It’s time for another edition of Addicted2Horror, where your favourite Film Addicts offer up a short list of 5 films that are sure to provide solid scares this Halloween season. For the most part, we’ve done our best to avoid the basics that you’ve all seen before in an attempt to provide you with some fresh options to whet your bloodthirsty appetites. So without further adieu, I present the following for your twisted pleasure:
The Beyond (1981) Italian director Lucio Fulci has often been called the “Godfather of Gore,” and The Beyond is a film that not only supports this title, but undoubtedly helped him to earn it. It also happens to be one of the most purely entertaining efforts from the director’s golden era in the early ’80s, blending together a string of absurd scenarios that converge to form a relentless feeling of dread, all of which is enhanced by the haunting score by the great Fabio Frizzi. When a young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana, she soon comes to learn that it was built on top of a doorway to Hell, which has now been opened! Random death follows in all shapes and sizes, including but not limited to an attack by carnivorous tarantulas, multiple eyeball stabbings, and a couple of acid-related deaths too, for good measure. There is also a fantastic climax with some tense and claustrophobic zombie action, a shocking head-explosion right near the end, and an ending that must be seen to be believed (or understood…actually nevermind it still doesn’t make sense). Certainly not for the faint of stomach, The Beyond is sure to satisfy gorehounds and fans of absurd horror cinema, as well as anyone looking for a healthy dose of stylish nonsense to accompany all the buckets of blood.
Stage Fright (1987) The directorial debut of actor/filmmaker Michele Soavi – who began his career as a second unit director and assistant to Dario Argento in the 1980’s – is a thrilling horror film that sutures together elements of Italian giallo cinema with those of the popular American slasher genre (specifically Carpenter’s Halloween). The plot centres on a theatre troupe that is rehearsing a new stage production based on the murder spree of a local serial killer, who has since been imprisoned at a nearby mental institution. The director decides to lock in his key cast and crew on a stormy night in order to perfect the show, not realizing that the real killer has in fact escaped, and is now locked in with them! This film contains much of the style and flavour of an Argento film, but instead of simply copying his mentor note for note, Soavi has switched things up by revealing his killer right from the get-go, effectively replacing the mystery of a typical giallo and indulging more in the sheer suspense of the claustrophobic cat-and-mouse-style slasher film. He also displays a rather refreshing self-aware approach to the material – and to cinema and theatre in general – which is driven home at the end by a shot that actually breaks the 4th wall. Several innovative set pieces and grisly kills punctuate this hidden gem, which is also occasionally known as Aquarius or Deliria.
Session 9 (2001) Brad Anderson‘s Session 9 is a perfect example of conservative horror filmmaking at its finest, using nothing more than an excellent shooting location, a talented cast, and some smart filming techniques in order to produce a tense and nightmarish film that doesn’t need excessive blood or gore to get under your skin. The story follows a small group of men hired to clean the old abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital, who soon come to find there is more than just asbestos lurking in the building’s deteriorating hallways. The sound design remains the film’s most effective element, causing the already creepy and very real Danvers State building to take on a much more terrifying resonance – a point that is further accentuated by the true nature of many of the film’s haunting stories. There is a fairly long and slow build-up to establish the atmosphere before anything truly revealing takes place, but this all eventually gives way to relentless nail-biting final act, which grabs hold and grips you firmly right up until the shocking (if slightly ambiguous) conclusion. Despite feeling somewhat modest or even low-budget at times, Session 9 still remains one of the creepiest and most effective horror films I’ve ever seen, reaffirming the strength of good atmosphere and story above all else.
Return of the Living Dead (1985) Any way you look at it, Dan O’Bannon‘s Return of the Living Dead is a true classic of the zombie genre, and one which (alongside the original Fright Night) helped to pave the way for future horror-comedies of all shapes and sizes. The story centres on a group of teens who must deal with a zombie outbreak when two morons inadvertently open a military barrel full of Trioxin, the gas responsible for the “real” zombie outbreak that allegedly inspired the original Night of the Living Dead film. The mixture of humour and horror is pitch-perfect in this cult classic, which made a point of playing quite brilliantly with the clichés of the genre instead of simply retreading them. The resulting over-the-top performances only add to the hilarious insanity of the whole situation, especially considering everything is played relatively straight within the context of the film itself. The zombies are iconic and remain one of my all-time favourite breed of zombies in cinema, defying the typical mould that had been established in all the serious films leading up to this one. Some differences include their constant hunger for “Brains!” in particular, as well as their ability to voice this craving with speech (and even order human take-out, as in the hilarious Ambulance/Paramedics scene). RotLD also marks one of the first instances of running zombies in film, and unlike those established in George A. Romero’s series, these undead can’t be stopped simply by damaging their brain. Scary and funny in all the right ways, this is a film best enjoyed in the company of friends and beers.
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) This is easily one of the best Friday the 13th sequels, and marks the end of the first set of Friday films which attempted to continue the same storyline and remain legitimately frightening. Believed to be dead following the events of Part III, Jason awakens in a morgue and proceeds to murder his way to freedom before returning to his old stomping ground, where a new batch of unwitting teenagers awaits his thirsty machete. For anyone who is new to the series or who just wants a taste of what the iconic murderous goalie has to offer without sifting through over 10 films (most of which are of questionable quality), this is undoubtedly the one to check out. The fact that it’s titled The Final Chapter suggests that the filmmakers had originally intended this to be the nail in the coffin for this franchise, and there’s the general sense that they were trying to go out with a bang in order to leave on a high note. For starters, the central group of actors is of marginally higher quality than usual (I actually didn’t hate them all this time), and Jason is far more brutal and terrifying than he was in the previous films. The writing is also a bit more impressive than the average Friday film, even though that’s still not saying much. The ending may produce some eye-rolling, but regardless of how you feel about child-star Corey Feldman outsmarting one of cinema’s most iconic and prolific killers, you can always rest assured that it’s nowhere near as lame as the trash-heap that is Part V: A New Beginning. If you’re interested in checking out a Friday film this Halloween season, The Final Chapter is about as good as it gets.
Be sure to stay tuned to addicted throughout the month of October for more scary movie recommendations!