Tag Archives: horror

This year we haven’t watched as many horror films as hubs and I had hoped. I think this happens every year though. This year seems to be a little more realistic as to why we haven’t watched many films. Lots of driving, and lots of learning about baby stuff. So I will end the month of October with the last of the films we watched.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Year: 2014
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Rank: 9/10
Spooky Type: Vampire
Watch: Netflix + YouTube

Plot: In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. –IMDB

Review: This is a hard movie to describe. It fits the horror genre since a vampire is in the plot, and there are some serious spooky vibes going on with this film. But in many ways this seemed more like a new wave feminist batman. The pacing is slow, erie, but never employs any shock or gore like most horror films. This sits between genres in a similar way Let the Right One In does. To say it isn’t a horror would be wrong… but to say it is would feel a little like a lie. 

The story follows a young man Arash who is struggling to support his drug addicted Father. Work is hard to come by in his town, as it is a run down ghost town. He comes into a large amount of drugs after his Father’s dealer is killed. After dealing some drugs at a party, Arash runs into a strange girl on the street, starting a romance. Little does he know, this girl is going around town ridding it of men who take advantage of women.

This is only the second Iranian film I have seen. Awhile ago I watched the film The White Balloon, and loved it. This movie is directed by a female, which is rare for the horror genre, film in general, and I am sure for Iranian film as well. The movie relies heavily on it spectacular visuals, otherwise the story would be too slow moving. What I find interesting about the film is it’s borderline love affair with Western media, but it still feels very fantastical and foreign. Even though it feels like it could be an Iranian town, the whole film is shot in California. The main character listens to largely Western music, but Iranian pop is sprinkled throughout the film. This could be because the director Ana Lily Amirpour was born in England, but grew up in the United States.

And some people point out that maybe that is what the film is about. An Iranian women struggling to live in a world that isn’t part of her upbringing. The Girl is surrounded by drugs, sex, and female abuse, and she fights against it. The Girl wears a veil while out, but is it because it helps her stay hidden? Or is because she is a practicing Muslim?

Overall: Great for art house film lovers

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House

Also Known As: Hausu
Year: 1977
Directed by: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Rank: 10/10
Spooky Type: Haunted House
Watch: Hulu + YouTube Trailer

Plot: Oshare (Gorgeous) is excited about spending summer vacation with her father, until she finds out that his beautiful, freakishly serene girlfriend Ryouko would be going as well. Oshare decides she will be going to her aunt’s house in the country instead. She brings with her her friends from school – Fanta (who likes to take pictures, and daydreams a lot), KunFuu (who has very good reflexes), Gari/Prof (who is a major nerd), Sweet (who likes to clean), Mac (who eats a lot), and Melody (a musician). However, the girls are unaware that Oshare’s aunt is actually dead and the house is actually haunted. When they arrive at the house, crazy events take place and the girls disappear one by one while slowly discovering the secret behind all the madness –IMDB

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Review: Confession time- I didn’t actually watch this movie, at least this year. Alexa did. She texted me as she started to watch it, because it is something else. I could talk about the metaphors. I could talk about how “Japanese” it is to give people some context. But what really makes this movie shine is just how out there and unique it is. I can think of other films to recommend for any of the movies I reviewed on the blog, but not this one. House stands alone. Heck, I don’t think there is anything else directed by Obayashi that is anywhere as crazy as House.

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So what makes this movie so unique? Well, filming techniques are all over the place. Ranging from weird cuts, songs, melodramatic sets, green screened effect, stop motion animation, I mean everything. If it is a special effect at the time, Obayashi used it. And he used it to make some humorous ways to die. Death by piano? Check. Disembodies head biting your butt? Check. Clearly Obayashi had a sense a humor about the whole horror genre, and let’s be honest, maybe some drugs were involved.

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The end result is the most “gif-able” movie ever made. What I love about this film is that it is funny, it is suppose to be funny. And even though it is so light hearted and doesn’t take the spooky aspects seriously it still packs as much gore as any other horror film. There is no shortage of blood, missing girls, skeletons, and gore. You’ll probably still have no problem sleeping at night, but you have that safe “danger” that you get from say a Goosebumps episode.

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The movie falls between two camps. It is kitchy and gaudy, and really attracts the type of people who like movies like Troll 2. But unlike Troll 2, a floating head that bites your butt is suppose to be laughed at, so it isn’t really the type of film that is so awful that it is good. It is probably better to be describe it like a tragedy or melodrama. There is just so much drama going on that you accept this alternative universe for what it is. Any holes in the plot line, or flaws in the characters are easily dismissed. Possibly the closest thing to be out there is maybe The Rocky Horror Picture Show, only with crack.

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You might be questioning if this film is for you. I mean there is a painting of a cat spewing out blood. I remember being very unsure when I first started to watch it. I couldn’t quite make up my mind about what to think. I remember sensing my husband’s uncertainty when we saw it at The International House. But the further along you watch, it all begins to click as the girls move away from their everyday life to the haunted house. The surreal hell house becomes a character of it’s own, and you surrender all logic of film to Obayashi. Give it a chance. You’ll be happy you did.

Overall: Everyone needs to see this film

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Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?

Year: 1962
Directed by: Robert Aldrich
Rank: 9/10
Spooky Type: Psycho-biddy
Watch: Amazon Rental + YouTube

Plot: In a tale that almost redefines sibling rivalry, faded actresses Blanche and ‘Baby’ Jane Hudson live together. Jane was by far the most famous when she performed with their father in vaudeville but as they got older, it was Blanche who became the finer actress, which Jane still resents. Blanche is now confined to a wheelchair and Jane is firmly in control. As time goes by, Jane exercises greater and greater control over her sister, intercepting her letters and ensuring that few if anyone from the outside has any contact with her. As Jane slowly loses her mind, she torments her sister going to ever greater extremes. –IMDB

Review: I remember watching this film when I was younger. I knew what the story was about, and I remember thinking the story seemed so obvious. But watching it again with my husband I thought it was much more chilling than I remembered. The movie floats right on that blurry line of psychological thriller and horror. So heads up, no spooky ghosts or supernatural things in this film.

The movie was based on the novel with the same title. The movie was so unique at the time, that it received an initial X rating in the UK. The movie was such a success that it created a new genre- Psycho-biddy. Stories that base their real life horror on mental instability of aging women. The genre has slowly faded away, mostly because society has been more forgiving on older women. But let’s face it, in the age of plastic surgery, women are constantly being told to never age.

I am hesitant to speak too much of the film since it is such a classic. And unlike newer horror films, you can still be spooked if you know the ending. If I accidentally give up the ending, it probably wouldn’t be so spooky. I do note, since this is a vegan blog, there is some animal deaths in the film. Nothing too graphic, especially when compared with the next film I am reviewing (The Witch) This is another great film for anyone who is a little bit of a scaredy cat. 

Overall: Classic film.

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The Witch

Year: 2015
Directed by: Robert Eggers
Rank: 10/10
Spooky Type: Witches
Watch: Amazon Prime + YouTube

Plot: New England, 1630: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. ‘The Witch’ is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil. –IMDB

Review: I’ve been obsessed lately with Stuff You Missed in History Class. Every year they try and do a bunch of Halloween themed episodes, usually revolving around witch hunts, ghost hauntings, or general mysteries. I guess because of this I was in the perfect mood to watch this film. That and I wanted to watch it last year in theaters but ran out of time. 

Just like A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, this film isn’t your typical horror film. This movie has a very slow pace, which is fitting for the story. The story takes place in 1630, with an exiled family. Life moves slowly. What I think Eggers does well is captures the mania that happened with settlers in the past. We constantly hear about how people in the past would blame ailments on witches, and it makes them seem dumb and irrational. But in reality is a great way to live in denial, or to have a scapegoat. Even today many people say their house is haunted and are convinced the thumping in the attic is a ghost, not a raccoon.

I pretty much loved everything about this film. The acting, direction, photography, editing sound, like I said everything. It is a refreshing breath of air for the horror genre since it has all the same editing, sound, color, and lighting techniques. There is much less of a big loud startling thump that makes you jump. But as mentioning since it doesn’t have these elements, I think many people might be dissapointed. If you approach the film as just another movie, you can fully apprieciate it.

And since this is a vegan blog, and this movie is about early settlers you can guess there will be some graphic imagery with animals. Let’s just put it this way- no major pain inflicted to animals but you will see blood.

Overall: Excellent ode to New England superstitions

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Young Frankenstein

Year: 1974
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Rank: 8/10
Spooky Type: Comedy
Watch: YouTube Trailer

Plot: An American grandson of the infamous scientist, struggling to prove that he is not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania, where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body. –IMDB

Review: Ever watched a trailer for a comedy, and thought “this trailer is pretty funny, I should see this movie!” Buuuut…. when you watched the movie you find out that all the really funny jokes were in the trailer, and therefore the movie was just boring? That’s what I felt with Young Frankenstein. I’ve seen it talked about on that “I Love the 70’s” mini series, and had clips played often from friends.

My husband has been DYING to get me to watch it. “You gotta watch Young Frankenstein,” and I have found that if you tell me something is the best or that I HAVE to watch it, I tend to think it is overrated (like oh The Matrix.) But I felt bad for all the movies I was picking out, so I thought now would be the time to watch it. Sadly, I heard most of the great one liners already.

I should of liked the film. It was funny, and filmed perfectly in the style of the old horror films. But again, I heard so many of the jokes before. Plus I had the same issue as An American Warewolf in London with Young Frankenstein. The women were meh. I get the jokes and where they were coming from culturally. Older horror films always had that sexual tension between the leading male and some random woman. But it would of been nice to have a female character that went outside of stereotypes and been stronger.

Overall: Funny and great if you haven’t heard any of the jokes before


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An American Warewolf in London

Year: 1981
Directed by: John Landis
Rank: 6/10
Spooky Type: Werewolf/Comedy
Watch: YouTube Trailer

Plot: Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths. –IMDB

Review: Ugh. I hate when sexism ruins a film. This film is a classic since it mixes humor with horror, and it has some great special effects. Since humor is involved the gore and spooks are never taken too seriously. Nor does the film rely on them to push the story forwards. I could keep praising the film for the star qualities, but that is well documented. It is the reason why this movie is a classic.

BUUUUUTT….. the humor is totally dated. Yes, you can tell a white cis-gender man wrote this script. The main character David has a frat boy attitude. He talks to his travel companion only about having sex with women, is rude to the police and hospital staff, and tries to insult the Queen and Prince by calling them queer. Sure it was insult at the time, but hard to swallow when there is so many other problematic bits of the film.

The love interest, Nurse Alex is a total bimbo and has no personality. I feel bad for Jenny Agutter to have to play such a dull role. The whole time she is just there to build sexual tension with David. Actually it is more like David sexually harasses her during her job, and she reacts in the way that men fantasize about (aka the lady actually likes it.) Then as we moves the story forwards, David starts to believe he is a werewolf, and still Alex still finds David attractive. It is so unbelievable.

Which then makes me hate what could of been a very funny premise- the werewolf showdown in a porno. There were jokes poking fun at the superficial plots of a pornographic films. But by the time this comes into play I was over all the sexist crap. The whole film became a boys only club, assuming that only men love horror films. Yes, horror films were targeted for boys, and yes, I’ve seen probably much more sexist films that are much closer to softcore porn (usually made in the 70s.) But over the years some of these films have gotten a female following, probably because the horror featured in the film are based on the awful treatment to women, and perhaps most women find that relatable and genuinely horrific. As the horror genre evolves, there is a growing number of women who openly say they love the genre. This movie has little to offer a female audience.

Overall: Boo sexism. Yey humor and special effects.

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The Amityville Horror

Year: 1976
Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg
Rank: 7/10
Spooky Type: Haunted House
Watch: Hulu + YouTube Trailer

Plot: Newlyweds move into a large house where a mass murder was committed, and experience strange manifestations which drive them away. –IMDB

Review: I remember when this movie was being remade in 2005. I didn’t care about the movie, but I remember basic cable channels were flooded with specials all about the movie. The story is suppose to be based off of the book The Amityville Horror, which is suppose to be based off of true events. I’ve always find real life haunting stories interesting and much more chilling than movies. Do I believe they actually happened? No, but they still freak me out. This story always caught my interest more than normal because this house is in the town that my Grandmother lives in. I’ve actually talked about this before on the blog.

Since the story takes place in a town that’s I’ve been to I had a harder time to let my imagination go wild. As I was watching I kept feeling like it didn’t LOOK like Long Island, and I knew very well that the house wasn’t the original. Turns out the movie was filmed in Tom’s River New Jersey. Which doesn’t seem like a big deal, except for the water is drastically different set up, and the property in the movie is HUGE! I joked with my husband that the price of the house in the movie was a steal, and joked they could just divide up the property and pay for the house that way (the real Amityville House sold recently for almost one million dollars FYI)

Oh, and mild spoiler alert- there is something terribly humorous that the portal to hell is on Long Island. Anyone who had to drive into Long Island probably felt like they were driving further and further into hell.

So I haven’t actually talked about the movie much. I have to say it wasn’t bad, but it was a little underwhelming. Since the movie is suppose to be based off of a real event, the flow of the story isn’t the greatest. The movie ends kind-of anti-climatically. And being a little bit of a ghost/occult movie fan, something didn’t make sense. Why is everything oozing? Why the flies? There is no reason why George Lutz (the new homeowner) would look like serial killer Ronald DeFeo (the murderer of the previous owners) either. I think the odd pacing is probably because the movie wanted to keep with the series of events from the book. The movie even keeps a countdown of what day it is since the family moved in.

Historically this movie is pretty important to the horror genre. It is another case of a low budget horror film that became wildly popular. There is no doubt that Poltergeist‘s popularity was set up by this film. Since there are so many similarities between Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror, it adds to the underwhelming nature of the film. Compared to The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist is in hyperdrive. Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie, but it is fairly slow moving and a long movie (117 minutes- almost 2 hours.)

Overall: Recommended to old school horror fans

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The Babadook

Year: 2014
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Rank: 10/10
Spooky Type: Monster
Watch: Netflix + Trailer

Plot: Amelia, who lost her husband in a car crash on the way to give birth to Samuel, their only child, struggles to cope with her fate as a single mom. Samuel’s constant fear of monsters and violent reaction to overcome the fear doesn’t help her cause either, which makes her friends become distant. When things can not get any worse, they read a strange book in their house about the ‘Babadook’ monster that hides in the dark areas of their house. Even Amelia seems to feel the effect of Babadook and desperately tries in vain to destroy the book. The nightmarish experiences the two encounter form the rest of the story. –IMDB

Review: Funny thing is that people chuckle when Jon and I watched Rosemary’s Baby during the pregnancy. I’ve seen many reviews and such talking about how it is the horror that makes them want to never have a baby. But I would argue that The Babadook is much more horrifying for parents. Let’s start off with Samuel. He is a little boy who’s activity levels are through the roof. “Horrible little shit” is an accurate title for him, and this instantly let’s the audience sympathizes with Amelia, the overworked single mother. Samuel’s behavioral problems stem from the families grief for their father who died in a car accident while driving Amelia to the hospital to deliver Samuel.

The movie is rich with metaphors and is filmed excellently. This is probably why the movie is loved by all critics. A quick search of “babadook reviews” will end up with many glowing reviews talking about the story and it’s great portrayal of grief with adults and children by using the metaphor of a monster destroying their lives.

What really strikes me about this film is that it falls into many tropes of the horror genre, the color scheme, skittery sounds, jump cuts, etc used in other horror films. But there is so many unique aspects of the film. For starters it is directed by a female director, which isn’t common for the film industry. It isn’t a normal monster story- in fact the monster is sort of blended with a ghost in it’s supernatural abilities. The end result is a truly haunting film that I would recommend to anyone who thinks that horror genre is dead.

Overall: Greatest modern horror film I’ve seen

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Rosemary’s Baby

Year: 1968
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Rank: 10/10
Spooky Type: Occult
Watch: YouTube + Three Reason: Criterion Collection Preview

Plot: Horrifying and darkly comic, Rosemary’s Baby was Roman Polanski’s Hollywood debut. This wildly entertaining nightmare, faithfully adapted from Ira Levin’s best seller, stars a revelatory Mia Farrow as a young mother-to-be who grows increasingly suspicious that her overfriendly elderly neighbors (played by Sidney Blackmer and an Oscar-winning Ruth Gordon) and self-involved husband (John Cassavetes) are hatching a satanic plot against her and her baby. In the decades of occult cinema that Polanski’s ungodly masterpiece has spawned, it has never been outdone for sheer psychological terror. –Criterion Collection

Review: Okay, I am cheating just a little. I watched this over the summer, but I really love this film. I think it is one of the best prochoice films out there. Rosemary want to start a family and become a mother. But ever since she finds out that she is pregnant it seems everyone is controlling her decisions. She doesn’t take vitamins like everyone else, she takes special juices that her neighbor makes. Her doctor advises her to not read up on pregnancy- it would only worry her. She is quickly recommended to go a specific doctor. She is only a vessel to create this baby, and everyone makes sure everything is going according to plan.

I started to read the novel and it is scary how close Polanski keeps the script to the novel. Much of the dialogue is pulled from the novel. I dare say you could watch the movie and just skip reading the book, or vise-versa. That doesn’t mean Polanski doesn’t take a lot thought in how the film is shot. I love how he doesn’t pull many cheap editing techniques that make the viewer jump in their seats (IE abrupt cuts, going from low to loud sounds, etc) He lets the conspiracy unfold.

What makes this movie so scary is how relevant it still is with all the anti-abortion laws in the United States. White males are still telling women what they can and can not do with their bodies. Rape culture is still very prevalent, which probably contributes to many of the insane and ignorant reproductive laws. Nothing irks me more than John Cassavetes’ portrayal of Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary’s husband. World biggest scumbag. Funny thing is that I think John Cassavetes only plays skeezy guys.

Overall: One of the best horror films out there


Big bummer, my server deleted this post and so I have do it all over again. I mean that should be too hard to write up two reviews again. I totally forgot to write a review for Day of the Dead which I saw earlier in October. And then I watched The Brood on Halloween day. Overall we watched 14 horror films in the month of October which I thought was pretty good! And we have been watching plenty of Goosebumps, and Halloween cartoon episodes. I also was sick in October and didn’t want to watch anything that might make me feel queazy. Anyways, I hope you enjoy these last two reviews.

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The Brood

Year: 1978
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Rank: 10/10
Spooky Type: Mutants
Watch: Hulu

Plot: A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist’s therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, while a series of brutal attacks committed by a brood of mutant children coincides with the husband’s investigation. –IMDB

Review: This is easily the best film I watched all month. I am not saying it is the best film of all time, just be best film that balances shock and gore with a great script/production. Apparently when the film first came out a lot of people thought it was complete trash, a cheap shot at the alternative mental health professionals. But the film is much more than that. It is about divorce and the difficulties children go through. 

At the time of the filming the director himself was getting out of a divorce with his then wife. During the divorce process it can be incredibly difficult for the child, and depending on how the adults act, can be a heavy weight into adulthood. I’ve heard petty stories of parents refusing to go to weddings if their ex is there as well. What the heck? To show the trauma, the lead characters Nola and Frank are separated, and Nola is getting mental help to try and save their marriage. During her sessions, we find out that her parents divorced as well, with both parents drunks, implying the damage seeped into Nola’s adult life.

Even with this heavy message, the movie has plenty of shocks. There is a kill fairly early in the movie, getting the momentum in the film going. And in Cronenberg’s style there is a great mutated body shock scene, so good that I am probably going to steal the idea for my next halloween costume. Since the movie is so trashy, but uses it to convey a message (and done in an excellent way) the movie makes it a perfect halloween film.

Overall: Perfect horror film, in my opinion.

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Day of the Dead

Year: 1985
Directed by: George A. Romero
Rank: 7/10
Spooky Type: Zombies
Watch: Hulu

Plot: Zombies rule the world, except for a small group of scientists and military personnel who reside in an underground bunker in Florida. The scientists are using the undead in gruesome experiments; much to the chagrin of the military. Finally the military finds that their men have been used in the scientists’ experiments, and banish the scientists to the caves that house the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the zombies from above ground have made their way into the bunker. –IMDB

Review: This was the first film by George A. Romero that I watched, and that was probably a mistake. Romero is known for his zombie themes, and this is the third film in the dead series. It has also been (loosely) remade in 2008. This film is known for being gory and the best special effects, but the tone is quite different. Yes there are zombies, but they aren’t really the scary part. The scary part is the tension between the military personnel and the scientists. This makes an interesting twist to the zombie genre so I have to give props to Romero for that.

But the film is really of the times. The clothing, hair, stereotypes, music, filming styles, everything is very 80s. It is not my favorite time period so I had to focus to ignore the stylistic choices. The idea is really interesting, but the execution didn’t match up. The characters were pretty flat, which is probably why the acting was lacking. Overall I found the film decent, and worth checking out if you like watching a lot of different films.

Overall: Not the best Romero film to start with


Halloween is almost here! And I’ve been busy watching some spooky things! Some are TV shows, some a YouTube videos, but for now I am sharing the movies I’ve seen. If you haven’t already seen my first list of films I’ve seen this October, you can check out my first post. I might have another coming up next week if I watch anymore films on Halloween Day. Last time it was movies starting with “the” (okay that wasn’t my intention, it just happened that way) and this time I have mostly foreign films! One from South Korea, Mexico, Italy, and Spain! And two from the US, but you know whatever. 

Just wondering, do you guys like reading these reviews? I love films, and I feel like I’ve fallen out of the habit of watching them. I would like to watch more, and I love sharing what I think of them. But it is time consuming, so I am never sure if I want to share my love them. Anyways, enough talk about things, and lets talk about the films.

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APT

Year: 2006
Directed by: Byeong-ki Ahn
Rank: 7/10
Spooky Type: Vengeful Ghost
Watch: Hulu

Plot: Se-jin Oh is a typical Korean “spinster,” living alone, single, and career focused. Her days are a little lonely, and it doesn’t help that it is the Christmas season. After a rough day at work, she witnesses a suicide on the subway. Shaken up by the accident, Se-jin starts to notice some odd occurrences in her apartment complex. The lights flicker on and off people are committing suicide throughout the building. She starts spying on everyone to try and figure out what is going on.

Review: The beginning of the film might seem confusing, it starts with a TV broadcast of various recluses in Korea. Then it cuts to a girl mutilating herself in front of the broadcast, which has nothing to do with the film’s plot. This is pretty common with Asian horror films to have an opening that is vague but sets the mood for the spooky story. It is also worth saying that I made a distinction between “ghost” and “vengeful ghost.” Why? Well, Asian ghosts are very different from Western ghosts. Our ghosts tend to be very untangle. Things move, we get followed, some are evil, some are sad, there are strict rules. While in Asian cultures, specifically Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore, most ghosts are ambiguous, touchable apparitions, and almost always vengeful females. That being said, there are lots of illogical spooks throughout the film.

The story is kind-of a refreshing twist to the haunted house trope, using an apartment complex as the central focus. What I tend to like about Asian horrors over Western/American horrors is that there is usually a message that the writer or director is trying to convey. Loneliness is definitely what is being talked about here. There are high suicide rates in Korea, and socialization is a big role in Korean culture.

Overall I think the pace is good, everything is evenly spaced. The story is intriguing, and I wasn’t fully expecting what was going to happen. But, the ending gets a little weird. We go from ghosts to recluses. Then back to ghosts. The police investigator, moves into the house, to basically give the viewer a quick scare before the end of the film, which was pretty off putting. The story was based on a comic written by Kang Full, which I am unsure how much differs between the two.

Overall: Okay. Different type of story for western viewers and still spooky

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Cronos

Year: 1993
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Rank: 9/10
Spooky Type: Vampires
Watch: Hulu

Plot: In 1536, in Veracruz, Mexico, during the Inquisition, an alchemist builds a mysterious and sophisticated device named Cronos to provide eternal life to the owner. In the present days, the antiques dealer Jesus Gris finds Cronos hidden inside an ancient statue while cleaning it with his granddaughter Aurora. He accidentally triggers the device and soon his wife Mercedes and he note that he has a younger appearance. Out of the blue, the stranger Angel de la Guardia visits Gris’s shop and buys the old statue. On the next day, Gris finds his shop trashed and Angel’s card on the floor. He pays a visit to Angel that introduces him to the eccentric millionaire De la Guardia that explains the healing power and the eternal life given by Cronos. Angel is sent by De la Guardia to hunt down Gris to get Cronos no matter the costs –IMDB

Review: This is Guillermo del Toro’s debut film. It was independently made, which meant Guillermo had individuals invest money in the film, rather than going to a major film company. This is really rare to happen, especially at the time the film cost an estimated 2 million dollars, which was a lot for Mexican film. Because of this Guillermo had a lot of free reign as the director, probably saving the film from being a major gore-fest. Majority of the film is in Spanish with exception of the opening monologue and Ron Perlman’s character Angel.

It was really hard to categorize this film, because vampires is a little misleading. Gris only becomes a vampire from the cronos device which houses a bug inside of it. There is only one vampire, so there isn’t the threat of “spreading” the disease. The horror in the film I think also lies in the little girl seeing her grandfather become a monster, not the vampire himself. All of these factors makes the story refreshing to the vampire genre, heck the horror genre. 

Although I loved this film, take a grain of salt, this is a slow moving and understated film. One might debate if it is even a horror film (but it totes is, it follows the rules of Art Horror) so sit back and don’t expect buckets of blood. The film has beautiful set design and great acting. Basically you should be in the same frame of mind as you would be for a regular old film.

Overall: Beautiful film, totally new twist to vampire genre.

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Opera

Year: 1987
Directed by: Dario Argento
Rank: 9/10
Spooky Type: Slasher
Watch: Youtube Trailer

Plot: Betty is a young opperata, getting her first role as Lady MacBeth, a role in a cursed opera. Betty is nervous taking the role, thinking her talent isn’t strong enough, and perhaps because the opera is off to a rough start since the original Lady MacBeth has hurt her leg. During the debut performance, there is a homicide, shaking up Betty. But the killing keeps following her, with the murderer forcing Betty to watch by placing pins near her eyes.

Review: This movie was a big surprise. I love Susperia, Dario Argento’s classic film. Some of his other films I liked aspects of it, but not the whole film. Deep Red was alright, but I think it was so different from Susperia that I didn’t know how to react. Then I watched Inferno, and visually it was amazing, but the plot and characters were… uh awful. So awful I can’t go into them right now. But there is an easy way to sum up all of Argento’s films, lacking in story and character depth but strong auteur vision. Visual cues and filming techniques help fill in the gaps of the characters and helps progress the story.

This is considered the last “great” Dario Argento film, as there has been a downward spiral in quality with his films. This is probably the biggest budget for all of his films, which becomes obvious. The effects are more impressive than any of his other films, beautiful costume design, and over the top sets. This not a film you want to turn away from, and trying to touch all the different themes of the film is difficult.

The idea of keeping Betty from turning away with pins near her eyes was a joke with Dario Argento. He was tired of seeing viewers cower away from the gore of the film, and joked he would force the viewer to keep their eyes open. In fact the idea of seeing and not seeing is played up through out the film. We see the killers point of view, we don’t see the star opera singer in the beginning of the film, we see things from a birds eye view, we rarely see the anything of the killer outside of his hands. And what we see onscreen is visually overwhelming.

Two big notes to the viewers. This is a vegan based blog, and this is probably the only movie that I would give a big “vegan warning” as it seems obvious that the crows are not treated properly in the film. It seems that Italian horrors have a reputation for not being animal friendly, as many people know Cannibal Holocaust for being the worst (coatimundi killed with a knife, large turtle decapitated and its limbs, shell, and entrails removed, tarantula killed with a machete, snake, killed with a machete, squirrel monkey decapitated with a machete, and a pig shot in the head with a shotgun at close range) Supposedly the movie was so awful the actors were near to tears during the filming of the turtle scene. But Opera isn’t that bad, just a few birds punches and batted at. Not ideal, so use your judgement.

The next note is that this is an Italian film, which almost always involve dubbing. Higher budget films have pretty good syncing, but this film is particularly bad at dubbing. It is in English, so there won’t be any subs. But most of the actors are Italian, so English is not their first language, which might explain why the lips are so far off. Take a deep breath, and try not to get too annoyed by it.

I am not one who loves a slasher film, but this was well crafted. Dario isn’t know for slasher films, but at the time there was a rise in popularity and it worked his way around it. I think he handled it well, adding his own flair to the genre. Truthfully, not that many deaths happen, but they are indeed memorable.

Overall: Great gory film, visually amazing!

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The Orphanage

Year: 2007
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Rank: 8/10
Spooky Type: Ghost/Haunted House
Watch: YouTube Trailer

Plot: Laura, a former orphan, raises her adopted son Simón together with her husband Carlos in an old house and former orphanage where she was raised. While at the orphanage Simón tells Laura that he has five invisible friends which she believes are a product of his active imagination. Laura decides to reopen the orphanage to cater for disabled children and throws a party. During the party Simón tries to persuade Laura to go and take a look at his friends cabin but she’s too busy. Later on she sees a mysterious masked boy and realizes that Simón has also disappeared. Laura feels the presence of other people in the house and months later Laura invites a team of parapsychologists to try to unravel the mystery. –IMDB

Review: We sure have a lot of subtitled films for this batch? This film was produced in Spain and was produced by Guillermo del Toro. I remembered the film getting good reviews when it came out, but never got around to seeing it in theaters. So now was the time. This movie is heavily based on plot and the horror is from the point of view of parents that loose their child. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough atmosphere in the film. The ghosts play heavy role in the film, Laura comes to the edge of insanity, there is blood, and there are creepy kids.

Although I loved the film and I think it is an excellent horror film, there are plot holes or things that don’t really make sense. Like how does Simón not know he has a disease? I mean, he is taking pills often, and I can’t imagine the doctor just “pretending” everything is honky-dory. And there are others that would give away the ending, so I will just stop there. That said, it is a good film to watch once, I think watching it over and over would make this holes seem much more obvious. Besides, I’ve seen much more weakly put together scripts for horrors.

Overall: Good for a good spook and mystery

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Poltergeist

Year: 1982
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Rank: 8/10
Spooky Type: Ghosts
Watch: YouTube Trailer

Plot: A young family are visited by ghosts in their home. At first the ghosts appear friendly, moving objects around the house to the amusement of everyone, then they turn nasty and start to terrorise the family before they “kidnap” the youngest daughter. –IMDB

Review: This is a horror film classic, and it does have some spooky value to it. There is tons of action and horrific elements. I guess my beef is that it is definetly a blockbuster film, and therefore has only so much depth to it. Well, it does present itself with the horrors of being a new parent. Yes, the family featured has three children, but the first born was an accident. The parents, Steve and Diane rush to get married and settle down together. Overall the story is about the fears of becoming a parent, Can you provide? Can you protect your children? How much can you shelter your children from the outside world? How to do you cope with all the responsibility? Because of this message, I think the movie is saved from being a spectacle of special effects and shocks.

The special effects are a little dated, but some really hold up the test of time. I guess my only word of caution is that if you are big ghost freak like me, you will probably find it way over the top. But I can see why so many people love this film.

Overall: Pretty good and mainstream.

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Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

Year: 1990
Directed by: John Harrison
Rank: 7/10
Spooky Type: Short Stories
Watch: Netlfix

Plot: This is really three shorter movies, bound together by a fourth tale in which the other three stories are read. The first segment features an animated mummy stalking selected student victims; the second tale tells the story of a “cat from Hell” who cannot be killed and leaves a trail of victims behind it; the third story is about a man who witnesses a bizarre killing and promises never to tell what he saw, and the “in-between” bit is the story of a woman preparing to cook her newspaper boy for supper. –IMDB

Review: This was a pick from my husband. He is a fan of Tale from the Crypt tv series, and had this one on queue. There were two films made before this one Creepshow and Creepshow 2, which was based on the original comic books. But some of the shorts from Tales from the Darkside are actually based on shorts stories. One based off of Stephen King’s The Cat from Hell, and the other Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lot No. 249. But both stories have some classic feels to them that I could picture in an old horror comic book.

I wasn’t blown away by these shorts, but then again, I think I might of been sick when watching it. I found them entertaining, and the stories are short so if you aren’t feeling the story, it will end soon. There are some notable stars in it including Debbie Harry, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, and Julianne Moore, and Matthew Lawrence (though he might not of been famous at the time). What I liked about this film is that the stories are very different from most modern horror film plots. So this is a perfect film if you want something really different from your average slasher film.

Overall: Bored with most horrors? Check this one out.


I love Halloween. I try to watch as many spooky movies that I can during October. Oh, and I also try and watch as many halloween themed TV episodes. I know my husband personally loves to watch the old Goosebumps series, but truthfully they are too painfully 90s kid for me. But the problem is that sometimes it is hard to filter through the horror reviews. As I flip through Netflix, I see such a large range of reviews, some giving 2 stars for movies that are pretty good! So I’ll be posting my reviews for the week of what I thought of the films I saw, and to give viewers a heads up about what they are jumping into. I think most “bad” reviews are because the viewer expects one thing, and gets another.

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The Awakening

Year: 2011
Directed by: Nick Murphy
Rank: 7/10
Spooky Type: Ghost/Haunted House
Watch: Netflix

Plot: A surge of followers of the spiritualists movement has motivated Florence Cathcart to expose frauds. She becomes the expert in her field, even though she is a woman in the 1920s. She is contacted to help out with a ghost sighting in an all boys boarding school. It seems that Florence had wrapped up all the loose ends of the so called “ghost sightings” but something bothers her that keeps her at the school a little longer, giving the school enough time to expose it’s true colors.

Review: The Awakening‘s strong points are the visuals. The cinematography is beautiful, the tone is great, and everything is visually spectacular. Pretty much all the aesthetics are perfected, from sound, to editing. It is easy to fall in love with the movie because of this. Sadly the plot was a little lacking. Truthfully, ghost movies are hard to do, since they are one of the oldest horror genre. But there were enough red herrings in the film to distract the viewer and have a surprise ending, or rather an ending that you didn’t guess ALL OF the facts. There were lots of themes that seem to of been tossed into the story but had no real deep meaning, influenza and the World War. 

My other beef with the film was the historical aspect. Setting films into the past is a great way to remove ourselves from our connected world. It is so easy to get data, make a phone call in emergencies, research history, that sometimes it makes the plot too easy to solve by the protagonist. So having a movie take places in a huge mansion with little light and stone cold walls can make a creepy setting. Unfortunately if you know some things about history, you find errors. Florence’s character was a little too modern for the time period, which seems intentional, but a little too overdone. The historical inaccuracies aren’t glaring, but if you are a history buff, you might not want to watch the film.

Overall: It’s a good watch, and would recommend watching for a good ghost story.

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The Omen

Year: 1976
Directed by: Richard Donner
Rank: 5/10
Spooky Type: Demon Child
Watch: Netflix

Plot: Robert Thorn is an American ambassador in Great Britain. His wife Katherine has a stillborn baby during childbirth. The hospital happens to have a healthy baby that had it’s mother die. So a priest suggests to Robert they switched the babies around. Katharine is unaware of the switch and raises her child as their own. Strange things start to happen that make the couple question where their child came from.

Review: I had pretty high hopes for this movie. It is considered a classic, almost every horror movie buff have seen it. I remember having a hard time finding someone to watch it with me. I figured it would be something I love. The Exorcist is awesome, 70s witchcraft based horror films are excellent, and Gregory Peck is a dreamboat. So it seems to make sense that this film would have it all.

But everything that I loved about those films were pretty much missing from The Omen. There wasn’t a mystery of trying to find out that the son was the devil. Spoiler alert, he is a demon child. Actually it isn’t a spoiler, all synopsizes say he is, so do trailers, and posters. You find out pretty much right away. Trouble follows as Robert Thorn tries to solve the problem, but it doesn’t have the stalking qualities that so many witch movies have. There are no hints of occult activities, or witchcraft. Just a boring kid, who doesn’t act evil or creepy.

So why is this a classic? I don’t get it. Maybe it was a product of the times, but wasn’t too gory or tacky to be dismissed by mainstream culture. The film is overall polished, great acting, direction, writing etc, but it doesn’t take the viewer to horrifying world. Some people present the argument that the viewer shouldn’t know if the characters are just paranoid, or if child is truly the devil. But I think the story presents too much evidence that would support the story that the child is the demon, especially since some of the evidence isn’t ever revealed to the Robert Thorn character. Lacking spooks, and lacking a deeper meaning.

Overall: Pass

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The Orphan

Year: 2009
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Rank: 7/10
Spooky Type: Demon Child
Watch: Hulu Trailer

Plot: Kate and John are a married couple with two children. Their second child was born with a hearing complication, leaving her almost deaf. Their third child resulted in a still born, leaving the couple with the decision to adopt a child. At the orphanage, they meet Esther, a quiet girl who is exceptionally great at painting, has an old fashioned taste in clothing, and has excellent English despite being born in Russia. But Kate starts to notice trouble follows Esther around, leaving her to try and find out what Esther’s history is.

Review: If you are looking for a scary movie with lots of gore and scares, I would recommend this movie. Within the genre of scary movies, I think this is really good. The ending is unexpected, I was on the edge of my seat to see what would happen, and there were was an eerie atmosphere. But… the movie has it’s flaws, but not in ways that would take away from it’s fun horror gimmicks. Everyone did a great job acting, many small details are well paid attention to, and nothing seems super tacky. But if you picked up the script you would probably say it was a okay suspense film, most of the “horror” is built up by filming techniques.

The director gets too caught up in the style of editing, and sound production, making things “scary” when it makes no logical sense to. Spoiler Alert here- Esther makes enemies with a girl at school. So while the girl is playing on a jungle gym, there are editing styles that make the whole experience seem like the girl is on edge.. but why? Because Esther stared this girl down on the playground? If this were to happen in real life, the girl would have no reason to be scared, and I think the filming techniques should of reflected this.

Looking back at the story, most of the actions from the character are irrational, or over the top. And I get it, but it leaves me with the conclusion that this film is just a horror film. And that is okay. I think it is well produced for a late night scare. Though it is disappointing to not have a story with a deeper message about society. To put it this way, I liked this film, but I don’t think I would watch it again.

Overall: Good scary movie, but not a solid message.

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The Others

Year: 2001
Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar
Rank: 8/10
Spooky Type: Ghost/Haunted House
Watch: Netflix

Plot: Grace lives all alone in a mansion in Jersey with her two children. She hires three new house keepers as the previous staff got up and left mysteriously. The house is a strange one, there are strict rules about closing doors and locking them since her children are diagnosed with xeroderma pigmentosum, an extreme sensitivity to sunlight. The children start talking about people they see around the house. Grace first assumes they are just making up stories, but strange things start to happen making her believe them.

Review: This movie is very aware of it the tropes of a Haunted House film. Rules are put into place, all doors must be closed before entering the next room. Doors must be locked, curtains must always be closed. All for the sake of the children. Which made me think right away of House on Haunted Hill, or other haunted house films, there are always specific rules for the house. But unlike those films, messing up those rules doesn’t bring upon the ghosts. The story has been described as almost a remake of The Innocents.

Although I enjoyed the film, I think I “solved” the mystery halfway through, but then doubted myself, then knew I was right all along. Is it painfully predictable? Maybe if you are a huge ghost film fan, but anyone who is a general horror or movie fan might get stumped. That aside, I think the story is fairly solid, well researched for accuracies, and believable characters. I think the only thing that bothered me was the “backstory” of the maid who couldn’t speak. It really made no sense.

Oddly I remember this movie being a bust when it came out. I guess I just remembered the high profile divorce with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which happened during the release of the movie. I think the movie got compared too often with The Sixth Sense, which was released two years earlier. So watching the movie today, out of context of pop culture really lets the viewer enjoy the movie.

Overall: Highly underrated ghost story. Great throw back to the old movies.

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The Uninvited

Year: 1944
Directed by: Lewis Allen
Rank: 9/10
Spooky Type: Ghost/Haunted House
Watch: Youtube Trailer

Plot: Ray and his sister Ruth discover a beautiful abandoned house while vacationing in Maine. They are able to buy the house for a steal, but find the original owner odd. The owner’s granddaughter Stella befriends Ray and is excited to explore the home. But Stella seems to experience a panic attack in the house, and while they try and nurse her back to health, strange things happen around the house.

Review: As a horror film, this is much slower paced that what most modern viewers are use to. The movie tries to focus on the story and relationships between characters as the history of the house is revealed. And it is tempting to try and “guess the surprise ending” like with so many ghost/haunted house stories, but you really do need to focus on the dialogue, especially towards the end.

I loved this film and would recommend that viewers take a few notes of what to expect when watching. The film doesn’t pull a lot of hokey stuff, so I think it makes it very classic to watch. It isn’t like watching old Frankenstein films, where subtleties are ignored. But the film does take awhile to get the “spooky” ball rolling. There are some transitional things, crying in the house, spooked pets, etc, but no filming stylistic choices to get viewers at the edge of their seat. But what holds together the movie is the story, as you will find yourself wanting to solve the mystery of the house.

The special effects are actually quite good for the time. The ghost was pretty haunting, and pretty convincing. Pretty much this is the horror film for film fans, and fans of classic horror films. Yes it is a little melodramatic, but heck I love that. The merits of this film is well known, as it is part of the Criterion Collection.

Overall: Watch, but be aware it is older and dialogue driven.

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The Wicker Man

Year: 1973
Directed by: Robin Hardy
Rank: 8/10
Spooky Type: Witches
Watch: Youtube Trailer

Plot: Sergeant Howie arrives on a small island in Scotland called Summerisle to investigate the death of a young girl, Rowan Morrison. Once at the island, no one seems to know who this girl is, which is perplexing since everyone seems to know each other in the town. When night falls, it seems all the locals are crazy, naked women crying at graves, orgies, singing (my god so much singing), and a women trying to seduce him. But as Howie finds out more about Rowan, the more lies are uncovered, leaving Howie racing to be the clock to discovering Rowan before it is too late.

Review: This is kind-of funny contrast to The Orphan. This is probably a movie that doesn’t fall very well into the “horror” genre, as there aren’t that many editing, visual, or sound choices that enhance the spooky environment. But there is a lot of theme going for the film. Xenophobia, classes, power struggles, lawlessness, and religion is scattered throughout the film, giving the viewer a lot of think about.

The story is well researched and thought out. Every scene has importance, and all stories are fairly true to wiccan practices. Sure somethings are played up, like all the sex, which is to manipulate Sergeant Howie. Some things are just done to make things more cinematic, like creating music to the wiccan chants. Unlike many witch stories during this time, there isn’t the feeling of supernatural stalking, though there is a big brother sort of watch by the community as a whole. In fact this much more realistic true to life feel gives a different creepy feel. There nothing unrealistic about anything that happens.

This is defiantly a horror film for a lover of story and conversations. It isn’t full of campy spooks, although here is plenty of nudity which is kind-of a given for any 70s horror. But if you are looking for a late night scare fest, this might not be the best film.

Overall: Great film, but a little predictable because of it’s prevalence in pop culture. Low on a the “spooky” factor, but the realism does add to the unnerving tone.

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