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Justine, a shy 16-year-old girl raised as a vegetarian, goes off to veterinarian school to join the family business. But the school turns out to be a den of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll where the hazing of the new students is brutal and includes, among other things, eating a raw rabbit's kidney. "It's just food poisoning", says the nurse when she starts feeling strange. But that doesn't explain why she suddenly can't stop thinking about meat. Raw meat. And animals just don't seem to be enough...

Raw got quite a buzz when it showed on festivals last year; reports of people fainting, throwing up, walking out in disgust. And yes, it is - like many a French movie in recent years - exceptionally bloody at points. I don't want to say exceptionally violent, but at the same time I do, because even though there are relatively few scenes of actual acts of violence, the whole plot of Justine trying to adapt to a brand-new world and brand-new desires feels psychologically violent, there are no safe places anywhere including her own mind anymore. And at the same time I love that it doesn't play it for the usual horror beats; both the photo and the plot play out more as a regular, if disturbing, coming-of-age story about sex, family and friendship, where the protagonist just happens to crave human flesh. Not for everyone, but I kinda loved it.

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Rewatch: 10 Cloverfield Lane is still one of my favourite movies of recent years. There's a couple of reasons for this, and for why I think it's one of the most relevant horror movies recently, no less so after the discussions of the past few weeks, but since this is one of those movies where you really want to be unspoiled the first time I'm going to put it under a cut.

Spoilers! )



I also watched the first two episodes of Slasher, which... nah. Nicely done and everything, but it feels way too much like a regular 96-minute slasher movie, albeit a good one, stretched to a whole television season. But it's impressive what the Canadians manage to get away with putting on television screens in terms of gore.
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Another real classic: A Page Of Madness is unique in that it's one of very few Japanese silent movies to survive. It's also creepy as fuck. Between the nightmarish imagery, the complete lack of intertitles, and large bits of it supposedly missing, I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but then neither is anyone else, apparently. It's set in a mental institution, drifting in and out of the delusions and memories of the patients while apparently telling the story of a family where the father is the custodian of the place and the mother is an inmate. It's got scenery straight out of German expressionism and insane, jittery jump cuts to rival The Man With A Movie Camera. I have no idea what's going on, but 91 years on, it's still... well, creepy as fuck.

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Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, whose name is Adele, moves to small town to help care for her agoraphobic aunt who won't leave her room, befriends and then falls for local girl Beth who suggests she shouldn't spend her life locked inside an old mansion taking care of a relative she doesn't even like, and so she starts to neglect her duties and skimp on the shopping and medicine for the ungrateful old bag...

Very short at 76 minutes, especially since the ending comes very abruptly and I'm not sure it works. But up until then it's got a really nice gothic mood, washed-out New England winter and smelly shuttered rooms, lots of little details that makes me want to rewatch and look for clues, and a growing sense of unease and unreliability that seems to be going somewhere really good until it... doesn't. A pity. 15 more minutes and this could have been really neat.

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(Somewhat belated due to AWESOME Nick Cave concert yesterday)

Another classic: Sleepaway Camp is one of those movies I have to rewatch regularly, because it's just so fucking weird. I'm still not sure if it's in a good way or a bad way.

I'm pretty sure you couldn't make this movie today, which is probably a good thing. The actual young teens (star Felissa Rose was 14) playing actual young teens in not-very-appropriate situations, the camp staff who openly lust after their charges without anyone raising an eyebrow, the wild overacting, the queerness that's so overt that everyone missed it in 1983, THAT twist at the end ... And at the same time, the twist works (maybe just once, but that one time it's brilliant), the kills are inventive, and the sheer oddness of it does create a pretty disturbing atmosphere.

There are a couple of sequels which actually aren't half-bad, starring Bruce Springsteen's little sister if you'll believe that. But the original ... it's something else entirely.

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For some reason I felt like watching something about creepy young Austrians. So it was either this or re-watch Funny Games, and I'm not doing that to myself.

Goodnight Mommy has twin brothers, about 10 years old, living alone in a remote country house with a mother who's evidently had some sort of surgery to her face since her whole head is bandaged. Also, something is different about her since the surgery, at least that's what the boys tell each other. And who can you trust if not twins in a horror movie? They just want everything to go back to the way it was, after all.

Where is our real Mommy?

This is the sort of movie that spends a long time not letting you in on what's going on except that there's something very wrong. Against a mountain backdrop straight out of the Austrian Tourist Board the house has walls covered in blurry photos, skulls in the picturesque root cellar, and of course the cockroaches. It's a slow burn to a rather disturbing finale that's not necessarily for the weak-stomached, and there's one or two twists that are telegraphed way too early, but I like it. There's something dark at the heart of every pastoral scene of the gallant south.

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Better Watch Out. Another babysitter movie, but this time done right. I've heard good things about this for months, and it definitely lives up to the hype.

I'm the Harry Houdini of getting away with it. I know how tonight plays out. We get out clean. You just gotta do what I say, OK?

Again, bratty 12-year-old kid with hot babysitter, home invasion by armed creeps, but played a lot smarter, because every rich kid raised on video games knows that fighting off invaders is easy ... up until people start dying for real. This one has twists coming every few minutes, a good sense of humour that doesn't devolve into silliness, and a pretty creepy villain as well. That's about as much as I feel comfortable saying without spoiling anything. Oh, and it's one of very few Christmas-themed horror movies that actually work. Better watch.

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About halfway, so maybe it's time to dig up some more indepth discussion.

Since watching It (2017) a few weeks ago, I've had this perhaps not entirely rational urge to rewatch It (1990) again. I remembered it as pretty goddamn awful, and even if I wasn't entirely blown away by the remake, surely it would look even worse now?

And you know, I'm not sure it does. Spoilers for both movies )

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The Babysitter: Another brand-new Netflix original, directed by... geez, McG still has a career? Well, I guess he knows his strengths, and goes completely over the top blood-and-action-wise rather than try for any sort of actual tension or realism. And this mashup of Home Alone and Hand That Rocks The Cradle is actually pretty fun. 12-year-old crushing on his hot 20-something babysitter finds out she's in a Satanic cult who are sacrificing people in his house when his parents are away, so now he has to survive somehow. Not a great movie by any stretch, but it knows what it is, Samara Weaving (you know, the allegedly beat-up Trump supporter) has a blast playing evil, and the child actor manages to not be completely annoying. Ridiculous, but enjoyable.

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Look at the date. I couldn't not.

I'd never seen the Friday the 13th remake before, and probably for good reason. Not all remakes suck (The Thing, The Fly, 12 Monkeys...) but most modern remakes of 70s/80s horror movies do. But let's face it, the Friday the 13th movies were never all that good to begin with. Yeah, Jason Voorhees is an iconic movie monster with his hockey mask and machete, but the actual movies he starred in? Sadistic, by-the-numbers slashers nowhere near as scary as the first two Halloween, as fun as the first few Terror On Elm St, or as subversive as Sleepaway Camp. So a remake that straightens the whole mess out isn't necessarily a bad idea.

It's just a pity that Friday the 13th (2009) doesn't really try. Rather than turn it into an actual horror movie, they just condense the first three F13 movies into one with no added suspense or character or anything except an even more unstoppable Jason running around the woods in a hockey mask killing teenagers in various inventive (though not as inventive as in the original movies) ways, except now he's also occasionally kidnapping them and keeping them alive for... some reason. Having never watched Supernatural I don't know if Jared Padalecki has more acting range than he shows here, but I certainly hope so.

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From A House On Willow Street. This, in a word, is shit. The nicest thing I can think to say about it is that it takes some sort of talent to take a setup this simple - criminals with chequered pasts kidnap a young heiress only to find out she's possessed by the devil - and make it this confusing and boring. I've seen far worse horror movies than this, but at least they're occasionally fun.

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Pumpkinhead was recommended to me by [personal profile] killerweasel and I'm really grateful. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Based on the title and the opening scene I was expecting something a lot trashier, and if it'd been made in the early 80s instead of 1988 it might have been, but of course by now both Stan Winston and Lance Henriksen were fresh off The Terminator and Aliens (and Near Dark in Henriksen's case) and it shows. This movie may look kinda shlocky at first, but it means business when it takes the ol' obnoxious college kids vs vengeful rednecks plot to a place it doesn't usually go.

OK, so maybe creaturemaster Winston is a bit too fond of showing off his monster, and maybe most of the college kids don't get nearly the same character depth that Henriksen's character does, but this is still a very watchable movie from that brief period in the late 80s where horror was sort of trying to put on some muscles again before the 90s came along and, well, we know what happened then. Pumpkinhead. Salutations.

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is another one of those I should have watched years ago, especially since I love both the novel and the classic adaptations (well, the first three, at least). I think it was Ken Branagh who put me off it.

And yes, Branagh overacts his black heart out, to the extent that even John Fucking Cleese comes across as a master of quiet dignity and restraint next to him. Though it's a tough competition, with just about everyone constantly chewing ham all over the movie.

Everyone: [at some point in the movie] NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

There are things here that work; De Niro (!!!) is a surprisingly effective Creature, and I appreciate the effort to make a real, proper adaptation of the book, but I'm not entirely sure books are always best served by a word-for-word adaptation; Mary Shelley's philosophical meanderings simply don't jibe with Branagh's over-the-top WILL SOMEONE TURN OFF THOSE FUCKING STRINGS style. As a horror movie, it's toothless. As a period drama, it's fun enough, though not in the way Branagh intended. But still, I'm glad it exists - if nothing else, as a warning for what happens when bearded men tamper in the Goddess' domain.

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Killing Ground: An Australian couple goes out into the woods to camp out over New Year's Eve, and are dumb enough to take directions from a local redneck. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Actually don't, because Killing Ground makes the most of a simple concept to take us somewhere rather nasty and disturbing. It soon becomes obvious that there are two different timelines here - something already happened just hours or days ago, and there's still fallout from it to come. Fair warning: this gets very violent, and not of the comic-book or hockey-mask slasher version. It's not miles from Eden Lake or The Strangers, though Eden Lake had something to say with it whereas this just seems to want to make the audience sick. I'm not sure I like this, it's thoroughly unpleasant, but there's something to be said for how unrelentingly bleak and matter-of-fact it is.

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Shriek of the Mutilated is a ... well, it's a movie. I feel fairly confident saying that much, though at 86 heavily padded minutes it's only barely even that. A college professor takes his students to upstate New York to investigate reports of an abominable snowman (yes, in upstate New York) terrorising the neighborhood, if by "terrorising" you mean "puzzling". Soon, they start seeing something that looks suspiciously like a drunk stuntman in a hairy onesie running around the woods, and they also start getting killed off one by one. And just because it's the 70s, there's a twist coming too!

No, this is not a good movie. It is, however, painfully hilarious, and if nothing else, contains one of the most contrived death-by-household-appliance scenes I've ever seen.

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A Dark Song kept me absolutely transfixed for most of it. I love to see a modern horror movie that does entirely its own thing. A very simple story: A woman hires an expert in the occult to do a ritual to let her speak to her dead son. And when I say "occult", I don't mean a ouija board and holding hands around a table with cheap CGI: I mean locking themselves in a house in the middle of nowhere for months doing some serious metaphysical self-searching black magic OCCULT. At least that's what he tells her they're doing, but of course they may just be two not-entirely-stable people driving each other mad... Very simple, and very intense. The ending could probably have been better, but damn, the trip there is worth it.

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OK, a real classic this time. I hadn't watched Freaks in ages. The movie that killed Tod Browning's (Dracula) career is a bit of a mess, surely partly thanks to being edited down by a third by the studio, and it's safe to say that the movie would never in a million years be made today. Yes, having actual disabled people portraying circus freaks was exploitative even by 1932 standards (though I'm guessing a fair bit of the outrage then came from having to look at them and empathize with them). And whether it's due to the cuts (more on that here) or just poor pacing, if you aren't horrified by the mere existence of the cast, the whole thing feels a bit like a 55-minute drama that suddenly becomes a horror movie in the last 10 minutes.

That said, those ten minutes are incredible, and the human drama, where the "ugly" ones are the good people and the "beautiful" ones turn out to be monsters, works rather well too. Gabba gabba hey.

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The Lure. Now this was FUN. Imagine... um... either Splash as a horror musical, or Ginger Snaps with mermaids. In Polish. Except completely different. OK, the songs don't all quite work, but the whole thing - two mermaid sisters being put to work as singers in a sleazy Polish strip club and getting caught between the hunger for love, for fame, and for human flesh - is just so delightfully weird. Not your typical horror plot (if not for the gore, I'm not sure it would even qualify) but damn, I'm glad I watched that.

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A classic, then. I debated just how far back to go, for now I settled for 1971 and Omega Man: Charlton Heston as the last - or "last" - survivor of World War III, living alone in LA and hunting the mutants that rule the city by night.

For some reason I'd never seen this, even though I Am Legend is one of my favourite books (no, I haven't seen the Will Smith version, and I have no intention to). Where the book and the first movie (Last Man On Earth, with Vincent Price) are very much products of the early cold war, this comes on the heels of the late 60s, post-Manson, and so the enemy comes from within. At one point, Heston's character even watches the Woodstock movie before retiring to his mancave where he's collected all the artifacts of Old Culture, to really hit home that this post-apocalyptic hell is the future that liberals want. Sort of. But while it does have a White Saviour streak a mile wide that runs very much counter to the whole point of the novel, and I'd take zombies over silly mutated cult members anyday, it's different enough that I can see it as its own beast, and it does have a good heart in there somewhere. A pity it drags for too much of the 96 minutes, though.

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Little Evil, another recent Netflix original. Adam Scott of Parks & Rec and The Good Place plays a guy who's coming to realise that his brand-new stepson isn't just having issues with the new man in his mother's life, but is actually genuinely the Antichrist. So now he may have to kill a six-year-old to save the world, and explain it to his wife as well. Basically a comedy version of The Omen, school uniform and all.

This was certainly a lot more fun than yesterday's movie, and there are definitely things here that work. I just wish it had gone just a little more over the top; as it is it feels a bit too much like a 90s Steve Martin movie (as opposed to an 80s Steve Martin movie) with some added horror elements. And no Steve Martin, even if the cast isn't bad (Clancy Brown!). For all the hellfire in the plot, the whole thing is just a bit on the lukewarm side. But, y'know, entertaining and a good game of spot-the-movie-reference.

I really feel like a classic tomorrow, though.

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