The Corpse of Anna Fritz
When a beautiful starlet mysteriously dies, an orderly in the hospital where her body is taken invites his friends to the morgue to ogle her. Ogling turns to more than ogling, and things take increasingly dark turns.
Really dark, but a really satisfying ending. Part of me feels a little bad for Pau, the orderly, because he’s rather weak and ineffectual, but only a very, very, little bad. There are some very tense scenes, and a real race-against-time feel throughout that helps the suspense build. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s enjoyable (at least after the icky beginning …), and it’s nice to see people get what they deserve.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
A group of young people stumble across a houseful of cannibals in the Texas countryside. Things go pretty much as you’d expect.
This contains exactly what it says on the package: there’s massacring, there’s Texas, and there’s a chainsaw. Leatherface’s chainsaw dances are kind of sublime in their ridiculous grace. The screaming in the last half hour is intense, and quite understandable given the situation, but it loses its impact pretty quickly and becomes just background noise.
As one of the first slasher movies, this is certainly an historically important movie; and as a feat of film making, it’s pretty impressive: the tone is perfect, the effects are restrained but scary, and the pace is fast. I’m not convinced it holds up–I would say it’s definitely showing its age more than “Night of the Living Dead” does–but it’s certainly no worse than its countless imitators, and often much better than some recent attempts to tap into the “Chainsaw” vibe.
A deaf woman living alone in the woods is terrorized by a psychotic killer.
This felt a bit like a gory version of “Wait Until Dark,” with a deaf rather than blind protagonist trying to find a way to flee, hide, or fight. The killer is never explained, and a few of the close calls are a little too close to be believable, but overall this was a good, intense, scary movie.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Something is stalking the dregs of Bad City. Something dark, pretty, lonely, and stylish.
This is an Iranian-American art house vampire movie. Indeed, it’s probably THE Iranian-American art house vampire movie, as I can’t imagine it could be confused with any other movie. It’s very stylish, very odd, with a lot of layers to unpack: it’s a feminist commentary on Iranian culture, a table-turning horror movie where we sympathize with the monster and loathe the victims, a fantasy in which men fear the night and women walk boldly in the shadows. Though it veers into kitsch at some points with its extremely stylized scene setting, it’s a wonderful and sometimes frightening movie. It’s certainly not a jump-scare horror thrill ride, but it is a quietly brooding and disturbing variation on a classic tale.
It Comes at Night
A family hiding from a deadly plague reluctantly welcome another family into their home. Things go badly for all involved.
This is a grim, quiet, paranoid movie, a zombie survival tale without zombies. There’s a current of distrust running through every relationship, and even warm moments turn dark. And in the end it just doesn’t matter … I liked it despite (because of?) its nihilism.
Also, is this the same house where “A Quiet Place” and “Hereditary” were shot? It seems that the wood-paneled-house-in-the-forest is the new Victorian mansion or Dutch Revival home of the modern horror movie.
Train to Busan
A father and daughter board a train from Seoul to Busan just as a fast-spreading disease that turns people into ravenous zombies breaks out. The train is both a death trap and a life line as car after car is overrun, and unlikely alliances against the zombies are formed.
This movie feels much shorter than two hours: it’s fast-paced, intense, and terrifying, with just enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat and rooting for the scrappy band of zombie fighters. There’s very little dialogue, and most of the characters are nameless, at least in the subtitles, but they are interesting and likeable. Like every zombie movie, this one is in some ways an answer to Night of the Living Dead: the people fighting the zombies bicker about strategies, seeing your friends and loved ones become zombies is horrifying, and the authorities are as much a danger as the zombies in the battle to restore order. That the mayhem plays out in an orderly and hierarchical culture adds another layer of terror, and the claustrophobic setting in zombie-filled train cars is a different kind of terror than the shambling hordes that overrun the Pennsylvania farmhouse in “Night of the Living Dead.”
Night of the Living Dead
Seven people are trapped in an isolated farmhouse during a zombie apocalypse. As deadly as the shambling, hungry dead outside are, the real danger comes from themselves.
I probably haven’t seen this movie for 30 years, but I felt that it still held up. Its choppy, grainy look gives it a kind of timelessness, and while the acting, special effects, and premise are fair to preposterous, the core ideas are solid; every zombie movie since “Night of the Living Dead” is in some way a response this wonderful, horrible, thoroughly original film.
Hold the Dark
A naturalist goes to Alaska to search for a wolf pack that took a boy. But he discovers that wolves are not the most dangerous thing in the village of Keelut.
This is a laconic movie full of snow and guns and men in plaid. There are wolves and native witches and masks, and one of the most violent shootouts I’ve seen since the second season of “True Detective.” (Actually, I just rewatched the “True Detective” shootout, and the one in “Hold the Dark” is much more intense in its tightly-contained area and focus.) It’s gory and dark and senseless and brutal and I loved it. There’s a lot of subtext going on here, making us question things like love and vengeance and what makes us human. It’s just this side of “American Werewolf in Alaska” without sliding over the line to straight-up supernatural horror.
(Also, Letterboxd and IMDB don’t list its genre as “horror”; dude, this is totally a horror movie …)
A brother and sister have a good scam going, pretending to be paranormal investigators who can banish the ghosts from their clients’ homes. But then they come across a home, and a client, who are not what they expected.
Meh. There were some good things about this movie: I liked the nightmare of the eyeless mother, the character of the alcoholic Scottish grandfather (who disappears from the film pretty early on), the creepy schoolgirl ghosts, the conflicted heroine. But it was largely predictable from the start of the scenario. Good production and decent acting in service of a forgettable story.