliferation of the term guilty pleasure may be in part due to the Rotten-Tomatoes-ization of the world, where society feels the need to classify every single movie as being either completely great or completely awful. It’s either rotten or it’s fresh. It’s amazing or it sucks. Especially in horror, a genre infamous for its inconsistent quality, the situation is typically far more nuanced than that. Some of our favorites are full of dumb genre tropes or stupid decisions made by the characters, but we love them all the same because we can judge a movie’s overall package without letting individual missteps detract. We could when we were kids, at least. Now, there exists tremendous pressure to justify our admiration of “rotten” movies, and the guilty pleasure excuse is an easy one.
But by framing things that way, we are playing into the idea that straying from the critical consensus necessitates guilt, a wrongheaded notion that must be done away with. Each viewer should determine their own criteria by which to assess movies based on what entertains them personally. Then, if a film reaches those heights, even if you are the literal first human being to ever find something positive there, don’t feel guilty. Instead, declare your love for it loud and proud and enthusiastically embrace the subjective nature of storytelling. Say goodbye to the cynicism of adulthood and become that kid in the video store again.