My mom visited recently and took over the remote. She loves horror movies but between cable, Netflix and Hulu she kept getting “duds” – poorly acted films that had decent cover art. Even the movies that were good quality-wise bored her because the plots ran out of gas.
When the conversation turned to our faves, I asked what horror films she would recommend to folks. Here is her list:
1) The Hellraiser Series
Mom: The first three movies are the strongest; the rest of them are okay. Everything but the last one. That was trash.
2) The Woman In Black
Mom: This had it all: story, atmosphere, that harry potter boy. It’s not just a haunted house; it’s haunted people.
3) The Abominable Dr. Phibes & Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Mom: This is how you do “horror” comedy right. It’s a simple premise, a bad guy motivated by his undying love. Dr. Phibes is a sympathetic character-even when he does really nasty things. It feels good to root for him. Plus, it’s not the same type of murder over and over again.
The Evil (1978) is a horror movie about a creepy house with a secret in the basement. A fellow (Richard Crenna) has bought a mansion that has been abandoned for several years; he plans to turn it into a rehab clinic. He invites a group of friends down to help get the place habitable.
Our hero ignores all of the signs that this is a very bad idea:
*the caretaker has disappeared.
*Native Americans avoided the land the house was built on
*neighbors think the house should be torn down
*there’s a stature with a cryptic warning about not letting “it” out
*the dog is acting funny
*parts of the ceiling falls on C.J.’s head when he is touring the property
The dude’s wife is seeing weird things but she’s a woman so…
Since the gang ignores the not-so-subtle hints to leave, the mansion says, “Screw it. I’m not letting you go.” The shutters close, the doors lock, the bodies start to drop—suddenly, everyone wants to go.
If you’ve watched a lot of TV in the 70s/80s/90s, you will visually recognize a lot of the actors here: Andrew Prine, Lynne Moody, Cassie Yates, etc.
It’s not a great movie or a bad movie, it’s just okay. The ending is a bit of a letdown. If it’s on and you’ve never seen it before, give it a go.
TIP: Listen to your wife.
A Small Dark Place by Martin Schenk (1997) is a horror novel that is broken into two parts. In part one, Sandra and Peter Wiley are on the brink of financial ruin. They have been struggling for years and have enemies dedicated to seeing them suffer and fail. Then, Sandra remembers an event from her youth—the riveting rescue of Baby Carlotta. The country fell in love with Baby Carlotta when she fell into a dry well. The rescue took several days, but she was pulled out of the hole alive and (thanks to donations from well wishers) one hundred thousand dollars richer.
Desperate for cash, Sandra and Peter decide to create their own Baby Carlotta moment by having their son Will fall into a similar type of hole. They set a “trap” for their boy and wait for him to cry out. Unfortunately, it is their daughter Andromeda—a child who is frightfully afraid of the dark—that falls in.
Part two is set in the present, roughly 1997. Andromeda is all grown up and coming back home. The rescue had various affects on people and the prospect of her return is just as exciting/anxiety producing. While the town is ready to have a parade and herald the return of their favorite daughter, Andromeda is ready to settle some old scores. She learned a lot in that small, dark place and she’s ready to show the world.
The book does a great job with the parents. You really do understand how they got to a point where exploiting a child like this seems like a viable option. At the same time, the decision isn’t an easy one. If they don’t do it, how far down in metaphorical darkness will the family fall? Could the family even survive? If they do it (and they do), how will that change the relationship dynamics? Can you really justify endangering a child for the greater good of the family?
At the same time, this is a horror novel. So, plenty of one dimensional characters abound but they don’t need to be fleshed out beyond their relationship with the Wiley family. It was a fun read for me, especially since I remember the real-life Baby Jessica incident.
If you were born in the mid 80s or later, you probably don’t know anything about Baby Jessica. On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure was playing in a backyard with other children when she fell down a dry well. It took rescuers two to three days to get her out. Thanks to round the clock cable news, the nation watched every step of the rescue.
There were images of her parents at the top of the hole talking to her, singing songs. Experts behind desks explained how the rescuers planned to drill a parallel tunnel so that an adult human can get down to her level set her free. There were interviews with neighbors, background pieces on the community—saving this little girl was an event.
To my memory, it was acknowledged as a freak accident. No one blamed the parents. There were no threats of taking the baby away. People sent prayers, cards and money – not death threats. This was pre-Internet, people with horrible thoughts didn’t have a venue to instantly and anonymously share their venom with the world.
Once Baby Jessica was pulled out of the hole, there were a few immediate follow up national stories to assure everyone that she was physically and mentally healthy. She met President Bush (the 1st one). Then, the news cycle moved on.
If you want to learn more about Baby Jessica, many stories about her are archived here: Baby Jessica Rescue Page
The Death Bed is about a demon possessed bed that kills people in dramatic, long drawn-out fashion. This is such a bad movie. I watched in disbelief. When you think the movie has hit rock bottom, lo and behold, there is another layer of schlock.
I imagine that it was a fun concept on paper that the filmmaker didn’t have the coins to pull off. And the story is just…
There are so many other angles the writer could have explored. For example: Laying all night in a nest of evil, what would that do to a person’s mind? But no, our bed has to physically demolish people with bad effects.
If you are looking for a so bad it’s good experience, this isn’t it. In the words of Queen Bey, don’t hurt yourself. You need a nap? Watch this snippet.
Tip: Set your alarm before watching.
A killer tiger shark chomps on tourists and playboys off the coast of a Mexican island. Sounds like a run-of-the-mill Jaws rip off, right? Tintorera has something I didn’t expect—lots of (soft core) nudity.
You don’t see the sex, but there are plenty of “next morning” shots of naked bodies (ass cheeks up!) stretched out. Somehow, these folks will go skinny dipping at the drop of a hat, yet the sun has tanned everything but their bottoms.
Between the first and 2nd shark attacks, the movie transforms itself into an interesting love story. A business man, vacationing on a huge yacht, becomes friends with a buff playboy when the woman they had been “dating” seems to ditch both of them. Together, they meet and seduce other ladies – until they find a special woman that suggests the three of them form a triad. Then, there’s a lovely montage of their joyful threesome (outside of the bedroom).
Eventually, the Tintorera gets jealous that he’s getting so little screen time and shows up to break up their happy home.
Once this becomes a full out “kill the shark” movie, the fire dies out of it. The actors were having great fun partying on the beach and running around the yacht in the buff. When it’s time to hunt the killer shark, dude sounds like he’s looking into the dead lights.
This is a romance/free-love tale forced into a lackluster shark attack film. I liked it though.
Tip: Don’t take the love(s) of your life shark hunting for kicks.