Monday, February 20, 2012

Top 20 NON-PSYCHO KILLER Horror Movies

1. ALIEN (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott
After investigating an SOS beacon on a distant, seemingly abandoned planet, a mining crew begins to suspect that they have accidentally brought a dangerous creature aboard their ship. 

2. THE SHINING (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
When Jack Torrance gets a gig as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, he brings his wife and son to the hotel, and soon after Jack and his son start seeing gruesome visions from both the past and future. 

3. ZOMBI (1979)
Director: Lucio Fulci
After a strange boat drifts into the New York harbor, a reporter and a young woman follow its clues to a Caribbean island that may be the birthplace of a zombie epidemic. 

4. JAWS (1975)
Director: Steven Spielberg 
When a giant great white shark terrorizes the small vacation island of Amity, New York on the island's busiest weekend of the year, the new chief, a marine biologist, and a grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

5. THE EXORCIST (1973)
Director: William Friedkin 
After her young daughter is possessed by mysterious and evil entity, an actress enlists in the aid of two priests - to help rid the girl of the demon. 

Director: Peter Medak
Years after his wife and child are killed in a terrible accident, a man stays at a secluded historical mansion and finds his life being haunted by a mysterious, angry child specter. 

A boy has the ability to speak to spirits - although he cannot tell when they are actually dead - and enlists in the aid of a disheartened child psychologist to control the "sense." 
Director: Jacques Tourneur
A nurse travels to the West Indies to care for the comatose wife of a wealthy plantation owner and starts to suspect that Voodoo is behind most of the bizarre occurrences in the area. 

9. THE BEYOND (1981)
Director: Lucio Fulci 
A young woman inherits an old, secluded Louisiana hotel only to learn that it is the site of many unsolved deaths, all leading to it being built over one of the gates to hell. 

10. THE BIRDS (1963)
A beautiful socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town, where the birds of the area are attacking the citizens with increased viciousness for no apparent reason. 

11. THE DESCENT (2005)
Director: Neil Marshall
A cave diving expedition for a recently widowed woman and her friends goes horribly wrong when the group becomes trapped and relentlessly pursued by a strange breed of predators in the caves. 

12. POLTERGEIST (1982)
Director: Tobe Hooper 
A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts that communicate through televisions, can make furniture move without a sound, and possess dolls... and these spirits want the family's daughter. 
Director: George A. Romero
A group of people take refuge in a farmhouse located at the cemetery where a swarm of bloodthirsty zombies rise from their graves to attack the living. 

14. JU-ON (2002)
Director: Takashi Shimizu
A mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody that dares to enter the house in which is resides, created by a horrible crime which once occurred there. 
Director: Jorge Grau
Two travelers become prime suspects for several gruesome murders occurring around a small European village, unaware that the real culprits are the living dead. 

16. EVIL DEAD II (1987)
Director: Sami Raimi
Ash returns to the legendary cabin from the first film, this time banding with a group of strangers to defeat the deadly flesh-possessing spirits. 

17. THE RING (2002)
Director: Gore Verbinski
A journalist investigates the origins of a strange video tape which seems to cause the unnatural death of anyone who views it within seven days. 

18. THE OMEN (1976)
Director: Richard Donner 
An American Ambassador and his wife learn that their only child, Damien, is actually the literal Antichrist whose soul purpose is to bring about Armageddon. 

19. 28 DAYS LATER (2002)
Director: Danny Boyle
A man wakes in a hospital four weeks after a virus rapidly spread throughout the United Kingdom and, along with other strangers, tries to adjust to a terrifying new world run by zombie-like humans. 

20. IT (1990)
Seven outcasts in a small New England town battle a demon that takes the form of a child-killing clown and, 30 years later, return to their hometown to defeat the evil once and for all. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I have to admit. GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM is a great documentary that focuses on the slasher film boom of the 1980s - how it rose after the mega success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH and fell after the decline of films like SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. It then goes onto chronicle the post-"Golden Age" films, such as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, APRIL FOOL'S DAY, SCREAM, and even the more recent SAW franchise. The movie also briefly touches on films like PSYCHO, PEEPING TOM, and the Giallo thrillers from Italy.

However, there are a lot of things missing from the documentary. Take, for instance, no mention of Agatha Christie novels from the 1930s and 40s, such as AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Or, that while they acknowledge Psycho and Peeping Tom from 1960, they neglect a French film that is basically the original slasher/splatter hybrid, EYES WITHOUT A FACE. How can any real documentary on the slasher genre ignore Eyes Without a Face, which is not only an important film to the genre but also a historically important picture, for it was among the first films of the influential French New Wave.

Going to Pieces also jumped over nearly 20-years of filmmaking with barely a nod at them. We learn of the success and influence of Psycho and Peeping Tom in 1960 and then leap to 1978 with the release and success of Halloween. Yes, Halloween is probably the single-most important slasher film ever made. But there was a lot that led up to Halloween. Take, for instance, the rise of the exploitation film after the success of Psycho, which led to the creation of the splatter genre - Herschell Gordon Lewis' extra gory features from the mid-60s and early 70s, such as TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! and THE GORE-GORE GIRLS. There was also the original "babysitter in peril" flick, FRIGHT, which certainly had an influence on later films like WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and, of course, Halloween.

The documentary mentions THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but glances over their impact. Both of these movies had a tremendous impact. They spawned their own imitations such as DERANGED, DON'T GO IN THE BASEMENT, EATEN ALIVE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, among countless others.

Even Black Christmas does not get its rightful due. John Carpenter has admitted that without Black Christmas, Halloween would never have been made. In fact, Halloween originally started out as a sequel to Black Christmas before it took its own story and form.

What the documentary does best is document the actual slasher film craze that ran after the success of Halloween in 1978, boomed with the success of Friday the 13th and PROM NIGHT in 1980, and then died out in 1983 and 1984 with films like SLEEPAWAY CAMP and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

The filmmakers behind Going to Pieces do know their material. They definitely are not hacks. But they also don't have enough time to really make the movie they must have originally set out to make. The film is half the length it should have been. Rather than barely being an hour and a half long, Going to Pieces should have been at least a two and a half hour documentary, maybe even a three hour documentary. There is simply so much history with the slasher genre and its major contributions - and the stories behind them - that any filmmaker needs to have the necessary time to explore the genre in full.

I mean, really, while Scream certainly got its segment, they completely glossed over the post-Scream slashers, only showing a photo from I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. Whether people like it or not, the post-Scream slasher films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and URBAN LEGEND are apart of the genre's history now. There is no mention of slasher revivals like HALLOWEEN H20 and BRIDE OF CHUCKY (speaking of Chucky, where is the entire CHILD'S PLAY saga in this documentary?).

It would have also been nice to look at the continuing of the franchise - it has now been broken down into four different groups; foreign hardcore slasher films like HIGH TENSION and COLD PREY, straight to DVD films like AMUSEMENT and THE HILLS RUN RED, torture porn like the Saw franchise and HOSTEL, and of course the remake craze like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and HALLOWEEN.

It's not that Going to Pieces is in any way a bad documentary on the slasher genre, it's just that its not a complete one. But for your viewing, its probably the best one out there.

Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
American Grindhouse (2010)
The American Nightmare (2000)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


In Antonio Bido's murder mystery, THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW, a standard giallo mystery is told, with little effect of differentiating itself from the rest of the genre. Years ago, a young schoolgirl was found strangled to death in a meadow on the outskirts of a small Italian villa. In the present, a young university student named Stefano (Lino Capolicchio, from THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS) returns to the villa, his hometown, to visit his older brother, Don Paolo (Craig Hill, from ALL ABOUT EVE) who is now the town's priest.

Shortly after Stefano's arrival, Don Paolo witnesses a murder outside his window. When he goes with police and Stefano to investigate, not body is immediately found... until later. The victim, it turns out, was a local outcast woman who performed seances with some of the town's most hated and feared residents - including a local homosexual pedophile (Massimo Serato, of DON'T LOOK NOW), a gambling addicted doctor (Sergio Mioni, of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC) and a woman known for performing abortions (Juliette Mayniel, of EYES WITHOUT A FACE). Don Paolo and Stefano investigate the murder and the suspects, with the help of another young student named Sandra (Stefania Casini, from SUSPIRIA).

The Bloodstained Shadow is by no means a great entry in the giallo genre, but it is also by no means a horrible edition, either. It is classier than a lot of the later films to come out of the giallo film movement (most films after DEEP RED tended to toss in more sleaze and gore than plot), but it also lacks a lot of originality and suspense.

The main draw to the film, like many Italian movies made during this time, is the scenery. Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. In The Bloodstained Shadow you get to look at the city of Venice and all the canals that go along with it, as well as the vast country and rolling hills set against the bright, blue skies. Venice is not quite as gothic and foreboding as it was in Don't Look Now, but it still is presented in an eerie light that adds to the appeal of the film's atmosphere. The little town itself is quite awesome to look at - the perfect type of place to either retire or, in this case, being a gloved murderer.

The atmosphere is the main draw to The Bloodstained Shadow, and while its impressive cinematography is certainly a draw, it also comes with a couple of dull moments. There are sequences that seem to branch off from the core of the story just to add some kind of social commentary, but rather than making a point about Italy's justice system the film seems to have a few tacked on sequences that don't seem to work. For instance, one of the film's main red-herring's is wrongfully accused and then beaten to death by townsfolk - yet survives - only to crawl up a hill and die in an overly dramatic, overly long set-piece.

While the aforementioned scene is probably the most violent in the film (flesh tearing and beatings that would make Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava proud), there are some creative kills - including a sword through the chest, burning someone's face in a fire, a heart in a sacristy, and of course a chase involving the killer, a victim, and two boats in Venice.

Much of the film is blatantly borrowed from previous films in the genre, including those of Fulci, Bava, and of course Dario Argento - from its Deep Red-inspired soundtrack to the structure of the film to the mystery behind it, much of The Bloodstained Butterfly is a rehash of older works. But that should sort of be expected, considering the film was released in 1978 - several years after the 1970-1974 golden age of the giallo genre.

Hardcore fans of the genre will definitely get a kick out of this movie, but casual viewers might find it to be a little dated. It's a shame that The Bloodstained Shadow falls under the shadow of better-known giallo's like Deep Red, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA, and DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING. Because, at the end of the day, The Bloodstained Shadow is a worthy effort. But it's just not a great effort.

Don't Look Now (1973)
Don't Torture a Duckling (1971)
Deep Red (1975)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Top 30 - Part 3/3: No. 10-1

A list counting down the top 30 movies belonging to the slasher, splatter, or giallo genres. Most of these films are essential viewings for anyone who calls themselves a fan of the genres, and each of these movies brings something unique to the table - whether it is through its plot, style, execution, or nostalgic interest. Sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and spin-offs are not on the list - only the original vehicle material... except for Friday the 13th Part 2, which I consider to be an original of the series (and the first film, to me, is simply a prequel to the Jason-saga started in Part 2).

10. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
Director: Steve Miner
An unknown assailant disguised by a white hood stalks and kills camp counselors staying at a camp nearby Camp Crystal Lake, a.k.a. "Camp Blood", where murders occurred five-years before.

09. THE BURNING (1981)
Director: Tony Maylam
After being horribly burned by a prank gone wrong, a former camp counselor seeks revenge on the teens who disfigured him, who are now the lead counselors at a summer camp.

08. DEEP RED (1975)
Director: Dario Argento
A musician sees the murder of a famous psychic and must team up with a feisty reporter to solve the mystery while evading the killer's strikes on their own lives.

Director: Wes Craven
In the dreams of his victims, a child murderer - brandishing horrible burns, razor sharp knives for fingers, and a green and red sweater - stalks the children of the lynch mob that killed him.

06. SCREAM (1996)
Director: Wes Craven
A killer is murdering teenagers, and an offbeat group of friends use their knowledge of horror movie cliches to try and survive the danger while also attempting to solve the mystery.

Director: Georges Franju
Accompanied by his assistant, an insane but brilliant doctor murders young women throughout the country, hoping to use their faces to preserve the beauty of his now deformed daughter.

Director: Tobe Hooper
After hearing reports of grave robbing in rural Texas, five friends set out to make sure their relative's grave is in tact and encounter a chainsaw wielding maniac and his cannibalistic family.

Director: Bob Clark
During Christmas break, sorority sisters receive increasingly threatening phone calls from a madman who is already inside their house.

02. PSYCHO (1960)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
A woman embezzles $40,000 from her employer and flees town, eventually staying at a quiet motel run by a shy young man and his dominating mother.

01. HALLOWEEN (1978)
Director: John Carpenter
15-years after killing his sister, a psychotic murder escapes from his mental hospital and returns to his hometown to relieve his original murder over and over and over.

The Top 30 - Part 2/3: No. 20-11

A list counting down the top 30 movies belonging to the slasher, splatter, or giallo genres. Most of these films are essential viewings for anyone who calls themselves a fan of the genres, and each of these movies brings something unique to the table - whether it is through its plot, style, execution, or nostalgic interest. Sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and spin-offs are not on the list - only the original vehicle material... except for The Devil's Rejects, which I consider to be so vastly different from the original film - HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES - that it works as a canon film in its own right).

20. THE PROWLER (1981)
Director: Joseph Zito
Hell-bent on re-living a 35-year old murder, a killer dressed in World War II Army fatigues stalks and kills a group of college students trying to bring back the long lost tradition of the town Spring Dance.

Director: Robert Hiltzik
Painfully shy orphan Angela Baker and her cousin Ricky are sent away to a summer camp by their bizarre Aunt, and soon after their arrival some of the camp's nastier tenants start having grueling "accidents."

Director: Jim Gillespie
One year after covering up a hit-and-run, four teenagers find themselves being terrorized by a mysterious figure who knows the crime they committed... and wants justice served with the tip of a hook.

Director: Massimo Dallamano
A teacher having an affair with one of his students witnesses a murder, and as more bodies pile up the teacher begins his own investigation, leading him to believe that he may be the reason behind the killings.

16. MANIAC (1980)
Director: William Lustig
Troubled by childhood abuse from his sadistic mother, a psychotic goes on a killing spree across New York, all while starting up a relationship with a beautiful young photographer.

Director: Rob Zombie
The villainous Firefly clan, responsible for dozens of murders at their Texas farmhouse, outrun the law - in particular the crazed Sheriff Wydell, who is hell-bent on revenge for his brother's death.

Director: Dario Argento
After witnessing a murder attempt, an American writer staying in Rome is stalked by a serial killer and must solve the mystery behind the crimes before he becomes the next victim.

13. PEEPING TOM (1960)
Director: Michael Powell
Set in London, a young man murders women throughout the city, capturing their dying moments on film with his camera.

12. CHILD'S PLAY (1988)
Director: Tom Holland
A vicious murder is blamed on a young boy claiming his doll committed the crime, and his mother and a determined cop team up and realize the boy may be telling the truth.

Director: Lucio Fulci
A reporter and a troubled heiress attempt to solve a series of grisly child killings that have spread panic across a small Italian village.