Michael Hartford

writer, photographer, programmer, dad

Tag: movie (page 1 of 4)

The Witch at the Window

A father and his estranged tween son plan to stay at a dilapidated Vermont farm house that the farmer is repairing, perhaps to flip, perhaps to offer as a gesture of reconciliation to his estranged wife. The house is not unoccupied, though, and its inhabitant craves company.

This is a subtly unnerving movie. There are only a couple of entirely predictable jump scares; the horror unfolds slowly, as the real and imaginary blur and switch places. It plays with perception and memory to put the viewer off balance, and while the ending is a little maudlin, it is overall a refreshingly quiet and original ghost story.

Icelandic Horror Movie: Grafir og Bein (Graves and Bones)

On the weekend before he’s to be sentenced for financial fraud, Gunnar goes with his wife Sonja to a remote house where Gunnar’s niece Perla is staying after the apparent suicide of her parents. Strange things start to happen, seemingly centered on the little girl and the house’s tragic history.

I watched this in part to prepare for a trip to Iceland: I’ve read the tour guides and restaurant reviews and even done a few lessons in Icelandic, so I wanted to get a glimpse into Iceland’s culture through a horror movie. A few things I took away: Icelanders drink a lot of coffee and wear a lot of sweaters, they don’t talk a whole lot, and they’re incapable of distinguishing a real little girl from an evil ghost. It was useful to hear spoken Icelandic, and I enjoyed picking up the handful of words (45 or so, according to the app I’ve been using) that are in my extremely limited vocabulary.

The story was a little sketchy, with gaps in the plot that didn’t seem to be just a matter of translation. At the end, it was unclear how much of the haunting was real, and how much was in Gunnar’s head. All in all an enjoyable movie, but I think it could have done with some editing for clarity.

Daily Horror Movie: Inferno



A man travels from Rome to New York to investigate his sister’s apartment building, which she is convinced is related to a mysterious book, “The Three Mothers.” No mysteries are solved, but lots of weird shit happens.

This isn’t a holiday movie; it’s a followup to “Susperia,” a favorite of mine, and I decided it would be a better watch tonight than a creepy Santa Claus movie. And it was, even though it’s weirder than “Susperia” (which ranks in the top 10 of weird movies I’ve seen).

There’s not much of a plot, at least not one that makes any sense, and there are bizarre events that can only be described as dream-like. It’s more of a visual poem than a film, with echoing imagery of water, wind, fire, slamming doors, cats, and blood, interspersed with brutal murders and suspenseful chases. I’m sure there’s an underlying reason to everything that happens, but I found it was more fun to just accept it, as one might a strange dream, and go along for the ride. You’re in good, if not safe, hands with Dario Argento.

Daily (Holiday?) Horror Movie: Blood Rage

Blood Rage

Blood Rage

In 1974, young Terry commits a brutal murder and frames his twin brother Todd. Ten years later, Todd escapes the mental hospital and heads home for Thanksgiving, and Terry goes on a gore-splattered killing spree.

This movie is a total gas; there’s absolutely nothing to it except gore and skin and bad ’80s fashion (which is not intentionally bad, of course, just perfectly documented). The acting is abysmal, the effects are awesomely over the top (my favorite is the cut-in-half-psychiatrist), and the blood splatter is plentiful. Terry’s bloody romp through his mother’s apartment complex could be the structure for an anthropological study of late-’80s American suburbia, complete with Atari games, Izod shirts, tequila lessons, and Creme de Banana liqueur.

“It’s not cranberry sauce …”

Daily (Holiday?) Horror Movie: Rare Exports

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

An American corporation digging in a Finnish mountain unearth the grave of the real Santa Claus. He’s not quite as jolly as the stories have made out, and a group of intrepid local reindeer hunters have to battle his “little helpers” to save their children.

This is more of a fantasy–albeit a dark fantasy–than a horror, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable romp. The Santa myth (with a Santa who resembles an overgrown Krampus) is horrifying, and the interpretation of Santa’s “little helpers” as naked, bloodthirsty brutes gives a dark edge to the suburban shopping mall versions. The reindeer hunters are equally hapless and charming, and the lead child’s growth from a timid little boy to a bold hero is nice. It was a delightfully dark Christmas tale, and definitely better than most.

Daily Horror Movie: Halloween



It’s Halloween, and Michael Myers is coming home.

What better movie to close out my little project than John Carpenter’s classic “Halloween”? I think this one still holds up 40 years later; there’s lots of quiet tension between the intense kills, and the silent, unstoppable killer remains a terrifying figure. Though after seeing a few giallo movies this month, I’m also surprised by the lack of gore–these are very clean and bloodless kills; if Dario Argento had directed these, there would have been rivers of blood. The body count is also quite low by slasher standards–only four on-screen deaths and one off-screen (not counting the two dogs). This is really more a tension and suspense movie than a gore fest, and it’s darned good at what it sets out to do.

Daily Horror Movie: The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

A woman leaves her philandering husband and moves into a drab apartment near the subway station with her daughter. She finds a pair of red shoes on the subway platform one day and brings them home, never imagining that they’re cursed by a history of jealousy, betrayal, vengeance, and madness.

My third Asian horror movie this month, and once again I am not disappointed. This is a stylish and creepy movie, with a surprising amount of gore and a ton of atmosphere. I liked the connection back to the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II, and the blurring of dream and reality. Does it all hold together logically? No, not at all; it’s quite off the rails in more than a few places. But it’s an enjoyable ride.

Daily Horror Movie: The Colour Out of Space (Die Farbe)

Die Farbe

Die Farbe

Jonathan Davis goes to a small German village to look for his missing father, and hears the strange story of a meteor, madness, and an impossible color.

This was a solid adaptation of Lovecraft’s story. I liked the use of black and white, and the subtlety of the horror: this is a story of creeping dread, not leaping monsters, and the film captures that well.

Daily Horror Movie: Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer's Body

Jennifer’s Body

When a high school girl survives a Satanic sacrifice gone awry, she becomes possessed by a blood-hungry demon and only her best friend can stop the carnage.

This is a fun little movie, with snappy dialogue and likeable characters; Diablo Cody’s writing really comes through. There’s a good amount of gore–I especially liked the projectile-vomiting-of-blood scenes–but the movie is played more for laughs than scares. There was also some decent metal in the soundtrack, despite the emo look and sound of the in-movie band Low Shoulder, always a plus. It doesn’t break any new ground in the horror-comedy genre, but it’s a great watch.

Daily Horror Movie: Tenebre



A mysterious killer is slashing the people around an American writer in Rome in ways that are reminiscent of his most recent bestselling novel.

This is peak giallo: more style than substance, lots of Technicolor blood (SO MUCH BLOOD!), jiggling breasts, a mystery with more red herrings than clues, some insane twists, and no piece of scenery left unchewed by the cast. Over the top and loads of fun in the way that only Italian slasher movies can be.

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