1. The Exorcist
Normally I have a “no Christian mythology” rule for my horror, which is why I hadn’t seen The Exorcist before. I didn’t end up finishing it before it left Netflix, but I saw enough to feel like my rule was warranted. We have an “ancient evil” unearthed in Iraq, a beleaguered single mom/actress (played by Ellen Burstyn) who sees her once loving and cheerful daughter literally possessed by demons. I’m sure a lot has been written about the movie as an analogy for the ways mother/daughter relationships can become problematic as puberty approaches but I don’t think that’s particularly interesting.
The thing that surprised me the most about this movie was how much of it ends up being medical/body horror, as they perform various tests on Regan to find out what’s wrong — including a “spinal tap” that looks a lot more like “let’s stick a tube in your jugular.” Following that, there’s a conversation with one of the doctors about whether to consult a psychiatrist or not and he says “let’s explore all of the medical avenues before we start looking at somatic possibilities” which I just found to be a fascinating statement. I would hope that some thirty years later we have a better understanding that there isn’t a sharp bright line between psychiatric issues and so-called medical issues.
Anyway, obviously, science isn’t up for tackling demons and the exorcist gets called in and that’s right about where I had to stop to go have tea with a friend. My main issue with the movie is the main issue I have with most movies that have Christian mythology at their core — it relies on having a kind of fear instilled in you by the church that I just can’t fathom. On top of that, there’s a kind of xenophobia or fear of the other underlying it in this movie — the film opens with the Muslim call to prayer. I know that this is a somewhat alien sound to a lot of Westerners, but to me it’s just the sound of lunchtime. (There was a mosque next to the primary school I attended in Botswana and the noon call to prayer coincided with our lunch break.)
2. The Hallow
The Hallow opens with this sort of scriptural quote and then we’re watching a father, baby strapped to his back, wandering in an Irish forest and taking samples, including one of an ominous gooey black fungus of some sort. The movie as a whole kept reminding me of one particular episode from season 1 of The X-Files — obviously the special effects are better, and layered with the conservationist themes are some parental anxieties as well. Overall it’s a completely solid horror film although I don’t really see myself going back and re-watching it any time soon.
This movie does have one of my favorite horror tropes: rational dude is too rational to believe silly women but of course the women are right and there is something terrible going on.
3. The Re-Animator
Okay, y’all, I did not like this one. I know it’s sort of a cult classic and inspired by Lovecraft, to boot — but it’s just too rapey for me. It’s played for laughs, and yes, rape by decapitated head is ridiculous — but it just wasn’t funny to me, for some reason.
There was one funny bit, though: when the creepy Swiss doctor snaps his pencil in the middle of class as a sign of disrespect for the instructor.
4. Nightbreed — The Director’s Cut
I’m not sure whether I’ve seen the director’s cut before or not, but I’ve seen Nightbreed and listened to the soundtrack countless times. To be honest, I think it’s more of a love story than it is horror, about loving and accepting your inner freak.
The director’s cut does include a previously deleted scene with Anne Bobby singing “Johnny Get Angry” and it’s kind of amazing.
5. The Invasion
Oh my god this movie is SO BORING. I am a huge Nicole Kidman fan but she is just wasted in this snoozefest. I’d heard it was bad and as a big fan of both the original Body Snatchers movie and the 1978 remake I was just avoiding it because I was sure it would infuriate me. But it has so little connection to the earlier movies that it didn’t even evoke that; I was just bored.
6. Nina Forever
Rob’s dead girlfriend Nina is summoned every time Rob has sex. That is the extremely simple premise of Nina Forever but the movie itself is anything but simple. An amazing horror-comedy about love and grief and laundry (pro tip: if your dead, blood-soaked girlfriend keeps popping into your bed, you might want to stop using white sheets), it was by far my favorite of the movies I watched this week.
Body was probably my second favorite on this week’s list. “Girls get into trouble” is generally one of my favorite themes, especially as it’s handled in this case, where the few male characters are mostly irrelevant and/or objects. (Another old favorite of mine along these lines is Night of the Comet, which is sort of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun plus space zombie invasion. It’s great fun.)
Bored on the night before Christmas Eve, three college friends wander up the road to party in a house and find themselves getting into deeper and deeper trouble. The real horror here isn’t about what’s outside, though; it’s really about what each of them will do, to themselves and to each other, to hold onto the bright futures they see ahead of themselves.
8. Night of the Demons
I was really entertained by the setup and beginning half of this movie but once the demons showed up, it kind of lost me. Still, not bad for an extremely cheesy horror flick, and I give it credit for letting the black dude survive along with the archetypal final girl, a rarity for 80s horror flicks.
Overall, I’m having fun with this project. It was kind of a challenge to come up with a list of 31 movies I actually want to watch that I haven’t already seen, but I turned to Facebook/twitter for suggestions and ended up with a pretty good list.
I keep thinking of other horror movies I love while I’m watching, so I might end up spending the last week watching and talking about some of those. If you’re interested in following along with me, I’ll be livetweeting most of my viewing with the hashtag #31screams.