Trick ’r Treat, 2007
It is said that Halloween is the night when the dead rise to walk among us and other unspeakable things roam free. The rituals of All Hallows Eve were devised to protect us from their evil mischief, and one small town is about to be taught a terrifying lesson that some traditions are best not forgotten. Nothing is what it seems when a suburban couple learns the dangers of blowing out a Jack-o-Lantern before midnight; four women cross paths with a costumed stalker at a local festival; a group of pranksters goes too far and discovers the horrifying truth buried in a local legend; and a cantankerous old hermit is visited by a strange trick-or-treater with a few bones to pick. Costumes and candy, ghouls and goblins, monsters and mayhem…the tricks and treats of Halloween turn deadly as strange creatures of every variety–human and otherwise–try to survive the scariest night of the year.
The Cabin in the Woods, 2012
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard team up for this bloody horror satire that offers an inventive twist on the familiar stranded-in-the-woods sub-genre. As five friends pile into an RV bound for a secluded cabin far from civilization, the operators of a mysterious, high-tech control room monitor their every move while preparing an arcane ritual that dates back to the beginning of time. Shortly after arriving at the rickety cottage, Dana (Kristen Connolly) and her friends Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Willaims) venture into the basement and discover a little girl’s diary from the early 1900s — which recounts a series of horrifying events that unfolded precisely where the vacationing teens now stand. Before long, the nightmare comes knocking at the door — murder gleaming from its putrid eyes and a rusty saw clenched in rotting hands. In the control room, everything is going exactly according to plan; Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford) are taking bets, and their supervisor Lin (Amy Acker) is monitoring every detail. But just when it looks like the show is over, an unexpected glitch threatens to topple the entire system.
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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, 2006
A small-town serial killer with a curious penchant for self-promotion unleashes a blood-soaked frenzy of terror in his violent effort to become the best-known slasher in horror history. On the surface, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) is just your average, everyday guy whose lofty dreams for the future drive him to excel at his chosen profession. But Leslie’s chosen career path is a far cry from that of your typical middle-class wage earner; his ultimate goal is to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, notorious serial killer Eugene (Scott Wilson). He’s not shy about his malevolent ambitions either. In fact, in order to better document his impending murder spree, Leslie has offered budding filmmaker Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her dedicated crew unprecedented access to his life as he sets into motion a plan designed make to make the formidable feats of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers look like a mere warm-up for the homicidal hysteria that’s about to unfold. Along the way, Leslie will even be so cordial as to teach Taylor and her crew the tricks of the trade while candidly deconstructing the many myths and archetypes of his murderous occupation.
The Babadook, 2014
Amelia (Essie Davis), is an Australian single mother haunted by memories of her late husband’s tragic death. He was in the midst of taking his very pregnant wife to the delivery room when the couple had a devastating car wreck. Mother and baby were saved; dad perished. That was six years ago. Now, as the story opens, Amelia is raising her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a sweet-natured but very precocious and troubled little boy. On a nightly basis, Samuel grows convinced that monsters lurk beneath his bed, and he has even constructed homemade weapons, such as a miniature wooden catapult and crossbow, to fend off the invading enemies. His eccentric behavior alienates his schoolteachers, who insist on removing him from a group setting in the classroom in favor of a special-needs situation with a one-on-one tutor. Meanwhile, Samuel’s conduct stresses Amelia to the breaking point. The situation at home grows much more bizarre when Samuel asks his mom to read to him, and produces a strange children’s storybook from his bedroom shelf. Entitled “The Babadook,” it’s an eerie pop-up book with charcoal illustrations of a demonic figure that announces itself by knocking at the door of a house six times (“Ba-ba-ba-DOOK-DOOK-DOOK”), and then devours all who reside within. Neither Amelia nor Samuel have ever seen this volume before, nor do they know how it turned up in their home. Stranger still, it lacks an author and publishing information. The book instantly has Samuel in tears, and Amelia plans to dispose of it, but that same night, six knocks sound on the door and rattle the house.
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Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978
This remake of the 1956 horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers moves the action from small-town USA to 1970s San Francisco and replaces at least part of the original’s psychological horror with special effects. Spores rain forth, unseen, from outer space, and soon strange flowers begin popping up all over the city. After bringing one of these hybrid specimens home with her one night, biologist Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices that her live-in boyfriend, Geoffrey (Art Hindle), doesn’t seem like himself; he’s cold and distant and somehow just not quite there. When she turns to her friend Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), a colleague at the Department of Public Health, he convinces her to see his friend Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a pop psychologist who argues that the problem is all in Elizabeth’s head. Soon, though, Matthew and Elizabeth begin to notice that people all over the city are changing subtly and inexplicably. When their friend Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) find a lifeless, half-formed doppelganger covered with plant fibers in the mud baths they own and operate, the group of friends finally begins to understand that a sinister transformation is sweeping their city.
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The Thing, 1982
John Carpenter’s The Thing is both a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 film of the same name and a re-adaptation of the John W. Campbell Jr. story “Who Goes There?” on which it was based. Carpenter’s film is more faithful to Campbell’s story than Hawks’ version and also substantially more reliant on special effects, provided in abundance by a team of over 40 technicians, including veteran creature-effects artists Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. The film opens enigmatically with a Siberian Husky running through the Antarctic tundra, chased by two men in a helicopter firing at it from above. Even after the dog finds shelter at an American research outpost, the men in the helicopter (Norwegians from an outpost nearby) land and keep shooting. One of the Norwegians drops a grenade and blows himself and the helicopter to pieces; the other is shot dead in the snow by Garry (Donald Moffat), the American outpost captain. American helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell, fresh from Carpenter’s Escape From New York) and camp doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) fly off to find the Norwegian base and discover some pretty strange goings-on. The base is in ruins, and the only occupants are a man frozen to a chair (having cut his own throat) and the burned remains of what could be one man or several men. In a side room, Copper and MacReady find a coffin-like block of ice from which something has been recently cut. That night at the American base, the Husky changes into the Thing, and the Americans learn first-hand that the creature has the ability to mutate into anything it kills. For the rest of the film the men fight a losing (and very gory) battle against it, never knowing if one of their own dwindling number is the Thing in disguise. Along with Ridley Scott’s futuristic Alien, The Thing helped stimulate a new wave of sci-fi horror films in which action and special effects wizardry were often seen as ends in themselves.
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Attack the Block, 2011
A group of London teens find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion and fight to defend their tower block from some evil extraterrestrials in this stylish sci-fi romp from the producers of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Beset by a gang of young thugs as she passes through a South London housing estate, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is in the midst of being robbed when a ball of light falls out of the sky, and destroys a nearby car. Frightened, she flees from the scene just before an unearthly beast emerges from the wreckage and attacks Moses (John Boyega), the leader of the youthful gang. In retaliation, Moses and his crew slay the creature, and take it to a local drug den owned by ruthless gangster Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) for safe keeping. Later, as the police assist Sam in pursuing her assailants, strange lights start to rain down on the streets, heralding the arrival of a second, more ferocious, wave of creatures. With the city under siege, there’s no place left to run. Quickly realizing she’s going to have to fight if she wants to survive, Sam once again crosses paths with the street-tough teens, but instead of running away vows to battle alongside them to the bitter end. Meanwhile, Moses becomes the primary target of the aliens, and the group arms themselves with everything from baseball bats to high-powered fireworks in the fight to save the human race.
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Actor Bill Paxton made his directorial debut with Frailty. The bulk of the story is told through flashbacks, as a mysterious man (Matthew McConaughey) tells a terrible tale to an FBI agent (Powers Boothe) investigating the “God’s Hand” serial killer case. The man grew up in a small town in Texas, where he and his brother lived a bucolic life with their kindhearted widower father (Paxton). One night, the father awakens the two boys, Fenton (Matthew O’Leary) and Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), and tells them he’s had a vision, and God has chosen him and his sons to help Him slay demons who walk the earth in human form. He tells the boys they can never tell anyone about this task. Before long, he comes home from work with a list of names that he claims an angel has given to him. He then begins abducting people, bringing them home, one by one, and having the boys watch while he lays his hands on them. After having proven, to his mind, that they are demons and not human, he chops them up with an axe while the boys look on. Young Adam is eager to participate, seeing his family as “kind of like superheroes,” while the older Fenton is distraught, believing that his father has lost his mind. He contemplates running away, but is reluctant to leave his little brother behind.
Bruce McDonald, critically acclaimed director, teams with author Tony Burgess to adapt Burgess’ own novel about a small town in the grip of a mysterious frenzy. It may be Valentine’s Day, but for caustic radio personality Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) that’s just another reason to be miserable. Mazzy used to be a certified radio superstar, but working in Pontypool is a far shot from working in the big city. Today, however, as Mazzy prepares for his regular routine of reading the weather, updating school closings, and pleading his case for a little on-air controversy to producer Sydney Bryer (Lisa Houle), the appearance of an unexpected figure signals the beginning of a disturbing phenomenon in the small town of Pontypool. Heading to work, Mazzy is nearly run over by a distraught woman who seems to have lost her grip on reality. Later, reports of a shoot-out between provincial police and a group of local ice fishers are made even more bizarre by the revelation that they were all screaming gibberish, running around nude, and missing body parts. By the time a riot breaks out in Dr. Mendez’s (Hrant Alianak) office, it’s obvious to Mazzy that the residents of Pontypool are suffering from a strange form of contagious dementia, but what has caused this bizarre outbreak and, more importantly, how can it be stopped?
A mysterious meteor infected with a deadly alien plague brings chaos to a small hunting town in the feature-length directorial debut of screenwriter James Gunn. Booted out of bed by his young, trophy-wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks), and in desperate need of some female companionship, wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) picks up bar local floozy Brenda (Brenda James) and heads into the woods for a hedonistic night of extramarital excitement. When a flaming meteor lights up the sky before crashing to the ground nearby, Grant’s curiosity gets the best of him and he sets out to find the space rock. Subsequently infected with a rampaging space virus, which he passes along to Brenda, Grant transforms into a horrific, cow-munching monster and begins terrorizing the town. As thousands of squirmy space slugs burrow into the brains of the unsuspecting Wheelsy denizens creating an ever-amassing horde of mindless space zombies, panic grips the small town and it’s up to Starla, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), and gung-ho mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) to put an end to the infection and save the planet.
Dog Soldiers, 2002
British director Neil Marshall’s directorial debut Dog Soldiers resurrects and embraces the low-budget horror-comedy. Sergeant Harry Wells (Sean Pertwee) leads a team of British soldiers on a routine expedition to the Scottish Highlands. The six men would rather be at home watching the game, but they are even more dismayed when a carcass lands on their campfire. The next morning, they happen upon a severely injured Captain Richard Ryan (Liam Cunningham) and the bloody remains of his squadron. Soon they are attacked by giant werewolf beasts and chased through the woods, only to be saved by zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby), who explains some of the truth about the creatures. They all take refuge in an old farmhouse while the threat of the monsters looms increasingly heavy.
Island of Lost Souls, 1932
This first film version of H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau stars Charles Laughton as Dr.Moreau, a dedicated but sadly misguided scientist who rules the roost on a remote island. Shipwrecked sailor Edward Parker Richard Arlen finds himself on Moreau’s island, agreeing to stick around until another boat can come along and take him home. But that’s not quite what Moreau has in mind: he’d rather Parker stay on the island and marry the exotic Lota (Kathleen Burke), who curiously possesses the characteristics of the panther. In fact, all the island’s natives seem more animal than human, especially the hirsute Bela Lugosi. And why not? They are animals who’ve been transformed by Moreau into humanlike creatures via surgery. Moreau’s plans to mate Parker and Lota are complicated by the arrival of Parker’s fiancee Leila Hyams, who has been brought to the island by ship’s captain Stanley Fields, one of Moreau’s flunkies. When Moreau kills Fields for this insubordination, he makes the mistake of breaking one of the rules he himself has imposed on the island: That no creature shall kill another. Island of Lost Souls does its job of inducing goosebumps so well that one can forgive the cherubic excesses of Charles Laughton in his portrayal of Dr. Moreau.
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You’re Next, 2011
Aubrey and Paul Davison decide to celebrate their wedding anniversary by inviting their four children and their significant others to a family reunion at their remote and slightly rundown weekend estate. But the family reunion goes awry when their home comes under siege by a mask-wearing team of crossbow-bearing assailants. The family has no idea who’s attacking them or why. All they know for certain is that nobody is safe.
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Near Dark, 1987
In Kathryn Bigelow’s tale of vampires in the American Southwest, the creatures of the night aren’t elegant, cloaked aristocrats. They’re a gun-toting gang that dresses and acts like a motorcycle gang. Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), a restless young man from a small farm town, meets an alluring drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright). She reveals herself to be a vampire, who “turns” Caleb into one of her kind rather than kill him. But the rest of her “family” is slow to accept the newcomer. The ancient leader, Jesse (Lance Henriksen), and his psychotic henchman Severen (Bill Paxton) lay down the law; Caleb has to carry his own weight or die. However, he can’t bring himself to kill. The film avoids the complex vampire mythology of such films as Interview with the Vampire. Instead, it emphasizes the intense, seductive bond that forms between Caleb and the violent but tightly knit gang.
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The Haunting, 1963
One of the most highly regarded haunted house films ever produced, Robert Wise’s The Haunting (based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House) weaves the dark tale of a questionably sane young woman and a sinister house which holds a terrifying past. Invited to join anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), ESP expert Theodora (Claire Bloom), and probable heir to the estate Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) in order to dispel the near mythical tales that surround the house, unstable Eleanor Vance (Julie Harris) agrees to spend a few nights in the house following the death of her mother. As they slowly begin to discover, the horrific and seemingly unbelievable tales may hold more truth than the skeptical guests might have previously expected. With a seemingly unstoppable supernatural force lurking in every shadow, the probability of anyone escaping the evil clutch of the cursed mansion seems increasingly remote.