(This is #4.) Undoubtedly the weakest of the five Final Destinations, but still sits comfortably in the series as pure deathly spectacle. Same director as #2, meaning both have the same self-reference, fake-outs, and the Rubiest Goldbergiest deaths. (#1 and #3 are the more serious and effective ones, and #5 takes all the best elements from the previous four and runs a victory lap.)
Operation Pink Squad 2 (1989, Jeffrey Lau, Hong Kong)
A fun and raunchy ensemble comedy about four policewomen going undercover in a haunted apartment building.
Gemini (2009, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Japan)
I haven’t looked into this movie since I watched it, and what remains is a chaotic mess of surreal ghosts and amorphous events on a solid backbone of duality. My lasting impression probably isn’t representative of the movie itself, and this is mostly a note to myself to watch this again and read up on it.
Grace (2009, Paul Solet, USA)
It seems like such a simple premise for a horror movie: an infant needs to feed on blood. A bottle of blood. Fly paper hanging like mobiles. Perfect images from an excellent execution of that premise. Very gross and personal.
Uncomfortably close movie in both its subjective cinematography and subject matter. Spends time putting you into the protagonist’s head so you can experience how he gives in to Nazi propaganda. Brilliant and terrifying.
Legend of the Mountain (1979, King Hu, Taiwan)
Beautiful, haunting, mythic story set in the Song Dynasty.
The Haunting (1999, Jan de Bont, USA)
Sorry to split this from its sibling House on Haunted Hill, but the dry, precise humor, big spooky house, and Nell and Theo’s bi energy win me over.
A Bucket of Blood (1959, Roger Corman, USA)
There are so many American sci-fi and horror movies from the 50s that feel so sanitized by the Hayes Code that any that subvert it stand out even more. Regardless, this is a black comedy that feels lived in and untethered to its decade.
The 4th Floor (1999, Josh Klausner, USA)
This was a real delight and a movie I’d never heard of before it showed up on the list. It’s a super slow psychological horror mystery about a woman (Juliette Lewis) who is terrorized by an unknown neighbor. The movie walks a line between making the other tenants of the building cartoonish weirdos and too-easily-believable creeps.
Lady Terminator (1989, Jalil Jackson, Indonesia)
An infamous scene-for-scene ripoff of Cameron’s Terminator, yet it’s grounded in Indonesian mythology in such a way that make it incomparable to Cameron’s. Guaranteed to please at parties.
House on Haunted Hill (1999, William Malone, USA)
Friday the 13th (2009, Marcus Nispel, USA)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989, Stephen Hopkins, USA)
Tetsuo, The Iron Man (1989, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Japan)
A fever dream of body horror. Really captures an anxiety about your body betraying you and being invaded.
Thirst (1979, Rod Hardy, Australia)
A paranoid drama about a cult trying to make a woman a vampire through forced medical procedures and psychological conditioning. Plays on a fear of medical institutions, which makes for an interesting look back to 40 years ago.
The Eclipse (2009, Conor McPherson, Ireland)
Beautiful and muted drama about two haunted people starting a friendship. It separates the scares and the horror to really pull some emotional punches.
Macabre (2009, Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto, Singapore)
Real juicy splatterfest with a magnetic matriarch of a cannibal murder house. The directors have since become masters of action directing, and their ability to manipulate the tension of a scene shines here.
Us (2019, Jordan Peele, USA)
Peele makes a loving homage to past horror movies while he continues to pull the genre forward. Pivots hard a couple times, touching on a lot of genres, but has a strong core analogy and some impeccable horror sequences.
The Sixth Sense (1999, M. Night Shyamalan, USA)
This was my first time watching it since its release, and wow. This delivers in every capacity.
Through 2018 and early 2019, I gave different themes to each month and would sort movies into those. October was Sequels and Remakes, November was Current-Year Catchup, and December was Old Favs; February is Women in Horror Month, so I listed all the movies directed by women and dove into them in February. The XXX9 list has quite a few:
By the end of the month, I realized that the remainder of the list was even more predominantly men, and so I gave up on the monthly themes at that point. It’s more important anyway to just watch what I feel like watching.
Drag Me to Hell (2009, Sam Raimi, USA)
A woman is cursed and endures gross slapstick horror (it’s a Raimi movie after all). Great performance by Alison Lohman. I remember when it came out, people wanted more Evil Dead and Raimi’s return to horror wasn’t appreciated as much as it is nowadays.
Pet Semetary (1989, Mary Lambert, USA)
Eerie Stephen King adaptation that wallows in grief. As effective as ever.
Ravenous (1999, Antonia Bird, Czech Republic)
Chilling, slightly goofy, fully homoerotic battle between white settler cannibals on the frontier.
Horror Noire (2019, Xavier Burgin, USA)
Documentary on the history of Black horror, with Get Out as the final bookend. Essential for any horror fan.
Jennifer’s Body (2009, Karyn Kusama, USA)
A young woman is possessed and kills her male classmates, while her friend struggles with the change in their relationship. Looking back, this movie called bullshit on people’s maligning of Megan Fox. Sure this movie was unfairly dismissed, but I still haven’t seen enough of a reckoning on Fox’s behalf.
Celia (1989, Ann Turner, Australia)
Slow, character-focused movie that takes the time to weave Australian history and the adults’ political crisis into a girl’s story.
I want to tell you what happens as a way of recommending Celia, but that wouldn’t be nice. That aside, this felt like an old live-action Disney movie, up until the movie had me screaming for blood. This is a horror movie right?! Please tell me this is a horror movie!
Don’t Look Back (2009, Marina de Van, France)
A writer struggles with disassociation and memories that betray her.
Don’t Look Back does something I’ve never seen before: it swaps out actors for the same characters to represent the protagonist’s disassociation. I think it’s obvious why this is a risky thing for a movie to do, but Don’t Look Back is dedicated enough—not lifting its head out of the protagonist’s psyche—to pull it off.
House on Haunted Hill (1959, William Castle, USA)
The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999, Katt Shea & Robert Mandel, USA)
Family Demons (2009, Ursula Dabrowsky, Australia)
The Revenant (2009, D. Kerry Prior, USA)
Amer (2009, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, France)
Blood & Donuts (1989*, Holly Dale, Canada)
*Blood & Donuts is listed as being released in 1995 almost everywhere I’ve looked, but IMDB lists an original festival release in ’89. So for the purposes of my list, I go with ’89.
Kill By Inches (1999, Diane Doniol-Valcroze & Arthur K. Flam, USA)
The Countess (2009, Julie Delpy, France)
Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009, Jen & Sylvia Soska, Canada)
Here’s the first in a series of catch-up posts listing the movies I watched each month in 2019. The highlights are the new discoveries that struck me, the ones that I couldn’t stop thinking about, my recommendations, or my favs.
Alien (1979, Ridley Scott, UK)
A crew brings an unknown lifeform aboard their ship and get killed one by one.
I need a term for the movie on year’s list that is the most important to me–my favorite, my darling, best in show. Anyway I hit play on Alien at 12:01 on January 1.
The Loved Ones (2009, Sean Byrne, Australia)
A teenage girl kidnaps a schoolmate and tortures him. I’ve heard this called torture porn, but this movie is so much more; it’s about the relationships we inherit and the ones we (try to) make ourselves. It isn’t easy to watch, but if you’re sold on the poster (teen in a pink dress and paper crown, pointing a drill at the camera), it’s very much worth your time.
Thirst (2009, Park Chan-wook, South Korea)
A priest tries to hold on to his ethics after becoming a vampire. A very different twist on the genre.
Antichrist (2009, Lars von Trier, Denmark)
A husband and wife in the throes of grief destroy each other in a secluded cabin. I was excited to see this, although I was aware of what I was getting into; that said, being aware of it can’t prepare you. Saying it’s a hard watch is an understatement.
I was reading Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch at this time, and her history of the witch trials as medieval enclosures sure put this movie into perspective.
Sweet Home (1989, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan)
Haunted house with some real phenomenal practical effects.
For those unaware, it’s the movie companion to the game of the same name (same writer worked with the directors of each and helped adapt his story to the different media). The game is one of the primary inspirations for Resident Evil, often being credited with the birth of survival horror.
Dogtooth (2009, Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece)
Three siblings are raised in an enclave, in which they are abused and lied to about the real world.
I can’t say this about a lot of movies, even the really heavy ones, but: I felt sick at the end of Dogtooth. That’s a testament to its brilliance and effectiveness. It succeeded in putting me into the heads of these kids who see the world in a completely twisted way due to the abuse and gaslighting they suffer, and I needed time to come back to real life. Highly recommended if you like slow, disturbing character studies.
Audition (1999, Takashi Miike, Japan)
Infamous torture movie in which a man tries to find love under false pretenses and finds the exact wrong person. It was a movie that I’d heard so much about, I felt like I’d already seen it. I was surprised by the non-horror first half, which runs abruptly into the terrifying telephone scene, and then morphs into the movie I’d heard about.
The Blair Witch Project (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez, USA)
Found-footage search for a local mythical witch that revitalized the genre. I’d never seen this! It really really works. Watching it felt like telling scary stories to your friends.
The Visitor (1979, Giulio Paradisi, Italy)
Horrors Of Malformed Men (1969, Teruo Ishii, Japan)
Santa Sangre (1989, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Italy/Mexico)
Killer Nun (1979, Giulio Berruti, Italy)
Triangle (2009, Christopher Smith, UK/Australia)
Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959, Riccardo Freda, Italy)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, Terence Fisher, UK)
Stigmata (1999, Rupert Wainwright, USA)
Memento Mori (1999, Tae-yong Kim & Kyu-dong Min, South Korea)
Deepstar Six (1989, Sean S. Cunningham, USA)
Leviathan (1989, George P. Cosmatos, USA)
End of Days (1999, Peter Hyams, USA)
The Brood (1979, David Cronenberg, Canada)
Existenz (1999, David Cronenberg, Canada)
The Man They Could Not Hang (1939, Nick Grindé, USA)
The Butterfly Murders (1979, Hark Tsui, Hong Kong)
Pandorum (2009, Christian Alvart, Germany)
The Amityville Horror (1979, Stuart Rosenberg, USA)
The Gorilla (1939, Allan Dwan, USA)
Idle Hands (1999, Rodman Flender, USA)
Tourist Trap (1979, David Schmoeller, USA)
The Giant Behemoth (1959, Douglas Hickox & Eugène Lourié, UK)