Stupid cinema nightmares

We actually own a television now, installed right in our living room. In the past, I’ve gotten by with an adapter for my laptop that lets me see the occasional interesting program, but now I can actually tune in to cable stations and flip through what’s being broadcast. It has not been a worthy effort, since most of what’s being shown is dreck.

So I turned to the video store for DVDs. When I want to slack off, I’ve long been a fan of science fiction and horror movies — I grew up in the days of Hammer Films and Vincent Price and many of the cheesy classics of old school SF and creature features, and that kind of entertaining story telling is what I look for in my light entertainment. So I was rather disappointed in my browsing to discover what passes for a horror movie nowadays: an entirely predictable plot with no character, each new movie vying with each other to achieve greater and greater levels of violent torture, usually of young, attractive women, and no genuine creativity at all.

I have to agree with Trish Wilson: these movies aren’t horror or thriller movies at all, they’re torture porn. What is wrong with people that sexuality has been jumbled up with the idea of the graphic inflection of mindless torment on women? Who wants to see a movie that consists of nothing but scenes of humiliation and pain and that always seem to celebrate the monstrous rapist/murderer as some kind of franchise hero?

Trish mentions an excellent example of a movie that does mix sex and horror in an interesting and genuinely frightening way: Cat People, which really does express a terrifying conflict without degrading people as a matter of course. Where are those interesting horror movies nowadays? Any recommendations? I don’t want to see Rob Zombie’s crap or any of those one-word gore-fests like Saw or Hostel or Captivity.


  1. spondee says

    El Orfanto (The Orphanage)

    It’ll scare the pants off you and make you cry. And nobody is sexualized.

    Rent it!

  2. Azdak says

    Well, there’s that whole genre of religious horror — y’know, where the main character is now a arrogant unbeliever due to some awful event in their recent past (because faith is unshakable unless you experience some sort of deep trauma, amirite?). And then supernatural events conspire to make a fool of the pride-filled science-lover. Those movies are awesome.

    Wait, did I say ‘awesome?’ I meant mind-numbingly dull. And depressing.

  3. Ploon says

    Stephen King’s The Mist should be right up your alley. Including crazy fundy lady and lots of tentacles (can’t say more).

    Other than that I find horror movies to be laughable rather than scary. I like the post-apocalyptic kind of stuff. 28 Weeks Later was pretty good, but stay away from I Am Legend. Actually, I’d advise you to look into British movies and not waste your time on anything too Hollywoody (when is Evil Dead 4 coming anyway?).

  4. Snitzels says

    I was just saying this very thing the other day to a friend. He has many “horror” films, but all of them are simply snuff movies, like Saw and Hostel. I rented “I know who killed me” the other night, thinking it would be something cool and spooky and about vomited. The plot was vaguely more interesting than most, but it was pretty predictable for the most part. And of course there were excessive and graphic torture scenes that were just about enough to make one sick. It’s quite difficult to find any kind of horror flick that isn’t just about that, but I think the best I’ve seen have been things like the Ring and Grudge and Signs, where there’s a bit more mystery.

  5. Eric Paulsen says

    I haven’t seen a good horror movie since I was a tween so I’m afraid I can’t help. I quit watching the so called “horror” genre years ago because all it manages to do is disgust me, not so much at the gore, but at the lack of imagination. Scariest movie I saw in the last decade was probably ‘an inconvenient truth’.

  6. texaskeptic says

    By all means check out the Korean movie “The Host”. It has everything your looking for- a good story, wonderfully quirky characters, real tension and its a fun film. This movie is everything that “Cloverfield” wasn’t. Definitely worth a watch.

  7. Peter says

    Wait, Hammer Horror. Sex and death.

    With the Christopher Lee and the ample boobed ladies who swoon when he bites their necks?

    Um, I quite liked Silent Hill. It’s mostly sex-free apart from the penultimate scene, which is a bit poor.

  8. Ploon says

    Oh, and if you really want a good scare: try The Ring and sequels. Scariest stuff I ever saw. The Grudge wasn’t bad either. But be sure to watch the original Japanese version if you can get your hands on it; the Hollywood remakes were rubbish.

  9. Architeuthis says

    Straying away from movies, the show Psych on the USA network actually mocks the psychic detective genre. While never directly calling psychics a fraud, they treat the subject with the appropriate level of respect. Plus, the characters are fun, witty and the “sidekick” Burton Guster (played by Dule Hil from the West Wing) is a complete and total science/ grammar nerd.

    It’s well written, witty, smart and full of excellent 80’s references. I’m sadly addicted to the show, and other than the discovery channel, that’s my cheesy show pick.

  10. Giskard says

    Two horror films that took me by surprise with how good they were. Candyman and Jeepers Creepers.

  11. says

    Black Sheep, Slither, Teeth (sex and horror, yay!), Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and The Orphanage have been my favorite “fun” horror movies of the past year or two. The adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist received some mixed reviews but I quite liked it. I was not so taken with South Korea’s The Host which was billed as a sort of Jaws for that country, but many people really enjoyed it. Diary of the Dead, George Romero’s latest zombie-fest, was simply, just barely, okay.

    The Descent and the French Inside are my favorite horror movies of late, but they’re very intense, bloody and relentless; not so much “fun” as “exhausting.” Not “torture porn” per se, but nothing like Hammer, Price, or the terrific old Val Lewton flicks.

    But the best recent fun horror movie to beat is still Shaun of the Dead.

  12. Prof MTH says

    Silent Hill, based upon a video game, is scary and no sexualization. It includes fundie wing nuts. The game series is one of my favorites.

    Cat People, the original version, was not intended as a horror film. It was a commentary on the sexual repression/demonization of women by a misogynistic society.

  13. Vernon Balbert says

    I heartily recommend 1408. Based on a Stephen King short story (which as almost no resemblance to the original) it is, to me, one of the best horror films in a long, long time. John Cusack is fantastic in it. A tad predictable a couple of times, it’s still a great ride.

  14. says

    What do you expect with the torture porn. Our culture raises people to believe that sex is both icky, corrupting, and frightening. It was just a matter of time before some people went all the way on the sexy = scary path and just started mixing the two into one sick lump of awful.

  15. says

    I agree, the quality of horror has really suffered. Ju-On (Japanese version of the grudge) is about the best I have seen in the last few years. It uses plot and mood to frighten, not buckets of fake blood and guts. You should check it out, the director is a master of building suspense, very much like Hitchcock.
    I Am Legend is a smart zombie flick, and so is Shawn of the Dead.
    Cloverfield wasn’t without its own charm, and much better by comparison than most of the crap out there.
    Sci-fi however is dead.

  16. Caliban says

    Well, it’s a bit old now, but the Lovecraft inspired movie “Dagon” is about a backwater Spanish fishing town whose residents sacrifice their humanity to become creepy fish people courtesy of Dagon from the sea.

    It’s a fun romp although there is one very nasty scene where an old man has his face peeled off. That part is gross. But otherwise, it’s a very fun, “true” monster movie.

  17. says

    Also, don’t know how much luck you’ll have renting this stuff at a local video store; your best bet is probably Netflix or Greencine.

  18. Michael says

    It says something disturbing about how little horror films are censored for violence when they go to cable (the Chill channel is a good example), but every hint of nudity or profanity is quickly excised.

    Same for regular theatrical releases. A movie shows a bit of graphic simulated sex in a romantic situation? NC-17. That same movie doesn’t show nudity but the guy guts the woman and dances around in her entrails? Oh that’s a good solid R. Bring the kids, they have popcorn.

    This Movie Is Not Yet Rated is a good example of how messed up the MPAA and movie censors are when it comes to depicting sex and/or violence in film. Total facepalm all the way through.

  19. Qwerty says

    Except for making the sign of the doughnut, “Mars Attacks!” was a piece of crap.

    The last horror movie I saw was “Young Frankenstein.” I’ll only recommend it if you have never seen it is more of a comedy as Mel Brook’s was spoofing the Universal Studio’s “Frankenstine” movies of the 30’s.

    My favorite line: “Hearts and kidneys are tinker toys; we’re talking about the central nervous system!”

    I still remember watching cheesy horror movies as a kid like “13 Ghosts” (not the recent remake but the 50’s original) and the Japanese film “Rodan, the Flying Monster” and many other Saturday matinees.

    I still remember that for “13 Ghosts” you were given paper glasses with blue and red lenses. If you wanted to see the ghosts, you were suppose to use the blue lens, if you didn’t, the red. You were threatened to use the glasses or the ghosts would follow you home. Well, I cheated, and the ghosts were all a reddish tinge color which disappeared when using the red lens. Very creative and hooky!

  20. SC says

    A few random observations:

    1. I can’t think of a single one myself. I’ll check out people’s recommendations.

    2. I like good blog posts with academic references and cool stingray ads.

    3. Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman refers in an interesting way to Cat People.

    4. My favorite line from Psych: when he says to Gus “Oh, don’t be such a gloomy you.” Cracked me up. :)

  21. says

    #8: I sleep now!

    Yes, I heartily recommend Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, not for horror but because it’s a hilarious romp through 1950s-esque sci-fi silliness.

    For horror, and I mean real horror as opposed to mindless gore, I usually recommend original Japanese films like Ringu and Ju-On and the One Missed Call series, things that have been remade in the U.S., but done very badly. The Host, as previously mentioned, was also good. The nice thing about most Japanese horror films, as well as some Korean ones, is that they still recognize that horror is supposed to be scary, as opposed to American films which are date movies intended to provide enough jumps so your girl grabs your arm.

    A good horror film isn’t there to gross you out, it’s there to make you afraid something is under the bed waiting to get you hours, if not days after you see it.

  22. Heimdall says

    While I don’t disagree at all – I doggedly avoid the torture porn myself – I can’t help but think that you should have added a little extra curmudgeon to your post and said something along the lines of “What’s the matter with these kids today? Dagnabit, back in my day, we understood how to make a horror movie! And for a nickel, you could buy your ticket, a tub of popcorn, a large drink, candy, and still have change left over for a trip to the malt shoppe!”
    But seriously, yeah, torture porn is deeply disturbing.
    Even worse, in their own way, are the PG-13 adaptations of Japanese movies that rely on cheap “Boo! Ha ha, made you jump!” tactics to make up for what they lack in gore.

  23. Matt7895 says

    PZ, try ‘The Descent’.

    Personally I’m more into epics, sci-fi, fantasy and action films… I don’t know too much about horror. ‘The Descent’ is the only horror film I have, but it is very good.

  24. Sven DiMilo says

    I can’t relate to all you epinephrine junkies anyway. I’m a parasympathetic guy, all the way.

  25. Christiaan says

    Totally agree, most ‘horror’ movies are just formulaic and full of flat characters. (Except The Ring, which was pretty good.)

    I think you might like Santa Sangre (Holy Blood), if you can find it. I can’t remember a lot about it, but it’s full of symbolism and Salvador Dali-esque moments, and it was pretty scary.

  26. says

    Haha! I agree on “Shaun of the Dead.” F-ing hilarious.

    I’ve only seen the American versions of “The Ring” and “The Grudge” but they were terrifying. The only movies that actually properly scared me.

  27. LADave says

    Guillermo del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone” (El Espinazo del Diablo) A spooky ghost story set in a grim orphanage during the spanish civil war.

    Also by him is the sublime “Pan’s Labyrinth” spooky fantasy mixed with grim war reality. amazing.

  28. rrt says

    No offense Snitzels, but aside from some clever humor and suspenseful “moments,” Signs was awful. The recurring core plot thread was, at the very least, nevermind some glaring technical plausibility problems.

    ‘Fraid I don’t have ideas for what PZ wants, though I do remember seeing part of a teen werewolf B movie somewhere that looked smarter than usual…maybe on scifi channel? Blanking on the name though, and most scifi channel stuff is junk.

    Can’t miss a chance to plug Sean of the Dead, though.

  29. rrt says

    No offense Snitzels, but aside from some clever humor and suspenseful “moments,” Signs was awful. The recurring core plot thread was, at the very least, nevermind some glaring technical plausibility problems.

    ‘Fraid I don’t have ideas for what PZ wants, though I do remember seeing part of a teen werewolf B movie somewhere that looked smarter than usual…maybe on scifi channel? Blanking on the name though, and most scifi channel stuff is junk.

    Can’t miss a chance to plug Sean of the Dead, though.

  30. OhioBrian says

    I loved The Ring, and I also liked The Others, though that one was so non-violent that it would barely qualify as a horror movie.

    I had high hopes for The Host, since I had heard such good things about it, but . . . meh. Too much cultural distance, maybe.

    I Netflixed The Fog a couple of months ago — pretty good. What I thought was the creepiest scene, the trick with the plank in the radio station, was in full, broad daylight. That’s a pretty good stunt right there.

  31. Scott says

    Maybe it’s not so much horror, but… “Pan’s Labyrinth” is good. It actually uses violence artfully.

  32. Steve says

    The Mist has gotten some negative publicity, but I thought it was all right. I really hate goreno. Sex and violence mixed together are not my thing…

  33. Frac says

    You must visit “”.

    Lots of legitimate public domain “so good they’re bad” movies, and some real pristine gems.

    “A Boy and His Dog” and “Metropolis” are on there, for example.

  34. Matt says

    I’d also like to back up ‘The Devil’s Backbone’. It is more of a spooky ghost story than straight out horror, but it’s very good.

  35. says

    I second the Japanese version of The Ring. For that matter, if you want good horror, then a lot of the stuff coming out of Asia in general is pretty damned good. Probably not quite horror, but Battle Royale is a pretty wierd plot that works well (not as well as the manga, or the orginal story, but it’s still pulled off quite well). R-Point is also pretty good.

  36. Rheinhard says

    Damn! I was all looking forward to jumping in and lookin’ all smart and hip and artsy by recommending the awesome “El Orfanato” (The Orphanage), which only saw release in “art” theaters for a short time, and spondee@3 beat me to it!!

    But seriously, you’ve now got 2 recommends for the film in this thread. That should say something. And my buddy whom I dragged to this film, who doesn’t care for ghost stories, thought it was one of the most touching and sweet things he has ever seen, while being scary at the same time.

    I also recommend “The Host” – mainly because it defies nearly every single “bug hunt” monster movie trope. We get to see the monster in broad daylight among crowds of people in the first 15 minutes of the movie or so! Very few of the “Oh that girl’s really cute, and that kid’s really young, so they’ll live” characters actually do. Anything that has you asking “Wait! Can they *do* that?” is a good thing!

  37. says

    This is not a new movie at all, but if you can be patient enough, try “Les Diaboliques.” So far as thrillers go, it’s very good. I also like “Perfect Blue,” which is newer, but that’s an anime, so it may not be your thing. I also want to anti-recommend “Gothika” – that movie made me so very sad for everyone involved. I found the twist in the U.S. version of
    “The Ring” to be 110% predictable, so much so that I was honestly surprised when they tried to pass it off as a twist (sort of like the twist in “Atonement,” actually), but maybe you won’t see it coming.

  38. ddr says

    Buba Hotep. Bruce Campbell plays the real Elvis who is now in an old folks home. Then a life stealing mummy starts killing people off and he has to do something about it. Good flick.

    Shaun of the Dead. Slackers have to fight zombies.

  39. SC says

    I can’t relate to all you epinephrine junkies anyway. I’m a parasympathetic guy, all the way.

    I’m curious – would you agree with this?:

    Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies human sexuality and love, said that there is a tie between fear and sexual arousal.

    (I’ll reserve comment.:))

  40. Matiss says

    I had a number of ideas, and, of course, they’ve pretty much all been mentioned already. I’ve felt like I have to go to the foreign films for any decent horror these days. Ringu, Ju-On, The Host, The Orphanage, all are pretty darn awesome. The original Funny Games is terrifying..and, perhaps, the most difficult-to-watch movie I’ve ever seen. I also liked the original version of The Eye, which, while creepy, is considerably less sinister, than, say, Ringu.

    I have mixed feelings about strays a little close to the torture porn, or something similar, for my tastes.

  41. 2-D Man says

    It’s not really horror, and it’s not a movie, but you might like the TV show “Dexter” if you haven’t seen it. It’s about Dexter (surprise!) who’s a blood-spatter analyst for a CSI unit in Miami[?] (It’s not cheesy, like CSI, though; they use plausible investigation techniques and it isn’t a constant DNA-test fest.). Oh, and Dexter also happens to be a serial killer who hunts down various serial criminals.

  42. Eric Paulsen says

    I forgot about a movie I saw (and liked) called “Ravenous” with Guy Pierce, about cannibalism in a civil war era outpost. I can’t call it pure horror because parts of it were pretty funny, but it kept me glued to the scren.

  43. says

    ‘Resident Evil’ was very good, I wouldn’t touch ‘Signs’ or ‘The Ring’, they were absolute crud. I did like The Others, more ghost than horror but a good movie. Then there’s ‘I Am Legend’, which has an older version with Vincent Price lurking around (what else is a Vincent Price flick going to do but lurk?).

    I thought ‘Darkness Falls’ was pretty good (I know some peeople who loathed it) and ‘Wrong Turn’ had me hiding behind a cushion.

    For real horror, check out these:

    Warning! You may wish to remove your own eyeballs after viewing! Warning!

    I think you may find this request if very much a cat amongst the pigeons as your readers argue what constitutes a good horror movie, PZ! :D

    Oh, and The Handmaid’s Tale was quite disturbing. I understand the book is better, but I haven’t dug it out yet.

  44. Ploon says

    Matiss #63:

    Funny Games is hard to watch? Oy. I’ve got Funny Games US waiting for me at home. I’m not sure now whether I want to watch it. Is it worse than Irreversible? That was a real stomach churner for me.

    Oh yeah, I second The Others. The Orphanage left me more or less cold, funny enough, but I really liked Pan’s Labyrinth.

  45. Julian says

    There’s a Japanese film, equally gruesome, that turns this whole dynamic on its head titled, I think, Audition. You wouldn’t think a psychotic ballerina could be frightening, but you’d be wrong. Though Audition is about as far from the Hammer Films as the current batch of torture porn is.

    If you want to see something quirky, kitschy, and fun, I’d recommend The Lost Skeleton of Dr. Cadavera . It might be difficult to find, but it’s most certainly worth it. There’s another movie made by the same group titled Invasion of the Screaming Brains (I think), but I haven’t seen it yet, so I couldn’t tell you if it’s worth the viewing.

  46. bernard quatermass says

    The Dutch (?) film Spoorloos (aka The Vanishing but avoid the US remake even though the original director made it) is in some ways an exploration of evil like those “torture porn” films fake being, but is infinitely more subtle and, to my mind, terrifying. Highly recommended, though it’s psychological thriller as opposed to horror.

    It’s not exactly new, either … ca. 1988 I think.

  47. Azdak says

    Silent Hill, based upon a video game, is scary and no sexualization. It includes fundie wing nuts. The game series is one of my favorites.

    Cat People, the original version, was not intended as a horror film. It was a commentary on the sexual repression/demonization of women by a misogynistic society.

    Silent Hill looks fantastic — great visuals, but the story is pretty insipid. Plus, while it does have fundies, it also feels like it embraces the standard Hollywood supernatural worldview, which is frustrating.

    If you’re looking for a horror film that turns the standard sexuality paradigm on its ear, Ginger Snaps is interesting, if not terribly subtle.

    And I will also endorse the recommendations for Pan’s Labyrinth and Shaun of the Dead, though I’m not sure I’d necessarily call them horror, per se.

  48. Michael Heath says

    Netflix is a killer app for the discriminating viewer, including tons of great documentaries.

  49. 300baud says

    PZ, you’re obviously a fan of “B” movies, but you are watching “pop” movies. And then complaining about it. Stop that.

    I disagree with your assessment of Rob Zombie’s movies, but if you’ve been away from media for a while it’s not surprising that you’d get distracted and miss the art.

  50. Francine DuBois says

    Funny that a group of generally anti-supernatural individuals seem to be seeking generally supernatural sources of horror… does that make more it comfortable maybe? The moment I find out that a magical ghost or sexy vampire is involved in the plot, a film becomes downright silly to watch. I want to actually be creeped out.

    Personally, I find depictions of human-on-human violence much more horrific, due to actual possibility. Broadly cast a label of “torture porn” on films fitting this description and you might miss some greats.

    If you’ve seen “Saw” or “Audition” (two of my favorite suspense/horror/cringe-inducers) and think either of them can accurately be described as simply “violent torture, usually of young, attractive women, and no genuine creativity at all,” then you weren’t paying attention.

  51. Matt says

    Scream and Scream 2 are also worth watching. They are intentionally ironic and a sort of lampoon of the slasher genre, but they are also serious enough to avoid being farcical.

  52. says

    In order, I’d recommend:

    The Devil’s Backbone was good (by Guillermo Del Toro who also did The Orphanage)

    The People Under the Stairs

    The Descent

    Army of Darkness

    Jeepers Creepers (but not Jeepers Creepers 2)

    Ghost Ship



    House on Haunted Hill


    Penny Dreadful


    And I’d advise against Silent Hill, which I thought was terrible and pointless, but will instead suggest Resident Evil.

  53. Peter Ashby says

    I doubt you will be able to rent it in small town Minnesotta but Peter Jackson’s early oevre Brain Dead is fun alien invasion slash flick.

  54. says

    Count me among those who enjoyed and recommend The Host. Actually, I saw it during an all-night movie marathon, which makes any movie better, but I’d say it was good anyway.

    Sunshine, on the other hand, I’m not sure I’d bother with watching under any other circumstance. It’s not so much that the horror part only got going in the third act, but rather that I had to make too many successive suspensions of disbelief in the opening. You’d think the Mission to Save Earth would be crewed by competent astronauts. . . .

    (And how can their ship be out of communication with Earth when we’re getting digital photos from MESSENGER?)

  55. says

    Honestly, I think horror is doing just fine right now, but you gotta dig a little bit. The torture porn and the remakes like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween get all the press, but even going back a few years, there’s the Lovecraft adaptation Dagon and the teenage girl/werewolf Ginger Snaps (both with a cool sex/horror element), Dog Soldiers and Ravenous. All smart, scary, bloody good fun.

  56. confuseddave says

    IMHO, the best horror film I’ve ever seen was The Eye by the Pang Brothers. Was recently rehashed into a truly awful american remake, but the original is well worth seeing.

    There are very few films I tire of seeing over and over again, and the only one in the horror genre is the Eye.

  57. SC says

    One movie that I, as a claustrophobic person, found horrifying and not at all sexy was Germinal. It made the life of a miner look unimaginably awful. (Stupid portrayal of anarchists, but that’s Zola.)

    I was kind of disappointed with Pan’s Labyrinth, but I think my expectations may have been too high. I’m planning to watch it again.

  58. says

    May I suggest “The eye”? I think it came out of Hong Kong.
    Anyhow, my wife was taking me to watch “My big fat Greek wedding” but it was sold out so we plumped for this. Oh my… I wanted my money back afterwards based on the fact that I’d had my eyes closed and hands over my ears through most of it. Definitely one to give you the jitters (you may never use a lift again) and not a smidgen of smut – that I saw :*)

  59. George C says

    isn’t sex and violence the 2 driving forces of evolution.
    the idividuale that can kill and eat something the best, and /or avoid getting killed and eaten, and still be able to get lucky, pass on their genes.
    Mindless horror films are just biology lessons. they are also cheap and easy to do and make their money quickly.

    personally I can’t stand them, I’m hoping when they make World War Z, they keep the spirit of the book, which was very good.

  60. says

    There’s a Spanish movie called “[REC]” that ticked all the boxes for me – it’s broadly in the ‘survival horror’ genre but managed to cause precisely the sort of chills I used to get from watching Nigel Kneale’s stuff on TV.

    And it’s always worth looking to the east; the Korean movie “A Tale Of Two Sisters” is one of the best horror films I have seen in many, many years, and features almost no violence.

  61. Bill Dauphin says

    I’m not a horror fan at all, so I’m somewhat on the outside of this thread, but I’m reminded of what somebody once told me about sexually transmitted diseases: The distinguishing fact about them is not so much that they are transmitted sexually, but that they’re not transmitted in all the other usual ways.

    By analogy, I can’t help wondering if the distinguishing fact about horror films is not so much that they do use horror as an element, but that they don’t offer much of anything else. I can think of plenty of great movies — The Silence of the Lambs comes to mind as one example &mdash that are plenty horrific, but that I wouldn’t count as “horror films.” FWIW, I wouldn’t call A Boy and His Dog or Young Frankenstein horror films, either.

    PS: I like Psych, too. I expected to hate it, because I’m a big fan of Dule Hill, and thought his work on The West Wing merited something bigger and better than a “goofy sidekick” part. But against all odds, the show works, and I’ve become a fan.

  62. Matt says

    I can’t believe I forgot ‘Silence of the Lambs’! I think it’s more of a thriller than a horror story, but Buffalo Bill really is a scary character, as is that sequence in the pitch dark towards the end…. one of the all-time greats. If you haven’t watched it yet, do so.

  63. says

    RRT@ #46
    Signs was OK if and only if you turn it off 30 mins early.

    Nicole@ #42
    I would highly recommend seeing the Japanese versions. The US versions fell into the Hollywood trap of underestimating their audience.

  64. Thepetey says

    Most scifi and horror films these days are complete dreck.

    Some of the shows I watch are the new Battlestar Galactica (almost off the air), Doctor Who, Stargate Atlantis (though I wonder why sometimes) and Eureka.

    Eureka, I have to say, doesn’t realy have an original idea in any script I have seen. I do like the way the charactyers interact and the way they spin the old ideas together though.

    As for movies – I have become far too jaded.

  65. says

    There’s a recent Spanish movie called “[REC]” that ticked all the boxes for me – it’s broadly in the ‘survival horror’ genre but managed to cause precisely the sort of chills I used to get from watching Nigel Kneale’s stuff on TV.

    And it’s always worth looking to the east; Korea and Japan have produced a lot of interesting, strange and understated horror movies in the last few years. The Korean movie “A Tale Of Two Sisters” is genuinely chilling, and features almost no violence.

  66. Matiss says

    Ploon #69:

    Funny Games is difficult for me to watch by virtue of being suspenseful to degrees I have never encountered before or since…and all while showing virtually no onscreen violence.

    I have not seen Irreversible, though, so I cannot make a particularly meaningful comparison.

  67. says

    Due to an “issue” of mine, “The Orphanage” was absolutely terrifying, and I only made it about halfway through. However, it was extremely well-made, and I’d definitely recommend it. The director always does wonderful work, which is why I rented it in the first place.

    “The Ring” is also quite frightening, and does good things with mood and plotting.

    I’ll also tentatively recommend “The Entity,” because I think it is a very well-done movie, but it does have significant violence against a woman in it– in a nutshell, poltergeist rape occurs, brutalizing and terrifying the main character over a period of time.

    “The Ninth Gate” is also terrific, very well shot, with good acting. It features no gore, and little violence of any kind, but is definitely quite creepy to watch the main character become more and more dark over the course of the movie. If you liked “Rosemary’s Baby,” you’ll dig this one.

  68. Richard Wolford says

    Well, I absolutely love horror, and I agree that most of what Hollywood produces nowadays is simply crap. Anything by Jon Carpenter is usually pretty good, particularly The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and Bodybags (and don’t forget Big Trouble!). I enjoyed the entire Halloween series, yes, even the ill-fated Halloween 3; Rob Zombie’s “remake” of Halloween is so pathetic it isn’t even worth mentioning, including a rape scene that was really pointless. Army of Darkness and the Evil Dead movies are good films, as is Bubba Ho-Tep; Mindwarp is another Bruce Campbell film, but kinda iffy (I liked it).

    If you want to watch some good TV, you may enjoy Heroes. Season one is stunning, but the writer’s strike really killed season two (just watched it all last week).

  69. Geoff says

    Any classic film directed by Jacques Tourneur will do especially I Walked with a Zombie (really stylish and creepy), The Leopard Man, Curse of the Demon (1958).
    Dawn of the Dead (1979) (the remake isn’t too bad)

    Dead of Night (1945)


    Shaun of the Dead (best horror comedy ever!)
    The Uninvited (1944)

    Kwaidan (1965) is a great Japanese collection of ghost stories

    Delicatessen (1991)

  70. ThePetey says

    @#98, DaveX

    I have an “issue” with zombie films; can’t watch them. I have nightmares for weeks.

    Damn my parents for letting me see “Dawn of the Dead” when I was 10 in a Drive In.

  71. nobody says

    Remarkable. Not only do we agree on something, but -for once- you had a valuable insight. “Torture porn”. That’s exactly what this crap is.

    That and the fact that the TV is only good for viewing DVDs.

    Well done, sir.

  72. says

    Japan and Korea both seem to be producing spectacular horror. Ju-on (the Grudge), Ringu (Ring), and Odishon (Audition) are all excellent. I’d strongly suggest you avoid the awful American remakes of the first two, however, as those are absolute crap. Oh, and Odishon does have some torture in it, but I found that largely unrelated to how scary it was.

    I’ve heard great things about the Host, but I haven’t seen it; monster movies just make me giggle. I am a product of a childhood spent watching MST3K, I can’t help it.

  73. Charles says

    One that I haven’t seen mentioned is a small movie called “Dead Birds”. It’s set in a creepy old house during the Civil War. Surprisingly scary, I thought.

  74. SteveM says

    Stay away from A Boy and His Dog or else Harlan Ellison will come to your house yell at you for hours on end. Well, its not bad as long as you cut the very last line of the narration. It was such a cheap line compared to Ellison’s understated original, I can understand his rage.

    I too would like to say that I expected Saw to be just torture and gore porn, but was actually surprised at how little gore there was (relatively) and how much psychological horror there was. Hostel on the other hand, lived up fully to my expectations, so much I couldn’t finish watching it, it was so pointlessly gore for the sake of gore.

    Resident Evil wasn’t bad for a videogame adaptation, but I’m just so tired of zombie movies. There are way too many. Shaun of the Dead was a perfect parody/homage though.

  75. Quiet_Desperation says

    Is it some sort of rite of passage in some circles to declare TV as mostly awful? It seems so cliche.

    It’s *true*, but I think everyone basically knows that? I don’t watch much, but personally I think there’s more decent shows on these days than ever before. And with cable/satellite you have entire channels that show nothing but classic movies.

    Don’t bother with “Cloverfield”

    Each to his own, I guess. I thought it was a rather a clever idea: a monster movie from the “man in the street” perspective. It wasn’t really meant to be a horror movie.

    Some selections. Some of these are really odd, so YMMV.

    “At The Mouth Of Madness” – John Carpenter film based on general Lovecraftian concepts.

    “Brotherhood Of The Wolf” – werewolves

    “28 Days Later” – zombies

    “Prince Of Darkness” – A multimillion year old artifact and Jesus as a space alien. :) John Carpenter again. This one is *really* weird. Alice Cooper has a cameo.

    “Videodrome” – David Cronenberg’s 1983 vision of the dawning information age. Extra awesome provided by the presence of James Woods.

    “The Fly” – Cronenberg’s update of the horror classic. Jeff Goldblum turns in a good tortured soul performance.

    “Nightbreed” – Based on a Clive Barker novella. Notable for the “monsters” presented in a sympathetic manner. Barker directed, but Cronenberg appears in a major role.

    “Hellraiser” – Classic Clive Barker work. The sequels were not as good, although #2 had its moments.

  76. says

    There have *always* been bad horror/SF movies; we only remember the good ones and forget dreck like Billy the Kid vs. Dracula or Earth vs. The Spider or The Killer Shrews (except in an ironic way). I don’t think today is any better or any worse than the “old days.” Anyone who thinks otherwise would do well to read Stephen King’s masterful study of horror in the latter half of the 20th century, Danse Macabre, in which he not only bestows respect and awe upon the classics like The Creeping Unknown but also refreshes one’s memories of turds like, say, The Corpse Grinders.

  77. bernard quatermass says

    “Funny Games is hard to watch? Oy. I’ve got Funny Games US waiting for me at home. I’m not sure now whether I want to watch it. Is it worse than Irreversible? That was a real stomach churner for me.”

    I found Funny Games hard to take less because of the psychological terror — though that is piled on — than because of the director’s reprehensible (to me) screwing with the audience via cheap (to me) meta-film tricks. I felt like I was in a thriller that kept turning into an Adam Sandler movie. At the worst of these moments I literally folded my arms, repeatedly called Michael Haneke a bad name, and almost left theatre. My ex-wife, best friend and fellow film snob is a Haneke fan and insists that this is probably exactly how Haneke wanted me to feel.

    I still think he’s a punk.

  78. says

    Val Lewton was a cinematic genius. I’ve seen all his movies. Cat People and I Walk With a Zombie are two of the best films I’ve ever watched. The Leopard Man was also well done. Right now I’m on a Twilight Zone kick. I hadn’t really understood what made that little show so special when I was younger, but I can really appreciate the skill of the writers now.

    I’m not a big fan of what passes for horror/slasher/torture porn these days either. Give me shivers or chills, not gore. That’s my ideal cinematic treat.

  79. says

    I don’t see violence as horror. Freddie and Jason and the like bore me. It’s a guy in a costume chasing teens. “Alien vs Predator 2” was just another slasher flick. I can appreciate parts of Saw but it gets sympathetic wincing in pain instead of actual fear.

    For stuff that I found unsettling I’d suggest “1408”, “The Others”, the Dr. Who episode “Blink” and “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dance”, and “Ghost Story” with Fred Astaire.

    Mind you, I watched “Airplane” as a kid and it totally freaked me out. People turning to jelly, someone puking up whole eggs, the kid who kept getting her IV yanked out, the woman who people were lining up to smack around… to a 5 year old it was very disturbing.

  80. Etrusque says

    Please, stay away from M. Night Shyamalan.

    A guy (Bruce Willis), doesn’t know he’s a ghost and manages to never ask himself how the hell he enters people’s home without the normal routine of knock-knock-who’s there-it’s me-oh please come and take a seat. (The Sixth Sense)

    In a society all about health care and diseases, a guy lives 40 years or so (Bruce Willis) and only then figures out he’s never been sick. (Unbreakable)

    Cartoonish aliens lethally allergic to water decide to invade planet Earth (71% covered with water), bite humans (body weight 45% to 75% water) and drink their blood (95% water). But they meet their fate during a rain storm. (Signs)

    Could add many other logical flaws for Shyamalan’s more recent movies.

    Sorry for the spoilers, but if they make you or anyone stay away from these crappy pseudo-scientific movies, I’ll be happy.

    They start good, but then they get really hard on one’s suspension of disbelief.

  81. Patricia says

    The movie that scared me half to death was the Wizard of Oz. Laugh all you like, but those flying monkeys were horrible. I had nightmares for weeks.
    The only scary movies I’ve watched as an adult are The Wicker Man and Pan’s Labyrinth. History flicks are my thing.

  82. Isosceles Kramer says

    I’m not really a horror movie aficionado, but I do have a couple of suggestions that go beyond the obvious (like Silence of the Lambs, which should be compulsory viewing).
    1) I like John Carpenter for semi-schlock movies, and one of his that really grabbed me was ‘Prince of Darkness’ (1987). I saw it in the theater, and it got me a few times. It’s got a supernatural religeous theme you may find interesting.
    2) Also, his ‘The Thing’ (1982) is super-intense but is not for the faint of heart.
    3) For traditional vampire movies I liked ‘Fright Night’ (1985)
    I’ll leave it at that. I’ve already horribly dated myself by making three 80’s suggestions…

  83. bernard quatermass says

    Also, PZ, if you are a Hammer guy, you probably know where my posting “handle” comes from. If not, I suggest you seek out The Quatermass Xperiment (aka The Creeping Unknown, with typically subtle US retitling).

    I have long loved this little film. For one thing, it has one of the greater “monster” performances of all time. Actor Richard Wordsworth (great how many times over grand nephew of poet William) has no lines but astounds me every time I watch this thing. Watch in terror as he fights becoming a walking fungus! :^D

    There are other “Quatermass” films, but the only one I’ve seen recently is Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Million Years to Earth), which is fabulous and bears some comparing thematically to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Of course these are more “creepy science fiction” than straight horror …

  84. clamboy says

    Wild Zero.

    Best. Best. Best. Best. Best. Best.


    Rock n’ Roll, aliens, zombies, and love. And shorts. Scary, scary shorts.

  85. Quiet_Desperation says

    Someone mentioned the anime “Perfect Blue” above. Directed by Satoshi Kon who also did the recent “Paprika” which also has a “is the real or a dream” theme running through the film. I thought it fell apart a bit at the end, but it’s worth watching for the visuals and creepiness.

  86. chuck s says

    Here are three latter-day scary movies I have actually enjoyed, and in this genre, I’ve seen most everything:

    The Eye (original version, not the Jessica Alba/American version)

    The Ring (the American version, not the original Japanese version)


    I found those very creepy. Yeh I don’t get the fascination with the torture movies… “SAW” is not scary… it’s just gross. Neither are any of those other “chop people up alive” movies.

  87. Holbach says

    PZ, if you like “Cat People”, you will surely like the sequel, “Curse Of The Cat People”. I like this one better, and if you had not seen it, watch for it, especially on Turner Classic Movies.

  88. William says

    Another vote for Bubba Ho-Tep!

    I’d also recommend ‘The Recycle’, a Hong Kong horror flick that is a little different from the usual.

  89. Kryth says

    I strongly agree PZ. That’s why I mostly watch old black and white ‘horror/thriller’ movies, that are closer to just plain old ‘creepy’ rather than gory. I’m a huge fan of Vince Price’s works. I also enjoy Peter Pushing and Christoper Lee.

    “In the mouth of madness” is another great John Carpenter movie. It’s very Lovecraftian.

  90. bernard quatermass says

    “PZ, if you like “Cat People”, you will surely like the sequel, “Curse Of The Cat People”. I like this one better, and if you had not seen it, watch for it, especially on Turner Classic Movies.”

    Also in this vein, Jacques Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon, based on an M. R. James short story (“Casting the Runes” – James is unbeatable as a ghost story writer) is first-rate, even if Tourneur was pressured by the studio into showing the titular demon more than he wanted.

  91. says

    The “Thief” series of computer games scares me. It’s the only game my parrot pays attention to. She sits on my shoulder making comments, hides behind my head or paces the back of the chair when it gets too creepy, and screams at times.

    One Halloween my decoration was limited to moving my character to the haunted library in “Thief 2” and dropping the speakers out the window. Adults picked up the pace as they passed and kids froze halfway up the path to the door.

  92. Matiss says

    Re #69, 111:

    Oops. I’ve only seen the German version of Funny Games, not the US one, though from most accounts they sound pretty similar. The meta-film bits detracted from the movie for me as well, though I guess I was so caught up in the rest of it that I ignored this.

    Since mention was made of other genres incorporating scariness, what about some of Haneke’s other work, like Caché (Hidden)?

  93. Sven DiMilo says

    I’m curious – would you agree with this?:
    Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies human sexuality and love, said that there is a tie between fear and sexual arousal.

    Would I agree that Dr. Fisher said that? Sure, why not?

    I can only say that it’s not true for me. I’m not interested in fear, dominance, submission, or leather, at all.

    I’m pretty skeptical of any generalizations about “human sexuality;” looks to me like wide variation is the norm. For example, many/most heterosexual men are apparently stimulated by women wearing nothing but high-heeled shoes…this leaves me completely baffled. Take em off, please. Also, I just don’t get the lingerie thing.
    Of course, a sizable proportion of men don’t go for women at all, preferring other men. (insert obligatory “not that there’s anything wrong with that”)
    And then there are the tails of the distribution, where people get off on the shoes themselves, sheep, latex, lunchmeats, etc.
    My sexual tastes are pretty vanilla, I guess: women, naked, barefoot, preferably hair where there’s supposed to be hair, and relaxed. *shrug*
    I don’t doubt that your sexual mileage varies…my point.

  94. says

    PZ, You might like the movie “The Life Aquatic”, while not horror or SF, It does have some of the neatest made up aquatic animals. The crayon seahorse is very cool.

  95. says

    It’s a lot slower then going to the video store… but you have the power to request any DVD/VHS/etc in any library in the state…

    I’m sure you have it already, but the Calamari Wrestler is currently available at the Franklin Library in Minneapolis…you can request that it be sent to the Morris Library.

  96. Christopher says

    Silent Hill is flawed, but has a deeper story; mostly follows the first two video games, and as such there is a level of torture death, but a severe lack of sexuality to it.

    Shaun of the Dead is a very welcome movie, funny and dark. If Romero enjoys it so much he asks the star and director to play zombies in his next movie, they had to have done something well.

    Undead is an Australian take-the-piss-out-of-zombie-films flick. Low budget, but not low in quality. Anyone who instills a John-Woo style of filming a gun battle inside a zombie-infested town solely to show how ridiculous such scenes are enjoys making films.

  97. says

    Jacques Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon, great one! I see it as a what-if: say Carl Sagan met Aleister Crowley, what would happen?!

  98. Nerdette says

    I’m another to recommend “Silent Hill.” My boyfriend insisted I wouldn’t enjoy it due to my tendency to nightmares following massive amounts of bloody death, but I watched it anyway. It’s amazing how easy it is to get over the bloody deaths when fundies are the ones dying. Poetic justice is beautiful.

    This might be a bit dated, but I was genuinely scared through “The Shining”. When they successfully bring the feeling of Stephen King’s books to the big screen, it’s always good. But emphasis on the successfully – I’ve seen many a failure as well -_-.

    I enjoyed the Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. Very sad though.

  99. says

    I can’t agree with others on The Mist. The film, to the extent that it stuck to King’s storyline, was tolerable, but the ending was to me entirely unacceptable. My suspension of disbelief was utterly shattered in the penultimate scene, and everything that followed was simply ludicrous and hollow. The character acted far out of character with his behavior.

  100. stogoe says

    They start good, but then they get really hard on one’s suspension of disbelief.

    They’re Movies. Entertainment. If you’re not completely disengaging your disbelief, you’re doing it wrong.

  101. says

    You picked the wrong movies, PZ.

    Look for “The Others” starring Nichole Kidman, I think you’ll like that one. OhioBrian already mentioned it, and “The Ring.” I didn’t think “The Ring” was as good as “The Others,” but it had a nice surrealistic touch.

    They’re still making good ones, but there is now a lot of cheap crap crowding the shelves and you have to plug into some good review sites to find what you like. They just make a lot more movies these days.

    I liked Clive Barker’s “Lord of Illusions.” Also, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” was pretty good. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (an over the top gore fest, but still with some good characters and suspense). Those are old now though.

  102. Disciple of "Bob" says

    I heartily recommend “Dementia 13” and “Carnival of Souls”. Of course, they’re both 40+ years old, but still…

  103. says

    * Anything by Guillermo del Toro
    * “Buba Hotep” is good
    * The original “John Carpenter’s The Thing”
    * The Cave
    * 30 Days of Night
    * The Hamiltons (cheesy, but I liked it)

  104. bernard quatermass says

    re: #130

    “Oops. I’ve only seen the German version of Funny Games, not the US one, though from most accounts they sound pretty similar. The meta-film bits detracted from the movie for me as well, though I guess I was so caught up in the rest of it that I ignored this.”

    The deal with the US version of Funny Games is that it is (deliberately) a SHOT-FOR-SHOT remake of the Austrian original. The aforementioned ex-wife and Haneke fan has seen both and has confirmed this, though I think (correct me if I am wrong) the original came out before cell phones were popular, so I am not sure about a particular plot point …

    Her descriptions of other Haneke films has made them sound less frightening than intensely depressing. Sometimes I don’t have a problem with that, but these might be dangerous for me to watch in my current frame of mind. :/

    I don’t mean to diss his skill as a filmmaker but the “meta-film-ic” things really ticked me off, tho I didn’t mind the talking to the camera so much, for some reason, as the big moment I think we are both thinking about …

    … but then I am a former stage actor and Shakespeare fan, and talking to the audience just seems kinda natural …

  105. Missus Gumby says

    I agree with the 1982 ‘The Thing’ – it ticks all the boxes.

    As do the second version (1978) of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the original version (1974) of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.

  106. gingerbeard says

    fatal attraction:

    A truly scary horror, as it is plausible. No zombies, no monsters just one really sick twisted stalker. And as I am sure PZ has legions of adoring female fans… all the more realistic.

  107. bernard quatermass says

    I will also throw my hat in for Carpenter’s The Thing, both for its fidelity to the original story and for the prosthetic effects, which still kick the ass of any CGI I have ever seen.

  108. Kryth says

    < whine > Why oh why can’t someone make a descent Lovecraft movie? I absolutely love ‘The shadow of Innsmonth’

  109. SC says

    Would I agree that Dr. Fisher said that? Sure, why not? (sorry)

    I knew I was setting myself up for that, but was too lazy to word the question more clearly.

    I guess I was really asking about your personal preferences more than anything else (I’m curious that way – ask Bill Dauphin – but one of the benefits of my profession is that I can always claim more scholarly motives :)). Thanks for answering.

  110. Tom (the UK one) says

    I worked out a long time ago that if you are reasonably intelligent and over 17, then there ain’t a lot for you in the cinema or the video store. Hint: Lowest Common Denominator.

    By the way, in June I dumped my TV, DVD player and Video Recorder in the local dump – and had great pleasure in doing so. I’m no longer a mindless consumer of advertisements and popular culture. Not that I’m a snob, just that increasingly, watching TV felt like a slap in the face. I was fed up with having my intelligence insulted at frequent intervals.

  111. rd riley says

    You’ve already gotten a ton of suggestions; I’d like to second and make a special pleading for both the Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone. If you want movies that show exactly what hollywood ISN’T doing with “horror” that it could be and should be, those two are your best bet. Spooky, smart, atmospheric, beautifully shot … I could go on. The Spanish clearly have something to teach us about scary movies.

  112. marym says

    Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick are sci-fi with a bit of horror thrown in for good measure. Real horror movies seem to be made in Asia in my opinion, and I agree with all the recommendations for Ringu and the others above.

  113. bernard quatermass says

    I swear my last comment on this fun discussion:


    “Why oh why can’t someone make a descent Lovecraft movie? I absolutely love ‘The shadow of Innsmonth'”

    Stuart Gordon’s Dagon is really mostly “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” The horrifically damp town in Gordon’s film is in Spain and is called “Imboca,” which is really a translation of “Innsmouth.”

    It’s a pretty good little film, and captures more of the Lovecraft atmosphere than many, though the CGI effects toward the end are typically unconvincing. It has one gore scene that you may remember for a long, long time … the old actor to whom this … thing … happens is a veteran of Luis Bunuel films and is nearly incomprehensible throughout, but it doesn’t really matter.

  114. says

    They’re Movies. Entertainment. If you’re not completely disengaging your disbelief, you’re doing it wrong.

    I’ve always felt if you don’t believe what’s on the screen, the *filmmaker* is doing it wrong.

  115. Elaine Ellerton says

    I, too, am saddened by the lack of good horror films. I love non-slasher horror films especially with an element of humor at times. Here is a list of great horror films, unfortunately many are older.

    Newer ones:
    Audition-Japanese and creepy!
    House on Haunted Hill- This definitely has that Vincent Price feel
    The Ring- I like the Japanese ones as well as the American
    28 days later
    The Orphanage
    Cloverfield -This was surprisingly good!

    Oldies but goodies:
    The Haunting-the 1963 version!!!! This is my all time fave.
    The Invasion of the Body Snatcher- 1978 Funny as well.
    Suspiria and Inferno-Dario Argento
    The Changeling-with George C. Scott, long but creepy
    The Amityville Horror-1979
    The Exorcist- if you haven’t seen the director’s cut, you must!
    The Wickerman- the original, not the Nick Cage crap.
    The Shining
    From Beyond-weird, weird and more weird.
    Rosemary’s Baby-got to love Polanski

    Good luck!

  116. says

    American horror has been in a lull for years – Scream was the last really good mainstream one I can think of and that spawned a veritable Niagara of diminishing returns.

    On the other hand, the mid-90s resurgence in schlock monster movies was pretty good in my opinion. The original Anaconda and Deep Blue Sea are fun films in a kind of over-the-top, along-for-the-ride way.

    Other than that, all the best horror seems to be coming from overseas these days. The British zombie films seem to have been covered, I’ll also second the Asian suspense/horror thing – the first few “Ringu” movies are good, “Three… Extremes” has at least two good segments, and Korea’s spawned a whole new genre of twisted numbers like “Oldboy” and “Save The Green Planet!” (neither of which are horror strictly speaking but there’s horror elements in them). If you like those I’d also recommend “R-Point”, a pretty good straight-up ghost story set in the Vietnam war.

    Meanwhile Spain and Italy are keeping the classic-horror torch lit – if you haven’t seen “Cemetary Man” and “The Devil’s Backbone” you are totally missing out. “The Day of The Beast” (aka Dia de la Bestia) is also an all-time horror-comedy classic, which I’m sure you’d love – the main character is an elderly priest who has discovered Satan’s secret plans for the Apocalypse. To save the world, he begins a spree of gratuitous sinning in hopes of meeting the devil and interfering with his plans.

  117. student_b says

    Personally I greatly enjoyed Dragon Head. It’s quite slow (really really slow) at times and very Japanese in its characters and script, but it has a very nice art direction and end-of-the-world theme.

    It’s not really horror per se, but a quite dark end-of-the-world movie, not happy go lucky like The Day After Tomorrow or similar dreck.

  118. Sleeping at the Console says

    Last couple of years I’ve been going through the recent wave of horror from Asia. These are some that I love:

    * Ju-On (I actually enjoyed the American remakes too)
    * Ringu
    * Phone
    * Shutter
    * The Eye (The original)
    * A Tale of Two Sisters
    * The Uninvited (More like psychological drama horror… it’s depressing and unsettling.)

  119. Matt says

    I’d also like to add my appreciation for ‘The Wicker Man’…. the original, Christopher Lee film. Very disturbing, especially the ending.

  120. rob says

    blair witch project
    aliens (skip the other ones, except maybe the last one, 4)
    the omen

  121. GTMoogle says

    I second everything you said, Warren @#138 re: Mist. The director managed to completely obliterate the plot and atmosphere in the last 5 minutes with a badly done cheap plot twist.

    “They’re Movies. Entertainment. If you’re not completely disengaging your disbelief, you’re doing it wrong.”

    If the directory can’t maintain a coherent view where the movie is internally plausible, they’re doing it wrong. As viewers, our agreement to suspend disbelief and accept the limitations of the medium is not an obligation to swallow whatever piece of poorly assembled dreck the director managed to vomit on screen. See: Armageddon

  122. John M. says

    No worthwhile horror + sexuality since “An American Werewolf in London” when what’s-her-name from “The Railway Children” got her kit off.

    I’m really only commenting to help “PZed” (Engl.) towards that magic 1,000,000.

  123. Donald Simmons says

    At the Toronto International Film Festival a few days ago, i saw one of the smartest horror films I’ve seen in ages. It’s Bruce MacDonald’s new movie, “Pontypool”. It takes place almost entirely in the radio station of the small town in northern Ontario during a blizzard, where the station crew has to deal with increaseningly strange reports of *something* happening outside. Best movie I’ve seen in the Festival so far.

    Since it’s Canadian it almost certianly won’t end up in a theatre near you, but look out for the DVD.

  124. Jams says

    I find horror films reflect the prejudices of society at least as much as they reinforce them.

    Men are uncontrollably violent while women are hobbled innocents. Women are spooky and diabolical while men are emotionally crippled and gullible. All tired tropes, but widely held truisms nonetheless.

    The sex and violence marriage is the closest to reality. After all, most of our fears revolve around intimates, as do most incidents of violence. Ask any cop. It’s always the lovers who are at each others throats.

    Anyone remember Killer Condom? Just awful. In a, you know, “why I can’t look away?” kind of way.

  125. says

    Hi PZ,

    Lots of comments already, but if you’re looking for good modern horror, might I recommend:

    Audition (Japanese film I stumbled on as a midnight movie on IFC several years ago that caused me to mark my shorts there at the end)

    Pan’s Labyrinth (Very thoughtful film from Guillermo del Toro)

    Cube (I’ll second previous recommendations. It’s a low-budget Canadian flick ya you betcha but very effective)

    Donnie Darko (bombed at the box office and lost in the post-9-11 shuffle, it’s an early flick with Jake Gyllenhaal)

    Gojira (aka Godzilla. Yeah, it’s 50 years old, but most Americans are familiar with the bizarre re-edited-for-the-West version starring Raymond Burr. Find the DVD that has both versions. It’s well worth your while)

    MirrorMask (not sure if you’d call this horror but it’s a wonder to look at; great soundtrack)

    Perfume (totally weird movie about a pre-Napoleonic Frenchman born with a hypersensitive sense of smell)


  126. octopod says

    #147: Lovecraft movies! I went to a Lovecraft film festival a year or two ago, and I have a few recommendations. In particular, look for “Chilean Gothic” — it’s an adaptation of “Pickman’s Model”. Really quite good. It’s in Spanish, but I think the DVD has subtitles. There also exists a really cute low-production-value version of “Call of Cthulhu” by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

    Moving away from Lovecraft, I’ve also heard good things about “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

    And watch for a movie called “Spike”, if it ever gets any kind of distribution. It’s an indie fantasy-horror flick that won some sort of award at Edinburgh, but has been panned by a lot of horror movie people, apparently because they don’t like anything that deviates from the torture-porn thing you describe. Never seen it myself, but my friend is the director and assures me it’s good. ;)

  127. llewelly says

    What is wrong with people that sexuality has been jumbled up with the idea of the graphic inflection of mindless torment on women?

    Christianity is a torture cult. It teaches that if you think about sex, or have sex, you’ll be tortured. For most men – thinking about sex means thinking about attractive women. Christian men are taught to associate sex with torture from a young age. But they don’t want to be tortured. So the torment they’ve been conned into thinking they deserve is projected onto the attractive women.
    Yes, I said that. I argue that Christianity warps a normal sexuality into a liking of torture porn.

  128. says

    Seconding re The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth emphatically… Gorgeous, both of them, thoughtful, powerful.

    Re others mentioned here: I thought Cloverfield was okay. Not dazzlingly great or anything, but worth the time, I guess. Good concept, reasonably well-realized. Didn’t regret it. Same for the Ring (saw the Japanese one). Good film, decently done. In those two cases, I begin to think the slight disconnect between my perceptions and the critical reaction (raves for the Ring, mixed with some raves for Cloverfield) might be more about the state of cinema than anything else. As in: people are more likely these days to rave when a film’s just good because there are so many, and so many that aren’t even that. Then you watch it, expecting more, and, well…

    As to the stuff PZ just panned, I really can’t comment, apart from to say: has no appeal, haven’t bothered, won’t be bothering.

  129. says


    You’re right, Saw doesn’t deserve to be compared to Hostel. Saw is a tightly-scripted, atmospheric thriller with a genuinely suprising twist. Much more psychological than gorey, the worst violence occurs off-screen. Hostel is just shallow torture porn, there’s no semblance of plot in there.

    The Saw sequels, on the other hand, were dreadful.

  130. Pete says

    I agree with #22


    Take what you said about “Torture Porn” films and turn it on it’s head. Way better than Fatal Attraction.

  131. Eric Paulsen says

    rob – blair witch project

    Seriously Rob?!? That is the film that drove me from the genre! Two hours of sitting in the darkness waiting for SOMETHING interesting to happen only to have the lights come on at the end leaving me FURIOUS. I would rather sit through my second root canal again than sit through the Blair Witch Project, and I’m not kidding.

    A triumph of hype but the movie was a turd of titanic proportions. Sorry.

  132. Nick says

    Got to agree with Spontee about The Orphanage – I don’t know if I’d quite call it a horror movie, but it’s certainly suspenseful, and well characterized. Come to think of it, a lot of Guillermo Del Toro’s movies are. Pan’s Labyrinth is worth watching as well; I think folks around here would appreciate the interplay between the imagined and the real, and how the movie blurs the line through it’s protagonist’s perceptions. Kind of like a darker Calvin and Hobbes.

  133. says

    second, or third, or whatever “Slither”. that was a fun, somewhat goofy movie with the lead from “Firefly” as a small-town sheriff. i LOL’d numerous times, and did a couple “eeks” in a cheesy sort of way.

  134. Joe Hussein Sixpack says

    The original “The Haunting” was mentioned in the Countesses’ article, and I can’t recommend it enough. Watch it and mourn the quality of today’s movies.

  135. Teresa Mahmud says

    Severance was a funny and enjoyable recent’horror’ movie; I also am chiming in for The Changeling with George C Scott. Also, I liked the recent low-key Wind Chill, Bubba Ho-Tep(serious Bruce Campbell fan , add Evil Dead to that), Misery, American Werewolf in London, Near Dark, Alien, The Believers, and the tv version of Salem’s Lot, with that freaky dead kid scratching at the window can still freak me out, just for that moment alone. Oh yeah, The Dead Zone isn’t a horror movie per se, but it’s a great flick, I think.

  136. barbaar says

    I’m and old man now but the scariest movie i saw (for its time and i think for now) was The Innocents.

  137. says

    Thanks for the link and cool post, PZ! It’s great to find other horror movie fans here.

    Some good horror movies are “The Devil’s Backbone”, “The Changeling”, “Dead/Alive” (Peter Jackson put out this gem years before Lord Of The Rings), “Evil Dead” (cheesy but fun), and “Brotherhood of the Wolf”.

    If you can find it, one oddball Japanese horror film is “Uzumaki”. It means “vortex”. It’s about a small coastal town where everyone is suddenly obsessed with spirals. The graphic novels are even more bizarre than the movie. “Uzumaki” is my favorite Asian horror film. Thankfully, no one is remaking it.

    I wrote a related post about all the stupid remakes that are out now, too. I heard there’s even going to be a remake of “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes”. Here’s the post:

    Horror Film Remakes

  138. MPM says

    Oh, I’m forgetting Hard Rock Zombies!

    It’s in the “so bad it’s good” category. Spoilers– the band’s bass player discovers a riff that raises the dead. The entire band is killed but brought back as zombies by a bootleg of their song. They proceed to defeat Hitler with their rock n’ roll.

  139. says

    So the torment they’ve been conned into thinking they deserve is projected onto the attractive women.
    Yes, I said that. I argue that Christianity warps a normal sexuality into a liking of torture porn.

    I think Martin Scorsese expressed this best in his scene in Taxi Driver

  140. eeuropean2000 says

    I don’t watch horror movies because I’m a woos about them and feel that life is too short to watch movies with one’s eyes closed, but I will say one thing — if you turn the sound off, they are not the least bit scary. I discovered this one night while talking on the phone and flipping through channels with the sound turned off. I came across one of the Friday the 13th films — the ones with the guy in the hockey mask. There he was with his axe/spear/chainsaw/nunchuks/food processor/gun, there was the girl bug-eyed and screaming, and it was not at all frightening. It’s the music that does it. I had a friend in the States who called it “the music of impending doom”, and he was very right.

  141. Strider says

    This may have been answered already but which version of “Cat People” are we talking about? Probably the one with Malcolm McDowell and Natasja Kinski. Kinky good stuff and horrific!

  142. Mooser, Bummertown says

    We actually own a television now, installed right in our living room.

    You got took. I can’t quite credit that you didn’t know it would be a waste of money. Can you hook the TV up as a computer monitor, and get some return on your investment?

  143. Stwriley says

    I’ll add only two more to the droves of good suggestions above, only because I didn’t see them and they’re too good to pass up:

    1) Carpenter’s The Thing as possibly the scariest movie with excellent character development you’d every dare to see.


    2) Rodriguez’s Planet Terror which both lampoons and lovingly recreates those old grindhouse zombie pics (and a barbecue sauce recipe, too.)

  144. SC says

    werewolfy-type things

    Well, if we’re gonna talk werewolves, there’s no way I can resist this:

    Best line: “Now that I’m driving, those caribou don’t stand a chance.”

  145. says

    A few of these have been mentioned, but I’ll throw them out anyway (finally discussing a topic I can claim some expertise in).

    “Dagon” (2001)
    Been mentioned by others, but deserving of another shout out. Best straight adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story (“Re-Animator” is great, but doesn’t really count). Also good for your Hammer/creature feature fix.

    “Cube” (1997)
    This is a good place to start for science-fictionish modern horror. A group of people find themselves trapped in a large structure built out of different square rooms. Some of the rooms are safe, others contain deadly traps. With no supplies, they must use deductive reasoning, mathematics and their wits to find their way out. Things do not go well for most of them. Avoid the sequels.

    “Ginger Snaps 1 & 2” (2000, 2004)
    Series of Canadian horror movies about a pair of sisters, one of whom is turning into a werewolf. The films are both smart, as well as atmospheric. The first film finds parallels between the young woman’s lyncanthropy and the physical awkwardness of puberty, while the sequel makes similar comments about drug addiction.

    “I Walked With a Zombie” (1943)
    Looking a little further back now. If you liked the original “Cat People” (I’m not much of a fan of the remake) then this is in the same vein. Another Val Lewton production, it’s basically “Jane Eyre” with voodoo. A remake is scheduled for next year, by the way. I’m not looking forward to it.

    “Onibaba” (1964)
    Japan has been making great horror films for a long time. This is more psychological thriller than horror, for the most part, but it’s one of the creepiest pieces of work ever put to film. All brooding atmosphere and tense emotions, it’s closing scenes are brilliant and iconic.

    I hope these are helpful.

  146. Quiet_Desperation says

    The problem with Silent Hill is that the *games* had better stories.

    I heard there’s even going to be a remake of “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes”. Here’s the post:

    I sometimes wish I had gone into film making. I think it would be fun to take cheesy old B films and remake them into serious works. Sort of like the new Battlestar Galactica.

  147. Mooser, Bummertown says

    We actually own a television now, installed right in our living room.

    You got took. I can’t quite credit that you didn’t know it would be a waste of money. Can you hook the TV up as a computer monitor, and get some return on your investment?

    But you need to be a little careful criticising the dreck on TV. It’s like criticising the Bible about 250 years ago. That dreck is, in the US our common intellectual inheritance, and the highest authourity in terms of how we define and judge ourselves. It is more esteemed than God, and God, at present, can only be aproached or understood through it.

  148. says

    I have to ‘second’ all the recommendations for Bubba Ho-Tep, which is funny, absent of excessive gore, and has great characters. The story is by Joe R. Landsdale and it is directed by Don “Phantasm” Coscarelli.

    Speaking of that author and that director, though, I highly recommend Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, one of the “Masters of Horror” series. It is pretty dark, and has an appreciable amount of violence, but the premise, story and character development are top notch.

  149. says

    Final Destination sucked, almost as bad Cabin Fever.

    Blair Witch Project was a good idea with terrible execution. This is kinda like Sphere, which could have been very frighting, if it were done right.

  150. says

    @Azkyroth #173

    One of my old sigfile lines had to do with Event Horizon:

    “I’ve gone with a bold design choice for the interior of the spaceship.”


    “Meter long spikes.”

  151. Josh West says

    Anyone who said Silent Hill was a good movie must have been watching something different from what I saw.

    Games were SO much better, especially Silent Hill 2.

  152. Jeff says

    PZ, check out 28 days later and 28 weeks later. They are like zombie movies, but instead of being the undead, the people are infected with a virus.

  153. Hank Fox says

    “Dog Soldiers” – British, cheap special effects, excellent acting, interesting story.

    Speaking just for myself, “Event Horizon” was extremely disturbing. I don’t know whether that counts as scary, but … whew.

  154. says

    I hate torture porn too, but there’s some good stuff out there too. (Audition isn’t torture porn exactly, but it’s getting there …).

    I second The Devil’s Backbone (better plot than Pan’s Labyrinth, but not so visually striking) and The Orphanage (not incredibly scary, but very well done). BTW the latter is not Del Toro-directed, only produced.

    The Host was merely okay – more of a creature feature than horror.

    Someone mentioned The Vanishing (original Dutch version!), which I liked (if it hasn’t been ruined for you by the remake’s spoiler-ridden trailer!).

    Ginger Snaps is highly amusing, especially at first (think Wolfen meets Heathers), but the ending is disappointingly conventional.

    I just saw The Call of Cthulhu, which a couple of people have mentioned. It’s a short (47 min) film, a straight treatment of the story done in 20’s-era silent film style, and a stop-motion Cthulhu at the end. Cute.

    Older films: I second the vote for the original Village of the Damned, and the 60’s sequel is weird but interesting. Also Kwaidan, which is gorgeous, and Onibaba. Peter Weir’s early film The Last Wave has some seriously spooky moments too.

    My highest recommendation, though, goes to a film no one has mentioned: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure. He also did the original of Pulse, the remake of which was supposed to suck (I like the original, but Cure is better). A more recent one of his is Retribution, which is also good.

  155. bernard quatermass says

    “Seriously Rob?!? That is the film that drove me from the genre! Two hours of sitting in the darkness waiting for SOMETHING interesting to happen only to have the lights come on at the end leaving me FURIOUS. I would rather sit through my second root canal again than sit through the Blair Witch Project, and I’m not kidding.”

    Blair Witch seems to have been a love it or hate it film.

    I think the one thing it did tremendously well was capture that “we’re out camping in the middle of nowhere and something out there is making extremely weird noises, and we’re in a tent” fear. Maybe it makes no sense to people who didn’t make a habit of camping out a lot? I don’t know.

  156. False Prophet says

    @ #173

    Posted by: Azkyroth | September 9, 2008 1:33 PM

    I’m still pretty fond of Event Horizon.

    I had the same issue Ebert did: the one crewmember yells at Sam Neill, “Did you think you could break the laws of physics and get away with it?” Um, yeah, how dare you break those observed laws of nature that have apparently just been proven wrong? Don’t you know we have a Congress of Physics for a reason? :-/

    Back on topic, I’ll second “Brotherhood of the Wolf”, though it drags in parts (and isn’t that scary), and “Perfect Blue”.

    I’ll also recommend the Ginger Snaps trilogy, some of the better werewolf movies around (though the second one is lame), and one of the better uses of my Canadian tax dollars.

    While I’m waving the flag, I can’t believe no one’s brought up David Cronenberg. His horror films are very insidious and personal, and tend to comment on humanity’s relationship to technology and mass society. Videodrome is a particular favourite, but Scanners, his 1986 remake of The Fly and eXistenZ are all good in their own rights as well.

    A lot of Dario Argento’s work is good, but very creepy.

    Although they’re not technically horror, Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy films are dark, disturbing and violent psychological thrillers. There are scenes of brutal violence but they are justified by the plot and also fit into the overall theme of revenge and its consequences. Most critics seem to favour the middle film, “Oldboy”, but I prefer the last one, “Lady Vengeance”. [The films are referred to as a trilogy because they share the theme of vengeance; they’re not actually a continuous narrative, and each film stands on its own.]

  157. alchemist says

    I really like “The Descent”. Good spelunking horror film. I also like the oldie John Carpenters “The Thing”. But then, I’ve always had a weakness for body snatcher/zombie films.

  158. DLC says

    I have to agree re: Torture Porn. depressing, disgusting and entirely unrealistic. Of horror in the classic sense, there isn’t much out there that hasn’t already been mentioned.
    Although I find it amusing that some people consider “Psycho” to be the first “slasher” film, given that in the notable murder scene you never actually see the knife make contact with the victim.

  159. Keith B says

    There is no such thing as a good horror movie, unless it’s going to try and incorporate elements from other genres to make itself more appealing.

  160. Rick R says

    Wow! PZ asked the $64,000 question. I LOVE horror, so here are a few recommendations….

    “1408” and “The Mist” are both excellent and worth a look.
    “Silent Hill” I enjoyed a lot. Very creepy and surreal. If David Lynch made a straight up horror movie, it would look like this. It’s too long, but worth a look.
    I like a few of the Asian horror films, “Ringu” is good, but I actually liked the American remake better. The script is better worked out. But watch both for an interesting cultural comparison of what east and west want from their stories.
    I REALLY recommend the Asian film “Pulse” (“Kairo”). They did a remake in the U.S. which sucked. The original is amazing, and is operating on a whole different intellectual level than the usual Asian horror film. Apocalyptic ghost story with social commentary. It has a lot on its mind, and none of it is comforting.
    “Cloverfield” is fun, if you aren’t expecting too much. A Godzilla story told from the point of view of the panicked extras running through the streets. I had a good time.

    “Phantasm” (1979) is a hoot, one of my favorites. It has all the cliche trappings of a classic horror film (Creepy funeral home and cemetery) but with a sci-fi twist.

  161. says

    David Cronenberg is in the top tier of greatest directors working today. Right now he’s got The Fly as an opera in London and Los Angeles; it was on NPR on Friday. While I love all his previous movies, his latest, more serious dramas, Eastern Promises and A History of Violence, are marvels of brutal economy and character development. Viggo Mortensen’s nude fight scene in EP is as astonishing and agonizing, and truly painfully *physical,* as any murder in a horror movie. Whew.

  162. says

    I nearly forgot one of my better recommendations, which I was surprised not to see mentioned due to their biological themes: David Cronenberg’s first three major films.

    “Shivers” (1975)
    A parasite is unleashed in a high-rise apartment complex. It spreads through the inhabitants and turns them into sex-crazed maniacs. It’s a thoughtful piece of social commentary with a puerile exploitation film spread on top of it.

    “Rabid” (1977)
    A woman becomes the host to a disease that causes those she infects to go on killing sprees. As she infects more and more people, the city she’s comes under martial law.

    “The Brood” (1979)
    My favorite of these. A woman is undergoing an experimental form of therapy that allows her to physically manifest her emotional trauma. She uses this to create a group of hideous children that go out and murder those she feels have wronged her. Brilliant and disturbing piece of cinema, and one of my favorite horror movies.

  163. James F says

    Wow, lots of good recommendations. I have to echo the support for Shaun of the Dead, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Donnie Darko, although the first is a rom-zom-com and I don’t think of the last two as horror.

    If you want a movie that’s a low-budget spoof of over-the-top gore (with some B-movie type sex scenes not involving torture of women), check out Evil Aliens. Just watch this clip to determine if it’s right for you. Warning: you may not get The Wurzels’ “Combine Harvester” out of your head.

  164. Faithful Reader says

    Posted by: Will E. | September 9, 2008 1:17 PM

    They’re Movies. Entertainment. If you’re not completely disengaging your disbelief, you’re doing it wrong.

    I’ve always felt if you don’t believe what’s on the screen, the *filmmaker* is doing it wrong.

    Coleridge said “… it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”

    Notice the necessity for “human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure . . .that willing suspension.”

    Dreck by definition lacks sufficient humanity and truth; we’re (at least I’m) not going to suspend disbelief for stupid characters, crummy dialog, and general lousy craftsmanship in film, books, or any other entertainment.

  165. Markus says

    I agree. The current torture porn like Hostel, Saw and the like is simply sick and disgusting. Movies for degenerates.

  166. Tulse says

    Another vote for Ginger Snaps.

    And wayyyy off topic, I was reading the Slashdot review of the game Spore, and came across this passage:

    …referring to your species’ growth as evolution isn’t really accurate. “Stylized evolution” or “not evolution” would have been more precise, so don’t go in expecting it to hold up to scrutiny from PZ Myers.

    Looks like the go-to evolutionist at the “news for nerds” site is You-Know-Who!

  167. Brian says

    Someone recommended Hellraiser in a thread decrying sexualized torture in film? Bwuh?

    Anywho, rumors constantly circulate about Guillermo Del Toro (director of Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy movies, and The Devil’s Backbone) wanting to direct “At the Mountains of Madness.” If he ever gets around to it, that could be something special in the fields of horror and sci-fi.

  168. says

    I have to agree that The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is a great supernatural thriller movie to go for.

    I also highly recommend Jekyll, a six-part BBC television series written by multiple award-winning SF writer Steven Moffat. James Nesbitt is mesmerizing in the role, particularly as Hyde, and the writing is fresh and original.

    It’s been out on DVD in Region 1 for a year now.

  169. says

    Already mentioned above, but still:

    John Caprenter’s – The Thing – Hook your stereo up to the TV because there’s some really interesting stuff happening in the soundtrack.

    Stanley Kubrick – The Shining

    Ridley Scott – Alien

  170. says

    Buba Hotep. Bruce Campbell plays the real Elvis who is now in an old folks home. Then a life stealing mummy starts killing people off and he has to do something about it. Good flick.

    Gotta agree. It was really, really good movie, much better than I had expected.

  171. says

    Troglodyte wrote:

    I was surprised not to see mentioned due to their biological themes: David Cronenberg’s first three major films.

    Those are pretty old. How about “Videodrome” ??

    My favorites by Croneberg are:
    Naked Lunch
    and – Scanners

  172. says

    I have to suggest ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. It’s a more psychological form of horror, and I like the slow pacing, the ambuiguity (it never really makes clear if the freakish events are supernatural or just signs of mental breakdown). And it is -beautifully- shot. I love the way it builds, giving you the rising feeling that something just out of sight, or even in plain sight, is monstrous.

    And the Silent Hill movie pisses me off. The actual games are way, way more sophisticated, dealing with guilt, moral choices and madness…it’s very Twin-Peaky. The movie just went for the cheap vengeance tale with way too much loud religion.

  173. Francine DuBois says

    @Markus #219:

    Out of curiosity, have you seen “Saw”? Or are you, like PZ, disparaging a film that you haven’t seen, as well as it’s fans?

  174. Pierce R. Butler says

    The Dark Wraith’s Let Them Feed ought to satisfy – for a couple of minutes, anyhow…

    It seems unlikely that this degradation of the intellectual level of the Myers household and the departure of the Latin-blogging adolescent are unconnected. How long until the minions’ brains are being picked for Gameboy/Wii tips and soap opera backstories?

  175. says

    F. Jardim suggested ‘Jacob’s Ladder’.

    Yes! That should be on the top of the list. One of the best horror films ever. Why was it not on the tip of my brain, I don’t know.

  176. HarryS says

    Oh! Will.E at post 83 beat me to it with one of my favourite monster movies “Dog Soldiers”. Really fast, furious, scary, really funny and a great cast to boot. I’ve met enough British Army squaddies that it’s exactly how I think they’d react!

    I don’t have any time for the whole torture porn thing myself but there are some disturbingly good films that come close. I loved the Korean film “Old Boy”, very Asian in outlook and the premise was really creepy. Apologies if someone has already mentioned it.

    Oh and of course I too have to mention “Shaun of the Dead”, part one of Wright, Pegg & Frost’s “Cornetto” trilogy. Though it’s not really a horror film.

  177. Joel says

    Turn to the BBC. Doctor Who, the old and new series are always good. It’s spin-off, Torchwood, is also worth a look.

  178. rrt says

    Bah on my double post.

    Thanks to those who remembered…Ginger Snaps is the one I half-saw and half-remembered. I’ll have to rent that.

    Rob: I agree with you about the Alien series. Always thought there was a good movie hiding somewhere under 3, but never could find it. I imagine the few shiny bits in 4 were those Whedon was able to sneak in. Ever notice how the privateer crew is an obvious prototype for Serenity’s?

    Now I must be brief, but regarding Thief: I SO agree. It’s not a game, it’s what the early clumsy attempts at “interactive movie” computer games should have been shooting for. Richly atmospheric, story-driven yet unfolding only semi-linearly, fully immersive and creepy as hell. Best played in a fully darkened room with a proper surround sound system or good headphones. I really can’t recommend it enough, even to non-gamers. It’s not a twitch-action game so mad skillz are not necessary (indeed can be a hindrance…this is a sneaker, not a shooter) and a high-end PC is not needed since it’s fairly dated. Out of print but can be legitimately purchased via Valve’s Steam, I think. I highly recommend taking the minimally-violent, non-murderer approach. Much more rewarding. And given the immersiveness, you ought to actually feel like a murderer if you do so. Which I did, out of rage over a certain event in Thief 2. Anyway, sorry to wax fanboy.

  179. pvrugg says


    I highly recommend for you a short little film called “Beaster”. I saw it at the Horror Film Festival here in Providence a few years ago and it was a scream.

    Jesus comes back from the dead – as an undead, flesh eating zombie! And Pontious Pilate is the Zombie killer.

    Should have gotten an Oscar.

  180. Feynmaniac says

    Everyone just hope Rooke doesn’t show up and start listing the depraved zombie movies he is in to.

  181. Peter says

    Skimmed through the list. A lot of good choices. For really recent The Orphange is good. [REC] has been on my list of things to see for a long time but I can’t vouch for it myself. Less recent but very good is the Denzel/Goodman/Gandolfini demon swapping awesomeness of The Fallen, but you may have seen that one already. One movie that is shamefully underviewed and I didn’t notice mentioned up above is a little South African movie called Dust Devil. Made in 92. Very, very creepy. Great story. Great characters. A little violent towards women in the beginning but it’s all tenderness and then a quick neck snap, paint the walls in her blood and burn the house down – no torture. The gorgeous climax is shot in a ghost town in the namibian desert where all the buildings have been taken over by sand. It does have an overall message of “Faith is the Answer” but I hope I don’t ruin anything by saying faith doesn’t save anyone in the end.

  182. TTT says

    “The Ring” (U.S. version) was the most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen.

    Now, if you want a horror movie that’s more disturbing than terrifying, try “Parents.”

    Favorite horror flick overall? No contest, the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Almost no blood, a true example of subversive humor, nearly all the scares come from the otherworldly this-can’t-be-happening factor, the abiding buggy-crawly creepiness, and the facial expressions on all the main characters both good (Sally and her friends) and evil (the cook and the hitchhiker).

    “I see things… happening here at night. They laughs at me, you see. They laugh and call me just an old man. There’s some that laughs but knows better.”

  183. khops13 says

    Patricia @ 117 –

    Wizard of Oz never bothered me, but as a child my parents rented “Return to Oz” for me. Scared the crap out of me. From what I remember Dorothy is getting electroshock therapy for her delusions of Oz, the flying monkeys have been replace by these creepy things with long legs on wheels, and the new “witch” character collects people’s heads to put on her body. I guess my parents didn’t realize it might not be appropriate for four year olds.

  184. craig says

    Another vote here for “The Host.”

    I have to admire a movie that literally had me crying my eyes out and then laughing hysterically within seconds.

  185. Nicholas says

    Rent Peter Weir’s “The Last Wave.” I saw it recently, having seen it many years ago. Very creepy. Nice Australian Aborigine theme, too.

  186. says

    Although I agree that Pan’s Labyrinth is a severely awesome movie, as is anything by del Toro, It isn’t exactly horror. It’s more of a creepy Fantasy adventure.

    The Mist however, is intended to frighten the viewer and keep you talking about it afterwards. Very good.

  187. Nicholas says

    Rent Peter Weir’s “The Last Wave.” I saw it recently, having seen it many years ago. Very creepy. Nice Australian Aborigine theme, too.

  188. Celtic_Evolution says

    I still, in my mid 30’s, can not sleep in a room with a clown doll in it after watching Poltergeist as a kid. For my money, that was the single scariest and simultaneously entertaining movie ever made. And don’t talk to me about the sequels. They never happened. You hear me? Never. Happened.

    I used to really enjoy a good horror movie, but I stopped watching horror movies after the over-hyped, boring, totally unscary “Blair Witch”. And these “torture porn” movies, as PZ so aptly described them, don’t count.

  189. Hairy Doctor Professor says

    About time someone mentioned “Alien”. That and “Aliens” are two of the best modern horror/sf movies, but skip “Alienses” (III) and “Alienseses” (IV). John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is also pretty good, but that should be on a double-feature with the B/W version from the 50s. I, too, have a spot in my heart for the old schlock classics (“The Mole People”, “Them”, etc.) and have no use at all for the crazed-lunatic-terrorizes-lust-filled-teenagers or creative-but-messy-ways-to-dispose-of-people genres.

  190. says

    I’ll add my voice to those who’ve recommended Cronenberg’s The Fly and Videodrome. The Fly stands apart from other horror movies in that it is genuinely horrifying.

    There are a couple TV series you ought to look for on DVD: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Full Metal Alchemist. Terrific stuff.

  191. GunOfSod says

    Some SciFi/Horror flicks I’ve enjoyed:
    -Bad Taste (A descent into the NZ psyche)
    -BrainDead (goriest movie ever made)
    -A Scanner Darkly
    -28 days later
    -The Evil Dead
    -The Fifth Element
    as mentioned previously, Jacobs Ladder is brilliant

  192. says

    Can’t come up with anything not yet mentioned, but will add my praise to Ringu series, A Tale of Two Sisters(!), The Grudge (all original versions), Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, 30 Days of Night, Rosemary’s Baby, The Orphanage, The Others and Blair Witch Project (even if the latter definitely doesn’t work for everybody). I also recommend Twin Peaks, especially the episodes directed by David Lynch, and Eraserhead, his first movie. Most of his films are distinctly unsettling, if not necessarily horrifying. Unfortunately, they also tend to be somewhat boring. Maybe I should stroke the nationalist ego and mention The Kingdom miniseries by Lars von Trier.

    Re cultural distance, I find (as a European) that the East Asian flicks are doubly frightening exactly due to it.

    However, stay away from anything by M. Night Shyamalan (the best I’ve seen is Signs, but that doesn’t say a lot), and what are you guys doing praising 1408?!? That film positively stinks!

    BTW, Guillermo del Toro did not direct The Orphanage, but he did co-produce it.

  193. mothworm says

    The Descent was absolutely one of the most terrifying movies I’ve seen in years, even without the monsters. Plus, the cast is entirely women, who aren’t being sexually exploited, have real personalities and characters, and kick ass. The director’s earlier film Dog Soldiers, an updated wolfman film, was decent and good for a scare, but not as good as Descent.

    I haven’t had the chance to see it yet, but Kino came out with a restored version of Nosferatu that’s supposed to be pretty great.

    For a good mix of funny/scary, you can’t beat Shaun of the Dead and Slither.

    Not horror, but if you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, both of the HellBoy movies have been fantastic. The Goblin Market sequence from the most recent film outdoes in imagination the Cantina sequence from the original Star Wars, as well as all three of the prequals combined.

  194. electricbarbarella says

    Just to sum up what’s been said, because they’ve given you awesome recommendations:

    Nearly all of the Japanese made horror movies are true horror–suspenseful, scary, and not as much as Hollywood, sexualization. Japanese horror relies on playing your darkest, deepest fears, and taking them to the Nth level of Hell before releasing you. :) Get the originals of the Ring, Grudge, etc.. not the hollywood versions.

    Two, having grown up watching Creature Feature(Dr. Paul Bearer), I can recommend nearly everything he showed on his show. Camp, some of it. But most of it pretty damn good. Hammer, Troma, and the like (Argento, Cronenburg, etc) are going to be were your good films are at.

    Also, look up B grade actors/actresses. Guys like Tom Savini are woefully underrated and have movies they’ve produced, that are even moreso underrated than they are. Go to IMDB and look up actors who played characters one wouldn’t recognize outside of makeup–like Toxic Avenger. He’s got some movies he’s done outside of Toxie/Troma, that are just good.

    Some of my favorite movies growing up:
    Motel Hell
    Reform School Girls
    The Subspecies series.

    And just about the entire list of movies here. Two movie rec’s for anyone who cares that are not horror, but damn good movies along the production qualities of Pan’s Labyrinth:

    Blood and Chocolate and Perfect Creatures (werewolves and vampires, respectively). I was incredibly surprised at the cinematic quality of these movies and even more so of the acting, scripting, etc. But hardly anyone knows of them. :(


  195. says

    Peter Weir’s Australian films show amazing promise. Picnic at Hanging Rock has a Turn of the Screw quality about it.

    Quite how he ended up directing the pedestrian Green Card I’ll never know (the incredibly versatile Gerard Depardieu was also wasted in that movie, and McDowell simply miscast). He did direct the visually stunning Witness, though.

  196. says

    I feel compelled to anti-recommend Silent Hill. There is little to redeem this movie. The plot is thin, the premise is completely unbelievable even after suspending disbelief, and the acting is flat and phoned-in.

    The effects are neat, at times. And there are 3 “monsters” that are kind of cool to watch. But most of the movie is spent waiting for something, ANYTHING, to happen.

  197. says

    How could I forget? The Shining and Cannibal Holocaust are very good, but the latter is gory and …hm… denigrating of women… Still good, though.

    Back in the days, Stephen King’s It did me in for clowns, and Carrie and Pet Sematary also freaked me out. Don’t know if they’d hold up today.

  198. Raynfala says

    You definitely will want to avoid Hostel. It is, as you said, little more than torture-porn. I felt corrupted for having watched it.

    If you haven’t seen Saw, I actually recommend it. I thought it had some novel twists, and actually works on a cerebral level, far more than you might initially suspect.

    And as others have recommended, you MUST see Planet Terror. Good, dirty fun! And I recommend watching it with the audience reaction track turned on — it really adds something to the experience.

  199. electricbarbarella says

    I also forgot to mention these:
    The Hand (Michael Cain)
    It’s Alive
    Huminoids from the Deep
    Original Island of Dr. Moreau


  200. tsg says

    They’re Movies. Entertainment. If you’re not completely disengaging your disbelief, you’re doing it wrong.

    There comes a point where the plot is so twisted, the logic so tortured, and the premise so flawed that it is completely, literally, unbelievable. When you’re sitting there exasperated, screaming “why don’t they just ???” and never get an answer, it isn’t your fault, it’s the filmmaker’s.

    I can put up with quite a bit of Deus Ex Machina (“god of the machine” eg whenever Geordi La Forge gets the Enterprise out of trouble by inverting the tachion flow through the plasma inducers), impossible physics (unless it really looks unnatural), bad science, plot convolutions (if that’s a word) and other things that require a certain suspension of disbelief, but the film has to make me want to. That’s what separates good films from bad ones.

  201. Joshua Bowers says

    I personally found Versus, by Ryuhei Kitamura, to be a fantastic zombie horror film. It has mobsters! And zombies! And zombie mobsters. With guns! His Azumi was also quite enjoyable, even though that movie is definitely not horror. Although, that said, beware that both movies are slightly gory. But more so in a Kill-Bill-esque, so gratuitous that you have to love it, manner.

  202. says

    Yeah, I’m not much into “slasher porn” myself. I think the only movie I’ve sat through in that genre is Halloween.

    If you like watching BBCAmerica, Primeval is pretty good – I hardly miss the Doctor now. Well, maybe a little…

    If you’re okay with silent movies, Call of Cthulhu is really good. I second Pan’s Labyrinth, Motel Hell and 28 Days/28 Weeks Later.

    Oh, and the original version of “The Eye”. They had it on IFC a while ago. I stumbled on it by accident – not bad.

  203. pyrogirl says

    Wow, a lot of good movies there. One that I don’t think has been mentioned is “Event Horizon”. Creepy AND sci-fi. Check it out.

  204. epsilon says

    Luke @ 174: I completely agree about the Saw movies. I avoided watching any of them for a long time because I thought they were just more torture porn. My friend finally convinced to watch the first one, and it was a great movie, with much less gore than I had expected. The sequels got progressively worse, to the point that I turned the 3rd one off in the middle of the movie, something that I never do.

  205. says

    Okay, a couple more and then I’ll shut up. Some “campy” horror:

    Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter

    Cannibal! The Musical (as recommended above)

  206. Moggie says

    I’m surprised it took around 250 comments before anyone mentioned David Lynch. Eraserhead has to be one of the most unsettling movies ever.

    Looks like all the obvious bases have been covered. Of those listed, I suppose my favourites are Ringu, Host and Pan’s Labyrinth. Psychological horror has rarely been done better than in Ringu. I only watched Host because it has Bae Du-Na in it, and I loved her performance in Linda Linda Linda (very much not a horror film), but I’m glad I did. CGI done right, and horror and humour mixed in unfamiliar ways. For those (like me) who generally don’t like child actors, don’t let Ivana Baquero’s young age put you off Pan’s Labyrinth: she’s terrific in this genuinely creepy and sad film.


    Although they’re not technically horror, Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy films are dark, disturbing and violent psychological thrillers. There are scenes of brutal violence but they are justified by the plot and also fit into the overall theme of revenge and its consequences. Most critics seem to favour the middle film, “Oldboy”, but I prefer the last one, “Lady Vengeance”.

    Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (hey, Bae Du-Na again!) blew me away: searing deconstruction of vengeance cinema. If you haven’t seen his very moving JSA, do so.

  207. says

    …Cannibal Holocaust [is] very good, but… is gory and …hm… denigrating of women… Still good, though.

    Cannibal Holocaust is denigrating of humanity. No one and nothing comes out unscathed. I “love” it myself, but I can’t see recommending it to anyone other than the most hardcore of horror/gore fans. It is indeed anti-human. It is exploitation at its best/worst.

  208. Tulse says

    Call of Cthulhu is excellent, but I think its strength is more in its loving re-creation of ’20s cinema than in the actual “horror”.

    Since del Torro has been mentioned, I highly recommend one of his early films, Cronos, with Ron Perlman – it’s a very inventive twist on a standard horror theme, and features a very cool antique device that is the central element of the plot.

    And while we’re talking about the great Ron Perlman, I’d also highly recommend the French film The City of Lost Children. It’s perhaps best described as surreal horror fantasy — very cool-looking, very weird, very French.

  209. Kagehi says

    You know.. I have always found horror movies to either be interesting due to the concepts in them, or lame and stupid. I don’t have a huge issue with ones like Saw, which are the only ones of the latest bunch I have actually seen, because all the blood and gore is window dressing on the psychology of the situation. But, some people just see the blood and gore I guess. I agree, there where some OK ones in the past, though, they tended to be too campy, badly acted, or just containing stuff that is plain silly. The Cat People one has some parallels to to the Underworld: Evolution series, which PZ already lambasted, ironically. What? Cat people are OK, but vampires and werewolves aren’t? Then you got some just plain odd ones, like Blood & Chocolate or The Covenant, which I think where made outside the US, or at least they tend to have alternate vocals. The Covenant I took one copy back, since I thought it was bad, and finally figured out that the “main” sound mix for English was totally screwed up, so that the music was audible, but none of the voices. An alternate stereo setting fixed it. Not sure how “horror” like most of those are though, since, to me, anything that has a decent story is just “fantasy”, while horror usually means they found the stupidest people possible to act it, a lame plot, and scenes where you try not to laugh while watching it. The creepiness of someone making people do insane things to each other via trickery is scarier, since its “realistic”, and at least possible, which is of course **precisely** why people hate it. You can’t walk out the door thinking about the social issues bound up in the story, just the creepy feeling that someone in the room with you “might” actually be capable of doing something like it.

    But yeah, it would be nice to see some more of the old style. The, “I am tired of the unrealistic BS, so lets make hyper-realistic ones”, is getting a bit old at this point.

  210. Eli says

    PZ, you’ve got to try to find Zontar: Thing From Venus!

    If you can get it, you should definitely watch it… it is a great, classic z-rate sci fi film!

  211. says

    I can put up with quite a bit of Deus Ex Machina (“god of the machine” eg whenever Geordi La Forge gets the Enterprise out of trouble by inverting the tachion flow through the plasma inducers)

    Ah, the inverted tachyon beam, truly the duct tape of Star Trek

  212. Eric Paulsen says

    I’ll add a point for Jacob’s Ladder too – great movie.

    As to the postulation that not liking the Blair Witch Project might correlate to a lack of interest in camping, in my case you might be right. The last time I went camping two spiders the size of walnuts crawled out of MY sleeping bag – while I was in it! To this day I believe that my body levitated out of the tent and came to rest twenty feet away in the wet grass. But then maybe my skin was crawling so violently it pulled me along the ground, all I know is I don’t remember how I got out of that sleeping bag so gaddamned fast.

    Yeah, I’m not a camper.

  213. bernard quatermass says

    “You definitely will want to avoid Hostel. It is, as you said, little more than torture-porn. I felt corrupted for having watched it.”

    I called Michael Haneke a punk earlier, but the term is perhaps better applied to Eli Roth. I sheepishly admit to owning a copy of the Troma re-release of the controversial Bloodsucking Freaks, and listening to Roth’s “commentary” was like being stuck in a room with a snotty frat boy who thought he was just tooooo clever for words.

    Kind of like living in the US the last eight years … except for the “clever” part. The snotty frat boy president is anything but.

  214. Rick R says

    *Takes deep breath*
    OK, I am risking total pariahdom (and possibly a trip to the dungeon) but I’m going to stand up and say I actually enjoyed the original “Hostel”.
    Take 2 totally unlikeable, privileged, sheltered, entitled American fratboys (and one goofy Icelander), and slowly transform them into sympathetic victims in a closing Venus flytrap of doom. And the hot sexy chicks are the bad guys.
    The gore is completely over the top, but if you cut it out, the story and suspense still work. It’s well done. And I love the 80’s Eastern European pop songs.
    I hated “Cabin Fever” and haven’t seen “Hostel 2”, but “Hostel has more going on in it than it gets credit for.

  215. Zensunni says

    Personally, I am just waiting for World War Z to come out. Best fiction book I’ve read in a long time. Great book.

  216. bybelknap, FCD says

    Another vote for Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz as well, by the same people that did Shaun. A bit of gore, but a bit of fun too, and none of the sex=death stuff.

  217. says

    Both of Max Brooks’s zombie books, World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, had moments of chilling horror mixed in with the Studs Terkel-style oral histories. Terrific stuff. But what else could we expect from the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft?

  218. SimonG says

    * Anything by Guillermo del Toro

    No! Everything by del Toro. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a fantastic film, in every sense. I’m also a fan of “Cronos”.

    There is some good stuff out there. For horror, look to the east.
    For SF, mostly TV stuff.

  219. E.V. says

    Ouch. Nothing is as disillusioning as reading what many very articulate people here think is a good film. That said, I will throw The Devil’s Backbone into the ring as a very creepy but well made film. Take your potshots.
    Over at UTI, there is a similar thread for best foreign films. Most examples given are excruciatingly MOR. Das Boot -it was fine, but best? really?

  220. John C. Randolph says

    I was never a fan of the whole slasher-flick genre. I’ve done some special-effects makeup many years ago, and most of those movies just annoyed me with their poor workmanship.

    As for the rather disturbing torture-the-hot-chicks thing, that just makes me wonder WTF is wrong with the writers, directors, and the buyers of that dreck.


  221. says

    Hollywood is really missing the boat with horror films.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the next “Vampire”.

    I’m talking, of course, about atheists.

    Think about it.

    In a nation where 60+% of the population believes in god, what could be more horrible than someone who says what you hold dear is “doodoo”? Sin (and you don’t have to be original about this) does not exist for us. There is no afterlife for us. We can act without consequences (or so the Faithful think, anyway). And while Vampires only suck blood, we suck out Faith (and by extension, Hope) itself.

    If horror is the thing that cannot be made safe, then life is the ultimate horror (if you want to look at it that way. I don’t, but we’re making a monster movie, so work with me on this…).

    And we, the atheists, are the ultimate badasses of that universe!

    WE ROCK!

  222. John C. Randolph says

    I’ve always felt if you don’t believe what’s on the screen, the *filmmaker* is doing it wrong.

    Exactly. Or, even if you don’t believe it at all, it should still have some kind of emotional resonance.

    The movies I’ve enjoyed most in the last couple of years have been all of the Pixar movies, the LOTR series, and as an engineer, I can’t help but love Wallace and Gromit.


  223. says

    “Shaun of the Dead” is about the best zombie movie made in the last 20 years…and “Jesus Camp” is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. “Sweeney Todd” wasn’t bad if you like gory musicals. For pure camp, there’s a stoner slasher flick called “Idle Hands.” It has Seth Green (From Buffy) and he turns into a zombie. It’s terrible, but rather funny.

    “The Silence of the Lambs” was really good. Suspenseful, with strong performances on all fronts. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins were both great. Don’t assume that Anthony Hopkins automatically makes things good, though…he was in the 1992 Dracula remake and it was AWFUL.

    I’m afraid I can’t help much, really. I don’t watch horror movies, as a rule.

  224. Rick R says

    Oh, and I second the recommendation for “30 Days of Night”. Director David Slade’s (“Hard Candy”) attempt to make vampires scary again (none of that repressed Victorian sexuality subtext bullshit). It succeeds pretty well, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Although it plays VERY fast and loose with logic, especially the realities of “constant night” in far northern environments. But I enjoyed it anyway.

  225. says

    JD #281

    Atheists are already the lease trusted minority in the US. I believe its due to the spat of early 90’s proselytizings and the fact that with other minorities you can recognize them. Atheists are sneaky, they look like everyone else

  226. Gûm-ishi Ashi Gurum says

    Jacob’s Ladder, directed by Adrian Lyne, who did Fatal Attraction

    Candyman, directed by Bernard Rose, who did Immortal Beloved

    Both are literate and beautiful.

  227. Quiet_Desperation says

    Atheists are sneaky, they look like everyone else

    And we suck brains and eat children. Don’t forget those. Pod people, we is.

  228. Jyotsana says

    I’m late to this party, and due to time constraints I can’t read through all the comments above me, so I apologize if my comment is a repeat of someone else’s. That being said, I highly recommend Bubba Ho Tep. Bruce Campbell is an elderly Elvis (he never died after all) and Ozzie Davis is an elderly John F. Kennedy (who claims “they” dyed him black in order to hide his true identity). They’re both stuck in an East Texas retirement home where they have to battle a mummy who keeps killing the residents. It’s a horror film, an art film, a comedy, an elderly-empowerment film…definitely worth a viewing. And damn those are some big bitch cockroaches! :)

  229. temminicki says

    For truly scary horror films I highly recommend any of the Japanese horror films. Ringu (the original), The Grudge, Premonition, etc. are all excellent and will scare the pants off you.

  230. Richard Smith says

    @spgreenlaw, #109: I enjoy watching Suspiria now and then, but the whole razor wire scene, for me, comes uncomfortably close to torture porn. Then again, horror isn’t supposed to make you feel comfortable…

    @Cronan, #142: The original “John Carpenter’s The Thing”? Do you mean “The Thing From Outer Space”? As for JCTT, I still try to catch it every time it’s on TV, just because I love the line, as the newly be-legged head tries to sneak off: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding!” Maybe it’s a contextual thing…

    @GTMoogle, #163: I forget who said it first, but I agree with their sentiments regarding disbelief: “I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, not hang it by the neck until dead.”

    @Rick R, #213: Re Phantasm, just gotta say it… “BOY!!!!”

    Personal (re-)recommendations:

    The original The Haunting
    The Others

  231. Quiet_Desperation says

    Ouch. Nothing is as disillusioning as reading what many very articulate people here think is a good film.

    Piffle. Movies and fiction and stuff like that are so very subjective and cross intellectual boundaries. Much like humor, as I demonstrated last week. :) For example, I know an accomplished and successful microbiologist and chemical engineer (married couple) who love American Idol.

    Now, there are many things in film and literature and humor that some people *claim* to like or dislike in an attempt to appear smart, but, well, what can you do?

    Personally, I gave up using taste in entertainment as an intellectual yardstick before I got out of high school.

  232. Ubi Dubium says

    OK, I’m going to have to weigh in in favor of Blair Witch. Many of those other movies you’ve mentioned have zombies or monsters or ghosts or something else paranormal. In real life those things are absent and slashers are exceedingly rare. But being lost, being out of control, being cold and hungry and sleep-deprived, having the feeling that you are being watched, jumping at every shadow, those are ways ordinary people experience fear all the time. Piling them on for two hours of creeping paranoia really resonates for some people. UbiDubiKid#1 just yawns at blood and guts, but she couldn’t sleep after Blair Witch.

    Besides that – A Clockwork Orange. Nothing paranormal there either, and it still makes me cringe, years after I last saw it. And the Doctor Who episode “Blink” was a masterpiece. I want a “Weeping Angel” for my garden!

  233. Quiet_Desperation says

    just because I love the line, as the newly be-legged head tries to sneak off: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding!”

    For some reason Kurt Russel repeatedly calling the Norwegians “Swedes” cracks me up.

  234. Patricia says

    #240 – Khops13 – Thank you for warning me about ‘Return to Oz’! I shall certainly never watch it. Eeek!

    #190 Quiet Desperation – I second your idea of ‘Passion of The Christ’ being a horror. Got conned into going to it with two of my pagan friends because some idiot told them it was a ‘pagan film’. *rolls eyes* The place was full of church people with children! Bloody, sadistic torture, the whole thing.

  235. Daniel says

    28 days later was amazing for a zombie-type film. Romero’s stuff is classic, but you’ve probably already seen the good ones, and Land of the Dead blew.

    If you want a campy somewhat funny horror movie, the Evil Dead trilogy is amazing. Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness are best, with Evil Dead 2 being more scary and out there than funny, and Army of Darkness being almost a spoof of the first two.

    Also, Donnie Darko isn’t really that scary, but a great mind-trip.

  236. has says

    Darth Wader: “Sci-fi however is dead.”

    One word: “Primer”.

    As for horror, not a big fan myself, but gotta mention “Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer”. Nasty, vicious, sadistic murders represented as nasty, vicious, sadistic murders; nothing else. None of the slimy fetishism of your Hostels and Saws. You may not like it, but you gotta respect it.

    Oh, and on a lighter note: “Carry on Screaming” is an absolutely sublime, pitch-perfect send-up of classic Hammer. Total class.

  237. Amanda H. says

    The genre has been lifeless for years, it’s true. But lately I’ve enjoyed Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers (2002) and The Descent (2005). Neither trivializes sexuality or cheaply exploits it. Plus, there’s quality suspense & tasteful gore.

  238. says

    I’ll second a few of the films already mentioned above… The Haunting (Robert Wise version) is one of my favorites. Cat People, The Exorcist, The Fly, and An American Werewolf in London are all excellent. I’m sure you’ve already seen the classic Hitchcock horror films like The Birds and Psycho.

    I haven’t seen Solaris mentioned yet under the sci-fi category. And if you broaden your categories to include suspense films, my all-time favorite is the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple. The movie Memento is also excellent, and makes the best use I’ve ever seen of reverse-chronological story telling. Finally, The Old Dark House is a classic from the 1930’s.

  239. says

    The best horror movie I’ve seen in recent years (well, if 15 years ago is recent) is Dead Again with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. It’s incredible!

    If you just want a good science fiction movie, PZ (and everyone else), then see The Man from Earth. DEFINITELY see The Man from Earth!

  240. says

    he said GOOD old horror films. most of the shit recommended here is exactly what he said he didn’t like.

    go check out White Zombie. it’s a classic.

  241. says

    #291 said: “As for JCTT, I still try to catch it every time it’s on TV, just because I love the line, as the newly be-legged head tries to sneak off: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding!” Maybe it’s a contextual thing…”

    Wow — that is still, by far, my favorite line in the overall excellent film, too! I think I love it because it’s one of those rare moments in a horror film when you feel like the character’s response is completely true to life. I’m pretty sure that I would say, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding!” if I saw someone’s head detach itself, grow legs, and wander off.

  242. Quiet_Desperation says

    #190 Quiet Desperation – I second your idea of ‘Passion of The Christ’ being a horror. Got conned into going to it…

    I have managed to avoid it.

    I still haven’t seen Titanic, either.

    I’ll add my voice to those who’ve recommended Cronenberg’s The Fly and Videodrome.

    Oh, and Scanners. It has people with head explodey powers. :-)

    Also has an interesting spin in depicting mental telepathy as a near debilitating illness that needs to be treated with medication to keep out the barrage of interfering thoughts from other people. Without the meds, the telepaths wander the streets homeless and in a daze, unable to organize their *own* thoughts.

  243. says

    Oh, and seconding something I’ve seen a couple of times: Definitely “Pan’s Labyrinth” if you haven’t seen it. It’s Del Toro’s best work by far and it’s really remarkable. If you want something sort of suspenseful and don’t mind subtitles, there’s a French movie called “The City of Lost Children” (La cité des enfants perdus) that is very much in the same vein, spooky and suspenseful and with more than a small element of creepy old-school Grimm fairytale. I happen to adore it. It’s a little hard to find, though entirely worth it if you’re a “Pan’s Labyrinth” fan.

  244. bernard quatermass says

    If you are into weird / obscure / kind of bad / artsy yet terrible films, I heartily recommend scaring up a copy (if you can) of the strange little 1970s film Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. It’s about — yes — a carnivorous four-poster. The thing is inhabited by a demon (for reasons I can’t recall, but it’s got something to do with the demon falling in love) and … well, you’ve got to see it to believe it. The director, George Barry, claims to have forgotten he ever made the thing (?!), and it was only officially “released” recently.

    One of the odder things (yeah!) about the film is that it is narrated by an artist (very much an Aubrey Beardsley figure) “ghost” who was apparently consumed by the bed — but not digested — and now lives behind a painting on the wall. A must-see for aficionados of the offbeat.

  245. says

    I watch too many movies – this is my last post, I promise. But someone made a bad recommendation…please don’t see “30 Days of Night.” It was rubbish. Really. Terrible acting and a really redundant amount of gore, combined with a really appalling trashing of the vampire mythos. No real suspense, no particular plot, a couple of annoying sub-plots. Ugh. Worst comic book adaptation ever.

    One of the scariest things I’ve ever watched on TV was the Buffy episode “Hush.” Even if you aren’t a Buffy fan, skip to the middle of the fourth season just to watch that one episode, because it is excellent.

  246. Jason says

    Re: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

    That is the first movie that I would have to say I REALLY liked but will REFUSE to see it again. The father in that film was so horribly evil that I could not stand watching it again.

    But it was an excellent film.

  247. says

    I agree with texaskeptic, “The Host” is a really good movie with everything that Cloverfield didn’t manage to be. Good plot, fun characters, pretty decent FX (outstanding in some cases) Excelent!

  248. Francine DuBois says

    I now realize I have evidentiary disagreements with the arguments put forth in the article PZ linked above. The article states that “torture porn” has certain attributes:

    – “Women are the main targets in torture porn.”
    – “the focus is on terrorizing, torturing, and then killing the main characters, especially female characters”
    – “while the violence in these movies is obvious, also obvious is the sexual torture, especially of women”
    – “Nubile young women are shown in various stages of undress, and they are tortured, sometimes sexually, and then killed.”

    Yet these are the examples given of the genre (excuse mistakes from my memory):

    “The Devil’s Rejects” – Both men and women tortured and killed, in equal numbers if I recall correctly (couples were tortured). Some of it was quasi-sexual – one of the middle-age (not nubile) female victims forced to strip at one point…

    “Saw” – If I recall correctly, several men tortured and killed, one woman briefly tortured but lives. Nothing sexualized in this film.

    “Wolf Creek” – One man tortured and killed. Two women tortured mostly in the sense that they are chased around endlessly, then killed. If I recall there is a scene of threatened rape that is not completed. (“Based on a true story” I think).

    “Hostel” – I haven’t seen – but my understanding is both men and women are tortured(?). Sexually?

    “Passion of the Christ” – Haven’t see it, either. Was someone other than Jebus tortured and killed? Sexually?

    In other words, the primary examples given of the “torture porn” genre don’t fit the central thesis that the sexual torture of women is at its center. Did the writer of the article even watch the films? Doesn’t seem so since the article seems to rely on others’ quotes a bit too much.

    Women are only the primary victims of torture and murder in these films only if you ignore the torture and murder of men. If men are included, it seems they even outnumber the women as victims.

    Sort of reminds me of when I was helping to organize a film series at a college and was told that no films with scenes dealing with rape would be permitted. I pointed out that they already had Shawshank Redemption on the list, and was told that it didn’t count, since a man was a victim in that film.

    Another example, perhaps, of seeing trends in the sensitivity of viewers and mistaking them for trends in what is actually going on – sexist, but perhaps not in the direction originally argued…

  249. Nancy says

    Torture porn: “Who wants to see a movie that consists of nothing but scenes of humiliation and pain….”

    You’re kidding, right? MOST men love these “scenes”. I’m quite certain scientists will one day announce that a gene (or marker or whatever) has been identified that will explain why some people are predisposed to this “behavior”.

    “What is wrong with people that sexuality has been jumbled up with the idea of the graphic inflection of mindless torment on women?’

    Absolutely nothing. Don’t kid yourself….I cannot tell you how many women I know whom ENJOY being “taken” in this manner, although the levels of pain and/or humiliation they are willing to tolerate varies greatly.

    Ninety percent of the men whom I’ve been with have played this out to some degree during sex.

    This genre is NOT horror/thriller……it’s erotica. Case in point….the new HBO Vampire series…..nothing scary about it…no horror. But, the scene where one of the characters hangs a bound woman by the wrists from a chain and nails her from behind…..EROTICA.

    I agree with the poster whom stated that the movie JEEPERS CREEPERS was some pretty good horror. No sex or humiliation of women involved. Check it out.

    But, I do agree w/ you……..GOOD HORROR MOVIES are rare.

  250. Rick R says

    Taste is so subjective. Lots of recs for “The Host”, but I despised it. The opening scene is terrific, and the monster is cool, but what a mish-mash of styles with really hokey humor. Yuk-yuk.

  251. says

    I’m surprised no one’s linked to it yet–TV Tropes did it, and called it Gorn.

    I’d also second “The Orphanage”. I’ve never been so spooked by so little actually happening. That’s some talented filmmaking, there.

  252. Will Von Wizzlepig says

    PZ- check out “frailty” or “session 9”. Also, the original Japanese version of “The Grudge”, called “Ju On”, is pretty cool, as well as, of course, the original “ringu” flicks. “r-point” is pretty spooky. “oldboy” is odd and spooky, but it borders on being the torture porn you mention. “Audition”, a movie by Takashi Miike, is definitely torture porn, however, this guy’s films are so screwed up and odd they’re likely to give you nightmares- try out “Ichi the Killer” or “Gozu” for good examples of his craziness. I’d call him a Japanese David Lynch with a twist of Tarantino.

  253. Rick R says

    #310- “”Hostel” – I haven’t seen – but my understanding is both men and women are tortured(?). Sexually?”

    Nope. The motive for torture is much darker than sexuality. Victims are chosen based on their country of origin, not their gender. Torture is a business for rich businesspeople who believe they fly above the morality of mere mortals. And the ‘consumers’ of casual hedonism become the ‘consumed’ of a much darker form of hedonism. It’s a morality tale.

    And as I said before, the hot sexy chicks are the bad guys.

  254. andyo says

    Hey, finally I can contribute to something and already there are more than 300 posts. I used to be a pompous ass movie buff – I used to work at Blockbuster (in my country) just for the free rentals (I got paid less than $1 an hour), and I’m still waiting to go back to film school.

    Not a “horror” fan myself, but the only thoroughly satisfying (cinematically and plot-wise) movie I can remember is The Others. Director Alejandro Amenábar’s movies are excellent, one of my favorite Spaniards, and he does mostly suspense/thriller. If you’re up for some Spanish/eng subs, try Tesis, I think his first movie. It’s excellent. It’s not snuff, but it’s about snuff.

  255. Francine DuBois says


    How the heck is “Audition” considered “torture porn”? Is any film with even 15 seconds of physical torment to be considered “torture porn”? If so, films like “Schindler’s List” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are “torture porn” as well…

    And as Rick R, likes to say, in “Audition” “the hot sexy chick is the bad guy” and is tormenting a man, so it doesn’t qualify as true “torture porn.”

  256. bonefish says

    “The Grudge” was good. Also liked most of “Silent Hill.”

    For the ultimate combination of freaky and humor, “Sean of the Dead.”

  257. Duvenoy says

    A Comedy of Terrors ~~ Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone & Peter Lorrie

    T’ain’t nothin’ new, but all of the new ones I’ve seen or read about were schlock. Has the industry no longer writers with imagination?

    I’d like to see Lucifer’s Hammer — Larry Niven — done. Or has it been already and I’ve missed it.


  258. Rick R says

    #319- “And as Rick R, likes to say, in “Audition” “the hot sexy chick is the bad guy” and is tormenting a man, so it doesn’t qualify as true “torture porn.”

    Actually, I didn’t care for “Audition”, only because I thought it was shallow. “Fatal Attraction”, though not perfect, was a much deeper exploration of the same idea.

  259. says

    Unfortunately, it’s only available on VHS, but ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is still my favorite scary move.

    Scared the SHIT out of me when I first saw it.

  260. says

    “Alien” is plenty scary, on more of an edge of the seat sort rather than “BOO!”. “Aliens” was more of an action flick, and all the others weren’t worth the time. There is a whole class of horror that isn’t enjoyed much by us that weren’t raised Catholic.

    Non-slasher horror is pretty much the territory of the English and Japanese.

  261. Midwest Migrant says

    I actually quite like the first “Saw,” but have been turned off by the sequels. Hostel actually was the movie that really turned me off to that whole genre – it was disturbing, but not in a good way – “torture porn” is an excellent description.

    Let me also recommend “28 Days/Weeks Later.” Both great films, with very different approaches to the subject with the first being a real re-invention of the zombie film. The 1994 remake of “Dawn of the Dead” is actually pretty good too. “Shaun of the Dead” will actually be much funnier if you are well-versed in the zombie film genre, but it’s a pretty fun flick even for the non-zombie enthusiast.

  262. Rick R says

    I loved “Hellraiser”. Very very imaginative. I love that Clive Barker invents his own completely original cosmology, rather than relying on any sort of christian mythology (or any other) to explain his supernatural elements. It’s an S&M horror movie.

  263. Longtime Lurker says

    The best horror involves mannerly batchelor scholars of WASP-y derivation and New England provenance going insane while faced with unutterable horror in the form of eldritch, tentacled remnants of pre-human intelligences. Can I get an “amen” here?

    Torture porn? Yech! I think a line from Spinal Tap explains them best- “wallowing in a sea of retarded sexuality”. I hope the genre meets a grisly doom.

    Gotta jump on the “Bubba Ho Tep” bandwagon here- Bedpans! Scarabs! Mummies! This film lacks nothing. It starts off as a low-budget comedy/horror movie, but ends up as an elegiac contemplation of the plight of lonely geriatrics in a society which devalues the aged. Plus, casting Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as JFK was inspired.

    “Ginger Snaps” and at least one of its sequals (the one set in the fort in the era of western expansion) were really good and a nice overturning of the subgenre best exemplified by “An American Werewolf in London” and even “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”.

    “Undead” was a good subversion of the zombie subgenre, with a really good WTF? ending that beat the hell out of any M. Night Shabba-Doo “tweest”. Plus, the multi-barreled shotgun array would make any FPS player drool.

  264. says

    Lot of good suggestions here — I actually looked at the Orphanage in the video store the other night, now I regret I didn’t get it.

    A lot of the older recommendations I’ve already got covered. I do, for instance, actually own a copy of Zontar: Thing From Venus.

    The more recent suggestions are appreciated. I’ve tried a few of the Japanese horror films — Skatje got a few of them — and I’m afraid they left me cold. I’ll have to look again

  265. JJR says

    I’m not a horror fan per se, but a few titles that scared the crap out of me…

    The original ALIEN movie
    (…the sequels are fun action movies, but with the cat out of the bag, or “facehugger already out of the sack”, the suspense is gone)


    parts of THE BLACK HOLE (that big red psychotic robot)

    THE THING (John Carpenter’s)

    …I prefer my “horror” spliced with SciFi elements I guess, although I thought EVENT HORIZON sucked. I saw it at the dollar theater and I still feel like I paid too much and want that hour or so of my life back.

    I thought CONSTANTINE sucked, too. I don’t go for that religious horror mumbo-jumbo.

    Never got into any of the Friday the 13th, Hellraiser, etc. type genres, just not my thing. I did remember remarking once how axe murderers and other ghouls seem to like to target teenagers out trying to score some nookie in the woods. Subtext of ‘Don’t have premarital sex or THIS will happen to you.”; kind of weird vibe there.

    PAN’S LABRYINTH….good, but creepy, with a sad ending. De Toro’s visuals are always eye-poppingly weird.

    DEAD AGAIN (K. Branagh), yeah that was awesome. More suspense than horror, though. I guess I like suspense more than horror as a general rule.

    ZENTROPA by Lars von Trier is a great suspense movie/historical drama set in occupied Germany, late 1940s, shot almost entirely in B&W, with dialogue in English and German. Young American civilian gets entangled in a web of intrigue between bitter-end Nazi holdouts and US occupation authorities.

    I thought BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was genuinely creepy, well done. I wasn’t interested in the sequel.

    I really dislike the “WW2 Horror” genre that’s gotten some airplay on SCI FI channel; Bleech. Just over-the-top dumb. Ditto all the Zombie Nazi flicks that pre-dated them.

    The “Reaver” episodes on Firefly (and those sequences in Serenity) always scared the crap out of me, too.

    I just watched the anime ELFEN LIED last week and it was good, but really f*cked up, and very gory/bloody, with a high body count. Some anime horror is a little over the top, but ELFEN LIED worked for me. Liked the anime series SPEEDGRAPHER, too, though that just had horror elements to it, but wasn’t 100% horror genre.

    Anyway, them’s my $.02

  266. Peter M says

    I may be straying too far, but “Threads” does it for me. It’s a BBC factional account of a nuclear strike on Sheffield in England and its appalling aftermath. It’s over 20 years old and the threat we all lived with then seems more distant, but it seared itself into the memory of nearly everyone who saw it.

  267. Everbleed says

    Both 28’s are just plain fun for vegging out.

    But if you want a good creep out, one that can really last, read Cormac McCarthys “The Road”

    It won the Pulitzer last year and really should be turned into a movie. Darkest book I ever read. Still haunts me.

    Beats the hell out of most “horror” movies these days. Our own minds are the best cinematographers when the script is excellent.

  268. says

    Seconding “Ravenous”, I’d forgotten all about that movie. Very underrated – it’s a vampire movie disguised as a Donner Party/survival horror story.

    Another one I just remembered – “May”, a deeply weird psychological thriller. Some gore but it’s used with restraint and efficiency – think Dario Argento, not Rob Zombie.

  269. HP says

    Wow. I’m really late to this thread. Who knows if PZ will read this far?

    If you like the old Gothic horrors of the sixties, try to find a recent movie from Portugal [!] called “Coisa Ruim” (roughly, “Tainted Blood”). It’s old-school Gothic Horror: a modern family from Lisbon moves to an old country mansion inherited from a distant relative. In the classic Gothic manner, secrets from the past assert themselves, threatening to reveal secrets of the present. Only one scene of graphic violence (in a flashback sequence), and the sexual elements are disturbing, but implicit rather than explicit. Beautiful cinematography and terrific acting throughout.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available in the US at present — cough — oh, excuse me for a moment; something’s caught in my throat. Coughcoughcoughcoughpiratebaycough. Whoo, sorry. What was I saying?

    If you look at the recommendations above, one thing is clear: We live in a golden age of horror movies. And not one of them is being made in Hollywood. Japan is losing some of its edge as well. Take a chance on horror movies from emerging economies like Thailand (“Bangkok Haunted” is nice little anthology film), Korea, Spain (the aforementioned [REC] and the Orphanage). Apparently, in Brazil, they’re reviving the Coffin Joe franchise. (If you haven’t seen At Midnight I’ll Steal Your Soul, you must. It’s a treat for the atheist film fan.)

    Economically, it makes sense for a country trying to build a local film industry to make high-quality Horror films. The export market is huge, and it’s one of those “long-tail” products that continues to produce revenue for years.

    I’ve never seen statistics, but I suspect that dedicated Horror fans watch a far greater percentage of foreign-language films than even the most effete cineaste snobs.

  270. HP says

    Moggie: I can’t watch Audition again, because of… that sound effect. Shudder.

    Tiktiktiktiktiktiktik. Tiktiktiktiktiktiktik.

  271. says

    Oh and while I’m overposting, am I the only one here who couldn’t stand “Brotherhood of the Wolf”? It was a terrible mishmash of styles, assembling random bits from The Matrix, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Dances With Wolves into an admittedly stylish but overwrought mess. If the movie had the good sense not to take itself so seriously, it would have been worth watching — as it is my eyes were rolled so far back through most of the dialogue I could see my own tonsils.

  272. Soybomb says

    The X-Files had its ups and down but there were several good monster of the week episodes that me think of it as a modern twilight zone or the outer limits. They’re worth a look if you’ve never seen them.

  273. Patricia says

    #316 – Luke – Thanks! Ginger ale is supposed to go down one’s throat, NOT out one’s nose.

  274. HP says

    K. Signal Eingang: Nope, I had the same reaction. I rather liked the movie about the naturalist hunting the werewolf in pre-revolutionary France. I thought the martial arts movie was silly. I thought the movie about Native American mysticism was offensive and racist. And the “sci-fi” movie was completely incompetent.

    It’s too bad they were all one movie. I really wish there were more period horror films being made today.

  275. Lulia says

    Try “See the Sea” by François Ozon. It’s incredibly tense for a film with only two characters and has one of the scariest performances by an actress that I’ve ever seen. Ozon is a good director, and “See the Sea” deserves more attention.

  276. deep says

    I definitely second (third?)Jesus Camp as one heck of a horror movie.
    No special effects.
    No scantily clad women (although there are some young boys with no t-shirts in a sleepover setting that is … unsettling at first).
    And like any good horror movie it makes you paranoid. Of course instead of being unable to turn out the lights or look underneath your bed this movie makes you afraid of walking near certain churches on Sundays, of packs of wild children led by a young boy with a mullet passing out Psudochristian literature and mistaking you for a muslim, as well as the outcome of the next election.

    I’m going to have a passport and tickets to some Nordic country ready and waiting for when the time comes…

  277. Gray Lensman says

    The Mist is available as an original Binaural CD (Binaural is stereo on steroids). No pictures, but the true surround sound is extremely convincing with a good set of headphones, with the best fidelity you ever heard. Try listening to it in the dark. Very creepy.

    Check out for more info.

  278. says

    For exactly those reasons I recently turned towards Japanese horror flicks. Even the bad ones are usually interesting enough just because of the different cultural background (which also makes them kind of unpredictable). I really recommend Kansen, less for the thrill but more for a highly entertaining story.

  279. Longtime Lurker says

    How about Ishiro Honda’s “Matango” for creepy 60s Toho goodness?

    I second the nomination of “Don’t Look Now”. It is dreamy and unsettling. Speaking of dreamy and unsettling, anyone in NYC should go to the Salvador Dali exhibit at MoMA.

  280. SC says

    Longtime Lurker,

    I was just recommending the “After Nature” exhibit at the New Museum on the Bowery. It only runs through the 21st, so there isn’t much more time to see it, but it’s very good (especially the Werner Herzog film).

  281. Lulia says

    Oh and and. If you liked Hammer Films, you should check out some of the old Italian horror flicks from the ’60s or so. Mario Bava’s “Kill, Baby, Kill!” is as silly as you’d expect, but it has some moments of real creativity. Be wary of Dario Argento, though: “Suspiria” was loony enough to be fun, but some of his other films are too misogynistic to be enjoyed without queasiness.

    Best of all, though: if you can find a trio of short films called “Spirits of the Dead,” each based on a Poe story, skip the first two and watch Fellini’s wonderful “Toby Dammit.” An actor preparing to play Jesus is pursued by the Devil, who happens to be a little girl. It’s surreal, it’s creepy, it’s mildly blasphemous.

  282. Paul Adams says

    The whole concept of ‘torture porn’ is just another conservative tabloid scare which has more place in the likes of the Daily Mail and Express in the UK than in these pages. A lot of those films may be garbage but I’m really disappointed to see such a rational fella throw his lot in with the scaremongers. A rare minus point for PZ.

  283. Bob Makin says

    I’m so glad someone else likes Cat People. Usually when I mention the movie I’m met with a blank stare or a comment to the effect that animal movies aren’t entertaining. Truly sensual and frightening.

  284. says

    Apparently, in Brazil, they’re reviving the Coffin Joe franchise. (If you haven’t seen At Midnight I’ll Steal Your Soul, you must. It’s a treat for the atheist film fan.)

    I loved At Midnight I’ll Steal Your Soul! An atheist horror movie for sure… Don’t forget Ken Russell’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm which has lots of deliciously sacrilegious images–not the least being Amanda Donohoe.

    I’ve never seen statistics, but I suspect that dedicated Horror fans watch a far greater percentage of foreign-language films than even the most effete cineaste snobs.

    You may have a point. I’ve seen more Jean Rollin movies than I have Jean-Luc Godard, that’s for sure.

  285. insin says

    28 Weeks Later is a great movie to dump any on unsuspecting friends who think they would revel in the typical movie zombie holocaust scenario (I’d still like to see a game which explores that fully). The opening is absolutely terrifying.

    As someone who also abhors “torture porn” and other lazy forms of horror movies (teen slashers and the like), the last genuinely scary horror movie I’ve seen is [REC]. Despite some obvious “jump” moments which you’ll see coming a mile off, it delivers a heart-pounding atmosphere which ratchets up all the way to the end.

  286. Longtime Lurker says

    Thanks for the tip, SC, the exhibit looks right up my alley (although I would have liked to have seen Alexis Rockman listed in the artists’ roster) I’ll plan on going down to the Bowery, then bop over to Chinatown for banh mi and/or pho.

  287. Nancy says

    #318 Luke – “Date” Quiet Desp? I don’t think so but, it’s possible I’ve met him (or someone like him) at our local dungeon.

  288. cyan says

    Haven’t seen it in 20 years, but so memorable because it scared the hell out of me while watching even though my mind was busily rationalizing it: The Howling.

  289. JoeyRamone says

    How about Shaun of the Dead? A tongue-in-cheek British satire of zombie moves; very entertaining.

  290. extatyzoma says

    a great oldie is ‘the creeping flesh’ that mixes digging up fossils and sexual repression and all manner of oddness.

    a review summed it up well ‘dont try to understand it, just enjoy’. one i just recently rewatched since for the first time since i was a kid is ‘the skull’ not especially great but atmospheric and fun enough.

    newer material: the devils backbone.

  291. extatyzoma says

    the descent is Ok, it does have an evolutionary theme and that may even be reflected in the name, as opposed to the ascent (of man)

  292. Angie says

    Not strictly horror, but “The Name of the Rose” always creeped me out. A most aesthetically ‘interesting’-looking cast.

  293. flame821 says

    Have to add my voice to the Japanese horror movies. Scariest effing things ever, both gut wrenching and (in a few cases) mind bendingingly so.

    I’m not sure if this is ‘horror’ or not (and forgive me if someone else mentioned it, long list of comments to check on) but “Lair of the White Worm” always stuck in my head as creepy. Mixing several genres and European cultures / belief systems to weird ends.

  294. MrGronk says

    I’d recommend Peter Jackson’s third movie, Brain Dead (might have a different name in the US). Glorious over the top gore-fest, and a clever satire on 1950s New Zealand. This might be a bit lost on foreign viewers, so for an American equivalent try to imagine a wholesome Eisenhower-era place being overrun by truly revolting zombies …

  295. extatyzoma says

    1970’s seconded on ‘dont look now’

    and also an atmospheric french cycling! thriller is

    ‘and soon the darkness’

    oh and a must is spielbergs ‘duel’ thats an excellent film.

  296. extatyzoma says

    another rather creepy film from the 70’s is ‘communion’ which i think was also called ‘alice sweet alice’ about some psycho kid, its cheap and nihilistic but is creepy, the main protagonist with her rather unusual features works well. now especially recommended, in fact its probably crap but it spooked me back in the day.

  297. Lady Fu says

    I’m not wading through 300+ comments, so forgive if this is a repeat… but I recently watched the 2007 movie Teeth, about a girl with the mythical vagina dentata. Maybe it is just me, but I found this movie absolutely hilarious and very watchable.

  298. Jyotsana says

    MrGronk (#371): If we’re thinking of the same film, over here it’s called Dead Alive, and it’s really one of my favorite silly gore-fests. The ear-in-the-pudding scene is particularly nasty. I love him taking the zombie baby to the park, though, with barbed wired around his stroller :D

  299. Benvious says

    “Brain Dead” was retitled “Dead Alive” in the States, and it’s awesome. Just make sure you get the unrated version, though. There is a bowdlerized R-rated version that cuts out all of the gore, making the last half-hour or so an unwatchable mess.

    Since nobody’s mentioned it, I’ll recommend “Bug,” by William Friedkin (of “The Exorcist” fame). It wasn’t at all the stereotypical gross-out bug-attack the ads made it look to be. Very psychological, and some great performances.

  300. Sven DiMilo says

    The vagina dentata is nothing compared to the horror of the vagina radula.

    I keep trying that joke in the hope that, some day, some molluscophile other than me will think it’s funny. As far as I know it hasn’t happened yet.

  301. Trish says

    /glances over at our huge collection of cheese horror

    Most of them are really bad, sadly.

    When in doubt I’ll usually choose something by Quentin Tarantino. “Death Proof” was a fun ride (heh), and even I appreciated the lap dance scene (no nudity).

    I’m particularly fond of Dexter. As a matter of course, this show is my only reason for owning a television, especially since the let down of the latest season of House.

    Then there are the basic staples. Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. They never fail me.

  302. SC says

    I’m not wading through 300+ comments, so forgive if this is a repeat…

    It is, but so are perhaps 100 of the previous recommendations, so it fits right in. :)

    Poor, neglected Ctrl+F.

  303. Trish says

    “If you just want a good science fiction movie, PZ (and everyone else), then see The Man from Earth. DEFINITELY see The Man from Earth!”

    See above. Loved this one.

  304. ddr says

    And don’t forget one of my favorite movies.

    Lake Placid

    Although it does have a few “how gross can we be” scenes, it is all about the story and the relationships of the characters.

  305. pacocat says

    28 Days Later and
    28 Weeks Later have been cited so many times already—

    Watch them, and know what horror can really be as a genre…

    (Shaun of the Dead too…..)

  306. says

    Me during most of “Saw”:


    God that movie sucked so bad.

  307. Graculus says

    Peter M: I was beginning to think I was the only person who saw “Threads”. That is a movie that leaves scars.

    “Buba Ho-tep” and “Shaun of the Dead” are a must. I’d recommend “The Others”, good atmosphere, no violence.

    For creature features, check out “Lake Placid” – yes, it’s a crocodile, but it’s definitely fun and funny.

    An older one that gets overlooked is “Nomads”, very little on screen gore, nice premise, based on a Chelsea Quinn Yarbro story.

    “Cronos”.. it’s a Mexican vampire flick, but it’s not really a vampire flick, or a horror flick.. oh, just see it.

    As always, anything from John Carpenter, and I second someone’s nomination of the 80’s remake of “The Blob”

  308. says

    As a New Zealander I have to support NZ’s favourite son – Peter Jackson. He started in horror as the best and cheapest way for an ambitious budding film director to get going.

    His first movie, “Bad Taste”, is a classic low budget schlock-horror, filmed in the weekends with several friends, about a bunch of aliens come to Earth to harvest humans as intergalactic fast-food. PJ stars in it too.

    The other goody is “Brain Dead”, known as “Dead/Alive” in the US. So much gore that it is really, really funny! The rare Sumatran Rat-Monkey, whose bite starts the whole zombie ball rolling, also has a labled cage on board the ship in PJ’s later movie “King Kong”.

    I recommend both for the great merging of horror and comedy.

  309. bernard quatermass says

    “I loved ‘Hellraiser.’ Very very imaginative. I love that Clive Barker invents his own completely original cosmology, rather than relying on any sort of christian mythology (or any other) to explain his supernatural elements. It’s an S&M horror movie.”

    I concur on the first film. The sequels were all kinda dreadful, though.

    At one point I had great hopes for Barker, but … I don’t know. I think it was pretty much downhill after the first Hellraiser and the short story collections The Books of Blood.

  310. says

    I stumbled across this thread a bit late, so I’ll add some of my favorites…

    I have to agree that most of the horror films today leave me feeling empty. Good Sci-fi does exist, however.

    First and foremost: every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000

    Second, I tend to like zombie flicks and anything intentionally humorous: Sean of the Dead, all of the Evil Dead series (a bit grusome at times, but so intentionally hokey they make me laugh).

    As for science fiction, I’ve enjoyed all of the following: Minority Report (ignore the fact that it’s Tom Cruise, and you’ll enjoy it better), Pi, Primer (great film!), The Ring (the first, not the second). I think you’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed Alien I or II.

    The Sci-fi channel, thanks to the low price of producing films in the balkans and Russia, puts out quite a few original movies. Most of these fall into the categories you mentioned, but there are some real jewels – keep your eyes peeled.

    If I had to pick a single movie from the list, Primer would win.

  311. Steve Ulven says

    I’m watching The Fall (just came out today) on BluRay right now (also not a horror movie) and felt I had to post. So far it has Charles Darwin as a Fairy Tale hero and a little girl that steals a communion wafer; so maybe this is worth checking out.

    Some horror movies I have enjoyed that are fairly new are: The Descent, Inside, The Orphanage, [REC] (Remake called Quarantine coming out in October), Shaun of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes (Remake), Sunshine (SciFi), Teeth (although I consider it more a superhero movie for the ladies), The Devil’s Rejects, Jack Ketcham’s The Girl Next Door (really, almost as good as the book as a book-to-movie can get), The Mist, The Signal. Hope that is of some help to anyone. This is just off memory and what I have of my incomplete DVD list spreadsheet.

    Recently in theaters I also liked Mirrors and Midnight Meat Train.

  312. LongRider says

    A dystioian science fiction movie from last year that I really like is “Children of Men.”

    If your into Dune, the SciFi channel did a Dune mini series that was good. They also did “Children of Dune” but was of lesser quality than “Dune.”

  313. rufustfirefly says


    The film version of The Road is coming out later this year, November, I believe, starring Viggo Mortensen.

  314. says

    these movies aren’t horror or thriller movies at all, they’re torture porn.

    Agreed, these films aren’t scary. They are just disgusting, using blood & gore as a substitute for real horror. It’s a shame that these movies are the new standard in horror, what ever happened to making a film genuinely scary instead of relying on shock value?

    Not to deride the genre of torture porn, just that it’s not horror. It’s a shame that horror has come to mean “shock value”.

  315. Mr Twiddle says

    Submitted for your approval:

    ‘The Magician’ – 1958, Ingmar Bergman.
    “Into the Nether-World! You’ll Gasp At This Occult Hypnotic Experience Into the Supernatural!”
    When ‘Vogler’s Magnetic Health Theater’ comes to town, there’s bound to be a spectacle. Reading reports of a variety of supernatural disturbances at Vogler’s prior performances abroad, the leading townspeople (including the police chief and medical examiner) request that their troupe provide them a sample of their act, before allowing them public audiences. The scientific-minded disbelievers try to expose them as charlatans, but Vogler and his crew prove too clever for them.

    ‘The Curse of the Demon’ – 1958.
    “Who will be the next in line to defy the curse?”
    Skeptic, Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) ventures to London to attend a paranormal psychology symposium with the intention to expose devil cult leader, Julian Karswell.

    ‘The Man from Planet-X’, 1951.
    “The WEIRDEST Visitor the Earth has ever seen!”
    To study a rogue planet heading for a near-miss with Earth, Prof. Elliot sets up an observatory on the foggy moors of a remote Scottish island when a ship from Planet X just happens to land near the observatory.

    ‘Carnival of Lost Souls’, 1962.
    “She Was A Stranger Among The Living.”
    After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.

    ‘Dementia 13″, 1963, Francis Ford Coppola.
    “You Must Pass the “D-13” Test To Prepare You for the Horrifying Experience of Dementia 13. If You Fail the Test…You Will Be Asked to Leave the Theater!

    ‘I Married a Monster from Outer Space’, 1958.
    “The bride wore terror!”.
    Aliens from Outer Space are slowly switching places with real humans — one of the first being a young man about to get married…

    Note: Taglines and synopsis are from IMDB.

  316. clamboy says




    Flames! Motorcycles! Combs! Zombies! Aliens! Guitar picks! And love, so much love!

    Did I mention it’s from Japan, and stars Guitar Wolf? Well, it is and it does!!!

  317. lee e says

    People once dissed all those old creature features we love. So, the question: what films of the present will be the cult favorites of tomorrow? Points for wit and genuine prescience; I’ll post the grades in 2033, so keep watching the skies…

  318. says

    Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick are two very different movies. The first is one of the best suspense movies since Hitchcock. The second one is a cheesy sequel.

    Pitch Black relies on character development and the audiences understanding of the personalities involved for its suspense. You really do not know what’s going to happen next or whether or not anyone is coming out of the movie alive (well, you know that Riddick does because of the crappy sequel – darn).

    I also second “Soyboy’s” recommendation of the early seasons of the X-Files. It had some great episodes before the writers started on its conspiracy theory story arcs. The first two seasons in particular had not a bad episode. All of them very intelligent, suspenseful and out of the ordinary. Their openings had a great power to grab you and draw you in.

  319. Mr. Twiddle says

    #271 Eli suggested, ‘Zontar, The Thing from Venus’.

    Perhaps, if PZ watches it, he’ll be able to classify the ‘Injectopod’ for us. Cephalopod or gastropod?

  320. Simon says

    Way back at the start of this thread several people recommended The Mist to P.Z. While it certainly has its moments and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend against it, I can think of a portrayal of a certain character that will drive P.Z. batty – the “atheist”. He’s made out to be just as bad as the religious loons, and in fact the entire movie seemed to me to be a celebration of the “moderate believer” mindset. Atheists, Scientists, Science, Reason: bad. Religious Loons: bad. Moderate Believers: good, if a tad unlucky at times. Having said that, the movie somehow triggered memories of my childhood imagination with its plot and visuals.

    For my money The Descent was a good bare-bones horror(with the original ending being better than the patronizing U.S. ending)- tense, and with a (nearly) all-female cast which was a refreshing change. For a quirky, not-new movie also featuring female leads I think May was pretty cool (with Ana Faris as a co-star, can’t remember the main actress’ name).

    Sean of the Dead and Fido are two must-see Zombie comedy/horrors, with SotD being the better film.

    The Orphanage was well done.

  321. says

    Although someone mentioned it in a lengthy list, I have to second Tremors. This is my favorite monster movie ever. The movie does not bore you with an origin story: some number of subterranean creatures start eating the members of a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere (pop. about 12). Unlike mindless blow-stuff-up action movies this one plays out as a race between the people and the monsters to learn more about each other sooner. Horror/suspense movies of the kind PZ described do not get much better than this one.

  322. Wayne Robinson says

    I remember a film critic on television describing “the Pirate Movie” as a horror film (it’s actually a musical). When corrected by the presenter of the show he said “it’s a horror film if you actually paid to see it”. The New Zealand film “Black Sheep” is set up to have a sequel, but I doubt it will happen. I thought the best thing about it was the alternate title of “the Violence of the Lambs.” A horror film you must NEVER see is John Carpenter’s “Vampires”. Even though it was number one in the box office for one weekend in 1998, it was knocked off that perch by “the Waterboy” the next weekend. Enough said.

  323. says

    I keep remembering movies after I post.

    The Abyss is great until the last 10 minutes. If you can tolerate a movie that ends with a bit of a let down (not a total train wreck, but disappointing) then this is definitely in the “intelligent monster” category.

    Another one is a British mini-series called Ultraviolet. Be very careful: there is a feature length turkey with the same title. The mini-series only has about 6 episodes. It’s a vampire movie in which the vampires talk a really good game and prove more than a match for vampire killers. Instead of a fight scene you more often have a verbal sparring match. Sounds odd, but it works.

    The movie is not at all related, stars Milla Jovovich, and it barks, it bites, it wets on trees.

  324. says

    I place John Carpenter’s Vampires in the “bad enough to be funny category.” If unintentional comedy is not your thing, avoid it.

    I also just saw a rhetorical error in my last post. I better stop now.

  325. Tiskel says

    One that I though was really good was a Hong Kong film called Silk IMDB.

    I thought that The Abandoned IMDB was pretty good too.

    Netflix is great for off the wall / international / independent movies. I used to get IFC, and loved seeing the upcoming independent movies there.

  326. cyan says

    Deviation from film to novel: the most horrific book I have ever read is Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (definitely not the insipid movie: the actual novel). There are other books more nauseating in their details, but none more vomitous and mind-destroying in the consequences of the plot as deadfully written by Wilde.

  327. BobbyEarle says

    I only sifted through this 400 plus thread, so if this has already been mentioned please forgive me.

    The Fritz Lang film “M”, with Peter Lorre as a child murderer in 1931 Berlin really captures what horror should be, at least to me.

    There is no gore, nobody being chased through the woods with a chainsaw. Simply a manhunt for a psycho, with minimalist dialog, and a soundtrack that will make you nervous. It is in German, with English subtitles…but the tension really comes out of the screen. Very dark, very disturbing with lots of film noir elements before the advent of film noir.

    Night time in Berlin, and all the kids are safe in their homes. Then the anguished scream from down the block from a mother who’s daughter is found dead…

    Here is good Wikipedia article on the film.

  328. says

    Day of the Dead

    The horror lies not in the zombies, but in the slow moral disintegration of the human community.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Does more with a few drops of blood than most flicks do with buckets of the stuff.

    A Tiger Walks

    Two young adolescents are confronted with small town political corruption.

    Manos, Hands of Fate

    Sometimes it’s the film maker who is the horror.

  329. says

    Also, I agree with the recommendation for “Pitch Black”. I’m so very, very confused that Vin Diesel was apparently once a very serviceable actor, and then became bad in later movies. How does that happen?

    #344 K. Signal Eingang: How could I have forgotten those two? I’m not sure Ravenous qualifies as horror, but I absolutely loved May. Sure, there’s some blood ‘n’ guts, but the movie really, really earns it. (Except for the opening shot. Presumably that drives off the sort of people who’d freak out halfway through the movie, and saves them some time.)

    It’s especially disconcerting to see posters for Anna Faris in House Bunny–which appears to be low, low, low-brow exploitation–and remember her work in May. I knew that shows jumped the shark, but performers?

  330. defectiverobot says


    Your mentioning Peter Jackson brings up one of the most overlooked movies ever: The Frighteners. It’s packaged as horror but it’s really not. I just enjoyed the hell out of that movie.

  331. says

    #410 Alan Kellogg,
    I’m so glad someone mentioned a Herzog movie! That man is a demon. I haven’t seen Manos – have in fact been avoiding it – but I’ll look it up if it’s actually scary. Have you by any chance seen Bells from the Deep? It looked like it might be some good, freaky stuff, but I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.
    I’m really not able to help PZ much in the way of finding good movies, though I too would vouch for the awesomeness of Shaun of the Dead.

  332. says

    #414 Angel Kaida
    I’m so embarrassed! My very first post and I’m stupidly rambling about something unrelated… I got Manos confused with Aguerre because I heard about them in the same context and the comment “the film maker is the horror” further reinforced my mistake. Sorry.

  333. Clemens says

    Wow, what I thought immediately after reading this: Why does this one get > 400 comments in such a short amount of time? :D

  334. Phy says

    #416 – Because unlike evo-devo, everyone’s got an opinion about bad movies?

    I haven’t seen “The Ruins” mentioned yet. Came out last year, it was a pretty ok monster movie that I think managed to be a little more intelligent than usually happens, mostly because the arrogant know-it-all skeptical character (a pre-med student, in this case), the one who usually get eaten by the monster right after proclaiming there’s no such thing as ghosts, turns out to be right about absolutely everything.

    It’s no Alien or Event Horizon, but it ain’t bad.

  335. Allen says

    I’ll second (or nth) the vote for ‘El Orfanato’. I’d also suggest ‘The Cottage’ for something lighter.

  336. Jose says

    I thought The Ring/Ringu was a little boring. I kept thinking that they should just find some old guy who didn’t have long to live and make him watch it. Problem solved. “Take one for the team, old man.”

    Three… Extremes – The first movie dumplings is the real gem. It has has very little gore, but is the most horrific and uncomfortable movie I’ve ever seen. It’s really not for the fait of heart. The second film cut is OK, but more of a graphic twilight zone. The final movie box is worth watching because it’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking. It made absolutely no sense to me though.

    Someone mentioned The Host which is good if you ignore the awful scientific cause given at the beginning (I actually preferred Cloverfield), but the directors preceding movie Memories of Murder is great. It’s a fact based story of Korea’s first serial killer. Think Zodiac, but better.

    Audition is another well done but difficult to watch film, so be careful. If you read a plot summary it sounds like a romantic comedy. My wife watched it despite my description of “Misery combined with a Quentin Tarentino torture scene” and the DVD cover which shows an attractive Japanese girl menacingly wielding a syringe. She was traumatized for weeks.

    Thesis is a great Spanish film which my wife actually made me watch. It’s what the movie 8mm would have been if it didn’t suck.

    Ravenous – Good Civil war horror film with and odd but satisfying score. It’s also wife friendly.

  337. Christophe Thill says

    PZ, I agree with you that good old horror movies seem to be a thing of the past. But please keep in mind that, in this domain as in many others, we only remember the good stuff and forget the truly awful one (except when it’s “so bad it’s good”). Exploitation movies with the brutal and gory killing of pretty young girls are nothing new ; well, when they were made by Hershell Gordon Lewis, they were too weird and poorly made to be truly despicable.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t complain about one thing. Lots of US horror movies today are actually religious: they show exorcisms, quote biblical verses, etc, and the message is that you should keep away from all things occult. “The Reaping”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”… All this is rather unpleasant to me.

    You should definitely take a look at Asian horror ; not only Japanese, but also Thai (“The Eye”, the original I mean, was great). There have been some great movies from Spanish/Latin American directors these last years, from “The Devil’s Spine” to “The Others” to “Pan’s Labyrinth” to “REC”…

  338. Pimentita says

    Re: Torture porn as portrayed in the article at the top of the post.

    I’m kinda puzzled over the equation of this term with the mixture of sex(uality) and gore/torture/killing, especially of women, in horror films. My understanding is that the term refers to the fetishization of the violence itself. That the scenes depicting torture, excessively gory deaths, etc are meant to (and do) just “get people off” and have either a ridiculous plot or not much of a plot at all. Like porn movies. It has nothing to do with the gender or sexualization of the victims, IMO.

    Movies like “Captivity” and “Hostel” definitely fit the bill (the latter to a lesser extent because it explores the interplay between amoral people with too much money and the desperation of the people they exploit – see human trafficking, black market organs, etc. It doesn’t do this very well, but it tries…the same cannot be said for the sequel, however.) I love gore. I love being scared and disgusted, but even I had to turn off “Captivity” about 30 minutes in because it had absolutely no redeeming qualities. It was pure “torture porn.” It only existed to get people off on the torture and had no real plot and offered no real suspense, insight or social commentary. I don’t watch actual porn for the same reasons. It bores me.

    I haven’t seen “Rest Stop,” but I have to also disagree with Trish’s assessment of movies like the French “Ils” as torture porn. First of all, it is definitely more of a psychological thriller with little physical violence except towards the end and even then there isn’t really any gore. Gore fan that I am, that, to me, is a horror movie. The dread of feeling trapped, not being able to identify the source of your terror, nor escape from it, is terrifying. The fact that the characters don’t always get away and defeat the monster/psycho killer(s)/demon whatever does not automatically make a movie “torture porn.” Nor does the fact that one simply doesn’t like gore or slasher movies, no matter how well made…

    Secondly, “Ils” is based on a true story of a French couple who moved to Romania and were terrorized in their home and murdered. Are filmmakers supposed to whitewash reality in order not to be accused of making “torture porn?” That this shit actually happens is what is truly horrifying.

  339. uriel says

    Well, of recent(ish) (and movies I’d have to recommend:

    Session 9- a couple of scenery chewing moments from David Carusco, but over all a pretty tight little film that sticks in the mind. Of all the movies I’ve seen in the past year, I randomly recall scenes from this one more than most. Especially the ending voice over…. Also notable as a major influence on the creators of the silent hill games. (More on that later.)

    Juon- makes a kind of sense that is, well, non- but the physical acting and direction is pretty captivating.

    Blair witch- sorry, all you haters and such, but there’s a reason it made a boatload of money with nary a graphic scene. But I do get that it is dependent on a certain level of character identification- if you hate the main characters, the movies gonna leave you cold. Also, there’s the issue of unrealistic expectations. One thing that kills any good horror film is hype.

    The Ring, either version- gotta watch it alone, and gotta be willing to suspend disbelief- the last 15 minutes pay off in a way that the first hour+ doesn’t even suggest. (Though this might have something to do with the fact that, when I first viewed it, my job required me to routinely work well past mid-night, alone, in an office with a bunch of silent TV’s)

    Maribito- Jap-horror, but again, for whatever its failings, it remains in the mind. Unfortunately, it wanders a bit in the middle before getting it’s crap together at the end. Also nice for its shout out to the Shaver Mysteries, which rival or exceed the Lovecraft mythos and Scientology as “obviously imaginary nonsense people actually believed.”

    28 days- Just a great film, in every way. Best of list.

    As far as some of the suggestions up thread-

    Silent Hill- a nice add on to the games, but really inferior to the source material- wildly so. The ‘boss’ scene is impressive, but the lead up in 2 and 3 is way creepier and coherent.

    Cannibal holocaust- really? I mean, really? At the very least, you could have suggested something that pretends to be something more than a blatant attempt to offend- If you’re going to try entries in the ‘most horrible movies ever made” category, at least mention something that attempts to take itself seriously, like “men behind the sun.” The cannibal movies movies are nothing more than the progenitors of the Saw x-Hostel-Tourista school of film-making.

    Unfortunately, as many of the responses make clear, the eighties were really the last high water mark in horror- the remakes of the Fly, The Thing and Cat People, Alien, Hell Raiser 1 and 2, and Angel Heart make anything coming after look anemic in comparison.

  340. SoMG says

    Two great horror-for-bio/medical science types are REANIMATOR (but not the sequels) and DAY OF THE DEAD (the third in George Romero’s trilogy which begins with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD). Neither is recent but both are great classics worth watching every few years if you’re in a bioscience field. REANIMATOR is really about the hierarchical nature of Science and its dependence on personalities, plus it presents a good method for dealing with exploitative principal investigators which every grad student should know. DAY OF THE DEAD explores the relationship between Medical Science and the new-cure-demanding Public, who don’t understand how what you’re doing is connected to their problems but must be persuaded to cooperate anyway. Best line: “Civility must be rewarded, Captain. If it’s not rewarded, there’s no use for it. There’s just no use for it at all!”

    Speaking of Christopher Lee, I trust everyone has already seen his favorite of his movies, THE WICKER MAN. If not, make that the next one you see. Avoid the recent remake with Nicholas Cage.

  341. uriel says

    And now that I’m looking over that-sorry about the grammar errors- especially ‘movies movies’ thing in the Cannibal Holocaust’ paragraph.


  342. uriel says

    Speaking of Christopher Lee, I trust everyone has already seen his favorite of his movies, THE WICKER MAN. If not, make that the next one you see. Avoid the recent remake with Nicholas Cage.

    As to the first point- yes. As to the second- yeah, again, yes.

    Sometimes I really wonder who is giving Nick Cage career advice… Probably the same person whispering in Micky Rourke’s ear. Really, neither one sucks as bad as the roles they pick.

    It’s a mystery for the ages, I spouse… I blame the deros.

  343. John C. Randolph says

    MOST men love these “scenes”.

    Waving a rather broad brush around there, aren’t you? Got anything besides your own sexist assertions to back up such a blanket condemnation of half of the people in the world?


  344. John C. Randolph says

    Since we’re getting into recommendations, I’ll throw a couple in the ring.

    I highly recommend any films by Akira Kurosawa (especially Rashomon and the Seven Samurai), Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro), and Pedro Almadovar. Kurosawa’s films are visually magnificent.

    One other film I saw a few years ago that surprised the hell out of me, is called Lagaan. I’m not a sports fan by any means, and the last third of this movie is a cricket match, but it had me spellbound. It is a masterpiece.

    As far as scary movies go, the scariest one I’ve seen would have to be Fatal attraction. That one scares me because it’s plausible. Glenn Close an incredible peformance as a homicidal psychotic. You can watch that movie and see any crazed, obsessed ex-lover you ever had just amplified.


  345. Jose says

    I always thought the original Wicker Man was a movie that didn’t quite live up to its potential and was ripe for a remake. Then I saw the remake.

  346. SoMG says

    I also totally agree with the person who mentioned CURSE OF THE DEMON with Dana Andrews. It’s like a really well-written Twilight Zone episode. In some ways it’s like THE WICKER MAN–a man with the authority of modern civilization investigates an isolated mystical community with its own rules.

    If you’re into a light torture-beautiful-women flick with an amusingly goofy 70s plot and one really outstanding demonstration of the craft of scaring you by making you identify with a crazy repulsive serial killer, I recommend DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE starring the late underappreciated genius Nicholas Worth.

    One more: for another world-class portrayal of cunning, murderous villiany, this time with a comic turn, check out Alfred Hitchcock’s flawed early masterpiece JAMAICA INN starring Maureen O’Hara, Robert Newton (!) and Charles Laughton. Oh yes and legendary British tough-guy actor of stage and screen Leslie Banks.

  347. Lilly de Lure says

    SoMG said:

    Speaking of Christopher Lee, I trust everyone has already seen his favorite of his movies, THE WICKER MAN. If not, make that the next one you see. Avoid the recent remake with Nicholas Cage.

    Saw the original and loved it so avoided the remake – there are some films that are simply great as they stand and should be left alone (The Ladykillers is another, what possessed Tom Hanks to think that he was ever going to be able to compete with Sir Alec Guiness for goodness sake?).

    Going back to horror films however, I second everyone who has been recommending “Ginger Snaps” (although I thought it got let down by the sequels) and everything by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent (his best IMHO) and more recently Doomsday, although the latter is more like a remake of Mad Max than anything else – not to mention best avoided if you are planning a barbeque in the foreseeable future).

    Finally, and just for fun – Slithers and Tremors are fantastic when you just want a belly-laugh with your horror.

  348. Vidar says

    Ringu and the Grudge have already been mentioned. Does Pitch Black count as horror?

    Off topic-ish: Most hollywood movies suck these days. they have huge budgets, but almost no good acting, or writing, or directing, and it’s mostly about the special effects and explosions.
    Movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, Brotherhoof of the wolf, Vidocq, and a lot of asian stuff have a higher entertainment value than 99% of the latest multi-million blockbuster hollywood releases.

    Also, try watching movies by Akira kurosawa. The 7 Samurai, the Hidden Fortress, Sanjuro, Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, and Ran are all excellent movies.

  349. Wayne Robinson says

    No, I don’t think “Pitch Black” counts as horror. It does count as having the most plausible plot of any film I have seen recently. Now let’s see, a spaceship with its crew in hibernation, flies through a meteor shower, which kills most of the crew and causes the ship to crash into the atmosphere of a moon at exactly the right angle not to bounce off the atmosphere or burn up, exactly one day before there is an eclipse which causes the first bit of total darkness for 28 years. And all the life forms on this moon have evolved to live underground and to only come out to feed during total darkness. And the survivors just managed to crash land (by chance) within walking distance of a research station with a working spaceship to escape from the monsters. All of this sounds entirely plausible. The thing that I couldn’t believe was that the Islamic imam seemed quite reasonable.

  350. fishwood loach says

    I recommend “The Secret Window”. It is a deliberately ambiguous tale of a man who may or may not have killed his wife, stalked by (or stalking) a writer who may or may not have written a story describing the crime in detail. The main character gradually goes crazy, and the end leaves you unsure who was who and who did what. Johnny Depp, John Tuturro, novella that inspired it by Stephen King.

  351. Stephanator says

    The Tenant (1976), directed by Roman Polanski, is the best horror thriller I’ve ever seen. Not a gore fest, but a twisted trip through the scary landscape of the mind.

  352. Neil Schipper says

    Despite having pretty much abandoned movie watching some time ago (a handful a year mostly due to trying to retain some status as a social animal) …

    Ditto to prior mention of Cronenberg’s Scanners: opening scene just pulls you in, and plot stays full of surprises; characters a bit wooden, but somehow that actually helps retain focus on bigger ideas; under a somewhat cheesy outer layer, a worthy meditation on human psychology, power and technology.

    The Rapture: horror isn’t quite the genre, but this movie doesn’t fit into any genre I can think of. Great performance by Mimi Rogers.

    Finally, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (Tarantino/Rodriguez): About ten years ago, I had returned to work from a morning dental procedure, the last visit for a root canal. As the anaesthetic wore off, the pain intensified to a level I found quite remarkable. Unable to concentrate, but also unwilling to just go home and suffer, I took the advice of a colleague: “why don’t you go see a movie?” Distraction! What a great idea! So I go to the cineplex. I knew nothing about the films on offer, and from the posters, they mostly looked predictable and lame; this one seemed promising as means of distraction. In my then state, it turned out to be a terrific roller-coaster ride! Lots of people in rather more unpleasant circumstances than my own; a soundtrack with lively crunchy guitars; a rather remarkable transition part-way through that made it feel like you were getting two different movies for your money; and a strong comedic streak behind the psychotic behaviour and the gore. I got a sense that its makers had a genuine love for movie-making, an urge to entertain purely, and the confidence to eschew pressure to make some self-indulgent “statement” or to “wrap things up” neatly for a focus group. Don’t rush to see it, but keep it in mind as a medicine you can turn to when the need arises.

  353. says

    The Tenant (1976), directed by Roman Polanski, is the best horror thriller I’ve ever seen.

    Very cool, bizarre movie. It really upset some friends after I rented it for movie night some years ago! Roman Polanski is a master–I haven’t seen every movie of his, but my favorites, Repulsion, Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary’s Baby, and even Chinatown (John Huston as the monstrous father of Faye Dunaway) have moments of awesome horror found nowhere else.

  354. Tim B. says

    Having looked over the suggestions, I concur with these oldies: The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist, Jacob’s Ladder.

    For something more recent, I would echo the recommendations for The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, and the Blink episode of Doctor Who.

    Yes, #324 and #410 — one hasn’t lived until sitting all the way through the reduntantly titled Manos, The Hands of Fate. That opening scene of driving through the desert, which goes on nearly forever, is enough in itself to be labeled “horrific.” And the drug-addled acting of the goat-legged Torgo is simply magnificent!

  355. Tim B. says

    Having looked over the suggestions, I concur with these oldies: The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist, Jacob’s Ladder.

    For something more recent, I would echo the recommendations for The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, and the Blink episode of Doctor Who.

    Yes, #324 and #410 — one hasn’t lived until sitting all the way through the reduntantly titled Manos, The Hands of Fate. That opening scene of driving through the desert, which goes on nearly forever, is enough in itself to be labeled “horrific.” And the drug-addled acting of the goat-legged Torgo is simply magnificent!

  356. Tim B. says

    Having looked over the suggestions, I concur with these oldies: The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist, Jacob’s Ladder.

    For something more recent, I would echo the recommendations for The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, and the Blink episode of Doctor Who.

    Yes, #324 and #410 — one hasn’t lived until sitting all the way through the reduntantly titled Manos, The Hands of Fate. That opening scene of driving through the desert, which goes on nearly forever, is enough in itself to be labeled “horrific.” And the drug-addled acting of the goat-legged Torgo is simply magnificent!

  357. Tim B. says

    Having looked over the suggestions, I concur with these oldies: The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist, Jacob’s Ladder.

    For something more recent, I would echo the recommendations for The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, and the Blink episode of Doctor Who.

    Yes, #324 and #410 — one hasn’t lived until sitting all the way through the reduntantly titled Manos, The Hands of Fate. That opening scene of driving through the desert, which goes on nearly forever, is enough in itself to be labeled “horrific.” And the drug-addled acting of the goat-legged Torgo is simply magnificent!

  358. Gingerbaker says

    I am surprised no one has yet recommended:

    “The Cell” – gorgeous surreal images of the subconscious mind of a serial killer, played by a young Vincent D’Onofrio. Great horror and suspense

    Another good one is “Dark City” – directed by Alex Proyas wiki:

    “The story concerns a man waking in a hotel room with no memory, which soon proves to be but one of many troubles. He is sought by police, who believe him to be a serial killer, and also by a group of mysterious men with psychokinetic powers. Furthermore, something appears to be wrong with the world at large: time, memory, and identity behave in unusual ways.

    Another good one: “Night Watch” Biggest grossing film in Russian history. Good vampires vs bad vampires done well.

  359. says

    #240: The American Ring has nothing on the Japanese version, the only reason the American version was decent is because it was directed by the same person who did the Japanese. Unfortunately in Japan, it’s an example of not letting things die when they should, the Ring series went on far too long. Ring was great. Ring 2 was good. Once they got to Ring 0 and Rasen, where they tried to make the curse into a biological plague… forget it. The TV series was also not all that hot.

    However, the One Missed Call series was excellent and I even recommend the TV series, which was largely an expanded retelling of the first movie. I liked it so much, the “One Missed Call” is my ringtone at the moment. :)

    And I agree with seeing Manos, even un-MiSTied if you can handle it. Heck, I named my dog Torgo for a reason. :)

  360. Lilly de Lure says

    Gingerbaker said:

    Another good one is “Dark City” – directed by Alex Proyas

    D’OH, I can’t believe I forgot about that one! I concur, it’s a brilliant movie – scary and atmospheric, but with a great plot and characters you actually care about, plus of course, the late and much lamented Ian Richardson at his most terrifying best! PZ, you will love this film.

  361. Tim B. says

    Having looked over the suggestions, I concur with these oldies: The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist, Jacob’s Ladder.

    For something more recent, I would echo the recommendations for The Others, A Tale of Two Sisters, and the Blink episode of Doctor Who.

    Yes, #324 and #410 — one hasn’t lived until sitting all the way through the reduntantly titled Manos, The Hands of Fate. That opening scene of driving through the desert, which goes on nearly forever, is enough in itself to be labeled “horrific.” And the drug-addled acting of the goat-legged Torgo is simply magnificent!

  362. Tim B. says

    Sorry for the redundant comments. My dial-up keeps disconnecting when I hit “Post,” causing me to think the comment didn’t go through.

  363. Melissa says

    The Orphanage, Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone (anything Del Toro has directed or has been a part of). The Descent was surprisingly good. The Nameless, a great Spanish horror film almost up there with Thesis, another Spanish suspense classic. Dario Argento’s films are always entertaining as well. Foreign horror films are always the best.

  364. bernard quatermass says

    “I also totally agree with the person who mentioned CURSE OF THE DEMON with Dana Andrews. It’s like a really well-written Twilight Zone episode. In some ways it’s like THE WICKER MAN–a man with the authority of modern civilization investigates an isolated mystical community with its own rules.”

    If you enjoy the story, I implore you run don’t walk to find a collection of M. R. James’ superb ghost stories. H. P. Lovecraft really talks up James in his survey Supernatural Horror in Literature and with good reason. James’ stories are typically leisurely affairs with a wordy narrator who is some sort of retiring, scholarly type (much like James himself).

    If I recall correctly, James did not believe in the supernatural. His “ghosts,” though, are memorably eccentric (a spectral face in crumpled linen, or a roll of flannel with spider-y eyes) and for me, anyway, touch psychological nerves I didn’t know I had (or had forgotten existed). It has been remarked too that his … apparitions are typically touched first, rather than seen, and this is revoltingly true in many of his best stories.

    As the MST3K crew has remarked of many a bad movie, “good old fashioned nightmare fuel.”

  365. unGeDuLdig says

    Teeth – Anti-evolutionists, sexism and vagina dentata. The scene at the gynaecologist had me rolling from my couch.

    Danika – The adorable Marisa Tomei witnesses the deconstruction of her family and emerging repressed memories.

    May – A lovely female body-parts collector

    The Brood – Cronenberg’s disturbing analysis of rage.

  366. says

    #445: Nope, The Ring remake was directed by Gore Verbinski. The Ring 2 (american), a big step down in quality, was directed by Hideo Nakata, who directed Ringu (the original Japanese version).

  367. Rick R says

    #445- “The American Ring has nothing on the Japanese version, the only reason the American version was decent is because it was directed by the same person who did the Japanese.”

    Actually, no. The American remake “The Ring” was directed by Gore Verbinski of “Pirates of the Carribean” fame. The American sequel “Ring Two” was directed by Hideo Nakata, who directed the original Japanese “Ringu”. It’s confusing I know.

    The American versions of “The Grudge” were directed by the same director of the Japanese originals, Takashi Shimizu.

  368. mothworm says

    I’ve got to nix all the recommendations for Audition. I thought it was a profoundly boring film with a completely gruesome, but unrelated ending. It’s a long, unengaging story about a boring middle aged man looking for a date, except in the last fifteen minutes, the woman he’s been seeing suddenly decides to torture him and kill his son (Except maybe that didn’t happen either. It’s one of those movies that “leaves the ending open to interpretation”, which generally means they couldn’t think of an ending).

  369. mothworm says

    I just remembered this utterly charming song by the Sprites, called George Romero, in which the singer imagines how well he’d do in an end of the world, zombie scenario.

    The Chorus goes: “I learned everything from George Romero / Dario Argento / Maybe Tom Savini / Stuart Gordon and Sam Raimi”

  370. MRL says

    I’d recommend Silent Hill for its visuals alone, though it loses a lot of the impact if you haven’t played the video games before.

    Unfortunately, it occurs to me that almost all of the effective scare media I’ve seen recently has been in video game form – there are some REALLY effective games in that genre, notably Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Condemned, but not too much that I’ve seen in theaters that was worthwhile.

  371. horror film fan says

    Dagon, first and foremost, as this is a list for PZ. What could be more perfect?

    Here are some other goodies. Some have been mentioned before; I’m trying to list new ones as well.

    Dog Soldiers, the Cottage, Severance, the Descent, Shaun of the Dead (Uk)

    Session 9 (US)

    If you liked May, you would love Love Object (US)

    Audition (Japan)

    If you liked Tale of two Sisters, you would like Cello (korean)

    If you liked Shutter, try Alone by the same director (Thailand)

    Ju-On one and 2
    Three extremes: dumplings

    Night of the Hunter
    Honeymoon Killers
    the Shining
    Clockwork Orange

    Also recommended: “In Love With the dead” (China.) I just saw this and it really bothered me (in a good way).

    Finally, for all horror fans, there is an excellent satire/mockumentary of the making of a horror film. It’s the horror film industry’s Spinal Tap. It’s called “Brutal Massacre” and I can’t recommend it enough.


  372. says

    It appears as though most of the people who replied to this thread are at best not very big fans of horror.

    I love horror films and I also feel like the films like Saw, Hostel, Etc are simply exploitation films, and frankly not very interesting nor scary.

    As a side note someone mentioned that it is odd that a bunch of atheists are interested in supernatural horror. It’s not so surprising since the reason that I like horror films is because they are a fantasy escape. I think it is stranger for people who believe in religion and like horror films are more odd, because where do you draw the line between your fantasy myths?

    But on to the task at hand:

    Here are films that I thought were for the most part; fun, smart, well-made or scary. Most are post 80’s, but some were made back then.

    Ghost Stories:
    The Shining
    The Others
    The Grudge (Japanese)
    Session 9
    Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

    28 Days Later
    Return of the Living Dead
    Return of the Living Dead II

    Dead Birds (civil war + ghosts)
    Deathwatch (WWI Europe + ghosts)
    Below (WWII + ghosts)

    Mutant / Apocalypse:
    Wrong Turn
    Jeepers Creepers

    Event Horizon

    Comedy / Spoof:
    Evil Dead
    Evil Dead II
    Army of Darkness
    Shaun of the Dead
    Dead Alive

    There are hundreds of others, but this gives you a good starting place.

  373. horror film fan says

    Oh, here’s another one: (I’m shooting for ones that either haven’t been mentioned or are likely to be new to people)

    The Abandoned (2007)

    This was one of the 2007 ‘8 films to die for’ festival. I have generally been disappointed with the films they choose, but this one was excellent.

  374. says

    Ssssss (70s, starring Strother Martin)

    Session 9


    The Devil’s Backbone

    What Lies Beneath

    Pan’s Labrynth


    Dead Again


    Night Breed

    Jacob’s Ladder

  375. Josh says

    If you like Hammer films, you will probably like BLACK SUNDAY (1960) starring Barbara Steele–an excellent gothic horror. Also very scary is SALEM’S LOT (1979) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1980); THE LOST BOYS (1987); KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988). These last two are great fun, both filmed here in Santa Cruz!
    If you’re into classic doctor-gone-bad films, it’s tough to top Val Lewton’s THE BODY SNATCHER (1944) starring Boris Karloff in perhaps his finest role. Take care!

  376. SoMG says

    You want to know a really good remake of an old masterpiece, which has been on cable lately? THE LADY VANISHES. What makes it great is the screwball-comedy chemistry between Cybill Sheppard and Elliot Gould. Herbert Lom and Angela Lansbury don’t hurt either. Cybill’s character is annoying but it’s by design and she’s no more annoying than Tippi Hedren or Maureen O’Hara who are annoying not by design. I honestly don’t think Hitchcock would mind this one. He might accept it as a nice tribute. It’s certainly better than some of his bad movies.

    Getting back to the topic of cheesy Hammeresque scifi/horror/mayhem, another fan-f*cking-tastic ’80s flick if you don’t already know it is THE HIDDEN. With Kyle McLaughlin (in his first of several portrayals of strange crime-fighting agents, for which he was later typecast by TWIN PEAKS), Michael Nouri, Ed O’Ross, and gorgeous Claudia Christian as a stripper who f*cks a guy to death (offscreen, unfortunately– there’s no actual nudity but you do happily see plenty of her). Also great punk/metal music and beautiful cheap alien effects. Seriously, probably under thirty bucks, and powerful enough that when the actor in the main see-the-alien scene watched what he had made he had to leave the screening.

    Another nearly-forgotten cheap horror/scifi punk movie of the 1980s which will astonish and enchant you if you haven’t already seen it is LIQUID SKY. One of ultra-hot and ultra-creepy bad-girl Paula Sheppard’s two movies. (The other was ALICE, SWEET ALICE.) Besides being an interesting and sometimes funny story about aliens and druggy punks it contains several now-historical views of the Twin Towers, and what may be the only heterosexual sex scene in cinema between two characters played by the same actress. (Well I guess after Clinton maybe it’s not really sex….)

    I’m assuming everyone has already seen REPO-MAN. Does anyone know of a Harry Dean Stanton performance more authentic than that one?

    Several posters have recommended THE SHINING which is great but it is not Kubrick’s best. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, LOLITA, DR STRANGELOVE, and FULL METAL JACKET are all better and more serious. Maybe PZ’s already seen some of them. LOLITA and FMJ are not scifi/horror but they are plenty horrifying and they have better Kubrick-intensity than THE SHINING.

    One more thing: people who like scifi/horror often also like Mozart’s opera DON GIOVANNI, whose title character resembles Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and which is very much darker–at least an order of magnitude by any sensible measurement of darkness–than anything else he wrote including the Requiem. MAYBE some of the slow movements of some of the quartets are in the same league for darkness. There’s a version on video by director Peter Sellars (who is not actor Peter Sellers) which deliberately resembles a tv crime show, set in Harlem with a multi-ethnic cast and an antihero who kills with a gun rather than a sword and smokes a cigarette while singing about watching his victim die. Even if you don’t like opera I bet you will find it easy to watch. Good camerawork can make this opera as watchable as TV.

  377. SoMG says

    Josh, Boris Karloff’s finest role is the Mummy. His casting of the long-distance-heart-attack spell is IMHO the second-greatest portrayal of serious deliberate murderous villiany on video. (The greatest is Matti Salminen’s as Hagen in Wagner’s GOETTERDAEMMERUNG at the Met conducted by James Levine and broadcast by PBS.)

  378. says

    If you like Hammer films, you will probably like BLACK SUNDAY (1960) starring Barbara Steele–an excellent gothic horror.

    She also starred in the lesser-known Castle of Blood a a couple years after Black Sunday which is one of those purportedly-based-on-a-Poe-story adaptations but most emphatically not. It is however a very good Gothic B&W haunted house movie, with some not-so-subtle lesbian ghost (?!) undertones. Or overtones, for that matter. I wasn’t expecting much but ended up enjoying it greatly.

  379. Steven Sullivan says

    By far the most deeply terrifying movie I’ve seen in the last five years was: ‘Open Water’.

    Also recommend ‘The Mist’. A surprisingly creepy outing.
    “Jeepers Creepers” as well, and ‘Descent” “Pan’s Labryinth’ was brilliant, on another level from these.

    ‘The Host’ on the other hand was a dreadfully overlong bore. Really did not live up to its hype, I was embarrassed to have brought friends along on the basis of the absurdly postive reviews in the NY Times etc.

    The few gorefests I’ve seen lately — ‘Hostel’, part of ‘Saw’ — were stylish but fundamentally awful…dare I say ‘decadent’?

  380. Mr Twiddle says

    I’ve been wanting to see ‘Black Sunday’ ever since I learned that Les Baxter is responsible for the original music score in the American version.

  381. coffeedryad says

    Hmm… I’m not that much of a movie watcher, but for sheer chilling creepiness Kelly Link’s short story The Specialist’s Hat is about my favorite. Seems like it’d be easy to film, but even easier to film badly.

  382. Austin! says

    Most of the same criticisms that are leveled at today’s horror films were also leveled at horror movies of the past–be they the slasher films of the 80s, the low-budget exploitation flicks of the 70s, or even the old Hammer Horror movies. All were supposedly signs of the degeneration of the people who made them and the young people who enjoyed them…but most of us somehow turned out okay. And just because something is schlocky doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching: you can tell a lot about a culture by looking at how it chooses to scare itself.

    Admittedly 90% of horror movies are crap, but that’s because 90% of *everything* is crap. Ironically–or maybe inevitably?–the two movies which are most associated with the ‘torture porn’ genre (the aforementioned Saw and Hostel) have the least to do with it. Most of the tension in the first Saw film comes from the anticipation of violence rather than the violence itself. Hostel is certainly gory–not surprising, as it was made by people who grew up watching campy horror movies–and is knowingly ridiculous at times, but also possesses a surprising amount of depth: it’s borrows themes from the classic story ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ addresses the lack of security faced by Americans abroad in a post-9/11 world, and directly deals with the emotional numbness and disassociation that many of us feel in our media-saturated, myspace-networked world. Also, in both Saw and Hostel, almost all of the violence is directed at men; in Hostel, in fact, the central thematic reversals comes about when the male protagonists, lured to Eastern Europe in search of faceless women to , become

    Hostel 2 is a vastly different film, and the subsequent Saw movies are mostly worthless. And the less said about the countless cheap imitators, the better. But that doesn’t make the originals any less legitimate.

    But movie tastes are an intensely personal thing. For what it’s worth, here are my genre recommendations (‘horror’ is a pretty broad category):

    Disturbing, intense, kinda gory: 28 Days Later, Cube, Dog Soldiers, May, Hard Candy, Anatomy, Cloverfield

    Dark and surreal: Eraserhead, Tetsuo, Pi

    For intense creepiness sans explicit gore: Cure, The Devil’s Backbone, Audition, Session 9, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not, Donnie Darko, Ringu, Tale of Two Sisters

    For ridiculous, campy fun: Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Slither, Planet Terror, Death Proof, Bubba Ho-Tep, Black Sheep, Fido, Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, Hellboy, Biozombie, WIld Zero, Blade 2, Cabin Fever, Shadow of the Vampire

    For darker camp: Love Object, Ginger Snaps, Teeth, Pitch Black, Willard (remake)

    Dark fairy-tale fare: Dark City, Pan’s Labyrinth, City of Lost Children, Mirrormask, Return to Oz, A Series of Unfortunate Events

    And just as a heads-up PZ, you probably won’t like The Descent. While it’s a decently constructed film, the central idea is based on some truly ludicrous ideas about biology and the pace of evolution that (for me, anyway) just ruins the whole thing.

  383. Austin! says

    Accidently deleted part of the comment before it posted. The second paragraph should have ended with:

    …in Hostel, in fact, the central thematic reversal comes about when the male protagonists, lured to Eastern Europe with the promise of faceless women to exploit, become the victims of exploitation themselves.

  384. says

    Another vote for Japanese films by Miike, especially Audition – some beautiful scenes, interspersed with scenes which will make you cower.

    The Hitcher has always been a firm favourite of mine, with Rutger Hauer doing what Rutger Hauer does best – very 80s, but nicely creepy.

    A Georgian film called Tzameti will definitely keep you on edge for the duration. Man gets caught up in games he didn’t want to get into.

    The Piano teacher also shook me up good and proper. It’s well made, but deals with some very dark subject matter.

    Also mentioned previously but Eraserhead is one of the strangest, most disturbing mass distribution films I’ve ever seen.

  385. druidbros says

    OK PZ. I know I am late to the party but I say…The Devil’s Backbone. Its an early one done by Guillermo Tel Toro. Very creepy.

    My second reccomendation is a Peter Greenaway film called ..’The Cook,The Thief,His Wife, and her lover’. Very good. Its an allogory for heaven,hell,and purgatory.

  386. says

    You’re just not looking in the right places. Hollywood fluff is Hollywood fluff, regardless of the genre. Foreign and indies (and I dont mean “indie” the genre, I mean films produced by non-mainstream studios) are a better bet.

  387. s.v. says

    The Machine Girl is a pretty good movie about a girl who avenges her brother’s death by killing all of the guys who were responsible for killing him. In the process, she loses an arm and replaces it with a machine gun. The gore effects are so cheesy and silly, but it is a great movie. And I second the mentions of Fido, Undead, Dead Alive, Planet Terror and Death Proof. Cheesy gore films are always good.