February, Women in Horror Month, ended three weeks ago. The fun and support for women doesn’t need to stop with the shortest month of the year. Here are the top 11 other months to celebrate women in horror and some suggestions for how to go about it.
March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Except for in New England, where it comes in with a blizzard and leaves with a blizzard, but has an inexplicable 65 degree day in the middle. Wherever you are, take some of that time snowed in or just damp and cold and catch these 50 Horror Movies Directed by Women that Alison Nastasi put together.
For my money, The Babadook, written and directed by Jennifer Kent, is a milestone film. It didn’t invent the trend of monsters turning back into metaphors and modern horror commenting on real social issues, but it kicked it off after a 30 year glut where slashers and serial killers dominated major studios.
No movies get made without producers. Gale Anne Hurd is one of the greats. The Terminator. Aliens. The Abyss. A little TV show you may have heard of, The Walking Dead. We’re all standing on her shoulders as much as we are Romero’s or Craven’s.
Diablo Cody produced the criminally underrated Jennifer’s Body and has more horror on the way. Plus, she won an Academy Award for Juno’s screenplay.
Supporting women in front of the camera as well as behind the camera matters more than you may think. As Sarah Boboltz and Kimberley Yam explain in Why On-Screen Representation Actually Matters, to not be represented in media is to suffer “symbolic annihilation.” It’s to be told that you don’t matter, that you’re not important. This happens to the LGBQT community and people of color as well. While they’re not featured in this article, you should support them too.
When you’re done watching incredible performances by incredible women, dig into the gender theory that shapes the way an audience interacts with a film.
Whether you’re catching some sun or horribly sun-burnt and huddled around an air conditioner, the end of the summer is a great time to catch up on some reads. Like film, women are underrepresented in publishing, as evidenced by the 2016 Vida count, an organization that counts how many women are published in major literary magazines and reviewed in major publications. The easiest way to force changes in publishing is to buy books written by women.
In particular, I want to put a special spotlight on Lauren Buekes. Her novel The Shining Girls is absolutely brilliant. A time traveling serial killer tortures women in Chicago across decades. What makes it special though is the way Buekes tells the story of each murder from the point of view of the woman being murdered, preventing them from being cardboard cutouts created only to be murdered. Buekes makes each death a tragedy.
Most writers don’t start writing novels. They start grinding out short stories to hone their craft and selling them to editors. Many run their magazines at a loss, but they are crucial in developing writers and in introducing them to audiences.
This year, treat yourself to a few magazines run, in-part, by these amazing women.
Last but not least is a magazine where I work as Non-fiction Editor and Book Reviewer, Spectator and Spooks Magazine. We focus on ghost stories, and I’ve never met anyone who works harder than our fearless leader, Editor-in-Chief Cassandra Clarke.
Print comics are yet another area where women have been underrepresented both as creators and characters. Luckily, you, yes you, who’re reading this article, can change that.
My favorite is Beasts of Burden, illustrated by Jill Thompson. It’s a compilations of dogs and cats who investigate paranormal happenings in their neighborhood. Ignore the cutesy trappings though, Beasts of Burden is, at times, terrifying.
There are webcomics written by women that could use your support as well. There merch might make good gifts during the holiday season *nudge* *nudge.* Here are some:
Abby Howard is working on The Last Halloween. Caitlin Rosberg at the A.V. Club describes it as, “one of the rare comics that is genuinely and sometimes unexpectedly spooky, while still embracing the fact that the main characters are mostly children.”
Jenny Romanchuk’s The Zombie Hunter tells the story of an island after a zombie outbreak populated by infected who will turn segregated from the healthy. What could go wrong?
I know, this is a lot to keep up with. Novelists. Directors, actresses, producers, FX artists. Web comics, traditional comics. Scholars, editors. Podcasters. Thankfully, Shannon McGrew at Bloody Disgusting compiled this list of female horror journalists to help you stay in tune with everything that’s going on. I’ve also linked to quite a few horror journalists throughout the article. Start your New Year right and follow them too!
They’re not just going to focus on work by other women. They’re going to get you all the good stuff.
This article is encouraging you raise awareness and support women. Remember that loving The Babadook doesn’t mean throwing away John Carpenter’s Halloween. The goal is to get women a fair share of opportunities, not ban men, although if you’ve gotten this far, you probably agree with me.
What’re you doing still reading this? Get out there and support female horror creators!
According to researchers at Princeton, there are two types of thinking. System 1 thinking is quick. You use it constantly. Driving to work, you use it to decide when to put on your turning signal. Cooking a familiar meal, you use it to decide when to put in a spice. System 2 thinking is more arduous, logical thinking. It activates when you’re challenged. When it comes to film, movies like Transformers and Jurassic World do their damndest to keep you in System 1 thinking. If you use System 2, you’ll see the plot holes. Smarter movies ask more from their viewers, and Imitation Girl is one of those. It pushes its viewers into System 2 thinking early on, and engages them intellectually throughout.
The film opens in space with planets and moons eclipsing the camera. A projectile of some kind shoots out of one into the Earth. It feels very much like an homage to the opening of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. As an adolescent boy is looking at an adult magazine in the desert, the projectile crashes to the earth. He ditches the magazine, and a black ooze seeps over it before reshaping itself into the cover girl. The scene cuts to the model herself, who’s removing her wig after another photoshoot. From there, the movie follows the real Juliana and the titular imitation girl, both played, brilliantly, by Lauren Ashley Carter.
Writer and director Natasha Kermani does an excellent job playing with the double life that all performers lead. Even before the imitation girl crashed down to earth, Juliana was living a double life. She bumps into her old piano teacher while she’s at a coffee shop with a coworker, and the awkwardness is palpable as Juliana and the audience wait for the question, “What are you doing now?” It isn’t asked, but the discomfort lingers all the same. Juliana doesn’t want to be recognized. This scene, and others throughout, give Juliana a life outside of her performing. She plays piano and wants to follow in the footsteps of her father, a pianist himself. She questions whether or not what she’s doing in her movies and her modeling is art. Kerami does some of her best writing that same scene though, when Juliana’s coworker complains, “I had to pee the whole time” and Juliana reassures her, “Well, you looked great.” It’s turning the porn star fantasy on its head. Everyone can relate to the need to pee, and it humanizes the adult performer to express that familiar feeling in the context of her performance.
Meanwhile, the imitation girl needs to learn everything, and for a time she embodies the stereotype of the slack-jawed adult performer that Juliana avoids, the male fantasy of a woman too stupid to want to do anything but pleasure him. But she learns to use the bathroom, to cook, and to speak English and Persian with remarkable speed once Saghi (Neimah Djourabchi) takes her to the home he shares with his sister Khahar (Sanam Erfani). It’s no accident that they’re Iranian immigrants, but another way of commenting on double lives. Like adult performers, Kerami is showing how immigrants live one life at home with their own language, food, and culture, and another life where they need to disguise themselves to fit in as part of their new country.
Kerami’s covering similar territory to David Lynch, America’s best weird filmmaker, again with her dopplegangers. In last years Twin Peaks: The Return, Special Agent Dale Cooper was split into two bodies—one evil, and one innocent. Juliana is slightly different—experienced instead of evil for one, but still innocent in the other. Lauren Ashley Carter is as good as Lynch’s Emmy-nominated leading man, Kyle MacLachlan, at playing two different characters. Carter is also tasked with playing Juliana on a variety of substances (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy), which she does gamely, along with playing Tchaikovsky, badly, at an audition. As any musician will tell you, it’s a lot harder to play poorly than it is to play well.
Throughout Imitation Girl, Kerami rarely hits a wrong note. The abstract sections are beautiful, and feel necessary to the story. It’s very lyrical, so the narrative driving the film forward is quieter than most horror and sci-fi. There aren’t big set pieces. Outside of one or two moments, there isn’t very much intensity. But Imitation Girl never set out to be that kind of movie. It set out to question public perceptions of pornography and immigration, and it succeeds there. It’s well written, well directed, and superbly acted. This is a movie that will make you think, and that can only be a good thing.
Imitation Girl is available on VOD now and will be released in select theaters on 4/20/18.
Wicked Rating: 8/10
Director: Natasha Kerami
Writers: Natasha Kerami
Stars: Lauren Ashley Carter, Neimah Djourabchi, Adam David Thompson, Sanam Erfani
Release: VOD March 16th, 2018, Select Theaters on April 20th, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Illium Pictures, Cup of Joe Films
Language: English, Persian
Sub-Genre: Science Fiction
Fans love to pick apart their favorite movies and franchises. There are threads upon threads of fan theories, some of them interesting, and some of them completely insane—but still interesting in some regard. Still, there are connections between films and franchises that generally go unnoticed. Some of them are surprisingly subtle story details and some of them are just nods between the filmmakers themselves.
Either way, it can be fun to watch these movies for the hundredth time and eventually start seeing things you never noticed before. The references we’ll be looking at on this list definitely fall into that category.
While some of them have probably been noticed by hardcore fans, most of them are not the sort of thing you’re likely to pick up on the first time around.
The College Kids in Creepshow 2 are From the Same University as in Creepshow
One of the most subtle references on this list, we have an actual connection between the Stephen King and George Romero collaborative anthologies, Creepshow 1 & 2. The students in the Creepshow 2 segment “The Raft” are actually from the same university we saw in “The Crate” in the original, which is evidenced by the Horlicks University attire worn by some of the characters.
Halloween’s Lindsey Wallace is Probably in Halloween 4
Rachel in Halloween 4 is described to be around the same age as Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace in the original Halloween as she notes that she was also babysat by Jamie’s mother, Laurie Strode. When she picks up Jamie from school, she’s with her friend, Lindsey. Alan McElroy’s script makes it clear that this is the same character as the original. While her full name is not given, we can still count this as Lindsey, considering that if they wanted to replace her with another character outright, they would have likely changed her first name.
Stu Makes an Appearance in Scream 2
Well, maybe Stu may not make a return appearance, but Matthew Lillard definitely has a blink and you’ll miss it cameo, walking by the background during the party scene. It’s debatable whether this is Stu having somehow survived his death, but the original plan for Scream 3 was centered on Stu returning to launch a wide scale attack on Sidney, so you never know.
Jason Goes to Hell Takes Jason Takes Manhattan Into Account
Jason Goes to Hell gets a lot of flack for not referencing any of the previous entries in the series. The filmmakers even expressed their need to free themselves from being bogged down by the franchise’s continuity. Yet Jason Goes to Hell is a part of that same timeline and the references are at least there in the visuals if not in the script itself. At the end of Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason was melted by toxic waste and the effects artists of KNB were instructed to take that into account when creating Jason’s look for the new film, which is why Jason has such an interesting, melted appearance in Jason Goes to Hell.
The Hitchhiker is Technically in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
While the Hitchhiker is replaced with a new family member, Chop Top—whose absence in the original may be explained by the fact that he could still have been in Vietnam during those events—the bloodthirsty brother of Leatherface and the Cook does still have a brief appearance in the sequel. He appears as a corpse being used as a puppet by Chop-Top and Leatherface, wearing his headphones from the original, but is blown apart with a hand grenade along with the family business.
What’s the scariest thing about Halloween? What about A Nightmare on Elm Street? The most obvious answer to that would of course be Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. To a degree, that’s right. But when I think about Halloween and what makes it so effective, it’s not just the faceless boogeyman or even the music that make it work so well. It’s Haddonfield. Or, in the case of Nightmare, it’s Springwood and its quaint little Elm Street. Setting is essential to any movie, especially horror. If you don’t know where you are, you get lost. And even though Halloween and Nightmare have particular settings (Illinois and Ohio, specifically) they’re meant to feel as though they could be set anywhere. Many horror features that followed in their wake tried to emulate this, with varying degrees of success.
This type of suburban horror has always appealed to me. Growing up, my town didn’t look exactly like Haddonfield or Springwood, but there were enough common details there to make it work. Even though I was surrounded by a lot more woods than the characters in those slasher movies, the settings resonated with me. Because if Michael Myers could be looming in Laurie Strode’s backyard, just a house like any other house on my street, then he could be lurking in my backyard. It was something I thought about a lot as a kid, something that simultaneously excited and scared the hell out of me.
I don’t think Halloween gets enough credit for the brilliance of its setting. In a movie that thrives on simplicity, this is truly one of the most simplistic things about it. Psycho is known as the movie that brought horror out of gothic castles and into contemporary America, but Psycho is so region specific, whereas Halloween really isn’t. It’s a picture perfect cliché Americana in the best way possible. Sure, it doesn’t actually look like everywhere in the U.S., but just about everywhere has some sort of suburbia, even where I grew up in Maine. It was just enough to really resonate with me and it was the same with A Nightmare on Elm Street, even with all the palm trees that popped up in the background of both—although Nightmare really didn’t try to hide them all that much.
Halloween was already appealing to the widest possible audience on its premise. Everywhere in the country celebrates Halloween to some degree, but more than that, everyone can relate to babysitters whether they were the sitter or the babysat as a child. Applying that to a location that could be any small town in the country is a terrific idea and a large part of what made the movie work, as well-executed as it was.
Suburban horror is about more than a sense of place, it’s about place in general. It’s about where you as the viewer fit yourself into the events of the film. Haddonfield is its own town with its own history, but when it’s just you watching the movie on its own, it feels like your own backyard. The 1970’s was all about contemporizing horror, creating graphic, violently realistic horrors that felt as though they could happen to anyone, but it was Halloween that really took that idea and made it work on a level that could resonate with almost anyone.
I’ve always had a fascination with small town horror, no doubt because I grew up in a small town. It started with the more rural works of Stephen King, then I sort of graduated on to Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. With Nightmare, things are almost more universal even though it’s an outwardly supernatural piece. First, it feels like it could be set—more or less—in nearly any small town in the country, but then you add onto that the very fact that it’s a killer who comes after you in your sleep. Everyone needs to sleep. The concept is so genius, it still baffles me to think how many people rejected it before it eventually got made.
The mid-late 1980’s saw more and more of these suburban, smalltown horrors, in part because of the ‘80’s throwbacks to alien invasion flicks of the 1950’s. There was something almost Spielbergian about a lot of these features. They would start off quaint, charming and even funny and would let the horror build gradually. Night of the Creeps, Night of the Comet and Chuck Russell’s The Blob easily fall into this category. Sure, Comet may have been post-apocalyptic and Creeps may have been more specifically set in a college town, but all of the rules of small town, suburban horror still applied.
Horror doesn’t seem to be as focused on suburbia or even small towns in general now, and I think part of that is cost. Believe it or not, small towns are incredibly expensive to film in. It cost $350,000 to shoot Halloween in South Pasadena in 1978 and to do the same now would be an infinitely larger number. More than that, though, the cultural appeal for horror of this type is pretty much gone. Maybe, when found footage and horror mockumentaries have run their course, people will come around again to wonder about the horrors that could be lurking right next door. We can only wait and see.
The Children of the Corn franchise has been suffering as long as it has been a franchise. The first movie has become a cult favorite, but definitely has its noticeable flaws. The sequels began an immediate downward spiral, with a few entries getting by on fun, quirky B-Movie charm. Most of them fell into a sense of sameness and none of them really did much of anything with the idea, other than rehash the general concept.
In the ‘90s, Dimension obtained the property and started churning out straight-to-video sequels left and right. It was pretty much guaranteed that if you got a new Hellraiser, you’d be getting another Children of the Corn around the same time. And that’s a trend that amazingly still continues to this day.
Going into Runaway, I was hesitant, I’ll admit. It’s no secret that the franchise has seen a lot of letdowns and the most recent prior to this one, Genesis, was the worst of the bunch. Yet, there was at least some semblance of hope, especially when Jon Gulager was announced as director. It’s hard not to hear his name associated with Children of the Corn and imagine what on earth that take would look like.
Luckily, it actually looks pretty decent. Runaway, at the very least, gets major points for being the first movie in forever to actually do something interesting with this concept. There are callbacks to the original, to the source material. This feels at its core like a Children of the Corn movie, but at the same time goes off in a completely different direction—but one that’s actually a very smart take for this franchise.
Runaway deals with a woman who was once a member of the child cult of Gatlin, Nebraska. She was a child of the corn, but she escaped when she got pregnant, burning the field and leaving her fellow cultists to die. This has haunted her for years and now has a thirteen-year-old child. The relationship between the two of them is actually engaging, similar to Halloween H20 except somewhat more tragic because this really is a kid who shouldn’t feel compelled to look after his mother, he should be going to school, he shouldn’t be homeless.
One of the things I’m most surprised to see this sequel do is to actually see the repercussions of this lifestyle. Even if it’s necessary, it takes a serious toll. Ruth is a young mother not always doing her best and the film is never afraid to shy away from that.
Many of the Children of the Corn sequels were actually light on kills and action and this one isn’t really that different. The only major difference is that this time the character drama is actually interesting and worth following.
When the children do show up, there are great homages to the original, such as The Blue Man and a sequence that seriously echoes the original’s diner massacre. For the most part, though, there’s one little girl central to the killings and she borders on effectively creepy and, well, just kind of there. It varies from scene to scene.
The only real issue, especially when it comes down to the children themselves, is that the movie falls way too heavily into the DTV-era Dimension trope of “is this a hallucination or is this really happening?” in the second half. This is an issue that has famously plagued the Hellraiser sequels as well. Whereas Runaway keeps the child-themed hallucinations sparse for the first half in order to fully establish its characters, these things run rampant in the second half and the feature as a whole ultimately suffers for it.
Still, Gulager’s more than competent as a director and makes this look like a far more expensive movie than it actually is. Marci Miller, most recognizable to horror fans for her role in Anthony DiBlasi’s Most Likely to Die, really does shine in the genuine character moments. Jake Ryan Scott shows promise as her son.
Overall, this is a movie that has some good ideas even if it doesn’t always stick the landing. It really shines in its dramatic moments and above all deserves credit for trying to do something legitimately interesting and innovative with this franchise on its tenth entry. Children of the Corn: Runaway is now available on home video.
We can all immediately bring to mind the classic horror movie scores, from John Carpenter’s score for Halloween, to Goblin’s Suspiria, to Philip Glass’s hauntingly beautiful music for Candyman. But there are many other solid efforts than just those that have earned a reputation for being classics.
The 1980’s especially was a goldmine of amazing synthesized scores. Most of my favorite film scores, horror or not, come from this decade. But that’s not to say that there aren’t amazing orchestral scores—again we could go back to Candyman or Danny Elfman—within the genre.
Music in horror can create a thousand different reactions, which is part of what’s so fascinating about it. Some of the things we’ll be looking at create an unexpected tone, sometimes sounding more romantic, sometimes intentionally mixing horrific images with upbeat sounds. Either way, there’s a power to music in film that can’t be denied, and you can find it in the most unexpected places.
The House of the Devil
Released in 2009, The House of the Devil has an amazing soundtrack that—much like the film itself—completely feels entrenched in the tone and style of 1980’s Satanic thrillers. As great as the production design, costuming, and camera work is, the score is what really sells it as an ‘80s period piece.
Chopping Mall is a weird movie with a weird soundtrack. It’s so upbeat and cool. It just has a neat, pure synth sound to it and I don’t even know how it really relates to the film itself. But the whole thing has that sense of weirdness. It’s a confined slasher, but it’s about robot security guards.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
The Friday the 13th scores are classic, but I didn’t love them until Jason Lives, because it was the first time I felt like Harry Manfredini really nailed the atmosphere. It’s a genuinely creepy soundtrack and at the same time has an excellent drive and a sense of pacing.
Knowing what Nekromantik was about, that score was the last thing on Earth I expected. And it’s my favorite part of the movie. It might be the only thing that makes it work. Because that beautiful piano medley over the ménage a trois scene is just tonally perfect with what Jorg Buttgereit was trying to do.
Howling V: Rebirth
The Howling sequels were not good, by and large, but Howling V is the most watchable. It has a solid atmosphere, but not a whole lot happens in it. That’s where the score comes in to have something going over these images of absolutely nothing. It’s more of a slasher—although a more classical one—but the only thing of that type where I’ve seen each death marked with the same sound cue, as if the movie is telling you to keep count.
The score for Waxwork is so underrated. The movie is a mish-mash of different genres, a love letter to every horror movie and every type of horror movie that came before it. That’s part of what I love so much about it. The score really sells it, too, because there’s a bit of everything from gothic monster music to sweeping romance-adventure.
Subspecies is one of my favorite film scores of all time. Yes, I’m absolutely serious about that. There’s something so haunting about this score, it’s dark, ominous and kind of sweet at the same time. Moreover, there’s something very folk about it that sets it firmly in that part of the world.
Ichi the Killer is one of the most influential movies of the early 2000s. It is absolutely one of the standout films from director Takashi Miike, which says a lot, because he’s directed over 100 of them. There’s something about Ichi that is still powerful, though, still relevant. I first saw this in a Japanese film course my freshman year of college and instantly fell in love with both it and its director, who I’d heard of before. It’s even more interesting to watch Ichi now after so many other films have clearly been influenced by it.
It’s one of dozens of movies Miike has made about the Yakuza, so it’s worth it to think about what made this one resonate in particular. Why has Ichi resonated worldwide in a way that some of his other movies dealing with the same subject matter haven’t? Which is not a slight against those films, either, as some of them are incredibly underrated, including the recent Yakuza Apocalypse. There’s something about the extremity of the images coupled with artistry of it that makes Ichi so appealing. It’s Miike at his most Argento and that’s not a bad thing because he goes much further than even Argento ever would.
Ichi the Killer, at first glance, is like taking the premise of The Dark Knight and giving it to Miike instead of Nolan. On the surface, they’re almost the same movie. A sadistic, relentless monster with a carved mouth loses his mind over a costumed vigilante who keeps screwing up his plans. And Ichi feels like a comic book, through and through. That’s not coincidence, of course, as it is adapted from a manga by Hideo Yamamoto—but the manga was gritty and black & white, whereas this feels like a full-blown four-color comic book world.
That’s especially apparent in the new transfer, which is stunning. Well Go outdid themselves, as Ichi has never looked better. Everything pops in this new transfer, especially the colors. The special features aren’t altogether lacking—there is a commentary with both Miike and Yamamoto, which is fantastic.
I wish more commentaries would include both the filmmaker and the author of the source material, as it presents a great discussion and a totally unique take. Other than that, though, we’ve only got a still gallery and a trailer. For a definitive edition, it actually doesn’t offer that much in the way of special features. The only real issue there is that it would have been so easy just to port over special features from previous releases, especially the 2003 Blood Pack DVD, which is still one of the best DVD releases of all time.
Even still, Ichi is worth the purchase for the restoration, which is gorgeous. The film itself is, at times, incredibly hard to watch—very few Miike films are safe for the squeamish, after all—but that juxtaposition of beautiful shots of absolutely grotesque is exactly what makes Takashi Miike such a prominent filmmaker in the first place.
Ichi the Killer drops March 20th from Well Go USA Entertainment.
Demon kids have been de rigeur in horror since scary movies were a thing, from Children of the Corn to Orphan. In fact, according to certain people, all horror movies are either about a haunted house or a scary little kid. But what happens when that scary little kid isn’t very clearly or definitively evil? That’s the premise of Prodigy, a nifty little indie movie from writing-directing duo Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, which is streaming on all digital platforms NOW.
The revelatory Savannah Liles, in her first big on-screen role, is Ellie, a disturbed young girl currently being held in a high-security facility. As a last ditch attempt to save her from execution (and dissection), beleaguered psychiatrist Dr. Fonda (Richard Neil) is drafted in to try to confirm, once and for all, whether Ellie is actually evil (and responsible for her mother’s death) or whether there’s something deeper going on.
As a result, much of Prodigy is taken up by one-on-one sessions between the doctor and his reluctant patient, conducted in a sealed room while a crowd of onlookers watch anxiously from the adjoining room, each with his or her own opinion on the subject. Everybody has their own reasons for rooting either for or against Fonda, whether it’s the military leader who wants the girl exterminated, or the special agent empathetic to her struggle.
The decision to base the action in a single location was clearly an attempt to combat budgetary concerns, as the filmmakers themselves would admit, but it’s to their immense credit that the single setting isn’t limiting. Rather than boxing the story in, it broadens Prodigy out, allowing space for Liles and Neil to play off each other while we, as the audience, are left to guess who’s really playing who. When they decide to play an actual chess match, the tension is heightened rather than deflated. It seems a natural development.
Wisely, Haughey and Vidal keep Ellie’s powers mostly under wraps, so the story never verges into OTT territory. It never loses its nerve or resorts to cheap, easy modern horror tactics. There’s no peeking into dark corners or weirdly levitating cups here. The writing-directing duo envisioned the kid as a Hannibal Lecter-esque character, with all of the poise, intellect, and danger that description implies. And, much like the inspiration for the character, Ellie is cool, calm, and collected. Until she isn’t.
As the story’s protagonist/antagonist, Liles is nothing short of remarkable. She fixes Fonda with a steely glare that would surely melt the steel table separating the two if she only fixated on it instead. It’s worth noting the part was originally envisioned for a male actor, but following several unsuccessful auditions, a gender swap was ordered and the girls, as usual, nailed it.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone playing the role better than Liles, with her open, freckled face and huge eyes. She looks simultaneously sweet and frighteningly in control of herself and her surroundings. When she does break, the effect is staggering. You almost worry the whole world is going to crumble down around her as a result.
As a horror movie, Prodigy isn’t particularly frightening, but as a character study it nails the vibe, the seesaw between admitting what Ellie is and desperately wanting her to resist her darker urges. Length is a major factor here, too. The flick doesn’t mess around, establishing its base and sticking Fonda and Ellie in a room together for a tight 80 minutes of tense cat and mouse games.
What was notably a difficult shoot doesn’t show up onscreen whatsoever, the direction assured and the cinematography belying a much pricier production budget. The two actors at the film’s core are peerless and totally committed, while the script doesn’t land them with any clunkers to deliver, instead preferring to show rather than tell.
Prodigy is a movie that trades in guilt. Guilt over the choices we may have made as parents, over how much we work, and, ultimately, over whether we should kill this mouthy little brat in our midst or accept that maybe, just maybe, she too may have suffered some trauma in her life.
Its great triumph is in leaving many of its questions unanswered until we’ve already been sucked into Ellie’s orbit. Much like Dr. Fonda, we suddenly find ourselves unable, or unwilling, to let her go.
Catch Prodigy from March 13, 2018 on all digital platforms
(iTunes, Amazon, Google, Youtube, etc.)
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Writer(s): Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Stars: Savannah Liles, Richard Neil, Jolene Anderson, Emilio Palame
Release date: March 13, 2018 (Digital)
Studio/ Production Co: High Noon California
Length: 80 minutes
Hell has an address and it’s in Gary, Indiana. Demon House the new documentary from Zak Bagans of the hit series Ghost Adventures dares to take viewers into Gary’s most infamous house.
In 2014 a story appeared in the Indianapolis Star, detailing the story of Latoya Ammons and her family and the ordeal they faced while living in the house.
According to IndyStar Ammons and her family moved into the house in November of 2011. Ammons reported the activity began with the sudden appearance of flies. While this does not seem out of the ordinary, what was curious was the fact the flies swarmed her screened in porch in the middle of December. Ammon’s mother claims that no matter what they did, the flies returned.
Other malevolent occurrences began happening to the family shortly after. Loud footsteps were heard climbing the stairs and the door leading into the kitchen from the basement could be heard opening and closing. According to Ammons, even when the basement door was locked and the area checked, the sounds could still be heard.
Rosa Campbell who is Ammon’s mother also recounts waking up in the middle of the night and observed a figure, thought to be a man, pacing the living room. When Campbell went to investigate, the man was gone but he left behind wet footprints on the floor.
Campbell and Ammon’s claim that on March 10th, 2012, they witnessed one of Ammon’s daughters levitating above her bed in what appeared to be an unconscious state. After Ammons and her mother prayed over the girl, she eventually descended and awoke with no memory of what had occurred.
Ammons says she reached out to several churches regarding the activity. Most refused to help. Finally Ammons and Campbell were able to get an unspecified church to listen and even visit the house. The church told Ammons that her house had a presence and suggested performing a cleansing of the home. The cleansing consisted of cleaning with bleach and ammonia and drawing crosses on every window and door.
According to Ammons, the family reached out to several psychics as well. One of the psychics told her that the house was inhabited by over 200 demons. The psychic also told her that the best course of action would be to pack up and move.
After the cleansing, the activity seemed to subside. For a whole 3 days. Thereafter, all hell broke loose. Ammons claims not only she but also her three children became possessed by the demons in the house. According to reports, when the children were under demonic influence their voices would change, their eyes bulged and they were afflicted with evil smiles.
What makes this story so compelling is that some of this demonic phenomena was witnessed by credible witnesses. One such witness is Valerie Washington. Washington who worked for the Department of Children’s Services was contacted to open an investigation into the Ammons family. Speculation abounded that Ammons’ suffered from mental health issues and was making her children act to fit her delusions.
Washington reported that 2 of the children were taken into a hospital treatment room for an interview. The youngest of the children began snarling at the other sibling and told them “It was time to die” and attempted to choke the child. You can read the official report here.
Washington then stated she and a nurse witnessed one of the children walk backwards up a wall to the ceiling. The boy then front flipped and landed on his feet in front of his grandmother. The Gary Police Department also wrote a report about the incident. They asked Washington if the child could have possibly run up the wall. Washington replied that he “glided backward on the floor, wall and ceiling.” She was also quoted in the police report saying she believed there was the possibility of “evil influence” besieging the family.
These are just a handful of the accounts of the terror experienced in the home. When the story was first reported it began picking up traction and made national and even international news. Enter Zak Bagans.
According to the new film Demon House, Bagans bought the home sight unseen over the telephone. He then set out with his documentary crew to investigate what exactly was happening in Gary.
Demon House is an amazingly well put together film. It is as fascinating as it is terrifying. The crew and Bagans interview several credible witnesses. They include high ranking local law enforcement and even previous tenants at the house who experienced activity just like Ammons. Bagans unfortunately is not able to interview Ammons as she refuses to speak to him about her experiences.
Demon House works very well. It is not your run-of-the-mill paranormal investigation documentary. Bagans is able to build suspense and tension that you could cut with a knife. Several times while watching this film I began to feel uneasy but couldn’t tear myself away from what I was watching unfold.
I would highly recommend this film to anyone who has even a feigning interest in this case. It is well put together and informative along with terrifying. If you have the opportunity to see Demon House I would highly recommend it. You can check it out in select theaters and via VOD beginning March 16th.
WICKED RATING: /10
Director(s): Zak Bagans
Writer(s): Zak Bagans
Release: March 16 (Limited Theatrical and VOD)
Budget: $150,000 (estimated)
There are plenty of fans out there for extreme horror. And most of them are well-rounded, well-adjusted people. There’s an appeal to seeing the most violent, shocking thing you can find onscreen. It’s taboo. It’s forbidden and with that comes a kind of dark charm. It’s cathartic to see things pushed to their limits on the screen, to be able to see the worst of what human beings do to each other and still be able to walk away from the experience. It’s not harmful in and of itself. If anything, it could be upsettingly therapeutic.
So why are people so quick to condemn the violent and nasty horror movies? Unlike hatred for the genre itself, this criticism comes from fans as well. It seems natural, in some ways. A movie like A Serbian Film or Nekromantik is on the surface harder to defend than a movie like Halloween or An American Werewolf in London. But these are films that are more easily appreciated as works of art, whereas Cannibal Ferox and Mountain of the Cannibal God earn the label of smut. But where is the line, really? Can we cross it? Can a horror movie go too far?
Sure, some films are better than others and some films are easier to handle than others, but really, all of them have their place. All of them are some kind of artistic expression, whether they are memorable or successful in that or not.
There are all too many horror movies that look like trash on the surface, but contain a surprising amount of subtext. In fact, it’s part of what I love so much about the genre. For me, Cannibal Holocaust is a film worth defending because as extreme as it is, it has a point. It’s not a xenophobic movie so much as it is about xenophobia. The true, despicable villains are very clearly the white people who drive these natives—who do have brutal practices of their own—to extreme violence just so that they can have something edgy to film. It’s one of the earliest found footage features, one of the earliest meta horrors, and is in general an in-depth look at what people do to one another. The assumption is that mankind is at its worst when behind closed doors, but Cannibal Holocaust suggests that the reverse is true: That we might be capable of anything when the camera turns on us.
I’ve also done a lengthy defense of I Spit on Your Grave, also considered one of the most horrific and shocking movies ever made. It’s a rape/revenge film and contains one of the longest rape scenes in cinematic history. But while it is a feature about rape, about misogyny, which does not necessarily make it misogynistic. The empowerment comes not just through Jennifer’s revenge, but in that long, drawn out moment after she is left for dead and forced to crawl back home. That long scene where she stares at the wall, seemingly for two days straight, deciding. Her decision to take matters into her own hands, her decision to be as cruel to them as they were to her, that’s the strength of I Spit On Your Grave. That’s what a good movie of this sub-genre is capable of.
Movies like A Serbian Film or Nekromantik are more extreme, more intent on showcasing the violence and little else. They’re pure exploitation, focused on seemingly nothing but the gore. But the absurdity in both of these films makes sense, because they’re comedies. Everything in them is heightened. If anything, A Serbian Film showcased the balance that a movie needs in order to be truly disturbing. A Serbian Film takes things so over the top that eventually you can’t help but laugh, even if it’s the only way you can process what you’re seeing.
I can comfortably defend Cannibal Holocaust and The Last House on the Left. But even if I don’t love movies like The Human Centipede and the remake of I Spit on Your Grave, I’m not put off by their existence. Even if some of them are made only to be shocking and even if the occasional film may be made for the wrong reasons, at the end of the day, as the classic trailer for The Last House on the Left put it: It’s only a movie.
It’s fake. Videos of real death, crime scene photos, these things are completely accessible right now. Serial killer fan culture is at an all-time high, whole huge sections of the Internet are devoted to looking at video feeds from car accidents. So you can always remind yourself that as sick as whatever horror movie you’re watching might get, it’s not that. It will never be that. I want a horror feature to terrify me, I want it to make me forget it’s fake, if only for a second. After that, I want the ability to walk away shaken, but safe.
As Stephen King and others have put it, “Horror movies are rehearsals for our deaths” and as horror fans, we’ll be shuffling off well rehearsed. We’ll know our blocking and we’ll have our lines down pat. Because that rehearsal process is key. That understanding of what the world is like both at its best and at its worst, that’s what extreme horror is for. And in that, it’s pretty easy to defend.