Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

frostyIn an interiview, writer/director of The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh Rodrigo Gudino stated he wanted the film to be more like a literary experience than a cinematic one, and I believe he succeeds in this endeavor.

This is the first full-length feature for the founding editor and president of Rue Morgue magazine ‚Äď he created four well-received shorts before TLW&ToRL ‚Äď and while I haven‚Äôt seen the shorts yet, if they are anywhere near as thoughtful and intelligent as this film, I‚Äôm sure they will be a treat.

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Writer/Director Rodrigo Gudino

A very basic plot summary (and it’s staying basic so as not to give anything away):¬† Leon (Aaron Poole), an antiques collector, inherits a house from his estranged mother only to discover that she had been living in a shrine devoted to a mysterious cult.¬† At first he’s skeptical (aren’t they all?), but as time goes on he begins to suspect he may not be alone in the house.

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Aaron Poole as Leon. Also, a terrifying angel. Don’t blink!

Let‚Äôs start at the very beginning ‚Äď the first line of the film.¬† Taking a page (GET IT???) from Shirley Jackson and The Haunting, the opening line is just killer (that one wasn’t a pun.¬† It’s a really good line, really good opening scene).¬† In fact, the opening reminded me very much of films like The Uninvited and The Haunting, but I thought it suited his intentions for the film.¬† And it’s spoken with the lovely, fragile, emotion-filled voice of Vanessa Redgrave, rarely seen but felt throughout.¬† Gudino keeps the beginning subtle, using long tracking shots and Redgrave’s voice to establish both the character of the house and the film as a whole.

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Speaking of The Haunting, in TLW&ToRL, much like the 1963 classic, the house here is also a character, and it is perfect – lovely architecture, loads of creepy stuff, odd hallways and dark corners.¬† Everything one could want from a haunted house.¬† Gudiono gives the house its own gaze, like it’s the eyes of the film itself, and that is an excellent choice.¬† And we, the viewers, look through the perspective of the house, leaving us a little off-center and disjointed – how can we be a house and not with the main character?¬† Leon leaves and returns, but we are always in the house.¬† But it totally works.¬† Points to the production design team, because the whole thing is lovely.¬† And creepy.¬† Lovely/creepy.

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I can’t find a great shot of the house, but trust me, it’s awesome.

Gudino doesn’t telegraph much either; in fact, most information must be overheard or observed.¬† Not much is freely given to the viewer, but that kept me engaged – you gotta work for it in this one.¬† Gudino makes very intelligent choices about what not to show – he lets our imaginations fill in what goes on, who is behind the voices, etc.

There are some awesome standout scenes (one with a journal comes to mind), and on the whole the film really works.¬† It has a very 60s/70s feel to it but I’m betting that was purposeful, because many of the films from that era were allowed to breathe a little more, take more time to create an atmosphere before jumping into the crazy shit.¬† And I must admit, I did not see the twist coming at all.¬† So of course I loved that.

Before I wrap up, I want to talk about the poster for this film.¬†¬† Much like the super excellent Absentia, TLW&ToRL‘s poster does not help the movie at all.¬† There’s more than one version, but instead of sticking with this nice subtle version:

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We got this:

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Which is NOTHING like the film!!!¬† Sheesh movie poster people, can you TRY to make something that remotely conveys the atmosphere and flavor of the movie you’re advertising?¬† Just a thought.¬† You’re not doing these films any favors here. People are missing out on great movies because of these posters!¬† Knock it off!

Okay, now that that’s done, I totally recommend TLW&ToRL, but you have to ignore the poster and allow the film to unspool in its own way.¬† If you can do that, you will not be disappointed.

frosty¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Mary SanGiovanni‚Äôs works are a fast read, and I mean that as a compliment.¬† They‚Äôre like a roller coaster, the one that shoots you out at 60 mph ‚Äď strong starts, fast, intense ride, sometimes ends too soon, but looking forward to the next one.¬† As I haven‚Äôt read everything by SanGiovanni and am currently reading her novel Thrall (set in Jersey!), I‚Äôll concentrate most of my attention on her Hollower trilogy, which encompasses The Hollower, Found You, and The Triumvirate, respectively.

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The works of Mary SanGiovanni

In the Hollower, something alien is stalking residents of Lakehaven, New Jersey. It can’t see them, hear them, or touch them, but it knows them ‚ÄĒ their fears, their insecurities, and their secrets. It knows how to destroy them from the inside out. And it won’t stop until each of them is dead. Dave Kohlar has never felt like he was good for anything. But when his sanity, his life, and the safety of his only family and friends is in danger, he has to look inside himself for a strength that his otherwordly enemy can’t touch — strength that can hopefully save them all. (plot synopsis shamelessly borrowed from Amazon).

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One of SanGiovanni‚Äôs strengths is that she‚Äôs not afraid to put her characters through the wringer ‚Äď and what a wringer it is.¬† She doesn‚Äôt pull punches on the red stuff, the monsters, or in describing the mental and emotional toll fighting evil can take on normal people.¬† And that‚Äôs one of the things that make these novels so interesting to read.¬† These people pay a price, they suffer, they die to fight this thing.¬† Some of the characters return for the sequel(s), and I remember feeling so bad for them ‚Äď haven‚Äôt they been through enough?!?!¬† But that‚Äôs the sign that the writer is doing their job, and she does it very well.¬† By book three I felt exhausted for some of these poor people, but I still wanted to keep reading.

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Mary SanGiovanni

She’s also not afraid to kill off major characters, which keeps the reader engaged, since they have no idea who may or may not be around by the end of the chapter, let alone the end of the series.  With so many books and movies telegraphing their every move, SanGiovanni keeps us guessing.

Mary SanGiovanni’s official website:  http://www.marysangiovanni.com/ (you can purchase all of her available novels and short stories here)

frosty¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I remember the first time I saw Lewis Allen‚Äôs excellent 1944 ghost story The Uninvited ‚Äď I was a young kid, around 10, I watched it on VHS and it scared the shit out of me.¬† Other than The Spiral Staircase (which scared me more than any other film ever, with the possible exception of Jaws, but that had extenuating circumstances‚Ķ) I was so unsettled even long after the credits rolled.¬† And while the memory of that fear kept me from rewatching The Spiral Staircase until after college, I didn‚Äôt have the choice to rewatch The Uninvited ‚Äď the movie vanished and was only available overseas.¬† It‚Äôs a crime that it took this long for such a quality film to make its way to the States, but I am so glad that it did.

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The story of The Uninvited (based on Dorothy Macardle‚Äôs novel ‚ÄúUneasy Freehold”) starts in 1937, when London composer/music critic Roderick “Rick” Fitzgerald (Ray Milland, Dial M for Murder, The Premature Burial) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey, The Philadelphia Story) fall in love with Windward House, an abandoned seaside house. They purchase it for an unusually low price from Commander Beech (Donald Crisp).

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Pamela (Ruth Hussey) and Rick (Ray Milland)

Rick and Pamela meet Beech’s 20-year-old granddaughter, Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), who lives with her grandfather a nearby town. Despite the fact that her mother died within its confines and her grandfather forbids her to enter it, Stella is deeply attached to the house and the sale of it upsets her greatly.  However, when Rick begins to fall for her, she finds her way into Windward House.

The Fitzgeralds’ are initially excited by the house and enjoy exploring all its nooks and crannies.¬† But it doesn‚Äôt take long to ruin their joy when they find an artist‚Äôs studio that‚Äôs much colder than the rest of the house and hear the heart-wrenching sobs of an unseen woman.¬† Though skeptical at first, Rick and Pamela soon accept that Windward House is haunted.

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I won‚Äôt reveal any more of the plot here, I want you to experience it for yourself.¬† What makes The Uninvited so different from the other ghost movies of its era is that it‚Äôs among the first Hollywood movies to show a haunting a supernatural event.¬† In this era ghosts were usually played for comedy or as misdirection for very human crimes.¬† Director Allen chooses to bring the ghosts out into the light ‚Äď Pamela and Rick meet the ghost(s) head on.¬† There‚Äôs no doubt that the house is haunted.¬† It was an innovative choice for that time, and it still works today.

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The Uninvited retains the beautiful long shadows and dark contrast lighting common to the films of that era ‚Äď DP Charles Lang was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Black and White Lighting in 1945.¬† Also much like the films of that period, the gore is essentially nonexistent.¬† But that doesn‚Äôt lessen the beauty or the quality of the film in any way.

I can‚Äôt overstate how excited I am that everyone can finally see this film!¬† And with Criterion behind the DVD and Blu-ray release, what a way to see it for the first time ‚Äď or even the 10th time!¬† You need to see this movie, and you need to see it now.¬† You won‚Äôt be disappointed.

Awards Season 2011 Part 2: The Ripleys

Posted: February 27, 2012 by StayFrosty in Editorial, Film, Lists

Look, we like the Oscars.¬† Sort of.¬† There’s all that political crap and there’s always some sort of stupid upset that makes us yell at the TV.¬† And rarely does our beloved genre get rewarded by the Academy.¬† So we’ve made our own Oscar categories this year, and are honoring the performances, visuals and villains that made us sit up and take notice.¬† We’re calling them The Ripleys because hey, who better to represent than our #1 Final Girl?

The Ripleys 2011

Jenny adds: Our group, like most, experiences some disagreement and indecision. We could knife fight about it or hit our heads against the wall until we choose, but we’ll settle for a few ties. ¬†We listed the rest of our qualifiers in our last post and they’re no different here.

Best Actor

Rutger Hauer (Hobo with a Shotgun)

Min-sik Choi (I Saw the Devil)

Jenny Dreadful:¬†I’m always a fan of Min-sik Choi, but Rutger Hauer is definitely my choice. I praised him in great detail in my review of Hobo with a Shotgun, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself a little. Centered in an irreverent and colorful setting slick with cartoony splatter, we experience this incredibly poignant character that calls to mind the hardships of the homeless and damaged. It’s a testament to the success of his performance that we can feel such sadness and affection for the titular Hobo moments away from laughing at a decapitation.

crowbait: Both our contenders are playing people neck deep in gruesome violence and who are on both the giving and receiving ends of brutal treatment. Both also work overtime to bring a real sense of sympathy to their characters. Though it may seem easy for Hauer at the start, his character being the typical, down-on-his-luck drifter with simple hopes, the violence he brings to those around him and himself mars that simple goodness. Min-sik Choi is working from the opposite end of the equation and must work to make us feel sorry for a monstrous serial killer but the simple bafflement he shows as his own ways of violence are turned on him (and the deplorable tactics used by his tormentor) bring real complexity to the character.

StayFrosty:  Both of these characters could so easily fall into the one-dimensional trap.  But thanks to Hauer and Choi, they become nuanced men who are at turns brutal, cruel, sympathetic and almost heroic.  Sometimes all in the same scene.

Best Actress

Kirsten Dunst  (Melancholia)

StayFrosty: In the best possible way, this performance hurts.¬† Dunst’s portrayal of the cycle of depression (itself a reflection of the emotional state of director Lars von Trier) hits all the right notes, and all the raw spots.¬† She takes this character from apparent happiness to crippling indecision to calm acceptance in the face of destruction brilliantly.¬† That she wasn’t up for an Oscar last night is a damn shame, but I’m sure Meryl Streep isn’t crying about it.

Jenny Dreadful:¬†It’s surprising that the most realistic portrayal of paralyzing depression I’ve ever seen is found within this beautiful and surreal art film. From facial expressions that speak a thousand words to channeling the worst of von Trier’s demons on screen, Dunst was incredible. I don’t enjoy judging other viewers, but I suspect audience members who question her performance and character’s behavior have never experienced or witnessed the extremes of chronic depression firsthand. If you have, her execution of the role and the overall film are emotionally overwhelming. I… was cutting onions before the screening. Or I had something in my eye. Allergies?

Runner-up:  Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Best Supporting Actor

David Tennant  (Fright Night)

StayFrosty: Okay, it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love David Tennant.¬† LOVE him.¬† But even putting that adoration aside, Tennant’s Peter Vincent is the perfect supporting actor in a film:¬† he comes in, he steals every scene he’s in, he leaves.¬† And he fights vampires.¬† And he’s shirtless often.¬† What’s not to love?

Jenny Dreadful:¬†Although the film itself won’t be getting any praise here on FGSG (see my review on Cinedelphia here), David Tennant’s Peter Vincent is worth the price of admission. A surprisingly fun spin on a beloved character.

Best Supporting Actress

Lin Shaye  (Insidious)

StayFrosty: From the moment she first sets foot on the screen, Lin Shaye takes over this movie.¬† She can change from a kind, friendly medium to terrifyingly describing a demon behind a fan to wearing a gas mask during a seance.¬† This lady knows how to work a movie, and she manages to be amazing without taking away from the other performances or sticking out in a bad way.¬† It’s a balancing act, one she does wonderfully.

Jenny Dreadful: Agreed. From grandmotherly warmth to intensity that chills you to the bone, the always delightful Shaye excels in Insidious.

crowbait: This is a great role for Lin Shaye to play because it is so wide ranging. It shows her commitment to the genre and her willingness to do some really odd things to make a movie powerfully creepy.

Runner-up: Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)

Best Director

Lars von Trier  (Melancholia)

James Wan  (Insidious)

StayFrosty: We couldn’t decide between these two gentlemen because the films are so different, and the effect they have on us are so opposite.¬† Without a doubt, Lars von Trier has made one of the best movies of the year – beautiful and devastating and unforgettable.¬† But Wan has made the movie we invite people over to watch again and again, the thrill ride that uses mood and atmosphere instead of CGI and cheap scares.¬† And both of those things are worth rewarding.¬† Congrats, gents, for making movies beautiful and fun and scary and amazing.¬† We can’t wait to see what you both do next.

Jenny Dreadful:¬†Von Trier’s heart-breaking use of the screen as personal exorcism results in difficult, beautiful and groundbreaking film.¬†Wan is fun, innovative and in love with the genre; a treasure within the horror community. We’re not the Oscars. You can’t make us choose.

Best Cinematography

Melancholia  (Manuel Alberto Claro)

Jenny Dreadful: Although this film is gorgeous throughout its significant running time, the piece opens with a series of astounding images; both representational and abstract interpretations of the events to come slowed to an aching crawl. Kirsten Dunst in wedding gown as Ophelia, the main players ominously lined up on the “stage,” the planets about to collide… The big climax is equally beautiful and affecting. This is a film meant for the big screen.

StayFrosty:  That opening sequence.  It took my breath away when I first saw it, and the gorgeous, disturbing images have never strayed too far from my mind.  These are shots that stop you in your tracks, and while the rest of the film is no less beautiful.  I feel lucky that I was able to see this one on the big screen.

Best Art Direction

Hobo with a Shotgun  (Ewen Dickson)

Jenny Dreadful: Getting a little sillier now, but no less sincere. From the color palette to the playful comics-style costuming and sets… to the freaking FONTS…¬†Hobo with a Shotgun has some serious visual style. The look is consistently reminiscent of the material Eisener seeks to emulate without falling into the common trap of sacrificing quality for nostalgia.

Best Costumes

The Last Circus  (Paco Delgado)

crowbait: The costuming of the circus, in all its extravagance, becomes horrifying as the costume of warring clowns in an ending that can only be described as a battle between monsters. In all the grunge of the war and the decrepit world outside the big top the contrast is delightful.

Jenny Dreadful: We’re cheating a wee bit as we named The Last Circus among our Best films of 2010, but these wild designs (part whimsical, part nightmare fuel) warrant recognition.

StayFrosty:¬† From the opening scenes to the gut-wrenching final shots and all moments in between, our characters might be in clown costumes, but those costumes have never been more serious, scary and sad.¬† Special notice to the costuming choices for the main character (the sad clown).¬† His costumes reflect the intense emotional changes he undergoes, and when he spirals down into rage and insanity, he makes for one of the scariest – and striking – looking clowns I’ve ever seen.

Best Score

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)

StayFrosty: I love this score.¬† It’s evocative of the stark, bleak mood of Fincher’s film without ever overpowering the scenes.¬† It works exactly like a score should.¬† And frankly, I listen to it on its own as much as I listen to any “regular” CD.

crowbait:¬†I might not be popular for thinking this but I much preferred this score to this duo’s work on last year’s¬†The Social Network. I like to think that the Oscar was awarded by psychic prediction for this one instead. A great, understated score for a film very much about the internalization of hurt.

Runner-up: Insidious¬†(Joseph Bishara) Because we’re afraid he’ll come get us. See below. Also because he was great.

Best Song

“Immigrant Song” by Karen O, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross ¬†(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

crowbait:¬†Yeah, it’s a cover but as with other Reznor covers it infuses a driving, dangerous energy into the music without overwhelming the source. A great compliment for the opening segment of the film.

StayFrosty: The Oscars may not recognize cover songs, but we do.¬† And this is without doubt, the best song from a genre film this year.¬† Possibly the best song this year that wasn’t by a Muppet.¬† Karen O’s wailing vocals, combined with Reznor’s gritty arrangement, make for a dark, electrifying take on the Zepplin classic.¬† I could listen to this all day.

Best Short Film

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein  (Adam Green)

StayFrosty: Holy shit, this is hilarious.¬† I can’t possibly describe it, you must see it to believe it.¬† It’s all funny, but special props to Joel David Moore for possibly the funniest Hitler (and definitely the funniest use of the German language…sort of) ever committed to celluloid.

crowbait:¬†Whenever there’s a compilation of shorts released as a whole there has to be one standout and the mania on display here easily buries the accompanying stories. Though there is also a funny musical about homosexual werebears.

Best Remake

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  (David Fincher)

StayFrosty: I love David Fincher.¬† The man makes no compromises in any of his films, and I respect that.¬† And though people complained when he started the remake of TGwtDT, I knew that it would be worthwhile if he had chosen to do it.¬† And boy is it ever.¬† It’s beautiful and rough and painful and rewarding, and at times so very upsetting to watch (and this is from a lady who’s seen a lot of stuff, just check our top 13).¬† It’s a credit to Fincher that he doesn’t flinch from the difficult topics addressed in these books and the original film, and while his take on Lisbeth Salander is different than Sweden’s Noomi Rapace, it’s no less quality.

Best Gore

Human Centipede 2  (Tom Six)

Jenny Dreadful: Ah. The timeless classic. A wonder for all ages. Human Centipede 2. Surprised to see it on our Awards list? Although we had a fair number of disturbing and violent films to choose from, HC2′s gratuitous use of sand-paper, staplers, pipes, gas pedals and more ordinary objects pushed the limit and yielded surprisingly realistic results. Tom Six, you take the cake. The… horrible… poop cake. No one should eat poop cake.

StayFrosty: I don’t think I could say it better than JennyD on this one.¬† HC2 made you wait for it, doling out some sandpaper here and some hammer bashing there, but once the gore-splosion hit, man did it hit hard.¬† And unrelenting.¬† And gross.¬† When the two of us are shouting in disbelieving horror at the screen, you know it’s something special.¬† And by special I mean poop cake.

Runner-up: Hobo with a Shotgun by Jason Eisener

Best Creature

Lipstick Face Demon  (Joseph Bishara in Insidious)

crowbait: Exactly what you want from a film monster. Strong, highly graphic visual design and an inherent brutality that marks it as the alien source of evil.

Jenny Dreadful: I picked this icon imagery for two reasons. 1. Unlikely as it may be in our modern world, I thought it would be fantastic if someone could watch Insidious without having the appearance of the threat spoiled for them. And… 2. I don’t want to look at it! A wonderful frightening entity that manages to freak me out every time I watch the film despite knowing when the best scares are coming. (Fun trivia: Joseph Bishara is also the composer of the film’s score.)

StayFrosty:¬† We’ve already established that Wan is a smart filmmaker, and the choice of Lipstick-Faced demon as the main villain of Insidious is another great move. At first, you just get glimpses – shadowy shots of long, claw-like hands reaching out for a sleeping child.¬† And then, out of nowhere, smack in the middle of the day, that face.¬† That fucking terrifying face.¬† I’m not ashamed to agree with JennyD that I didn’t want to have to look at that face behind a face each time I went to write here.¬† By the end, when you finally see the whole creature in all its messed up glory, you aren’t disappointed.

Runner-up: Trolls from Troll Hunter

Best poster art

TIE: Human Centipede 2 & Hobo with a Shotgun

StayFrosty: It’s pretty simple for me.¬† HC2 has the most evocative image of the year on a poster- you can love or hate the movie, but that poster is a hell of a thing.¬† And HwaS is done in such a fabulous exploitation style.¬† They don’t make them like that anymore.

Jenny Dreadful: Even if you hate the film, you have to admit this Human Centipede 2 poster image is wonderfully creepy and well-designed. From afar, I thought it was a spinal column. Next, I figured it was probably the shape of an insect. Then I realized I’d stumbled into the gateway of a Boschian Hell landscape. (Bosch LOVED butts. Connection?)

Ah. Moving on. In a world overrun by floating Photoshopped heads, The Hobo with a Shotgun¬†poster is welcome tribute to the illustrated posters of film’s past. Artwork by Tom Hodge. Mr. Hodge, all of my fellow illustrators working today, and the ghosts of illustration past… we salute you!

Best Credits Sequence

Dragon Tattoo  (David Fincher)

StayFrosty: This is the best opening sequence in many many years.¬† Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.¬† I can’t think of a better way to open this movie than sending you on a nightmare (but beautiful) trip into Lisbeth’s subconscious – by the time the music fades and the actual film starts, you’re already thrilled, energized and a little unsettled.¬† What a way to begin.

crowbait:¬†The sequence is alternately¬†titillating¬†and horrifying as a picture of the complex and contrary images in the heroine’s head. Nice place to visit. Bad place to live.

Best Post-credits Sequence

“Shark Bite” Music Video ¬†(Shark Night)

StayFrosty: This movie is not so great, but I am SO glad FGSG decided to wait out the credits, because we found the absolutely hilarious Shark Night Rap.¬† My god, if only the movie had been as good as that three minute rap.¬† Do yourself a favor and watch this.¬† You will not be disappointed.¬† I mean, the man manages to rhyme “shark ghosts”.¬† And frankly, just the phrase “shark ghosts” is enough to crack me up.

crowbait:¬†Here’s a taste.

Most Anticipated 2012

Prometheus  (Ridley Scott)

StayFrosty: Words cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to this movie.¬† No seriously, I can’t think of any short way to talk about how I feel about another movie in the Alien universe directed by Ridley Scott with a cast that seems impeccable.¬† The only way to thrill me more is to add a power loader.

crowbait: I already deeply admire the guts that Ridley Scott has shown in breaking from the Alien continuity in order to make this prequel free from the tampering of the trademark holders. We know we will get what he wants and what he wants is a great movie.

This concludes our Ripleys list, readers. Comment with your picks. We’d love to hear them! Now, until next time, let’s enjoy a year of bloody fun.

Awards Season 2011 Part 1: The Lucky 13

Posted: February 25, 2012 by Jenny Dreadful in Editorial, Film, Lists

Good morning, horror fiends. It’s that time of year again. Time for film fans to pause and reflect on the bland emotional blackmail from the year before. Time to obsess over hideous dresses.¬†Oh yes. I speak of Oscar season!¬†Although Final Girl Support Group will be cheering for Uggie the dog and bitching about snubs along with the rest of the film community Sunday, we need to honor the films of last year in our own way. ¬†In a 2-part series, we would like to present the best in horror from 2011; starting with our favorite films.

The Lucky 13: The Best Horror of 2011

Although we occasionally get press perks and are lucky enough to live near some festivals, we can’t make it to everything. We’re usually at the mercy of U.S. release dates for great foreign films too. That said, selections are limited to our experience and are listed alphabetically to avoid the pain of indecision.

1. Absentia

StayFrosty:¬†Low budget filmmaking usually calls to mind (with some notable exceptions) poor CGI, fair to poor acting, and bland storylines we’ve seen a hundred times before.¬† And then there’s Absentia, a movie that takes the little money it has and runs with it, creating an effectively scary, well written and well shot film that Hollywood wished it still understood.¬† Absentia proves that you don’t need millions of dollars to make a good movie.

Jenny Dreadful: With a low budget and a horrendous DVD cover (such a crime), this is a film genre fans are likely to miss. If you like supernatural horror, ignore cover art, turn off the lights and go in with an open mind. The skilled use of focus and clever practical effects make for a very creepy experience. We adore this film.

2. Black Death

Read our Review

crowbait:¬†After the disappointment of Season of the Witch¬†and the misleading advertisement this film was a delight. Unflinchingly brutal and with a story that took twists and turn to keep it above the “typical” witch hunt, it is highly recommended.

StayFrosty:¬† I rewatched this a few days ago, fearing it might not be as good as I remembered.¬† On the contrary, I think it might have been even better than I recalled.¬† What I most noticed this time around was the excellent casting choices.¬† The members of Sean Bean’s team all felt very natural together, had great chemistry, and naturally fit within the environment.¬†¬† The creepy town – and especially our leading lady – remain unsettling and the ending still packs a punch without being too typical.¬† Repeat viewings only make this one stronger.

3. Hobo with a Shotgun

Read our Review

Jenny Dreadful: I said quite a bit about this crazed throwback already. See the link above for my pretty lengthy review. Despite its grim subject matter, I’d name it among the most fun blood-fests of the year. That may be because this list is depression central (and boy is it ever), but I think¬†Hobo is colorful, wonderful madness.

4. In a Glass Cage

Read Jenny’s Review on Cinedelphia

StayFrosty:¬†This movie is deeply disturbing, tackling issues like child molestation, Nazis and revenge.¬† If I had to classify it as anything, I would say it’s essentially a rape/revenge movie dealing with the cycle of abuse.¬† It’s also stunningly beautiful (there’s a giallo-homage scene that floored me with its cinematography and color use), wonderfully acted and isn’t afraid to take on these issues up front. Nothing is black and white, everything is gray.¬† There’s no side you can take that makes sense, and no safe place your mind can land.¬† And that’s what makes it so great.¬† Have a chaser movie ready though, because you’ll need it.

Jenny Dreadful: I was hesitant to consider this film eligible since it’s a release from the 80s, but we decided a beautiful new print making rounds at festivals and an impressive new DVD/Blu-Ray warrants breaking the rules a little. One of the strongest films I watched last year. I say plenty more at the link above.

5. Insidious

Read our Review

StayFrosty:¬†It’s hard to pick a top of the year, because there are so many beautiful, disturbing films that stick with you long after the credits roll.¬† But I think in the end I would choose Insidious over all of those, because Insidious reminded both the viewing public and the Hollywood system that you don’t need CGI, quick cuts and cat scares to make an effective horror film.¬† James Wan uses atmosphere and implied terror to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.¬† Wan has shown that even when his movies aren’t perfect (Dead Silence, anyone?) he can still create amazing atmospheric setpieces, and he does the same with Insidious, except this time it works on all levels.¬† And I appreciate that the ending isn’t just a closed book.¬† It’s a throwback to films like Poltergeist, and I mean that as a compliment.¬† If I can be scared watching Lyn Shaye stare at a ceiling fan and speak under her breath about something evil, the movie is a success.¬† Hollywood, please take note – this is how it’s done.

Jenny Dreadful: I can’t consider this the best film of the year, but it might be my favorite. A spooky haunted house-style flick made for watching in the dark and huddling with friends. Scary and fun.

6. I Saw the Devil

Read our Review

Jenny Dreadful: This disturbing cat-and-mouse thriller from Korea tops a good number of year-end lists from horror critics and fans alike. This is for good reason. Absolutely beautiful visuals, shocking brutality, fascinating performances, and jaw-dropping action sequences make this is a must-watch for any genre fan with the stomach for cruelty and violence.

7. Kill List

crowbait: I think I’ve seen more strange twists in recent British horror films than I have in any others. What starts out as the “workaday” world of a soldier turned contract killer becomes a strange mystery and semi-crusade against despicable criminals before descending into horror as an unexplained coven comes to pursue the ¬†protagonist as fervent worshipers. An odd one, not for everyone but well made and worth it if you find the premise intriguing.

Jenny Dreadful: Although I’m loathe to define such an interesting film with comparison to another, the best way to efficiently describe Kill List is “Hitman movie meets The Wicker Man.” I agree with crowbait that some viewers will be turned off by a conclusion that seems to come from nowhere, but I feel the creeping dread is there all along; building toward the disturbing turn. I suspect it’s one to watch twice. If you go in with an open mind and the knowledge that genres will clash in strange ways, I think you’ll be surprised by a solid and scary flick.

8. Melancholia

StayFrosty:¬†What a gorgeous, gorgeous movie.¬† Gorgeous and upsetting and overwhelming and like nothing I’ve experienced.¬† It takes the cycle of depression and anxiety within two despairing souls (effectively reflected in the characters played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) and blows it out to interstellar proportions, with planets literally representing the emotional states of the two sisters.¬† The movie was dismissed from the Oscars on a technicality, despite sweeping up wins in almost every other awards show to date.¬† The Oscars are less for not having this movie on their roster.

Jenny Dreadful:¬†Those who are close to me might find that I talk about this film constantly. As you may guess, Melancholia is my pick for the best of 2011. Frosty did a good job with condensing the film effectively into a short summary. Fitting everything I have to say about this beautiful and devastating piece in a concise way is impossible. I’m going to need to write a full review. I will say that, from the heart-breaking realism of the performances to the breathtaking and surreal visuals, the film’s absence from the list of Oscar nominees is a crime.

9. Red, White & Blue

StayFrosty:¬†This is a hard movie to take, and definitely not for everyone (I find we’re saying that on so many of our choices this year).¬† Excellent performances all around, keeping all the characters as gray areas.¬† No heroes here, just lost, lonely, sometimes violent people trying desperately to find someone or something that can help them begin to heal.¬† While not precisely a “twist” ending, the final moments of this film stays with you.

10. A Serbian Film

StayFrosty:¬†This is a seriously depressing list, but we can’t leave out this movie, even though it’s been called all sorts of names.¬† JennyD and I watched this, and while it does deal with some shocking and upsetting topics, it’s shot beautifully and the “shocking” moments feel in service to the story (with one potential exception).¬† Our lead actor does a great job keeping a character committing a series of vile acts sympathetic.¬† He’s a victim as much as the people he’s victimizing.¬† Is this movie hard to watch?¬† You better believe it.¬† But is it just a series of trashy, misogynistic, disgusting images made for shock and nothing else?¬† I don’t think so.¬† I was more offended by Doghouse than I was by this movie.

Jenny Dreadful: Agreed. As we’re a feminist blog, I think it’s easy to assume we’d hate this film based on the subject matter and the controversy it stirred.¬†A Serbian Film is too smart, too beautifully shot, too well-scored, and too emotionally affecting to be dismissed as trash. Don’t necessarily take this as a recommendation. If you think you’re up for this bleak film, do a little research first.

11. The Silent House

crowbait:¬†The hour-long takes of this film build a relentless tension. It’s surprising as well how much the characters can be developed in such a short span without becoming unbelievable but the story is really one of revelation as secrets are peeled away in the house of horrors. There are so many “how did they do that?” camera moments in this film, it’s worth seeing on a technical level even if you aren’t a fan of hauntings.

12. Stakeland

Read our Review

crowbait: A vampire western, through and through. The vamps are full-on monsters and the heroes are a lone wanderer and his apprentice. They travel the land looking for some place safe from the apocalypse but it’s more a journey of growth and a coming of age story for the young apprentice.

13. Tucker & Dale vs Evil

Read our Review

StayFrosty:¬†Thank god this movie came out this year, or our entire list would be incredibly depressing.¬† We reviewed it for 31/31 here, but just to remind everyone, it’s hilarious and clever and sweet and gory.¬† All of these things.

Jenny Dreadful:  Sweet likable characters and increasingly silly coincidences keep this joke from getting old. Lots and lots of fun.

There you have it, readers. Our favorite genre films of 2011. Agree? Disagree? Tell us your picks. Meanwhile, look out for Awards Season Part 2. It’s time to get a little more specific.

The Top 10 Wicked Women of Horror

Posted: November 2, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in About Us, Editorial, Lists, News

Since it was published during the 24 Hour Horrorthon we attended this past weekend, this list sort of got lost in the shuffle. In case you missed it, allow me to direct you to my article,¬†LA FEMME BRUTALE: THE TOP 10 WICKED WOMEN OF HORROR, a collaboration with¬†Cinedelphia. I hope you enjoy reading the entries as much as we enjoyed choosing our favorite fiendish ladies. While you’re at it, speak up. Who are YOUR favorite female villains?

Ground rules:¬† Men in drag, sympathetic protagonists, and possessed women are disqualified! Sorry Norman, Carrie and Regan. We’ll be in touch.

Note from a Final Girl

Posted: October 13, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Editorial

Last week, we were very pleased to collaborate with Cinedelphia to present Still Alive: The Top 10 Final Girls. We posted links to the article via social media and, of course, on this blog. As we were discussing aspects of film that inspire us, we were surprised to receive an intimate and touching reply about the “Final Girl” as she exists in real life. It’s not our standard horror movie content, but we believe this message is worth sharing. We’re reposting the piece with our reader’s kind permission.

Note from a Final Girl

A guest article by Donna Jean

Every time I have written anything, it was because what I wrote wanted to be written. It had a voice which presented itself in my mind and flowed through my fingers as I typed. This is like that. The thought occurred when I read Jenny Dreadful’s take on the top ten Final Girls.

The thought told me that the Final Girl was the simple, unobtrusive girl who walked down the wrong alley, or went to the wrong camp, or opened the wrong door for the wrong man, or even had the wrong cell grow in her body. The Final Girl is the naive, innocent, unsuspecting average girl who was given the opportunity to make her simple life extraordinary by not becoming the monster which lurks in the ‚Äúwrong‚ÄĚ herself.

As we only see life through our own eyes, I have had the opportunity to meet the monster which lurks in the dark alley in a couple of different guises. For this writing, I will write about the beast I encountered when my daughter was a small child.

I was 25 years old when I innocently opened the wrong door when the wrong man knocked asking for help. This gave me the opportunity to become the Final Girl and not become the beast due to the hole ripped in my body and even worse, in my spirit. As a rape victim, I made a choice to become strong. It was not a choice I would have wanted to have to make and I did not know that was what I was doing at the time. By our choices, we become the monster or we become Ripley, who chooses to save everyone at risk of losing herself. In confronting a beast, one has to ignore the deep and abiding desire to turn, run away, and not look back.

So the Final Girl must act. What is her greatest strength? Is it tracking down the beast for revenge or is it trapping the monster and putting it in a place where it cannot harm anyone else? It may appear, on the outside, to be the same act. But it is the intention behind the act which is the real strength.

Finally, can she go on, not become bitter, not become hateful, not become the monster, lest she always carry the monster with her, smiling its hideous grin in her belly? To rise above the horror and to use the terror as strength of character is the challenge. To use what she lost to realize the importance of what she has and of who she is.

And that who she is, is amazing.

Written by one small, insignificant Final Girl Standing

The Top 10 Final Girls on Cinedelphia

Posted: October 5, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in About Us, Editorial, Lists, News

Today, Jenny Dreadful and StayFrosty are proud to present STILL ALIVE: THE TOP 10 FINAL GIRLS, a collaboration with Philly film blog Cinedelphia.  Learn about our favorite horror heroines today, but keep checking out their site throughout the month for 31 DAYS OF HORROR.

PS: Hope you didn’t miss our scary movie recommendations on Sunday!

Happy Father’s Day!

Posted: June 19, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Editorial, Film, Lists

Whether we have really great relationships with our dads, bad relationships with them or whether we’ve just grown apart… I think the following horror movie parents can help most of us appreciate our fathers even more on this special day.¬†We present 5 of the worst horror movie dads to grace the gory screen.

#5 Harry Powell

Seen in: Night of the Hunter (1955)

Jenny Dreadful:¬†Serial killer, preacher, family man, Love and Hate tattooed across his knuckles… This evil Reverend is a classic.¬†Looking for an executed robber’s stash of hidden money, ¬†this charismatic psycho moves in on the man’s widow and her two children. Wooing his way into the family and establishing himself as husband and father, he seems kind and devout at first. Abuse, greed, murder and the merciless hunting of two innocent children soon follow. And that makes this guy one bad step-dad. Check out Night of the Hunter for an¬†excellent villain and fairly shocking subject matter for its time.

StayFrosty – Jenny D said most of what I would say, so I will just add that while this movie does contain a creepy stepdad, this is also one amazing film.¬† Way ahead of its time, beautifully shot and very well acted (especially by our villain), this is well worth everyone’s time.

Crowbait: Mitchum is amazing in this role. Charismatic and engaging but never without the sinister undercurrent that some would see as zeal and others would see as menace.

#4 Grandpa Sawyer

Seen in: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Jenny Dreadful: Grandpa Sawyer would be higher on this list, but unlike many of these nightmare dads, he truly does care about his family. We don’t know much about his kids, but we do know that he remains the dutiful patriarch for his large group of loving cannibal grandsons; Bubba (you might know him better as Leatherface), Drayton, Nubbin and Chop Top. And he looks so good for his age!

Ok, seriously, this grandpa stuff is freaking disturbing. This¬†horrific practically-mummified old man in a wheelchair strikes screaming teens in the head with a mallet over and over while his adoring family shouts encouragement. Licking blood and deleriously giggling while he does it, Grandpa Sawyer is not the guy I would invite to the family picnic. But we can’t deny it… the saw is family.

#3 “Jerry Blake”

Seen in: The Stepfather (1987) and Stepfather 2 (1989)

StayFrosty:¬† I haven’t seen this one, but I hear Terry O’Quinn kicks ass as a crazy stepfather determined to have the perfect family, even if he has to slit a few throats to get it.¬† Skip the remake and stick with the classics, people.

Jenny Dreadful: If it wasn’t for all the stalking and murder, dad of the year!

#2  Satan

Seen in: Countless titles since the dawn of cinema. For the purpose of this post, however, let’s talk about Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Omen (1976).

StayFrosty – Ok, Rosemary’s Baby.¬† So not only does he impregnate innocent Rosemary, he deals with her husband to get to sleep with her.¬† So actually, is the husband the jerk in this equation?¬† Either way, the Satan sex scene to this day is surreal, disturbing and effective.¬† And you just know he’s going to be one of those parents who’re never around.

Jenny Dreadful: Ok, so… Satan. How could¬†Satan¬†POSSIBLY come second on this list? Well…

#1  Jack Torrance

Seen in: The Shining (1980)

StayFrosty РTorrance is one of the best unhinged characters in the genre.  Is he possessed?  Crazy?  Both?  As he slowly spirals into insanity, he manages to be kind, threatening and outright murderous, sometimes all in one scene.  This Dad is a mess all over the place.  You can be sure Danny Torrance went from The Overlook right into therapy.

Crowbait: This is one of those films that hits all the right notes for me. A truly artisitic vision that took a simple premise to unimaginably horrifying heights. I think the later film version that sticks more closely to the book is inferior because it avoided the opportunities for disturbing imagery that Kubrick saw within the story. Let a novel be a novel and let a film be a film.

Jenny Dreadful: One part Stephen King, one part Stanley Kubrick, one part Jack Nicholson. Soak in bourbon. Blend. Serve over ice.

Happy Father’s Day!

Awards season

Posted: January 31, 2011 by StayFrosty in Editorial, Film, Lists

Hello, dear readers.¬† With the Oscars coming up and various other awards shows already in the can, the three of us here at FGSG have decided to make our own awards.¬† Just like our top 13, we’re keeping it within the genre (otherwise Inception would be all over this thing!) and we modeled the awards on the Oscars, with a few cool additions.¬† Hey, the Oscars SHOULD have a Best Gore award!

So here are our Oscars – read on and then tell us what you think!

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan

Crowbait: Aronofsky’s strong artistic vision is a constant. Jenny Dreadful: Always amazing work whether the film’s subject matter appeals or repels. But, for the record, this is my favorite Aronofsky film to date.¬† StayFrosty: This is also my favorite so far.¬† A near perfect film directed by man with vision who isn’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects and not talk down to his audience.¬† Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Best Actor

We’ve got a tie here…

Stephen McHattie

Pontypool

Crowbait: The film is a vehicle for his terrific voice. They didn’t really leave room for a sequel but let’s just have a radio show for him anyway.¬† StayFrosty: He made this¬† movie, both with his wonderful voice and his acting talent.¬† He has such an expressive face – one raised eyebrow says more than some actors can do with their whole body.

Patrick Fabian

The Last Exorcism

Jenny Dreadful: Patrick Fabian charms the audience and carries this film. I wonder if The Last Exorcism would be worth watching without him?¬† StayFrosty:¬† This performance is stellar.¬† I don’t think it would be half as good of a movie without him.

Best Actress
Natalie Portman

Black Swan

Crowbait: You don’t need to hear from me that this is a great performance. What is special about it is that the academy is willing to honor her achievement in what some would still call a genre picture.¬†¬†¬†¬† StayFrosty:¬† People have always been divided on the level of Natalie Portman’s talent, but all those in doubt should watch this movie and I have a feeling they’d change their tune.¬† This is probably the performance of the year, and I would be very surprised if she’s not up there at the end of February winning a very well deserved Oscar for Best Actress.

Best Supporting Actor
Richard Jenkins,

Let Me In

Crowbait: The biggest way in which the remake of this film improves on the original is in the detail given to the Father character.

Best Supporting Actress
Barbara Hershey,

Black Swan

Crowbait: Unstable mothers are always a favorite of horror films. What’s more upsetting than your own mother turning against you? Hershey’s portrayal starts subtly and spirals into the chaos of the surrounding action.¬† StayFrosty: It takes a lot to make a nail clipping scene terrifying, but Hershey does it.¬† Even Carrie White would be uncomfortable.

Best remake
Let Me In

Directed by Matt Reeves, Screenplay by Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lindqvist, Based on both a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and a film by Tomas Alfredson

Crowbait: Though it loses some moments from the original, it adds a lot of enjoyable characterization.¬†Jenny Dreadful: It’s hard for me to endorse any remake, but this is an excellent film. Probably the best horror remake we’ve seen since The Ring. StayFrosty:¬† It doesn’t surpass the original, but it’s still an amazing film – well acted, beautifully shot, and at times both touching and terrifying.

Best Score
Clint Mansell

Black Swan

Crowbait: Mansell’s brooding music is both a contrast and compliment to the romantic sweep of Swan Lake. His score does a good job of avoiding that sort of sentimentality and playing on the growing tension within the character’s relationships but in such a way that when the full orchestra kicks in I never felt that any musical expression was less valid than the other.

Best Monster
Dren

Splice

Jenny Dreadful: Dren, played by Delphine Chaneac, isn’t your standard monster. She(?) is scary and dangerous, but also sympathetic and sweet… Alien, animalistic, but oh so human. Like a modern Frankenstein’s monster, it’s hard not to become emotionally attached to Dren as she grows up and the plot races toward its bizarre and horrific conclusion. Crowbait: Few films these days want you to feel for the monster (and those that do use some hackneyed methods to provoke your affection.) Dren is a fragile creature, oftentimes vicitimized for her lack of understanding and that makes her the perfect monster; one you actually care to see live or die.

Best Gore
Piranha 3D

Directed by Alexandre Aja, Written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, Gore by far too many FX professionals to name individually. We salute you!

Jenny Dreadful: Possibly the best gore I’ve ever seen. Crowbait: Blood, guts, bits and pieces and one very prominent knob.¬† StayFrosty:¬† This man is a master of gore – the massive beach attack alone is worth the price of admission.¬† The Grand Guignol would be proud.

Best Visual FX
Splice

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor. Again, too many incredible FX artists to name.

Jenny Dreadful: It’s possible that other bigger-budget films had more polished visuals, but the creature FX in this film were incredibly ambitious. Concepts that could have been utter disasters were pulled off beautifully by the production team. Through a combination of practical FX and CGI, realistic textures, natural movements and a plausible sense of weight brought Dren and friends to life.

Best Poster Art

Another Tie!

Buried

Variant designs by Ignition Print

Jenny Dreadful: Although some of the variants by Ignition Print have a fun and graphic Hitchcock flavor, it’s the claustrophobic simplicity of this poster that had people talking. A bold move to leave so much asymmetrical black space around our star and his predicament, but a successful one.¬† StayFrosty: Just goes to show that sometimes less is more – so impacting without overdoing it.¬† Maybe one day the people who make trailers will learn this…

Black Swan

Design shown by Bemis Balkind. Other variants by Balkind and La Boca

Jenny Dreadful: The stark layout of the main poster, shown, utilizes a creepy photograph of Natalie Portman’s dark transformation beautifully. The red eyes and lips and the black makeup popping against the hazy white hints at the film’s beautiful aesthetic and horror content, but doesn’t give too much away. In addition to Balkind’s design, there are a number of illustrated variants by British design firm, La Boca. Equally stark and beautiful, they evoke Eastern European posters from the 60’s and 70’s.

Worst remake
Nightmare on Elm Street

Directed by Samuel Bayer, Screenplay by Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer, Based on a film by Wes Craven

Crowbait: I missed the 80’s stereotyped victims. They had more character.¬†Jenny Dreadful: As much as I despise the trend of remakes, I always thought this was the horror property that could actually use a reboot. The increasingly cartoony films just didn’t live up to their fright potential for me and the possibility of a Freddy tale with less humor and more dread was exciting. I was a fool for thinking this might be that film. I can see that the production team tried to deliver that experience, but the end result is a disappointment.¬† StayFrosty:¬† I agree with Jenny, while I think the original is cool, another take could have been interesting and very scary.¬† Not so much here – instead we get wooden acting, worse line delivery, and disappointing CG effects.¬† There’s so much you could do with a dream monster, and it is just wasted here.¬† And what should have been a creepy performance by the talented Jackie Earl Haley is marred with poor makeup choices and even poorer scripting.

We Warned You

We told you it sucks and it does. Mightily.

Skyline

Directed by The Brothers Strause, Screenplay by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell

Jenny Dreadful: Ugh. This should have been a dumb fun FX extravaganza. Instead, it was kind of a boring eye-sore. But the laughable ending will stay with me always. Don’t eat the red brains. Crowbait: Such a waste of time and sfx budget. These guys need to stick with making other people look good by providing effects, not by providing comparison.

(Honorable Mention: Jonah Hex. We didn’t warn you because it was released before the creation of this blog. But we should have. We let you down. -JD)

WTF?!?!

This dubious award goes to a film that many people seem to love and we just totally dislike – like some bad relationships, we just don’t understand what people see in this one…

Dread

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi, Screenplay by Anthony DiBlasi, Based on a short story by Cliver Barker.

Crowbait: When the poster¬†has the movie’s title written in crap, that’s all the review I need.


So there it is, carnage lovers, the FGSG awards.¬† Agree?¬† Disagree?¬† Think we’re crazy?¬† Post and let us know!