A mirror falls off a wall during a party, releasing cold-hearted döppelgangers from a mirror world who begin to replace their counterparts.
Kelly Reilly plays another mother, this time on a remote estate in nineteenth-century rural England, and is visited by a ‘pathologist’ instead of Poirot. A curse is made, werewolves ensue.
I started this year’s #31DaysofHorror with a classic whodunnit mashed with a ghost story. Kenneth Branagh plays around with spooky children, Viennese masks and fish eye lenses to fun effect.
Teeth and tentacles chomp, devour, squeeze and rip through submarines, boats, research stations, and eventually a holiday resort. People die. Lots of people having fun die.
Heat. During the final chase, I could feel the rumble of planes in my stomach, and my wife now has the hots for nineties Pacino. He’s a very sloppy kisser on a big screen.
In time-honoured fashion, here are my favourite discoveries of 2022, in chronological order of publication or release.
A fascinating, horrible, blackly funny film about Covid, nature, group dynamics, and how humans exist in relation to other forms of life.
Five years after defeating Gozer, Ray, Egon, Winston and Venkman are out of business. Dana works at an art museum and has a baby, Oscar. One morning she runs her pram through a sliver of red slime on the pavement. The pram takes on a life of its own, racing through traffic, and Oscar barely survives. Thinking it was a ghost, Dana asks Egon to investigate, and soon the old team have discovered a river of slime running through abandoned subway tunnels under the city. Meanwhile, Dana’s boss, Janosz, is restoring a painting of Vigo the Carpathian, an evil sorceror, who needs to possess the body of a baby at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve if he is to conquer the world, and because Janosz likes Dana, Oscar becomes the target.
A couple of months after surviving the killings at Camp Crystal Lake, survivor Alice is killed in her apartment by an unseen assailant. Five years later, a new camp has been created along the lake, and at a training week for counsellors, leader Paul tells the group the story, but assures everyone that Jason is dead. The next night, half the counsellors go to a nearby bar, and the ones staying behind are stalked by Jason, who is living in a self-made shack in the woods. One by one, Jason picks them off.
Ten years after the Haddonfield killings, Michael Myers escapes an ambulance taking him to a new sanitarium. His psychiatrist, Dr Loomis, doesn’t know about the move until it’s too late. Loomis returns to Haddonfield to search for Myers. Laurie Strode has died in a car crash and her daughter, Jamie, is fostered by the Carruthers family. Their teenage daughter, Rachel, babysits Jamie on Halloween, but Myers wants to kill Jamie.
When Michael Myers’ body goes missing, Dr Loomis continues his search on the streets of Haddonfield, while Laurie is taken to hospital and sedated. But Myers wants to kill Laurie specifically because she is his sister, fostered after he killed their parents, and when he hears on the radio where she’s been taken, he stalks the hospital searching for her, killing anyone that crosses his path.
Lieutenant Muldoon tries to buy a consignment of a biochemical weapon, DC2, from an arms trader for his mercenary army, but some people infected with DC2 escape. Cherry Darling is a stripper who quits her job, runs into her ex-boyfriend El Wray, and after a car crash leaving town, has her leg ripped off by a pack of marauding flesh-eating mutants. Dr Dakota Block is planning to leave her husband for another woman during their joint shift at the local hospital, but just as he finds out, the DC2 infection hits the local population, swamping the hospital. All of these characters, and more, converge in a relentless circus of cheesy dialogue and amusingly extreme violence.
Mike and Debbie are making out in the woods near Crescent Cove when they see something fall from the sky. When they investigate, they find a circus tent spaceship and the bodies of two local people dissolved in a wrapping of candyfloss. They escape to town and try to convince Debbie’s ex-boyfriend Dave, who is the town Deputy Sheriff, to help them. Clowns from the spaceship arrive on the streets and start to turn everyone into candyfloss balls, which they collect for food. Mike, Debbie and Dave, along with two friends in an ice cream truck, find the clowns spaceship and face off against the clowns’ giant leader.
Sydney returns to Woodsboro on the fifteenth anniversary of the original killings to promote her new book. Dewey is now Sheriff, and is married to ex-journalist Gail, who has writer’s block. Sydney has a niece, Jill, in the High School, which presents us with another set of teens for the Ghostface killer to brutally pick off.
In Muppets Haunted Mansion, Gonzo decides to miss his friends Halloween party to take up an invitation by The Great MacGuffin, his favourite magician, to stay a night at the most haunted mansion in the world. He takes his friend, Pepe the King Prawn, who thinks he’s going to party filled with celebrities.
Oliviero is an abusive husband, professor and writer of novels. He has writer’s block and has become an alcoholic, abusing the women living with him. A killer murders a woman he has agreed to meet, and the police question him. Then his housemaid, Brenda, is murdered, and he forces his wifre, Irina, to help him hide the body in the basement.
Enid Baines is a censor at the British Board of Film Classification. Her parents decide it is time to have her long-missing sister declared dead. Enid is a vigilant censor who is seen by some of her colleagues as excessive, but when a man kills his wife and children, copying the gruesome death in a film Enid recently passed for public viewing, she blames herself, and her daily life, the films she has to watch, and memories of her sister, begin to bleed together.
Elderly former general Enrique Monteverde is found guilty, but his conviction is overturned, and he retreats with his family to their house, which is surrounded by noisy protestors. The servants all leave, and the housekeeper, Valeriana, accepts the help of a young woman from her village, Alma. Trapped in the house, strange things begin to happen to the family, and the ghosts of the past insist on being heard.
Ana, a nurse, wakes up to the start of a zombie apocalypse, and manages to escape her zombified partner and the chaos on her local estate. She hooks up with a police officer, Rhodes, and three other survivors, and they manage to get to a local shopping mall. More people arrive, but so do the zombies, until the mall is surrounded by tens of thousands of the undead. In trying to help a nearby friend, they realise they can’t just stay where they are and wait to die, so they concoct a plan to escape.
Angela and Suzanne throw a party on Halloween night at an abandoned mortuary on the outskirts of town. A disparate group of misfits arrive, and to frighten everyone, Angela has them play a seance-like party game which summons a demon through the furnace in the mortuary’s basement. The gate they drove in through turns into a wall sealing them in, so when the demon possesses Suzanne, it spreads an infection through the party-goers, and for the remaining few it becomes a fight to survive the night.
Two men wake up chained by the ankles to radiators on opposite sides of a locked room. There is a dead man between them with his brains blown out, clutching a tape recorder. Each man has an envelope containing a tape in his pocket, and when they play them, they hear the voice of their captor explaining the rules of the game he demands they play. Gradually they reveal how they came to be in the room, and why the Jigsaw killer might want to teach them a lesson.
One of the reasons I do #31DaysofHorror is to catch up on films in the hope of finding one that blows me away. Triangle is this year’s first such nugget of gold. It’s about the patterns of thought, feeling and action we find ourselves in, the bad habits we can’t break, especially with the people we love.
A military developed virus is accidentally released into the water supply of Evans City, Pennsylvania, and the military attempts to impose martial law to contain its spread. Some citizens immediately display symptoms, most allow themselves to be herded up, and others revolt.
My Bloody Valentine is one of those films that is talked about with reverence in horror circles, but until I got back into horror in 2017 I’d never heard of. It’s a unique film in that it is set in a small mining town, and the young male characters are mostly miners. It was exciting to see working class characters and locations in a film like this.
I though The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail would be a giallo, or at least a proto-slasher, but it is far more a crime-thriller. It involves Lisa Baumer, whose husband is killed in a mid-air plane explosion, and her inheriting from him a million dollars.
I wanted to see the original Master, so I put on the oldest unseen film in my collection, Nosferatu. I appreciated the original Dracula and Frankenstein, but they were pretty dry in places. Nosferatu is ten years older again, and while I’d love to be able to say I love these old classics, this did feel like homework.
Salem’s Lot has a special place in my heart. It was the first scary book I ever read. The film is the two part miniseries I remember from the eighties stitched together.
It’s the late eighties, and it’s Spring break, somewhere near Miami, Florida. Thousands of young people are in bars and cars all along the seafront, drinking, sunbathing and having sex. But this is Nightmare Beach.
I recently watched the Spielberg/Cruise War of the Worlds, which I found surprisingly bleak, so I thought I’d go back to the original 1953 adaptation. That was also bleak, but softened by the folksy charm of small town America.
The chance to watch The Thing back to back with The Thing From Another World, one of John Carpenter’s favourite films as a child, was too great an opportunity to miss. It’s a different take on the premise of an alien being uncovered in polar ice. In this one, the shape-shifting alien picks off the crew when they are alone, creating exact replicas, so nobody knows who is human and who is not. Suspicion turns to paranoia, and the remaining humans have to make sure the alien doesn’t leave the base and take over the world.
Captain Hendry is a pilot with the US Air Force and is sent with his crew to a remote scientific outpost in the Arctic to investigate a report of a crashed aircraft. The lead scientist there is the prickly Dr Carrington, and when the investigative team realise they have discovered the remains of a flying saucer, as well as a frozen alien life form, there is a clash between the military, the scientists and the press as to what they should do next. When the alien is accidentally thawed, its unique biology threatens humanity.
Horror stretches across many genres, and you can’t always know in advance how horror-y a film is, so with Shadow in the Cloud we are in war-action-horror territory, in that order.
Lisa and the Devil lives in one of the lesser-known corners of the Mario Bava-verse. Telly Savalas as the possible devil Leandro is an amusing presence, and if he is not particularly devilish, the dream-like plot definitely is.
Kathleen is studying for a doctorate in philosophy in a grungy, black-and-white New York, where the streets are lined with hustlers and junkies. She is disillusioned with academia, obsessing over the horrors of German and American war atrocities, but unsure what to do about it.
The irrepressible Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden star in this story of a woman’s mid-life crisis being super-charged by an encounter with a vampire. They love each other, but Anne eventually has to answer the question: does she always just want to be known as Jakob’s wife?
To kick off this year’s #31DaysofHorror I chose Werewolves Within, a comedy-whodunnit-horror based on a Ubisoft video game. It sounded like a fun October opener. I heard screenwriter Mishna Wolff (perfect name) and director Josh Ruben talk about making it, and it sounded like a fun October opener.
The Three Colours trilogy marked my move from July into August, and amusingly the fledgling judge in Red is called Auguste.
It’s an unusual and meta experience to say the least, but after three hours, as the end credits roll, I find I’m crying, because of the joyful music, yes, and because I’m exhausted, definitely, and...
The pattern David Lynch tends uses in his more archetypal work is again on display in Mulholland Drive – events organically unfold, the images are striking, the narrative is confusing, characters are not who they seem to be, and in the last twenty minutes he reveals what’s really going on, which is then open to even more interpretations
If David Lynch were trying to somehow redress all the darkness of his earlier films in one go, then he would make The Straight Story.
Lost Highway is a puzzle. It opens with a jealous husband who thinks his wife is having an affair, and ends with a deadly resolution, but what happens in between is ambiguous and complicated.
A howl of pain from Laura Palmer, the murdered girl that opened the story of Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is difficult, heavy, hard to watch in places, and grapples with incest, rape, drug-taking, murder, domestic abuse, and the psychological consequences.
Wild at Heart is a series of deliberately melodramatic, hyper-violent and sexual scenes stitched together into a road movie, with a tenuously-made connection to the Wizard of Oz.
Blue Velvet has a fearsome reputation but is also culturally beloved. Dennis Hopper’s over-the-top performance has become iconic, and its themes foreshadow those in the massively popular Twin Peaks.
I went into Dune thinking I would see something the critics were missing – I mean, how could the director of Eraserhead and The Elephant Man direct a complete dud? – and... it’s so over-the-top, it manages to not be awful.
The Elephant Man is as traditional and straightforward as Eraserhead is surreal and obtuse. Both are black and white, and Lynch does use some dream imagery in The Elephant Man, but they’re at opposite end of the narrative spectrum.
Eraserhead – reader, I loved it. It was so imaginative and pure and watchable and laugh-out-loud funny, which I didn’t expect at all. It’s a psychosexual puzzle about the horrors of unplanned parenthood, marriage, intimacy, capitalism, poverty, dreams – you can take it any direction you like.
A tough week, but at least I had this week’s selection: Tentacles, dir. Ovidio G. Assonitis (1977); Amphibious, dir. Brian Yuzna (2010); Real Life, Brandon Taylor (2020), On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King (2001); Four Flies on Grey Velvet, dir. Dario Argento (1971); The Cat o’ Nine Tails, dir. Dario Argento (1971)
Am I doing weekly summary posts now? Perhaps I am. It helps me notice what impact the week’s books and films have had on me. Hand-written notes just get lost in the stream of ink on paper. I started the week with Blade Runner 2049.
In Ali Smith’s Autumn, when discussing a piece of art, Daniel Gluck asks the young Elisabeth, ‘And what did it make you think about?’. I love that question.
This isn’t a horror film, though it is marketed as one. The camera is often still as figures move towards us, faces blurred by lights or shadows, and this does create a sense of dread. Much more of the film is observing Amy as she says goodbye to the world, stroking the wooden floor of her new house, and pressing her cheek against its walls.
Atsuko Maeda’s Yoko is a mesmerising presence. She is a reporter for a Japanese travel programme that is making an episode in Uzbekistan. The crew keep their distance from her, making her do ridiculous, unpleasant things, like riding a violently spinning fairground ride over and over again.
Tomek is nineteen, lonely and living with his possessive godmother in a Polish apartment block. Every evening he learns languages in his room until Magda, the woman he is spying on through his telescope, comes home from work. She is an artist and seems to be living a colourful life.
he films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa were a revelation to me in October’s #31DaysOfHorror — I started with Pulse (2001), then went back to Cure (1997), and both were masterpieces. Creepy (2017) is from a similar mould, playing with the framing of scenes, heightening uncanny feelings, and making everyday events seem disturbing.
Danny Torrance is an alcoholic, but finds a place of peace and sobriety in New Hampshire, where he uses his shine to ease the deaths of the elderly people in a local hospice. Death isn’t often realistically shown in films, not the quiet deaths, the elderly deaths, the four a.m. in an empty room, afraid and alone deaths.
The Bride of Frankenstein contains some of the most iconic images in cinema, but it opens with a scene I really didn’t expect — Lord Byron and Percy Shelley praising Mary Shelley for her book, Frankenstein.
The Exorcist is a cultural behemoth. It’s an astonishing film and deserves the plaudits. As I watched it, the question that kept coming up in my mind was, why Regan?
Tenebre is set in Rome, but we could be anywhere, because the story stays in hotel rooms, suburban streets and modernist buildings made of concrete and glass. There are artfully sculpted gardens of stone, water and trees. These locations lend themselves to the roving camera.
People in the background of shots look directly at the camera. Matthew’s windscreen is a web of cracks that we struggle to see through. The score is spidery and jarring, and the camera is often off-kilter. You are not paranoid if everyone is out to get you. The ending is famous, and even though I know I saw it as a teenager, I had forgotten it all.
I’d been so careful in choosing the films up to this point, but for one night I thought I’d just go with something random, and here we are. Land of the fucking Dead. I thought I would have some brains to gnaw on, but there are no brains to be found here.
Stephen King is brilliant at weaving vivid teenage experiences into his novels. Christine was one of the formative books of my childhood. The film doesn’t have time to go as deep as the book into the love triangle of Arnie, his best friend Dennis, and new girl Leigh Cabot. This is a horror film first and foremost.
Like Scream’s Ghostface, the killer in Prom Night can be dodged and knocked over. This is not Michael Myers. There is a lot of disco. Jamie Lee Curtis is a fantastic dancer — this role for her comes straight after Halloween and The Fog, so it’s impossible not to compare it with Carpenter’s work, which is unfair
The vampiric financial services industry meets the parasitic wellness industry in a fairy tale where an ambitious young man, Lockhart, is sent to a Swiss sanitorium to bring back his company’s rogue CEO, Morris Pembroke.
In a Nashville morgue, an unnamed man comes back to life and walks out. Sheriff Edward Graham investigates the missing body, but across town, psychiatrist Daniel Forrester has checked the man into now unresponsive man to the psychiatric hospital.
The film opens with a wide shot of a leafy suburban street, and we look closely for whatever we think the director wants us to see. Like Jay, we are trained from the start to scan the horizon for trouble.
After Fulci’s barely moving dead, the running zombies of #Alive are a bit of a shock. Technology is an ally here, which is refreshing, although at the film’s start, Joon-woo seems to be in a semi-infantile state, still living with his parents, and spending most of his spare time playing video games.
The original Universal horror films are a bit of a blind spot for me. They weren’t on TV in our house, so I have no childhood affinity to them, and once my parents let me watch horror, I was straight into Jaws, The Car, Duel, Piranha — pacy, garish, seventies films.
Zombies really bothered me as a kid. Seeing the insides of the human body spill out was as pure a vision of horror as I could imagine. Guts should not be outside of your body, full stop.
Blade is like a magical source of future movie ideas. The opening sequence is brilliant. A woman lures a man to a party in an abattoir. It’s an aggressive crowd, and when the fire sprinklers come on, it’s not water but blood, and everyone around the man turns into a vampire.
How much control do we have over what we do? What do we ever choose to do in full consciousness? Takabe, a detective in Tokyo, investigates a series of murders, each by a different killer, but all carving a cross into their victims throats.
If Guillermo del Toro shot a film scripted by David Cronenberg, based on a story by HP Lovecraft, then had it edited by Richard Linklater, you would get Spring. I thoroughly enjoyed Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s time-puzzle film, The Endless, so I was excited for this. I was not expecting the unexpectedly strong vibes of Before Sunrise.
Jacob’s Ladder treats the subject of the Vietnam war with a little more respect than Piranha. Jacob is beset by visions and fever dreams. We constantly switch between realities, from the Vietnamese jungle, to his home in New York City, and it’s bewildering, for him and us.
Kobayashi has such a soft face, and is kind, but he is also dogged and brave. We know from the start things will go badly for him, but we still hope he will be okay. It isn’t clear for some time what Kobayashi is investigating. This mockumentary is made from grainy handheld video and low-resolution clips of Japanese televison shows. It revels in its fragmentary, low-fi nature.
Renowned film sound technician Gilderoy is a fish out of water in a remote Italian sound studio. He thinks the film, The Equestrian Vortex, is about horses, but in fact is an Italian horror film about the torture of witches — although as manipulative director Francesco says, one of the women does ride a horse.
Being nibbled to death by a swarm of piranha is a different agony, I imagine, to being bitten in half by a great white shark. It’s fun, with some nicely timed comedy moments, but in truth it has a surprisingly dark heart.
Set in France, in 1905, it has a fairy tale vibe. Marc, a thief, steals a bag of gold from a gang, and is chased by them to a nearby chateau, where two women, Elisabeth and Eva, are waiting for the arrival of their marchioness.
The first of my #31DaysOfHorror choices this year that I would say is exploitation cinema, I chose Vampyres, naturally, because of the cover art.
Knife+Heart (Un couteau dans le cœur) is a modern giallo film that plays out in a gay porn production company in the summer of 1979.
A bang-up-to-date social media horror mockumentary. Twenty years on from Pulse, people still feel empty and disconnected, but now everyone has a webcam. Affecting, funny, and unnerving.
The Tokyo in Pulse is empty and eerie. People are lonely and disconnected from each other. The characters are all young and, in one way or another, alone.
This none-more-gothic revenge story sees Eric and his fiance Shelly murdered by a gang of men on the night before their wedding. Like Soueliman in Atlantics, and the lepers in The Fog, Eric’s soul cannot rest until he gets justice. One year later he climbs out of his grave, and a crow takes him to each member of the gang for vengeance.
John Carpenter is one of my favourite directors, and I still haven’t seen many of his films. The Fog is an old favourite. I watched it over and over again on VHS as a kid, recorded off the television, and it embedded Adrienne Barbeau’s radio DJ, alone in a lighthouse on the edge of town, as a lifelong crush.
For the second film in my #31DaysOfHorror I wanted something recent — from something old to something new. Atlantics had been on my Netflix queue for months. I knew it was a ghost story, and that it won the 2019 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix award. It’s art house, and it’s a romance, but it’s hardly a horror film. It is, however, fascinating.
I wanted to start this year’s #31DaysOfHorror with a classic. I’m trying to watch only films I haven’t seen, with one or two exceptions, and when I sorted my iTunes movie library by release year, Creature From the Black Lagoon was the oldest unwatched horror film I owned.
The married couple, D (Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick) have created their own emotional ecosystem, balancing intimacy and distance, in a big modernist house somewhere in Central London.
I thought the film would be mostly Rooney Mara moving slowly around her house with the ghost of Casey Affleck watching her. I was wrong. Halfway through the film goes in a different direction and it really does become the ghost’s story.
Sophie Goyette’s Still Night, Still Light caught my eye because it promised dreams, a slow pace and something restorative. My mind felt blasted from years of pushing and pulling and grappling with all that is out there. I was hopeful for this film.
Nostalgia. This film is forever linked to my childhood and watching it over and over again, recorded from TV on a battered VHS tape. I wanted to watch it with a 55-inch television in HD, to see what these old films look like now.
The Ghoul has layers, which automatically makes it rare these days amongst the films I manage to watch. And it has psychotherapists in it, which is almost unheard of. And it’s a thriller of sorts, although being complicated I’m inclined not to try to put it in a box.
I was excited to see Avengers: Infinity War. Early online reviews seemed enthusiastic. The manager of the coffee shop I go to had a kind of glazed awe on his face when he spoke about watching it on the opening night in a full cinema, everyone laughing and gasping at the same points in the story.