So here I am in Rhode Island going through our first blizzard of the winter. The storm, which dumped 15+ inches of snow and sleet, could have been a lot worse. In addition to having 50+ mile an hour winds, it is also bitterly cold. Flights are cancelled and workplaces are shut down. With the high winds and heavy snows, many branches came down and on a personal level, my greenhouse collapsed from the weight of the snow and ice. Through it all though, I am thankful that we didn’t lose power, phones or heat and the storm hit the day after Christmas. One thing I try to do now is find the positive in any given situation which is why I am not complaining, even though it has started snowing again. After discussing this with my co-blogger he suggested a piece on horror movies that take place in similar situations that I am going through now. After thinking about it I realized that there are quite a few movies out there that take place during snowy, winter conditions. This list is not intended to be complete in any way…these are the films that came to mind quickly and they are listed alphabetically since, in my opinion, they stand on their own and this list is not meant to compare one to the other.
THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS came out in 1957 and it stars Forrest Tucker and Peter Cushing. This Hammer production concerns a botanist studying rare herbs with his wife and associate in the mountains of the Himalayas. Enter Tom Friend, on an expedition to find the Yeti, with his two associates. Friend convinces botanist John, his wife Helen and their associate Peter, to join in the search, claiming that they have seen the yeti before. Footprints are found as they get closer to where the Yeti live and a conflict is created when John has a scientific view of how the Yeti should be handled and Tom just wants to shoot it and put it on display, making money off of his find. This movie has gotten mixed reviews over the years but I still found it enjoyable.
DEAD SNOW, a Norwegian film, came out in 2009. It concerns a bunch of medical students on a ski vacation who end up confronting the unimaginable…Nazi zombies! Though this may not seem like a great plot, the movie works and is a lot of fun. They advertise it as a horror comedy but to be honest, I didn’t find much humor in it (other than its tongue-in-cheek styling). Though not an Academy Award winner, I do recommend this film…the effects are good, the zombie makeups are sufficiently scary and over all the movie is very well put together, even though this movie got mixed reviews from the critics (but then again, how many zombie movies actually get good reviews from the critics?).
This 2010 release, by Adam Green (best known for his movie HATCHET) is one that I could relate to. Besides drowning, one of my biggest fears is freezing to death and this movie captures that fear admirably. Three friends are stranded on a chairlift after a ski resort closes for the weekend (not to be re-opened until the following weekend). Now this may seem like an unlikely premise but it is presented realistically, making it even more believable. As they are on the lift, they must decide whether they should stay in the chair, hoping that someone comes by and sees them, or should they take drastic measures to try to get some help. The drastic measures end up being much worse than staying on the lift and freezing to death, just adding to the intensity of this movie.
Both versions of THE THING are not only two of my all time favorite movies, but they are also two of my favorite “winter” movies. The original came out in 1951 and John Carpenter’s remake came out in 1982. Both stories are similar: they take place in the Arctic and concern the discovery of an alien life form. The original film is one of the best entries in the 1950′s alien invasion films (and was one of the first). It is beautifully shot with great sets and a likeable cast. Though it may seem dated by today’s standards you still get the feeling of isolation and how cold it really is there. The alien is far from scary (considering what we see in films now) but I bet when this movie originally came out, it got some great reactions from the crowds! John Carpenter’s remake is simply brilliant. He took the basic story of the original and was able to breathe a whole new life into it, rare in today’s remakes. Now, instead of a humanoid-alien the life form absorbs and replicates its host, often in bloody detail. Once again you get the feel of isolation and cold and the movie is tense throughout, never knowing who is human or who is an alien replicant.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT came out in 2007 and is one of my favorite vampire movies. This story takes place in a part of Alaska, where for one month each year, it is in total darkness as the sun is below the horizon. The vampires decide to use this fact to their advantage, going on a feeding frenzy. In this film you have to deal with three things: the cold, the isolation and the vampires. I found this movie to be intense as everyone tries to brave the cold (and at times whiteout conditions with the snow) all the while trying not to get caught by the vampire horde. The vampires themselves are very scary looking and there is a lot of bloodshed. In one memorable scene an aerial shot is used looking down on the town as the vampires are killing the human and all you see is the pools of blood getting larger and larger around the victims, in perfect contrast to the white snow. This movie was a nice relief and an even nicer break from the sparkling vampires of TWILIGHT.
So, if you are like me…stuck inside while winter rages outside, put on some hot chocolate, bundle up and put one of these movies on. They will definitely help you forget what is going on outside!
It’s that time of year again…the weather is cold and people are dreading maxing out their credit cards while purchasing gifts they can ill afford. Though commercialism seems to have destroyed the Christmas spirit in many people, certain traditions still hold true. Like, for example, Christmas music played by local radio stations the week after Halloween, the customary office holiday party, and the myriad of television specials hitting the airwaves. Fortunately, amid the forgetable new ones, you can still find such timeless staples as Rankin Bass’ RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS and SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN.
As adults, we can still enjoy those shows along with an entirely new holiday tradition…the Christmas horror movie. As mentioned In our earlier piece regarding Thanksgiving films, Christmas has an impressive array of its own entries in the holiday slasher sub genre. Naturally, these movies often garner bad press for portraying the holiday’s most endearing figure, jolly old Santa Claus, as a sadistic killer. While also promising lots of nudity and gore to accompany the “blasphemy,” the controversy rarely, if ever lived up to the hype.
Aside from that, a bit of parental “common sense” would go a long way. These films were obviously never meant to be seen by kids and certainly not intended to be seen as a double feature along with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or A CHRISTMAS STORY (even though the director of A CHRISTMAS STORY, Bob Clark, also directed the zombie classic CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and the 1975 Christmas horror movie BLACK CHRISTMAS).
What we now present to you is a list of some of the most noteworthy Christmas horror movies to get you back into the Christmas spirit.
This movie brings us back to the killer Santa Claus. This film, aka YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, is the story of a boy who is scarred for life after finding out that Santa Claus isn’t real. As an adult he tries to bring the Christmas spirit to everyone, unsuccessfully. He makes his own naughty and nice list as he keeps his eyes on the neighborhood kids. Yes this sounds creepy but he truly loves kids and wants to do right by them, and it is actually the cynicism of adults that sets him off, turning him into a killer. This movie has a great mix of dark humor and is actually well-acted by a cast of recognizable stars. One particularly funny scene has Harry walking down the street and he asks a bunch of neighborhood kids what they would like for Christmas and one of the responses is “I want a lifetime subscription to Penthouse!” Can you guess who is on the naughty list? This is another one of those movies that deserves a quality DVD or Blu-Ray release!
I am really not sure what to make of this movie. This time out it is not a killer Santa Claus but someone who kills people who dress up as Santa Claus during the Christmas holiday in Scotland. You would think that once the murders started no one would dress up as Santa anymore but they just keep on doing it! This movie has so many things going against it and yet it is very watchable and actually enjoyable! Go figure! Though this movie came out in the 80′s it has the feel of a movie from the 70′s, complete with bad editing, poor lighting and a horrible soundtrack. None of the characters are even likeable and yet it is actually a decent who-dunnit and some of the murders are gruesome, even though most of the time the scenes are too dark to fully appreciate what is going on. Hopefully some day this film will get a proper DVD release that is clearer with the darkened scenes lightened up a bit.
GREMLINS is a classic movie, though maybe not a Christmas classic. It is included here because it does take place at Christmas time. Joe Dante has created a dark movie that not only is a lot of fun but it still holds up to this day. Billy (played by Zach Galligan) gets one of the coolest Christmas presents ever, a Mogwai. The problem is three rules must be obeyed in keeping this creature (never expose them to bright light, never allow them to get wet and never, ever feed them after midnight). Of course all three rules are accidentally broken and that is when the movie becomes really fun. Parents should be cautioned though, if showing this film to youngsters. There is one exchange between Billy and his girlfriend Kate (played by Phoebe Cates) where she explains why she doesn’t celebrate Christmas, coming right out and saying that there isn’t a Santa Claus. This scene may cause many youngsters to come to you with many questions! Besides that though this is a movie NOT to be missed! Chris Walas needs to be commended too for his amazing Gremlins effects!
This has got to be one of the most ridiculous movie premises ever. A serial killer, on his way to be executed ends up turning into a snowman of all things when the vehicle he is being transported in crashes into a vehicle hauling chemicals to be used in genetic experimentation. The killer, whose name is Jack Frost, comes back in his new form to seek revenge on the sheriff who put him away to begin with. This movie has so much going against it and yet it works and I found it to actually be a lot of fun. It is b-movie madness at it’s best. The reason it works is because the movie never takes itself too seriously and there are sight gags and jokes throughout. The killer snowman effects are laughable and yet it manages to give the movie even more charm. If you are planning a night of boozing it up, this movie is highly recommended. If you plan on watching it without the aid of alcohol then hopefully you have a good sense of humor and are willing to REALLY suspend disbelief. One of the highlights is an appearance by AMERICAN PIE cutie, Shannon Elizabeth (before she became the has-been she is now) who dies naked.
7. PSYCHO SANTA/SATAN CLAUS (1996)/THE CHRISTMAS SEASON MASSACRE (2001)
Got a camcorder, a cheap Santa suit, and bevy of starstruck friends who can’t act their way out of a paper bag? Congratulations! You have exactly what it takes to make your own holiday horror film! Or at least that’s what the creators of SATAN CLAUS thought while making this 1996 turkey. A devious Santa, charged with the power of Satan, decides to start hacking innocent people to death during the holiday season. The plot thickens as the killer Santa taunts local investigators (who are so busy hanging out at the station debating how to catch the fiend they don’t notice him openly chopping folks in the middle of Main Street) while no one (including the filmmakers) can tell if he’s supposed to be human or supernatural. In one emotionally charged scene, the town’s lead investigator interviews an eyewitness who describes the killing of his own wife. After listening to the woman’s account, he suddenly grabs his face like Macauley Culkin (think HOME ALONE) shakes his head incredulously, and moans, “I can’t believe he was laughing while he was killing her!!!! (as if her being chopped up with an axe wasn’t the main issue). While it is certainly true that none of the players in this flick can act they can, however, OVER act. This ironically becomes the film’s saving grace as the victim’s attempts at screaming and crying are so bad, they’re downright hilarious. Heading up the search for the diabolical St Nick is an African-American voodoo priestess and her two Hispanic children (one of which is on the police force). The film is only about an hour-long and clearly had a sub-zero budget. I will, however, give them an A for effort. The corn syrup gore, amateur love scenes (that lack the necessary filters for removing the actor’s stretch marks), and ridiculous “surprise” ending will have you Ho Ho Ho’ing while making a mad dash for the holiday schnapps!
Two more zero budget entries include PSYCHO SANTA and THE CHRISTMAS SEASON MASSACRE. In my opinion, PSYCHO SANTA is the more tolerable of the two. The acting is a step above SATAN CLAUS and I gave the film makers credit for attempting camera techniques and ideas that their budget simply couldn’t pull off. This movie is more of an anthology in the form of tales told via a married couple on their way to a Christmas party. The husband uses the long, dark drive as an opportunity to share with his wife some eerie local legends that took place during Christmas. This film does, however, get a bit dull after a while – despite a scene featuring full frontal (shaved) female nudity along with some piercings that will have you involuntarily start crossing your legs. I found THE CHRISTMAS SEASON MASSACRE to have been ill named since the killer is actually dressed as a pirate (the back story and reason for this is too stupid to be recounted here). Other than an opening scene taking place in front of a Christmas tree, there are virtually no other ties to this holiday. While the story, acting, and dialogue is beyond ludicrous I will give them credit for some decent amateur gore.
I will start off by saying that I did not have any hopes at all of this movie being any good, especially since everyone I had talked to said it was horrible. Maybe it was because I had no expectations but I really enjoyed this film! The Devil’s son (ex professional wrestler Bill Goldberg) loses a curling bet with an angel and is forced to play Santa Claus for 1,000 years. Now that the 1,000 years is up Santa is no longer jolly and is out for blood! As soon as I saw the opening sequence with a family sitting together at Christmas dinner (with cameos by Fran Drescher, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan and even James Caan) only to be slaughtered by Santa I knew this was going to be a fun flick! Other recognizable stars include Emilie de Ravin (from LOST), Robert Culp, Dave Thomas and Tommy “Tiny” Lister. This is definitely not one for the kiddies as there is plenty of swearing, violence and nudity…the makings of a great Christmas treat. I found myself laughing out loud in many places, and I was not even drinking alcohol!
This film, in my opinion, falls in that “so bad, it’s good” category. I have always been a fan of the Full Moon Productions’ films by Charles Band…sure they are not big budget blockbusters but most are a lot of fun and are quite creative, considering the budgets with which these films are made. Gary Busey plays Millard Findlemeyer, a psycho killer who is arrested and put to death thanks to the testimony of the daughter of one of his victims. Findlemeyer is cremated and his ashes end up in a batch of gingerbread cookie dough, coincidentally at the daughter’s bakery. When the gingerbread man cookies are put in the oven to bake, the Gingerdead Man comes to life and goes on another killing spree. Like some of the other movies on this list it never takes itself too seriously and the actors and actresses do a great job with the material they are given. This is a short film, clocking in at 71 minutes which is just perfect as no time is wasted on unnecessary scenes. Alcohol consumption, though not necessary to enjoy this film, will definitely enhance the experience. Hint: Kahlua and Cream goes great with gingerbread!
We hope you enjoy your holiday movie viewing and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and nothing but the best in 2013!
As 2010 winds its way down, I can’t help but notice all the great new movie titles I’ve added to my collection this past year. The future remains bright as horror films never go out of style and movie makers, both foreign and domestic, continue to present new genre films with no signs of letting up. This is not to suggest, however, that “new” necessarily means “original.”
Remakes of older titles continue to flourish with little sign of stopping. 2011 promises newer versions of DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, STRAW DOGS, MOTHER’S DAY, and FRIGHT NIGHT. For genre fans this tends to be a mixed blessing. Remakes do generate sufficient “buzz” and may also inspire a revisit to an oldie but goodie we’ve allowed to collect dust on our video shelves. On the other hand, this also invariably leads to an outcry for Hollywood to leave well enough alone!
For those keeping score, let’s take a look at this past years entries and judge 2010′s horror remakes, the hits and misses.
THE CRAZIES – Romero’s original story of a town driven insane from a military pathogen never reached the same cult status as his iconic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD but still had its share of followers. In truth “Zombies” and “Crazies” aren’t too terribly different, though these villains were completely overshadowed by their undead cousins. I enjoyed the movie but, have to admit, liked the new one even better. In fairness to Romero, this one carried a much larger budget and, it can also be argued, was more relevant in today’s world than that of the original’s 1973. I also found that the characters in the newer version much more tolerable. The original film’s lead female, “Judy,” kept pleading with her boyfriend, “David,” so much she actually succeeded in making me sick of my own name! Aside from that, the newer version was also more suspenseful and I thought the infected townspeople were much scarier. HIT!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – Well this was a nightmare all right, but for all the wrong reasons! The essence of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was its unique villain, Freddy Krueger. The new one is scarier looking and, if you’ve ever seen images of people who have been severely burned, more realistic in terms of his torching at the hands of angry parents. Unfortunately, when you burn off someone’s face, there’s not a lot that can be accomplished in terms of facial expressions. As a result, you have an expressionless Krueger devoid of the personality that made him so endearing to genre fans. The lead characters were equally bland and the movie presented a subplot (whether or not the living Freddy was actually guilty of abusing the children) that ended up being completely irrelevant. Aside from that, this is a “paint by numbers” remake that lacks all the charm of its predecessor. Modern SPFX did make some of the “reality to dream” sequences look cool but it was hardly enough to keep my interest and barely enough to keep me awake. MISS!
PIRANHA – Anyone who read my summer review of this film already knows I’m a fan. The original never took itself too seriously and that’s the only similarity between the two. Much more a “re-imagining” as opposed to a remake, this showed that Hollywood can draw from past films while still keeping things fresh. Gratuitous nudity and gore make this an instant classic and even the 3D effects were a joy. As I said before, anyone who finds those MTV “Spring Break” specials as annoying as I do will enjoy seeing its participants served up as fish food! The original was an unapologetic send up of JAWS which leads to an interesting equation…Remake of Rip-off = success? HIT!
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS – Okay, I know this film actually debuted in 2009 but, since it didn’t see worldwide distribution until 2010 I’m adding it to the list. The original wasn’t as famous as other 80′s horror films but built a lot of steam as the years went on. Also more a re-tooling than a remake, this one pays homage to the original (particularly a cameo from Linnea Quigley that mimics her role in 1988) while still highlighting lots of new ideas. Whether you’re a demon or not, you’d love to be invited to “Angela’s” modern Halloween party even if it means you wind up as one of the favors. This film received mixed to negative reviews but I did enjoy it. HIT!
LET ME IN – is not so much a remake as a re-imagining of the 2008 Scandinavian film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, based on the Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Though they are both vampire films, the real story is the coming of age tale between Oskar and Eli (or Owen and Abby as they are called in LET ME IN). I have read the book and have seen both film versions and I highly recommend all of them. In my opinion both film versions are faithful to the book, though personally I prefer LET ME IN over LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. For me, the child actors were just too creepy looking in the original and I had a harder time feeling sympathy for them then I did in LET ME IN. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz were more relatable to me. I think Chloë is an actress to keep your eyes on as she has been in two hit movies (LET ME IN and KICK ASS as Hit Girl) and in both she played characters much more mature than her actual age…and she did it very well. This is one movie that I am glad they remade and even if you don’t see the original, or have read the book, you will still enjoy it and go away feeling satisfied. HIT!