It’s Halloween soon, so a lot of movie lovers are planning horror marathons for the season. I’ve clearly gone mad, so I figured I would try to suggest the longest endurance test of them all: a 24 hour horrorthon. I’m five minutes short, but hopefully you’ll forgive that. Obviously I’d suggest doing this over two […]
It’s Halloween soon, so a lot of movie lovers are planning horror marathons for the season. I’ve clearly gone mad, so I figured I would try to suggest the longest endurance test of them all: a 24 hourhorrorthon. I’m five minutes short, but hopefully you’ll forgive that. Obviously I’d suggest doing this over two days, because I’ve not built in little things like tea breaks or meals.
I’ve listed the titles alphabetically, leaving you free to juggle how you’d like to schedule each film. There’s everything here from survival horror to surrealism and from slashers to spoofs. There should be something that’s right up your particular street, plenty of variety along the way, and enough films for you to dip in and tailor a marathon of your own from this selection.
Better Watch Out (89 mins) This recent Christmas set scarer has built a reputation since screening at Frightfest in 2017, but it had passed me by until earlier this year. I expected something fairly rote; a fun but functional slasher to fill future Christmas horror programmes. In fact, this is a much more inventive film than expected, with excellent performances from Levi Miller and Olivia DeJonge and a mid movie twist that genuinely threw everything I thought was happening up in the air. This is short, sharp and loads of fun.
Darling (78 mins) Mickey Keating’s surreal black and white chiller finds him and star Lauren Ashley Carter (see featured image) channeling Polanski’s Repulsion with extra gore. Carter, one of the most talented actors and most interesting faces in the indie horror scene today, is outstanding as her character – known only as Darling – seems to become ever more paranoid and disturbed while looking after a huge and expensive house. The black and white imagery, the framing and the editing are beautiful, but also serve to put you right inside Darling’s increasingly warped world.
The Final Girls (88 mins) Over the past few years there have been several attempts by horror filmmakers to dissect the stereotype of the Final Girl, while also making something close to a classic slasher. Final Girl and Last Girl Standing are also admirable efforts, but the standout among this trend is this too little seen slasher parody. Taissa Farmiga plays the daughter of a former horror movie star (Malin Akerman) who died in a car crash a few years back. At a screening of her mother’s most famous film, she and her friends get sucked in to the movie, becoming part of the narrative. The meta jokes are fantastic and the camerawork is inventive, but it’s the unexpected emotion of the film that really sticks. You’ll never hear Bette Davis Eyes the same way again.
Frostbite (98 mins) A vampire film set in a region of the world that experiences 24 hour darkness always seemed like a cool and creepy idea to me. Most people know 30 Days of Night, but this Swedish film dates from the year before, and exploits the idea very nicely. Anders Banke fuses teen comedy and horror in a way that, if it’s not wildly original, is certainly a lot of fun and Grete Havnesköld gives a solid leading performance. I still wish this film had a sequel, because I like the tone and it leaves off on what feels like a perfect ellipsis to lead into a larger scale second chapter.
Frozen (93 mins) Director Adam Green is best known for his Hatchet series of slashers, but for me this tense slice of survival horror is his best film. Green gets a lot of mileage out of the simple conceit of three people (a couple and their single friend) stuck on a ski lift when the resort has closed for several days. The performances work well to convince us of the dynamic between the characters and the tension ratchets up effectively as the situation becomes ever more hopeless. Gore effects may be minimal here, but when they do come they are palpably painful. This is a film that gets under my skin every time I watch it.
Hounds of Love (108 mins) For me, serial killer films are the scariest horror gets because they are often the most real it gets, that’s certainly true with this film, based on a real case from Australia. Ben Young’s feature debut is full of imagery that is both evocative and disturbing (look at the stunning opening ten minutes, which are essentially the film in miniature and with very limited dialogue), but his work is matched by that of the actors. Emma Booth, in particular, creates a complex picture of a woman who is capable of acts of horrendous cruelty, but also clearly beaten down and severely damaged. A deeply disturbing film about the evil that just might live next door.
Otis (96 mins) Veering close to parody at times, this horror comedy doesn’t completely nail its tone, but it does have some gloriously silly moments mixed in with its macabre sense of humour. The central story about an overweight loser who keeps kidnapping blonde teens that he calls Kim, in order to recreate his imagined perfect prom night, would have made a solid concept for a straight up horror film. It also works with its tongue in its cheek; gags involving an inept FBI agent, a callous newsreader and the latest ‘Kim’s’ juvenile delinquent brother hit far more often than they miss. I also love the darkly funny and surprisingly nasty twist on revenge movies that makes up the third act. This is an oddity, but well worth the time.
Pigs (80 mins) There’s something special about 70’s grindhouse cinema; a homemade grubbiness that gives even the ones that, technique wise, are roughestround the edges a verisimilitude that the digital sheen of today’s lowest budget horror just doesn’t have. Also known as Daddy’s Deadly Darling, this directorial effort from character actor Marc Lawrence casts his daughter Toni as a traumatised young woman who killed her abusive father, having escaped from hospital she ends up working at an out of the way diner, but when she begins killing again the owner – also a serial killer – feeds the bodies to his pigs. This is the kind of film we have specialist labels for; a grindhouse oddity that could easily have been forgotten, but is well worth digging up.
Popcorn (91 mins) As a fundraiser, a student film society screens a supposedly haunted art horror film as part of a horror marathon. This is perhaps most notable for featuring the often overlooked Jill Schoelen – think an 80s/90s horror Mary Elizabeth Winstead – in one of her best lead roles. It’s fairly predictable, but all executed very well. The films within the film are all dead on parodies of horror subgenres, and there are some extremely striking make up effects. This has been a cult classic for a while, here’s hoping the recent Blu Ray from 88 Films can bring it some overdue notice.
Stir of Echoes (94 mins) Unfairly overshadowed on release by The Sixth Sense, this is less about a kid ‘seeing dead people’ than the effect that it has on his family and on the wider community. Aside from the horror element of the film, what I appreciate here is the minutiae. The marriage between Kevin Bacon and Kathryn Erbe’s characters is entirely convincing, and we’re invested as his pursuit of answers about what a ghost he believes he saw was trying to tell him begins to fracture their relationship. This extends to the wider community too, with the film having a real sense of place. Stir of Echoes works as a haunting ghost story, but it’s so much more than that too.
Suffer Little Children (74 mins) I’ll level with you: this is a bad movie. In fact, it’s a very bad movie. It was made on video in 1983 by the members of a London acting school for what appears to be a budget of £3.50. The story is about a mute child who arrives at a children’s home and appears to exert a malign influence over the other children. It turns out she might be the Devil. There are occasionally some moments that are diverting in their extreme weirdness (ZOMBIE PICNIC!), and the largely terrible performances give the film an odd hypnotic pull, but it’s the ending that you have to watch this for. I’m not going to tell you what happens, but trust me, you NEED to see it.
Switchblade Romance (91 mins) 15 years after its release, the film that acted as standard bearer for the New French Extremity remains divisive. I know a lot of people hate the twist, that they don’t think it makes sense, but for me it felt natural from my very first viewing because of the way the film is framed. Either way though… holy shit this movie just pounds you into submission with its brutality. Alexandre Aja’s direction and the gore effects by the great Gianetto DiRossi ensure that once the mayhem starts, the film simply never lets you catch a breath. I still think the twist is perfect, and seeded in the nuances of the acting, but even if you don’t this is still a violently intense and enjoyable ride.
The Toolbox Murders  (91 mins) Tobe Hooper’s video nasty remake bears scant resemblance to the film it’s based on but, after a challenging few years for the director, it found him reinvigorated. Freely moving between chills and some crunchingly nasty violence, Hooper delivers the horror goods, while also extracting a terrific leading performance from Angela Bettis and an interesting supporting turn – miles away from her work on the Buffy TV show – from Juliet Landau. The third act is pretty standard issue, but up until then this is an effective piece of work and the kind of movie that gives remakes a better name.
The Ugly (90 mins) As with several of the films I’ve listed here, it’s not that The Ugly is totally obscure, but it certainly deserves to be better known. The typical shorthand is to say it’s New Zealand’s Silence of the Lambs, with a psychiatrist (Rebecca Hobbs) going to examine a serial killer (Paolo Rotondo) to determine whether he is safe for release. Hobbs and Rotondo are both excellent, but it’s writer/director Scott Reynolds who gives his film its own identity. The visions the killer – Simon – has of his victims, through the stylised design and colour scheme of the hospital and exaggerated characterisation of its staff and through the choice to use black ‘blood’ throughout the film all mark his directorial voice out.
Wake Wood (86 mins) The Hammer revival produced some popular films (The Woman in Black) and some good films (The Quiet Ones), but for me the best of the bunch was this Wicker Man–esque piece of folk horror, which came and went with little notice and which I keep hoping will begin to build something of a cult following. Eva Birthistle and Aiden Gillen play a couple whose daughter died in a car accident, they move to a remote village where there is a local ritual that promises to raise her from the dead for a short time. David Keating’s film creates the same slightly otherworldly feel as The Wicker Man but by making the leading characters bereaved parents he ratchets up the film’s emotional intensity, and the horror with it.
The Witch Who Came From the Sea (88 mins) There are many great films on the video nasties list (we’ll get to more of them in due course on BANNED!) but this true one off may be the very best of them. Millie Perkins (Anne Frank in the 50s film version of the Diary) plays a woman who fantasises about television and one particular man she sees on a commercial, but those fantasies may be covering both the abuse she suffered as a girl and the murders she’s comitting as an adult. Perkins is exceptional in the lead; deeply sympathetic as she drifts further from reality, and the film looks striking thanks to early work from Dean Cundey, later Spielberg’s cinematographer of choice. This, though, isn’t a film I want to spend much time describing, it’s so singular that you just need to watch it.
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