You could almost attribute the invention of the sub-genre involving travelers trapped in a house with a bunch of demented folks to James Whale. While there are no chainsaws or torture devices anywhere, you could see where the seeds were sewn for films like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Haunting.” Whale’s film “The Old Dark House” presents glimmers of dark comedy and some pretty funny one-liners but through and through it’s an atmospheric and very creepy tale about a travelers trapped in a house with a psychotic brood. During a horrific rain storm, a group of travelers in the country side of Wales find themselves soaking wet and seeking shelter from the cold water barreling down on them.
When a disease sweeps the area, all parents become crazed killers going after their offspring. In one house, a teenage girl and her little brother try to survive while their parents do all in their powers to kill them.
One of the last relics of the video store, I vividly recall coming across the cover to “Ice Cream Man” at least a dozen times and wondered what horror Clint Howard would dole up from the back of a truck. Years later, “Ice Cream Man” has caught on as a surreal and self-aware horror thriller that packs in a lot of gore, grue, and goofy black comedy that makes it a collector’s item. From Jan Michael Vincent shooting a bunch of mental patients, to the Ice Cream Man using Ice Cream as a symbol of his sexual repression and rage, to really bad padding to make one of the child actors look heavy, “Ice Cream Man” has earned its status as a cult classic since video stores shut down permanently.
Brian Taylor’s “Mom and Dad” has a really good idea on its hands and sometimes he doesn’t really know what to do with it. “Mom and Dad” best sums up the whole of its premise in the opening where Taylor stages the film like the opening to Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead.” A mom looks back at her toddler sitting in its seat, gets out of the car and walks away calmly as a train barrels down on it. We then flicker to a small suburb from top view where carnage is about to ensue. Granted, “Mom and Dad” begins very tensely and starts off with a lot of mounting suspense that kept me glued to the screen.
I think one of the many reasons why “Silent Night, Deadly Night” has remained a cult classic is because it’s anything but a simple slasher film. While many movies in the eighties were content with maybe just a movie about a hacking and slashing Santa, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is memorable for being so insane. It’s a wacky, weird, mean spirited and demented horror movie with hints of dark comedy sprinkled in. The tonal inconsistencies and almost rapid fire highs and lows of the narrative make it such a horror oddity that you can’t help but love it. There are just about five movies in one, and all of them are pretty entertaining in their own right.
Hell, Linnea Quigley even appears for a moment because—the eighties…?!
If there’s only one person who could have played Mildred Hayes, it’s Frances McDormand. McDormand is enormous in the role of Mildred Hayes, a flawed but fierce protagonist who is so rock solid, but shattered underneath what she eventually reveals to be a pure façade. One of the greatest moments in McDormand’s turn is the moment when she battles to save her trio of billboards as they inexplicably go up in flames. The battle is futile, but to her it’s everything. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a poetic, and occasionally darkly funny film about revenge, as well as the fallout and the ripple effect that reactionary anger to tragedy can have. Much of Mildred Hayes’ life since we met her has been spent with a lot of anger and fury, and she’s been kept awake by the nagging notion that she may never get resolution on one horrendous period of her life.
Like most of Greg McLean’s films, “The Belko Experiment” is just a big excuse to be as sadistic and inexplicably cruel as humanly possible, while taking pages from Koushun Takami’s “Battle Royale.” Coincidentally, another film in the same vein as “The Belko Experiment” came to theaters in 2017, in the form of Joe Lynch’s “Mayhem,” and while both films are insanely violent, at least the latter film had something to say about office culture and corporate politics. There’s a certain point in “The Belko Experiment” where it’s clear that McLean and writer James Gunn have no commentary on office culture and are by no means exploring the idea of fighting for a job through over the top violence, clearly just going for cruel unnecessary violence.
It’s been a banner year for Stephen King fans everywhere, and Shout Factory sweetens the pot by giving Rob Reiner’s horror masterpiece “Misery” a collector’s edition. Based on the classic Stephen King novel, Rob Reiner who is no stranger to adapting King’s work, brings to screen a work of terror, dark comedy, and a demented commentary about the fans behind our work that also control our work. It’s a very volatile and sharp edged polemic about fandom when you get right down to it, and it’s never been more relevant than in the day and age where fandoms from all corners of the world have the loudest voices and sometimes can break the very thing they love.