The List: June 2019 Catchup

The Highlights

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, Werner Herzog, West Germany)

So beautiful and so creepy. Klaus Kinski is from another worldwhich makes this a fitting tribute to Max Schreck’s superlative performance. As a remake, this movie achieves the best possible result: making me love both movies more.

Nang Nak (1999, Nonzee Nimibutr, Thailand)

Tragic ghostly romance. Beautifully realized in its 19th-century Thailand setting.

Puppetmaster (1989, David Schmoeller, USA)

Leech lady alone puts this movie in the “highlights” section, but the rest of the movie does my girl justice.

Tell Me Something (1999, Yun-hyeon Jang, South Korea)

A detective follows gory murders through dark and rainy streets while trying to connect with the woman connected to all the victims. It’s an intricate mystery in which the scares and emotional heft carry the story forward, while burying fleeting clues to the grittier details throughout. There’s a lot to be digested in multiple viewings.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009, Tom Six, The Netherlands)

I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch this, and I don’t have to watch anything I don’t want to! However, I also felt that it got enough attention to make it an important part of 2009; it’s also one of the flagship “torture porn” movies, which is arguably the biggest trend in 2000s horror. And I’ll admit to a morbid curiosity. But what sealed it was when a reviewer I like sang its praises. At that moment I was like, god dammit…

I’m glad I didn’t kid myself into thinking I was going to enjoy it, because it is not an enjoyable movie (plenty of movies aren’t meant to be). I appreciate its self awareness, being a movie about the kind of sick fuck who would make a movie like this, drawing a straight line between the director and mad scientist. Tom Six definitely knew what he was doing with it.

The Mummy (1999, Stephen Sommers, USA)

I knew I needed a palate cleanser after Human Centipede, so I queued up the Brendan Fraser classic. Not much to say about it… While maybe only adjacent to horror, it’s still part of the legacy of mummy movies and its visuals and scares stand on their own. Still as fun as ever.

The Rest

  • The Return of Swamp Thing (1989, Jim Wynorski, USA)
  • Lake Placid (1999, Steve Miner, USA)
  • Survival of the Dead (2009, George A. Romero, USA)
  • Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959, Bernard L. Kowalski, USA)
  • The Queen of Spades (1949, Thorold Dickinson, UK)
  • The Church (1989, Michele Soavi, Italy)
  • Savage Weekend (1979, David Paulsen, USA)

The List: May 2019 Catchup

The Final Destination (2009, David R. Ellis, USA)

(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.

The List: April 2019 Catchup

The Highlights

The Cremator (1969, Juraj Herz, Czechoslovakia)

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.

The Rest

  • 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)
  • Eerie Tales (1919, Richard Oswald, Germany)

The List: March 2019 Catchup

The Highlights

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.

The Rest

  • When a Stranger Calls (1979, Fred Walton, USA)
  • Fascination (1979, Jean Rollin, France)
  • Zombie (1979, Lucio Fulci, Italy)
  • Phobia 2 (2009; Banjong Pisanthanakun, Visute Poolvoralaks, Paween Purikitpanya, Songyos Sugmakanan, Parkpoom Wongpoom; Thailand)
  • The Unborn (2009, David S. Goyer, USA)
  • The Descent: Part 2 (2009, Jon Harris, UK)
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939, Rowland V. Lee, USA)
  • The Terror Within (1989, Thierry Notz, USA)
  • Grave Robbers (1989, Rubén Galindo Jr., Mexico)
  • Halloween 2 (2009, Rob Zombie, USA)
  • Vacations Of Terror 2 (1989, Pedro Galindo III, Mexico)
  • Hell’s Trap (1989, Pedro Galindo III, Mexico)

The List: February 2019 Catchup

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.

The Highlights

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.

The Rest

  • 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)