The Hallowe’en season does not just mean bad lads with bangers and ladies dressing up as nurses and French maids. It is also the time to re-watch The Exorcist and eat heaps of monkey nuts. However, just as some people don’t like super picante salsa on their burrito, The Exorcist may not be everybody’s cup of tea.
With that in mind, Totally Dublin presents you with a quick selection of seasonally appropriate suggestions ranging from mild to picante, but probably not super picante.
Nicholas Cage, the world’s greatest actor, plays Peter Loew, an aspiring literary agent. Some things happen that are relevant to the narrative at hand, but what is most important is the persistent deterioration of Cage’s character’s mental state in front of one’s eyes. The picture progresses and Cage’s character becomes more deranged; he believes he is a vampire, though he may or may not be. He performs various horrible acts, or possibly imagines himself doing them. His connection to “reality” is twisted and, through an hour or so, most viewers will have very little concern for anybody else involved and will be baited upon Loew’s dénouement. Any thoughts of reality or falsity are relegated to nothingness as Cage falls. There may or may not be vampires.
Diablo Cody invented Dario Argento in 2007 as part of the back-story to the film Juno. He was given an incredible filmmaking back-story and Wikipedia page to compound his insertion into pop culture, as the titular Juno dropped his name while conversing with a film savvy would-be paedophile who particularly liked pregnant young girls. Argento’s faux-history was so diligently formed that an entire filmography was produced to back it up, complete with film nerds who claimed to have known of his work beforehand. And so, in 2007, the world embraced the now “cult” Italian director.
The best of these cheap slasher films is possibly Tenebrae, a very eighties work about a writer of trashy novels who turns detective in what seems to be one of his own stories come true. It all descends into a bloody mess, littered with Freudian undertones, but it isn’t so clumsy that you can’t indulge and shout, “oh my god, there’s blood everywhere, this is amazing, stab stab, kill kill!”
This is a really scary film. Sarah Michelle Gellar and her white handsome white boyfriend who is really handsome and white are in Japan. This is before iPhones and poor ghost-reporting smartphone services. It is about some kind of ghost in a house. One can’t stress enough how little happens in this picture, other than black ghosts springing out of corners. That is really scary though, and there are a few bits involving a bath tub that are quite terrifying. Imagine if the famous white person died in a film full of scary Asians. That’ll be the day; never going to happen. I said that going into The Grudge though, and then I freaked out when I saw the Japanese girl with no *body part* so, you know, it is pretty scary at certain points. By “pretty scary,” I mean that I didn’t sleep properly for several days. Serious.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Along with its only slightly inferior sequel (Dr. Phibes Rises Again), this Vincent Price picture is absolutely magnificent in self-aware execution. That said, it would be disingenuous to say that it is merely a camp classic, or a purely silly “cult” sort of funny film. The heaving organs and sweeping creepiness of the Price character, an evil mastermind with a doctorate in evil (or music and theology) provides a difficulty for the viewer, particularly for the self-satisfied present-day viewer. This is all very funny, but really it is a bit more messed up. Phibes only kills those who he sees as responsible for the death of his wife years before. He is a killing machine, but so was the system or, SO WAS THE SYSTEM. It may or may not have been the fault of THE SYSTEM. The music here sets the tone while the characterisation of the lead roles twists that slightly, until the viewer’s personal response to a colourful protagonist blurs the moral compass. You want him to win because you’re sick.
Night of the Creeps
The 80s were the golden era for horror comedies and Night Of The Creeps tends to get less credit than it deserves, purely by dint of being up against such stiff competition. But if you haven’t seen it, you should definitely seek it out, there are few better examples of a movie that acknowledges the history of horror and nods to its masters without straying into coy self-congratulation or lazy references. It’s also a spectacularly well-made romp, leaving almost no spaces between the jokes and goes. As well as encompassing psychopathic killers, aliens and zombies, Night of The Creeps is also a great movie about college and a better movie about being a giant nerd. Special credit must go to Tom Atkins who plays one of the defining horror-comedy bad asses, doing every single thing, be it answering the phone or always aiming for the head, with profound and impactful swagnificence.
Although it’s easy to poke holes in the Mumblecore approach of the Duplass brothers, their awkward, intimate style of improvised film-making always breathes new life into whatever genre they’ve chosen to tackle. Before they made their studio debut with their naturalistic comedy Cyrus, they made a horror movie named Baghead. The Duplass brothers off-kilter approach, the actual horror element takes a backseat to Whil Stillman-esque interactions, removes traditional horror plot beats from the movie. Though you might expect this would lead to indie worthiness, this actually adds genuine unpredictability more conventional horror movies can often lack.
Very few movies star a building but the Danvers State Mental Hospital outshines the rest of the cast of psychological thriller Session 9 by a wide margin. Beyond the premise, a team remove asbestos from Danvers, any further discussion of the plot would spoil the movie. Session 9 uses its setting to the fullest though, exploiting every inch of the genuine asylum, where Lobotomies were pioneered, to create a creepy, claustrophobic feel that no set could equal. The sense of impending doom grows more and more claustrophobic as the movie progresses and it becomes clearer you have less and less of an idea what is actually going on. Also, Horatio from CSI is in it and doesn’t ruin it, so it’s worth watching even just to see that logic-defying powerplay.
Not a horror film per se but still one of the most terrifying movies ever made. Although it begins as a John Hughes-ian love story, 20 minutes in Miracle Mile undergoes one of the most bizarre tonal shifts in movie history. While waiting at a diner for his date, Harry picks up a ringing phone only to be hear a government agent whose dialled the wrong number, trying to tell his father Nuclear Warfare is going to break out in 50 minutes. What follows is a chilling study in hysteria, the power of rumour and the cold logic of the survival instinct. Probably not a great one to see with friends but definitely one to watch if you want to be legitimately disturbed.
There’s Nothing Out There
Although, self-awareness and meta-commentary has always been crucial to horror, in the 90s Scream ushered in an era of aggressively upfront, and often awful, dissection of the tropes and rules of slasher movies. A couple of years before Scream came out There’s Nothing Out There pioneered this sort of approach, albeit pouring all of the self awareness into one character. Mike spends the move criticising others dialogue, assuming everyone he hasn’t seen for 10 minutes is dead and defiantly striding away from noises in the bushes. It’s not an easy movie to find, but seeing Mike scream “Foreshadowing!” while running the opposite direction of a group of anonymous soon-to-be-murder-victims is worth it.